Perfect Spinach Salad with “Creamy” Dressing

Vegan – Soy Free – Gluten Free – Paleo

Serves 8 as a side, 4 as a main

I would like to officially motion that making a tasty plant-based salad is an art. Maybe I am fussy but I die a little inside when I arrive somewhere and find that the only option I have is some iceberg salad with a few quartered tomatoes on top. And sometimes I find myself blankly staring at a pile of vegetables and I draw blanks too so it is completely understandable. Who would have thought something so seemingly simple could be so hard to perfect? This is why I have set myself a goal this summer – I am determined to master the art of scrumptious and simple salads! Considering it was 34C today I got to try this one out at a good old family BBQ… and it’s a goodie!

The dressing is a particular win for me! It literally took 5 minutes to make and could be stored ready for any other occasion. Once a massive fan of the Caesar Salad I still sometimes find myself craving a creamy dressing. This is the perfect alternative as the Dijon Mustard makes it feel rich without all the nasty side-effects that come with heavy dairy-based dressings.

Also wanted to shine the spotlight on my newest favorite things!!! At the Hulbert Street Sustainability Fiesta the other day I bought some reusable produce bags from one of my fave company’s: Onya Bags. They are light, washable and come in a whole range of funky colours (in packs of 5 or 8) and you can buy them here. So if you can… make sure you wrap your baby spinach in these sustainable solutions rather than useless plastic produce bags.

Ingredients

Salad

  • Baby Spinach (enough to fill your platter… as this is the base you can judge how much you use)
  • Green Olives – I used about 20. (chilli and garlic went really well!)
  • 2 x Avocados, sliced
  • 1 x Cucumber, sliced
  • Sundried Tomatoes, cut into strips (as many as you want)
  • 50g x Pine Nuts, (I used more because I love ’em)

Creamy Dressing

This dressing will keep for up to a month if you leave out the herbs! I left out the herbs until just before I served with the salad.

  • 3 Tablespoon x Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon x White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon x Dijon Mustard
  • Some fresh herbs finely chopped (I used a small handful of basil)

Method

Arrange all your salady bits on a platter in a pretty way

Roast or dry fry your pine nuts. Set aside to cool slightly… those little buggers can get hot!

Mix all your dressing ingredients together and shake well. Pour over salad just before serving.

Aaaand… nom nom nom.

Upcycled Tin Cans

Since cutting plastic out of my life I don’t really have to deal with too much wasted food packaging. However, I am English which means there is some packaging that will never be truly banished from my world: the humble aluminium casing that temporarily houses my baked beans! Due to my jacket-tatty-with-beans addiction I have accumulated quite a few of these cans and while they are recyclable I much prefer to reuse where I can. Then while I was cruising the interwebs I spied the below picture and got all inspired…

What a sweet and clever idea! So I decided to expand on that and instead cover my cans with pretty paper – because my cans would not look as gorgeously rustic as those pictured… it would literally just be a big collection of Heinz beans cans! Either way I think the results are gorgeous and this would make a gorgeous eco solution for a wedding centerpieces which would hardly break the budget (the whole project cost me $12). Best thing about this project – it was unbelievably quick and simple.

What You’ll Need

  • Washed tin cans
  • Pretty paper (a standard can will get use half a sheet)
  • Ruler (Steel ruler would be best for accuracy)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue gun

Method

Wash all your tin cans thoroughly and remove labels. Having little remnants of paper is fine – they may even help with the adhesion of the paper.

Without glue, wrap a sheet of paper around the width of the can (to see the amount you will need). I always allow for a 2cm overlap.

Fold the excess amount back over itself. You can then cut along the crease line.

Then measure the length of the can as accurately as possible. If you want to have a little leeway make sure you cut the paper a little thinner rather than leaving it a little too wide – you don’t want the paper taller than the can as it will fray and get messy.

Now you are ready to roll (literally). Apply a stripe of glue along one end of the paper (the shorter end that will go across the height of the can).

Carefully place and stick the paper onto the can keeping it as straight as possible.

Once the paper is stuck to the can, flip it over so that you can see the underside of the paper and apply 4 lines of glue – along the top, middle, bottom and side of the paper. Carefully (and as quickly as possible so the glue doesn’t dry) roll the paper around the can.

If the edge of the paper is not completely stuck down apply small blobs of glue to the corners. You don’t want the blobs to be too big as they may squish out and look untidy.

And Voila!!! Repeat this for each of your cans until you have a beautiful assortment of colours and patterns.

