Low waste update

I haven’t bothered to collect my rubbish in a mason jar, I don’t think I will ever want to keep and store my trash, maybe that’s too confronting.

I am going with a self reporting sort of measure. I feel like I haven’t put anything in the bin for a few weeks now. I stopped being so lazy and put the vacuum cleaner canister contents in the compost. I bought a heap of butter and froze it. It wasn’t a success zero waste wise. The lady was happy to put the butter in my large tin but she used a disposable glove and a piece of plastic to get it in there. Butter was one of the last things that I bought frequently but hadn’t found a solution for. I still haven’t.

IMG_4144
A glass pineapple soap dispenser that my grandmother gave me from the ?70’s. I love it!

I made my own pasta. I used the last of the pesto that I froze from last Summer, delicious. Bought my dry goods with no packaging. Fruit from the farmers market, no packaging. My sister is coming to stay the weekend and she Loves milk. So today I will go to the health food store and buy some milk in a glass bottle, although they are not returnable they recycle better than their plastic counterparts. I have called a few companies that were sending me advertising and asked them to stop. Lots of small steps.

There was a period of a couple of months where I felt like I hadn’t reduced the amount that I was putting in the recycling bin. I feel that has changed. The last few weeks I have seen a real improvement. I have put only a couple of things in the recycling bin.

tired1

I am close to where I want to be, waste wise. If I find any peppermint essential oil at the health food store I will be diving into home made toothpaste. Wish me luck!

Too many aims

I think I am trying to do too many things. They are all in the same vein but I have trouble when there are conflicting means to ends.

I would like to create next to no waste.

I would like to have a minimal carbon foot print.

I would like to eat only local food.

I would like to be off grid.

I would like to have less technology in my life.

IMG_3983

Each of these by themselves is achievable (with a lot of work!) But to create next to no waste I have to drive further (petrol=big carbon foot print) than I can ride my bike to get package free food. I bought big jars to store the zero waste food in which seems counter productive. Sometimes I need to choose between local but packaged or further away and package free. Or organic from India or non organic from Australia. I would like less technology but I love writing a blog, the internet is invaluable when researching better ways to create less waste, people get annoyed when I don’t answer the phone.I feel like each step forward I make in one area is a small step back somewhere else.

IMG_3984

Off grid is more challenging. I have solar panels but no means of storing the power, so at night we use grid power. We have a gas stove top and heater. I drink mains water. I think it would be expensive to get off grid but I also believe you shouldn’t work all the hours of all the days in this life. Balance is so important. But money makes all of this easier. Conundrums upon conundrums. I guess this is just a venting of frustrations. Slowly I will work out the nuances of how and what works for me. Til then I will just keep compromising. I do drive for package free shopping but only once a fortnight when I am kind of in the area. I am growing nearly all of my own fresh food so especially going into Spring/Summer hopefully the garden will be in abundance and I can eat delicious nutritious food from my back yard.

IMG_3986

I try to charge the computer and phone only during the day when the solar panels are doing the work. I run the dehydrator on sunny days. I try, I try, I try.

IMG_3988I guess that has to be good enough…

Soap nuts are the best!

A great opportunity to reduce the chemicals in my life came in the form of soap nuts (actually berries, it is the fruit from the tree). For about a year I was making my own detergent to wash my clothes with which was way better than the mysteriously scented one from the store (I have never smelled Sunshine that smelled like that! Who even has a scent called Sunshine?) But one of the ingredients was grated soap. At that point in time I was not making my own soap so I purchased a box of the recommended soap (8 bars, I only used one in the year that I was using this detergent) but I still felt that there had to be a more natural option, the soap bars were bright yellow! Enter Soap Nuts. In my humble opinion they are the bees knees!

IMG_3715

A couple of times a year I make up a concentrated solution. I use 4 or 5 soap nuts per cup of water and simmer simmer simmer. I stir and squash them occasionally while they cook til the liquid is a nice amber colour. Strain it, then pour this liquid (over the next few days) into an ice tray. I store the ice cubes in a container in the freezer. I keep adding the ice cubes to the container as they freeze. Then I throw a few in to the washing machine when I wash a load of clothes. The shelf life without freezing is a week or 2 in the fridge.

You can put the soap nuts into a little muslin bag and put them in with your clothes in the machine without any of the making a concentrate steps. You can get 5 or 6 washes out of them this way, just allow the bag and the nuts to dry between loads so they don’t go mouldy. My washing machine only washes in stone cold water and not enough of the saponins come out of the nuts for it to be an effective washing solution for me. Hence the liquid concentrate.

