Sunday, 18 March 2012

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

My Banana Tree - with bananas on it - hooray!

When I first lived in Egypt for a period of time in 2000 I didn’t have a washing machine and had to wash all my clothes by hand, a bit like some rural Upper Egyptian women have to, only I did mine in the sink, not in the river.

A few years later, I once again lived in Egypt for 6 months, only this time, I had a twin tub washing machine. You know the type? You fill the machine with water yourself, add detergent, put your clothes in, it swishes it around for a bit, then you spin it in the next section. You have a hose to drain the water away.

A couple of years later, we got an Automatic Washing machine, the cheapest in the shop. It was so badly made that the noise could be heard down the street and around the corner and it spun so aggressively that the machine would jump all around the room. Once it was jumping around so badly that I had to switch it off before realising that I would have to let it finish its cycle. I switched it on and hugged it to stop it moving around which my husband found very odd when he got home and found me vibrating and pinned to the washing machine. This was the turning point and we finally got a Zanussi which thank goodness, doesn't bounce around the house.

Sometimes on here I talk about my home “gadgets” I hope that you never think this is done is a “showy off/materialistic way”. It just that having lived without things that we take for granted in the West such as Washing machines, toasters, kettles etc when you DO finally get them here, you really appreciate them, it’s the highlight of your day/week and you can’t imagine how you ever took them for granted before. Cooking and cleaning in Egypt can be very labour intensive so I’m also very grateful to have these things when others are not so fortunate. I have far more cooking gadgets here in Luxor as I would say that cooking and food preparation is more labour intensive as everything is cooked from scratch.

Also we never eat out or have takeaways except occasionally when we have family staying so anything that enables me to make different things, quickly is a bonus.

I have a bread machine. In the UK, this would probably rarely be used, however here, it churns out bread on a daily basis.

 I know what goes into it i.e not too much salt, sugar or preservatives and it doesn’t come in any plastic packaging. Extra bonus. I even looked into the amount of energy is consumes and it's minimal.

I brought this over in my suitcase and the lid is cracked but it's brilliant and I wouldn't be without it. It can cook loaves overnight so they are ready and waiting for you in the morning for toast or to make a chunky doorstep sandwich at lunch -YES PLEASE!

Or you can put it on a dough cycle then use the dough to make Focaccia, Pizza Bases, Bread rolls etc. The world, quite frankly, is your oyster.

Where we live there is no rubbish collection, so we have to dispose of our own rubbish. In Luxor, it’s down to the individual how they dispose of this however, I am often ashamed of the amount of rubbish that we create compared to local Egyptian families.I'm therefore always looking for ways to reduce the amount of rubbish that we create.

 We take our rubbish to the local communal rubbish bin in the nearby village that gets frequently emptied. It's our responsibility to do this though. Nobody comes to your home and collects it for you.

I’ve been told that although there is no formal recycling, rubbish does get hand sorted  and possibly the sent for recycling where appropriate but I've never been able to get this confirmed. I try to make it easier for the people that have this unpleasant job. In my kitchen, I have a separate “Can bin”.

All cans are washed and put in here, and then when it’s full, the contents are emptied into its own bin bag before placing in the local communal bin. My hope is that if the rubbish is sorted that I am making someone else’s life easier and that perhaps my cans are likely to get recycled. If not, then at least I have tried my very best.

Although I do use disposable nappies at night I use washable nappies and washable baby wipes during the day. This saves on LOADS of rubbish as all you need is a lidded bucket filled with water and tea tree oil that you soak in until ready to wash. The wipes don’t even need drying you just pop them in a Tupperware box with a little bit of warm water and a couple of drops of Tea tree oil –voila!

All plastic bottles are placed in my “PLASTICS” bags. These can be passed onto Local Juice places.

Empty glass jars are passed onto one of our neighbours and she uses them to store spices etc, although in the future, if I finally get into preserving, I may have my own use for them.

Clothes that are no longer in a wearable condition are ripped up into cleaning cloths. Decent clothes are passed on to my Brother in Law who knows lots of needy families who can make good use of them.

This leaves me with Cardboard and Vegetable waste. Egyptian toilet rolls don’t seem to last long here and it’s not because of increased bathroom visits J Each roll doesn’t seem to have many sheets so you get loads of cardboard rolls left. What to do with them all?

When you buy vegetables in the local markets they are not all wash, trimmed and looking pretty like you get in the Supermarkets in the West. If you buy them from the local markets, they usually have loads of earth still stuck to them and in the case of Spring Onions, a metre long green stalk. Likewise with Leeks and Carrots tops.

We also squeeze our own fruit juice which is cheaper, healthy, readily available, no packaging BUT you end up with lots of orange peel. This is in addition to things like Egg shells, teabags/tealeaves (both Brits and Egyptians love their tea) and garden waste.  So, my next project is…

COMPOST! I’ve been saving my cardboard and newspapers for about the last month in anticipation of the arrival of my Compost bin. This is going to be potentially life changing.

All my vegetable waste can go in there and it’s good to layer it up with “Browns” such as cardboard. I've been saving all my cardboard for the last month only to discover that you can't apparently use coloured cardboard in Compost.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m a garden expert. Until just over a year ago I didn't even know a Bougainvillea was called a Bougainvillea. I used to describe it as "that pink flower that grows everywhere". You get the picture.

We’re very much novices, me even more so. However, I'm learning all the time and I’m sure that we will have plenty of use here at The Orange Grove, for compost.


  1. Hello RT good to see u back online. I sent u an email as I am a fellow blogger who has just moved to Luxor from the UK and am writing about my experiences here.

  2. Hi Ruby, I just love what you are doing. Keep us updated what happens with your composting.
    I would love to have one too. Now my chickens eat all leftovets etc so not much composting yet.

  3. Thanks TH.
    The Compost bin is at Luxor airport as we speak!(Long story)
    It's being collected from there tomorrow.So excited. Yay! :-)