Zero waste progress #5

In addition to lack of time, I have been less inspired to write lately. I realised that it is because I reached a plateau in my eco-living route. I am trying less new things because for most things I have reached an acceptable compromise between the time/resources I have and the environment. I still have a lot to figure out, but it is not on the menu at the moment either because I am still using up things I previously own or it requires a big-time investment to do better. New things and tips are what make me excited to write, but there is possibly more value in sharing longer running habits, as my reflexion on them is more mature.

Unpaper towel

Cleaning rags

One of the first things we stopped buying was kitchen paper. We used it as napkins and for cleaning. To replace kitchen paper and paper napkins, my mum gave me tissue napkins she was not using.  For cleaning, we replaced the kitchen paper by a bunch of rags from old t-shirts and bed sheets. They can be used to clean surfaces, remove dust or dry out accidental spells. After use, either I let them dry until the next laundry or I put them directly at the bottom of the washing machine. Like this they get washed without even having to think about it. For those who worry about the increased water use, we are not doing more laundry now than before and remember that it requires about 15 litres of water to make a sheet of paper.

Up cycled poof

Poof from upcycled jeans

I wanted something to put my feet up when sitting on the sofa. Instead of running to the store, I browsed Pinterest for something that I could do myself with what I already had. I found this tutorial, and with a bit of help from P., I made this poof out of old jeans and stuffed it with old fabric scraps. I’m pretty happy with the result.

Zero waste breakfast

Zero waste breakfast for the weekThree years ago I started having variations around yogurt and oat inspired by the ‘Budwig cream’ for breakfast because it seemed to agree well with some minor health problems I had at the time. My health problem seems to have been resolved, but this is also a great zero waste breakfast. I can find oat and seeds in bulk and local yogurt in glass jars. Now I only have the full version during weekends and holidays, because it takes too much time to prepare for working days. For the week, I prepare a reduced version with only yogurt, oat, and seeds. In a small jar, I put 4 ts of oat, 1 ts of seeds (sesame, pumpkin, …), 4 ts of yogurt. When I have time, I prepare apple compote (I put 4-5 apples with 1 glass of water in my low temperature cooker), otherwise I put 1 ts of honey. I try to prepare them for the whole week during the weekend to be able to sleep 5 min longer. As a bonus, the yogurt makes the oat soften from being prepared in advance and it is even more delicious.

Zero waste bathroom up date

Zero waste bathroom progress

One year ago I was telling you about my zero waste progress in the bathroom. At the time, I had this grand vision that after one year I would have finished up every cosmetic I previously owned, and replaced only the ones I really needed with DIY recipes. The reality is very different, as finishing up my stash is rather slow. To date, I have only finished about 20 % of it. Reviewing my objective from last year:

  1. Soap. We finished all the shower gels and use bar soap for hands and body, but I still have liquid face soap that needs finishing.
  2. Shampoo. Despite finishing quite a few bottles, I still have a full bottle of shampoo that could very well last between 6 months to a year.
  3. Toothpaste. We finished the ones we had, but I don’t feel comfortable doing my own at the moment. I bought a refillable toothpaste from a zero waste online shop which is very convenient for travel, but I don’t like it enough to make it my everyday toothpaste. So for the moment we buy toothpaste tubes at the organic shop.
  4. Deodorant. I am still nowhere near finished with what I had. Since I could not find the one I liked in the UK, I made way too much stock.
  5. Moisturiser. Still going through my collection of samples. Since I don’t use moisturiser very often, except for my hands in winter, this could take a while.
  6. Lipbalm. Again, because I only put some every now and then when my lips feel too dry, they will take a long time to finish.
  7. Sun screen. Like for the toothpaste, I don’t feel comfortable experimenting with sunscreen. I am still looking for a more sustainable alternative to the one I buy in the pharmacy.

Then there are all the beauty things I rarely use like nailplolish and make-up that will probably take me a lifetime to finish, but that’s OK. Even if I might not get the minimal bathroom cabinet I’d like for a while, it is good to make what I have last.

Buying at local shops

We have bought very few new things since we move to Spain two years ago. I could probably make a list from memory. But they are things we really are missing and we are trying to catch up on this slowly. For example, we didn’t have enough light in the living room, so for Christmas, instead of buying each other gifts that might never really get used, we decided to buy a lamp together. At first, I was half of the mind to go to Ikea and get the type I wanted for 20 € together with a few other things we need. But 1) I didn’t feel like giving my money to a multinational, 2) 20 € sounded too cheap to be good quality, 3) we had to drive 45 min to get there. Instead we decided to see if we could find something in the city. We had a first round of the lighting shops within walking distance, which made a nice excuse for a long Saturday walk in a sunny day. Once we had a few options, we went home and thought about it a few days until we agreed on the best option. The final option was much more expensive than the Ikea option, but it was a Christmas gift after all. The guy at the shop was really nice and knew his stuff. The shop is 10 min walking for home, so it is really easy to pop back if we have a problem. Although buying something new inevitably has an environmental impact, it feels nice to keep alive the small shops of the city centre.

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Zero waste progress #4

The zero waste journey is made of the accumulation of little acts of resistance against the status quo in everyday life. This series of post is about those little steps I take every day to make my life simpler and more sustainable.

Getting more and more involved at work and having travelled quite a bit in the weekend, I have more and more trouble to find time to dedicate to the blog and to zero waste in general. I am trying not to let the fact that I am busy affect my commitment to sustainable living, but I have to admit, I have had a few setbacks since September, the biggest one being having to get a car for work. But the fact that I had to lighten some of the constraints doesn’t mean I gave up. It is not about being perfect, but about doing what I can.

6 months of trash later

 

At the moment, we take the trash out every 6 months, except for the compost that needs to be emptied regularly. Above is all we took out this October. Since the last round (thank you to all the people that shared this post on Facebook and Pinterest and made it the most-read post of the blog!), our volumes of recycling have increased. We end up with slightly more plastic since we had to relax the pressure. But mostly, we are getting out of space to keep glass jars and it doesn’t make sense to keep them all anyway. Also doing a bit of research during plastic free July, I realised that in San Sebastian most of the plastic packaging actually goes into the recycling bin. So the residual trash went down while the recycling went up, although I have mixed feeling about this. Either way this shows that it is really important to look at the local recycling rules that are all a bit different and evolving. I have now pined the recycling leaflet inside the kitchen cupboard to have it at hand when I have a doubt.

Knitted dishcloth

Dishcloth

Supermarket sponges are not incredibly sustainable. They disintegrate quite fast with small pieces of synthetic material ending up in the water and they need to be thrown away every 6 months or so because they become too nasty. I knitted a few dishcloth with leftover yarn (Link to pattern which I got from the Zero Waste Chef). I have been using the first one for over a year, and it is great to clean the surfaces in the kitchen. I recently made a few more to be able to put them through the washing-machine more often. I am not quite there yet, but in the long run, I hope to get completely rid of synthetic sponge.

Update on store-bought socks patching

Socks mending

Since my post on Mending socks : darning vs patching, I slowly kept patching my socks. Now 12 out of the 14 pairs in my rotation would now be in the trash if I didn’t fix them. And I actually like to sew a few stitches in bed at night just before sleeping. After one year the first pairs I patched are still going strong, although some of the older ones start to wear thin on the sole and this is where I decided to draw the line. Let’s see if I find a sustainable source of socks before their lifetime is over.

Pyjama refitting

Pyjama refitting

I did a bit of refitting on old pyjamas. The fabric was crappy and stretched a lot to the point it was getting uncomfortable and I was seriously considering throwing it away. But I realised that the thing that was really bothering me was that the sleeves were not holding when I was trying to roll them up. I used the elastic from a mask I kept as a souvenir, but didn’t remember where I got it from, to narrow the sleeves.  It is ready to go back in my wardrobe. The good thing about starting with mending/refitting PJs and socks is that it doesn’t matter if the result is not perfect, and in the meantime, I am building my skills for when I need to fix my favourite clothes.

