Green Winter Warmers – Draught Excluders

Draught excludersNow that autumn has hit Cape Town, with a breath of winter to come, it’s time to think of keeping warm and keeping down those electricity bills.

We all know that good insulation is key to reducing heat loss and beating the cold winter nights, but rather than starting a major project, let’s look at a small, very do-able DIY measure to keep warmer this winter – keeping out those sneaky draughts, which chill feet and ankles and persuade us to turn up the heater another notch.

Draught excluders are so easy to make that even a total non-sewer like me could make one, if only I’d get around to it. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered together to help me make mine. Continue reading

Re-use Cereal Boxes As Disposable Compost Bins

Re-use cereal boxes as compost binsIf you have a compost heap, eat boxed cereals and don’t like too many plastic buckets cluttering up your kitchen, this idea for instant disposable compost bins could work for you, as well as it works for us.

An empty cereal box makes a great container for compostable kitchen waste. The great thing about it from my point of view is that it is only large enough for a few days worth of vegetable peels, so that we take it out to the compost heap more frequently, reducing the likelihood of flies and fruit flies in the kitchen. When it goes out to the heap, the peels are emptied on to the heap and the cardboard box gets torn into pieces and added to the compost. Then we start fresh with the next empty box.

compost binA cereal box is neat and fits into a smaller space than a plastic bucket would do. There is no washing out of buckets, or build up of mouldy stuff that you sometimes get when the bucket takes too long to fill. And as a bonus you are automatically adding more carbon dense material to balance out all those green kitchen scraps. Plus recycling and re-using some of your excess cardboard.

compost heap

Reduce Plastic Waste – Never Buy Another Freezer Bag

Re-use yoghurt pots for the freezerFreezer bags are temptingly convenient. A nice neat roll, all sizes and clean. But buying plastic bags just to use them once and then throw them away really doesn’t make sense, either from a frugal point of view or an environmental one.

I’m trying to reduce the amount of plastic we use and one thing I’ve found that I can totally do without is purpose made freezer bags. Here are alternative ideas that work just as well.

Re-use yoghurt pots
One litre sized yoghurt pots with lids are perfect for freezing small batches of cooked food, stocks, fruit purees and any other liquid or semi-liquid food. They are also good for freezing berries. Write on the lid with a permanent marker or use a sticky label to identify the contents – otherwise you’ll find yourself getting out stock when you want berries and vice versa.

Re-use other plastic containers
Think twice before recycling or throwing out any sturdy plastic container. Ice cream tubs, margarine tubs and any other similar food containers can be saved and re-used in the freezer. Check the recycling number on the plastic to make sure it doesn’t contain BPA. Numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5 are very unlikely to; numbers 3 and 7 may do. Containers can be re-used several times, but if they start looking scratched or otherwise damaged then it is time to recycle them. Plastic in contact with food should always be undamaged to avoid possible chemical contamination.

Re-use cereal bags
The inner bags of cereal packets are a prime example of useful bags that rarely if ever get re-used. Save them up and use them as freezer bags.  Make sure you shake all the fine crumbs out of them, then use them for freezing dry goods, such as bread, cookie dough, breadcrumbs. They could also work well for freezing blanched vegetables, if you have an excess in the garden. The only problem with these is sealing them effectively. Try to push as much air out as possible, then fold over the ends of the bag at least twice. Close it with a peg or a tie, depending on what works best for you.

Glass containers
There are more and more glass containers with lids available these days that are freezer proof. Some are also microwave proof. Start investing in a few of these as and when you can afford them. Having a good stock of permanent containers cuts down on the amount of disposable containers you use. Some people use canning jars to freeze food in. Make sure you leave enough space for expansion as the food freezes, so that the glass isn’t cracked by the pressure.

As a general rule allow food frozen in glass to defrost thoroughly before heating, as a sudden temperature change can shatter it.

Just this small adjustment in thinking will save you money and save the environment from that much more plastic waste. I’m sure there are plenty more possibilities that I haven’t listed here – do you have any freezer container ideas to share?

Also check out the comments in this article on doing without plastic bags in the freezer for some more great ideas.

10 Ideas For Re-using Old Business Cards

book from old business cardsDo you have a stack of old business cards that you can no longer use? When your phone number changes, or your job title, or you leave that company altogether, what can you do all those spares? Just throwing them away is almost a crime in these eco-conscious days; recycling them is one option; but as always re-using and re-purposing them is best of all.

If you think creatively there are loads of ways to make use of old business cards, almost enough for you to wish you had some handy, because they can be used in a thousand different ways. Here are just ten ideas.

1. Gift tags – glue the printed side onto some pretty coloured paper or once-used wrapping paper. Punch a hole in one end for some ribbon or raffia and the blank side is all ready to write your To and From details. You can even trim the edges with scalloped craft scissors if you want to get fancy.

2. Mini note pads – Clip a small stack of cards together blank side up and keep them near the phone for scribbling messages.

3. Labels for filing cabinet drawers and hanging files.

4. Art canvases – let the kids make multiple pieces of mini-art on the blank sides and stage an art exhibition. Get creative yourself too with crayons and colouring pencils.

5. Playing cards – Make your own pack of playing cards by drawing the card suits and numbers on the blank side.

6. Stencils – Cut a shape out of the card and use it as a stencil, either for small details when home decorating or just as a fun art project. Also great when you are making home-made Christmas cards.

7. Cue cards – if you have to give a talk or speech, use a stack of cards as cue cards. They are small but discreet and have just enough room for a memory jogging sentence.

8. Revision notes – If you or your kids have an exam or test looming, use a stack of business cards to jot down notes of important points to remember as a memory aid.

9. Card houses – do you remember building card houses with playing cards – why not use business cards instead – see how tall a tower you can make.

10.  Punch a hole in the corner and keep a few on your keychain. Write notes, lists and reminders for the day on them.

Also check out this great idea for mini photo books made from business cards as in the photo above.

And when you get a new set of business cards printed, make sure you ask for eco-friendly recycled paper stock and non-toxic inks – get a design you know will last, so that you don’t end up with a huge stack of unused business cards to repurpose… unless of course you had such fun with this lot that you want leftovers!