We Did It!!! Plastic Free July Is Over.

Sorry about the illustration quality… a quick lunchtime squiggle then rendered with a very outdated Paint program! :)

Well, we made it! Today is 1st August which officially draws to a close the Ehlers household’s Plastic Free July Challenge. What an unbelievable month it has been; challenging, eye-opening, exciting, comical and – at times – infuriating! If I tried to get down everything that happened to me this month then we’d need a virtual Falcor to ride through the Never Ending Blog-Story so instead I am going to try get this down to some fairly succint (for me anyway) points. Here is my list of moments and lessons…

Wins

The health kick! Pre-July I was convinced that I only ate wholefoods. Really, there were quite a few things that were slipping through – the sort of things that had numbers in their ingredients list. I have now learnt to make so many things from scratch (I have listed and provided links for some of them below!).

Chips and Gravy (or as I like to call it Yay-vy). My work friend and I like to have chips and gravy to celebrate Friday. We get it from a small deli that is always busy and sells many deep fried food-like substances. I did not think that they would be overly supportive of my challenge but they were amazing. They even started teasing my friend about the fact that he did not bring his own container. Win. Hot saucy win.

Fails

  • Berries. I have not been able to find any breed of berry (unless you count cherries) that is not somewhat plastic wrapped. Trying to recreate some awesome childhood memories, I researched ‘pick your own’ farms but there aren’t any in Perth – boo! I even visited three seperate farmers markets and called two organic delivery services to ask if I could have my berries sans plastic and have them reuse the container. Sadly they all said they would probably just throw away the container. Yeah I’d get them plastic free but that’s hardly the point is it? My only solution here is to grow my own… which I have been wanting to do for years now anyway so I guess I should count it as a win?
  • Straws. Those sneaky buggers got me every single time! When my lust for berries became too much I would head to our pub and get myself a berry mocktail. Maybe it was karma for cheating because every time I forgot to mention “No Straws” and not one but TWO would arrive with the drink. So pointless. I have now ordered some stainless steel straws to add to my plastic free kit.
  • Rice and/or Oat Milk. See below.

Funniest

For context it is important to note that I am pregnant. So imagine the face of my coworker when he asked me what I would do for plastic free milk and I cheerfully replied;

“I am just going to make my own and drink that”

His face was the most perfect mix of shock and disgust that I am giggling while I type. I was of course referring to trying out nut milk (like this recipe here). I didn’t have success with my cashew milk but I will continue to try other recipes.

Worst

Day 3. I spoke about it in this post summing up Week 1 but to recap; the true scale of the plastic dilemma we are in hit me. Hard. Sifting through the aisles and finding perfectly good glass jars shrink-wrapped in plastic, seeing plastic straws wrapped in plastic and not being able to see one trolley (bar mine) with reusable shopping bags in it. Too much for this hormonal little beast. But my mum (counselor/hypnotherapist/all-round awesome lady) has always told me that the 3rd of anything is always the biggest hurdle. For example it is very common for smokers or dieters to relapse on the third day, week, month or year. So maybe this was just that first hurdle?

Apples belong in tummies and trees NOT plastic

Frustrating

Week 2 brought us Ehlers’s a real challenge. Hubby’s birthday meant we had to host 3 seperate dinner parties for the 3 sets of parents. First lunch, Parent “A” asked what they could bring. Feeling awkward about it anyway my hubby explained the challenge and then suggested a garden salad; knowing that was Level 1 in terms of plastic free ease. A plastic wrapped lettuce, a punnet of mushrooms, two polystyrene trays of tomatoes and mandarins all carried in a plastic bag. Jaws literally hit floor. Not one of those items needed to be in plastic… in fact they are the easiest items to get without!

“All great changes are preceded by chaos”

                                                             -Deepak Chopra

Parent “B” is equally well-intentioned and will never leave my house without lamenting that my fridge looks scarce and then proceeding to fill it with whatever goodies she can find (read; packaged nom noms). First world problems? Entirely. In no way am I anything but grateful for the fact that we have such generous, beautiful parents looking out for us! What I am frustated about is that for Parent A and B (who don’t have the word PLASTIC running through their mind 24/7 x 365) these choices were the easiest and most acceptable choices. This perceived convenience is a farce – having more rubbish in your home that has taken time and energy to create and ship is not more convenient than handling only loose produce and putting the peel in your compost. We need a massive paradigm shift!

Innovations

I have concocted and experimented and facilitated and implemented so many little innovations in my life and home that I have decided to dedicate part of my blog to it. When I get a spare minute I will be changing the menu’s and have a designated plastic category that will be chock-a-block full of resources, recipes and ideas. Here are some of the changes I have made – they won’t be the last!;

  • DIY Toothpaste – this is a winner. See the recipe here.
  • Make Your Own Cleaning Products. Good for you, good for the environment! Recipes here.
  • DIY Deodorant – easy and so much healthier than the chemical alternatives! Recipe coming very soon.
  • Lots of beauty products like this Facial Cleanser (made from cucumber!) or this simple herbal toner!
  • Get yourself a wrapping pile! I managed to wrap this present using only waste paper that I have save from previous occassions.

  • Or you can make pretty wrapping out of old magazines like this one!
  • Paleo (grain and dairy free) Pizza Crust. Recipe coming very soon.
  • We very rarely put any rubbish into our green bin now and we reuse so much more – whether it is plastic or not! We have a bucket plus a Bokashi Bin for our green waste so we can compost it and use it to enrich our soils. We have a bucket for recyclables. We have storage space for reusables. You would be amazed at the things you can make from old aluminium cans or toilet rolls. Will share the photo’s soon.

Getting a small green waste bin makes it easy to put on your kitchen bench while you cook. Just put the scraps in there and then ferry out to your compost bin! Simple.

Habits

The best new habit I have adopted is certainly “Take 3”. Readers of this blog will be aware of my long standing admiration for environmentalist Tim Silverwood (follow his blog here) and his organisation, Take 3. Quoting directly from their website

“the Take 3 message is simple: take three pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the beach, waterway or… anywhere and you have made a difference”

Rubbish from a 30 minute beach walk. TAKE 3!!!

How simple. I always used to take whatever plastic I could hold from the beaches but not I take down a reusable bag and fill it while I walk (whether I am on the beach or not). It only takes one plastic bag to kill a dolphin so I know I am making a difference. I love this campaign by Take 3;

(Here is one my favorite posts from Tim. This post really inspired me to be a bit brave and approach people that I see doing the wrong thing. Be strong and try to educate. Some people may just be oblivious… others may just be old dogs).

Advice

Assemble a Plastic-Free Survival Kit

Make sure you always have on hand whatever plastic free alternatives you may need – a BYO coffee cup, your own knife and fork, your own food container (for chips and yay-vy), a water bottle and/or reusable bags. If you don’t want to lug them around leave the pack where you need it ie; your car or work desk.

Find Great Suppliers and Support Them.

Once you find those stores/suppliers that help you live plastic-free support them! Firstly, it makes it easier on yourself. Secondly, it sets the example of voting with your dollar. It also makes me feel like my grandma must’ve – you know, where they knew suppliers by their first names and actually conversed with them about the produce. My husband will always support our local butcher because they were so supportive of his challenge… one of them went absolutely gang-busters and threw his plastic gloves to the wind and was in there with his hands. A madman – but funny nonetheless. I will but a list up in the coming weeks of the best places to shop plastic free in WA. I will always patronize Planet Ark in Fremantle and Kakula’s  Brothers and Sisters (Perth and Freo stores, respectively). This being said while your ol faithful’s should be supported it is also vital that we…

Speak Up. 

Being interviewed for Western Earth Carers, reflecting on my journey.

I was SO inspired by the Western Earth Carers regular ‘Plastic-Free’ weekly newsletter that was circulated to keep our spirits high. Within one of those newsletters (which for the life of me I cannot find in my inbox) were stories about people who had seen unnecessary plastic being used and had written to the companies to explain why this was a problem and suggest alternative solutions.  If companies do not know there is a demand for something they will not change it so make sure you let them know. This inspired my husband to write to the brand he uses for his Ventalin (and unavoidable plastic casing). He wanted to know why it was that they cannot just provide the canister new to be inserted into the plastic shell rather than having to throw it all away each time. I will update you as soon as we hear back.

Future

Now that it is August I guess I could lock all these experiences away in a dark dark memory box and pretend it never happened but the reality is I am forever changed. I have had a plastic wake up call and I don’t want to go back now. In fact I think that a month is actually the perfect transition time. It takes a month for all your little changes to really settle into an effortless routine.

The big change I have taken from this is a serious interest in ‘growing my own’. My husband and I are planning an entire week off this month to turn our garden into an edible sanctuary. Before I was formulating so many different ideas and options for the layout that really I was just procrastinating the whole plan into oblivion. What a great kick in the butt.

SO… I’d love to hear from you. How did you go? Challenges? Best changes to your lifestyle? Let me know in the comments…

If you liked this article you may like some of my other plastic related posts…

Perth Green Events – June 2012

I really do get so excited when I see Perth continually bringing awesome eco events to it’s stage. There seem to be so many fantastic community-driven activities to get involved in nowadays that it really gives you hope that the green change is coming. So I thought I would combine them all onto the one post for convenience. If you know of any that I have missed please either email me on oliveonblonde@gmail.com or leave a comment below. And if you attend any events I’d love to hear your feedback too! Get inspired…

1st June – Movie Night screening ‘Growing Change’

When – Friday, 1st June: Arrive and get seated at 7pm, movie commences at 7:30pm

Where – Naregebup Environmental Centre. 49 Safety Bay Road, (Opposite Lake Richmond), Rockingham

Bring – A plate of food to share, a snuggle rug and dress for winter.

Cost – Gold coin donation.

Go check out this inspiring documentary about Venezuela’s Food Revolution. Venezuela is conducting one of the most exciting experiments in the world: to grow a fair and sustainable food system. Throughout the documentary you will journey with the filmmaker through fishing villages, cocoa plantations and urban gardens all the while examining this growing social movement – a movement that is proving that communities can triumph over corporations.

If you would like more information about the event contact 08 9591 3077.

 

5th June – Eco Design and Renovation Workshop

When – Tuesday, 5thJune.  7pm – 8:30pm

Where – Flinders Park Community Hall, Hillarys (See the map here)

Cost – Free.

Josh Byrne: Picture courtesy of ABC Gardening Australia

A great event to learn about retrofitting, renovations and renewable energy. As part of the Think Green Energy Workshops series ABC TV Gardening Australia Presenter, Josh Byrne, will demonstrate how you can use passive solar design to keep your existing home, renovation or new building project comfortable all year round.

Bookings are essential. Register via email at info@joondalup.wa.gov.au or call 9400 4527.

8th June – Photographic Exhibition and Fundraiser for the animals of Bali: ‘Look Twice’

When – Friday, 8th June. 6:30pm – 9:30pm

Where – Tompkins Park Function Centre. Cnr of Dunkley Avenue and Canning Highway, Alfred Cove. (See the map here)

Cost – Free entry. Pay as you go bar facilities.

An excerpt from the event Facebook page says “The ‘Look Twice’ exhibition showcases the animals of Bali as never seen before. These uplifting and poignantly beautiful images reveal their strength and spirit, and are a testament to the valuable work undertaken to save their lives. You will fall in love with every one”.

Last year I blogged about my visit to BAWA (Bali Animal Welfare Association); the animals, people and philosophy of this tireless organisation stole my heart. 100% of the profits goes to BAWA which is funded entirely by individual donations, fundraisers and volunteers. The artworks are for sale and there will also a fabulous silent auction donated by generous local businesses.

The animals of Bali are extremely vulnerable and their suffering can be huge. If you want to learn more, I wrote about what the dogs alone are up against in their daily fight for survival. It was devastating to see but SO inspiring to see what the people over there are doing to support the animals! If you choose one event to support this month, please let it be this one.

(Here is the link to the BAW Facebook page.  They give frequent updates on the characters that are rescued and inspiring acts of kindness from people touched by the animals plight. Everyone loves a happy story).

Ceewee – a Bali dog that I met at the BAWA head office.

14th – 16th June – Human Rights Arts and Film Festival

When – Thursday 14th – Saturday 16th June. Varied – see timetable.

Where – Luna Cinema Paradiso. 164 James Street, Northbridge WA

Cost – Tickets range in price – approx. $16

When you combine a whole lot of award-winning films/documentaries with a worthy cause you can’t really lose? The Human Rights Arts and Film Festival is being run across Australia this month and is coming to Perth as well. See the Perth section of the website here for detailed timetables and to purchase tickets as well.

My not-to-be-missed choices are The Island President and Buffalo Girls:

The Island President: documents the President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, as he campaigns for the world to recognise that his nation (consisting of almost 2000 islands) is facing extinction at the hands of climate change. The backdrop of the film is the United Nation’s 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen where Nasheed is very much a small fish in a big pond. This documentary drives home the point that our actions are affecting the entire world, including some of our most vulnerable people. This multi-award winning film (including Toronto International Film Festival 2011) is paced by a breath-taking Radiohead score, just in case you needed more convincing to see it!

Buffalo Girls: reveals a growing issue in developing countries that I had no idea even existed!  In Thailand it is currently estimated that up to 30,000 children are involved in underground child-boxing tournaments to win money to support their poverty-stricken families. Following two eight-year old girls (Stam and Pet) film director Todd Kellstein wrestles with an increasingly common question that plagues human rights campaigners for developing nations – is this pathway exploitative or empowering?

15th June – Movie Night Screening of ‘Bag It’

When – Friday, 15th June. 6:30pm (if you want dinner) – 9pm

Where – Replants. 96 Wray Avenue (Near cnr of Wray Ave and Hampton Road – the west side)

Bring – Food, drink, chairs, blankets, pillows – anything that will take you to comfy town!

