7 Essentials for Travelling with Less Plastic

Annemieke from Plastic-Free Tuesday is back as a guest blogger today! As most of us in Dahab travel at some point during the year, we appreciate her tips for travelling with less plastic. Read on.


Summer means travelling! While visiting and exploring new places is fun, it often comes with a lot of plastic. Plane trips are especially notorious for producing plastic waste. But you don’t have to give up travelling to live with less plastic. Here are 7 essential tools to help you keep your plastic footprint small while travelling.

#BringYourOwnBag

I always stuff at least one reusable shopping bag in my daypack. I love to buy fresh fruit and sample local delicacies that I find in bakeries, groceries, and markets. Bringing my own bag is a small effort, yet saves many plastic bags. It also signals to local people that I care about their surroundings and that I try to not add to their waste piles.

#BYOB helps you REFUSE plastic bags!

#BYOB helps you REFUSE plastic bags!

Stainless steel water bottle

When I first saw the Klean Kanteen Reflect bottle, it was love at first sight. I had other reusable bottles before, but they would always deteriorate in one way or another. The Reflect bottle is not just beautiful, it is also very sturdy, which makes it perfect for travelling. We’ve been together for about three years and it doesn’t leak or anything. If I travel by plane, I make sure to empty it before security and then fill it up again before boarding.

A refillable water bottle is a must!

             A refillable water bottle is a must!

Food container

Because it’s generally hard to find healthy, plastic-free food at train stations and airports, I usually bring my own meals. I have never had any problems taking my food through security checks at airports, but I am always prepared to show the security guys my food and I always make sure it has no noticeable liquids in it. Good, home-made food can really be a lifesaver on long-haul flights where only plastic-packaged, not so tasty food is served.

Cutlery

Previously I always brought a spork when travelling. A spoon is a hybrid of a spoon, fork, and knife. But after three broken spoons I gave up on it. I didn’t like the plastic anyway. Some brands sell titanium spoons. These are a bit expensive, so I now simply carry a regular spoon, knife, and fork from home. We have second-hand cutlery, so no big deal if I would somehow lose it.

Snack or sandwich bag

A while ago I purchased a lovely snack-bag at Etsy. I use it for bringing along hard-boiled eggs, nuts, cherry tomatoes and other to-go veggies, and sandwiches. When buying a sandwich bag, make sure to avoid material such as nylon and Velcro, because that is plastic too! Of course you can also make your own, just type something like “how to make your own reusable sandwich bag” in Google to find instructions.

Easy to carry in a purse or backpack!

          Easy to carry in a purse or backpack!

Produce bags

Because some food items don’t easily fit in my snackbag, I also carry around a couple of produce bags. Of course you can also use a food container, but these bags weight much less and easily fit in a daypack. Also, sometimes shops (pretend to) don’t know how to tare the scale. In such cases, it’s better to have a lightweight bag than a stainless steel container. I use the produce bags for all kinds of things, for example when buying snacks such as peanuts and strawberries.

Lightweight bags are great for buying your snacks in!

        Lightweight bags are great for buying your                                         snacks in!

Reusable shoe bags

One of my new year resolutions for 2015 was getting reusable travel bags for shoes. I often found myself using plastic bags, but in the beginning of this year I bought a reusable bag. Soon I realized that I could also simply put my shoes in a reusable cotton shopping bag. Before I pack my shoes, I make sure that they are more or less dry. I haven’t been in a situation in which my shoes were wet, but I could imagine that I would then simply wear the wet pair and pack the dry pair, assuming that not all of my shoes are wet.

Hope these tips help to keep your plastic footprint small while travelling. I would love to hear your plastic-free solutions during vacation time. Please leave a comment below and join the conversation. Happy Plastic-Free Tuesday!

Help Keep Our Playgrounds Litter-Free!

