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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Zero waste progress #1

Zero waste is made of the accumulation of little acts of resistance against the status quo that threatens our future on this planet. I can never find enough time in the month to write a full post about all the little things I do to make my life simpler and more sustainable, so I would like to try a new post format inspired by the simple things series for the beauty is simple. Here are 5 little things that brought me closer to my zero waste goals this month.

New produce bagsBulk drawstring bags

In preparation for potentially having to live apart from my boyfriend for a while, I sewed a few more produce bags so that we can both have enough of them to keep the amount of packaging we send to landfill low. I used my experience with the ones I have been using for a while to come up with a more convenient design for the bulk aisle (I’m hoping to post a tutorial for them soon).

Make it do with a bad purchase
Water bottle up cycle

A few years back I bought a ‘Bobble’ water bottle to be able to filter water on the go. What a bad purchase! With each change of filter, so much plastic had to go to waste that I only changed the filter once and stopped using the bottle. Since I didn’t want to throw the whole bottle away, I used a box cutter to remove the filter part and now we can use it as a simple water bottle.

Phone case from up-cycled materialsPhone case from up cycled materials

For Christmas, I offered P. to make a case for his new-to-him second-hand phone and I finally finished it this month. It is made entirely from materials that had a previous life. The fabric, button and elastic came from the pile of material I save for craft projects and the padding was some wrapping new screens came in at work. It is actually its third life as it was used to protect things when we moved last year. The design is adapted from this tutorial.

No food waste recipe: ‘Pain perdu’

Stale bread into french toast

We don’t eat much bread, so it is not uncommon that we don’t manage to finish the one we buy before it gets stale. This is not a reason to throw it away. Even weeks after, we make French toast with our hard bread. I love that in French it is called ‘Pain perdu’ i.e. lost bread. Recipe: Mix 1 egg, 10 cl milk and 25 g. Cut the stale bread in slices and deep them for about 30 seconds in the mix. Put in an oven dish and bake until golden.

Reusable pads

Reusable periode pads

As I mentioned before, my zero waste focus of the year is the bathroom. After successfully switching to a menstrual cup, I was still finishing up my disposable pad stock to deal with leaks at the beginning of the cycle. I finally invested in re-useable pads. I am looking forward for my first truly zero waste cycle.

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How about you? I’d love to hear what little acts of resistance you carried out this month.

No food waste recipe: Sour milk pancakes

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A while ago, I was telling you about our zero waste milk routine and how, as a result, we ended up having to deal with sour milk from time to time. After a few more tries, I have perfected (or rather simplified) the recipe of my sour milk pancakes and I wanted to share it with you. Since the sour milk was supposed to make the dough raise, I didn’t see why I also needed to put baking powder and baking soda. So I tried without it. Although the result is more a thick crepe than a pancake, it is super nice and I don’t see why I would need the extra ingredients.

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In the meantime, I also tried to make ricotta like cheese. I basically warmed the sour milk until it made curds and filtered it with a clean piece of cloth. It was quite fun, and the best part is that the whey can be frozen (I don’t have energy to make the dough straight after making the cheese) and used to make the pancake recipe later. The result is softer and sweeter than with the sour milk. Since neither of us is a huge fan of the resulting cheese, I would need to use it in a recipe to be worth the extra work, but last night we tried spinach and ricotta lasagna and this could be a good use for it in the future.

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Sour milk pancakes

Ingredients

For each cup of sour milk or whey (makes about 10 pancakes):

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 tea spoon of sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients in this order. Let the dough rise between 1 hour and one night. The dough is ready to make pancakes.

No-food-waste recipe: Parsley salad

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I love getting a weekly fruit and veggie box. It frees so much time by limiting major groceries to every 2-3 weeks and it ensures we eat well. But it means that we have to get a bit creative not to waste food. Recently they gave us quite a bit of parsley, and I was not sure how to use all of it. As a happy coincidence, it is the week Pioneering the simple life chose to share a parsley pesto recipe. I thought this was the perfect way to conserve our parsley, so I set up to do my own version of it (I’m very bad at following recipes 😉 ).

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After spending some time chopping the parsley, garlic cloves and almonds, our blender refused to work. Not a big surprise since I got it second hand and it was quite old, but I had already mixed everything together and I was a bit upset at the idea that I wasted time and ingredients. This is when I thought about saving everything as a salad. After all, this is kind of the idea behind Lebanese tabbouleh. It turned out pretty nice. 


 Parsley salad recipe

Serves two

Ingredients 

  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 10 almonds
  • olive oil
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 pinch of pepper
  • seasonal and/or fermented vegetables (tomato, carrot, beetroot, sauerkraut …)

Put almonds to soak in water. It is supposed to reactivate the enzymes that went dormant when the seed dried. It makes it easier to absorb all the good nutrients of the almond. In any case, it makes the almond softer. Anything from 20 min to overnight is good. Since I rarely plan meals in advance, I normally just put them to soak when I start cooking and prepare all the rest first.

