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



Buying from Bulk Bags

In my last post, I wrote about buying flour in paper sacks or buying it from the bulk bags available at stores in Asalah. Today, I’d like to talk about other food goods that we can purchase from these bags.

Buying from the bulk bags is a great way to reduce the amount of plastic you bring home from the supermarket.

Besides flour, here are a few of the items you can purchase from the bulk bags:

  • lentils, several variety of beans, chick peas

  • karkade

  • white rice

  • sesame seeds

  • sage

  • nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts)

There’s more, of course, but these are the items that interested me the most. And all of them are typically sold in plastic packaging and some of them – like the nuts – with polystyrene or plastic trays as well. 

buying in bulk

TIP: Research what’s available in bulk from your favorite shop. Check out other shops if you can’t find what you’re looking for. Our favorite shop is 1,000 Items (Alf Sunf) in Asalah Square.

We bring either a reusable cotton bag (recently washed) or a plastic box. We usually weigh and fill the containers ourselves, but sometimes the store clerk will assist with the weighing by taring the scale (setting it to zero with the container on it). If you don’t have a bag or container to use, you can always REUSE plastic shopping bags that you already have. This is, in fact, what the clerk at 1,000 Items says he sees more people doing.

TIP: Bring your own reusable bag or container and remember to weigh it before you fill it.

Some of the goods will need to be washed and/or picked through before use. We didn’t do this with the first bag of lentils we purchased from the bulk bag – and we have learned our lesson after trying to eat a bowl of very gritty lentils! It’s not uncommon to find a few small stones mixed in (found a couple in my last batch of chick peas), but I’ve also found rocks in food packaged in plastic so it’s just good practice to pick through all dry goods before cooking.

TIP: At home, transfer the goods to a glass or other reusable container for storage.

We didn’t switch to buying these foods from the bulk bags all at once. We started with the nuts and moved on from there. It takes time to form new habits so be patient with yourself. We haven’t actually bought the rice from the bulk bags yet; it’s next on our list. But each item we can purchase without packaging means less plastic trash!

TIP: Choose the one food item that is usually packaged in plastic that you use the most and start with that one. As you – and the store clerk – become more used to this plastic-free habit, choose and add another item to purchase from the bulk bags.

Do you purchase items from the bulk bags? If so, do you have a preferred store? If not, are you willing to try? Why or why not?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle