18 December 2014

Make your own tea bags from recycled fabric to avoid plastic and waste + summer tea recipe

Tea is a favorite beverage of mine. Right now I am sipping on a cup of chamomile. I can remember the first time I tried chamomile. I was with my sister in my grandmother's kitchen and we were sitting in front of her old Aga wood stove. She boiled the water, put two tea bags into our mugs and waited for them to cool before handing them to us after swirling in a bit of honey. She warned us that we would not like it. But we did. Maybe we were trying to be grownup. But that is where my love affair for tea started.

Before I went plastic free I used to enjoy a tea bag plonked into my cup morning, noon and night. I originally gave up pre-packaged tea due to the endless plastic shrink wrapped boxes or the boxes with little plastic holes or the foil wrapped loose tea. It got too much trying to figure out if half of it was recyclable. But it turns out there was more than just plastic outside the box as journalist Taylor Orci uncovered in her article on the hidden plastics in tea bags.

Earlier this year Lindsay of Treading My Own Path wrote a rousing article on her blog about the scandalous amount of plastic that are in teabags. Once I looked at the actual life of a pre-packaged tea bag, beyond the plastic, I realised how many resources actually go into making a single tea bag and how wasteful it was. It was then that I decided to stick to loose leaf enjoyed in my tea pot or metal tea ball.

I use a teapot at home with a built in diffuser and a metal tea ball at work. I like to enjoy a cup of tea when I am flying (I’m an anxious flyer) but I don’t consume anything on my flights because I want to avoid plastic and create no waste. I can’t take my teapot with me. I tried taking my metal tea ball on flights and holidays but found that they drip quite a bit when I pulled them out of my cup and would drench a cloth when I wrapped it up for disposable later. It was messy.

So I decided to make my own fabric tea bags. Apart from being reusable they are easier to wring and store away until I can compost the tea leaves (read: usually dump into a garden). Then I just wash, dry and reuse. Too easy.

Another pro for the reusable cloth tea bag is that you can measure out exactly the amount you need. Whereas with teapots a lot of people do not measure the proper amount and end up wasting tea leaves. The correct measure is 1.5 teaspoons per person.

Making my own tea bags that I can use over and over and over again is a smarter and more sustainable choice when compared to the production of tea bags plus the added packaging they come in and the environmental footprint created when all the different elements are brought together then finally shipped to stores. I want to enjoy my tea knowing that I am creating little impact.

The plain simple truth is that pre-packaged tea bags bought from stores are not necessary. They are convenient. A lot of resources go into making a tea bag that will last 5 minutes (or more if you hold onto it for a second cup).



By not buying tea bags and making reusable tea bags the following materials can be saved:
  • Shrink wrap plastic
  • cardboard box packaging
  • foil/paper sachets
  • paper or plastic bags
  • string
  • staples
That is a big list of resources and over the course of a year it adds up. Plus there is the added chemicals like bleach and plastic pollutants in some brands. 



HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN RECYCLED CLOTH TEA BAGS


This tutorial for making your own tea bags is great for the beginner sewer (like me!). As I am teaching myself to sew I have started with hand sewing and learning the basics. No doubt whipping these up on a sewing machine would be soooo much faster. So if you have one you can follow along and swap the hand sewing for your sewing machine. Be kind, I am a beginner. Mum that was specifically at you.

Before you run to the fabric store STOP! Visit your local opportunity store and find a second hand cotton, hemp or linen item. Second hand items have been through the wash meaning that any nasty chemicals would have come out of the fabric. You could even find something in your own wardrobe like I did. If you would prefer to use new fabric try choosing organic and ethical that has not been treated with anything. The fabric in this tutorial is an old cotton shit that I had cut up for rags.


1. Take a piece of scrap paper and cut out the desired size of your tea bag. This will serve as a template. I made mine 5cm x 6cm. Pin the template to your fabric and cut out two pieces. I just fold the fabric over so I don’t have to cut twice.

2. Hold them together.

2. Start sewing on either the left or right hand side about 1.5 cm down from the top and sew along the edge right around to the other side. You are going to need that 1.5 cm gap at the top in the moment. I sewed a back stitch for this part.

3. You should now have a little pocket. Yay! Now take the top and fold one side over and iron so it lays flat. Do the same to the other side.

