Friday, May 27, 2011

Cut the plastic wrap

Another quick win was to ditch the glad wrap in my lunch box. Not only was this easy but I was able to replace glad wrap with a much cooler product. Meet eco sandwich wraps from 4MyEarth (http://www.4myearth.co.nz). 4MyEarth sell a range of re-usable products for you to store your lunch in. Machine washable and made with organic ink dyes make this a great alternative. I bought the Eco Sandwhich Wrap and the Eco Snack Pocket. The wraps are great for sandwiches because you can stuff the sandwich with as many ingredients as you want and it will still fit, in fact I can even fit two sandwiches in one wrap. Great flexibility. And the snack pocket is perfect for biscuits. I have greatly reduced my glad wrap usage thanks to these great products.

Plus they come in the coolest designs! I love the combi vans. And they have labels for the kids. You can buy them on their website http://www.4myearth.co.nz/products.php.

Reducing the rubbish bin - food scraps

One of the biggest concerns I have is rubbish. Not many people think about the impact their rubbish has or where it all goes. Most people do recycle, including me, but only when it's convenient.

But everybody should be aware of what happens to their rubbish. Where I live in New Zealand with just over 4 million people, every month we throw out enough rubbish to fill a football field 30 stories high! Every month! This rubbish doesn't just disappear. It ends up in landfills and takes hundreds of years to break down. I do not want the earth I live on to end up as one big landfill.

So what can I do?

Well I found out one of the largest items of waste is actually food scraps. The percentage changes of course depending on who you talk to but in my own personal experience I'd say about 10-20% of my rubbish was food scraps.

Great so here was an obvious place I could start. I'd heard about compost bins and worm farms for food recycling but I'm not much of a gardener (I am trying but I have a lack of a green thumb) so it was all rather confusing. Thankfully I found out my local community centre ran a composting for beginners course so I decided to go along and I was able to learn exactly what would work for me. Why don't you have a look in your community and see if they have something similar. They are often run for free by volunteers and I can tell you from experience that having someone there to ask questions and to show you things was invaluable.

But if you don't have anything like that nearby. Hopefully I might be able to help you out. Below I will try and outline the types of food recycling options to help you decide which is best for you.

Composting

In a nutshell: You put all your food scraps into a bin and it all breaks down into compost. You then use the compost in your garden.
Equipment Needed: Buy one - you can buy compost bins from your local gardening centre. Make one - It is possible to make compost bins either from old plastic rubbish bins or open aired ones using wood, check out youtube for how-to guides. You'll also need a pitchfork to turn the compost.
Things you'll need to know: It is best to alternate between green (food scraps, grass clippings) and brown (newspaper, tree prunings, dry leaves) waste. It can take a long time to break down, anywhere between 2 - 18 months so you'll need to be patient.
Choose composting if you: Have a garden.
Composting may not be for you if: You don't have a garden or enough outdoor space for one.


Worm farms

In a nutshell: You put all your food scraps into a bin full of worms and they break down your food. From this you get worm tea (also known as worm urine!) and vermicast (also known as worm poo!). Both can be used in your garden or on your pot plants.
Equipment Needed: Buy one - it really is easiest to buy a worm farm but they don't need to be expensive, the basic ones do the same job as the expensive ones. Make one - Again it is possible, check out youtube if you want to go this way. Worms! Not all bins will come with the worms.
Things you'll need to know: Start slow. Only feed as much as they can eat to stop food rotting before they get to it. Also worms can't eat everything, things like citrus and spicy foods will need to be left out.
Choose worm farms if you: Have a few potted plants but not a full garden. Have children (watching the worms is great fun for kids and helps to get them involved). Have a large garden and want to vary up the nutrients or supplement your compost heap.
Worm farms may not be for you if: Worms make you squeamish (but honestly I hate bugs and all creepy crawlies but I'm quite fine with my worms so you may want to give it a go anyway). A lot of your food scraps are things worms can't eat. You go away a lot or for extended periods of time, if you feed them up worms can survive without you for about 2-3 weeks but any longer than that and you may need to get someone in to feed them.

Bokashi

In a nutshell: You put all your food scraps into a bokashi bin with some fermenting powder and once its full close it up for a fortnight. You get a juice in the bottom of your bucket that can be used in the garden or to clear blocked drains. You are left with fermented food that you can bury in the garden.
Equipment Needed: You have to buy one http://www.zingbokashi.co.nz/. And you will need to buy the powder ongoing.
Things you'll need to know: You can put anything in bokashi including bones, meat and cooked food. Anything you can't put in compost or worm farms can go into bokashi. Because your food doesn't decay you do end up with a bucket full of fermented food scraps which are great to bury in your garden. 
Choose bokashi if you: Want to recycle food scraps that your compost bin or worm farm won't take. If you don't have much space, bokashi bins are nice and small.
Bokashi may not be for you if: You don't have anywhere to put the end waste product. Interestingly bokashi pitches itself as fantastic for apartments and town houses, however you still need to bury the end result in a garden. If you don't have anywhere to bury it, this could be a problem. 

What I chose

You don't need to choose one or the other. Your solution might be a combination of all of these. As I live in a rental house and don't have a large garden I decided a compost bin wasn't for me. However I decided a worm farm could work and I also got a Bokashi bin to try it out. In future posts I will tell you a bit more about both. Maybe one day I can tell you a bit more about composting too, but for now we'll stick with my worm farm.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A life on this earth - the beginning of a journey

How often do you sit back and think about how your daily life affects the world we live in? If you are anything like me it may be more often than most. But that is the only thing I am doing, thinking about it! It is easy to see all the headlines in the news at the moment talking about global warming and climate change and to write it all off as scaremongering or somebody else's problem but it is hard to deny that how we live and the things we do everyday have an effect on our environment.

But the problem is too big, what can I do?! Well that is exactly what I have been wondering about myself. So I've decided to do something... anything. I will start small and work my way up one lightbulb at at time!

I am your average human being living in the western world. I live in a city. I have very little outdoor space. I use a car every day. I am a consumer. I live on an average income. Everything about me is average. Which makes this experiment perfect because no matter what I do, someone else can to. And if through this blog I get just one other person to challenge what they do in their day to day life then I have achieved my goals.

This blog is not out to save the world. It's not here to preach the only way you should live. And it certainly isn't here to make you feel guilty about your life. I have created A Life on this Earth to talk about and share with you my daily struggles to improve the way in which I live on this earth and interact with my own environment.

Why don't you take this journey with me and help me out along the way? I won't always get it right and I definitely don't know it all but with my learning comes experience and I hope in some way a little bit of wisdom.