Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

I wrote here how I started looking for tea seed powder to replace chemical dishwashing detergent and ended up loving it even more in my bathroom here as my shampoo and facial scrub.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

When mixed with water, it can produce just the right amount of bubbles to look like a detergent.  In fact, it degreases really effectively without that slippery feel of commercial soaps that requires lots of water to rinse clean.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

I have since found the perfect container to upcycle into a handy shaker bottle that dispense just the right amount of powder for dishwashing.  The raisin tub I was using previously is dispensing baking soda now.

One of my main concern when switching to tea seed powder is its short shelf life.  It is best to use up within 3 months after the bag is opened, according to the instructions on the packaging.  Going by how little is required to wash my hair and the dishes, I need to have more uses for it to use up 1 kg packet every 3 months.

Here are some uses I have found so far :

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Makeup Brush Cleaner. Since tea seed powder has anti-bacterial properties, I started using it to replace diluted liquid castile soap to clean my makeup brushes.  I simply mix 1 heap teaspoon of powder with water in a small glass and run the makeup brush back and forth in the glass to release the makeup, grease etc.  Rinse the brush and repeat to ensure that it is completely clean of makeup.  Wrap the brush with a clean cotton towel and squeeze to dry the bristles slightly.  Hang brush with hair facing downwards to air dry.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Fruit and vegetable cleaner.  I got this idea when I saw commercially produced fruit and vegetable cleaner made with tea seed powder.  I have only used it on fruit and vegetables with peels like apples, grapes (still attached to stalks,) zucchini, carrots, etc. I soak them in tea seed powder and water solution for 10 minutes before rinsing clean.  Tea seed powder is not edible, so it is important to rinse the fruit and vegetables clean after soaking.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Cooking oil plastic bottle cleaner.  If you have tried washing plastic containers stained with oily food, you will know how difficult it is to degrease them for recycling.  The oil somehow finds a way to cling really well onto the plastic surface and I often find myself running it with soapy water at least 3 to 4 times before getting them squeaky clean for recycling.  Imagine the amount of water required to wash and rinse the cooking oil bottle.  I end up discarding these plastic bottles instead of recycling them.

Not anymore, after I use tea seed powder.  I mix the powder with a small amount of water to form a thick paste and rub it all over the bottle. I cut open the container to make washing the interior possible.  Then I add more water to rinse and degrease at the same time.  The above photo shows how much water I used in total to degrease the bottle, less than 300ml, not bad for such an oily plastic container.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Pastry brush cleaner.  Again, tea seed powder shows its powerful degreasing property with just one wash and one rinse.  I simply run the powder all over the greasy silicone bristles and add some water to form a thick paste, rub clean an rinse.  Squeaky clean once again.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Pesticide for plants.  I found this use stated here, here, here, so far only use once and the plants are still surviving.

Nov/Dec 2017 School Holiday Activities – Eco Edition

Nov/Dec 2017 School Holiday Activities - Eco Edition // Mono + Co

Spent the first week of the year end school holidays in the malls and can’t wait to do something different?  How about activities with an Eco/Nature-theme?  I have compiled a list in a chronological order to share.

In case there is only time for just one Eco-event, taking part in a beach clean-up as a family is highly recommended.  Nowadays, we barely give a second thought every time we drink from plastic bottled water, clean hard to reach corners with Q-tips, pack take-away meals in styrofoam /plastic boxes or pick up a straw for our drink.  But these habits have generated most of the common trash we collected when my family joined Trash Hero Singapore in one of their monthly sessions to clean up a quiet part of the beach at East Coast Park.

Armed with a pair of gloves (a must, never pick up trash with bare hands, and tell the kids to always inform an adult when they find broken glass, fish hooks, syringes, needles, or any sharp objects) and a plastic bag, the instruction from the organizer was simple: pick up as much trash as possible in 2 hours.  After 10 minutes, I found myself squatting at the same spot sorting out items that shouldn’t belong there: cigarette butts, tiny plastic sticks from Q-tips (but my kids think that these are lollipop sticks, guess they look the same after the candy and cotton buds are gone,) candy wrappers, straws of different colors and sizes, and most annoying of all, styrofoam bits that have disintegrated into impossibly tiny pieces over time.  The task of picking out these bits looked impossible and I told myself I will bring along a sieve/colander next time to separate these styrofoam pieces from the fine sand.  I moved on to picking up larger trash items like plastic bottles, drink cans, used wet wipes, snack packaging, fish nets, and plastic bags.  Others found toothbrushes and plastic combs.

