Tag Archives: zero waste

Zero Waste Fail- My Guilty Secret

On the whole, I feel fairly virtuous when it comes to my environmental footprint and zero-waste habits. But there is one habit I cannot let go of. My guilty secret is that every Wednesday night when I put out our rubbish bin, 90% of the contents are made up of DISPOSABLE NAPPIES.

I know they are terrible for the environment. I know they are made of plastic, manufactured in pollution-emitting, resource-consuming factories, I know that no one even knows how long they take to break down in landfill because it’s longer than we’ve been making them- 100 years? 500 years? 1000 years? Does it matter once we’re talking about those lengths of time?

When I was pregnant with Master L, who is now approaching 4 ½, I was attracted to cloth nappies. Initially it was the cost savings that motivated me. Bamboozled by the different systems available, I bought several different styles (not a complete set of each- cloth nappies are really expensive!) to try out before I committed to one particular style. None were perfect. Despite any claims to the contrary, they leak. Not as much if you change them often enough, but no one tells you that “often enough” is roughly every hour. Not practical, even with just one baby. They are also bulky (even the cool, all in one styles) so they stretch your baby’s onsies and you need extra big pants to fit over them. Not such a big deal, but annoying when you want to use the clothes again for the next child.

I also hadn’t bargained on just how cheap disposable nappies are (ie I didn’t do my sums). They are super cheap. And the cheaper brands work just as well as the expensive ones (generally).

But I persevered. The thought of those heavy balls of pooey wet plasticky evil going to landfill was enough to keep me using cloth nappies. Mostly. As was the theoretical advantage that cloth nappies supposedly result in earlier toilet training (my children have clearly not read that research). Master L outgrew his cloth nappies, however, well before he was ready for toilet training. His howl of agony the first time I pinched the skin of his fat thigh between the poppers on the nappy finally convinced me to put them away, guilt-free, for the next baby.

Cue Miss L. Her arrival (the hardest transition I think of all the kids) meant I had 2 kids in nappies and I didn’t even bother trying the cloth nappies with her.

However, since my newfound zero waste crusade, I have re-tried my cloth nappies with Baby L. And I have nicely demonstrated all the above points to still be true. I have toyed with selling them or giving them away, then last week I thought I’d just have one more go. Two cloth nappies and two hours later, I removed Baby L’s urine-soaked clothes and sodden nappy to find his bottom red, raw and angry. He cried when I put him in the bath that night and every time I cleaned his bottom for the next 2 days. What’s more, I used more disposable nappies in the following days trying to improve his nappy rash with frequent changing than I had saved in the two hours I had the cloth nappies on him.

My cloth nappies are now sitting in a box in the dining room, waiting to be photographed and advertised on Trade Me. Let’s just hope no prospective buyers are reading this post!!

Reflections on 2015

And so we near the end of another year. That’s 2 (and a bit) years I’ve been (very sporadically) blogging!

My views on New Year’s Resolutions have varied from year to year but what I always enjoy is looking back on the year that was. The Facebook gimmick “Your Year in Review” has already appeared and people are beginning to share their yearly summaries. If this replaces the annual “Christmas newsletter” a lot of people send out, I think there’d be a sigh of relief from many reluctant recipients, but weirdly, I don’t actually mind getting those letters, I even like reading the details that really don’t concern me, about people I barely know.

(What always impresses me, though, is that people have enough self-confidence to send these things out, knowing how they are received by the majority of people, which is one reason it’s not something I do.)

So, 2015- what sticks in my mind?

More travel- this year we explored Marlborough at the top of the South Island and beautiful Martinborough at the bottom of the North, catching the ferry in between. I think we only managed 3 trips to our beloved Queenstown, once in March for Mr L’s off-road marathon, the Motatapu Classic, once in August to ski and then we’ll be back there next week for Christmas. I made several trips across the ditch- 2 to Melbourne for work and 2 to Sydney. We did a couple of local weekends away too- to Russell & Northland, Waitomo caves (twice) and just last weekend to Waiheke Island. Our list of places to visit and revisit seems to be ever-expanding, and if 2016 is to be our last year living here, we’d like to make some headway into that list!

Of course, our beautiful Baby L arrived in May and he has been a delight and a privilege to have completing our family. In many ways, seeing him change so fast has made both Mr L and myself all the more aware of the idiosyncrasies (amusing and not-so) of Master and Miss L, as we see them change and realise just how fleeting their stages of growth and development are.

This year has been a big year for me in terms of mindset, with determined forays into mindfulness (my favourite champion of this cause so far being Dan Harris) and happiness (I’ve become something of a Gretchen groupie). I feel that my/our Zero Waste dabblings (inspired largely by Bea Johnson) are, in many ways, an extension (or perhaps combination) of these two ways of thinking. I’ve become so much more aware of our impact on the earth and of the earth’s impact on us and I suppose you could say I’ve spent some time getting to know my inner hippie and seeing just how a simpler way of living, spending, thinking and doing frees up so much time for taking notice of what matters and what lasts.

