Green Whites

One of the things that I like about Zero Waste is the fact that I save money. Money that can be spent on going out, meeting with friends, trying out new fun stuff. So when I learned I can replace the commercial laundry detergent with something simple for a fraction of the price, I was sold on it pretty quickly.

All I needed to swap all the chemicals usually found in laundry products for something greener were two things – a bar soap and washing soda – and a bit of time to mix them together. I found this laundry detergent recipe in the Bea Johnson’s book and adapted it a bit.

You might be sceptical if this easy solution works but I’ve been using it now for a couple of months and I am very happy with the results!

What you need

Bar of soap – recipes in cyberspace ask for all kinds of different soaps but your basic castile soap bar, laundry soap or any natural soap bar will do. Bea recommends using the blue one which contains optical brighteners. I bought mine in Slovakia last time I visited but I am sure you can find it anywhere 🙂 Dr. Bronner makes soap bars that should be fit for the purpose!

Washing soda – or soda ash – usually sold in supermarkets in the laundry aisle. It took a little bit of internet research to find out that in Ireland I need to look for soda crystals! I found one kilogram bags being sold in Tesco – the bags are still made of plastic film which is not recyclable but at least the pack lasts some time.


The last ingredient is just warm water. Other than that a few utensils will come handy – a basin or a bucket for mixing, a measuring jug, a measuring cup and a mixing spoon. Depending on the method you use, you might need a hand blender to liquidise it.

How to make it

For a 3-litre (about 3 quarts) dose, you will need a ½ cup of washing soda and a ½ cup of soap. Measure up the washing soda and pour it in the basin. Grate the soap (I use a conventional cheese grater) and add to the basin. Mix them together a little.


Pour in about 0.5 litres of hot water (about half a quart). I use boiled water to start the mixing. Stir until the soap and soda are mostly dissolved. Add another litre of hot water. I then pour in 1.5 litres of cold water to bring the temperature to lukewarm. Stir the mixture for a little while and leave it to settle, best overnight. In the morning, when the liquid has turned into a wobbly jelly, enjoy this chemistry magic for a while and then break it with the mixing spoon. To bring it back to liquid form (it will be nicely thick), use a hand blender for a couple of minutes. If you used an unscented soap and you would like to add some scent, you can now add a few drops of any essential (not synthetic) oil – lavender, citrus or tea tree work well.

I asked my lovely boyfriend to film this part of the preparation process – please be kind with your comments 🙂

Pour the finished product into a prepared jug (I use a 3l plastic milk jug) and voila, your laundry gel is ready to use.

If you don’t have a hand blender or you want to skip this step, you can pour the warm mixture straight into the jug you are going to use to store the product and leave it to cool in there. Just make sure you shake it a couple of times in the next few hours to ensure all the ingredients are mixed properly. I found that with this method, the gel is more likely to separate when not used for a while but then just shake the bottle and you’re good to go.


How to use it

I usually use about a cup (250ml) per load, adjusted for the amount of clothes and level of dirtiness 🙂 One 3l dose lasts me for about 13 washes. With 3 washes per week on average (darks, lights and towels for 2 people), I have enough for a month to 5 weeks. The recipe is very easily doubled or tripled if you want to make more, so no need to skimp!

I normally pour the gel into the detergent compartment in the washing machine but I don’t see why you couldn’t put it directly in the drum.

How much it costs

I mentioned in the video that this laundry gel costs about 10 times less than a conventional gel. These are my calculations:


300g laundry soap €1.501kg soda crystals €1.39

For 3l of the gel I need 60g of the soap (one pack lasts for 5 doses or 15 litres of gel) and about 90g of the soda (for 15 litres I use half a pack for €0.70).

In total, 15 litres of the gel costs €2.20. That is €2.20 for 65 washes (5 x 3l dose x 13 washes per dose).

A comparable conventional laundry detergent (let’s say Persil Small & Mighty Non-Bio 60 washes) costs €19.80 – which is 9x more. On offer, Ariel Bio Washing Liquid 60 washes costs €10.00 which is still 5x more than my non-toxic and totally working laundry gel.

The prices might vary where you live but I guarantee you that you can save money (not to mention all the chemicals which will not get into the waterways from the washing machine).

Final notes

My friend also uses this recipe because she and her daughter have very sensitive skin and conventional laundry products are quite irritating for them. So, that’s another brownie point for the homemade stuff.

