Let’s talk about hand washing : soaps, gels, sanitisers..

So that was the kitchen grey water all done in the last post. Phew! Our search and Go Green mission continues with the bathroom now. Can you think of areas in your bathroom which need looking at with a stern eye?

HYU2Waste water from your Handbasin: Have you thought of all the products that we wash down the sink? Oh, and water. Check out my Oct 2016 post for eye-goggling water wastage facts and solutions.

Let’s start with soap/handwashing gel and look at the harmful chemicals they contain:

Fragrance/perfume/parfum/essential oil blend/aroma:

WE WANT FULL DOSCLOSURE!

I love how any of these words cover a secret list of ingredients the manufactures frangrance.jpgdon’t have to tell you about as they are considered a trade secret- Grrrrr. In the ranks of undisclosed ingredients are chemicals with troubling hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate in human tissues. These include diethyl phthalate, a plasticizer linked to sperm damage. Here is just one study: Li-Ping Huang et al (2014) and musk ketone, a synthetic fragrance ingredient that concentrates in human fat tissue and breast milk Read Ch. 9 & 10 of this link. Sheesh!

Triclosan: We looked at this in the previous post and decided we were anti-antibacterials! Arghhhhh!

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): These need a post all on their own! Next one coming up!

Parabens: These are a family of related chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in a wide range of health, beauty and personal care products because they prevent the growth of fungi, bacteria and yeast. Commonly used parabens in cosmetics are: methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben. Though parabens have  been detected in human tissues and bodily fluids, it is their discovery in the breast tissue of patients with breast cancer that has raised public concern over their use. However, studies investigating the health effects of parabens are conflicting. But this is yet another post……

Handwash/soap/gel:

Just like with dish washing soap/gel/detergent, my advice is the same: keep it simple! Avoid anti-bacterials or products with oh so many ingredients especially ones which are unpronounceable and which you don’t understand ( I swear they think up these complicated names deliberately so as to confuse most of us) and or make your own!

Recipe 1:

Liquid Castille soap. That’s it! And if you have a bar of Castille soap and want to make it grated castille2into a liquid, it is pretty damn easy! All you need is:

  • 1 bar of soap (one with as few ingredients as possible)
  • About 8-10 cups of distilled water
  • A grater
  • A saucepan

Grate your soap and put it in a saucepan with the distilled water. It’s not an exact science so you will have to experiment BUT, Its important to use distilled water else your soap will go off. Yup, it takes on the texture of that thick, green bogey your nose produces when you have a bad cold. Ugh. Anyway, heat all that up without boiling, till your soap flakes have totally melted. Let cool and voilá!

Recipe 2:

Remember the soap nut liquid we made in the clothes washing post? We’re going to use that here:

  • 1/2 cup Liquid Castille soap
  • 1/8 cup soap nut liquid
  • 5 drops Essential Oils  (any of the following EOs are powerful natural anti-bacterials): Cinnamon, Basil&Rosemary, Clove, Thyme, Oregano, Lemongrass, Tea tree, Lavender.
  • Mix it up and use it as needed.

Idea 3:soap

Plain and simple bar of soap! Nothing fancy and does the trick!

Hand sanitisers:

We live in a society which is so obsessed with cleanliness that I feel that we sometimes overdo it. Following the disclaimer that I am not an official researcher or scientist 🙂 , my take is that sanitisers are great in hospitals for staff who move from patient to patient or at festivals/fairs/camping/trips where access to hand washing is restricted but apart from that, I’d simply dispose of using them. How about just washing your hands with soap? Sanitisers with less than 60-95% alcohol are not much good anyways so regardless of what the sellers say or advertise, stick to washing your hands with soap – nothing beats that for you or me.

 

Let’s talk dish washing…

Being ecological and sustainable is not just about what we buy and use but also about the waste we generate. Continuing with the previous post, let’s see what we generate and how to make it eco friendly or as eco friendly as possible. Ready, Steady….

What else goes to make grey water in our homes?

Wastewater from your dishwasher and dishwashing: l_10100831_004Shall we make a list of all that goes into washing dishes, be it from hand washing or by using a dishwasher? Here we go: dish soap/gel/tablets, glass brightener, dish rinse, dishwasher salt, dishwasher cleaner…ARGH!!!! That’s quite a barrage of products that go into not just washing dishes but then down the drain! Oh My!

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just cut on needless, chemical products?

