Saturday, 4 August 2012

Waste Management

Boring - waste management?  No, I am not talking diet!  Talking about the stuff we throw away!  This is fascinating stuff!
Living sustainably is not about deprivation.  Unless one intends to write a book or thesis about the challenge of living with zero waste, as many people have, for me, the challenge is about minimising our impact on the Earth.
Sustainable living is not about Doing Without, but rather about Living In Harmony.  Or living frugally.  It is about limiting our USELESS waste.  The stuff that ends in landfills.  
We all create waste, simply by living!  But the good news is that much of our waste can be dealt with by composting or recycling.

In other words:  FRUGALITY IS THE NEW WEALTH!  If you are living frugally, you are saving money, thereby creating more wealth to do other important things with - like assisting charitable organisations or saving for tropical holidays!  That I can dig!!

IN the Laundry
Commercial laundry detergents often say they are biodegradable but are they really??
One option to get value for money, AND help save the environment, is to use Soapnuts.  High in saponin (the foaming, cleaning factor), these nut trees are indigenous to India and were used for centuries, before commercial cleaners became available.  Pop 6-8 nut shells into a small calico bag, drip 3-4 drops essential oils of choice onto bag for a great natural fragrance, pop it into the wash and it's that easy!  The bag of nut shells can be re-used 6-8 times over, before being emptied into the compost bin.  No waste.
I am trialing growing a soapnut berry tree - 2 out of 5 seed trial attempts survived  and then the winter took it's toll on 1, so am left with just one healthy looking plant.  I will plant it out in a nice sheltered spot this spring and look forward to harvesting my own soapnut berries in 3-4 years.  The berries are lower in saponin, so can't be reused that often but a bonus is that the soapnut berry trees  are hardier than the soapnut trees.

IN the Toilet
On the toilet paper front, I have found this amazing product, delivered to the door - greencane paper, which is made from the pulp waste from the sugar cane industry, along with sustainable bamboo.  No tree loses it's life in the making of this toilet paper!  And the packaging is 100% biodegradable - we put our packaging in the compost bin, the toilet roll tubes make great fire lighters and the cardboard box outer it arrives in, is broken flat to form a weed suppressing garden pathway liner!  No waste at all!

Greencane Toilet Paper
ON Vaccuuming
A bagless vacuum cleaner is the answer to world tension!  No endless bags to be bought, which end up in the rubbish bin, just dust and fluff which can be emptied directly into the compost bin.
Good old 12yr old Dyson, still going strong!
IN the Kitchen
I admit to a caffeine addiction.  The good kind.  Organic plunger filter coffee.  The Real McCoy. I am quite a coffee snob.  If I am offered coffee, I ask "Plunger or Instant?"  If the offer is the latter, I reply to the original question -"Tea please!"  Instant is not coffee!!  It's been through so many chemical processes to render it instant, it no longer even resembles coffee!!  But the metallic plastic coffee bags my ground coffee comes in are not good for the rubbish bin.  They are tough, durable and would take many years to break down.  So I have made several recycled shopping bags out of the coffee pouches.  They make great gifts, with a little fabric lining inside for strength.

Organic Inca Fe Siesta Coffee
Buying Bulk
Another waste reducing domestic choice is to buy food in bulk.  If you are not lucky enough to be married to an organic food salesman, like me, form a co-op and buy bulk.  I buy our dry goods in bulk - wheat or spelt flour, oats, sugar, nuts, grains, seeds, legumes etc.  The initial outlay is costly, but saves much money in the long run.  The paper packaging is recycled in the compost bin (great carbon element) and reduces the many bags of plastic they would have been packed down into.  Some 3kg products still come in plastic - these I re-use for freezing bags.
I guess another option would be to buy from bulk bins, using your own re-usable or recycled bags.

Bulk buys

Bulk grains packed into recycled glass deli jars.
From Garden to Kitchen
There is no question that growing your own food reduces your waste enormously.  No horrific polystyrene shrink-wrapped trays or plastic bags to deal with.  I have just learned that polystyrene NEVER breaks down.  The particles just get smaller. Time to boycott anything polystyrene!!  The only polystyrene acceptable in my home are the polystyrene cushions in my Wonderbox (energy efficient cooking box that's already lasted us 25 years)!
And of course, saving on food packaging is another bonus of growing your own!  I can't remember buying a jar of jam, sauce, dressing or chutney in the last 6 years!!  All glass jars are washed, sterilised and reused.
Home preserves

The dwindling supplies.............. bring on Summer!!
And I don't do this one very often - baking!!  Home baking not only reduces wasteful packaging, but also those nasty additives and ingredients!  I love to cook - baking is not my most favourite past-time, but then I think that is mostly based on a time factor prioritization.

