No more plastic wrap for me…

Plastic food wrap, cling film, Glad wrap, Saran wrap or whatever you call it (Saran polyvinylidene chloride or Saran resins and films called PVDC) have been wrapping products for more than 50 years.  A Dow Chemical lab worker, Ralph Wiley, accidentally discovered it in 1933.  It was approved for food use in 1956.

“Saran works by polymerizing vinylide chloride with monomers such as acrylic esters and unsaturated carboxyl groups, forming long chains of vinylide chloride. The copolymerization results in a film with molecules bound so tightly together that very little gas or water can get through. The result is a barrier against oxygen, moisture, chemicals and heat-qualities used to protect food, consumer and industrial products. PVDC is resistant to oxygen, water, acids, bases, and solvents.”  http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blsaranwrap.htm

Those are a lot of big scientific words that I really don’t understand but in the interests of toxin free living, I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s not all that good for us, considering that it’s first use was to be sprayed on fighter planes to guard against salty sea spray.  It was also used by car makers for upholstery and had a green colour and unpleasant odour (clearly they worked out a way around those two slight problems).

Either way, I don’t like the stuff, neither for it’s use on or near food, nor for it’s unrecyclability (is that even a word?).

So, despite how useful it is, I will do anything before using cling film.  I will use a plate on top of a bowl, use a container with a lid (this works much better than a platter at a party in the park), or one of my favourite things to cover food…a beeswax wrap!  A what?

A beeswax wrap!  That’s right, it’s a cloth that is covered in beeswax.

Wrap over jar

Beeswax (Cera alba) is a natural wax produced by honey bees of the genus Apis.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beeswax

Beeswax is a complex mixture of saturated and unsaturated linear and complex monoesters, hydrocarbons, free fatty acids, free fatty alcohols, and other minor substances produced by the worker honeybee.  http://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/scientific_output/files/main_documents/615.pdf

Those are also some very big scientific words, but considering that it is naturally occurring (well by the bees anyway) that it is a darn sight better for wrapping food than cling film.  It’s so versatile and breathable.  All you need are warm hands and it will mould to whatever you want to cover, over and over again.  Not like that silly cling film that you can only use once and then it gets all tangled up causing you to swear like a sailor.

You can buy beeswax wraps online, or you can simply make them yourself.  Here’s all you need: an old tray, an old grater, a chunk of pure beeswax and some bits of cloth the size you need to wrap stuff.

What you need

My tray is an old one donated by a friend, the grater is from an op shop (because I am not going to even attempt to clean it, this is now it’s only job – to grate wax) and the wax is pure beeswax from an art supplies shop.  The scraps of fabric I found in my sewing room.

First, you need to grate the wax into the tray.  Lay a cloth down on the tray and sprinkle the wax over the top.

Grated wax

Next, put the tray in a warm oven (50-100 degrees Celsius is hot enough) and wait just a minute or two until the wax is melted.

When it is all melted and the cloth looks covered with melted wax, use tongs to pick up two corners of the cloth (or use your fingers like I did the first time if you don’t mind a bit of hot wax…ouch!  I used the tongs the second time :D).  If you only pick up one corner, it will fold over and stick to itself (not good).  If it doesn’t work, just place it back down on the tray and melt again.  No problem!

20160203_204818

Just hold it over the tray to catch the drips, wave it back and forth a bit to cool it down, then put it somewhere to dry (you can peg it up or lay it flat on a rack).

Wax wrap

When it is cool (only a couple of minutes), it is ready to wrap stuff.  Just mould it around the item with your hands, hold your hands in place for a few seconds to allow the warmth to fix it in place and voila…you have your own natural, breathable, reusable wrap for covering leftovers or whatever you like, just like this…

Capsicum

Ginger

This is my ginger!  Nicely wrapped so it doesn’t shrivel up!

Have fun making yours!  Or if you have any better ideas, I’d love to hear them!

 

 

Advertisements

Detox your cleaning regime

Our homes are filled with every kind of cleaner, all touting the ability to make our lives easier, safer and more hygienic.  They tell us we must have a laundry cleaner, a kitchen cleaner, a bathroom cleaner and then to top it all off, we buy a multi-purpose cleaner. (Doesn’t this one trump all the others…what would I know?)

