5 Steps to an Eco Easter!

Easter has always confused the hell out of me. One second i’m eating pancakes, the next my school principal is rubbing soot on my forehead, then I am told not to eat anything and then BAM I am sniffing out anything that has cocoa in it and gorging on said item! What a strange holiday it is. It is Lucy’s first Easter and it has definitely made me consider how I will bring her up to think of Easter. I have decided that it will be the same as Christmas – a time where family comes together. What it will not be about is the merciless destruction of all over-packaged, sugar-based food stuffs within a 10 kilometer vicinity. She’s already perky enough without the sugar thank you very much!!!

SUGAR!!! Nom nom.. no!

SUGAR!!! Nom nom.. no!

So I started thinking about all the ways we could reduce our Easter impact while staying healthy at the same time…

1. Sustainable Good Friday Fish

If you are a fish eater make sure you choose an ecologically sustainable breed of fish for your Good Friday Feast. The Australian Marine Conservancy has a brilliant website that tells you exactly which breeds are best – see the list here. If you are not from Australia though the Marine Stewardship Council provides global information on sustainable seafood – see their list here.

2. Make Your Own Chocolate

Itty bitty eggs all wrapped in unrecyclable tin foil… every eco-minded individuals worst nightmare. By making your own chocolate you can completely avoid the packaging as well as making them a hell of a lot healthier. In this recipe I made raw Fruit and Nut Chocolate in a slab but you could easily pour it into a chocolate mold for a more traditional feel!

You could also try these AHMAZING Raw Easter Eggs from one of my favorite foodie ladies Adele (aka Vegie Head)…

Image and recipe courtesy from www.vegiehead.com

Image and recipe courtesy from http://www.vegiehead.com

3. Always Buy Fair Trade

It can be really hard to walk past beautiful brightly-coloured eggs that are so perfectly designed to catch your kids eyes. But it is important to remember that a lot of those eggs are produced in terrible conditions by children… just like yours. See the list of companies here that are doing the right thing and using certified Fair Trade cocoa. But if you are out and about and have forgotten the list, then make sure you look out for the FTA (Fair Trade Australia) logo…

fair-trade

4. Opt out of the traditional Easter Egg Hunt

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I loved Easter Egg hunts as a child. In fact, I still love ’em. I went to my brothers house last Easter and I had to be reminded that I was helping my nephew find eggs… not competing with him. But it does occur to me that it can be a glorified form of littering really? Running around and scattering bits of candy wrapped in non-biodegradable packaging around the garden. I am sure there is a percentage that get forgotten or that some poor animal finds first. BUT this doesn’t mean you need to forgo the hunt altogether. Why not try these ideas:

  • There are loads of funky reusable ‘eggs’ around which you can open and put in healthy treats. I haven’t found an Australian manufacturer yet but these ‘Eco Eggs’ are made from a non-toxic plant-based plastic that are fully compostable! (Although I’m not sure why you would chuck ’em… they would last for many many Easters). There are also gorgeous wooden eggs (see here) which you could paint and decorate with the kids.
  • I have never been to an op-shop and not seen a whole stack of wicker baskets for $2 each. No need for new! If that’s not the case wherever you are though, check out this gorgeous upcycled jumper basket…

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  • You could make your own eggs! There are plenty of gorgeous options from these little felt eggs (from the very creative One Inch World) or you could even make old greeting card boxes like these (from yours truly!) to hide treats in.
  • Instead of hiding eggs you could instead hide some gorgeous hand-painted rocks (hear me out!) and at the end of the hunt treat them like coupons. The children can come up to a ‘treat’ bar and exchange rock creatures for their treat of choice!

painted-rocks-resizedWEB

5. Avoid Palm Oil

Both Woolworths and Coles home brands of hot cross buns contain palm oil.

Consumers (a yucky name for you and me) are definitely wising up these days. It is so nice to that the tribe of people that give a shit is growing and that people are starting to speak up about unacceptable corporate behavior! Better yet… they are boycotting it. Coles and Woolworths have both used Palm Oil in their homebrand Hot Cross Buns this year. They have (rightfully so) copped some flak for this nasty inclusion (if you want to know more about Palm Oil I have written a blog post all about why it is so nasty – see it here). Don’t condone their use by buying these products, why not make your own instead. Total eco babe Alison (from Relauncher) posted this recipe for Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns. I am trying it out tomorrow!

Image and recipe from http://www.relauncher.com.au

Or if you are getting into the raw swing of things you can try my recipe for Raw Cross Buns here

IMG_5157

Happy Easter!

What are you doing to make sure your Easter stays eco? Would love to hear from you in the comments.