Some of the basic ingredients in dish soap include surfactants, preservatives, fragrance, color as well as active or inactive ingredients. This site has some eye popping info on the chemicals and their effect on our body. One particular chemical is worrying for its environmental effect:

220px-Triclosan.svgTriclosan:It is found in most liquid dishwashing detergents and hand soaps labeled “antibacterial.” It is an aggressive antibacterial agent that can promote the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Studies have now found dangerous concentrations of triclosan in rivers and streams, where it is toxic to algae. Read all about it here.

So, what can we do?

  • Use simple detergents and soaps with short ingredient lists,
  • Avoid antibacterial products with triclosan for home use. See the Environmental Working Group’s site ,
  • Don’t go crazy buying needless products!
  • Use simple liquid castile soap,
  • Make your own!

Dishwashing and Dishwasher powder/liquid

Recipe 1: The Dishwasher powderSin título
Ingredients:

  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • ½ cup citric acid
  • ½ cup salt (for the scrubbing action)
  • Container

Mix all the ingredients in the container and use 1 Tbsp per load.

Recipe 2: The Old Fashioned liquid:
Ingredients:
  • About 500gms of soap flakes
  • 4.5 litres of water

Method:

Put everything in a pot and heat over medium until the liquid begins to boil. Keep stirring until all the soap has melted and then lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes. Let it cool and then pour into your chosen container. It takes only about a teaspoon of the liquid for each sink full of hot water.

Dishwasher Rinse and Cleaner:

Rinse:
  • Use vinegar as a rinse by filling the dishwasher compartment with it.
Cleaner:
  • Once in a while, run an empty dishwasher with vinegar: It’s the same concept as running a vinegarload in your washing machine. You simply toss a cup of white vinegar into the bottom of an empty dishwasher and run a normal cycle. It cleans out old food particles to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh
Dishwasher salt:
This is different to table salt as it additive-free and also comes in bigger granules/flakes and is used to soften the water. Here is some info. Have you ever thought what happens to it once it passes through our dishwasher? Salt is a major pollutant when discharged into the environment. When discharged with treated wastewater into rivers and lakes, chloride (Cl-) can harm aquatic life and damage agricultural crops by causing leaf burn or drying of leaf tissue, thus reducing crop yields. Over time, discharge from salt water softeners will lead to increasing levels of sodium in fresh water supplies, and excessive chloride levels in soil.
  • The best way to avoid discharging tons of salt into the sewers is to replace existing traditional salt-based water softeners with newer salt-free water softeners. Catalytic-conversion media can be used to neutralize calcium and magnesium and reduce scale buildup.

SIDE NOTE:

Scrubs/sponges/scourers:
Something else I worry about are the synthetic scrubs we use and throw away with our garbage as they get worn. Have you ever wondered what they are made of and how biodegradable they really are? You know the ones I am talking about:

scotch brite

I checked out the website of a very famous brand many people use and there was no mention of the composition of their scrub/scourer/sponge. I went on a livechat with one of their agents and was eventually told that they are made of aluminium oxide and plastic. Ugh. So what do I recommend? Happily, there are many options:

 

sponge
Wooden brush, sponge-scourer and luffa
  • Wire wool! See a comparative with the above here. It ain’t my favourite but sparing use will guaranty a long life.
  • I use a wooden brush wth natural bristles to scrub the worst away.
  • I usually have a small collection of loofahs or luffas – most people use them as a body scrub but they serve perfectly well to scrub dishes too. They are the dried out, fibrous husk of a very edible asian gourd.
  • An alternative for those of you who shy away from unfamiliar things is the eco sponge-scourer, made from recycled plastic, walnut shells and cellulose – looks exactly like its unfriendly cousin.
  • For more ideas, look here
Kitchen Wipes:
We all use a multiple of these in our homes, don’t we? Most are made from microfibers. You can find out all about how these are made and how they work here.
PrintFor those of you who are too darn lazy to check out the link, let me highlight an important aspect of microfibres – most microfiber cloths are made of polyester, polyamide or other polymers such as nylon. These compounds are derived mainly from crude oil or coal. Aside from the environmental issues associated with creating these plastics, burning of materials such as nylon can produce toxic smoke. Additionally, these materials aren’t readily degradable and will be with us for some time to come. But, did you know how truly  harmful micro fibers are to our environment? To waterbodies and the species which reside there?
In the summer of 2012, in collaboration with the 5 Gyres Institute, Dr. Sheri Mason, then the Associate Professor of Chemistry at SUNY-Fredonia and coordinator of its Environmental Sciences program, lead the first-ever study of plastic pollution focused solely on the Great Lakes in an effort to discover just how much plastic there is polluting the Great Lakes and at the same time raise local and regional awareness about this issue. Her research was shocking as we found that microfibers from our clothes etc have ended up contaminating water bodies ( Here is a link to a video) and worse, as per her research a few years later, the Great Lakes fish are swallowing micro-plastic fibers that have found their way into the waste stream from washing machines. And the fish that ingest them include species sought after by Great Lakes anglers, among them: brown trout, cisco—also known as “lake herring”—and perch. You really should read this article.
UGH UGH UGH
More to come in the next post.

