The Cuban Mop: The Near Perfect Cleaning Tool You’ve Never Heard of (and How to Use It)

Originally Published on on May 22, 2018 on By Justine Hand

The Cuban Mop The Near Perfect Cleaning Tool You_ve Never Heard of and How to Use ItWhen it comes mops, I have a hate-hate relationship. Either I struggle to wield the heft of rope mops or find myself searching in vain for matching replacement heads for sponge mops. Plus, both models are really hard to clean. I often feel as though I’m just spreading the dirt around. Finally, for dust bunnies under the bed, I’ve long been searching for an alternative to the widely used Swiffer, with its plastic parts and expensive, not-eco-friendly disposable cloths.

Enter the Cuban mop. Its genius lies in the simplicity of its design—no bells and whistles, just two sticks that screw together into a T. It’s inexpensive, lightweight, easy to use, and a cinch to clean: just throw the soiled towel in the washing machine. Because it uses any old rag, I’ll never again have to trek from hardware store to hardware store for a matching head. And I can use it wet or dry. (Bye-bye Swiffer.) The wooden Cuban mop is also, in my opinion, the most aesthetically pleasing of mops. Since it’s made with all-natural, reusable components, it’s among the most eco-friendly mop options. In fact, it just might be the perfect tool.

Here’s how to use one.

Photography by Justine Hand for Remodelista.

What Is a Cuban Mop?

As the name suggests, the Cuban mop originated in Cuba, and it’s a simple T-shaped wooden tool with a long handle, usually wrapped with cloths or rags. In the US, the mops are widely used among the Cuban immigrant population, particularly in Miami.

What You’ll Need

The Cuban Mop The Near Perfect Cleaning Tool You_ve Never Heard of and How to Use It_2

  • Cuban Mop: I bought my IMUSA Cuban Mop from the Cuban Food Market via Amazon for $17.95. (Note: Some Amazon reviewers were unhappy with the quality and size of this mop, but I bought it because there are not a lot of options out there. Though a bit crude in terms of finishing, my mop works great and is still nicer to look at than most. The handle, though admittedly short for taller folks, is the same length as my commercial sponge mop. In my opinion, this version is worth the money, but I can see an opportunity for someone to improve on craftsmanship.) Quickloop also makes a similar mop that looks quite sturdy; $16.
  • Absorbent Cotton Rag or Towel: I bought these Cuban Style Cloths, again, on Amazon for $16, but any old rag will do. (Note: The product sample image on the Amazon page shows yellow stripes. The ones I received, shown, have blue stripes.)
  • Cleaning Product: I use Rubio Monocoat Natural Soap; it’s a ready-to-mix concentrate for cleaning oil-treated floors.

How to Use a Cuban Mop

Step 1:

Wet any absorbent, medium-size cloth—an old hand towel, dish rag, or even cloth diaper will work—with your favorite cleaning solution. Squeeze excess liquid, and lay the towel on the floor.

Note: If you want to use your Cuban mop with a dry rag, skip this step.

The Cuban Mop The Near Perfect Cleaning Tool You ve Never Heard of and How to Use It_5

Step 2:

Wrap the cloth around the Cuban mop as follows:
Above: To use, simply push the mop along, being careful not to lift it off the floor. When one side gets dirty, flip the mop and use the other side. Once both sides are soiled, remove the cloth, rinse, re-wet with cleaning solution, squeeze, and rewrap.

(Lizzie, shown using the mop, is tall, about 5’10”. You can see that she is able to effectively use the mop, though a longer handle would be more comfortable for her.)

The Cuban Mop The Near Perfect Cleaning Tool You_ve Never Heard of and How to Use It_3

How to Clean the Cuban Mop

To clean your mop between uses, simply remove the cloth and toss in the washing machine. Easy and eco-friendly.

The right tools always make housework less of a chore. Here are more of our cleaning favorites:

Swept Away: Utilitarian Household Goods from a San Francisco Designer
10 Easy Pieces: German-Made Cleaning Staples
5 Favorites: Display-Worthy, Artisan-Made Dustpan and Brush Sets

Editor’s selection for a helpful tip is How To Mop by  Because let’s face it, we all need a little help.


After a few attempts (five to be exact) at making this lentil loaf, I have finally come up with a veggie version that tastes pretty darn good and is extremely filling. I wanted to keep this easy with ingredients you may already have in your pantry. After doing a little digging I was able to piece this together from a few resources like the one from Made to Create which is wonderfully simple and also had good reviews from when I shared it on my Facebook page! And also this one from Oh She Glows which is a walnut version using apples and raisins but I wanted one with all veggies (Hers looks delicious and I will be trying it too). Last but not least, I referenced this recipe at My Vegan Cookbook.

I especially love the glaze for the top of this loaf. You could serve some extra on the side, or double the amount if you like and put a little extra on. And if you like spicy, you’ll love the ground chipotle pepper in this recipe with the glaze, such a nice combo of sweet and spice! I found the higher amount of chipotle listed below to be just perfect for myself, adjust to your liking starting with the smaller amount if you’re not a fan of spice. Be prepared, one slice will most likely fill you up, it does for me! I’m not kidding when I tell you this is one hearty and filling lentil loaf. Leftovers make for great sandwiches. Store the loaf in the refrigerator for up to a 5 – 6 days. Sub in other veggies if you like. Some have left comments of adding in zucchini for the bell pepper. You get the idea, you can adjust to what you have on hand or prefer. Now on with the recipe…make a loaf and share the love!



A wonderfully flavored lentil loaf for the whole family to enjoy. The leftovers make for great sandwiches too!


