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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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

Giving up plastic for lent

My friend Lucy & I have given up plastic for lent. I’m not religious, but every year she gives something up for lent & this year when I asked what she was giving up, she replied that we were giving up plastic.
What does giving up plastic mean?
  • For me it means saying no to plastic bags always.
  • Having at least one recyclable bag in my handbag at all times (I recently did this on a month long family holiday in the UK & used it almost daily).
  • Being prepared when I go to the supermarket with bags in the car.
  • Buying more ‘unpackaged’ foods – I now buy most of my flours, nuts & pantry health foods from Naked Foods Organic Health Foods & take my own jars (which they happily weigh before I fill them & also there’s no double handling).
  • Taking a recyclable water bottle everywhere we go – the kids both have a Thermos drink bottle to keep water cool in summer & I fill my own before going out.
  • I’ve gone off caffeine (2 weeks, going strong with decaf) which means not buying take-away coffees & no plastic lined coffee cups, as I just make one at home in the mornings.
  • Saying no to soy sauce ‘fish’ bottles (I notice a LOT washed up on beaches).
  • Not buying anymore plastic storage units – I started purchasing glass pyrex containers for food storage last year but refuse to throw out plastic tupperware for the sake of throwing it out (our tendency for overconsumption or to upgrade is where part of the problem stems from)
Lucy has already had 2 situations where she clearly asked for no plastic – once to a straw & then to flowers just being wrapped in paper, but it seems that the people providing the products just did it out of habit.
We need to grow our consciousness about what can be recycled when we do purchase plastics; & what can be recycled. I found on a recent trip to the UK, it was much more clear as to what could be recycled on packaging.
Next level of minimal plastic consumption for me is:
  1. Not buying products wrapped in plastic.
  2. Not ever using cling film/snap lock bags in the boys lunchboxes
  3. Utilising biodegradable rubbish bin liners
  4. Not purchasing toys made from plastic, especially those that are poorly produced & likely to break quickly, ending up as landfill/in the ocean
  5. On the occasions I purchase take-away sushi, taking my own container & putting it in there, rather than the plastic take-away containers.
  6. Influencing friends, families & the broader community on how each of them has the power to make a difference – decreasing the amount of plastic they use & the strength of the consumer voice (if everyone stops buying poorly made plastic toys, they will not be produced anymore).

So I pose this question to you, what are YOU doing to decrease plastic usage? You may not realise it, but if you just action saying no to plastic bags, & get a few mates to do the same, you are making a huge difference.

Thank-you. From me. My children. From future generations. We’ve got this one with your help.