Nov/Dec 2017 School Holiday Activities - Eco Edition // Mono + CoNov/Dec 2017 School Holiday Activities - Eco Edition // Mono + Co
Photo credit : Trash Hero Singapore

By the end of the session, 80kg of rubbish were collected, mostly plastic.  The single most important takeaway from this beach clean up: avoid the use of disposable plastic.  Trash Hero Singapore will be conducting another beach clean up session on 26 November (Sunday) at Sembawang Beach Park.  Check out the details here.

Can’t wait to start a greener way to spend the rest of the school holiday? Let’s start from this Saturday :

Nov 25 (Sat)

//Charismatic Primates of Malaysia – Living in Harmony with Nature and Wildlife
A second Jane Goodall Institute Singapore Lecture Series with primate experts from Malaysia.  Registration is required.
LINK

// Chek Jawa Boardwalk
Free guided nature walk at Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin.  The one held later on 16th Dec has been fully booked.
When/ Where: 9.30am / Chek Jawa Information Kiosk, Pulau Ubin
Registation here.
LINK

// Bukit Brown – An Introductory Walk
Free guided walk.  Another afternoon walk is available on 26th.
When/ Where: 9am/ Bukit Brown Cemetery
Register here.

// Singapore Really Really Free Market
Set up a free booth with family or friends, share pre-loved items, enjoy some time without spending any money.
When/Where: 3pm-7pm/ Blk 137 Bedok Reservoir Road S470137
LINK

Nov 26 (Sun)

// Trash Hero Beach Clean Up
When/ Where: 8am/ Sembawang Park Beach
LINK

// Repair Kopitiam
Have broken down items at home?  Say no to a throw away society, send them for repair and learn the how-to at the same time as volunteers share their repair knowledge and skills.
When/ Where: 10am – 2pm/ 2 locations ->Blk 897A Tampines St 81,Singapore,521897AND Block 423, Jurong West Ave 1,Singapore,640423
LINK

// Bukit Brown – An Introductory Walk
Free guided walk.
When/ Where: 4pm – 6.30pm/ Bukit Brown Cemetery
Register here

Dec 1 (Fri)

// Night Critter Watch at Rainforest Boardwalk
Guided walk. $13 per participant. Free for 6 years old and below. Registration required.
When/Where: 6.30pm-8.30pm/ Singapore Botanic Gardens
LINK

Dec 2 (Sat)

++ The UP Market ++
UP refers to upcycling, my favorite way to reuse glass bottles, plastic containers and old bamboo toothbrushes.
Join this upcycling-themed market “that aims to build a community of upcyclers to share upcycling ideas, products and to promote upcycling and other sustainable lifestyles.”
LINK

// Kranji Countryside Farmers’ Market
Support local produce and locally made products at this fair held over 2 days.  While there, make some some time cover part of the Heritage Trail as well.
When/ Where: (Dec 2)12pm – 8pm/ (Dec 3)10am – 4pm/ D’Kranji Farm Resort
LINK

Dec 9 (Sat)

// Ecolife at Coney Island
Free guided walk. Registration required.
When/Where: 9am-11am/ Coney Island West Entrance
LINK

// Ecolife at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park
Free guided walk. Registration required.
When/ Where: 9am-11am/ Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park Promenade
LINK

// Photography Talk by Mr Isak Pretorius
The speaker is a BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year’s Bird Behaviour Category (2013) and will be sharing his passion for photography and nature during the free session.
When/ Where: 9.30am – 12.00pm/ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
LINK

// A walk with your neighbours: The macaques of MacRitchie
Guided walk led by experts from the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore.  Free, registration required.
When/ Where: 5pm – 6.30pm / MacRitchie Reservoir Park
LINK

