Tis the season….for making tomato sauce

Difficulty: Easy
Time:  A single batch takes around an 1.5-2 hours including cooking time  I break it up sometimes by doing it over two nights, cooking the tomatoes one evening and putting them in the fridge, then sieving and bottling the next.
Plastic saved per year: Approximately 12 plastic 2l pet bottles per year ( for a family of 4)
What’s the catch?: You need a little patience to push the mixture through the sieve,  A Mouli might be useful if you have one.


This year one of my great discoveries has been making my own tomato sauce.  I made two or three batches early in the year, just to see if I could, and was really pleased with the results. It even got approval from those harshest of critics, my children (6 and 3):  I was definitely onto a good thing.

The recipe I use is from an Australian Women’s Weekly Pickles and Chutneys book.  I vary the recipe below by replacing the red wine vinegar with half balsamic and half red or white wine vinegar, hence why my sauce is quite dark.  Reduce the sugar at your peril, it can make  the sauce quite vinegary.img_1331img_1332img_1333


Basic Tomato Ketchup

1 teaspoon back peppercorns
6 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
2kg tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste

Tie peppercorns, cloves and bay leaf in a piece of muslin.  Place muslin bag in a large heavy-based saucepan with tomato and onion; bring to a boil.  Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally , about 45 minutes or until onion is soft.  Discard bag.  Cool mixture for 10 mins.

Blend or process mixture until smooth; strain through fine sieve back into same pan.  Add remaining ingredients, stir over heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves.  Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes or until mixture thickens to desired pouring consistency,

Pour hot ketchup into hot sterilised bottles or jars; seal while hot.

MAKES about 1.25 litres (5 cups)

Storage In a cool dark place for about 6 months, refrigerate after opening.






But I don’t have time to go zero waste!

This is a frequent lament I hear as people identify with the need to move towards zero waste but see it as as too time-consuming to be practical.  We all have busy lives, we all have work, study, homes and children to look after, gardens to tame.  Time is a precious commodity, it seems there is always another priority, something else that need to be done, and not enough hours in the day to do it.  And furthermore, all you’ve heard about reducing your waste sounds like its going to take even more time.  Baking your own bread?  Making your own yoghurt?  Who has time that to do that?

While I’ll concede activities such as these do take more time that buying it from the shop, there are many little ways you can reduce your waste which take either little or no time at all.  Believe it or not some can even save you time.  Here are my top 8 zero waste tips for those who are strapped for time.

1. Choose fresh over tinned or packaged

One easy change I made was to choose fresh fruit and vegetables over tinned or frozen whenever I could.  This saw me switch from having tinned peaches on my breakfast to banana or pineapple, from always having frozen veges in the freezer to cooking what was in season, and from buying lemon juice in a plastic squeeze bottle to choosing fresh lemons and juicing them myself.

2. Time your shower, and shower less

Depending on your water pressure, you use between 70-160 litres of water for an 8 minute shower.  Keeping your shower to 5 minutes (or less) makes a significant water saving over the course of a year.  You can get creative in the way you time your shower, the timer on your phone will do it, or you can choose one or two of your favourite songs and hop out when they’ve finished playing, or you could do what I have done and get a shower timer.  I got this one from www.earthangel.co.nz.


Showering less often is also a option.  Showering daily is a relatively recent thing, and is not as necessary as you might think.  Showering – especially long showers with lots of soap – remove beneficial bacteria reducing one of the body’s first-line defenses.  It’s really only your armpits and groin which get smelly, so you really need only focus on washing these areas.  Experts consider that for sedentary people, a shower once, twice or three times a week is all that is needed.  For more information see this article.

3. Wash your hair less…or go no ‘poo


While we’re on the topic you can also try washing your hair less frequently, or even joining the ‘No poo’ (no shampoo) movement.  Frequent hair washing, like frequent showering, strips the hair of all its natural oils which encourages the scalp to produce more oils, meaning you have to wash more frequently…and so on.  Daily hair washing is also a modern habit. This lovely video from the 1950’s advises women to wash their hair “every two weeks”.  Daily washing is a marketer’s dream.  “Gentle enough to use every day” is all about getting you to buy more hair products rather than improve the health of your hair.

This year I have joined the ranks of the No ‘Poo movement: people who shun commercial shampoo and conditioner in favour of natural, easily available alternatives such as baking soda, egg, or rye flour to name but a few of the many options.  This change was massive for me as I had previously washed my (very greasy) hair daily for the past 25 years. Now I wash once a week with baking soda and condition with white vinegar. Going no poo has many benefits one of which is you actually save time!  Not having to wash (and dry) my hair every day has given me back hours of my life.

4. Buy your bread from the bakery


If you don’t have time to bake your own bread then going to the bakery is a very good second.  We go to Bakers Delight where we are able to get the loaves in paper bags rather than plastic.  Or you can take a bread bag or pillowcase along and pop your bread in that.  (This last step is on my to do list).

5. Buy bar soap


This is an easy one:  when you buy your soap, go for good old fashioned bars of soap over plastic-packaged liquid soap.  Less waste.  Same result.

6. Look for paper packaging over plastic

In other words, be conscious of packaging when you shop.  For me, this means I buy Greencane toilet paper and Chux biodegradeable kitchen cloths. Although it is on my list to knit some cotton kitchen cloths like these, which is even better.

greencane bio-superwipes5

7. Compost, bokashi, worm farms

We all have food scraps, its what you do with them that makes the difference.  We have had a worm farm for some years now, and when the worms couldn’t keep up with the scrap supply we supplemented that with a compost bin.  Yet we still had items which could go in neither: meat scraps, eggshells, citrus and onion skins.  So this year has been the Year of the Bokashi: bokashi is a way of fermenting food scraps – including all the items just mentioned so they break down quickly in your garden.  Once we added this third (and final) method of dealing with food waste we finally achieved a new milestone: we now throw no food scraps whatsoever in our rubbish bin.  This is a great result as food scraps the end up in landfill do not compost and break down, rather they give off methane.  And  an bonus time-saving benefit is that we no longer need to line our bin,  No plastic liner, no newspaper liner.  Just no liner.  Easy. 🙂

8. Reusable grocery bags and produce bags

Even if all of the above sound to challenging, you can still take your reusable bags to the supermarket, saving around 500 plastic bags per year for every reusable bag you use.  And if you’re already doing this, you can go one further and get some reusable produce bags to use for fruit and veges.



Bulk food shops – buy a little or a lot

Inertia to start: Moderate to high
Difficulty once you get going: Easy
Time: No extra time. You just swap the time emptying plastic bags of rice and pasta into your tupperware once you get home for time working out which containers you need to take to the shop.
Plastic saved per year: Approximately 400 plastic packaging bags each year.
What’s the catch?: You do need to have a good supply of storage containers.  Drawstring cotton bags are also useful.

Say ‘buy food in bulk’ and many people think of large sacks of flour, sugar and rice. But while those sort of quantities have an advantage in that a sack of flour requires less packaging than 20 small bags of flour, for me that is not what bulk buying is about.

Rather, buying in bulk allows me do two things;

1) Fill my own containers, and hence avoid packaging; and
2) Buy the amount that I need.  No more filling up your Tupperware only to have a little bit left all lost and lonely in the package.

Plus buying food in this way is more economical, plus it means I’m supporting a local person, which I believe is all part of being in a community.

Moving to buying dry food in bulk was one of the changes I made quite early on in my journey to less waste and I have to confess to being fortunate on two counts: that I have a bulk foods shop locally, and that the owner is very supportive of my initiative and is happy to tare my containers for me. Not everyone has easy access to a bulk food shop, and if they do the shop may not support customers bringing their own containers. Whether this is for you will therefore depend upon your particular circumstances.

Here’s what a typical haul from the bulk food shop looks like.  I take my own glass storage containers, or sometimes my Tupperware.  The sorts of products I buy are rolled oats, nuts, seeds and grains to make my own toasted museli, flour, sugar, as well as sundries like baking powder and salt.  You can see the drawstring bags on the right?  I’m no seamstress, but with with a little effort I was able to run these up on the sewing machine.  I made different sizes, small ones for nuts, and large ones that hold two or three kilos of flour.

A typical haul from the bulk food shop.

Here’s my local shop. It’s part of the Bulk Barn franchise in Auckland, this one is in Totara Ave in New Lynn.  It is own and operated by Yen, a Chinese expat.  The products on offer have everything you’d expect, plus a few extras catering specifically for the Chinese community.

