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Archive for August, 2009

We were at the Museum of London over the weekend and were browsing at the shops. I’ve always loved those die cast toys – the London bus, the post box, the telephone box. Things I’d hoard if I were a tourist.

But doesn’t you heart sink a bit when you look a bit more closely and see the words ‘Made in China’ at the bottom?

It just makes it less special. That here I am in a museum that’s supposed to uphold things British, is selling wares that doesn’t support the local economy.

But maybe they don’t make them here anymore?

I would hate to generalize. And I am not against globalisation. But I like the products I buy to last – clothes, appliances, furniture. And I don’t want to worry about safety when I buy them here, in the UK. But these news did scare me.

A number of people shun ‘Made in China’ products as a protest against their policies. My opinion is based on my personal observation – on things I buy for myself. Clothes bought on the cheap don’t last. A few washes, maybe at most one season, and they’re making their way towards the waste site. I have a few gadgets as well that doesn’t really stand well against normal usage.

No I am not blaming China. As this blog has educated me, it seems the blame is still on us the consumers who clamour for cheap goods and the retailers, keen to supply us with what we ‘need’.

And it isn’t just China that worries me as a manufacturer. Though I know it’s one of the first things we’ll point out as eveything we use seems to be coming from there. Primark’s ‘Made in India’ could mean your clothes were made by companies employing child labour. (Note that Primark have dropped the firm as soon as they found out and have been pushing their ethical stance since.)

I do have a point – don’t let the price dictate what you buy. Aim to find out more about the retailers you support. Cheap, most often, means some shortcut was taken. You will pay – on the good’s quality, on the good’s safety, or worse, it could mean another person’s welfare was compromised. If you buy fakes, you could even be funding drug lords and terrorists.

Buy because you love it, need it, will last until you’ve given it away and will get your money’s worth on the product. Spare a thought as to where and how it was manufactured.

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Buy-one-get-one-free offers by supermarkets are recently highlighted by the government as one of the main causes of the billions worth of food thrown away each year in the UK.

And there have been talks of banning this kind of offers.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that BOGOFs are meant to get rid of the supermarket’s/manufacturers’ extra stock as opposed to help consumers save. But they can be a godsend for those who count the pennies.

I don’t think the government should have the right to dictate to companies what marketing strategies they take to entice customers.

But it does take a little more discipline from us the consumers. Because it really isn’t a great deal if we end up not using what we buy. BOGOFs are great for food staples – oil, pasta, toilet rolls, toiletries. But in buying perishable food, you have to put a little more thought into it – can you freeze it? can you work it into your menu for the week?   

But we all have been guilty of buying too much. And I am still trying to find ways to make sure that we use up the food in the fridge before they go off.

The problem in our household is that we don’t plan our meals. We usually get inspiration on what to cook based from what is in the fridge. And lazy days that we eat out unplanned can mean that the chicken left defrosting in the fridge can go off. And stressful days at work can mean the cheese sandwich goes uneaten and inedible by the time we get home.

I’ve eaten my share of less than fresh food just because I couldn’t get myself to throw it away. Or left my hands yellowed trying to juice all the oranges still sitting in the counter after more than a week.

Here are some tips I will try to do myself:

  • citrus fruits. juice them.
  • other soft fruits. make a smoothie out of them.
  • apples. make apple sauce. lovely with pork chops, sausages. or topping for your cereals.
  • stale bread. no don’t feed the wildlife with them. make bread crumbs. if it’s not furry yet, toast them.
  • leftover vegetables. add chicken to make chicken and vegetable soup.
  • potatoes. use in soups. make mashed potatoes. make potato omelettes. potato cakes.
  • and of course if you have compost, throw inedible food in.

And this site will prove really useful for ideas on what to do with your leftovers. They’ve got an index there of ingredients that need using up, and it shows you a range of recipes using that.

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There is no holiday mode to being green.

No, we don’t mean that you settle for staycations or cycle all the way to your destinations or stay in an eco-lodge or calculate your flight emissions and purchase carbon offsets (Though you can do all these too).