Once you have your assortment of cans fill them with flowers and/or tea lights and use them as a centre-piece for a table or a beautiful feature on a side table or shelf.

If filling them with flowers here are two things to consider;

  1. You will have to be very careful with water as the new coating is paper and will ruin if it is wet
  2. Try to avoid cut flowers from stores! As I explained in this post they are often imported and wrapped in plastic. The ones I have used in this picture are a mixture of weeds from the verge-side in my suburb or a few flowers from my own garden. I can’t wait until my lavender bushes really kick off for this very purpose!

Anyway… here are a few more pictures. Happy crafting!

Add some tea-lights for some extra pretty mood lighting!

Since completing this project I have seen that loads of people have done similar with their old tin cans. You can follow me on Pinterest here but for the moment here are some special mentions of some other gorgeous tin can upcycling projects…

Such a stunning arrangement for a baby shower from Bump Smitten.com

Pretty pen pots from Craft Gawker.com

More storage tins… this time with ribbons! From The Ornament Girl.com/blog/

Classic White Votive Tins from One Womens Haven.blogspot.com.au

Plastic Free July: Week 1

The Ehlers household has officially completed our first week plastic free (well… almost). It has been an eye-opening week and there have been revelations, personal doubts and – I won’t lie – some pregnant-lady tears. In my mind I have always been extremely conscientious in terms of my plastic consumption but it wasn’t until this challenge that I realised how much has been sneaking past the gates. But really, when the average person creates 726kg of plastic waste every year should I be so surprised?

Week 1 Summary

Since moving away from the very green suburb of Fremantle my households biggest failing has definitely been food shopping. Well… the coordination of it anyway. Probably 50% of the time, my husband and I find that after socialising, renovating, gardening, studying, cleaning, blogging and pure relaxation duties we have completely run out of time to do our weekly shop! Come Monday we found ourselves unprepared with one very anti-green, non-organic, highly packaged option: the supermarket.

Monday

On Monday the reality of our society’s plastic addiction hit me. Literally everything is wrapped in plastic! I tried to escape it in the fruit and vegetable section but even there it found me. Herbs, cauliflowers, berries – all wrapped in unnecessary plastic packaging. I grabbed some veggies and headed home knowing full well that we still had some plastic wrapped stock from the week before – by next week I am in trouble!

Tuesday

My gorgeous hubby had a win today. At first he was embarrassed about taking his own container to the butcher to get his meat supply but he soldiered on. The local butcher was more than happy to weigh the container, fill it with chicken and then deduct the weight from the end measurement. Not only was the guy really friendly but also took an interest in Plastic Free July. Who knows what type of mental seeds that may have planted?

Wednesday

Despair. As I mentioned in my last post about being positive this was the day that I… well… completely lost my shit. Looking down the end of each aisle all I could see were endless shelves of plastic. Trawling through them was even more disheartening. Even beautiful reusable glass jars were wrapped in plastic – why? It just breaks my heart. All I could think was that this is just one aisle, in one supermarket, in one suburb, in one state, in one very sparsely populated country on one globe. The true scale of this problem is terrifying. It was too much for this hormonal little lady to bear. I spoke to a shop assistant who told me Borax was being discontinued… I left in floods of tears. I gave up that night. My husband and I ended up at the pub where we shared a pizza made from ingredients which probably came wrapped in plastic. White flag is officially hoisted.

Every 15 seconds this amount of plastic garbage gets released into the sea. (From Out to Sea – The Plastic Garbage Project just opened in the Zurich Museum of Design / Switzerland)

Thursday

I was accosted by some co-workers today. I couldn’t buy some charity merchandise (wrapped in a plastic sleeve) and the lady could not understand why. She offered to remove the plastic and bin it and just give me the goods within. I explained that this was not the point and all of a sudden I was the anti-Christ – which is very bad when you work in the finance department of a religious organisation. I was accused of adding further stress to the poverty-stricken women of India, forcing Australians out of employment and being completely delusional. I tried to concentrate on all the people that have been so lovely and helpful on this short journey and also turned to my OOB Facebook friends for some boosting. We all decided that people who react so irrationally are doing so out of guilt, laziness and narrow-mindedness. And another bonus – it strengthened my resolve.

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere”

~ Frank A. Clark.  

