Something Old, Something New and a Circular Economy

The old adage of ‘charity begins at home’ is just as relevant today when it comes to the environment. Therefore, in the same vein we can say ‘A clean river starts at home’ or ‘conservation begins with you’. You may say ‘I don’t live near a river’, but all water drops make their way back to a river somewhere which runs back to the ocean, so yes, what you do with water does affect a river somewhere and ultimately the ocean. Or maybe you are saying ‘that is easier said than done’, agreed, but perhaps you could rather ask ‘how can I think about this differently?’

Today I’d like to share some simple ways I attempt to reduce my impact on the environment. I am far from where I would like to be, but ngiyazama (I’m trying). I’m learning daily, but it seems the best point to begin with is the concept of a circular economy (basically this means sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing  and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible).

Excuse the verboseness, but there is so much I want to share, if you only have a minute just skim the headings and highlights for the crux of the matter.

  1. BYO (Bring Your Own)
  • Reusable shopping bags. Buy good quality, made in SA, from projects manufacturing recycled fabric or repurposing waste fabric such as Uzwelo Bags. I have amassed dozens as I’ve learnt more on this journey and realised that the previous bag I bought was actually imported and made from waste in the country of origin hence not tackling our waste issues here in SA. I even use one as an overnight bag & another as a briefcase.  Gift reusable bags to your family, friends and staff and have the conversation, challenge each other to learn more and share your findings. We are human and I am often running into a shop with fav bags left at the back door, if my purchase is enough to carry in my arms I say NO to a plastic bag, if not I ask for the least number needed and reuse them at home for keeping the half cabbage fresh or stashing dirty clothes on a trip. Simply hand wash said bags in a little Nu-Eco Laundry Gel, pre-treat stains from leaked food with Nu-Eco Fabric & Carpet Spot Cleaner, or soak in warm water and a little Nu-Eco Bleach Powder. For a quick freshen up spray them with a little Nu-Eco Odour Eliminator and leave to air. If you are really jumpy with current concerns spray your bags of shopping with Nu-Eco Hand & Surface Cleanser (available in a pocket size 100ml which I am seldom without) when you load them into your transport or when you unpack at home. I refuse to be sprayed with some unknown more than likely synthetic chemical based sanitiser so I use my Nu-Eco in front of the guards or shop attendants and offer them a test. The guards at places I visit often just smile and say ‘you got your own’. I spray public toilet seats before using and my mask in between customer visits.
  • Travel mug & long handled teaspoon. Working on the road most days of the week now, these are my Besties. Many coffee spots are quite happy when you BYO, some even reward you with a discount! Again, it isn’t easy because sadly in a country desperate for job creation, bizarrely we manufacture very little in the way of basic everyday things, especially greener options, but look out for proudly SA or at least buy best quality products that will last you ‘foreva’. Keeping these clean and healthy is simple with Nu-Eco Dishwashing Liquid and Hand & Surface Cleanser, if they need deeper cleaning soak in hot water with a little Nu-Eco Bleach Powder. Remember check manufacturer’s care instructions as some, in particular bamboo composites are not dishwasher safe. If they are then Nu-Eco Dishwasher Powder will keep you on the road.
  • Scafftin’. I am yet to remember this one, but take your own repurposed ice-cream tub or other container to buy takeaways. Say NO to the free plastic cutlery. Rather have a set of cutlery (including a reusable straw) stashed in your bag. Remember Nu-Eco Hand & Surface Cleanser is food grade and safe to use on eating utensils if you feel it necessary.
  • Water bottles If you have forgotten your water just make sure you are responsible with your bought water bottle, reuse it, repurpose and finally recycle. Best is to have a stash of filled bottles in the fridge or freezer ready to grab on your way out. For Biggies, AllGold tomato sauce bottles make awesome water bottles.
  • Buy in bulk and do your own refilling or better still find your closest refill shop. This is such a simple way to reduce your plastic waste and plug into a circular economy philosophy both at home and at work. All Nu-Eco and Biochem products are available in bulk quantities directly from our factory in Assegai, through our on-line shop and at selected retailers in particular Co-ops, BKB, TWK, Coastals etc.
  • Refill first then donate or recycle. All our packaging is high quality food grade and lasts for years and is 100% recyclable. Please do not send our packaging to landfill. We support water scare communities by donating the containers from our raw materials to them for water collection. All other recyclable waste from our factory is collected by reclaimers.