We’re suggesting simple things. Really more like the ones you do at home. We’ve put together some things we have started practicing ourselves. So have a look at the list we’ve put together:

  • Turn off the lights, air conditioning, electrical appliances when leaving the room. You don’t leave the lights on at home, do you? Just because you don’t see the electric bill, doesn’t mean that you can waste electricity.
  • Do the same when it comes to using water. Turn the taps off whilst brushing your teeth. For a lot of countries, having running water is a luxury and most homes are on water rationing. So, use water with care.
  • Planning to shop abroad? Bring your reusable bags with you so you don’t take home extra plastics.
  • Getting souvenirs? Please don’t buy corals, anything (jewelry or traditional medicines) made of ivory, or from wild animals, plants that are endangered (orchid, cacti and the likes)
  • Support the local shops. Buy local produce, locally-made merchandise (check the labels), eat at independently-owned restaurants.
  • Find green ways to get around. Ok you flew there. But if you can get around using the public transports, walking or cycling, do so. Still need a car? Check if there are hybrid options or pick the most fuel-efficient car.
  • Travel with your own water bottle. In places where only bottled water are the safe options, buy big bottles and refill your reusable bottles.
  • Re-use towels and bed linens. Put on the ‘Do not disturb’ sign if your hotel doesn’t give you options to reuse (look out for signs that says hang the towels if you don’t want them replaced).
  • Bring your own toiletries. Those small bottles they give you at hotels add up to a lot of wastes.
  • Use a digital camera, if you don’t already. No need to print.
  • Don’t take the free maps or brochures unless you really need them. Have a notebook handy to write if you just need a few details. Or use your phone’s notes applications. I carry an e-book reader to view itineraries and maps I download before travelling.
  • If you need equipments, rent or borrow instead of buying new. Especially if you’re not sure if you’ll be using them again.
  • Travel light. Saves you a lot of back troubles and will make you more flexible on your itinerary. Get over yourself and mix and match outfits. Pack in those clothes that don’t need ironing.
  • Read up on the local cultural, economic, environmental issues of the place you’re visiting so you know that you’re not adding to their problems.

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[image swiped from Michael’s Luffas]

loofah, luffa, lufah. It goes by a lot of spellings, which I think are all correct. If you haven’t seen one look here.

Normally you use it to scrub yourself in the shower. I’ve ran across one in a health shop named Michael’s Original Luffa Washing-Up Scouring pad. And I thought, what a brilliant idea!

Not much packaging, just a cardboard label around it. With a string so you can hang it to dry.

Let me share with you what the label contains…

In the Philippines, people wash their dishes using a luffa instead of a plastic scourer. Luffas are durable, effective, and far better for the environment as they biodegrade when worn out.
Michael’s Original Luffa Scouring Pad’s[sic] are ethically and sustainably grown on his family farm in the Philippines (NB luffas are plants grown on land).
Bought directly from the farm at a fair price, your purchase supports less privileged families and prevents environmental degradation.
Michael’s Luffas are durable and tough enough for all your washing up and surfaces (soak baked on food first). They are gentle enough for cleaning non-stick surfaces, fruit and vegetables (and also your body).
Michael’s Luffas are clean and hygienic. Rinse and air dry by hanging them up or wash them in the dish/clothes washer. Luffas are biodegradable, so after their natural life, feed your compost or wormery with them, not the land fill.

If everyone used Michael’s Original scouring Luffas instead of plastic scourers, it is estimated we would avoid the equivalent of 150 double-decker buses of non-biodegradable landfill a year.
Luffas are a natural product hence size and shape may vary.

My verdict?

I’ve used them right away as I was looking to replace my used up scourer. A bit hard to use as they tend to be quite unflexible when used for the first time. I would recommend soaking it up in water first. It did scratch my nails. And scratched up the non-stick pans as I probably scrubbed up too hard. Didn’t work as well as my stainless steel scourers on tough baked on dirt (yes, I soaked them first, sometimes overnight). And found it quite unwieldy – couldn’t scrub at the bottom of plates and mug handles and in between the fork tines.

Maybe it takes getting used to. I still have it hanging there by the sink and alternate between using that and the normal scourer which I still need if I don’t want to scratch my pans (or maybe i shouldn’t be using non-sticks anyway). But I still think it is worth trying it out though it might not be for everyone.

So let me know if you love it or hate it? I think I’m somewhere in between. I so much want to love it, but I just can’t.

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