Home composting – the bokashi solution

Home composting is great for the environment, benefitting your garden and plants with a free source of fresh, natural compost. It’s a great way to cut down on organic waste going into the bin, as everything from eggshells to cardboard can be added. However, you need to know what you can and can’t put in, as well as what will be the best solution for your home or garden.

Did you know you shouldn’t put bread, dairy products or olive oil into a regular composting bin? Oils can upset the moisture balance, and bread or dairy products can attract unwanted insects or bugs to feast on them. Even biodegradable cat litter shouldn’t be added, because of the cross-contamination risk of faeces it may contain or have touched. Eww. The same goes for any meat products or bones, which as well as attracting unwanted bugs can risk spreading disease. But did you know there’s a way that you actually can compost meat and dairy products?

Long used in Japan, bokashi composting can actually deal with some of the foods we can’t put into the normal compost bin, and can actually give you an odourless solution to use right in the kitchen. It’s also a great compact solution for those of us who want to stop food waste going to landfill but don’t have a garden or enough space for a regular compost set-up.

About bokashi composting

In bokashi composting, kitchen scraps (including meat and dairy products banned from normal aerobic systems) are mixed with some of the special bran, pressed into the bokashi bin, covered with another handful of bran, and covered. When the bucket is full, it is shut and left for around 2 weeks. Every other day you empty off the ‘leachate’ which is actually a nutritious liquid fertiliser.

Bokashi is a Japanese term meaning ‘fermented organic matter’. It is often referred to as composting but it’s actually an anaerobic fermentation process or a type of pickling, resulting in a different end product than that produced via regular composting.

Many people like bokashi because it’s very easy, and generally free from smell. All that is needed is a bucket with lid, some special bokashi mix, and of course your food/organic waste. The product you get out of the bokashi bin then sits for a couple of weeks to ‘age’ to become suitable for your plants. Our bokashi bins also have a tap that gives you handy liquid fertiliser that can be diluted and used for your plants – this liquid is also perfect for clearing drains to prevent smells and clogs! Use the liquid within 24 hours of draining.

The bokashi composting process

The special bokashi ‘bran’ mix
Bokashi mix usually consists of a bran with a special mixture of microbes or ‘friendly micro-organisms’. The bokashi process is pretty simple – once a day just add your kitchen waste (including meat and dairy products) with a handful or so of bokashi bran (enough to coat it lightly) then press everything down into the bin, sprinkle over another handful of bran, and close the lid. (A plate left over the pile can help seal it against the air left in the bucket.)

Bokashi product is sometimes referred to as ‘pre-compost’. When the fermented waste is ready from your bokashi bin, it’s not quite ready for using on your plants – it’s too acidic – but can be dug into the garden away from plant roots for a couple of weeks to break down. Some people add bokashi pre-compost to the regular compost bin to help things along.

It’s ideal to have at least 2 bokashi bins because you can be adding to one while the other sits and breaks down the waste.

A compact kitchen option is our clever bokashi compost bin – single and twin pack – which enables you to compost right there in your kitchen, without worrying about any smell! It’s simply topped up with more bokashi bran as and when you need it.

Some tips:

  • If you can eat it, it can go in the bokashi!
  • Don’t add too much liquid, as this will slow the process. Moist foods will produce liquid anyway.
  • You can’t add too much bran, but you can add too little. If it smells bad, you need to add more.
  • Smaller whole items such as grapes or small tomatoes should be punctured or chopped to provide the microbes a way to get inside and get to work.
  • Always press everything down to remove the air inside.
  • Large bones won’t disappear in 2 weeks – directions recommend cutting up small bones and even chopping other items into small pieces for maximum effect.
  • When the bucket is full, seal it tightly and wait at least 2 weeks – don’t open it.

What to do with the resulting ‘pre-compost’:

  • Dig a hole about 12-18 inches deep in your garden or back yard away from plants or buildings, and add the finished contents of your bokashi bin.
  • Cover the hole with soil – about 8 inches of soil on top to stop animals from potentially digging it up.
  • Wait 2-4 weeks, and dig up the finished product for use in your garden, give to a friend, or plant your plants in that location.
  • Rinse the bokashi bin and start the whole process over again!

Find out more about the bokashi process:

Give it a go – let us know how you get on and how your beautiful garden grows with all of that nutritious compost.

Creative kids – entertain them in the school holidays

Keeping kids of any age entertained in the school summer holidays can be a challenge, especially if you don’t want to see them buried behind an iPad screen for the 6 weeks! We’ve got some lovely creative toys and activities that your family will love to play with.

Natural and creative toys

Meet Gina Giraffe and Mandy Monkey – adorable soft toys from our Fairtrade favourite, Traidcraft. They come with a selection of lovely hand-loomed cotton outfits to encourage play and imagination – and they’re currently half price!

We’re also big fans of Seedling creative play kits (pictured above) – from making your own fun bow and arrow or a cute owl bag, to spotting nature in the wild or even playing the Great Detective, your child will have something to occupy even the most boring rainy day.

If they love their cars, planes, trains, helicopters or even flowers then check out Green Toys, amazing BPA-free recycled and colourful plastic toys that are good for the planet and their imagination. You’ll also be glad to hear that they don’t need batteries as they’re free from patience-testing noises and constant flashing lights…

Green Toys - 100% recycled BPA-free children's toys

How about 4M Kidz Labs science inspired sets for the slightly older kids? From weather stations to recycled paper beads there’s a fun and educational hands-on set for every child (and you won’t mind having a go yourself).

4M Kidz Labs eco science toys

Check out our Toys and Games section for more inspiration, and enjoy!

Natural beauty favourites

I’ve been a natural beauty advocate for quite some time – since around 1995 in fact – when after years of struggling with cleansers drying my sensitive skin out I finally found one that didn’t irritate my eczema. While doctors insisted it should be treated with greasy, paraffin and petroleum-based products which I suspected were only making the issue worse, I felt vindicated when my skin calmed right down within weeks after I discovered organic and natural creams.

An even more pressing issue for me at the time was cruelty free – horrified to find that even a simple shampoo or mascara was forcibly tested on rabbits and other animals I was determined to find brands without animal testing. I’m happy to say we at Natural Collection have an abundance of fantastic brands that not only work but care for your skin and for animal welfare, and I can vouch for them after years and years of use.

So if you suffer from sensitive or temperamental skin or just fancy a change to great beauty products free of preservatives and unnecessary additives, give some of my absolute favourites a go:

Natural beauty brands at Natural Collection

The big 3 – cleanse, tone, moisturise

Organic Surge Brightening hot cloth cleanser is the perfect way to cleanse skin. Don’t be fooled thinking that greasy skin can’t use a creamy cleanser – this is suitable for all skin types and works brilliantly (my sister also uses this although she has much more oily skin). It’s gentle, moisturising but also tackles dirt, pollution and stubborn eye makeup with ease.

If I’m on the run occasionally I’ll use the brilliant Faith in Nature facial wipes – perfect for stashing in your handbag or gym bag, these even work gently without needing to apply moisturiser afterward which is unheard of for me! I also tried the Yes To Blueberries Age Refresh wipes which are a great product and smell lovely. They’re also biodegradable (which means they break down and don’t hang around clogging up our beaches and waterways) which should be the case for every single wipe out there in my opinion.

I used Nourish Radiance Refreshing Toning Mist for the first time on a flight, feeling the drying effects of airplane air circulation. It’s a gentle and soothing spray that definitely increased the moisturised feel of my skin, even in harsh conditions. I will be trying this one again.

Green People beauty and skincare

I can’t give Green People Day Solution anti-blemish moisturiser enough praise, and I only wish it was available in larger sizes! Even with mostly dry skin I still got the occasional puzzling breakout in the past, but noticed a change within just a week of using this. I won’t use anything else now, it’s a fantastic moisturiser and works so well for me.

Bath, body and hair

Faith in Nature shampoo and conditioner – UK made, cruelty free, fairly traded, biodegradable and free of both parabens and SLS – what more can I ask for? I love the mint, tea tree, lemon and tea tree shampoos and conditioners and am slowly working my way through their entire range!

I’ve only been using Avalon Organics scalp treatment for about a week but I’m impressed already. I’ve had no scalp irritation or buildup from this and it smells lovely, as well as being packaged in a 100% recycled bottle.

