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

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Happy Easter!

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

Planning A Sustainable Garden (for dummies)

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

Hear, hear Lao Tzu! Up until a few months ago I had been blankly staring at my backyard with my feet firmly planted… stubbornly refusing to take that first step. I would then retire into my lounge, read a bit more about permaculture, then return to the garden to stare at it a bit longer. This had been going on for 3 years! But at 5 months pregnant I got a serious bee in my bonnet and decided that enough was enough – I needed to just jump in. But wouldn’t you be stumped too? Look at the space I had to contend with!…

My dad once described it as a “desolate and despairing garden”. He was then integral in getting it started on its way to productive, zen zone. Now that I have slapped that first splodge of colour onto the canvas all the other strokes are just flowing which is why I decided to write this post. It is for all those out there, like me, who have been rendered useless by the endless possibilities of your patch of paradise. Here is my completely amateur advice on how to avoid getting bogged down and get started on planning your sustainable garden!

Step 1 – Be informed but don’t go overboard!

This is where I fell down. Determined to be a prodigious green thumb I set about reading every single book I could get my hands on about sustainable gardening. I studied up on different styles of gardening, growing in plots, hydroponics, crop rotation and companion planting. I took OCD style notes and every time I came across a new term I would note it down and then go look for information on that particular technique. It was tiring and endless and from it I learnt two things;

  1. You will never know everything there is to know about gardening. No one will. And those that think they do would probably have very heated debates with other green gurus. This leads me to my next point…
  2. There are a hundred different opinions on how best to create a sustainable garden and a lot of them clash!!!

So with those two bits of information in your hot little hands it is time for step 2.

Step 2 – Pick Your Gardening Style and Run With It!

Follow me on Instagram @oliveonblonde

To avoid getting completely flummoxed by the endless possibilities and theories just pick a style and stick to it. From very early on I had decided on some set principles for my garden. Some things you may want to consider when setting your own rules are;

  • What do you want to use your garden for? For example do you want room to relax out there or is it primarily a productive space? Do you want a space for kids to run in? Do you want a meandering garden path? Dream big but be realistic.
  • Are you going to commit to a chemical-free garden?
  • Do you want your area to be food producing or decorative or a mix of the two?
  • Do you want your garden to be water wise? This may mean turfing the turf and choosing particular plants (see next point).
  • What sort of plants do you want? This will really be governed by your location. If you live (like I do) in a very hot climate you may want to look into drought resistant plants. I live coastally so they also need to be hardy little suckers. I also want them to be bird and bug attracting which means I lean towards natives.

Once I had figured out the ‘premise’ of my yard it was a lot easier to step forward. I decided on a very productive space where most of the plants have a purpose be they edible or medicinal. I want lots of bird and bee attracting natives. I do not want to use chemicals and I would like it to be water wise… this means saying goodbye to our massive patch of lawn.

I also picked out some ‘heroes’. These were gardeners that gave advice that resonated with me and seemed practical. If I needed information I would then Google them. For the record my personal heroes are Don Burke and Josh Byrne.

Step 3 –Know Your Site…

How do you know how much paint you are going to need if you don’t know the size of the canvas? There are a few basic things you need to know before you start and this is why I suggest you create a site plan.  Whether you have a patio or a large plot of land mark out the following;

  • Perimeter of your space
  • Any garden beds
  • Any large established plants/trees
  • Any structures (paving, sheds etc)
  • Fences (and get an approximate height so you can think about the shadows they cast)
  • Orientation (this is important re; sun direction)

Here is one of my original site plans:

Once you have this basic site plan you need to add the next layer of information. This is where you need to…

Step 4 – …Know the Site Basics

I have created a gardening file which is my bible. This is where I have recorded the site plan and all these other details. I recommend starting one. Things to add to it are;

Sunshine

These guys love the sun!

What is the suns path across your garden?  Some people (like my husband) will know the path the sun follows just based on the orientation of the garden however it always seems to boggle me. If you can’t figure out just by N-S-E-W logic be archaic like me and go into your yard every few hours and note where the sun is at that time (on your site map).

Another sneaky trick I used (so I could get an idea of how the sun behaves in different seasons) was using Near Map. This is like Google Maps with the added advantage of you being able to look back at the site over different points of time. I looked back over the seasons and good see that a garden bed of ours that gets lots of sun in summer gets absolutely zilch in winter. This greatly affected what plants we choose for this location.

Which areas get morning sun and which bear the brunt of the afternoon sun? In Perth (where the summers are hot) veggie patches loooove morning sun and hate the afternoon.

Soil Type

There are three main soil types – clay, loam and sand. We all want Loam Soil to pick us to be on their team but this is rare. Here is a good guide from my mate Don Burke on testing your soil type. Once you know your soil you will know exactly what you need to do to ‘work it up’ – i.e. make it nice and hospitable for the plants you want.

A lot of people fall for the ‘easy’ option of just buying soil for their yard. It was the number one suggestion I was given by family, friends and (unsurprisingly) landscape supply companies.  It is important to note is that  getting nice soil in Australia is extremely hard – even those that claim “organic premium soil”. Most soils sold are alluvial silts which have been mined from riverbeds. Not only is this damaging to the river systems but the materials don’t work well. Don Burke says (in his awesome book Organic: Don Burke’s Guide to Growing Organic Food);

“Don’t be fooled… Your own soil is good, It is the best soil that you can ever get. Work that soil up with compost, manures, gypsum etc and it will be perfect. So many people said their soil is no good…. Never ever let any of your soil leave your property. Is is pure gold.”

It was this advice that made me persevere with my sandy sandy soil and now – after many tonnes of cow and sheep manure – I have beautiful soil to plant in. It is amazing how excited one can be from dirt when you pour the amount of love into it that we have.

Soil Acidity

Knowing your soil acidity is really important! It sounds like you need a science degree to do this but you do not. Go to your local gardening/home improvements store and get a tester (they range from $10 – $30). Here’s some great information about what to do once you know your soil acidity level.

I live coastally so I have very sandy soil which calls for lots of manure and compost to be added. Here is where I would suggest also talking to a local nursery and asking what type of manure you need. I was offered a few free trailer loads of horse manure which I was a few seconds away from snapping up. After a quick chat to my new best friend at the nursery he told me that horse manure would actually make my soil even more alkaline and completely ruin my chances for growing vegetables successfully. I specifically needed cow/sheep manure. Use the local knowledge available to you!!!

Climate Zone

When you are purchasing seeds/seedlings you will also be told what Climate Zones they are appropriate for e.g. temperate, tropical. Also if you are like me and are reading millions of books and choosing your plants then you will need to know this as it will (sadly) eliminate some choices. I know that I can’t grow apples because I don’t like in an area that gets frost! Boo. Find out your zone here.

Step 5 – Get Planning

Our little herb garden!

So. Hopefully that gives you a good idea on what you need to consider before you get started. Now it’s time for a bit of research so you can get together a plan (which will include a budget) for your yard.

An example of the research you can do: when choosing plants you should now have an idea of what you want i.e. I need a tree here for shade, I need a bush here for hedging. Investigate plants that tick all your boxes via your local nurseries and websites. A great tool for people in Perth is the Water Corporations database of WaterWise plants. I couldn’t recommend it more – see here.  Below is a peek at our WaterWise native trees (Golden Peppermints and Kings Park Callistemons). Since planting them I’ve noticed so many different birds that we hadn’t seen before  in our garden. Goal 1 – achieved!

I really hope that the post was helpful for those that were like me and got lost in all the choices. I just wanted to highlight the need-to-know information and really get across that the best thing you can do is get started. when I get a moment next I will go for a little guided tour through our budding garden. It isn’t pretty yet… but we have got started and that is the main thing.

Goodwill Wines – Plonk That Makes You Feel Good!

I have always said that if it was more socially acceptable, I would have wine on my muesli for breakfast. Well… looks like my dreams came true! I would like to shine the spotlight on one of my absolute favourite Australian companies – Goodwill Wine. Wine with a conscience? Fill me up, Buttercup!

The Bittersweet Background Story

Human kindness rises from the ashes.

I am sure the Black Saturday bushfires will replay in the nightmares of many Australians. I think of it as one of the “I remember where I was when” moments. The founders of Goodwill, David Laity and Ali Rees, were two of the many that lost all their worldly goods (home and job) in the fire but – most importantly – escaped with their lives. They credit the unwavering kindness and support they received in these tough times as the reason they were able to make it through and rebuild. Moving forward they vowed to use kindness as way of rebuilding their own future! Using funds donated from the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal (read the touching thank-you section here), Goodwill Wine is paying it forward and sending some seriously good karma out into the world. I love nothing more than those that refuse to become victims and instead choose to make any situation (no matter how Black) bright again!

The Concept

An example of a Goodwill Wine Label (this one supporting CFA)

Goodwill Wine is an online wine store with a massive difference. Firstly they are dedicated to sourcing the best quality boutique wine from independent wineries across Australia. In their own words “We are not about making money from bulk, cheap wine. Our commitment is to quality.” But the major draw is that they are a licensed fundraiser which pledges 50% of the profit (a minimum of $20 per case) to a charity of your choice! You even get a pretty customised label dedicated to your charity.

The Charities They Support

Any registered charity or NFP in Australia!!! Goodwill have a massive list of profiled charities which come with their own customised label (see the list here) or you can choose the generic ‘Goodwill Label’ and select any registered organisation in Australia to receive the profit of your purchase! Most of the charities have a green focus on conservation and animal rights/welfare and if you can think of a charity that would benefit Goodwill implore you to contact them and they will try their darndest to get them involved. Another benefit is you can click on any charity profile and see how much Goodwill has donated to them so far – here is the Animals Australia page to show what I mean or see the image below.

An example of the Edgars Mission charity profile

The Wine

There is a seriously large range of wine to choose from – see them all here. You can buy a minimum of 6 bottles and then the amounts range from 12, 24 (case) and some allow up to 60 bottles of the same wine at a time. For all you vegans out there they even have Vegan Mixed cases without any of those nasty fining agents!

The Environmental Cred

Goodwill Wine not only uses 100% recycled cartons but they also offset all their freighting around the country with Greenfleet (another super company!) planting a variety of native trees in permanent forests that help to reduce soil erosion and provide essential habitat for native wildlife! Are you as in love with this company as I am?

All in all…

I can’t think of more reasons to love and support this company and along with it some truly deserving charities. Coming up to Christmas I am already putting my orders in and can’t wait to tell the receivers of each bottle about the company and spread the good word. If you work in a company that gifts wine bottles to Clients why not suggest using them? This company is checking all the boxes and I am sure now that you know about them you will choose to support them too!

It’s simple: Good Wine, Good Price, Goodwill.

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…

5 Steps To Be Plastic Free

Congratulations! – you have registered yourself for the Plastic Free July challenge! Be proud of yourself for taking the leap. (If you haven’t signed up yet, that’s okay too… just click here to go to the registration page). I can guarantee you that after this challenge you will look at your buying habits very differently. Even the seasoned ethical consumer can trip up on an overzealous plastic addiction because these polymers are just so damn abundant in our society and sometimes very sneaky too! This is why it is great to be as organized as possible for the challenge. I will borrow some pretty words from a Mr Henry Hartman here;

“Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity”

Thanks to this amazing Western Earth Carers initiative we have all got the opportunity, now we just need to get ourselves prepared! Here are my Top 5 tips on how to get prepared;

Step 1: Audit Yourself

Monitor your plastic habits. Look at everything you consume for at least a few days but ideally try for a week. There are plenty of ways to keep track of how much plastic you are accumulating depending on how pernickety you want to be;

  1. Mark it in your diary.
  2. Keep a notebook on hand.
  3. Keep all your receipts and highlight every product that contained plastic.
  4. Collect it all. One of the rules of the challenge is to have a Dilemma Bag to store every bit of plastic you accrue. Why not have a ‘Before Bag’ and collect all the plastic you use when you aren’t being conscious about it. Then you can compare it at the end of the challenge to see how much you saved. It can be kind of like those infomercial diet adverts – except it would actually be real!

If you want to be particularly fastidious about it be sure to note down the incidental plastics too, things like drinking straws.

Step 2: Highlight Your Problem Areas, Create Solutions

After you’ve monitored your habits you will basically have your own tailored infographic detailing how much plastic infiltrates your life on a day-to-day basis. This is a great way to forecast any problem area’s and ensure that you have a contingency plan in place!

I originally listed every possible problem area I could think of within the article but it is such a heeeuuuuge topic that the post started to look like War and Peace.  So I am formulating that to be a separate article for next week. In the meantime, here are some examples of my problem areas and solutions I am thinking about employing;

Lunch on the run

I always seem to end up with a bunch of Chinese takeaway containers that once carried my salady goodness. It is all down to being rushed and disorganized!

Solution #1: Going to make up a task board at home to be more organised.

Solution #2: Will take my own container everywhere

Solution #3: Will eat at the actual café more – enjoy a good ol’ fashioned plate of salad!

Cosmetics – mascara and concealer especially.

Solution: Researching companies that do not use plastic.

Skittles

I am pregnant and slightly obsessed with these delicious little pebbles…

Solution:  BUT they have no nutritional value so I am happy to cut these out altogether.

Crackers 

Why do they come wrapped in plastic in a cardboard box?

Solution: Investigating how to make my own.

Milk

Unfortunately all rice/soy/oat milk containers come in those tetramilk packs which are lined with plastic and often have plastic lids too.

Solution: I am currently investigating how to make my own.

**Editors Note: Since last year I am now pretty professional at making my own nut milks! See how here.

Step 3: Assemble Your Plastic Free Living Kit

There are a few tools that will make living a plastic free life a hell of a lot easier. I have made the rule that if the only option is plastic I will abstain from buying it – you can draw your own line in the sand on that one – but with this kit you will rarely need to go without. One thing I do recommend is having a slightly roomier handbag, satchel, laptop bag or backpack to accommodate for the extra loot. Here is my list of must haves;

Reusable shopping bags

If you go to the E-String Bags website they have a plastic bag counter in the left navigation column. It shows the Australian and Worldwide Year To Date usage of plastic bags. Watching those numbers fly by really drives home the scale of the issue with plastic bags. I don’t think there is anything more tragic than a major problem that has such an easy solution. Either way, hopefully you already have a few of these but if not you can find them everywhere.

The Original Onya Bag

I can’t go past a WA hero Onya BagsBONUS you get to support a sustainable local business! They are convenient, colourful and made from recycled bottles. You can buy these online as well as all around the country (in cities and regional areas). See the stockists here.

Onya also have a bazillion other awesome products like a reusable food cover and FINALLY a reusable doggy poo/nappy bag.

String Bags (for fruit and veg)

Using plastic bags for vegetables is really bloody unnecessary. It is a funny one though because I bet most people don’t even realise they are doing it – I certainly didn’t. One day a friend picked me up on the fact that I was wrapping one capsicum in a bag; I was on autopilot. Since that day I just load all my lose fruit and veg into my basket but some people may find it a bit time consuming. If you are one of those people then…

  • E-string bags are perfect and they are only $3.25 each. They’re made of organic cotton and can be bunched up to be really small but are also super stretchy so can accommodate for any surprise shopping excursions too! Buy them here.

E-String Organic Cotton Bags

BYO Coffee Cups

Here’s a mindboggling thought – 500 billion disposable cups are manufactured globally every year; that’s about 75 disposable cups for every single person on the planet! There is no need. Reduce your waste by getting yourself a BYO Coffee Cup. Here are my faves;

  • Onya Bags are back to the rescue. They have a range of colours and sizes of BYO Cups (I am partial to the Olive Green one) and are all made from food safe silicone. See the range here. You can buy everything online too!
  • For international readers there are local options too! Keep Cups have offices in Australia, UK and USA and allow you to not only order online but also customize your cup size and colour into the craziest combination you can think of! Have a play and make your perfect cup here.

Needless waste.

Water Bottle

Here are some interesting stats on bottled water (care of The Gruen Transfer). “It costs more than petrol. It takes 3 bottles of water to make 1 bottle of water. Fill an empty bottle a quarter full of oil and that’s the content of petroleum used to make it. So why is it a $500 million dollar industry in Australia when we have some of the healthiest drinking water on the planet straight from our tap?” Couldn’t of said it better myself!!! Get yourself (and your family) a reusable stainless steel water bottle and take it everywhere you go. They are available at supermarkets, chemists, health-stores, kitchen stores and sports stores.

  • Again (I swear I don’t get commission – I can’t help the companies I love!) Onya have great Reusabele H2O bottles in a massive range sizes and colours. See them here.
  • If you have teenagers that are a bit finicky about their ‘dorky’ mum buying them things then SIGG (another Australian company) have bottles with all sorts of designs on them (see here). Kids will love getting involved and being able to pick out a sustainable style that suits them.
  • Envirosax (based in Queensland) have a great range to (see here). They also sell Internationally!
This is one of those images that really hit me hard. It is an amazing image by Chris Jordan and it depicts 2 million water bottles – that is the amount of water bottles that are used in USA every 5 minutes

Amount of bottles used in USA every 5 minutes. Image by Chris Jordan

(For the full Bottled Water episode of The Gruen Transfer see the link here. Very, very clever. Did you know Mount Franklin water is not from Mount Franklin? It is just filtered tap water.)

BYO Food Container 

If you know you are going somewhere that will require you getting a ‘takeaway meal’ be prepared and take your own containers. I remember chatting to Jess from Plastic Freo (amazing girl who is going plastic free for a whole year! Read more here) saying that most cafe’s or food vans or whatever were really impressed with her and were more than happy to use her container instead. It is also a great conversation starter in the food line – if you are a chatty type – and again spreads a really fantastic message.

BYO Knife and Fork 

I keep two sets of knives and forks in my bag at all times. I consider plastic cutlery one of the sneaky plastics. Sometimes you don’t even ask for them but before you know it they’re in your hand and out the door. If you don’t want to ruin your kitchen set then just pop into an opshop – they always have mismatched cutlery there which won’t set you out more than $2.

 Metal Straw – optional

While some of us are plenty accustomed to using those funny pink pillows that line our mouths to drink, some peeps are particularly partial to straws – and what’s not to love about a straw. Tubes of yum! Avoid the wasteful plastic varieties though and get your mits on metal straws like these ones from the Ash n’ Jules Eco Everyday Basics.

Step 4: Get Inspired

Aren’t we lucky that we have so many fantastic people to look up to and so many helpful resources available when it comes to fighting for our planet?

Tim Silverwood – Take 3

  • Wise Up – If you want to get a few more tips and tricks (as well as meet like-minded people) then head to any of the free Plastic Free July events that the Western Earth Carers are holding. See the event details here – there are cooking classes, movie screenings and workshops. Fun fun.
  • Tim Silverwood / Take 3 – What a hero. Tim really shows people that one person can make a massive difference. As an ocean lover he founded the  Take 3 Organisation where the message is simple – “take 3 pieces of rubbish when you leave the beach, waterway or…anywhere and you have made a difference”. Follow his facebook page for daily information and inspiration about being plastic free. Why not add the Take 3 rule to your Plastic Free July? 
  • Lisa Griffin / Plastic Free Freo – Again, one girl who made a massive difference. I was lucky enough to be spending a lot of time around Lisa when this initiative was getting off the ground. This lion haired (and hearted) maiden knew that a ban on plastic bags was a huge step towards keeping her beloved community beautiful. So she lobbied. And lobbied. And got local attention. Then national attention. Then won! Check out the Plastic Free Freo website here. Why stop at banning plastic from your life only? 
  • Beth Terry / My Plastic Free Life – The epitome of the ethical consumer. Beth saw practices and effects that she didn’t like and then voted with her dollar. If a company used plastic she would avoid it and then go one step further. She would write to the company, let them know that consumers do care enough about the environment to avoid purchasing the product and would have great success. One company changed their whole packaging from one bit of feedback. Keep that in mind throughout your challenge! (You can see Beth’s amazing story within this post or see her website here).

Step 5: Think Positive – You Are Doing Something AMAZING!

Well – you are ready to go! Before you set out on this crazy mission though make sure you remind yourself of all the fantastic benefits you get from abolishing plastic from your life. Your health, the oceans, money, time – the benefits are endless.

I think the best thing is you can wake up every morning knowing that you are consciously focused on making a difference to the planet and setting a great example for everyone around you. Remind yourself of that every time you say no to a piece of plastic. Good luck!

Leave the world a little better than you found it. 

– Baden-Powell’s Last Message (1941)

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…