30 October 2014

Make recycled food labels for your plastic free and zero waste pantry

Looking for a plastic free, zero waste and sustainable alternative to labeling the food in your kitchen? Look no further, I have you covered. 

recycled food labels
When I started on shedding plastic from my life I naturally tackled my food cupboards first. That was where most of the unnecessary plastic packaging hid. I began storing my food in glass containers when I made the switch from pre-packaged food to bulk bought food. I mainly collected jars from Opportunity stores and kept some old food jars too. Many of these jars came without labels. While I knew the name of most items there have been instances where I went to pick up the polenta and instead grabbed the falafel mix. Plus I am not sure the Builder knows what beans are what…but that’s a different kettle of fish. These jars needed labels, stat.

I did not want to buy a marker for the purpose of labeling my glass jars. A marker would create so much unnecessary waste during its production and then sit in landfill for years after the ink had dried up. I thought about painting names on but I swap jars as they empty, and when I wash them the paint would no doubt come off.

So I created my own sustainable, reusable and compostable labels while upcycling old toilet rolls in the process. These can be taken off before washing and moved around different jars to your hearts content.

Scissors or a stanley knife
Toilet paper rolls
2 x Pencils

Flatten your toilet rolls and cut down the fold, then cut in half again, giving you four pieces.

Pick a side to write your label on, then flip over. Take two of your pencils and using one of the pencils top flat side trace a circle around the pencil onto the top edge of your label. You could use a pen or crayon or even a stainless steel or glass straw…because you live plastic free and have a these right?

After doing this, draw an X inside the circle. Take your scissors or stanley knife and cut the lines of the cross. This is where you will pull your twine through that will attach your label to your jar.
Flip your label over and write the name of your food onto the label. I just used a black pencil. You can use whatever you wish.
Cut your twine. I cut mine at 40cm.

Then fold in half and pinch at the place it is folded over. Now push 5cm of the looped twine through the hole. Take the other two ends through the loop and pull.
Marvel at what you have made.
recycled food labels
Tie your new label around your jar, put back into cupboard and never be confused again.

TIP: If you are using old jars that have old labels on them here is a trick to remove them easily. Soak in hot soapy water. Try and remove the label by peeling at the edges. If you have some left over residue from the labels use an oil like lavender, eucalyptus or tea tree oil on a cloth and rub over the residue to remove it.

The Builder thinks our pantry looks professional..whatever that means? What do you think? Are you a fan of the labels? 

Happy Thursday,
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28 October 2014

Learning to let go

I wrote in my last post that my hiatus was busy but sadly not as productive as I had planned. A dose of illness was mixed in leaving me with plans that went astray. It is nice to be back on the blog, writing about my eco journey. I was afforded some time to do a spring clean. I slowly piled up items that we don't use and have two or three of (like three cheese graters?!) and took them to our local Op shop. There were two items that I kept picking up and putting down again. I would stand and stare at them, knowing too tell they had to go but I couldn't figure out why I could not shake them off.

What was even more baffling is that both items were broken. Unable to be used. They sat on a shelf above my desk. One of the items had been broken for two and a half years.

Learning to let go

The first item that sat in pieces was a mug that I had bought when I moved to England. I had just arrived in London, my life packed up in a suitcase. I was staying at a friends place, sleeping on their kitchen floor (they were in a small studio room in Stockwell). After two weeks of applying for jobs and rooms to rent I decided to go and explore the country I had moved to. The jobs and room could wait. It was a bitter and cold winter morning in January when I jumped on a train to Salisbury. I had only intended to go for the weekend but this turned into an adventure that took me down to St. Ives on the Cornwall Coast. I visited a variety of small towns along the way, marvelled at Tintagle, watched the surfers in Torquay, ate fish and chips in Penzance and then settled into St. Ives for a week renting a room above a pub. I was on my own, free to wander and do as a pleased. It was bliss.

St. Ives has a rich art history and it was here that I discovered the Bernard Leach pottery house. I visited often during the week talking with the local potters and learning more about the area. So before I returned to London, I decided to take Bernard Leach mug as a momentum of the wonderful two weeks I had.

I have had this mug with me since. It was my special mug. Never went into a dishwasher. Usually sat on my bedside table. It was not special because it was a Bernard Leach design. It was special because I attached sentimental feelings to it. So when I dropped it one night in the bathroom as I went to fill it up with water, I was close to tears. It was a bit silly in retrospect. I have many wonderful memories of that trip that could be conjured up, and continue to be, without the need of a mug.