4. Sew the bottom of the fold to the fabric being carefully not to sew the pouch together. I use a small slip stitch so it is barely visible. This is because I am yet to master sewing in a perfectly straight line. Do this all the way around.

5. Cut a narrow bit of fabric, about 0.5cm in width and however long you want the tea bag string to be.

6. Attach a safety pin to the end of the string and thread it through the top holes on either side. Remove the safety pin and turn your little bag inside out. VoilĂ , you have made a tea bag. If you have a sewing machine I bet you are already enjoying a cup of tea.

These little bags can go beyond just a tea bag for yourself. Imagine making a mix of your own tea and gifting to a friend. Or storing dried flours inside the pouches to keep your clothes smelling sweet. Your Grandma would be proud. I think if my grandma’s saw my sewing skillz I would be met with a ‘dearie me’ or ‘girl…’ depending on which grandma was assessing the job, but no doubt some words of encouragement would flow. Hopefully.



Rosemary and Lavender tea recipe

Remember the rosemary I was drying out? I made it into a tea with dried Lavender that I picked locally and let dry too.

2 teaspoons dried rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon dried lavender
Lemon and Honey (optional)

Make your own tea bags from recycled fabric
This is a tea that can be enjoyed hot or cold. If you have lemon verbena add it in lieu of the lemon. Never add tea to boiling water. Let your kettle boil and sit for 5 minutes then add. Boiled water will burn your tea. I steep my tea for 5 minutes. If putting in cold water let sit there for an hour before serving.


Off to make a cup a tea,
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15 December 2014

A plastic hobby: confession time

I have a confession. I have over 50 tubes made of plastic. I touch it. Keep it in a box. These tubes are really special to me. The tubes house a very important part of my life; something that makes me so happy. They contain paint, glorious paint....acrylic paint, to be more precise.

When I was a little girl of 5, I wanted to be one of three things; an archaeologist, painter or writer. As I grew up I continued to paint and write. I kept up my love for archaeology through history subjects. I moved away from writing and focused solely on creating art and delving into design. Post high school I applied for spots at various Universities in design, art and archaeology. I decided to go down the design path. I thought I would keep archaeology for my mid-life crisis (sooo looking forward to my mid-life crisis!) and art as a hobby. I figured design would afford me more adventure and a stable career (which is has and I am grateful for). In every house I have occupied since I was a teenager there has sat an easel and a box of paints in my room. Except London... but I carried watercolours and pencils with me. I will happily admit that creating art is my meditation. I love it and I love what I create.



My favorite paint is acrylic. Each tube of acrylic paint is kept in a plastic tube. And the affordable canvas is shrink wrapped in plastic. I have not bought any new paint or canvas boards since I declared in July 2013 that I would not buy new virgin plastic (unless it was for medical reasons). And to be truthful I have never touched my paints because of this. I felt guilty that I had such a large box of plastic.

Recently I unpacked my trusted easels, boxes of paints and rows of paint brushes & palate knives. I wanted to paint my dear friend a special artwork for her first home. So I swallowed my guilt and began painting.

And it felt good.

I was not going to admit any of this. But I am choosing to be open and honest. I guess I want others who have stumbled across my blog to know that my sustainable life is not always running on a straight and easy road. I hit speed bumps and there a bends that come out of nowhere. I could have ignored my box of paint and sold my easel.

I have other artsy materials like pencils, watercolours, oil paints and pastels. But I have always had a soft spot for the acrylics. Each time I open the box I look down at them and think to myself 'what am I going to do when you all run out?'

Apart from the plastic there is another environmental side effect...washing my brushes in water which results in chemicals rolling down the sink? It gets treated but still it's not something I should become lax about. That is not kind living at all.


I genuinely believe that when I am questioning anything I already know the answer, I just don't want to admit it. And the solution (that I don't want to hear but know I have to) is simply not buy paint in this form anymore. Instead use up what I have, say my goodbye.

I will move onto my pencils, watercolours, oil paints and pastels I have. I will create art using these materials instead and on more eco-friendly surfaces. I don't know what I will do with the empty tubes when all the colours have run out. When all are empty I will exhaust search engines, emailing manufactures and recycling companies to find a solution then. Just not know.

Until then I will just enjoy the time I have left with my tubes of paint. This is not the only artistic outlet that comes in plastic that I used to really enjoy. I used to have a love for disposable cameras. And I still have a love for my Lomo 360 Spinner. The body is made of plastic and so is the film inside it. That has been tucked away in and I have not touched it since last year either.