Personally, just walking down the supermarket aisle where all the cleaning products are located gives me heart palpitations.  The bright pinks bedazzle me, the choices overwhelm me and if I could smell, I’m sure the fragrances would make me feel woozy (phew)!

Lucky for me, I don’t run the gauntlet of antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-everything anymore.  I just simply make my own.

homecleaning pic.jpg

Whenever I am in a supermarket now, which is as short a time as possible these days, I am able to simply walk past that aisle.  Occasionally I buy one item in there though, a plain old bag of washing soda.  It’s located at one end, so I scoot in, grab it quickly and head back out the way I came in.  I no longer have to worry about what these crazy chemicals are doing to my family.  There is no doubt that they mostly do what they say, you know, clean your house.  But what are they doing to US?

So what do I use instead?  The simple ingredients my Mum used to use and my Nana used to use.  That’s right, the stuff they used still works and they’re non-toxic.  I wouldn’t eat them, granted, but at least I recognise the names.  Baking soda (otherwise known as bicarbonate of soda and yes you can eat this one), Washing soda (otherwise known as sodium carbonate) and Castile soap (otherwise known as…wait for it…soap).

There are however, some key ingredients that make these simple home made products exceptional.  Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade essential oils.  My home made products are fabulous, but they are made exceptional through the addition of these amazing oils.  If you haven’t met these high quality essential oils before, it’s time you did!

If you would like to learn some more about the benefits of these oils to your life, visit my facebook ‘events‘ page and come along to one of the events listed.  If you’re not close by, then comment below and I’ll let you know how you can get on board with detoxing your cleaning regime!

For our planet,

Nicole xx

I got a LOT of funny looks this week…

So, if you have seen any of my recent posts on Facebook, you’ll know that I have attempted a challenge at Zero Waste Week 2014 this week.  To make it clear from the start, my goal was never to have NO WASTE AT ALL, as lovely as that would be.  My pledge was, ‘I will not buy any food products that have packaging that cannot be recycled or reused.’

I had a lucky find a week or two before the challenge started and discovered that I can actually recycle ‘soft’ plastic bags at my local Coles supermarket.

Look out for this bin at your supermarket.  Coles recycle ‘soft’ plastics
and turn it into outdoor furniture for schools and pre-schools!

However, as my ultimate goal was more along the lines of reducing my impact on the planet, I felt that that was a cheap option that allowed my usual consumption levels to continue.  Even though recycling is good, NOT CONSUMING in the first place is better, considering that quite an amount of energy is still required for recycling.  So I tried hard to say ‘NO!’ to plastic bags and packaging altogether.  I actually found this a very difficult task.

Take for example cheese!  It is virtually impossible to buy any sort of cheese without a soft (or hard) plastic coating on it.  My only option was to take my own container and have a chunk cut off a bigger chunk that was covered in a bigger plastic coating. My only consolation in this was that they had at least not created another smaller package for me which is what would’ve happened if I had bought it off the shelf.  I achieved this at my local supermarket simply because the staff were amazingly obliging and helpful.  I found that it helped if you explained why you wanted the cheese in your own container rather than just simply asking for it.  They were baffled otherwise.

Note to self: get a bigger container to fit the cheese!

I failed in that department when at a different supermarket where I asked for some ham in my own container without explaining why.  First of all, the staff member didn’t know how to make the machine take off the weight of my container and then she followed up by putting the price sticker on a plastic bag and instructed me to, ‘Just give this to the cashier!’  That’s when I realised my error in not explaining that the actual purpose in doing it was to avoid the plastic bag.  After backtracking and explaining, she was unable to peel the sticker off the bag, so she printed me a new sticker for my container and more than likely just threw the plastic bag in the bin because it had an unremovable sticker which would not be suitable for anyone else.  Argh!! Lesson learned, always explain yourself!

I have had a LOT of funny looks but also a LOT of very interesting conversations with people along the way.  Like the poor young guy in the fruit shop who watched me intently filling up my reusable net bag with potatoes.  He finally asked, ‘Where did you get that bag?’  You should’ve seen the surprise on his face when I said, ‘Right here! You put all your specials in them, so when I buy a bag of something, I keep the bag and reuse it.’  (They actually weigh less than a normal plastic bag!)  I figure most people just throw them out and he agreed saying that he also threw them out and had never thought to reuse them.  Hopefully from now on, he will!

