Month: September 2017

IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Let’s Clean Up!

 

So for Day 3 of  International Zero Waste Week, let’s do some housekeeping!

The cleaning regime here in the Scrap House is much the same as everyone else’s I think. We tidy up, make beds sweep, vacuum, wash floors, windows, dishes, bedding and clothes.

Those of you that have been following this blog might remember me mentioning that our real journey to a low waste lifestyle actually began in 1995 after discovering that the Uni Student had mega-sensitive skin. I didn’t realise it at the time, but what I was doing to eliminate chemicals from our home was going Zero Waste!

It started with washing powder. The first thing we suspected when little baby Uni Student’s skin started to go red then blister and peel…yes it was that awful, I’m not exaggerating… I was willing to give anything a go to make our baby more comfortable, help her skin heal and stop it happening again.

For a while I just washed her clothes and nappies in bicarbonate of soda with a little white vinegar in the rinse and dried them in the sun whenever possible. It worked just fine, unless there was a stain. We needed something with a little more oomph occasionally.

That’s when Grandma Scraps sent me the book It’s so Natural. (I’m not affiliated with the author in any way and receive no payment for promoting his books, I just really like them). Ever since then I’ve been making our washing powder using a grated bar of unperfumed pure soap and some washing soda or Bicarbonate of soda. I still use white vinegar in the fabric softner dispenser (and for those who argue that vinegar will wreck your washing machine, our top-loader is almost 20 years old and still going strong and I have a friend with a front-loader who has been using the same formula as us for almost a decade with no noticeable damage to her machine. To make wool wash I use the soap, some metholated spirits and eucalyptus oil.

I’ve tried soap nuts/berries too and while they worked quite well and were on the whole one of the cheapest low waste eco-friendly options out there, there’s some suggestion that they’re not so good for those who grow them, plus there’s usually a lot of transport miles involved, so I might do a little more research before jumping on the soap nut bandwagon.

If you’ve read any of the other posts on this blog, such as the one about dishwasher tablets or the one about paste cleaner, you might be noticing a bit of a theme by now. White Vinegar, Bicarbonate of Soda, Washing Soda, Salt, Lemons and Eucalyptus and Tea Tree oil are staples in the Scrap House. We use them for just about everything. Lemons are usually free from a neighbours tree and everything else ia available from bulk stores, in really huge containers (brought in store or online) or in a cardboard box or recyclable glass bottle. The recipes for most of the homemade products are really simple too, just mix different amounts together and clean away, like the recipe for glass cleaner below.

 

Image result for vinegar and lemons for cleaning

Simple Recipe for Window/Glass Cleaner

1 cup of white vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 cups of water

To make up pour everything into a spray bottle, pop the lid on and give it a good shake. To use just spray on and buff off with a lint free cloth or scrunched up newspaper.

Okay, so you might have to take a little time to mix up your own cleaners, but at least you’ll know exactly what’s in them. As we found out the hard way over the years, just because something is labelled “eco”, “organic”, “earth-friendly” or “for sensitive skin”, doesn’t mean that it’s chemical free or even effective.Big bonus that overall they work out MUCH MUCH CHEAPER than the chemical stuff you get from the supermarket. I haven’t really crunched the numbers, but I’m fairly confident that the Scrap House gets clean for less than $10 AU a month.

So today’s challenge is to try it yourself.  Swap out one of your usual chemical cleaning products for a homemade version. You can use one of the recipes on this blog or there are a lot more on to be found on the internet (good ‘ol Dr. Google again). You could try cleaning your bathtub with bicarbonate of soda instead of your usual cream cleanser or use some white vinegar instead of fabric softener or rinse aid in your dishwasher.

 

 

IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Let’s Talk Groceries!

When you live in rural New South Wales, you can’t buy much in your own Mason jar.

I kept seeing pictures like this posted by people I Insta-Stalk & Face-Lurk and felt sad that my grocery hall so rarely looks as pretty as this.

In fact, until I read Bea Johnson’s book, Zero Waste Home and Amy Korst’s The Zero Waste Lifestyle, I didn’t actually know what a Mason Jar was. But they made it all seem so easy.