Cost – $5 for entry. $10 vego meal available.

This is a documentary about an ordinary guy who looked around one day and realised – ‘Wow. I have a lot of plastic in my life’. So he set himself a simple goal – to stop using plastic bags at the grocery store. This simple goal turned into an inspiring documentary that proves that you don’t need to be a scientist, politician or lawyer to use a little bit of knowledge to make a whole lot of difference. Take a look around. Is your life too plastic? Do you want to make a change? Get inspired! 

16th June – Plastic Free July Workshop

When – Saturday, 16th June. 1pm – 3:30pm

Where – Perth City Farm. 1 City Farm Place, Perth

Cost –  Free – as long as you are registered for Plastic Free July (click here if you aren’t)

It is about time that you start getting yourself excited and prepared for Plastic Free July. A group of Perth’s Metropolitan Regional Councils (Eastern, Western and Central) have banded together with the Earth Carers to host this informative session to get you ready for you month free of polymer! There will be plastic free demonstrations, hands on activities and tips and tricks from those in the know. It is being held at Perth City Farm to which is an experience to visit in itself!

The event is open to anyone registered for Plastic Free July (and you are welcome to bring a friend) but RSVP’s are essential. Either call Amy or Rebecca on 9384 4003 or email Earth Carers – earthcarers@wmrc.wa.gov.au

There is also a Facebook page for the event (here) and Plastic Free July (here)!

17th June – Children’s Forest Planting Day

 When – Sunday, 16th June. 10am – 1pm

Where – Whiteman Park. Park Entrance off Lord Street, Perth (map here)

Cost – Free.

What a great way to get your kids interested in conservation and nature. Men of the Trees are hosting the annual Children’s Forest Planting Day where you can bring your family to this absolutely gorgeous community forest for a bite to eat, free entertainment and to help by planting native seedlings in the twelfth stage of the forest! If anything is going to get kids passionate about the environment it’s mud and this is a great interactive way where they can get their hands dirty and have some fun.

For more information either call 9250 1888 or see this link.

21st June – Movie Night Screening of ‘Bag It’

When – Thursday, 21st June. 6:45pm – 8:15pm

Where – Presbyterian Ladies College. 14 McNeil Street, Peppermint Grove

This is a documentary about an ordinary guy who looked around one day and realised – ‘Wow. I have a lot of plastic in my life’. So he set himself a simple goal – to stop using plastic bags at the grocery store. This simple goal turned into an inspiring documentary that proves that you don’t need to be a scientist, politician or lawyer to use a little bit of knowledge to make a whole lot of difference. Take a look around. Is your life too plastic? Do you want to make a change? Get inspired!

30th June – Wholefood Cooking with Jude Blereau (Plastic Free July)

When – Saturday, 30th June. 1pm – 3pm

Where – The Grove Community Centre. 1 Leake St Peppermint Grove

Cost – Free – as long as you are registered for Plastic Free July (if not click here)

This is your last chance to get informed before your month of being Plastic Free starts! But if you are feeling a little worried then come and meet renowned Perth Wholefood Chef Jude Blereau (see her inspiring blog here) who will teach you how to shop, prepare and cook food with NO disposable plastic packaging. Learn and be surprised.

RSVP’s are essential – email on rsvp@wrmc.wa.gov.au or call on 9384 4003

There is also a Facebook page for the event here.

You may have also seen Jude’s book around…

 

Free Outdoor Movie: End of the Line (7th March 2012)

Imagine a world without fish.

That is the tagline of The End Of The Line – a movie that changed the way the world looked at seafood. The Economist describes it (accurately) as “The Inconvenient Truth about the oceans”. I have described the effects of over-fishing in my blog post today but for a short-track option watch the trailer below to see for yourself…

Tomorrow this incredibly powerful movie will be screened by the Western Earth Carers – that fabulous organisation that brought us the Less Is More Festival. Bring your own picnic (set yourself a challenge to go plastic free) and have a look into what you can do to minimise your contribution to our badly damaged oceans.

This is not a doomsday movie. It is an important resource that we all should see to understand how we can move forward and away from the looming disaster. This is not a film telling you to never eat fish again. Charles Clover who wrote the film still eats fish himself but is selective. Knowledge is power.

Sustainable Fishing expert Associate Professor Dr Jeremy Prince will present and  provide some credible insight to Australian fisheries which will be extremely interesting. Bring your family and friends and get informed.

Date:   Wednesday 7 March, 2012
Time:   6.00pm Picnic
7.00pm Screening and presentation

Place:  WMRC Administration Building outside on the lawn (For building map click here)

Cnr Marine Pde and Warton St, Cottesloe (For street map click here)
BYO:    Picnic and rug/beach chair etc