Bundanoon: Australia’s first bottled water free town

Bundanoon is a sleepy village, twenty minutes down the road from where I grew up. The town is known for hosting the biggest Scottish gathering in the southern hemisphere and being the starting point for exploring Morton National Park. Its other claim to fame is that of Australia’s first bottled water free town.

If visitors want water, they can quench their thirst with fountains and taps available throughout the town. It’s filtered and free. Some businesses sell reusable water bottles.

The back story
A proposal was put forth by Norlex to extract and truck water to Sydney that would then be bottled and sold. Action group Don’t Bore Bundanoon appealed to the local council to veto the companies plan to drill in their town. The group then took it a step further. To send a clear message they were not fans of their water being sold in plastic bottles, the town voluntarily made their town an example, by making it a plastic bottle water free zone. The town has been free of bottled water from 2009.

Visit Bundy on Tap to read more.

The Plastic Bag Free Victoria campaign has made ample progress. Volunteers have been working hard over the last nine months and I can proudly announce that we have gathered 8,000 signatures. 

Website launch

I last updated that we were keen to get a website launched. This came to fruition quickly, thanks to the tech savvy members of our group. The site allows fellow Victorians to download our paper petition. There is a handy map listing location of businesses where our petition is found. A resources page is available to help those who wish to go plastic bag free. We also list the Victorian communities that are plastic bag free along with a page dedicated to our supporters.

The Facebook page has helped us connect with other plastic bag free communities and campaigners in Victoria. We have used Facebook and an email newsletter to keep people up to date with the campaign. Having the various online portals allows for people to connect and share ideas with us.

Petition, petition, petitio

Volunteers have been hitting the pavement. We made the most of summer festivals and warmer weather earlier in the year focusing on areas where we knew that a signature is 70% likely. Even then, it was hard work.

Quite quickly, the two goals of gathering signatures and creating valuable education on reusable bag options has seen most, if not all, of our effort go to the former. Collecting paper signatures is demanding. And with volunteers giving up a couple hours of their week, we would rather utilize that time to get signatures and raise awareness about our need for signatures.

Time and effort are not the only reasons for us pairing back on education. It also came down to money. All of us have been dipping into our own pockets to pay for things as we need them. In the future we hope to apply for grants.

Along with canvassing face to face, a number of business host the petition in their stores across Victoria. This has been an effective way to drive awareness for our campaign. We have also had luck with sporting clubs, particularly rowing groups. Lastly, there are the invaluable individuals that have asked for or downloaded a petition, who then go out and ask fifteen of their family and friends to sign. It all adds up.

Download the petition here > plasticbagfreevictoria.org/petition/

We have set ourselves a deadline for the end of July to gather the remaining 2,000 signatures.

Starting conversations with local and state governments

Ultimately, the decision to ban plastic bags is resting in our local and state government buildings. Once we had a momentum with signatures flowing, it was time to start conversations with the councils.

We compiled local council email addresses from across Victoria (about 600!) with the plan to send a email altering them of our campaign. We also included the newly implemented Surf Coast Shire Council Plastic Wise Events and Markets Policy as an example and hopefully inspire other councils. The policy requires all events held on council land to refrain from distributing single use plastics. A first of its kind in Victoria.

The release of the Senate Inquiry into the threat of marine plastic pollution in Australia was utilised also, as one of the recommendations was the desperate need to ban plastic bags.

Meetings have been held with our State ministers too. Apart from the Greens, we have had no other firm confirmation of support. Hopefully by July, things will change…

Events coming up

We have our first fundraising event coming up on 10th July, here in Melbourne.

Plastic Bag Free Victoria are hosting a great film night and panel discussion. We are screening Bag It, a thought provoking look into our obsession with plastic bags. Following the film will be a panel discussion with special guest Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, founder Plastic Free July.

Book Your Seat > https://trybooking.com/LWOB

Comparing environmental campaigning to environmental blogging shines a light on the ease that comes with writing for an audience that is interested in reducing plastic and waste, versus canvassing people that have NO thought about ditching plastic bags. The latter is a reminder how different the two are.

Grassroots campaigning, chiefly talking to people, is the heart and soul of any movement.

