My Minimalism

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I often read or hear people asking quantitative questions with regard to minimalism.  These generally revolve around how many of something you need.  Examples include, “How many pairs of shoes do you have?” or “How many sets of clothes do I need for a 2 year old?”

Additionally, there are numerous blogs and articles out there which exhort you to get rid of appliances or say that one set of crockery per person is all you need.

Conversely, I maintain that minimalism should not be prescriptive and that each person has different circumstances and will make their own choices.

The thing that defines minimalism to me is that whatever you own is mindfully curated and limits are set.

In particular, I have been reminded recently of variations in kitchen requirements.  We grow some of our own food and naturally we end up with a glut of certain produce from time to time.  I do my best not to waste it.  Processing a large quantity of produce is generally when appliances come into their own.

I can happily squeeze 2 or 3 oranges using this vintage glass juicer.

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But when it comes to juicing the 160 grapefruit that we have picked in the last 2 weeks I have neither the time or energy to do them by hand.  My trusty food processor with the citrus juicer attachment comes into its own.

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This was one batch of about 60 grapefruit that I juiced last weekend.  In the space of 30 minutes I had several bottles of juice for GMan plus containers of juice to freeze for future use.

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Citrus are not the only produce that I deal with in bulk amounts.

Some time ago I bought a 20kg bag of onions.  Once again, I routinely dice one or two onions using a sharp knife but the food processor with the cutting blade is invaluable for processing larger quantities of onions.

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I chopped 3kg of onions and then used another appliance – my dehydrator – to dry them.

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24 hours later  – back to the food processor, but this time with the spice grinder attachment.

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The end result was dried onion flakes and onion powder which cost me $3 and a little time as compared to nearly $13 to buy the same quantity from the supermarket.  As an added bonus there is no packaging either.

I have used the deydrator to make garlic powder, tomato powder and vegetable stock powder using the same general method.

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Then there is the Kitchen Aid mixer which I regularly use to make spreadable butter, pizza bases, combine various flours for my gluten-free flour mix, the occasional cake and GMan uses it when making sourdough bread.  It also has a pasta attachment which I use occasionally.

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The high-speed blender is also used regularly to make smoothies, mango sorbet and peanut paste to name but a few.

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So, my minimalist kitchen is probably a joke in some people’s eyes but it works for me.

However, I do not have single-purpose appliances such as a waffle maker, ice-cream maker, hot dog maker and so on.

You see, minimalism really is what is right for the individual and their circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

Waste Not

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I will never fit a year’s worth of rubbish in a small jar but I manage reasonably well at this ‘zero waste’ gig, mainly because we don’t actually buy a lot of stuff.  However, some things are unavoidable.  After much discussion and debate we recently purchased a new suitcase for our upcoming overseas trip.  You can see it here.

We bought the case online and of course there was the inevitable packaging.  All things considered, it was not unreasonable to ensure that the case arrived in perfect condition.  A large cardboard box which will be flattened and added to the pile which we use as weed mat under mulched areas of the garden and a large, lightweight plastic bag which I have carefully folded and put away.  This is sure to be used at some time in the future.

Finally, there was this piece of thin foam sheeting.

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This is not recyclable in any shape or form so it can only be destined for the rubbish bin.  Although it will still end up in landfill, I decided that it could have one more use before ending up there.

I cut it into two pieces and stitched them up to create these bags.

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They will be used as rubbish bags for the relatively small amount of household rubbish which we produce before tossing the bag and its contents into the large rubbish collection bin.  Based on past experience I expect that each of these will hold about 4 – 6 week’s worth of rubbish.

It is not an ideal solution but one in which I feel that I have made the best of the situation with which I was presented.

But back to the online shopping and packaging.  I regularly hear people complaining about the packaging they receive when shopping online and their attempts to change they way things are shipped.  We do not shop extensively online but it does have advantages.  We live in a semi-rural area and saved an enormous amount of time and fuel driving long distances to locate an appropriate suitcase.  Secondly, the packaging I received is probably the same packaging which any retail outlet would receive when ordering from the supplier.  I am sure that the shop would not have made any effort to re-purpose the various pieces of packaging materials as I have and best I could hope for is that the cardboard may have been recycled.  Therefore, even though I have added to my personal landfill tally I feel that I have done the best that I could.  What do you think?

Seasonal Produce

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There are many good reasons to eat what is in season where possible.  Food miles are reduced if you eat local seasonal produce.  It is more likely to have been picked ripe and have better flavour.  An abundance of a particular crop will invariably see the best prices for the consumer.

Most of all though, if you only eat items that are in season you will appreciate the wait for those crops which only bear at a particular time of the year.  Like the first sweet bite of a new season mandarin.  In our climate we pick fruit from our mandarin tree during June and July which are our winter months.