  • 1 cup dry lentils (use green/brown)
  • 2 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons flaxseed meal (ground flaxseeds)
  • 1/3 cup water (6 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or steam saute using 1/4 cup water
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced or grated
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 3/4 cup oats (I used GF oats)
  • 1/2 cup oat flour or finely ground oats (any flour of choice will work here too)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 heaping teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder & onion powder…for good measure!
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper, optional
  • cracked pepper & sea salt to taste


  • 3 tablespoons organic ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup



Rinse lentils. In large pot add 2 1/2 cups water/broth with lentils. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. It’s ok if they get mushy, we are going to roughly puree 3/4 of the mixture when cooled. Once done, remove lid and set aside to cool (do not drain), they will thicken a bit upon standing, about 15 minutes is good.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In small bowl combine flaxseed meal and 1/3 cup water, set aside for at least 10 minutes, preferably in the refrigerator. This will act as a binder and will thicken nicely upon sitting.

Prepare vegetables. In saute pan heat oil or water over medium heat. Saute garlic, onion, bell pepper, carrots and celery for about 5 minutes. Add spices mixing well to incorporate. Set aside to cool.

Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend 3/4 of the lentil mixture. For me this was an important part, I tried it other ways and this worked to help as a binder. If using an immersion blender, tilt your pot slightly to the side for easier blending. Alternately, you can mash the lentils with a potato masher or fork.

Combine sauteed vegetables with the lentils, oats, oat flour and flax egg, mix well. Taste, adding salt and pepper as needed, or any other herb or spice you might like. Place mixture into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper, leaving it overlapping for easy removal later. Press down firmly filling in along the edges too.

Prepare your glaze by combining all ingredients in a small bowl, mix until incorporated. I recommend making each tablespoon heaping so you have plenty of this great sauce on top. Spread over top of loaf and bake in oven for about 45 – 50 minutes. Let cool a bit before slicing.

Serves 8.


You may like to double up on the glaze, having some to put on the loaf after it’s removed from the oven.

If you don’t care for a little spicy heat, omit the chipotle powder.

I do not recommend reheating the entire loaf at once. It will most likely become too dry, as the heat will take to long to reach the center. I recommend cutting slices and reheating. If you need, you can make your lentil loaf the day before and store uncooked until ready to heat, bring to room temperature and heat according to instructions above.

Your work is done…except for the dishes…maybe you can delegate that to someone else. 🙂

 Did you make this recipe?

Tag @thesimpleveganista on Instagram and hashtag it #thesimpleveganista

Eco Friendly Buyer’s Guide

Let me just start with saying that I am not receiving any endorsements or kick backs from any of these companies.  I like that I can just be independent and if I find something that is awesome, I can freely discuss it and not have to feel like I am bought and paid for. So just for the record, these are items that I have found at my local grocery store, Nugget Markets.  They do have quite a few Eco Friendly products and it’s worth it for our planet to support these companies and also you can go on line to purchase as well.

if you care

1)The First product is called “IF YOU CAREPaper Snack & Sandwich Bags.”  I did purchase these and they give you 48 bags that are compostable, unbleached and totally chlorine free.  They have no Paraffin Wax, Not chemically treated  and it keeps bread soft up to 6 hours.  It’s also has all of these approvals from FSC, VINCOTTE that it’s OK to compost, USDA Certified BIOBASED PRODUCT.  Usually my kid puts just snack type items in them.  Such as crackers or chips.  But I feel so good knowing that I don’t have to use those wretched plastic sandwich baggies which are killing marine line and are made from Petroleum products.  So big shout out to Nugget for carrying this product.

beverage in clear wine glass

Photo by Markus Spiske on

2) World Centric has compostable straws.  (I couldn’t use the image due to copyright) They are made from corn not petroleum.  I think this is a great alternative for plastic straws.   It’s understandable to use them when driving or if you have small kids or if you have a disability or a medical procedure.  So if you really need them then they do have these at Nugget or you can order them from here.  

Other options include stainless steel, glass and bamboo.  Also they have them made out of cookies as well.

chico bag

3)Chico Bags are super convenient and cool.  They break down into these small little bags you can keep in your purse.  And when you need it, you can open it up and have a bag in two shakes of a lambs tail.  These are available at Nugget or you can get it here.


4)  I tried to find some toilet paper that was not in plastic.  They did have toilet paper that  was from recycled paper but it was wrapped in plastic.  So that defeats the whole purpose of having sustainable toilet paper.  There is a Toilet Paper called Who Gives A Crap.  They give money to build toilets.  So you can feel good when you use toilet paper and you can buy it here.


5)These Repurpose utensils are BPA Free, Plant renewable and compostable. What more do you need?  These are so awesome and anyone who buys these is a rock star and an official Earth Angel.  So all you have to do is buy this kind of stuff and you are an Official Earth Angel.  Thanks for caring and you can order these here.

Valerie is a Health and Wellness Coach and a Plogger.  (Jogging and picking up trash) She’s on a mission to spread the news about living a more sustainable life style. The more Eco Friendly items people use the less harm to the ocean and marine life. Thanks for caring.

How to Make Homemade Almond Butter (in One Minute)

Originally Published on on January 18, 2017 By Lisa Bryan

How to Make Homemade Almond Butter (in One Minute)_5

Homemade almond butter is healthy, delicious and super easy to make. My version only has one ingredient – almonds (with no added oils) – and takes one minute to make with a Vitamix. Watch the video to see for yourself!

Homemade almond butter (or any nut butter for that matter) is a staple do-it-yourself recipe. Just like homemade nut milks. But I still remember the first time I made almond butter in a food processor and thinking, “sheesh, this is taking a really long time.”