This got me thinking about activism. It used to have an unsightly connotation for me. Violent clashes or being tied to a tree were the images that would come to mind. This perception might be one of the reasons why so many people are too afraid to label themselves one. An activist is a person who campaigns for some kind of social change and there are so many people out there who are asking for social change in very easy and approachable ways.

Gippsland Unwrapped
Tammy Logan lives in the rural area of Gippsland, Victoria. Without many bulk and plastic free options, coupled with a low awareness on plastic pollution, Tammy decided to take matters into her own hands and start educating through her role as a consumer. She kicked off the #bringyourowngippsland campaign with local businesses to point out the abundance of single-use plastic, encouraging other consumers to bring their own bags, containers, etc. to collect food and other products. Because the responsibility so often falls on the consumer, Tammy also speaks with local businesses, to promote selling food to customers who want to bring their own containers. Through her hard work and determination, she has started a conversation between business and customers on the waste that neither of them want to make.

Activist Abby
After seeing the harm plastic bags are causing teenager Abby used a school project to get a campaign going that would hopefully lead to a ban on single-use plastic bags in her hometown of Grayslake, Illonois. I have been following her campaign for the last two years.

Paint the City Green
Gaby is an activist of a different kind. She uses her passion for social change in her role as manager of the local farmers market. Plastic bags offered with every purchase, lack of unpackaged goods due to "food safety" laws, little to no composting due to lack of a facility and styrofoam take out containers galore are all areas Gabby is hoping to change. Rather banning everything, she is focusing on the reduction of Styrofoam setting a deadline for businesses to find an alternative. Any time a business brings Styrofoam to the market a verbal warning and a fine is given. Education has also been key in tackling this issue, making sure everything is fully explained.

Another piece of advice from Gaby is banding together with like minded people. Having a team of people to help work on a solution really does help. I agree with this point. The whole team behind Plastic Bag Free Victoria come from different walks of life, with varying skill sets. They also have passion, something that is needed in spades when it comes to asking for social change.
Plastic Free July kicks off in 22 days. Even with this being my fourth year participating, I still get excited when it rolls around. The challenge is reaching more people each year. Last year 36,000 people joined! Individuals, schools and business are participating from all over the world. As a result, more people are making the decision to take the plastic free challenge well beyond July, adopting it as a full time lifestyle. Along with the increase of individuals and families joining the plastic free movement, some popular myths have emerged too. It’s time to bust them.  

Busting the myths of plastic free living
Photo by Anthony Strong
Myth # 1 – Hoarding your plastic waste in a glass jar

I keep my waste in a jar, because it is a fun tool that I take along to talks with schools kids, community groups and businesses. It’s a visual example that allows me to show how waste can be reduced if we all started thinking differently. It is not a prerequisite for a plastic free lifestyle. 

My husband lives plastic free and does not keep his rubbish in a jar. Keeping a jar of plastic waste (the stuff that cannot be reused or recycled) will not make you more or less successful at living plastic free. However, it is a good way to understand what waste is being produced. If you want to do this, then consider using an old box, plastic container or bag. Plastic Free July encourage the use of a dilemma bag, essentially the same as keeping plastic waste in a jar.

Myth # 2 – Emptying the house of plastic

There is no rule anywhere declaring the removal for each piece of plastic from the home. My washing baskets are made of plastic. I still use old plastic food containers to collect my food. I have jars of pens made of plastic. Even this keyboard is plastic. The train I catch is mostly plastic.

I focus on not buying NEW plastic. It’s about rallying against the misuse of the wasteful plastics made. Resources went into making the plastic I already had. Keeping and using the plastic puts value onto a material that is often seen as replaceable.

Busting the myths of plastic free living
Photo by Anthony Strong

Myth # 3 - Cook everything from scratch and become a DIY master

For a time, I believed being plastic free equaled DIY master extraordinaire plus being able to cook everything from scratch. Making everything yourself, is not a requirement of the plastic free lifestyle. Usually, it is born out of the necessity for a particular food or product holds for each person. A lot of the items I used to make from scratch are not made at all anymore, because over time I deemed certain things unnecessary for me and my life. Questioning what is necessary kinda happens naturally.

