Living Lightly = ‘Low to No’ Landfill

Andrew and I have recently become involved in a local campaign group (‘Helping to Reduce Plastic Waste in Ross-on-Wye’) so we’d like to share what we do and hope it will provide you with some ideas to reduce waste in your life (and save you some pennies too).  We aren’t purists or perfect.  We do use plastic.

Living lightly on the earth is at the heart of what we do.  We are conscious consumers of life’s essential needs (e.g. earth, air, fire, shelter, food) and because ‘the less we spend – the greater our experience’ means we are continually looking at how we can up-cycle, re-cycle, re-use our waste (which of course includes plastic). Please note that because we eat a primarily dairy-free vegetarian diet, we don’t buy cheese or meat which already saves us quite a bit of plastic wrapping

We:

  • Don’t use Bottled Water. Instead, we carry re-fillable water bottle in my handbag or in the backpack as well as in the car/scooter.
  • Always have a Re-usable Shopping Bag at hand. We keep a supply of reusable shopping bags by the front door, in our car/scooter and have a shopping basket on the front of our bicycles
  • Make our own Shampoo. It’s so easy to make your own shampoo and so much cheaper. Using an empty shampoo/washing up liquid container – add 1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda to 1 cup of warm water.  Shake well.  Wet hair.  Pour soda shampoo onto scalp. Massage with fingers. The soda shampoo won’t lather but it will clean the hair follicles and the scalp. Rinse off with warm water.  Use the cider vinegar rinse as a conditioner (see below).
  • Make our own Hair Rinse. Using an empty shampoo/washing up liquid container – add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar to 1 cup of warm water. Shake well.  Wet hair.  Pour cider rinse on to scalp.  Massage through hair. It won’t lather but it will clean any residue soda shampoo off the hair follicles and the scalp.  You can gently rinse off with warm water.  If you leave the cider rinse on, your hair will not smell of vinegar!
  • Buy good quality eco-friendly soap bars and NEVER buy liquid soap in pump dispensers. On a recent trip around New Zealand, I was horrified to find that not one accommodation provider (B&B, hostel) provided a bar of soap! They all provided liquid soap through pump dispensers (and bought brands that didn’t provide refills either).  Over the past month, I’ve been doing a short survey in my community to find out what soap people use and why.  Those who are aged over 70 buy and use soap bars wlhilst those under 45 years seem to buy/use only liquid soap.  Neighbours aged between 45 – 70 years use/buy soap bars and liquid soap.  For many, liquid soap dispensed through a pump is seen to be more hygienic (… “because that’s what’s available/used in a hospital”). 
  • Use aloe vera gel (straight from the plant) as a sunscreen. Andrew buys and uses raspberry seed oil (which needs to be reapplied every 2 hours).
  • Make our own Cleaning Products
    • Everyday cleaner (kitchen/bathroom): put 3 tablespoons of white vinegar into a reusable spray container, add 2 drops of liquid eco washing up liquid and fill with water.
    • Toilet Bowl: use a dedicated recycled container – make a paste of bicarbonate of soda with white vinegar and use a (dedicated) washing up brush to scrub around the inside of the toilet bowl.
  • Use soap nuts for laundry
  • Grow soapwort. We use dried roots or crushed soapwort stems to clean woollens and any delicate materials.
  • Make our own bread. Making our own bread is so quick and simple.  And of course, soda bread is the easiest and quickest pizza base ever!
    • Irish Soda Bread: Put 500grams of flour, 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 egg (optional) and 1 teaspoon salt into a bowl. Add enough water to make a soft, sticky dough.  Put on to a floured board. Roll around very lightly (if you work it too much it, the bread will become hard/crumbly).  Put into an oiled/lined loaf tin, Bake in a warmed oven @ 180 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.  Tap the top of the loaf with your fingers – it should be a nice firm crust.  If not, bake for another 5 – 10 minutes. Remove from tin and bake for another 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and put onto a cake rack to cool. Best eaten fresh and within 24 hours.
