Thursday, 16 March 2017

"Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot (and only in that order)........ my family’s secret to living waste-free since 2008!" Bea Johnson

Earlier this week I attended a brilliant talk by Bea Johnson, author of the book Zero Waste Home and proprietor of the website Zero Waste Home where she provides a host of resources (bulk buy sellers in Ireland) and tips on how to de-plastic and declutter your life. She lives in California with her husband and two teenage boys, The amount of black bin waste their family created last year fits inside a small mason jar. That is impressive, and it gets me thinking about our black bin waste, we are down to one and a half black bin collections a year  (husband, myself and a cat) which is not terrible,  but it could be so much less if we found plastic free alternatives to more food items and planned meals for the week and bought stuff in bulk or was part of a local bulk buy group.

Things we currently regularly buy in plastic: 
(B) = black bin; (R) = recyclable; (U)= unsure
Milk (R)
Cheese (B)
Crisps (B)
Some nuts (B)
Lemons and limes (B)
Lettuce (B)
Pulses (U) 
Free range chicken (B&R)
Pasta (U)
Yoghurt (R)

Food that I regularly buy that I have found waste free alternatives for
I buy most of my veggies and fruit naked
I have bought nuts using my own cotton bags
Meat (I bring my own plastic ice-cream boxes to butchers)
Oats in paper bags 
Free Range Eggs in  boxes, no plastic

Unlike Bea, we have decided that we are not minimalists, but I (more so that himself) want to own less stuff, so this year, I would like to divest myself of  my things in our lives that I don't use, don't have solid plans for or don't like. When I buy things, they are to be the right things, preferably second hand or homemade things that will last a long time. I have made a list of the purchases/ things I need to make this year or next that will be the right things for our somewhat pared down, more plastic free lives.

Areas that I will be working on to become more zero waste:
Buy bamboo toothbrushes next time I need to buy toothbrushes
Look for a BB cream that comes in glass next time I need to buy that
Perhaps make mascara as per Bea's instructions in her book when I next feel inclined to buy the stuff
Work towards creating a bulk buy group in my area
Get back to making my own yoghurt especially now that I have discovered porridge bread
Ask online sellers to only send items in paper or cardboard
Make a few fabric and net baggies to facilitate buying loose nuts, veggies, pulses, rice, etc
Look for plastic free dishwasher detergent that doesn't cost a fortune
Make/ buy beeswax wrap for buying cheese in and as a substitute for cling film
Find a place to buy dry catfood in cardboard or from a bulk supplier
Limescale cleaner for the toilet

Bea pointed out that because they have all the stuff that they need (not much stuff at all) it leaves them as a family with more time (not looking after stuff) and money with which to pursue experiences such as sky diving and interesting holidays. The gifts that they give each other are the gifts of experiences, not gifts of stuff. Please check out her website for more information on how to live well and create less waste. If you are interested in a zero waste lifestyle, and are looking for support, join the Facebook group Zero Waste Ireland. This is a very active (over 4000 members)  Facebook group that are a great resource.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Mallow seeds, a delicious snack

Today I found a tree mallow (Lavatera arborea) covered in seed heads, so I harvested a number of them and fried them up for a few minutes before putting salt and ground cayenne pepper on. You could take the three leaf like structures off of the seed head before cooking, but this can easily be done afterwards while eating it. The taste is fairly reminiscent of fried sweetcorn. I also like to harvest these and toast them in the popcorn maker. Fresh, the seed heads taste a bit like raw peanuts. When harvesting, look out for the younger, greener ones as their texture is better.
Tree mallows have velvety leaves and lovely, purply flowers, see photo, both of which can be eaten. Other varieties of mallow such as common mallow (Malva sylvestris) and Egyptian mallow (Malva parviflora) also have edible flowers, leaves and seeds. The flowers can be added to salads, the leaves used to thicken soups or cooked like spinach.

Mallow flowers and leaves
Mallow seed heads

Fried mallow seed heads

Now is also a good time to look out for dried poppy seed heads, these heads can be shaken into a paper bag, allow the seeds to dry properly and store them for adding to baked goods.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Pumpkin seed milk

Pumpkin season is almost upon us, and I have discovered a very easy way to use up all those pumpkin seeds that are left over. Turn them into 'milk'. I used the seeds from 2 butternut squashes, this made around 550ml of pumpkin seed milk. Because the butternut seed husk is quite fine, the solid remains are going to be added to a sourdough crackers batter.