For instance, I buy my hummus from a deli. I used to make it from scratch, and then I reassessed how much time I was spending on making it vs getting it ready made from a deli, using my own container. I could not find tomato sauce anywhere in bulk. I made my own for a while but then quickly realised I did not enjoy making it enough to keep doing it constantly. I like tomato sauce, but it’s not a necessity for me. However, I love making pasta and my toothpaste. I originally went down this path because I saw other people doing it. It’s that old Keeping up with the Joneses mentality. Thankfully with some practice, I’ve managed to shake it off.

Depending on what is available, some items might need to be made, like cleaning products or making something like hummus or tomato sauce if it’s something you need. Mascara and lipstick can be bought ready made in reusable or compostable packaging too. I have a post about this coming up soon.

Myth # 4 – Too expensive

When I completed my first Plastic Free July, I did not buy anything to complete that challenge. In fact, it was not until after my second year of living plastic free that I started to invest in reusable goods outside of what I already had. These have been handy, but are not absolutely needed.

I sell kits on my blog and have made a listicle of items that would be helpful, simply because I want to be of service. These are more for the people who don’t have time to make their own bags or cutlery wraps or can’t find second hand items. None of them are necessary. And if you can, find items that are second hand first.

The premise of Plastic Free July is to avoid NEW single use plastic. As I said before there is no rule that you are required to remove all plastic from your life. Truthfully, I still use plastic containers from that first Plastic Free July to collect food. Use up your old plastic, just try not to buy new.

Below are simple hacks to reduce plastic without forking out any money.

Reusable shopping bags
If you don’t have a stock of reusable bags gathered from various stores over the years, ask friends and family if they have any to spare. Another way is to use a pillow case.
Money spent = 0.

Water bottles
Work in an office like I do? I use a glass. Out and about, try reusing an old glass bottle or pop into a café. Another is to ask friends and family if they have any reusable bottles lying around their home. Clams exchanged = 0.

Take away coffee/tea/hot chocolate cups and take away food containers
Try this revolutionary idea, sit in. Relax, let someone else do the dishes. I’m very passionate about sitting in. We are worth taking 10-30mins out of our day to sit down and relax. Or, grab some of your plastic or glass containers that are sitting in your cupboards and take these with you. See if the local restaurant/cafe will fill it for you. Call ahead, have a chat about your desire to use your own containers. I keep a three year old take away container at my desk, only using on days I did not bring my lunch.
Coins = 0.

Take away cutlery and straws
Plastic takeaway cutlery is an easy swap. No doubt there is a a knife, fork, spoon and even chop sticks sitting in a draws at home. Grab a cloth napkin, roll cutlery into the napkin and put a rubber band around it. A pencil case works well too. Straws are not necessary. Drink will taste perfectly fine without a straw. Trust me.
Moolah = 0.

Another is the beeswax wraps. They are super handy but not a necessity. I love using tea towels, plates on top of bowels and containers I already have to store my leftovers.

This lifestyle does not have to be expensive at all. It's up to the individual to make that choice.

Myth # 5 – One person’s actions won’t make a difference

OUR actions, big or small, always make a difference, because simply every action, has a reaction. As Jane Goodall said, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you.” 

Replying with the phrase “I don’t need a plastic bag, I have my own, I’m trying to reduce my plastic” has the potential to impact many. Saying no to a plastic bag, plastic straw, plastic bottle, will keep one plastic bag, one plastic straw and one plastic bottle out of landfill. That one less bit of plastic has been kept out of the environment for the next generation to deal with. Declining the plastic bag, straw or bottle, sends a message to others. 

The clerk at the store and a person standing in the checkout line, could hear the declaration and think about their plastic footprint. It’s a ripple effect. Moving away from single use plastic impacts generations of life. So while you might not see an immediate difference, the kids of today will in their futures. 

What other myths need to be busted? If you are looking at moving towards reducing your plastic, what about the lifestyle holds you back? 

Plastic Free July aims to raise awareness of the amount of single-use disposable plastic in our lives and challenges people to do something about it. You can sign up for a day, a week or the whole month and try to refuse ALL single-use plastic or try the TOP 4: plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws.

The wedding has come and gone. When people told me the wedding would pass quickly, it was true. We spent our two day honeymoon cleaning, composting and recycling, before returning to work. Our official honeymoon is not until July. I will share the ins and outs of the big day soon. The post is all ready to go; I’m waiting on the photographer to pass the photos onto us.

