Step 10: Cut your water usage

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Gosh, I was getting quite sick of candles (what with the past few posts) so thought I would get back on the warpath with the next and extremely important step towards a sustainable existence – cut your water usage or save water. You’ll save money too!

Fresh water Facts: Only 3% of water on Earth is freshwater, most of which is ice and less than 1% of all the freshwater is available for human use, which means <0.007% of all the water on Earth is available for drinking. Due to the accelerated pace of population growth and an increase in the amount of water a single person uses, many parts of the world are experiencing water shortage which is expected to get worse. This would be detrimental to the human population as it would affect everything from sanitation, to overall health and the production of grain! Due to over-pumping, many countries have had their sources of groundwater almost gone, and depleted aquifers have lead to cutbacks in grain harvest. Global warming will accelerate and aggravate the crisis of fresh water shortage as rapid melting of glaciers will deplete rivers and ground water supply while the rising sea level will invade the underground water table turning it into brine.

Scary, right? So what can we do about it?

There are tons of sites out there with brilliant suggestions on how to cut your water usage at home, from using cistern displacement devices (a simple low cost solution to conserve water in the toilet, saving about a litre per flush) to fixing leaky taps ( that’s about 15 litres of water wasted per day, thank you very much) to getting a water butt to harvest rain water, to installing water metres to buying water efficient stuff…… But here, I’d like to highlight a few which you can start on STRAIGHT AWAY, no installation needed:

The Long shower situation: 1Sit down somewhere before you read this – Did you know that a shower can use up anything between 6 and 45 litres of water per minute. OMG. That’s about 6 to 45 tetra bricks of milk. Gulp! Yes, it is seductive and relaxing to let hot water pelt you but you really must buck up and consider THE waste if you do this every day. Why not reserve a long shower to once a week? Or with a friend (wink wink). Plus long, hot showers just end up dehydrating your skin (you’ll end up looking like a prune in a decade or so) and you are washing good bacteria away. I usually have cold showers from May till October and believe me when I say that they are the quickest, tingliest showers of the year! Very invigorating! The rest of the year, I hop in, soap vigorously, rinse and hop out. I wash my hair once every 5-7 days – I have trained my hair to get disgusting after the 5 day mark by getting it used to not being washed that often. Works well!

fullsizerender-2The ‘Brushing-your-teeth-with-running-tap’ paradigm: I also call this the ‘Are you an Idiot’ paradigm. I mean, seriously, ARE you an idiot? Why one earth would you leave the tap running while you are brushing your teeth? Do you keep pouring wine from the bottle even as you are drinking it? Or perhaps your barman just leaves the beer tap running while pouring a drink for you (insert exasperated emoticon here). That’s about SIX litres of water per minute you are running down the drain, bubba. So, lemme re-train you: Load brush, brush teeth, run tap, rinse mouth, switch off tap. End story. It’s not thaaaaat difficult, just a matter of conscious decision making which I am sure you can do 🙂

The ‘Washing-dishes-with-running-tap’ paradigm: fullsizerender-2Also known as the ‘Are you serious ( roll eyes)’ paradigm. As above. STOP IT. Solution?

If you have a single sink: Buy a basin that fits into your sink, soap your dishes, fill said basin with water and rinse the dishes. Alternatively, put all your dirty dishes in the sink and wet and soap them (ooo la la), putting soaped items on the kitchen counter. Once the sink is empty, rinse it, stopper it and fill or half fill it with water and rinse your dishes

If you have a double sink: Do a celebratory jig and then soap your dishes in one sink, fill the other with water and rinse dishes in sink 2.

The Clean clothes complex: fullsizerenderMany of us put clothes to wash as a habit, regardless of whether they are dirty/smelly/sweaty or not. Don’t gasp in disgust but I wear my jeans/skirts/sweaters at least half a dozen times before I put them to wash. T-shirts in summer are put to wash after use, of course! Same re undies, regardless of weather (!). I know people who wash their towels every day; this doesn’t make sense to me unless you didn’t soap yourself when in the shower? So, please re-think before you put an item of clothing for wash – does it need to be washed or can I wear it again? You will save up on electricity, washing liquid, clothes softener, water and, your clothes will last longer and brighter 🙂

The ‘Just-wanna-wash-clothes/dishes-now’ or the OCD complex: A lot of us have this complex maybe because the sweat/dirt becomes a looming monster and needs to be washed NOW! This is definitely the case for those of you who buy expensive exercise wear – have you noticed how these so called breathable (or whatever wonderful advertising hot word is used) clothes seem to trap the sweat and convert it into stench if left in the clothes bin for just ONE day and then releases aforementioned stench the next time you wear it and start heating up? I swear this stench can be bottled and used as a bio weapon! I have gone back to plain old cotton – you can leave a stinky, wet t-shirt in the clothes bin for a year, wash it and no stench! I understand that not everyone has enough clothes or dishes to wait for a full load but….get some at a second hand shop! Stick to natural organic fibres and do your clothes wash when your dirty clothes bin is heaving or your dishwasher full! Once again, you will save up on electricity and water.

