Plastic Free July – the finish line

•August 18, 2019 • Leave a Comment

HAKUNA+MATATA!

(Source: https://www.futurelandfill.org/share/hakuna-matata)

Plastic is a visual and insidious material and source of pollution. It is something that seems to be uniting young and old to try and take action. In fact while Australia continues to be an embarrassing laggard when it comes to climate action, Scott Morrison and the COAG (Council of Australian Governments) announced a ban on plastic, paper, glass and tyres with a $20 million fund to boost national recycling. This is welcomed especially following recent turnbacks of our waste in Indonesia and Malaysia.
With this in mind, it’s been an interesting time to participate in Plastic Free July. This month long pledge is now officially over. The last week saw us staring at the finish line in anticipation. Would our plastic free life style carry on to August and onward? I’m afraid not so much. We learnt a lot. About how prevalent plastic is in our every day life and how convenience has made it hard to give up. Despite that though, we are determined to continue to try and carry as much of the plastic free ethos beyond July. But in order for us to be able to avoid the use of this material and the environmental impacts of its production in the first place, a broader societal shift needs to occur led by supermarkets.
Are our major supermarkets willing to take this challenge on though? Let’ check out the Coles ‘Sustainability’ page: https://www.coles.com.au/corporate-responsibility/sustainability/environment
We understand the important roles packaging plays in maintaining food safety, supporting product longevity and reducing food waste. At the same time, we are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and have implemented a Sustainable Packaging Policy.
This Policy extends to plastic packaging and plastic bags with a focus on recycling infrastructure to recycle these plastics, rather than try and avoid them. With the recent cases of turnback of plastics, it’s unknown whether this policy is even practical and achieving its stated aim.

Coles little shop

Let’s now take a look at Woolworths which has a lovely ‘sustainability’ page: https://www.woolworths.com.au/shop/discover/sustainability
Our plan to tackle the plastic problem is focused on eliminating plastic where possible and to work towards ‘closing the loop’ by encouraging recycling through design, technology and clear communication to our customers.
The Woolworths Policy and its actions are certainly fairly comprehensive and while it isn’t easy to avoid plastic, reducing unnecessary use should be an absolute must.
Therefore it’s with disappointment that both supermarkets, in the month of Plastic Free July, decided that it was a super idea to have silly toy giveaways – both aimed to children and the pester power that they have. This is certainly something that I never buy into, but that doesn’t always stop extended family from doing the same. We now have a number of Lion King Ooshies in our house. This despite all that I tried to teach my children about plastic and ways to avoid it in the last month.
While the ooshies are in our house (not many), I’m pretty sure this will be one of the last time these cheap plastic toys make their way into my home. At least the ooshies are giving me a chance to really drive home the message that unless my kids plan on keeping these toys for life, they are likely to end up in landfill or polluting the ocean and after all we did in July – won’t that be a shame? It is hard though when I must be about the only parent at the school to hold these views, as I see many children with bags and bags of ooshies at pick up time.
So it is with interest that I observe the intersect between environmental issues and science with art because artists will be able to clearly communicate in a creative way, what many scientists have failed to do for so long. In the case of the ooshies, this has been through the Future Landfill initiative which is using cheeky art to make a point about the pointlessness of these cheap promotions.
So if there’s one last tip that I can give – it is that, while it may be hard, it isn’t impossible to significantly reduce our plastic use and it all starts with a simple ‘no’. No, to taking a ‘free’ ooshie or other cheap toy giveaway, no to plastic waste, no to takeaway cups, cutlery and containers and no to plastic water bottles. Our world really does depend on it.

Plastic Free July – Halfway there!