One thing that raised my spirits beyond belief was a surprise package (absolutely plastic free) from the Western Earth Carers, the very environmental warriors that created Plastic Free July. Not only was there a gorgeous PFJ badge – which I have decided to now wear every time I go to any shop – but also an autographed copy of Jude Blereau’s book Wholefood for Children as a thank you for my relentless Plastic Free blogging (see all Jude’s books here!). Thank you Earth Carers for yet again picking me up and inspiring me!

Friday

Life is looking up! I found some goats cheese in a glass jar from Meredith Dairy. A quick google showed me that their website had a section dedicated to their environmental philosophy (always a great sign) and provided stacks of information about the animal welfare and how they approach sustainable farming. Have a look here. It was slightly expensive ($11) but this represented the quality as well as the true embodied cost – we also found we savored it more. I managed to enjoy the hell out of one cube before my husband dropped the jar and smashed it on our kitchen tiles. He actually had to wrestle me while I tried to rinse the glass off and continue gorging. Glass is probably not good for a baby. It has not been a great week.

Weekend = Time for Action

It seems our big challenge is our diet. My husband is a gluten-intolerant omnivore (gluten free things seem to always come in plastic) and I am fiercely attempting to be vegetarian while pregnant (even though I am getting some unsolicited advice on the subject). I have read a few books and do not believe – for me – that I could healthily manage a vegan pregnancy. So with this in mind, the hardest items for us to go plastic free are; speciality flours, pasta, nuts, seeds, spices, herbs and berries.

Solution #1 – Pantry Store

So on Saturday with all my own containers in tow I wandered down to the Pantry Kitchen in Rockingham City. I asked the woman very nicely if she could weigh my containers prior to filling and then deduct the weight from the total. Unfortunately she said it would be ‘a bit of an effort’ and while she could do it she would rather not. Breathe. All fairness to her, at the very moment I approached her 20 other customers materialised from nowhere and so she may have felt some heat from the crowd. I didn’t need too much and I wasn’t buying anything like saffron or pine-nuts so I took the 20gram tax in my stride. For now.

But hear this lazy store-person (readers, please imagine that I am Liam Neeson in Taken) I don’t know who you are but I will return, I will bring my own containers and I will kill you – no! I mean FILL THEM. I will fill them!

Lady, you have been warned.

I will fill them.

Solution #2 – Farmers Market

On Sunday we braved Arctic conditions to visit the Peel Farmers Market. It was absolutely tiny but still very fruitful (and fruit full!). Here we found plastic free herbs, amazing homemade jams, lemon curd, organic sourdough loaves and lots of organic produce: leafy greens, capsicums, ginger and apples! Not only did we get some beautiful produce we also got to discover new things (Mustard greens – A party in my mouth!) and meet great new people who could tell me all about how and where the produce was grown.

I was a bit disappointed by one gentleman that had a stall at which everything was wrapped in plastic. While I would generally ignore this and move on there were some precious ruby’s catching my eye… STRAWBERRIES! I approached him and told him about my plastic free challenge and asked if he could give me the red jewels without the container and then (bonus) reuse it! He told me there was absolutely no point but said he would ‘probably’ reuse it. How’s that for a vote of confidence? He then started telling me that plastic was the way of the future before he started questioning if the car I came in was made of plastic. I attempted to explain single-use plastic to him but cut my losses and decided I didn’t want to give him any of my money’s anyway. I went back to Victor (from Victors Gourmet Delights) and tested out all his delicious sauces and preserves.

The Congruency Secret

A guest post by Rebecca Dettman on my favorite wellness blog (The Wellness Warrior) was incredibly timely this morning. It was called The Congruency Secret (see the whole article here) and it asks the very simple but ultimately puzzling question:

Do your behaviours match your intentions?

This week I realised that lately, mine haven’t. I hate the supermarket and this year vowed never to be in one – yet time (lack of) and convenience sucked me in and I found myself buying non-organic food and supporting a corporation that I despise. I have also proven that those ‘impossible to avoid’ plastics are possible to avoid. Before this challenge I was coasting along and letting very achievable goals slip past me rather than taking the bull by the horns and fighting harder for the environment.

So, this week I intend to make my own Rice milk and for the first time in my life attempt homemade pasta. I am living more creatively and learning new skills all the way. I have used the pain of my berry loss to kick my little procrastinating butt into action and we are finally getting the vegetable patch finished. My hubby and I are booking a week in August off work and are attacking our garden (I will blog about it of course). Then I will have miiiiillions of berries.

