Tag Archives: diy

Stuff You Should Never Put Down the Drain

Those living in rural areas with their own septic tanks have probably always been pretty conscientious about what they flush down the loo. If only because when something goes wrong, it’s pretty expensive to fix and you’re the sucka who’s gotta pay for it. But those of us in cities and towns whose waste just goes into the sewer system are generally pretty relaxed about what goes down the drain. Wet wipes, nappies, tampons, condoms, cooking fats and oils and coffee grounds.

I’ve always been fairly conscientious about using household cleaning products that won’t harm the water table after being poured down the drain, but lately I have become incredibly aware of other more…tangible problems in our sewers and waterways, as last September (2017) barely a couple of miles from my home there was a huge disgusting fatberg found in the sewers of Whitechapel which weighed over 130 tonnes and was over 250 metres long.

“A fatberg smells like rotting meat mixed with the odour of a smelly toilet.” – Thames Water Sewer Network Manager, Alex Saunders

So it got me thinking about not only what we shouldn’t be putting down the drain, but what can we do to make sure that these items aren’t only not clogging up the sewers, but not impacting landfill either, nor contributing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. UKDN have produced a list of the Drainage Dirty Dozen – items you shouldn’t be putting down your drain – and there’s a fantastic poster you can download, print and pop into your loo or kitchen. Its particularly handy if you run a cafe, community centre or other business where you can’t personally monitor what is going down your drains. As you’ll see from the list, there are quite a lot of things you really shouldn’t be putting down the drain, but here are my top 5 swaps you can make to reduce the impact you’re having on our environment and on your local sewer system.

1. Wet Wipes

The Problem: Okay, these are the nasties which, combined with grease and fats in the sewers, are mainly responsible for the creation of fatbergs and similar deposits. As a parent, think about how many wet wipes you use with your child. Even the “flushable” ones are bad. I used disposable Water Wipes with my daughter when we were out and about, as they were chemical-free and safe for her skin. But they weren’t any better in terms of environmental impact when it came to their disposal. I’m pretty sure that I always wrapped them up inside the dirty nappy before disposing of them in the bin, but I’ll bet there were at least a couple of times when I wasn’t thinking and tossed them down the loo.

The Solution: When my daughter was a baby, we used only DIY wet wipes at home and if I knew then what I knew now about wipes, I’d have bought a small wet bag and used them on the go as well as they’re so easy. You can make them to fit any budget – if you’re on a tight budget you can make them by ripping up old flannels and following my recipe in the video below. If you have a bigger budget, these Norwex baby body cloths are great and as they’re embedded with antibacterial silver, they limit bacterial growth so you only need to run them under the tap before and after use (then throw them in a 60 degree wash when you get home).

2. Nappies

The Problem: I have to admit it boggles my mind how on earth nappies are getting down the drain. Surely nappies are too big to flush? Nevertheless, they seem to be getting down there, so obviously someone is flushing them. The obvious answer here is…don’t flush your nappies down the loo. But the overall environmental impact of nappies is pretty harsh. Its estimated that in the UK 8 million nappies are being thrown away per day. Each one of those 8 million nappies per day takes around 500 years to degrade in landfill. I’ll let you do the math and think about the environmental consequences of that.

The Solution: One way you can minimise the risk of nappies ending up in landfill or sewers is by swapping to cloth nappy use – full or part time. By using cloth nappies you’ll also make a savings of around £500 per child. Most nurseries I’ve spoken to are really happy to use cloth nappies if you kit them out properly, so even if you’re not a stay at home parent, you can still use cloth nappies easily and benefit from their environmental and cost savings. We used AppleCheeks nappies as we found they worked best and had the best range of sizes, but there are lots of brands out there to fit all budgets and you can try out the different brands before committing to purchasing by visiting a nappy library. There are even brands out there producing hybrid cloth nappies which, while still creating some disposable waste, make travelling with cloth nappies totally possible. You can also do what we did, which is use cloth at home and in the local area, but eco-disposable brands (like Bambo and Naty) when travelling.

apple cheeks cloth nappies

3. Tampons

The Problem: We’ve all done it. (Well, those of us who use tampons, sorry boys!) We’ve all been in a public loo without a sanitary waste bin and just flushed our tampon. Its so easy to do…and they’re soooooo small. What harm can they do? Tampons are designed not to break down when they get wet (that’s how they, urm, do their job so well) and let alone worrying about the sewer, they’re probably going to clog your drain – very quickly. So even in North American and the UK, with our more robust plumbing, its still a big no no.