20-minutes to be exact. Because everything I’d found on the interwebs said that the best way to make almond butter was in a food processor. So that’s what I did, for several years. Then, I got my first Vitamix and the homemade nut butter clouds parted ways to show me the light.

Watch this quick video for my Almond Butter recipe:

And subscribe to my YouTube channel for weekly cooking videos!

Are you ready for the light? You can take 15-20 minutes (depending on the size and strength of your food processor) to make homemade almond butter in a food processor. And it works, no doubt about it. Or, you could take one minute to make homemade almond butter in your Vitamix – for rich, creamy, super smooth almond butter. Which would you choose?

Because there’s so much incorrect information out there that says it’s difficult to make almond butter in a Vitamix, I whipped up a video to show you just how easy it is. I’ve also timed it for you with my Ascent 3500 blender. Yep, no smoke and mirrors around here. Just one minute to blend almonds into delicious almond butter.

Make homemade almond butter in one minute with your Vitamix. Super easy and delicious – watch the video!

How to Make Almond Butter

In order to make the best almond butter possible, it’s important to know a few things about nuts. Namely, some nuts have more natural oils than others, which affects how easy they are to churn into butter. Peanuts, cashews and macadamia nuts have more natural oils (fatty acids) so they turn into nut butter quite easily. Almonds have a bit less oil.

Therefore, the easiest way to make almond butter is to 1) add a little oil (I like avocado oil) to raw almonds while blending to help them churn easier, or 2) roast the raw almonds first which helps to release their natural oils. I usually opt for the latter – and that’s what I show you in the video above.

If you roast the almonds, there’s just one important step to not forget – let them cool to room temperature. You do NOT want to put hot nuts in your plastic Vitamix container or it may ruin/melt it. Vitamix containers can definitely take hot liquids and make hot soups (I do it all the time), but hot nuts are concentrated oils which then get even hotter when blended. So remember….roast, cool, then blend.

Whether you roast the almonds or not is up to you. I personally like the flavor of roasted almond butter – it’s so darn good! But if you’re in a hurry, just toss raw almonds with 3-4 tablespoons of neutral-flavored oil into your Vitamix. Then, turn your blender on high and use the tamper to push down on the almonds. Pushing the almonds into the blades quickly turns it into almond butter. And one minute later you’re done.

Homemade almond butter without a food processor.

How to Make Homemade Almond Butter in One Minute_2

For more healthy basics recipes, make sure to check out my homemade Tahini, Cashew Milk, Mayonnaise, Hummus and Coconut Whipped Cream.

How to Make Homemade Almond Butter (in One Minute)

Yield: 2 cups almond butter

Total Time: 1 minute

Prep Time: 1 minute

Cook Time: 0 minutes

This homemade almond butter recipe is healthy, delicious and super easy to make. Watch the video above to see how quickly it comes together!


  • 4 cups raw almonds


  • 3-4 tbsp neutral flavored oil (I use avocado oil)


1. If roasting your almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
2.Place the almonds on a parchment lined baking tray and roast for 10-13 minutes. Let the almonds cool completely, to room temperature. Then transfer the almonds to your Vitamix container.
3.If not roasting the almonds and using additional oil, add the oil to your Vitamix container, then the nuts.
4.Place the lid on your Vitamix and remove the cap. Insert the tamper through the lid. Turn the Vitamix on high and use the tamper to continuously push down on the almonds, particularly in the corners. After one minute, you’ll have almond butter.

5. Transfer the almond butter to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

Lisa’s Tips

I use these raw organic almonds and this avocado oil (when not roasting).

The almond butter will stay good for several weeks in the fridge (if not longer). I always store it in my favorite Le Parfait Jars.

Keep in mind that all ovens cook at slightly different temperatures and you may need to cook your almonds a minute or two longer, if they’re harder to blend without using oil.

If you soak and dehydrate your nuts, you definitely need to add oil (and likely more) as you’ve now removed some of the natural oils within the nuts. Roasting alone simply won’t work.

Nutrition Information

Yield: 2 cups almond butter, Serving Size: 1 tbsp

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 96 Total Fat: 8.2g Saturated Fat: 0.7g Carbohydrates: 3.7g Fiber: 1.8g Sugar: 0.5g Protein: 3.7g

6 benefits of perilla seed oil for skin

Originally Published on 

6 benefits of perilla seed oil for skin

Natural Skincare Ingredients

Today we are sharing with you a fabulous oil that you may not have heard of before – perilla seed oil. We’ll be delving into the benefits of perilla seed oil for skin and skincare, what it is and how to use it.

As a School we love keeping up to date with new and exciting natural ingredients and beauty trends. These more unusual ingredients enhance your products in so many ways: by adding many beneficial properties to them, helping your products stand out from others, and being a great talking point in your marketing.

What is perilla seed oil?

Perilla seed oil is a member of the mint family and is native to Eastern Asia. This oil is a great source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, from which many of its health and skin therapeutic benefits are derived. Perilla oil is extracted from the plant called Perilla frutescens, which also happens to be the botanical or INCI name. It is also known as:

  • Japanese mint
  • Chinese basil
  • Shiso

Benefits of perilla seed oil for skin

Here are 6 reasons to include perilla seed oil in your formulations:

This potent oil demonstrates excellent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities due to the abundance of linoleic acid. This makes it a great choice for problematic skin types.
Excellent for treating aging skin – it is rich in omega-3, soothing, repairing and providing powerful antioxidant protection for mature and aging skin.
Rich in flavones, it offers potent antioxidant activity thus helping to prevent free-radical-induced damage to the skin cells, which can result in premature aging.
It also contains a compound which acts as a natural precursor for ceramides, which plays a role in maintaining the skin barrier to protect against water loss. This makes it very suitable in dry skin body oils and face products for drier complexions
The oil is naturally rich in polyphenols (particularly rosmarinic acid) and triterpenoids (particularly ursolic acid), natural molecules that demonstrate anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant and anti-allergic qualities.
This oil is a fine, ‘dry’ oil which is easily absorbed into the skin. It is non-greasy and useful for a wide variety of products.