My net bag of potatoes ready to go into my potato bag!

And the lady at the checkout at the same fruit shop who now says, ‘I remember you!  You’re one unique customer!’ when I start putting all the net bags up on the conveyor.  She was also surprised that the net bags were simply ones I had kept from their store.  They come free with the food and they’re perfect, why wouldn’t I use them?

I have to admit to using proper white reusable vege bags for small things like grapes, snow peas, beans or cherries, but the net bags work for all the big things that won’t fall through the holes.  The irony though in buying a few more this week to make sure I could complete the task hit me in a big way.  Note the slogan, ‘Kick the plastic bag habit!’.  How frustrating that they couldn’t even do that themselves and packaged their bags in a plastic wrapper!  If the people who are promoting this stuff can’t come up with a better packaging option, then what hope do the rest of us have?  Seriously!

Reusable plastic bags packaged in a plastic bag….argh!
Meat was another difficult task and I had to forgo a few items because they were already packaged, but that just meant I had to be more resourceful and use what I had at home, or slightly change the dish I was cooking.  One very helpful organic butcher in Oxley (unfortunately a little too far a drive to make it a regular) offered to keep my containers until the next morning when his fresh delivery came in so he could pack my meat without the plastic and styrofoam.  Alas, it was worth it!  I felt very proud at my first plastic bag and styrofoam-free trip to the butcher…and the meat was gorgeous organic fare to boot!

I did however have an easy success with bread this week.  I bought one loaf in a paper bag which I have already reused and will be reused again and again until it falls apart, at which point it will either be recycled or placed in the compost.  I also baked one loaf myself in my bread maker and bought two in my own plastic container.  Surprisingly the baker didn’t even bat an eyelid, simply sliced the bread and plonked it into my appropriately shaped container, no problem!  Phew!

My conclusion is that PREPARATION is the key to a waste free life.  I now have my green bags, my net and vege bags as well as my containers ready to go to the store and if I’m caught without, there aren’t really too many options to choose from.

Stay tuned to find out how much waste we actually created this week that will end up in our trash…

DARE I SAY IT? There’s nothing wrong with plastic!

Plastic gets a LOT of hate mail in the press…but plastic is one of the most amazing inventions of the 20th century…there I’ve said it!  It really is one of the most versatile substances that has ever been created and some days I wonder how we ever lived without it.  If you don’t think it’s versatile, just look around your house or your workplace or even your car and you’ll find that it can be used in place of almost any other material known to man.

There is really nothing inherently wrong with it…it’s useful and strong, clever and durable, lightweight and it literally can last forever!  It only becomes a problem when it ends up in the WRONG PLACE!

For starters, we use this indestructible material to make things that we only plan on using for a nanosecond in time, well, a very short time at least!  Take straws for example, it would probably take me about 30 seconds to finish a popper (juice carton) and after I’ve recycled the box (because I can where I live) what to do with the straw?  It can’t be recycled, it can’t really be cleaned reliably, it’s really not much use to me, so I have to throw it in the bin.  Besides, if I buy another popper, I get a new one anyway, so my old straw is now defunct.

So, the problem is actually that we need to start thinking differently about plastic.  It’s not going to go away, but we can certainly use it to our advantage and not let it get out of control.

After attempting Zero Waste Week this week, I have realised how hard it is to avoid plastic packaging.  The key is to come prepared with your own containers and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Now, I consider myself lucky that I am able to recycle most firm plastics in my household recycling bin.  I have also just discovered that my local supermarket has a‘soft’ plastics recycling bin too.  That doesn’t leave much left to put in my normal bin, but there are some odds and ends that do end up in there (see straw comment above).

So, if this plastic stuff is not going away anytime soon, I’m at least going to do my best to put it in it’s rightful place.  Here’s my plan:

1. If I can avoid buying or receiving plastic in any way, I will do so.  (reusable bags, bring my own mug, choose products with less packaging…have you ever tried to find a continental cucumber without a plastic jacket on?)