Crumbs to cheesecake

Cheesecake from crumbs

Did you ever carry around a pack of biscuits in case someone got hungry, but end up with a bunch of uneaten crumbs? It used to happen to me all the time, less now that I try to avoid buying biscuits, but still. Here is an idea of how to still enjoy those leftover biscuits: finish reducing them to crumbs and cook them in the pan with a bit of butter. Put at the bottom of a ramekin. Mix yogurt with a bit of lemon and sugar and add on top of the crumbs. Leave in the fridge for a little while. Enjoy.

Zero waste progress #3

The zero waste journey is made of the accumulation of little acts of resistance against the status quo in everyday life. This series of post is about those little steps I take every day to make my life simpler and more sustainable.

With the new job and the summer I have had even less time than expected to dedicate to this blog. I was even tempted to stop writing altogether, but then P. reminded me why I started it in the first place: to keep moving forward toward a mindful way of life. Being busier, I will need this space more than ever not to let convenience get in the way of my convictions.

Eco amigurumi giraffe

Amigurumi giraffe with recycled stuffing

I used my baby niece’s birth as an excuse to make this cute crochet giraffe I saw on Pinterest. I used organic cotton yarn for crocheting and fabric scraps for the stuffing. I am not sure I will be able to keep up with homemade gifts for all Christmas and birthdays, but at least we (I got a lot of moral support from P.) welcomed her in the world in an eco-friendly way.

Jacket upcycle

Jacket up cycle

I bought this jacket in high school with a voucher my uncle gave me for my birthday and it got a lot of use, so much that the shoulders started falling apart and I was ready to send it to rag collection. But looking at old pictures, I remember how I liked the cut and decided to save it. After reinforcing the parts of the shoulders that needed it, I used an also much loved T-shirt to cover the worn parts. As a bonus, it now has a touch of colour.

Online zero waste shopping

Zero waste online shopping

Until now, I had refrained from buying zero waste accessories, but I made an exception for P.’s birthday. This summer, we lost one of our two bottles of water, so I got him a eco-responsible replacement. I also realised during Plastic Free July that we could not completely get rid of straws, but we now have inox reusable straws to take with us to the cinema. While I was at it, I also order zero waste deodorant and toothpaste. I will let you know how I like them once I’ve had a bit more time to make my mind about them.

I normally don’t like to shop online. One of the reasons is that it normally generate a lot of packaging that I don’t know what to do with, but I was positively impressed by the parcel I received from Sin Plastico. The packaging was kept to the bare minimum and all of it was recycled, recyclable or biodegradable. The brown paper used to wedge the order was immediately recycled as gift wrapping. While I wait for eco-friendly items to be more wildly available in physical shops, I will be happy to order there or in other online plastic free shops again (with moderation).

 

Egg-free cookies

Egg free cookies

At work, it is customary to bring something on your birthday and I had everything to make cookies, but eggs. I had read that eggs can be replaced with chickpea cooking water (aquafaba) and I just happened to have a jar of them in my cupboard, so I gave it a go. I followed this recipe replacing the egg by 3 spoons of chickpeas brine, and I got a lot of compliments for them. It worked so well, I also replaced the egg by aquafaba in my sour milk pancake recipe and the pancakes were even fluffier than usual (although that might be because the milk was older than usual because of the holidays).

(Almost) zero waste travel toiletry

Zero waste travel toiletry

As I try to simplify what I have in the bathroom, I set to finish all the samples I have collected over the years and that I was keeping for who knows what. It is going much slower than I expected, but I finally finished the  shampoo and shower gel ones. When I travel, I now have a small soap for hand and body and I am refilling one of the hotel shampoo bottle from one of the big shampoo bottles I have left. Like this when I get to a hotel, I can leave the sample untouched for the next guest. My new deodorant and toothpaste should also be great for traveling.