Finally, if you’re asking about fabric softener that would be natural and eco-friendly, think  vinegar. Apple cider vinegar and white distilled vinegar work well for me.  About a ¼ – ½ cup (60 – 120 ml) with a few drops of essential oil of your choice (I like grapefruit or tea tree) will give the clothes nice smell and touch.

Well…are you tempted to give it a try yet?


Incredible bulk

Shopping in bulk and without packaging greatly reduces the amount of waste produced by any household. That is a fact. But what do you do when there aren’t many options for buying food from bulk bins into your own containers?

The Zero Waste trend of dry goods sold unpackaged has not really reached Ireland yet. The things I can buy loose or unpackaged in Dublin may be few but I can at least try!

Bread & pastry

This one is probably the easiest. Aside from packaged sliced pan which is not really my type of bread anyway, it’s pretty easy to pick up some lovely bread, baguettes and pastries into your own bag. Just have to remember to bring it with me!

Fruit and veg

The supermarkets are a hit-and-miss here. You can find loose apples, lemons, potatoes and the lot but they vacuum-pack the broccoli and I can never find celery or lettuce without a plastic bag in a supermarket. I compromise on those – lettuce is essential in our house!


Strawberries in a bag 🙂

I don’t have a good farmers’ market nearby so I have to rely on the supermarkets and my local Fresh – a fruit and veg store where, as I mentioned last week, they package almost everything. They recently changed owner though so I might talk to them to see if they would loosen up a bit and sell the produce as is. The other day I bought some strawberries there (which they pack themselves in the shop), put them in my cotton bag and returned the box for their reuse…sorted.   


We do eat meat and when I want some free-range or organic stuff, I’ve found it’s best to go to a good butcher shop. Flemings just around the corner from our house is one of them. One day I went in, armed with my empty glass jar and asked for some chicken. At first, I got the classical confused look but I duly explained why…We ended up chatting about how this not only prevents waste but how the meat keeps better in glass than plastic! Since then, I‘ve barely bought any packaged meat – maybe just a whole chicken or a piece that is too big for my jar. They pack the meat in aluminium trays so at least I can reuse them for roasting and then recycle. I also used some of them for planting seeds – and reuse them each year.


The infamous meat jar

Encouraged with this success, I tried to bring my jar into two other butcher shops and they happily obliged! In one of them I am officially known as the ‘Lady with the Jar’. Happy days.

Nuts & dried fruits

The one type of dry goods that is available in bulk in supermarkets are nuts. Lidl started selling these some time last year. The selection might be limited (roasted almonds, salted cashew and salted pistachios) but hey, it’s something. The only thing that baffles me is that the bulk stuff is more expensive than the packaged stuff. That’s nuts.

Nuts, dried fruits and sweets in bulk are also sold at some markets and country fairs. I just remembered that when my supply of dried apricots finished. I might do some research to see if there any on a weekly basis that I could replenish from regularly…and perhaps pick up some more natural sweets 🙂



Cinema’s pick & mix

When we go to the cinema, we get easily tempted (and seduced) by their pick & mix sweets selection. They have paper bags for it but the last time, I remembered to bring my own little cotton bag and used it – it even brought a smile to the cashier’s face! Refined sugar crush all the way!!

The above selection is not what it could be but, actually, it’s not that bad. It also depends on the type of diet you are on. It’s definitely easier for a vegan but we are not there yet. We cut almost all processed food but do buy the occasional pack of biscuits or crisps. We also eat dairy and despite my efforts, I couldn’t find any milk sold in a glass bottle. Our favourite cheese (Dubliner) is also only sold in plastic bags. I tried to switch to another type of cheddar but it just didn’t work. Compromise it is then!


If packaged stuff is the only option, I always do two things. First – ask if I really need it. Second – if I do, check if there is a recyclable packaging option. There are often feasible alternatives to plastic, be it cardboard, paper, glass or metal. Then buying ‘in bulk’ means to buy the biggest package of the thing there is. I buy the biggest pack of the cheese, a 240-tea bags pack of tea rather than the 40-tea bags one. The idea here is to cut down on the amount of packaging if I can’t avoid it. Other examples from our house are buying the whole leg of ham (free range serrano ham from Spain no less) or toying with the idea of buying a 20kg bag of rice from an Indian shop. It might mean a bit of research before I buy something but once I know, the next time it’s easy!


