Green Reads: ReMake It by Tiffany Threadgould

26 February 2015
When I first decided to go plastic free full time I was severely tempted to remove all the plastic in my house in one sweep. I wanted to cleanse it from my life. Starting a plastic free life with a house void of plastic is way easier than a house with plastic popping up here and there.

I had my share of plastic too, which is not surprising for anyone that is in their 30s and was an avid consumer of all things plastic. Some of the plastic that I removed was recycled, some went to charity stores and there are items I kept. I decided that keeping and reusing my old plastic items won’t kill me. After all the idea behind living plastic free is to not add to the plastic that is out there.

If you are a crafty individual there is another way to deal with those plastic odds and ends in your life and that is to upcycle.

Upcycling is taking something and re-purposing it. When I turned our odd socks into soap holders I upcycled. Basically it is another version of recycling.

Tiffany Threadgould, the Martha Stewart of upcycling is Head Design Junkie at TerraCycle. I have written before about TerraCycle. The company has successfully deferred 4 billion pieces of garage from landfill. That is kinda impressive. With a prediction that waste is set to double by 2020 (errrr, that’s in five years’ time!). TerraCycle and designers like Tiffany are needed more than ever.

I am a firm believer that everybody is creative and the most of the ideas Tiffany musters up in her role can be thought up by anyone. For those that need a gentle push to find their trash problem solving side Tiffany Threadgould put together the inspiring book ReMake It! Recycling Projects From The Stuff You Usually Scrap.

The book is packed with 95 ideas ranging from remaking old umbrellas or paint can lids, making a pocket wall organiser and a CD case photo spinner. The projects are explained in simple how to instructions ranging from easy to requiring adult supervision. While the book might be geared towards children and teenagers I found it inspiring and wish that I had reimagined the plastic trash I had in my house rather than move it to a charity store.

ReMake It is a fantastic resource that will inspire you to remake trash into useful treasures.

Tiffany Threadgould with TerraCycle Australia hosted an event as part of the Sustainable Living Festival. I was lucky to get along and meet with them, have a chat and learn how to turn packaging into a gift wrap bow, modeled off of one of the projects from Tiffany's book.
What are some of your best upcycling pieces? Or do you have a project that you would love to try, but have not yet?
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Cleaning the oven with bicarb soda - does it work?

24 February 2015
A couple weeks ago I found simple, safe and easy method for cleaning an oven. I shared it on my Facebook page, exclaiming that I would give it a go.

Cleaning the oven with bicarb soda - does it work?

The oven has never been cleaned since its installation in 2012. However the oven has been used many times and was very, well, gross.

I have cleaned ovens in the past with that goopy toxic stuff that can be bought from supermarkets. And I clearly remember the nose burning stench and need to leave the house when it was applied to the oven. So when i stumbled across this simple 'how to' i knew there were no more excuses - it was time to clean the oven.

The ingredients listed are bicarb soda, vinegar, water...and a dirty oven. I had all those so there really were no excuses. Even though i said no excuses above I did try to find one.

I began following the directions, mixing the bicarb with water to make a paste. I needed more bicarb than the measurements required. Alot more. Then following the steps I smothered the inside of oven (after removing the trays) with the paste. I also applied the bicarb paste to the door and grease tray - then left overnight to do it's thing.

So....the verdict? It worked. Sort of.

The inside of the oven sparkled when I removed the bicarb. The bicarb dried as the instructions said it would but it never turned brown. When I wiped the dried paste from the oven with warm water it came off easy removing all the grease and gunk with it. After all the bicarb was out I filled a bowl with warm water, added a cap full of vinegar and gave the oven a final wipe.

The oven window did not sparkle or shine and really nothing changed. The brown only became a softer hue. I tried using vinegar and that did not help either. I am tempted to try the bicarb again on the window and see if it will work better a second time. If anyone has any other suggestions I would love to know.