On that note, as I look back through my calendar I’m surprise to see there aren’t a lot of scheduled events, for a year that has felt so full and formative. I think that’s because you don’t write down the little things- cherry picking with Master and Miss L in January, losing Miss L (ok only very briefly) on a plane in August, someone walking off with Baby L in the supermarket trolley (hmmm, maybe I need to start paying attention to my children more!), Master L astounding us one day by casually announcing he was going to write his name- and then doing it! Me falling off the side of a cliff while skiing, drinking beer in the middle of the afternoon in the Fork and Tap in Arrowtown (Miss L developing quite a taste for it too!), the feeling I had opening a box of macarons and a spa voucher as a “thank you” present from Mr L, playing Calon Lan to try and get Baby L back to sleep at 3am, getting both feet off the floor (not for long!) in crow pose…. And so on.

A few weeks ago we watched “Inside Out”. Since then, Mr L has talked about generating “core memories” for our kids. I agree, that’s important, but from a slighty more selfish point of view, I’m very happy to look after them in my own memory bank for now!

Here’s to 2015…. x

Happier at Home

I’ve become quite fond of Gretchen. Since reading The Happiness Project and attempting my own (and therein gaining a newfound respect for her diligence to such a project) I’ve been listening to her podcast Happier and I’ve read (and really enjoyed) Better Than Before.

I was wandering around my local library the other day (not quite deliberately enough to call it browsing) when I came across her book Happier At Home. I’ve never really had a great urge to read this one- for a while I thought it was the same as The Happiness Project but with a different cover or title, as some books seem to have for various international versions. But after seeing it there in front of me and reading the back to make sure it wasn’t the same as The Happiness Project, I thought “Let’s give it a whirl!” so I borrowed it. (I love libraries, they satisfy my penchant for zero waste, frugal, clutter-free living.)

Although I’d had my reservations about The Happiness Project, I enjoyed Happier At Home from page 1. Gretchen’s writing voice is different to her podcast voice. When I first tuned into her podcasts, I remember being quite surprised to hear the way she spoke. I’m not sure why…. Reading another of her books then reminded me of that slightly awkward, nerdy, slightly neurotic type A persona that I found difficult to fully warm to in The Happiness Project. But this time, instead of finding it disconcerting, I actually found it quite comforting to hear it again.

And so, I read about what is, essentially, her second happiness project, this one on a slightly smaller scale, set in and around her home. And, just as with The Happiness Project, I was inspired to take away from it some “Try this at home”s (find out what this is on her podcast- although it’s pretty self-explanatory!)

Specifically,

  • Go shelf by shelf (declutter- a constant mission of mine)
  • Kiss in the morning, kiss at night (Give proofs of love)
  • Give gold stars (Acknowledge others’ good deeds verbally not just mentally)
  • Go on adventures (Big and small, with both Mr L and the little Ls)
  • Give warm greetings and farewells (a kiss at least, hello and goodbye)
  • Dig Deep (My personal commandments need revisiting I think)
  • Suffer for fifteen minutes (Get a potentially tedious and large scale chore done little by little each day- mine, as Gretchen’s was, is collating some family photo albums.)
  • Follow a threshold ritual (Literally, cross the threshold of your house with gratitude)
  • Eat like a yogi (I added this one myself- more on this later, it’s a work in progress)

I wonder if I’d have been better off reading Happier At Home before The Happiness Project. Despite coming first, The Happiness Project is on a much bigger scale and was a bit full on for me. Mine kind of fizzled. This one’s much less rigid. It’s just going to aim to incorporate these habits into my day, rather than ticking off resolution charts or writing time lines.

We’ll see how we go!

 

 

Zero Waste Update 4

Ok so I promise this is not turning into a Zero Waste blog. There are a lot of those around and while they can be very inspiring, I do find they tend to run out of new things to talk about after a while.

However, I read back over a couple of my previous Zero Waste posts last night and realised how much things have changed, especially my attitude!

I can’t believe I complained about recycled toilet paper being “ugly” and in this post said, about people who use cloth baby wipes:

There are people who use old rags as baby wipes and wash them. Good for them.

So, just a quick update on what’s new around here….

Baby wipes– While we’re on the subject: I couldn’t really find a definitive answer on the environmental impact of bamboo/viscose etc etc but I suspect it’s still significant. When in doubt, something reusable is almost always going to have less impact than something single use. Also, what really bothered me was the plastic packets they all come in, which is definitely single use and not recyclable/biodegradable etc. So I took the plunge. Mr L had a couple of old t shirts destined for the rag bag so I chopped them up and have been using them as babywipes. I just wet about 10 at a time in a sink of cold water with a squirt of baby shampoo in it (although this is probably unnecessary) and store them in a small reusable baby wipe container we had lying around. Once they’re dirty I chuck them in the laundry sink and put them in the next wash. Because they’re thick and fairly large (actually probably no bigger than a standard babywipe, but more substantial because of their thickness), one usually does the job, so a box of 10 lasts at least a day, usually two.

Miss L isn’t a big fan of them, but she’s practically toilet trained now. Baby L doesn’t care as long as his bottom’s clean. I must point out though, for those unaccustomed to the different grades of baby poo, that the newborn poos (when all they drink is milk) are liquid and relatively inoffensive. Once they start eating solids there is a steady progression in gross-ness as their poos become more voluminous and solid, and once they’ve smooshed around a nappy for anything more than a few minutes they are probably not something you want to use a reusable anything on. So for these ones of Miss L’s, I do the bulk of the job with toilet paper and then finish off with a reusable wipe.