I was on creative overdrive in the week leading up to the wedding, finding time to upcycle two pairs of shoes into homes for succulents, foraged during a bike ride along the Maribrynong River.

Both shoes were worn right down. They have been firm favorites in the last six years. My shoe repair magician reluctantly confessed they were beyond help, letting me know that I should have come earlier. I could not think of an excuse other than I was busy wearing them. Lesson learnt.

Initially I had hoped to recycle the shoes or pass them over to Soles4Soul's, but my shoes were not gently worn. Each shoe had holes in their soles, some more than others. There is also Shoes For Planet Earth. Unfortunately, they only take sport shoes.  It was during a rushed cleaning session of our home the day before the wedding, while looking for somewhere to house the succulents; I decided to put plants into the shoes, placing them at the front door of our home. 

Upcycle shoes

The quirkiness makes me smile when I see them. I have not had to buy new shoes to replace them either. I had a pair of converse that I reserved for special occasions. These have now become my go to shoes, especially in winter.

What other ways could I have upcycled them?

Plastic Free July is approaching soon. It’s hard to believe this is my fourth Plastic Free July. Lately, I have been busy with talks at schools and businesses, plus the Plastic Bag Free Victoria campaign.

I will be away on my honeymoon during the last half of Plastic Free July. Before we venture north, I will be hosting a movie and panel discussion with one of the founders of Plastic Free July. Details are coming soon. Look out for some posts later in the month, on getting ready for Plastic Free July too.
Put Your Heart In It: Eco Gatherings

Learning, laughter, beautiful food, wine - all of these made up my Thursday evening last week, with a Put Your Heart Into It eco gathering.

I first came across Put Your Heart Into It (PYHII) via Instagram. They offer sustainable wedding planning and styling workshops, and I am trying to plan a sustainable wedding. Perfect match! After some tooing and froing, I could not attend the workshop before my wedding.

Our mission is to create sustainable and eco-conscious experiences that not only inspire but aim to promote a slower lifestyle, where simplicity and community involvement are cultivated as well as nurturing a hands-on approach to getting creative.

Luckily they host a long list of other sustainable and eco-conciousess workshops. So I did something that I had wanted to do for a while; learn to weave. If you live in or near Melbourne, check out their upcoming workshops here.

Put Your Heart In It: Eco Gatherings

Roz, a Melbourne based textile designer was our teacher on the night, assisted by co-owner of Put Your Heart Into It, Laura Issell. It was lovely to hear in person the inspiration for creating the company, the purpose of their workshops and goals for the future. Even the building, Big Bang Studio’s, where the workshop is located was a wonderful story to hear. Very cool things happening on the banks of Merri Creek.

A beautiful grazing table was laid out, most of it bought in bulk without packaging. The intention is to not only enjoy the food, but to also have conversations about where the food comes from. There was flavoured water, served in simple glasses with reusable bamboo straws. I appreciated that the eco choices were integrated into the evening seamlessly. We could weave, grab some food, chat, laugh, drink, weave some more…have more food. It’s safe to say we were well fed.

Put Your Heart In It: Eco Gatherings

Put Your Heart In It: Eco Gatherings

Down to the weaving – it was fun. There was no pressure to create something perfect (or anything at all). The goal was to relax and learn. After a long day at work, I found the weaving very peaceful. That might have been helped by the wine too…

My basket mid weave

Put Your Heart In It: Eco Gatherings

The finished product

Put Your Heart In It: Eco Gatherings

Put Your Heart In It: Eco Gatherings

I made my basket out of rope, along with collected yarn from second hand stores found by our teacher. It was lovely to work with natural fibres, knowing that it will break down completely at the end of its life. 

All the workshops on offer at PYHII are geared at learning practical skills, with emphasis on reusing as much as choosing natural eco materials. It has inspired me to use up some cloth scraps I have at home and *try* weaving into a basket, rug or wall hanging…

It was nice to take time out to indulge my messy crafty side. I am going to inject this new found inspiration to create, it into my wedding planning.

