Sharing Zero Waste Eco-Friendly Tips, Inspiration and Success.

Mother (Nature) knows best: Waste is Food.

Or at least, it should be.

What have we created, that so much of the stuff we produce as humans ends up...doing absolutely nothing but taking up space and polluting?

It was never ok, and now it has become impossible not to see the result of this completely unsustainable way of life.

So step by step, let’s make a change, and go back to the natural law of zero-waste. It’s a hard thing to go against the mainstream current, but if we are kind and patient with ourselves, we can break free of the buy-and-discard cycle.

I believe in little steps.

And fun.

So I’ll share my top hacks that are so easy I can’t believe I didn’t always do it...and the fact that there are so many cheap ways to make my own stuff makes me giggle. I hope you’ll enjoy trying them:

  1. Repurpose glass jars: always choose the pretty jar when you buy jam (or pickles, or whatever). I’m obsessed with Bonne-Maman jams as much as their jars. The label comes off so easily and I collect them for all kinds of storage, display, flowers...

  2. Reusable bags: seems crazy to me now to be handed a plastic bag at a grocery store. With COVID it’s been trickier because the supermarket would no longer allow customers to bring their own bags...but we figured out to put things back in the cart after paying, then transferring to our own reusable bags in the parking lot. I toss bags regularly in the washing machine. You could make your own, or...permission to buy super cute ones! Get a few and keep them in different places - purse, car, backpack, by the door…

  3. I love lemons! It’s not just that I make lemonade when given lemons...I use them for all sorts of cleaning around the house. The acid in lemon juice is antibacterial and antiseptic - my surface cleaner is a glass spray bottle filled with a mix of vinegar and lemon juice. (click here for a recipe and a bunch of other uses)

  4. Another favorite multi-use product is Tea-Tree Oil. This one costs a little more to buy but is very potent (and I mean it can be toxic, so no ingesting it or letting kids play with it!) A couple drops in a glass of water to soak and disinfect toothbrushes once a week; add a teaspoon or two to specially smelling laundry like pet beds (or gym clothes!); make your own hand-sanitiser.

5. Do you use a natural loofah? And don’t like throwing it out? Don’t! You can still use it to make your own exfoliating soap. Simply slice rounds of your old loofah, place them in soap molds. Melt soap by cutting it into cubes and microwaving for about 30 seconds. Mix well and pour directly over the cut up rounds of loofah. Let stand until set. You could even take this a step further and make your own soap! (More uses for loofah/luffa here)

6. Now for clothing. Getting rid of beloved jeans has got to be the most frustrating. Good jeans that feel and fit well are so hard to find, right? So...once, when I just couldn’t let go, I...yeah, turned them into shorts. Am I the only one who still does that? Now for more ambitious ladies, they could be turned into a skirt, and it is indeed a beginner thing. So go for it, make a hip denim skirt out of your fave old jeans! (Thank you Spruce Crafts!)

  1. Get a weekly box from a local farm! I love that one. It is so easy and a delicious part of the win-win paradigm. Farmers win because they receive a direct and steady stream of income (without losing to a middle man). Earth wins because most of the produce is organic and local. And we win because we save ourselves a boring trip to the store!

See Country Living article here and The Independent article here to find the right veggie box for you.

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Of all the plants and flower-friends a girl can have, the BFF has got to be calendula officinalis.

My skin has been a happy beneficiary of calendula since long before I even knew it was a flower...or what it looked like.

And, I’m a little embarrassed to admit, it’s fairly recently that I realised that calendula, also known as Pot Marigold, is *not* the same flower you see in the opulent garlands at your Indian friends’ weddings. Why pot marigold, or English marigold, from the daisy family, would share a name with a flower from a different genus is beyond me, especially since they do look alike. Which is probably why they share a name…

But enough about names, what is important is to know how to recognise a proper calendula officinalis flower because it has SO many benefits besides being pretty, resilient, perennial, low-maintenance, versatile, oh I could go on and on. (Whereas its--let’s call her ‘mean cousin’-- the marigold of the genus Tagetes is only pretty, but toxic to animals and humans to ingest.)

If you are foraging, make absolutely sure you know your calendula from a marigold. Quick tip: the marigold makes straight black seeds with a white tip. Calendula produces brown, U-shaped seeds with small bumps along the exposed surface. (More details on the differences here).