DIY Eco Wreath (from Toilet Rolls)

As I mentioned in my last tutorial (Making gift boxes from old greetings cards – see them here) I am determined to be frightfully festive without all the nasty waste that often comes along with it! I really want to prove to myself (and other people) that you can be a happy Christmas Greenie as apposed to a whingy eco version of this guy…

So I decided I would get going on my sustainable decorations at the very start…. my front door. There aint nothing better than a wreath. I had seen plenty of amazing wreaths on Pinterest (follow me here) but was particularly inspired by this one which I saw at Proverbs 31 craft blog. It also suited me as I save all my toilet rolls (they are very handy for all sorts of crafts and around-the-house uses). So I set off on my merry way and I have to say I am really, really proud of the results! Considering I made this whole thing from what would be considered waste products (old cardboard box, newspaper, toilet rolls, fabric off-cuts) it really proves that one woman’s junk is anothers’ treasure.

Equipment

  • Toilet rolls (depending on how big your wreath is you will need quite a few).
  • Cardboard (big enough to cut your wreath base out of – mine has a 40cms diameter)
  • Newspaper
  • 2 x pieces of fabric off-cuts (minimum 80cms length) or fat ribbon
  • Scissors and/or Stanley knife
  • Hot Glue Gun

Optional

  • Ruler
  • Spray paint
  • Glitter

Method

1. First make your wreath template. I have seen plenty of blogs that suggest buying a Styrofoam template… there really is no need to use that nasty material. All you need is some cardboard and newspaper. I traced out a large salad bowl shape (40cms diameter) and then traced around a smaller bowl before cutting it out to create the donut shape (this is where a Stanley Knife would come in handy).

2. Then to give your wreath some central body I scrunched up newspaper and glued it onto the donut. This is going to covered in toilet roll rosettes so don’t worry if it looks shabby! Voila.. you have your recycled wreath template.

3. Then you need to cut your toilet roll rings. I wanted my wreath to be a really pretty textural wreath with all different levels and lengths of rosettes. Therefore I cut my toilet rolls into thirds, fourths and fifths. You don’t have to rule these you can just cut away – it doesn’t need to be perfect.

Note: If you don’t have many toilet rolls you may want to cut the roll into fifths so that you get more bang for your buck out of each roll.

4. Once you have your rings you will make them into rosettes. Cut the ring to open them up and then roll. Again I varied rolling them very tightly and loosely.5. Now it’s time to start gluing the rosettes to your wreath. Blob hot glue onto the newspaper and press the rosettes onto them. I started by using the taller rosettes (the ones I had cut from thirds) and gluing them around the centre of the ring. I tried to angle them so the centre of the rosettes weren’t all just facing up and were looking in different directions (for added visual interest). At times you will need to dob bits of glue in between them so the rosettes use each other for added structure.

Once I had the taller central ring of rosettes I started gluing in the shorter ones around the edges until the wreath was completely covered.

Don’t worry if your wreath looks very grim at the beginning… persevere! The more you build the better and better it gets I promise…

6. I actually really like the toilet rolls left in their natural state… I think they looked deliciously rustic… but I also really felt the need for some sparkle. So I used some old spray paint I had left over from another project and gave the wreath a really fine spray until it was a creamy brown colour. One positive is that this will seal the wreath and protect it for next year!

Aerosols are unfortunately not great for the environment but you can get your hands on ‘friendlier’ alternatives for projects that really do require them. I favour Krylon’s H20 Latex Spray Paint (see the treehugger write up here) – it is an environmentally better option although sadly still not perfect. Here are some places you can get them in Australia.

7. While the paint was still wet I dusted some left over glitter onto the wet wreath. Fairy dust makes all the difference. Let the wreath dry.

8. Once your wreath has dried it is time to tie the bow onto it. I used fabric off-cuts though you could also use a fat ribbon if you do not have any. The pieces I used were very thick (approx 15cms) and therefore I needed them to be minimum 80cms long.

Tie the first piece around the top of your wreath – tie the knot tight as this will be what your wreath hangs from so you want it to be secure. Then thread the other piece between it and the toilet rolls. Tie a bow and fluff it up appropriately.Then cut the ribbon tails to the perfect size. The bow may take a couple of goes to get right.

I then quickly sewed the ends of the material together to form a loop and cut a small slice into the ribbon so that I could hang it on a screw in our door…

8. Merrily hang on your door while humming “Deck the halls”… because tis the season to be jolly! Be sure to take a step back and admire your wonderful crafty work!

