Make 2018 Your Year of Waste Free Lunches

waste free lunch ideas

waste free lunch ideas

Australians throw away 1.9 million tonnes of packaging each year – that’s enough to fill the MCG 9 times! And that one year’s worth of throwaway packing in landfill creates as much greenhouse gas as 860,000 cars.

And if you think that your contribution isn’t big enough to make a difference, it only takes 3 pieces of rubbish per day to stack up to a whopping 30kgs of waste per year.

That’s a lot of rubbish. Yet by making a few simple changes, we can all reduce our impact on the environment.

And one of those simple changes is choosing to go ‘waste free’ for your lunches in 2018.

What’s a waste free lunch?

Waste free just means using containers that are reusable, and skipping the single use where ever you can.

That means that instead of buying a bottle of water when you’re out, take a reusable bottle from home. Or find a tap and fill it up when you’re out and about.

Take a reusable coffee cup when you go to your local cafe. No more single use paper cups and plastic lids! And as a bonus, many cafes are starting to offer a discount if you bring your own cup.

Make your lunch at home, and pop it into a reusable container to take to work or school.

You can even extend the waste free lunch concept to buying your lunch. Just take a reusable container, and ask for the takeaway to be put into that instead of a throwaway one!

Why’s it so good to waste free?

  • Cheaper – you can buy in bulk and repackage
  • Healthier – you’ll eat less processed foods when you cut down on single use packaging
  • Cleaner – less waste means less litter floating around
  • Better for the environment – less waste means less rubbish, which means less landfill

Ideas for waste free lunches

We’ve got so many great ideas to help you go waste free in 2018. We’ve got lunchboxes, sandwich wraps, water bottles, coffee cups, snack containers, insulated containers and even stainless steel straws.

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Jump on the website and have a browse, or take a peek at some of our great products, below!

 

Should You Wash New Clothes Before Wearing Them?

wash new clothes before wearing

For some people, whether to wash new clothes before wearing is a no-brainer. For others, clothes will never look any better or brighter than when they’re still shop-fresh.

Are new clothes clean? Or should you put them straight into the washing machine?

Turns out, clothes may look clean and fresh off the rack, but they’re actually covered with chemicals and crawling with germs. Experts say we should wash new clothes before we wear them, especially if the garment will be in direct contact with our skin or if it’s something we will sweat on.

Here’s why you should always wash new clothes, especially if they’re for your little ones.

wash new clothes before wearing

1. Because of the dyes and chemical finishes on new clothes

Most fabrics get their colour from azo-aniline dyes. These chemicals can induce severe skin reactions, particularly in children who are allergic to them.

Putting new clothes through the wash flushes out the extra dye that can otherwise end up on your skin or on your other garments.

Another reason to wash new clothes is formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Manufacturers use formaldehyde resin on clothing to stop them wrinkling and to prevent the growth of mould and mildew during the shipping process.

These chemicals are irritating to the skin, eyes, and nose. They can spark full-blown allergic reactions, especially in those with sensitive skin, and are a nightmare for people with conditions like eczema.

Even if you only purchase clothes made with natural fibres, you still have to wash them. Experts say even 100% cotton garments are treated with potentially irritating chemicals before being sold.

2. Because new clothes are icky

Don’t forget, your clothes have been through many hands and may have been tried on by any number of people at the store. Clothes end up on dirty stockroom and change room floors. Ever tried on clothes when you’re sweaty? Or haven’t washed your hands? Well, so has everyone else!

And, yes, your new dress could be carrying other peoples’ germs.

Scientists have found respiratory secretions, yeast, and even faecal germs lurking in new clothes.

Contaminated clothing can cause diseases like fungal infections, diarrhoea, MRSA, hepatitis A, salmonella, athlete’s foot, and scabies. Another thing you can get from wearing unwashed new clothes? Lice.

Doctors say the number of germs on new clothes normally isn’t enough to make us seriously ill. But if your immune system is compromised, you can definitely catch a bug from wearing contaminated clothing.

Which brings us to #3.

why wash new clothes before wearing
Why wash new clothes before wearing them? Think of all the people who try on the clothes before you buy them!

3. Because babies are vulnerable to bugs and harsh chemicals

Babies, with their developing immune systems, are more susceptible to the disease-causing bacteria and viruses on new clothes. And because their skin is much thinner than ours, they are particularly sensitive to the nasty chemicals sprayed on fabrics.

Children and infants with sensitive skin can develop rashes in areas that come in constant contact with their clothing—armpits, wrists, waists, and necks.

Wash baby clothes before wearing to prevent skin reactions. It’s also why you should use detergents without optical brighteners, bleach, and fragrances—chemicals that can cause skin reactions.

natural laundry powders and liquids to wash new clothes before wearing
There are plenty of great natural laundry product options that work really well

Washing baby clothes

Wash all new clothes, baby blankets, bibs, swaddles, and bedding before you put them away. Use a gentle laundry powder. It doesn’t have to be a specifically “baby” washing powder—any eco friendly, fragrance free washing powder will be okay.

If the clothing you bought has strong odours, soak it overnight in a bucket filled with water and a cup of baking soda. Let it air dry in a breezy location after washing.

Here’s some of our favourite (and most popular) laundry powders and liquids at Hello Charlie:

Do you wash clothes before you wear them for the first time? How about baby clothes? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image: BigStock

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Why You Should Always Go For Fairtrade Chocolate

fairtrade-chocolate-importance

fairtrade-chocolate-importance

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, I think it’s fair to say that you probably question many of your purchases.

We’ve learned to be suspicious of the BPA in sippy cups, the lead in the cot paint, and the fire retardant in our baby’s car seat. We look into the origins of everything from toys to vegetables to clothes, conscious of things like pesticides and sweatshop labour practices.

But when you’ve got a bar of chocolate in your hand, do you stop to think about where it came from? While it gives you pleasure, did it cause someone else misery?

Unfortunately, chocolate has a bloody history. And it’s still a problem today. A 2010 study found that about 1.8 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 were working on cocoa plantations in Ghana and in Côte d’Ivoire.

About 40% of children weren’t enrolled in schools. And only 5% of the Ivorian children were paid for their work. In addition, UNICEF reports that about 35,000 Ivorian children working on cocoa plantations were victims of human trafficking.

‘Blood chocolate’

In her 2006 book Bitter Chocolate, award winning author Carol Off describes the physical and psychological suffering of these child slaves.

“The farmers… were working the young people almost to death. The boys had little to eat, slept in bunk-houses that were locked during the night, and were frequently beaten. They had horrible sores on their backs and shoulders…”

According to Off, children are made to do hazardous work leading to inevitable accidents. They’re regularly exposed to pesticides, and are fed only bananas and corn paste, the cheapest food available.

These human rights violations have long been made public. Yet many of the word’s major chocolate manufacturers can’t guarantee that their production does not involve slave labour. These include huge corporations like Hershey, Nestlé, ADM, and Cargill.

Part of the problem, Off says, is that chocolate is considered a universal luxury. Because it’s inexpensive and easily available, consumers take it for granted. So people fail to pressure ‘Big Chocolate’ into making sure that they use fair labour practices.

So what’s the solution?

fairtrade-chocolate-cacao-beans

How about fairtrade chocolate?

Fairtrade chocolate is made from cocoa bought from farmers at a fair price. Fairtrade is a growing social movement. It aims to help producers improve working conditions and get better terms of trade. It’s mainly focused in developing countries in Africa and South America.

When you buy a product with the Fairtrade mark, you help small farmers and producers work in decent conditions, strengthen their businesses, and support their communities.

That’s not to say that there are no issues with Fairtrade, either. There are concerns that Fairtrade certification for coffee leads to uneven economic advantages for farmers and lower quality for consumers. It’s probably safe to say that there are similar issues with chocolate. But that’s not enough reason to ignore Fairtrade and continue to buy chocolate produced with slave labour.

Fairtrade chocolate certification and brands

There are a few different organisations that certify Fairtrade. These include Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, Fairtrade USA, the Fairtrade Labeling Organization, UTZ Certified, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, the Max Havelaar Foundation, and the RainForest Alliance.

There are several fair trade chocolate brands available in Australia. These include Cadbury, San Churro, Alter Eco, and Green and Black’s. Also look out for other fairtrade brands in health stores and online, too. There’s eatingEVOLVED, Evolla, Loving Earth, and SRSLY Chocolate.

Alternative labels

Look for labels like ‘direct trade’ and ‘bean to bar’. These labels tell you that the company that made your chocolate bar has a direct relationship with their suppliers. It can also tell you that the company that makes the chocolate sources the cocoa beans themselves.

