Sadly, we all NEED a carbon footprint to be able to exist in this world. But there is such a thing as being able to minimize it and some very easy techniques for reducing the space we take up in the world. 

The last couple of years have been ‘downsizing’ time for me and  I have moved to a place with 3 bedrooms and 2 living spaces fewer than I had.

Fowlers Vacola Set

I had to throw out a lot and donated heaps.  Ebay was good but time-consuming. But some of the things I had to get rid of were my most precious ‘multi-use’ objects.  At the top of the list was the Fowlers Vacola Preserving Kit with its umpteen old jars, so old and reused that they were pre-decimal.  With this huge set of jars, lids, rubber rings, clips and the massive boiler I would cook up a storm when things were cheap or the garden was overflowing.  Because many of these jars came from a generation before me or maybe one before that, heaven knows how many times the jars had been sterilizes, filled, emptied, stored, repeat… They were also used as great vases for large floral decorations, especially at Christmas.

Life’s little accoutrements should be as well-designed as the Fowlers-Vacola unit, able to be used for decades.  It probably was the motif to my life anyway, as many of my clothes were sewn from fabric that had been used in the window displays of a really well-known chain of groovy clothing stores.  They unwittingly also provided me with curtains as I decorated and redecorated my bedroom. Better than throwing it out, eh?

There are many things that can have other uses, most of which are just common sense such as all the fabulous bottles, jars and plastic packs our food is packed in these days (unless we shop at markets).  Shopping at those great stores where you can refill your oil bottles is a great experience but why aren’t they masses cheaper?

Re-use containers, plastic ones in the freezer till they are falling to pieces.

Bottles can be recycled.

Refill jam jars with your own pickles.

Make your own muesli and pack in ice-cream containers. See our muesli recipe here

Read up about everything that you bring into your house or workplace and office so that you can realize its full potential before dumping/recycling.  For instance, you can fill your ink cartridges and get a chip re-setter so that they are compatible with your printer.

Save stamps – cut them carefully with a margin of paper and donate to Girl Guides by the kilo.


Corks – Save enough of them to glue to a backing board. It makes an EXCELLENT pinboard.

Always have a sack of sawdust somewhere in your house.  Use it to absorb oil, grease, paints, cleaning fluids before wrapping in newspaper and putting in the bin.

Before resorting to dry-cleaning, try using an Aspro in enough water to make a paste to remove stains.  (Aspro gets out all sorts of marks off white surfaces particularly and this is a good use for the old ones from your first-aid kit.  Make a paste, rub on gently, leave for 10 mins. Then rinse or dust off. )

Hang clothes out in the air to freshen up.  Most things marked ‘dry-clean only’ CAN be washed with great care.  You need to know just how to dry each layer (of lining etc.) so that the garment dries at the same rate.  You do this by lining the garment with a towel and pretty much patting it dry in its shape, and then, when all the water has been blotted up, you can lay it on another towel to dry.  Only hang when totally dry. I have washed coats and all kinds of things using this technique.  Dry cleaning uses awful chemicals.

Keep an eye out for factories closing down – you would be amazed at what you can find to re-use including industrial shelving great for a garage or a retro looking book-storage system.  It doesn’t hurt to ask!  If I am in the mood I look in those building skips in the city.  There are often doors, desks and new bricks ‘excess to requirements’.  Waste not want not!  That is going to a landfill somewhere and if you need it, I am sure it is better to be re-used at your place.

Hand-knits can always be unraveled.  Wash & dry gently to get rid of the krinkles before re-knitting into something you need. Always check the hand-knit section of the op-shop.


Donate your dregs of acrylic paint to your local school art class or drama group for sets.

Buy olive oil in bulk tins and then use the latter in the garden as pots for geraniums. (turn over the sharp part of the tin before planting.)  Very Mediterranean looking when planted and arranged in large groups!

The glass from the front of old TVs can be joined to others or just pieces of cut glass and made waterproof with silicone and made into fish-tanks.  Or they make rather swish large trays.  Finish them on the edges with copper foil or lead canes (from leadlight shops).

Everything you use has a secondary use.  See how far you can take this principle.  If you simultaneously try to use less by making your own (package free) bread, muesli (see below for a recipe), lemonade, biscuits, cakes, icecream and bottled fruit and also recycle or re-use anything that you MUST bring into your house, then it stands to reason that your garbage will be reduced to less than 50%.

Join the challenge and pass it on to your friends.  Let us know your ideas and we will add them to the list!

Yummy Muesli Recipe


  • 410g rolled oats
  • 60g wheatgerm
  • 30g wheat bran
  • 60g oat bran
  • 155g sultanas
  • 60g chopped walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons dark brown soft sugar
  • 30g unsalted sunflower seeds


1. In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients. Mix well. Store muesli in an airtight container. It keeps for 2 months at room temperature.

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