What I Do

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It is nearly a week since I last posted and you are probably been wondering what I’ve been doing.  Some days I wonder the same thing.  My full-time job keeps me pretty busy and t here is always plenty to do when I am at home.  So much so that I barely have enough time (or energy) to blog about it.

Here is a sample of one of the things I did today.

GMan picked up a large bucket full of passionfruit that had fallen from the vine.  The easiest way to store passionfruit is to simply scoop out the pulp and freeze in ice-cube trays.

Some of the fruit ready to cut.

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Work in progress.

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Ready for the freezer.

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Despite the fact that the garden gets minimal attention we still manage to harvest a range of produce.  Over the past few weeks we have picked passionfruit, pineapple, mangoes, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, lettuce and raspberries.

I Bought a Bucket

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This may seem like mindless consumption as I did already have a bucket to collect the kitchen scraps for the compost but I recently bought a new compost bucket.

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I first considered buying this over 12 months ago when I saw the one my daughter had at her place.  The thing that appealed to me about it was the drop-in lid with a silicone seal.  The following photo shows the lid  and also  the bucket insert.  It is also rather more stylish when sitting on the kitchen bench and has the added bonus of being labelled which is a help to guests who are unfamiliar with our kitchen.

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These are the 2 buckets I have used previously.  Each one is a bit larger than the new one so I will definitely need to empty it each day but that is not a great imposition.  The lid is the main problem as it takes 2 hands to seal it tightly as opposed to the drop-in lid on the new one.

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I ordered the bucket online and it arrived packaged in a cardboard box.  This had clearly been re-used which is pleasing but the downside was that it had 2 layers of plastic tape.  I managed to remove all of the tape so that I can use the cardboard as weed mat in the garden.  There was quite a pile of tape.

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In fact, the tape contributed quite a significant portion of our waste for the week.  You can see it all here.

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The rubbish for this week weighed in at 264g which is considerably more than the previous couple of weeks.  This is due in to the plastic sticky tape from the cardboard box.  There is also a selection of items, including, plastic bags from rice paper wrappers, tortillas, cheese and carrots, an expired credit card, foil packet from medications, festival wristband, bottle tops, screen cleaning cloth and plastic packaging from a computer program.

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.

A New Tank

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Our property is in a semi-rural area and we do not have access to town water.  This is not a problem as we have 2 large rainwater tanks.  The combined capacity is almost 100,000 litres and since we live in a high rainfall area we have never even gone close to running out of water.  However, we have also lived in a low rainfall area as well as in the city when there was a significant drought so we know what it is like to be careful with every precious drop of water.

Well, you can never have too much rainwater storage so today we bought another tank.  I discovered that a work colleague wanted to sell a rainwater tank due to new landscaping plans.  I checked out the details and found that it would be perfect for our plan to have another small tank under the verandah.  We will use this for watering out vegetable garden which is close by.  This will be much easier than dragging the hose all the way from the main tap which is at the other end of the house.  Additionally, a tank which is close to the house will give us the option of being able to access water relatively easily if we are without power.

It is unlikely that we will be completely without power now that we have the battery system for our solar panels but is will be good to have a back up just in case.

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Without power for the pump or a tank close to the house, it is a long trek to the main tanks to get water.  You can read about it in an old post from 2013.

Back to the new tank.  We collected it today and it was loaded into the ute with the help of the seller and a couple of his mates.  After a reasonably cautious drive home it was time to unload.

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This is the area we had chosen to position the tank.  In fact, the concreting was only done about 6 months ago with a view to getting the tank this year.

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With a bit of careful planning GMan and I were able to manoeuvre it into position.

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The next step will be to organise the plumber and electrician to get it all set up.  In the interests of efficiency we need to plan several plumbing and electrical jobs all to be done at the same time.

Zero Waste

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As a follow-up to my post from yesterday, I want to talk more about ‘zero waste’.  What is it?  Is it unrealistic?  Do you prefer an alternative term?  Does it really matter?