Equipment needed:
  • nylon sieve or jelly bag
  • blender
  • container
  • spoon
  1. Put your pumpkin (or sunflower) seeds (cases and all) into a blender with enough water to cover them. Blend it up till all of the seeds are broken up and the water turns whitish.
  2. Push this through the sieve, catching the liquid and returning the seed mush to the blender again with enough water to just cover them. Blend the mix again until the liquid turns whitish and the seeds break up into even smaller pieces. Pass through the sieve 
  3. Repeat stage 2 once again
  4. Bottle up the seed milk into a clean bottle, refrigerate and enjoy it within a few days
Seeds and water in blender
Straining the liquid from the solids
The end product!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Laundry liquid

I stopped using commercial washing powder a number of years ago because I tend to wash my washing at 30degrees which seems to be too cold to fully dissolve some powders, leaving a whitish residue on dark items. So for years I have been using commercial non-bio laundry liquid. A friend of mine told me that she makes her own, so when I ran out of my usual, I went to the internet and found a recipe that I adapted. It works pretty well, I have washed three loads with it and it seems to do the job for a fraction of the price of commercial.

To make 4L of concentrated laundry liquid

Grating soap in food processor
100g of soap (Castille is recommended, avoid soaps made with palm oil as it's production damages rain forests in Asia) (grate the soap, I used the grating disc on the food processor)
4 L of boiling water
2 cups washing soda (sodium carbonate) (available in cleaning aisle of supermarket)
1 cup baking soda (bread soda/ sodium bicarbonate)
1 cup borax (optional, is a brightener)

In a pot melt the grated soap with 1L of boiling water, in the meantime,
in a plastic bucket (not aluminum as it reacts with washing soda), dissolve the washing soda, baking soda and borax in 3L of boiling water, use a wooden spoon to stir.
Once the soap is melted and the sodas dissolved, add the soap solution to the bucket. stir it up with the wooden spoon and then use a stick blender to properly mix it. Don't worry, the two solutions will separate again, in fact, they never stay mixed. Once the mixture has cooled down, transfer it into bottles. (Washed out milk bottles will do)
To use, shake it up till it is homogenised, and use 50-100ml per wash depending on soilage.

Blended soap solution in bucket
One of 4 Litres of laundry liquid

Bar of soap < €1
Washing soda, 2 cups < 50c
Baking soda, 1 cup <50c
4L boiling water < €1
Total for 4 L < €3

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Butter and tallow candles

With talk of power cuts, ones thoughts turn to candles and alternative forms of light (and heat for that matter) Here is one that Dee spearheaded. He read about making emergency candles from all sorts of things like tins of tuna in oil, cheese wax and butter etc. So in the spirit of experimentation, he set out to make a candle from butter. He put about 1/2 pound (230g) of butter into a glass candle jar and put that into a pot of hot water to melt. He stuck a wick in it and lit it once it had set, it splutters from time to time as the water present in the butter gets close to the wick. It appears to be a highly efficient candle, in 8 hours of burning, it has only used about 1/5th of itself, and it burns quite hot.

The tallow candle is made from the fat from beef or lamb that has been clarified through heating, cooling and sieving until a solid, waxy substance forms, this waxy substance is tallow, once put into a jar with a wick, it will function as a candle.

Butter candle (left), tallow candle (right)

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

How to quickly fix a zip

It can be really annoying when a zip's slider comes free of it's rails. This problem is typically easy to fix if you can find the slider, if not another one can usually be purchased or removed from another zip.

For this fix, you will need a needle and some strong thread (top stitching thread is ideal)

Find the bottom of the zip, (you may need to break into some of the stitches). Line them up so that both ends are at the same level, then insert each end into the corresponding groove at the widest part of the slider at the same time. This may be tricky, but keep persevering, as it will work.
Slide the slider up, and the zip should close, if it doesn't there is probably something wrong with the slider where it has warped out of shape or there is a kink in the zip.

Sew a large stopper that will stop the slider
Sew under and over the bottom of the zip

 Now you need to make a stopper for the zip so that it won't slide off. This is where the needle and thread comes in. Make a thick stopper by sewing under and over the zip a number of times. Sew the ends of the zip back in to where they should be and replace any stitches that were undone in the process.

Trouser zips can be tackled in the same way

Dandelion coffee

Let us be clear about one thing, dandelion root coffee will not give you the same kick as regular coffee, but it makes a pleasant, homemade substitute for decaf. It is also easy to make, and it transforms a weed into a pleasant beverage.

Dandelion roots
  •  Dig up as much of the dandelion root as possible and as many as you can
  • Wash the roots as well as possible and chop into 3cm pieces
  • Chop them finely (food processor works well)
  • Spread them out onto a baking tray
  • Bake in a 100 degree C oven for till some of the pieces start to go dark brown (caramelly). (To be super efficient, bake and dry the dandelion and granola at the same time, to score extra green points, pop these into the oven after baking something else)
  • Reduce the heat and allow the roots to dry in the oven without burning much more
  • Once dry, cool the root pieces and store in an airtight container and use as you would coffee (I like to use it in the caffetier. Unlike coffee, the same "grounds" can be used 2 or 3 times,without it loosing too much flavour
You will never look at a dandelion in the same way again!

Cleaned, roots
Chopped up roots waiting to get into the oven