Some premium chocolate companies, like Lindt, choose to implement their own traceability and sustainability standards. This way, they ensure that they have the best cocoa beans, and deal directly with farmers.

Organic and Non-GMO labelling is important, too. But you don’t know whether the growers got a fair price for their crop, or whether fair labour practices were observed.

Image: DepositPhoto

Is Fairtrade chocolate important to you? What will you be choosing this Easter?

Natural Pet Care Products: What To Look For & What To Avoid

natural pet care muddy dog

natural pet care muddy dog

It’s happened to all of us. Your dog had a great time running around in the park on a wet afternoon. Or he found something delightfully stinky to roll in.

You just want to get rid of the smell or the mud, so you look around for a strong cleaning product to do the job. But before you reach for the antibacterial soap, or even the dishwash liquid, stop!

Pets need to be washed with a properly formulated product for pets, preferably a natural one. You shouldn’t be using people soap, or dishwashing liquid on your pets.

“Harsh chemicals aren’t necessary,” says Terese DeManuelle, a veterinary dermatologist from Portland, Oregon. “A mild hypoallergenic soap that’s formulated for veterinary use is all you need.”

Use pet products, not people products

Human grooming products are formulated to clean human skin and dog shampoo is designed specifically for dog skin. While your favorite shampoo may get rid of the dirt from your dog’s fur, it can mess up the  skin’s pH balance, which can lead to skin issues.

When the acid mantle of a dog’s skin is disrupted, bacteria and parasites are able to multiply rapidly. This can cause bad smells that means you give your dog more baths. Too many baths causes dog’s skin to dry out and become itchy. When your dog begins scratching at itself, cuts and abrasions are created. These then become breeding grounds for more bacteria, setting off a vicious circle and leading to a very unhappy (and smelly) animal.

muddy dog natural pet care
This muddy creature is our family’s much loved furry friend, Dougall!

What to look for in pet care products

Because we love our furry family members, it makes sense that we should be as careful about pet care products as we are about the products we use on ourselves. When choosing natural pet care products, make sure to read the labels and be on the lookout for ingredients that may be harmful to your fur babies.

Dog shampoo and other pet grooming products should not contain artificial fragrances or colours. Natural fragrances aren’t always good, either. While essential oils may give natural pet care products a pleasant scent, some may irritate your pet’s skin.

Even if an essential oil (EO) has been beneficial to you, it may not be tolerated by your pet. Cats, birds, and rabbits are particularly sensitive to essential oils. EOs like tea tree and pennyroyal, which are often used to treat flea infestations, can cause harm to some animals. Other essential oils, like cloves, sassafras, camphor, and oregano, may also cause sensitivity and organ toxicity.  Here’s a list of EOs that may be harmful to pets.

Look for pet shampoo that will help maintain the pH balance of your pet’s skin. The pH level of dog skin should be between the neutral and alkaline ranges: between 5.5 and 7.5 is good.

How often should you bath your pet?

Aside from the occasional emergency bath (when your dog is caked in mud or if it rolled around in a pile of something stinky), dogs really only need to be bathed about once a month.

Cats do a pretty good of job of grooming themselves, but they will sometimes need to be washed as well. Some cats will need a hand with grooming, especially if they are too fat to reach certain parts of their body or if their coats have gotten sticky or greasy.

While you should keep your pets clean, it’s also important that you don’t wash them too often. Frequent baths don’t just dry out their skin and cause problems. They can also interfere with flea or deworming treatments. However, if your vet prescribes a medicated shampoo, follow the instructions from your vet on how frequently your pet should be washed.

Once you’ve given your pets a bath, dry them off as best you can. Then you can let them back outside, where they will probably head straight into the next puddle or leaf pile!

Image: DepositPhoto; own.

Hello Charlie stocks a range of natural pet care products that are specially formulated just for pets. Shop the range here!

How to Make Your Coffee Habit Eco Friendly

eco-friendly-coffee

eco-friendly-coffee

One of our lovely readers emailed recently with some suggestions on how to make your coffee habit eco friendly. I’m a caffeine monster, and I’m sure lots of you are, too. So I thought I’d share the great ideas our reader had!

Go Fairtrade and Organic

Look for Fairtrade and organic coffee where possible.

