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.

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.

Low environmental impact travel with kids

On a double edged sword, all of my Mum’s family are in Europe meaning we don’t have them nearby BUT on the plus side, we are incredibly fortunate to be able to travel to visit them.

I am aware of the environmental impact of flight & on this trip, I was much more conscious of the impact of the trip overall.

The things I highly recommend packing are: recyclable bags (thankfully in the UK free single use plastic bags don’t exist anymore) – I packed 2 cotton bags.

Second of all my ONYA bags – they are made from recycled plastic & are like mesh bags to put anything in – I’ve been using them for fruit & dividing up snacks for our daily outings. Third is reusable water cups – I brought our Frank Green cup which normally is for my coffee but the kids are using it; as well as my Klean Kanteen coffee cup, plus a baby sippy cup.

I brought my Nourished Life stainless steel straws although I’ve found that we haven’t used them often, perhaps as we always have our water with us.

As a side note, I’ve been disappointed with the lack of places offering water to refill. Big thumbs up to Pret at South Kensington & Borough Market for their well signed spots to refill water bottles.

For my baby, I brought about half a dozen reusable baby spoons to use anywhere we went to eat.

We’ve eaten apples & pears off a cousin’s tree. We’ve enjoyed freshly laid eggs from my Aunt’s chooks & stuffed kilos of brambles straight off the bushes into our mouths!

I’ve refused bags more often than I can count & even after saying no, some retail teams have automatically (habit?) just gone to put my purchases in a bag….until I bark at them “no bag thank-you!”.

I have been really shocked at how dirty London is & how rubbish is (depending where you live) just thrown outside the front door. No wonder the foxes are thriving! On the flip side, I am impressed that degradable compost bags are provided & collected. In Edinburgh, you need to buy your own “green bags” but food scraps/compost is also collected. How about that Australia??

Another huge area is transport. Admittedly there have been occasions where we have caught a taxi – with 5 people, 4 suitcases, 3 backpacks, a pram bag & almost always another bag we have accumulated on the way, the stairs/escalators leading to packed tubes are not always a viable option. We also flew from Sydney to London; then London to Edinburgh. We drove around the Scottish Highlands in a rental car. We caught the train from Edinburgh to London.

There are areas I have failed in include single use coffee cups. We have consumed many pre-packaged sandwiches (non-recyclable packaging) – I’m not proud of it & put it down to convenience. We have purchased 3 or 4 single use plastic water bottles in the 4 weeks we’ve been here, but have refilled them daily. I have seriously stood & had internal debates about produce in supermarkets: do I select organic (my preference) when it is inevitably from somewhere overseas & i try to minimise food miles? The organic fruit & veg also seem to be packaged in more plastic (not able to be purchased as loose individual items). I had a royal f**k up when I bought organic apples, not looking at the origin thinking apples are in season now (I’d eaten some fresh off a tree in the Scottish Highlands) & realised once home they were from New Zealand. Pathetic as it sounds, I was disappointed & angry at myself. I pride myself on making my consumer dollar count. On the flip side, big thumbs up to Tesco in Dingwall who have a clearly marked produce section of fruit/veg grown in Scotland. We were fortunate to be there for the tail end of the berry season & took full advantage of it.

So I want to know for our next trip, what other tips do you have to lessen or offset our environmental impact?

Top low-tox baby products

I am so thrilled every time I hear from a friend who wants to low-tox their home. Although we often decide we want an immediate change, please be mindful of wastage – if you can longer tolerate a product, can you pass it on to a family member or friend rather than throwing it out?

As a family with a 7 year old, 5 year old & 5 month old, I am conscious of not only what they eat, but what goes onto their skin & into their body by other means.

Low-tox baby wipes – Tooshies by Tom are my absolute favourite, with the added bonus of being compostable.

Low-tox baby moisturisers. I use a few different ones – as a side note, I embrace minimalism but a couple were given by friends as gifts so I also use these on myself:

  1. Wotnot baby lotion – contains no sulphates, petrochemicals, parabens, caustics, glycols, artificial fragrances or preservatives.
  2. Thank-you baby lotion – contains no SLS, SLES or parabens. Contains avocado oil, rosehip oil, marshmallow & chamomile.
  3. Weleda calendula cream – even the smell makes me feel calm with light notes of lavender, but also a soft sweetness.

Talc-free mineral powder: Little Innoscents. I’ve been using this on my 5 mmonth old since the day she was born & she has never once had nappy rash.

Compostable bamboo toothbrushes. How many toothbrushes does your household throw out each year to contribute directly to landfill? You can buy these in brown paper packaging through Nourished Life.

Toothpaste: Little Innoscents Milky Whites organic toothpaste – I’ve added a photo comparing this toothpaste to a standard supermarket purchased Colgate kids toothpaste. Until recently, I had never read the ingredients of kids toothpaste – perhaps as I regarded it as an “essential” product & wasn’t aware of the alternatives.

Baby bottom cream: Bubba Organics – proudly contain no parabens, petrochemicals, sulphates (SLS), mineral oils, synthetic fragrances or colours. It does contain delicious ingredients including aloe vera juice, olive fruit oil, shea butter , goat milk, lavender & rosemary.

Compostable nappy bags: Wotnot

A few other things to note – it can be a hard balance to choose something sustainable, ethical, local, environmentally friendly & low-tox. Have a logical think before you make your purchases – for example, my baby has been given all hand me down clothes. They are not all from the most ethical producers however I feel that as they have been purchased & already worn by at least 2 children, it would be more sustainable for her to wear them than to buy something new that she will only get a few wears out of before she grows into the next size.

petroleum in cosmetics

The saying “knowledge is power” has really rung true for me in the last year. I feel that learning everything I did through my studies at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition has helped me to reform my life & make so many different decisions moving forward.

Let’s talk about petroleum. Use vaseline? petroleum based. Use Vicks on your kids? Also petroleum.

What is petroleum? It is a fossil fuel produced by the earth over millions of years, from the breakdown of animal & plant remains. So maybe it doesn’t sound so bad when you put it like that, but there are many reasons it is bad:

  1. Some contain hormone disruptors, potentially causing cancer
  2. Can clog your pores, potentially causing blackheads & acne
  3. Your skin absorbs the products, then going into your bloodstream

How do I know if my cosmetics contain petroleum derivatives? Just like with sugar, Companies like to use big words that we often skim over, here are some: benzene, butanol, names with butyl, diethanolamine, ethanolamine, ethanol, ethyl, methanol, methyl, mineral oil, parabens, paraffin wax, phenoxyethanol, propyl including isopropyl, toluene & words ending in “eth” such as laureth, myleth, oleth.

So how do we avoid these products? First of all look for products that are labelled “Free from [all the ingredients listed above – eg laureth sulfates]”.

Second of all, what would happen if all consumers stopped buying cosmetics with petroleum derivatives? That’s right, companies would refine their ingredients.

Every dollar you spend, is a vote, and a form of activism – when I buy organic apples, it’s encouraging that Farmer to grow more. When I support a company that doesn’t use petroleum/mineral oils, they produce more. When I buy nappies produced with a sustainable contents, this is a vote for them AND a vote against the conventional nappies. When I buy compostable bin liners, I’m increasing their market & decreasing the demand for non-degradable plastic bags.

2017 resolutions 

Be An Unf**ker is a brilliant account you should be following on both Facebook & Instagram. Their messages are short & succinct. Here’s my 5 resolutions for 2017:

1. Embrace minimalism to the best of my ability. With 3 children I feel we have more clutter than I would like- 2 scooters, 2 bikes, 2 boogie boards, rugby balls, books, school bags. For the baby a change mat, bouncer, car capsule – all hand me downs but still take up a lot of space

2. L.E.S.S Local | Ethical | Sustainable | Seasonal – buy products that haven’t been transported thousands of kms, that haven’t been made using child labour or sweatshops, sustainable products including MSA certified seafood, buying food that’s in season (no apples in summer!). Using Nappies that are produced using sustainable ingredients for example. As a side note, I don’t want anything to go to waste, so I haven’t thrown out my plastic containers & won’t do so until they break. If I choose to no longer support a product but have some of it left in the house, I will use it because throwing it out just contributes to the issue of our “disposable life”

3. Activism – rather than just boycotting brands, write to them or tell them what they could change. A simple one is telling the local sushi shop not to package in a soy sauce “fish” with each container – just ask people if they want soy. Ultimately they save money, & we decrease our environmental impact. Even better, tell them to ditch the fish & have an alternative.

4. Go even more plastic free. I already buy pantry staples in recycled glass jars & use recyclable bags for shopping. For me this will mean making more school snacks rather than buying packaged ones. 

5. Encourage friends & family to do the same! This point is also about authenticity & having the confidence to say “this is what I stand for & im not ashamed to say it” ie a total environment & food nerd who wants to be actively involved in educating our children & making the world a better place for them. 

What are your 5 things to unf*ck in 2017?

Sustainable & ethical babies

Having just had my third baby & being much more low-tox, ethical, sustainable & generally more mindful of my contribution to the world, I’m doing things a bit differently this time.

I am not perfect & am not claiming to be, but I genuinely believe if we all take some micro-actions to better the planet, it can make a big impact.

Say yes to hand me downs & loans! There is a lot of crap that babies use in the first year or so that then becomes obsolete…..

We have been given a cot from a family friend. We gave this same family friend a car seat my boys had grown out of a few years ago, along with a lot of toys.

I had to buy 2 fitted cot sheets, so I opted for ones made from bamboo as a more sustainable, less sprayed material.

We are borrowing a baby capsule seat & bouncer from a friend, who already had both items on loan to other friends (yay to me being at least the 4th person to use!).

Baby Bjorn – my Godmother gave me the Baby Bjorn her daughter used & no longer required.

Clothes – 2 very generous Mums (thank-you again Vic & Sheree!) have literally given me over a garbage bag each worth of baby girl clothes & im using the blankets I already had for the boys. 

I have chosen to buy Tooshies by Tom nappies & wipes, which are a more sustainable option.

I bought a new pram as we live in an area where we do a lot by foot including walking my 2 sons to & from school every day. 

Baby products – I bought Little Innoscents 100% talc-free “mineral powder” & Wotnot baby lotion. I refuse to buy chemically laden brands like Johnson & Johnson. I wasn’t educated enough at the time my previous sons were born to do this. 

What are your sustainable choices?
Any brands to recommend?