All that said, it makes me thinking that opening a bulk shop here in Dublin might not be a bad business idea!!! 😉

Know your enemy

If you want to combat any enemy, first you have to know what you are dealing with. So when I wanted to scale down the waste our household produced, I went routing through the bins. Literally.

What I found was probably very similar to what you would in any western-world household. Most of it was packaging – for food, drinks or cosmetics. Then there were recyclable items like PET bottles, cardboard, magazines and papers, tins, glass bottles and organic waste.


Looks familiar?

I used to live in an apartment block where there were recycling bins but there was no option to separate organic waste. You can imagine the look (and smell) of the bins whenever they missed a collection. So I was very happy when we moved to a house where we could pick our waste collection company – and I picked one that collected food waste separately. Score!

That was even before I embarked on the Zero Waste journey so now I am pretty used to separation of green and other waste. With that sorted, there were the recyclables and the ‘general waste’ to plough through.

Soda Stream

Soda Stream & Aloe Vera King Mango

Recycling is great but refusing, reducing and reusing is still better. We try to cut down on buying stuff in general even though it comes in a recyclable packaging. One of the very first alternatives we adopted was switching from buying sparkling water in plastic bottles to the Soda Stream system. The gas cylinders are reusable and you even get a discount when you bring your old cylinder to the store. This had significantly helped reduce the recyclables because sparkling water is popular in our little household! An added bonus is that we don’t have to carry all the heavy bottles from the shop!

We also learned to love our tap water which (filtered) tastes great! This, in combination with reusable stainless steel bottles, cuts down another big batch of plastic waste! Oh and as for all the cokes, 7-ups and other sugary soft drinks full of god-knows-what, we just stop buying them. The only soft drink we buy in a PET bottle is a natural mango aloe vera juice.

Mango Fizz

“Mango Fizz”

“Mango Fizz” – the juice diluted with ⅔ of sparkling water – is my boyfriend’s beverage of choice :). You might argue that that’s also creating waste but I am trying to find a sustainable balance for our life that will work on a long-term basis and compromises are part of that!

So in this way, I went through all the recyclables and consciously divided them into two simple categories and courses of action: avoidable – stop buying – and non-avoidable (yet) – buy (much) less.

When I moved over to the ‘general waste’ pile, that’s where it got a bit tricky. Mostly because about 85% of it was packaging. A modern western life really seems to have an obsession in packing everything. Some of this might be necessary for transport but there is a lot of double or triple layers of ‘protective’ paper or plastic that is far from necessary. Take a simple pack of sliced ham or cheese. Not only are those 6 slices packed in a plastic box but they are separated from each other by a piece of plastic film. That’s such a waste! But sadly, it seems to be the norm.

Lettuce in a bag

Sadly, this is the norm…

The easiest thing is to buy less processed packaged food …you’d think. But here in Ireland it is quite challenging to buy even the ingredients for home cooking without layers of the wasteful packaging. Fruit and vegetables, which are perfectly fine in their own peels and outer layers of leaves, are often thrown into a plastic bag – just so that it’s easier to stick the label with a barcode on them.

It also depends where I want to buy my food. Farmers’ markets are great altogether but if there are none at a convenient distance from where I live or work, I will hardly visit them regularly. Burn the petrol in a car just to get some fruit and veg does not add up for me. There is one market nearby but it only opens one day for two hours. I went there a few times but it’s more of a baked-goods-and-preserves type of market – things I like making myself so don’t want to buy them. But I made a resolution to visit more often – especially during the summer when there will be, hopefully, more fresh produce to be bought. 

I really want to support my local small fruit & veg shop but they pack everything – 6 apples on a polystyrene tray wrapped in cling film and sold to you in a plastic bag. I had a chat with them about selling loose produce but it hasn’t stuck for now. If I am really in need, I buy a pack of apples in there, don’t take the plastic bag and bring the polystyrene tray back. Then the only waste is the bit of cling film. As I said, compromises.

There are no bulk bin sections in the supermarkets here or dedicated bulk stores like in other European cities and America. Shopping for things with no packaging (or with the least packaging possible) can be challenging…and it does take a bit of planning to not make shopping a chore. But it’s totally worth it.

Next week, I tell you more about my other shopping solutions!

Wardrobe conundrums

I often think the concept of seasons is totally lost on Ireland. Here, you get rain for about 6 months of the year, snow in April, a heatwave in May, one week of temperatures over 25 degrees in June or July (the Irish summer) and for the rest, a mixture of all the above…

As far as my wardrobe and I are concerned, there are only two seasons in a year. One season with black tights and one without them. End of story. These can, as they did this year, switch in about 2 days flat. The whole month of April there was rain, hail and freezing cold temperatures and just as the calendar turned its page to May, the non-black-tights-season arrived. Sun shining, birds singing and all that jazz. Of course I’m delighted – but somehow suspicious!