Jason Cocoa Butter Hand & Body Lotion is super moisturising even for dry skin in winter, this is always in my bathroom and perfect for dry elbows, hands or wind-blasted skin.

Nourish beauty and skincare range

Nourish have a whole range of skincare tailored to your needs, so if you want balance you can try their Balance Apple formulations and if your skin needs protection they have the replenishing and hydrating Orange & Mandarin products. I gave some of these sets as Christmas gifts and the results were extremely positive – my mother is now a big fan of them.

Living where I do I’ve seen my fair share of quite frankly awful, streaky, tango-tastic tan attempts. You must try Tan Organic, please, for the good of my sanity – no streaks, a great colour and smell (not the usual fake tan smell) and most importantly it’s amazingly moisturising and softening for your skin without the hefty cocktail of chemicals and additives the usual self tan comes with. The Tan Arganic dry oil also makes moisturising a breeze, prepping your skin for the perfect tan.

Given the scary stats that the average woman absorbs almost 5lbs of chemicals every year from skin and hair care products alone, I won’t be using any other self tan. For those looking to move away from the more additive-laden choices in general we have lots of SLS free and paraben free products to try.

Beauty secret tip

We have several coconut oil brands in stock, and this is one product I certainly wouldn’t do without. From removing eye makeup and mascara with ease to an overnight hair mask treat, coconut oil has a multitude of use – and of course it’s pretty useful in the kitchen too! When I proclaimed my love for coconut oil as beauty saviour, my mother replied with a smile “we already knew that in the 70s, used it on everything!”. My one big tip is: this is the best natural body moisturiser out there. It will warm up in your hands making application easy, and will soak into skin easily after a bath or shower. You’ll smell amazing and skin will be super soft!

Beauty treats – indulgent masks and treatments

Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Facial Mask

I was highly recommend the wonderful Antipodes Aura honey mask last year and I’m so glad I tried it – it lasts for absolutely ages (I’ve had mine since last Autumn) and is the perfect weekly treat for skin. I always see immediate improvement from using this, with softer and more even looking skin. Plus it smells incredible.

Another one that’s lasting forever is the Antipodes Kiwi Seed Oil eye cream. It’s super light to apply, sinks in quickly yet is packed with the likes of avocado oil, kiwi seed oil and aloe gel to give lots of hydration to the delicate eye area.

Green People anti-ageing Facial Oil – the bottle doesn’t seem to have gone done at all in the couple of months I’ve used it! A couple of drops go a long way and it’s all you need for your face. I’ve definitely felt the difference the morning after when I’ve used this overnight, with soft skin and no irritation at all. I need to be a little more regular with my routine and use this a couple of times every week as I do see the benefits. Yes, oil feels a little different on your face if you’re not used to those type of products but it’s definitely worth it when the products sink in and do their stuff.

Conscious Skincare – made right here in the UK, and with gorgeous packaging ideal for a gift, the Conscious range is a lovely one. Their Night Serum is another great option for anyone who wants the benefits of a nighttime treatment. Serums sink in pretty much immediately and pack lots of hydration power for smooth skin.

Colourful cosmetics

Most women spend an incredible amount of money on makeup, so why not make ethical choices in your purchases? BM Beauty Lash Thickening mascara is one of the best I’ve tried, and a brilliant price – it’s cruelty free, BUAV and PETA approved, and contains nourishing ingredients to care for lashes too. Pacifica Smolder Eye Lining Gel – on sale with 30% off – is a fully vegan and cruelty free product with stunning colours; my favourite is the Tahitian with subtle sparkle.

I’m a big fan of EcoTools makeup brushes too, made with sustainable bamboo and featuring cruelty-free bristles that are kind to skin and don’t fall out like most brushes in their price range.

Don’t forget the teeth!

I noticed I actually couldn’t stand the artificial taste of a particular mainstream brand so gave the Kingfisher mint a try and haven’t looked back – I’d highly recommend their range. Green People also make excellent natural toothpastes with some more unusual flavours like Mandarin for kids.

For the guys

We’re not leaving the guys out, as my other half can vouch for his favourites Faith in Nature (I initially bought him some to stop him stealing my shampoo!), and the new Scaramouche & Fandango range for men which he takes to the gym with him.

I’d love to hear what your beauty must-haves are, along with any tips or tricks or anything you’d like to find in store…