Apologies to anyone for whom that was TMI.

Coffee cup– I broke my ceramic mug at the zoo when it was knocked out of the holder on the stroller (talk about first world problems). Apart from being slightly embarrassed about the big “smash” inside the (supposedly) quiet Kiwi enclosure and then having to scrabble around picking up broken bits of china (one of which cut me), I felt like a complete idiot that I had just created more waste in trying to avoid waste. I had visions of the pieces of ceramic lying, never to decompose, in a landfill somewhere, the shards cutting the feet of small animals or ripping the guts of sea birds open. Then I got a grip.

My new cup is plastic, so it shouldn’t meet the same fate. I actually like the spout better than my old one, it’s nicer to drink out of, and in the unlikely event that I one day have no use for it, it’s recyclable. (Yes, I know, internal lecture to self about the evils of plastic recycling)

I was faced with a real dilemma the other day though, stopping for a quick coffee on my way home without my cup!! What to do?!?! Easy, I decided to “have here”. Only it was 4.30 and they were clearing up and told me I could only have it in a takeaway cup!! Wracked with guilt (and desperate for a coffee) I wondered what I should do. As she made the coffee I stood there already feeling guilty for the waste that one coffee cup would produce. So I compromised, and took the cup but asked for no lid…. After all, I consoled myself, it’s not about being perfect. I think I need to start thinking “Less waste” rather than “Zero waste”.

Toilet paper– I’m now buying Safe from Huckleberry Farms. Recycled toilet paper, paper packaging, and no, it’s not that ugly. It’s certainly prettier than the job it’s designed for anyway!

Also at Huckleberry Farms I found they stock a few things which might be handy- they let you fill your own container with Ecostore washing up liquid, meaning I don’t have to go all the way to Binn Inn for it. They also sell Global Soap, so I bought a bar of their stain remover to see if we can do away with the plastic-packaged Vanish stain remover which comes in handy for baby poo explosions and the collars and cuffs of Mr L’s business shirts when they get grubby. So far, the trial on the shirts has been disappointing…. Might have to try harder.

Loving Earth Chocolate– also at Huckleberry Farms, this chocolate comes in a compostable wrapper. And costs a small fortune. But at least I only buy (and therefore eat) a tiny bit at a time.

Cooking– kiwifruit jam, more marmalade, tamarillo chutney…. All of these are easy to make, taste great, are zero waste and are great to give away as small impromptu gifts. They also invite oos and ahs of admiration as people say “OMG how you have the time to make your own jam with 3 children?” Well I have the time to update my Facebook and watch crap TV, so I figure I have the time to make jam. What’s that? You update your FB and watch crap TV too… precisely.

Other pleasing discoveries have been zero waste crackers (good with cheese) and “larabars”- also pseudo healthy- as a chocolatey treat. What’s also good about making these things yourself is that as making them is (arguably) harder work and more expensive than tossing a packet in the supermarket trolley when you walk past them, you feel less inclined to polish off a whole packet. This is probably also because they are quite rich- you just wouldn’t eat a whole tray of them.

Toiletries– I am now using Lush toothy tabs instead of toothpaste (most of the time). They took a bit of getting used to but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. They don’t give you that big mint hit but they do leave your teeth feeling really clean and smooth and most mornings I wake up feeling fresher. They feel a bit odd- a bit like brushing your teeth with chalk, but they taste so much better than any bicarb concoction that I came up with. They are quite abrasive though (hence the smooth teeth!) so I hope they aren’t damaging the enamel on my teeth. The abrasiveness also means I have to keep my mouth open when I brush as my toothbrush rubbing against the corner of my mouth with the toothy tabs was really irritant. I’m using “Breath of God” at the moment, which I chose on the recommendation of the shop assistant as being the least radical change from conventional toothpaste. And if I’ve had something particularly garlicky or I just want to be “normal” again I do occasionally still use regular toothpaste, probably about once every 3 or 4 days.

Lotion bars- Lush also do massage bars so I bought one to use instead of body moisturiser. I’m not a big body moisturiser user anyway, but occasionally my legs or elbows get dry and I want to put something on. I’ve been really happy with these- they go on quite sparingly and smell subtle but nice (of lemons, despite being supposedly peach scented). Once the weather warms up I have a feeling they might melt a bit too easily and be a bit greasy, but we’ll see. You can keep them in the fridge but who wants to go to the kitchen after a shower to put on moisturizer before they get dressed??

Unfortunately both the toothy tabs and the lotion bars are slightly more expensive than the products they’re replacing.

I’ve now used up the J&J cornstarch so I’m just using regular cooking cornflour instead of deodorant. I looked around for a while for a metal shaker for it but gave up and bought a plastic one- hopefully it’ll last.

Books– I did a bit more reading- “Plastic Free” by Beth Terry, who attacks plastic not just due to the waste impact but all the other evils it supposedly delivers (endocrine disruptors, carcinogens etc etc). I take these things with a grain of (package free) salt, but it’s easy to see how planting the seeds of doubt and fertilisng them with supposed science to a naïve (or even merely) open mind can create obsession and paranoia. I can imagine how people get turned against things like vaccination and fluoride, two other 20th century innovations that have done a lot of good but can be portrayed as the harbingers of just about every modern day affliction you can imagine. That said, I’m still trying to avoid it as much as possible, without being too paranoid about the damage it might be doing me personally.

I also read “The Zero-Waste Lifestyle” by Amy Korst by but to be honest it didn’t contain much I hadn’t read before, so it was a skim read really. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be interesting to someone embarking on a zero/less waste change but it didn’t hold a huge amount for me.

Right so much for that quick update.

I promise to write about something different next time, really!!!

 

 

Zero Waste Update 3- Collecting Rubbish

Sometimes I feel like I’ve become that annoying, preachy, eco-warrior from hell… Some days I feel like it’s all completely futile. But most days I feel like I’m actually on a meaningful venture that might, just maybe, make a difference. If not to the world then at least to me, my family and even my neighbourhood. There’s been enough interest on my Facebook Zero Waste posts – several likes, a couple of (positive) questions or comments- that suggest to me that a) there are more people who are interested in changing their own habits than I thought there were and that b) there are more people who hadn’t thought about a lot of the issues but are open to hearing new ideas. If there are a lot of people who are cynical about the whole thing and sick of me banging on about it, then at least they’ve had the good cyber-manners to keep quiet.

So, what’s new in the Life household, zero waste wise?? Lots but I think this one deserves a post of its own…

I’ve been on a couple of walks with the dog which have doubled as rubbish-collecting expeditions. One day last week, after a lot of wind and rain (and as it happened the day after the weekly council rubbish collection) I walked down to our local water-front park. The walk itself pretty much demonstrated the journey of a piece of rubbish (plastic and otherwise) that gets dropped in the street. There was so much of it around, undoubtedly much of it dropped and/or blown from household bins as the garbage truck picked them up. From the footpath, rubbish had blown into the gutters. It had then washed along the gutter to the drain, where surprisingly large pieces (and of course small ones) are able to enter. I picked up a shopping bag full of rubbish up off the street and out of the gutter on my way down to the park (about 1km away).

The park is on the water’s edge- there is a narrow harbour beach with a small retaining wall and with the recent wind and high tides the water level had evidently risen high enough to overflow and rise up onto the grass. Once it had subsided, the tide had left a high water line of sticks, plants, shells and RUBBISH. It was incredible. Much of it was plastic. Light enough to float and be washed up, I guess. Top mentions go to the round plastic peelable seals that most milk cartons come with these days. Second was probably those plastic ring seals that the milk cartons without the peelable ones have. There were the ubiquitous bottle tops from sports drinks and bottled water, particularly those small round clear plastic caps they put over the plastic pop-up spout. Plus the inside of pens, miniature plastic soy sauce bottles, many unidentifiable small plastic bits and bobs and of course, a couple of drinking straws. Beer bottle tops and cigarette butts topped the non-plastic offenders and just to mix it up there was also a piece of polystyrene which had broken up into a million billion pieces and I probably picked up about fifty of them.

The park has a dog poo bag dispenser, which I usually shun in favour of my own dog poo bags (we are currently using up our bought stock, after which we’ll start repurposing the other plastic bags that still, somehow, make their way into our home from time to time.) However, on this occasion I was quite glad of the bags, they are the size of a medium freezer bag and I filled 2 of them with small bits of litter from the park.

I set off back up the hill, feeling very virtuous although bothered slightly that if that rubbish hadn’t made it to landfill the first time, perhaps it wouldn’t the second, either. Or the third, or the fourth. Another thing I’ve noticed is how old and tatty a lot of the plastic is and I wonder how long it’s taken to look like that- are these bits of rubbish that have been in the water a month? A year? A decade?

This morning’s walk was more focused on the macro. I took a big department store bag with me (it was the first to hand) which proved lucky as, today being Monday, there seemed to be a lot of weekend rubbish around- not just bottle tops but bottles!! I walked down to a local beach this time. In total, 3 beer bottles, a vodka bottle and a bourbon and coke can plus several cigarette packets and soft drink bottle labels. Plus an equal number of milk bottle seals. At least my neighbours aren’t just drinking booze! The beach itself had the usual little plastic bits and bobs, I didn’t have the time (or, to be honest, the inclination) to pick every single one of them up. After all, I’m meant to be enjoying the walk too, not just staring down at my feet looking for bits of rubbish.

So on my way home I was thinking, I probably need a set of guidelines for when it all seems too much, a futile exercise, or one that becomes a chore rather than a good deed.

Perhaps I should focus on plastic, or big things, or just get a bag-full then stop. I’ve already decided that tiny things in the gutter (in fact most things in the gutter) can just stay there- there’s not much point trying to make the world a better place for myself, my children and the dog to live in if any of us gets taken out by a car whilst scrabbling around in the gutter for rubbish. I’m also really careful with tins and broken glass, my tetanus immunisations are up to date but similarly getting a festering infected wound is probably counter-productive to my zero waste endeavours.