The idea behind Fairtrade is that growers and producers get a fair price. Prices are set by the Fair Trade Labelling Organisation, which means that you pay a fair price, and growers don’t get ripped off. Fairtrade helps small scale farmers band together to give them better bargaining power.

Fairtrade supports growers’ local communities. You help workers get a living wage, which leads to better living standards for the whole of the community.

Faitrade supports environmental sustainability. Many Fairtrade brands grow organic coffee, which limits the amount of pesticides and fertilisers used. Fairtrade also supports sustainable production methods even if they’re not organic. And as coffee is one of the products with the highest amount of pesticides, it makes sense to go organic.

I don’t want to drink my morning coffee knowing it’s been picked and grown by slaves. I’m aiming for conscious consumption, so I choose fairtrade and organic where possible.

That’s not to say that Fairtrade doesn’t have issues. As an alternative, why not seek out Australian grown coffee? There’s great coffee being grown in Queensland now. I called in to CoffeeWorks in Cairns a while back, and they grow coffee and post anywhere in Australia.

eco-friendly-coffee-pods

Coffee Pods

Coffee pods are convenient, but they’re an environmental disaster. Australians consume millions of them every day, and most of them end up in landfill.

There are companies that are recycling the pods, like TerraCycle. And Nespresso have their own recycling collection, but it’s not clear how many are actually recycled.

But there are alternatives for eco friendly coffee. There are now biodegradable coffee pods available, like the ones from the Ethical Coffee Company.

There’s also a great solution from a company called My Coffee Star. This Swiss company has come up with a reusable, refillable stainless steel coffee pod. It works with all Nespresso machines. They won the prestigious Red Dot international design award in 2015, and they ship worldwide.

Reusable takeaway coffee cups

Of course, not all of use have a pod machine. Maybe you get your coffee to go? You can go eco on the go, too. There are lots of great options for reusable takeaway coffee cups. I wrote a roundup of the best ones a few years back in this article.

And recently, a reader pointed me in the direction of the Stojo coffee cup. It’s a collapsible, reusable cup that packs down neatly to fit into your handbag. Genius!

They’re currently only available in the US, but if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll see if I can get them in store at Hello Charlie.

Images: DepositPhoto

Tell us your ideas for making your coffee habit eco friendly! Share in the comments below.

 

How to Recycle Just About Anything

how to recycle just about anything

how to recycle just about anything

Although we’ve made great strides in making more products recyclable and eco friendly, there is still so much waste that ends up in landfill.

But it doesn’t have to.

What if if can’t go into your recycling bin?

If you can’t recycle it in your home recycling bin, check out Recycling Near You for all sorts of waste products that can be recycled. Some of the things you can recycle include:

  • Aerosol cans
  • Aluminum
  • Batteries
  • Cardboard
  • Printer cartridges
  • Electronics
  • Mobile phones
  • Food scraps
  • Garden cuttings
  • Glass
  • Lead-acid batteries
  • Milk and juice cartons
  • Paper
  • Plastic bags
  • Steel
  • Tyres

Other ways to recycle – TerraCycle

I’ve recently discovered a recycling company that will recycle even more waste. They’re called TerraCycle, and they recycle stuff you didn’t even know could be recycled!

They operate in more than 20 countries, including Australia. TerraCycle has partnered with individual collectors, major companies, retailers, manufacturers, local councils and small businesses to divert all sorts of waste from landfill.

TerraCycle has three major collection platforms: Free Recycling Programs, Zero Waste Box and Large-Scale recycling.

Free Recycling Programs 

TerraCycle’s free recycling programs partners with brands, manufacturers and retailers to help collect and recycle hard-to-recycle waste. The programs are offered around the world.

You can join as many as you like. To give you an idea, here in Australia, there are free recycling programs for beauty products, kids pouch and snack packaging, L’Occitane products, Nescafe Dolce Gusto capsules and heaps more.

Choose the program you’d like to be a part of, start collecting and then send TerraCycle your waste.

Zero Waste Box Platform

terracycle coffee capsule recycling boxAre you aiming to go zero waste at work or at home?  Not sure what it even means? TerraCycle defines zero waste as living and working without generating any kind of waste.

“All recyclable materials are recycled, all organic materials are composted, and items that cannot be recycled or composted are avoided and substituted with waste-free alternatives.”

