Week Ten – Wisdom from the elders

Long before we were ever considering doing a rubbish free year, I was discussing with my grandmother her experiences of raising five children whilst living on a large farm on which my grandfather was a worker. I was reminded of this conversation recently when we received an email from a 70 year old woman, Anna, who wished to pass on some tips ‘from life 50 years ago’. Both woman gave golden advice. My grandmother explained that the grocer used to come via the farm once a month and she would generally only need to purchase about 12 items – things like floor polish, baking soda, flour and sugar. Of course being on a farm is slightly easier than living an urban lifestyle where butchering a sheep in the garage probably wouldn’t go down too well with the council, however, Anna and my grandmother both had advice that might be applicable to our lifestyle. For example, we are keen to try adding a small amount of sand to a mixture of baking soda and vinegar which apparently makes a heavy cleaning product similar to Jiff. Slightly less appealing is saving all the fat from lamb, pork and beef and using it to make soap! According to Anna this soap also works well as shampoo, followed by rinsing the hair with a teaspoon of vinegar, (or lemon juice if blond), dissolved in a cup of water resulting in lovely shiny hair. I also noticed that both women have more specific knowledge about where compost is best directed than we do, ie. what should go to the chooks, what gets added to a pile, what is buried directly into trenches in the vege garden and what gets placed around the foot of plants. As I said before I believe this sort of knowledge to be golden and well worthy of passing down the generations.

Week Two – Dinner for Eight

Despite having three degrees and numerous post-grad quals behind us, Waveney and I are still struggling to understand the rudimentary basics of how cyberspace works, and have now, sub-consciously at least, retreated into a wonderful world of internet ignorance. Because psychotherapy has yet to free us from this state, we have relied heavily on two very good friends to help us create our website, leading us to throw a dinner party to thank these wonderful saviours – Geoff and Fi – and also to celebrate the start of Rubbish Free Year.

The idea of a rubbish free dinner party wasn’t actually that frightening. However, the anxiety levels were raised slightly with the realisation that not only did it need to be rubbish free, but also gluten, yeast, dairy and potato free, in order to cater for the dietary requirements of our guests who are also predisposed to a fish eating, vegetarian state of mind. Rubbish Free Year so far, has been sending us down a path of simplicity, with many of the solutions to problems actually being quite simple, the obvious example being to reduce buying things that create waste in the first place. Therefore, this was the approach we took to the dinner party. Cucumber mixed with mint, and tomatoes mixed with basil, made two salads from ingredients found within our garden. Wild rice with various nuts met the carb needs of the meal and for the central dish we went to the fish monger who wrapped a whole salmon in paper (without any cellotape holding it down) which we stuffed with lemons and garlic and cooked in foil (our scrap metal dealer takes foil once cleaned) for 30mins. So all in all the evening was very successful.

This week we received good news on two fronts – cheese and cleanliness. A friend has contacted us and in return for us supplying the milk and some loaves of bread, he is going to make us a block of cheese – gotta love bartering and we’re looking forward to lasagna! Also we received some amazing 100% natural handmade soap this week from Kathryn Bellamy. She is a soap maker from Masterton and her packaging is brilliant – brown paper with string. The soap looks and smells beautiful, Kathryn is contactable at alchemist@goddess.co.nz.

Researching Alternatives

In the lead up to the Rubbish Free Year challenge we are of course trying to create as little rubbish as possible, but there is a persistent myriad of mostly plasticy things filling our bin. The following catergorises the offending items into food, toiletries, stationery and misc. Looking at both the problem and the solution.

Food

Food relentlessly reappears as a rubbish problem every week. Food packaging is our household’s biggest contributor to the landfill, (the food itself is easily dealt with). We have so far come up with several ways of obtaining food without its non-recyclable packaging.

Product comparison: By simply comparing products a solutions may be found. For example I thought buying herbs and spices would require sourcing bulk produce, but upon closer inspection I realized that Gregg’s cardboard box range is completely plastic free. Another problem I assumed was moisturizer, but once I actually checked a few I found one large recyclable plastic #2 bottle that I think should see out the year (or more). Consider loose fruit and veg (with your own bags), tins rather than frozen, glass jars rather than plastic.