So if you see a strange woman and a bored-looking dog wandering around the beaches and parks of Auckland, it’s probably me!

Zero Waste Update 2*

*I wrote this post in May but it looks as though I didn’t post it…. think maybe Baby L interrupted… Oops!

And so we continue this zero waste project… this morning as I was gazing into our rubbish bin (yes, I know, sad) I was struck by the proportion of its contents that consisted of nappies. We only have 1 child (Miss L) in nappies, although that’s soon (ie hopefully within the week) to be 2. Miss L, at 15kg and 22 months old, is simply too big for the cloth nappies I have, and I’m not forking out for another system when I hope she’ll be toilet trained in the next 6 months. I do try to make a nappy last as long as possible (sometimes invoking the need for nappy cream) and she does have some nappy-free time (usually at her own insistence) which saves on nappies and also does the job of nappy cream. I know it’s not ideal. But it works for us. As with Master and Miss L, I’m intending to use a combination of cloth & disposable for Baby L.

Wipes are another ongoing issue and source of enviro-guilt for me. I looked into bamboo wipes, and will probably give them a go, but I did some research on bamboo on the internet and found conflicting info. Yes it’s “biodegradable” under the right circumstances and “natural” but many sites seemed to suggest that the environmental impact of growing bamboo (clearing land, water consumption) is considerable. Worse than the alternatives? I don’t know. The other option would be toilet roll and some plant-based, super expensive body lotion from somewhere like Ecostore and I was prepared to try this option but annoyingly, when I was there the other day, I found they only sell teeny weeny bottles (not just expensive but also quite wasteful and their bottles are not refillable, just recyclable). I also thought about cloth wipes and just washing them but I know that the realities of washing a poo-encrusted piece of cloth would be prohibitive and it really wouldn’t take off. So back to bamboo it is, I suppose.

So how are the other projects going?

Reducing packaging

My new bread system is working brilliantly! I found an unused large linen drawstring bag, which had come as one of those protective covers for my Country Road Tote bag- which I use all the time unless I have the nappy bag (which is almost all the time) but regardless, I don’t empty my tote and put it away, so I have never had any use for the special bag-bag. I washed it and use it for my bread. It easily fits 4 large loaves, 6 rolls and the occasional scone or other treat.

I felt jubilant last week at the supermarket after psyching up and asking for my chicken breasts from the meat counter to be placed into my Tupperware container (actually they’re Décor but anyway). I had convinced myself that surely I wasn’t the ONLY person to have ever done this, right? The woman looked at me like I was mad. She glanced sideways and said “I’m not really sure I’m allowed to”. I said “I just want to save the plastic”. She added “I’ll have to weigh the container too”. I smiled, said “Just put it on the scales and zero it, then stick the label on the lid”. I was probably the most exciting customer she had all day. Certainly the most excited, I felt positively buoyant after the experience! Today that all came undone when I tried to buy ham from a different branch of the same chain of supermarket and was told “We’re not allowed to do that” but I was offered one of their plastic boxes instead of the usual plastic bag. I tried to explain that my objection was to the plastic, not to the bag, but got nowhere so took the plastic bag and walked off trying to look more haughty and less sheepish than I actually felt. Might have to work on that one….

We are bin-liner free! This was a really easy progression. I used to double line my bins (!!!) in case the liner leaked, so I wouldn’t have to clean the bin (I’d only routinely throw one liner away though, unless it had leaked and the second was dirty). Yes, I’ve had to wash the kitchen bin out a couple of times but it’s really no big deal. I try to put messy rubbish straight into the wheelie bin (the way our house is laid out this is not a big hassle, although once the rainy days of winter arrive I may feel differently) and for really, really messy things (eg chicken bones boiled & strained to make stock) I do put them in a plastic bag.

Toilet rolls– I placed a bulk order for 48 400-sheet 2-ply toilet rolls, from a website called insinc.co.nz, made from recycled paper and wrapped in paper, delivered in a cardboard box, no plastic!! Not entirely sure of the hydrocarbon cost and carbon emission created from the delivery of the box by, presumably, motorised transport but anyway.

Bamboo toothbrushes– I paid $6 a piece for these in Ecostore, then saw a different brand in New World for $4 each so bought one of those too just to compare. As soon as my plastic ones wear down, they’re getting a trial run. Ditto some bamboo cotton buds (which I personally don’t use but Mr L does).

Soap dishes– we are a liquid-soap free house! The bars are quite messy, I think maybe even worse on a dish. Plus they get dirty if you have really dirty hands (think grease from a car exhaust). Plus once they get soft the kids like to dig their fingers into the bars which is wasteful and unsightly but then I suppose so is chucking out a plastic soap refill container every few months.

Washing powder– I found a new brand in cardboard packaging going cheap in New World so decided to give it a go- it’s called Ecoplanet. Not as zero-waste as refilling my ice-cream container at Bin Inn, but I’d bought the non eco-friendly powder last time at Bin Inn, and was feeling guilty about that. I like the Ecoplanet better than some of the other eco-brands as the packaging is completely plastic free- no annoying plastic bag hiding inside the box and even a cardboard scoop instead of those plastic ones that you then get left wondering what to do with.