Lately, we’ve been spending time at one of the playgrounds in the city. Most of the public playgrounds leave a lot to be desired, but this one is relatively nice and provides plenty of shade. Sadly, I rarely see children playing there (unless they’re with me) but the playground gets a lot of foot traffic as it’s on the edge of the city across the street from the resorts. Many local workers and residents walk from the hotels up to the city, taking a path that goes through the playground. That would be one explanation for the abundance of litter. Another would be the lack of adequate rubbish bins.

Today, I finally remembered a bag and cleaned up most of the aluminium cans. These can be recycled. In fact, they can be sold for LE 2.5 per kilo. I don’t have a good scale to weigh them, but I probably collected around 2 kilos today. I will give my bag of cans to a young Bedouin friend who will be happy to take the bag to sell the cans and buy some snacks with the profits. (On my next visit, I will collect the recyclable plastic bottles.)

Playground Cans

::Please help keep our playgrounds clean::

+ If you finish a drink and there is no rubbish bin around, hold on to the can until you find one or until you get home. Don’t throw the can or bottle on the ground.

+ Sort your trash at home and keep a bag for cans. Pick up cans you see on the street and bring them home. Call Hemaya to collect your trash and recyclables from your house. Read about the benefits of recycling aluminium here.

aluminum-can-2-black

+ Skip the sodas altogether! Buy a refillable bottle or jug and make your own drinks. They’ll be better for your health and cost less money. Read some suggestions here.

The playful children (and adults!) of Dahab thank you!

Perfect for Christmas: Swedish Sourdough Bread

Have you made your sourdough starter yet? Annemieke, from Plastic-Free Tuesday, joins us again with more sourdough recipes. This time for Swedish bread. A perfect holiday treat!


I love sourdough products! Sourdough has such a rich flavor. Last month I shared with you a recipe for delicious pancakes (highly recommended!). This time I want to introduce you to one of my favorite sourdough breads. The recipe comes from a Swedish cookbook. Ingredients include walnuts and apple, which makes it a perfect bread for Christmas breakfast/brunch or as a starter/side dish for Christmas dinner.

Ingredients for two loafs of bread:

  • 150 milliliter (rye) sourdough starter – click here to learn make your own
  • 1100 milliliter whole-wheat flour
  • at least 200 milliliter lukewarm water (23-26 degrees Celsius)
  • 150 milliliter pearl barley (or barley)
  • 100 milliliter raisins
  • 75 milliliter coarsely chopped walnuts

  • 50 milliliter deciliter wheat bran
  • another 375 milliliter water
  • 1 apple
  • 0.5 tablespoon salt

For plastic-free wheat bran (rough or fine and enriched), raisins, barley, and walnuts you can buy them from the bulk bags, for example at 1,000 Items, using your own reusable bag or container. You can purchase whole wheat flour in paper sacks from Chef’s.

Baking the bread in three stages (over 24+ hours)

Step 1

In the morning right after getting up or in the evening before going to bed, pour the rye sourdough starter in a large bowl. Add the whole-wheat flour and the lukewarm water. Knead the dough for about five minutes. I use a Bosch MUM kitchen machine for this. Of course you can also use your hands. Make sure to spread some flour over your hands and the dough so that the dough is less sticky. In the end, the dough should form a nice round ball that does not stick to your hands. If the dough keeps falling apart, add some extra water (lukewarm) until the dough sticks together and forms a ball.

Take the dough out of the bowl. Spread some flour at the bottom of the bowl. This helps prevent the dough from sticking to the bowl. Put the dough back in the bowl. Put a clean kitchen towel over the bowl and let the dough rest for 24 hours, at room temperature.

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Step 2, twelve hours after kneading the dough

Take another bowl or pot. Put the pearl barley, raisins, walnuts, and wheat bran in it. Boil 375 milliliter water and pour this in the bowl. Blend together using a big spoon. Let rest for 12 hours.

Step 3, 24 hours after kneading the dough

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Turn on the oven (250 degrees Celsius). Add the mix of pearl barley, raisins, walnuts, and wheat bran to the dough.

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Rasp or grate (coarsely) a washed apple (don’t peel the apple!). Add it to the dough. Add also half a tablespoon of salt.

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Knead the dough again. Use a kitchen machine if you have one or if you can borrow one. Use your hands if you don’t have a kitchen machine. It takes a little longer, but it is doable and a nice workout. Be sure to pour some flour over your hands and a little bit on the dough so that it does not stick to your hands.

Knead until the dough is well mixed. This time the final result is not a nice round ball (as after step 1), but a sticky mess. Put parchment paper in two bread loaf pans. Transfer the dough from the bowl to the two pans. Place the pans in the oven (lower part of the oven). Decrease the temperature to 200 degrees Celsius.

Take the bread out of the oven after 50 minutes. Let cool down a little while and then take the bread out of the pans. Carefully remove the parchment paper. Wrap the bread in a clean kitchen towel.

The shelf life of sourdough bread is longer than regular bread. As opposed to regular bread, sourdough bread matures and becomes tastier over time.

Being Dutch, I enjoy eating this bread with peanut butter or apple syrup. But I imagine it tastes excellent with goat cheese or something else too.

Merry Christmas and bon appétit!

Plastic-free, healthy, and tasty: Home-made sourdough pancakes

Annemieke of Plastic Free Tuesday is back! This time she shares with us a recipe for sourdough pancakes.


Eating without buying or throwing away any plastic is easy and fun! Just Do-It-Yourself! #DIY! Home-made food is usually also healthier and more delicious than eating out or taking away. And it saves money.

Last month I shared with you how to make your own plastic-free sourdough starter. It takes about a week before the starter is alive and kicking. Your starter is ready to be used for baking if it is bubbling vigorously. Sometimes, my starter is so alive that it escapes the jar!

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Initially, I started to experiment with sourdough when I was looking for a plastic-free alternative to baking powder. The baking powder I used for my carrot cake muffins came in plastic and I wanted to get rid of it. On the internet I read that baking powder can be replaced with sourdough in combination with baking soda. In many parts of the world, the latter comes in cardboard boxes.

To keep the sourdough starter alive, I stir daily with a clean, wooden spoon. Every second day, I add new flour and some water (23-26 degrees Celsius/73.4-78.8 F) in a 1:1 ratio. Every week, I feed my starter a big meal. I empty almost the entire jar. I leave only about 1 deciliter in the jar. I then add about three times as much flour and lukewarm water (again, in a 1:1 ratio) and stir. This kind of big meals makes that the pH drops. This makes it easier for the bacteria to multiply.

It would be a waste to throw away the sourdough that I take out of the jar. So instead, I follow the instructions of Sandor Katz to use this sourdough to bake pancakes. It’s easy and super delicious. Just note that because this recipe involves fermentation, it is a two-step process. In the morning (or evening) you prepare the dough, in the evening (or next morning) you can eat the pancakes.

Ingredients

3 deciliter sourdough starter

4 deciliter flour (I use whole-wheat flour)

4 deciliter water (23-26 degrees Celsius or 73.4-78.8 F)

1 onion

1 clove of garlic

1 bell pepper (I prefer a green one)

coconut oil, butter or any other kind of oil

2 eggs

salt

1 tablespoon peanut butter

For plastic-free flour in Dahab, you can buy your flour from the bulk bags, for example at 1,000 Items, using your own reusable bag or container. The shop carries all purpose and semolina flour. You can also purchase whole wheat flour in paper sacks from Chef’s. Remember to bring your own bag or container and you can buy the onion, garlic, bell pepper, butter, and eggs without plastic packaging. Look for local peanut butter brand AHEF which comes in a glass jar.

Step 1.

In the morning (before you go to work) or in the evening (before you go to bed), transfer 3 deciliter sourdough starter from the jar in a bowl (preferably plastic-free) or pot. Add 4 deciliter of flour. Add the lukewarm (23-26 degrees Celsius) water. Blend everything until the dough is smooth. Put a clean kitchen towel on top and leave it to rest for at least a few hours so that it can ferment. After about 10-12 hours, there will be bubbles in the dough.

