Save the planet by giving a piece of you

OK, I have been told by my readers to stop going on about plastics and the environment. I agree, there has been too much preaching in both the media and social media. But hear me out – this is about a solution. This is about you making a difference. I promise 🙂


Back in those days, the greengrocer would put our purchases into my mother’s old-fashioned wicker shopping basket. Occasionally, he would wrap some types of fruits and vegetables up in old newspapers (like the beetroots my father loved, for example, or those juicy cherries). This is the greengrocer in my hometown (Southsea, Hampshire).

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These days, greengrocers are fast becoming extinct, pushed out of business by supermarket consortiums and megastores, which are able to sell products at very competitive prices that independent, family-run stores cannot hope to match. And the worst thing about this subversive takeover of the traditional way of life is that we, the customers, have no say in the packaging. Recently, Marks & Spencers’ was shamed for packaging ONE lime leaf in a plastic bag. You think that’s awful? How about individually wrapped jelly beans?

These are from the Instagram account, Pointless Packaging (@pointless_packaging). Do have a look, feel outraged and get galvanised into taking action!

So, I have joined the crusade against plastics (as if you haven’t guessed!). And thus, I have bought several reusable shopping bags. But to be honest, I don’t always remember to bring them along.

HOWEVER, recently, my niece sent some stuff from the UK to me (in Phuket) and she put my goodies in a cloth bag that she sewed. Oh, I cherish the bag so much that I carry it around all the time, folded up, in my handbag. It is so useful for my impromptu purchases, ranging from books to vegetables to picnic food!


So my suggestion is, how about you giving your friend(s) a nice reusable shopping bag? If it is from you, given with affection, I am sure it will be cherished and used again and again.


Note: I love this cotton string macrame bags (remember them?). Would love to be able to source them locally. These are from estringbags in Australia.

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Momofuku Compost Cookies

The name certainly sparked a lot of interesting (and sometimes rude) comments! But truly, Momofuku is a cult restaurant chain, especially its Milk Bar.

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This is my version of its Compost Cookies (because its ingredients are everything you have in your kitchen), using stuff that I can easily get. You have to make the Graham cracker mix first, then just put everything in a blender on slow. Be pleasantly surprised how crisps and chocolate chips go oh so well together!!!

Graham Cracker Mix: (I used Jacob’s Cream Crackers but I think any salty crackers would work)

50 grams cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon milk powder (I used coffee creamer, as I wasn’t going to buy something I don’t generally use)
1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Cookie Dough

225 grams unbleached bread flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
225 grams butter
300 grams brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey (original recipe uses glucose syrup)
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
200 grams mini chocolate chips (I used Hersheys – best if you can mix different flavours of chocolate chips)
40 grams rolled oats (not instant oats! I also added some rolled barley)
2½ teaspoons ground coffee (not instant coffee! You want the granules in the cookies)
50 grams crisps (I actually used a bag of Walkers) – bashed up slightly.
50 grams mini pretzels – bashed up slightly.

  • I also threw in a handful of nuts and seeds.


Make the cracker mixture.

Separately cream the butter with sugar in the blender.

Sieve the flour in with the baking powder and baking soda.

Add everything together in a mixing bowl. Chill for at least an hour in the fridge (OK for 1 week).

Bake in a preheated oven (375 degrees) for about 20 minutes until cooked, but still soft and chewy on the inside.

Store in an airtight container and it should last a few days…..if you haven’t eaten them up, that is 🙂 They are so more-ish! (Probably because I love crisps and chocolates!)

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Photo on 4-24-18 at 18.51


Plastics & the universe

A few years ago, I went on a back-to-nature holiday with my dear friend Mario. We went to Bali. Bali is a paradise for those who are environmentally conscious; at least, the part of Bali where we were.  We stayed in a little villa amongst the paddy fields and ate in a raw green restaurant called Alchemy.


I remember with fondness the coconut shell bowls, the bamboo straws and the reusable food packaging (though they were over-priced).

In a fit of environmental fervour, I started googling these products with the idea of buying them. But wait a minute….they have to be shipped – nay, flown – to me across the ocean, burning carbon as well as a hole in my pocket (postage is not cheap).

Obviously, importing reusable stuff from across the miles is not a good solution. It might reduce my plastics usage, but it creates a burden elsewhere.

For those who are wading into the plastics war, I would recommend reading the Bellagio Principles:

Advocacy alone is not enough to rid the world of plastics. It will reduce the usage, definitely….in the educated and privileged classes who have the luxury of making a choice.  This is a reusable mug.


I mentioned this in a previous post about the people in my neighbourhood (in Asia) who are one of the biggest users of plastic: these people exist on breadline, and they have very little choice. I asked the lady who sells 300 drinks a day in plastic cups (and straws) if she knew about the damage she is doing the environment on a daily basis and her reply was, “OK. Plastics very bad. What you want me do?” She feeds her family on the back of this….and she has a large family, including extended family members. She cannot afford to make changes that will hit her precarious living by increasing her costs.

Any long-term changes must therefore address these three axioms of the triangle of humanity:  “People, Planet, Prosperity”.

