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Sorry about the illustration quality… a quick lunchtime squiggle then rendered with a very outdated Paint program!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

Plastic Free July: Week 1

The Ehlers household has officially completed our first week plastic free (well… almost). It has been an eye-opening week and there have been revelations, personal doubts and – I won’t lie – some pregnant-lady tears. In my mind I have always been extremely conscientious in terms of my plastic consumption but it wasn’t until this challenge that I realised how much has been sneaking past the gates. But really, when the average person creates 726kg of plastic waste every year should I be so surprised?

Week 1 Summary

Since moving away from the very green suburb of Fremantle my households biggest failing has definitely been food shopping. Well… the coordination of it anyway. Probably 50% of the time, my husband and I find that after socialising, renovating, gardening, studying, cleaning, blogging and pure relaxation duties we have completely run out of time to do our weekly shop! Come Monday we found ourselves unprepared with one very anti-green, non-organic, highly packaged option: the supermarket.

Monday

On Monday the reality of our society’s plastic addiction hit me. Literally everything is wrapped in plastic! I tried to escape it in the fruit and vegetable section but even there it found me. Herbs, cauliflowers, berries – all wrapped in unnecessary plastic packaging. I grabbed some veggies and headed home knowing full well that we still had some plastic wrapped stock from the week before – by next week I am in trouble!

Tuesday

My gorgeous hubby had a win today. At first he was embarrassed about taking his own container to the butcher to get his meat supply but he soldiered on. The local butcher was more than happy to weigh the container, fill it with chicken and then deduct the weight from the end measurement. Not only was the guy really friendly but also took an interest in Plastic Free July. Who knows what type of mental seeds that may have planted?

Wednesday

Despair. As I mentioned in my last post about being positive this was the day that I… well… completely lost my shit. Looking down the end of each aisle all I could see were endless shelves of plastic. Trawling through them was even more disheartening. Even beautiful reusable glass jars were wrapped in plastic – why? It just breaks my heart. All I could think was that this is just one aisle, in one supermarket, in one suburb, in one state, in one very sparsely populated country on one globe. The true scale of this problem is terrifying. It was too much for this hormonal little lady to bear. I spoke to a shop assistant who told me Borax was being discontinued… I left in floods of tears. I gave up that night. My husband and I ended up at the pub where we shared a pizza made from ingredients which probably came wrapped in plastic. White flag is officially hoisted.

Every 15 seconds this amount of plastic garbage gets released into the sea. (From Out to Sea – The Plastic Garbage Project just opened in the Zurich Museum of Design / Switzerland)

Thursday

I was accosted by some co-workers today. I couldn’t buy some charity merchandise (wrapped in a plastic sleeve) and the lady could not understand why. She offered to remove the plastic and bin it and just give me the goods within. I explained that this was not the point and all of a sudden I was the anti-Christ – which is very bad when you work in the finance department of a religious organisation. I was accused of adding further stress to the poverty-stricken women of India, forcing Australians out of employment and being completely delusional. I tried to concentrate on all the people that have been so lovely and helpful on this short journey and also turned to my OOB Facebook friends for some boosting. We all decided that people who react so irrationally are doing so out of guilt, laziness and narrow-mindedness. And another bonus – it strengthened my resolve.

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere”

~ Frank A. Clark.  

One thing that raised my spirits beyond belief was a surprise package (absolutely plastic free) from the Western Earth Carers, the very environmental warriors that created Plastic Free July. Not only was there a gorgeous PFJ badge – which I have decided to now wear every time I go to any shop – but also an autographed copy of Jude Blereau’s book Wholefood for Children as a thank you for my relentless Plastic Free blogging (see all Jude’s books here!). Thank you Earth Carers for yet again picking me up and inspiring me!