Step 12: Generating eco-friendly Waste: Let’s talk clothes washing

3D collection of household cleaning products isolated on white background
The contents of these add a chemical gunk to our environment plus leave us with trash

Let’s look at the types of waste we generate ( some of which we aren’t even aware we generate) and try to look at ways to make it cleaner and greener and on the way, get rid of even more packaging and chemicals. Shall we start?

 

I. Household Liquid Waste:

Have you ever thought about what is in your waste and where it goes? And I don’t mean just your garbage (that’s another post) , I mean the dirty or grey water as it is called, from your washing machine, dish washer, shower, bath, laundry tubs, kitchen sink, hand basin….Let’s look at all this a bit more closely, shall we?

Waste water from the washing machine: Washing machines account for almost a quarter of household wastewater or, depending on your machine, about 60–180 litres per wash. So, in effect, washing six times a week could send more than hotpoint_rpd10457j_wh_05_l[1]1000L down the drain in one week alone. Add to that your dishwashing, shower and bath water, and you’re soon up to 4000L a week for the average family of four. Not to mention the  detergent, fabric softener, stain remover, dryer sheets, possibly bleach….that’s quite a chemical mix that you send down the drain every time that you do a wash. Here is a list of laundry chemicals for you to boggle yourself with. So, what do I suggest? Well, you could either buy eco-friendly products or make them yourself! Why not? Plus they are cheaper on the pocket, a win-win situation!

Detergents: Making your own detergents sounds like quite the task so you could buy eco-friendly ones. Here is a review of a few green detergents for my US readers. Here for my UK readers. If you can’t find anything in your area or on an online site or just wanna try your hand at something which is actually quite easy, you could try either or both of these 2 DIY detergent recipes:

Recipe 1: The Soap Recipe

Ingredients:Scented-Wellness-Bath-Salts-2

  • 1 bar of plain soap ( with as few ingredients as possible so stay away from Dove type soaps or antibacterial etc) or pure soap flakes
  • 1 cup of Borax (in the laundry section of most supermarket chains)
  • 1 cup of Washing Soda (this is also found in the laundry section and is not the same as baking soda)
  • Salt
  • Grater
  • Airtight container

Method:

Grate the bar of soap into as fine a powder as you can manage or use pure soap flakes.

Put the grated soap or the flakes into your container and add the borax and the washing soda. The measurements for soap, borax and washing soda are of a 1:1:1 ratio. Easy, huh?

Put the lid on and shake well until completely combined.

To use, add 1-2 tablespoons per load of laundry.

Recipe 2: The Soapnut/Ritha Recipe

IMG_3309 (005)
These nuts are endemic to Nepal and India and are saponin rich.

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 litres of water
  • 80 soap nut halves ( you can order these online or get them at your local organic shop). They come de-seeded so will be in halves
  • A container
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 60 drops of laundry friendly Essential Oils like Lemon, Lime, Lavender, Orange, Tea Tree, Lemon grass, Eucalyptus, Grapefruit, Rosemary, Pine, Spruce, Cypress, Thyme, Palmarosa, Citronella, Wintergreen, Bergamot, Cedar wood, Spearmint, Oregano, Cinnamon Bark, Clove Bud, Sage, Petitgrain bigarade, Vetiver, Coriander, Juniper Berry

Method:

Heat 2 litres of water in a large pot and when boiling add the nut halves.

Stir from time to time during 10 minutes. Switch off the heat. and let cool for half an hour

soapnutSieve and put this water into a  storage container.

Put 1/2 litre of water in your pot again with the already boiled nuts and blend till a thick soup is formed. Be careful as its very soapy.

Then boil this for 10 mins and stir as before and then allow about half an hour to cool.

Sieve and mix with liquid 1 and 1/2 litre more of water.

Now add 2 tbsp salt for preservation.

Add  Essential oils to make it smell good!

I have been using this recipe for YEARS and I love it, especially for the coloured wash. For whites, once in a while, they will need brightening when following the soap-nut recipe in which case I use either of the 2 methods below:

How to Whiten Whites?

  • Pre-soak the whites in washing soda ( 1 cup in 1 bucket of water overnight) and leave them out to air dry under the sun after washing them.
  • Simply add one cup of hydrogen peroxide to the washer drum before adding water or clothes. The hydrogen peroxide can also be placed in the automatic bleach dispenser of the washer where it will be dispersed into the wash cycle.