The Box. It survived two house moves and holds together only by willpower 🙂

This also means that I have to pull out a cardboard box where I stash all my ‘summer’ clothes. All the coats, jumpers, hats, gloves, long-sleeved dresses and black tights must now make space for light T-shirts, summery dresses and reasonably long shorts.

It has to be said that I love the idea of a capsule wardrobe, definition of which is ‘a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion’. If you fancy some reading on the topic or some reading with pretty pictures, go ahead! However, I still think that this might be one step too far for me for now. For starters, I kinda need two sets of clothes – for work and leisure. Because I work in an office, half of my wardrobe consists of shift dresses (I love their versatility, you can dress them up or down as you please), suit jackets, the occasional pair of pants and some tops. The other half would be more of the jeans-and-a-top type – for leisure. I try not to have clothes that I don’t wear cluttering my space but I do have quite a few occasional (aka not very versatile) pieces.

I mean – something like this would be just great:



Every time I change my seasonal wardrobe, I try to take out pieces that I don’t wear, don’t love or they have passed their wearability date and pass them onto someone – a charity shop or a clothing recycling bank. But, let’s be honest, there is still much to do! Even though I haven’t bought many new clothes in the past year (only some essentials), there is still enough for about three capsule wardrobes – if not more!

So, with the aim of upping my game this time around, I plan to cut down the ‘winter’ wardrobe as I store it in the box for the summer. I’m thinking about actually counting all the pieces and cutting it down by about a quarter. I’ll see how it goes and I will update you on the progress!

I have also decided not to buy any new clothes. If I find a need for any garments, I will do my best to get them second-hand. As I never was a second-hand shop girl, this will be new to me. You see, the second-hand outlets in Slovakia are quite different to the charity shop concept here in Ireland. I remember going in and swimming through oddly sized and shaped garments that didn’t catch my imagination so I stopped soon after. When I had a peek into few charity shops in Dublin, there were perfectly fine pieces of brands that I actually recognised 🙂

When I was a student, I somehow unintentionally had a good habit of buying less clothes – I only spent money on things I really liked because couldn’t afford more. However, once the fast fashion industry made its way into my life, all my unintentionally good habits went out the window. All the nice pieces for next to nothing were there for me to have 🙂 After a period of buying cheap clothes in fast fashion chains (well, we are talking about most of my adult-with-earnings years), last year I started to learn about where my clothes really come from and how much they really cost. As a result, I gradually stopped buying them. At least in Penneys.

Looking ahead, the ideal situation would be to have enough money to build a capsule wardrobe from sustainable pieces that were ethically manufactured and would last for years – we are talking about Alden from EcoCult levels here…well, I suppose it’s good to have a goal.

Until then, with the help of the internet and a strong will, I will somehow get my existing garments into a small(ish) wardrobe that is timeless, flexible and loved – it’s a good start, don’t you think? Do you have any tips for solving wardrobe conundrums? Let me know!

:: UPDATE ::

So, I did it. I went totally nerdy about it and there is a spreadsheet to prove it. I counted all my clothes in all ‘categories’ – winter, summer, all-year and sport (mainly for cycling). The things I didn’t count were undies, socks and shoes (they got pared down last year quite considerably though). Even without them I came to a total number of 168!!! That’s 5 capsule wardrobes right there. I really didn’t think it was so bad! But, as promised, I took one quarter of these clothes (all 42 pieces) and divided them into the charity shop/clothing bank/rags categories. According to my calculations I need to add 13 more to achieve a one-third-clean-up….and I think I am going to do it! I know, in the grand scheme of things it isn’t much but it’s a great start!!


About stuff

We live in a world of disposable stuff. There is no denying that. A world, where everything can be replaced so easily that it’s not even worth considering alternatives. Or so it seems.

It’s not only the disposability we get used to. It’s also the constant availability. We are led to believe that once we have enough money we can buy whatever we always wanted – and maybe we can – a bigger car, a bigger house, the newest phone. It’s easy to get trapped in the vicious circle – working long and hard to earn money to buy things which we are told that are cool to own but then hardly having time to enjoy them because we spend so much time in work…This is how we can so easily become enslaved to stuff.