  • Fill and donate. Donate spare glass jars to charities making preserves for sale or outreaches filling jars with soup ingredients; or give them to refill shops offering free 2nd hand containers for customers who walked in without their own.
  • Less is more’. More and more folk are moving away from materialism towards minimalism. Less to wash & clean means more time to spend with family and friends. Less to dispose of means more benefit to you, your family, community and the environment. To someone reaching toward these ideas a material gift is quite stressful as opposed to a gift aligned with their philosophy such as an experience, natural products, a refill shop voucher or local-made plastic-free cleaning equipment such as a beautiful grass broom
  • Disposable diapers, feminine care products & ‘flushables’. Disposable nappies are wreaking havoc in our country by filling and blocking toilet and sewage systems, polluting waterways and roadsides. They also cost an arm and a leg. My colleague and his wife saved almost R700 monthly by using washable fabric diapers for their gorgeous son. Not to mention the massive reduction in their daily waste! Gift friends, family or staff with a pack of washable diapers, Nu-Eco Laundry Gel, Nu-Eco Fabric & Carpet Spot Cleaner and Nu-Eco Bleach Powder. Washable diapers and pads are even available for adult incontinence. They dramatically reduce waste to landfill and together with our products are perfectly hygienic. Please don’t be fooled by ‘flushable’ marketing. These products might be compostable, but they should not be disposed of in any type of toilet. They take too long to break down, cause blockages, and make waste water treatment expensive and very difficult. Nowadays there are so many wonderful washable feminine care items available from local manufacturers and numerous outlets or on-line.
  • Gift care rather than packaging. Soak labels off coffee jars and fill them with homemade biscuits as thank you gifts for teachers, hosts etc. Or fill with the dry ingredients and recipe for Granny’s Zamezi Mud, which we now call Umkomaas Mud. Or gift Nu-Eco trial packs to folk who want to make a change but don’t know where to start. Think out the box (or the bottle) and bring a little sunshine to not only the recipient, but also our wonderful world.
  • CAUTION: Just don’t gift your girlfriend some wonderful Nu-Eco 100% natural household cleaning products for her Birthday or Christmas! Unless she specifically asked for them. But no harm done if you buy her a set of Nu-Eco Baobab products wrapped up in an exquisite Mungo towel.
  • Everything in moderation. This was a common mantra in older generations. It is however more relevant now than ever before. We consume way too much of everything, including healthy and natural foods or products. More than a recommended serving of plain organic yoghurt is not benefitting you or the environment. If like me you are this side of 40 that excess, natural or not, is going one place and one place only. And to boot it has cost the environment more than necessary to produce that excess, and left our one and only Earth with more waste from more packaging. Makes one’s head spin, but if we just slow down & think twice first, then even if we do eat 5 more Majool dates, we have at least done so consciously.
  • Less is the new clean. As above, we tend to use too much detergent. We think that more is cleaner, it isn’t. More chemicals mean more damage to the environment and less health. Finish them and switch to natural. Nu-Eco and Biochem products are concentrated and powerful, use the lowest dosage for the cleaning job at hand. Excessive use even of natural products places undue pressure on the environment.
  • Multipurpose rather than single use. No need to fill your cupboards with a zillion bottles of lotions and potions. Nu-Eco and Biochem products are effective across a broad spectrum of cleaning needs. Nu-Eco Surface Cleaner is a prime example of this as it is highly dilutable, very effective, food grade and useful for cleaning all hard surfaces in the home, office or factory. Perhaps we should change the name to ‘Myriad Cleaner’.

That’s a mouthful for now and more than enough homework for this weekend, more to chew on next time. Happy circulating.


Umkomaas Mud

4 TBS sugar (reduce or increase to your liking, or substitute with xylitol or honey)

3 TBS cornflour

2 TBS cocoa (increase for a dark chocolate flavour)

750ml milk (I’ve never tried with plant-based milk, but can only presume it would work just as well)

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs separated

Lump of butter

Pinch of salt

  • Stiffly beat egg whites
  • Mix sugar, corn flour, cocoa together in a large jug or bowl. Stir in egg yolks & enough milk to make a thick but runny paste. Mix well until smooth. Add vanilla
  • Bring remaining milk, butter and salt to the boil and pour over the cocoa mixture stirring briskly
  • Return mixture to the pot and heat until thick stirring briskly
  • Remove from the heat and fold in beaten egg whites. Use a whisk to incorporate evenly
  • This recipe serves about 4-8 depending on size of your bowls or how many cold and hungry paddlers appear. I often make double and throw in an extra egg for more protein. Some like it steamy hot straight off the stove, others prefer it cooled and chilled

Kim Woodburn