Upcycled Tin Cans

Since cutting plastic out of my life I don’t really have to deal with too much wasted food packaging. However, I am English which means there is some packaging that will never be truly banished from my world: the humble aluminium casing that temporarily houses my baked beans! Due to my jacket-tatty-with-beans addiction I have accumulated quite a few of these cans and while they are recyclable I much prefer to reuse where I can. Then while I was cruising the interwebs I spied the below picture and got all inspired…

What a sweet and clever idea! So I decided to expand on that and instead cover my cans with pretty paper – because my cans would not look as gorgeously rustic as those pictured… it would literally just be a big collection of Heinz beans cans! Either way I think the results are gorgeous and this would make a gorgeous eco solution for a wedding centerpieces which would hardly break the budget (the whole project cost me $12). Best thing about this project – it was unbelievably quick and simple.

What You’ll Need

  • Washed tin cans
  • Pretty paper (a standard can will get use half a sheet)
  • Ruler (Steel ruler would be best for accuracy)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue gun

Method

Wash all your tin cans thoroughly and remove labels. Having little remnants of paper is fine – they may even help with the adhesion of the paper.

Without glue, wrap a sheet of paper around the width of the can (to see the amount you will need). I always allow for a 2cm overlap.

Fold the excess amount back over itself. You can then cut along the crease line.

Then measure the length of the can as accurately as possible. If you want to have a little leeway make sure you cut the paper a little thinner rather than leaving it a little too wide – you don’t want the paper taller than the can as it will fray and get messy.

Now you are ready to roll (literally). Apply a stripe of glue along one end of the paper (the shorter end that will go across the height of the can).

Carefully place and stick the paper onto the can keeping it as straight as possible.

Once the paper is stuck to the can, flip it over so that you can see the underside of the paper and apply 4 lines of glue – along the top, middle, bottom and side of the paper. Carefully (and as quickly as possible so the glue doesn’t dry) roll the paper around the can.

If the edge of the paper is not completely stuck down apply small blobs of glue to the corners. You don’t want the blobs to be too big as they may squish out and look untidy.

And Voila!!! Repeat this for each of your cans until you have a beautiful assortment of colours and patterns.

Once you have your assortment of cans fill them with flowers and/or tea lights and use them as a centre-piece for a table or a beautiful feature on a side table or shelf.

If filling them with flowers here are two things to consider;

  1. You will have to be very careful with water as the new coating is paper and will ruin if it is wet
  2. Try to avoid cut flowers from stores! As I explained in this post they are often imported and wrapped in plastic. The ones I have used in this picture are a mixture of weeds from the verge-side in my suburb or a few flowers from my own garden. I can’t wait until my lavender bushes really kick off for this very purpose!

Anyway… here are a few more pictures. Happy crafting!

Add some tea-lights for some extra pretty mood lighting!

Since completing this project I have seen that loads of people have done similar with their old tin cans. You can follow me on Pinterest here but for the moment here are some special mentions of some other gorgeous tin can upcycling projects…

Such a stunning arrangement for a baby shower from Bump Smitten.com

Pretty pen pots from Craft Gawker.com

More storage tins… this time with ribbons! From The Ornament Girl.com/blog/

Classic White Votive Tins from One Womens Haven.blogspot.com.au

How To Make “Book Shelves”

Honestly, is there anything more beautiful than an old, tattered book? I often lose hours in vintage stores; running my finger along the frayed cloth spines, peeking inside the cover to try find a bygone message filled with love or the occasional long-lost bookmark.

With this fascination in mind, it is no surprise that I have always loved using books around my home as whimsical design features. So as soon as I spied Pinterest pictures (follow me here) using books themselves as book shelves (Say whaaaat?!)  I was hooked. Not only that but I had the perfectly drab wall just screaming for some upcycled decoration!

What You’ll Need

  • Old Books (1 book = 1 shelf)
  • 3 brackets per book – 2 for the base, 1 for the top (Aim for a bracket length that is about half the width of the book so that it will be stable and load-bearing. I am sure if you want a smaller bracket for aesthetic reasons you could manage it. In retrospect the brackets I used would be smaller… these are slightly too prominent).
  • Screws
  • Wall plugs
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Pencil
  • Spirit Level
  • If you have a spare set of hands/muscles it will make this project a hell of a lot easier!

Method

First part is the best bit. You need to get yourself to a vintage store and find yourselves some books. Take into account the size, the spine, how the combination looks together and the book subject. I found the perfect little green book but then realised it was a book about war weapons – not a subject I really want in my house. I wanted books that reflected interests and personalities in my life. I ended up with a rare book from 1930 about sheep (my parents have 21 pet sheep), The Statutes of Western Australia (where I live) and The Generous Earth (about the beauty of living simply). Score!

Old books are so undervalued!

The thing I love the most about this method of fixing the books to the wall is that you don’t ruin the books! If you ever want to you can take your ‘shelf’ out of the brackets and have a flick through before putting it back. Even though I have seen super cool designs using books as the material I just feel wrong about damaging an old book. They are noble beasts… we must love them.