Bulk food stores: To make the most of these places you need to be well organised (which we aren’t yet!). Places like Bin Inn provide plastic bags (which defeats the purpose) but its pretty easy to reuse bags or make your own more durable ones. I am also taking my own containers, and refilling with its original contents, e.g refilling an olive oil bottle with olive oil. I am still looking around op shops for big glass jars suitable for housing rice etc. Our local Bin Inn was a place I had meant to go for years, even now we still haven’t actually shopped there, as it seems like such a big deal. But it will be a life saver next year; aside from items like dried fruit, seeds, nuts, flours, rice, pasta they also have honey, jam, soy sauce, bleach, spray n wipe, jif, liquid hand soap… If ‘ethical’, ‘local’, and ‘organic’ are music to your ears then you could try out your local eco grocery store too, we can get a wide range at our local, Piko Wholefoods (corner Kilmore and Barbadoes) http://www.pikowholefoods.co.nz/

Butcher, Baker, Green Grocer: Smaller stores seem to be easier on the packaging. I imagine they would be happy let you take their produce away in your own container, or in something recyclable.

Farmer’s Markets and Organic vege box: A great way to avoid packaging is to get it straight from the source. We are hoping to get cheese this way – because anything else will be a no go. Its cheaper, fresher, local… its all good. If you can get on to a Vege Box Delivery scheme in your neighbourhood then thats the easiest thing of all.

Baking: If all else fails!!! We both like preparing and eating home made food, we just struggle to get organized and to find the time. Things that will fall into this category will be: biscuits, cake, muesli bars, hummus, pesto. We are thinking of having an evening once a week allocated to the task. See how we go, so far I have at least gone out and bought baking tins and measuring equipment…

Abstinence: Yup, there will be certain yummy things that we may just have to do with out 😦

Toiletries

• Toothpaste and deodorant: We found almost 100% recyclable packaging with a natural health companies products, Weleda (bought at the wholefood store).

• Toothbrush: Don’t know yet.

• Toilet paper: So far have just found one company using paper to package, Safe (available at the wholefood store)

• Soap: easy enough to buy in paper, having to by single bars though. Trade Aid soap is packaged in recycled paper and a little waxed paper bag. Cheap too.

• Shampoo and Conditioner: Check for recyclable plastic, or use bulk dispensers. Some quite good brands are available.

• Dental Floss: Don’t know yet.

• Headache pills: Don’t know yet. But honey is good. So is sleep and having a stress free life!

• Shaving: Electric Shaver or blade shave (wow)

• Period products: Mooncup (reuseable cup, comfortable and convenient) washable pads. (I haven’t researched either of these properly yet but I am sure you can buy it all online.

• Make up: check for recyclable packaging. Use less? Google what Cleopatra used? Ask your grandma?

Stationery

• The humble pencil is simple genius

• Pens with refillable cartridges, not disposable ones

• No vivids (permanent markers), try pen, pencil or paint.

• No felt tip pens, try colouring pencils, crayons etc (artist quality products have excellent colours and will last for years)

• Blutack, metal drawing pins and paper clips

• Wooden rulers, steel staplers, card ring-binders etc

• No twink (correction fluid). What did people do before twink?

• No sticky tapes, except for masking tape

• Real brown string, not plastic string

Misc.

In addition to most of the short life span items mentioned above, there are other slow rotating items, that will, over the course of a year give up, empty out, wear out, and break down. Batteries are a great example, instead of continually throwing them we bought a recharger (only $30 on Trade Me). But this is a huge category of products that we are only very recently starting to think about. Many things that used to last for decades, even a life time are now so cheap, and poorly made that we almost think of them as disposable, think about paintbrushes, buckets, seed trays, shoes, water bottles and other longer lasting things like electric jugs, toasters, toys, electronics and clothes. Next time we replace something if we can afford it we will buy quality, non plastic products that might just last us a life time. And if its non plastic its probably recyclable when it does break down. If we can’t afford it we could try buying second hand, to save something from the land fill, and we can sell it if /when we get the money to buy something better.