The easy way to make waste free, wholemeal dried pasta

Who knew that pasta was so simple to make?

I have never been a great fan of pasta, but my son absolutely loves it – he would eat pasta and pesto every single day if I’d let him.  But in the UK it is difficult to find pasta without plastic packaging, particularly if you want to buy in large quantities  (there are some options mainly in card but with a small plastic window).  Having heard it was easy I thought I should give it a go – and it really is easy – and it got the taste approval from my fussy child. You can easily buy flour in a paper bag which you can either recycle or put in your home compost.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups wholemeal bread flour
  • 1 cup hot water

Method:

Making the dough:

  • If you are using a food processor fit the dough attachment.
  • Add the flour, pour in the hot water and switch it on.  It will turn to breadcrumbs to start with but stick with it and it will soon come together into a dough.
  • Turn out onto a floured surface.
  • If you are making the dough by hand place it in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the flour and pour in the hot water a little at a time and mix together  either with your hands or a wooden spoon.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until it comes together in a dough.
  • Press the dough down into a flat round.  Divide into 4 quarters  (this will make it more manageable to roll out later).
  • Cover with a clean dry tea towel and leave for 10-15 minutes.
  • You could freeze all or some of the dough at this point for later use if you wish.

Now you can begin to turn it in into your desired shapes:

  • Working with one piece of dough at a time roll it very thinly.
  • Then you can get creative and cut and shape to your heart’s desire – but be warned, this bit can take a long time.   I like to look on it as something therapeutically undemanding on the brain to do while listening to some muscic but you could get the kids to help or invite a friend round for a natter while you work. Slicing into lasagne sheets or into strips for tagliatelle is probably the quickest.  I tried to make spirals on my first attempt but decided this time that bows might be easier.    For bows I rolled the dough then cut into strips which I then cut across into small rectangles as shown below.  To turn into bows you simply squeeze them together in the middle.

Drying your pasta:

  • If you don’t want to use your pasta straight away you can dry it for storage.  As I have an electric dehydrator I used that but if you don’t you can just spread them out and leave somewhere airy until dry.
  •  The time it takes to dry depends on the size and thickness of the shapes you have made – I dried the small bows for 3-4 hours at 50 degrees C.  The first batch of spirals were larger and took 4-5 hours.  The best thing is to keep an eye on them and remember to swap around the trays from time to time since the different levels may dry at different speeds.
  • Once fully dry you can transfer to a storage jar until needed and cook as you would shop bought dried pasta – around 8-10 mins.    If you skipped the drying part you’ll need to shorten the cooking time.

Now I know how to make basic pasta dough I’m next going to try to sneak some vegetables into the ingredients –  as he’ll happily eat shop bought green pea pasta, and red lentil pasta without realising.  I have seen people making pasta from pumpkin puree and flour as an example – but any recommendations on things to try are welcome – please comment below.

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7 top tips to reduce your household waste

Is your bin full of packaging waste? Are you tired of putting the bin out for collection every week?  Then you might like these tips for reducing your household waste:

  1. Buy food and other items unpackaged: take your own bags and containers when you shop and avoid prepacked items. Write a list to buy only what you need. You can read more here about my favourite places to by unpackaged in Leighton Buzzard. The market and independent shops are great for this.16807726_10210907726622487_2055995162207271710_n
  2. If you can’t find it unpackaged, choose glass, paper or card over plastics, or investigate refills:  as well as being made from non-recyclable fossil fuels, plastic is harder to recycle and can often only be “downcycled”.  It therefore likely to end up in landfill sooner, and takes centuries to biodegrade.  Glass and paper however can be endlessly recycled and paper can be home composted.  Easy swaps from plastic include switching from plastic tubs to butter in paper (Waitrose), from tea bags (which often actually contain plastic as well as coming in plastic wrap)  to loose tea in card (PG Tips is widely available), oils in plastic to oils in glass bottles (you can also get refills of flavoured oils at Dobbies in Bletchley),  bar soap (bought loose or in card), refills of laundry and washing up liquid (in Leighton Buzzard these are available at Nature’s Harvest), laundry powder in card (Aldi), dishwasher powder and salt in card (Waitrose or Sainsbury), milk in glass bottles (Pecks Farm deliver in the Leighton Buzzard area). You can find out more about plastic in tea bags in this article from Treading My Own Path and a list of easy swaps in this article from Happier, Sustainable, Less Skint.
  3. If you can only find products in plastic buy the largest size available for less packaging pro rata as long as the product stores well and you will actually use it all.  For example we buy 5kg bags of basmati and long grain rice from the world food section of the supermarket – if you live close to an Asian supermarket you may have more options and be able to find rice in paper.
  4. Use reusables: take your own coffee cup or water bottle out, use cloth handkerchiefs, cleaning cloths, washable feminine hygiene products such as cloth pads or a menstrual cup, instead of disposables.  Take your lunch to work in a reusable lunch box ( I have a lovely stainless steel one from A Slice of Green but we also continue to use a lot of plastic ones we had already as well as using containers such as ice cream tubs). Extend the reuse of products by buying second-hand and donating things you no longer need – as well as the charity shops there are numerous local sharing groups for giving away or requesting items, often for free – you may be surprised what things people can make use of when you no longer need them, and how often someone else no longer needs something you do.   You can find links to some of them at the end of this post -a search for local similar groups on Facebook is always worthwhile as I have only mentioned a couple I use in the list.  Repair things rather than replacing if you can.   Many areas (although sadly I’ve not found one near me yet) have repair cafes where you can get help to fix your broken items.  If you don’t have one near you can often find information about repairing things online (local people offered me plenty of advice on recent problems with my washing machine via local discussion group Nextdoor – in the list of links at the end).
  5. Have a go at making your own: If you have time bread, cakes and pasta can easily be made from ingredients largely sold in paper bags. White vinegar is great for cleaning and can be bought in glass bottles. You can make your own deodorant and apparently toothpaste from coconut oil (glass from Aldi) and bicarbonate of soda (in card from Selections or Wilco) with a few drops of essential oils. I have saved links to lots of useful recipes on my boards on Pinterest.
  6. Reduce your food waste: meal plan to avoid overbuying and use your freezer to save leftovers. Love Food Hate Waste has lots of tips. Washed peelings can be saved up to make stock, and fruit scraps can be used to make scrap vinegar or tepache.

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    Home made apple scrap vinegar
  7. Compost as much as you can – pretty much anything organic can go in. Like many councils Central Bedfordshire offers discounted compost bins and information.

 

If you want to know more and are on Facebook, the friendly groups Zero Waste Heroes and Journey to Zero Waste UK are great places for sharing ideas or asking questions about reducing your waste.

Local sharing groups and other useful links:

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This post is being shared on A Green and Rosie Life’s Going Green Linky for March 2017 and Skip The Bag’s Waste Less Wednesday Blog Hop

 

 

My favourite places for shopping without packaging in Leighton Buzzard

Are you tired of putting the bin out for collection every week? Is your bin full of packaging waste?

We are fortunate that Central Bedfordshire accepts a large variety of food packaging for recycling but plastics tend to be hard to recycle, can mainly only be downcycled, and can only be recycled a few times before ending up in landfill ( or in the oceans).  Plastics then hang around pretty much forever ( How long does it take a plastic bottle to biodegrade?).  They are also made of non renewable oil and potentially leach toxins into your food.  We have therefore been trying to reduce not only our landfill waste, but our recyclables too, particularly trying to avoid single use plastics.  This has been a journey, changing our buying habits a little at a time, but over the last 18 months we have managed to reduce our landfill waste by over 80% and our recycling by about 50%.  This post is about just one of the ways of avoiding packaging waste, by trying to avoid acquiring it in the first place, and focusses on the places that, after a change in my shopping habits, I now find this easy to do for grocery and household items in my home town of Leighton Buzzard.  If you know of other local shops that should be included please do let me know.

I now try to buy food, and other items, unpackaged whenever possible.  This tends to be easier done when shopping at the local market and independent shops than in the supermarket, although the supermarkets do tend to have some loose fruit and veg – remember to bring your own bags or containers – meal planning and a shopping list will help you have a good idea of how many bags/containers to bring along.  Some of my personal favourites for buying unpackaged items are:

Leighton Buzzard Market : Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg – on the South side of the High Street on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  Happy to sell you fruit and veg directly into your own bags.

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Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg Stall – Leighton Buzzard Market

Other market traders are also often happy to sell into your own containers – just ask nicely at the start of your purchase.  It feels strange at first but you soon get used to it, and so do the traders.  I have done this several times at the olive stall at the top of the High Street and at the Delisha samosa stall, a cake stall and at the other fruit and veg stall.  The fish van indicated he would be happy to do this too.  The farmers market and craft markets are also a good place to ask – Bucks Star Brewery visits the farmers each month and take their glass eco -growlers back and give you a full one at a discount, whilst the Leighton Buzzard Brewing Company sells refillable growlers which you can refill at the brewery on Grovebury Road. The honey seller at the craft market asks you to return your empty jar for a discount off the next one.

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Refillable eco growler from the farmers’ market

House of Coffee – Peacock Mews.  They roast coffee in the small shop and are happy to grind it as required into your own container.  I began by taking in a plastic lunch box but having since acquired lots of empty large Douwe Egberts coffee jars from a local sharing site I use one of those, carefully wrapped in a tea towel to protect it in transit.  We then store the jar in the freezer to keep the coffee fresh. Fair trade options are usually available.

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House of Coffee – Peacock Mews

Selections – High Street A variety of hardware items from replacement broom heads to individual screws. They also sell replacement gas canisters for SodaStream (as does Argos) which has replaced the plastic bottles of fizzy water we used to buy every week, and saved us money.

Natures Harvest – North Street  Sells unpackaged soap and refills for Ecover laundry and washing up liquid. Also stocks bamboo toothbrushes, Ecoleaf toilet roll in compostable packaging and lots of other eco friendly products  (although many are still in plastic).

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Oliver Adams Bakers- Market Square  Bread, cakes etc either in paper bags or into your own bag/container. The Co-Op – Waterdell off Brooklands Drive has a daily delivery of Italian bread which can be bought loose.

Strattons Butchers – Market Square .  If you eat meat ask Strattons to sell it you without any single use plastic.  I ask them to weigh it on the waxed paper sheets they use and then transfer in to my own container, which they are happy to do.

Model Farm – Hockliffe Road If you are passing ( just out of town past the garden centre) this is a great place to buy free range eggs.  We return the boxes for reuse when we next visit.

Pecks Farm – Towards Hockliffe – we have our milk delivered in returnable glass bottles by Pecks Farm.  It does cost more so is one of our more recent changes, but we have offset the additional cost by savings made elsewhere in our waste reduction journey.  The farm also sells local produce and loose fruit and veg.

You can still find some unpackaged options in the supermarket – it does vary but locally I find Tesco tends to have the most unpackaged fruit and veg.  Morrisons and Waitrose also sells loose rolls, croissants and cakes – I use my own bag or container where these are self service but have not been able to do this at the counter.

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Mmm, which potatoes will I choose?

 

Have you shopped packaging free anywhere else locally – please let me know? This will be useful to update my chapter of  The Zero Waste Travel Companion  which is updated from time to time.

More posts to follow on other local places to shop with reduced or plastic free packaging, and on the local circular economy, where you can often get things you need cheaply or for free, as well as passing on things you no longer need rather than throwing them away.

Now, do you still need to put that bin out?

If you would like to read more about some of the other ways we have gradually reduced our waste, these blog posts are a good start:

You can now follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where I share some of our daily waste saving in more regular short posts.

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Christmas and New Year party clothes.

How do you decide what to wear for those Christmas and New Year parties?

Do you have to have the latest fashion? Do you buy something new, or do you start with a rummage through the wardrobe to see what you have already?  Perhaps you already have an outfit that could be refreshed with different accessories?

Last Christmas I was on a mission to not buy any new clothes, including any that were just new to me, from July until after Christmas – you can read more about that here:  No new clothes – learning to love the clothes I have and realising I actually don’t need more.  So when I decided to attend my work’s Christmas presentation evening for the first time, I had to come up with something suitable without buying anything. There was a black and silver dress code for the evening. I already had a gorgeous fitted black satin skirt from Coast, bought in a charity shop a few years earlier, which I had never yet worn as it really didn’t go with any of my shoes.  As I wasn’t buying anything I asked a friend with the same sized feet if she had a pair of smart shoes I could borrow.   She came up trumps with a perfect pair of black court shoes, which she had herself bought from a charity shop and only wore occasionally for parties.  My auntie lent me a black lacey blouse and a silver scarf and I was good to go.  I really liked this outfit although I sadly don’t seem to have taken any photos.

Over the year I have been keeping my eye on the local charity shops for a suitable new (to me) top to go with the same black skirt without any luck.  But, whilst in looking instead for items to go in the Christmas crackers I was making, I happened to spot a lovely Monsoon tunic dress. Sometimes the best finds are when you’re not actually looking.  So here was my outfit – an evening dress for £5.99.  And I was able to borrow the same pair of shoes from my friend.  I wore jewellery I had already (a previous Christmas gift from my husband) and accessorised with  a Planet handbag, also from a charity shop a few years earlier.  My coat and scarf are also charity shop sourced – though only the scarf is new to me this year.

 

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So, why buy preowned?

There are plenty of advantages to buying preowned.  I’ve always bought some of my clothes this way because:

  •  It’s cheap
  • It’s fun – you never know what you will find, and there is something different to look at every time
  • You don’t have to follow the crowd
  • You can often get much better quality items than you might afford  or want to spend on otherwise

But recently I have been trying to source most of my clothing this way with other reasons also in mind:

  • It saves the use of new resources, in terms of the material and the energy and shipping that goes into the production of new clothes
  • I’m not supporting “fast fashion” often made by workers in poor conditions to make it cheap and disposable
  • I like the fact that my money is supporting a charity rather than a multinational clothes shop
  • Because I live in a small town, I can also find the things I want locally and on foot more easily this way

Have you got any favourite ways of shopping or favourite finds?

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Our journey towards zero waste – a year on

We have been a relatively waste aware family for some time.  At least I thought so.  Back in September last year our wheelie bin was only ever half full on the fortnightly collection day and with 2 compost bins in the garden, our garden waste bin was only occasionally used. Our recycling bin was however usually filled to the top. Still, not too bad for a family of 3? Cloth nappies and some other reusables had already been a no brainer, and I thought I already avoided excessive packaging.

I was looking online for a clip about zero waste week from a few years back that I wanted to share with a friend who was struggling with overfull bins.  It turned out to be zero waste week again right then and through that, with the help of Rachelle Strauss, I found my way to the Zero Waste Heroes Facebook group. Thanks to the amazing and friendly support from the group (and other groups I’ve joined along the way) I soon realised we could reduce our waste by so much more! With this support we have considerably reduced the amount of waste we produce over the past year and a bit. This has involved a change in shopping habits,  a few changes to our diet, and a bit more of making things from scratch, but  I am really pleased that we have been able to make a noticeable reduction without any drastic lifestyle changes.

We started out by asking our local council to swap our landfill and garden waste bins for smaller ones. This could already accommodate our fortnightly waste.  By gradually making a few more swaps for reuseables and being more aware of waste when shopping we now only put our smaller landfill bin out for collection, usually less than half full, every 6 to 8 weeks. The garden waste bin is still used occasionally.  We don’t have a food waste collection but have pretty much eliminated food waste to landfill by composting more and getting more out of things that would normally be wasted such as making stock from vegetable peelings and vinegar from fruit peelings (my first batch is on the go now).

The recycling has been harder to make significant inroads into but finally, after more than a year of trying to avoid packaging and reducing the amount of junk mail through the door we are at the point where we can ask the council for a smaller recycling bin too.  We have  just about reached the point where it is regularly only half full each fortnight.

So, we are still on a journey of waste reduction, but we are making progress.  I really wanted to write this post to say thank you for the support of the fantastic online community of fellow waste reducers , on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and fellow bloggers. We would not have got anywhere near this point without you all, and I look forward to continuing the journey.

I am sharing this post on Waste Less Wednesday with Skip the Bag

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Why I won’t be donating to the “Phil the Bag” recycling scheme for schools

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Clothes Swap Event

If you have kids at school, you’ll know the drill.  A letter from school asking that you donate something or other to help the school raise funds, or to use for a project. Or that you go and buy something to donate for the school fete, or that they need to go in fancy dress, usually with about half a day’s notice.

These things always make me anxious.  I’m no good at sewing (I was always bottom of the class and ditched it for woodwork as soon as I could – not that I’m any good at that either) and if I am going to buy something I want it to be secondhand, or free of packaging – and the short notice always makes this difficult. I like to plan things ahead. But I also don’t want to feel guilty for being the mum that doesn’t join in with the idea.

My son has just started at a new school.  I was hoping things might be slightly different. He told me they had been asking for nominations for  “Eco Warriors” or “Eco Council”.  Although he didn’t want to stand he did want to suggest they had more recycling bins, particularly in the dining area and told me that he had been telling his class all about “Plastic Free July”.  Proud mum moment (of course I really wanted him to volunteer as well – but he thought it would be more boring than football!).

Then came the first letter asking for something.  Donations to an “innovative fundraising programme” called Phil the Bag (and there are many other similar schemes operating in schools around the UK).  On the face of it this looks a good idea.  You take in your unwanted, but still useable, clothes and other textiles.  The school receives money based on the  quantity of textiles they collect.  At the same time this, and I quote the school’s letter “not only develops the children’s sense of enterprise but also teaches them about the importance of recycling and how we can protect the environment.”  Sounds great doesn’t it?

Being the curious sort of person I am I contacted the school to see if they knew more about what actually happens to the donated textiles.  I then searched online myself and easily found the website for the scheme.  And the educational aspect of it looks great – and I can see it would be very attractive to schools.  They are even helping the environment by no longer providing plastic bags for you to fill but asking you to provide your own (surely this couldn’t be a cost cutting exercise?).

So, what happens to your donations? 

The first thing I noticed is that Phil the Bag is not a charity.  This is clearly stated if you look at their website.  They are a business, buying good quality clothes at a knockdown price to sell on for a profit.

The donated textiles are sold on to a wholesaler in Africa who then sells them on to local markets.  It has been suggested that this kind of trade undermines the local economy as the market is flooded with cheap clothes from the West. This puts local people out of work. A friend tells me there was an investigative programme on this on TV (Dispatches or Unreported World or similar).  The volume of donations (you only need to imagine the number of schools and community groups participating in such schemes as a way of fundraising to see this is going to be vast) means that at least some of it is likely to end up in landfill sites in Africa rather than ever being sold.  Are we simply shifting our problems of overconsumption overseas rather than facing up to them at home? A number of African countries have actually banned imported clothing to start addressing this issue, which also affects the countries’ balance of trade surplus/deficit.

And we are teaching the children that this is good “recycling”.  Actually it is not “recycling” but “re-use” but perhaps I’m a pedant.  Perhaps there are more Rs we should be telling them about as well, starting with Refuse and Reduce.  There is no denying that it is “enterprising”, but on the part of the company making all the profit, rather than the school.

Such schemes are also potentially diverting goods from genuine charities or relief projects.

Is there a better alternative?

I would love the children to learn about re-use in the context of a Circular Economy operating at a much more local level.  Why send our clothes all the way to Africa if they can be found a good new home in the same town?

Of course the school needs to raise funds (the letter says the scheme will raise money for “vital resources” – trying to make me feel guilty if I don’t take part?), but perhaps a Swishing event (clothes swap) or even a table top sale could raise an amount closer to the real value of the donated goods.  This may not have the “ready made” educational resource that comes with schemes like the Phil the Bag, but the benefits might really be much greater.

And if you do want to donate to people in Africa, do so through a genuine charity – if the intention is to clothe people in Africa, it might be better to donate money to be spent on locally made clothes rather than to swamp them with our unwanted items. And if you want to donate your unwanted clothes, do a bit of research into where they will end up, as some charities, and a lot of those organisations posting bags through your letterbox, also send clothes to overseas wholesalers as reported in this BBC article  Where do Your Old Clothes Go?

Phil the Bag – this is one innovative fund raising programme in which I won’t be taking part. And I won’t be feeling guilty.

Now I just have to explain that to my 9 year old.

 

UPDATE

After writing I noticed that Phil the Bag claim to be an official partner to Eco Schools, an initiative run by Keep Britain Tidy.  I contacted Keep Britain Tiday in the hope they could allay my concerns.  I have now received a response and it turns out that Phil the Bag have not actually worked with Eco Schools for many years.  Keep Britain Tidy say they entirely agree that we should be teaching our kids about the circular economy at a local rather than global level and suggest The Salvation Army as a better partner to worth with on clothing donation schemes.

 

 

 

 

 

Mixed successes in avoiding plastic – Plastic Free July.

So, since starting out with plastic free July I really haven’t had time to sit and write – instead I have been sharing some pictures of some of my plastic free efforts over on Instagram which is easier to do as I go along. Do pop over and have a look.

My 2 initial pledges were to replace plastic wrapped snacks such as crisps, and to find a local milk delivery in glass bottles.

Well, so far so good.  We had our first glass bottle milk delivery last Monday.  There is no denying that it is considerably more expensive than plastic bottled supermarket milk, but the additional cost is more than offset by the saving we have made since we swapped from individual plastic bottles of fizzy water to a Soda Stream back in September.  And it somehow seems really nice to open the fridge and see a couple of glass bottles with nice green foil lids.  Plus, we are supporting a local dairy.

Finding a feasible regular alternative to crisps and other plastic wrapped snacks has been a little harder, although I have managed not to buy any more once I finished off the couple of bags in the cupboard already.  In the first week I was really enthusiastic and made flatbreads, cut into triangles and baked with cajun spices and  popcorn – seasoned with a little melted butter, salt and plenty of black pepper.  In the second week I managed to buy cashew nuts loose (into a reused plastic bag – most suitable thing I could manage to find) to last me the couple of days in the office.  But I can only buy them near my work, not near my home which means my half hour lunch break was pretty much taken up with getting these.  In the 3rd week, things were getting really busy at work so I didn’t have a chance to buy nuts.  I baked some cake at home but then had no time or energy to make savoury snacks too so ended up taking along the spare crusts cut off son’s sandwiches as an extra filler – it did stop me being hungry but was a bit dull as snacks go.  I had one go at making my own crisps but managed to burn them and even the burnt ones were soft rather than crispy by the time I wanted them at work the next day – so I clearly need to practice this!

I haven’t asked the rest of the family to join in with giving up crisps etc but my son did enjoy popcorn in his packed lunch a few times instead of usual crisps.  Another week I gave him tortilla chips from a larger bag for less pro-rata plastic but he got bored with that after a couple of days and didn’t eat them.

At the start my husband forgot and bought home plastic wrapped chocolate a few times – but now he is remembering to look for the card or paper packaged ones which are fairly easy to find.

Looking back at the instagram pictures has helped me see how many plastic free things I have managed including:

  • Switching to glass bottled milk
  • Washing my hair with gram flour and vinegar
  • Using lemon balm from the garden to substitute some cups of tea, and drying some to use later on
  • Making yoghurt in my Wonderbag
  • Accidentally making granola – started out trying to make some raw energy bites ( oats, honey dried fruit and seeds) but I just couldn’t get them to stick together so baked the crumbly mess instead and it tasted great.
  • Making sweet and savoury popcorn ( the kernels were in a plastic bag but makes lots of portions) – my favourite is to coat in a little melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Making flatbreads, and baking some into “tortilla chips” seasoned with Low Salt Cajun Spice Mix
  • Buying a lovely bar soap in a card box
  • Buying fruit and veg from the market in my own cloth bags, as usual
  • Buying coca cola – which we buy quite rarely – in glass bottles
  • Only buying paper wrapped chocolate
  • Buying loose nuts
  • Finding that a local shop sells recycled toilet roll in compostable packaging – with no plastic!