The other broken item that I could not bring myself to part with was also a souvenir. They were two decorative wall hanging plates, part of a 12 piece set. According to my Danish friends they are the kind of thing you would see at your grandmothers house...a bit daggy and not very trendy. But I liked them. They told the story of a woman and a man falling in love, each plate showing a month of the year. I bought them at a garage sale while enjoying a Saturday drive around Southern Denmark near Ondense. Anyway two broke on the move back to Australia (I did not pack them very well..). During the whole two years I was in London, these hanging plates never hung on a wall and when I got back to Australia three years ago, they sat in a box until early this year.

Learning to let go
Learning to let go
I wanted to get the two broken plates fixed but new it would not be a easy fix with some small parts missing. If they hung on a wall my eyes would focus on the imperfection. And part of me did not want to throw them out because then I would not have a complete set. Only I would know that. I doubt the Builder or any of my friends would know March and December were missing unless they were experts in Danish decorative art from the 1960s. The photo above is of me at the garage sale. I had just cut all my hair off and looking very Fraulein Maria. I do not need the plates or even the photo. The memory is fully intact.

I was able to move pass the sentimental attachment and instead have decided to break up the pieces and use them as drainage in pot plants. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate somewhere to recycle pottery so this was the best solution. Either way hanging onto them as they were was not productive and now they are being productive.

This somewhat idiotic process taught me that I need to not attach sentimental feelings to items. The world will keep turning without the mug – I have a cupboard full of mugs that work just as well. The plates will look nice on our wall if two are missing. I have written before about the need to value our stuff. But sometimes our things break by accident. If they are worth fixing I will fix them. But holding onto them, hoping that they might be fixed when they cannot, does not serve me. If they have been sitting there untouched for over two years then it is a sign to pass it on and give it another life.

Perhaps being able to let go is the key to a simple life and wanting less stuff.

Congratulations you made it this far. I promise the next blog post won't be as wordy. Tell me, do you find it easy to let go? Are you a big souvenir collector?

Letting go,
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21 October 2014

Welcome back + quick update

Ever heard of the saying ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray’?

No? Yes? Does it matter?

Either way I did not get everything of what I had planned with my two week blog hiatus. But that is life. I got everything else in order except to work on this space here. There have been some adjustments like explaining in detail Why I Quit Plastic and I began putting up categories for easy browsing.

Having said that I finally (FINALLY!) had time to perfect making my own lip balm.

Making lip balm is actually very easy. What made it difficult was adding colour to the mixture. I have not perfected the right colour yet but I think I am getting there. It was a little bit of an arduous process collecting everything but now I have it I can have another crack soon. This mixture contains coconut oil, beeswax and cocoa butter with hibiscus. The hibiscus was troublesome but not as much of a letdown as fresh beetroot juice. I used dried hibiscus, the form you would use as a tea. I mixed it in with the coconut oil for 30 minutes hoping colour would leach out but nothing happened. Which was kind of frustrating because all you have to do is add a drop of water to a dried hibiscus flower and the colour bleeds out. So I dumped that mixture out into the garden and tried again.

Welcome back + quick update

I then proceeded to put the flowers into a grinder which was messy and only resulted in touch of colour when added to the oil. So I divided the remainder of the ground hibiscus into two bottles and topped one up with almond oil and one with jojoba oil. These two oils are a lot lighter than coconut oil and not as greasy. I am hoping that after a month the colour would have diffused in one of the oils. Hopefully almond oil has the best response because I can buy that in bulk and reuse my containers. I cannot find Jojoba oil in bulk and would have to buy a bottle with a plastic lid. When you live plastic free and waste free it really is these small things that can upset the apple cart. I honestly believed mascara would be far more difficult than lip balm. I won’t put up a recipe until it is ready and full proof.

Avoiding virgin plastic and aiming to create no waste does make the DIY beauty learning process a little more difficult. But I know I will get there. Plus I am saving so much money.

Talking about money and I am going shampoo free instead giving bicarb and vinegar a go. Vinegar is very cheap and serves as a great multipurpose item to have. Clothes and house cleaning, cooking, face toner, hair conditioner...I am sure to find many other great uses for this product. So far the no poo has been ok. I gave up regular shampoo three years ago and have slowly been migrating to more simple shampoo bars. The last one I was using only had three ingredients. I will admit that I can now wash my hair just once a week and with my long mane, is makes me happy…and probably makes the Builder happy also as I used to take forever in the shower when I was washing my hair.

So that is why I am trying this no shampoo idea. So I can wash my hair less. I have to say I am really liking the way my hair feels after I wash it with the bicarb and vinegar. My scalp feels clean but not dry.