2. Tell manufacturers that I don’t like their packaging if they use excessive plastic.  They may or may not change their ways, but if we don’t tell them, they won’t know. (note to self: must write to Cadbury’s about their new plastic wrappers, it’s just not the same as the old paper and foil)

3.  If I have to use plastic, I will endeavour to buy good quality products that will last a long time and reuse them until they have no life left in them. (plastic bottles and jars, containers, toys)

4.  If I cannot reuse them anymore, I will make sure that they are recycled in a reliable and conscientious manner.  (household recycling scheme, sell or give away old toys)

In this way, I can reduce my impact as best I can and maybe save a few marine animals along the way, because let’s face it, that’s where an awful lot of our plastic ends up.

And as the saying goes,
If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve obviously never been in bed with a mosquito.
–Michelle Walker

How did I NOT know this?

Well, as you may know, I have signed up to Zero Waste Week 2014 which runs from Monday 1st September to Sunday 7th September.  The theme is ‘One More Thing!’ which means all you have to do is focus on one area of your life where you think you can improve and commit to it for one week.  Easy peasy I say, well…maybe!

My pledge is, ‘I will not buy any food with packaging that cannot be recycled or reused.’Obviously not creating any packaging at all would be the ideal but there are just some things that are super difficult to buy without some sort of packaging, usually plastic, the scourge of our oceans!  Please see my previous post on ‘Our marine animals deserve better!’ for more information on just some of the problems plastic is causing.So, before I started the week, I thought I’d do some research and find out some alternatives to the way I usually do things and I discovered one very key piece of information that is going to make my Zero Waste Week infinitely easier…and hopefully yours too!I know that I can recycle most firm plastics, glass, paper, aluminium in my big recycling bin at home, but what to do with those soft plastics that seem to be around almost every kind of food I buy…biscuits, pasta, bread, nuts, cereals, lollies, frozen food, etc.  Apparently these ‘soft’ plastics clog up the recycling machines at the recycling plant so I’m told.However, on a recent trip to my local Coles, I thought I’d take a closer look at the big green bin they have near the registers (hidden in the corner at the far end mind you) and I discovered these bins take a lot more than just used shopping bags (which is all I thought they took).  They take almost all kinds of soft plastic, with the exception of cling wrap. HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS?  Coles certainly don’t advertise it in a big way, but those bins have been right there for years, every time I shopped, and I did not even look at them.  I reuse my plastic shopping bags at home for bin bags (the few I get every now and again when I shop without my green reusable bags) so I never had a need to look at this bin, but now I know, there’s no stopping me.  They’ll even take old reusable bags that have seen better days!  Maybe other grocery stores have these bins too but I’ve never seen them…have you?coles plastics.jpgSo now, as well as my compost bin, my recycle bin and my normal bin, I now have a new category which is going to reduce my normal bin wastage by an awful lot.  I have hung an old bread bag under the sink right next to my bin and instead of all these plastics going into my bin, they now go into my bread bag.  When it’s full, I put it in my green reusable bags in the car and it’s ready to head back to the store at my next shop! As I mentioned before, no waste is even better than recycling waste so I’m still going to aim for that, but for those times when I don’t have time to bake cookies for a morning tea catch up with friends and end up buying a packet instead, at least I know I have an option.My Zero Waste Week is looking easier and easier by the minute… not to mention all the tips I’m receiving from the community of people who are all working towards the same goal at Zero Waste Week 2014!

What’s your ‘One more thing’?

When I first heard the words ‘ZERO WASTE WEEK‘, my immediate thoughts were, ‘Epic fail!’

How on earth can we live our lives without any waste at all?

But when I looked a little closer I discovered that the theme this year is actually, ‘ONE MORE THING!’ to which my new thoughts were, ‘Well of course I can do one more thing!’
So began my journey towards Zero Waste Week!

There are literally thousands of small things to choose from, but you only need to focus on one. Here are some ideas!

  • Reduce plastic bag use
  • Reduce plastic packaging
  • Reduce food waste
  • Recycling
  • Composting
  • Reducing car use
  • Reusable containers
  • Water wastage
Whatever your idea is, it’s worth it! Why not sign up?
Here’s my pledge…
“I pledge not to buy any food items that have packaging that cannot either be reused or recycled.”
So, I’m going to be focusing on not buying any items in the red section of this poster. Although I will be conscious of all the plastic I’m buying and will do my best to buy as little as possible, I am not going to tackle all the plastic items in our bathroom or garden or anywhere else in the house, just the food in the kitchen… that’s going to be hard enough!
I have a few ideas on how I’m going to succeed, but I would love to hear your ideas!!