To help achieve this, TerraCycle has the Zero Waste Boxes. These boxes recycle all sorts of rubbish from coffee capsules to laboratory waste.

Choose your waste stream, buy the right sized box, collect your waste and then send it to TerraCycle. You can buy the zero waste boxes through Australia Post or Officeworks.

Large Scale Recycling

TerraCycle also does large scale recycling. Some of the options are:

  • industrial recycling
  • office waste recycling
  • closed loop recycling

Closed loop recycling is where waste is upcycled and made into new products.

There really is no reason to be putting your rubbish into landfill with so many options around for recycling!

Image: Depositphoto

Know of other ways to recycle, reuse or upcycle garbage? Let us know!

Problems with Optical Brighteners (And What You Can Do About It)

optical brighteners problems

optical brighteners problems

Many laundry detergents promise to make your white clothes whiter than white. How do they do this? Using chemicals called optical brighteners.

What are optical brighteners?

Optical brighteners are chemicals that absorb ultraviolet light and reflect back blue light. This helps to hide the normal yellowing of white clothes, and makes them appear whiter and more vibrant. Optical brighteners add chemcials to your clothes, rather than removing stains from your clothes. You could call it an optical illusion.

What are optical brighteners used for?

Optical brighteners are most commonly used in laundry detergents. But they’re used for lots of other things as well. You can find optical brighteners in small amounts in products like cosmetics, cotton balls, and fabrics. Paper products, like food packaging, printer paper and toilet paper often use optical brighteners. You can find optical brighteners in just about anything that you might want to look bright white.

What’s the problem with optical brighteners?

In the 1970s, scientists studied the effects of optical brighteners on the environment, and on humans. This research showed mixed results.

Skin Allergies: One study found that contact with optical brighteners can cause an allergic reaction called contact dermatitis. The symptoms are red, itchy, irritated skin.

However, further studies on this effect were inconclusive. Researchers found no immediate danger, but they haven’t ruled it out. To confirm whether the material is completely safe or not, scientists need to do further research.

In 2002, one study found a skin reaction to optical brighteners in less than 0.7 percent of over 3,000 participants. So, a reaction may be possible, but it’s very rare. This study also had inconclusive results.

Environmental Effects: One Swedish study claimed to have found that optical brighteners cause genetic mutations in fish and plants. Later studies were unable to replicate these findings, and the results were, again, inconclusive.

We do know one thing for sure about optical brighteners: they’re not biodegradable. Bacteria can’t break down optical brighteners in the environment. Non-biodegradable materials can stick around for hundreds of years, polluting the environment and leaching toxic chemicals into the soil and water.

Optical brighteners are so commonly found in wastewater that scientists use them to detect whether bacteria is contaminating community water supplies. This water flows into rivers, streams and oceans, and into the ground, and optical brighteners go right along with it. And because they’re not biodegradable, they won’t go away.

Inconclusive Studies: Meanwhile, scientists are still conducting studies to decide if optical brighteners are safe or not. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration sets limits on the amounts of brighteners allowed in food packaging products. The FDA cites inconclusive studies as a reason for these precautions.

How can you avoid optical brighteners?

If you’re not willing to take your chances on inconclusive studies, don’t worry. You can avoid using optical brighteners that might irritate your skin or pollute the environment.

Eco friendly Detergent: Laundry detergent is by far the most common place to find brighteners. It’s easy to find brands of laundry detergents without them though. All Hello Charlie laundry products are free of optical brighteners.

Oxygen Bleach: But what if you still want your white clothes to look whiter than white? One way is to use an oxygen based bleach. These products use no optical brighteners, and instead whiten clothes through a process called oxidation. Instead of hiding stains with an optical illusion, oxidation actually changes the color of the fabric, making it whiter.

Household Whiteners: Hydrogen peroxide can also whiten clothes through the process of oxidation. Most homes have some hydrogen peroxide. If not, you can find it at the supermarket. Many people also swear by lemon juice, baking soda and vinegar. Just add half a cup of any of these ingredients to your laundry to help keep your white clothes white.

Sun Bleaching: Another way to naturally whiten your clothes is to do what your grandmother used to do: hang them out to dry. Before the invention of modern bleach and laundry detergent, people used sun bleaching to brighten white clothes. It also helps to conserve energy by avoiding the dryer.

