A Plastic Free Platter (Vegan too!)

On my quest to live a life free of plastic I found myself wondering if having friends over for light nibbles would ever be an easy affair again. Have you ever seen a dip that isn’t found in a plastic package? Occasionally you find them in fancy glass jars but if you are on the run it can be virtually impossible. But – in keeping with all my learning’s from Plastic Free July – I have found that avoiding plastic can send you down the most interesting and delicious of pathways!

The challenge: a plastic-free platter that doesn’t break the budget and can be thrown together in an hour. Impossible you say?

Well I say “Get your sunglasses out because you are about to be dazzled!”

Dip #1: Zesty Guacamole

Fresh ingredients, ready to be mixed

  • 3 x Avocado
  • 2 x diced tomatoes
  • 1 x diced red onion (small)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ½ Cup Coriander, chopped
  • ¼ Cup Mint, chopped
  • 1 x red chilli, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Optional – 2 x spring onions

Method

  1. Cube the avocados in a bowl
  2. Add all remaining ingredients and mix together
  3. Garnish with coriander

10 minutes down… we’re on a roll….

Dip #2: Hummus

  • 600g canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed thoroughly (until the water doesn’t look bubbly)
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 150ml olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Juice of 1 lemon (2 if you like it zesty… i do! Highly recommend!)
  • Optional: Smoked Paprika and or toasted pine nuts to garnish

Method

  1. Place the chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, tahini paste, cumin and lemon juice in a food processor and process until combined.
  2. Add 1/4 cup (60ml) of water and process again until quite smooth.
  3. Place hummus in a bowl and dust with smoked paprika if you have it or toast some pine nuts and sprinkle on.
  4. Swirl with some good quality olive oil when served.

 …booyah! that one only takes 10 minutes too…

Dip #3: Fresh Herby Salsa

And mix it! Nom!

  • 6 tomatoes (or 500g cherry tomatoes)
  • 4 spring onions, sliced finely
  • ½ Cup coriander, chopped
  • ¼ Cup Mint, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Juice of 2 limes

Method

  1. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Then dice the flesh.
  2. Gently mix with the spring onions, coriander, mint, chilli, ground coriander, cumin and lime juice.
  3. Stand for 30 minutes (to give the flavours some real zing)
  4. Note: If you like your flavours punchy then add more lime and chilli!!!

 … with some cheating with my food processor that one is down in 10 minute too… half an hour so far and we are almost done…

 Serve With…

If you can, get to a local bakery to get two big Turkish loaves – that way you can specify for it to be wrapped in paper. It is hard at other shops to find it in anything other than plastic! Then when my guests arrived I toasted the bread and sliced it up. The smell of fresh bread was gorgeous and got everyone ready to tuck in. And you thought I couldn’t do it??? This only took me 30 minutes and it was thoroughly enjoyed by all – even the dedicated carnivores. I even got excited and made my own plastic free Ginger, Mint Lemonade to go with it! Best thing was it only cost me $35 and I had enough salsa and hummus to last until the next day when we had more friends coming over.

MYO Cordial – Sugar free!

This is a platter that is utterly brimming with nutritional benefits, is free of the 3 p’s (packaging, palm oil, preservatives) and is all vegan! If you would like to make the trio of dips together I have added a little shopping list below;

Shopping List for entire platter

Fruit and Veg

  • 3 x Avocados
  • 8 x tomatoes
  • 1 x red onion (small)
  • 3 limes
  • 2 x red chilli
  • 1 x lemon
  • Bunch of spring onions
  • Bunch of Coriander
  • Bunch of Mint
  • 3 garlic cloves

Aisle

  • 600g canned chickpeas
  • Olive Oil
  • Tahini Paste

Deli Stores that Allows Bulk Buying – take your own container! 

  • Ground Cumin
  • Ground Coriander
  • Pine Nuts – optional

Bakery

  • 2 x loaves Turkish Bread

Voila…

The Less Is More Write-Up

Earth Carers run yet another gorgeous community event.

Anyone that follows this blog, my Facebook or my Twitter would know that I was pretty damn excited about the Less Is More Festival that happened on Saturday. It has now been and gone and I can tell you all – I was not disappointed. It was a glorious day full of great people, ideas, food and workshops.

Festival organiser, Claire Litton, chats with arrivals

The festival organiser (hot-pink haired sensation, Claire Litton) should feel very proud to have fulfilled her objective; to show people how to consume less but enjoy more. I sat through a few workshops (and  poked my head into some too) and learnt something from each one. The classes were all buzzing with conversation with the presenter providing a framework but the crowd sharing their stories and tips. There was such a feeling of community.

Shani explains that you need to check your essential oil is food grade!

My fave class was definitely Shani Graham’s (from Ecoburbia and The Painted Fish) tutorial on DIY toothpaste and deodorant. Shani did a quick survey on why we were all there and it was lovely to hear so many people taking a stand against some of the unnecessary and downright unhealthy elements of modern day consumption. Too much packaging, animal testing, concerns for human health or a commitment to living organically.

"Is is meant to be this gooey?"

After the introductions Shani (like a mad scientist in her lab) started showing off the DIY ingredients. Bicarb soda, essential oils, corn flour, sea salt… no Sodium Lauryl Sulfate here! With recipe sheets in hand we all started shovelling salt and bicarb into our jars and dripping in coconut oils and glycerine. It was almost like year 8 science class and we were all testing out different concoctions and questioning whether we had the right consistency. Walking away from the class I realised something really nice – I now never have to give Colgate a cent of my money every again! (**I have been using my DIY cosmetics since the festival and I am absolutely loving it! For a recipe to make you own toothpaste click here).

My finished product! Peppermint Toothpaste.

After that I went for a bit of a wander and saw people making their own ginger beer, mango ketchup (Wow – delicious!) and even sanitary pads. I ended up in a workshop that is close to my heart… how to live plastic free. Fremantle couple Nathan and Jess (find them at Plastic Freo) have decided to go one whole year without plastic and they spoke about the challenges that they had already encountered and gave tips on how to go about reducing your plastic intake. As a dairy addict, Jess now has to order her milk ahead of time from Perth Organics as it comes in a glass bottle. As yoghurt only seems to come in plastic they have also learnt how to make yoghurt from it. They were a bloody inspiring young couple and have certainly given me some ideas on how to eliminate plastic completely from the Ehlers household. All in all I know that it is going to take effort, discipline and some organisation but I feel confident that I am up for the challenge. (Apparently the Fremantle Council is too – check out the Plastic Free Freo campaign).

Jess from Plastic Free gives a presentation

There were loads more classes that I didn’t manage to get to. If you went to one that I didn’t and want to share it please leave a comment. All in all it was an absolutely fabulous festival that really showed creative ways to reduce your impact on the planet. Personally I have taken a lovely lesson from it – I have realised that I need to slow down a bit and get back to basics. So on that note, I had friends over for afternoon tea and they sat down to vegetables with two homemade dips (beetroot and capsicum & walnut) followed by a warm slice of banana and cranberry bread. It tasted all the better knowing that I made it myself.

Less packaging = More homemade

Scroll down for more pics of the festival.

Cute kids game - Instead of Snakes and Ladders it was "Worms and Shute's"

Making concoctions

My finished toothpaste... mmm Peppermint!

My deodorant and the ingredients

Cooking lessons to make...

... Mango Ketchup. Nom Nom Nom

Ginger Beer making class.

Tackling The Plastic Bag Problem Around The World

The Bangladesh Jute industry has bounced back due to the plastic bag ban – Image from http://www.hello.news352.lu

A wise man once said “with great power comes great responsibility”. I believe that man was Spiderman? Never mind – the point is that thought-provoking little hybrid got me thinking about Australia. We really are ‘the lucky country’ sitting pretty on the comparative global scale. Sure, we complain about drought but last year more than 29,000 children under age 5 died in 90 days in southern Somalia. We complain about ignorant politicians but despite my loathing of his attitudes (and taste in swimwear) I still prefer Abbott to the likes of Gaddafi, Mugabe or al-Assad. We complain about the rising price of groceries while 75,000 people die every day from starvation. We are unbelievably privileged.

‘Australia is a lucky country, run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck.’

Donald Horne, The Lucky County, 1964

This fortunate position should inspire Australia to become leaders in technologies, ideas and attitudes that will help the planet, yet sadly we are lagging behind. A prime example is the great plastic bag debate. Why are we not employing a bit of forethought and banning plastic bags like many countries (developed and developing) around the world are? South Australia and now the Australian Capital Territory have led the charge but we need to do more. Clean Up Australia says that Australians use in excess of 6 billion plastic bags per year. It isn’t good enough.

Maybe we can take some inspiration from other countries around the world that are reducing (or have already significantly reduced) their plastic appetite…

Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Jute industry has bounced back due to the plastic bag ban – Image from http://www.hello.news352.lu

As I explained in my post about the effects of plastic, in 1988 and 1998 plastic bags were determined the main cause of devastating floods that submerged two-thirds of the country. In 2002 Bangladesh was the first large country to impose an outright ban of the use of polyethylene bags. Not only was there a significant reduction in plastic pollution but it also revived sustainable industries which have biodegradable alternatives such as the Jute Bag industry.

Italy

Italy used to be responsible for 25% of all the plastic bags in Europe which equates to roughly 25 billion a year.  As of January 1st 2011 single-use non-biodegradable plastic bags were outlawed. Retailers – predictably – warned of pandemonium at the checkouts but evidently people have survived. Maybe the customers were smarter than the retailers thought and noticed those wonderful appendages at the end of their arms that can be used for carrying things?

South Africa

SA really came to the table! Not only did they ban the use of thin plastic bags in 2003  but also imposed a 100,000 rand ($12020AUD) fine and a 10-year jail sentence for any retailers caught handing out bags! This has encouraged shoppers to either take their own sustainable carry bags or invest in plastic bags that can be used more than once.

More information can be found at the BBC South Africa bans plastic bags.

Ireland

This is my favourite example of plastic bag reduction because (to me) it absolutely typifies the flippant Western attitude towards plastic bags. In May 2002 Ireland placed a 15 euro-cent (25cAUD) levy on supermarket checkout bags. Within 3 months Ireland had cut its plastic usage by 90%. There was a 95% decrease in plastic bag litter. This model has been so successful that the Department of Environment (Department of The Environment, Ireland ) have since increased the levy to 22euro-cents. The health of the planets oceans, animals, people and atmosphere proved to be worth less than 15cents. I guess the ends justify the means?

China

More than 1.3billion people live in China. If they had not recognised the danger of plastic the results would be catastrophic.  It has been estimated that 37 million barrels of crude oil are used to produce China’s annual supply of plastic bags – 3 billion every year! In June 2008 (before the Olympics) the Chinese State Council put a nationwide ban on plastic bags. It prohibited all shops, supermarkets, and sales outlets from handing out free plastic bags and banned the production, sale, and use of ultra-thin plastic bags less than 0.025mm thick.  Since the ban China has reduced its bag consumption by half which saves 1.6million ton of oil! Looks like the red is greener than the green and gold! ()

India

Similar to Bangladesh, India also had severe flooding and landslides due to plastic bags blocking drain systems during monsoon season. Many cows also died after mistakenly ingesting the plastic bags. A ban was imposed banning the manufacture, sale and use of all plastic bags.

New Zealand

Our Kiwi kinsman used to have an impressive appetite for plastic consuming 1 billion bags per year. A five-year initiative (the New Zealand Packaging Accord 2004 – 2009) was introduced to attempt to reduce plastic bag usage by a fifth. While they still have a way to go AC Nielsen data shows that consumers are now taking on average 5.8 bags down from twelve months earlier (6.5 bags). It sounds measly but actually equates to 100million less bags!

Europe

Similar to some companies in Australia (Officeworks for one) a select few countries throughout Europe have decided to take matters into their own hands. Instead of waiting for government legislation to force their hands, most retailers in Germany, Switzerland and Denmark charge for plastic bags at the check-out.

Kenya

The late, great Professor Wangari Mathaai – Image from http://www.elleafriquemagazine.wordpress.com

Last year Kenya (and indeed the world) lost an amazing woman – Professor Wangari Mathaai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner.  Before she died Mathaai had spoken out about the effect that plastic bags were having, not only in Kenya but all across Africa. Discarded plastic bags were filling up with rainwater and were becoming perfect little pools for mosquitos to breed in which caused a dramatic rise in vector-borne diseases such as malaria. In early 2005 the Kenyan government (with the help of UNEP and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis) imposed a ban on thin plastic bags as well as placing a levy on the heavier varieties. Any money raised is put towards recycling schemes.

San Francisco

In 2007 San Francisco became the first state in the USA to ban the use of plastic bags in grocery stores. Biodegradable bags made from materials such as paper or corn by-prodcuts are allowed. Just two years after the ban was imposed San Fran saw a reduction of 18%.