Chop the garlic, the parsley and the almonds. Add the lemon.

Clean, cut and add the rest of the vegetables. Put salt, pepper and olive oil to taste.

If you are not too starving, let it macerate a bit in the fridge.


The first time I used tomatoes and fermented beetroot. You can tell we are in Spain, because we get tomatoes every week from a company that sells seasonal organic veggies. I wish they would put something else though cause they are not so tasty at the moment.  

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Since last week we got parsley again, I made the salade again, replacing the fermented beetroot by homemade sauerkraut! I am pretty exited about this. I made it to prevent a cabbage to go to waste. It doesn’t look like I expected, but it is super nice. 

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Zero waste milk routine

Finding a good supply for milk seems to be one of the challenges of many zero wasters. In San Sebastian, we are lucky to have fresh milk vending machines and one of them is just around the corner! It has reusable bottles for sale (both plastic 😦 or glass 🙂 ), but we just re-used glass bottles that we bought orange juice in. The machine lets you chose between 1l or 1/2l of milk. The milk is local and since there is less intermediaries, the agriculteur probably gets a fairer price for his milk. At least that’s what I hope…

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The down side (or is it?) is that since it is fresh, it only conserves for 5 days and after that it becomes sour. But that is not a big worries because there is plenty of nice things to do with sour milk. On top of my list came cottage cheese and pancake. I did not get the time to throw myself in the cheese-making adventure yet, but pancakes are definitely in my range and they raise much better with sour milk.

Sour milk pancake

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For the first try, I used this recipe. Since there was not specific instruction to mix the ingredients, I mixed them in the order of the recipe. After putting the milk in my mixing bowl I wondered if it was not a mistake, but it worked well and the big advantage is that I got an idea of how much sour milk I had and scaled up a bit the rest of the ingredients, especially the flour. The first batch was too salted, so when milk got sour again I tried it with only 1/2 teaspoon of salt, which is way enough. We had them for diner, first savoury with tomato, cucumber, cheese and cream fraiche, then sweet butter and honey. And the best part is that there were some left for breakfast.

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Local yogurt found in a glass jar at the supermarket.

We now decided to only get 0.5l at a time to avoid having to make pancakes too often (I know it is delicious, but not the quickest meal for busy people), but in the (distant?) future I want to try to make my own yogurt and this will  be a terrific way to stop the kitchen from being invaded by a new glass pot every week.

London to San Sebastien part 3: the rest of the stuff

After a last round trip to London, here are a few final observations about moving to close the London to San Sebastian series (Part 1 here and Part 2 here).

So much to throw away!

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We took out so many garbage bags in addition to our ‘normal’ fortnight load. This included all those things we kept to re-use, but never got around to (and also a few things that should have been thrown away a long time ago). By controlling a bit better what gets in the house, hopefully we won’t have to throw away that much next time we move.

And then there was all the stuff that needs to be disposed of in a special way. We don’t have so many battery-powered devices but we still had quite a lot of batteries to dispose of. We really need to invest in rechargeables. The batteries and an empty tonner were easy to get ride of properly as there were special containers at work. We also threw away some used electronics in a special container and found a place to recycle our stock of plastic bags, but because I lacked the time to investigate, I had to send my used water filters to landfill. I’ll need to come up with a better system than leaving things in the corner next to the door…

And the food?

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Cupboards leftovers red pesto – That’s a bit too much almond though!

We also ended up with a lot of food in our cupboard even though a month before moving I started planning all the meals around the food we had left. It was actually nice, as I got to try quite a few new recipes. I did my own hummus for the first time (I did a mess and it was delicious, but sadly I didn’t write the recipe down), red pesto with almonds instead of pine nuts and cheddar instead of parmesan, wine cake and lots of semolina pudding*.  But there was still a lot left. Don’t worry, it didn’t go to waste. I gave 3 bags full of all sorts of food to friends and colleagues.

It still seems a bit of a waste though that we had so much food stashed in our cupboards, not really to eat it, but to have reserves. I guess the fears of my starving ancestors got passed on to me somehow. I am now trying to slow down the food hoarding, which should be easy since our new kitchen has less cupboard space.

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It was quite interesting for me to write all these thoughts about the moving down to make sure I learn from the experience, before moving on in my new life. It helped me put the finger on a few things I need to work on.

I want to finish by mentioning Freecycle, through which I gave a few things I didn’t manage to sell. If I had known about it before, I would have tried to give some of the stuff that went to charity there, since it probably has a higher chance of being re-used.

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(*) Semolina pudding recipe

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In a pot, bring 1 liter of milk to the boil. Sprinkle 125 g of semolina and stir until the mix doesn’t stick to the pot anymore (I would say about 10-15 min, but I never timed it). Put it to cool down in small glass pots. You can add vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, raisins while it cooks, but I prefer to cook it raw and add honey or jam at the time of eating.