Cloth napkins– I dug out my (hardly ever used) cloth napkins to use instead of kitchen roll- we weren’t ever great kitchen-roll consumers anyway but I like to use one if I’m eating something messy and they kids have taken to using them too.

Shops

I continue to visit Bin Inn, trying to be mindful of the environmental issues associated with driving there in the first place. I have bought canola oil, golden syrup and honey there now and they do, in fact, sell olive oil, it’s just not on display.

Some other places I’ve found include:

Wise Cicada in Newmarket- they have loads of stuff on offer and seem to market themselves as an organic café/deli/general store. In fact, not all their products are “eco-friendly”- like the cotton-nylon shower puff they had. They had a lot of alternative-style, hemp and hessian bags and clothes for sale but I didn’t feel they offered much over and above my other eco-resources except for staff members with dreadlocks.

Huckleberry Farms– this appears to be a chain, the closest one being within a few km of our house. It seems to be more of a health-food shop and they do sell a lot of naturopathic/alternative health products, but they have a moderate selection of dry goods in bins.

And so we continue to pare our waste down…. Until next time!

Zero Waste Update

Well, it’s been ­­­3 weeks since my Zero Waste aspirations began. So far I’ve been quite excited and impressed by the changes we’ve made and by how easy they have been.

So far we’ve managed to:

Refuse plastic bags for our bread and bakery products. This has simply been a matter of requesting a paper bag for the (numerous!) hot cross buns we buy (“Yes, of course no problem!” has been the unanimous reply) and buying our bread from the pick-your-own section of the supermarket. I’ve stopped buying sliced bread as I couldn’t see how, even from Baker’s Delight, this was going to work in a paper bag. Instead I slice my own- I thought the kids would protest about the uneven, more rustic slices, but actually, they haven’t.

Refuse or reduce other packaging

  • Soap- we’re phasing out liquid soap and I’ve ordered some wooden soap dishes online to make it less messy (although to be honest, it’s not too bad but a soap dish which allows the soap to drain and dry between uses should also extend the life of the bar).
  • Bin Inn– our patronage continues and I have bought sugar, washing up liquid, laundry powder, baking soda and buckwheat there. I was excited to see they sell honey and golden syrup as well as canola oil (but alas no olive oil). The other very exciting find was their peanut butter machine- you take your own tub, select smooth, medium or crunchy, and let the machine grind your peanut butter straight into your tub! The kids loved it and so did I!

Ecostore products

  • The toilet brush is great, as toilet brushes go. Not only does it look quite classy (if it’s possible for a toilet brush to look classy) but the bristles are nice and flexible so it cleans brilliantly, and the kids haven’t given it a second glance- I was worried with it not being enclosed that they might want to play with it.
  • I’ve only just finished my regular shampoo (I realised my hair only really needed washing once a week while I’m pregnant- it seems much drier plus I am not exercising so it doesn’t get sweaty), so have only used the Ecostore stuff once. It seemed ok, not very lathery, but I’m sure lather is just some marketing trick to make you feel like you’re getting really clean.
  • Also loving the string bags and no one at the supermarket has had an issue with me buying my fruit and veg in them.
  • The free soap I got dries my skin a bit so I might try another variety next time.
  • I haven’t tried the sanitary products yet.

Dog poo– most of this has gone over the fence with no complaints from the neighbours (human or bovine.)

Bins– I have also cut down on bin liners (we used plastic shopping bags) by not bothering to line the nappy bin in the garage- it stinks anyway so what does it matter- and chucking as much as possible straight in the wheelie bin rather than into a house bin first and filling up a plastic bag. A bin liner now lasts 2 or 3 days, instead of less than 1. This creates the illusion of less rubbish, certainly, as everything packs in tighter, but I like to think we actually have been throwing less out too.

Deodorant- the bicarb/cornflour/coconut oil concoction became difficult to use as the weather has got cooler, as it’s not as soft and easy to apply. I could add more coconut oil I suppose but I’ve actually taken to just using cornstarch (J&J at the moment but I am going to try and move to plain kitchen cornstarch) and perfume with no complaints (from myself or others!)

Picking up rubbish at the beach– I felt like a total hippy but I picked up a small bag (yes ok it would have been better to use a bucket) of rubbish- cigarette butts, wrappers, bits of plastic etc at the beach yesterday.

Resuable coffee cup– we have started taking them out when we get a takeaway coffee (which is actually not all that often anyway). Even Mr L was on board with this today.

Marmalade– I made a big batch of marmalade for the grand total of about $7 this week- made the equivalent of about 5 jars from the shops. Of course it has been bottled in reused jam jars I’d been saving.

My next goal is to source and try out the following:

  •  Shampoo bars- dog & human
  • Bamboo shower puff
  • Bamboo toothbrush
  • Bamboo babywipes
  • Toilet rolls made from recycled paper AND free of plastic packaging
  • Containers for meat from shops etc

 We’ll see how we go!

Zero Waste Home

So I came across a blog called “Zero Waste Home” by Bea Johnson a few weeks ago while reading an article on reducing plastic consumption in your life.