Cleaning the oven with bicarb soda - does it work?
The grease tray was not returned to its former glory either. Most of the gunk came off but not completely. Again vinegar was used and it did not change the outcome. 
Cleaning the oven with bicarb soda - does it work?
I have had no trouble cleaning the rest of our house with simple non toxic methods and we do clean it often. The moral of the story is to clean things like the oven regularly too. Cleaning with natural products does require elbow grease in lieu of the stuff that can literally cut through grease and stains. But if done more often then less effort is required.

I would love to know how you clean your oven? Is there a better recipe that I could try? Preferably without Borax because i have never seen that in Australia.
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My failed quest for a library membership

18 February 2015
Usually this space is where I write about my triumphs. The plastic hurdles successfully jumped over and shared here to make life a little easier for those, like me, that want to avoid waste, especially the non-recyclable plastic type. Unfortunately my latest attempt to thwart plastic has not been a success at all and I am a little bummed about it.



When I moved to the suburbs I decided to get a library membership for my local library. I have wandered in there when I had time to kill to read magazines or look at books. I kept putting it off because one of the items I needed for a membership was something with my address on it. 

When my NSW state licence was due for renewal I decided it was time to become a Victorian and apply for a state licence. With a new non embarrassing photo snapped my new licence was supplied to me with my name and address on it. I could now get a library membership.

About the same time I had to get a new bank card. All of a sudden I had two new plastic cards and two old plastic cards…and getting a library membership would mean another plastic card. (I have a blog post coming up about plastic cards soon. Still researching some helpful info for it).

Surely I could get a library membership without plastic. I could simply ask for a membership but without a card, instead keep my membership number written down or if they used barcodes I could write out the barcode number. I worked in retail so I knew most systems where the barcode did not work for some reason the barcode number could be keyed in. It was a simple an easy solution.

Turns out I could not action any of these ideas. The library simply said no after I presented my solutions. There was no way around it. If I wanted to borrow books then I had to succumb to a plastic card.

I love libraries. My childhood country town has a small library. To me it was my favourite place to go after school. Over the last five year have spent many hours raising money to help build Libraries with Room to Read.

Libraries are a one of the best sustainable options for enjoying books and magazines that are only read once. I frequently pop in to read magazines. Even if a magazine or book is printed on recycled paper, libraries which are essentially part of the sharing economy are a better choice for the environment. A book or magazine that is printed on recycled paper then left on a shelf or recycled again requiring energy and a bigger carbon footprint than that same item potentially shared with 50-100 people is obviously more sustainable choice and kinder on the environment.

Currently when I want a book I visit charity stores or borrow from friends. Both fantastic avenues to browse and enjoy books. Like right now I want to read Amy Poehler book Yes, Please but have not found it in any second hand books stores or on my friends shelves. I have never read a book on my smart phone, maybe that is my solution.

I did ponder if one bit of plastic was that big of a deal if granted me access to a lifetime of free books. One half of is stomping her foot and saying no. It is the principal. My request was denied. A request that was made not for me, but for the environment and generations after me. A plastic card is not necessary.

I want to know what you would do. Would you get the card? Or should I get over what is a first world problem and download books to my smart phone?

I think I just answered my own question.
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Summer Fish Tacos with Grilled Peaches

12 February 2015
Tacos were a main staple of our families diet growing up. Our family loved anything TexMex. Quick, easy, yummy....and predominantly packaged. Going plastic free meant saying adios to anything by Old El Paso and learning to make variations of my fave dishes. This recipe is one of them.

Everything in this dish is in season during the Summer months, making it perfect for seasonal eating. The fish and vegetables can be gathered plastic free and of course, is a zero waste friendly meal.