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How to sew the perfect bulk aisle produce bag

Shopping in the bulk aisle is a great way to reduce waste. Of course there is still the big bag the bulk food came in before being put in the bulk bin, but it sill uses less packaging and we could imagine that with the push for circular economy, they could actually be delivered in reusable containers as well. The most accessible option to buy bulk is to reuse the paper bags from the shop until they need to go to the compost, but fabric produce bags are much more convenient, both to fill at the shop and to transfer in glass containers at home.

How to sew the perfect bulk aisle produce bag

Produce bags can be bought, but they are easy to make with basic sewing skills. It took a  few trial and error to make a produce bag that is convenient for bulk groceries. I originally made a few by cutting in 4 an old pillow case, sewing on 2 of the open sides and putting a casing for a string on the fourth side or using the pillow case slap to close. Those bags work well for fruit and vegetable, but are not completely convenient for cereals and other small stuff:

  • They don’t close very well so things like rice spread in the bag.
  • Some grains stay stuck in the seams and I end up spilling them everywhere while transferring in the glass jar.
  • Fabric of the seam was frying despite the (bad) zigzag stitch and fibres would end up mixed in the food from time to time.

Since my sewing skills have improved a bit, I came up with a few tricks to solve those problems. It is a bit more difficult to make, but even if they didn’t come out as neat as I would have liked, they are much more convenient to use.

Tutorial: Drawstring bag for the bulk aisle

1 – Cutting the fabric

I made two sizes of bags based on the ones of the paper bags from my organic shop: 15 x 25 cm, and 20 x 35 cm, but you can use the size you want. The small one is nice for stuff like rice and the big one for stuff like pasta.

In a light and ironed fabric, cut a rectangle of:

(width + 4 cm) x (2*length + 6 cm)

In my case, 19 x 56 cm for the small bag and 24 x 76 cm for the big bag.

2 – Double-turn hemming the long sides

Perfect drawstring bags for the bulk aisle

Fold 2 cm on the long sides of the rectangle (up on the photo). Press and then fold the seam in two towards the inside of the seam (down on the photo). Press. You now have a 1 cm seam and all the loose ends inside.

If your fabric has a right side, it should be up while doing this. All the seams will be on the outside to avoid the food to stay stuck.

Sew as close as possible from the edge.

3 – The casing

Fold 1 cm on the small sides of the rectangle. Press and fold another 2 cm. Again the right side is up. Pin, press and sew along the edge of the casing.

4 – Side seams

Perfect drawstring bag for the bulk aisle

Fold the rectangle in two, right side inside. Press from the top for the two casings to align as well as possible. Starting just above the casing stitch (the casing stitch needs to be covered, but not much of the casing opening obstructed), sew as close as possible from the previous seam on both sides. It is important to start from the casing side and not the bottom of the bag as this will hide small dimension mistakes.

5 – Strings

For the stings, I use some yarn I had, because it is very light, but you can use any sting you have lying around. Eyeball the length for it to be just a bit longer on each side when folded in two. Using a safety pin, put 2 pieces of string through both sides of the casing. Tie the end of each string on a different side. This will enable to tie the two pieces together to close the bag well and prevent grains to escape during transport.

Have fun making your own bulk aisle produce bags. If you have any doubts on the instructions, feel free to ask in the comments.

‘Invisible’ jeans patching

As part of my attempt to dematerialise gifts and to slow down our crazy accumulation of stuff, I offered a ‘fixing one piece of cloth’ voucher to P. for his birthday. I love the idea of visible mending, of imprinting its history on a loved piece of cloth to make it even more special. But sometimes it is not a good option. For some reason, P. didn’t want to draw attention on his crotch.

