War on Waste

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As I mentioned in a previous post, it seems that the recent ABC series has brought the issues of waste, landfill, over-consumption and single-use items into focus for many people who had previously not really given a great deal of thought to these matters.

It is even more exciting to see some of the actions that are occurring as a direct result of this increased awareness.  One example is Frankies at Forde in the Canberra suburb of Gungahlin.  The photo below is from their Facebook page.  It would be great to encourage other cafes and coffee shops to do the same.

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Have you observed any other changes as a result of this program?

Zero Waste Shopping

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As you probably know from some of my previous posts, I try to minimise the amount of packaging we accept when we are shopping.  Fruit and vegetables are relatively easy to find loose and I buy dry goods from bulk bins in my own bags and containers.

However, some other items are a bit more of a challenge.  Today I want to share what I bought yesterday.

At the Co-op I bought brown rice from the bulk bins in one of the tulle bags I made a few years ago.

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The next stop was the local IGA where I bought salmon fillets.  I handed over this plastic container, the staff member weighed it and then added the fillets.  The sticker is on the end of the container and I remove it as soon as I get home and the residue comes off fairly easily.

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The next stop was at the vet where I needed to get some more medication for our dog.  He only started this a couple of months ago and I was given 40 tablets in a small ziplock bag.  When I needed more I took the bag back to be refilled but was unsuccessful in my attempt to reuse it and ended up with a new bag.  This time I tried something different.  I took an old tablet bottle of my own (label removed) and asked if they could use that and label it.  The receptionist checked with the vet who said it was fine to reuse.  Now that the precedent is set and it is labelled I should be able to continue to do this on a regular basis.

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Our final stop was in a relatively new shop called ‘Healthy Homewares‘.  It was interesting to browse around and I ended up buying 3 different brushes.  All are made from natural materials, unpackaged and even the labels are cardboard and tied on with natural twine.  No plastic in sight.

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I am not always this successful when making purchases but it is certainly great when you can.

A Critical Mass

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The Australian government continues to lag behind most of the rest of the world when it comes to any kind of action with respect to climate change.  I have often thought that any serious action would need to be driven by a groundswell of public opinion but despaired that it would ever happen.

For many years I have felt like I was swimming against the tide as I refused excess packaging, tried to avoid as much single-use plastic as possible and generally tried to reduce my carbon footprint as much as possible.  Gradually, I have seen an increase in groups and individuals trying to make a difference but recently this seems to have taken a definite upswing.

There even seems to be some interest in the mainstream media with programs such as ‘War on Waste‘.

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Are we reaching a point where there are enough voices to actually begin to make a difference?  What do you think?

Finite Resources

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There are many, many ways of looking at the environmental issues facing our planet today.  Different people choose to focus on different things but our goal is the same – to do the best that we can to preserve the health of the planet for future generations.  Right?

Some people try to source as much as possible second-hand, others eschew plastic at every turn, barely a handful of waste is the goal sought by another group and then there are those who are always looking for a way to recycle or re-use items that are no longer required.

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Plastic seems to have been recently declared ‘public enemy no. 1’ due to the masses of micro (and not so micro) plastics in our oceans and the detrimental effect it is having on marine life.  I agree with this sentiment and do the best I can to minimise my use of single use plastic products.  However, I have not rushed to get rid of all my plastic containers and other items as I believe it is my responsibility to use my existing products wisely and extend their life as much as possible.

Some people disagree because of the perceived potential risks of using plastic – particularly where food and drink are concerned.  I do not have a problem with this as I do not use plastic for storing liquids, oils, acidic foods nor do I use plastic where there is heat involved – such as the microwave.

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There will always be some plastic products but it is our responsibility to restrict the use of plastics to those applications where it is necessary.  Not only for the marine life but due to the fact that plastic is made from oil which is a finite resource – there is not an endless supply.  Most people can clearly recognise single plastics – water bottles, drinking straws, disposable cutlery, takeaway food containers and so on but it is the composite plastics that are less obvious.  These include takeaway coffee cups, reuseable ‘green’ shopping bags, ‘foil’ chip packets and packaging where plastic may be sandwiched between 2 layers of paper or cardboard.

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The purpose of this blog post is to encourage people really try to make a difference where plastic products are concerned.

Here are a few goals.

  1.  Minimise your use of single use plastic items – look for re-useable, non-plastic alternatives.
  2. Dispose of any plastic waste carefully to ensure it stays out of waterways and oceans.
  3. Remember that plastic is manufactured from oil and oil is a finite resource.
  4. Use recycling as a last resort – it is not a licence to keep using as much plastic (and everything else) as we want and assuaging our guilt by simply tossing it in the recycle bin.  At best, plastic is downcycled not recycled.  It only has one secondary life then it becomes landfill.
  5. Be a conscious and responsible consumer.

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It is not yet July but there is no time like the present to begin to phase out the single-use plastics from your life and consider what else you can change.

 

 

Glass is Good

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I have tried, as much as possible, to reduce our use of single-use plastic.  I know that there is always more that I can do so it is a work in progress, or as some would like to say, a journey.

