Guest Post: Creating a Cycling Culture in the Workplace

When it comes to inspiring eco-change the group that I hear the most gripes about would have to be work colleagues. And sometimes parents. (Not you mum and dad – you guys are awesome!). Today’s culture is so politically correct that we have to be ‘sensitive’ at all times in the workplace – even if that means turning a blind-eye to laziness, ignorance and narrow-mindedness.

Luckily Olive On Blondes newest contributor has found the magic key of changing behavior in the office – offering an incentive! Meet Alyce Sala Tenna– an environmental scientist who is as zany as she is smart! To learn more about this fuss free lady you can meet her properly here. But for now, here are her thoughts on how you can change a wasteful office culture. 

Why should you implement a cycle scheme in your office?  

Throughout Australia thousands of cyclists enjoy the benefits of riding to work. These pedal pushers reap the positive results of saving money, higher fitness levels whilst also contributing to a sustainable mode of travel. However, there are still many, many more Australians yet to be converted. In 2006, transport consumed 25% of Australia’s total energy requirements!

This is where a cycle to work scheme can be initiated in the workforce to encourage the transition from fossil-fuel traveller to carbohydrate-consumer traveller. A cycle to work scheme does not have to be complicated, nor involve enormous amounts of paper pushing for the good office Samaritan who volunteers to organise and maintain the scheme. Incentive ideas can be as simple as providing workshops for staff about bike maintenance, subsidy assistance, financial bonuses, or, simply providing bicycles to employees for short distance travel. For example, Coles offers a $200 gift card each month to people who ride more than three days per week.

Em's Bike - Penelope Cruise!

How do you go about it?

So how would one embark on the implementation of a cycle friendly work scheme? Like any project, a proposal must be put forward in order to for approval and advance to the next stage. And what looks attractive to senior management in a proposal? Financial savings, of course!

Below are four main financial incentives an employer may find attractive:

  1. Reduced car park overheads and more economic use of land (for example, a cost of a single space in an A-Grade CBD office building ranges from $8, 000 – $10, 000 per annum, whereas 10 bikes can fit into this space)
  2. Reduced car fleet, taxi and petrol card costs
  3. Healthier and happier staff from the outcome of cycling are more productive at work and less likely to take sick days
  4. Increased connectivity in the workplace through strong cycle-friendly culture

Need a template? Step right up…

I created a template document of a cycle to work scheme for my previous employer. Although it never got off the ground before I left to take on my graduate job as a professional greenie, it is a document that I feel could help to make positive changes to both the environment, and an individual’s health. Senior management of corporations must recognise the importance of committing to environmental responsibility if they wish to continue harnessing the surrounding environment’s precious resources to recruit their wealth.

If you want to see an initiative like this in your office (or even your home) but don’t have time to collect the information – then you have come to the right place. If you would like a copy of this well-researched document to give to your manager or present at your next staff meeting then email oliveonblonde@gmail.com and we will get a copy to you within 24hours.

Good luck and happy cycling! 

Want more info?

For further information, ideas and approaches please refer to The Cycle-Friendly Workplace: You Step by Step Guide (2007), a concise and informative report prepared by the Australian Department of Environment and Water Resources and the Australian Department of Health and Ageing.

The Less Is More Write-Up

Earth Carers run yet another gorgeous community event.

Anyone that follows this blog, my Facebook or my Twitter would know that I was pretty damn excited about the Less Is More Festival that happened on Saturday. It has now been and gone and I can tell you all – I was not disappointed. It was a glorious day full of great people, ideas, food and workshops.

Festival organiser, Claire Litton, chats with arrivals

The festival organiser (hot-pink haired sensation, Claire Litton) should feel very proud to have fulfilled her objective; to show people how to consume less but enjoy more. I sat through a few workshops (and  poked my head into some too) and learnt something from each one. The classes were all buzzing with conversation with the presenter providing a framework but the crowd sharing their stories and tips. There was such a feeling of community.

Shani explains that you need to check your essential oil is food grade!

My fave class was definitely Shani Graham’s (from Ecoburbia and The Painted Fish) tutorial on DIY toothpaste and deodorant. Shani did a quick survey on why we were all there and it was lovely to hear so many people taking a stand against some of the unnecessary and downright unhealthy elements of modern day consumption. Too much packaging, animal testing, concerns for human health or a commitment to living organically.

"Is is meant to be this gooey?"

After the introductions Shani (like a mad scientist in her lab) started showing off the DIY ingredients. Bicarb soda, essential oils, corn flour, sea salt… no Sodium Lauryl Sulfate here! With recipe sheets in hand we all started shovelling salt and bicarb into our jars and dripping in coconut oils and glycerine. It was almost like year 8 science class and we were all testing out different concoctions and questioning whether we had the right consistency. Walking away from the class I realised something really nice – I now never have to give Colgate a cent of my money every again! (**I have been using my DIY cosmetics since the festival and I am absolutely loving it! For a recipe to make you own toothpaste click here).

My finished product! Peppermint Toothpaste.

After that I went for a bit of a wander and saw people making their own ginger beer, mango ketchup (Wow – delicious!) and even sanitary pads. I ended up in a workshop that is close to my heart… how to live plastic free. Fremantle couple Nathan and Jess (find them at Plastic Freo) have decided to go one whole year without plastic and they spoke about the challenges that they had already encountered and gave tips on how to go about reducing your plastic intake. As a dairy addict, Jess now has to order her milk ahead of time from Perth Organics as it comes in a glass bottle. As yoghurt only seems to come in plastic they have also learnt how to make yoghurt from it. They were a bloody inspiring young couple and have certainly given me some ideas on how to eliminate plastic completely from the Ehlers household. All in all I know that it is going to take effort, discipline and some organisation but I feel confident that I am up for the challenge. (Apparently the Fremantle Council is too – check out the Plastic Free Freo campaign).

Jess from Plastic Free gives a presentation

There were loads more classes that I didn’t manage to get to. If you went to one that I didn’t and want to share it please leave a comment. All in all it was an absolutely fabulous festival that really showed creative ways to reduce your impact on the planet. Personally I have taken a lovely lesson from it – I have realised that I need to slow down a bit and get back to basics. So on that note, I had friends over for afternoon tea and they sat down to vegetables with two homemade dips (beetroot and capsicum & walnut) followed by a warm slice of banana and cranberry bread. It tasted all the better knowing that I made it myself.

Less packaging = More homemade

Scroll down for more pics of the festival.

Cute kids game - Instead of Snakes and Ladders it was "Worms and Shute's"

Making concoctions

My finished toothpaste... mmm Peppermint!

My deodorant and the ingredients

Cooking lessons to make...

... Mango Ketchup. Nom Nom Nom

Ginger Beer making class.

AA for Plastic Abusers

I think plastic is a lot like alcohol. The addictive side is clear – look around you right now and do a quick mental audit on how much plastic is near you. We are – as a society – addicted to plastic. Another similarity is that it is largely accepted. Sure, there are people yelling from the sidelines about how bad it is, but if you walk down the street holding a plastic bag a lot of people wouldn’t look twice. While plastic and alcohol are both damaging to our health though, the toll plastic is taking is on a much bigger scale.

With so many negatives associated with its use we should all try cut down on our plastic bag dependence. Here are some ideas on how to start…

Reusable Bags

This is a non-negotiable. There is no reason to still be using plastic bags when there are so many reusable alternatives around. A good friend of mine (Hi Dino!) said he always had the bags in his car but then got to the end of the checkout and realised he had left them there. He made a rule that whenever he forgot them he would force himself to refuse the cashier just packing them into plastic bags and would return to the car to get his bags. He kept his self-promise and after the embarrassment and fuss it caused never forgot his bags again. Force yourself into changing your habits.

Found at National Wildlife Federation

Other ways that can help;

  • Use roll-up bags that can fit into bags or jean pockets virtually unnoticed, like the above picture!
  • Carry things with your hands! It is so easy to switch into robot mode and just accept your bagged goods without thinking. Be adamant, say no.
  • Invest in a bigger handbag or backpack and use it for your lunch runs.
  • Make a fashionable statement with your bag and you may be more inclined to use it. There are plenty of these bags around (try Etsy). I love this one in particular…

http://www.zazzle.com.au – Click the image to got through to store

Give up chewing gum…

This discovery made me regret every time I ever swallowed a chewing gum. Yep! Chewing gum is literally plastic, rubber, the occasional bit of latex and flavoring… to keep you coming back for more! Avoid it. A nice natural solution is to chew on Cardamom Pods. If you are near a kitchen (or garden) you can also chew on Parsley – not as easy as Cardamom to keep in your pocket.

Plastic Free your cleaning

There is really no need to spend hundreds of dollars a year on ‘wonder’ products that are pre-packaged to hell and are polluting our waterways, bodies and landfill at the same time. Here are some simple substitutes that you can buy in bulk and often come in recyclable packaging (cardboard or refillable containers)

  • Reuse old cleaning spray bottles by filling with vinegar and water. 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water is a fantastic recipe for an all-purpose cleaner.
  • Baking soda is the champion of plastic free cleaning. It works for everything (including shampoo, toothpaste, nappy cleaner). For a sink of dishes try just adding 4tbs of baking soda to the hot water. Works a treat!
  • Wash your clothes with soap nuts! This was one of my favourite finds of 2011 and I put it on my Eco Christmas Wishlist. You just place these dried shells (from small fruit) into an organic cotton washbag (provided) and use it as regular soap! Suitable for hair, carpets, clothes and anything else you can think of.
  • If you are in a hurry and really need to buy ready-made cleaning products aim for those that provide the ‘Refill and Reuse’ service. There are many places around that do this including Manna Wholefoods  in Fremantle.

Plastic Not-so-Fantastic Clothing

Synthetic clothing is basically just plastic fabric. Nylon, polyester, acrylic, lycra, spandex… all cheap material that is often used in throwaway fashion. There are quite a few green ways around this;

  • Only buy old plastic – only buy your plastic second-hand! Op-shops, thrift stores and vintage markets are a treasure trove for clothing that is preloved and therefore has not used new resources to create them.
  • Choose natural fibres – and, where possible, organic! This is especially important for cotton as genetically modified crops are very common. Materials like hemp and bamboo look and feel gorgeous. My fave store for gorgeous organic clothing is definitely Australian owned Bird Textiles. You can also buy fabrics to make your own cushions, clothes or whatever else your imagination dreams up.

A quick lunchtime illustration on some old office paper

Become a Smart Shopper 

This technique is the very core of living sustainably. It is also hugely important in terms of reducing waste, including – of course – plastic bags!

  • NO BOTTLED WATER.
  • Choose products that have a limited amount of packaging. Seeing that this cancels out two thirds of your supermarket, you may as well shop at a farmers market or get an organic box delivery.
  • If you get your produce delivered as part of a box scheme, specify that you don’t want anything in plastic including cherry tomatoes and berries. We use the Organic Collective and they are very helpful with this request which is apparently a reasonably common one nowadays.
  • If you can’t get to a farmers market – buy in bulk. 1 massive bottle is better than 20 smaller ones.
  • Eat wholefoods. Make meals from scratch.  The great thing about this resolution is that not only do you get creative and expand your cooking skills, you generally end up cooking healthier and tastier food. Who needs preservative E211 or food colouring 2 when you can just have a passionfruit instead?

Single Use Items can last an eternity

Save on plastic. Save your Health. 

  • Avoid rubbing plastic all over your body! Check out how many products in your bathroom or make-up bag have ‘polyethylene’ in them. You could be rubbing tiny plastic beads all over yourself and them washing them into our drains. Choose organic and cruelty free products to avoid unnecessary  use of plastic and palm oil too.
  • Baking soda is an amazing deodorant. Who woulda thunk it? Apply it onto your dry armpit with a powder puff and watch in wonderment.
  • Make your own shampoo. Mix together 2 tablespoons baking soda with 2 cups water into a recycled bottle that you have. In a separate container mix 2 tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar with 2 cups of water again. The baking soda is your wash, the vinegar mix is your rinse. Thanks for the inspiration My Plastic Free Life (a fantastic blog / experiment). I am converting to this as of next week… will keep you posted on how I go.
  • Or… buy a shampoo bar. I have seen these at Manna in South Fremantle or you can order them online. For Perth peeps I have heard great things about this Margaret River Savi Shampoo Bar.
  • Use bar soap instead of liquid hand soap. An easy option is Country Life; a cheap, cruelty free and certified palm oil free!
  • Buy a bamboo toothbrush.
  • Don’t use toilet paper that is wrapped in plastic.

Make your own…

  • Lunch – save using cheap plastic takeaway containers, wrappings, bags, little plastic windows or that nasty polystyrene
  • Bread. Not only can you control the amount of preservatives that go into it you save those plastic bags and toggles every time. You get the added bonus of smelling fresh bread through your house in the morning – is there anything better?
  • Soy or Nut Milk – All long-life milk containers (unless specifically stated) contain plastic in them. Why not make your own? If you don’t have a fandangle soy milk maker  you can also make it on your stove top!
  • EGAD!… You can even make your own Tofu!!!
  • Snacks – don’t go for individually wrapped muesli bars over-processed and full of sugar. Try making your own healthier versions like these yummy gluten-free and vegan Granola bars from The Sensitive Pantry

Those were just a few of the many, many creative ways you can cut (most) plastic from your life.

As always, if you have any ideas on how to cut plastic from your life please feel free to comment or email me on oliveonblonde@gmail.com 

Tackling The Plastic Bag Problem Around The World

The Bangladesh Jute industry has bounced back due to the plastic bag ban – Image from http://www.hello.news352.lu

A wise man once said “with great power comes great responsibility”. I believe that man was Spiderman? Never mind – the point is that thought-provoking little hybrid got me thinking about Australia. We really are ‘the lucky country’ sitting pretty on the comparative global scale. Sure, we complain about drought but last year more than 29,000 children under age 5 died in 90 days in southern Somalia. We complain about ignorant politicians but despite my loathing of his attitudes (and taste in swimwear) I still prefer Abbott to the likes of Gaddafi, Mugabe or al-Assad. We complain about the rising price of groceries while 75,000 people die every day from starvation. We are unbelievably privileged.

‘Australia is a lucky country, run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck.’

Donald Horne, The Lucky County, 1964

This fortunate position should inspire Australia to become leaders in technologies, ideas and attitudes that will help the planet, yet sadly we are lagging behind. A prime example is the great plastic bag debate. Why are we not employing a bit of forethought and banning plastic bags like many countries (developed and developing) around the world are? South Australia and now the Australian Capital Territory have led the charge but we need to do more. Clean Up Australia says that Australians use in excess of 6 billion plastic bags per year. It isn’t good enough.

Maybe we can take some inspiration from other countries around the world that are reducing (or have already significantly reduced) their plastic appetite…

Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Jute industry has bounced back due to the plastic bag ban – Image from http://www.hello.news352.lu

As I explained in my post about the effects of plastic, in 1988 and 1998 plastic bags were determined the main cause of devastating floods that submerged two-thirds of the country. In 2002 Bangladesh was the first large country to impose an outright ban of the use of polyethylene bags. Not only was there a significant reduction in plastic pollution but it also revived sustainable industries which have biodegradable alternatives such as the Jute Bag industry.

Italy

Italy used to be responsible for 25% of all the plastic bags in Europe which equates to roughly 25 billion a year.  As of January 1st 2011 single-use non-biodegradable plastic bags were outlawed. Retailers – predictably – warned of pandemonium at the checkouts but evidently people have survived. Maybe the customers were smarter than the retailers thought and noticed those wonderful appendages at the end of their arms that can be used for carrying things?

South Africa

SA really came to the table! Not only did they ban the use of thin plastic bags in 2003  but also imposed a 100,000 rand ($12020AUD) fine and a 10-year jail sentence for any retailers caught handing out bags! This has encouraged shoppers to either take their own sustainable carry bags or invest in plastic bags that can be used more than once.

More information can be found at the BBC South Africa bans plastic bags.

Ireland

This is my favourite example of plastic bag reduction because (to me) it absolutely typifies the flippant Western attitude towards plastic bags. In May 2002 Ireland placed a 15 euro-cent (25cAUD) levy on supermarket checkout bags. Within 3 months Ireland had cut its plastic usage by 90%. There was a 95% decrease in plastic bag litter. This model has been so successful that the Department of Environment (Department of The Environment, Ireland ) have since increased the levy to 22euro-cents. The health of the planets oceans, animals, people and atmosphere proved to be worth less than 15cents. I guess the ends justify the means?

China

More than 1.3billion people live in China. If they had not recognised the danger of plastic the results would be catastrophic.  It has been estimated that 37 million barrels of crude oil are used to produce China’s annual supply of plastic bags – 3 billion every year! In June 2008 (before the Olympics) the Chinese State Council put a nationwide ban on plastic bags. It prohibited all shops, supermarkets, and sales outlets from handing out free plastic bags and banned the production, sale, and use of ultra-thin plastic bags less than 0.025mm thick.  Since the ban China has reduced its bag consumption by half which saves 1.6million ton of oil! Looks like the red is greener than the green and gold! ()

India

Similar to Bangladesh, India also had severe flooding and landslides due to plastic bags blocking drain systems during monsoon season. Many cows also died after mistakenly ingesting the plastic bags. A ban was imposed banning the manufacture, sale and use of all plastic bags.

New Zealand

Our Kiwi kinsman used to have an impressive appetite for plastic consuming 1 billion bags per year. A five-year initiative (the New Zealand Packaging Accord 2004 – 2009) was introduced to attempt to reduce plastic bag usage by a fifth. While they still have a way to go AC Nielsen data shows that consumers are now taking on average 5.8 bags down from twelve months earlier (6.5 bags). It sounds measly but actually equates to 100million less bags!

Europe

Similar to some companies in Australia (Officeworks for one) a select few countries throughout Europe have decided to take matters into their own hands. Instead of waiting for government legislation to force their hands, most retailers in Germany, Switzerland and Denmark charge for plastic bags at the check-out.

Kenya

The late, great Professor Wangari Mathaai – Image from http://www.elleafriquemagazine.wordpress.com

Last year Kenya (and indeed the world) lost an amazing woman – Professor Wangari Mathaai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner.  Before she died Mathaai had spoken out about the effect that plastic bags were having, not only in Kenya but all across Africa. Discarded plastic bags were filling up with rainwater and were becoming perfect little pools for mosquitos to breed in which caused a dramatic rise in vector-borne diseases such as malaria. In early 2005 the Kenyan government (with the help of UNEP and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis) imposed a ban on thin plastic bags as well as placing a levy on the heavier varieties. Any money raised is put towards recycling schemes.

San Francisco

In 2007 San Francisco became the first state in the USA to ban the use of plastic bags in grocery stores. Biodegradable bags made from materials such as paper or corn by-prodcuts are allowed. Just two years after the ban was imposed San Fran saw a reduction of 18%.

USA

Around the US many towns, cities and sometimes entire states are taking note of the dangers of prolific plastic bag use. In January 2010 bans were placed in the following counties – Brownsville, Texas and Kauai (Hawaii). While a complete ban was overthrown in Californies various Cali cities agreed to it (Malibu, Fairfax and Palo Alto). Other notable cities were Bethel (Alaska), Edmonds (Washington) and Westport (Connecticut). Slowly, slowly America is starting to act on their 100billion bag a year habit.

Last and… well, probably least… Australia!

South Australia – as always – are leading the plastic free charge. In 2009 a ban was placed on all lightweight shopping bags. The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at UniSA has reported that before the ban six in ten shoppers would take their own reusable bags to the shops, which has now risen to nine in ten! What a fantastic success. The Northern Territory and the ACT are now also taking steps to reduce their consumption. The ACT are trialed a four-month transitional ban (July – November 2011) and is now in full effect after getting a great result from an environmental perspective as well as from consumer attitudes.

The is more information about the South Australian plastic bag ban here.

What are we waiting for?

The above list is just a small selection of forward thinking countries that are fighting the war on plastic. Honourable mentions go to Bhutan, Cameroon, Eritrea, Brazil, Canada, France, Holland and Nepal. We really have no excuse not to act. Beyond that it is our responsibility  to act.

If the government fails to act then there are always steps that you can take, at an individual level or within your community, to make a difference. Tomorrow I will upload my post on reducing plastic in your life. If you want to learn more about the issues, here are some fantastic resources;

Do You Know What Your Carbon Footprint Is?

If everyone on the planet lived your lifestyle how many worlds would we need?

So many companies are using “green” as an advertising strategy that really useful eco tools and terms are being drowned in the green-wash. One such tool (and term) is your Carbon Footprint. We hear about it daily, but how many people really know their carbon shoe size or even what a carbon footprint is?

DID YOU KNOW…? Australians currently emit more than 550 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year. About a fifth of this is generated through every day activities. – 1degree

What is a carbon footprint?

Individuals, countries, products and industries all have carbon footprints. In fact, every single thing that involves human activity has a carbon footprint. Human activities demand natural resources and produce waste and the measure of these impacts on the environment is known as an ‘ecological footprint’ (or carbon footprint). The impact that these activities have on the environment has, in recent times anyway, been measured in terms of climate change.

Here is a really clever and simple way of looking at how little things can have large and environmentally damaging footprints…

Thanks to WWF for providing that amazing little video – doesn’t it put things in perspective?

Something to also consider is that we also have two different types of footprints;

 Primary Footprint:

A measure of our direct emissions of CO2 from burning of fossil fuels such as domestic energy consumption (our household gas, electricity etc) and transport (car, plane, whatever you use to get from A to B)

Secondary Footprint:

A measure of our indirect emissions of CO2 looking at the entire lifecycle of products from their manufacture to their breakdown. It is a simple equation… the more new things buy, the more emissions you cause.

Here is a fantastic graph thanks to Carbon Footprint which breaks down all our basic needs and modern luxuries and codes whether they Primary (Green) or Secondary (Yellow).

Green = Primary Footprint ; Yellow = Secondary Footprint

So what is your Carbon Footprint?

So are you ready to know? There are a million calculators around and they go from being extremely comprehensive (wanting to know how many kWh you use, litres of heating oil) to just getting an approximate summary of your habits and uses (travel distances, modes of transport, dietary choices). Below I have put a link to my favourite calculators – one basic, one thorough, a kiddies calculator and my fave of all.

The end result (represent by worlds) will show you how many planet earths we would need if everyone (all 7 billion of us) lived the lifestyle that you live. A lot of them also give you a detailed synopsis of what you use and where your problem areas are (i.e. travel, home energy, food) like the picture below;

An example of a typical synopsis after calculating your carbon footprint (from WWF ‘Fun Calculator’ link below)

To use these calculators you need to have some idea on the systems that your home uses and general energy consumption – to a varying degree depending on which calculator you use. It takes about ten minutes and will also ask about your diet, household and travel. If you don’t feel confident doing it by yourself then sit down with your partner or family to do it – it also has the added benefit of starting a conversation about sustainability. It is very interesting and really shows the areas that you need to make changes to (and areas that you can pat yourself on the back!).

Tip from Blonde Olive – Having your bills at the ready can make this easier but you can guesstimate without as well.

Basic Calculator

Advanced Calculator

My Favourite Calculator (This calculator is fantastic as it gives you options on whether your answer is detailed or vague. You also get a cute little avatar that walks around a little street which eventually – through your answers – builds itself into a virtual representation of your eco-habits – check out the picture below)

My little olive avatar roaming around Emville!

And there is even a calculator for school kiddies! (It is American so you may need to pick a random school but it is recommended on a load of Australian sites, including state governments)

Reduce your footprint…

If you are not happy with how many earths you are eating up with your habits then commit to making a difference. When I first calculated mine a couple of years ago it came as quite a shock. I was eco conscious but it was very clear that even with my good habits the world was going to fly way beyond its carrying capacity. The great thing was I could see exactly where I was going wrong and change it. For example, my husband and I were not using enough public transport and we lived too far away from work, uni, friends and family. Solution? We moved closer and we carpool to work everyday (halfway at least and then I walk the rest). As well as some other lifestyle tweaks we have more than halved our households footprint!

If you are stuck for ideas check out my list of Eco Resolutions or my post about how to save water around the house. You could even reduce the impact that your diet has on the planet. Carbon Footprint also made a really helpful list of quick tips.

Personally my favorite way to cut emissions is one of the most logical too – cut out pointless single-use items such as plastic bags, bottles or cutlery. Actually, get rid of plastics altogether. If you want my 5 Steps to Cut Out Plastic then click here.

My favourite of their suggested solutions are listed below;

Tackle your Primary Footprint

  • Turn it off when not in use (lights, television, DVD player, Hi Fi, computer etc) Click here to find out which electrical items in your household are contribute the most to your Carbon Footprint
  • Turn down the water heating setting (just 2 degrees will make a significant saving)
  • Fill your dish washer and washing machine with a full load – this will save you water, electricity, and washing powder
  • Fill the kettle with only as much water as you need
  • Do your weekly shopping in a single trip
  • Hang out the washing to dry rather than tumble drying it
  • Use energy saving light bulbs
  • Use the bus or a train rather than your car
  • For short journeys either walk or cycle
  • Try to reduce the number of flights you take

Reduce your Secondary Footprint

(this is the easiest one because it all depends on your buying habits, your choices!)

  • Don’t buy bottled water refill from the tap. If you are concerned about the quality – buy a water filter. Why not give Plastic Free July a go (see the information here).
  • Buy local fruit and vegetables, or even try growing your own
  • Buy foods that are in season locally
  • Reduce your consumption of meat
  • Buy organic produce
  • Don’t buy over packaged products
  • Recycle as much as possible
  • For the full list please click here.

Good luck and let me know how you go!

Ways To Recycle Greeting Cards and Wrapping

The festivities are over – it is back to the real world. I arrived back at my office the other day to be met with already out-dated Christmas cards littering mine and my colleague’s desks. Are they all to end up in landfill? Of course not! There are so many options when it comes to recycling ‘waste’ associated with Christmas or Easter or whatever new holiday Hallmark comes up with! Once you know them it will boggle your mind that you even considered condemning them (and our planet) as junk! Here are some great ideas for recycling and upcycling the ghosts of Christmas past…

Upcycle

  • Remove the pretty front of the card and use it as a gift tag for next year. You could cut them into shapes (cute templates here) or leave as it is!
  • Save your cards throughout the year and turn them into a Christmas wreath like the gorgeous example below.

From Good Housekeeping (click to link through)

  • If you are crafty or have children, store them in your craft box for use throughout the entire year.
  • Cut the front of your cards into bauble shapes, hole punch the top and hang them off your tree as ornaments next year (bauble templates here).
  • See this DIY tutorial of mine where I show you how to make gift boxes out of old cards!

  • Stack them up and staple them together for a notepad to keep next to the phone
  • Cut the front off and use them as index cards for Christmas recipes
  • Donate your used cards and wrapping paper to a local school or childcare centre for use as craft material

A Blonde Olive Tip

Do a good green deed – Send an email around your office asking people to drop their unwanted cards to your desk. You can then make sure they get recycled, reused, dropped to a school or composted. At the very least you can start a conversation with your colleagues to hear other ideas, boost awareness or even find a little eco friend in your workplace. 

Recycle

  • Festive mulch! Turn any plain (not glossy) wrapping paper or old cardboard into mulch by composting it or sticking it in your worm farm. If you don’t have a composting system check with your local city farm as they can sometimes use it.
  • Don’t contaminate your recycling bin! The following items are all non-recyclable – foils, glossy wrapping paper, cellophane or paper with remnant sticky-tape on it.

Reduce

  • Commit to giving sustainably next time. For Christmas this year I gave out some green guidelines which have tips on how to make your wrapping, gift choice and decorating sustainable!
  • If you are giving gifts that have come in gift bags (or wine bottle bags) make sure you don’t write in the attached card so that whoever you are giving it to can reuse it.
  • Let your family know how you feel about waste. I told my family not to worry about cards this year and it avoided the “Dear Em, Happy Christmas, Love Bob” scenario. I got a few – with lovely messages inside – and I will keep them and stick them up next year!
  • Next year, send an e-card instead! Me and my husband sent this JibJab e-card (that cost nothing to us or the planet) to our family and they are all still laughing at it.
oliveonblonde, ecard, emily ehlers, mark ehlers

Click on the image to see our holiday ecard that we sent to our friends!

Useful Links

Planet Ark – A recycling Mecca of information – http://www.planetark.org/

Recycling Near You has all the information you need to know about what, where and how to recycle things from wrapping paper to computers –  http://recyclingnearyou.com.au/

National Recycling Hotline – 1300 733 712