Bea is a French woman living in the US, married to an American guy with 2 children. Essentially, she describes how she lived a fairly “traditional” French childhood in suburban Provence (it never occurred to me that they had suburbs in Provence as I’ve always assumed it was all quaint medieval villages and lavender fields but evidently there are suburbs too!) then when she moved to the US she found herself embroiled in the “American Dream”- big house, big garden, 2 gas guzzling vehicles and a disposable lifestyle.

Motivated by wanting to live in a slightly more atmospheric, inner suburb of whichever US city she’s in, but unable to afford the same scale of house, they embraced minimalism to allow them to downsize and move closer into town.

Eventually she transitioned to and embraced not just having less stuff but creating less waste.

I found the book really quite interesting as it generally seemed to support the feelings I already had about being green and recycling (ie that recycling surely can’t be the “chuck stuff out totally guilt-free” card everyone seems to regard it as). She doesn’t go into a huge amount of detail about the process of recycling, its byproducts and the like, but she does touch on a few processes and suggests that the real problem is plastic. According to Bea, plastics are rarely recycled into equally sustainable products, they are often “downcycled” into products that can’t then be recycled a second time and go to land/ocean fill.

Her philosophy, as I had kind of already embraced myself, is to minimise the amount of stuff that comes into your house, that’s the only way to really minimise the stuff that goes out again. Her 5 Rs are Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. Fairly self- explanatory, but to spell it out,

  • Refuse as much stuff as possible
  • Reduce the amount of stuff you do let into your house
  • Reuse it (as opposed to recycling it)
  • Recycle and Rot (composting) are then last resorts before throwing it in the bin

Some of her tips go a bit far for my liking (each to their own, but she advocates dusting cocoa powder on your cheeks instead of foundation and I don’t fancy a load of flies swarming around me or smelling like a hot chocolate) but she has motivated me to try and reduce as much as possible the amount of stuff we chuck out and to focus, first and foremost, on cutting down our plastic waste.

Some things I’d already been doing for a while, like:

  • Avoiding cling wrap as much as possible- for about a year I’ve been using reusable sandwich wraps. There are several available on the market and many of them are quite expensive, cashing in on a combination of the food-safety paranoia and the environmental concerns surrounding plastics. I must say I found some very reasonably priced ones at Howards Storage World in Australia and I have no idea what their environmental or food safety profile is, but having bought only two and used them all year, surely that’s better than the roll of cling wrap I would otherwise have gone through?
  • Re-using paper in the printer. I used to get a lot of it from work- for some reason my old workplace in Sydney was so wasteful with paper and you’d find reams (literally) of paper printed on one side only that people had left in the printer, I’m not sure why- printed in error I guess, so I’d swipe it and take it home to use. The main problems were I’d actually acquire more than I could use (I don’t print much stuff out at home) and a couple of times I had to be careful about ending up with printouts which had sensitive information on the reverse side.
  • Composting- in Sydney this was a no-brainer as we had a garden we could use the compost in and also chickens, whose poo really needs mixing with compost as it’s too harsh to put straight on the soil (apparently). This had fallen by the wayside since moving to Auckland, mainly because we didn’t have any sort of garden beds (or chickens) to benefit from compost, also because we had nowhere convenient to put a compost bin and finally because every house in NZ (our new one included) seems to have a waste disposal system, which I have always considered an American thing. Anyway we have resurrected our composting habit- it’s amazing how much goes into it and how satisfying it is!
  • Reducing electricity & gas consumption- this was always easy to comply with as it reduces your bills. Happily our new house has instant gas hot water with a thermostat, meaning I have been able to turn down the temperature our hot water is heated to. I could never see the logic of paying to heat water to hotter than your skin can stand, only to cool it down by mixing it with cold water for a shower. It’s not quite as hot as it could be for washing dishes, but it’s fine.
  • Resuable water bottle- I HATE paying to buy water when I’m out, so this is easy.
  • Resuable coffee cup- Mr L and I both have these, however our main motivation was again financial, we’d use them to take coffee from home rather than taking them to cafes to get them filled. But I’ve done it a couple of times now and they haven’t thought I’m a complete weirdo! It’s not that hard. I had also been taking mine to work, to make cups of tea in rather than using the Styrofoam rubbish they have there.

Since reading Zero Waste Home, some of the new things I’ve looked into have included:

  • Buying bread in paper bags as much as possible. I always reused the plastic bags our bread came in, usually for cleaning up after the dog (see below) but felt bad. It’s been pretty easy and hasn’t confined us to expensive Bakers Delight bread (although we do go there quite a bit anyway), turns out our local budget supermarket has very nice loaves of bread which you self-serve in paper bags. Of course, Bea would suggest getting your own cloth bread bag (she uses a pillow case) and doing without the bag altogether, but then what do you store it in when you get home?
  • Packaging- with other products, too, I’ve been much more aware of packaging and trying to stick to a hierarchy of none-paper-glass-plastic. I realised (with horror) that the bars of soap I’ve been buying to use in the shower come in non-recyclable plasticky paper wrapping. I bought some in simple cardboard boxes and have now found some without wrappers at all. They are a little more expensive, but are still less than $3 per bar. I also agonized over my choice of honey in the supermarket, feeling ashamed of my convenient plastic flip-top squeezey bottle- I mean how hard is it to take the top off and use a knife??* But there was no honey in a glass jar, I couldn’t believe it!! So I got a screw top plastic jar which looked like it could be used again, instead of the flimsy, throwaway soft plastic things that most of the honey seems to come in here.   [*I might add that I have previously been down the “which honey container to buy” decision tree, and what led me to the squeezy bottle (when the jars are way cheaper and would ordinarily have won) is the fact that I HATE it when people leave crumbs in the honey/marmalade/jam/butter and even more when there are traces of butter in the non-butter spreads, it grosses me out. I even go so far as to use a clean knife (not the buttery one) after buttering the toast to apply the spread, in order to avoid contaminating it. I realise not everyone shares my OCD tendencies and so to avoid irritation I resorted to buying the squeezer. Anyway, I digress.]
  • And on the subject of soap, for years I have been a liquid soap user, again, not being able to stand the soggy mess on the sink that collects with bars. But I figured it’s a lot of plastic, so when we finish the liquid stuff we’ve got, I’m going to try bars for handwashing once again. (I never got into shower gel for the simple reason it’s so expensive compared to bars of soap, so I’m sure I can cope with bars at the sinks).
  • New shops- I ventured to Ecostore, which I had always dismissed as a complete rip-off in the past, but actually some of their stuff is ok. I came away with a toilet brush (our cheap metal and –gasp- plastic one had fallen apart after about 5 uses, so I bought a wooden handled, natural bristled one, with a wooden & ceramic stand. The brush is compostable so when it gets grotty you chuck in on the compost heap. Then you just buy a replacement brush to put in the old stand. I also bought some organic cotton string bags, which I put fruit and veg in at the supermarket (the things that are too much hassle to have loose) and some all-natural, compostable sanitary pads which were also cheaper than I expected. NB I will NOT be composting these as I think it’s kind of gross for the other household members, but I figured they’ll decompose quicker in the rubbish tip than the normal sort. Some shampoo & conditioner in refillable bottles completed my purchase, and I was rewarded with a free bar of (package free) soap and a lip balm! I was prepared to buy a large tub of laundry detergent, as I quite like the Ecostore stuff, but was disappointed to find they only have a very limited range of products that they’ll refill and their powder detergent isn’t one of them. You can take your containers back but I was told by the woman serving me they recycle them, they don’t refill them. Not like at…..
  • Bin Inn– a chain of sort of health-food shops I suppose is how they describe themselves, but most of their products are in bins sold by weight- you take your own containers which they weigh empty, then weigh again when you’ve put your loot into them! What a fabulous idea. So far I’ve bought rolled oats, sultanas, sunflower seeds, buckwheat, laundry detergent, dry dog food and dog treats. The stuff is reasonably priced- some of it’s more expensive than in the supermarket but some of it is a lot cheaper so I think it breaks even. There’s one about 20 mins drive from us, so it’s probably an awful waste of petrol to go there all the time, but once I get my system going it might work quite well!
  • Dog- I always put her mess into plastic bags then in the bin, but our new house backs onto a big overgrown field whose only users are cows, so I have started chucking her poo over the fence into the long grass. I’m sure the cows won’t mind, given how much mess they themselves make. And when it’s exposed to sun, rain and flies, dog poo doesn’t hang around that long anyway, certainly not compared to sitting in a plastic bag being preserved on a rubbish heap.
  • And finally, I have also tried making my own deodorant!! Using 1/4 cup bicarb soda, 1/4 cup cornflour and 4 tsp coconut oil. It’s ok, it’s like a stick deodorant only not in a very convenient dispenser (you rub it on with your fingers). I’m not a super sweaty, smelly person, luckily, or I don’t think I’d get away with it. I have been a bit sweatier than usual, but I have about 4 bottles of perfume that take me aaages to get through so I figured I’d start using them daily and they can supplement the deodorant. I generally buy fragrance-free deodorant anyway, and have always balked at the cost of the aerosol stuff. As luck would have it, I didn’t make it to Aldi during our recent trip to Sydney to buy any more of their cheap, perfectly acceptable, mildly-fragranced stuff anyway, and I was already resenting paying $7 a can for branded stuff here.

It’d be nice to get to the point where we don’t have to put up with meat, cheese, fish & deli products in their inevitable plastic wrapping but to do this I think I’m going to have to start shopping at small local shops who’ll take a BYO container and put the stuff into it. An idea I like in theory, but the convenience of a supermarket instead of 5 different outlets, particularly with 2 kids in tow, just wins out most of the time.

Will we ever do away with plastic altogether? No. And I don’t think we’ll achieve completely zero plastic waste either. Plastic has its uses. I have a lot of plastic tubs already and I can’t see the point of chucking them out to buy other substitutes- I’ll use them until they fall apart (ideally forever)- surely that’s better than them going to landfill now? Plus, plastic is really useful for keeping things fresh! I keep my vegetables in plastic bags in the fridge so they don’t go soft. And plastic is better than paper for keeping bread from going stale. What I am trying to do is have designated sturdy plastic bags which I can reuse many times over before they need to be thrown out.

 Anyway, we’ll see, It’s a start, at least!