Once the fruit are ripening I have to cover the tree to protect the fruit from the local scrub turkeys.

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You can also see one of the orange trees next to the netted mandarin.

This afternoon I removed the netting and picked the last of the fruit.

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We have picked a lot of mandarins over the past month or so but these are the last 30 of them.

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We will savour these fruit as we know it will be another 10 months before the next crop is ripe.  In the meantime, there will be plenty more seasonal delights as the months roll by.  Imagine if I could eat these all the year round.  They would no longer be anticipated longingly and the delight of that first burst of delicious flavour would soon become ho-hum.

We are fortunate because we live in a temperate climate so many crops can successfully be grown during most months of the year.  However, seasonality still exists for the citrus trees, raspberries, mangoes, passionfruit and avocadoes.

What is in season at your place?

This was our glorious winter day here today.  No, it has not been photoshopped – the sky really is that blue.

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10 Days

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Yes, it is 10 days since my last blog post.  There is no good reason – I just took a break.

I think the biggest news (in Australia) in the past couple of weeks has been the announcement by Woolworths that they will stop using single-use plastic bags.  This was closely followed by Coles announcing that they would do the same.  Here is a news report.  I have not commented on this announcement so now is probably as good a time as any.

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“What a great initiative” was my my immediate thought, especially in the midst of Plastic Free July.  Perhaps the movement was really starting to gain some traction with mainstream consumers?

My optimism was short-lived as I began to hear and read various responses.  In fact, despair would have been a more accurate description of my mood over the following days.

Here is a round-up of the sort of comments that came to my notice:

  • It is only so they (supermarkets) can sell more heavy-duty plastic carrier bags.
  • Green bags are made from a plastic-based fabric – you have to use them 347 times to make the impact less than the single-use plastic bags.
  • What will I use to collect dog poo when out walking?
  • Research shows that the sale of bin liner bags has increased in those states that have completely banned single-use plastic bags.
  • What will I use to line my bins?

Seriously??

It is evident that many, many people have long way to go before they understand the impact of the millions of plastic bags which are produced every year and used only once.  They also do not appear to be prepared to adjust their lifestyle even slightly.

So, how do you counter these and a million other ill-informed comments?

The first and simplest thing is to consider investing in some strong fabric bags that do not contain plastics.  I can assure you that these will last for many, many years and can be repaired as necessary.

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Work towards generating less waste so that you have a reduced need for bin liners.  Purchasing larger packs, from bulk bins, unwrapped, using your own produce bags will all assist in reducing the amount of packaging waste.

Take more care with grocery shopping and buy only what you will actually use.  Remember, first world countries such as Australia, the USA and UK discard around 25% of all food produced.  Make sure you are not part of this dreadful statistic.

Consider composting food scraps to reduce the amount which you currently send to landfill.  Even if you do not have access to a backyard there are numerous systems available which can be used by people living in apartments.  Additionally, there are opportunities to connect with people who may be happy to take your scraps for their compost system or search for a community garden in your area.  Online connections are invaluable in the 21st century for developing relationships which are mutually beneficial.  One such example is Spare Harvest which is building a sharing community for excess produce, plants and garden resources.

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Small bins that do not contain wet food scraps can be lined with newspaper.  So, the naysayers point out that not everyone gets the newspaper anymore!

The real point of this post is to encourage everyone to take a positive, solution-based approach to change.  We need to be looking for innovative ways to reduce our environmental footprint rather than railing against any change which may happen to impact our wasteful lifestyle.

I live in a semi-rural area and our local town has a Woolworths and IGA supermarkets as well as a selection of independent retailers.  Almost all of these businesses routinely provide plastic bags for purchases.  I believe that the impending phasing out of plastic bags by the retail giants can taken up by all retailers and set a precedent by making Maleny plastic bag free.

I intend to promote this idea and encourage others to become involved.  My first strategy will be to contact the IGA supermarket and ask them to match the Woolworths ban on plastic bags.  I am also looking into the Boomerang Bags project which would be a perfect way to introduce people to the options available to fill the void left by the removal of plastic bags.

 

The Big 4 – Part 2

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Following on from my previous post about coffee cups, the next item on the list is bags.

Bags really fall into 2 categories in my opinion.  The first is carry bags – from the supermarket, other grocery stores as well as department stores and specialist boutiques.  There are reusable ‘green’ bags which are only marginally better than the single-use plastic bags that they are supposed to replace.  They are still made from plastic and do not have a long life as they are prone to tear.  I have a selection of bags that I use which have come from a variety of sources.

Here are some the calico ones including the one which has had the handles replaced.  You can read that story here.

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This one was a gift that my sister brought back for me from Alaska.  They were made in the town she visited.  It is sturdy and folds up into its own pocket for easy storage.  Yes, it is plastic but I believe it will last forever.