I’m quite pleased with that and although I am not going to promise never to eat shop bought crisps, I will be making some of these changes on a more regular/permanent basis.  Next I am going to try loose tea to avoid the plastic in the bags.  I already buy our coffee this way and the same shop sells loose tea so will be trying that this afternoon.

When I wrote this last week we were about to go off to a festival which I suspected would rather ruin my plastic free efforts – more about that in another post as this one’s getting rather lengthy.

A Day at the Spa

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Champneys flip flops

Last week we finally got around to going to a spa for a rhasul steam temple couple’s experience my husband had bought as a “zero waste” experience Christmas gift, influenced by my efforts at natural cleaning/haircare.

So, how zero waste did it turn out to be?

We arrived early at Henlow Grange Champneys Spa.  I’d been anxious to set off early  – it’s a 45 min drive away along a busy route and we had been given a 9am start time which I had (incorrectly it turned out) presumed was the time of our rhasul treatment .  This meant we were the first there for the day.  We were welcomed with an information pack in a resealable plastic wallet (which was practical for keeping the information dry) and shown through to a lounge where there was unexpectedly some breakfast and a juice (in a glass but with a plastic straw in already).

Someone came through to explain everything to us – really helpful as it was our first time there.  I had to interrupt as they launched into the promotions on haircare treatments and beauty products ( given the rhasul clay was all I was planning on using).

Then we were shown to the spa area and given dressing gowns  (to return at the end of the day) and a pair of white plastic Champneys flip flops each (in a sealed plastic bag) – ours to keep at the end of the day.

Our treatment wasn’t actually until midday so we had plenty of time to use the pool, steam room, sauna etc until then.  There were plenty of water dispensers around to keep drinking after the sauna etc but I hadn’t thought to bring a water bottle along with me – there were disposable plastic cups, individually wrapped in plastic – so the best I could manage was to pop the cup into the pocket of my robe so I could reuse it for the duration.  There was also a gym, and a range of exercise classes we could have attended during our day although as we were there to relax we focussed on the pool.

We visited the cafe and I ordered a Green Goddess smoothie – a mix of broccoli, spinach, mango, pineapple, banana and apple juice.  I know – a broccoli smoothie sounds a bit weird – but it tasted really good.  However, I was disappointed to see the smoothie was in an individually plastic bagged portion from the freezer – I really should have learnt this about ordering smoothies out by now.  I did manage to stop the plastic straw going into the glass though, and tried to explain that I was trying to avoid single use plastics.  I obviously didn’t explain it properly as the waiter then offered to get me a plastic glass to pour it into!

Anyway, on to the main event, the rhasul clay steam temple.  I had been looking forward to trying this, in particular to trying the clay as a shampoo alternative.  I had been saving washing my hair until this so was a bit concerned when it wasn’t until the end of the morning but my hair already felt pretty cleansed by the time I had used the steam room a few times.  The staff member who explained the process to us had never heard of using clay to wash your hair but happily gave me a bit extra so I could try ( you otherwise get a small bowl containing 2 different clays for face and body).  What we weren’t expecting, having come prepared in our swimwear, was to be told to strip off and just wear some very skimpy paper knickers!  Suddenly I was very glad we had exclusive use of the steam temple.  The steam temple is a hot steam filled room with low lighting (lights twinkling like stars in the roof) and gentle music, with Moroccan decor.  You cover yourselves with clay and then relax as the steam cleans you – at least it was relaxing until I managed to drip the clay into my eyes while using it on my hair and then wiped red clay all over the white towels and the white robe I needed to wear for the rest of the day.  The attendant did come in to provide fresh water for us to drink a couple of times during the 45 minutes which I suspect meant I ended up using a few more plastic cups.  Towards the end of the time warm water pours down from the ceiling to rinse the clay away (there was also a shower hose I used to rinse my hair).

I then headed off into the changing room showers to do a vinegar rinse on my hair – needed to balance the PH of the clay, before we headed off for a buffet lunch and a coffee.

All in all it was a really enjoyable relaxing day, particularly as son was away on a residential school trip meaning we didn’t need to rush back for the end of school.

In terms of waste, it wasn’t too bad overall but there clearly were a few things that could be avoided were we to go again, which we hadn’t thought of this time.  Definitely take along a water bottle (they were trying to sell their own plastic branded ones).  You may be able to take your own flip flops as well as we did see some people wearing different types.  I think I will be inclined to avoid smoothies now unless they are clearly freshly prepared (as they seem to do in Wagamama) rather than frozen.  And I guess we could have refused the paper pants and stuck with our swimwear.

The clay cleaned my hair well and gave it a lot of volume, although I did find the texture rather strange and dry for a few days.  It’s now 9 days later and I have only used one vinegar rinse on my hair since and it still feels pretty good so the clay is something I might well add into my hair routine as an occasional alternative to the soapnuts I have been using lately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plastic Free July – starting out

So , you may or may not have already heard about plastic free July.   Although I had heard it mentioned over the last few months, I was reluctant to sign up – we have already reduced our waste, including plastic, a lot over the last year, but we are still very far from plastic free.  Totally plastic free just sounded a little too scary.  So I was relieved to see a post on Facebook referring to it being about the plastic you manage to avoid, not what you still use.  That was just the bit of wriggle room I needed to get on board!

There is lots of information about plastic free July, and plastic free living in general over at plastic is rubbish. 

We have already made changes to significantly reduce our plastic waste, some in the last year, others for longer.   I have described some of these in previous posts including:

Waste and money saving since Zero Waste Week

Giving up Shampoo

Reducing waste in the bathroom

Now I need to think about what new swaps I can make for plastic free July, in the hope of getting the level of waste in our recycling bin down to the small level we now have in our landfill bin (thanks to our local authority taking almost all food packaging for recycling).

My initial tasks to reduce my own use of plastic here are to:

  • Find plastic free alternatives to crisps/savoury snacks to help me avoid these for the month..
  • Investigate local options for milk delivery ( we have used local milkman in the past but it was in plastic and they foten struggled to provide organic so more research needed here to see if there are alternatives).

If you are joining this challenge, I’d love to hear about any great plastic free finds.

I’ll be getting to grips with Instagram to share some of my plastic free swaps as I go along (@busygreenmum) as well as via the Twitter and Facebook links you can find at the top of the page.

 

 

 

Low Salt Cajun Spice Mix

Cajun Spice Mix
Cajun Spice Mix

When we switched to making chips with unpackaged sweet potatoes from the market  instead of buying bags of ready made potato fries ( the sweet potato cooks much quicker and produces no waste – only wish we could manage to grow them successfully here) we also discovered the child loves them covered in cajun spices.  As we got through the second jar hubby was sprinkling on liberally I read the label – do you know how much salt is in this?  ( A lot).  And actually, do you know we also have all these other spices already in the cupboard.  So now I make our own.  It’s dead simple, means one less spice jar to buy and dispose of, is cheaper, and, yes it’s also so much healthier without them realising.

So, start by finding yourself a lovely empty jar to reuse.  Then depending how large it is, fill it with the appropriate multiple of these lovely spices ( please feel free to vary the proportions to taste – we like it spicy so usually add extra chilli and smoked paprika).

  • 5tbsp ground cumin or cumin seeds
  • 5tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 2tbsp oregano
  • 2tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 tbsp chilli flakes
  • 1tbsp ground ginger
  • And if you wish a little salt – I usually just add a sprinking of Lo-Salt to taste.
  • If you happen to have dried garlic I dare say a little of that would be jolly good too.

Then give it all a good shake.

 

To use on sweet potatoes, cut them into chips, then roll in a little olive oil and in some of the spice mix.   Then roast for approx 20 mins ( 200 degrees C)

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Lo Salt