Friday, 10 March 2017

Plastic-free cleaning

Most of us who have the desire to use less plastic, are also interested in using fewer chemicals. The good news is that is easy to be both plastic and chemical free with cleaning products.

Hot water
I only clean my wooden floors with hot water. There's no need for any additives, though it is sensible to use an antimicrobial, like vinegar, around toilets. Remember, it is normal and beneficial to have bacteria in our homes if managed well.

Cream cleanser
For basins, showers and baths I use a home-made cream cleanser, the ingredients of which I can buy in bulk, free of plastic packaging:
Mix several teaspoons of baking soda with a good dollop of eco dish washing liquid. Stir to make a paste. Simple!

Is perfect for areas where we typically use antibacterial products. Vinegar has antimicrobial and antioxidising properties. Its acidic nature allows it to break down sticky residues, and mineral deposits like lime scale. I use vinegar for cleaning the toilet and disinfecting my chicken coop, and can source it in bulk.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Ethical dilemmas; choosing the lesser evil

Every now and then I am faced with a tough choice due to my plastic avoidance, and sometimes it is necessary to choose a product that has plastic wrapping or packaging that can't be recycled because there's another cause I feel strongly about and want to support.
For example, buying fairtrade or local products, or boycotting products because of the manner of their manufacture.

Recently I have started to buy butter that isn't in recyclable wrapping. I love butter, and it is easy to buy in compostable packaging because most blocks are wrapped in paper. However, as a conscious consumer I am moving more and more away from supporting New Zealand's dairy industry. This industry is our biggest, and our single biggest polluter. The cows release large amounts of methane, which is a greenhouse gas, and has more effect on the atmosphere than the same amount of carbon. The run off from the cows' waste pollutes waterways. 60% of New Zealand's waterways are officially no longer safe to swim in, yet the industry continues to grow, and is encouraged to grow by our current government.

However, my recent switch to the below product is not a result of my concern about pollution; it's my concern about dairying practices. The reason our farms can produce so much milk is by producing babies (it is breast milk after all). Most farms will have their cows constantly either pregnant or producing milk with no or little rest period, and the calves are often removed from their mothers within two days (what emotional toll does that take on both creatures?). Furthermore, there has been great controversy around the way 'bobby' or boy calves are treated. They are considered to have little value, and can be treated incredibly badly during their short lives (they tend to be the 'veal' in the supermarket).
Organic Times' farms ensure all calves are
rehomed. Plus, being organic, their farming
practices are less intensive than standard
farms and therefore have less environmental
impact BUT the wrapping is plastic lined tinfoil.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Fantastic local business for plastic-free baby products

If you are concerned about the toxins your child may be absorbing, check out Haakaa for their amazing range of baby products.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Cat love conundrum

My elderly cat, whom I love dearly, has decided that she no longer wants to eat cat biscuits, even if I soak them for her so that they are easier to eat. The problem is that I can buy the biscuits in large bags that have very little plastic, thereby reducing my plastic waste, and so I'm not happy with the alternative:

Plastic sachets that only do
one meal. Eeek!

I had always said when I started this journey that I wouldn't compromise my health or the health of my animals, so I am really having to compromise on my values here.

And I certainly won't compromise on the quality of food for my cat. Yes I can buy tins of wet cat food at the supermarket, but they are effectively like feeding my cat MacDonalds. The above brand is excellent and offers food designed for aging cats (and my cat loves it) BUT I hate the waste. 

If anybody has suggestions for an alternative, plastic-free wet cat food source that is tailored to old cats, I would love to know (she has done raw food, and lost interest pretty quickly, so that one is out).

Monday, 4 July 2016

Three years living without plastic

This month marks my third year of living single-use plastic free. My year of living completely plastic free has entrenched habits and I now find it very easy to have a plastic-free lifestyle. I also find it easy to avoid purchasing multi-use plastic (with resourcefulness, alternatives can often be found).

You can start this journey too. This month is Plastic Free July.

It is an excellent way to challenge yourself if you'd like to give reducing your plastic consumption a go. It's also a very good tool for creating awareness of plastic issues (people will be intrigued by you're what doing).

There are two challenges:

  • not purchasing any single use plastic
  • not purchasing the top four (straws, coffee cup lids, plastic shopping bags, plastic drink bottles).

Visit the Plastic Free July webpage or facebook page for more details.

You can choose to do the challenge for a day, a week, or a month.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Plastic free pasta

I love pasta, and while I can buy dried pasta in bulk and therefore avoid the plastic packaging, I don't like the taste. It can ruin a lovingly cooked sauce. Really, fresh pasta is the only way if you are an Italian food enthusiast, but it is impossible to buy sans plastic.

With the purchase of a rolling pin, I have now turned my hand to making pasta. It is very straight forward. Here's how:
A completely plastic-free meal, with
home-made bread, pesto and pasta.
Delicious and easy!
1. Whisk 2 cups of flour with ½ teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. 
2. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add three large eggs and one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
3. Once the dough becomes too thick to whisk with a fork, turn it out onto a clean work surface, along with any leftover flour from the bowl. Knead the dough and remaining flour until you’ve got a smooth, stiff ball of dough.
4. Cover the dough (I cover with waxed cloth) and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
5.Divide the dough into four portions.
6. Take one portion and roll as thin as you can in a rectangular shape. You will need plenty of extra flour.
7. Fold the dough loosely over itself several times (almost as if you are rolling it into a wide ball). Cut the ball into thin strips and shake out so that the strips are at their entire length.
8. Repeat for remaining three portions.
9. Cook in boiling water for several minutes until al dente.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Ecowarehouse product review

Ecowarehouse is a New Zealand online shop offering sustainable and environmentally friendly products. The company's aim is to make eco products easily accessible and affordable for all households.

This month I have trialled three plastic free and completely natural laundry products:

SoapNut Shells
I have used soapnuts for several years now instead of laundry powder. I find they do just as effective a job and they have zero environmental impact. In fact, they give back; once I've exhausted a bag of shells, they go into the compost. The SoapNuts NZ brand is as good as any other I've used. I put 5 shells into the provided muslin bag, which does 5 to 6 washes. I haven't number crunched, but my feeling is that they are more economical than buying eco-friendly laundry powder. Find out how soapnuts work here.

Oxygen Bleach
I don't tend to buy anything that may require bleaching, because it has such a large environmental impact. However, because my bathroom is small and dark I do have a white shower curtain to reflect light. It always needs help in maintaining a uniform whiteness. SoapNuts NZ Oxygen Bleach does a good job of freshening it up, and it feels great to be able to guilt-free bleach.

Stain Remover
This product got a thorough testing, and the photos speak for themselves. My cat decided my cream-coloured bedroom curtains were an appropriate place to vomit; not just a regurgitation of her dinner, but a good dose of bile too. A soak and scrub in water did little to remove the yellow stains, so I tried BunchaFarmers Stain Remover. I simply daubed the soap bar over the stains, added a bit of water and carefully rubbed the curtain. The stains came out immediately.

After - you can see the creases where I rubbed the
curtain together.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

The problem with cheese

I love cheese.

Unfortunately the vast majority comes wrapped in plastic. My answer has been to buy cheese encased in wax. While waxed varieties do tend to be more expensive, I feel I can justify the cost through subsidising my food bill by growing as many vegetables and fruit as I can.

One of the benefits of wax is that because it is a natural product it can be composted, so waxed cheese is completely waste free!

I keep the cheese fresh by storing it in a tin.

Of course, if I was truly devout I'd make my own

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Easy plastic free energy food

I recently received a head injury, hence my silence on the blog as using a computer can be challenging. 

One effect of the healing process has been a craving for high energy food (sweet stuff). I don't want to eat sugar as, apart from its unhealthy nature, it creates energy spikes and leaves me feeling even more tired when fatigue is already a major issue with the concussion.

This is what I came up with as a result; a sugar-free, high energy food that utilises the brain mending goodness of chia seeds (they are very high in Omega 3).

Salted Caramel Bliss Balls

1. Mix in a blender:
    1 Tbsp chia seeds
    1/2 c goji berries (packed full of amazing health benefits. Read more here).
    1/2 c dates
    1/4 tsp salt (1/2 tsp if you want more savoury and less sweet)
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1 c cashews

Roll into balls and (optional) roll through dried coconut.


They replace muesli bars for snacks and can be frozen if you make a large amount.

I wrap mine in beeswax wrap to take with me, and when I'm back on my bike, will use them a lot for energy boosts.

All ingredients bar the vanilla were sourced from bulk bins. Thankfully I can also buy organic vanilla in a glass jar.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Plastic free chicken feed

It can be difficult to avoid plastic packaging when it comes to animal and pet food. I have been determined to reduce the amount of animal food I buy in plastic packaging, which means buying in bulk and/or making my own.

My latest endeavor is heavily supplementing my store bought chook food with grains I've sprouted myself. Sprouting grains releases nutrients that wouldn't ordinarily be accessible to chickens in dry food. Here's how I did it:

  • I bought several same sized tins from my local recycle centre and punctured holes in the bottom of them with a nail (don't make them too big or the grains will fall through).
  • I bought organic grain and soaked a couple of handfuls overnight, giving it a good rinse before placing it in one of the tins. 
  • I then repeated the procedure the following day or two, so there wasn't a huge amount sprouting at the same time. And again until all tins had grain in them.
  • The tins are stacked on top of each other and rinsed twice a day, with the oldest grain on top.
  • The grain is ready after six days; keep the rotation going (with three tins, you will need to soak new grain every two days).
  • To give the chickens the calcium they need, I dried out their egg shells in the sun, then crushed them up and mixed them with the sprouted grain.
  • The chickens loved it!
This site offers lots of advice if you'd like to give it a go.