Plastic-free July

Last Plastic-free July, my Report Card would have read somewhere between “flashes of brilliance” & a few ticks in the “room for improvement” column.

First of all, we want to REDUCE.

Continued habits which I’d love you all to take on board, when you consider the world population is estimated at 7.6 billion people…

  1. Switch to bamboo toothbrushes – an average household of 4 people would go through 20 never-degrading toothbrushes per year. YUK. I bought two dozen from Solander & Banks which were delivered to my front door. Now I don’t have to think about ordering more for a while
  2. Take your non-plastic reusable bags everywhere. There is really no excuse for plastic bags now.
  3. Take your reusable coffee cup everywhere. My work colleagues laugh at me & say they are going to refuse to get me a coffee in it but they always do 😉
  4. Going to the local Farmer’s Market – where the majority of fruit & veg is not packaged in plastic
  5. Using Who Gives a Crap for both toilet paper & paper towel. No plastic packaging. All either recycled or made from bamboo & sugarcane. Also delivered to your front door so unlike the lady I saw today with a trolley overflowing with a huge plastic wrapped package of toilet paper & nearly equally big plastic packaged pack of paper towel, you hardly have to lift a finger.
  6. Growing it yourself – I am no green thumb but am enjoying watercress, rocket, rosemary, thyme, oregano, kale & mint from my garden. Even these small volumes make an incredible difference when it comes to decreasing plastic as herbs & salad greens are almost always packaged in plastic. Imagine if one thousand or even one million people adopted this small habit (hashtag dream big)

Some new habits

  1. Making our own Popcorn – we bought the kernels at Naked Foods – they are about $5 per kilo, a hell of a lot cheaper than the individually packaged ones at the supermarket & the kids loved watching it pop.
  2. Making our own bread – it’s not a proper one, but is so simple & satisfying to make
  3. Plastic free meals – I’ve made a real effort to create some plastic-free meals which is harder than it sounds! If it has cheese, meat, seafood, dairy – it often has plastic. Even most sauces have a small piece of plastic to seal them. I make a weekly batch of pesto which goes on nearly everything I eat from salads to toast to eggs – Harris Farm Markets & Wholefoods House in Woollahra sell parsley with no plastic. I make a weekly batch of mayonnaise which my eldest LOVES & would eat with everything if I let him.

Areas where I’ve failed

  1. Berries by the punnet – I stack the empty punnets & recycle them but it is still plastic. Can anyone guide me towards fresh plastic-free berries in Eastern Suburbs of Sydney? Even if they come by the box, I’d be happy to split with friends.
  2. Milk – I don’t drink cow’s milk, nor does my daughter but my sons do. They like a particular organic brand which comes in plastic.
  3. Cheese – we all like cheese….
  4. Cereal – over winter my children tend to alternate between oats (bought by the scoop) & eggs. When they have cereal I rinse the packages, they go into my soft plastics & are taken to the supermarket.

Something you learn quickly is how entwined health is – the less plastic you use = the less processed foods you are eating = the more likely it is you are buying fruit & vegetables that are in season = the more likely your health is to benefit.

So who thinks it’s a bad idea to decrease their plastic usage? Tell me all your fabulous tips to decrease plastic usage & let’s make this earth a better place, rather than waiting round for someone else to fix it.

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Conscious travel

We have been extremely fortunate to be able to visit family in Europe five times in the last 8 years. Over the last few visits, I have been more aware of our environmental impact as well as aiming to decrease it.

We have brought our ONYA recycled plastic produce bags which are brilliant for everything to putting dirty washing in, using as a sock bag, storing snacks or even as a mini nappy bag. I always pack at least a couple of reusable cotton bags which fold down & take up minimal space. We took 2 reusable stainless steel bottles, a glass reusable drink bottle & a reusable coffee cup (usually I use glass but I took my Frank Green). In anticipation of our trip I bought myself & each of the children a Kathmandu fleece & made from their “replas” technology – made of recycled plastic water bottles.

We did Secret Santa to minimise the volume of gifts & I received a trip to a vegetarian restaurant in Edinburgh rather than a “thing”. Father Christmas brought around 10 gifts each to the children, predominately games which have been used on the trip.

Every time I come I spend a lot of time trawling supermarkets, health food shops & even gift shops for options that complement my conscious lifestyle. This includes everything from reusable coffee cups to steel water bottles to low plastic options.

I am always impressed with the UK.

  • Multiple yoghurts in glass jars in both supermarkets (Sainsbury’s) & WholeFoods Market is a serious lesson to Australia.
  • We stayed with cousins in Edinburgh – they have compostable bags which all food scraps go into & are collected separately.
  • If you buy a pre-packed sandwich (I know – but sometimes you are stuck in a situation where that’s an option – hello Gatwick Dronegate), there is a tab that allows you to pull the plastic off so the card can be recycled.
  • A hotel we stayed in in London didn’t offer little plastic bottles of toiletries, but a refillable unit.
  • On EasyJet I received a 50p discount for using my Frank Green for a cup of tea.
  • In Pret a Manger there was a sign which I LOVE with “thank goodness our unsold food goes to the hungry at the end of the day & not in the bin. But some plastic bottles, coffee cups & napkins will do. We have to start asking questions…what if we stopped selling plastic bottles? We made our coffee counters out of old coffee grounds? We used less packaging? There’s lots to do & we need to move fast”

I’m saying this, there were also a lot of eco fails. Airlines I’m looking at you: trays with SO. MUCH. PLASTIC. Granted I could have brought all our own food but for 5 people to bring 24 hours worth of food plus contingency (delays), it was relegated to the too hard basket. Add to this every pair of headphones on the international flights being wrapped in plastic – for a family of 5 on Sydney-London return, that is potentially 20 pieces of plastic. Or just BYO headphones?

The volume of fruit & veg wrapped in plastic in mainstream supermarkets in the UK must have been above 90%. The volume of fruit & veg that is imported is incredible. Would there really be an outrage from customers if they couldn’t get a pineapple at Christmas in the Highlands of Scotland? Would a sign along the lines of “we try where possible to provide food that is both in season & locally produced. To minimise impact on the environment, we try not to import food which is why you won’t find pineapples here in the middle of winter”.

A few times we were caught short & had to buy plastic water bottles – we brought our own water bottles but had to empty them before passing security & some (smaller) airports didn’t have refill stations past security. Thumbs up to Heathrow & Gatwick for both having clearly labelled water bottle refill stations which we were able to use.

I encourage all of you to embrace travel as much as possible, it it literally a priceless experience for all of the family. On the flip side, we all know air travel has an environmental impact so let’s try to minimise this where we can.

Cornflake cookies

GLUTEN FREE | NUT FREE | LUNCHBOX FRIENDLY| VEGETARIAN

ME. WANT. COOKIE. Although I think the Cookie Monster’s flavour of choice might have been choc-chip, I’ve done a few rounds of taste testing of these cornflake cookies & think they might pass the test….

SIX SIMPLE INGREDIENTS
150g butter (if you’ve got a good butter substitute, give it a try & let me know how it goes)
2/3 cup coconut sugar
1 cup rice flour (or buckwheat flour)
1 cup tapioca flour
1/3 cup coconut milk (if it’s a bit dry, add some more coconut milk)
1 1/2 cups cornflakes

METHOD

  1. Take the butter out of the fridge to get to room temperature
  2. Pop the oven on at 180 degrees celsius
  3. Cream the butter & coconut sugar together
  4. Stir in both flours & coconut milk
  5. stir in the cornflakes
  6. using 2 dessert spoons, pop them on lined oven trays
  7. Bake for 25 minutes (although take a peek at them after 20 minutes in case you have a supersonic oven)
  8. allow them to cool on a rack – or just eat them still warm!

GUT FEELINGS

One year ago my son was diagnosed with a stomach parasite called Dientamoeba Fragilis. I didn’t realise at the time but this parasite is way more common than I could have imagined & thanks to littlies & their still-developing learning to wash hands when going to the loo, this parasite is transmitted frequently in daycares, pre-schools & primary schools (faecal-oral contamination).

Fast forward a year & March-June 2018 was a nightmare at home – my middle child was aggressive, angry, easily upset, extremely tired, having night terrors almost every night, & off a lot of foods. As a working Mum of 3 children, this was exhausting. Of course there’s also a clingy 1 year old & all the other mundane parenting chores that seem unavoidable including washing, supermarket shopping, school drop offs & pick ups, constant negotiation of the 2 older ones stretching the rules.

I went back to a different GP after the previous one told me it wasn’t his gut & that perhaps I should “do a positive parenting course”. The 2nd GP (let’s call her Dr JG) was extremely thorough, listened to me ramble about all the sudden changes in behaviour & wisely referred me to a Paediatric Specialist in the hopes that this Dr may be able to deduce whether in fact it is behavioural, something going on at school he’s not talking about or a sleep disorder. In the meantime I still had a gut feeling (yep, there’s actually pretty cool research on ‘gut feelings’), that it was in fact his gut playing up. Since that appointment, he has mentioned “feeling sick” quite frequently. By pure luck I stumbled across a brilliant Dr based up in Pymble who is a GP but practises Functional Medicine & specialises in the gut. Jackpot! She was warm, caring, considerate, also a Mum of 3 herself & just got it. I felt slightly nervous about the 22 day parasite protocol – which includes a very strict diet of no sugar (essentially low-fructose), no gluten & low carbohydrate. So no fruit except berries, no pasta, rice, crackers, bread, cereal. Patients can have dairy, high quality meat, all veggies (except potatoes), eggs, seafood, nuts, seeds & legumes if well soaked. Pre-antibiotics, his tummy needed to be empted which meant a bit of cleanse ie 2 days of LAXATIVES! Then to maintain/build back up gut flora, he has 2 months of probiotics. 10 days of one antibiotic 3 times a day, followed by another antibiotic once a day for 10 days.

I wouldn’t say we sailed through it – getting the laxatives in him was horrendous (it literally took hours each time). The antibiotics went down a little easier but were also time consuming & every morning he had to take them, then we needed to race to school, give them to the office to put straight in the fridge, then communicate with after School Care to remind him to pick them up from the office & put them in the fridge there, before picking him up from school, & racing to get them back in the fridge at home before consuming again straight after dinner. He had a few feral days around day 7 – anyone who was at his rugby match can vouch for that. I now understand this can be the “die off” – the GP recommended he took some charcoal to flush it all out. Some anxiety also crept out – including a  repeated “feeling” (usually soon before bedtime) about being deserted in a grey land with no one around.

In terms of the diet, he did incredibly well – he ate some foods he hadn’t in a while including carrot & broccoli which he now asks for. He tried a gluten-free almond meal bread which I made. He even enjoyed a legume-based ‘pasta’. It wasn’t easy & he felt hungry a lot of the time. I felt his diet became too skewed towards proteins (meat) & dairy as they filled him up slightly more.

Nearly 2 weeks on from finishing the protocol (we haven’t had the follow up tests yet), I can honestly say he still has feral moments but he is much more consistent, less agro, within 2 days of starting the antibiotics & diet he stopped having night terrors (which was a huge thing for us). He is loving me a bit more but still tells me not to ever give him a kiss in public! We are slowly transitioning into his diet – but aiming to do less gluten & less sugar.

I am not a Doctor, nor do I claim to be any form of wisdom in the medical profession. The reason I write this is to help anyone who might be on a similar type of rollercoaster – when he was first diagnosed I started researching & honestly couldn’t find that much in the way of personal experiences. I can genuinely say it was worth every moment.

 

Cauliflower mash | vegan

It’s probably already out of fashion now but cauliflower mash, I took a while to get to meet you but now I have, it’s true love.

My gorgeous friend Maria-Elena (check her out on Insta @thewellnessfountain) made me the most delicious cauliflower mash a few weeks ago & I swore I would try it at home.

With a dairy-free 1 year old, I opted to make this version vegan but of course you could swap olive oil for butter if you prefer.

INGREDIENTS
700g cauliflower (approx 1 small cauliflower)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt, to taste
It’s not essential but I recommend popping fresh herbs of your choice on top – thyme, oregano, finely chopped rosemary or parsley

Note: I infused my olive oil with rosemary, thyme & oregano from my garden which is really a fancy way of saying I threw some herbs into a jar with the olive oil & let it sit for 24 hours.

METHOD
1. Chop the cauliflower roughly into quarters
2. Throw the cauliflower in the thermomix – whizz it up on speed 5 for about 15 seconds. If you need to after this, remove the lid & scrape down the sides
3. Add in about 200g water (you could also use stock if preferred)
4. Set the timer for 15 minutes & 100 degrees celsius, on speed 3
5. When the time is up, be super careful as it will be piping hot – I hold a little sieve (a tea leaf strainer does the job) to tip in the squeezed lemon & olive oil
6. Give it one last whizz – just about 10 seconds on speed 4 (no heat required)
7. Once this is done, give it a taste & check you’re happy with texture & balance of flavours. I of course add more olive oil on top & some fresh herbs

Moving towards a plastic-free life

Thankfully more & more celebrities are bringing to light the frightening impact of single-use plastic on our planet – to animals, our waterways, & the chemicals leached from them into our bodies. Sadly, I don’t understand why so many people will only follow an action once a ‘celebrity’ spruiks a cause. Don’t get me wrong, I think they should do it more!

I do not claim to be perfect but as a family of 5, we are slowly moving towards decreased plastic consumption & hope that we can encourage you to make these simple changes too

1. Loo paper – we use Who Gives a Crap – they are made from 100% recycled materials & wrapped in paper (not plastic like the supermarket brands)

2. Paper towel – while you’re ordering your loo paper, add in some paper towel from Who Gives a Crap – again it’s made from sustainable materials (sugarcane & bamboo) & comes wrapped in paper.

3. Coffee cups – sorry to sound harsh but if you’re not using a recyclable coffee cup by now, slap a big “L” sign on your forehead. There’s literally no excuse not to have a reusable cup – we love Frank Green (although my bestie hasn’t loved hers), KeepCup & I love my glass one from The Source. Single use coffee cups are not recyclable. They contribute to landfill. If over 300 cups per year are yours then it’s time to take your head out of the sand & buy one. Now.

4. Pantry staples – I started buying from Naked Foods about 4 years ago. Take up your own glass jars, they’ll weigh them, then fill ’em up. I also love The Source. Check them both out to see if there’s one near where you live. Honest to Goodness are also great – we visit them at Orange Grove Market most Saturdays – if you forget your jars, they will give you produce in paper bags.

5. Water bottles – again, slap that big ‘L’ up on your forehead if you’re still buying single use plastic water bottles. They contribute to landfill, chemicals leach from the plastic into your water then into your body & they cost a lot when you think about it! Buy a reusable water bottle. Now. My sons have glass water bottles w detachable silicone bases for home, we have 5 stainless steel water bottles too which are shared around. We never leave home without at least 3 of them (joys of 3 children – someone is ALWAYS thirsty).

6. Soap – I really dislike those plasticky (is that a word?) soap packets. We are loving the Ecostore soaps – you can even buy them in Woolworths. Ecostore get bonus points IMO as they are a carbon zero factory. How awesome is that?! We also love their washing machine powder (comes in a cardboard box). Their laundry liquids are also great & come in renewable sugarcane plastic. Big ticks all round!

7. If you have little ones, buy some corn starch nappy bags – we love Wotnot brand, they come in cardboard packaging & are about $8 a packet for 50 bags.

8. Produce bags – I love ONYA bags to take to do my grocery shopping, they are great for putting fruit / veg in, rather than doing the juggle of apples, pears & bananas rolling off the scales at checkout (we’ve all been there!). I’ve had mine for about 2 years & they are in perfect condition. They are made from recycled plastic drink bottles, giving those single use products a 2nd life – why not, seeing as they will never degrade?! I also have Ever Eco bags which I’ve had for a year & are in perfect condition. These are also made from recycled plastic drink bottles (also called ‘rPet’).

9. Organic fruit & veg bags for the fridge – we LOVE the Harris Farm organic muslin bags. They keep our herbs, veggies & even lettuce super fresh in the fridge. I can genuinely say (no sponsorship) that they have prolonged the life of many a veggie in our fridge.

10. Toothbrushes – you guys think about how many plastic toothbrushes you’ve had in your life & that not one of them has ever degraded. YUK. No excuse not to switch to bamboo now – my faves are from Harris Farm Markets (Bondi Beach Store) which unfortunately don’t seem to be on their website & Nourished Life. My older children (aged 6 & 8) use the bamboo toothbrushes & the 1 year old has a bamboo but also a Jack & Jill which are made from 100% corn starch & are biodegradable. Plus they won’t break the bank at only $5.95 each. Plus the legends at Nourished Life deliver to your door & I can honestly say I have to hold in my excitement when one of their gorgeous pink boxes arrives on my doorstep!

11. When you’re buying sushi, ask them to hold the soy sauce plastic fish. Even better, ask (nicely) your local sushi joint not to pre-pack them into the boxes. It will save them money & have a positive impact on the environment.

12. The last tip would be one that you hear from me ALL. THE. TIME. As a consumer, every cent you spend is like a voice to the companies you buy from – buying their apples in a plastic container wrapped in plastic rather than the loose ones tells them to produce more plastic. Purchasing parsley not wrapped in plastic sleeves (like the legends at Harris Farm) says we are cool with that – we all wash our herbs when we get home anyway. Refusing to buy single use plastic water bottles tells the producers we don’t want this rubbish (literally) in our lives. Supporting companies who utilise biodegradable corn starch based packaging & produce encourages these companies to produce more of the awesome products & hopefully eventually bring down their prices as a result of increased demand.

I still have a lot of room for improvement & am shocked by how much soft plastic rubbish we create. Being conscious is not enough & I am striving to improve all the time.

I’d love to hear your tips on moving to a more plastic free life – leave me a comment on Facebook.

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2018 Intentions

I had great aspirations for 2017 of how productive I would be. The reality was that 2017 hit me for six. I kicked off the year with a 2 month old, 5 year old & 7 year old. I wasn’t back at work (my paid job) until April. I felt like I was chasing my tail constantly, & when I wasn’t chasing, I was passed out in a heap somewhere, mostly with a baby attached to my boob. Every day I told myself I would work at night but instead I would eat dinner mindlessly & stare at a TV.

2017 was the year I discovered Netflix – more specifically Outlander, The Crown, Call the Midwife & Land Girls. An epic time waster if ever there was one.

so 2018 is going to be more productive, right?! I am not setting “resolutions” but “intentions”…

  1. To live life authentically – a bit of a wanky buzz word, I agree but my take on this is to just own it if you f**k up, & put your hand up to say I did bad, but I’ll do better next time. Perfect example today was I met up with cousins from the UK. We ordered a coffee which I had already mentally noted served their coffees in ceramic cups (tick), but then i got a call saying someone was waiting at my front door who i had totally forgotten about so I raced off & 15 minutes later on my return, my cousin had kindly got my coffee put in a take-away cup. So I’m saying I screwed up. Last year I always had a reusable coffee cup with me but within a month (again, see ya 2017), i lost my 2 favourite reusable coffee cups – frank green & klean kanteen you are missed. Feel free to return to me..
  2. it’s ok to disagree with a “trend”. I don’t like the texture of chia pudding. Plus growing up with a pond at home, it bears way too close resemblence to frog spawn. I think goji berries taste like dirt. Too much maca in something makes it taste like stinky socks. You don’t have to love it just because it is the new “superfood”. But as a side note, I am genuinely a kale addict – I can’t get enough of it!
  3. It’s ok to change – I constantly question products I buy. A brand I used 6 months or a year ago, may not be my choice now. I may have thought it was ‘healthy’ or low-tox but now know better. Or there may have been some products I no longer support due to their ethics. For example I used to think it was ok to buy soy-wax candles & now I know it is potentially genetically modified soy & burning it does not support my health. So coconut wax candles are IN. I used to buy plastic toothbrushes & now I realise how much they contribute to our plastic pollution so I buy bamboo.
  4. No more buying “healthy” snacks – I’m looking at you organic corn chips, sugar-free chocolate & protein bars. Making my own is totally acceptable, but sometimes I would buy a product in a supermarket purely for convenience & assure myself it was “healthy” when in my head I know they’re not.
  5. Food choices: Less cheese please! I literally can’t say no to a nice cheese. I need to stop buying it & not sit in front of the cheese platter at a function!
  6. Be loud & proud: I may be becoming that person my friends recoil from when they see me & I’m pointing at their single-use non-degradable coffee cup but I’m going to keep owning it (& death staring everyone in the supermarket piling up their trolleys with unnecessary plastic bags). It’s 2018 peeps, I’m going to troll you if you think it’s cool to use plastic bags, throw-away coffee cups & straws. I’ll go easy on you for this half of the year but by Christmas I’d also like to see y’all starting to compost your food scraps, definitely recycling your soft plastics & purchasing ‘imperfect’ fruit & veg where possible. Be warned, I’ll test you & check where exactly you’re taking them so there’s no hiding. While you’re at it, start getting a loo paper subscription from Who gives a Crap; & start buying (compostable) bamboo toothbrushes. Don’t underestimate the power YOU have, especially when you begin to install these values in your children.

Until next time, say it how it is & own up when you f**k up!
Let me know what your intentions are for 2018….

A.