Good luck! Be like Yoda, don’t ‘try’, DO!

 

 

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(P.S:The thing about wicks)

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My wick(ed) hoard 😉

I promise you that after this side note, I will get back to The Steps. Cross my heart and hope to die…

An essential part of the candles you will be making, hopefully to re-use old jars and tins ( you don’t really need to worry about the protective lining of tins spoiling with heat and leaking BPA/Bisphenol, as most waxes melt at a temperature much lower than the one food in these cans is sterilized at), is the wick. A good wick ensures that the candle burns brightly and well.

To put it simply, you need a cotton ( hopefully unbleached and if organic – Halleluiah!) yarn, you need to soak it ( if you want to colour your wick), maybe braid it if it is too thin and then prime it and Hey presto, your very own home-made wick, stored in newspaper for when needed. You could, obviously, buy a readymade wick but what is the fun there plus who knows what it is made of….

So here is the process in a few easy peasy steps – you could go straight to step 3 if you like:

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Solution with Borax

1.Soak your cotton if you’d like to colour the flame. I soaked about 3 metres, rolled for ease, OVERNIGHT in this solution:

1 Tbs salt + 2 Tbs boric acid (makes the flame deep red) + 1 cup warm water
Choose one of the following for a different color flame:
A tsp of calcium: reddish orange flame
A tsp of table salt: yellow flame
A tsp of Borax: yellowish-green flame
A tsp of potassium sulfate or saltpeter (potassium nitrate): purple flame
A tsp of Epsom salts: white flame
A tsp of alum: green flame

2. Dry the yarn: The next morning, hang the yarn until dried completely – 1-5 days. If the yarn is very thin,  cut and braid the dried strands together as tightly as possible. Remember that a candle will burn longer and brighter with a quality wick. A loose, poorly constructed wick will shorten the life of your candle.

3. Prime your wick: Dipping your wick into hot wax until

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Dipping the wick in hot wax

it is thoroughly saturated will prime your wick. This ensures that your candles will light more easily as well as making your wick water-resistant.

Heat your chosen wax in a double boiler and when melted, use a tweezer to hold the yarn and dip it- who would have thought that a tweezer could be so useful in candle making? Take the wick out of the wax and harden it by dipping it in a bowl of water and then lay it onto a waxed paper or do as I did, hang em to dry like in the below pic:

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Primed wicks hung to dry

I didn’t want to use waxed paper as I am trying to limit waste. But you don’t have to be a purist like me. Anyway,  to encourage stiffness, repeat this process several times. When you are finished, primed wicks can be stored in rolled newspapers.

Trust me, the quantity made will keep you in the candle making zone for enough time to be worth the bother 🙂

 

Candles (..for blackout night)

img_8595I like tuna and I LOVE tuna-mayonaise ( blame the Brit in me) and trust me, you have to have CANNED tuna to make a good tuna-mayo (check out my food blog re tuna mayo). But alas, I stopped eating tuna for a while coz I didn’t know WHAT to do with the cans as throwing them, even into a recycling bin, was just not a satisfying option; this disposable culture we live in is not for me. So, you ask, “What does tuna-mayonaise have to do with candles?” Jeez, didn’t your mum teach you patience? I am getting there!

Back to those tins – one day, it suddenly struck me, as I was running low on tea-lights for my terrace, why not use the empty cans plus also any spare glass jars as candles?13938583_10154513590232652_6554025239192039896_n That was my Eureka moment. So, this is what you do:

1. Choose what sort of wax you would like to work on. My previous post is a good pointer. I usually stick to soya, which is highly recommended for beginners and comes from a renewable source.

2. The hardest bit: Sourcing a good supplier for:

a.The wax : Hopefully organic. I have found a local supplier who, to boot, doesn’t add any plastic packaging as I have expressly requested them not to. This was my Hallelujah moment. img_8497

b.The wick and metal support: These are usually sold at the same place and here you will get info to select the right sized wick ( yup, depends on the type of wax and diameter of container) for your candle.

Alternatively, you can be like me and learn to make your own wicks ( next post).

c. The Essential oils (EOs) or herbs you would like to add to make your candle smell wonderful or be practical ( ie as a mozzie repellent) – hopefully also organic. Get a few but get good quality – you don’t need to open a shop either, you know! Here are some user-friendly EOs for candle making – chosen primarily for tenacity, low risk, and cost-effectiveness:
lemongrass, geranium, lemon-scented eucalyptus, benzoin, patchouli, ylang ylang, lavandin, lime, orange, spearmint, spruce or pine – and clove and cinnamon bark at low concentrations

A general rule of thumb for quantities = 1/4 oz of fragrance oil per pound of wax – and 1 teaspoon of essential oil per pound of wax.
1 teaspoon is about 5 ml essential oil – depending on viscosity.