Shop front

And allow me to introduce the lovely Yen, who owns and runs the shop.  While she offers the usual plastic bags for her customers to use, she is wholly supportive of me bringing in my containers each week.  She tares them on the scales at the counter, and I go around the shop filling each one.  She is always cheerful and it’s so nice to go shopping and to know the person who is serving you, rather than a different checkout operator each week.


Yen’s shop has a good selection of nuts and dried fruits.  Almonds, raisins, sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds are regular purchases as they are museli ingredients.  I also buy peanuts to make peanut butter, and I often get cashews, the kids eat them in their lunches and for snacks.


The shop also has a good range of herbs and spices…

Herbs and spices

and some large bins for the real bulk items such as flour, rolled oats, and cornflakes.

Large bulk bins

And I’m learning to cook the odd quinoa dish.


All in all, I enjoy buying as many dry grocery goods as I can in this way.  I save a ton of packaging, I save money, and the shopping experience is so much more personal and genuine.

I hope you have a bulk foods shop near you…if you do, I encourage you to give it a go.





The miracle of Peanut Butter

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 20 mins to roast nuts, 10 mins to process
Plastic saved per year: about 12 1kg plastic containers
What’s the catch?: For this to be completely plastic-free, you’ll need to buy the peanuts from a bulk food store – and fill your own container.

Skip to recipe        Skip to pictures

You have possibly never thought of peanut butter as miraculous.  Fair enough, neither had I until I made my own.

There are a couple of miracles in fact.  The first is that the ingredients needed to make peanut butter are: peanuts.  Just peanuts, nothing else.  It is a common misconception that oil is added as the finished product is clearly oily, but no.  The oil you see is peanut oil released from the nuts during processing.

The second miracle is that a pile of dry-looking nuts can transform into a decidedly wet-looking butter.  And the first time you try it, I can promise you will be incredulous.

The process in simple enough: roast the peanuts, allow them to cool, then process until they turn into peanut butter.  Job done.  The trick is to have patience as the peanuts-to-peanut-butter transformation does not occur instantly, in fact it takes about 10 minutes.   When processing, the peanuts first turn into a meal-like consistency.  Then they are more like breadcrumbs, but still dry and very unlike butter. At this point you are likely to feel quite skeptical, but keep going!  It is such an unlikely process that you can scarcely believe it possible, but if you keep the processor on and just wait, magic happens.

From peanuts to peanut butter in pictures

IMG_2614After roasting, allow your peanuts to cool.  Then get your helper to transfer them to the food processor.

peanut crumbleAt first all you get is crumbled peanuts.


IMG_2617 IMG_2618

Looking better now, but still not there.

IMG_2619 IMG_2620



And done!  Now to add some crunch…


To make crunchy peanut butter, add some peanuts you reserved for this purpose.


Pulse and few times…et voila!  Crunchy Peanut Butter.


In the jar….


…and back to my helper for quality testing.


1kg raw blanched peanuts

Roast peanuts in a baking dish at 180C for about 30 mins, or until lightly browned, stiring occasionally.  The longer your roast the nuts, the darker your finished peanut butter will be.  Allow to cool.

If you like your peanut butter crunchy reserve half a cup of roasted nuts.  Put the rest in the food processor and process on high until the peanut butter forms.  This will take about 10 minutes.

Add in the reserved nuts and pulse a few times until the desired level of crunchiness is achieved.

Spread thickly on fresh bread and enjoy.





Taking the sting out of oven cleaning

Oven cleaning is one of my most dreaded chores to the point I only manage to bring myself to do it about once a year.  It’s not just that it’s dirty and difficult (it seems always to require a degree of elbow grease regardless of the claims of the oven cleaning products), but it the fumes that get to me.   Here is an extract from ‘Heloise Around the House’, a householder’s manual on the topic of commercial oven cleaners:

“You must be very careful using these cleaners because most of them contain lye and nitrogen compounds which can cause burns.  When you use oven cleaners, be sure to wear rubber gloves and have plenty of  circulating fresh air.  The fumes are dangerous to inhale so keep children and pets away from the area.  To be on the safe side, protect yourself by wearing a face mask or at least eyeglasses.”

Causes burns.  Dangerous fumes.  It sounds more like engaging in chemical warfare than domestic cleaning.   I’m not as careful as many people when it comes to exposing myself to chemicals, but this really is an exception and working with it is not a thought I relish; it seems quite an extreme risk for such a prosaic chore. Also I do have rubber gloves but lack a face mask.