As with any journey, it is also easier if you are connected with like-minded travellers so I am a member of a couple of different Facebook groups whose members have similar goals.  Some people are keen to remove all plastic, however, I am not about to throw away all of the plastic containers I have (to landfill) so that I can replace them with glass.  On the other hand, I am happy to look for glass when I need some more.

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After much research, I recently purchased 2 dozen Ball preserving jars.  You can read all about them in this post.  I have used some when I made jam recently but am also looking at other ways of using them.

I am aware that some people regularly freeze food in glass but that is not something that I have really done much so I decided that some research was in order as I know several people have had problems with glass jars breaking in the freezer.  This is not a saving of resources or money so I want to avoid that happening.  It turns out that for a glass jar to be suitable for freezer use it must have straight sides – that is no shoulder where it slopes in to the neck of the jar.  The preserving jars which I chose meet this criteria and are also deemed as suitable for freezer use on the panel on the box.

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Naturally, you also need to use commonsense and not put hot jars into the freezer and leave suitable headspace for the food to expand when frozen.  I also choose to chill them first in the refrigerator before transferring to the freezer as well as keeping the lids loose until they were completely frozen.  This strategy seems to have been successful.

Here are some jars of frozen mango puree and refried beans which I was about to transfer to the small freezer downstairs.  I tend to keep this freezer for storage and items which I use on a day-to-day basis in the freezer section of the refrigerator in the kitchen.

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The other purpose for which glass can be used is when taking your own containers to be filled at the shop.  This afternoon I took one of the smaller jars to the deli counter at the supermarket and bought olives.  There was no problem with the staff weighing the container prior to filling to to assess the tare weight and the price sticker was attached to the bottom of the jar.

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Plastic containers certainly have their place and I will continue to use them rather than discard simply for the sake of discarding them, however, it is an interesting exercise to test the boundaries as to how and where glass jars can be used.

 

Upcycling

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Over the past few months I have become involved in a couple of zero-waste groups on Facebook.It is not a concept which is particularly new to me as I have been using resusable shopping bags for well over 20 years.  I do not use plastic film or alfoil and generally take my own containers to buy most of my unpackaged groceries.  Single use plastic is my main focus but zero-waste means different things to different people and there is always something new and exciting to learn.

Many in the group have bought or created their own ‘eating out’ kit.  This has not been a priority for me as I take a packed lunch to work and have access to a kitchen.  I do keep my own set of cutlery in the drawer of my desk.

However, I rethought how I could incorporate this idea when an Air BnB guest asked for a serviette (napkin) when she was making her breakfast in the kitchen.  It occurred to me that I could do something similar to provide all of the utensils and napkin ready to use in one simple bundle.

I set to work with an existing placemat and some heavy cotton fabric which was once a bedspread but has been re-purposed for several uses.

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I added a divided pocket to hold the cutlery, a fabric loop for the linen napkin and a tie to the back to secure the kit when it is rolled up.

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Ready for dinner.

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The linen napkin is one of several I made a few years ago from some spare fabric but had not used.

Here it is rolled up and ready for use.  I will make a second one of these and add them to the facilities provided for our Air BnB guests.  This way they will have everything at their fingertips and can easily use it at the dining table, outdoor table or breakfast bar.

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If I was making one for taking out and about, I would probably consider making a small, cylindrical drawstring bag for it.

 

 

Another Parcel

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About 10 days ago I placed an online order with OzFarmers for some glass jars.  They arrived by courier a few days later.

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Time to open it up.  I was impressed that the box had clearly been reused and was excited to find that the packing was not bubbled plastic or styrofoam beads, but good old newspaper.

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The newspaper was shredded quite uniquely but it is a little difficult to see in this photo.

These are 2 Weck glass jars with glass lids.  I am quite glad that they were wrapped in bubble wrap to ensure that they arrived safely.  We ordered these as GMan needed one for making a sourdough starter.  He has been making bread in the breadmaker for many years using bread mix and yeast but has decided to branch out and try sourdough.

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Since we were only able to buy these online, it made sense to purchase an additional one so that we would have a spare.  I have used reused glass jars for preserving jam, chutney and sauce but recently made the decision to invest in proper canning jars with a two-piece lid.

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I bought 12 of each of two sizes – Half pint and Pint jars – for those of us who deal in metric the actual capacity is 250ml and 500ml respectively.

Here is a closer look at the newspaper packaging.  There are about 6 layers of newspaper which have clearly been put through some sort of mechanical shredder to make a series of incomplete cuts and then it is spread to make a grille pattern.  The newspaper is now in the compost bin and the cardboard box is flattened and will be used as a weed suppressant when we next spread some mulch in the garden.

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Sadly, the entire trays were shrink-wrapped in plastic but rather than just ripping it off, I split the corners at one end until I was able to slide the whole wrapper off in one piece.

This is what it looked like.

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I sealed the untouched end with an elastic band and this will now be a future rubbish bag for my kitchen bin.

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No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to completely eliminate single-use plastic but it is possible to be conscious of your consumption and to think outside the box when it comes to disposing of it.

I am comfortable with accepting what is a relatively low level of plastic packaging to enable me to acquire products which should last a lifetime.  By using the jars we bought to prepare more of our own food we will reduce reliance on other food packaging.