Zero waste and plastic-free pregnancy? Nope, not this one.

21 November 2017
Zero waste and plastic-free pregnancy? Nope, not this one.
35 weeks

I've gone back and fourth on writing this blog post. In the space of six months I received over 200 emails asking the question how to “do” a zero waste and plastic-free pregnancy. Gosh, what a loaded question! And one I was unsure how to answer properly. While we tried to limit some waste, it was never a goal for us and believe it shouldn't be for anyone unless it's their choice. If this is something you'd like to do with your pregnancy, please consult a medical professional to help you. I'm not a medical professional and this blog post is not intended to provide medical advice. 

With pregnancy well and truly over, I can now identify the three possible areas where plastic is used and how waste could be reduced. The areas are:
  • Food
  • Medical
  • Clothing
Being able to reduce plastic and waste easily in any scenario comes down to two main factors; circumstance and knowledge. Our circumstances involve things like health, location, financial, support, time. The knowledge is being aware about the issue of plastic and waste and understanding your options.

You could know everything about reducing plastic but something like money or location could inhibit you from being able to commit completely to reducing plastic and waste. Similarly, a lack of knowledge limits the awareness on options available. If we don't know how to do something differently, it's harder to make a change because we don't know we can. For example, mine and my unborn child's health during pregnancy made it difficult to allow for a low waste pregnancy and birth. Then there was my lack of knowledge of general pregnancy and all the possible complications plus little knowledge of birth without modern intervention.

So if you were unbound by the limitations of circumstance and were comfortable and confident in your knowledge, reducing waste in these three areas is achievable. Here are some ways waste could be reduced in pregnancy if this is what you would like to talk to a health professional about.

Food
  • Continue to shop in the same zero waste style you already are. Reuse containers, bags and bottles at bulk stores or co-ops, delis, bakeries, fruit and veg markets.
Medical
  • Instead of a plastic pregnancy test trust your body to follow these pregnancy signs 
  • Reduce the amount tests needed during the pregnancy (blood tests and ultrasounds)
  • Reduce pregnancy multivitamins
  • Reduce or limit medical intervention on guidance from a health professional
Clothing
  • Borrow or buy second hand maternity wear
  • Hold onto clothes already in the wardrobe until to uncomfortable for wear
  • Look for secondhand or borrow maternity bras (if needed early)

All of the above are possible. So why did I, this so called zero waste expert, not have a zero waste pregnancy? A lack of knowledge and awareness in alternatives, little preparedness for what to expect during pregnancy as I had not expected to become pregnant so quickly, and lastly the circumstance of my health and baby's made some choices harder. So if you came here to read about a zero waste pregnancy, sorry wrong blog. 

The day before our honeymoon I had spotting (bleeding), one of our bodies many ways of announcing “you're pregnant.” We had only started trying a month prior, the possibility of being pregnant didn't seem possible. Plus, we were about to leave for our three week romantic honeymoon visiting London, Norway, South-West France for a friends wedding, hiking in Corsica and relaxing in Sardinia.

I could have trusted my intuition, waiting until we returned to Australia for the standard blood tests which would confirm my pregnancy, but excitement got the better of me. We arrived in London early in the morning and all I could think of was getting to Aldgate East tube station and finding a Boots or Superdrug to buy a pregnancy test before we thought of checking into the hotel.

The little plastic test was positive. We were having a baby. The Builder jokingly asked if i'd take the pregnancy tests home for my waste jar. I decided against carrying a stick covered in pee with me. C'mon...

I did recycle the box.

The first two weeks following the pregnancy test were normal. We continued on our honeymoon, incorporating the usual zero waste and plastic-free habits that we have at home and on all our other holidays abroad. Travelling zero waste in Europe is easy, especially France.

By the final week of our honeymoon everything changed. Morning sickness announced itself rudely. Nausea engulfed my body and I began vomiting regularly. With nothing staying down I dreaded breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even water came back up. We scrolled lists of morning sickness blog posts reading cures upon cures. Many of them unappealing and often made me dry retch.