The only problem is that we have stone tiles in our shower and stone is not great friends with vinegar. Something I have learnt. So now I am washing my hair in the laundry sink.

Welcome back + quick update

I have wanted to cut my hair off for a long time and donate to charity. My friend inspired me to do it in 2012…well I have not made the snip yet. I keep saying I will after complaining about the effort that goes into my hair. I told someone the other day that I would cut it off in January. If it was short it would be so much easier to wash it in a sink that’s for sure. I will update next year with my experiment.

I will say that using apple cider vinegar in my hair has made it a richer red. If you want to make the switch I suggest reading this book Happy Hair: The definitive guide to giving up shampoo. It is fantastic and I recommend it to anyone thinking of making the switch.

Okay this blog post was meant to be a quick update of life over the last two weeks. Before it gets any longer I would like to add that I did manage to write a post for Sarah on Creating Contentment. I wrote about why I make my own beauty products. I loved writing this post for Sarah and sharing my story. Make sure you grab a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable because Sarah has fantastic beauty recipes that are perfect for zero waste and plastic free beauty DIY as part of her 31 days of homemade beauty.

It is good to be back,
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7 October 2014

My 100th post!

Hello! Guess what today is? My 100th post. I have hit the publish button more times than I imagined I ever would. And I reckon I have another 100 in me…probably more. 

So to celebrate this milestone I am taking a hiatus for two weeks. Namely because…

  • Work is kicking my butt. I am working on a project that is gaining momentum and will be concluding in the coming months. While life if shifting gears I need to prepare so I can enjoy this and work at the same time. Right now I am squeezing this out on my lunch break because I know when I get home tonight I won’t want to look at my computer…or any screen for that matter. 

  • My house is in need of a spring clean. 

  • I have an artwork I need to finish for a friend. I am sure that before your eyes move to the next dot point you are wondering why I am painting when most paint comes in plastic tubes!? I have a blog post coming up about this…

  • This week I am co-hosting a charity trivia night. The event has been some months in the making and I look forward to enjoying it. While it is the second one I have run I still have first time jitters. Send positive thoughts if you can spare some.

  • The Builder is heading overseas on a business trip and I would like to spend quality time with him before he goes. Usually I get home from work, gobble my food then rush up stairs to write. Not this week. 

  • There are a couple bits and bobs I want to add to this blog to make it more accessible. I have had some feedback from friends about what I can do to make this site user friendly in terms of finding content and I would like to implement this. It won't be gigantic overhaul. Just subtle shifts. 

The Rogue Ginger won’t be vanishing completely. I will be sharing on Instagram and Facebook over the two weeks. Come say hello. 
See you in two weeks, 
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2 October 2014

Like buying new? Don't feel guility and swap to shop + win two tickets to National Swap Day

Women wear only 30% of their wardrobe. I can attest to this and I bet you can too. We all have our fave items that are on rotation each week with the rest sitting there worn only a number of times. No wonder standing in front of our closets can be frustrating.

Like buying new? Don't feel guility and swap to shop + win two tickets to National Swap Day
We are faced with bulging closets but only pull out the items we know makes us look good and feel good.

There is no shame in wanting something new to wear. But this desire can be expensive and really is not that sustainable. Especially if we are adding clothes to our wardrobe to compensate for only pulling out 30% each week. No matter how much we buy we never seem to wear 100% of it.

Each spring people around the world clean out their homes, emptying the stuff they don't use and then filling it with new. We must be spoilt with stuff to complete a purge of our wardrobes each year. In reality spring cleaning was originally the act of opening the windows and letting fresh air into the home and giving the house a good clean. Not empty it and fill it with new stuff because we can. This is the type of attitude that taxes our natural resources and adds to the already mountains of waste we have.

It could be said that removing and cleaning out our wardrobe creates a good feeling. Releasing. Purging. Letting go. 

When we are surrounded by so many images of new season looks it can be hard to ignore the push to keep up. Perhaps there is something inside us that makes us want new too. It could be to try something out – to experiment. I don't think there is anything wrong with this. There should be no guilt wanting to try something new. What we need to do is open ourselves up to an updated definition of new so that we all can experience new. Let's define new as something that passes into our hands for the first time. Let's all be nice and share.

One of the most sustainable ways to enjoy new stuff is through collaborative consumption. 

I have written about collaborative consumption and some of my fave ways to share rather than buy new. Sharing allows for that joyful feeling of letting go without the guilt of waste. Getting involved in the cycle of sharing brings new items into your life. When I became more and more involved with sharing, the attachment factor on my wardrobe stated disappear as I realised my clothing is not mine but part of a cycle. 