The Solution: Tampons are a cocktail of glyphosate, dioxin and chlorine, which is not

which of the following do you flush or pour down your bathroom drains?
really anything you want up your Queen Victoria. There are natural and organic brands of tampons available, but OMG when I made the swap to a menstrual cup, it was awesome! No irritation from constantly changing tampons all day, no worries about leaks and I could just go about my day without actually constantly remembering I was having my period. They’re made from medical grade silicone and so they’re easy to clean and sterilise between uses month to month. There are two sizes – size 1 for those of you who haven’t popped out babies and size 2 for ‘post childbirth’ women or women over 30. If you’re a really heavy bleeder, you can always pop on a pair of period pants which will absorb up to 1.5 tampons worth of blood (and yes, they also work). What I like about menstrual cups and period pants is that they are both better, easier and more comfortable and easier than the conventional solution. And of course cheaper. A good menstrual cup costs about $35/£19 and will last you for 10 years. (The 3rd solution is “mama cloth” which is homemade cloth sanitary pads you can get on Amazon and Etsy. Don’t bother unless you like feeling awkward, uncomfortable, a bit smelly and constantly worrying about leaks. Then go for it.)

4. Medications

The Problem: When we don’t finish medications (prescription or otherwise) we really don’t want them sitting around – especially if we have kids or vulnerable people in the house who could accidentally ingest them. If you flush your unused or expired medication or crush it up and pour it down the drain, those chemicals will leach back into your drinking water and the environment. Rather shockingly, the US FDA actually suggests that you SHOULD flush dangerous medications down the toilet (granted, its better than a child accidentally ingesting it) but really this is shockingly poor advice, as those drugs are going to affect the water table and even relatively safe drugs like the oral contraceptive pill will add hormones to the water which aren’t filtered out when water is prepared for consumption by treatment plants.

The Solution: The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee sensibly advises

UKDN_HYEFAOTF_Infographic_Final
that you should always dispose of unwanted medication at your local pharmacy or police department as they will have access to medical waste disposal units. You should be aware that pharmacies are required by law to take back unwanted medicines from patients and it is their responsibility to arrange for safe disposal. For minor health conditions you may wish to look at more natural alternatives rather than pharmaceutical solutions for every small ache and pain. A great solution to ensure you’re putting your money where it needs to go when looking at natural health solutions is by reading PubMed research papers where there you can find plenty of high quality research providing evidence (or lack thereof) on natural remedies. My one caveat to this is that gold standard research is expensive and in many cases, the people with the money to spend on research (pharmaceutical and chemical companies which sponsor and fund many academic research projects), don’t necessarily wish to investigate low cost or free natural alternatives to their own products. Just because a natural alternative doesn’t have evidence supporting it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work (although it may not) – it means that the study may have been flawed (the wrong subspecies of botanical used, etc.) or that there hasn’t been any study conducted at all. Don’t worry though, there are usually plenty of natural options with good supporting gold standard evidence in their favour and this is where I would recommend someone puts their focus.

5. Grease, Oil & Cooking Fat

The Problem: Okay, so back to fatbergs. Its also not the big mega fatbergs you need to

UKDN_DYPTFDTS_Infographic_Final
worry about – you also need to worry about smaller fatbergs forming in the sewer pipes underneath your property…which YOU are liable for (see here for details about which pipes are and aren’t your responsibility). Okay, so we don’t want local domestic fatbergs and we don’t want big urban fatbergs. But what are they? Can’t we just melt them with the hairdryer or something? Well, no, because they’re not just fat and baby wipes stuck together. Here comes the science! Fatbergs are more of a hard soap-like compound. They’re formed when the fats you pour down the drain go into the sewers and break down into their component parts of fatty acids and glycerol and bind to calcium (created from the corrosion of concrete amongst other things – or if you live in London where ISN’T calcium present?) which is found in the sewers. They then form stalactites and have to be ‘mined’ away like the Whitechapel ones have been.

The Solution: I have two solutions for you. The first is to not cook with so much fat. Do you really need to deep fry everything? Honestly despite what the popular media is saying about fat being the new broccoli or whatever, fat in its refined form (oils and other forms where it has been extracted from its whole food state) is not that good for you and is a pro-inflammatory food. I’ll admit that yes a bit of olive oil makes food taste lovely, but if you’re using more than a couple of teaspoons which are absorbed into the food you’re cooking then maybe you need to give pause for thought. But if you insist on making grandma’s deep fried apple fritter recipe and have a load of leftover oil or you’ve cooked a Sunday roast and there’s leftover ooky fat at the base of your roasting tray, you’re going to have to dispose of it in your household garbage and not by pouring it down the sink…or (like I see some London housewives doing) by taking it outside into the street and pouring it straight down into the storm drains!