Composition of perilla seed oil

Perilla oil contains very high levels of n-3 linolenic acid (over 50%), an essential fatty acid that plays a major role in regulating inflammation in the body as well as the skin. Perilla oil also contains high amounts of the skin-loving omega-3 essential fatty acid and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Rich in flavones (plant compounds), which are heavily present in this botanical, it offers potent antioxidant activity thus helping to prevent free-radical-induced damage to the skin cells which can result in premature aging. Perilla oil has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial,antioxidant, and anti-allergic qualities due to being naturally rich in polyphenols (particularly rosmarinic acid) and triterpenoids (particularly ursolic acid).

Which skin types benefit from perilla seed oil?

As mentioned above it is useful for many skin types, including:

aging and mature skin
problematic skin types and acne
dry skin.

The use of perilla oil for treating acne and aging skin conditions is well known. It is rich in omega-3, which soothes, repairs and provides powerful antioxidant protection for mature and aging skin. With regular use of this oil, the skin can become clearer, calmer and toned with a refreshed look.

In addition, it also contains a compound which acts as a natural precursor for ceramides, which plays a role in maintaining the skin barrier to protect against water loss. This makes it very suitable for drier complexions.

Creating products with perilla seed oil

A fine, ‘dry’ oil, Perilla seed oil is easily absorbed into the skin. This lesser known oil can make a great addition to your skincare oils and creams.

Perilla seed oil is a wonderful addition to facial oil and serum formulations for aging skin and problematic skin.

It is also excellent in body oils and face products for drier complexions.

Free Skincare Formulation Challenge
Design a facial serum (that flies off the shelves) in 5 days!

Learn how to to formulate natural and organic skincare products that people need, want and love

– and keep coming back to buy more!

It’s FUN, FREE and starts 26th March 2018
In this FREE challenge you’ll:

  • Learn our 5 steps to creating products customers need, want and love – and keep
  • coming back to buy more
  • Design your own unique & gorgeous facial serum – with our help
  • Know how to create products for different skin types
  • Learn how to choose which ingredients to use
  • Join our tutors and your peers for a fun, interactive experience

Prizes to be won each day
PLUS be in with a chance of winning a place on our Diploma in Natural Skincare Formulation!

This is for you if:

  • You have some experience or no experience
  • You want to start creating your own recipes rather than follow others
  • You’d like to create a unique product range for yourself or to sell

This training is usually reserved for paid students only. For a limited time we’re inviting you too!  Go here for more info: School of Natural Skincare

Top 6 Reasons Plogging is Awesome

What is Plogging?  It is jogging and picking up trash =Plogging.  We’ll get straight to the reasons.  We’ll count down like the Casey Casem Top 40.

6)  You’re outside getting fresh air.  Most people spend too much time inside.  But with Plogging you have to be outside to do it.  Otherwise, you’re just cleaning your house.  We all know being outside has many benefits from getting Vitamin D to Fresh air.  So get outside and Plog away.

photo of person wearing white t shirt holding tree trunk

Photo by Daniel Frank on

5) You find some pretty cool stuff.  I found $20 the other day just laying there waiting for me.  I haven’t checked to see if it’s counterfeit or not.  I also found an I Phone adapter, plastic bottles, cans which I recycle, a shirt that say, “Shut the Fuck Up.”  I mean what else do you need in life after you have this shirt?


Photo by Public Domain Pictures on

4)  You do get a work out.  When you start picking up trash, you can squat and lunge as you pick up trash.  Pretty soon you will begin to feel your legs getting a little tired.  So you definitely get a leg work out!!  (Make sure you use good form when you pick up trash.  Once you really get into it, you will want to invest in a grabber to give your legs a break.

city exercise fun girl

Photo by Burst on

After she ties her shoes she can pick up some trash while she’s down there.

3)  It can be a social event.  I joined a group of Ploggers and met some really cool people.  Everyone is really nice and it’s a great way to meet new people.  There’s actually a group that also kayaks and picks up trash on Rivers and Lakes too.  So if you want to do that, there’s always that too.

2) Because you are doing something good, you suddenly begin to get really good luck.  You generate a lot of good Karma and good things just start coming to you.  This you will have to just try to see if it works.  If you’ve been a jerk lately, go Plogging and then quit being a jerk after that.

shallow focus photography of four leaf clover

Photo by Djalma Paiva Armelin on

1)The most important reason is that you are helping Mother Earth and all of the marine life.  You are also helping our planet to be cleaner and healthier thereby creating a healthy world and you can be the change you want to see in the world.

beach child clouds cold

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on

So remember no matter where you are on the Planet.  You can do this and you will be recognized as an Official Earth Angel.  Mother Earth needs you now and all you have to do is commit to picking up 5 pieces of trash per day.

Valerie is a Health and Wellness Coach.  She lives in Northern California with her daughter and puppy.  She’s on a mission to share the news of how to be kind to Mother Earth.  The good thing is that as you Heal Yourself, You Heal The Planet.