Summer Fish Tacos with Grilled Peaches

Summer Fish Tacos with Grilled Peaches
(feeds 6 people)

Ingredients
Oil
Whiting (sustainably caught fish)
2 Peaches
1 Carrot
1 green Kohirabi (or daikon works well too)
1 quarter Cabbage
1 Lime
Iceberg lettuce leaves or tortillas

How to put it together
Grate carrots, kohirabi and cabbage into a bowl. Squeeze half a lime over the grated carrots, korrabi, cabbage and set aside. Next add the oil to the pan and cook the whiting using your spatula or a fork break up the fish so it is in flakes. When the fish is cooked moved to a bowl. Cut the peaches into bit size squares. Put the peaches into a pan and cook until warm then move to a bowl.

If I don't have tortillas I use ice berg lettuce leaves. The easiest way to get the leaves off is to remove the nobby part at the base. The leaves should come off easily and look like little bowls. Then put your fillings inside the lettuce leaf; carrot, kohirabi, cabbage mix followed by the fish and topped with the warm peaches. If you can't get peaches, nectarines work just as nicely.

Iceberg lettuce sounds a bit weird. Where or how do you get your normal corn or flour tortillas?

Firstly, using iceberg lettuce as your wrap is really yummy, fresh and super cheap...plus iceberg lettuce is available every month bar June and August. If that has not won you over, then making your own authentic tortillas is hard unless you have the correct flour which is impossible to get in Australia unpackaged. You could try making your own flour tortillas using this recipe. Personally I like the crisp taste of the lettuce.

For those that live in Melbourne, particularly in the western 'burbs there is a Mexican restaurant called La Tortilleria. They mill and make their own tortillas from scratch. The crew frequent local farmers markets selling the tortillas package free. I am always told they love that I bring my own cloth bags because that is how everybody does it in Mexico. Plus they are that ridiculously good it would be hard to go back to the supermarket brands ever. I consider myself pretty lucky I have a La Tortillera 10 mins away.

What is your favourite taco combination?
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Interview with Zero Waste Adventure

5 February 2015
I love Instagram. I don't take nearly enough photos as I would like but my fingers are actively scrolling daily and I am inspired by the sustainable souls that pop up on my feed sharing hints, tips and encouragement. One such person that I became an avid fan of was the Zero Waste Adventure feed.

It was not your average documentation of a zero waste adventure through somewhere like America, instead it was in Indonesia a place I knew to be a harder place to go zero waste than most. What was even more inspiring was that their feed documented a lot of multi day hikes, an activity that I love but had since pushed aside because I was afraid of the waste I would create. Through the Instagram account I discovered the blog and would read it using the school girl Indonesian I knew (Indonesia is one of Australia's closets neighbors so learning Indonesian is common here). I found it inspiring and made me think that I could totally do a zero waste adventure hike. 

Image from instagram.com/zerowasteadventure
Siska Nirmala is the soul behind Zero Waste Adventure and hails from Bandung, West Java Province, Indonesia.

What is your blog Zero Waste Adventure about?

On my blog, Zero Waste Adventure, I share my journey in adopting a zero waste lifestyle into adventuring activities including backpacking and travelling. I learn about zero waste in 2010, but I just committed myself to live zero waste in 2012. And in 2013, I start the zero waste adventure.
I prefer hiking in every zero waste adventure that I do, because in my country almost every mountain has a trash problem. It's a problem of culture, where here in Indonesia people are littering.

In Indonesia people spend about 2-3 days hiking. So they must bring some food stuff for cooking while camping at the mountain. And here is where the problem of littering while hiking began.

Image from instagram.com/zerowasteadventure


What are your tips to hiking waste free?

Hiking waste free is actually easy. The point is, almost all the littering at the mountain is food packaging, so I refuse to bring that.
1. Bring eco bottle/ tumbler, not a disposable bottle of mineral water.
2. Do not brought any food packaging such as chips for snack, instant noodle, etc.
  • Replace all the snack with fruits.
  • And we can bring some vegetable to cook.
  • Bring some raw meat or fish, do not bring processed meats such as sausage or corned beef and sardines.
  • Candy or sweets is sometimes an important things to bring while hiking. Because sweets could give us energy while we rest. Its hard to find unpackaged candy in my country. So, candy could be replace by brown sugar. This brown sugar could also used to make hot ginger beverages (cook brown sugar with water and some gingers. Its a great drink on hiking).
And actually many alternative foods without packaging can be made and bought along. Its just a matter of being creative and managing your hiking supplies.

