I was skeptical when the Bokashi Composter first came home, but I’ve become a convert. this is the best way I’ve found to accelerate the composting process and be able to compost in an apartment.
Traditionally, you need a yard and space to get a decent compost heap going, but above all, you need time. We live in 850 square feet in Vancouver and consider ourselves very lucky. We love to Garden and have a huge garden box that takes up most of our outdoor space.
Compost and garden supplies are expensive, and while we’re able to compost via a bin in the recycling room, nothing beats using our scraps to make compost that we don’t have to buy. The goal initially was to make the garden cheaper, the result is that it’s less work than going downstairs.
So what do you do? In a nutshell you take your food scraps and chuck them in the composter instead of the bin downstairs. Add some of the Bokashi bran and wait. The official wait time is 4-6 weeks. We live in Vancouver and maybe it’s our climate but it generally take a bit longer, I like to leave it 8 weeks if I can.
After its had two weeks in the bin with the bran, I drain the liquid (Which can be used as a tea for plants when diluted) and mix it with reclaimed dirt from the planter box in a tote on the balcony. It smells pretty bad, but its worth it! 6 weeks later the earth and compost mix is a rich soil that can be used to start seeds or plant out mature plants, and what’s better is that after the initial investment it’s free!
How does it work? I think magic, but apparently it’s microbes. Healthy soil is full of it and kitchen scraps are what they like to eat, the Bokashi bran aids the process and speeds things up!
We’ve had our composter a year and got two bags of bran with it. I’m still working through the second bag. our “soil factory” (the tote) cycles through easily, its sealed so it doesn’t smell and irritate the neighbours and we haven’t spent a penny on compost in the last 6 months.
If there’s a downside, it’s the smell. It’s like sour fish garbage, but like our tote the composter is completely sealed so you’ll only get a whiff when you open it to deposit your scraps. We’ve found that thinks like nut shells and avocado pits take too long to break down but I generally add them anyway. When I add scraps I rough chop them first to aid the process. I wash our composter out whenever I empty it. It’s a quick rinse on the balcony, and it’s way better to do little and often, than leaving it until you can’t bare the smell, trust me.
Our composter came from “Bokashi Living” and we’ve found their service super fantastic. I’ve not shopped for anything else related to the composter since then so I can’t compare, but the experience was good. If we ever live somewhere bigger, I’ll probably get a second one. I know some people start out with two, so that they can keep filling while one is breaking down in it’s two week “sit” before it goes in the soil garden.
At the end of the day, our cash is hard earned, composting is always the right thing to do for the planet, but I’d rather find the saving in my wallet than give our food waste away.
There’s a lot of negativity surrounding being stuck indoors while we quarantine to stop the spread of COVID-19, but there is plenty you can do while at home that will leave you feeling positive and lifted. It’s no secret that creative activity lifts mood and makes us feel better, as well as giving us purpose.
Your To-Do but Putting it Off List
Now is the time to tackle some of the jobs you’ve been putting off. For a lot of people that is things like going through cupboards and purging their space of stuff they don’t need. Like it or not, there is only so much Netflix you can watch before something inside you will drive you to clean or tidy something.
What to do with all the stuff you find that you don’t need anymore? The Thrift Stores are mostly closed so now you have boxes or bags of clutter outside the cupboards. Hit Facebook and see what people need. In Vancouver there are Groups like COVID-19 Coming Together (Vancouver) where you can ask for what you need and give away what you don’t. Someone out there could probably use the bread maker or nutri bullet that has been cluttering up your kitchen for months/years without use.
There is also The Buy Nothing Project search for the name of where you live and join a group. You can probably give away household items and clothes, reducing waste and giving new life to your unwanted items. You can also ask for what you need, so it COVID-19 has left you unemployed or unable to go into work, this won’t put additional pressure on you.
People have been going nuts in the stores, empty shelves where pasta and rice use to be, and of course toilet roll. While you can’t grow these things, you can plant some of your fresh stuff indoors ready to plant outside as the weather improves. Even if you only have a small space like a balcony, you can easily grow salad greens, lettuces, beans (the bush variety will grow in pots), tomatoes etc. Seeds can be mailed in the post and plant pots can be sourced free on craigslist, and in the buy nothing groups references earlier. This is a fun thing to do with kids too. Struggling for pots? Cut the bottoms of 1 gallon milk jugs, plant greens in washed out cans or containers, they don’t need much space or root depth! We’ve used an empty shoe box and even a pizza box for greens and it worked! If you want to get inspired, here’s my favourite You-Tube Channel, Hollis & Nancy’s Homestead They give start to finish advice on growing almost any garden vegetable.
3. Make Your own Multi-Purpose Cleaner
If you’re stuck inside, or f you couldn’t get any at the store try making your own!