Just shop for groceries at your local bulk store with reusable containers and bags, and you’re set! Unfortunately, our little Australian village (population approximately  2,500) is not nearly as advanced as San Francisco when it came to shopping options, no bulk stores.  The only local bulk store local to us is a 30-40  minute drive away.

For years we’ve use calico bags when grocery shopping and I’ve always brought our veg from farmers markets or loose from the supermarket when ever I can, but in other areas  I’ve  struggled to minimise my family’s packaging waste, sometimes driving long distances between farms, markets, and small businesses in neighbouring communities to seek out minimal or refillable packaging. All that driving isn’t terribly sustainable and it took up huge chunks of time.

Most of all, it was discouraging. I was reading all these eco- friendly-sustainable-zero-waste-money-saving- organic-hippy- blogs and to be honest, felt like either I was completely useless, or that they were completely out of touch with the real world! All these amazing urban bloggers I was following really didn’t  grasp how challenging zero-waste living can be for rural dwellers here in Australia, and probably everywhere else too. In fact, sometimes it felt like they were being quite preachy or condescending.  I hate that. It makes me angry.

Then I found a blog post by Zero-Waste guru  Kathryn Kellogg.

I just wish that more of the zero-waste conversation considered that the majority of us actually don’t live in areas where Zero Waste is an easy option. If only everyone could be so encouraging and try to help everyone figure out alternative solutions that lower our waste (both food and packaging) without either a putting major dent in our budget or increasing our environmental footprint by driving all over the earth to find un-packaged goods.

Not everyone is going to be able to achieve a  ‘zero-waste’ lifestyle, but we can all still be make a difference and influence our community retailers to move in a greener direction.

So, what should you do if there are no reusable-friendly bulk stores around?

According to Kellogg, you start by asking yourself some questions:

1. Can it be made from scratch?

There are a lot of things we buy automatically in stores that are easy to make at home, such as pasta sauce, hummus, guacamole, pancake mix, vinaigrette, bread and muffins. Learn how to make them. If you live in the country making up a batch of muffins takes less time than driving to the store, and it’s cheaper too.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with ducking into the local bakery with your old pillow case or calico bag and buying a fresh loaf of bread or yummy muffin. We actually have an awesome little country bakery down the road so I do this often myself. And of all the stores I’ve ever tried to buy “zero-waste” from, bakeries have definitely been the easiest.

2. Can you buy it in a returnable container?

Some dairies offer milk and yogurt in returnable glass containers. You pay a deposit up front that’s reimbursed or transferred to your next purchase. Usually these are smaller-scale, privately-owned dairies that sell a better product. I haven’t found one here, but there’s an olive farm up the road that refills my 4 Litre oil tin every few months (we actually have two tins, one in the cupboard and an empty in the car that we fill when whenever we happen to be passing that way).

3. Is it available in compostable packaging?

Always go for paper if you can because it’s biodegradable. This is especially easy for baking supplies, like flour, sugar, chocolate, and cornstarch. Some pasta and chip brands come in cardboard.

4. Does it come in paper, glass or metal?

Kellogg is a big fan of glass, since it’s entirely recyclable – and it’s one of those few items that’s so costly to produce that recyclers and companies are willing to pay for recycling  (sadly it may have become so expensive here in Australia that a lot of it doesn’t get recycled at all so we’re now trying to avoid or reuse glass jars instead of dropping them in the recycling bin. If glass is recycled in your area though, you can buy most condiments, oils, and vinegar in glass bottles. I recently also found sliced beetroot at the local IGA supermarket in glass.

Metal is also a better option than plastic, as it’s more readily recycled. Just be cautious of BPA (plastic) in can linings.

We tend to buy things in paper or cardboard whenever possible because its not only recycled here, but is compost-able. We buy our flour, pasta, sugar (very, very rarely), baking soda and oats in boxes or paper packaging in the largest quantity we can find or comfortably store. Boxes go in the recycling and paper gets shredded for the Immortal Chicken’s bedding before becoming compost. Just watch out for hidden plastic bags inside food boxes. If you give the box a bit of a shake or gentle squeeze you can usually hear if there’s one in there, but I’ve been caught out a few times with speciality flours and cereals.