3. You need a candy thermometer. Why? Here’s why:

You can’t add EO whenever you feel like it. You need to know something called the flash point: The flash point is the temperature at which a substance can catch fire and burn the liquid.

The flash point of an essential oil must be above 65 degrees Celsius (149 Fahrenheit). If the oil is added in the candle below its flash point, then its scent will be preserved almost intact. Here you can read up on flash points for some more EOs.

4. Get a metal pot, to be used only for candle making, and if with a lip, even better. Make sure it holds double the amount of wax you will use and you can use this ‘bain marie’ (inside another pot with water in it) as melting wax directly on the flame can be extremely dangerous. The ideal temperature of melted wax is between 60 – 80 degrees Celsius (140 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit). Anything above and the wax will ignite in an instant! So be careful there, because wax is highly flammable. Make sure you have some Sodium Bicarbonate on hand in case of a fire.

4. Get some good, eco, heat proof glue to stick the tab/support to your tuna tin or glass jar.

5. You need as many clothespins as candle receptacles.

12472509_10154513592612652_6798341358205927057_nMethod: Start by putting the wick into the tab/support. With a pair of pliers, squeeze the mouth bit tight around the wick. Alternatively, you can pop some glue into the mouth and stick the wick. This way the mouth won’t be deformed and you can reuse the tab once your candle has been used. Or once melted, dip the wick end into the melted wax (only works for beeswax) and place in the center of your container. Press into the bottom of the container. The beeswax will solidify and hold your wick in place. You can also secure the wick by pouring a bottom layer of wax to cover the wick end and allow to cool while you hold the wick in place. This is a rather frustrating wait.

Pose the tab in the tin and cut off the string about an inch above the rim. You’ll see why in a sec.

Now, stick the prepared wick on to your receptacle with a dab of glue. Prepare all your receptacles like this. Done?

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Wait an hour or so, so that the metal support is tightly stuck to the bottom of your receptacle.

Ta-taaan – see why your wick needed to be longer than you expected? You need a clothespin to hold your wick upright while you pour the wax, you see. Else, as you can imagine, it will fall into the wax and that would be a pain indeed.

I have seen people buying wick supports but frankly, a clothespin does as good a job as any and everyone has some in their home. Why buy unnecessary stuff when you can make do (and perfectly at that ) with what you have?

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Put your wax in bain marie to melt. If you add dried herbs, heat it for at least 45 minutes with the herbs to get the goodness and then pick all the bits off – kinda messy and meh.

Control the temperature with your thermometer. If the wax melts at a higher temperature than the flashpoint of your EO, wait till it cools down before adding the EO and mix well either with your thermometer or a glass wand or wooden stick

Now, VERY carefully, pour the wax into your receptacles.

Wait anything from an hour to 24 hrs for your candles to set and take off the clothespins. Voilá!

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Look, I simply re-filled a tea-light I also had.

Now to decorate your candles….fun!

Talking of candles…

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Homemade soya candles in tuna tins with homemade paper and raffia string

Talking of candles, aren’t they romantic and cosy? I mentioned them in point 4 of the last post on electricity – why not try blackout night once or twice a week? Detach from electronics, experience how our forefathers lived AND cut the usage of gas, oil and coal used to make electricity.

But did you know that some candles can also be toxic? I mentioned that in the previous post in a very short sentence so I would like to add more info here on this issue.

Fun Facts: Asia Pacific dominated the wax market in terms of volume and revenue in 2013 and is considered a manufacturing hub for major manufacturing industries across the globe; China is the center of the hub – this is actually NOT a fun fact as you will see later on. As of 2015, Europe and America are the biggest consumers, followed by China.

Now let’s go back to toxicity in candles for which you will have to understand the constituent parts: The wax, the wick and the scent.

The Wax: Candles can be made from many types of waxes which all have pros and cons:

  • Paraffin wax: Paraffin wax is a petroleum by-product that is created from the sludge waste when crude oil is refined into gasoline. Most candles are made from this. It emits black soot loaded with highly toxic benzene and toluene when burned (both are known carcinogens). In fact, the toxins released from paraffin candles are the same as those found in diesel fuel fumes. Sheeeeeesh! Problem is that it is cheap and you get it everywhere- Argh!
  • Palm wax: This may be the longest burning natural, vegetable-derived wax. The candles are virtually smoke-free; almost sootless with a cotton wick but since it is a challenging material to work on, these are costly to buy.
  • Soy wax: Soy is a renewable resource and pure soy wax is toxin-free. The candles, which produce little soot, last a long time.
  • Pure beeswax: Burns clean and long and is the all-natural wax from honeybees The candles are virtually drip-free and no artificial scents are needed. However, the candles are expensive 😦 Draaaaat
  • Bayberry wax: This is an aromatic green vegetable wax. It is removed from the surface of the fruit of the bayberry shrub by boiling the fruits in water and skimming the wax from the surface of the water. Its traditional use in candles dates back to the colonial period. However, tis expensive, as you might have guessed. Parp!
  • Mineral oil and resin compounds: This is the better option for people allergic to paraffin. The candles are clean and the higher melting point means less soot and allergic reactions.
  • Mineral-oil based gel: This is an easier material to handle for candle makers as clear gel makes possible various designs, such as floating beads, glitters, underwater scenes etc. However, these candles must be in heat-resistant glass containers as when the candle comes in a fragile glass container, glass shards and melted wax may explode and cause injury – jeez!

The Wick: Another of the main concerns over candles is the wick. Different wicks are used for different purposes and they can be divided into two main categories: cored and non-cored wicks.

Non-cored wicks are usually made of a braided or twisted cotton and considered the safest to burn. Cored wicks are usually made of cotton around a paper or metal core. Zinc, tin, and lead are standard compounds used in its composition. Burning candles with lead-cored wicks is now known to cause lead poisoning, and there are similar concerns about zinc-cored wicks. Australia and the US have banned lead wicks but alas, most candles are curently coming from countries like China where no such regulations exist 😦

The Scent: Top-of-the-range candles are scented with natural perfumes or essential oils. But since they are costly and difficult to add in large quantities, many of the mass-market products contain synthetic fragrances and sometimes dyes that can give off harmful particles when they are heated.

Bearing in mind that candles are often lit in poorly ventilated rooms, such as bathrooms, or during the evening when windows are likely to be closed, the release of chemicals can cause indoor pollution that is potent enough to raise the  risk of asthma, eczema and  skin complaints.

So, you wail forlornly, “what about blackout night? ” Here is my advice: stick to soya or beeswax – you don’t need to bust the bank buying tons of candles – as these two burn long and well, just a few will get you through many weeks of blackout fun 🙂 Ooooh and, why not MAKE your own candles? They can be so much fun plus you can reutilise containers! Next post!

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Glass jars, old tuna tins and any old tin have been used 

Step 9: Cut your electricity usage

fullsizerender-5Did you know that electricity and heat production  contribute to about a 5th of global greenhouse gas emissions? The burning of coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity and heat is the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions. Shocking, eh?

So what can we do to help reduce this? Luckily, it doesn’t mean that we have to go huddle in a blanket in the cold or stay in the dark so reeeeelax! Oh and, WE SAVE MONEY! Yes, indeed!

In the short-term, we can do some simple things like:

  1. Switch off lights when not in use. Uhhhhh – sounds easy and is easy 🙂
  2. Use natural light whenever possible so how about you open those curtains/ blinds?
  3. Change your bulbs to CFL or LED ones which are more energy efficient and last MUCH longer
  4. Try blackout night: Why not have a couple of nights a week when you switch off electricity and have just candles burning? Hopefully beeswax or soya flake ones as paraffin ones can be toxic in enclosed spaces (next post). People with small kids might forego this, understandably.
  5. Unplug your appliances when not in use – they still use electricity even when switched off!
  6. Go for energy saving models when buying or replacing appliances
  7. This one I found on wikihow and LOVE it: Reduce your reliance on appliances. In the old days, people didn’t need large appliances to run their households; experiment with ways to use only what you really need. Using fewer appliances can make some tasks more time-consuming, but if you get the whole family involved you won’t be spending too much extra time on chores. And you will get pleasure out of a lot of things the slower way.
    Most people wash their clothes more than necessary; try reducing the number of loads you do each week.
    Hang a clothesline in the backyard and let your clothes line dry instead of using the dryer.
    Wash your dishes by hand (using the water conservation method) instead of using the dishwasher.
    Limit your baking to one day a week, during which you make several dishes within the same period of time. This way you won’t have to heat the oven over and over.
    Get rid of small appliances you don’t really need, like plug-in air fresheners (these are gross and toxic anyway). Open the windows instead!
  8. Insulate your home- this can substantially reduce heating and cooling costs.
  9. Air conditioners and heaters: In winter, heat your home to a lower temperature rather than have a sauna at home – why not wear a sweater instead of a t-shirt and pretending it is summer? And the opposite in summer- either forego the ac (guess this is not doable in a few countries) or have it at a warmer setting like 22-24 degrees celsius.

So, go on, try these at home 🙂 and let me know how you fared.

As far as the long term is concerned, we need to invest in cleaner energies and technologies, write to our representatives/ politicians and governments to push them to pass laws encouraging planet-friendly living, teach our children to have as zero-waste a life style as possible….