My interview on Green Living radio program

One of the wonderful things about writing this blog is all the fabulous people that cross my path. One such person is Sole’ Haren who is based in New York. Sole’ works with the ‘Build a Better Planet Network’ (https://www.facebook.com/BuildABetterPlanet). The ‘Build a Better Planet Network’ is a not-for-profit organisation advocating for sustainability. She is also a presenter on ‘The Green Living’ radio program which promotes health, wellness and environmental sustainability.

Last month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sole’ and here is a link to that radio interview – now you get to hear my voice!

https://archive.org/details/April15GreenLiving 

I come in at about the 15th minute, but if you can you should listen to the whole program! I hope you enjoy the interview!

Eco-mummy

DIY Gifts from the heart

Olive oil

My son is getting to the age when he is learning more about material things. I didn’t even know this. I’m not into ‘brands’ and ‘brand’ things, so I figure he doesn’t get his information from me or my husband, but one day he happened to get a pair of ‘Nike’ sneakers (they were on special!) and when the shoes were presented to him, he shouted in excitement that he had a pair of ‘Nikes’! Also, as he reads now, he is always talking about the brand of cars and other things. Usually my kids don’t watch commercial channels, so they’re not really exposed to much advertising, so it is very interesting how it all creeps into everyday life, which is why I try to discourage them from getting too much into ‘buying’ things such as gifts.

Every year for special holidays and birthdays, I ask my kids to make gifts for family rather than buy. Usually, we bake cookies, but this year, with baby no.3 keeping me busy, I didn’t even have time for that, so we made herb infused olive oil. Luckily I had some spare jars in my garage which I used. I also had herbs to use from my garden. With our scissors in hand my son and daughter and I went harvesting – first some rosemary, then Thyme, then lemon myrtle (an Australian native plant) and lastly some chillies. Here is what you need to do the same:

  • Jars – I sterilised mine with boiling water and let them dry out completely;
  • Extra virgin olive oil – I usually like my olive oil quite fragrant, so I usually buy a strong one;
  • A clove of garlic;
  • Chillies; and
  • Herbs as you wish. Good ones to use are rosemary, thyme and basil.

Now, I have to state that there are apparently issues with making your own herb infused olive oil. This relates to botulism. Apparently, the water in fresh garlic and the herbs can lead to bacterial growth in the oil.  There are ways to avoid this, such as using the oil soon after making it, using dried herbs, preserving the herbs first (in vinegar) before using, and pressing the herbs. This article contains great tips on how to avoid this: http://www.oliveoilsource.com/page/infusing-olive-oil

I ended up drying my herbs in the sun and then the oven for a little while before using.

Firstly thoroughly wash your harbs then dry. Keep in the sun for a day or out in the oven on low heat to dry them out.

Warm your olive oiI in the oven. Then get creating and add your herbs to the jar and carefully add the olive oil. Viola!

These make a great gift. They were very popular and I’ve had great feedback from family about it. It’s also super easy for kids to make with you.

Salty goodness?

So a few things happened to my taste buds once I had children. I was always one of those people that was a ‘savoury’ person as opposed to a ‘sweets’ person. I loved chips and in particular corn chips. I would love having a packet of Dorritos or CC’s when the mood took me.

But when I was pregnant with my son, I stopped liking salty things. Also, when I did have salt in foods it would make my feet swell and made it uncomfortable. So to deal with this, I stopped eating salty foods altogether.

Now, you might think this was a drastic move. But no, it did make the pregnancy fat foot thing better. It also did something else: I stopped wanting salty foods. Now I cannot actually remember the last time I had a packet of chips and I rarely add salt to my foods.

Good thing too, particularly now that I am on my palm oil detox. In fact I saw a funny ‘ad’ made for Dorritos that I suggest you check out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-ts=1422327029&v=VPlxNhEc2lA&x-yt-cl=84838260

By no means is Doritos the only guilty party. Palm oil is found in many products and for chips, anything with a flavour other than simple salt, it is likely to have palm oil. If you want to find out where you can get ‘palm oil free’ or sustainable palm oil products, please look at the links below and take them with you when you go shopping:

http://palmoilaction.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/palm-oil-free-list.pdf

http://www.orangutans.com.au/Orangutans-Survival-Information/Helping-you-buy-responsibly-Palm-oil-free-alternatives.aspx?gclid=CJXu1pX1l8ECFVUAvAod-CAAfQ

Now what do I do when I feel like a salty snack? There are a lot of things that I make at home myself, one of which is Kale Chips. Kale Chips are super easy to make and a great way to get kids to eat green stuff!