•July 21, 2019 • Leave a Comment

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Plastic free July is in full swing in my house and it isn’t getting any easier I have to say! Once you start this journey and start to really look at this issue, you realise that plastic is literally everywhere. Within the food supply chain it touches almost everything, so complete elimination is near impossible in a modern world. For example, I haven’t figured out the cheese and tofu situation yet!
Overall we are really trying to stick with the plastic free ethos and we’re having some success. We’re discovering alternatives to plastic and are taking the opportunity educate retail staff.
One of our challenges is buying meats. Though I am vegetarian, my kid are not, so we do buy meat most weeks. Even when we go along with our containers to the deli, or butcher in the supermarket to allow them to put the meat straight in, I’ve found that the poor staff are confused and often use a plastic bag to pick up the meat anyway – so the container solution is often defunct. Maybe if enough people ask for this, they’ll get it.
The other challenges are also around buying fruit. So many come in plastic containers, so our no berries and cherry tomatoes month continues. I often find myself staring longingly at those berries!
Shopping also really does take quite a lot longer and with my husband as the one who does the shopping much of the pressure is on him. He often comes homes a bit cranky by it all. While he supports this initiative, I know that he’s secretly counting down the days until he can shop with ease!
But with the challenges come the good vibes from knowing we’re really making a difference. My kids are totally into it and relish the opportunity to point out a lapse in something that my husband I may do. This week, I’ve also really noticed the difference in our bins. So much less rubbish and probably a lot less food waste too. While we are good recyclers and have a worm farm and a compost, the forced simplification of our shopping trolley is resulting in less overall waste.
Our diets have become more basic because of necessity and we’re learning to try some things out that we’ve never done before – like make yoghurt. This has been my discovery of the week and trust me the yoghurt was so delicious – much nicer than store bought. This is something I’m keen to stick to post July. Here is a great instruction. My mum’s tricks are to heat the milk to the required temperature. Add the yoghurt, then put it in a pre-heated oven (the oven is turned off by the way). Keep it there overnight, then take it out of the oven. Let it sit on the kitchen bench for a few hours, then put it in the fridge. In essence it’ about managing the increase and decrease in temperature. And is this all worth it. It honestly and truly is. So yum. Nooshejan.

https://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/homemade-yoghurt

 

 

Plastic Free July – Week 1

•July 8, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Last weekend, I excitedly decided to jump into Plastic Free July and do so with my family.  I mean – really, how hard can it be?

Very hard. I feel as though I have spent the first week in shock. Shock by the realisation that plastic is literally everywhere and changing  that is going to be really really hard.  I’ve had many failures this week. Here are a few:

  • Caving into hunger when offered a little pack of cheese and crackers;
  • Milk – where can you easily find an alternative to plastic?
  • Same goes for bread;
  • Bin liners. Despite seeing things online about paper lined bins, I am not going there yet;
  • Italian chocolate in its wrapper!

Despite these failures though, I am feeling good.  It feels as though my house is going through some sort of detox.  I have however spent the first week finishing off food items that had plastic containers and I’m not sure how to replace them all.

I sent my poor husband off to practice Plastic Free July during the weekly shop.  The result? The shop took twice a long because of the to-ing and fro-ing between different shops (baker, butcher, greengrocer etc) and cost more.

It’s also going to take some more practice to buy some things where we’re relying on others’ participation. For example, last Friday I made my kids chicken and was feeling pretty fab to ditch the pre-packages by going to the butcher. When I got there though, I had to explain that I didn’t want the chicken in a plastic bag after which I was told that I could take in my own container. I returned with the container, only to have the butcher take the chicken out using a plastic bag! so it kind of defeated the purpose of the container! It honestly was a bit of a comedy routine.

Even though we went shopping yesterday, our fridge is nearly empty because so many things that we buy come in plastic (no berries for July and no cherry tomatoes!).  While we’re trying to figure a lot of things out, we’ve also found some things are easier to get than we thought.

For example, I’ve discovered a shop in Lane Cove called ‘Source’. It has everything from different types of oils, to a wall of different types of chocolate, flour, legumes, cereals, shampoo, cleaning products  and soap.  While I’ve  been there sometimes from time to time, I will probably return more even after July.

For week 2, I’m going to follow some of the tips my son put together:

  • Bring your own shopping bag (also your own container if buying things like meats, olives etc);
  • Don’t buy bottled water;
  • Bring own KeepCup to the coffee shop;
  • Don’t use single use straws;
  • Don’t use plastic cutlery;
  • Try to avoid food in plastic wrap (easier said than done. I have no idea how I’m going to buy cheese!);
  • Carry your own box for leftover food;
  • Join the Earn and Learn program (in NSW);
  • Buy bread without a bag or with a paper bag;
  • Clean with vinegar and water;
  • Use a bar of soap instead of a plastic dispenser;
  • Use a stainless steel lunchbox;
  • Instead of getting takeaway smoothies, make your own!
  • Make your own icy pole instead of buying ice cream; and
  • Don’t use plastic plates.

With that – i thought I’d sign off with some ways to avoid some of the tough plastics like bin liners:

Plastic Free July

•June 30, 2019 • Leave a Comment

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A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending The Climate Reality Project’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps training along with 800 other like-minded people. It was three days of meeting and listening to inspiring people – all with the aim of tackling global heating.

I have always been quite green and have been writing about my journey as an eco-mummy for a few years now.  While I was there though, I met someone who also said they really cared about plastic pollution in the oceans. She said it like she needed to choose which issue was more urgent and pressing and thereby worth her time and dedication. Then it struck me how both issues are so inter-related.

The process of making plastic is quite complex, as I recently discovered when trying to explain it to a group of year 3 students (part of my Climate Reality presentation advocacy). One thing that isn’t so complex though is the base material that goes into making plastic – fossil fuels (crude oil and gas).  It releases many tonnes of CO2 and other pollutants into the atmosphere during its production and uses energy too, to manufacture. So all in all a very fossil fuel hungry material.  In fact, plastic manufacturing is estimated to use 8% of global yearly oil production.  Despite all of the renewables coming online in the last year, the significant increase in plastic production has been blamed for the increase in CO2 emissions in 2018.

But plastic is fantastic isn’t it? It’s durable, light and doesn’t break.  It’s so flexible that life would seem almost impossible without it.  We love plastic so much that the World Economic Forum estimates that plastic production has sky rocketed from 16.5 million tonnes in 1964 to 343 million tonnes in 2014 with predictions that this will double by 2036!  Since 1950, humans have made 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic and despite the fact that plastic is durable and reusable, most has been disposed, so we keep producing more and more.  I remember travelling in Cuba as part of my year of backpacking before children and seeing plastic bags hanging out on clothes lines to dry. Obviously Cubans saw some value in these bags in that they reused them. The rest of the world though is in an unrelenting cycle of throwing things out.

So where does all of this plastic that is thrown out end up? Very little is recycled and most (79%) ends up in either landfill or the world’s oceans (8 million tonnes every year) slowly breaking down.  It takes plastic between 500 – 1000 years to break down.  That is many millions of tonnes of plastic waste – everywhere for millennia.  When plastic does break down into micro-plastics, then where does it go? Likely in animals and ultimately us!

plastic ocean

When thinking of plastic and plastic waste – also consider that many ‘rich’ countries offload this problem to the developing world where environmental laws are more lax and the problem is ‘out of sight’.  The health impact on those communities from our waste, is shameful. Some countries like China, the Philippines and Malaysia are wising up and sending the waste back.

Going back to the Climate Reality training conversation, I was struck by what Natalie Isaac from 1 Million women said: Don’t just talk – you must live your values in your everday life.  Now I am generally good about my plastic use and I’ve resisted going ‘full hog’ in eradicating plastic in my life because – well I’m a busy working mum trying to live life on a budget of sorts. So the idea of going to 5 different shops to get my weekly groceries doesn’t have much appeal. I have seen articles about people with a little jar showing how much waste they’ve produced in a year and have rolled my eyes about the improbability and impracticality of it all!

BUT, when I went to my daughter’s class to present on climate action, I used plastic as a way for kids to make a difference because through this action, the benefits are two-fold: reduce plastic waste and reduce carbon emissions.

After the talk a few days ago, I got thinking about my own home. Luckily Plastic Free July: https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/ is about to kick off and my family and I have decided to participate. We’ve taken the challenge to avoid single use plastic packaging and target takeaway items.  I have no idea how we’re going to go, but I will share our ups and downs every week.

I encourage you to also take the challenge and to get you started here are some resources that can help:

For me, I have started! I went to a wholefood store in Lane Cove (Source) and stocked up on some snacks for the kids that I can put in their lunch box.  Keep an eye out for my weekly blog where I’ll share tips and an uncensored take on how we’re going as a family.  Please join me in taking the challenge.

plastic free

Citizen Science

•June 27, 2018 • Leave a Comment
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Source: https://www.naturespath.com/en-us/blog/what-are-forest-schools/

Life is taking me on quite the busy journey at the moment. Raising three kids and work keeps me all too busy. I have however had this topic on my mind for quite some time and finally have decided to sit down and write.  Every day I am reading a terrible statistic and report about the state of our world. Today’s one was about the crazy rate of deforestation. Apparently there is one football field worth of forest lost every second.  With all the football watching going on right now, it should be an easy one to visualise. So let’s repeat that one – slowly. One football field of forest lost. Every second.

As with many reports on the environment, it is very easy to feel hopeless and overwhelmed.  While action to reverse is needed urgently, we need to also look at what is possible in our neck of the woods – excuse the pun.  One of the areas I feel strongly about, is the need to re-connect with nature.  There are many benefits to this, from improved mental health and wellbeing to community connections to re-learning lost skills. It goes without saying that this will lead to improved biodiversity outcomes.

One of the ways to re-connect with nature is through Citizen Science. This essentially means that anyone can be a scientist and that we can all work to help document flora and fauna in our local area.  This helps scientists monitor and track information, and gets the community out and about looking closely at what is in their neighbourhoods.

This participatory approach to science is a great way to get people involved in their local community and a wonderful introduction to science for children.

Many many years ago, I worked on a project called the Willoughby Wildlife Watch project which in essence was a citizen science program. It asked residents to report wildlife that they saw. This was then included in a state-wide Atlas, thereby creating a good baseline and allowing monitoring of wildlife, particularly in urban areas.

Over the years, amateur scientists have become involved in science.  In fact amateur astronomers have made many discoveries including finding a scar on Jupiter and even finding Uranus (William Herschel, 1781).  It’s estimated that these volunteer scientists provide in-kind contributions valued at about $2.5 billion a year! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_science).

There are different ways that you can get involved.  You can contact your local Council to see if they have any programs available where you can participate, or you can check out some other organisations like:

While winter might be time where we all want to get indoors – it might also be a really interesting time to be out there checking out plants and animals in your area.

DIY Gifts from the Heart – Christmas 2017

•December 29, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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Another year has flown and what a year! Highs, lows, fun times, not so fun times.  For me, 2017 has been a time where I’ve focussed on my career and family.  My youngest daughter has started pre-school and while she loves it, it’s taken a little one for this spirited one to settle into the new routine of her Montessori pre-school.

2017 was also the year where my middle daughter started ‘big’ school. Going from Montessori to a public primary school was quite easy for her and she’s thrived and done very well.  She’s one of those kids that loves to learn anyway – which is lucky.

For my son, 2017 has been a year of cementing friendships and perfecting the art of lego making!  With his two closest friends moving to another school and overseas, the next year is going to bring lots of changes for him.

For me, I’ve managed to do a few things that have been on my ‘to do’ list for a long time – getting chickens and continuing my gardening around the house.  Work has rewarding with me having completed some great projects and made wonderful friends.  The year ends however with me saying farewell to my previous job and welcoming another one.

As the year ends however, I like to work with my children to give family something home-made, from the heart and special for Christmas.  This year, I decided on home-made granola!  I like it because it’s simple to make and you can be creative with it.  It also went down a treat!

Here is what you need:

  • Jars
  • Nice ribbon
  • 5 cups of rolled oats – this is the base
  • 1 ½ cup puffed corn
  • 1 ½ cup rice bran
  • ½ cups goji berries
  • ¼ cups cacao nibs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ cups pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cups pecan nuts
  • 125 ml Maple syrup
  • ½ cup coconut oil melted
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt

Method:

M pecan

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160° C
  2. Cover baking tray with non-stick baking paper
  3. Mix all the ingredients except the goji berries and puffed corn.
  4. Add the maple syrup and coconut oil and mix through.
  5. Spread on a baking tray and put in the oven
  6. Once it’s starting to look golden – add the puffed corn (this is so that the puffed corn will be crispy, but not burnt)
  7. Depending on how you like it, you can leave it a little longer (it should take about 20 minutes all up) until it is more toasted
  8. Removed from the oven and mix through the goji berries. Set aside to cool.
  9. Once cool add to jars and decorate as you please.

M mixing

 

Enjoy – nooshejan!

May you have a peaceful, healthy and prosperous 2018 full of love and joy.

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Urban Farming in the ‘Burbs

•November 13, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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Life sure has been busy of late. Three young children and their activities along with work keeps me super occupied.  I have however found the time recently to finally realise one of the items on my home ‘to do’ list. It may have taken a while. Like a really long while, but finally our home has welcomes four chickadees!  Our hens joined our family about 4 weeks ago.

My children have had some experience with chickens are part of ‘chook chat’ at their school. The four chickens at school are cared for on a roster by students, mine included.  Students collect the eggs and every now and then do a big cook up. I love this way of engaging with the kids.

So with the ice broken, I decided to get the ball rolling at home and get our own chooks.  It’s taken about a year from the time I bought the coop – to constructing the run – to finally getting to the exciting part – making the trip to a nursery to buy our hens.  It’s been worth the wait though.  Pepper, Caramel, Blackie and Tiny Ninja are now well and truly at home with us.

After some good tips from a work friend, we ended up buying two Australopes and two Isa Browns from New Leaf Nursery: http://www.newleafnursery.com.au/ They were especially selected by the chook whisperer there for our family.  The good thing about the Australope hens is that they lay eggs throughout their lives.  The Isa Browns we bought because of their good nature.

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So far all are pretty friendly, though not super friendly because we’re not at the stage where they come to you and sit by your feet. We’ve had the occasional toe and leg pecking, but after holding them and spending more time with them they seem to be coming around. They especially love me because I’m usually the source of food!

Now, if a garden of veggies and some fruit and now chickens wasn’t enough, last week I discovered a new mysterious bird.  At first I thought it looked like a cross between a quail and a duck. After many misses in trying to photograph it, the bird ended stuck on the trampoline.  After taking some great photos, I sent them to my local Council for identification. They confirmed, that it was not a quail, but a Bush Turkey and while I am a friend of wildlife, I am not so sure about having a bird make itself at home in the garden I have spent some year building up.  Time will tell whether it decided to stay. So far the hens are wary, but the Turkey doesn’t seem fazed.

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Now with my garden project pretty much complete, I can sit back and enjoy the years of work and planning that’s gone into my very own urban farm.   Or maybe not!  Next on my ‘to do’ list: ‘bug hotel’/ native beehive and possibly a frog pond. ..watch this space!

My tips for keeping chickens (so far):

  • Choose a spot in the garden with some sun, but not too much;
  • Talk to your local Council about what their requirement are. Besides not keeping a whole lots of hens and telling my neighbours as a courtesy, my Council didn’t have any specific requirements;
  • Buy the hens and move them in together at the same time, that way you don’t have any problems later with introducing a new hen to the flock;
  • They LOVE grain and get quickly get fussy with food if given the good stuff all the time. So balance out some boring food with something exciting;
  • Get them used to you straight away by spending time with them. Mine aren’t too excited about being held and to be honest I’m still getting used to them too, but now we’re all getting used to each other; and
  • Get the kids involved in feeding them and enjoy!