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?

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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?

micro-actions to help our environment

This post is a culmination of things that have been mounting over a period of time, so please excuse me if I ramble or jump spot to spot.

Does anyone feel like their micro-actions, can be helping the world? I do.

I want to explore a few ideas with you, in the hopes that if everyone who reads this, is either already doing this action, or is going to adapt at least one, that we can make this world a better place for future generations.

OUT
I keep recyclable bags in my car at all times.
I keep a recyclable bag in my handbag.
When I started saying no to plastic bags as part of Plastic Free July 5 months ago, it made me realise (ironically) how many plastic bags I had been using.I throw a re-usable drink bottle into my bag. My sons are always asking for a drink, so this saves me buying a plastic bottle that will end up as landfill.
If I get to the supermarket & there is a trolley lying idle near where I’ve parked, I return it to the trolley bay or use it. If all of us did this, they wouldn’t need the trolley trucks which emit pollution.
I have started shopping for pantry staples at Naked Foods – so I can buy only what I need. I take my own jars (when I remember), but when I forget them, I scoop only what I need into a brown paper bag, minimising wastage. I then recycle the brown paper bag.
Sushi – my sons love sushi & I enjoy it too, but to paraphrase another one of my idols, Be An Unfu***r, soy sauce bottles are out of control in terms of the volume of rubbish they create. Say no to sauce if you’re not going to have it (it’s high in sodium & gluten anyway); or return the soy sauce if you don’t consume it – along with the rubber bands from around the boxes.
We shop most weekends at our local Growers Market – Orange Grove at Lilyfield in Sydney. Buying direct from the Farmers ensures that the food has changed hands minimal times & is mostly from more local sources, ensuring a decreased carbon footprint. I also try where possible to purchase products with no plastic. There are generally a few products that will contain plastic packaging including salad leaves & berries.
I have been walking to work for over 10 years now (except for a period of 3 months where I had to drive) – it’s a great way to start the day, you get in some steps – in my case about 3km in each direction, & it means one less car on the road. This is probably the biggest thing I would like people to adapt. It helps you get closer to your target of 10,000 steps a day & in this time poor age, it serves as a double purpose – your mode of transport to work & exercise.

HOME
We recycle as much as possible at home -I’m not just talking cardboard, plastic, glass & tin in the recycling bin, we donate clothes to charity bins, pass on toys to our daycare, give items that could be used for kids, such as egg cartons to school to be used for creative projects.
I turn off our hot water heating, sometimes for 2 days a week & still have plenty of hot water. Not only am I decreasing our electricity bill, but decreasing our usage.
This next one is a little extreme to some & I get that – I have a rule of “maximum 4 lights” in the evening – I am a single Mum 5 days a week & my sons are generally asleep before it gets dark. Anything more than that seems excessive & wasteful.
Planning for the next step – we are hoping to renovate our house next year & top of my priority list is the installation of solar heating. Our previous home had solar hot water & it was fantastic.
We have started a little herb patch with mint, chilli, thyme & basil all going well. Not having to buy packaged herbs that travel from who-knows-where, is a big green thumbs up.
I love that Sarah Wilson is using her public image for such good – her message of minimalism & decreasing consumption is one many of us could take on board. I’ve realised that since having children, in the last 6 years the quantity of my clothes has certainly decreased; but in contrast, the overall amount of things we have has increased, much against my beliefs. Hear me out – we have lots of children’s books. I read to them every night & try to rotate them. Perhaps my next micro action should be to borrow books only from the library? My sons are growing almost before my eyes, which means buying the next size up in clothes, but also keeping the size below for my younger son. We have puzzles, games, lego, animals, a train track, duplo, scooters, textas, pencils, activity books, bikes & quite a lot of balls. We have a no TV policy during the week so they enjoy other forms of play, including the above mentioned items. I’d love to tell you we have a scooter which breaks down into LEGO pieces then converts into a puzzle but it isn’t so.
We use recycled paper from my Dad’s office that has his old work on one side.
We have ceiling fans installed in both bedrooms, but no air conditioning.
We have never owned a drier & do all our washing on a cold cycle
It may sound a little extreme but I also try when I am cooking to turn off the oven &/or stove, a minute or so before an item is cooked. As it is an old cooker, it takes a while to cool down & I figure that saving a minute of electricity a day, surely adds up.
Sharing is caring. Luckily, my brother is into a healthy lifestyle (mostly!) so when I have excess of an ingredient, I let him know & none goes to waste. I recently bought some Lucuma & baobab but don’t think I’ll get through either of them so he is taking half for me.

Tell me what YOUR micro-actions are – I love to learn something new!
I still have a long way to go, but don’t we all?

The fabulous quote as the cover shot of this post is from the Natural History Museum in London 

Until next time, RE-USE,  REDUCE & RECYCLE xxx

How do you vegan?

Often I watch a lecture in my IIN study & afterwards, wish I could sit down everyone I know in front of it. Tonight was one of those moments, watching a passionate Mark Bittman sing about policies very close to my heart:

He commenced a form of veganism 6 years ago. Before you non-vegans start rolling your eyes, just read on a little further. Mark is entirely plant based (fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds) from when he wakes until 6pm, every day. From 6pm, he gives himself carte blanche – whether that is a steak, cocktail, wine or a cheeky dessert.

Here are some of his beliefs:
1. Make it hard to sell junk food to children
2. Make it illegal to sell ‘soda’ to children
3. Stop dispensing junk, including soda, in schools
4. Subsidise production & sales of real foods, including fruit, vegetables, nuts & seeds.
5. Lead by example – encourage your friend
6. De-incentivize companies whose products have been shown to make people ill.

All of us have an opportunity to make a change to the earth, in the form of food consumption. Yours could be:
1. supporting small to medium farmers by purchasing at farmers markets, instead of purchasing processed foods built on mono-crops like corn & soy which are ineffective & have negative benefits on the soil.
2. Decrease global warming by having one less meal containing meat every week (or cut down more if you choose)
3. Decrease the amount of processed junk you eat each week & replace that with a plant-heavy meal.
4. A form of veganism – perhaps it is plant-based foods only Monday to Friday; or daily til 6pm; or you could decide to have lunch only containing meat.
5. Work on the above points regularly. Encourage your friends to do the same. Do you think if all consumers stopped buying GMO products or poor quality meat, it would continue to be produced? Supply & demand my friends. Help me on this journey to making the world a better place for our children, their children & for many more generations to come.

What am I doing?
1. 7 months ago I ditched dairy & despite having a bit of cheese on holidays in Scotland over Christmas, I am back to being dairy-free.
2. I read labels on everything I buy & make conscious choices to buy organic where possible.
3. I shop at Farmers Markets every weekend, & have done so for nearly 5 years.
4. I haven’t eaten meat in nearly 18 years
5. I give my children meat, which is 90% of the time organic & grass-fed. I also explain to them where the meat comes from, as I feel education is part of the issue that needs to be discussed.

I’ve attached images of vegan meals & foods I enjoy to show you that veganism is far from boring or unsatisfying. If you would like tips on replacing meals with vegan options, come say hi over on Facebook at 6cleaningredients & I would love to help you out x