Lessons I Have Learnt

Taking into account that I must be proactive;

  • I will now order my food online from a local Organic business that delivers. If I am constantly running out of time to get to the shops then this is an easy solution that will avoid me missing out on my organic produce and giving my pennies to the supermarket.
  • I will book in a monthly trip to Fremantle to buy all of my ingredients in bulk… rather than buying bits here and there that last me a week at most.
  • I will strive to only support local business and inspiring individuals that really make a difference.

Any readers who are doing the Plastic Free July Challenge please let me know how you’ve been going in the comments! Any innovations, challenges, lovely reactions, not so lovely (I’m still looking at you Strawberry Man) or any make your own experiments. I would love to hear!

DIY Eco-Cleaning Products

As readers of this site may already know I am taking the challenge to live Plastic Free for July (thanks to the amazing initiative of Western Earth Carers who invented Plastic Free July). In a previous post (click here to see it) one of my 5 Steps to going plastic free was to make your own cleaning products. It is fun, easy and SO much better for the environment.

If you want to investigate all the dangerous chemicals we use in our homes (and the effects they have) then see my preivous post about it here but I can sum it up in a nut-shell. Lots of chemicals we find in home products are linked to major health issues such as cancer, fertility defects, liver damage, kidney damage and central nervous system damage. These are then they are poured straight down the drain into our waterways and oceans where the creatures are ever so delicate. Needless to say, it wreaks havoc on our ecosystems. And worst of all, these products come wrapped head-to-toe in single-use plastic packaging. Yuck. There is a better way… in fact there are lots of better ways!!! (Another benefit is that they are a lot cheaper than the nasty chemicals too).

Your Eco Cleaning Essential

There are a few ingredients that you cannot live without if you want to make your own cleaning products. I try to get most of my ingredients from ‘eco stores’ like Planet Ark but if you aren’t near their every single one of these can be found in supermarkets.

Note: I am aware that some of these come wrapped in plastic – namely the lids of the Essential Oils and the Washing Soda packet. I am trying to source alternatives. Looks like I will be filling the Dilemma Bag. :(

  • Bicarb Soda (aka Baking Soda) – This miracle powder does everything. It cleans, deodorizes, scours and softens water.
  • Lemon Juice One of the strongest food-acids around and effective against most household bacteria.
  • White Vinegar Another hero. Cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, stains and wax build-up.
  • Borax (aka Sodium Borate) – Cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors, changes light globes. (Might not do the last thing actually)
  • Washing Soda Cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs. Be carfeul though – washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminum.
  • Cornstarch AKA Corn Flour Can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.
  • Soap – Unscented soap in is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. I buy a natural soap bar and grate it before using.
  • Essential Oils – The ‘essential’ Essential Oils for basic house-cleaning are lavendar, lemon and Eucalyptus. Most of these oils have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and they smell bloody lovely. I always keep a lavender by the bed to help me nod off (and to keep mosquito’s away!) .
  • Olive Oil – A great alternative furniture polish (the most basic will do!)

Easy Surface Cleaner

This can be used on any type of counter – I use it in the kitchen, bathroom, wooden furniture/boards. The only thing vinegar shouldn’t be used on is marble as it can damage the surface.

  • Bicarb Soda
  • Vinegar (in spray bottle)

Note: White is most versatile but Apple Cider can be used on surface darker than the vinegar

Method

  1. Sprinkle Bicarb Soda over the surface
  2. Spray Vinegar over the surface (do a little jig while you hear it fizz)
  3. Wipe off with a damp sponge/cloth

If it is a particularly stubborn stain: Make a paste with the vinegar and bicarb and leave for 15 minutes before wiping off.

Dishwashing Detergent

This is care of the Plastic Free July website. Thank you! :)

  • 1 Cup borax
  • 1 Cup baking soda
  • ½ Cup salt

Method

  1. Mix ingredients and store in a reusable and resealable container.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of the mixture to the soap compartment.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar in the rinse agent compartment.

Gentle Microwave/Oven Cleaner

  • 1 x lemon
  • Water
  • Microwavable container

Method

  1. Slice up lemon and place in water
  2. Zap in Microwave for 5 – 10 minutes | Bake in Oven on 200C (390F) for 40 minutes
  3. Then use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe the inside (once oven is cool). The mess will wipe off really easily without the use of harsh, toxic chemicals.