    • Yeast bread: Put one heaped teaspoon of yeast into a heatproof jug, add one teaspoon of sugar, add a cup of warm water (which should not be too hot as it will kill the yeast). Leave to ‘ferment’ for 20mins. Put 500gms of flour, ½ teaspoon of salt into a bowl.  Make a well in the middle and pour into flour. Add additional warm water to make a slightly sticky dough.  Pour on a floured board and knead well. Add flour as necessary to make a firm dough.  When ready, the dough should spring back when pushed down.  Oil the inside of the bowl you used to make the initial dough.  Cover with a damp tea-towel and put into a warmed oven (50 degrees Celisus).  Leave to prove for 30 minutes or more.  Take out of oven (the dough should have risen and feel/look lovely and light) and put it back onto the floured board.  You’ll need to add extra flour to make a firm dough consistency. Knead again until the dough springs back. Divide into two loaf tins (oiled/lined), put into a warm oven (50 degrees Celisus) and leave for another 30 minutes or more. Don’t open the oven door.  The dough should be seen to rise in the loaf tins through the oven window. When you are satisfied with the size of the loaf in the tin.  Put oven onto 180 degrees celisus and bake for 30 – 40 minutes. Tap the outside of loaf with fingers – it should feel like a firm crust.  If not, bake another 5 – 10 minutes.  Remove loaves from tins and bake off in oven for another 5 minutes.  I find this firms the outside of the loaves (and particularly the bottoms).
    • As you become more confident with bread baking, you can experiment with different gluten-based flours (e.g. rye or spelt etc). And, you can add spices, herbs, sundried tomatoes etc to bring an extra flavouring to your bread.
    • A friend of ours adds yogurt into her soda bread mix to make it more ‘spongy’.  And, we add mild vinegar to the water when making our yeast bread to create a more spongy texture in the bread.
  • Make our own Seed/Oat milks.
    • Oat Milk: put one cup of oats and two cups of water into a blender (or tall jug if you use a hand blender). Blend for 2 minutes.  Pour liquid through a sieve into a jug.  Keep the residue to make porridge or add to cake mixture etc.  Add drops of vanilla extract to flavour the oat milk.  Pour into a glass bottle and refrigerate.  Shake before use.  It should keep for 3 days.
    • Hemp Seed Milk: put half a cup of hemp seeds into a blender (or jug if using a handblender), add 3 – 5 cups of water (use less water for a creamier milk and more for a ‘skimmed’ milk) and add a pinch of salt. For a sweet flavoured-milk, add one (or two) dates.  Blend for at least one minute. Pour through a sieve into a jug.  Add drops of vanilla extract to taste.  Pour into a glass container and refrigerate. It should keep for 3 – 5 days.
  • Make our own toothpaste. We dip a damp toothbrush into a pot of bicarbonate of soda and brush immediately. We have tried to make our own toothpaste using bicarbonate of soda, coconut oil and clay bentonite but we didn’t like the feel of the oil/clay on our teeth.
  • Re-Use screw top bottles and make our own wines, champagnes, ciders and liquer It is so easy!
    • Sweet Wine – weigh fruit and put into a large kilner jar, add a quarter of amount of sugar into the jar, stir and leave for 3- 6 months. Pour off liquid and drink. Use leftover fruit in cakes, puddings etc
    • Cider – juice apples and pour into recycled plastic bottles and leave for two weeks in a cool dark place (don’t overfill the bottles as the juice will expand as it ferments). Or, for larger quantities – pour into a demi-john and cap with a bung that has an airlock. Leave to ferment. You may need to siphon off the ‘juice’ into another demi-john if there is quite a bit of sediment in the original.  It is ready to drink when there is no more air moving through the airlock.
    • Liquers – there are many recipes on the Internet on how to make sloe gin etc. If we have any excess soft fruit, we put them into a kilner jar and cover with enough of a spirit, i.e. vodka, gin, whiskey, rum or brandy. Leave to steep for 6 months in a cool, dark place. Drain off the fruit (I make boozy jams, puddings or cakes with the fruit). Some fruits may need a bit of sugar, you can either add this at the beginning of steeping the fruit or at the end by warming the ‘spirit’ very gently and adding sugar to taste.  Alternatively, you can sugar coat the rim of a glass before drinking. Store in sterilised bottles. We have lots of fun experimenting with flavours!
  • Don’t buy/store frozen goods. Growing our own food and eating seasonally means we don’t need a freezer to store frozen foods.  We dehydrate excess food such as fruits (e.g tomatoes, apples), leaves (e.g. wild garlic) and herbs with the solar drier and make our own jams, preserves, chutneys and pickles with any excess fruits, alliums or vegetables so store these in recycled glass jars. We also store our home-grown beans, quinoa and amaranth in glass jars.
