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Monday, March 30, 2015

Tissues v.s Hankies




I never thought I would every say this. Ever.

But I use handkerchiefs. I’m that person who blows her nose with a hankie. When I was a child I used to look at my dad using them and think: why? Whyyy when there are tissues one can use?

Because:

Because tissues have negative impacts on the environment.

Because hankies are much more environmentally friendly. And just cool ;)

But what are they exactly? They are little squares of fabric and are thought to have originated in China, in c.1000 BC where they were used to protect the head from the sun. Their use changed through time but in modern times they are used to wipe or blow one’s nose.

And why are they a more environmentally friendly choice?

Firstly because (most) tissues are made of newly cut trees, not recycled paper so they are using virgin fibres.

Secondly, tissues are whitened by using chlorine and bleach which have harmful effects on the environment.

Thirdly, they come in little plastic (usually non-recyclable) packaging.

I won’t deny it, it felt strange when I first started using hankies. It took me some time to get used to the idea and get over the ‘ew’ factor.  But now that I am used to them I couldn’t think of carrying packets of tissues with me again. I’m filled will guilt whenever I have to use one, and throw it away.

Does using handkerchiefs waste more water, needed for washing them? Nope, the key is to buy a big batch. So you can switch to a clean one often and wash them all together at once with your regular clothes wash.

Truly, buy loads. And in different colours. (Lesson learnt over the sniffing-filled winter)

Other than helping the environment, I’m saving money too. Because once bought, they’ll stay with me forever! (Well, almost.) Buying hankies that can be reused multiple times will save me from having to re-buy tissues over and over, making it cheaper in the long run.







Unfortunately, recently when I was reading about the environmental impact of tissues, I came across something I hadn’t thought of. Cotton hankies are not the most environmentally friendly either. Unless they’re organic or made of hemp. This is because to make, they also use a lot of water and go through chlorine bleach.

And I thought, is this ever going to end? Am I ever going to be able to make fully environmentally friendly choices? I don’t know the answer to this yet, but I do know that choosing a better option than another is a start. Even though it is not 100% sustainable.  This blog is called ‘The Eco Journey’ and this is what I am going through, a journey to make better choices. Even if they are not the best. So one day, when I will be able to afford buying organic handkerchiefs, I will, but for now I am still choosing a better option. I’ve reduced my plastic packaging and I’ve reduced my waste.

And if you really don’t want to give hankies a try, then go for recycled tissues. There is only a number of times that paper can be recycled, so it would make sense for its last recycling to be into tissues. Still a better option over normal ones.


Here’s a lovely photo of me blowing my nose: ;)


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

8 ways to reduce food waste!

In my previous post I talked about food waste and the fact that it is a big issue happening everywhere. Most of the food waste happens even before it reaches our homes, even before reaching supermarkets and even before leaving the factories and farms. So how can we help reduce food waste?

We could join organizations that fight for food waste or place pressure on supermarkets and governments. Which would be great, but something that we can do NOW and will contribute just as much is reducing the food that we waste in our homes. The following are eight ways for which we can do so, of which seven I currently do myself, and are so so simple and really do not take up that much of my time! The last one is a bit harder depending on where you live, but there’s always a way!



Knowing your portion

Filling up your plate with more food than you can eat will most likely result in the extra food ending up in the bin. How do we fix this? By filling up the plate with what you know you can eat! If you’re still hungry afterwards you can always go for seconds or grab some fruit (healthy + filling!) The same applies to eating out, ordering a meal that you know you will be able to finish, and then if still peckish you can go for desserts or a side you can share with a friend.




Eating leftovers

Ideally it would be great to cook only the amount that you will eat! But a lot of the times this does not happen. So I suggest investing in some Tupperware or glass jars (you can reuse the empty jars from your olives, pasta sauce, pesto) so you can fill them up with leftover food and pop them in the fridge! Most foods you can eat for 2-3 days after cooking them if kept in the fridge. Let out your inner creative leftover chef- there are lots of things you can make with leftovers!























Storing food correctly

A lot of food waste happens because it is not stored in the right way and so goes off before you can eat it. Bananas for example are super wasted! When a banana is brown the inside is still perfectly eatable (unless it’s really really brown) so always check before you throw! Brown bananas are also the best to cook with, as they have more flavour. What I do with my bananas is I buy them unripe, and when ripe I place them in the fridge, as the cold stops the browning. I keep two on the counter (I eat one banana a day) and replace the one I eat with one from the fridge! This way they won’t be too cold when I eat them and will be ripe enough for the flavour that I like. You can always freeze them too and use them later for smoothies.

Another tip for storing food is placing carrots in a jar of water; I found it works for me! Cutting their greens, storing them separately and keeping the carrots in water will help them stay firm and crisp for longer. A second way I have not tried myself is to keep them in water in a covered container.

Cereals, crackers and pasta should be kept in air tight containers for them to last longer, or even a little clip to close the opening is enough. That is what I do and find that it works!

Freezing

A freezer is great for reducing food waste! Did you know you can freeze bread? You can also cook or blanch the vegetables that are going to go off and freeze them. You can freeze meat and bananas too. Did I mention leftovers can be frozen?  Pretty much freeze everything and eat it later!

Sharing is caring

If eating with friends and family and you know you won’t be able to finish it, offer it to someone else, there will always most likely be someone who says yes! Students can do the same at home, where most of us live with other students. If I know I will not be able to finish my bread loaf, or have cooked too much of a dish, I’ll leave a little note in the kitchen or ask them if they want some. There is a 99% chance someone will eat it! Students are not known for refusing free food! ;)

Knowing the labels

Food packaging mostly contain labels with dates: best before, use by and display until. I used to think that I could not eat food if it was after the use by date and the best before, but oh how was I wrong!

The ‘best before’ date indicates the quality of the food: so it is at its highest (taste, appearance and texture) up to and including the date. But it’s still absolutely perfectly edible after!

The ‘use by’ date refers to the safety of the food, you should try and eat it before the date. If you can’t, you can cook it and freeze it, or store it in the fridge for 2-3 days. Foods like vegetables and fruit will be fine to eat after the date, it’s the meat, fish, eggs and milk that needs to be eaten before. Or frozen! (Again with the freezer! ;) )

The ‘display until’ or ‘sell by’ are used by the supermarket staff in the rotation of the stock, so it is not related to the quality or safety of the food. Ignore it!




Meal planning

Planning a rough idea of meals you want to make will avoid buying too much food that will just go bad and that you’ll have to throw away. I like to buy my food over the weekend for a week worth of meals, then maybe during the week I will buy things like bread and yoghurt when I finish them. Shopping lists are great too: they help in buying only what you need. This not only allows me to eat everything that I buy, but it saves me money too!

Composting

Compost is a soil-like material created by decomposed organic material and used for providing nutrients to plants and their soils. At home one can use a separate bin for this organic material (vegetable and fruit peels, tea bags) but it can sometimes be difficult in a small apartment or in a big city. Some cities pick up the house’s food waste bins on set dates, but for the ones who don’t there might be a food scrap drop off point.
I recommend reading how Lauren from Trash is for Tossers composts in a big city, it’s actually quite simple, she freezes her food scraps!
Composting reduces the food waste going to landfill – where while breaking down it releases methane – a harmful greenhouse gas! So if possible, I say give composting a try!


I hope these tips on reducing food waste will be helpful to some, and encourage you to start thinking about the food that goes in your bin and how to prevent it! :)