Electric Buses Are Hurting the Oil Industry

Originally published on on April 23, 2018 By Jeremy Hodges

Electric Buses Are Hurting the Oil Industry


A worker charges an electric bus in Shenzhen.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg


Electric buses were seen as a joke at an industry conference in Belgium seven years ago when the Chinese manufacturer BYD Co. showed an early model.

“Everyone was laughing at BYD for making a toy,” recalled Isbrand Ho, the Shenzhen-based company’s managing director in Europe. “And look now. Everyone has one.”

Suddenly, buses with battery-powered motors are a serious matter with the potential to revolutionize city transport—and add to the forces reshaping the energy industry. With China leading the way, making the traditional smog-belching diesel behemoth run on electricity is starting to eat away at fossil fuel demand.

The numbers are staggering. China had about 99 percent of the 385,000 electric buses on the roads worldwide in 2017, accounting for 17 percent of the country’s entire fleet. Every five weeks, Chinese cities add 9,500 of the zero-emissions transporters—the equivalent of London’s entire working fleet, according Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

All this is starting to make an observable reduction in fuel demand. And because they consume 30 times more fuel than average sized cars, their impact on energy use so far has become much greater than the passenger sedans produced by companies from Tesla Inc. to Toyota Motor Corp.

For every 1,000 battery-powered buses on the road, about 500 barrels a day of diesel fuel will be displaced from the market, according to BNEF calculations. This year, the volume of fuel not needed may rise 37 percent to 279,000 barrels a day because of electric transport including cars and light trucks, about as much oil as Greece consumes, according to BNEF. Buses account for about 233,000 barrels of that total.

“This segment is approaching the tipping point,” said Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport at the London-based research unit of Bloomberg LP. “City governments all over the world are being taken to task over poor urban air quality. This pressure isn’t going away, and electric bus sales are positioned to benefit.”

China is ahead on electrifying its fleet because it has the world’s worst pollution problem. With a growing urban population and galloping energy demand, the nation’s legendary smogs were responsible for 1.6 million extra deaths in 2015, according to non-profit Berkeley Earth.

A decade ago, Shenzhen was a typical example of a booming Chinese city that had given little thought to the environment. Its smog became so notorious that the government picked it for a pilot program for energy conservation and zero emissions vehicles in 2009. Two years later, the first electric buses rolled off BYD’s production line there. And in December, all of Shenzhen’s 16,359 buses were electric.

BYD had 13 percent of China’s electric bus market in 2016 and put 14,000 of the vehicles on the streets of Shenzhen alone. It’s built 35,000 so far and has capacity to build as many as 15,000 a year, Ho said.

BYD estimates its buses have logged 17 billion kilometers (10 billion miles) and saved 6.8 billion liters (1.8 billion gallons) of fuel since they started ferrying passengers around the world’s busiest cities. That, according to Ho, adds up to 18 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution avoided, which is about as much as 3.8 million cars produce in each year.

“The first fleet of pure electric buses provided by BYD started operation in Shenzhen in 2011,” Ho said by phone. “Now, almost 10 years later, in other cities the air quality has worsened while—compared with those cities—Shenzhen’s is much better.”

Other cities are taking notice. Paris, London, Mexico City and Los Angeles are among 13 authorities that have committed to only buying zero emissions transport by 2025.

London is slowly transforming its fleet. Currently four routes in the city center serviced by single-decker units are being shifted to electricity. There are plans to make significant investments to the clean its public transport networks, including retrofitting 5,000 old diesel buses in a program to ensure all buses are emission-free by 2037.

Electric Buses Are Hurting the Oil Industry_1

A BYD Co. double-decker electric bus at the EV Trend Korea exhibition in Seoul on April 12.Photographer: Seong Joon Cho/Bloomberg

Transport for London, responsible for the city’s transport system, declined to comment for this article because of rules around engaging with the media ahead of May local government elections.

Those goals will have an impact on fuel consumption. London’s network draws about 1.5 million barrels a year of fuel. If the entire fleet goes electric, that may displace 430 barrels a day of diesel for each 1,000 buses going electric, reducing U.K. diesel consumption by about 0.7 percent, according to BNEF.

Across the U.K. there were 344 electric and plug-in hybrid buses in 2017, and BYD hopes to be picked to supply more. It has partnered with a Scottish bus-maker to provide the batteries for 11 new electric buses that hit the city’s roads in March.

Falkirk-based manufacturer Alexander Dennis Ltd. began making electric buses in 2016 and has quickly become the European market leader with more than 170 vehicles operating in the U.K. alone.

More work is on the horizon, with London’s transport authority planning a tender to electrify its iconic double-decker buses, Ho said.

“The tech is ready,” Ho said. “We are ready, we have our plants in China, and Alexander Dennis in Scotland is geared up for TfL. Once we’re given the word, we are ready to go.”

(Corrects fifth paragraph to clarify total attributable to buses. )

Vegan Shiitake Wonton Soup

Originally Published on on February 1, 2018 By Alissa

Vegan Shiitake Wonton Soup
This vegan wonton soup is made with savory shiitake stuffed wontons and crispy napa cabbage in a light gingery broth.

Disclaimer: I suck really bad at wrapping wontons, and you probably do too. Nothing personal…it’s just that, based on my experience wrapping wontons for this soup, I’ve determined that it’s something most people suck at. So there’s a high statistical probability you are one of those people.

I know what you’re thinking: the wontons in the photo look good enough. True. Those are the five wontons I spent most of an hour agonizing over. The rest, which were the majority of the wontons that we ate for dinner, were pretty hideous. If you want to find out just how unskilled you are at wonton wrapping, go wrap some up and put them in soup. Based on my prior wonton wrapping experiences (one and two), I thought I wasn’t half bad. Soup’s diffent though. Once they get into liquid they start inflating, unwrapping, tearing. It’s not pretty.