Speaking of which, the wedding is in less than a month. So I am signing off the blog and diving into the final stages, of planning my attempt to host a zero waste/plastic free wedding. Wish us luck! x
This is a continuation of the rural bulk food co-op series, I have been sharing on the blog. The intention of these blog posts, is to shine a light on the possibilities that exist, for people wishing to reduce waste, shop away from larger supermarkets and become more connected with their community but happen to live in country locations.

Each of these blogs posts is an exploration on how a rural co-op's function, while sharing issues and insights. 

A co-op is a group of people who voluntarily work together through a fairly run business.

These co-ops function the same way a regular bricks and mortar bulk store works. It just happens to operate out of someones space or public room and run by volunteers. Memberships are often required, meetings are held and decisions made by the group for the group.

A bulk food co-op is a way for people to come together, buy staple foods in larger quantities, at an affordable price too. It is a great way for rural communities to reduce their packaging.

So far, my journey has taken me to a rural bulk co-op in Seymour and the unpackaged co-op in Warrnambool here in Victoria. Click through the blog posts to learn more on how each community runs their own co-ops. Today, we are visiting Beechworth Food Co-Op with Jade Miles, Co-Op president. 

Rural Bulk Food Co-Op's: Beechworth Food Co-Op

What is the Beechworth Food Co-op? How long has it been in operation? why was it started?

The Beechworth Food Co-Op is 100% community owned, operated and registered not for profit enterprise. We are located in Boiler House Lane, a developing food and artisan precinct of Beechworth and currently open three days per week. Opening our doors in January 2015 we strive to create genuine community connection via the medium of food via our retail shop and programs.

The Beechworth Food Co-Op has five primary objectives. They are: 
  • To make available whole and local fresh food to the Beechworth community 
  • To promote and support local sustainable agriculture in the Beechworth region 
  • To promote and support healthy diets and improved health outcomes within the Beechworth community 
  • To proactively assist with the minimisation of and education about reducing waste 
  • To provide a place for community connection 
The overarching objective is to support and grow a vibrant local food production system that provides high quality fair priced fresh and dry food whilst also building community resilience and connectedness around food.

To achieve this the following strategic objectives have been identified, with actions and measures articulated for each.

1. Healthy Food Access: To provide increasing access to high quality local food (Food Co op Bulk and Fresh)

2. Food System Development: Actively collaborate in local and regional food system development (Advocacy). Support the growth of local sustainable agriculture

3. Business Strength: Develop leadership commitment system management and financial viability within the organisation

4. Community Communication and Education: Foster a deep community connection through food and education (Food Co op Living)

Rural Bulk Food Co-Op's: Beechworth Food Co-Op

Rural Bulk Food Co-Op's: Beechworth Food Co-Op

How does it work?

We are open Tues 3-6, Thurs 2-6 and Saturday 9-3. We have one paid staff member who covers half of these hours and the rest of the staffing is undertaken by volunteers. We operated for the first 12 months completely on volunteer commitment alone but have recently been viable enough to employ someone for ten hours a week.

Do people bring their own bags or containers for reuse? 

About half do. The other half either use recylced bags available in store which are gfree or they can purchase brown paper bags for 10, 20 and 30 cents.

How many people work or volunteer to run the Beechworth Food Co-op?

We have a board of nine, a working member base of 17 and one ten hour a week staff member.

What are the number of members? Can they request new items be added?

We have grown to service 216 households which equates to an approximate 400 adults and 400 children. We began with just 60 items of food on the shelves and now we offer over 350. Now if new food is desired we place it on a blackboard and once it has 5 votes we source it.

What would be the process to start one up in a community?
​​I have attached our very first prospectus as this was the very first document that we circulated between a working group of 10 people. These 10 then recruited 5 each and once we got to 50 members we opened the doors and began trading. We have since evolved our documentation substantially as we now have a logo a website and an entire operational manual.

We secured space that we paid very little for and we relied soley on volunteer hours. Our range and hours grew as our membership did.

We wrote a rules of association and a strategic plan within the first 12 months and we formalised our governance within 8 months of operating. These were crucial foundations to lay to ensure ongoing viability. I present on the start up stage monthly at various places around the state and am more than happy to discuss this in greater details with you if you like.

Were there any hiccups encountered in the first year? or can you share any lessons learnt from running a co-op? 

We had to move venues three times (nightmare, but maintained low operational costs and are now in a great place which services us perfectly for where we are at.

