Hi everyone. Blog posts are fine – if you have time to read (and write) them! As an alternative, I have a Facebook page which is updated FAR more regularly. I aim to keep things real, entertaining and informative. I look forward to seeing you there! Have a great, green day.
In the space of two weeks we went from a family who recycled well and land-filled the rest, to:
- 2 Bokashi bins
- 1 worm farm,
- 1 compost bin,
- reorganising the household bins and replacing most with recycling bins because we now barely landfill anything, and
- thoughts as to where we can plant edible crops (the diseased azalea bushes lining our front path should be quaking in their roots).
Ahhhh, but it wasn’t as simple as that of course.
Bokashi-bin-tastic. We began with two second-hand Bokashi bins. For anyone not in the know, they are air-tight buckets with a valve at the bottom to drain off liquid and a separator which sits inside the bin and above the valve to keep solids and liquids, well, separated. Cue mental radio station playing The Offspring with lyrics “you gotta keep ‘em separated”. The Bokashi works by fermentation and is WAY faster than traditional composting, with the added bonus of being able to break down pretty much anything, including bones, citrus, meat, dairy – all those things that you can’t put in a traditional composting system. You fill the bucket, add some miracle fermenting grains after each layer, seal it up and leave it for *adopt resigned and disappointed attitude* 6 to 8 weeks (!) and then bury it into the ground and start again. Anywho, we filled both buckets in the first fortnight and then had nowhere left to comopost.
Enter the worms!
Incidentally, it is quite hilarious hearing your children say excitedly to their friends “Do you want to see my worms?”
We are now the proud parents of 1,200 worms who, much to our now-regular disappointment, could not be fed for a week until they established themselves in their new home and even then were to be fed only weekly and in limited supply. Despite my constant and relentless querying of hubby (who was in charge of the worm-adoption) the answer remains the same: it is bad form to start our tiered worm farm at full capacity as they need to build up their colony gradually.
Sigh. Still nowhere to put our kitchen scraps!
Roll in the compost bin. A double-barrelled, 160 litre compost bin on legs to be precise – and STILL we’ve nowhere for bones, dairy, citrus and meat. Secretly I’m going to jam these things into the full Bokashi bins when hubby isn’t looking.
What is completely gob-smacking is that it would seem that previously 98% of all our waste was egg shells, banana peels, melon rinds, citrus and avocado skins!
It has been quite a learning curve here – composting techniques and the various do’s and dont’s. I wish I could say that I was also busy feeding 1,200 mouths!
As for growing our own food – the Azalea bushes had less than 24 hours left as it turned out. They were constantly diseased, made a mess and really did nothing for me. I’ve now the perfect spot to start burying our Bokashi bin contents to build up the soil quality and will then be planting carrots.
Annnnd I’m experimenting with:
- Growing my own avocado trees from seed,
- re-growing spring onions,
- and the indoor strawberry bushes are still alive and have flowered but still no fruit …. we shall wait and see!
Hey – anything to avoid the shops I say!
Our house has recently taken a more hands-on approach to our waste. Despite having used reusable shopping bags for a considerable time, this increased awareness of our waste coincided with the plastic bag ban in Western Australia. Also swirling around the grey-matter is that, like many others, we have a mortgage (which would be delightful to farewell permanently) so being far more conscious that anything we put into the bin was once hard-earned money has put a new spin on things.
Analysing your waste is a very strange thing and has led to an acknowledgment – I really, really, really do not like shopping. Like cleaning, it is an endless cycle with very little rewards. Thus I have begun to be rather creative in my non-shopping-ness.
Like DIY nail-polish remover pads.
My daughter is 7 going on 17 and likes to have painted nails. Painted nails leads to removal of said paint, leading to stocking disposable cotton pads; which are bought in plastic packaging. Despite being a nails-painted kind of gal, she’s also rough on the play field and a hole in every knee of her leggings is inevitable. Having run out of disposable cotton pads, I launched a pair of holey leggings at her and suggested she use that instead. Despite expecting some commentary on how ‘tragic and inappropriate’ I was, she complied without comment. Fairly quickly I discovered a flaw to my cunning plan – leggings can absorb a whole lotta moisture.
My brain flew around the house, remembering various items I couldn’t bring myself to landfill and settled upon the fabric from some useless umbrellas that I had bought during a particularly impressive Perth rain storm. They lasted exactly 16 metres before the stems snapped.