Strong Oven Cleaner

  • 3/4 Cup Bicarb Soda
  • 1/4 Cup Salt (table is fine, sea salt is better, Kosher is best)
  • 1/4 Cup Water

Method

  1. Dampen the oven surfaces with sponge and water.
  2. Mix bicarb soda, salt and water to make a thick paste
  3. Spread throughout oven interior – liberally on tough mucky areas
  4. Let sit overnight
  5. Remove with spatula and wipe clean.
  6. Rub gently with fine steel wool for tough spots

Window or Mirror Cleaner

  • 1 Cup White Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 3 Cups Water
OR if you don’t like the smell of vinegar…
  • 1 Cup Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Vinegar
  • 3 Cups Water

Method

  1. Mix vinegar and lemon juice with water
  2. Pour into a used spray bottle
  3. Spray onto window/mirror and scrub with newspaper (don’t use paper towels – they will streak!)

My Crazy Bathroom Cleaning Technique

Whenever I do this I have ‘Maniac’ playing in my head and fully pretend that I am Alex Owens from Flashdance – get my head shaking around and stomping my feet. This is of course not necessary but neither are cupcakes 99% of the time – they’re still fun though.

  • Bicarb Soda
  • Vinegar (in spray bottle)

Method

  1. While you shower in the bathroom you intend to clean close the door, cover bath and shower plugs and allow the room to steam up
  2. Have bicarb in a shaker and put on a shower cap
  3. Sprinkle bicarb everywhere (sink included) – 3Tablespoons should be enough for whole room
  4. Spray all over the room with vinegar
  5. Use a damp sponge to scrub surfaces, sinks and towel racks
  6. Use old stockings to clean around taps
  7. Use on old toothbrush for corners
  8. Even do the walls! Use a broom

Tip: You can upcycle a shaker out of anything… e.g. an old coffee tin with holes in the bottom or a plastic bottle with hole in the lid or just use an old Parmesan shaker. 

Bathroom Mold

  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Water

Method

  1. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle
  2. Spray onto areas with mold
  3. Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using shower/bath

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

1/4 Cup Bicarb Soda
1 Cup White Vinegar

Method

  1. Mix Bicarb Soda and Vinegar
  2. Pour into basin and let it set for a 10 minutes
  3. Scrub with brush and rinse

Clothes Washing Powder

  • 1 Liter Boiling Water
  • 2 cups Bar soap (grated)
  • 2 cups Borax
  • 2 cups Washing Soda

Method

  1. Add finely grated bar soap to boiling water and stir until soap is melted (do this on a low heat)
  2. Pour the soapy water mix into a large, clean bucket and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
  3. Add 6 Litres of water and stir until well mixed.
  4. Cover bucket and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry (You will need to stir the soap each time you use it as it does gel – maybe a fun job for kids?)

Furniture Polish

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Method

  1. Pour oil and lemon juice into a jar
  2. Stir to combine
  3. Dip a dust cloth or rag into oil, blot the oil by folding the cloth together, and then dust your furniture

Unclog a Drain

  • 1/2 Cup Baking Soda
  • 2 Cups Boiling Water
  • 1/2 Cup Vinegar (if stubborn clog)

Method

  1. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain followed by the boiling water.
  2. If it is reeeeally blocked chase the baking soda with a 1/2 cup of vinegar and cover – allowing the crazy fizzing which means it is breaking up all the gunk.
  3. Flush that with 2 litres of boiling water

Carpet Cleaner

  • Vinegar

Method

  1. For pet stink and stains in carpets, mix equal parts of vinegar and water. Apply to affected areas.
  2. Blot with an cloth until moisture is absorbed.
Note: Soda Water also works but it is hard to find plastic free. Perhaps Mineral Water would work as it is the carbonation that lifts the stain. Will keep you posted next time there is a carpet accident at home! :) 

Natural Air Fresheners

All that commercial air fresheners do is mask a smell and/or coat our nasal cavities. I don’t like the idea of that especially when you read the ingredients you find in them. So here are some really simple and natural ways to… well… freshen your air!

  • Mix a bit of Bicarb Soda or Vinegar with Lemon Juice in small dishes around the house – this will absorb odours!
  • Keep a spray bottle with water and 10 drops of lavender oil by the door. Spray before guests come in so they get a beautiful, relaxing welcome!
  • Mix eight tbsp with three drops of your favourite essential oil. Place in a decorative bowl or vase
  • Dab some essential oil on a light bulb. When on, the heat will diffuse the fragrance.
  • Prevent cooking odors by simmering vinegar (1 tbsp in 1 cup water) on the stove while cooking.
  • To get such smells as fish and onion off utensils and cutting boards, wipe them with vinegar and wash in soapy water.
  • If you grind your own coffee keep the grounds on the counter
  • Simmer water and cinnamon or other spices on stove before guests arrive. (I then use left overs in my tea!!!)
  • Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in room
  • The greenest tip of all… Get some houseplants!

5 Steps To Be Plastic Free

Congratulations! – you have registered yourself for the Plastic Free July challenge! Be proud of yourself for taking the leap. (If you haven’t signed up yet, that’s okay too… just click here to go to the registration page). I can guarantee you that after this challenge you will look at your buying habits very differently. Even the seasoned ethical consumer can trip up on an overzealous plastic addiction because these polymers are just so damn abundant in our society and sometimes very sneaky too! This is why it is great to be as organized as possible for the challenge. I will borrow some pretty words from a Mr Henry Hartman here;

“Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity”

Thanks to this amazing Western Earth Carers initiative we have all got the opportunity, now we just need to get ourselves prepared! Here are my Top 5 tips on how to get prepared;

Step 1: Audit Yourself

Monitor your plastic habits. Look at everything you consume for at least a few days but ideally try for a week. There are plenty of ways to keep track of how much plastic you are accumulating depending on how pernickety you want to be;

  1. Mark it in your diary.
  2. Keep a notebook on hand.
  3. Keep all your receipts and highlight every product that contained plastic.
  4. Collect it all. One of the rules of the challenge is to have a Dilemma Bag to store every bit of plastic you accrue. Why not have a ‘Before Bag’ and collect all the plastic you use when you aren’t being conscious about it. Then you can compare it at the end of the challenge to see how much you saved. It can be kind of like those infomercial diet adverts – except it would actually be real!

If you want to be particularly fastidious about it be sure to note down the incidental plastics too, things like drinking straws.

Step 2: Highlight Your Problem Areas, Create Solutions

After you’ve monitored your habits you will basically have your own tailored infographic detailing how much plastic infiltrates your life on a day-to-day basis. This is a great way to forecast any problem area’s and ensure that you have a contingency plan in place!

I originally listed every possible problem area I could think of within the article but it is such a heeeuuuuge topic that the post started to look like War and Peace.  So I am formulating that to be a separate article for next week. In the meantime, here are some examples of my problem areas and solutions I am thinking about employing;

Lunch on the run

I always seem to end up with a bunch of Chinese takeaway containers that once carried my salady goodness. It is all down to being rushed and disorganized!

Solution #1: Going to make up a task board at home to be more organised.

Solution #2: Will take my own container everywhere

Solution #3: Will eat at the actual café more – enjoy a good ol’ fashioned plate of salad!

Cosmetics – mascara and concealer especially.

Solution: Researching companies that do not use plastic.

Skittles

I am pregnant and slightly obsessed with these delicious little pebbles…

Solution:  BUT they have no nutritional value so I am happy to cut these out altogether.

Crackers 

Why do they come wrapped in plastic in a cardboard box?

Solution: Investigating how to make my own.

Milk

Unfortunately all rice/soy/oat milk containers come in those tetramilk packs which are lined with plastic and often have plastic lids too.

Solution: I am currently investigating how to make my own.

**Editors Note: Since last year I am now pretty professional at making my own nut milks! See how here.

Step 3: Assemble Your Plastic Free Living Kit

There are a few tools that will make living a plastic free life a hell of a lot easier. I have made the rule that if the only option is plastic I will abstain from buying it – you can draw your own line in the sand on that one – but with this kit you will rarely need to go without. One thing I do recommend is having a slightly roomier handbag, satchel, laptop bag or backpack to accommodate for the extra loot. Here is my list of must haves;

Reusable shopping bags

If you go to the E-String Bags website they have a plastic bag counter in the left navigation column. It shows the Australian and Worldwide Year To Date usage of plastic bags. Watching those numbers fly by really drives home the scale of the issue with plastic bags. I don’t think there is anything more tragic than a major problem that has such an easy solution. Either way, hopefully you already have a few of these but if not you can find them everywhere.

The Original Onya Bag

I can’t go past a WA hero Onya BagsBONUS you get to support a sustainable local business! They are convenient, colourful and made from recycled bottles. You can buy these online as well as all around the country (in cities and regional areas). See the stockists here.

Onya also have a bazillion other awesome products like a reusable food cover and FINALLY a reusable doggy poo/nappy bag.

String Bags (for fruit and veg)

Using plastic bags for vegetables is really bloody unnecessary. It is a funny one though because I bet most people don’t even realise they are doing it – I certainly didn’t. One day a friend picked me up on the fact that I was wrapping one capsicum in a bag; I was on autopilot. Since that day I just load all my lose fruit and veg into my basket but some people may find it a bit time consuming. If you are one of those people then…

  • E-string bags are perfect and they are only $3.25 each. They’re made of organic cotton and can be bunched up to be really small but are also super stretchy so can accommodate for any surprise shopping excursions too! Buy them here.

E-String Organic Cotton Bags

BYO Coffee Cups

Here’s a mindboggling thought – 500 billion disposable cups are manufactured globally every year; that’s about 75 disposable cups for every single person on the planet! There is no need. Reduce your waste by getting yourself a BYO Coffee Cup. Here are my faves;

  • Onya Bags are back to the rescue. They have a range of colours and sizes of BYO Cups (I am partial to the Olive Green one) and are all made from food safe silicone. See the range here. You can buy everything online too!
  • For international readers there are local options too! Keep Cups have offices in Australia, UK and USA and allow you to not only order online but also customize your cup size and colour into the craziest combination you can think of! Have a play and make your perfect cup here.

Needless waste.

Water Bottle

Here are some interesting stats on bottled water (care of The Gruen Transfer). “It costs more than petrol. It takes 3 bottles of water to make 1 bottle of water. Fill an empty bottle a quarter full of oil and that’s the content of petroleum used to make it. So why is it a $500 million dollar industry in Australia when we have some of the healthiest drinking water on the planet straight from our tap?” Couldn’t of said it better myself!!! Get yourself (and your family) a reusable stainless steel water bottle and take it everywhere you go. They are available at supermarkets, chemists, health-stores, kitchen stores and sports stores.

  • Again (I swear I don’t get commission – I can’t help the companies I love!) Onya have great Reusabele H2O bottles in a massive range sizes and colours. See them here.
  • If you have teenagers that are a bit finicky about their ‘dorky’ mum buying them things then SIGG (another Australian company) have bottles with all sorts of designs on them (see here). Kids will love getting involved and being able to pick out a sustainable style that suits them.
  • Envirosax (based in Queensland) have a great range to (see here). They also sell Internationally!
This is one of those images that really hit me hard. It is an amazing image by Chris Jordan and it depicts 2 million water bottles – that is the amount of water bottles that are used in USA every 5 minutes

Amount of bottles used in USA every 5 minutes. Image by Chris Jordan

(For the full Bottled Water episode of The Gruen Transfer see the link here. Very, very clever. Did you know Mount Franklin water is not from Mount Franklin? It is just filtered tap water.)

BYO Food Container 

If you know you are going somewhere that will require you getting a ‘takeaway meal’ be prepared and take your own containers. I remember chatting to Jess from Plastic Freo (amazing girl who is going plastic free for a whole year! Read more here) saying that most cafe’s or food vans or whatever were really impressed with her and were more than happy to use her container instead. It is also a great conversation starter in the food line – if you are a chatty type – and again spreads a really fantastic message.

BYO Knife and Fork 

I keep two sets of knives and forks in my bag at all times. I consider plastic cutlery one of the sneaky plastics. Sometimes you don’t even ask for them but before you know it they’re in your hand and out the door. If you don’t want to ruin your kitchen set then just pop into an opshop – they always have mismatched cutlery there which won’t set you out more than $2.

 Metal Straw – optional

While some of us are plenty accustomed to using those funny pink pillows that line our mouths to drink, some peeps are particularly partial to straws – and what’s not to love about a straw. Tubes of yum! Avoid the wasteful plastic varieties though and get your mits on metal straws like these ones from the Ash n’ Jules Eco Everyday Basics.

Step 4: Get Inspired

Aren’t we lucky that we have so many fantastic people to look up to and so many helpful resources available when it comes to fighting for our planet?

