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Letting go of a trashy life – Zero Waste Tip for November – Toothpaste

I searched for ways to upcycle toothpaste tubes and honestly, I wouldn’t waste the time.
So, finish that tube, wrestle the hard plastic under the nozzle with scissors and shove it into that ecobric of enlightenment.

From now on, you can make your own toothpaste for next to nothing and without all those nasty chemicals that you haven’t heard of.

Mix 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, 3 tablespoons of sodium bicarbonate (bicarb/baking soda) and you are ready to go.

Spoon a pea size onto your toothbrush and brush, brush brush.

If you want to go easy on the flavour, add some stevia and peppermint oil drops. For more recipes, click here

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If you are reading this then you can probably think of a few uses for that odd sock before retiring it to either the ecobric (if it’s made of polyester) or to the compost bin if it is made from natural fibres. The obvious way is to use it as a rag for cleaning.

There are so many uses but my favourite are:

Collect silica sachets from all your empty pill boxes and put them in old sock. Leave it on your dashboard to stop it from fogging up in the winter.

They are great for protecting things in storage: e.g golf clubs, safety glasses, sunglasses, shoes, tennis balls (or any small balls), breakables, game pieces and so on.

Cut them up and stick them to the bottom of furniture legs to use them to protect your floors.

Put the odd sock over your vacuum nozzle to get small bolts and jewelry that may get lost in cracks and keyboards.

Make a small heat bag for you, your loved ones or pet. Simply fill with beans or rice and sew closed. A minute in the microwave and you have someting to keep the bed warm. Sew two together and you can drape it around your neck or place anywhere to ease tension and encourage healing.

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Corks are biodegradable but surely they can have a greater purpose rather than just going into the compost bin or sawdust eco toilet. I was absolutely right. They can be made into many things, one of them being a cork board to stick up notices, shopping lists,goals, bills and reminders.

You can use an old picture frame where the glass has been broken or you can make your own.

What you will need:

A glue gun with glue or glue applied using a brush or squeeze bottle
A collection of used old wine corks saved after parties, braais, get togethers and restuarant outings 🙂
An old picture frame where the glass broke or a frame made from pieces of wood bought from the hardware store or salvaged from an old building site or your community
Clear finishing coat.
Paint (optional)
Serated knife to cut corks

Some Tips

The wine smell on the cork will fade with time but if it bothers you, you can soak them in 10:1 water and vinegar solution and leave out to dry or you can leave them in the sun for a day.
If some of the corks have loose ends from corkscrews, you can break them off or cut them with a serated knife so they have a clean finish.


If you don’t have an old picture frame, you can buy plywood or pine or any sustainable wood from the hardware store. If you know your neighbours or community, you can find old scraps of wood to use instead of buying wood. You will need to make the backing to a square or retangle size of your choice. Cut the wood to fit around the backing as a frame and join together with wood glue. Use clamps or weights to help the pieces stick together and for the glue to set overnight.

You can paint or varnish the frame for it to suit your current decor but this is optional.

Pick a pattern for your cork board. You can use our pictures to inspire you 🙂

Glue the corks onto the backing in the pattern you desire. You can cut the corks to fit along the edging of the frame.

Spray the frame with a clear varnish/epoxy/paint to create a finished look (optional)
You are now ready to hang your corkboard.

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Zero Waste Tip of the Month



I battle to throw things ‘away’ now because I have realised that there is no ‘away’. It’s just a matter of geography. The trash is still trash but somewhere else and someone else’s problem and unfortunaltely Mother Earth is the one that suffers as a result. I have developed a deep respect for the force of life, ecocologies and this Mother Earth that I write of. I contemplate my daily activities and how they affect her. It is from her, that I am here. She is my home and when I die, I will return to her.

Pill bottles are quite hard to cut up as the plastic is thick so pushing them into an eco-brick seems like a huge effort. What do I do with them?

Here are some ideas:

Use them to store an extra key in and bury it. Mark the spot with a rock or something natural that looks like its not out of place.

They can also hold candles, organise makeup applicators, piping tips.  They are great for storing jewelry, buttons, safety pins, sewing pins, coins, earphones, seeds, travel sized toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, liquid soap and earbuds.

Make portable sewing kits for yourself or as gifts. Another great gift idea is to fill them with sweets and write a little love prescription on them for friends and family.

Use it as a handbag trash can for reciepts, candy wrappers, stompies and other bits and bobs. I usually keep an eco brick in the car but a hand bag trash can is very useful.

Attach a magnet and it could instantly be a little vase for flowers on your fridge or metal made furniture.

Make a handbag size survival kit with multi-purpose items like string, paper money, safety clips, alcohol swabs, earbuds etc.

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How to Make Water

I had to think long and hard about what would be an appealing article for February. There are many gardening methods and techniques that use less water than conventional methods but as Cape Town seems to be undergoing the stress of uncertainty of water, I chose to divert a little from gardening and focus on creating water.

The first thing to note here is that 100 square meters of surface has the ability to catch and divert 70,000 litres of rainfall based on Cape Town’s average rainfall. Your house could be collecting huge amounts of water without you using it! Cut your down pipes and tap into that source. Click here for more information about collecting rainwater.

The next place we can look for water is all around us, the air. Mother Nature has a wonderful way of demonstrating survival tactics for difficult situations and all we need to do, is pay attention.

When the sun rises in the morning, the warmer air containing a degree of humidity condenses onto surfaces that is cooler than the surrounding air. We see this as morning dew. In the Namib desert, there is the Stenocara beetle that climbs up to the top of the dune and angles its body against the morning fog. The water condensates on it’s back and runs down into it’s mouth. This is how the Namib beetle hydrates  itself.

Depending on humidity and fog, you could collect water everyday from air. There are a number of ways that this can be done. There are things called sky wells, fog catchers, air wells and dehumidifiers. I have found a few relatively easy projects to construct in order to collect water. Each method has its pros and cons. Some are easier to construct but require electricty whilst others take more construction time but require no electricity at all.

Let’s first start with making a simple dehumidifier. This can be easily made by buying a few things at an electrical store: You will need:

  • 1 peltier chip also known as a thermoelectric cooler
  • Electric fan
  • Large Heat Sink
  • Small Heat Sink
  • Heat sink compound
  • 12V battery
  • Hot glue
  • Solder station
  • Knife
  • Pliers
  • Screwdrivers and screws
  • Switch connector
  • Scrap material such as foam to make a stand.
Here is a video that explains how to make a dehumidifier. You can also buy dehumidifiers at various stores however you can always modify a design once you know the simple method to make one up.
How to make a simple dehumidifier
This is a skywell and is estimated to produce 100 litres of water a day in a relatively small space.
The most effective way we found of capturing water without electricity is the Warka Water Tower. The materials are inexpensive and with a little help from a community or group of people, this tower can be erected without machinery. It also provides shade and is able to generate quite a bit of water.

More information about materials, assembly of the Warker Tower in an online book here. Turn the pages online for moreinformation

Another option would be, is to build a fog catcher and the basic design is erecting a high frame with polyolefin mesh connected in the middle as a sail. Research has shown that a fine steel mesh works better than polyolefin mesh however work with what is available and what your budget allows. The fog condensates on the mesh and falls down into a trough or gutter pipe and is diverted into a storage tank. This is easy to set up and to maintain. This picture shows a large fog catcher but you can make them smaller and put two together to meet at one side. There are many variations of designs so pick one that suits your space.

I found another useful video of how to make water in the desert in an emergency with a few resources. You can watch it here.

I hope that you have learnt many new ways to harvest water and I hope that this inspires some of you to come up with your own creations and solutions to day zero.


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How do you feel about our current sewerage system? What part of this system respects nature? Why an eco loo?

The eco loo is not only sustainable but part of a regenerative solution. This compact toilet can go anywhere and be placed in any room. You don’t need any plumbing. It comes with 2 buckets of sawdust and you can use your waste and turn it into compost for your plants. This is a fantastic way to save water and to save the valuable nitrogen and other minerals that your body emits.

How does it work?

You sit on the loo and conduct business as usual. Once a deposit is made, you cover with damp sawdust. Light a match to burn excess methane in the air or use an air freshener. Close the lid.

Does it smell?

No, not if you cover your business with damp bedding like saw dust, wood shavings or even shredded paper.

Isn’t poo dangerous?

Excrement must be treated responsibly. The compost pile should reach a temperature of 62 degrees celsius for an hour or 43 degrees celsius for at least a month. Once all the pathogens are killed from exposure to these temperatures caused by the slow burn of decomposition and nitrogen content, the compost will be safe once it reaches a lovely black colour with an earthy smell. Click here for more information about composting and here for instructions on how to build a compost bin from pallets.

Why is this better than a conventional loo?

You can make your own compost and save lots of money while improving the soil and building more topsoil
You save huge amounts of water because there is no flushing
No embarrassing ‘plop’ sounds
No water splashes on your bottom
No toilet bowl cleaning required
If used correctly, no odour which is much better than stinky ‘Let it mellow’ in conventional toilets.

Unicorn Cafe’s toilets are made from wood, are very sturdy and come with your choice of toilet seats and wood finish.

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