At home we would have been able to collect some of the more palatable options zero waste and plastic-free. But we were not at home. We were in a small town on the island of Sardinia, our grasp of the local language hovering between OK and pathetic. The only way of buying ginger was to choose the stuff covered in sugar, wrapped in plastic packaging. Seriously no fresh ginger. Anywhere. So we gave in. The plastic bag came home for us to drop at RedCycle, with most of the sweet ginger inside. It did nothing for my morning sickness.

Tap water in my reusable bottle was swapped for soda water in plastic bottles. The fizz for some reason helped keep fluid down. With temperatures hovering around 35 degrees, I needed to stay hydrated and didn't think twice about the plastic. Mine and the babies health was more important.  

We recycled the bottles (sooo many bottles).

Lucky the Sardinians love their bread or I don't know what I would have eaten. While the Builder enjoyed his Mediterranean feasts, I ate the bread basket. In a panic the Builder bought pregnancy multivitamins thinking the baby was getting no nutrients from all the pane carasau (a wafer thin flat bread popular in Sardinia, resembling a giant water cracker). Another plastic bottle to recycle. 

By this stage I wanted desperately to be home

You may or may not have seen a little video posted via social media on how easy flying zero waste is. Well, it was easy going to Europe. The flight back to Melbourne was hell. All the food we had bought with us made me sick. I even told the Builder to leave me in Dubai. I'd rent a hotel room for nine months, have the baby and fly home. It took a visit to the Dubai Airport Medical Centre and some medication to get me onto the final leg home.

You know the little biscuit packs often found on planes or at work conferences, the ones with two inside...I ate them from Rome to Dubai, Dubai to Melbourne. Plus those cardboardy bread rolls wrapped in plastic. Oh, and more fizzy water. Every bit of plastic packaging was hoarded and dropped at RedCycle. If I had been stopped at immigration there is not doubt they wold have asked why I had bags of plastic.

I arrived home feeling crumbled. How could something so small be doing this? I closed the blinds and crawled into bed for two weeks, the plastic packaged bread and biscuits were swapped for our usual unpackaged sourdough, covered in lashing of honey or peanut butter or Aussiemite. I tried fresh ginger tea with no avail. The magic of fizzy water stopped working, instead swapped for cans of coconut water. The smell of meat, wine and even people, including my husband, would smell so putrid I'd vomit.

We recycled the cans (sooo many cans).

Eventually my hormones settled enough for me to function and I was able to visit the doctor to have the usual blood tests to make sure my body was doing OK. I was advised to take a mutlivitamin, B6 to help with nausea and then later found out my thyroid was not functioning meaning I had to take a tablet for this also.

I got use to the constant nausea which stuck with me until I gave birth. Bread was replaced with normal food, my cans of coconut water swapped for a pregnancy tea brewed cold. I could not stand hot drinks. This magnesium oil got me through the last three months.

I've never been anti-plastic, simply anti it's misuse. It's worth noting there are alot of women around the world who have low waste pregnancies with no plastic as they don't have any choice, but then they might face health issues and all the plastic we try to avoid could save their lives. I personally don't see plastic in medicine a waste. If anything plastic has done so much for medicine.

The plastic I used during the first three months was mostly food related and the rest thereafter was for blood tests, ultrasounds and CTGs. In Australia women have two-three routine ultrasounds and two blood tests. If the situation requires monitoring, doctors and midwives recommend more. My obstetrician recommended further monitoring cautious our baby had IGUR. My uterus was never growing the size it should. All was well in the end, I was carrying 'neat' (neat means the baby was growing more inside my body than outside). I chose to trust my doctor and follow his lead. I knew in my heart he would not have sent me for extra tests if they were not needed as they were stressful and scary. Also, this was my first pregnancy. I didn't know what to expect and I don't think anyone expects the possibility of complications or suffering nausea for nine months. My motto for this lifestyle is 'do the best you can, with what you've got, where you are.'