So when I saw this video recently about ow to clean your oven using a mixture of baking soda, water and vinegar and it immediately piqued by interest as my oven was in desperate need of attention and here was a waste free, non-toxic option using basic ingredients I already had on hand.

How it works

I did not measure the ingredients, rather I just eyeballed it based on what the video had showed.  I guess I used about a cup of baking soda, about a third of a cup of water and the same of vinegar.  I used a cloth to dab this mixture on all dirty areas of the oven, taking care to avoid the elements.  Once the oven was thus coated, I placed the bowl containing the remaining mixture into the oven, set it to 100C and left if for 45 mins.  Once the oven had cooled, I returned with a cloth and a scourer to clean up.

Did it work?

Did the mixture help?  Yes it did.  It softened the baked on food, which was the goal.  Elbow grease was still required, especially on the glass door, but I managed to have it gleaming like new after about 20 minutes.

I was very pleased with the result.  My oven is clean and I didn’t have to risk burns or noxious fumes to achieve it.   In fact  the whole approach is seems quite achievable, something that might be relatively easy to do on a regular basis, especially when compared with donning full protective gear and committing to an overnight oven cleaning marathon.

This will be my oven cleaner of choice going  forward.




Christmas Indulgence

Isn’t it odd that our culture celebrates with things that are not good for us or for the planet?  And here I’m thinking about sugar which comes out a birthdays, Christmas and any other celebration, and I’m also thinking about the waste, especially wrapping paper,  that is associated particularly with Christmas.

Our Christmas broke many of my sustainable guidelines, though I had some successes too.  In this post I list what we did well and what we could have done better:  I have not yet gone so far as to put constraints on what others choose to give me or our family as gifts, I can’t help but think that to do so is bordering on rudeness.  My family know of my endeavours to be environmentally friendly and I think it is up to them to buy what they think is appropriate.  So the following predominately talks about the efforts of our immediate family unit rather than that of the extended family.

Here’s what we did well:

We bought less

We decided as a wider family to give gifts only to children, plus each adult gave to their spouse or partner.  This was the first year we had done this and I found it an immense relief not to have to have buy gifts that are gratuitous at best, unwanted at worst.

We minimised the amount of plastic toys we gave to our children.  

Christmas stockings

Christmas Stockings – post Sant’s visit

We bought the kids coloured wooden blocks from Haba. These are very good quality if rather pricey.  They also got:


  • Togs
  • a snorkel and mask set (in plastic packaging)
  • a wooden toy plane (in a cardboard box with a plastic window)
  • a wooden train (arrived shrink-wrapped in plastic)
  • an Elsa dress and gloves (arrived via courier in a plastic courier bag)  The dress is polyester.
  • Small plastic owl-shaped torches
  • Underwear
  • Books: reading books, activity books, and sticker books

Haba Blocks

I find Christmas is a good time to buy the kids things they need like underwear, togs, clothes, colouring books and pencils.

In spite of this as a goal  you can see that plenty of extra plastic arrived in our house despite my efforts to buy wooden items wherever possible.  I suppose, being polyester, the Elsa dress cannot be counted as an environmentally friendly purchase.  The only way to have avoided this would  have been to make one myself, but then making it out of cotton would not look quite as pretty, and it’s a bit too costly to start making children’s dress-ups out of ‘real’ pretty materials like silk.  This is one of the many ‘how far do you go?’ challenges I am constantly faced with.  Although I am aware of the many downsides of the cheap clothing trade, I have not yet embarked upon changing my buying habits.  But I digress.

Avoiding courier bags is another difficulty.  Many items I buy on the internet is most likely to arrive in a plastic courier bag.  I could perhaps request non-plastic packaging?  I’ll try this next time.

The owl torches are plastic, but on the up side they have no batteries and instead are charged by a dynamo in a wing.  I’m hoping they will last.

We re-used christmas gift bags

I have managed to accumulate an amazing number of gift bags and we were able to re-use these.  I didn’t buy any christmas wrapping paper this year but only because I had lots left over from last year. I also used standard Sellotape as again I had some already.

We bought a real Christmas tree

Christmas tree

In my childhood we had a tinsel tree which was stored in a box all year and excitedly brought out of its hiding place once a year for its 3 or 4 weeks of glory, however since I’ve had my own home and family I have always bought a real pine tree.  As well as being non-plastic, there is a practical reason for this:  I truly do not have space in the house to store an artificial tree.  So it is we stick with a real pine tree each year.

Gingerbread men

Gingerbread men

This was very popular with Miss 5, who wanted to have it in her room overnight.

Gingerbread house

We baked our own Christmas treats – With the children’s help I made a Gingerbread house, gingerbread men as a gift for their cousins, shortbread, Apricot Slice (very like this one), and Chicken Liver paté.  On the down side I did use a packet of store-bought Malt biscuits for the apricot slice.

What we could do better next year:

Make material gift bags – This is something I’ve long thought of but never got around to.  It’s a great idea though, to make fabric bags, perhaps with a drawstring, that can be re-used over and over.

Use washi tape in place of sellotape  – In the future I’m keen to use Japanese paper tape, known as washi tape, in place of sellotape. This appears to have all the benefits of sellotape with none of the down sides, and as a extra bonus is can be very decorative. Chick liver paté

I’ve found a New Zealand site called Wishy Washi which sells a good range and will get some in the near future (must remember to request no plastic packaging.)

Reduce what we buy the children – The kids did really well at Christmas in spite of me consciously reducing what we gave them as parents.  In addition to everything we bought them, they got gifts from cousins and grandparents, so I think next year we may be able to reducewhat we give them even further.

Learn how to make malt biscuits – so we can use these in the apricot slice. As i mentioned above, I resorted to buying malt biscuits for  Note that this slice is no very good that not making it is simply not an option: we simply need to find another way.


‘Poo or No ‘Poo…or something a little Lush

My hair is one of my biggest challenges, for lots of reasons.  It is fine, dark brown with a few stray wiry greys, and for most of my life has been so oily to the point that I have washed it daily for as long as I can remember.  24 hours after washing my hair looks greasy, straggly and far from beautiful.

There are many reasons to look for alternatives to shampoo and conditioner: they come in plastic packaging.  These products are mostly water, so they are bulky too and therefore need more packaging.  It is made with all manner of chemicals which may or may not be good for you.  Most of them (all?) contain some form of Palm Oil derivatives which may be fine for you but not so much for the orangutans whose habitat is being steadily destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations.  The big companies who produce this stuff want us to buy it and spend considerable dollars to convince us that their products are just what we need, but might it be possible that we don’t even need them for our hair to be in good condition?

I first came across the No ‘Poo concept around 7 or 8 years ago – where you abandon shampoo in favour of a Baking Soda/Apple Cider vinegar alternative.  I may have been overzealous: my daily hair washing habit was hard to break, so I didn’t: I just replaced the shampoo & conditioner with BS and ACV.  While the regime seemed successful in the early weeks, three months in my hair was drier than a desert and showing a marked resemblance to that of a straw man.  While I have subsequently discovered that weekly washes are the maximum recommended when washing with BS & ACV, the experience was enough to frighten me back to my regular Unilever products.

This year I tried another tack: I went searching for shampoo with no palm oil and no plastic; at least I’d be saving the orangutans if nothing else.  To my delight I found that Lush make both solid shampoo bars and solid conditioner bars.


Lush’s Brazziliant Shampoo Bar

I am now on my second shampoo bar, the Brazziant solid shampoo bar in a vivid orange, and I am a convert.   Each bar lasts for 60 washes – that is 2 months in my case.  My hair is wonderfully clean and shiny.  After trying my first bar with no conditioner – simply choosing to give up conditioner, this time I am trialing Lush’s Big Solid Conditioner with a coconut oil base, and I have been amazed at its effectiveness.  I can truly recommend it.

Tonight I read this article on how to go No Poo.  I also found this blog about one woman’s experience of going down this track and am much inspired.  I’m really happy with the Lush products and they are fulfilling my no-plastic mantra, however it is still more products than I need if it were to transpire that I really don’t need shampoo at all.  So I’m considering having another go a ‘no Poo’ and being a bit more moderate with the BS washes.

Watch this space.




Children’s Christmas Party

This weekend I took the kids to the company children’s party. It was held at a local YMCA and was a big hit with the little guests.  But through my conscious consumer glasses, I could see many missed opportunities for being kind to the planet.  Plastic plates, cups, and straws.  A sushi platter…where the platter itself was plastic.  And horror! Bottled water!  Then of course there was Santa handing out plastic treasures in plastic packaging.  When I went to put some of the cardboard boxes that was also part of the packaging after carefully removing quantities of sellotape that was holding it all together, I found the there was a plastic coating covering the outside it, making it shiny I suppose.  I gloomily put it in the rubbish instead.