Image source: Depositphoto

Declutter Your Home: Things to Make From Children’s Artwork

things to make from children's artwork

things to make from children's artwork

In our two previous posts we have shared various ways to display our children’s masterpieces as well as how to declutter, digitise, store, and back up artwork.

If you have decided to let go of a painting or a drawing, you don’t necessarily have to throw it in the bin. Here are some ideas for what you could make from the artwork instead:

Reuse Your Children’s Artwork

Gift Wrap

Turn drawings and paintings into gift wrap! If the gift is bigger than the artwork, use other paper to wrap it and use the artwork to decorate one or several sides. Or make a collage of several artworks big enough to wrap the present in.

Things to Make from Children's Artwork: Painting repurposed as wrapping paper by Simply In Order

Lolly Bags or Gift Bags

Personalise your party lolly bags or gift bags by using neutral bags and gluing a drawing on them or fold bags with bigger drawings.

Things to Make from Children's Artwork: Painting repurposed as gift bag by Simply In Order

Paper Boxes

Remember how we used to make these? Check out this video if you need instructions.

Paper Box by Origami-Instructions

Cards

Make gift cards or thank you cards out of the artwork by gluing it on neutral cards in a matching colour.

Surprise Someone

Why not send one or two to grandma, grandpa, aunts and uncles, or other people that would love to receive an unexpected gift? It’s best not to send it to people who already have a house full of children’s artworks, though!

Keep Artwork Using Minimal Space

The trick here is, of course, to digitise the artwork. You can then enjoy it in a different way (read the tips about digitising artwork in our last post).

Photo Books

If you can part with the originals or at least most of them, it saves you from storing a lot of paper. Instead, create a photo book by digitising the artwork with your camera, scanner, or an app like Artkive. It’s probably not worth creating a photo book every year; maybe have one per child for every three years.

Things to Make from Children's Artwork: Photo Book with Digitised Artwork by Simply In Order

Digital Photo Frame

One of the simplest ways to enjoy the artwork of your children is to put the digital versions on a digital photo frame. Then you can let it run automatically. Even though digital frames are not that trendy now, it is still one of the easiest and quickest ways to look at photos. It’s certainly better than having them buried somewhere on your computer.

Video Slideshow

Instead of creating a photo book – or in addition to it – you might consider a video slideshow. This is an easy way to look at your children’s artwork and probably the most effective in terms of saving space. You don’t even need to burn a DVD or have it on a USB. You can easily share it with others by sending them a link.

Here is an example of what your children’s artwork could look like, in a video slideshow from Simply in Order.

Make Keepsakes

The options are endless! Once the artwork is digitised, you can do pretty much anything with it as far as keepsakes go. Think keyrings and mousepads to jewellery, stuffed animals, or even clothes!

We love to make a a yearly calendar for the grandparents with a mix of photos of the children and their artwork. It’s always a winner!

We hope these articles help you to get more joy from your children’s artworks.

About our Guest Writer:

Chantal Imbach is a professional home and photo organiser and owner of Simply In Order in Eltham, Victoria. To her, being organised doesn’t mean living in a display home but living a simpler life. As a mum of two boys, she knows how challenging this can be. She has recently started to specialise in helping clients to look after their photo collections. Her passion is to help save these collections and stories so that they can be passed on to future generations in a meaningful way. Find more of Chantal’s articles here: www.simplyinorder.com.au/blog

Images: Depositphoto (main), Simply In Order

We’d love to hear what you like to make from your children’s artwork! Share with us below.

So Many Ways to Use Soapberries!

soapberries-soapnuts-liquid-soap-base

Soapberries, or soapnuts, are a fruit that can be used as a natural alternative to laundry detergent. They’re naturally high in saponins, nature’s soap. In a recent blog post, I talked about how soapberries are grown and harvested, and how they work to keep clothes clean.

But laundry isn’t the only thing you can clean with soapberries! Using soapberries, you can mix your own base liquid solution that can be used to clean just about anything. Here is the recipe for the liquid, as well as lots of other ways to use soapberries for everything from shampoo to glass cleaner.

Soapberry Liquid Base

Start by making a liquid base. Once you’ve got the base, you can add other simple ingredients to make lots of great household and personal cleansers.