Managing volunteers was a tricky process too. We have since changed our model to the one reflected in the membership prospectus. The new system is that all members pay $45 or $25 for health care and pensioner card holders and they pay the same price for their food which has gone up to an average of 25% on top of cost. There are 17 working members positions plus board members who still pay the same membership prices but they now receive a 20% discount off all purchases. This is a more efficient system as we only need to managed a very small committed group of volunteers.

Rural Bulk Food Co-Op's: Beechworth Food Co-Op

What does the co-op hope to do in the future?

Food Co op Fresh and Food Co op living are both the projects on the cards at the moment.

Membership Communications

Membership communication has gradually become more streamlined with monthly e-newsletters, the website, Facebook and volunteer emails all being utilised. Currently a range of people manage the various platforms, but it is projected that this will continue to become tighter and more consistent as time progresses.

The strongest following is on Facebook, and this social media outlet has been used to good effect for advertising produce as well as events. The e-newsletters include information sourced from a variety of Board members and are designed to be consistent and follow the Co-Op branding utilised in-store and on the website. Currently, volunteers are communicated with via a separate email chain from the Volunteer Co-Ordinator. New software is being trialled to see if this process can also be streamlined.

The website was designed with Co-Op branding in mind, and is a great resource for members and curious onlookers alike. Information (such as the Co-Op’s top sellers) is easily available, and the range of produce is captured via the inclusion of a product list. An option exists for members to request items they would like to see on Co-Op shelves. The website is easy to use, inclusive and informative. In future years it is projected that the Education and Fresh sections will come alive, as these portfolios grow and mature.

Retail Shop

Our retail shop is not typical. We always have a pot of tea and a freshly baked cake to share (supplied by volunteers) while members connect and share food stories, recipes and meal plans. We provide a childrens play area, seed swap and abundance boxes. Our retail shop currently has a product range of over 350 competitively priced bulk dry foods and a growing range of locally (and ideally organic) grown meats, fresh fruit, vegetables and eggs, plus a growing range of household cleaning and personal care products. The shop opens three times per week on a Tuesday 3 – 6pm, Thursday 2 – 6pm and Saturday 9 – 3pm.

Co-op shifts are operated by a Working member. Working members are sought each quarter by the Volunteer Co-ordinator, placed on a quarterly roster and are expected to complete three shifts per quarter. Benefits for a Working Member is a 20% discount on items which carry a surcharge (in accordance with the product purchase hierarchy).


Co Op Living - Wholefood education via events, forums, workshops and school programs.

Beechworth Food Co-Op Living is a commitment to deliver a minimum of 12 educational and connecting workshops per annum. Our first workshop was with Humble Hemp and was incredibly well attended with overwhelmingly positive responses. We have a vibrant and diverse line up of events in the coming months. The objective of this arm of the business is to educate our community about genuinely living a simpler, more connected and more mindful life that embraces the Co-Op ethics.

To stay true to the overarching objectives of the Food Co-Op, a systematic and diverse educational program is being developed for delivery to the members to expand their understanding of what wholefoods (and their health benefits) are and how they can be used. We offer a schools excursion program where kids learn in a tasty hands on environment what the meaning of food provenance, local food systems, organic, wholefoods and food miles are. This has been utilised already by 3 of the 5 local schools across all year levels from prep to year 10.

Weekly meal planners, ‘how to use cards’ and an annual cookbook are being developed and progressively released. We have a e-newsletter that shares recipes, provides updates, promotes upcoming events in the region, highlights new products and producers and opportunities for community members to connect.

We have cooking demonstrations where local producers cook with their product and share their stories.

Rural Bulk Food Co-Op's: Beechworth Food Co-Op

Community connection

A clear objective for the Food Co-Op shop space was to create a ‘third place’(a location that is not your work or your house). Somewhere that is not yours, not mine but ours. A place that can be shared, a place to connect, a place of open, warm friendship where everyone is welcome and learning is encouraged.

We host seasonal morning teas to bring our members together and educate about ways to support local food and utilise wholefoods in their everyday family meals, creating a healthier more connected community and localising our food supply system.