A couple of years ago, I had an interesting conversation about the environment with an economist who had a hydroponics project going in my daughter’s school. He said that the only way to stop massive deforestation is to provide the people who live in the forest with alternative means of income (e.g. eco-tourism) so that they do not collude with the illegal loggers….you can preach all you like to them about the environmental impact of deforestation, but unless you provide them with a means  of putting food into their children’s mouths, they are going to cut down trees for money.

My question; is how do we bring people together to work together to effect positive change that goes beyond advocacy?

My daughter suggests buying 100 reusable plastics drinks cups and donating it to the lady who sells 300 drinks a day and ask her to give those to her regular customers, offering them a 0.05THB discount on a 20THB drink (because that’s how cheap a disposable plastic cup is).

Here’s a review of reusable plastic cups. Eeks, mine has only a shelf-life of 30 uses!




My children’s father’s most cherished books is Viktor Papanek’s Design For The Real World: If only designers could spend 10% of their time working on solutions for real problems in the world.


Plastics – what’s the solution for the real world?

One of the things I tell my children is don’t just lecture people about your values. THINK!

For instance, we, the privileged ones, are telling all and sundry not to use plastics. But what choices do those existing on breadline have? Advocacy alone is not going to rid the world of plastics. It just generates more hot air. Thus, we need environmental stewardship to go with eco activism and I don’t see enough of that.


Twenty six years ago, way back in 1992, I wrote a book on the Environmental Impact of Paper Recycling.

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Back then, the environment wasn’t a trendy issue, unlike today. Today, each time I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, I am bombarded with messages about saving the planet.

Twenty six years ago, when my book came out, I was ridiculed. I was called a New Age hippy, a rebel without a cause, a Sloane Ranger, a fool. Back then, recycling was all the rage. I tricked my way into a paper mill to show that recycling can actually do more harm to the planet, especially when the heavy metals used in some inks get leached into rivers.

I don’t think my fairly high profile shouting made that much of a difference back then.

Today, fortunately, much of paper wastage is eliminated with the advent of technology. We seldom print out stuff. We read online. This migration is both good and bad for humanity, but on the whole, it is very good for the environment.

But what about plastics? I hear the battle cry but what’s the solution for the real world?

Here’s the view from ground floor level:

I live in a humble part of town. The people here are normal, working class Thais. They work as tuk-tuk drivers, massage girls, waiters. You can get a drink in my part of town for THB20 (less than 40p) and lunch for THB70. These drinks and food are packaged in plastic cups, plastic straws, polystyrene food boxes.

Straws and a lot of plastic cups are most commonly made from type 5 plastic, or polypropylene. Although type 5 plastic can be recycled, it isn’t accepted by most curbside recycling programmes. When plastic straws aren’t recycled, they end up in landfills, or even worse, polluting our oceans. And they don’t biodegrade. Not for thousands of years. And in the meantime, they choke wildlife, enter into our food chain and kill us silently.

This is my local drinks stall.


In a day, during high season, she sells 300 drinks on average. That means 300 plastic cups and 300 plastic straws. Just on my road alone, there are 45 of these stalls (I counted).  Some of these stalls are a lot busier than this one. We are looking at 13,500 plastic cups and plastic straws A DAY from just one road in Thailand during high season. That’s heck lot of plastic ending up in landfills!

But here’s the fact: much of the local economy in Asia is run on this cheap, widely available plastic and polystyrene packaging. Every evening, the municipal bins are over-spilling with food and drinks packaging. Where I live, that is the biggest contributor of plastics pollution.

But on the flip side of the coin, the lady who owns the stall and her husband support their whole family (including extended family members) selling drinks at THB20 per pop. They are making an honest living and creating a better future for their next generation, though yes, at the expense of our planet.

What’s YOUR solution for her livelihood, if you are telling her not to use plastics?

It is a privilege to be able to make choices based on our values. I am privileged that I can afford to buy a Starbucks reusable flask, several cloth shopping bags and even tiffin carriers to take my takeaway meals home in. I made this cup for my friend to take green smoothies home in.


But what about the small-time traders who are the biggest users of plastics, serving a segment of the community that exists on the breadline, for whom choice is not their privilege? What would you propose for them to use instead, if you are telling them don’t use plastic?

Here are my suggestions for food packaging (for fish and chips from the UK, and for nasi lemak from Malaysia) but I have none for drinks. What do YOU think?



Art classes in Portsmouth

My lovely friend Tina Sanchez from my hometown is offering art classes. There’s not many I would trust my children with, but I did Tina, so she comes highly recommended 🙂




OFF the Page Art Class is a My Friendly Planet initiative.

2 hour classes are based in Portsmouth in various locations.

The fee, minimum 2 hours:
18 over £20 hour per artist student per hour.
15-17 25% off £15 per artist student per hour.
Usually includes a 3rd free hour.

For more information send a message or send email to:

Kind regards,

Tina Sanchez MA Fine Art, BA(Hons) Education & PCET, CERT ED & PCET
My Friendly Planet