I have been using this method for the last 2 years or so. I am happy with it. I put vinegar in the fabric softener compartment if I feel like it, a drop or 2 of essential oils if I am feeling really fancy, otherwise just a few of the soap nut ice cubes.

I purchased a 1kg bag approximately 18 months ago and this has kept me in clean clothes and is only about half empty. The bag cost $28 (just had a look at their website and it is now $35 for a kilo), I did not shop around to see if this is a good price. I think this is reasonable for potentially 3 years of detergent.

IMG_3717
What tasty morsel do you have there? Not for chickens!

Apart from the bag that the dried soap nuts came in (a reusable calico bag but it did have a plastic bag inside that that actually contained the soap nuts) there is no waste with this detergent. I put the used berries in the compost bin. I feel that I could find either unpackaged (loose) soap nuts or one that does not have a plastic bag inside the external calico. That is a job for the future. The other thing to note is that soap nuts are not grown in Australia, these were imported from Pakistan. According to a few websites it is illegal to grow the tree in Australia. As they are dry I assume they are shipped not flown, for the time being this is good enough. I am half heartedly looking into the plant soapwort. To be honest I find the name off putting!

According to their website there are so many things you can do with soapnuts and I am severely under-using them. I am going to attempt to expand their role in my household.

my accoutrements

Firstly, accoutrement, what a great word. I rarely have use for it in my day to day vocabulary but it popped straight to mind when I was thinking what to call this post. I love words! I love the English language, spelling, fancy words all of these. Unfortunately grammar just doesn’t get on this list, my grammar is atrocious. I wish it was better. But back to the point…

The most frequently used items in my low waste shopping.

IMG_3765

The two containers are plastic, when they reach the end of their lives I will have 2 2L glass bottles. I recently found 2L glass bottles filled with raw apple cider vinegar from Tasmania (not quite local but certainly not far). I use apple cider vinegar for quite a few things so that is my progression plan. The plastic bottles are refilled with white vinegar and dishwashing liquid. I then decant the dishwashing liquid into 2 small bottles that I keep in the kitchen (for washing dishes) and in the laundry (for washing the floor) I just keep topping them up as they run low. The vinegar lives in the big bottle. It does look like it houses water but that is just some old labeling. When I was more diligent with the cleaning element of kombucha brewing I used a diluted vinegar solution. The H2O told me which vinegar was diluted. Now I just use soap and water. Still alive, so running with it.

IMG_3766

The 2 bags are for dry goods. I try to get 2 things that I am running low on each time I am at the store so that I don’t run out of multiple things at the same time and wish I had more than 2 bags. So far the system is working. I don’t want to have to buy more but if the system breaks down I will. I have yet to run low on spices or anything that would stain my bags. I think I will use jars for those things.

The sister that I live with has no aspirations for low waste living, the bin is always full so I find it hard to gauge how well I am doing. Based on my memory I have only put a handful of items in the bin in the last few months. Mostly butter wrappers. I would like to find a better option for the butter and cheese. Otherwise I am fairly happy with how I am doing. I have been composting some paper based packaging (for some weird reason the bulk food place only sells packaged coconut, I asked why, apparently it is too messy. I cannot imagine it to be more messy than cocoa powder which they sell unpackaged, anyway…) It comes in paper based packaging that says it is compostable. I am unsure if this means that there are no chemicals in it that would be bad for the garden and me. I probably should email them and ask. I am still putting some things in the recycling bin, I would like to reduce this but am fairly happy with where I am at.

The obligatory bags. These hang on the back of my door.

IMG_3755

I am also pretty happy that I don’t (so far) require a heap of things to live this low waste lifestyle.

I really am trying…

I’m trying hard to clear out junk, not accumulate more, live with less, be all zen and minimalist. But then I watch the British Antiques Roadshow. I love that show! No I am not 90 years old. Yes I am aware it is not prime cerebral viewing. The joy on people faces when their $2 thrift store purchase turns out to be worth $2000 is (for me) great viewing.