Here’s a basic recipe for your reusable spray bottle*:
Multi-Purpose Cleaner – Is not a disinfectant, there is no guarantee that it will kill bacteria or viruses on your surfaces.
• ¼ cup of white vinegar • 1 tbsp. baking soda • 1 litre of hot water • ½ a lemon
If you’re looking for something to clean your kitchen surfaces, bedroom furniture, bathroom and general odds and ends with then look no further! This general, all-purpose household cleaner will freshen up, scrub and naturally disinfect all in one handy mixture. Recipe: simplebites.net
A spray bottle of White vinegar will deal with lime scale and mould in your bathroom, but be careful to focus on the grout and do a test patch first. It can leave marks on stone tiles.
*If reusing a spray bottle that had something else in it previously. Make sure you rinse it out properly before adding the new cleaner.
4. Create a Home Office Workspace
If you’re short on space and finding that you need to work from home to avoid contact with others, first of all, congratulations on having a job that allows you to day that! Not everyone does.
You may not have a space where you can work. Many people certainly where I live, don’t have a second bedroom, and it’s really not good to work in bed, so no desk? No problem.
If you have a coffee table or a shelving unit with shelves that come out, you can build your own desk.
You will need, your coffee table top or a shelf large enough to put your laptop computer on. As many big books as you can find.
If you’re using a coffee table, I recommend building book stilts for it to stand on. You want to stack your books largest and heaviest at the bottom and work your way up. If you’re going to be working on your couch than choose a height that is about 3 inches above your knees. It works best if you can stack at all our corners.
If you’re using a shelf. Find a spot of wall and build two legs of books using the larges books at the bottom and working your way up. Again make it the height of the chair you’ll be sitting in and leave yourself about 3 inches space between your knees and the shelf bottom. You will need to be conscious of the shelf when you leave your desk to avoid knocking it over. It’s also a good idea to put a heavy book on top of the shelf at each end to hold the shelf steady while you’re working.
Another option if you’re really in a pinch is to remove your dishwasher or open the doors of a lower kitchen cabinet and empty it. You can sit on a stool and use the counter as a work surface. Desperate times, call for desperate measures. Instagram your desk creations and your friends will think you’re a mad genius!
5. Make Your Own Hooch (Must be of legal drinking age where you reside)
Where we live people didn’t just go nuts in the grocery stores. The liquor store rush was insane!
When you’re stuck inside, with less cash and nowhere to go, you can get creative by brewing something tasty for yourself. Berries like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or even plumbs have natural yeast on them. It’s best if they’re organic, but if you can see that pale white matt colour on the skin, that’s yeast! Organic ginger can also be used to start a brew!
Get a plastic or ceramic container to hold your starter (this is what the yeast mix is called before you start brewing.
You want to have a ratio 3/4 FILTERED water to 1/4 sugar plus the berries of your choice. Make sure that your containers is very clean. I boil mine in water for ten minutes to be sure, then cover with a cheese cloth and rubber band.
You need approximately 1/2 to 3/4 cup (120–180 millilitres) of yeast starter per gallon (3.78 litres). That’s one whole cup per gallon. You can google millions of recipes for homemade hooch based on your flavour preference. Organic juices work best in my experience.
After 3-5 days you will begin to see bubbles in your starter. Let it ferment for 6-10 days before adding it to your juice and fermenting (see your chosen recipe)! I recommend getting an airlock for large jars, or a basic kit. You can probably get some bits from your local buy nothing group, or online very affordably.
Most brews that we’ve made with wild yeast at home have been about 5% alcohol which suits us just fine. Higher percentages can be achieved with commercial brewing yeasts and wine yeasts. Enjoy!
I received a calendar from the Anglican Communion Environmental Network covering the season of Lent, each day with a suggestion of how to use less plastic. Why? Well it turns out that Anglicans in Canada promise to strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth when they are baptized.
Interesting. If being religious means relating to or believing in a religion, then can refusing, recycling and reusing based on faith become a religious practice?
I shared this calendar with a couple of non-Christian friends and asked them for their feedback. They could agree that it made sense, and expressed that it was a cool thing for the church to be doing. Beyond that, it wasn’t an evangelistic moment, merely something to be noted.
Shopping with one of them for groceries later in the week I watched as my friend opted specifically to buy peppers that were not already in a plastic bag, despite them being more expensive than their value pack alternative.
“I’ve never thought about it before,” she said. I put that calendar up on my fridge for the kids and realized there’s a whole bunch of stuff on there I don’t do.”
If a behaviour is repeated based on a belief that it is good for the environment and a “small thing” one can do, are we doing it religiously? Perhaps the answer depends on your use of language. I hope you enjoy the calendar and perhaps find some tips or reminders about saying no to plastics.
Visiting Powell River this past weekend, I was stunned to find up-cycling in the heart of the town site where the pulp and paper mill has been the dominant industry since 1912.