5. Can you buy it in bulk?

Buying in bulk is always a good idea to save money (as long as you can eat it), but it’s especially smart if plastic packaging is the only option. Buy the biggest bag you can, like Kellogg did: “We bought a 25lb bag of rice when we first moved to California that lasted two years. That alone saved 25 plastic-wrapped rice bags!”.

We do this for things like cheese, nuts, coffee beans since they keep for a while either in airtight jars or the freezer.

The important thing here is not to let perfection impede your progress.

There are ways to reduce waste, even if they’re not as picture-perfect as the book authors and bloggers  world would like you to think. I mean, if it was really sooo easy everyone would be doing it and they wouldn’t be selling any books would they?

So for today’ s challange:

No matter where you live, next time you go shopping try and swap at least one item that you buy on a regular basis for a less waste producing option.

For example, we started buying a different brand of dry pasta some time ago because it comes in a cardboard box instead of a plastic bag. Bonus is, it actually tastes better than the other brand and doesn’t cost anymore than what we used to buy when its “on special”. We also like cheese and as a family eat quite a lot of it , so I stated buying it in 1kg blocks and cutting it into quarters for the freezer (or I wrap it in a beeswax wrap and pop it in the back of the fridge) instead of buying just enough for the week. Again it costs less, but it also means that instead of 52 plastic wrappers per year being washed and going off to Redcycle, there’s only about 12 and I always have some on hand when I need it.

IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Let’s Talk Recycling

Did you know that September 4th - 8th is International Zero Waste Week?
Are you ready for a challenge?

The first Monday in September marks the beginning of International Zero Waste week.

What is it?

Well, it's this awesome little grassroots campaign that started nearly a decade ago. It aims to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of the waste we produce. And it's growing. It started as a UK thing, but now its gone international with individuals, businesses and communities from 72 countries joining in.

Drop into this blog from Monday the 4th September 2017 for a bit of a chat and a simple challenge every day of the week to commemorate such an important cause for waste awareness.

Now let's talk recycling!

In a perfect  Zero Waste world we wouldn't need recycling at all! Everything would either be 100 % compost-able or reusable.

Unfortunately, it's not a perfect world and probably never will be, but we can all do our bit and in the Scrap household it all began with recycling.

We've always composted what we can and for a long time we've had at least one chicken to eat our kitchen scarps, but we haven't always had the lovely yellow recycling bin provided by local council.

It's awesome! At first you could only put paper, glass and metal in them, but these days they take all sorts of plastics too. Only thing is, while our Red Bin rarely goes out our Yellow Bin has often been overflowing!

The Red & Yellow Bins supplied by local council. We also have a Green Bin for organic waste

Where we live the Red Bin is  the landfill bin and the Yellow Bin is for curbside recycling. We also have a Green Bin that you can put organics in - things like grass clippings, bones, dog poop, kitchen waste, tissues, paper towel, pizza boxes - which goes off to a commercial compost facility.

Now it's great that so much waste is being diverted from landfill, and except for a few things we just can't buy plastic free here (milk) most of what fills our  Yellow Bin is paper, glass and the odd tin can or bit of aluminium foil. But with all the media lately about glass not actually being recycled in Australia, perhaps we should all be doing a little more to reduce not only what goes into landfill but what goes into recycling as well.

There's also a lot of confusion as to what actually can be recycled. For example, for years I was guilty of thinking that the paper cups you get your takeaway coffee in could be recycled because they're paper. How wrong I was. Here in Australia we're told you can put those cardboard tetra packs (the kind you take camping with your UHT milk and juice in or buy your fancy nut-milks in) but in most cases, they don't actually get recycled at all, instead they just get diverted to landfill. This costs recycling companies money and I can't be sure but things like this  may be part of the reason it costs so much to recycle things like glass and companies turn to cheaper imports from overseas.

     Not all glass is being recycled in Australia due to the cost!

So the challenge for today- find one thing in your home that you think might be recyclable, but you're not sure and find out if it actually is (and perhaps if it is, that it actually gets recycled in your area).

Oh, and once you've found out don't forget to send it off for recycling.

If you can't put it  in your curbside bin find out if your local council has a facility that will take it or (if it is small enough) post it off to somewhere that does.