I have no problem telling people all about Antiques Roadshow, judge, judge away, I tell these people. This is because I have the warped notion that I will find something at the thrift store worth a kabillion dollars, rare and precious, I will recognise it thanks to Antiques Roadshow. This is at odds with my desire to own less. But damn do I love thrift shopping. It fits beautifully into my low waste lifestyle as I buy all my clothes from there, it does not however align with owning less. I tend to buy more, unsure if I will wear or use it just because it is cheap, I am supporting a charity and I feel no landfill guilt. I buy all my books from thrift stores and return them there too. If I want something specific I go to the library.

I do take things to thrift stores if I find I am not using them or wearing them but I really shouldn’t be bringing them home in the first place. I have cleared out the hanging section of my wardrobe and have a large pile of clothes to give to charity. There is nothing wrong with them but I either felt uncomfortable in them, they didn’t fit well or I just wasn’t opting to wear them. The process continues through out the rest of my room…

Back to Antiques Roadshow! I am the nutbag that is picking up all the cups and saucers to see who made them and make my own very educated assessment on age and quality. All my education has come from Antiques Roadshow, unquestionably high caliber.

The dream is still well and truly alive that I will find something valuable. I have a sneaking suspicion that my odds are the same or worse than winning the lottery but I will continue. One day I will be the person on the show that does a happy dance after literally dropping my jaw open and being absolutely shocked (but on the inside sagely nodding and repeating ‘I knew this day would come’) Seems reasonable to me. Let the quest continue (the cleaning out of junk and the hunt for the kabillion dollar thrift store pottery)

Just because I can. Here is a picture of Herbie with his frequently displayed “crazy face”

100_6264

Low waste

I have a goal. It is to not need a garbage bin. I have made the decision that for me and my life zero waste would be just a bit too challenging. Instead I am aiming for very low waste. This gives me some wriggle room. Reduces guilt when I fail. And seems so much more do-able. I have decided that I am willing to accept some waste as long as it is recyclable.

I have encountered some problems that I am still unsure how to tackle. Things like, I can buy local cheese that comes in plastic or I can go to the deli and buy unpackaged cheese that has been imported from overseas and therefore has large miles attached to it. I am going to email the cheese people that I currently buy from once a month at the farmers market near my house and ask them if there is some way to bring some unpackaged cheese. Small thing but it seems to come up a bit. I can buy something in a glass reusable jar from another country but the local is packaged less well.

I haven’t nutted out where to buy milk that is packaged in glass. Luckily I rarely drink milk, but in Summer I like to make my own yoghurt, this will involve sourcing milk. I also have not worked out where to buy butter that is unpackaged. I love butter, so a quality unpackaged butter would seem like heaven!

There are so many things that I have worked out. I now produce very little waste which thrills me but I know I can do better without much more effort. The devil is in the details.

On a somewhat related note my ladies have decided the days are sufficiently long enough that they will lay an egg every now and then. I haven’t found a way to buy their food unpackaged, I am trialing a different way of feeding them that will reduce but not eliminate the packaging. I currently buy it in 20kg bags which is not too bad!

IMG_36783 eggs so far today, I expect a blue one later this afternoon. All the signs point to warmer weather on the way! yay!

Also just made a sandwich. Bread unpackaged from the farmers market. Eggs from the backyard mashed with a tiny bit of garlic salt, garlic from the backyard, salt bought unpackaged, avocado unpackaged from the market, watercress and rocket from the backyard.  Delicious, no packaging. A win!

Hoarding tendencies

Yep, I have a touch of hoarding in me. I am fairly convinced that I will need whatever it is that should be thrown out in the future. I would hate to have to go and buy something that I gave away 6 months earlier. So I keep it. When I do need it it vindicates all the other keeps that I shouldn’t have made.

I went through a period where I would put something into my donate pile each day. One thing a day. It worked for about 2 weeks, then it got too hard. It isn’t out of control, everything has a home, I have surfaces with nothing on them. But I keep reading about the calm that comes with minimalism. I aspire to that. Unfortunately I don’t aspire enough to actually achieve it.

IMG_3668

This is the space that allows me to feel I can claim I have surfaces with nothing on them. This is the bottom of my wardrobe. I am fairly sure it should be empty, but it did used to be more full of stuff (mostly empty jars) so this is quite sparse compared to then…. On the left is my ‘to read’ pile. It is fairly sizable. Lucky I love reading!

I am going to start the process again, make a brand new effort to reduce the stuff that I have. I will attempt to be ruthless. A major Spring clean.

Maybe I should have a set goal but I don’t. Surely I will know when I have achieved the right level of ‘Stuff’ for me. Off I go….