All I do it to cut out the hard stems and vain of the kale leaves, then spread it onto baking paper and pop it in the oven on low heat. I spray a little oil on it and add some rock salt. Once one side is dry, then I turn and do the other side. Once crispy, eat and enjoy.

This latest batch even got a thumbs up from my children – who are very fussy mind you!Kale Chips

Verge Gardening

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One of the benefits of my house is that I have a corner block and thankfully the longer side of my block is in a quiet street. The bad thing obviously is how much mowing we have to do!  Last year I took a cutting from my large frangipani tree and eventually this ended up on our nature strip (verge).  This year I planted a Mulberry tree in my house, but unfortunately I didn’t choose the best location. Rather than remove the tree altogether, I’m going to try and move it to my nature strip.

I’m not sure if I’m really allowed to do all of this. My Council is not one of those Councils that encourages verge gardens. In fact, my Council strongly discourages this. Not all Councils are like mine however. Some like Marrickville and City of Sydney Council are actively encouraging residents to plant and maintain verge gardens.

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A friend recently shared this video of the City of Vancouver and its verge garden revolution.  However planting trees is one thing, planting vegetables quite another.  When I first saw this video I liked the story behind it, but then thought ‘hey having vegetables grown so close to the road and encouraging their consumption – is that good?’ so I decided to find out.

My initial reaction really had to do with fumes from cars and run off from the road and houses entering the soil and thereby being taken in by the plant.  Was this safe? Well after much searching, I may have found the answer.

Lead

Lead is one chemical that can have significant health impacts to humans, especially children. Exposure to lead can lead to brain damage and impaired intellectual development. In Australia lead was prevalent in houses (paints) and petrol.   But its use in petrol was phased out from 1993 and in paints from the 1970s. Therefore, as most of the toxic issues related to verge gardens would be related to lead poisoning, that’s a good thing.

But that’s not the end of the lead story.  Lead would not only be found in the soil on your verge, it would also be found in ordinary homes such as mine.  Depending on the age of your house, if lead is likely to be found in paint work, it may be best to leave it alone. Similar to asbestos, if lead is left intact it is not likely to cause harm. It will cause harm if you damage it and disturb it so as to create dust. If this dust is inhaled, touched or let to settle on soil, that’s when problems may start to arise, particularly for areas where food may be grown.

A study by Macquarie University found that children were most at risk in that they absorbed more lead than adults. The study also found some plants absorb more of this toxin and then pass it onto people than others. Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and silverbeet were the worst offenders (sources: 1, 2 & 3).

While all of this may seem scary, there are ways to address this. Firstly, it is very important to test your soil before growing any food. Another way to address this is to have raised garden beds which is what I’ve done.

Apart from the toxins issue, those opposed to verge gardens may cite safety issues which are perfectly valid. These really have to do with the maintenance of the plants planted to ensure they don’t impact people’s ability to use footpaths and to ensure they don’t obstruct visibility for motorists. These issues are easily addressed however by having a set of guidelines in place for those that want to plant on their nature strip.

Other management issues with verge gardens include the application of chemicals such as pesticides and fertilisers running off into the stormwater system and ending up in creeks and other water bodies.  Again, this is where having a good set of guidelines that encourage organic gardening techniques would come in handy.

So with my health concerns related to verge gardens allayed, I hope to see more people participating in gardening. Participating in local urban farming whether through a verge garden or a community garden can only be good.

verge

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Resources

To find out whether you are allowed to plant a verge garden, contact your local Council and read the City of Sydney guidelines.

You can also contact your local Council to see if there are any local community gardens that you can participate in. You can also check out this website: http://communitygarden.org.au/

Also, the presenter of one of the shows that I really enjoy watching is a big advocate of verge gardens. You can also check out Gardening Australia’s take on this through this LINK. There are loads of videos in the 2012 archives.

Let me know

If you already participate in a verge garden or a community garden, let me know your thoughts and share your story and pictures. I’d love to hear from you!

More garden excitement!

IMG_20150212_110710162 When I returned from the UAE to live in Sydney my avocado trees were sticks.  After three years finally – some avocados! Then, some just over a year ago, I planted a lone apple tree in my house not really expecting it to bare fruit because you’re supposed to plant at least two for cross fertilization. But yay a few apples, albeit small apples. Still it feels great to grow and eat my own fruit and vegetables in a suburb of Sydney! Enjoy.

Liebster Award

liebsteraward

Over the last month or so, I’ve had the pleasure of being followed by a few new blogger and  therefore in return checking out their blogs. One Blogger – Muslima in the World: Reflections on life… has nominated me for a Liebster Award. Thank you very much Muslima!

