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Worm Bins

Composting is a great way to dispose of kitchen waste and reduce your carbon footprint, but what if you don’t have room for a compost bin? Worm bins are often touted as  the answer. This is as it sounds, a bin full of worms – worms that transform food scraps into compost. It can, so the adverts say, be kept in the kitchen. I always wanted to try worm composting so I sent off for a worm bin from the internet. It consisted of four stackable plastic boxes (the type found in stationers), a bag of worms and some food. It looked basic but it was considerably cheaper than the others.

I decided to keep mine in the garage. I stacked the boxes, tipped the worms in and left the lights on all night as per instructions. All went well till the night the lights were turned off. The stackable boxes did not form a sealed unit and there were numerous gaps through which the worms could escape. While it was bright outside the light sensitive worms stayed put, as soon as it got dark they left their bin and went exploring the garage. Next morning saw me picking up worms with the barbeque tongs while VB complained loudly about the desecration of his drill bits. He threatened to sacrifice the worms on the bird table if a solution wasn’t found.

So I fashioned a worm proof bin from the compost caddy. I installed a   drainage tap to drain off the worm tea (a juice created as the food in the bin rots down). I covered the base with  a layer of gravel so the worms didn’t drown in the tea and the compost didn’t block the tap outlet. It was rather like the one built here, the first bin,  Then I carefully decanted the worms  and wished them well in their new home.

Mindful of the bird table threats I moved the into  the cellar.

I mollycoddled those worms. I cut the food scraps up into worm size pieces and gave them ripped up newspaper and cardboard – apparently they delight in it. Nothing. Instead of piles of compost all I had was a bin full of festering food. The arrival of the fruit flies was the last straw. Fed up with the ungrateful liggers I capped the bin with soil and cut off food supplies.

A couple of weeks later I went down to get a hammer and found the bin standing in a lake of worm tea. Yay!

This fluid (it is claimed on many site), is  a superior plant feed and can be used to cure black spot on roses. There it was dribbling from my poorly fitted tap. It is a sign that the worm bin is working as it should. Indeed a quick rummage in the bin revealed healthy looking worms the size of anacondas. Worm tea was another reason I wanted a worm bin. Hundreds of sites on the internet claimed that this could be used as a fantastic liquid plant food. Plastic free plant food I thought. Turns out I was wrong.

So worm feeding resumed. By bin does not work fast enough to  make a meaningful  impact on our kitchen waste but it’s a start. Apparently it will increase with time. I don’t think I have the patience – but then I have a perfectly good compost bin in the garden.

And no wI find that worm tea might not be that good either.

“The watery drainage that seeps out of the bottom of a bin is not compost tea as many sites assert. Leaching through yet undigested food waste, this leachate (as it is known) could contain toxic anaerobic microbes that would be harmful to plants.

Not only will there be unmineralized organic compounds, but there is the potential for contamination of pathogen organisms and coliform bacteria that can come from some of the raw materials (another reason to always pre-compost fresh manure) put into worm bin systems.

The best place for this leachate to go is back in the bin. That way, it gets exposed to the worm’s gut to be innoculated with good microbes and is excreted fully sanitised.” Thanks Sierra Worm Compost!

Still fancy trying it?  If you decide to buy a worm bin my advice is to spend the extra. The more expensive bins boast such conveniences as worm proof lids – a definite bonus. There are hundreds of internet companies selling bins. Here’s one chosen at random.

If you want to make a bin, there are good instructions here. I recommend the first option, the bin with the tap, rather than the second, the stackable boxes.

This is a good article on worm composting and how to get worms for free.  N.B. the home made bin looks rather like the one I bought, the leaky one.

More

If you want to keep your bin outside you have to protect it from extreme heat and cold. There may be better outdoor options.

Don’t like worms but fancy composting? Read this intro 

 

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Cleaning Products – Chemical – Buy or make

For cleaning products I use a combination of bought and what I have in the cupboard in conjunction with a bloody good scrub… i.e. both  chemical and manual cleaning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chemical Cleaning uses the power of chemicals in a solution to remove soils. Soils in this case refers to stains. If you want to know, you can read how alkaline dissolve fat and  why vinegar works here.

If not just be aware that

  • Organic soils are usually best moved using alkaline cleaners.
  • Inorganic soils prefer and acid cleaner.

 

Buy Or Make Chemical Cleaners

Buy plastic free

The easiest way to get plastic free cleaning product is to buy Ecover refill liquids. Yes the original bottle is plastic but you get to reuse it. Mine are still going strong years into the project.

If you cant get those, this company sells concentrated liquids through the post. You refill your existing bottles and water down yourself. They come in plastic, but it represents a massive reduction.

Make your own

Or you could consider making your own cleaning products. It easy, can save you money and certainly cuts down on the amount of chemicals and colorings that you find in commercial products. With a small palette of ingredients you can clean just about anything.

When I say make I actually mean use neat or add water. It really is that easy. There are loads of complicated recipes on the internet using a mixture of ingredients. I have tried them but could see no discernable difference. Either other people have very dirty houses or I have very low standards.

Are they as good? Well it depends what you are using already. If you use green cleaners then yes they are and half the price. If you are using Cilit Bang all bets are off.

So while they might not work as well as Cilit Bang in extreme grime scenarios, for general cleaning they are fine.

And all of them smell better with none of that weird choking chemical smell or overwhelming perfumes you get with the cheaper commercial products

After a lot of experimentation I find I can mange with

  • Soapused in conjunction with a good scrubber cuts through most dirt. Alkaline
  • Bicarbonate Of Soda  for scouring and deoderizing. It can also be used to wash your hair and clean your teeth. Alkaline
  • Vinegar  dilute and use as a wipe. Also use as a conditioner for hair. Acid

Other people reccomend Washing Soda and Borax. I have tried both of these but find them to make little or no difference.

Scrub

Honestly I find the best way to clean is to use a mildly abrasive range of cloths and scouring pads

How to clean….

Hard plastic such as baths and toilet seats – Soap and a luffa or rough cloth

Tiles and porcelain – Bicarb on a cloth or luffa

Mildly Abrasive Paste – general cleaning

Add enough liquid soap to bicarbonate of soda make a paste

Wipe for windows and greasy surfaces

1/4-1/2 teaspoon liquid detergent/ soap

3 tablespoons vinegar

2 cups water

Shake & Vac

Bicarb  sprinkled on, left for a while then hoovered up.

More 

You can find lots more uses, details of where to buy and information about the product listed here.

 

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Sponge Cloth Biodegradable

Oh joy – just sourced some plastic free sponge cloths. I love these things. Sponge cloths are  extremely porous and great for wiping up water. Plus they dry really quickly. I love my cotton dish cloth – but it can get a bit whiffy in damp weather. Especially living in the van when it doesn’t  ever really dry out.

But up until now sponge cloths have been made from synthetic fibres and packed in plastic.

Not these from If You Care. They are made from 70% Cellulose and 30% unbleached non-GMO cotton. Cellulose and cotton are both biodegradable so when you are done they can go straight on the compost heap.

Better still the packaging is made from  100% compostable PLA-biopolymer derived from corn starch. Tis is  fully compostable plastic. On the pack it says that this is certified compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) and compostable in commercial composting facilities. Just to let you know I compost a wide range of PLA products in my own compost bin.

They are machine washable up to 300 times.

You can buy them online from Big Green Smile

If You Care do a lot of great kitchen products packed in cardboard packaging, including natural greaseproof paper.

 

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Kettle

People are always asking about plastic free kettles. There is one very easy answer – get a stove top kettle. That’s it. Spend a bit more and you can get one that doesn’t have a plastic handle. Spend a lot more and you get a kettle you will be handing on to your kids. I am saving up for this one.

Shropshire Made Traditional Kettle

  • Hand spun body and lid with durable hard anodised finish.
    Precision cast spout for perfect pouring.
    The base of kettle is very thick 1/4 inch (6mm) aluminium, we machine grind this flat to ensure rapid boiling on range hobs.
    Hand turned British oak handle & knob.
    Lovingly hand made in Britain.

A stove top kettle for use on range stoves, electric, gas, ceramic and halogen hobs. The perfect companion for country cottages, retro conversions, Victorian kitchens, Edwardian homes, glamping and garden cooking (it complements Netherton Foundry garden hob).

Comes in two sizes and  the packaging is cardboard.

Cheaper Kettles

The downside is they are over a hundred quid. You might want to look at some of the cheaper options below. The cheaper kettles often have plastic handles. Very cheap kettles often warp with time. You need a good heavy bottom!

Amazon Catalogue

Here are some links to products sold on Amazon. Amazon is a very dirty word at the moment and I thought long and hard before I did it. Heres why I went ahead…..

.

Grunwerg Cafe Ole Stainless Steel Stove Top Whistling Kettle 3L HTK-3
Grunwerg Cafe Ole Stainless Steel Stove Top…
£11.82
Wesco Classic Line Stainless Steel 2 Litre Stove Top Kettle, Black Garden Trading Enamel Stove Kettle - Flint Yoshikawa 1 Litre Stainless Steel Fons Drip Stove Kettle
Wesco Classic Line Stainless Steel 2 Litre …
£49.99
Garden Trading Enamel Stove Kettle – Flint
£31.50
Yoshikawa 1 Litre Stainless Steel Fons Drip…
£74.99
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Wire Wool

Steel wool consists of fine strands of steel which looks a bit like wool.
It can be used for cleaning, scouring and sanding.
I use it manly for cleaning pots. Same principal as a brillo pad but without the plastic packaging.
It can be bought from hardware shops and many of them sell it plastic free in either cardboard or paper packaging. However the trend is for increased plastic packaging so you might have to shop around!
The picture of the cardboard packaged steel wool is from the B&Q website so could look there.

More About Steel Wool

Steel wool comes in different thicknesses (grades).
The thicker the wool the more powerful the scouring / sanding.

I took the following from the Liberon Steel Wool website

Steel Wool is available in 7 grades from Ultra Fine 0000 through a range of Fine to Medium 00, 0, 1 and Medium to Coarse 2, 3 and 4.

Grade 0000 
- use to cut back between coats of French Polishes, varnishes and oil finishes 
- use to clean and polish metals such as bronze, copper, chrome, stainless steel and aluminium 
- use to cut back between coats of varnish or paint 
- use with soapy water to clean and polish porcelain, marble and glass without marking 

Light cleaning and surface preparation

Grade 00, 0, 1 
- use with Liberon Wax and Polish Remover to remove built-up wax polish, smoke and dirt on wood 
- use to clean, smooth and prepare wood or metal surfaces before re-polishing, waxing, varnishing or painting 
- use with a suitable solvent for light to medium cleaning of all metals 

Heavy cleaning and paint and varnish removal

Grade 2, 3, 4 
- Use with Liberon Fine Wood Stripper to remove softened French Polishes, varnishes, lacquers and paints from wood and metal surfaces 
- use to remove rust

Precautions
To avoid cuts never tear steel wool, cut to size with scissors or shears and always protect your hands with gloves when handling.

Important


Always test products on a spare surface or inconspicuous area first.
If in doubt use a finer grade first.

Pot Cleaning

You can find more pot scouring options here

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Frying Pans

I have been wanting to get rid of my non stick frying pan for ages. I bought it before I knew about polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), the plastic non- stick coating.  Nor did I know that polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) can give off toxic fumes that can kill budgies. I don’t have a budgie but even so! That doesn’t sound good.

Non Stick

I wanted a light weight pan with a ceramic non stick coating (promised to be toxin free), BUT it had to have a metal handle. Finally found this one from BergHOFF. The earth chef Montana range  which goes under the following specification….

  • Ceramic nonstick coating:
    • Naturally 6x stronger than traditional nonstick coatings
    • Non-toxic: no PTFE fumes
    • No PFOA used and energy-saving manufacturing
  • Hollow cast stainless-steel and riveted handles
  • Polished stainless-steel lids
  • Fast and even heat transfer
  • For all types of cooktops, including induction
  • Durable construction
  • Oven-safe to 540 degrees C / 1000 degrees F
  • Metal-utensil safe and dishwasher-safe

Delighted to see it came in cardboard packaging, disappointed to find it was also wrapped in a plastic bag. So far it is doing well….