The Clothing Exchange has declared October 9th to be the fourth annual National Swap Day.

To commemorate the day, The Clothing Exchange will host simultaneous clothing swaps in Melbourne, Sydney and the Sunshine Coast to create environmental awareness and social change by starting with our overstuffed wardrobes. Sharing is a playful alternative to shopping that saves patrons their pennies and the planet too. It creates community. I love going to clothing swaps. I have found many gems and passed on my own items to new closets.

The Clothing Exchange has generously offered two tickets for you and a friend to celebrate National Swap Day at one of their events in Melbourne, Sydney or the Sunshine Coast.

To WIN tell me what your favourite second hand/thrift store item of clothing is and why by emailing hello@therogueginger.com OR in the comments below by Sunday 5th October 2014. Winner will be notified Monday 6th October 2014.

Good luck, 
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30 September 2014

Home made plastic free toothpowder

Home made plastic free toothpowder

My toothpaste was one of my first personal care items that I swapped for a plastic free home made alternative. 

My first batch was made of bicarb soda and mint. The Builder being his usual supportive self gave my toothpowder a go. The first two weeks went by and we were happy with the switch to plastic free toothpowder. Then the mint began to fade. Instead of the fresh zing we started with we were left with a bicarb taste. It was not pleasant and the Builder fell off the wagon and swapped to an organic toothpaste.

The minty taste was not lasting and it could never mask the bicarb flavor enough. Out of determination and stubbornness I stuck with it and began experimenting using different ingredients. It was not just the plastic and packaging that kept me away from store bought toothpaste. After all TerraCycle allows fans to recycle their toothpaste tubes. It was the different chemical compounds plus the added fear of plastic microbeads in popular toothpastes that guided me to make the switch for a homemade tooth powder. Since I brush my teeth twice a day, everyday I wanted what ever I use to be safe, friendly and taste good. I wrote here about my promise that I would only put ingredients onto my body that I can put into my body. Simple. Kind. Handmade by nature. 5 ingredients or less. Making my own products affords me the knowledge and reassurance that there is nothing toxic and harmful making its way into my body or the environment.

I tried different combinations of coconut oil, mint, activated charcoal, salt and clove oil. But none of the recipes out there left a good taste in my mouth. I liked the hint of clove as it had a lovely fresh taste. I decided to match clove oil with sweet orange oil, cinnamon and bicarb to create a warming toothpowder. If you are from the northern hemisphere this will have you thinking of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Clove, Cinnamon, Sweet Orange Plastic Free Toothpowder

5 tablespoons bicarb soda
10 drops clove oil
10 drops sweet orange oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

Add the bicarb into a jar. Add the clove oil. Put the lid onto the jar and shake vigorously. Open the jar and add the orange oil. Close and shake again. Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder and give a final shake.

If you want to make it a paste melt down 2-4 tablespoons of coconut oil and add to the mixture.

Clove oil is antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, and antiviral. Used for centuries in dental care clove oil continues to be a popular ingredient in mainstream toothpastes. You might see it on ingredients list as eugenol. Even though this is a natural product use with care. It is a painful product if used incorrectly. 

Sweet orange oil is anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antispasmodic, antiseptic and boosts immunity. Plus it blends well with clove oil.

Cinnamon is also antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-fungal. It adds a warmth to t and the smell makes me happy.

This toothpowder has the thumbs UP from the Builder. I try not to make more than 5 table spoons at a time. This is so the powder keeps its taste. This quantity will last 3-4 months between the two of us.

You might think that paying between $15-20 for a oil is a bit much. Remember that these oils hold multiple uses and usually have around 100 drops per bottle. Clove oil is great for mould and mildew. Orange oil is perfect in home made household cleaning products.

I have a dentist appointment due in two months. I won't tell them what I use just to get an open and honest assessment of my teeth.

Home made plastic free toothpowder
Do you make your own plastic free toothpaste/toothpowder?

Toothy grin,
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25 September 2014

Bupa Health Influencer nominee (aka what my blog has to do with health!)

So this happened. 

My blog has been nominated in the Social Good Category for the 2014 Bupa Health Influencer Blog Awards!

What does healthy living have to do with plastic free, wasting less and sustainable living?


Absolutely everything.

My life has become healthier because I have eased back on plastic. I am no longer tempted by store bought treats because I can’t buy anything packaged. If I want to feed a sweet tooth craving I reach for a piece of fruit whose packaging I can compost as nature intended.

I support local farmers because the food has less of a distance to travel, meaning a smaller carbon footprint. This has resulted in meals that are all organic and chemical free. None of my food comes wrapped in plastic. I say no to plastic wrapped food because most plastic that food comes wrapped in will never go away and adds harmful toxins to this earth, which is where I ultimately get my food.