Dec 10 (Sun)

//Tzu Chi Recycling Day
Every 2nd Sunday of the month, Tzu Chi set up recycling points around the island to receive recyclables.  Don’t just stop at dropping off your recyclables, try your hands at sort out them out and learn more about environmental conservation and the need to cut down on waste.
When/ Where: 9am – 12pm/ Various locations
LINK

//Forest Walk: Tengah Forest
Explore what’s still left untouched by the ongoing Tengah’s “Forest Town” development, set to be Singapore’s largest smart sustainable smart town with a car-free town center.
When: 8am
LINK

//Family Yoga In The Park
Children are welcome. Free.
When/ Where: 8am – 9am/ Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Tecoma Green
LINK

//Healthy Living with Navayugum
Free workshop to learn more about living a healthier lifestyle through a guided spice tour, healthy recipes, followed by a relaxing yoga session in the serene Fort Canning Park.  Registration required.
When/ Where: 10am – 12pm / Fort Canning Park
LINK

Dec 16 (Sat)

//What’s in my sky?
Learn to identify many amazing birds of different species that passes through or make Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve their home in this free guided walk.  Registration required.
When/ Where: 9.30am – 11am/ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
LINK

//A walk with your neighbours: The macaques of Lower Peirce
Guided walk led by experts from the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore.  Free, registration required.
When/ Where: 5pm – 6.30pm
LINK

//Marine Mangroves cum Coastal Cleanup at Ubin
Another coastal clean up activity, this time to “remove abandoned drift nets and marine debris that chokes up Ubin’s coastline.”
Registration required.
When/ Where: 3pm – 6pm / Meet at Changi Point Ferry Terminal.
LINK

Dec 19 (Tues)

// Zero Waste Living with Bea Johnson
Hear from Bea Johnson, one of the earliest zero waste lifestyle adopter, on how she and her family stick to the 5R’s: “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot, and only in that order” and inspire the rest of the world to “live simply and take a stance against needless waste.”
When/ Where: 7pm – 9.30pm/The Metro @ thebridge, Ascent, #01-07, 2 Science Park Drive
LINK

Dec 23 (Sat)

//Learning Forest Tour, Singapore Botanic Gardens
Free tour of The Learning Forest that is located in the new Tyersall-Gallop Core of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Registration for the tour starts 15 minutes before session starts at Visitor Services, Tyersall Gate.
When/ Where: 9am – 10am / The Learning Forest, Singapore Botanical Gardens
LINK

//Heritage Tour, Singapore Botanic Gardens
Free guided tour. Highlights of the tour include the Bandstand, sculptures in the Gardens, the Heritage Trees, the Main Gate, the Saraca Stream Walk.
Registration for the tour starts 15 minutes for session starts at Visitor Services Desk, Tanglin Gate.
When/Where: 9am – 10am
LINK

//Race Against Time – Science behind a Botanic Garden Tour
This 45-minute tour suitable for participants 9 years old and above introduces the research facilities at the Singapore Botanic Gardens such as the Library of Botany & Horticulture, Orchid & Micro-propagation laboratory and the Herbarium.
Registration for the tour starts 15 minutes for session starts at Visitor Services Desk, Tanglin Gate.
LINK

// What’s in my mangrove?
Free guided tour that lets you learn about the mangrove trees and plants of the forest at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
Registration required.
When/ Where: 9.30am – 11am/ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve,
LINK

//A walk with your neighbours: The macaques of Bukit Timah
Guided walk led by experts from the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore.  Free, registration required.
When/ Where: 5pm-6.30pm/ Bt Timah Nature Reserve
LINK

// What’s in my water?
Free guided tour that lets you learn about the creatures and plants that lives in and around the water edges of Sungei Buloh.
Registration required.
When/ Where: 9.30am – 11am
LINK

On Packing (Almost Zero Waste) Toiletries For A Short Trip

On Packing (Almost Zero Waste) Toiletries For A Short Trip // Mono + Co

Packing my toiletries a short trip means shuttling between the bathroom and the kitchen to refill my containers with mostly my DIY-ed products.  Here’s what I brought along for a brief vacation recently.

On Packing (Almost Zero Waste) Toiletries For A Short Trip // Mono + CoOn Packing (Almost Zero Waste) Toiletries For A Short Trip // Mono + Co

++ Body scrub ++

A mixture of Himalayan pink salt + crushed rose petals + dried lemongrass (from teabags) + few drops of avocado oil mixed with few drops lemongrass essential oil.  This doubles up as my room fragrance as I leave the jar open uncovered inside the room throughout my stay.

On Packing (Almost Zero Waste) Toiletries For A Short Trip // Mono + Co

++ Night Repair Facial Oil Capsules ++

Nothing complicated, these capsules are the same Evening Primrose Oil capsules that I take orally once a day, but they work great as well for my skin when applied topically as facial oil.  I am really thankful for my non-sensitive skin.  I have tried avocado oil, sweet almond oil, and walnut oil so far with no clogging or allergic issues.

Bring along a pair of small scissors to cut a small hole on one end of the capsule.  I like to use this oil overnight after a day’s exposure to sun, grime and dirt.  I use up less than half of a capsule for whole face and neck, so the balance goes to soften my hands, cuticles and elbows, basically wherever I like.  It has a distinctive oily smell that some might find unpleasant, I usually mix it with lavender essential oil at home but for traveling sake, I choose to apply it sans additional fragrance so that I can just count and bring the exact number of capsules.  Talk about convenient travel pack!

On Packing (Almost Zero Waste) Toiletries For A Short Trip // Mono + Co

++ Facial Oil for Day ++

What is the difference between this facial oil and the night one?  Fragrance.  I added a few drops of carrot seed , lavender and geranium essential oil to avocado oil and store them in a tiny glass dropper bottle.  Scent is really subtle, do not expect it to last like commerical fragrance but that’s all it takes to perk up my vacation mood in the morning before heading out to explore the city.  I prefer smelling the street food than overpowering perfume anyway.

On Packing (Almost Zero Waste) Toiletries For A Short Trip // Mono + Co

++ Bar Soap ++

I did not make this soap, it’s Chandrika brand from India.  Compared to commercial body shampoo, I prefer soap bars as they use less plastic as packaging.  These bars made with vegetable oils are wrapped individually in paper (feel waxed though) and then packed in a paper box that I usually send for recycling.  Although the ingredient list stated talc and artificial color #CI 12700, #CI 64565 , the rest of the ingredients look naturally derived.

Bar soaps make a terrible mess when they are accidentally left sitting in an undrained soap dish.  I usually keep them in a drawstring bag handsewn out of wash cloth and hang the pouch with the soap bar inside to drip dry after shower.  The pouch also adds extra exfoliation during shower time.  Best part is when the soap has been reduced to a smaller piece, I simply pop a new bar into the bag and the smaller piece will be eventually used up as well, contained inside the bag this way, no more losing loose bits of soap, zero wastage.

On Packing (Almost Zero Waste) Toiletries For A Short Trip // Mono + Co

++ Tea Seed Powder Shampoo ++

I wrote about how I have been using this powder here.  Also used it to wash my reusable cutlery and lunchbox in the hotel room after a day of rejecting disposable ones.  I wasn’t that successful everywhere, and had to wash those that I can’t reject in time with tea seed powder (my defacto dish washing detergent at home) before bringing them back home for reusing/recycling.  But that’s a story for another day.

On Packing (Almost Zero Waste) Toiletries For A Short Trip // Mono + Co

++ Bamboo toothbrush & Baking Soda toothbrushing powder ++

Powder packed in a reused mask sample container.  Make sure to wipe dry the horse hair bristles on the bamboo toothbrush (very important step as natural material is especially susceptible to mold) before covering and wrapping with sheets from tear off calendar as shown below.  I use the same calendar sheet to wrap and pack the toothbrush back home.

On Packing (Almost Zero Waste) Toiletries For A Short Trip // Mono + Co

++ Make-up Kit ++

A fan of light makeup (rather the lack of skills for it,) I brought only the minimal number of cosmetic items along.  If you can recognise, the plastic container is actually a dehumidifier box from Daiso that I “diverted” from my camera cabinet for just a few days.

// make up brushes : I used the same calendar paper for wrapping my bamboo toothbrush to pack my make up brushes as well, one for powder foundation to make skin look more even, and another for applying blusher.

// face power : I buy only the face compact power refill that comes in a clear plastic box packaging.  The plastic box actually closes with a snap, this design allows me to do away with the standard container with mirror, making it even more compact.

On Packing (Almost Zero Waste) Toiletries For A Short Trip // Mono + Co

// blusher : that tiny glass jar from Bonne Maman jam contains my blush powder, previously in compact form but cracked when I accidentally dropped it from a height.  I have since crushed the broken pieces into fine power and store them in the jar.  Applying is slightly tricky, take slightly more time to avoid pick up too much color with my brush.  As a result, I ended up wash my blusher brush more often to get rid of color build up over time, resulting in a more hygenic blusher brush to use.  I won’t tell you how often I wash this brush previously. 🙂

// make up remover : brought along a handy tube of coconut oil.  After the face is free of make up, I wash again with tea seed powder to remove the grease.

On Packing (Almost Zero Waste) Toiletries For A Short Trip // Mono + Co

Toiletry bag : All items fit nicely in a clear bag that used to be a men’s cotton tee-shirt packaging.

Do you have any other good zero-waste toiletry packing tip/ habit to share?

Simple Pleasures

 

// repurpose my old bamboo toothbrush as plant pot markers, the bristles are made with horse bristles, composting them directly inside the soil.

// upcycled my raisin tub into a handy tea seed powder dispenser.

// glass bottle collection getting uncontrollable.

// another glass-bottle-turned-beaker to serve my homemade zero waste ginger black molasses tea in, more on this tea recipe later.

// when all the honey is gone, the tub turns itself into a useful container for soaking 2 cups of soy beans over night in the chiller.  Homemade soy milk!

Green Monday : Weekend Leftovers

Green Monday : Weekend Leftovers // Mono + Co

I usually don’t stock up on fresh produce on Sundays until I get to see the kind of leftovers I end up with on Mondays.  Leftovers refers to both balance uncooked ingredients and unfinished cooked food.  I did pretty well on my “Zero Food Waste” score card this weekend.  Only a small bunch of not-that-fresh-anymore spinach in the crisp drawer and a vegetarian dish (above) leftover from Sunday’s dinner.

In need of more ingredients for dinner tonight, I visited to the wet market this morning to see what items were unsold after a frenzy weekend.  Most of the balance vegetables delivered during wee hours on Sunday morning were hardly fresh anymore with many leafy vegetables close to wilting.  Without me asking, the seller even advised me to cook the items by dinner tonight, or else don’t buy.  So I bought the following 3 leftover items.

Green Monday : Weekend Leftovers // Mono + Co

// Kangkong.  The chilli padi came free I mentioned that I will be stir frying the vegetable with minced garlic.  ” Taste better with chilli!” was his advice, before repeating for the umpteenth time: “must cook by tonight ah….I sell you very cheap, really cannot keep….”  Incidentally, lot of my cooking skills are imparted by these hidden experts at the market, they are never too stingy to share a recipe or two, amidst the busy transactions.  Although the methods are usually very simple and nothing fanciful, these basic recipes are usually also the best way to bring out the original flavor of the ingredients.

Green Monday : Weekend Leftovers // Mono + Co

// Button mushrooms.  When I saw this cardboard box of mushrooms left at the stall, my first reaction was: plastic-free button mushrooms, I found you finally!  Getting all these for just $3 was an additional bonus.  Of large size and still relatively firm, there was actually no need to clear these so cheaply, they will last a few days more in the chiller, but I guess the stallholder needed the space for fresher stocks that will be arriving tomorrow.

Green Monday : Weekend Leftovers // Mono + Co

// Cauliflowers.  Again, these are not at their prettiest.  The stallholder managed to salvage these 3 heads by shaving off florets that had turned brown/black.  Uncle added that “these are from Australia, very good, very sweet, very sayang (heartache) to waste.” They sure know that the growers work very hard to produce these.


++ Update : How I use up these leftovers ++

#001 : this vegan cauliflower creamy mushroom soup with the mushrooms and cauliflowers.

Green Monday : Weekend Leftovers // Mono + Co

#002 : this meat-free Donburi made with partial Sunday dinner leftover

Green Monday : Weekend Leftovers // Mono + Co

#003 : this kang kong stir fry

Green Monday : Weekend Leftovers // Mono + Co

#004 : this reheated Sunday dinner leftover dish with added ingredients, remember that not so fresh spinach in the crisp drawer?

 Green Monday : Weekend Leftovers // Mono + Co

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Zero Waste Homemade Cooling Tea : Monk Fruit +Dried Longans

Zero Waste Cooling Tea : Homemade Monk's Fruit +Dried Longans

Monk fruit (罗汉果) tea is one of the easiest cooling tea to make at home.  The dry goods stores at wet market and chinese medicine halls sell them in bulk without packing, at just 30 cents per fruit.  The dry goods store I visit frequently also carries dried longan flesh (minus the shells) in bulk, so I add them to my homemade cooling tea occasionally for additional nutritional benefits.

Zero Waste Cooling Tea : Homemade Monk's Fruit +Dried Longans

Just 6 simple steps:
++ Bring a pot of water (1 litre to 1 fruit) to boil.
++ Scrub clean the outer shell of the monk fruit, crush the fruit with bare hands and break up the flesh of the fruit further into 4 parts.  Since the fruit is not eaten and needs to be separated from the tea, I try not to crush the shell and flesh into too many tiny pieces to save me the trouble to search for them after making the tea.
++ Add the shell and flesh into the pot of boiling water, boil on high heat for 5 minutes.
++ Add dried longans, turn the heat down slightly, cover the pot and simmer for another 30 minutes.
++ Turn off the heat and let the tea cool down completely.
++ Remove the remains of monk fruit and serve.

Zero Waste Cooling Tea : Homemade Monk's Fruit +Dried Longans

The remains go into my frozen stash for composting, nothing for the incinerator.

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11 (Almost) Free Stuff

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co 11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

I picked up these two discarded items from my void deck :

(top) the crockery jar pot still has its “$19.90” price sticker intact, so my guess is that it’s brand new.

(bottom) this Pyrex brand beaker is actually a carafe dismantled from a poorly maintained french press coffeemaker.  The “plunger” component is missing, all that was left was a badly stained plastic frame and this glass carafe.  After a 30-second soak in hot water, the beaker slides out from the frame easily.  Another 30-second scrubbing with baking soda, the glass beaker starts to look pretty and new again.  Open terrarium, anyone?

While it’s not every day that I can find free usable things on my walking path, here are 10 almost-free items that pop up occasionally in my kitchen:

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++ 001. FREE! BODY SCRUB – from used coffee grounds after a morning cuppa.  After I posted this idea on my FB, someone alerted me that the caffeine is great for banishing cellulite too.  Although most recipes I found online mix coffee grounds with oil to make body scrub, I am simply too lazy to wash up a greasy shower area after my home spa sessions, so I stick to just plain old coffee grounds.  If you don’t drink coffee at home, try requesting used coffee grounds from cafes, a tip some home gardeners share as they use the coffee grounds from cafes as fertilizers.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++002. FREE! CUTTING BOARD CLEANER – Most instructions like this and this ask for freshly cut lemon halves which are used to rub salt into the board.  I use only lemons that have their juice squeezed out to make lemonade.  I don’t have extremely strong arms, so there is always residual juice left in the pulp, not a lot, but somehow enough to cover the entire chopping board.  Great for freshening up boards that are starting to transfer too much garlic smell onto any food that it is in contact with.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++003. FREE! FOOD SAVERS – Reuse glass jars as tiny food savers.  See though means I know exactly what’s inside my fridge, and what I need to clear.  No food wasted.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++004. FREE! TEA LIGHT HOLDERS – Tiny glass jars are the perfect size for this project.  More glass upcycling ideas here.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++005. FREE! WRITING PAPERS – End of the school year means that the kids will be back with half used exercise books, I have been doing this with my limited book binding skill when I accumulate enough sheets.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++006. FREE! MESH PRODUCE BAGS – I asked for these from the vegetable stall holder who throws them away anyway.  Great replacement for plastic bags.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++007. FREE! TRASH BAGS. Anything that comes in a plastic bag can become a trash bag.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++008. FREE! SHOPPING BAGS – These 10kg rice bags with handles can carry up to 10kg loads of shopping items, open up the sewn rice bag like this to do the least damage to it and start reusing these tough bags!