If you can’t find one locally you can of course get them from Amazon – read more about our relationship here

BergHOFF 26 cm Earthchef Frying Pan
BergHOFF 26 cm Earthchef Frying Pan
£39.99

Cast Iron Pans

I chose this pan for the van. I really wanted a cast iron frying pan but our light weight flimsy camping stove would almost certainly crumple under the weight. Those of you with sturdier stoves could consider a U.K. made, cast iron pan from Netherton Foundry. It will last a life time . Pricey but nicey.

They alo do reather nice looking plastic free kettles.

If you cant afford to buy new you could try Ebay. They have a whole load of second hand iron pans for sale.

 

 

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Greaseproof paper

Greaseproof paper was first developed as a replacement for parchment by the  engineer Otto Munthe Tobiesen in 1894

During the paper making process, the paper pulp is beaten hard so the fibres bond more firmly. This results in a paper of high density with a small number of pores. It is now less absorbant making it reisistant to grease, fat and oil.

Natural greaseproof paper does not have any chemical treatments or coatings. It can be recycled, composted or burnt.

Other kinds of greaseproof paper, the  unnatural kind, are normal paper that has

  • been  coated with another material usually a fine layer of plastic or
  •  chemically treated with a variety of chemicals including PFCs and PFOA.

Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are a family of man-made chemicals.

  • When they enter the food chain they are retained in animal tissue leading to a process called biomagnification, meaning that they are passed on up the foodchain from animal to animal and because they are stored in the body for years the amount increases exponentially as they travel up the food chain.
  • Recent studies have found perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in human serum.
  • You can read more about them here

Greaseproof paper of all kinds is used for wrapping butter and other fatty foodstuffs.

If You Care supply genuine greaseproof paper products. You can buy them in stores and online.

On Line

You can buy from Nigel’s Eco Store or

Amazon Store

If You Care Baking Sheets Cut Unbleached 24 Sheets THREE PACKS of If You Care Mini Baking Cups 4.35Cm X 4.13Cm 90 Cups If You Care Baking Cups Mini
If You Care Baking Sheets Cut Unbleached 24…
£7.40
THREE PACKS of If You Care Mini Baking Cups…
£7.94
If You Care Baking Cups Mini
£5.83

Gourmet Wrap supplies to the trade, and you, if you want 400 sheets.

With thanks to Kau and gourmetfood wrap

 

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Laundry – baskets

I love my wicker laundry basket. I have had it so long now I cant even remember where I got it from. It has a cotton liner which is usually in place but I took it out so you could see the quality of the weave.

Why? Well not all wicker is created equel. Some is cheap and flimsy and will fall apart. As with anything you pay more for quality but a good basket will last you for ever it seems. Mine has.

I would source some thing local so you can see how sturdy it is. You need to check the quality. If you can’t find a local weaver here’s a company that sell on line. I haven’t used them but  they look good. And they have been around for a long time. And they are U.K. based.

“Coates English Willow

: Based in the Somerset Levels, the heart of the willow industry, PH Coate and Son has been growing ‘Withies’ and producing wicker baskets and willow products since 1819.

The Somerset Levels is the most important wetland area in the UK. This unique landscape provides the perfect conditions for willow growing. Basket making willow has been grown here for two centuries, and it is now the only area left where it is still cultivated for the production of baskets, furniture, garden items and high quality artists’ charcoal.”

Here is one of their baskets

Washing Basket with Fingerholes
£35.30
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Seed – harvested

This one means planning ahead and the packaging may not be plastic free – you will have to check with the company BUT it means years and years of plastic free seed ahead of you. Basically you grow the plant, harvest some but let others go to seed. You then collect the seeds, store them then use them again next year to grow more food, more seed! How good is that?

You can buy real seeds from this company. They have a great selection including veges, herbs and flowers.

The following bits of info were copied directly from their website real seeds

Seed You Can Save Yourself

One of the main aims of the company – written into its deeds – is to educate and encourage home seed saving. All our varieties are real, open-pollinated seed (non-hybrid), so you can save your own seed for the future, using instructions we supply. We have written freely-copyable seed-saving guides, and we sell a more detailed seed-saving book at a subsidised price. There’s really no need to buy new seed every year – you can just save your own.