   Pulling apart an old mattress for recycling

For example: We had an old innerspring mattress hanging around that has moved house with us several times because I couldn't find somewhere locally that recycled them and didn't want to send it to landfill (I wasn't even sure they were recyclable and I thought I'd eventually work out how to do something cool with it). Turns out, after a Dr. Google search that if you pull it apart, just about all of the components are recyclable, reusable or compost-able.

In some places old mattresses can be dropped off at recycling centres or bedding shops - Here's how they're recycled.

 

To kick it off - I've made a list of places in Australia where you can send those recyclables that can't go into your regular curbside recycling. I'll be adding more as I find them.

You can find it here on the Scrappy Links page.

IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Day 4, Let’s Do Lunch!

Argh! Lunches! 

I actually hate packing lunches. I HAVE to do them the night before or it’s just utter chaos in the Scrap House of a morning. Silly really, I’ve been packing lunch for myself and others ever since I first left Grandma and Grandad Scraps house at  18. You’d think it’d be a doddle by now.

Thing is… work or school lunches are probably one of the easiest places to lower waste and save some monies.

For example, a couple of weeks ago I went to work one day  and didn’t pack my lunch because I have decided that just for one day a month I will treat myself and buy lunch from one of the cafe’s near the office. I budgeted for it out of my “mad money” (I might blog about how we budget one day) so it wasn’t a shock at all, but lunch cost me about $12. It wasn’t a fancy lunch either. A chicken schnitzel sandwich and a drink. It was nice. I was full afterwards and didn’t feel the need to snack at all between lunch and dinner. The archaeologist I work with also brought her lunch (a toasted wrap, some fries and a drink) for around the same price. We decided to take our lunches back to the office and eat in the conference room, so the woman at the cafe wrapped our schnitzel sandwich and toasted wrap in paper and put the fries in a bag (we both carry reusable coffee cups so no disposables there).

Not so bad I thought … but…. together our lunches cost about $25. I worked it out that if I worked 5 days a week (at the moment I’m only doing two but that will change next month when Uni finishes) and brought my lunch from a cafe every day at $12, thats $60 a week. Multiply that by 50 weeks and that’s a whopping $3,000 a year! Even more if Mr Scraps was doing the same… and more still if the Teens brought lunch from the Caf at their school every day!

I actually know families who do this. No wonder they’re broke despite earning decent wages.

Not only did it cost money but buying our lunch and bringing it back to the office also  left us with paper wrapping and paper bags. I know, paper is recyclable and compostable but….

When I bring my lunch from home in my own reusable container and make a coffee at work in my own cup it costs less than $5 (sometimes as little as $1 depending on what I pack). It also produces no packaging waste. That’s Zero Waste. 

Plus (if I’m doing it properly) it’s usually A LOT HEALTHIER than a schnitzel sandwich (I’m not giving them up completely though… I still love a good schnitty).But I quickly get bored of sandwiches and so do the Teens and Mr Scraps.

My work is actually great for zero waste lunches (I’ve blogged about our zero waste office before …you can read it here) and taking leftovers from last nights dinner is great but sometimes it’s nice to have something “special” just to break up the day. It makes the school or work day so much nicer if you know you have a great lunch to look forward to and you don’t have to worry about how much it’s going to cost you. So these are my must-haves for a great zero waste pack-up (I do ours the night before because … well you know…. mornings…) and at the bottom are some links to my current favourite pack-ups.