Tim Silverwood – Take 3

  • Wise Up – If you want to get a few more tips and tricks (as well as meet like-minded people) then head to any of the free Plastic Free July events that the Western Earth Carers are holding. See the event details here – there are cooking classes, movie screenings and workshops. Fun fun.
  • Tim Silverwood / Take 3 – What a hero. Tim really shows people that one person can make a massive difference. As an ocean lover he founded the  Take 3 Organisation where the message is simple – “take 3 pieces of rubbish when you leave the beach, waterway or…anywhere and you have made a difference”. Follow his facebook page for daily information and inspiration about being plastic free. Why not add the Take 3 rule to your Plastic Free July? 
  • Lisa Griffin / Plastic Free Freo – Again, one girl who made a massive difference. I was lucky enough to be spending a lot of time around Lisa when this initiative was getting off the ground. This lion haired (and hearted) maiden knew that a ban on plastic bags was a huge step towards keeping her beloved community beautiful. So she lobbied. And lobbied. And got local attention. Then national attention. Then won! Check out the Plastic Free Freo website here. Why stop at banning plastic from your life only? 
  • Beth Terry / My Plastic Free Life – The epitome of the ethical consumer. Beth saw practices and effects that she didn’t like and then voted with her dollar. If a company used plastic she would avoid it and then go one step further. She would write to the company, let them know that consumers do care enough about the environment to avoid purchasing the product and would have great success. One company changed their whole packaging from one bit of feedback. Keep that in mind throughout your challenge! (You can see Beth’s amazing story within this post or see her website here).

Step 5: Think Positive – You Are Doing Something AMAZING!

Well – you are ready to go! Before you set out on this crazy mission though make sure you remind yourself of all the fantastic benefits you get from abolishing plastic from your life. Your health, the oceans, money, time – the benefits are endless.

I think the best thing is you can wake up every morning knowing that you are consciously focused on making a difference to the planet and setting a great example for everyone around you. Remind yourself of that every time you say no to a piece of plastic. Good luck!

Leave the world a little better than you found it. 

– Baden-Powell’s Last Message (1941)

DIY Citrus All-Purpose Cleaner

I love citrus. At the moment every time I walk into the lunchroom I get these beautiful wafts of oranges and mandarins. Then comes afternoon tea and I get to devour a nice fresh lemon… don’t judge me… I am pregnant and I am allowed to eat weird stuff! But it did pain me to see all the peels getting chucked in the trash especially considering that so many cleaners boast about their citrusy scent or about how powerful they are due to the use of real lemons! As with most things I have decided that it would be much easier (and healthier) to go straight to the source, which is always nature.

Looks almost good enough to eat!

Unless you have your own citrus tree (lucky you) you might not get through enough peel to make a lot of this. Firstly, as long as you put it in the fridge your peel will last up to ten days. Secondly, a good trick is to put a container in the kitchen at your office and ask people to put their peel there instead of the bin. Anyone that follows my Facebook page may remember that at first I got called a ‘freak’ for this email request BUT by the end of the week I had had plenty of interest in the recipe and I had enough peels to make a good few batches of cleaner. Once it is ready I am going to take it into work (along with the recipe) to show people how well it works. Sharing the eco love people!

What You Need

  • Citrus peels – any kind! If you want an extra strong cleaner use only orange peels
  • Bicarb soda
  • White vinegar
  • Essential Oil (optional)
  • Something to scrub with – scourer, dish brush, nail brush
  • Old jars
  • Old spray bottle (use one of the containers that used to hold your nasty cleaner!)

Method

1.  Gather your peels and place in a bowl.

2. Cover with water and then sprinkle bicarb soda quite liberally over them.
3.  Dip the peel and give a quick scrub. Place the scrubbed peel into a colander. (This is to remove all the nasty chemicals from the peels and make it a truly natural cleaner).
4.  Once all the peels have had a quick scrub rinse them thoroughly.
5.  Place all the peels into a jar.
6.  Fill the jar up to the level of your peels with vinegar.
7.  Store in a dark, cool place for between 2 weeks and a month. Shake it once a week if you remember – make sure the lid is on tight!
8.  Shake the mixture vigorously then pour the mixture into a container, straining the old peels.
9.  Mix 1 part vinegar mix with 1 part water and pour into your spray bottle! If you would like add ten drops of an essential oil with antibacterial qualities (i.e. teatree, lavender or lemon).

It is a fantastic cleaner and will work on most surfaces (not glass) and strong stains. Be careful if you use only orange peels as the oil in orange peel is very strong and can be quite abrasive. It is always best to do a spot test.

At first I had hoped that this could be used as a detergent but I want to actually test that recipe before I just send it out there as I am not sure quite how well it will work. This one I have used before and it is tried and test! As soon as I try the detergent mix though I will make sure I report back to you all.

Happy Cleaning!

P.s. This is also a great plastic free cleaning recipe if you are partaking in Plastic Free July. See here to register