Having said all that, I’ll now tell you this: the ugly ones taste better. It’s true! It’s often the ugliest food that’s made with the most love and therefore tastes best.

So swallow your pride and serve your family some ugly wonton soup. They’ll love it, and they’ll love you, even if they make fun of you a little bit for your lack of dexterity.

I’m sure I’ll get some questions about vegan wonton wrappers because I always do. Both Twin Marquis and Dynasty make vegan wonton wrappers, and I’ve found both brands at reuglar supermarkets in the freezer. There’s usually a more popular brand that has eggs in the produce section near the tofu (why?), and that threw me off for a while. Then one day I looked in the freezer near the edamame, and lo and behold, vegan wonton wrappers. If you still can’t find them at the supermarket, try an Asian market. And you can always make your own. I’ve done it and it’s easier than you’d think!I’m always tempted to go for tofu in recipes like this, but this time I went with shiitake mushrooms, because they are, for lack of a better term, meaty. Dice them up nice and fine, add in some seasoning and you’ve got something that isn’t too far from the wonton soup you probably ordered from your favorite Chinese restaurant as a kid.

Vegan Shiitake Wonton Soup_2

Update, February 2018: I reshot the photos for this recipe and made a video. It looks like I improved a bit in the wonton wrapping department since originally posting this! Practice makes perfect!


Shiitake Wonton Soup

This vegan wonton soup is made with savory shiitake stuffed wontons, crispy napa cabbage and a light gingery broth.
Course Soup
Cuisine American, Chinese
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 317 kcal
Author Alissa

For the Wontons

4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional
1 scallion finely chopped
16-20 vegan wonton wrappers

For the Wonton Soup

1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
5 cups vegetable broth
2 cups shredded napa cabbage
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Soy sauce or salt to taste
2 scallions, chopped


Make the Wontons

Clean the shiitake mushrooms and remove the stems. Finely dice the caps and place them in a medium bowl. Stir in the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, liquid smoke, if using, and scallion.

Fill a small bowl with water. Arrange a wonton wrapper on work surface. Place about 1 teaspoon of filling in center. Dip fingers in water and moisten the edges of the wonton wrapper. Fold in half, over filling, diagonally, to create a triangle. Press the edges together to seal. Draw the side corners of the wrapper inward, join and press them together to seal, creating a loop. Repeat until all of the filling and wrappers are used.

Make the Wonton Soup

Coat the bottom of a large pot with the vegetable oil and sesame oil, and place it medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger. Sauté for 1 minute, until very fragrant. Add broth, raise the heat, and bring it to a boil. Add the wontons and lower the heat to a simmer. Allow the soup to simmer until all of the wontons float, about 5 minutes. Stir in the napa cabbage and vinegar. Remove from heat and season with soy sauce or salt to taste.

Ladle into bowls and top with scallions. Serve.

Recipe Notes

Make sure you read the ingredients on your wonton wrappers, as many brands contain egg.

Vegan Shiitake Wonton Soup_3

Meet Alissa

Welcome to Connoisseurus Veg!

I love creativity in the kitchen and veganizing everything I make.

How Long Does it Take for a Glass Bottle to Degrade in a Landfill?

Originally Published on

How Long Does it Take for a Glass Bottle to Degrade in a Landfill

When a dropped glass shatters or a rock chips the car’s windshield, it’s tempting to think of glass as a fragile material. Actually, it’s one of the longest-lasting man-made materials. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services estimates that it takes 1 million years for a glass bottle to decompose in the environment, with conditions in a landfill even more protected. Glass artifacts from glassmaking’s beginnings in Egypt, around 2000 B.C., still exist.

Naturally Occurring Glass

Examples of the long-lasting qualities of glass come from glass made in nature, an opaque material called obsidian. It results from volcanic activity melting silica rock or sand to form black, red, gray, brown or green glass. Natural obsidian deposits were mined by prehistoric peoples to make weapon points, cutting tools, mirrors and other objects. In Iraq, obsidian use dates back to Paleolithic times, around 30,000 BP. In North America, the Obsidian Cliff deposits in Yellowstone National Park were formed about 180,000 years ago and mined by native Americans for more than 10,000 years.

Glass Components

The basic ingredients for glass are silica sand, soda and lime. Other ingredients give glass its color, clarity or opaqueness, and strength. Different minerals give glass color, with gold giving red, manganese purple and cobalt blue. Raw ingredients need very high temperatures — ranging from 2,600 to 2,900 degrees Fahrenheit — to change into molten glass, depending on the composition. Molten glass is pressed, blown, molded, drawn or cast into glass objects. Once formed and cooled, glass doesn’t readily react with other substances to change its structure.

Long-Lasting Glass

Glass items exist from throughout the history of glassmaking, whether they were buried in archaeological remains, sunk in sailing vessels or carefully preserved by collectors. Glass can change in appearance after it is buried, with chemical reactions between the surrounding soil and the glass often resulting in iridescent surfaces. This adds to its beauty but doesn’t detract from its strength. Glass can be brittle or strong, depending on its composition. Older glass is more brittle than modern glass, but this does not affect its decomposition rate in landfills. In landfills, glass isn’t exposed to degradation by wind or erosion.

Recycling Glass

Originally, glass was a rare and precious commodity, because it took so much fuel to melt the ingredients and because of the labor-intensive production. Modern methods allow mass production of glass containers and objects. In 2011, Americans contributed 11.5 million tons of glass to the municipal solid waste stream. Glass lends itself to indefinite recycling without loss of strength. Broken into cullet, recycled glass goes into new containers or to products such as kitchen tiles, wall insulation and abrasives.