This post is a collaboration with UKDN, the UK’s market leader in the wastewater industry.

How to Make Golden Milk

I’ll admit that golden milk isn’t my drink of choice when it comes to flavour as I’m not the biggest fan of turmeric (outside of a curry). But this antioxidant powerhouse of a drink provides a range of fantastic health benefits for its anti-inflammatory properties. I suggest that if you’re using powdered turmeric, that you make sure you are using a fresh, organic brand which will have higher levels of the active phytonutrient curcumin.

It might seem a bit gross adding a bit of pepper like I have here, but the addition of the piperine (the active phytochemical in the black pepper) by freshly grinding some pepper into your drink, will boost the bioavailability of the curcumin by up to 2000%.

I’ve also added cinnamon and a fine dusting of nutmeg for added flavour (I think these make the golden milk more tasty) and provide added anti-inflammatory benefits, but if you don’t like cinnamon or nutmeg, you can leave these out.

Here’s how I make mine:

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Place your turmeric juice or powdered turmeric into a saucepan with the plant milk and gently simmer for around 10 minutes.
  2. Before serving, sprinkle on some freshly ground pepper and stir in the sweetener. Then strain it into a glass or mug and drink whilst warm. Grate nutmeg on top.

If you want to find out about the effectiveness of curcumin, I encourage you to read the resources referenced below. Enjoy!

Resources

  1. Prasad, S., Tyagi, A. and Aggarwal, B. (2014). Recent Developments in Delivery, Bioavailability, Absorption and Metabolism of Curcumin: the Golden Pigment from Golden Spice. Cancer Research and Treatment, 46(1), pp.2-18. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3918523/ [Accessed 21 May 2018].
  2. Whfoods.com. (2018). Turmeric. [online] Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78 [Accessed 21 May 2018].

How to Make Your Own Cashew Milk

I like making my own cashew milk because its rich and creamy and it tends not to split in coffee or tea. I won’t lie and say I never buy store bought plant milks (because I do), but I try not to do so all the time because commercial manufacturers do add rather a lot of extra unnecessary additives. (However, as with cow’s milk, they do fortify these milks as well, so remember to adequately supplement your diet if you decide to eschew the commercial plant milks entirely.)  Of all the homemade plant milks I’ve made, cashew milk is my most successful one and everyone who has tasted it has loved it. It passes my “milk and cookies test” meaning it is delicious served neat in a glass with a cookie for dunking.

Nutrition-wise, cashews are one of the lowest fat nuts with around 82% of their fat being unsaturated, and of that, 66% is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, like the kind you find in olive oil. It has been found that when added to a low-fat diet, monounsaturated fats can help reduce high triglyceride levels in diabetes patients.  (Triglycerides are the form in which fats are carried in our blood and are what block our insulin receptors from activating and prevent glucose from entering our cells, thus keeping blood glucose levels high and contributing to the diabetes process.)

Cashews are also a great source of copper and a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Its also great news that regular nut eaters tend to be slimmer than non nut-eaters and are also at a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, gallstones and Type 2 Diabetes. Just stick to your portion sizes of roughly 1/3 c of nuts per day.

I make my cashew milk quite extra thick and creamy, but if you want a thinner drink, just add more fresh filtered water in 50ml increments until you get the consistency you like. I also recommend buying cashew pieces because its often cheaper than buying whole cashew pieces. If you’re buying in bulk, make sure you store your cashews in the fridge (for up to 6 months) or the freezer (for up to a year).

Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic cashew nuts*
  • 6 cups fresh filtered water
  • medjool date*
  • Pinch of sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (optional)

Equipment

Method

1. Soak your cashew nuts overnight (or for at least 4 hours) in 2 cups of fresh filtered water with the medjool date and a pinch of salt. You’ll be amazed at how plump and moist the nuts will become after even just a few hours of soaking.

2. After soaking, drain the pre-soaked nuts (and de-pitted medjool date) and add them all to a high speed blender with 4 cups of fresh filtered water. You can now add a pinch of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of vanilla. This is optional, but I highly recommend it because of how delicious it makes the end product! Blend this mixture on a high speed for 1-2 minutes, depending on how powerful your blender is.

3. Strain the mixture through your nut milk bag* and store in a jar or milk bottle in the fridge. It will keep for up to 3 days.