Weekend Afghans awaiting top-dressing
On Experimentation
I love to try just about anything!  This past summer, I tried my hand at 2 lots of herb tea compilations.  So instead of buying herb teas, each individually packaged in plastic-coated envelopes (why do they do that??), I have a few pouches of hand-picked organically grown floral wild-crafted teas from our own garden.  The bonus is that it really is most pleasant to drink!!  Not to mention the health benefits!

Hand crafted teas
In the Bathroom
What about our personal grooming products?  Each comes in plastic packaging which often cannot be recycled (in NZ, we only recycle 1's and 2's plastics).  With a combo of organic olive oil, sesame seed oil, essential oils of choice and beeswax, I make everything from heel balm, lip balm, face and body butters, sunblock and insect repellent.  No long-winded processes.  I can make up several jars in 15 mins!  My motto:  If you can eat it, you can wear it!

IN the Bedroom
I had to include sustainable wardrobe etiquette.  The idea of wearing something that once belonged to a complete stranger is becoming more widely accepted.  And what a bonus for our planet.  We don't need "smoke-smuggering factories choking out thneeds which everyone needs" (The Lorax) at great expense to our environment!  A stroll into the nearest opp shop ignites my sense of adventure, where I can finger 100's of individual pre-loved garments and come upon one really great find which will set me back a whopping $4!  A truly affordable way to shop!  And when I am tired of an item, I am not guilt-ridden by the decision to cull it - it is returned to the opp shop if in good condition, or made into something more useful, like a hotwater bottle cover or draught excluder to extend it's useful lifespan.

ON Cleaners
One thing that really turns my day sour is soggy bars of soap!  Living with teenagers or children guarantees you one thing in the handbasin - soggy handsoap!  Dispensers seem to be the answer, but even if you buy refills, they are expensive, have many harsh chemicals in and come in more plastic containers.  My solution - I buy bulk Ecover Dishwashing liquid.  Better for the environment, and built in hand-conditioners.  I add essential oils of choice - 5 drops to a dispenser of soap - Voila!  Visitors comment on our beautiful hand soap!  Cheap as chips too!

Hand soap options

Bulk 5L dishwashing liquid soap
THE Greatest Waste Invention Ever!!
Aaah, the great Compost Bin!

Home-built wood compost bin

From this.........

To this!

Worm Farm to the Left, Compost tea containers to the right
On Milk
We have trialed many ways of supplying our milk needs.............. buying occassionally from someone who sold their excess from their house-cow but that was sporadic and unreliable.  Buying organic milk from the supermarket but supply too was not always guaranteed, it was pasteurized and came in plastic lined tetra-paks (not at all good for landfills).  We tried buying 2L conventional milk in plastic containers but we realised that although the plastic is recycled, we were producing a lot of recycling plastic waste!  After much debate and many years on, we currently collect 5L fresh, raw, unpasteurised, unhomogenised milk from a local dairy farm.  There is no waste, Mike has developed a relationship with the supplier and the taste is second to none.  It's not organic, but next best thing.

So in conclusion, waste management is about how we manage our waste.  Treading lightly on the Earth.  Asking pertinent questions:
Do I really need it?
Is there a more earth-friendly alternative?
Is is local-produced or seasonal?
Can I make it instead of buying it?
Will it last the test of time or will I be replacing it a short distance down the track?
Is it Fairtrade?  Was it ethically produced?
Is it sustainably manufactured?
Is the packaging recyclable?
Is it chemical/toxic-free?
Could I buy it second-hand instead?
Will I use it often or will it sit around gathering dust?

Often just 2 questions asked will make us think twice about a purchase.

If we all changed just one thing we do to create less waste, what a difference we could collectively make!  We currently put our a garbage bag every 3 weeks.  Mike has pledge to reduce this to one every 4 weeks.  Another challenge.  Bring it on....................

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