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++009. FREE! KEEPSAKE BOX – Upcycled from fanciful mooncake boxes.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++010. FREE! RUBBER BANDS – Why buy these anyway?

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++ 011. FREE! DESICCANT – These little sachets are in every individually sealed mooncakes.  I also found them in groundnut snacks.  I throw them inside any airtight containers that could do with a little less moisture, e,g, cookie jars, coffee grounds, tea leaves etc.

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I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

So talks are finally underway to stop giving out plastic bags for free in a bid to reduce a global plastic pollution problem.  I started grocery shopping with my own reusable bags 5 years ago, and to date, I am still unable to clear my stockpile of bags. I found this singlet bag all the way from 2012, still in perfectly good condition, as if I have just gotten it yesterday.

Besides becoming litter when disposed of in an inconsiderate manner, plastic waste is creating havoc on earth for the same reason that made them so popular: their durability makes them hard to break down and go away after we are done with their intended use.  The need for something to be lightweight and cheap to produce has created what seems to me as an over-reliance on disposal plastic products like shopping bags, takeaway beverage cups and food containers, straws, etc.  These plastic items are usually good for only one-time use but the discarded plastic waste stays around for a very long time.

Actually, it is kind of a wasteful trait to be telling my kids that humans invented and produce plastic disposable items so that we can be free from the washing task after we are done with our lunch/ coffee/ bubble tea drink, and the pile of disposable plastic waste problem is for someone else to settle.  Don’t we want to raise our kids to be thrifty and frugal?  How do we do that when we keep telling them to throw away things that have been used for barely an hour in the case of takeaway lunch or beverage?

I am no expert on plastic waste management, but I have somehow found a few nifty ways to survive without a kitchen drawer filled with plastic shopping bags for the past few years, and I think I am getting better with each shopping day.  While the bags will only be chargeable starting middle of next year, it doesn’t hurt to start saving a few more plastic bags now from choking the waterways/killing the wildlife/ending up on our dining plate.

Here are 6 tips on how I reduce my reliance on supermarket shopping bags and I hope they will be useful if you are attempting to cut out plastic bags from your shopping trips.


001. Replace waste bin liner with the newspaper

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

Like how Audrey Hepburn line hers in her kitchen, you can easily fold one following this video, or

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

do without a bin completely and fold a standing one like this.

002. Separate the wet kitchen trash from the dry ones.

It’s usually the wet trash that needs to be bagged in plastic to prevent leaks.  The dry ones can be simply wrapped in newspapers before tossing.  The amount of wet trash I produce in my kitchen usually can’t fill up a plastic shopping bag, so I reuse other packaging I have salvaged instead, see tip #003.

003. Rethink plastic shopping bags as the only trash bags at home.

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

The most common response I get from shopping without plastic bags is: “How do you bag your trash?” My answer to that will be:” Every darn packaging that comes with the things I buy!”

Like plastic bags, even these are quick to pile up since we live in a world surrounded by packaging.  The photo above shows what I can accumulate in a day: a commercial bread packaging (when I run out of time to bake my own), a plastic bag from brown rice, and a Milo powder refill sachet.  These can be my alternative trash bags but are often are too large for my wet kitchen trash, so I  send them for recycling instead.  I use smaller plastic bags from packing mushrooms, sugar, rice flour, and salt to bag my wet kitchen trash usually.

004.  Reduce waste: Start recycling

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

Sorting out the recyclables will greatly reduce the amount of “real” trash thrown away.  Starting a recycling corner to collect recyclables like paper, plastic, metal and glass containers.  Deposit them into the blue recycling bins that have been conveniently placed around the estates instead of throwing them away as rubbish.