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Step 2

Usually I blend the sourdough starter, flour, and water in the morning and leave it to ferment the whole day until I come back from work in the evening. Once the dough is ready for baking, chop the onion and mince (or chop) the garlic. Cut the bell pepper into small pieces.

Pour some oil in a frying pan. Fry the onion, garlic, and bell pepper. In the meanwhile, add the 2 eggs, some salt, and the tablespoon peanut butter to the dough. Blend until smooth. Add the fried veggies too and blend again.

Heat some oil in the frying pan. Pour some dough into the frying pan. I prefer small and relatively thin pancakes (because they turn out nicest this way), so I do not fill the entire pan. I only use a little bit of dough for each pancake. Make sure you move the frying pan around so that the dough is spread out. You don’t want thick pancakes, because that means risking that the outside is done but the inside is not.

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Wait until the upper side has turned dry. Then, carefully flip the pancake. Once both sides are golden brown, the pancake is ready.

This recipe will make about 10 pancakes.

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The pancakes are still very delicious the next day if kept refrigerated. They are delicious served with peanut butter, vegetable based spread, and/or avocado.

This is a recipe based on the instructions of Sandor Katz in his book “The Art of Fermentation” (page 236).

Bon appetite!

REFUSE Plastic Straws!

reusable straw

There are lots of reasons to REFUSE plastic straws!

Did you know?

  • Most straws contain BPA, which is a harmful chemical that can affect brain and reproductive development. If fish and other marine animals ingest straws, those chemicals can also end up in our dinner!
  • Straws are not recyclable here in Dahab.
  • Like all plastics, straws photodegrade – they continue to break down into smaller and smaller pieces. They will always be on our planet.
  • Worldwide, straws are one of the Top 10 Most Commonly Found Items during beach clean-ups.

When I started on my journey to use less plastic, I admit straws were not high on my list of concerns. Mostly because we rarely eat at restaurants and when we do, I bring my own reusable water bottle. But occasionally I will join a friend for a drink at one of the many restaurants lining the shore here in Dahab. If that drink is tea or coffee, as it often is, no straw is necessary. That isn’t the case with my favorite order – fresh lemon juice, which I am quite happy to drink straight from a glass. I began to ask the waiters not to bring a straw with the juice, but it’s not always a successful strategy and I often end up with a straw anyway.

This happened one afternoon as I sat at a cafeteria with some friends and we began discussing whether or not we actually need a straw to enjoy our drinks of choice – sodas, juice, milkshakes, water. For me, the only drink I could think of that I would want a straw for was a milkshake, something that I haven’t even ordered for at least 5 years. One friend said only certain, more-pulpy juices called for a straw. Another said she likes straws when drinking sodas. I, of course, encouraged them to refuse the straws when they didn’t feel they needed them. Neither friend really pledged to follow through with this action, but at least we had discussed it. It was quite a serious conversation but somehow silly at the same time and I knew that at the first chance I got, I would buy them reusable straws!

Unfortunately, reusable straws are not available here in Egypt so I had to order them from America. I researched the many options – glass, stainless steel, bamboo – and was shocked by the varieties available! I finally decided on the simple stainless steel ones from Plastic Antidote, the official store of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. I asked a friend traveling from Germany to bring them in her suitcase for me. It’s been fun handing them out to several of my close friends, ones that I know will use them and engage others in conversations about them. It is my hope that if I can pull one of these straws from my bag when ordering a juice, the waiters will be more likely to understand my request to not bring me a plastic one.

Egypt produces a range of stainless steel products including dishes and cookware. We need to find a company willing to start producing reusable straws!

So until we have some available locally, please remember to ask your waiter to not give you a straw with your drink. Ask for a glass, if necessary, and drink straight from that.

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

 

Buying Cheese with Less Packaging

Before I talk about plastic-free cheese, let’s take a moment to review why we should REFUSE plastic packaging, especially when it is on our food and drink, because it’s about more than just our environment. It’s about our health. Studies show that the phthalates in plastic packaging leach into food. These chemicals have been linked to health ailments ranging from asthma and allergies to early puberty and fertility issues brought on by hormone disruption. There is still debate about how much of these chemicals our body can absorb before they become dangerous toxins.

