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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Jam Drops, Plastic-Reducing Wins

Life here is a flurry of music, bag making, gardening and cooking - not that blogable at the moment but day-filling all the same.

Last week Derek wanted to shout morning tea for his ex workmates (approx 50 people) and was going to buy it all. I said "no, I can do that" (thinking reduced packaging), so whipped up date scones, my favourite cracker recipe with cheeses, cut up rock melon and pineapple and made a batch of Jam Drops. All of these recipes are quick and simple, and are staples in my kitchen.

Jam Drops

This recipe makes 35.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C

1/2 cup of milk (I use 2 Tbsp milk powder and  1/2c boiling water)
3/4 cup of sugar
1 tsp Baking Soda
450g flour
250g butter

Mix the milk and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Add the baking soda, then cool.
Mix the flour and butter until finely mixed. The food processor is your friend here if you have one.
Mix with the sugar/ milk mix and stir to a firm dough.
Roll heaped teaspoonfuls in your hand and place on a baking tray. Poke a well into each one and fill with jam. 
A sprinkle of coconut over each one will stop the jam from boiling over.
Bake for 10 - 15 minutes.
I can tell you that if you forget to put the baking soda in - they will still turn out ok 😄

This recipe came from a lovely book - worth a look if you find it...

Beautiful photography, grandma-style recipes, wonderful garden and country decor.

Our team at Plastic Bag-Free Northland celebrate all plastic-reducing wins, and lately it seems there have been a few. Our local butchery, Omak, have told us that they've had a meeting and have decided to order in their own reusable bags and will be charging people to use plastic bags. They will also be actively encouraging people to bring in their own containers.
This is a result of many of us greenies shopping there, and management having just taken a Pacific Island holiday and being disgusted by the plastic problem they saw there.

Our Kamo Bin Inn now give me all the sacks that their bulk food comes in, and our Boomerang Bags group is turning them into reusable bags. They are woven plastic, but it's better than dumping them and they are strong.

A local food co op has asked if we can provide them with hundreds of these bags to replace the plastic bags they currently send out each week. It's a big undertaking, but worthwhile. I wish we had more people to sew, but we're working on it.
The Food Co-op send out five times this many bags each week

Our thoughts are with everyone around the world struggling to cope with the devastation from the previous storms and now Hurricane Maria, and the earthquake in Mexico. The world is struggling in so many ways. I can only carry on in my own small ways to try to help Mother Earth.💗💗

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

2 Movies, 2 Bargains and More

Viewing two environmental movies in one week could be somewhat depressing. For me, it just reinforces how we need to keep working away at reducing waste, cleaning up what we can, writing letters to companies and the government and voting wisely.
The first one we saw was A Plastic Ocean. We know the situation is dire, but this has us thinking twice about eating fish because of how much toxin laden plastic they have been found to be eating. 

The second was Al Gore's An Inconvenient Sequel. Some reviews that I have seen called him self promoting and gave this movie lower marks than his first, An Inconvenient Truth, but I admire him. He is a wonderfully passionate speaker and uses his time to draw attention to the environmental crisis.
It's good to see the bigger picture, and some positives in there too.
The current situation in Houston is one more reminder of how furious storms are becoming, and how devastating, as predicted in the movie. We watch the news and feel for the people there. 

On a cheerier note a couple of bargains from op shopping. I won't buy new if I can help it, so when our clock in the bathroom died, we tried to go without, but we both missed it. I decided to visit our local Habitat for Humanity shop (Every Sale Bangs a Nail) and found 2 possible replacements. As they had no batteries in them, I couldn't tell if they worked - but for $2 and$1, I bought them both. Well they both work, although one was so noisy we could hear it ticking all over the house (probably why it had been donated). I set to with some cardboard and wadding to the back of it for sound insulation and now can barely hear it.
Now that I've seen the time - I should be cooking dinner!

My other bargain that I found there was a set of Caran D'Ache soft pastels. I had been wanting to buy pastels for a while, so when I saw this barely touched set for $10 I snaffled them up. Online later I looked up the price of a new set - $266! (They are artist quality)

...And some happy news from the garden - our avocado tree has 35 fruit on it! They are around $3 each here at the moment, so we're very pleased.
Also after several attempts we now have sugar cane growing.
I have been on my 3rd bout of cold and flu, but Derek, bless him, has been working away to clean up our vegetable garden. Today we have picked up a trailer load of compost to top it up, and most of the seeds are in trays in our enclosed outdoor area, already starting to peek through. Roll on Spring. 

Monday, 14 August 2017

Reusing Cellophane

Cellophane -(taken from ehow)
In 1908, a Swiss chemist, Jacques Brandenberger, was attempting to make a stain-proof tablecloth while working in a French textile factory. He coated the tablecloth with a viscose film but soon realized that no one would buy these "plastic" cloths. He did realize that this viscose film held other possibilities. Ten years later, he had developed a machine that would produce what he called "cellophane'"-- "cello" from cellulose and "phane" from "diaphane," which is French for "transparent." In 1919, cellophane was publicly distributed and, in 1927, the film was improved with a waterproof lacquer.

While most "cellophane" is biodegradable, still made from cellulose, some is not and is just made to look like it from plastic. I always check the packaging before buying.

Just because it's biodegradable, it doesn't mean cellophane shouldn't be reused, but normally after it's first use it is a crumpled mess. I have had a go at ironing the used cellophane under an old silk scarf - or I guess you could also use brown paper -  just a barrier to stop it melting onto your iron. I used a silk setting on the iron. I'm so delighted with how it came out! It has a new texture - not the same as new - more like fine leather. It looks new, but just a different product.

Used cellophane at top, ironed below (the pattern is on the ironing board)

More Bags

You know I'm all about making bags lately so I wanted to show you some materials that I've sourced from our band's drummer, who is a farmer. They use 500 of these calf feed bags per season and the big white bags are fertilizer bags. None of these are recyclable, although the farmers do reuse lots of them.
On one I have laminated some soft plastics, using my iron. I'm showing them to the Boomerang Bag girls today - I wonder if they'll love or hate them.

Finally, so that you know I don't just spend my life making bags and recycling's a pic of our band playing this weekend just gone at the Bay of Islands 2017 Jazz and Blues Festival...

"Inertia" - yup that's me - sax player.

Friday, 28 July 2017

A Lovely Story that Made My Day

It's just a post to let you know I'm still here! I have just been doing more of the same lately, and sometimes inspiration fails...but I have a cute story, and something zero waste that I've on!

Fresh from the garden

Last weekend as I did my two hour stint with reusable bags for people to buy at the local supermarket entrance ($1 each - bargain!), I had a local taxi pull up next to me. The driver hopped out and bought ten bags, then came back a few minutes later with a $5 donation to our cause. I told her that I would use her money to give 5 bags to someone who I thought would use them. 
Minutes later a young mum with two children was about to enter the supermarket, and when I asked if she would use these donated bags, she was really pleased to accept them. 
A while later she exits with her shopping - no plastic bags used and a big smile. Her young son asks her as they walked away "Mum what is that lady doing?"
Young mum answers "She's trying to stop people using plastic bags because they are bad for the Earth".
I've shared that story via our Facebook page tagging the taxi company - so hopefully Rose got to see it. It made my day.

Teabags are no longer something I buy, given that I can't trust who puts plastic in them and who doesn't. We've been using loose tea - which is far nicer by the way - in little metal strainers or teapots. But sometimes it would be convenient to have teabags - so I'm trialing how much hassle it is to use reusable ones. Here are my samples that I made from some silk remnants.

I'm not much into the garden at present - it's too cold and wet. But the price of veges at the moment! I'm sometimes surprised by the amount of produce that I can round up, by walking about outside...Limes, oranges, guavas, avocados, kale, spinach, some stray broccoli that grew by itself, rhubarb, plus there is more - lemonades, spring onions, lemons, mandarins, herbs. We are very fortunate.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Volunteer - It's Rewarding!

It took me a few years into my (early) retirement to be ready to get out and turn up for the causes that I'm passionate about, and it came about by accident really. 
One day I was writing letters with suggestions for environmental change - and the next I found myself working alongside a dedicated little group to promote a plastic-free market, then added in helping to run a community sewing group, as one thing lead to another.

I have got so much more out of these groups than I have put in. I've met some fabulous like-minded people, and had loads of positive feedback, plus I'm working to change things that are important to me.
A few weeks back our local volunteer organization held a promotion in the city to showcase all of the local groups who are looking for volunteers. The marquee walls were lined with opportunities to give a little time in a plethora of different ways - anything from gardening to preparing food to sewing banners or volunteer firefighting.

That's not me in the pic - thanks Trish from Volunteering Northland for the pic

I thought how wonderful these opportunities would be for the bored or the lonely or the unemployed or the depressed.

 Today I have just offered to join a nation-wide group who harvest fruit that is going to waste and redirect it to people in need. The group also preserve or freeze fruit, or turn it into jams and chutneys to give away. I'm looking forward to meeting a whole new bunch of people and  new experiences, and even less housework getting done.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Bag Lady, Ball Gowns and the Benefit of Hoarding

Ball season is upon us in NZ, with school balls costing parents an arm and a leg.
Katie had her second school ball last weekend, which of course required a different dress to the year before. Last year's dress still hangs in the wardrobe, despite listing it for sale.
I discovered a shop in Albany that hires out new gowns. They are still expensive at around $120 to hire, but generally half the price of a new one, plus they handle the cleaning of them. A much more environmentally friendly option too.
Katie found one that she liked, but it had a bare area over the breastbone - somewhat immodest for a 16 year old. I found a motif that I already had that worked perfectly, hand stitched it on and removed it prior to returning the gown.

Bags, bags, bags - that's what I've been making for the past week or two.
The first lot is to help a fellow zero waster who is running a conference and wants to include reusable produce bags with one topic of the conference covering environmental sustainability in the Early Childhood Education area. She wants 250 bags! So I have been busy with my overlocker and net remnants donated by our local curtain shops.
I've also had requests from people to make produce bags - one was a young mum needing chemical-free material. I whipped her up some made from damaged vintage sheets and a tablecloth from my stash (how can you let those lovely vintage materials go?) and she was delighted with them.

The other set was for a young lady in her early twenties. This young lady works in a supermarket and has got the produce manager to agree to stock reusable produce bags! (I gave her a link to commercial ones, I'm not making those) I find it really exciting that there are so many youngsters coming on board with zero waste.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

More Plastic Bag Free Roll-out

Do you love social media? I'm not into all of them, but blogs and Facebook and Messenger I love.
One Facebook group that I follow is Journey to Zero Waste. It has 46,800 worldwide members. How heartening is that?! It's a closed page that you ask to join, and your comments or posts are only shown on that page.

I have met like-minded people via some of these sites, just recently someone from nearby as passionate about reducing plastic in our city as I am. 
She's joining us with our Grower's Market project - we are planning to make enough produce bags for the biggest stallholders to put items in for those people who insist on a plastic bag for items that then go into their reusable bags - go figure! Thanks Pania!

Curtain samples - fortunately most of the remnants were not in this form

Our local curtain shops have been great - donating remnants of nets and sheers for us to sew up. We're going to make the bags big enough to hold a whole cabbage, with no drawstring top.

The Supermarket Project  

We've had two weeks now, spending 2 hours in front of our Regent Countdown supermarket, encouraging people to use reusable bags. After the first 20 minutes we decided to start keeping a tally of who shopped with what, so that we could log progress.
Both weeks were very similar in numbers. Japanese student Kotori came to help us last week, making a beautiful neat tally.

The figures showed:

95 people used plastic bags including 11 people who left with just a single item in a plastic bag.
20 people used reusable bags
2 people had a mix of both
23 people left with no bag - just carrying the items

and we sold 42 bags on the first day and 53 on the second Saturday.

Now that might not seem like a lot of bags, but if they are reused for their estimated lifetime of 100 uses, that's 9,500 plastic bags saved.

We were delighted that the supermarket manager came out to see us as we were finishing up - saying that he's happy for us to continue past our month's trial!