With less than an hour to spare one day I sewed the leggings into little circles with umbrella-fabric backings to more effectively hold the nail-polish remover AND it’s an item I will no longer have to buy again as they get put into the washing machine and then back to work! Hurrah!
Inspired and energised to find opportunities to avoid buying ‘things’ – hankies to replace tissues was the next item on my list.
Hubby is AWESOME at always having a tissue in his pocket – sometimes it has been in there a while and is barely usable, but he can still provide one in time of need. I on the other hand frantically frisk around bags and pockets and come up empty handed.
I quickly turned an outgrown cotton dress of my daughter’s and some gorgeous left-over fabric into hankies. Straight lines – I can sew them!
And now with my new, re-purposed cloth hankies I will be reformed woman. When someone says “Do you have a tissue?” I will produce something much more lovely (and with a drop of essential oil they’ll even smell pretty). I’ve put them right at the front door so there really is no excuse for future failure. Oh and a little tip – I wouldn’t recommend using fabric that you REALLY love as there’s a high chance of letting someone keep the hankie once used!
Next on the list: washable rags to replace paper towel, a colourful table runner, tote bags and padded oven mitts/trivets all made from old clothes … because apparently I’m also going to find extra hours in each day…
Alongside some very exciting progress, I have also manifested some epic fails. I’m not ashamed to share them with you – I think we can all use a good laugh every now and then.
For those that are new here, I am attempting to reduce my personal plastic-burden on this big, green and blue planet of ours. Western Australia is about to join the rest of the developed world and ban plastic shopping bags. This is M-O-M-E-N-T-O-U-S news for EVERYONE and I am thoroughly delighted. As I’ve been plastic-bag free for a considerable amount of time now, I’ve given myself the extra challenge of reducing my household’s landfill in general.
This means buying nothing new unless absolutely necessary (aside from food and things that obviously can’t be purchased second hand), vigilantly recycling in the proper way, and attempting to upcycle would-be-landfill items where possible.
With these goals in mind, I bring you …
THE TEA BAG FAIL
Tea bags for the office. Yes, it sounds innocent enough but beware, it is merely a trap to lull you into a false state of flippancy. OK. Perhaps it’s not quite so sinister but never the less I failed in my environmental quest.
I held a box of organic, fair trade tea bags in my hand and was about to make my way to the register when I realised that the box was wrapped in plastic. “Uh uh!” I thought. “You can’t trick me sneaky, innocuous-looking plastic wrapper! I will find a box NOT covered in plastic and I will indeed have the last laugh!”
Moving next door to the uber expensive health food store I spotted tea bags that were nearly twice the price for half the amount BUT:
- They were organic
- They were fair-trade
- They were not wrapped in plastic
Winner, winner chicken dinner! I mentally congratulated myself for being an aware and informed consumer and took my purchases to the office…
…. and opened a door to the land of disappointment. Each teabag was INDIVIDUALLY WRAPPED. I was NOT Commander Awesome leading an imaginary troop of recycling soldiers to victory; I was Brigadier Bummed and had lost another battle in this War On Waste.
Eager to redeem myself I hastily read the box to discover that ‘Pukka brand’ do concern themselves with ethical production:
- donating 1% to environmental projects,
- the box is made from recycled card and printed with vegetable ink,
- the tea bags are fully compostable and contain no plastic.
Did I feel better? In a word “No”. We don’t compost at the office. So, I’ve had to suffice with a hand-written plea on top of the jars for my colleagues to recycle the *sniff* individual wrappers.
EXPECTED FUTURE BOKASHI BIN FAIL
Composting – how hard can it be right?
Well, I have let around 300 compost worms die a horrendous death by leaving my worm farm in it’s ‘winter position’ during an Australian summer. They hadn’t exactly been ploughing through my carefully diced scraps anyway so it took a while for me to work out that they were all actually deceased – baked. Also, I was hesitant to lift the lid every day to potentially discover a rat munching away on my offerings. I’m fairly certain that said rat would not have been related to the lovable rat in Pixar’s Ratatouille movie and communicate with me via facial expressions and animated gestures; but leap in a state of fear at my face and we would both be emotionally scarred for life.
Hence the ‘indoor experience’ and ‘lack of anything I can actually kill’ has bokashi-binning winning as won the honour of my next composting experiment.
I’ve found two second hand ones for sale and am collecting them in a few days. I have to admit, I’m quite excited. Not sure exactly why, and I suspect that the novelty of digging in a bucketful of composted scraps to the garden will soon wear off. But for now – let’s just roll with it.