Tip: You can save any remaining strained nut pulp by freezing it and adding it to cookies or other baked goods at a later date, however if you have a high speed blender, you’re unlikely to have much or any pulp leftover.

cashewsSources: World’s Healthiest FoodsJournal of Biological ChemistryLivestrong, “How Not to Die” by Dr Michael Greger MD



*I’ve popped in a few affiliate links into this post, directly with Nutri Ninja (worldwide) and Amazon (UK), so if you’d like to support what I do here at Our Little Organic Life, then please do shop via these links – you don’t pay any more and I get a small commission. Thanks!

Zero Waste Challenge

About a year ago I came across the concept of the zero waste lifestyle.  I loved everything about it in the same way I once loved reading Vanity Fair.  A lifestyle promoted by impossibly perfect, model-like women living in their unattainably stylish, minimalistic New York micro-lofts, shopping at Whole Foods and fitting all their annual household rubbish into a mason jar and then blogging or vlogging about it.  I mean, good for them.  If I were 15 years younger and starting out from scratch I’d do the same (without being impossibly perfect or model-like).  But what about when you already have a house full of stuff, a husband, a baby and a very hairy geriatric dog?

Well, you do what you can.  That’s what you do.

We are not a zero waste home, but we do our best and I have made significant reductions in our household waste over the last year.  I started moving towards my zero waste goal at home by making small changes.  I switched to a bamboo toothbrush (rather than a plastic one), started making a lot of my own personal care items and…well, just buying less ‘stuff’.  Every time you go out and buy ‘stuff’, you come home and take it out of its plastic bag, unpackage it, use it / wear it for a bit / put it on a shelf with your other ‘stuff’ and then get rid of it.  All of that – the bag, the packaging and the ‘stuff’ itself – ends up in the recycle bin or charity shop at best, and more often than not, it ends up in landfill.

The green/eco blogging community is a fairly small one, and so when another green lifestyle blogger approached me to do a Zero Waste Challenge with her throughout the month of June, I thought it would be a great opportunity to up my own game at home.  So over the next few weeks I’m going to write some posts to help you learn a bit about some practical ways to introduce a few zero waste changes into your own lifestyle.  And I can promise you that you’ll be model-like and have a perfect, stylish home and will only shop at Whole Foods by the end of it.  Okay, maybe not…but you’ll definitely notice your house will be filled with less crap, your medicine cabinet will look a lot more chic, you’ll spend less money and most importantly, your garbage bin will be less full each week.  Meanwhile, here at chez OLOL I’m going to work on introducing a few more changes into the way we do things to even further reduce our household waste.

If you’d like to get inspired to learn more about realistic small changes you can make to move towards a zero waste lifestyle, please come back and check out my posts throughout June and if you’d like to see a family who really does successfully live this way, check out Zero Waste Home where Bea Johnson and her family in California produce just one jar of rubbish per year.

 

Homemade Antibacterial Foaming Handsoap

I love DIY personal care and home care recipes because, as the name of my blog kind of implies, I don’t like using toxic chemicals around myself and my family.  Its not just an ‘in principle’ kind of a thing either for me.  Conventional cleaning products make my throat swell up and I get really seriously fatigued.  So making my own stuff is both fun and helps me feel at my best all the time.

However…its got to work.  I hate natural products that don’t work.

One product I do love is Dr Bronner’s liquid Castile soap, but when I’ve put it into soap dispensers in the past, it shoots out, straight past your hand onto your nice clean shirt (your houseguests will love this), and after a few days, it clogs up in the pump nozzle.

So I adapted this great recipe for DIY foaming hand soap from the Homemade Mommy’s blog and adjusted it to suit my love of rich, foamy and delicious smelling moisturising hand soap.  Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love my essential oils and the Thieves oil I use in here isn’t just nice smelling (its that too!) but its antibacterial and it actually supports your immune system rather than systematically destroying it like the commercial antibacterial soaps do.*  Here’s where I get my Thieves oil, but if you like you can make a version of it yourself.  Or, you can use any essential oil or essential oil blend you like, such as lavender, orange, peppermint or tea tree.  Keep in mind the antibacterial qualities will depend on the essential oil you’re using.

PicMonkey Collage

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup liquid unscented Castile soap (such as Dr Bronners)
  • 2/3 cup filtered water
  • 1/4 tsp essential oil

heres the stuff you'll need

Now, here’s where it gets really complicated.  Blend all the ingredients together and pour it into your foaming hand soap dispenser.  The one I got is from Interdesign and I ordered it from Amazon.  I need to double the above recipe to fill my dispenser.

You’re done.

foamy

*Commercial antibacterial soaps and hand gels target all your bacteria, including your good bacteria.  This weakens your immune system, leaving ‘gaps’ for bad bacteria to take the place of the good bacteria you’ve killed off.