  • Drink/water bottles –  These are a must! I have a glass one because it sits on my desk but the Scrap kids have BPA free plastic ones because they get thrown about in school bags and dragged around the school oval at lunch time or during sports. I have a couple of spares tucked away in the back of the cupboard for those days someone forgets to bring theirs home.
  • Lunch Boxes –  I pack them up the night before. We have a collection. Plastic ones, wooden ones and metal ones. I like the Bento style ones with the little compartments. They get used for all sorts of things around here not just lunch, but we have lots because I like to cook extra stuff for the fridge or freezer so we can just grab-n-go. You don’t need a fancy box to put your lunch in though, just use whatever you have, an old Tupperware container  or reuse a takeaway box. The only rule about containers I have for the Scrap House is NEVER reheat anything in plastic (put it on a plate before you pop it in the microwave).
  • Jars – I’m really into food in a jar at the moment. So many things you can put in them Noodles, Oats, Salads, Soups and they look so pretty on Insta-stalk, That Pin Stuff  site and Face-lurk. It’s a good idea if you’re going to eat straight from the jar to have one with a wide mouth. They don’t have to be fancy mason jars either. We reuse old salsa and sauerkraut  jars. But anything you can put in a jar, you can put in an old Tupperware container…except maybe the soup (unless you’ve got a good lid).
  • A Thermos – we have a couple of those wide-mouthed ones and a tall skinny one for hot coffee or tea. A thermos for me is a must for fieldwork days and trips to the park with the Threenager. They’re awesome on cold winter days, but most people forget they’ll keep thing cool too! Just about anything you can put in a jar or lunchbox (that’s not a sandwich… although I haven’t tried it, maybe there’s a way) you can put in a thermos. Just remember if you’re going to eat straight from the thermos that you’ll probably need long-handled cutlery.
  • Beeswax or Vegan Wraps and Cloth Napkins – you can buy expensive wraps or make them yourself. I usually find that a napkin does the job, but beeswax or vegan wraps will act a bit more like cling-film. You don’t really need them if you have reusable containers. Its just handy to have something to wrap that sandwich or muffin in. I found the wrapper your butter comes in (wiped clean of course) is also a good alternative for small things.
  • Cutlery- You can get some lovely little “to-go” packs. The bamboo ones are cute, but the Scrap kids and I just grab flatware from the drawer. I brought some extra spoons and forks from the local op-shop a while ago (because someone will always leave one at school in their locker or in the dish drainer at work – although my work now has their own for us to use so I don’t need to take my own to the office anymore).

So  besides last nights leftovers, what do you pack in these things other than sandwiches?

There’s lots of “Lunch in a Jar” articles on the interwebs,and they’re not all for salad or noodles.Try here or here for ideas. And remember that anything you can put in a jar you can put in another container. But the jars look so damned pretty.

For times when I have access to a microwave, I like to cook up lasagne in small glasslock style containers. Just pop on the lid on when they’ve cooled and throw them straight in the freezer and pull them out on your way out the door. They make great “TV dinners” too for those nights when my meal plan doesn’t work, something unexpected comes up or I just can’t be bothered. Lasagne sheets are one of the few really cheap pasta options we can get here in a cardboard box, sometimes we make our own but we don’t always have the time (or the energy).

I also make pies for the freezer. I can get away with feeding the rest of the Scrap household almost anything if I wrap it in pastry. From scratch  I fry off some mince and onion, add some finely chopped veg and a little gravy then pop into pastry in the pie-maker that Mr Scraps found at a garage sale a few years ago (it makes four pies at a time before that I baked them in large muffin tins in the oven). More often though I make them from leftovers like vegetable curry, beef stew or homemade pasta sauce.

For winter,  soup is great for the thermos and it’s mega cheap if you make it at home! It does need to be heated up in the morning before popping it in the thermos though (unless you’ve got a super-duper on. I used too but the lid broke and I haven’t managed to find a replacement). There’s lots of soup recipes out there on the interwebs. I like to use up leftovers and veg scraps to make soup like my Carrot Top Soup. You can find a recipe here. Or I just throw some Scrap Stock in a pot, add veg and some shredded chicken, season well and you have chicken and veg soup.

For snacks (that aren’t fruit) we like – a little pot of dip or salsa with flatbread or veg like carrot or celery cut into sticks, Scrap to Snack MuffinsNot little Bear Biscuits, Banana Bread or  No Bake Museli Bars,

In an ideal world we’d have time to make everything from scratch and completely zero waste. it’s not an ideal world though so if you don’t have the time to cook from scratch (or your family are fussy eaters or  just plain out won’t eat homemade lunches) you can still do lower waste, cheap lunches. Just buy things in the biggest packets you can find to minimise packaging and keep the cost down. I sometimes do this with nuts or corn chips. Just dish them out into reusable containers  as  individual serves and recycle the packaging.

The challenge for today:  is to do a recipe book or internet trawl and find yourself (and anyone else you pack lunches for) some appetising pack-ups. Even if you are a stay at home mum without school kids and you’re packing snacks for a trip to the park with your baby or toddler, it doesn’t have to be boring.