The hole was already quite big by the time I got to take care of it, so I needed a patch. Since there was a bit of extra length at the bottom of the legs, I thought I could use that. So we started by hemming the jeans. Yes, we. I took the occasion to teach a bit of sewing to P. and we did one leg each. Who says sewing is a woman only thing?

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I used a seam ripper to make sure I would have as much fabric as possible out of the legs’ cut. After a bit of ironing, I cut a patch in the smaller piece, pined it in place, stitched all around the patch and around the hole to keep it in place. I started by doing a simple hemming stitch, but because the patch is in a high-stress zone, I had to do it again with a catch stitch to prevent the patch to fray.

invisible-patch.png

Et voilà ! It is not perfect, but when P. is wearing it, you don’t see a thing. And there is still quite a bit of fabric left for future patches.

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Mending socks : darning vs patching

With St Nicolas around the corner, I thought a post on socks was quite appropriate. Am I the only one whose socks always fail in the same place? It seems a waste to get rid of socks because they have a small hole in the back of the heel when the rest of the sock is still in perfect condition. So I looked into my options to extend my socks life a bit.

darning-vs-patching

Darning

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The most documented sock mending option seems to be darning, which consists in weaving thread over the hole. So I tried this on my thin store bought socks, but I was not super convinced. Because I used thin thread to match the thickness of the sock, it was difficult to follow the mesh. It still did the job ok, but the result somehow doesn’t feel super comfy and I tend to keep this pair for when all the others are dirty. However I used darning to fix a hole in my glove and it worked very well.

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If I had bothered buying matching embroidery thread, the mending would be invisible.

Patching

For a while I had the idea that I could use several old socks to make a new one, but I thought the seams would be a problem. Looking if someone had done something around this idea, I found this tutorial from Stale Bread into French Toast that suggests patching store bought socks.

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Traditionally a darning egg is used to put in the sock to help fix it, but I found that the toy box of a big kinder surprise works well. I am sure you have something ready to do the job at home too.

After struggling a bit to understand how to make a catch stitch, I fixed a first pair and then liked it so much that I fixed another two the same way. The patch actually gives a bit of padding in the place I normally get friction from the shoes and I also kind of like the way it  looks. I used an old sock that had been turned to rag a while ago for the patches. After patching 6 socks, I still have about half of the old sock left to save other socks. The only inconvenient is that both socks need to be patched otherwise it feels wired.

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In conclusion, I would use darning for thick socks and maybe for areas below the sole, but patching otherwise. Now I am waiting to see how much longer my mended socks last.

Intro to sewing

I have been interested in learning how to use a sewing machine for a long time. After a failed attempt with my Grandma when I was 16 (a carnival flamenco dress is definitely not a good beginner’s project), I decided to go for a proper sewing class at Sew over it. Not to be able to make myself loads of new clothes as I had in mind in high school, but to be able to re-fit, repair and re-use the clothes and other fabric-made items I already have.

Clothes have become so cheap. It is easy to just throw them away once they get damaged and I have definitely had my share of filling my closet with clothes I didn’t really need because getting new clothes is just so nice. But each new piece of clothing most certainly means use of pesticides, chemical and water resources, underpaid people working in questionable conditions and goods that travelled twice round to globe.  A pity when fixing or altering clothes is as satisfying as getting new ones.

After 3 hours working on a drawstring bag, I am definitely not an expert, but I am convinced sewing is not that hard. With a bit of practice I should be able to get to the level I need to stop wasting clothes. A drawstring bag is a perfect beginner project. Simple, forgiving and satisfying. It was also a nice coincidence since I want to make a few out of old bed sheets to help me with zero waste shopping (still need to find the right shop though). It is quite nice to have someone to ask questions to when it goes wrong, but if you want to try by yourself you can have a look at this tutorial.

Now I feel like re-fitting my entire wardrobe, but considering I just finished to knit the scarf I started for P. 3 years ago, it will probably take some time. To be continued…