Here are a few articles if you’d like to read more:

One easy way to avoid plastic packaging on cheese is to BRING YOUR OWN CONTAINER to the deli at the supermarket. Ask the store clerk to weigh your container first and “zero” the scale before placing the cheese in your container. As usual, our deli of choice is the one at Alf Sunf (1,000 Items) in Asalah Square. They have always been very patient with our requests and willing to use the containers we bring. Every once in awhile a new clerk will start working at the deli and we have to repeat our request, sometimes explaining and assisting with the scale.

We don’t buy cheese unless we have our own container with us, but that wasn’t always the case. Most supermarkets offer cheese on a polystyrene tray wrapped in plastic. In the past, if we forgot our container, we would at least REFUSE the tray and ask only for the plastic, which at least meant a little less waste.

deli cheese

But we’re still working on replacing our reusable plastic containers with other materials so, yes, that cheese pictured above is in a plastic box. This solution may be better for the environment but not necessarily better for our health. Ideally, we’d store all our food in glass or stainless steel containers. Baby steps. Reducing the amount of plastic we use is definitely a process and not something we can accomplish overnight.

What steps are you taking to reduce the amount of plastic waste your household produces?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Quenching your Thirst without the Plastic

 

Next week's forecast from Accuweather.com

Next week’s forecast from Accuweather.com

As you can tell from next week’s weather forecast, summer is heating up here in Dahab! With these temperatures, it is very important for all of us, but especially children, to keep hydrated. Drinking water is essential, of course, but it does get kind of boring. For some, water is just too tasteless to drink enough of it throughout the day. So we turn to other refreshments – juices, sodas, sport drinks. Unfortunately, these all come in plastic bottles. And while we may now be able to recycle those bottles, let’s not forget the health risks associated with plastic. It leaks toxic chemicals into our food and drink. (Plus, recycling is not the solution to our global plastic pollution problem and soda is toxic all on it’s own!)

I have never been a soda drinker but used to enjoy a cold tonic water and lemon in the summer. I also love juice. But I gave up both bottled tonic water and juice in Tetra Paks several years ago when I started out on this journey to reduce my plastic waste. This was not a hardship for me as there are several plastic-free options for refreshments that are healthier, tastier, and less expensive.

Option #1: In Egypt, shops selling fresh juice can be found on almost every street and we have several here in Dahab. Take advantage of these! You can stop by the shops and enjoy a glass right there. (Try to remember to tell the juice man that you do NOT need a straw.) Many of the shops also sell fresh juice in reused 1 ½ L plastic water bottles, which is better than a new plastic bottle. If hygiene or time is a concern, bring your own bottle and ask them to fill it with your favorite juice. Nadim and I have done this often with ‘asab (sugar cane juice).

fresh juice

Option #2: Make your own juice! Visit the fruit and veggie stalls and choose your favorite summer fruits. Remember to bring your own reusable bag. My favorite mix at the moment is watermelon and lemon. I’m lucky enough to have a blender but it’s not necessary. You can also use a squeezer or handheld juice press, which are easy to buy here in Dahab.

Option #3: If you’re not a fan of juice, you can also make other drinks. Karkade is another of my summer favorites. Bringing your own bag and buying the loose karkade from the bulk bags means you can avoid all plastic.

Loose karkade bought from bulk bags

Loose karkade bought from bulk bags

Search the Internet for recipes for making your own sodas and other summer refreshments. Get creative! We have many local desert herbs growing in our garden and my husband often makes infusions out of these, which we then chill. Our favorites are shay al-jebel (Pulicaria incisa), dhafrah (Iphiona scabra), and a Saudi mint similar to habaq (Menta longifolia).

If you’re going to be spending the day out and about, fill a reusable bottle with your favorite drink and carry it with you.

What are some of your favorite plastic-free summer drinks? Do you have any tasty recipes to share?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle