Friday, January 1, 2010

Waste not, want not

For as long as I can remember, the motto in our family has been
"Waste not, want not".
For example, my father would show me feature articles with photos of emaciated children suffering from the famine in Ethiopia and chide me:
"Don't waste your food. Children are dying from hunger in Africa! Finish your food."
Mum would always pack food for us to bring to school in re-usable plastic food boxes, never plastic bags...

When I was a kid, I remember my grandfather using kitchen waste e.g. prawn shells, coffee grounds, onion peel to feed his “babies” i.e. his potted palms, Christmas trees and other plants that bloomed under his green thumb.

He’d also use and re-use a plastic gunny sack to cart fresh produce like fish, chicken, meat and vegetables home from the market. Yup, my paternal grandfather was the shopper while my paternal grandmother was the cook.

My maternal grandmother saved every plastic bag to pack food, to store rubbish and every glass jar or plastic bottle to store tea leaves, salt, kidney beans and various condiments in her kitchen.

I never knew my maternal grandfather or my paternal grandmother but I’m always hearing stories of how frugal, honest and hardworking they were.

I’m sure they’ll be proud of the living legacy they've left behind because their kids (grandkids and great-grandkids!) are doing a good job following in their footsteps.

Now that we have our own family, we try our best to raise an eco-friendly family too. And we do it by remembering the 3Rs:

We try not to buy things that come with too much packaging esp plastic. We actively refuse plastic bags at the supermarket. Thankfully, this is getting to easier to do in Malaysia!

I try to buy only what's necessary for meals from the market. Menu planning and shopping lists help a lot to cut down on food leftovers :D

When we shop (online or otherwise), we don't mind if the seller packs the items in old, clean bags, cartons, envelopes or paper packaging as long as the product is in good shape.

We use cloth diapers 60% of the time to reduce our dependence on disposable diapers and of course, the amount of trash they contribute towards the environment.

Since cloth diapers work best with 50% less detergent, NO bleach and NO softener, we've significantly reduced our grocery bill. Less instances of skin allergies too. Yippee! :D

The hunt for enzyme-free detergents hasn't been that easy and we've only found MIGHT to be the only enzyme-free and affordable brand.

I *love* old books and I have a huge collection of children’s books, school book, teenage books, storybooks and nope, I don't have a problem with them at all. I only draw the line at old cloth books especially ones I have no idea of their origins no matter how clean they look...

We re-use:

  • jam jars (for salt, pasta, turmeric power, dry spices etc),
  • baby food jars (for baby's snacks or home-made baby food),
  • ice-cream boxes for tools and toys,
  • plastic bags (to line the rubbish bin, to use for travel or outings to the beach etc),
  • plastic boxes (for kids' toys),
  • old t-shirts as kitchen rags or blotters for art,
  • old pillowcases to store cloth diapers or handbags and many, many more!
Magazines are kept together with the kids' books for school projects :)

My Mum is a champion of recycling for as long as I can recall. She's the No. 1 in ensuring that:
- Old newspapers are stacked neatly outside the apartment;
- Cardboard, cartons and other paper packaging are unfolded, flattened placed in plastic bags beside them
- Old bottles (glass or plastic) are given a simple rinse and stacked neatly by the side.

Even my son now knows what can be recycled. He'll find that famous green logo and retort,
"Don't throw, Mummy. Recycle!!!"
Hahaha, start them while they're young, right?

All in all, an eco-friendly lifestyle has been our “family project” for the young and the old for as long as four generations. Can we continue on for the next generation? Of course, we can!

"Sedikit sedikit, lama lama jadi bukit!"
(Gosh, an English equivalent would be: "A stitch in nine saves nine?")

P/S This little sharing won me RM300 worth of Seventh Generation products i.e. Clear Natural laundry detergent, Clear Natural toilet cleaner and Clear Natural all purpose cleaner. :D

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