The Food Co-Op delivers quarterly catch up days where mugs of soup or coffee and cake are shared. These mornings have been well attended, are vibrant and richly connecting events which will continue. In addition to the special quarterly events, a weekly addition is the offer of a freshly baked cake (baked by a volunteer) and a cup of tea, this is regularly the reason for more than 20 members at one time to extend their stay at the Co-Op to connect with others.

Abundance boxes

Another community connecting attribute of the Co-Op is the ‘abundance boxes’ which are a free ‘take and leave as you please’ system that encourages those with plentiful amounts in their garden to share with those who do not. This system enhances the understanding of seasonality, encourages the desire to share with others and inspires the creation of recipes which are readily shared.

Seed library

The Co-Op houses a seed library which is serviced by members who deposit their saved seeds and take the seeds from others as needed for their next seasons plantings. Again this instills a strong sense of community connection, inspires questions and results in learnings.

All of these existing initiatives provide the backbone of a strong community group that enables a successful launch into the aggregation and provision of fresh food. Connecting farmers to eaters!

Collaboration and alignment

The Beechworth Food Co-Op has direct organisational links to key local, regional and national organisations. Our closest link is to the Beechworth Urban Landcare and Sustainability Group, from where the Co-Op grew. We share common ideas and collaborate on projects that build community resilience, connections and positive environmental outcomes. The Beechworth Food Co-Op is a contributing member of the North East Sustainability Alliance (NERSA) which is the regions peak body for sustainability groups.

The Beechworth Food Co-Op also sits on the ‘Local Food Network North East and Riverina’ committee which is the regions peak local food advocacy group with connections to local government, health agencies, catchment management authorities and local educational institutions. The Beechworth Food Co-op is represented on the Indigo Shire Councils Environment Advisory Committee taking a leading role within the Local Food sub group. On a national scale the Beechworth Food Co-Op is a member and active collaborater with the Australian Food Soverienty Alliance.

We have initiated an alliance with the Beechworth Montessori School and shall contribute to their Montessori Adolescent Program which includes the building of a permaculture garden. We plan to contribute to the education of children and adults, and in doing so help create a more sustainable, self supporting food system.

If someone is interested in shopping with Beechworth Food Co-op, what do they need to know?

Just come on up and visit us during the opening hours - we are open and welcoming to all!

Last year we toyed with the idea of getting a water filter. One of those fancy tap ones. Instead, we decided to get skylights. One downstairs and one upstairs. Our town house gets very little sunlight during the day, and certain areas, like my desk, the stairs, and front of the house require us to turn the lights on to get about during the day. We figured if we installed sky lights, we would not need to use any lights and would save on electricity. These areas rarely get used at night and having lights on during the day was kinda crazy. Needless to say, the skylights have changed everything (so much light!!!!) plus the one upstairs opens to let fresh air in. This was amazing on hot nights. When we open it, the heat is sucked straight out, making the air conditioner completely redundant...which is good, I don't like air conditioners and this will also save us money in the long run too.

We forgot about the water filter, until Happy Coal contacted me about their plastic free water filter...made of charcoal.

Yep, charcoal – well white charcoal, to be precise, that is confusingly, black.

The charcoal is Kishu Binchotan, made from oak branches that are baked at high temperatures inside kilns over the course of a month. The process is an old tradition from Japan, and has been used as for cooking for hundreds of years. Recently, it's porous structure has shown it to be ideal for removing chlorine, heavy metals and to alkalise water.

Filtering water is personal. Water in Australia is clean, meaning most of us can turn the tap on and drink, without contracting a water born illness. For it to be clean, the water is treated with different methods to ensure no micro-organisms breed. One of the treatments is adding chlorine. You only need to type the word chlorine, with the word water into a search engine, to find the varying views on this chemical in our drinking water and its potential harm to our bodies. I'm not about to start complaining about it. Not when there are people without clean drinking water. But if I can remove something like chlorine from my drinking water, then why not.

Unlike most water filtration systems on the market, such as jugs or permanent taps with inbuilt filtration, this simple charcoal branch is plastic free.  It doesn't require multiple parts. At the end of its life, the charcoal goes onto a garden or compost.