USA

Around the US many towns, cities and sometimes entire states are taking note of the dangers of prolific plastic bag use. In January 2010 bans were placed in the following counties – Brownsville, Texas and Kauai (Hawaii). While a complete ban was overthrown in Californies various Cali cities agreed to it (Malibu, Fairfax and Palo Alto). Other notable cities were Bethel (Alaska), Edmonds (Washington) and Westport (Connecticut). Slowly, slowly America is starting to act on their 100billion bag a year habit.

Last and… well, probably least… Australia!

South Australia – as always – are leading the plastic free charge. In 2009 a ban was placed on all lightweight shopping bags. The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at UniSA has reported that before the ban six in ten shoppers would take their own reusable bags to the shops, which has now risen to nine in ten! What a fantastic success. The Northern Territory and the ACT are now also taking steps to reduce their consumption. The ACT are trialed a four-month transitional ban (July – November 2011) and is now in full effect after getting a great result from an environmental perspective as well as from consumer attitudes.

The is more information about the South Australian plastic bag ban here.

What are we waiting for?

The above list is just a small selection of forward thinking countries that are fighting the war on plastic. Honourable mentions go to Bhutan, Cameroon, Eritrea, Brazil, Canada, France, Holland and Nepal. We really have no excuse not to act. Beyond that it is our responsibility  to act.

If the government fails to act then there are always steps that you can take, at an individual level or within your community, to make a difference. Tomorrow I will upload my post on reducing plastic in your life. If you want to learn more about the issues, here are some fantastic resources;

Beauty and the Bike – Free Outdoor Movie

It has been a hard few financial years and the effects are being felt all around the world which includes the most isolated city of them all, little old Perth. Luckily there are fantastic organisation like Western Earth Carers around who are providing amazing opportunities for free, sustainable fun with a message behind it all as well.

On Wednesday 18th January 2012 there will be a free outdoor screening of the insightful documentary Beauty and the Bike. From 6:30pm you are invited down to the lawn outside the WMRC Offices (to see a map click here) to set up your picnic rug and have some nibbles with family and friends before the movie commences at 7:30pm.

Image from documentary, Beauty and the Bike

The documentary follows two groups of young women for a year – one group from Darlington (England) and another from Bremen (Germany). In Darlington it is extremely rare to see young girls on bikes yet in Bremen it is the primary mode of transport for the local teenagers. Why? Well the two groups decide they are going to find out why. They visit each area to look into the habits and attitudes that lead one group to shun the lifestyle and another to embrace it. I am sure that the conclusions they come to will be poignant and reflect some very common ‘modern’ attitudes towards sustainability and technology (and whether they can go hand in hand).

Government transport policy is clear, coherent and powerful… The bicycle is heading the way of the horse and cart

– John Adams, Emeritus Professor of Geography, 1993

Below is a short from the gorgeous 55 minute documentary;

This documentary is loaded with so many awesome messages, questions and ideas. Not only does it involve teenagers in the debate about alternative sustainable modes of transport but it also encourages everyone to look into their own lives, question how eco-friendly they really are and then look at  what changes they could make to move to greener pastures.

All in all I am really looking forward to this great evening and will make sure to upload some photos of the evening. I might even ride my bike down…

My darling bike (Penelope Cruise)

The Quick Details

When:                    Wednesday 18th January, 2012

6:30pm – 7:30pm; Picnic               7:30pm – 9pm; Screening

Where:                   The lawn outside the WMRC Offices (to see a map click here)

What to bring:   Picnic rug or chair, picnic, friends and family

Cost:                         FREE

Easy Pad Thai

VEGAN – VEGETARIAN – GLUTEN FREE OPTION

Easy Vegan Pad Thai

 

Takes approx 20 minutes
Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side

This Pad Thai is a simple dish that is health, cheap and quick to whip up if you are having people for dinner. And – unlike a lot of takeaway versions – it is not laden with fat. I do not use as much oil as I have seen other recipes suggest and I think it tastes all the better for it. Also looks really amazing if served on a platter. Continue reading

Going Organic (even on a budget!)

Is organic really that good?

We all know that organic living is better for us (and the environment) but what about the annoying reality that is ‘cost’? Like it or not we live in a society where everything costs money, even the non-tangible – C’mon People! Time is money!!! So, in a world where prices are rising and convenience is king, is it possible to make the switch to organic living? Continue reading