Walking into the new Townsite Market, freshly opened on December 9th 2018, I came upon Eunoia, a fibre studio and gallery filled with up cycled fashion and ideas for the home.
In a society driven by the economics of mass production like the town’s local mill, time slowed down as we walked the a gallery of beautiful items, rescued and re purposed from clothing castoffs. One of a kind hats, shirts and jackets hung among the hand made felted jackets and aprons. A favourite that stood out were pop can earrings: literal pop art! Circular discs of aluminum cans with patterns from bright craft beer designs and well-known logos like Coco-cola sparkled on the shelves.
I found myself re-thinking the idea of simply donating clothes to thrift stores and imagining what could be when older clothes, sheets and hangings come to the end of their original lives. The textile artists at Eunoia, embracing “beautiful thinking,” have gone beyond simple re purposing, and created an entirely unique fashion line.
The closest I’ve come to up cycling clothing is beginning work on a t-shirt quilt, an idea first seen in our house on the first Twilight movie (a guilty pleasure for sick days spent on the couch with broth based soups in hand!). We’ve also used old textiles as cleaning rags at home and in the studio, and taken some to be recycled at H&M.
For now Moon Snail Creative is content to up cycle old pillow cases into reusable shopping bags. We don’t have the sewing skills to work on clothing…yet! For now we’ll leave the wearable up cycling to the professionals, some of whom you can find in Powell River at Eunoia.
We continue our journey to living a cleaner life and we’ve been inspired by the recent decision in Vancouver to ban all plastic straws. Single use plastics are the latest thing under scrutiny, so aiming to live clean we took an inventory of the single use plastics in our apartment and have begun compiling a list of ways to reduce. The goal is to cut them our altogether.
The inventory and the solutions
Take your own reusable bags to the super market.
Plastic and foil single use food wraps.
We’ve tried reusing paper bags which we can then compost, and are going to give some of the beeswax reusable wrap products we’ve seen advertised a try.
Use existing jars and containers to store food in rather than wrapping it up
Use a lunchbox that you take to and from work instead of Ziploc bags.
Food and beverage containers of almost every kind, bottles, containers, bags
Save jars and make condiments like salad dressings, ketchup & other sauces from scratch.
Purchase grains, pasta, cereal, beans, herbs, spices, vinegar and oils from refill centres like The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver and reuse existing containers.
Instead of buying drinks in cans or bottles, take an on the go bottle with you whenever you are out and about. Keep a cup in the car for water, coffee or tea, so there’s no excuse for using a disposable cup.
Craft beer lovers, buy a glass growlers and then get it refilled with your favourite brew. It’s reusable and more affordable! Our favourite Brewery? Storm Brewing in Vancouver
Cleaning supplies for surfaces and dishes
Get refills in existing containers for dish soap from dispensaries. If there isn’t one near you, look up local places that sell unwrapped soaps.
Plastic bags on fresh produce
For fresh produce, don’t use a plastic bag to separate ranges, apples etc. It will take a bit longer at check out to get everything on the scale but not by much.
Some places will let you use your own bags. It is better to check with the store before you check out.
Go to a farmers market to get your fresh produce, you can put it straight into your reusable shopping bag!
For smaller produce there’s a simple cheat. Go to where the mushrooms are in the supermarket. There are generally paper bags available there. Use those and write on the bag what’s inside ready for check out. Then re-use, recycle or compost the bag.
Compost, if you’re doing all the recycling you can and refilling other containers, there should be nothing to put in the garbage. Zero Waste is the goal.
Take out containers and plastic cutlery from delivered and takeout meals.
We’ve trialed this where we live. If you take your own container to places you order food from, we have found that the restaurants are generally happy to put our food in them instead of using their Styrofoam or plastic take out containers.
Carry a spork or pair of reusable chopsticks with you and you can say no to single use cutlery.
Packaging on hard and soft goods
Contact your local municipality about recycling Styrofoam and plastic bags. It is possible, but you can’t put them in your recycling bin (Vancouver).
Shampoo & conditioners
Refill shops like The Soap Dispensary let you refill shampoo, conditioner and body wash! Stores like LUSH have shampoo bars that have no packaging, take less energy to make and as there’s no bottle, there’s nothing to recycle. If you’re traveling, pop the bar in a tin, it takes up less space in your luggage and won’t explode all over your clothes in flight!
Face and body wash, toothpaste containers
Refill on the body wash
Toothpaste? Open to suggestions on this one. I’m going to ask my dentist because I can’t find a refill for this. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments!
Vacuum packaging on soaps
Don’t buy soaps with vacuum packaging!
Toothbrushes (while we use them more than once, they are disposable)
Toothbrushes! Try these bamboo toothbrushes – sustainable, non-plastic from Giving Brush We’ve tried these brushes and love them. At first getting used to the feel of them on the inside of the mouth while brushing was a bit weird, but that passed. Highly recommend these.