005. Reduce waste:  the raw vegetable and fruit scraps

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

My kitchen scrap level is now super low since I make eco enzyme with raw vegetable and fruits scraps and send the rest for composting.

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

If composting or making eco enzyme is too complex at first, start with baby steps: make this citrus-infused vinegar with orange/lemon/grapefruit/pomelo peels and use it as an all-purpose cleaner.  Simply fill a container with citrus fruit peels that you would normally discard, top up with white vinegar, and wait around 3 days.  The nice smelling citrus vinegar can now be diluted for cleaning use.

006. Bring along reusable shopping bags
I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

Now that the need for shopping bag as trash bags has been eliminated, it’s time to stop accumulating these plastic bags during shopping trips.  The habit to bring at least 2 reusable shopping bags in my carryall tote, and more if it is a planned grocery shopping trip, has stucked with me for years. I mentioned here before that a cotton tote requires 327 times of usage for its carbon foot print to be on par with that from manufacturing a plastic bag.  Clearly, buying a new reusable shopping bag every shopping trip because one  forgot to bring it out is not environmentally friendly.  Having a stash of foldable shopping bag helped me a lot, since it is convenient to toss one of these neat pouches into my bag and it stays folded inside my bag until I open it up to use.


We are definitely not the first in the world to be charging for plastic bags, neighboring countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia have already done so.  Some shoppers who forget to bring their bag or buy more than they can fit into their bags will reuse shipping cartons discarded by the supermarkets to fill their purchase.  I wonder if the local supermarkets will allow shoppers to do the same during the initial stage until they pick up the habit to bring their reusable shopping bags.

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

I am currently getting most of my fresh groceries from the wet market as I try to eliminate the cellophane bags that the vegetables are wrapped in.  Let’s talk more about plastic-free shopping some day.

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Ugly Carrots

Ugly Carrots // Mono + Co

“Common sense and a visual inspection should dictate whether the (cracked) carrot is safe to eat or not.”love2garden.

I find this so true for most of the ugly produce we see in the market. Or we do not get to see since they usually don’t make it to the shelves, rejected by the distributors and retailers, and ended up as food waste.

Slightly cracked carrots are quite common at the wet market, and I have no qualms picking them up since I know that they are generally safe to eat after a good scrub.  During a recent shopping trip, I noticed a bunch of broken carrots placed aside at the usual vegetable stall I patronize.  A check with the stall holder revealed that these carrots had just arrived and found to be damaged, most likely when the cartons were dropped from a great height during transportation, and she was willing to let them go at $1.  It was already past noon, I guess no one was interested.

Since I always chop up carrots for cooking anyway, the snapped carrots don’t really bother me.  So these carrots went home with me and it is now my job to turn them into beautiful meals.

// 001. Creamy Carrot Soup

adapted from here

Ugly Carrots // Mono + Co

I like how the recipe added white rice to make the soup creamier.

Ugly Carrots // Mono + Co

Added my own idea : Nutritional yeast instead of making broth from scratch and cashew nuts for a more nutty flavor.

Ugly Carrots // Mono + Co

After blending, who cares if the carrots have cracks or have snapped into halves?

//002. Pickled Carrot Sticks

adapted from here

Ugly Carrots // Mono + Co

Glass jars are great for pickles.  I sterilise mine by steaming before reusing.  More glass jars and bottle recycling ideas here.

Ugly Carrots // Mono + Co

Instead of finely julienned carrots, I simply prep mine matchstick style for crunch.

//003. Mashed Carrot Buns

adapted from here

Ugly Carrots // Mono + Co

Instead of taro, I replace with the recipe with mashed carrots.

Ingredients: 250g white flour, 1 teaspoon instant dry yeast, 150g mashed carrots, t tablespoon raw honey, 1 tablespoon raw sugar, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, 1 egg, 80g water, 20g cold butter.
Method: here

Some recipes use carrot juice to get the bright orange color for the bread, but there is something special about being able to spot real carrot bits in the buns when I use mashed vegetables to bake my bread recipes.

After making these, I still have half of the carrots left.  This and this for breakfast real soon.

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