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Finally, this one is my go-to bag every time I leave the house.  It is looking a bit the worse for wear after almost 5 years of constant use.  I bought it in Vermont when we visited the USA in 2012.  It was plastic-lined – fused onto the inside of the hessian but when the plastic began to break up, I removed it all and sewed in a new cotton lining.  The project is detailed here.

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The second type of single-use plastic bags are produce bags – the flimsy ones that you find at the greengrocer or the fruit and vegetable section of your local supermarket.  Apparently, reusable alternatives can be purchased from various Etsy sellers and also on Amazon but I simply chose to make my own from some leftover tulle that I had at home.  They are very easy to make with very basic sewing skills.  You could really use any fabric but I find the tulle is perfect because it allows for the cashier to identify the produce and because they weigh virtually nothing, I do not have to worry about tare weight.  The fabric does not fray so there is no need to worry about finishing the edges.  I also chose not to worry about drawstrings or ties as I find there is simply no need.  Remember, the plastic ones are just a bag with no added extras.

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I also carry a folded Ecosilk bag which I use on the rare occasions that I make clothing purchases.

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There are other opportunities for refusing plastic bags but if you are starting out, I would strongly suggest that you begin with reusable carry bags and produce bags.  This will make an immediate difference.

Do you use your own bags?

The Big 4

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When it comes to Plastic Free July and reducing your single-use plastics for the long-term good of the planet in general and the oceans in particular, there are 4 major culprits.

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Although they are the worst offenders, I think it is relatively easy to make changes to eliminate many of them.

In no particular order they are:

Coffee cups
Bags
Straws
Bottles

Why are they regarded as the biggest problems?

  1.  Volume – there are just so many used every single day.
  2.  Only used once in most instances.
  3. Lightweight – so they easily become unintentional litter which ends up in waterways and ultimately in the ocean.
  4. Unnecessary – there are easy alternatives.

What do you currently do and what can you change to reduce your usage of these plastic ‘nasties’?

I will address one of these items each day and today I will begin with coffee cups.

Australians have developed a love affair with coffee, and more specifically takeaway coffee.  Once upon a time we were a nation of tea drinkers and coffee was almost a special occasion drink.  Even more recently the norm was to go to a cafe and sit down with a cup of coffee.  However, the trend of grabbing a coffee ‘to go’ has become a national pastime and we are killing the oceans in the process.

Those innocuous paper cups are NOT recyclable, compostable or anything else.  They are rubbish, that at best ends up in landfill or at worst in the ocean.  This is because they are made of composite materials, including a layer of plastic.

The recent ABC television program, ‘War on Waste’ shone the light squarely on disposable coffee cups and the havoc they are creating.

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I am not a coffee drinker and fail to grasp what amounts to an addiction to coffee but you can still have your ‘caffeine fix’ without destroying the planet.

Simply take your reusable cup along to your favourite cafe and have it filled for you to take away.  Simple.  Easy.  We could very quickly eliminate disposable coffee cups.

Some cafes even offer a discount as an incentive to bring your own mug.  If your cafe is not willing to oblige you could vote with your feet and take your custom elsewhere as there are no shortage of cafes looking for your business.  Remember, conscious consumption can make a difference.

So, what is your coffee story?  Do you take a reusable cup for your coffee?  How it is received?  Do you get a discount?

 

 

Everything Good

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Tonight I want to share a find for ‘Plastic-Free July’ which officially begins today.

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We recently discovered a local business on the Steve Irwin Way at Glasshouse Mountains.  It is called ‘Everything Good‘ but if you drive this way you probably know it simply as the fruit and vegetable stall between Glasshouse Mountains and Beerwah.

The unassuming frontage hides a treasure trove of fruit and vegetables, much of it locally grown and some organic.  The majority is unpackaged, too.  The tables at the front offer up a variety of punnets of flower, vegetable and herb seedlings.  If you head out the back there is an amazing nursery with a great range of healthy plants.

When we were here a couple of weeks ago I noticed some ‘Boomerang Bags’ hanging up behind the counter.  Each time we have shopped here I get some positive feedback from the staff about my tulle produce bags.  It is lovely to feel that we are among like-minded friends when shopping at ‘Everything Good’.

Today we had a longer conversation with the gentleman who runs the shop and it is obvious that he is passionate about limiting plastic packaging so he has definitely won my custom.

Although they do not have a website, the link near the beginning of this post will give you a little more information about this great business.  I noticed on this page a mention of recycling punnets and pots so I will definitely be chatting to him about returning punnets for reuse.

We grow some of our own fruit and vegetables but it is fantastic to have a local business where we can source unpackaged produce without a battle.  Congratulations to ‘Everything Good’.  May there be many more similar shops in the not too distant future.

Are you committed to reducing your consumption of single-use plastics during July and beyond?  What are your specific plans?