This one we’re looking at refills as well, but you can make some of your own cleaning products that have the added benefit of being natural and thus safer for pets and children. Keep the spray bottles you have and reuse with your home made cleaners. Yet to try this, but this looks like a good place to start if you are going to try and make your own.
The list isn’t exhaustive, but we had to start somewhere so this is what we’re doing! As we go, we’ll share any up-cycling tips we discover. So far cleaner living feels pretty good. We’re also going to take the Zero Waste Pledge Come join us!
Christmas is fast approaching, and like lots of families, we find our budget not only stretched, but when people ask what we would like for Christmas, they’re met with a long uuuhhhhh… We don’t need anything. Our wants are whimsical wishes like, a lottery win, so we can travel, pay off our mortgage and set up a university fund for our goddaughter!
Some of the strangest gifts I’ve received in the past were, toilet paper that looked like American money, a calendar with fish and quotes about fish, and a shovel (we live in an apartment). Don’t get me wrong, gifts are wonderful and I know for kids, Christmas is that time when they might get that remote control car, but ask yourself, do you need to spend $25.00 on a pumpkin spice scented candle?
Then there’s the wrapping (I’m heading back to the garbage room here, read my first post if this makes no sense). Christmas wrapping. You better make sure you’re the first one into that recycling room, because if not you will need a ladder to climb to the top of the paper pile to add yours to the bin. What a waste.
So here’s 7 sustainability tips for Christmas:
1. Keep the tissue paper or gift bags that arrive from Amazon, come from gift baskets in the run up to Christmas and use it for wrapping paper. If you have to ship gifts, keep the boxes too!
2. Save the Colourful Christmas ads from the newspapers or reuse old comics as wrapping paper.
3. I have a friend with a big family, so rather than buying his adult siblings a random ornament or gift, he writes them a letter and invites them to spend the day with him doing an activity and having lunch, so they can connect and catch up one on one.
4. Give something handmade, like a chutney, jam, baking etc. It’s easier than you think and people will love the personal touch, knowing that you went to the trouble of making something specifically for them.
5. Give vouchers by you! Instead of a plastic gift card, make up your own vouchers personalized to the person you’re gifting. For example: A night of Free babysitting, An afternoon of gardening, Dog walking hours. Be creative and try to come up with something unique for them.
6. Re-gift. It might not sound too classy, but people are more open to it than ever. Give something in good condition that is not being used, you’ll be de-cluttering and saving it from the scrap heap.
7. Buying for someone who seems to have everything? Consider a charitable gift. Sites like FH Canada have fab selections of gifts that make a big difference in the lives of people in places across the globe. You can even buy that sibling who is always sending the poo emoticon a Piece of Crap!
What are your ideas for Christmas sustainability? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
When it comes to minimizing your impact on the planet, a lot of people feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. A simple way to start thinking more about ones’ behavior and how one consumes. Both in terms of food (food waste is a big problem, in Sweden 45 kg of food per person […]
What the heck, our garbage recycling room looks like one of the floating islands in the Pacific Ocean! Garbage and plastic everywhere, no pick-ups and a provider refusing to take the bins unless they are properly sorted. Who puts a loaf of bread in a glass bin?!?
Up to my ears in refuse, I ask myself “how did it come to this?” We waded through garbage and recycling for a little over and hour before stopping, covered in filth and sweat, we reflected both on the inability of our building to properly sort trash, and also how much was in the dumpster that could have been up-cycled and reused.
That night we fixed three chairs, 2 lamps and a kid’s swing and gave them away on craigslist.
Sipping a cold one in our apartment we looked around and tried to list the stuff we have duplicates of. Can openers, pizza slices, and a couple of craft beer books. Appliances we don’t use and don’t need. It became clear that we are drowning in clutter which is weird because we’re not materialistic people. I am guilty of hording items that “might be useful” at some point in the future, but no one needs two can openers!
By drink three we were determined that we were going to change all this and purge, donate, fix, up cycle and learn how to live more cleanly. I was also determined to have a shower, the stench of the garbage room lingered like a dementor in a playground, and dinner was on the horizon.
We’re both creative people, and we like to work together. There is something satisfying about working with your own hands creatively in this age of screens and keyboards. We are one of those couples who are always talking about the changes we should be making to live clean, but we go to work in offices where we sit in a cubical trying to make the world a better place from behind a screen, while increasing the chances of carpel tunnel.
The following night over supper outside, I carved my first spoon from a piece of firewood and voila! Moon Snail Creative launched with gusto. By gusto, I mean we opened an Instagram account, and by launched, I mean we had no plan other than to be creative, research cleaner living and eat less meat. It may sound like no plan at all, but true to the “creative” part of our partnerships title, it gave us the freedom to fashion a plan from our experiments and mistakes.