I would love everyone to understand and I blog for the reason to simply make people realise how silly some plastic can be. I want the next generation of Australians to not worry about pollution in our oceans or weird GMOs in our food. I don’t want another generation of young people to slather themselves in toxins for the sake of beauty. And then have the packaging build up in our landfill.

I want people to understand that recycling, while fantastic, also taxes our resources. I want the word reuse to become popular again like it was for our grandparents. I want a generation to make choices with wholeness and meaning. I want people to be aware of the actions they make and the companies they support, and understand how they affect all people all over this world. Because everyone in this world deserves to live a healthy life. Practicing sustainability is to practice generosity.

These choices make me healthier.

If the earths health suffers, everyone's health suffers.

I am not sure what happens next with the nominee thing. If I progress to the next round I will let you know. In the meantime I will keep blogging about living plastic free.

Feeling chuffed,

23 September 2014

Seaweed: Feeding my garden plastic free

Some weeks ago my family visited from interstate. While they were here I asked my green thumbed parents to give me some pointers on what I can do to make my garden flourish. 

Within a couple minutes of seeing my garden Mum declared I needed fertiliser and mulch. I confessed I had not used any explaining that store bought fertiliser and mulch comes packed inconveniently in plastic. I was kinda wishing the garden gods would see my plastic free life and grant me a bumper crop without the need to add fertiliser. You know, doing well for the planet by giving up plastic and be rewarded with vegetables. It was a simple wish. Unfortunately this had not happened and Mum explained that although my soil was organic, it was lacking nutrients and needed a serious boost.

I had a memory from my high school ancient history class that seaweed was used as fertiliser throughout coastal regions in the United Kingdom. I read up on seaweed to make sure a trip to the beach was not made in vain. Turns out my memory served me well and seaweed is in fact a fantastic FREE resource to use on the garden, working as a fertiliser and a mulch. 

  1. Works as a deterrent to slugs (yes, I so need this!). When seaweed dries it is scratchy and slugs don’t like that on their bellies. I tried wood shavings but that did nothing and the slugs had a party, with my lettuce being the main course. Add in the salty factor and my garden beds won’t be a hang out for them either.
  2. Full of good minerals that will turn soil into a nutrient rich place to grow vegetables. Will also help loosen compacted soil by allowing more air in as it breaks down. This is something that I have trouble with and am out there each weekend breaking up the soil so water can get in properly.
  3. Mulch, I have learnt, keeps the soil from drying out. With summer not too far away (and its predicted to be a hot one) the seaweed will reduce moisture from evaporating.
  4. Less weeds. I don’t have too many but better to ire on the side of caution.

Now, before you jump for joy at a package and plastic free fertiliser for your garden we did discover plastic in the seaweed; plastic in the form of pollution. We gathered ours from a popular public beach and this would explain why there was so much. I found the best way to get it out of the seaweed before laying it onto the garden was to submerge in water and the plastic floated to the top and sand sunk to the bottom. I have written about microscopic plastic before and I was worried it would make its way into my garden. I am hoping most of it came off when I rinsed it. Which ultimately ends up back in the ocean I guess.  Maybe I am not feeding my garden plastic free - but how will I know without using a microscope? Another good reason for everyone to stop using single use plastic.

The plastic that I did wash off and could see went into my ‘save from landfill – could be recycled one day’ box.

I don’t live near the ocean. Where can I get unpackaged and plastic free fertiliser for my garden?

The best answer would be to ask around. Gumtree.com.au helped me locate the following options below. My back up option was to ask local gardening communities.

Organic manure

Before I foraged for seaweed I was able to contact a organic farmer that sold bags of manure. I told him about my plastic free life and asked if I could bring my own container. The farmer obliged and said he would be more than happy to reuse the bag for himself. This did require me to drive 45 minutes. I like to think that the drive would weigh up better against the creation, delivery and pollution problem of buying new plastic. Plus I am helping a local farmer.

Lucerne Hay

I was also lucky to discover a married couple in Melbourne that sold cut up lucerne hay in paper bags. After I worked the manure into the soil and topped with seaweed, I then layered hay on top. The paper bag did come with staples that I have collected for recycling. And I can reuse these paper bags until they are ready for the compost.

The Builder and I planted vegetables for our spring/summer crop. I am hoping that with these added soul nourishing elements our garden will be feeding us well over the next two seasons.

If you know of any other package free gardening alternatives that enriches the soil please share below.

Your happy gardener,
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