The kids had a ball.  They are thrilled with their new toy treasures (mermaid and seahorse, little pony and accessories;  motorbike and little plane).  All plastic except the plane, which seems to be mostly metal.

I feel like the Christmas Grinch.

Meat without plastic

The Problem

One of my biggest stumbling blocks has been how to buy meat without plastic.  Sausages, chops, steak..you name it, it comes wrapped the same way in every supermarket in the country.

Meat in plastic

In today’s world plastic is obligatory when you buy meat .

Whole chickens only come in plastic bags.  Fresh fish over the counter?  At New Word they offer a one-size fits all paper/plastic/foil laminate bag which is wholly non-recyclable and for most purchases more packaging that is needed. Independent butchers somewhat better in that If you buy something over the counter you at least avoid the polystyrene tray, but they still put the item in a plastic bag.  Of course they do, what other option do they have?

It is quite a price to pay every time I tuck into spaghetti bolognaise,  roast chicken or bbq steak.

PET meat tray

New World’s new recyclable PET meat tray will reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

New World have improved the situation recently by being the first supermarket in the world to develop a recyclable PET meat tray.  It does feel a lot better being able to recycle the tray and only put the wrap in the rubbish, and this solution must already being having a positive effect on landfill volumes.  But, and there is a but, none of this thinking reduces the demand for plastic. It doesn’t challenge the need for plastic or encourage people seek alternatives. So I am trying to avoid all plastic meat packaging, recyclable or not.


The Alternative

I did some research and finally stumbled upon an alternative:  bring your own containers.  Why had I never thought of this before? Bring them to the supermarket, to the butcher.  Have them tare it on the scales, pop the item in.  Boom.  Just like that.  Now all you have to do is take that container home and pop it directly into the freezer.  Brilliant!

Much encouraged by this idea, I took myself off to Briscoes and invested in two Anchor-Hocking glass containers with airtight lids which, wonderfully, can be put in the freezer.

I have had success at New World in New Lynn where, after some discussions with this manager and that manager, I was allowed to purchase fish and have it placed directly into the container.  I was so happy about this, what a win!  However the meat they offer over the counter tends to be their expensive, top-of-the-range stuff rather than the mince, drumsticks and sausages that make up our standard shop.  So sadly on this occasion I was obliged to accept the standard packing options for the rest of the meat shopping.

Salmon is a rare treat!

Fish bought from New World, the chicken breasts from Clark’s Organic Butchery.

This has made me look further afield and to venture into butchers in the area.  So far I have been to The Aussie Butcher in New Lynn, Clark’s Organic Butchery in Glen Eden and even further away, Westmere Butchery in, well in Westmere.  I think there is likely to be a Mad Butcher out this way that I have not yet discovered.

I’m happy to report that all three accepted my glass containers.

Clark’s have a wonderful range, though I’m still smarting at the higher prices you pay for organic meat.  Moving to organic is something I’m considering, pending further research.  I have to say I do balk a little at the prices but I can’t deny their product is of the highest quality and no doubt is better for us and the planet.  I figure perhaps it would be better for our family if we ate a little less meat of better quality or had one or two vegetarian dinners each week so we better afford it, and I have to say I don’t have the family’s full support in this ‘reducing meat’ proposal so I’m not sure we’ll be making the shift just yet.   Clark’s also make their own bacon and while they vacuum package most of it they offered to let me know when they make it so I can go it and buy some plastic-free.

The Aussie Butcher offers most of their produce pre-packaged in the usual way, and only a small selection over the counter.  So less options here.

Westmere Butchery is a good middle ground, offering a fantastic selection of meats over the counter and, being non-organic, at a more moderate price, the only shame is that they are the furthest away!  Notwithstanding that, it is a wonderful shop which is always packed with customers irrespective of the day of the week.


I still have some challenges even with this new BYO container approach:

– So far I have only have two containers and as was evident today, this is not enough when buying meat for the week.

– The glass is surprisingly heavy.  Glass is great in many ways as it goes straight in the freezer, then you can easily sit the container in hot water in the sink to defrost but carrying two to the butcher and getting them filled was almost enough!  This is an annoyance, but I’m prepared to work with it

I can't fit this in a glass container.