You can easily find dried calendula flowers if you are eager to get started on your calendula DIY projects. But if you can, the best is to grow calendula from seeds. Why? Because it’s easy! And oh-so-rewarding! Even a novice gardener will obtain eye-pleasing bright flowers. You don’t need to worry about soil type or finicky watering needs. Calendula is a perennial in mild climates, but even as an annual (where things get frosty), it can self-sow, or its seeds can be easily collected and replanted. Come sun or shade, out or in-doors, calendula will show up for you.

Also delightful: calendula loves to share her flowers. The more you pick, the more abundant the flowering will be. So pick away, and have fun using the pretty flowers for:

  1. Tea: add 1 tablespoon of fresh flowers (two teaspoons dried) to cold water. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer or allow to steep for about 10 minutes. You can use it to drink to soothe internal mucous membranes, or as a healing warm compress for sunburns, rashes, sores, even eye infections. Refrigerate for up to a week any tea you don’t use right away.

  2. Calendula oil : The anti-inflammatory and antiseptic compounds in the oil are fantastic for wound healing and skin conditions. Fill a sterilized glass jar with dried calendula flowers and cover the flowers with a high quality oil: olive, almond, or grapeseed work well. Cover the jar and let it sit in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks, shaking or stirring occasionally. Strain the plant material from the oil using two or three layers of cheesecloth, and refrigerate the oil until ready for use. You can rub the oily cheesecloth bag holding the spent flowers onto your face or hands as a moisturizer. To help prevent the oil from going rancid, add two or three drops of benzoin essential oil or half a teaspoon of tincture of benzoin per half cup of oil, along with a few drops of rosemary or lavender oil.

  3. Salve/Ointment: add three or four teaspoons of melted beeswax per half cup of warmed oil in a double boiler, and stir well until the mixture begins to cool. Pour into a suitable glass or metal container and seal. If the salve is too hard, reheat it and add a bit more oil; if it’s too runny, add a bit more beeswax.

For more on the fabulous uses of the pot marigold, Lovely Greens has an excellent, detailed guide on growing calendula and using it in skincare.

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It's 5pm and I’ve retreated indoors to enjoy a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon and honey. A bit of cosy relaxation after a sunny afternoon spent in the garden pulling up Ivy and Stinging Nettle to expose the glorious dark soil beneath. More space for raised garden beds made from recycled pallets! See our previous article on recycling pallets and DIY here.

Now - - After an attractive avocado led me to lift the 24 September 2020 Waitrose Weekend paper I was very pleased to see on page 3 an article that recommends a way to reduce landfill waste caused by throwaway fashion.

Don’t forget you can recycle clothes too!

In fact there are a number of leading retailers publicising their awareness of fashion and it’s significant contribution to landfill and buyer awareness is on the up. WRAP and the British Guardian found that over 300,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill and incineration via household bins. Think - - the African Elephant is the largest land animal and one male adult weighs between 1,800 and 6,300 kg (2 and 7 tons/ 4,000 and 14,000 lb) so 43,000 elephants or 1,200 of the Statue of Liberty! - - That’s a lot of waste.

Speaking of plastic waste and elephants the Guardian has an interesting article about this.

Can we take action?

It turns out there are a few options. Some of which I didn’t know about!

  1. Fashion buy-back service: John Lewis was trialing a which is now suspended due to the COVID pandemic but is a cool idea. Who wouldn't want to sell their used unwanted clothing, knowing it will be responsibly disposed of? Watch this space.

  2. Slow fashion movement: check out this sewing blog where you can get lessons on how to restyle older or unloved items that is said to bring about a satisfaction that brings mental wellbeing and joy. Some retailers have aspirations similar to Waitrose to phase out all non-recyclable plastic from all packaging by 2021.

  3. Make your clothes last longer: wash your clothes in lower temperatures and repair when possible

  4. Swap clothes with friends and family: this can actually be a lot of fun and an interesting way to acquire much coveted clothing. Thank you Claudia Morales for the items you have given me over the course of our friendship!

  5. Explore charity shops: A friend of mine who is a Chemistry teacher shopped for suits at Charity shops near-to-Finchley Road Station and I have to tell you they have some really nice shops. So rather than buy new, buy used that are in great order and shop knowing your hard earned money is going to a great cause like shelter for the homeless or helping sick children.

  6. Quality: above all, when buying new clothes, stick to garments of high quality and avoid clothes that contain plastic materials.

You can learn more