Ingredients:

  • 10 whole soapberry shells
  • 1 litre of water
  • 2 teaspoons citric acid (optional, available in supermarkets)

Tools:

  • Large pot
  • Cloth soapberries bag or old sock/stocking
  • Spray bottle or other storage container

Directions:

  1. Combine the soapberry shells and water in the pot.
  2. Bring the water to a boil and let it boil for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Optional: Add the citric acid to the hot liquid and stir until dissolved. This will act as a preservative to help your soapberry liquid last longer.
  4. Allow the liquid to cool.
  5. Once cooled, strain the liquid through the cloth into a container for cleaning or storage. We recommend a spray bottle for easy cleaning.
  6. Store your liquid in the fridge to help it last longer. It should last for up to 4 weeks.

For a simple household cleaner, add a few drops of your favourite essential oil to your liquid to give it a fresh scent. Eucalyptus works well, and so does tea tree, but my favourite is lemongrass or bright, citrussy lemon.

You can use this liquid base as a laundry liquid. Or try adding a few drops of essential oil to the soapberry liquid, and spraying it directly onto stains as a pre-wash stain removing treatment.

Soapberries Liquid Soap Base - Many Ways to Use Soapberries

Soapberry Glass Cleaner

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. soapberry liquid
  • 2 tbsp. white vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • Eucalyptus essential oil (optional)

Tools:

Spray bottle

Directions:

  1. Combine soapberry liquid, white vinegar and water in the spray bottle and shake well.
  2. Add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil, or lemon oil for a fresh scent.

Soapberry Shampoo

Ingredients:

  • 250ml soapberry liquid
  • 1/2 to a teaspoon guar gum (available at health food shops)
  • Essential oils

Tools:

Handheld blender or mixer

Directions:

  1. Add 1-2 teaspoons of guar gum to your soapberry liquid. We recommend 1 teaspoons for a consistency similar to conventional shampoo. If you can’t find guar gum, try cornflour or agar agar.
  2. Mix the guar gum into the liquid with a handheld blender or mixer until smooth.
  3. Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil and mix. We recommend lavender or tea tree oil.
  4. Let the mixture stand until the bubbles disappear.

Be careful not to get soapberry shampoo in your eyes when using it, or it will sting.

This same mixture can also be used as an antibacterial hand wash, or as an ingredient in soapberry shaving cream (see below).

Don’t make too much of this, and keep it in the fridge. There are no preservatives, so it will go off.

So many ways to use soapberries!

Soapberry Shaving Cream

Ingredients:

  • 100ml soapberry shampoo
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Tea tree oil

Tools:

Blender

Directions:

  1. Add olive oil to soapberry shampoo.
  2. Add a few drops of tea tree oil. This is great for shaving because it’s soothing and antibacterial.
  3. Mix all ingredients in the blender to form a cream.

There are lots of other ways to use soapberries! For a moisturizing body wash that’s perfect for babies, use a couple of drops of lavender oil instead of tea tree oil. Remember to keep the body wash away from baby’s eyes.

Soapberry Facial Scrub

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup soapberry liquid
  • 1/4 cup finely ground oats
  • 1/4 cup finely ground almond meal

Directions:

  1. Grind up the oats and almonds separately, then mix together well.
  2. Mix the oats and almonds with the soapberries until blended.

Choose your skin type below and mix in the ingredients for a customised scrub.

For oily skin:

  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried peppermint and/or 5 drops rosemary essential oil

For dry skin:

  • 1 tablespoon powdered milk
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground calendula and/or 5 drops roman chamomile essential oil

For combination skin:

  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground dried chamomile and/or 5 drops lavender essential oil

Why not use the scrub base and add some larger salt flakes and a few drops of cooling peppermint oil for a cooling foot scrub?

Again, don’t make this in large quantities, and keep it in the fridge. There are no preservatives, so it will spoil.

If you’re looking for soapberries, Hello Charlie stocks That Red House Soapberries. They’re certified organic, and sales support the Grow Nepal initiative.

Image: Depositphotos

Are there any other ways that you use soapberries around the house? Let us know and we’ll add them to the list!

Declutter Your Home: How to Digitise and Store Children’s Artwork

Declutter digitise and store children's artwork

Declutter digitise and store children's artwork

In our last post we shared a few ideas about how to display children’s artwork. Today, let’s talk about how we can declutter, digitise, store, and back up these masterpieces. Whether they’re on display or not doesn’t matter.