How about Fabric softeners (FS)? Dryer sheets (DS)?

Some tips for DIY fabric softeners:2e9212331bad4a079de280f32470a8e9[1]

  • Baking Soda: Add a quarter cup of baking soda to wash cycle to soften fabrics.
  • Vinegar: Vinegar is a good non-toxic alternative to fabric softener. It softens fabrics and also helps prevent static cling. Use it on towels, diapers, and heavy fabrics like denim (avoid using it on delicates). Add 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar to your rinse cycle.
  • Vegetable Glycerin: Mix 1 cup of vegetable glycerin with 1 gallon of water, and add 1/2 cup of the mixture to your rinse cycle.

Some tips for DIY dryer sheets:

  • Aluminum Foil: Believe it or not, a crumpled up wad of aluminum foil in the dryer eliminates static cling.

    Aluminium foil
    You can use up the foil you have, in this way rather than on food!
  • Tennis Balls: While they won’t reduce static cling, they will keep your sheets nice and fluffy.
  • Dry Bath Towel: Throw it in the dryer with your wet clothes and it will soften everything while they are drying.

How about Grease Removers?

Recipe: The Homemade Grease Remover

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons Cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Soda

Method:

Mix together and cover the stain with the formula. Let stand for 30 minutes or more to absorb as much grease as possible, then wipe away. Soak the remaining stain in the following formula:

  • 1/2 cup White Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 5 drops Lemon or Orange oil

Soak until stain disappears. Wash in hot, hot, hot water.

Stain Remover?

Use hydrogen peroxide but make sure to swab a coloured garment with a cotton swab soaked in peroxide, on a hidden patch first. If the colour transfers, stop. If not, soak the stain for 10 minutes before washing it.

How about Sportswear Stench removers?

Have you noticed how modern sportswear, despite all its amazing qualities, somehow also has an ability to not just retain smell but to convert it into a stench which starts to emanate from your supposedly washed clothes as soon as you start heating up? Ugh! So unlike good ol’ and much cheaper cotton! Here is a nice and easy way to get rid of this stench:

Recipe: The Sports Stench Remover

Ingredients:

  • I cup of vinegar or 1/2 a cup of hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/2 a bucket of hot water

Method:

Mix the vinegar in the hot water and soak your clothes for an hour (if using vinegar) and not more than half an hour (if using hydrogen peroxide). Wash as usual. Add more vinegar if your clothes still retain the smell or soak for longer till you get the hang of it 🙂

 

 

All about Seitan – the high protein meat-alternative

Sei…what? What’s that? I get this often from people when I mention “Seitan”. Everyone  knows about tofu as a meat alternative but “Seitan”? Well, seitan is a food made from gluten, the main protein of wheat and has been around for quite a long time, though not as long as tofu. Another Chinese invention (like the afore-mentioned tofu), it has been documented there since the 6th century as a meat substitute and first apseitan2.jpgpeared as an ingredient for… noodles. You can buy it in most organic/vegan/health food shops nowadays and it usually comes vacuum packed in ones or twos. It looks like a wet, brown ball and to be honest, not very appetizing until one day, I bucked up and bought some. And haven’t looked back!

Unlike tofu, seitan has a stringy, chewy texture and this meat-like quality makes it the perfect meat alternative. Though it lacks lysine ( one of the 9 essential amino acids our body doesn’t generate) and is therefore not a complete protein, it does have a very high protein content – seitan contains about 20 grams of protein in each 3-ounce (85 gm) portion, which is similar to the amount of protein in lean meat. For example, a 3-ounce portion of sirloin steak contains about 26 grams; 3 ounces of shoulder steak provide about 21 grams; and a 3-ounce portion of ribeye steak contains about 25 grams of protein. Three ounces of grilled chicken breast contain about 25 grams and 3 ounces of lean ground beef provide about 21 grams of protein. Team it up with any of these and you have a complete protein!

4.jpg
I added veg bouillon to the gluten

You can bake /fry /stew /roast etc. seitan and it can be delicious. My only problem with seitan was the fact that it came plastic wrapped! And you know, by now, how much I hate plastic. So I started to look at ways to make it, while avoiding plastic and guess what? It wasn’t very difficult and wayyyy cheaper than buying it. The basic recipe requires gluten flour, water, soya sauce and soup granules. Here is one of many online recipes you will find.

Personally, I prefer to give you tips about getting the best out of seitan as I have seen that you can find recipes every where but tips are hard to find – learnt through experience which always ended with me gritting my teeth!