The Value of Recycling Glass

Given the long life of glass and the ease with which it can be recycled, it makes sense to recycle glass. As of 2011, Americans recycled more than 3 million tons of glass, an increase from 750,000 tons in 1980. Most recycled glass comes from beverage and food containers. Cullet costs less than virgin glass and saves energy because it melts at a lower temperature, which in turn means lower emissions of greenhouse gases, such as nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide. Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to run a computer for 25 minutes, according to British Glass.

Two Years of Living Plastic Free: How I Did it and What I’ve Learned

Originally Published on on August 20, 2016 By Erin Rhoads

Two Years of Living Plastic Free How I Did it and What I_ve Learned_1

I have done it. Two years of plastic free living … or to be more accurate, trying actively to NOT buy new plastic for two years.

A bit of a mouthful and maybe why the term “plastic free living” is a more memorable phrase.

I decided to reread the blog post about my first year to compare/contrast what had changed. In the post about my first year, I listed what I was doing to reduce my plastic footprint by item. Some things have changed and some have not.
Personal Care

We buy blocks of soap from The Australian Natural Soap Company. Unpackaged, simple and all natural.

I was using shampoo bars from the place we buy our soap but found that it built up in my hair over a couple of months no matter how hard I scrubbed it under the water.

I then tried bicarb/vinegar for six months which made my hair horrible and gave me a sore scalp. Then I gave rye flour a go and found out it’s not great for people with long hair. Castile soap also did not wash out properly leaving an oily film on my hair.

Now I use bulk bought shampoo by Back to Basics in an up cycled glass bottle. I don’t use conditioner. If I have some oil on my hands from my body oil I will run them through my hair but generally don’t add anything other than shampoo. I will continue to use a shampoo bar for travelling to save on space and weight.

I make a toothpowder. I have not been to the dentist to check if everything is ok but the Builder has. He was happy to report that his teeth/gums are very healthy and the dentist & hygienist were all for using bicarb. The dentist said that bicarb is great for keeping gums healthy.

Face moisturiser
Last year I started using almond oil … well not anymore. It did not suit the skin on my face so I ended up using it just on my body which was fine. It soaks in faster than coconut oil and is more affordable. I have very oily skin so maybe the almond oil was too heavy for my face. And even Jojoba leaves my skin feeling and looking dull/congested.

As much as I lamented over this I went back to rosehip oil. It is my favorite face oil and I used it for years before going plastic free. It keeps my skin clear and bright. The bottle is glass but it has a plastic lid and plastic orifice dropper (gasp!) that I keep for reuse. One bottle of rosehip lasts the whole year as I don’t use it everyday. If anyone has any suggestions on how to get this item plastic free please leave a comment. I am on the lookout for shea butter unpackaged as this would work well as it is light like rosehip oil or so I have read.

Body moisturiser
Coconut oil was too expensive! I switched to almond oil and love it. I don’t use it all the time only when I feel like my body needs it which is about once a week.

Still using the homemade spray option but am finding I need it less and less as the months go by. I just want to mention that the Builder does not need deodorant. How unfair is that?! The man never seems to smell sweaty.

I make my own by blending an essential oil with almond oil. I love it when the stuff I buy has a dual use.

Sanitary items
Still going strong with my moon cup and reusable cloth pads. Money saved over two years is… $290. Cha-ching.

I make my own mascara, lip balm, cheek tint, eyebrow powder and I use plain tapioca flour as a face powder to get rid of any shine.

I do miss my old makeup sometimes. I loved the routine. I also miss dyeing my eyebrows and eyelashes. I am contemplating trying henna as I can buy that package free. But then again … I don’t miss the upkeep!

Bamboo toothbrush. Always and forever. Though I accidentally bought a child’s one the other day…

Nail file
Still using the same one and have gained two more that friends did not want. I’d say I’m set for life.

Hair ties
Continuing to collect ones I find on the street.

I don’t use a body scrub often as I have a good exfoliating cloth made of cactus. When I feel like giving my face a bit of indulgence I wipe lemon juice on my skin. It keeps any blackheads at bay and my skins looks brighter. Well, I think it does – and I’m the only person who matters when it comes to pleasing how I look.

I feel like everything in my personal care section is sorted. I am in a happy groove with each choice. When I first went plastic free two years ago making my own makeup was something that never crossed my mind. Now I have my makeup DIY down pat and am so happy with it. If I run out of my mascara or toothpowder all I need to do is mix up a new batch and I rarely need to top up the ingredients because only a small amount is needed.

Everything but four items (rosehip oil, essential oil, clove oil, orange oil) is bought without plastic. The clove oil and orange oil are used in my house cleaning products. All are recyclable but I would prefer to have refill options. If anyone knows anyone in Melbourne, Victoria or Australia that sells essentials oils as refills you would make my day. Or if anyone knows a fun way to upcycle essential oil bottles I’d love to know.

I wish I had calculated what I have saved in this area of my life as it is one of the more popular questions I am asked. I can only imagine I have saved money because I am not wandering into stores that house hundreds of cosmetic choices or dragging my mouse across online beauty bargain spaces. Going plastic free means I am limited severely. It’s easier to make my own rather than trawl search engines looking for plastic free alternatives to buy. Most of the items take 15-30 minutes to make and the biggest bonus is that I know what is in them.

Grocery Shopping/Kitchen

Two Years of Living Plastic Free How I Did it and What I_ve Learned_2

We have become pros at this. Practice and routine has enabled our grocery shopping to be seamless. We visit the farmers market each Sunday and if on the rare occasion we can’t make the market then we will go to a fruit and veggie store near our home.