I guess the point of this blog post is to emphasise there may be moments in life where we will make choices requiring plastic or where we'll make rubbish. It's OK. Not one pregnancy is the same as another. And always be kind to yourself and bub.

The main reason I struggled to write something about my pregnancy was a fear i'd make anyone feel they had failed living zero waste had they created rubbish. This is not a “10 ways to reduce your rubbish etc” post. It's a story about MY pregnancy. Is it possible to have a zero waste and plastic-free pregnancy? Absolutely! There are many MANY women who do. I didn't and i don't regret it.  

Another reason I hesitated writing this was because I suffered feelings of inadequacy from reading posts on “how to do pregnancy” or “what to eat for pregnancy” etc. I didn't ever want to make anyone feel this way when reading my blog. I can imagine the authors of those blog posts never intended to make a reader feel like they were not measuring up, they were simply sharing their own thoughts, hoping to help another woman. 

If you are presently going through a rough pregnancy and are experiencing anxiety and/or depression I encourage you to reach out to PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) or a similar program in your country. 

The Builder shares his plastic-free and zero waste journey

27 October 2017
The Builder shares his plastic-free and zero waste journey

Late last year I was asked by a blog reader to share the Builder's journey to plastic-free and zero waste living. While I tried to give my best response on his behalf it did not feel right to tell his own story for him. I floated the idea for a interview style blog post on Instagram. It was met with a lot of enthusiasm and eager questions from you all. He said yes. We finished this blog post a day before our baby was due to arrive and has languished in my drafts folder ever since. Each of the questions below came from you, the readers. I was surprised to hear some of the responses from him.

For new readers, my husband is referred to as the Builder throughout the blog. This is his trade. He ticks some of the stereotypes us Aussies associate with tradies; drives a ute, wears flannel and loves the footy. Living a plastic-free and zero waste life is not something one would apply to a man working in the construction industry. Hopefully his story will prove there is no eco greenie stereotype. Because you would not catch my husband in the bush hugging some tree. At least not sober...


I'll pass it over to the Builder to answer your plastic-free and zero waste questions...

I completed my first Plastic-Free July in 2013. Two months later we moved in together. By this stage, I had decided to live plastic-free but had been doing it in my own home. What was it like at the start for you? Was my lifestyle change difficult for you to accept when I was living it under the same roof as you?

Do you want to know the truth? I thought this woman is crazy! Kidding. I thought it was OK, but it was a bit too much for me at the start. It felt like everything took so long. There was a bit of work involved, especially for someone who was not eco mined I suppose. It was a struggle. But once I had the habits and new systems in place it became much easier.

What was the catalyst that made you want to follow along? What clicked?
Like you, it was also a movie. You were settling in to watch the film 'Bag It' and asked if I’d like to watch it as the movie might give some perspective on why you became this crazy plastic-free person. I was alarmed by all the health concerns like BPA and what they could do. I had no idea these existed! A movie is a good way to help explain a big issue like how harmful plastic is.

Have you ever felt like I've forced any of my own changes on you? Does it feel like you've made decisions to reduce waste on your own or are you following what I do?
I don't feel like you have ever forced it on me. I've always had an option to say no and you made this clear from day one. At the start I followed your lead, but only because you were doing the research and could answer any questions I had. Now I have my own systems in place to suit me at home and on my worksite. When I got to the football, beer is served in a plastic cup and not once have you made me feel bad or guilty for purchasing them. They recycle the cup! But a beer at the footy is a vice and I choose it. I think you need to give each person their space and allow them to decide what they'll give up because it can be hard for some and easier for others.

What did you think of plastic-free living before you jumped on board?
I thought it would bottle-neck my life and slow it down, stopping me from getting stuff done. This might have been because you were still trying to figure out the whole plastic-free thing out too.

And now how do you feel about it?
The opposite. There has been a nice knock-on effect of positive benefits adding much more value to my life.

Like what?
Learning to question what I've been told I need, which has helped me step off the hamster wheel of mindless consumption. I feel I have more control. I learned to appreciate the finer things in life. These days I'd much rather be making memories than buying something. I also enjoy the connection to my community. Getting creative fixing things. All the same things as you.

