Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018

Today is the second day of Chinese New Year.  I can already forsee that there will hardly be much decoration waste to discard when the celebration is over.  We are happily reusing most of the decorative items from previous years and I use a lot of tassels like these to inject a Chinese new year feel into almost anything around the house.  Everything gets stowed away rather than being thrown away, and since they are not that elaborated, they don’t take up much space in the store room either.  As long as I can practice self-control when it comes to pretty wicker hamper baskets!

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : vase, tassel, mini wooden peg with bird motif, grey jute string, patterned origami paper.
// new : baby’s breath in pink, to be dried and added to my dry flower collection.

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : hamper basket, artificial peach blossom from hamper deco, tassel, red packets
// new : mandarin oranges.  When all the exchanges are done after the new year visits, the fruits will be eaten, the peels to be soaked in white vinegar to make an citrus infused all-purpose cleaner.

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : a pair of door couplets and 3 “福” wall decorative images, since I refrain from buying zodiac specific ones.

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : red packets from last year turned into lanterns this year, and tassels.

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : umeshu glass bottle-turned-vase for a bouquet of artificial flowers, also pre-loved.

On Free Gifts

Not all free gifts with purchases are created equal; there are those that are stowed away in the cupboard for months and end up taking up space.

Then there are those that keep appearing on the kitchen counter every other day.  Here are 8 free items that I’ll absolutely use over and over again:

++ oo1 lasagna ceramic dish ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// for baking brownies,

On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// and honey granola.


++ 002 stainless steel spoon ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// bundled free with condiment, fits nicely in my zero-waste takeaway lunchbox.


++ 003 porcelain spoon ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

//  originally for jams, now for scooping everything delicious.


++004 cotton dish towel ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// workhorse in the kitchen, extra brownie points for the hanging loop.


++005 mug ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// that have been around for a long long time.


++ 006 4pc cutlery ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// because I never own a branded one before, not that the logo matters. The point is it’s free AND useful.


++ 007 plastic container ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + CoOn Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// the handle on the cover made it a handy snack carrier, minus the need for plastic bags.


++ 008 tote bag ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// simply useful, for avoiding plastic bags.


Are you equally choosy about accepting the free gifts into your house?
Have you ever ended up NOT buying something because the bundled gift was not desirable?

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

I collect these used candles in blue, yellow, and red from parties as they are a waste to throw away after just 1-2 minutes of use.

Since most DIY candle tutorials online like this and this are all about simply melting the wax followed by adding colour or scent to the end product, I thought I could do the same with the discards I gathered.

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

This tutorial that melts the wax directly inside mason jars hits the right note with me: messy wax residues in pots and utensils are a pain to clean up.  I separated the candles from their wicks, placed them in a glass jar and proceeded to melt them in a water bath.

The colours from the candles combined to produce a purple shade end product, to which I added lavender essential oil as a scent to match its appearance.

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

After trying out the method with a portion of the candles that led to a successful light-up session, I am ready to use up all my stash to fill the jar.

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

I also reused a wick from one of the candles.  Once I have too many used candles, now I have too many wicks.

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

Hopefully, this little one will bring some cosy feel to my home.  I am extremely late on this Danish Hygge concept since I have only very recently read the 2 little books of “Hygge” and “Lykke”, back to back, by The Happiness Research Institute.  I can’t be more inspired to add elements of fun/warmth/togetherness/cosiness/happiness to my everyday life!

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

Simple Pleasures

over new year’s eve & new year’s day

// reusing this holder with a new calendar.

// and the metal tearing guide component from the new calendar becomes a binder for unused sheets from kids’ school exercise books.

// washed and ironed these square tenugui for wrapping lunch boxes or packing finger food takeaways without disposables etc.

// rinsed and air-dried tiny honey jars that came with our tea order, too wasteful to be recyled or discarded.  Think lipbalm containers.

// scent of the month : lime.  Infused white vinegar with leftover lime peels to make a safer all-purpose cleaner.

// 2.5 cups of rolled-oats-turned-honey-granola fit a reused 680ml pasta bottle nicely.

// stowing away this handmade Xmas wreath away with recycled log cake toppers and hamper ornaments.  Green CNY decorating ideas up soon.

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.

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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.

Save

Save

Save

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save