I have been tossing around these and other questions recently, so I thought I would share my thoughts with you.  I would love to hear how you feel about this, too.

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Zero waste is a phrase which first entered my consciousness about 5 years ago when I stumbled upon a blog by Bea Johnson.  More about that later, but apparently the term ‘zero waste’ was first coined in the mid 1990s.  This is what Wikipedia has to say:

Zero Waste is a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. No trash is sent to landfills or incinerators. The process recommended is one similar to the way that resources are reused in nature. The definition adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA)[1] is:

Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.

Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health

Zero Waste refers to waste management and planning approaches which emphasize waste prevention as opposed to end-of-pipe waste management.[2] It is a whole systems approach that aims for a massive change in the way materials flow through society, resulting in no waste.[2] Zero waste encompasses more than eliminating waste through recycling and reuse, it focuses on restructuring production and distribution systems to reduce waste.[3] Zero waste is more of a goal or ideal rather than a hard target.[4] Zero Waste provides guiding principles for continually working towards eliminating wastes.[2]

Advocates expect that government regulation is needed[3] [2] to influence industrial choices over product and packaging design, manufacturing processes, and material selection.[5]

Advocates say eliminating waste eliminates pollution, and can also reduce costs due to reduced need for raw materials.

I mentioned Bea Johnson’s blog earlier.  You can take a look here.  Many people find her style and enthusiasm inspiring.  I do not.  She presents herself with an almost evangelical zeal which I find irritating and I believe that could turn away many who want to dip their toe in the water because they simply do not feel that they can measure up to her exacting standards.

The following quote is an excerpt from her bio on the blog:

This blog and my bestselling book, Zero Waste Home (available in 12 languages), have launched a global movement, inspiring thousands of people throughout the world to live simply and take a stance against needless waste.

Good on Bea for having the idea to grab a catchy slogan “zero-waste” and market the concept but I take exception to the notion that she somehow invented the idea of seriously refusing and reducing waste.  Her timing was perfect – by 2008 there was a critical mass, particularly in parts of the USA and Europe, of people who were prepared to hear her message.  There are people in Australia, and globally, who have been living and promoting this ideal every day for close to 40 years yet there is barely an acknowledgement of their contribution in paving the way to allow this 2008 epiphany to occur.

Meanwhile, through this blog I am trying to connect with other concerned individuals to gently encourage you to begin to make the changes which will reduce the waste produced by your household.

As with everything, people have taken zero waste and put their own spin on it.  For some, it is about eliminating all plastics.  For others it is rejecting single-use plastic items such as supermarket bags and straws.  Still others are keen to replace disposables with reusable alternatives – handkerchiefs instead of tissues, cloths instead of paper towel, lids instead of plastic wrap and so on.

Whatever you call it, there are a couple of things I would like to remind you about.

It is not a race to zero.
Start slowly or the changes will not be sustainable.
Remember the hierarchy – recycling should be the last resort – not the first option.
Perfection is virtually impossible due to the way our society and economy are structured.
Do what you can but don’t be disillusioned.
Choose your battles.

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And finally, any reduction that you and your family make with respect to what is sent to landfill is a good thing.

Personally, I am not terribly comfortable with the term ‘zero waste’ in the context that many people choose to use it.  I prefer something as simple as rubbish reduction.  However, our goal is the same.

It is easy to become complacent because you have cleverly managed to take you own glass jar to have it refilled with some type of foodstuff, therefore it is zero waste.  Unless you go to the farm and pick the vegetables or milk the cow directly into your glass bottle I do not consider it zero waste.  The dry goods in bulk bins travel to the shop in packaging (generally plastic-lined) and the milk is transported in some type of vessel.  Whilst this may sound extreme, I am simply trying to point out that a true zero-waste meal is a bit of a myth unless you are foraging for all of your food.

I believe that single-use plastics are a very good place to start reducing your rubbish.