  • Don’t use cling film. We cover any leftover food with a plate in the fridge or transfer it to a Tupperware/glass container.  Some of our cheese-loving friends make and use ‘BeeWax Wrap’ and it’s easy to make your own (recipe from Sarah Yapp, Permaculture magazine 2018, No. 96).
    • Materials: pieces of cotton preferably organic cut to size (recycle an old cotton shirt), 250 grams bees wax, flat oven tray, baking parchment cut to size, grater.
    • Grate bees wax into a bowl (I get bees wax from a local neighbour who keeps bees)
    • Place layer of baking parchment onto baking tray
    • Place first layer of cotton on top of baking parchment
    • Sprinkle fine layer of grated bees wax on top of material
    • Repeat process until you have 3 – 5 layers (or run out of bees wax)
    • Place baking parchment onto top of the last layer of cotton (that will have sprinkling of bees wax on top of it)
    • Place in a low warmed oven (50 – 75 degreesC) for 5 – 10 minutes
    • Take out of oven, separate layers and hang out to dry individually (I peg onto a clothes horse)
    • When dry, fold them up and store in drawer. They are ready to use
    • Wash the BeeWax Wraps by hand and don’t use soap! Wash them out immediately after use by putting under warm running water and hang out to dry.  If the BeeWax Wraps crease, warm in your hands, or put baking parchment on top and underneath the material and use a warm iron to iron out creases, or put under a running hot water.
  • Put all our raw food waste into compost bins (made out of 4 pallets and cover with another pallet). We turn all our raw kitchen waste and grass/hay into garden compost within three months when we add in our home-made herbal compost accelerator to it.  Contact us for details.
  • Re-use kitchen packaging in the garden:
    • coffee bean packets (and packaging for dry goods such as lentils) instead of using plastic plant pots, we use re-use plastic packaging as the ‘pots’ (containers) for small plants that we sell through the Dean Forest Food Hub, e.g. strawberries
    • plastic sleeves (from cards) to store seeds or dried herbs
    • plastic bottles (our neighbours keep us supplied) for storing liquid fertilisers. Cut the bottoms off and use as plant protectors for young plants to protect them from being pecked by birds/pigeons or make mini-incubators (greenhouses) for plants in pots that need moist/humid air to germinate/incubate.
    • plastic milk bottle tops with an old tent peg through the middle to demarcate where we have sown seeds in the ground. We do re-use plastic garden labels but have found that the crows/jackdaws love to peck them out of the ground or move them to another part of the garden!
    • plastic berry containers (our neighbours keep us supplied) to sell soft fruits through the Dean Food Food Hub
    • wash out and re-use plastic bags. We re-use plastic bags that our dry goods come in from our Dean Forest Food Hub order
  • Make do and mend. We always try to fix it or make it ourselves in the first instance.  If we are unable to make/fix it, we try to find a free alternative by asking friends and neighbours or look on the freecycle and Local Exchange and Trade System websites. If we can’t source what we are looking for through these avenues, we shop locally (1st. charity shops, 2nd. Independent shops then 3rd. larger chain stores).  Buying online is our final resort.
  • Don’t buy over the counter medicines. Our garden is our medicine cabinet and we keep a stock of dried herbs, calendula flower heads, dried lavender flower heads, home-made tinctures, potions and oils (including essential oils) in our larder. If our home remedies don’t work, we are very lucky to have a lovely friend who is a qualified homeopath. Going to the Pharmacist or GP is the final resort.
  • Don’t use or buy bin liners.  We line all our bins in the home (e.g. kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms) with newspaper.
  • Don’t buy or use black trash bags. Our ‘general household’ and ‘recycling’ waste goes straight into the respective wheelie bin.  We clean the interiors of the wheelie bins every six months or so.
  • Take our own …. on holidays or day trips:
    • home-made snacks, biscuits, tea or coffee with us
    • own picnic set (which has glasses, cutlery, plates etc) which is stored in a small backpack and buy products from local Farmers markets on route for lunch etc.
    • headphones when travelling on the plane
  • Are Happy to help! Andrew and I like to share our lifestyle with others. If you want to learn more about any of the above (or have any other ideas on how to reduce waste), get in touch with us by telephone: 01989 563 790; e-mail: caenwood@yahoo.co.uk; Facebook @tasteofselfsufficiency or leave us a comment (see below).

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