1).   Measure whereabouts you want the books on your wall and hold the base brackets underneath the book in a way that will support them. Mark a pencil line along the bottom of the book.

2).   Measure that the brackets are flat and level with your spirit level

3).   Mark the bracket holes where you will need to drill with a pencil.

4).   Line your book up with the pencil line and then draw a line along the top of the book so that you can see how thick  it is. Put your top bracket on top of the book and make sure it is completely vertical (with your spirit level). Mark the holes where you are going to drill.

5).   Shove lots of material into your ears and drill holes into the wall.  Hammer wall plugs into the wall.

6).   Screw your brackets into the wall.

7).   Slide your books into place and decorate the hell out of them with all your most loved knick knacks. I filled mine with some vintage bottles that were found in the ocean, my collection of owls (the big guy was my Grandpa’s, is 60 years old and his name is Costa) and my rolled magazine plant in an upcycled old vase (tutorial here).

So I wish you luck in your shelving!!! I will leave you with a beautiful passage that is at the beginning of what is now my top shelf. I think it is a gorgeous sentiment and I love that I have such a sweet message hidden away in my wall fittings!

Upcycled Flowers from Magazines

We have all heard of Fair Trade chocolate and coffee – but did you ever stop to think about flowers?

Yep, those brightly cellophaned flowers that you buy as last minute presents are generally imported from countries like Zimbabwe, Colombia and Kenya and have often been produced through unethical working conditions and environmentally unsound practices. It makes me feel so bloody ungrateful when I catch myself grumbling about the office when these plantation workers are forced to work over 12 hours a day for less than a dollar, live in cramped and unsafe conditions and handle harsh chemicals without any protective gear. In Kenya right now the Ngiro River – a life sustaining river resource for farmers – is being drunk dry due to the booming cut-flower trade. That’s right, people are dying of thirst and farms do not have access to enough water to irrigate their crops just so wealthier nations can have a pretty floral arrangements on their breakfast tables. First-world greed epitomised.

I am going to write a proper article about this later because I find it jaw-dropping that it is not a more spoken-of issue. BUT! In the meantime I do love flowers and it made me wonder if there were any eco solutions out there. Of course there was! I stumbled across these stunning Rolled Roses by Jones Design Company (their tutorial here) and figured that I would give it a go using old magazines. They’ll be colourful, made from a ‘waste product’, won’t need to be watered and will never wilt. Here is how to do it.

Equipment

  • Old magazines, book pages or sheet music
  • Hot glue gun
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Florist wire or twigs (depends how you want to use them)

Method

1. Cut your pages into squares. Draw an irregular spiral in pencil.

2.Cut the outline of the circle out.

3.Cut along the spiral pencil line till you get a big wormy piece of paper

4. Starting at the outside start rolling your paper in a tight rosette. Whatever side of the paper you want as the petals should be on the inside of the roll. I rolled this flower the wrong way and the ‘petals’ ended up black rather than that beautiful blue. This takes a little while… so maybe whack on ‘Proud Mary’ by Tina Turner and sing while you roll.

5. As you can see in the bottom left square you will roll until there is only the circular centre of the flower left. Put a splodge of hot glue onto the circle and press the bottom of the rosette onto it. While the glue is drying you will need to have a bit of a play with it… let it unfurl, unscrew bits looser, twist bits tighter until you have the perfect looking rose.

5. It takes a bit of fiddling before you get a perfect looking little rose.

6. Marvel at your rose for a second before moving on to the next step.

7. Now it is time for the leaves. (1) Cut a simple leaf shape out. (2) Fold the base in half before (3) folding back onto itself. Then (4) dab a bit of hot glue within the folds and stick it in place.

8. The glue your leaves to the back of the rose. If you want a bouquet of roses then bend a hook in the end of your florists wire and glue on the wire in whatever arrangement you like.

Other Ideas

As the above rose was my first I kept practicing away. You end up very quick at it and the flowers look better each time. Of course if you are already crafty your flower probably looks perfect first go. Damn you talented people! My favorite ‘other’ application for my roses was using them to tszuj up gift wrapping. Sometimes people have told me off just for wrapping their presents in boring brown paper or (shock horror) newspaper and I figure that as long as I add one of these there can be no more complaining!!!

This wrap was made using an old paper bag, some left over natural twine and scrap magazines. I think it looks pretty spesh.

100% upcycled wrapping option

I also attempted a sustainable flower arrangement in my DIY Painted Vase post (see that here). While it looks a bit dinky in that photo, it is quite gorgeous at the entrance to our house.

If you give it a go let me know in comments… or if you have any handy tips on sustainable gift-wrapping. Or just to say hi! I get lonely sometimes. 

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