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Take fabric/reusable bags or boxes to carry your groceries home.
Make or buy lightweight bags for buying fruit and vegetables.  Remove plastic film from your life.  If you have not got it you will find an alternative.
Wash and reuse (as many times as possible) any plastic bags you already have in your possession.
Consider your shopping list.  Look for items with less packaging or able to be bought in bulk.
Take you own containers when buying products that are not pre-packaged – meat, dry goods, deli items.
Look for loose fruit and vegetable produce rather than pre-packed.
Try growing even one or two vegetables or fruit depending on your location and living arrangements.

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What do you already do to reduce the amount of rubbish which your household produces?

What changes would you consider implementing in 2017 to reduce your waste even further?

Taking Responsibility

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Firstly, I would like to apologise to those of you who have commented over the past couple of months for not replying to your comments.  I do read your words and value your input, however, too often I set them aside with grand plans to reply ‘later’ and ‘later’ does not happen.  I have gone back and tried to fill in the blanks and have promised myself that I will do better in 2017.  Thank you for sticking with me.

I had already written the title for this post when I realised that I had used an identical title in February last year.  You can read it here.  Perhaps it is a new year that makes us reassess what we are doing in a variety of ways.  Reducing our carbon footprint, minimising our reliance on single-use items, supporting ethical businesses, taking stock of our possessions are just some of the ways we can make a difference to our own lives as well as the lives of others and of course, the health of the planet.

I read something recently where someone commented that if everyone had to deal with their own rubbish rather than just wheeling a bin to the kerb then they would think differently about what they acquire – both in goods and packaging.  Of all the articles and discussions I have read, this makes more sense than most.

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It is easy to get jaded when the discussion is about where the nearest supermarket is that accepts soft plastics for recycling.  Do you think that shoving a bundle of soft plastic bags and packaging into a supposed recycling collection point absolves you from making any additional effort to reduce your waste?  Do you really believe that soft plastics are actually recycled?  Have you any idea how much energy is required to recycle materials into new products?  Is it true that plastic can only be recycled once?  And the absolute no-brainer….. Did you know that plastic is made from oil which is a finite resource?  That means it will run out one day!

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This is just one example of where it would be far better to make or buy a few sturdy fabric bags to transport shopping and other goods.

Give up shopping as a pastime, buy only what you actually need……that is need, not want and remember that recycling should be a last resort, not an easy option to salve your conscience.

Call me cynical, but I do whatever I can to minimise the amount of recycling I produce because I am not convinced that my efforts end up reaping results.  I have heard that if there is any contamination found in an entire truckload of recyclables then the whole load is dumped.  Whether or not that is true, I would much rather save any cardboard and newspapers that we acquire and use it as a mulchable weed mat in the garden.  Smaller pieces of paper are shredded and used as bedding for the chickens and then finally make their way to the compost.

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Tomorrow I will discuss the concept of zero-waste and what it means to me.

 

Like a Duck

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I have been feeling a bit like a duck lately – all calm on the surface and paddling furiously beneath the surface!

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Work is busy and I have deadlines and targets to meet before Christmas.  I am hopeful of achieving them but I can only do what is humanly possible.

On the home front it is about the mundane things – washing, ironing, preparing meals as well as keeping the house in reasonable order.

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A menu plan written on the weekend is a must to keep me on track during the week.  Tonight was Mexican quinoa and while that was cooking I steamed a chicken breast fillet in preparation for tomorrow night.  In the morning I will take a tub of sweet and sour sauce and some rice from the freezer.  Tomorrow evening will be a simple matter of shredding the chicken, adding to the sauce and heating along with the rice.  Dinner will be ready in no time.

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Last night I did some ironing and tonight the folded clothes were put away.  A little bit each night helps to keep on top of the ordinary tasks and leaves me time for extra jobs on the weekend.

On Sunday we cleaned up the vegetable gardens and planted some new seedlings.  I hope to have some photos of the progress in a couple of days.  We also picked several kilos of cherry tomatoes which are washed, packed and frozen for later use.