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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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.