Decluttering Artwork

It is often very difficult to let go of something our children have created. But as with all stuff, there needs to be a flow: things come into the home and eventually will have to leave. Otherwise, we will become overwhelmed and inundated with clutter.

So, how can we make good decisions? First of all, you might actually want to involve your children in this process. Ask them what they want to keep. You’ll be surprised at just how easily they can make these decisions.

If you struggle to decide, use the same approach that you would use with photos. Are there multiples or very similar versions of the same? Do you like it – does it bring you joy? Does the work represent an important stage in your child’s development? Imagine looking back in 20 years – would you still think it is relevant? Is it an original piece of art or was it just some colouring activity?

It might also help to categorise the work and make the following piles:

  • Keep, digitise and archive
  • Let go, digitise first
  • Let go without digitising it

You can make these decisions each time something new comes home. We prefer to collect it throughout the year and then decide at the end of a school year. This has the advantage of giving you a bit of distance and helps you to decide more easily.

Ways to Digitise Your Children’s Masterpieces

Space is valuable! We just can’t keep every little scribble our children ever produce. And no, most children don’t want these things once they move out. So, why not digitise the pieces of art so we can get rid of the originals and only archive the best ones?

There are several ways to digitise artwork; find the one that works best for you. Before you start, think about what you will do with the digital photos. Do you want to create keepsakes, photo gifts, or a photo book? Do you want the photo solely for back up reasons? This is important to know beforehand so your digital versions will be of good enough quality.

Scanning

If you decide to scan, you should use a good quality scanner and scan at 600 dpi–or at the very least, 300 dpi. Remember, if you plan to use the digital version to have – for example – a canvas printed, this 300 dpi size may not be enough, depending on how large the print is. If you don’t have a scanner, you might want to rent one or outsource the project.

Phone Apps

These days, there are quite a few apps out there that enable you to scan your children’s artwork quickly and at low cost, or even free of charge. Some of the apps let you create a photo book and other keepsakes very easily. Artkive is a well known app that will do just this. Again, if you want really good quality, this is not going to be enough.

Photograph

This is our preferred method due to quality reasons. As with a phone app, you take a photo. It’s the easiest way to digitise 3D artwork but also larger paintings and drawings. Make sure that you have good light conditions and no glare. If you have a lot of artwork to photograph, you might consider buying a lightbox tent.

Declutter digitise store children's artwork with Artkive
Digitise and Store Children’s Artwork with the Artkive App

How to Store Children’s Artwork

Now that you’ve digitised the originals and discarded the ones you don’t want to keep you will still have some exceptional creations that need to be stored and archived.

The easiest way to store flat artwork is a simple art portfolio. You don’t need one of the sophisticated expensive ones; a simple paper art portfolio will do (something like Jasart A2 Folio Kraft available at Officeworks). If you or your child are the creative type you can even make one yourself.

Label it clearly with ‘Child’s Name + Year’. The advantage is that it puts perimeters on it for you. It is best to store the portfolio flat, especially if it’s a paper one. Otherwise you risk having deformed artwork if the portfolio doesn’t stay completely vertical.

The larger 3D work takes up a lot of space and, realistically, you can only keep and archive a few. The easiest way to do this is using a clear storage container. This will not only keep it dust free but will also set a space limit.

How to Back Up Artwork

Once you have digitised the artwork we recommend, of course, to back up these files. Ideally, you want to use the 3-2-1 backup rule: 3 copies on 2 different mediums (external hard drive, CD, computer, USB, cloud) and keeping one copy off-site. This could be one medium kept away from your home or the cloud. If you decide to use a cloud service to back up your photos or files be very mindful of the small print. There are good options but they don’t come free.

Last but not least – throw out the original artwork!

Well, if you decide not to keep a piece of art throw it out straight away or repurpose it. More about this in our next post. If this is not an option, do try at least to recycle it.

About our Guest Writer:

Chantal Imbach is a professional home and photo organiser and owner of Simply In Order in Eltham, Victoria. To her, being organised doesn’t mean living in a display home but living a simpler life. As a mum of two boys, she knows how challenging this can be. She has recently started to specialise in helping clients to look after their photo collections. Her passion is to help save these collections and stories so that they can be passed on to future generations in a meaningful way. Find more of Chantal’s articles here: www.simplyinorder.com.au/blog

How do you deal with children’s artwork at your house? We’d love to know your ideas!