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. 

Eco Resolutions

Resolution: A firm decision to do or not to do something.

Why not take a stand and make your firm decisions in favour of our planet this year? In Australia, the 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998 and each decade since the 1940’s has been warmer than the last. Those are pretty scary statistics which I think we all need to take heed of. So here are some suggestions if you are looking to green up your resolutions.

Save water

“Thirsty World” – A photo-essay by Brent Stirton

Australia is the driest inhabited continent on the planet yet we are often completely carefree with our water usage. I often think of what a bizarre comparison it is when I drive past Aussie kids playing in sprinklers when there are kids in Africa that literally have to walk kilometres to get a bucket of water to live off. Especially when you realise that it is so, so, SO simple to save a couple of litres every day. I wrote a blog post that lists lots of simple ways that you can save water. Challenge yourself and see how many things on this list you can adopt.

Did you know… Only 3% of the world’s water is fresh and only 0.3% is available to humans.

Choose social activities that are eco-friendly

There is such beauty in the simple things in life. My husband and I the other day just went into Fremantle and lay down on the grass and looked up through the trees. It was so relaxing and lovely that we have decided we will be doing it a lot more often. Give it a go! Here are some suggestions of low impact activities that do you some good as well.

  • Instead of a restaurant meal… Go for a bike ride and finish it at a coffee shop (make sure they are Fair Trade conscious though!)
  • Instead of going clothes shopping… Make a map of the op-shops in the area and go exploring there instead. (you’ll save money and not look like everyone else)
  • Instead of playing Wii or Kinect or any other computer game… Play a boardgame. Beware – Trivial Pursuit can get aggressive. In our household anyway.
  • Instead of lying on the couch watching movies all day… Volunteer! Go walk dogs at the local shelter or be a companion for an elderly person. There are plenty of opportunities out there and you feel a hell of a lot better than you would have sitting on your bum all day.
  • Instead of ordering a cheap book online… go to a second hand bookshop or charity store and find a pre-loved beauty to bury yourself in. Appreciate what is the magnificence of a truly old book. I found a beauty the other day – see below!

My fave vintage find ever! A worn and pre-loved Dr Seuss ‘Yertle the Turtle’ book (which also happens to be one of my faves)

Reduce your household energy use

My husband and I have been graphing our power bills for a few months now and we challenge ourselves to reduce our energy consumption month on month. It has really worked for us and we have reduced our energy costs significantly. Amazing what a bit of competition can do? Here are some simple ways you can cut energy costs this year.

  • Close blinds and curtains during the day to prevent your house heating up
  • Try cold showers in summer! It can be really invigorating and cold water is better for both your skin and your hair.
  • Wash your clothes in cold water. It cleans just as well and saves 80% of the energy used in hot washes. (Exceptions for bedsheets or reusable nappies for health reasons)
  • Use the shortest washing cycle possible
  • Abolish your clothes dryer during summer!
  • Microwaves and gas burners use less than a quarter of the energy as an electric stove and half of a conventional oven
  • Use low watt lamps where possible. It often creates a far nicer atmosphere and uses a lot less power
  • Turn your fridge off when you go on holiday
  • Turn off all appliances at the plug!
  • Never leave lights on that don’t need to be on.

Did you know… Australia has the highest emissions per person in the industrialised world, 35% more than the US?

Green up your diet

His name is Winston

The great thing about this one is that it generally goes hand-in-hand with another very common resolution – Be Healthy. Eating organically, cutting meat and dairy from your diet, cooking whole foods; these are all small steps that we can all take towards a healthier body and a healthier planet. If you want to see how you can reduce your carbon footprint just by altering what you eat then see my comprehensive list here.

“When you go to the grocery store, you find that the cheapest calories are the ones that are going to make you the fattest – the added sugars and fats in processed foods”

Michael Pollan

Let your voice be heard

At the Walk Against Warming Protest with the Save Our Marine Life Crew

If you are passionate about something then let it show. There are social groups, organisations and companies all around the place crying out for volunteers. Volunteers can be involved in organising functions or fund-raisers, tend to animals, be part of the protest, rattle a tin for a day, man a stall or even just to write a letter to their local government. These places are great for meeting like-minded people, talking about new ideas or discovering new opportunities. Here are some ideas if you want to give it a go;

Ban completely useless crap from your life!

Plastic water bottles, plastic bags, paper towels – these are all completely useless products that you use one time and then throw away. Rid them from your life! There are so many funky reusable options that are around. Get yourself a reusable shopping bag, buy an insulated bottle to keep your water cool, get a microfibre cloth. Look at anything that you throw out and ask yourself if there were any alternatives that you could have used that won’t end up in landfill.

Here are a two of my favourite reusable shopping bags.

The FEED Bag ($70), By Lauren Bush

The brain behind this is Lauren Bush (pictured) who is also – surprisingly – the niece of former president George. She took inspiration from her travels as UN ambassador on the World Food Program. She is now CEO of FEED which has spawned an iconic range of reusable shopping bags made of burlap and organic cotton. Each bag purchased provides school meals for one child for one whole year.

(L) The converted clutch (R) The full bag with it’s designer, Lauren Bush

Buy it here.

The Big Fair Bag ($8.95), by Oxfam Shop

As soon as I saw these bags in Oxfam I loved them. They are eye-catching, fun and – best of all – Fair Trade. They come in four colours and are made by the Federation of Tibetan Cooperations in India (FTCI).

The FTCI provides an income for producers (Indian and Tibetan) and also supports the refugee community in India. The biggest part of profit is used through the Tibetan government in Exile for education and health with some of the profitsalso going towards better working conditions.

I love ’em!

Fun, Functional and Fair

Buy it here

Did you know?… In March 2002 Ireland introduced a tax on plastic bags. Each plastic bag handed out costs the consumer an extra 15 cents. Since the tax scheme began it is estimated that plastic bags available at stores have been decreased by 90%. 

Green Up Your Diet

Given that food is one of the four basic human needs it is safe to say that what we all eat has a huge impact on the planet. Take a good look at what you eat. Not just what you eat – how it is produced, where it is produced, is it heavily packaged, were any humans or creatures harmed or wronged to produce it. Our food choices are not flippant decisions that should be governed by our taste buds. There are not only ethical implications here but also a hell of a lot of potential emmissions. So as your New Years resolution why not try green up your diet. Here are some ways to go about it.

Go Vego

His name is Winston

Switching to a vegan diet saves 6.5 tonnes of CO2 per person every year. As renowned journalist and food writer Michael Pollan famously said;

“A vegan in a Hummer has a lighter carbon footprint than a beef eater in a Prius”

If veganism sounds a bit too scary at first, try vegetarianism or Freeganism (conciously making predominantly vegan choices as much as possible). Not only will you feel better for it and dramatically reduce your carbon footprint in the process but you will also save the lives of hundreds of animals every year. That’s reason enough for me.

Stop shopping at the supermarket

Ditch your supermarket for small local businesses or farmers markets. These large corporations are creating a scary monopoly in Australia and forcing prices down which is driving small businesses completely out of the market and backing producers into a corner. Farmers are forced to lower their costs (to ensure they get a slice of the Woolworths pie) but these rates are barely enough to cover the cost of production anyway. It leads to unsustainable practices (growing chemically is cheaper) and cruelty to the animals (quick processing or lack of basic care). And after all that what are we left with? Farmers, small businesses, consumers and our communities are unhappy or out of business and the end result is of poor nutritional quality anyway. Support local businesses and your own community.Here are some places you can start!

Buy Local

Now that you are avoiding supermarkets you will get to explore all the amazing local producers! There is nothing that I like more than going down to a farmers market and chatting with the producers or comparing notes with your fellow browsers. Some have live music, you can taste to fruit and it some places even let you take your dog. Not only is the experience nicer but buying local produce cuts down any emissions related to long travel times or produce that is grown out of season. Get to know your community while you shop – it is a really rewarding experience. I have listed a few of my favourite farmers markets here.

Speak with the growers!

Eat Seasonally

A big part of buying local is eating seasonal produce. I used to have a standard menu that I would eat rain, hail or shine and it never crossed my mind that it was being shipped from interstate or even internationally! Not only will you reduce energy usage (travel, refridgeration, petrol) but you will also save money as seasonal produce is cheaper due to availability. If you need to know what is in season in your area see this handy guide.

Go organic

Eating organically is better for you and the planet. It just makes sense. Eating up to 40 pesticides, fungicides and herbicides every apple just doens’t make sense. Spraying our land with chemicals that kills whatever unfortunate being it lands on is not good. Organic farmers work with the land to get the best from it and while it is a little more expensive you do get what you pay for in nutritional value and taste. I wrote an article about how you can make the transition to organic eating a bit easier, even on a budget. Healthy you, healthy planet.

Avoid Palm Oil

Palm Oil is in a lot of pre-packed foods and products and when it is not sustainably produced it is bad news.

I wrote this article explaining the ins and outs of palm oil (what it is, why it’s bad) and wrote a follow up guide to avoiding unsustainable palm in your products.

Make sure your not killing orangutans with your biscuits!

Buy Fair Trade

World Fair Trade Day

Make sure you look for the Fair Trade logo when buying food – especially when buying chocolate, coffee and tea. This excerpt from the FTA organisation website explains exactly why you should buy fair trade –

“Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices, Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives”.

Look for this logo!

Cook wholefoods, avoid packaging

These days we have tablets for everything, artificial flavours, frozen meals and the other day I even saw ‘Chicken In A Can’ – please hold my hair back for a moment while I barf. The bizarre thing is that all these magic pills we are ramming down our throats are derived from plants – why not just eat the plant? If you have a diet full of organic fruit and vegetables you will get all the vitamins you need all the while avoiding wasteful packaging. Frozen meals are labelled as ‘convenient’ but what on earth is convenient about paying ten bucks for a small tasteless meal in a non-recyclable container? Even for a week try and make all your food from scratch. You will end up feeling better and you will reduce your household waste.

Avoid GM Foods

Image courtesy of Tribal Energies

Genetically modified foods come from crops or food sources that have had their DNA modified by gene technology. In simple terms, scientists are trying to produce ‘Super Crops’ that have new characteristics making them cheaper, quicker and/or easier to grow. An example – scientists can take a gene from a deep water fish that lives in very cold ocean and fuse it into a strawberry DNA so it can survive in frosts. It is a contentious subject with some hailing it the solution to global hunger but others (including me) fearful of potential impact. No one knows what effects GM technology will have on our health and the environments. I will leave you with a principle that was first introduced at the Earth Summit of 1992 –

The Precautionary Principle

“Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation”

Principle #15 of the Rio Declaration, Rio Conference (or Earth Summit), 1992


Sustainable Christmas Gift Wish List

Well, I have given you a guide on how to buy sustainable Christmas presents – now here is my list of what I am hoping to buy (or in some cases – have already bought!). Hopefully it will give you some good ideas as well…

Oxfam Unwrapped Donation
By Oxfam, As much as you want to give

Fairtrade – Supports Organic and Sustainable Living

Tee hee

Oxfam Unwrapped Cards are a quirky and funny gift for the person that has everything! With slogans like “You know how you said you always wanted a bucket hygiene kit?” you can chose a cause to donate to and you get to give your loved one the card as a memento. You can buy supplies for a town in a developing country, help fund the construction of a well or donate towards innoculations for deadly but preventable diseases.

Here are some examples of what you can get buy – Continue reading

Foxes of Fancy – VIP Event

For me, my Thursdays are generally known as ‘Champagne Thursday’. I tend to get into my boxers and sit on the couch with a good book and bottle of bubbly (to myself – disugusting, I know). But not tonight! I was lucky enough to get invited to the Foxes of Fancy VIP night!

For those of you that haven’t already had the pleasure Continue reading

Your Sustainable Shopping Guide for Christmas

How thoughtful are Christmas gifts really?

Well, D-day is here! Today is the first day of December which means, Christmas is coming. Ah, Christmas! That magical time where we are encouraged to be frivolous with cash, credit cards and environmental consideration. Wait? No? That’s not right? Last I checked Christmas was about spending quality time with your family but a whole heap of department stores have me convinced that I am wrong. It is not about spending time at all, it is about spending money – and lots of it! On crap that wastes natural resources, is unfairly produced and is wrapped in a whole heap of packaging!

But it doesn’t have to be this way… Continue reading