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Thursday, 19 October 2017

Supermarkets Here Are Up to Something

As you know, my eco-warrior friends and I have been campaigning outside our local Countdown supermarket each weekend for a couple of hours with our reusable bags, trying to get people to buy bags from us, prompting them to bring their own and generally just being a reminder about plastic bags not being good. 

Japanese exchange student Kotori helped us with our bag campaign

Well a few weeks ago we were excited to hear on the news that Countdowns nationwide will be quitting plastic bags, as from 2018! Not only was that great, but only a week after that New World supermarkets announced that they too will quit plastic bags from 2018. That is pretty much all of our supermarkets, as the one other chain already charges people for plastic bags.
The supermarkets have plans for providing reusable bags - New World plans to give away thousands of free bags over the summer, and Countdown has dropped the price of theirs to $1.

We have been so excited by this because our government was pathetic, they wouldn't issue a nation-wide ban. Good news there too - we've just had a change of government to a more eco-minded one, so we are waiting to see some positive changes for our environment.

The announcement has brought about a change of attitude to what we are doing too. The girls report that instead of our bags selling slowly - they are now flying out - they've been selling 3-4 times as many.

We've had some media promotion for our Boomerang Bag making recently (got our picture in the local paper), and one spin-off was that yesterday I got to talk to a group of Girl's Brigaders, who are embarking on making produce bags for their families.

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow 

Another positive from New World supermarkets has been their Little Garden giveaways. This is the second year that they have given away these cute little pots of lots of different types of seeds.

The only non-biodegradable part is the wee name card - provided you didn't buy their stupid plastic watering system. They make a nice change from the usual plastic ticky tacky toys they give out as promotions.
People have been loving them, and now that the promotion has finished, they have donated boxes of leftover seed pots to schools and kindergartens.

This is the celery patch that is growing from last year's starters. It's the best celery I've ever grown - with very little input from me.

Well that's all for this week, a bit of happy news, eh. It's Labour weekend here, when everyone traditionally swarms the garden centres and starts planting. Not us though - we've grown all of ours from seed (except the basil which didn't come up).  

Sunday, 8 October 2017

What to do with Pumpkin Skin and About Viscose.

Sometimes I have a collection of snippets that make their way into my blog - this is one such time, so sorry, it is a bit disjointed.

It has been a busy weekend, part of which was playing sax in a charity event after being invited to join a few others.

Viscose for cool playing
I had some idea that viscose and rayon were plant based materials, and being natural, were therefore breathable - which is important when I'm playing in the band as it gets really hot up there sometimes.
Having picked up a viscose top recently, I thought I would check. It turns out that these materials won't wick moisture away from the body, so maybe not so good if it's really humid (and you get really sweaty), but they are breathable.
They won't give off plastic fibres when washed, but the process to make viscose/rayon has a lot of chemical/processing - much more than say, cotton.
More earth friendly if it's second hand.

Is it called viscose, or rayon?

Great question. There is some confusion between the two terms. Viscose is actually a type of rayon, even though “viscose,””viscose rayon,” and “rayon” are often used interchangeably. What started as “artificial silk” in the late 19th century became known as rayon in 1924, with the name “viscose” coming from “a viscous organic liquid used to make both rayon and cellophane.”  Rayon is “the generic term for fiber (and the resulting yarn and fabric) manufactured from regenerated cellulose by any one of six processes.” Keep in mind that modal and lyocell, along with viscose, are also considered types of rayon.

Excerpt taken from

I also attended The Rubbish Trip presentation - which consists of Hannah and Liam, who are travelling throughout New Zealand talking to audiences in every city about reducing their personal rubbish footprint.

I recommend it if you are in New Zealand and haven't seen them yet.They have another 9 (?) months to go. I thought they were awesome, just love what they are doing.
It was practical, and having researched local places to buy packaging-free made it all easier for people.  
The presentation was well attended by about 100 people of all ages. 

Pumpkin Skin - do you eat it? We normally do, but a recipe that I used recently needed to have the skin off. Previously I would have just composted it - but this time I roasted it while cooking other things and added it to the dog's food. He was really pleased.
Timely for Halloween I thought - cook up any unwanted pumpkin - dogs love it.

Munta - really, he was pleased.

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.