Hybrid (“F1”) seed is the result of a cross between two different , but heavily inbred parents. Seed you save from these plants will either be sterile or a give a whole mix of shapes and types, usually producing a poor crop.

Only the seed company knows what the parents are, thus only they can produce that particular variety. If you want to grow it, you have no other source – good for the seed companies but not for you! Small growers should be able to keep their own seeds, selecting each year the best plants most suitable for their own land and conditions.

Yes, there are a few exceptions, but in general, the hybrid seed business has been a public relations victory over the small grower. For example, you will soon see more and more hybrid leek seed offered to you. This is because the supermarkets have set incredibly rigid limits on leek size, and the only way to achieve this is through hybridising two inbred varieties, so all leek seed production is switching to hybrids.

You will be told that these new leeks are ‘more uniform’, ‘straighter’ and so on. But what about flavour and adaptability? People seem to forget that we want to eat & enjoy these things – food is not just a commodity!

Despite common urban myths, there is no magic about hybrids. So-called “hybrid vigour” is the simple fact that good hybrid seed is better than bad real seed, and that sadly much of the real seed you get now has been badly maintained. But good real seed – which admittedly requires time, care and patience to produce and maintain – must, by virtue of the genetics of these things, be just as good, and in fact much more adaptable to different soils.

The key here is that it takes less manpower to make the hybrid seed, so the wholesale seed growers are much happier to let the old varieties fade away.

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Friends who compost…

Don’t fancy composting yourself? Neither did Jen! So she found a super green option! Heres an extract from her post

I have to be honest – I put off composting for a long time. We have a small garden and I didn’t want to pong it out with a large
bin of old rotting food. Plus I’m not paricularly green fingered. At most, I’ll have a pot of herbs in the kitchen, which sometimes I accidentally kill. I’m not sure I would use the resulting soil.

So I found a person locally who was willing to pick up my compost.

There’s a website called Streetlife “the local social network” where you can communicate with your community.

Read more here

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This would be a good use for Bokashi Bins. These bins let you store masses of kitchen waste before it needs collecting and composting elsewhere. More on Bokashi Bins here

Do fancy composting? Read this intro 

 

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Seeds

It is hard to find plastic free seeds. They are usually sold in waterproof plastic lined foil or plastic lined paper sachets. It’s not much but it is there. If you want to be a real purist you can try these.

Seedcell 

“The SEEDCELL is a waste free seed package alternative, that acts as a seed delivery system designed to have both functional and environmental benefits. The paper pulp based seed wheel snaps from the main backing card and is broken up into individual pods which are pushed into the ground without the need for use of tools, the shape acts as a dibber and helps to push through the lose earth or soil.

The pods absorb water and deliver it straight to the seed without drowning it, and uses less water than conventional methods of growing from seed. The warm and moist environment helps to aide root growth and helps the seed to break through the pod once the pod begins to decompose.The paper pulp is 100% recycled and the whole product is biodegradable and 100% recyclable and environmentally friendly.”

Plastic free seed is  good. As yet the range is rather limited – mostly herbs but it  would make a nice gift.

you can buy them here.

Seeds In Tins

You can get these wildflower seeds in tins though the tins will almost certainly be lined with epoxy resin.

These are sold on Amazon

Wildflower Seed Balls - Oxeye Daisy Wildflower Seed Balls - Poppy Wildflower Seed Balls - Bee Mix
Wildflower Seed Balls – Oxeye Daisy
£4.99
Wildflower Seed Balls – Poppy
£4.99
Wildflower Seed Balls – Bee Mix
£4.99

Harvest

You can harvest your own seed. You can find out more here.

The Plastic Free Garden

You can find other plastic free garden products here.

Amazon Products

Being committed to local shopping, I prefer to buy that way whenever possible. I would encourage you to do the same. One of the joys of living plastic free is mooching round the local shops seeing what you can source. But sometimes you can’t buy local so I have put together an Amazon catalogue. of independent sellers operating through Amazon.

Amazon is a very dirty word at the moment and I thought long and hard before suggesting them.  Heres why I went ahead…..

If you do decide to buy through Amazon we do get an affiliation fee, and no we are not entirely happy with Amazons recent history. However, we have always found their service to be good and their packaging usually compostable.