Meat products such as whole chickens or other roast cuts are still a challenge to buy without plastic.

– Glass containers are not the solution for all meat purchases: I don’t think I can get a container big enough to accommodate a whole chicken or a leg of pork or lamb.  I’d be happy for the meat to be wrapped in wax paper, then in plain paper as they used to once upon a time, but no-one does this these days.  So more work to do here.

So there you have it.  That is where I’m up to with buying meat without plastic.



Recycling soft plastics at the supermarket!

I discovered something very exciting this weekend: my local supermarket, New World) is now offering a service that enables customer to recycle their soft plastics.

What are soft plastics?  Essentially any plastic bag or plastic wrap, any plastic that you can scrunch up into a ball in your hand. Examples include:

  • Bread bags
  • Cereal bags and cereal box liners
  • Biscuit packets
  • Nappy packaing
  • Chip bags
  • Confectionery packets
  • Pasta and rice bags
  • Frozen food bags
  • Plastic shopping bags

Bags are being collected at Auckland New World, Countdown, Warehouse and Pak’n Save stores, and currently are being shipped to Australian company REDcycle who process it before it gets turned into outdoor furniture and signage.

landfill plastic

This is a boon for reducing non-compostable waste going to landfills, and also reduces soft plastics getting into waterways and oceans.  I  know this will reduce what I send to landfill, as there certainly are products that come in plastic packaging for which I have not found non-plastic alternatives as yet.  Think bacon.  Wasabi peas. Sigh.

While I’m all in support of this initiative for the reasons stated above, I’m cautious for two reasons:

1.  Its effectiveness may limited as it is not a kerbside collection

Although this recycling initiative has Government support, it is not being run by local councils.  Any recyclable scheme is likely to gain greater traction if it is a household kerbside collection.  This system relies upon people remembering  a) to collect their soft plastics and b) to take them to the supermarket.  While this may not appear onerous, many people report major difficulty in remembering to take reusable shopping bags to the supermarket, and this is just one more thing.  Some will make the effort, but many may not.   This scheme does not make recycling as easy as it needs to be to be the most effective.

2. It legitimises plastic use

My biggest concern for such a system is that it legitimises plastic use when the greater goal should be phasing out plastic altogether and replacing it with a sustainable (compostable, no-trace) alternative.

There is a feel-good factor knowing that the plastic packaging I use is not longer going to landfill, but it is still plastic and the fact that I’m now recycling it is not a good reason for me to stop reducing my plastic consumption.  In turn the companies that use the packaging to wrap their products are likely to also breath a sigh of relief:  now they can correctly say ‘But look how environmentally friendly we are, our packaging can be recycled!  We no longer have a need to seek alternatives.’  They can continue to use plastic with impunity as ‘recycling’ it usefully removes the waste problem they cause.  But let’s not forget that recycled plastic food wrap cannot be turned into more plastic food wrap: it has to be ‘downgraded’, it has to be turned into something more basic.  Here it is being turned into paving and outdoor fitness trails which themselves are unlikely to be recyclable (?). In this way the life of the plastic is being extended but the net result is plastic stays plastic and it is likely to end up in landfill at some point, albeit in a different form.

What is the alternative?

An alternative approach from the government would be to place a levy on plastic shopping bags or to ban them altogether.  Such measures have been implemented in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, California, with England recently introducing a plastic bag levy, Porto Rico due to ban all bags from mid-2016.  Rwanda is exemplary, having banned plastic bags back in 2008.   These real-life examples show us how effective even a levy can be, reducing plastic bag usage by 70-80%.  The key is that these measures are changing that thing which is the hardest of all to change: people’s behaviour.  People are suddenly going out of their way to avoid the extra charge: they are persuaded into finding alternatives.  This is the change that is really needed: thinking differently, acting differently.  Not creating the demand for the plastic in the first place, so stopping plastic bags from becoming a problem by stopping them from being.  It’s the more grass-roots approach.

The good thing about the recycling option that New Zealand have chosen is that it includes plastic packaging that would not be impacted by a plastic bag ban:  potato chip packets, rice and past packets, cereal box liners, biscuit wrappers and so on.  The bad thing is that it encourages us to be accepting of plastic packaging, it doesn’t force us to change our behavior to seek alternatives.

I think it is a first step.