The guys from The Story of Stuff made a great video about where it all comes from and where it all ends up when it’s thrown out. It is pretty eye-opening and if you ask me, I think this should be a compulsory watch for primary school kids and onward. Especially for people living in developed countries. In the video, for the first time I came across terms like planned and perceived obsolescence – when things are built to break and when last season’s shoes are nothing like this season’s – and it all started to make sense.

(See for yourself if you want!)

After I thought about everything in the video, I looked at myself. At my habits, and also my possessions. And there was more than enough to look at! I realised that I was no different. I owned a lot of things, neatly accumulated over the years. Some of them, I used regularly and some never. They just waited in the closet, the drawer, the press. I thought I knew everything I had. And oh boy, was I wrong. I forgot about so much stuff that I’d bought for this or that, used once (or never!) and then put away! I am talking about everything – clothes, cosmetics, cans of food in my kitchen cabinets. I am sure I have more notebooks than I can use up in my lifetime along with the heap of pens I can write in them with!

Too much stuff

I remember when I moved about 2 years ago, I was amazed how much stuff I owned. I might have briefly thought about how can one person have so many things after a few years (since I came to Ireland with just necessities) but that was about it. I very quickly switched from amazement to putting it all neatly away. Once all the contents of the boxes had settled in their new home, all was well again.

It wasn’t until later, after much reading, watching and thinking, that I went on a crusade to downsize my possessions. I promised myself that next time I am moving, it will be only with half of the stuff (or less, if I am lucky :))

There are many great ‘schools of thoughts’ that talk about decluttering and freeing up space in life – minimalism, konmari method, tiny homes – it’s up to you to find the one that suits you. In my opinion, they all have some valid points and good thinking and definitely can help to make you feel less obliged to own stuff.

A good starting point for me was to think about what I want my life to be shaped by – experiences or stuff. Experiences won by a long way. So I decided to go through all my possessions and declutter. Room by room. Simplifying my life. One drawer at a time.

It takes time and it’s rather a journey than a destination. But I am fine with that.

Are you ready to start yours?

About the beginnings

It all started over a year ago when a friend of a friend posted an article about a girl who hasn’t produced any trash in 2 years. When I first read it, I thought she was mad. The good type of madness, but still. I thought that to live like that would be very limiting, hard to achieve and, ultimately, not worth it. But, to my surprise, I started thinking about it more and more, caught between fascination and cold-hearted scepticism.

I always regarded myself as a nature lover and a person who cared about the environment. For example, I chose the impact of acid rain as the project for my final high school exam in German! Well…yeah. But once that girl had finished her studies at high school, then university, travelled a little and come to live to Ireland, she had slowly but surely fallen into the trap of consumerism – the carefree world where everything is at the ready, nicely packed and conveniently available in nearby shops.


Lauren Singer, my first inspiration! (Photo:

I read that article one, twice, three times. And I realised that I agree with this girl, I actually envy her this way of living and thinking! She was an instant inspiration to start reading and learning. I soon came across the name Bea Johnson, a mother of two living in California living the Zero Waste lifestyle since 2008. For the following Christmas, I asked Santa for Bea’s book and he (more or less) happily obliged. That was the real start of considering that this might be the way I want to live my life, or least, try to!


Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, 2016 edition (Photo:

In the last year, I have learned a lot. About the stuff I owned, the food I ate, the products I used, about the world and about myself. Most importantly, I learned that a life that aspires to Zero Waste is a journey. A long-term one filled with laughter and disappointment, successes and failures. A journey that is definitely worth the effort.

Some journeys you can travel alone but company is always better. Somebody you can ask questions, chat to, laugh with or pour your heart out to. And that’s why this blog was born. I think that there are people like me who are trying to embark on this lifestyle but find it tough where they live…you know, not everybody lives in New York or San Francisco with a bulk shop just around the corner. There might not be one at all! You wish then that there was someone to ask for advice, help, an idea. The Internet is a great source of ideas and recipes but sometimes you need someone to encourage you not to give up and not to beat yourself up when you had to compromise once again.

So, here’s my idea. I will tell you about my (ongoing) journey towards a simpler life and you, in turn, can join me, help me, judge me, laugh at me, ignore me, ask me questions, answer me or advise me. In fact, just do whatever you think is best – the important point of all this, is that we are once remembered by the actions we took rather than the waste we produced – we all have a choice!!

What do you think??