This award is about promoting other bloggers, particularly those with a low number of followers. So, firstly I’d like to thank Muslima for the nomination and wish you the best in your blogging endeavours!
Now, the questions you asked me and the answers!

  1. Why do you love blogging?

It’s a great way if expressing my thoughts and ideas with others, particularly other like minded people. I also like ‘meeting’ other inspiring people from around the world who are making positive contributions and I like the feeling of connection with other bloggers.

  1. What is your primary job?

I am a sustainability professional and a very busy mother!

  1. Have you gotten the benefits from blogging? If yes, please mention 2 of them!

I use it as a way to double check my own actions to ensure that I am in fact ‘green’ (no greenwash here folks!)

I have learnt a lot in the process and from other bloggers.

  1. What is your country and what do you like about it?

I live in Australia and I love it because it’s a wonderful place to live and raise my children. While I sometimes I bemoan the fact that it is so far away from the rest of the world and that this sometimes leads to an ‘island’ (isolated) mentality, I do also enjoy this fact, as it can feel a little bit detached from some of the world’s problems. It is also a beautiful place to live.

  1. Have you ever heard of Tunisia?

I most certainly have heard of Tunisia and dream of going there one day. In fact I have a great friend who is from Tunisia and she’s a real inspiring eco-warrior too!

  1. What is your favorite past time activity?

I love to garden and go bushwalking (hiking). I do also love to spend time with my children playing under a sprinkler, kicking a ball around or simply pottering around the house.

  1. How do you get the ideas for your blog?

I  get ideas from things that are topical at the time, things going on in my life or they just come to me to be honest. Sometimes I sit, have a think and jot down a lot of ideas. I then work through these  and refer back to the master list from time to time.

  1. Do you like sport? Which sport do you like?

To be frank, I’m not a super sporty person. I like to work out like in a gym, but I never get there. I do however particularly like jogging and yoga. I also find running after 3 kids to be quite a workout!

  1. What place (city in this world) you wish to visit in the future (Insha’Allah)? Why?

Hmmm….so many places …..well Tunisia is one, as is Morocco. I am planning a trip to Italy (Insha’Allah) later this year.  I love Iran, so would always love to go, see my family and some places within it that I’ve never been. I would also love to re-visit some of the other places I’ve already been like Cuba, Costa Rica, Argentina and Chile – well the whole of South America actually.

  1. What language do you speak?

I speak English, Farsi and some Spanish.

  1. What topics are you most interested in?

Sustainability, travel, gardening and cooking.

THE RULES

  1. Thank the person who gave you the Liebster Award nomination and link their blog to your post.
  2. Answer the 11 questions they asked you.
  3. Nominate 5- 11 bloggers for the award.  The bloggers must have 200 followers or fewer.
  4. Now Create 11 questions to ask your nominees.
  5. Make sure to let your nominees know you nominated them once you’ve posted about your Liebster Award.
  6. Add the Liebster Award badge to your blog!

Okay, so my nominees are:

Simply Ilka

Green Living in Dubai

CekCeksi

Yummy Green Mummy

The questions for my nominees are:

  1. Why did you start your blog?
  2. What do you love about blogging?
  3. How would you grow your blog while staying true to your core values?
  4. Where are you based what do you like about it?
  5. What is your favorite past time activity?
  6. How do you get the ideas for your blog?
  7. Do you like sport? Which sport do you like?
  8. What place (city in this world) you wish to visit in the future  and why?
  9. What language do you speak?
  10. What topics are you most interested in?
  11. Who do you find inspiring?

Palm Oil Detox – an Update

Oil_palm_plantation_in_Cigudeg-03

Earlier in Spring, I decided to go on a Palm Oil detox. I set myself a target of reducing palm oil in my house by 50% within 6 months. I’m about half way now and I thought I’d give an update on this journey.
After finding palm oil all too pervasive in many things within my home, I wanted to take action. While I am a lot more aware of the issues related to palm oil, I have to say it hasn’t been easy to detox.
These have been my challenges.
Time: juggling a family, work commitments and home renovations gives me little time. In fact I don’t always do the shopping and leave this to my husband, but the times that I have gone shopping since my detox mission have taken considerably longer. I usually wander through the aisles reading labels and looking up whether something is on the okay list or not according to these sources (http://www.orangutans.com.au/orangutans-survival-information/helping-you-buy-responsibly-palm-oil-free-alternatives.aspx). All in all, I end up a little frustrated and stressed because I usually need to be in and out of a supermarket quick smart.
This issue has gotten a little easier though because we’re starting to know the brands and products that are on the ‘ok’ list which saves us time trawling through websites and wandering aimlessly in supermarket aisles.
Education: As I stated earlier, my husband often does the grocery shopping, so it has taken a few goes to get him to remember to check the palm oil status of a product. The result has been some big purchases which I’m still working through…..
Again, this has gotten better as my husband now knows to check before making purchases and comes and tells me proudly when he has done his research.
Alternatives: If you’ve checked the websites for alternatives to palm oil, you will find that there are not always alternatives. For example, one night I tried to find sustainable palm oil or palm oil free ice cream, but I couldn’t. Or I should say the miniscule and very expensive tubs were not enough to convince me to buy them. Also, I recently had a few guests for an afternoon tea. Without time to bake something myself, it was a mad dash to the shops to buy something. I looked, but apart from bland biscuits there was nothing I could buy! So this got me thinking – the lack of alternatives makes it very difficult sometimes to stick to the plan. I am not a purist and I admire those that are, so I ended up with a few things in my basket which were decidedly not palm oil free. But I also did discover that some products are starting to exhibit their palm free credentials and that makes me happier because at least it’s on the radar of manufacturers as being an issue.

Peckish Brown Rice Crackers - Lightly Salted(1)

So how am I going really?
I’m doing okay. It was once starting this challenge that I realised how much toiletries I had. Some are quite old and probably not the best to use, but rather than throw things out, I’ve decided to use everything up. This is going quite well and I’m happy in that I am simplifying my life to a degree. I still have a little way to go, but actually there are alternatives that I can readily use, so once I’ve finished the various lotions and potions, I will easily transfer to sustainable palm oil or palm oil free products – yay!
This also extends to cleaning products. Thankfully I was already buying sustainable palm oil products anyway, so a small tweak going forward will have me in a better position.
Now, my main challenge is foodstuffs. I usually eat healthy, so usually buy fresh products, but sometimes I am not so healthy and buy processed foods. The next phase of my detox will be to continue the path I have chosen for where I am doing well, but also to concentrate on food! Here are some general tips from what I’ve found over the last 3 months or so:
Simplify – simplify your life. Like I said earlier, once I got all my toiletries together, I was quite surprised and I am not a person that buys a lot of toiletries to begin with. Still, I had accumulated a lot and now that I am working through them, I feel so much lighter. I am probably going to buy from now on: Sukin because they are sustainable palm oil products. This is not a paid endorsement, simply my opinion. For more info go to: http://www.sukinorganics.com/sustainability.asp?id=80&pid=3
Go natural: this is the main tip and one I have to live by more and more. While I use more ‘earth friendly’ cleaning products, I want to reduce these even more and not use many cleaning products. I did an experiment on some grout using bicarbonate soda and I was very impressed with the results. I think the mainstays in my kitchen and bathroom are going to be bicarbonate soda and white vinegar.
As for food, I am going to focus on fresh and homemade. It is one of the surest ways of knowing what’s in something anyway.
As general tips though, what I have found is:
• Opt for chocolate blocks, rather than those with a filling;
• Go for shortbread biscuits rather than filled biscuits;
• Do your research – you may have to make a choice of one things over another. For example, with candles, well that opens another can of worms in relation to soy vs palm oil: http://www.alohabay.com/people/why_no_soy_candles.html
However, I did buy MikeRa candles for my sister as a gift and I especially selected them because of the Sustainable Palm Oil certification.
Candles
• Educate those around you. This not only spreads the word, but also helps make sure that gifts that you receive are aligned with your beliefs.

Take three!

A drawing my son did at home of what he'd learnt at school.
A drawing my son did at home of what he’d learnt at school.

This year my son started ‘big school’ (he’s in year 1). He had a lot to adjust to after two years at a Montessori Pre-school, but we’re told by his teacher that he did excellently. Throughout the year we’ve had homework to do and much of it interesting. I myself was particularly excited about the focus of the last term being on sustainability. As well as working with my son on poster presentations and the creation of art works using recycled cans, cartons and other household waste, I learnt something from him: ‘Take three for the sea’. This is an initiative that tries to get everyone to do their bit to reduce pollution, particularly plastics entering the sea and suffocating and killing aquatic wildlife. The great things about this initiative is its simplicity: take three pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the beach or waterway or park. Anyone can do that!
turtle-caught-in-plastic-ring

To make sure kids fully understand that concept, they are encouraged to ‘take 3’ during lunch hours and are taught the anti-littering message. This must have stuck because on a recent trip to the beach my son took 3 for the sea and has taught his younger sister the message as well.
So next time you’re out enjoying the outdoors – take three!
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If you’ like to know more about the ‘Take three’ initiative – check out the following websites:
http://www.take3.org.au/main/page_home.html
https://www.facebook.com/take3.a.clean.beach.initiative

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