HANDY SEITAN TIPS:

1: You can make seitan without gluten flour if you can’t buy it. You simply make a dough with whole or white wheat powder first. Gluten is what is left after the dough is washed, yeah, literally washed. This shows you how. I personally prefer to use readymade gluten powder as I can’t bear to use up so much water and see so much starch/bran etc. being washed away. Sad to see  about 20% of your dough left- not satisfying at all! 😦

2. A good ratio to make the dough is 1:3/4. That means, say, 1 cup of solid ingredients (gluten powder and condiments) and 3/4 cup of liquid ingredients (water/ broth with soya/tamari sauce).

3. Make sure to season the dough – by adding any or all of the following:tomato paste, bouillon, spices, herbs and soya/tamari sauce (this last goes in the wet ingredients). You don’t want a tasteless ball of dough. And obviously, if you add soya/tamari sauce, DO NOT add salt.

4. You need to knead the seitan once the dough is formed. This is VERY important as kneading helps develop the gluten. Give it 10 minutes but not more as you can end up with chewing gum textured seitan, as I once did. It was odd, must say. Edible but odd.

FullSizeRender.jpg
I added onion and garlic cloves to the broth

5. You can create seitan, once the dough is finished,  either by: simmering, baking or steaming. A lot of recipes call for simmering the dough but you can avoid large pans of flavoured broth by the other 2 methods though the broth is very nutritious and a good soup base.

6. If simmering, make sure to put the seitan in with the  water/broth while it is cold, so the texture is chewier. Bring to a boil and then lower your heat. The key is to keep the water at a simmer. If the water is boiling, the seitan will become spongy, soft and jiggly.

7. If baking, do add some broth/water to the roasting dish so you don’t end up with a product which is hard, unless you want a really firm texture like for ribs and roasts.

8. Timings for cooking the dough:

Simmering time is roughly 45 minutes. Make sure to leave your seitan in the broth for

FullSizeRender.jpg
Ta-taaan!

another 15-30 minutes afterwards so it absorbs the flavour of the broth to a maximum.Baking time is about 40-60 minutes ( make sure to turn the seitan over in the middle of your roasting period).

Steaming time is about 30 minutes.

8. Remember that as the dough cooks, it absorbs liquid and grows so, leave space for this in your cooking pot/tray.

If you look on the internet, there are a thousand and one ways to cook your seitan, be it Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican etc. ENJOY!

 

Step 11: Lower your animal intake

Variety of farm animals in front of white background

If you are the typical person who eats animals (chicken /pork /beef /fish /lamb /goat etc. plus derivatives like ham /sausages /bacon etc)  every day of the week, then I am afraid that you will just have to buck up and cut some of that down and trust me, it ain’t as bad as you think (actually, mostly good) coz, Pinky Swear, I will show you why and how. Trust me?

WHY?

For those who get an orgasm reading stats, enjoy:

The livestock sector is responsible for about 37% of human-caused methane emissions, and about 65% of human nitrous oxide emissions (mainly from manure), globally (UN FAO). These 2 gases along with water vapour and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) are naturally occurring Green House Gases (GHG). Methane though, is a more potent GHG than CO2 (by about 20-30%) which means that gram for gram, methane warms the atmosphere more than CO2. Methane also has a much shorter lifetime in the atmosphere compared to CO2 (~10 years compared to 100s of years) which will produce more rapid impacts on the global climate. This also means that any reductions in methane emissions will see a faster decrease in atmospheric concentrations when compared to CO2.

One of the main ways in which the livestock sector contributes to global warming is through deforestation caused by expansion of pasture land and arable land used to grow feed crops. Overall, animal agriculture is responsible for about 9% of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions globally (UN FAO – see previous link).

Eshel et al. 2014 estimated that “beef production demands about 1 order of magnitude more resources than alternative livestock categories”. So, if you have to, stick to poultry or pork. But let’s be honest, Eating vegetables produces lower greenhouse gas emissions. For example, potatoes, rice, and broccoli produce approximately 3–5 times lower emissions than an equivalent mass of poultry and pork (Environmental Working Group). The reason is simple – it’s more efficient to grow a crop and eat it than to grow a crop, feed it to an animal as it builds up muscle mass, then eat the animal.