Friday

Life is looking up! I found some goats cheese in a glass jar from Meredith Dairy. A quick google showed me that their website had a section dedicated to their environmental philosophy (always a great sign) and provided stacks of information about the animal welfare and how they approach sustainable farming. Have a look here. It was slightly expensive ($11) but this represented the quality as well as the true embodied cost – we also found we savored it more. I managed to enjoy the hell out of one cube before my husband dropped the jar and smashed it on our kitchen tiles. He actually had to wrestle me while I tried to rinse the glass off and continue gorging. Glass is probably not good for a baby. It has not been a great week.

Weekend = Time for Action

It seems our big challenge is our diet. My husband is a gluten-intolerant omnivore (gluten free things seem to always come in plastic) and I am fiercely attempting to be vegetarian while pregnant (even though I am getting some unsolicited advice on the subject). I have read a few books and do not believe – for me – that I could healthily manage a vegan pregnancy. So with this in mind, the hardest items for us to go plastic free are; speciality flours, pasta, nuts, seeds, spices, herbs and berries.

Solution #1 – Pantry Store

So on Saturday with all my own containers in tow I wandered down to the Pantry Kitchen in Rockingham City. I asked the woman very nicely if she could weigh my containers prior to filling and then deduct the weight from the total. Unfortunately she said it would be ‘a bit of an effort’ and while she could do it she would rather not. Breathe. All fairness to her, at the very moment I approached her 20 other customers materialised from nowhere and so she may have felt some heat from the crowd. I didn’t need too much and I wasn’t buying anything like saffron or pine-nuts so I took the 20gram tax in my stride. For now.

But hear this lazy store-person (readers, please imagine that I am Liam Neeson in Taken) I don’t know who you are but I will return, I will bring my own containers and I will kill you – no! I mean FILL THEM. I will fill them!

Lady, you have been warned.

I will fill them.

Solution #2 – Farmers Market

On Sunday we braved Arctic conditions to visit the Peel Farmers Market. It was absolutely tiny but still very fruitful (and fruit full!). Here we found plastic free herbs, amazing homemade jams, lemon curd, organic sourdough loaves and lots of organic produce: leafy greens, capsicums, ginger and apples! Not only did we get some beautiful produce we also got to discover new things (Mustard greens – A party in my mouth!) and meet great new people who could tell me all about how and where the produce was grown.

I was a bit disappointed by one gentleman that had a stall at which everything was wrapped in plastic. While I would generally ignore this and move on there were some precious ruby’s catching my eye… STRAWBERRIES! I approached him and told him about my plastic free challenge and asked if he could give me the red jewels without the container and then (bonus) reuse it! He told me there was absolutely no point but said he would ‘probably’ reuse it. How’s that for a vote of confidence? He then started telling me that plastic was the way of the future before he started questioning if the car I came in was made of plastic. I attempted to explain single-use plastic to him but cut my losses and decided I didn’t want to give him any of my money’s anyway. I went back to Victor (from Victors Gourmet Delights) and tested out all his delicious sauces and preserves.

The Congruency Secret

A guest post by Rebecca Dettman on my favorite wellness blog (The Wellness Warrior) was incredibly timely this morning. It was called The Congruency Secret (see the whole article here) and it asks the very simple but ultimately puzzling question:

Do your behaviours match your intentions?

This week I realised that lately, mine haven’t. I hate the supermarket and this year vowed never to be in one – yet time (lack of) and convenience sucked me in and I found myself buying non-organic food and supporting a corporation that I despise. I have also proven that those ‘impossible to avoid’ plastics are possible to avoid. Before this challenge I was coasting along and letting very achievable goals slip past me rather than taking the bull by the horns and fighting harder for the environment.

So, this week I intend to make my own Rice milk and for the first time in my life attempt homemade pasta. I am living more creatively and learning new skills all the way. I have used the pain of my berry loss to kick my little procrastinating butt into action and we are finally getting the vegetable patch finished. My hubby and I are booking a week in August off work and are attacking our garden (I will blog about it of course). Then I will have miiiiillions of berries.

Lessons I Have Learnt

Taking into account that I must be proactive;

  • I will now order my food online from a local Organic business that delivers. If I am constantly running out of time to get to the shops then this is an easy solution that will avoid me missing out on my organic produce and giving my pennies to the supermarket.
  • I will book in a monthly trip to Fremantle to buy all of my ingredients in bulk… rather than buying bits here and there that last me a week at most.
  • I will strive to only support local business and inspiring individuals that really make a difference.

Any readers who are doing the Plastic Free July Challenge please let me know how you’ve been going in the comments! Any innovations, challenges, lovely reactions, not so lovely (I’m still looking at you Strawberry Man) or any make your own experiments. I would love to hear!

Big News, Little Facelift and A Whole New View

Well it has been quite a while since I got my blogging clogs on… two whole months in fact. And my, my how much can change in such a short time! Firstly, I’d like to say thanks to all the little emails and messages that I got, checking I was still alive and greening. I am! And after a two month interlude I feel that not only should I give a bit of an explanation on where the hell I’ve been but also a re-launch of sorts. I am taking the blog in a slightly different direction and wanted to explain how I got there and the little journey I have been on.

The Big News

Back in March I started feeling really sick and really tired. There are some fairly obvious deductions a young lady can make about those symptoms and after a quick dash to the chemist it was confirmed – we are expecting a little bundle of joy! My gorgeous husband and I are ridiculously excited about the bub but I have encountered one not-so-tiny drawback… morning sickness. Except it was actually all-day-all-night sickness! This is not the type of green I like to promote on my blog! So even though I have been dying to update my blog I have been completely incapacitated. My amazing husband has seriously picked up the slack and has basically spent the past few weeks carting in buckets and buckets of raspberries – Hero! Slowly, slowly it is starting to get better though so it is onwards and outwards from here my friends!

Nicknamed Yertle.

The Move

In some weird collision of fate my little family has made the move back into the home we own rather than our gorgeous shabby rental in Freo. The timing was partly perfect (due to the impending expansion of our brood) but also a tad upsetting as Secret Harbour is a decidedly less eco suburb. I have moved past the devastation though and I am now actually really excited about this new challenge! In Fremantle it is expected and oh, so easy to be environmentally friendly. Don’t get me wrong, that is fab, but my blog is about encouraging people to be sustainable which includes a large amount of people who may not have all the resources conveniently at their fingertips! I am now one of those people. I will be constantly reminded about how hard choosing the more sustainable, ethical option can be for some people and therefore will make sure I give as many options, ideas and resources as possible.

We have set sail for the coast.

What does this all mean for the blog?

Even though I have been splitting my time between moving house and vomiting (charming beast aren’t it?) it has, in a way, been great having a bit of time away from the blog. It has given me time to look from afar, think about what I enjoy writing about most, seeing which posts you guys like reading the most and just pondering how I want to approach life in general. Here is what I came up with…

More Positive Posts

In the past I have undertaken massive and draining articles about huge issues like the other GFC (the Global Fish Crisis) or Palm Oil. The main reason I wrote these was because before looking at how to change bad habits, I like to ensure I am absolutely the full bottle on the issue myself. I used it almost as a self-education process. But one thing I have noticed is that even though the posts are important, reading about catastrophe after catastrophe can be, well, bloody depressing. I also found it made me narrow-minded and a bit cockeyed really – a Green Nazi if you will.

We definitely all need to make sure we know exactly what is happening in the world – knowledge is power – but I think it is also SO important to focus on what we can do as well as acknowledging the good that is being done already. Use success stories as your cheer squad – prevent that completely unconstructive feeling of hopelessness. So while I will touch on the nitty gritty I will mainly focus on what we can all do to avoid contributing negatively to the planet. This being said… there will be the occasional issue that I won’t be able to pass on – Monsanto, I’m looking at you punks!

There’s still a whole lotta beauty in the world!

Health Focus (With Occasional Baby Bits)

I want to make my house the perfect healthy environment for a little munchkin to grow up in which for me equates to no chemicals, organic food and a happy lifestyle. And – according to Mrs Obama – that means being selfish and looking after myself! This is a new concept to me. So I am looking forward to exploring and experimenting with natural therapies, meditation, yoga, spending time outdoors, possibly throwing away the TV and cooking foods from scratch. And updating my blog with the progress of course.

More DIY and Upcycling

Now that I am in my own home I am able to renovate, retrofit and plant! I have so many projects that I just didn’t have space for in the last place so I am really excited to now have the ability. Hopefully I can give ideas on simple DIY ways to be more sustainable (eg; growing your own food) as well as fun ways to reduce your impact (like making your own products, furniture and art). I will also commit to using as many (if not all) recycled and reclaimed materials rather than just being one of those craft blogs that just goes out and buys everything new!

Bunting… or “Funting” if you will?

And Finally…

In keeping with the selfish theme I am just going to start enjoying life a bit more. Get out there exploring (with my camera always in tow so that I can share my virtual picture album). Be happy. Read some books. Draw.  Smooch my husband a bit more. Take the scenic route. Marvel at simple beautiful things… like strawberries! Choose some crazy wallpaper just because it makes me laugh. Read Dr Seuss every day. Judge less. Do more for animals. Finally, hug that Boab in Kings Park (his name is George). Celebrate the good that is being done rather than mourning all the bad. I have come to the conclusion that a smile will change a lot more minds than a big, ranting frown will! So here goes.

Barefoot and without a care in the world.

P.S. Just in case you are wondering what the inspiration is behind this sudden perspective change then please take some time out and watch the video below. Alice Herz Sommer provided me with a virtual kick in the arse. When I’m 108 I want to be just like her…

“I look where it is good. I know about the bad, but I look at the good thing” 

– Alice Herz Sommer, Happiest Woman In The World! 

DIY Herbal Facial Toner

Hate to harp on about it… but I hate single-use items. Things like plastic containers and wet-wipes. Things often found in cosmetics. So as I suggested in my DIY Cucumber and Coconut Facial Cleanser, the best place to start if you want to avoid these things is by making your own cosmetics.

I decided to make a herbal toner because my herb pots are going crazy at the moment. My first thought was to head for the mint but after a little research I discovered I was over-looking a herbal superstar in my sage plants.

Health Benefits of Sage

  1. Sage is rich in calcium and vitamin A which are needed for daily cell regeneration. In short it stimulates cell renewal and increases blood circulation which minimise the onset of wrinkles.
  2. Sage is high in Ursolic acid which acts as a natural exfoliant and antiseptic and treats acne, eczema and skin fungus.
  3. Sage has astringent properties which will help clear your skin and make it soft and smooth.
  4. Sage oil also assists in improving skin conditions like athlete’s foot and chapped skin as well as relieving symptoms of eczema and psoriasis.
  5. Because it increases blood circulation it is the perfect weapon for cellulite. Weekly use of sage oil on cellulite affected areas has been shown to reduce it.
  6. The oil is great for brittle and dry hair.
  7. Tastes and feels nice and is a pretty colour.

Ingredients

  • 100 gms fresh sage leaves (or 40grams dried sage)
  • 400 mls boiling water
  • 400 mls Apple Cider Vinegar
Pug and Allen consider the health benefits of sage

Pug and Allen consider the health benefits of sage

Method

  • Place chopped fresh or dried sage leaves in a bowl.
  • Pour boiling water over the leaves.
  • Cover the infusion and allow to steep for 15 minutes.
  • Drain the liquid from the sage leaves and discard the leaves and pour the infusion into a measuring cup.
  • Pour an equal amount of cider vinegar into the measuring cup with the infusion and mix the liquids gently.
  • Pour it into a reused glass bottle and close tightly.

Storage

  • Store your sage facial toner in the refrigerator.
  • This toner will last a long time – a couple of months.

Application

  • Use your sage facial toner after cleansing.
  • Moisten a cloth with the toner and wipe gently over your face
  • Pat your skin with warm water.
If you have sensitive skin and it stings or shows irritation then stop using the toner. However, my husband has very sensitive skin and he was absolutely fine and actually loves the product.
Good luck and if you give it a go let me know! 

Nicole Foss – How To Prepare For The Upcoming Financial Crisis

Fremantle Town Hall

So, last Friday night at around 7:46pm my brain exploded. It happened without warning and hurt quite a lot. When I decided to attend a seminar starring world renowned Peak Oil and Finance Analyst Nicole Foss I, somewhat stupidly,  thought I was going to be delivered with a bit of hope! Instead I was handed the dirty, stinking truth. We are in big economic, social and environmental trouble – at both an individual and global scale.

The crowd... about to get their minds blown

I intended for this post to provide a really succinct summary of the presentation in my own voice. Unfortunately, due to the size of the issue it could not be whittled down any more than Nicole already did – it is incredible that she managed to explain such a gigantic problem and possible solutions within an hour! Either way – I have employed her skills again and embedded youtube videos of her explaining. They are somewhat lengthy but really are worth watching. I just wanted to explain that it wasn’t laziness… just inability.

Who Is Nicole Foss?

Sweet looking... but don't be fooled. She will give you nightmares.

Nicole (who also goes by the moniker Stoneleigh) is virtually a giant brain with legs. She has degrees in biology, neuroscience, psychology, international law and air & water pollution. Like I said… GIANT BRAIN. She was also the Editor of The Oil Drum Canada where she wrote about peak oil and finance and now spends her days as co-editor of The Automatic Earth. I hate to say it but with all those achievements under her belt I expected to be fronted with the stereotypical academic -pompous, stuffy and possibly a little bit detached. Nicole shattered any expectations. Despite her formidable intelligence Nicole managed to communicate complex problems in a fairly easy to understand way.

What Is The Problem?

Nicole started by explaining that we need to focus on the financial aspect of this global problem not because it was the most important aspect of the crisis but instead because it has the shortest timeframe to work with. In other words – the financial ‘bubble’ is going to burst very soon. She spoke a lot about ‘bubbles’ and it was the part of her talk that resonated with me the most – perhaps because it was the simplest concept to grasp. (*ten minutes passes). Maybe it is still not simple enough for me to explain but when Nicole says it, it at least sounds simple. So here she is to do exactly that…

How do we prepare ourselves?

Well, she didn’t mince words. I kept checking myself because I couldn’t believe this little lady in the flowy sleeves with the sweet Canadian accent was saying all these mean things. She broke the news that the only ‘solution’ to this problem was adequate preparation of our homes, our communities and ourselves. She asked everyone to consider how they fulfil the big needs of their lives i.e. how do you get your heat, power, water, transport and nutrition? For example do you have a water filter? Nicole said that she wasn’t saying that water was about to run out but that the quality may degrade – it takes a lot of systems all running smoothly to produce potable water! Do you have practical skills? It left me looking at my home and thinking “Wow! If I didn’t have a car, power supply or communication… I would really be stuffed”. Below Nicole explains what she has done to prepare and what she suggests that you could do also. Well worth a watch.

If You Want To See Her…

Even though I have painted the whole thing as a negative experience it really wasn’t. It was eye-opening that is for sure but you need to have the information (no matter how scary) to pick yourself up and get ready for action. Nicole will be presenting on Sunday, March 11th 10am – 4pm at an All Day Ecoburbia Conference and the Fremantle Town Hall. It will cost $20 and is well worth it.

If you would like to see Nicole Foss please RSVP to Shani Graham on stay@thepaintedfish.com.au or 0417 941 991

Shani rallying the crowd

Loved all the sustainable transport outside the Town Hall!

Make Your Own Toothpaste

My finished toothpaste

I discovered how to make my own toothpaste on Saturday and now I can categorically say that I won’t be turning back. In this previous post, I explained the reasons why you might want to look into this alternative rather than your average over-packaged, chemical-ridden, animal-tested varieties… But on top of that, there is something so fun about making it yourself! Getting your nutty professor on and testing out different mixes and scents.

The mix that Shani (from Ecoburbia and The Painted Fish) showed us works well for me, but is also the first I have tried. She also gave two other recipes which I will try once I am up with this batch. But for now…this one works swell. Give it a try.

Ingredients

(For tips on where to get these ingredients, see Notes)

  • 4 tsp Bicarb Soda (aka Baking Soda)
  • 1 tsp Salt (table is fine, or crush sea salt)
  • Glycerine (or Glycerol) – as much as needed to make a paste
  • Recycled jar or container

Optional ingredients

  • Essential Oils (like peppermint, vanilla) – make sure they are food-grade!
  • Lemon or Lime peel (dried and ground)
  • Mint leaves – finely chopped
  • Stevia leaves – dried and ground

Method

  1. Mix the Bicarb soda and salt in your container with a spoon
  2. Add Glycerine bit by bit while stirring until you get a smooth paste
  3. Add one of the optional ingredients here and stir. I used Peppermint Oil and it was lovely. It gave the traditional toothpaste-y smell which is good when you are getting used to a new taste.

My finished product! Peppermint Toothpaste.

Note – Where to buy

  • Bicarb Soda – Found in supermarkets, deli’s  etc. Try and aim for bulk to reduce packaging – Planet Ark in Freo sells it in 5kg boxes
  • Sea salt – best found at stores like Kakula’s Brothers or Sisters where you can buy bulk herbs and spices for a low price.
  • Glycerine / Glycerol – can be bought at chemists.
  • Essential Oils – Food grade essential oils can be found at healthstores. Manna Wholefoods in Freo definitely stocks it.

Review

The most important thing you need to realise here is also a very obvious point – this is not your standard toothpaste. You don’t have the Sodium lauryl sulfate in there to make it all foamy, there aren’t artificial sweeteners to make it taste like an after dinner mint and you have put a teaspoon of salt in the mix! At first, I was a very excited…

Eager beaver…

There is definitely a salty tang to it but there is also a sweet minty taste too (if you used the oil, as I did). The Glycerol has quite a sweet taste to it and gives it the smooth pasty consistency which is quite nice – it almost feels like you are just brushing with a wet brush. The bicarb soda acts as the cleansing agent (you can actually feel that working) and the salt is the abrasive. All in all it is not bad. Whenever I felt myself noticing it I just imagined I was at the beach and asked myself if I would mind if a little salt water got in my mouth. Nope.

hmmm… Think about the beach….

But then… I lost my head. I swallowed a bit of the stuff. Shit got crazy…

DON’T SWALLOW THE TOOTHPASTE

I really did consider not putting that photo and tip in… and this is not only because of how physically flattering it is for my face (obviously). I wanted to be honest about the experience and not promise some amazing flavour just to get you to try it! This is not a reason to consider not trying it… It is no different to your average toothpaste: If you swallow it you are going to be met with a few fairly unpleasant sensations. Don’t swallow it. It tastes like salt. Imagining I was at the beach did nothing to help me then, although my husband (the photographer) thought it was the funniest thing he had seen all week.

After our first few teething problems I am truly sold on this DIY toothpaste. My husband has converted as well and we honestly feel that it does wonders. Our teeth look whiter and we have breath tested each other at different points throughout the day and passed with flying colours. It is also just a damn good feeling to know that you are not contributing to environmental damage, animal cruelty and an overall bad system every morning and afternoon. I hope you enjoy it.