How to use
  1. Open packaging. Put binchotan into boiling water and boil for 5 minutes to sterilise. Remove and cool.
  2. Put binchotan into a water bottle. Use 60 g per 1 l of water. Take care not to drop it. Binchotan is easily breakable. Fill with tap water.
plastic free water filter
  1. Leave for at least 5 hours to filter. For best results, leave binchotan to work its magic overnight.
  2. Enjoy clean, soft, delicious, alkalising water!
  3. Refill your bottle again and again. Reuse for up to 2 months. Boil binchotan every 3 weeks to refresh and remove build-up.
  4. Once binchotan is no longer effective, compost it in your garden.
I enjoyed this product. Normally, when I am asked to review a product, I don't. Usually because it does not interest me or it's something I would not use. I almost did not say yes, because the binchotan comes from Japan and I try my hardest to support Australian made. For the record, Happy Coal is an Australian company.

The packaging is fully compostable, made of 100% recycled material manufactured in Australia along with the shredded recycled paper.

Below is how the goods were sent to me. All reusable and compostable elements. The packaging is just as important as the product. There was no hidden plastic.

I would use this again. The experience was enjoyable, easy to use and the water did taste cleaner. Binchotan would be a fantastic option for people who buy water in plastic water bottles, because they don't like the taste of tap water or don't like the chemicals that are present.

I have one Happy Coal Premium Binchotan gift box worth $25.00 to GIVE AWAY. 

To win, simply comment below or email me, with your favourite quote about water. It can be a line from a book, poem, song, quote...anything. The winner will be randomly selected. Entries are open until midnight, Wednesday 20 April 2016. Australian residents only. Competition closed.

I was not paid to write this post. Happy Coal asked if i'd like to try their product and give an honest review. I received this product for free.
When I made the decision to sign up for Plastic Free July in 2013, it was a challenge. Giving up my plastic was SO hard. Not because there were no options to replace my single use plastic habits. The challenge was in the changing of my habits. 

I was used to not ever think about my purchases. If I was thirsty, and forgot my refillable bottle, i'd buy a plastic packaged water bottle from the store. If I was shopping for groceries, I'd use the plastic bags the store offered me. If I was wanting a snack, I'd buy one pre packaged, ready for me. No thought, only convenient consumption.

There are plenty of replacements for all these plastic items. In fact, these replacements existed well before plastic came along. My reusable water bottle, replaced my need for buying packaged plastic water bottles. I have cloth bags that now replace the plastic bags when I shop. And snacks are now collected in reusable containers or reusable cloth snack bags. The solutions are there. What I needed was a way to remember these solution.

Getting into a new habit of remembering, was the bridge I needed to cross.

According to James Clear, writer on behavioural psychology and habit formation, every habit we have follows a pattern known as the 3 R's of habit change. These are Reminder, Routine and Reward.

The reward for me was using less plastic. The tools to start the routine were readably available. It was the reminder, the first step in the pattern, that needed the most work.

Below are some of the tricks I used to change my plastic habits

Electronic reminders
Most people have smart phones these days or some kind of device that will send electronic reminders. I used my calender on my phone or my email calender, setting up events with phrases like:

“don't forget your water bottle”
“write your shopping list tonight, put bags at front door”
“put your reusable bags into your handbag”
“say no to plastic bags”
"don't get a straw in your drink at the pub tonight"
"sit in and enjoy your hot chocolate"

The tricks I used to change my plastic habits
Photo by Anthony Strong
My phone would beep throughout the day. When I received one reminder, I would put one in for the next day. The constant repetition of reminders worked well. When they stopped, the reminders had become so engrained that I expected them, that I began consciously asking myself if I had my water bottle before I left the house or if I had a cloth bag with me.

Visual reminders 
I would hang my cloth bag on the front door. Did I forget from time to time? You betcha. But seeing it there and rehanging the bag each time, became a visual reminder that, like the phone reminders, I expected it to be there.

The tricks I used to change my plastic habits

The tricks I used to change my plastic habits
Photo by Anthony Strong
I also stuck notes on my handbag, the fridge and anywhere that I passed by often during the week. I even had one in my wallet.

It might be daggy or cumbersome to put notes about the house or into your phone. But it's not forever. As each day moved along, the reminders helped to action new habits, that did eventually stick.

How did you remember to bring your reusable bottles or bags? Is changing habits as big of a hurdle for you?