For those who hate figures and numbers:

I don’t want to go into animal cruelty or their breeding and, the slaughtering practises we humans have. All these reasons are valid as far as I am concerned, even though I am myself not a vegetarian. I would like to focus however, on other things like:

Protein: Many people, especially sporty people/ gym goers/ body builders and people who want to lose weight, believe in a high protein diet- for building and, repairing of muscles after exercise and, to feel fuller for longer while ingesting less calories. Makes sense! Most people also know that meat/chicken etc are “complete proteins”, whatever that means! Let me explain: The term “complete protein” refers to the presence of “essential amino acids”. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Of the 20 different amino acids, 9, known as “essential amino acids” can’t be produced by the body and we need to therefore eat them. In order to be considered complete, a protein must have all 9 of these amino acids in roughly equal amounts. So, yes, chicken, meat and eggs are complete proteins. But, humans don’t need every essential amino acid in every bite of food in every meal we eat! We only need a sufficient amount of each amino acid every day. Ergo, you don’t NEED to eat animal and animal products every day!

Also, how much protein do we need? There is a confusion about this. Here is a good read.

Hormones/ Antibiotics in food animals This is a special worry for me and the main reason I am prepared to pay over the top prices, once or twice a week, and buy organic meat/poultry. There is a raging controversy which you can read all about Here . A good reason to eat mostly vegetarian and especially if you can’t or refuse to pay organic!

Price: Let’s face it, vegetarian is wayyyyy cheaper.

Cholesterol: Bearing in mind that animal meat and derivatives can be fatty and can increase cholesterol and your risk of having heart attacks, arteriosclerosis etc. , this is another good reason to cut your animal intake.

HOW?

Remember that I said that we only need a sufficient amount of each amino acid every day? So, if you have lentils with a plate of rice – voilà, that’s a complete protein meal. Pita bread and hummus? Tick. Pasta with seitan? Tick. Peanut butter with bread? Tick. So you understand more easily, a rough guide to a vegetarian complete protein meal would be: A vegetarian protein source + any carbohydrate

A vegetarian protein source could be any legume ( beans, chickpeas, lentils soybeans, peanuts) or tofu/tempeh/soya/seitan/quorn + any carb like pasta, potatoes, polenta, rice, buckwheat/quinoa etc.

The good news is that there are quite a few complete vegetarian proteins too! Here is a link, One of my favourites has to be Seitan ( next post will show you how to make it) as it is easy to make, cheap, nutritious and delicious- what a combo!

Note: Can we live in an Organic world?

2821251_orig-1

In a mountainous region in North-eastern India, Sikkim (7.096 km2) is now a 100% organic state, with no chemical pesticides or fertilizers and no GMOs. By the end of 2015, all Sikkim’s farms had been certified organic by an independent certifying body. On January 18, 2016, at Sikkim’s Organic Festival, the Prime Minister of India declared the state fully organic. This matters because it shows that organic food in an entire region is possible. “Could organic food succeed in other areas, too?” YES IT CAN as we have an example here.

 

Note: Some Global Plastic Bans/Limits

bags-1Ecology/ environment consciousness/ sustainability can sometimes be disheartening as with knowledge, we become more and more aware of what needs to be done individually and as a collective. However, every progress must be celebrated and marked. So I thought that I would pause the steps and encourage you; me; us in our road to make our world more harmonious with nature.

You all know my hate for plastic bags which end up polluting our planet; around 8m tonnes of plastic makes its way into just the world’s oceans each year, posing a serious threat to the marine environment. Experts estimate that plastic is eaten by 31 species of marine mammals and more than 100 species of sea birds. How sad is that? Happily, a landmark European Parliament ruling in April 2015 means that all member states must achieve an 80% reduction in polyethylene bag use by 2025. While polyethylene can be recycled, waste collection services vary throughout regions and countries, which leads to confusion. It is estimated that 100 billion plastic carrier bags are used across just Europe per year, with 8 billion ending up as litter. Another reason for banning plastic bags is their fossil fuel burden. Plastic is not only made from petroleum-have a look at my post on how plastic is made-producing it typically requires a lot of fossil-fuel-derived energy. Throwing away plastic grocery bags each year means we are drilling for and importing millions of barrels worth of oil and natural gas for a convenient way to carry home a few groceries. Blehhhhhhh. Ergo, here is some HEARTENING INFO on this count:

flag_of_denmark-svgDENMARK: A tax on plastic carrier bags was introduced in Denmark in 1994. The tax had a remarkable effect on the use of plastic carrier bags in supermarkets, where customers buy the plastic carrier bags. In clothing and similar shops however, plastic carrier bags are offered free to customers by the shops, who pay the tax themselves. The introduction of the tax halved the consumption from around 800 million bags to 400 million bags, which amounts to around 80 bags per person annually. The retailer revenue has amplified the effects of the tax.

bangladeshBANGLADESH PLASTIC BAG BAN: In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country in the world to actually ban thinner plastic bags. This strict ban was introduced in 2002 after the occurrence of floods in 1998 where it was estimated that up to 80% of the city’s waterlogging was caused by polyethylene blocking drains. FYI, Bangladesh has an annual rainfall of up to 5 meters and holds the world record for the highest rainfall in a single day. Providing sufficient drainage infrastructure is a major challenge for the Government of Bangladesh and urban flooding is common. Plastic bags clog drains and waterways, threatening urban environments and creating severe safety hazards.

ireland-flagREPUBLIC OF IRELAND: The Republic of Ireland introduced a €0.15 tax on March 4, 2002. Levied on consumers at the point of sale, this led to 90% of consumers using long-life bags within a year. The tax was increased to €0.22 on July 1, 2007. The revenue is put into an Environment Fund. Hip, Hip Hurray!

 

flag_of_rwanda-svgRWANDA: In 2004, Rwanda prohibited shops from giving away plastic bags to their customers. The Rwandan government introduced tax breaks that encourage companies to recycle, instead of manufacture, plastic bags — thereby creating a totally new market for environment-friendly bags and as of 2008, non-biodegradable polythene bags are illegal. Eventually, the country is looking to ban other types of plastic and is even hinting at the possibility of becoming the world’s first plastic-free nation. Its constitution recognizes that “every citizen is entitled to a healthy and satisfying environment.” It also underlines each citizen’s responsibility to “protect, safeguard and promote the environment”. I am moving to Kigali!

luxembourg_large_flagLUXEMBOURG: Since reusable long-life bags were introduced in Luxembourg on a voluntary basis in 2004, waste from plastic bags has been reduced by around 85%.

 

 

eritrea-flagERITRA: Eritrea banned the use of plastic bags on January 2005. Since then, “those who import, produce, distribute or sell plastic bags are fined”, said the head of environment wing in the ministry of land, water and environment.

 

ugandaflagimage1UGANDA: In 2007, Uganda introduced legislation to ban the sale of lightweight plastic bags under 30µm thick and taxes thicker bags at a punitive rate of 120 percent. However, this was not very successful ergo in mid-April, 2015, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) banned the use of these popular lightweight bags with immediate effect. The ban covers selling, manufacture and importation.Many retailers at first, did not take it too seriously until mean-looking NEMA officials started knocking on their doors. Brilliant!

belgieBELGIUM: A plastic bag tax was adopted across Belgium on April 27, 2007. Single-use plastic shopping bags will be banned in the Brussels-Capital Region from 1 September 2017, the region’s environment minister, Céline Fremault, has announced. Initially the ban will cover supermarkets before being extended to all retailers in 2018.

 

bwBOTSWANA: Botswana introduced a levy on plastic bags that became effective on March 12, 2007. This led to many retailers charging a fee for plastic bags, further discouraging consumers from using them. But this has had many drawback so as of November 25, 2016, The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, has indicated that the government is planning to ban the use of plastic carrier bags in the country.

flagCHINA: The State Council, China’s parliament, imposed a ban on June 1, 2008 by prohibiting shops, supermarkets, and sales outlets from providing free plastic bags that are less than 0.025 millimeters thick. The State Administration of Industry and Commerce also threatened to fine shopkeepers and vendors as much as 10,000 yuan (US$1,465) if they were caught distributing free bags. Since the ban was implemented, use of plastic bags has dropped by more than two-thirds, said the Vice chief of energy-saving and environmental protection department under the NDRC, China’s top economic planner. The limit in bag production saved China 1.6 million tons of petroleum, the NDRC estimated.

35490418z3gp139495701993AUSTRALIA: Although the nation does not ban lightweight bags, the states of South Australia and North Territory along with some cities have independently banned the bag. Coles Bay, Tasmania was the first location in Australia to ban the bag. The introduction of the ‘Zero Waste’ program in South Australia led to its lightweight bag ban in October 2008. The ACT or the Australian Capital Territory banned plastic bags on 1 November 2011. It is estimated that 400 million bags are saved each year.

flag_of_mexico-svgMEXICO: Mexico fines stores for giving plastic bags to their customers since August 19, 2010. Plastic bags were one of Mexico’s biggest pollution problems.

 

 

brazil-flagBRAZIL: A ban was imposed in Sao Paolo state on January 25, 2012.When the law took effect, all grocery stores in the state had to offer customers heavy-duty reusable bags for purchase, biodegradable plastic bags sold at cost for BRL0.19 (US$0.10), or cardboard boxes for free, if the store had them available. Free plastic bags were no longer available. Public statistics show that more than 2.4 billion plastic bags are consumed each month in the state, 90 percent of which end up in the trash. A growing number of smaller cities around the country have embraced similar laws, and a handful of other Brazilian states introduced plastic bag bans in late 2012 that have held firm.

italy-flagITALY: In January 2011, Italy banned the distribution of plastic bags that are not from biodegradable sources.

 

 

 

flag_of_mauritania-svgMAURITANIA: In 2013, Mauritania banned the use, manufacture, and import of plastic bags. In this country, plastic bag manufacturers could be jailed for up to a year.

 

 

flag_of_the_united_states-svgUSA: As of July 2014, 20 states and 138 cities & counties across the U.S. had either bans in place or pending, meaning some 20 million U.S citizens are now living in an area where plastic bags are banned. The U.S alone uses 12 million barrels of oil every year to meet plastic bag demand. Every year in the U.S one hundred billion plastic bags are discarded.

nxz3cq6UNITED KINGDOM: Ever since England started charging 5p ( about US$0.7) for single-use plastic bags, in October 5, 2015, the number handed out dropped to 500m in the first six months since the charge, compared with 7bn the previous year, as per the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). That is a whopping 85% drop! England was the last part of the UK to adopt the 5p levy, after successful schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Wales began charging 5p for carrier bags on October 1, 2011, and by July 2012, evidence showed the number of plastic bags given away by shops had fallen by up to 96%. Northern Ireland introduced a similar levy in 2013 and Scotland followed in October 20, 2014, and within the first year, retailers showed that single-use carrier bag usage had fallen by more than 80% since the charge was introduced. This has all meant a decrease in millions of bags in circulation.WHOOT WHOOT!

255px-flag_of_india-svgINDIA: The Centre, on March 18, 2016, notified new plastic waste management rules for the country which will be implemented across the country within 6 months.
Under the new rules, carrying certain dos and don’ts for manufacturers, distributors, municipal bodies and panchayats, the government banned the manufacturing of plastic bags of below 50 microns as thinner bags currently pose a major threat to environment due to its non-disposability. Meanwhile Karnataka became the 1st Indian state with  a fully comprehensive plastic ban on plastic and all plastic and thermacol products. The state notification makes specific mention that plastic, no matter its thickness, will be banned across the State. The notification cites: “No shopkeeper, vendor, wholesale dealer, retailer, trader, hawker or salesman shall use plastic carry bags, plastic banners, plastic buntings, flex, plastic flags, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic spoons, cling films and plastic sheets for spreading on dinning table irrespective of thickness including the above items made of thermacol and plastic which use plastic micro beeds.”
The notification also bars manufacturers from producing the aforementioned plastic products, store or supplying or transporting the same. BRAVO KARNATAKA!

germanflagGERMANY: Germany’s government has signed an agreement with the retail industry to curb the use of plastic bags as of April 24, 2016. A key part of the plan is getting retailers to stop giving away bags for free. Under this deal, customers in German shops and department stores can expect to pay higher fees for plastic bags from July 1. The change also means that retailers offering free bags will gradually be much harder to find.

flag_of_france-svgFRANCE: After pressure from shoppers, the biggest supermarkets in France imposed a ban on free carrier bags. They now charge between 2p and 42p for reusable bags. This has removed millions of free bags from high streets. The city of Paris adopted a full ban, effective on January 2007. Also, France has recently passed a new law to ensure all plastic cups, cutlery and plates can be composted and are made of biologically-sourced materials. The law, which comes into effect in 2020, is part of the Energy Transition for Green Growth – the same legislation that also outlawed plastic bags in grocery stores and markets beginning in July. Although plastic bags are forbidden in other countries — including in some U.S. states — no country seems to have embraced a plastic ban as sweeping as France’s will be. This is part of an ambitious plan that aims to allow France to make a more effective contribution to tackling climate change. FORMIDABLE!

flag_of_tanzania-svgTANZANIA: The government has issued a notice of intention to impose a total ban on plastic bags by the 1st of January 2017 in another sign that it is determined to enforce the law enacted in 2013 to that effect. The Permanent Secretary in the Vice-President’s Office said in a public notice in August 2016 that the government has provided four-month grace period to owners of plastic bags manufacturing factories to take specific steps by investing in an alternative bags and plastic waste recycling facilities.

Senegal, South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Ethiopia and Malawi are other African countries that have limited the use, adopted or announced bans on the use of plastic shopping bags.

To be honest, despite the wonderful intentions, some of these limits and bans have not been very effective as changing people’s mind takes longer than changing legislation. However, hope is always there and I believe that as people become more aware, this type of environmentally harmful plastic will gradually be phased out. So, KUDOS to all the governments/countries/governments and people who are trying their best for a cleaner environment for us and our children 🙂

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!