We take cloth bags to the market and baskets to carry it all out in. I write a list before we go referencing what is in season. I don’t like food going to waste so we stick pretty closely to the list.

We have stainless steel containers that we use to collect our meat and fish. We have reduced our meat and fish consumption at home. As I type this I cannot remember the last time we bought meat for cooking. I wonder if we will end up removing animal meat out of our diet? Time will tell…

The delicatessen we visit is always busy post 9am. It can get hectic with the staff running around dealing with so many customers. So we decided it would be easier if we just reuse the plastic containers the staff are used to. We don’t go to the deli every week, more like once a month. The plastic containers work perfectly well, are looked after (we have had them for two years) and doing what they need to do which is limit new plastic in our lives.

The bulk store is last because this is the place we probably visit the least. We used to go every other week but now it is every three to four months and each time we buy less and less stuff. My food shelves are stocked with less than ever before and this might be because I am using my cookbooks and other online recipes less simply because the cookbooks and food blogs I used to trawl rarely work in favor of eating seasonally.

We take all our own jars, bottles and bags. I write a list of exactly what we need and take a container for each food item needed. In the last two years there has been an explosion of bulk food stores opening up around Melbourne.

I think one of the reasons we visit the bulk store less often is because we don’t crave things like beans, legumes, rice and other grains. Maybe I never did like those foods that much and only bought them because they are in the supermarket or there was a pretty photograph on a food blog. We had a good couple of months where we had an empty pantry and were just eating vegetables. My diet has changed considerably in the last two years. Not only has all processed food vanished completely from the house (and a knock on effect outside the house) but also realizing a lot of the food choices I was making were driven by food blogs, recipes books and magazines. I have a better understanding of what foods make me feel good and those that don’t, learning to lean in more into what I naturally crave rather than chasing down a superfood or the latest diet trend.

While we can buy mustard and other sauces in glass I don’t buy them anymore as the lids have a plastic lining. We don’t miss this type of processed food. I might try and make my own sauces like tomato or mustard over summer. I can make my own mayonnaise so that’s a start. What we eat/cook is a commonly asked question and I will expand on it in the future.

We are now refilling our beer, cider and wine. I can only imagine this business model taking off. It’s so much fun tasting the beverage first before buying it.

How we store everything has not changed since my first year. Glass jars, ceramic bowls and the stainless steel containers are all we use. We have not dropped down dead from germs … because we all know that cling wrap will save us from germs.

Eating Out
If we are at a food festival or somewhere we know there is the possibility of plastic cutlery like a friends or family get together we take a kit with us that includes plates, cutlery and cups. That way we are never caught out.

The cleaning products have changed dramatically and so has my attitude to cleaning. We refill our cleaning products at the bulk stores in Melbourne.

I kept old wine and juice bottles for collecting castile soap. I use the castile soap for hand soap,hand dish washing, floors, general surface cleaning.

I still have the old boxes from our clothes washing powder and dish washing powder that get reused and reused.

There is a giant container of bicarb soda that is used for cleaning the toilet and oven plus used for toothpaste. And I have vinegar which is a great multipurpose cleaning tool for the windows and a multitude of stuff.

I keep clove oil and sweet orange oil on hand.

I still have the spray bottles that I put watered down castile soap into and also the window spray. These are plastic and were bought last year.

General cleaning is done with old cotton t-shirts. We wash dishes with an second hand cotton shirt cut up and sea sponges collected from the beach. We still have our old brooms and vacuum cleaner. There is no bleach. No harsh chemicals. Attitude to cleaning = relaxed.

Continuing to buy second hand but even this has bottomed out. I bought one top over the whole of last summer and two tops this winter. We do laps of second-hand stores but always walk out empty handed.

I did end up giving away boxes of clothes and shoes (so many shoes!) not because I have planned to go all minimalist but because I was not wearing any of them. I am leaning towards more natural fibers with the last three items I have purchased made of linen. So there, I am leaning away from synthetic
“plastic” fibers.

This is a popular question – what do I do if I get sick?

First things first, I am not anti plastic. I am anti the misuse of plastic. Plastic has done some great things for medicine. It has healed and prolonged life, made mobility easier, given the gift of hearing, walking – the list goes on and on.

Whenever someone asks me what to do I tell them to make a decision based on what’s best for them.

How Was the Second Year? Good? Bad? Any Ugly Moments?

This year has been pretty good. All in all I feel like I am finally on top of this no plastic life. I have scaled the peaks and conquered the mountain of change. I feel content and happy, and as silly as this might sound, more in harmony.

You would have seen in the list that there are areas where plastic has popped up; my rosehip oil, essential oils and milk lids. Sometimes I get upset that I have not found the willpower to live without these items. My plastic free life is not completely plastic free but I am striving. These last two years has been hard work and I am sure that I will find alternatives to those few products eventually.

There is another mountain in the distance and the trek ahead of me is going to include moving from behind my screen to becoming more active in my community. I have changed my life now it is time to spread what I know to others to show others why we all need to make changes.

I’m thinking community events, movies (showing not making…well not yet), writing for broader publications. I want to tackle straws and plastic bags in the Moonee Valley area. (So if you are from Moonee Valley feel free to contact me and let’s get a group going.)

I will continue to write and share everything here. Maybe my journey from blogger to public motivator might inspire fellow introverts to find their voice too. And a round of applause to all the people who comment, email, like, double tap when I have a question or query. I learn so much from you all. Keep sharing with me. To another year plastic free.

Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.