What's the one plastic item you've given up you miss the most?
I do miss a Powerade. It's kind of hard to substitute that. I'd have a lot of Powerade during the week. Twix, chips. You know the same kind of junk food you sometimes miss. But then the whole palm oil stuff turns me off as well.

Would you continue to pursue a zero waste lifestyle if I was not around?
Yes, I would. But I will admit that you set up many of the processes in the beginning. I enjoy this lifestyle so it would be hard to want to go back, especially now I'm a dad.

You and I both loved second hand shopping years before we met. Buying second hand is part of the zero waste movement. Do you think your love for second hand shopping made it accessible?
Yes, I was a vintage shopper from way back. I didn't have any phobias buying second-hand. Some people do have and will look down on you. Second-hand shopping can be a challenge. You go in there and have to think outside the box. Sometimes you go into a second-hand store wanting to find something and you can't. But then an item surprises you. It kind of forces you to be creative which is something I like. I think that's why I like this lifestyle, it kind of makes you stop and think and get creative.

Quality of life is not measured by the things you buy, it’s measured by the moments you live.

What has been the hardest adjustment for you?
Probably my mates, who always have something to say about the way I live now. Their happy to provide their expertise in the area. They just think you have become this totally different person, but really I'm the same person only thinking somewhat differently now.

We have people in our lives that 'don't get it.' How do you deal with this? What are your tips for others?
Just don't bother getting into debates or force stuff onto other people. Some of my mates have come to respect that. They leave me to it and I leave them to their lifestyle but I’m not afraid to banter them when I see a disposable coffee cup in their hand. I'm not out to change anyone’s lives. Just because you don't live the same lifestyle, does not mean you can't still get along. Also don't waste your energy on the naysayers. It's easier for others to drain your energy, so you must step away and stop worrying about what they think of picking up rubbish or saying no to plastic bags.


You work in a very masculine industry, with its share of stereotypes. How do you deal with these and being a “greenie”? Do the people on site make fun of your choices. If so, how do you cope?
Yeah for sure they make fun of it. But I don't let it get to me. It's generally the people who are like that are the ones I find hard to manage. It's not their attitude about the environment, it's just their attitude in general. The industry does not encourage you to be eco on the job site, beyond energy ratings in the final build.

Do you have any advice for other people in similar positions? 
Do what you feel you can do at your job no matter where you work. Over time the majority of people will respect it. Sometimes you do feel like people are making fun of it but then you realise people will like you for who you are. People will make so many assumptions about the plastic-free or zero waste lifestyle, and sometimes it’s easier to let people just enjoy those assumptions. I find it simpler to just lead by example. Quality of life is not measured by the things you buy, it’s measured by the moments you live. When you change this focus you begin to enjoy the interaction life has to offer. Then you never fall victim to your previous lifestyle.

What advice would you give a couple who have different views?
Run in the opposite direction! Kidding!! That's a tough one. I think you need to be in a completely supportive relationship that allows each person the freedom to try stuff even if it's different. If you don't have a common ground then it’s going to be a struggle. I didn't give plastic-free a go for a couple months, but I supported you and I know you would have done the same if the tables were turned.

Lastly, what do you like most about living plastic-free and zero waste?
I like not having to go to Woolworths and Coles. Major supermarkets make me frustrated. They seem unethical, a contradiction and full of waste. It's nice spending my money somewhere that is more aligned with my values and supporting my community. Life is simple, happier. A healthy, kind lifestyle that makes you feel good.

If you have anymore questions, feel free to put them below and he'll answer them for you.

Upcycling twine success

19 October 2017
Don't have rope? Heavily pregnant with a pile of cloth scraps and nothing to do? Make rope! Or stuff pillows! It's that easy. Remember in March when I shared my homemade twine? I had envisioned weaving the end product into a basket. This did not happen and the rope made its way to the Zero Waste Victoria’s stall the past two weekends where it was used to hang their information boards. I am still proud of my efforts to upcycled material despite not having the basket I had planned to make. The end product fits the stall perfectly.



A little background on the Zero Waste Victoria info stall. It grew from Zero Waste Victoria's Facebook group I'm part of. I didn't start the group originally but was asked to help out with admin as their numbers grew. I've enjoyed watching this Facebook community and many others expand and multiply across the country. In January I posted an idea to the Facebook group about running an info stall at Australia's Sustainable Living Festival as a means to educate others. The idea was met with a passionate response and soon enough we had not only put together our education stall, a website was born too. These past few weeks the stall has featured at Spring Into Gardening and Practically Green festivals, which have a focus on sustainable living. Below is a photo of us at Spring into Gardening. 


November will see the education space set up at Burrinja Climate Change Biennale 2017 and Fair@Square Moral Fairground offering a beeswax wrap demonstration. If you would like to hire our stall for education workshops and talks, you can contact us through the website www.zerowastevictoria.org. Once I wrap up my last workshops for the year (details on Facebook) I'll be turning my attention towards the Zero Waste Victoria website to see what we can do with the space. 

A Thank you to the business owners making low waste living easier

10 October 2017
A Thank you to the business owners making low waste living easier

How pretty are the flowers? These beauties were presented to me by Wendy, owner of The Source Bulk Foods Bowral after a talk I gave at her event. The handkerchief to the left was carefully wrapped around them, a thoughtful nod to my love of hankies. While it was lovely to receive these I felt like I should've passed them back to Wendy and her team! Truthfully my ability to reduce rubbish is made easier by people like Wendy. Running a small business is not easy, especially one that is in competition with the big supermarkets. I can only imagine it would take guts, passion and self belief to set store up against Coles and Woolworths, or whatever big supermarket chain it is in your country.

It's not just the Wendy's I'm grateful for. There are other small business owners, in brick and mortar stores and online, working their butts off making the reusable revolution accessible. There are so many of you out there. I was chatting with Zero Waste Victoria's awesome volunteers on accessibility and zero waste living. If there is no accessibility people won't be move towards it. I know there is a long way to go yet for making this lifestyle anywhere close to normal, but aren't we lucky to have pioneers willing to stick there necks out, setting up systems that will have a lasting positive impact on the environment and generations to come.

This is a just a little reminder for myself to thank the people opening these type of businesses that make it easier to choose and live sustainable, keeping it unpackaged and low waste. I really do appreciate it.

Well the blog has been a little quite lately. Due in part to Tifl becoming more active and wanting to play. He's sitting, rolling, dragging himself around the house, each development exciting and terrifying to witness. I've also spent the last few weeks working on secret projects while preparing for and running zero waste workshops. Anyway, a happy little email from Brooke McAlary of Slow Your Home bounced into my inbox last week about one of the secret projects, giving me the green light to share it with you. If you know the Slow Home Podcast then you can hedge a bet the project i'm about to talk about will be awesome. And yet somehow I was asked to be part of it.

Brooke and her partner Ben have put together Live Life Simply a six-week slow living retreat, and if you click through (which I hope you do) you'll see my face as one of the facilitators along with a host of talented people sharing wisdom on slow and simple living. The online course is for anyone wanting to realign their priorities in a fast paced world.



A six-week, all-access pass to more than 15 seminars by some of the leading experts in slow and simple living, where we focus on learning the essentials of meditation, mindfulness, simple productivity, low-waste living, easy whole foods, mindful money, slow yoga, low tox living, slow technology, bringing family members along for the journey, and how to create slow rituals on even the busiest of days.

You will also have access to videos, audio files, workbooks, playlists and questionnaires, all designed to help you slow down and simplify life not only over the six weeks of the retreat, but for the months and years that follow.

The retreat opens on October 23, 2017 and you will gain immediate access to everything and are free to work through each session at your own pace. Plus a private Facebook group to ask any questions and connect with like minded folk wanting to set the foundations to create a life lived simply.

Spaces are filling up fast so get in now to learn more and to reserve your spot today.

I'll be back to share more about the retreat this week on social media. But for now I have to practice a presentation I'm giving to Scouts Australia.
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Review: KeepingItNatural Zero Waste Cake Mascara

5 September 2017
Review: KeepingItNatural Zero Waste Cake Mascara
Waaaay back in 2015, I wrote a little blog post on my desire to find, try and review ready made zero waste plastic-free make up options. So far, I've located this brilliant cheek and lip tint packaged in compostable cardboard. My next quest was for mascara. I've tried MANY different mascaras over the past year and a half. Finally I have one that I'd happily recommend. 

Apart from scrutinising the packaging, other considerations include ingredients, consistency, ease of use, drying time and how my lashes look. KeepingItNatural Zero Waste Cake Mascara ticked all the boxes.

Review: KeepingItNatural Zero Waste Cake Mascara

KeepingItNatural Zero Waste Cake Mascara comes in a metal tin. You can see from my photos the mascara has been used quite a bit – a good sign that I LOVE it. The consistency is smooth making application easy and does not clump on my lashes. I like that it is not heavy and can be layered to a desired intensity. Some mascaras don't allow that. I find that my lashes need two layers of KeepingItNatural Zero Waste Cake Mascara. I never used to put store bought mascara on my bottom lashes as it always looked overdone on me. KeepingItNatural Zero Waste Cake Mascara is light enough to put onto my lower lashes without it being to dark. But if you like a more dramatic look then it can be layered to suit you.

Mascara that dries is crucial for my long eye lashes. When I look up, my lashes hit my eyelids. If the mascara is not dry it will leave dots and lines on the skin. This mascara dried quickly. Perfect.

I've been using cake mascara for a while now, so I was familiar with the process. For those with no idea how it works, I can assure you the process is easy. Take a mascara wand, wet with water, run wand over cake mascara coating the brush and apply to lashes. You can see how it looks wet in the photo below. I had no trouble applying the mascara or removing it from my lashes with water. This cake mascara comes with a mascara wand, but you can request for no wand to be sent. The lightweight container is compact measuring just 5cm by 2cm.

Review: KeepingItNatural Zero Waste Cake Mascara

KeepingItNatural encourages customers to return the packaging for refill. The tin can also be kept for reuse to make lip balm, cuticle cream, hold bobby pins, sewing pins and no doubt many other things that my mama brain can't think of right now. Metal has a high recycling rate as it's a sought after material. Unlike other recyclable materials, metal can be recycled almost continuously. While recycling is a last step on the zero waste ladder, sometimes it's the best option for a certain situation. If you are like me who is not wanting to give up something like mascara and don't want or have time to make your own, then it's important to consider the longevity of the packaging material and if and how it will be recycled. Plastic mascara tubes and wands can be recycled through TerraCycle, however they are more likely to be down-cycled. I'd rather pick a material that had a longer life, allows ease for refill and reuse like this metal tin. If you live in Australia and decide to buy this mascara, perhaps we can collect all the empty tins together to post back for reuse in bulk.

I have been using the same wand for my mascara the past few years now. I wash it after each use before transferring to a small cloth pouch. If you have an eagle eye, you'll notice the wand I'm reusing is not the same as the one in my homemade cake mascara recipe. That's because a certain someone knocked my old one down the drain. Lucky a friend gave me her old mascara wand from a mascara tube she was sending off to TerraCycle.

Review: KeepingItNatural Zero Waste Cake Mascara

Now to the ingredients. I prefer any ready made makeup products to have a small number of ingredients and to also have a low ranking on the EWG Skin Deep website. So I was happy this mascara had less than ten ingredients and no nasty chemicals. KeepingItNatural Zero Waste Cake Mascara is vegan, free of parabens (synthetic hormone disrupting preservatives), fragrance and not tested on animals.

KeepingItNatural will happily ship with no plastic in a plain envelope.
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Just a quick note, I purchased this product myself and was not asked to review it by the owner. 
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