Is it easy to live waste free where you are from?

Honestly, its not easy to live waste free in Indonesia. No bulk shop here.

Vegetables and fruits, raw meat, fresh chicken, fish can still be found unpackaged at traditional market. But for any others stuff, its already packaged and impossible to get them unpackaged (spices, and other daily needs like soap, shampoo, etc).

And zero waste shopping at traditional market in this city, Bandung, is not that easy. It is a huge effort to explain why I refuse the plastic bag. For them, it's a strange thing to shop without plastic bags. They say something like "no problem, this plastic bag is free" or something like "your cloth bag could get dirty" and they put the corn into the plastic bag. Hahaha... I enjoy every experiences on debating with the merchant about why I refuse plastic bags. But now I have one merchant that I use to shop, so he already is used to my habit, and we are not debating anymore about the plastic bag.

There also some people with zero waste life style in Indonesia. Generally they are incorporated with community such as YPBB Bandung, Zerowaste Bandung and Zero Waste Indonesia. I believe zero waste in Indonesia will grow larger.

Image from instagram.com/zerowasteadventure
Image from instagram.com/zerowasteadventure
For anyone visiting your country what are the easiest ways for tourists to reduce plastic and keep waste low?


First the easiest way to reduce waste while travelling is bring your own bottle. You can refill the bottle at the hotel or inn.

Second way to reduce waste while travelling is choose to dine in when you eat somewhere. Refuse take away. But if you want to take away, be sure to bring your own container. And remember to eat local food, not at the big restaurant. Because travelling is not only about our own pleasure, but how we help local economy.

Someday you should come here to Bandung, Indonesia Erin. I'll take you for a walk around the heart of the city. Bandung is called 'Paris Van Java'. Why it's called Paris? You should travel here to get to know :) (I would love to come!)

What is your favourite travel memory? What inspired you to travel zero waste?

The 'aha moment' that gave me the idea of zero waste adventure was in 2011 when I was hiked Mount Rinjani, located at Lombok, Nusa Tenggara Barat, Indonesia. Rinjani is number one of the most beautiful mountains in Indonesia (you should come here too ;) ). But sadly, the trash problem is found here too. And its terrible.

My journey to Rinjani is also my favourite travel memory. Because i went there along with one of my best friends. 4 days of beautiful hiking, then travelling Lombok, and crossing the ocean to reach Bali island.

The same condition of trash also i found when I was hiked Mount Semeru (2012), located in east Java, Indonesia. It's number two beautiful mountain in Indonesia, after Rinjani. And also the highest mountain on Java Island.

I feel sad to see the trash on those two beautiful mountains. And start to think if there is any way to avoid trash while hiking. Then I came to the zero waste life style idea, and thought this lifestyle can be applied while we are hiking or travelling.

Because,
Those who don’t care, are littering
Those who care, are picking up trash
But those who are wise, stop producing trash.
Zero waste!

Image from instagram.com/zerowasteadventure
What do you have planned for the future?

Right now, i have a very simple plan that I wish could come true this year. There is no bulk shop here, and that's why I want to make my own zero waste shop. Wish me luck ;)

Also, I'm on progress to write my book about Zero Waste Adventure. I've hiked 4 mountains zero waste. I have some more mountains to go. But it's not how many mountain I hike, or how many cities I travel in... but how huge an effort we try to reduce and not produce any waste. This is the spirit i wish i could spread to people.


Follow Siskia at...
Blog zerowasteadventures.blogspot.com.au
Twitter @ZWadventure or #zerowasteadventure
Instagram Instagram.com/zerowasteadventure
Youtube zerowasteadventure
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