My rational thoughts and I are re-acquainting. It has been a very long time, OK, it has possibly been since the beginning of MY time, that logic has had an authoritative voice in my performance of life. But, hey, I’m enjoying logic and, for a while at least, I will keep gently poking sticks at it to see what pops out.
Current logical thought to be explored: how did I get here and how can my ‘performance’ so far help you?
Like your story (I kinda like the word ‘performance’ though … because we’re all winging it aren’t we? ‘Story’ sounds like there is a beginning, middle and end, and someone is narrating a sequence of events which fit together perfectly. ‘Performance’ certainly fits my definition of life more accurately – I have no idea where I’m going but I certainly cringe, laugh and shake my head in disbelief at a lot of the previous scenes!) Alas! I am side-tracked!
Like your performance, there are many decisions and actions which led me on my current environmental quest. In a snapshot they are:
- Live a completely self-absorbed existence with little thought to consequences or direction.
- Drive everyone I know crazy because I really am certain that I know stuff.
- Go to uni, travel, get married, work.
- Have kids.
- Accept that I actually know very little and wonder how I’m still alive and have friends.
- Get interested in natural health to resolve various issues such as food intolerances, eczema, poor sleep habits, exhaustion, depression and migraine.
- Change the family diet a zillion times, spend a fortune on supplements, quinoa flakes, buckwheat groats and come to the conclusion that the only thing I can successfully consume without repercussion is air and sometimes water.
- Enter an online, yet very interactive, course by Laura Trotter in low-tox living and cue tinkling of fairy bells as my world starts shifting back into balance.
- Become a devotee of all non-toxic/natural cleaners, save approximately $3,000,000,000 in commercial products and experience a new life with a child that actually sleeps and is not covered in steroid creams for eczema.
- Realise that the world is simply not going to keep up with our current lifestyle and love of all things plastic and disposable and decide to do something about it.
- De-clutter my life with the assistance of a book by the de-cluttering God Marie Kondo and laugh with lunacy, waving a perfectly folded hanky as I farewell from my life hours previously spent repetitively cleaning, organising, sorting and spending money.
- Find energy and clear thoughts and say goodbye to a lifetime of food intolerances with thanks to an influx of wholefoods, leafy greens, and a boycott of alcohol and coffee.
I will take a moment to pause here because it is fair to say that saying goodbye to alcohol was never part of my plan. My first born didn’t actually sleep until he was 7 and my daughter was born with the same know-it-all attitude as her father, grandmother, uncle, cousin mother used to have, so a daily glass of wine at 2 o’clock 5 o’clock was how I congratulated myself for surviving another day.
Anywho – the point of this post (I did start out with an ode to logic after all) was that if any of this resonates with you, I hope that there will be a little nugget of information in these posts to help or inspire you.
In the meantime, I am certain that reducing:
- our chemical load,
- our love and need for material things,
- over-indulgence of single-use plastics,
- production of waste,
- and feeding our bodies with real food will dramatically improve our general well-being and assist the next generation of leaders to make the right decisions for this truly amazing world.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to pop them here or over at https://www.facebook.com/greenbeyou
Firstly, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has popped over and read my previous posts, contributed with comments, provided me with more resources to try, made some changes in your own lives or merely pondered making some changes.
To be clear; I absolutely do not claim to be an expert at, well, anything (although I have claimed first prize in the odd limbo competition). My purpose is to GENERATE CONVERSATION and share ideas. We are well aware that, as a world-wide society, things need to change with regard to our ‘plastic fascination’ and that a small contribution by all of us could really shake things up for our future.
BUT WHERE DO WE START?
My (humble) advice would be to look through your recycling and try to convert as many single-use disposable purchases into refillable and reusable alternatives, and do this one thing at a time. Crikey – every one of us is overworked and overwhelmed at some point (or at copious points throughout a single day … just sayin’) so it is important to:
Function within your own comfort zone to SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS.
I’ve run through quite a few ideas in previously posts but they are all generally covered by:
- Re-think before purchasing plastic; is there a plastic-free (and achievable) alternative?
- Refill containers from bulk purchase stores.
- Refuse plastic bags, packaging and straws.
- Reinvent gift giving: try plants, experiences, home-made items or books.
The next item on my personal hit-list is to re-fill my 2 litre vinegar bottles at the bulk-supply store. If you’ve not discovered the many ways in which vinegar can replace a multitude of items in your home (and therefore replacing single-use, multiple purchase items) you are in for a very sweet google-discovery!
To get you started: a spray bottle with half white vinegar and half water will clean pretty much anything around your home. For grime, grease, oil and soap-scum add in the magic of bi-carb soda and boiling water. Beware: vinegar is best avoided on natural stone (granite, marble etc) and timber as the acidity will cut through the natural veneer.
And I shall leave this conversation here with my own spin on a well-known quote
Prepare yourself, I’m about to open the door to my bathroom and unveil some plastic-free initiatives. They are e-a-s-y, cheap and produce less waste than the supermarket options and (generally) awesome.
Flash those pearly whites
Comes in a plastic, non-refillable tube and has goodness-knows-what for ingredients; a quick check on the Chemical Maze App of just one ingredient will give you hives. True to my goal of minimising my plastic production, I am trialling bi-carbonate soda powder as a toothpaste replacement.
- plastic free,
- leaves teeth feeling smooth and ‘dentist clean’, and
- gave us a good giggle when my husband suggested I swig some vinegar afterwards to see what would happen (cue mental imagery of me looking like foaming, rabid dog).
- tastes like, erm, actually it tastes like nothing else on earth and features as my one non-awesome experience,
- no lingering minty taste, and
- not an option if you have a bi-carb allergy.
I’m willing to continue with this, but do feel the need to follow it with some home-made MOUTH WASH for the minty finish.
If so inclined, your great, great, great grandchildren could inherit your collection of used plastic toothbrushes to play with. OK, no one is going to do that, but you get the point right? Bamboo tooth bushes are a-m-a-z-i-n-g! The bristles last longer than the plastic options (sadly the bristles are not bio-degradable) and the handles WILL biodegrade in soil.
Before I start this section, just to clarify, my husband has been bald LONG before I started this low-tox life. Baldness is most definitely not a side effect! Are we all good with that?
So, I tried the ‘no poo’ method a few years back – whereby you give up shampoo and conditioner and allow your body’s natural oils to both cleanse and nourish your hair. After five weeks I was a walking oil slick and felt oh so very unattractive. I’m sure it works wonderfully for people with thick, luxurious and possibly curly hair. For a mousey-brown, thin and straight-haired individual like me: gigantic fail. I then tried bi-carb soda ‘shampoo’ and vinegar rinse. My hair went from oil slick to dry hay bail.
These days I am content with re-filling containers from organic bulk-purchase stores like The Wasteless Pantry and The Source Bulkfoods. I’ve kept my last store-bought plastic containers to keep at the shower/ bath for safety rather than a glass jar. And, those of us in the house who are not bald, have very healthy hair from these products.
Incidentally, I purchase bi-carb soda from these stores too.
Style your hair with vodka?
Yes please! For years I’ve been a convert of home-made hairspray. My ‘style’ is fairly aerodynamic and this spray does not shirk its responsibility – actually it performs better than the supermarket aerosol variety.
- waste free,
- low-tox and no chemical smell,
- brushes out with no residue,
- less expensive than the supermarket, and
- I legitimately always have to stock vodka in the house – purely for hairspray making of course.
- Shelf life of around 2 weeks if left on the bench; I keep mine in the fridge and easily get 6 weeks from each batch.
For my FACE, a little bi-carb soda mooshed around while in the shower works a treat. For feet, arms and legs I really, really, really love a sugar scrub which is a mix of sugar and coconut oil formed into a thick paste. A word of warning here which I discovered in a rather exciting way; the shower floor will get slippery from the coconut oil so TAKE CARE. The wonderful thing with sugar scrub is that you’ll have no need to moisturise afterwards as your skin will be silky smooth and glowing.
Coconut oil; everywhere. A little goes a long way and I recommend decanting some into a small jar to save contaminating a big batch by dipping your fingers into it.
For my face, I like to add a little ‘elemi’ essential oil. It’s hydrating, nourishing, claims to assist in wrinkle disappearance and way cheaper than frankincense essential oil but with all of the same skin-care properties.
There you have it….
I’m still to learn how to make my own SOAP and, just between me and you, I’m not sure that’s a bridge I will ever cross. I use an organic coconut oil bar soap, packaged in recycled cardboard; which I buy at my local supermarket.
Totally do-able, low-tox ideas which will save you money too! I’m a working mum and I find that by simplifying the amount of products I use for any task (and yes, maintaining my teeth, skin and hair are on my ‘task list’) I have more time in my life, less time spent at the store and generally less fuss in my life – winning!