Thanks for reading while I continue to plough through this move to a more sustainable and simple life. Your support and insight makes it easier. If you have any solutions on what I can do with my paint tubes once they are empty, hit me up below.

Painting slowly,
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9 December 2014

Five Indoor plants to help clean pollution from your home and office, and why you need them

I unashamedly would love to turn my home into a jungle. Well, just parts of it – mainly the lounge room. Plants in the home are a must, especially choosing ones that will help keep the air clean and deal with some of the nasty toxins that make their way in via furniture, appliances and building materials.

Five Indoor plants to clean help clean pollution from your home and office

According to the Australian Government Department of the Environments website, Australians spend 90% of their time indoors so it is no wonder we create toxic pollution inside. And with our homes built to stop drafts and cold air form entering, the pollution from inside stays inside. Much of the pollution comes from the materials that are used in the building of our homes such as glues, paints, and wood. Add our appliances and furniture plus toxic cleaning products, smoke and dust to the mix, and you might think you need to open the windows each and every day to combat it all.

NASA completed the first Clean Air Study in 1989. The study found that a selection of indoor plants can help keep our homes clean of common toxins. Originally the study was conducted to keep the air clean on NASA space stations.

Specific research found that toxins such as formaldehyde (found in plywood, synthetic fabrics, shampoos, cosmetics) benzene (found in paints, plastics and detergents), trichloroethylene (found in soaps, dyes, plastics, disinfectants, flame retardants, clothing, furniture), xylene & toluene (found in paints, nail polish, glues) and ammonia (found in cleaning products) could be reduced and removed by mostly tropical or subtropical plants; the kind of plants that flourish in homes without the need to rely on direct sunlight.

Indoor plants have also been shown to reduce stress levels and make us happy, limit colds, improve memory and add humidity to your home. Kansas State University placed plants in hospital rooms and found that it increased the rate of recovery while keeping a steady heart rate and lower blood pressure, aid fatigue and anxiety symptoms. Washington State University found that dust reduced by 20% with indoor plants.

Plants make great presents – I love gifting plants. It’s hard not to with all the added benefits that go beyond being kind to the eye.



Five Indoor plants to help clean the pollution from your home and office



I love ferns. The way the delicate leaves fall gently over one another softens any part of the home. While they look meek the Boston Fern is a powerhouse and will remove formaldehyde, xylene and toluene. Kept in a indirect light, a misting of water two times a week and making sure the soil is damp will keep this fern green and lush.

English Ivy does well in indirect light if it is well looked after. Ivy will grow fast and you can keep the long runners at bay by cutting them back. But most indoor ivy will not go as crazy as it does outdoor if looked after. During winter mist with water. Like most indoor plants it is easy to look after. The green waxy leaves soak up formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene. Moderately poisonous to children and pets – keep up high away from children and pets.


The Spider Plant has long striped leaves that like the fern will cascade over the pot. These guys soak up formaldehyde, xylene and toluene from your home and will one day produce small white flowers. These hardy plants are the easiest to grow as they can adapt to different conditions. Don’t water too much rather space out your watering’s.
If you are looking for plant that will take up a bit of room then the Bamboo Palm might be for your home while it actively gets rid of formaldehyde, xylene and toluene. It will grow well in low light and needs water when the soil is feeling dry. While it is an easy plant to look after it will require repotting as it grows.
Not only does the humble peace lily remove formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia. It also helps remove mould from the air. Some might find Peace Lily's are a bit common but I think the white flowers with deep green leaves look lovely. Only water when the soil is dry. If they droop after a week of being watered you might need to move to a bigger pot. Something I have learnt recently. Mildly poisonous to children and pets – keep up high away from children and pets.



While plants can do a lot for our health and help to reduce pollutant levels there is still the added benefit of opening windows to allow air to get it and take the nasties out. While indoor plants will help reduce the dust, know that dust will still accumulate on the plants like any other object sitting inside a home. Just take a wet cloth, preferably made of natural fibers, and wipe over the leaves to remove the dust. For more delicate leaves take the plant outside and give them a shake.

Did you know more indoor plants die from over water rather than neglect? Follow your plants care instructions and your plants will be happy. Happy plants, happy home. 



Hey, what about the plastic?!


Yes, it is hard to buy a potted plant not in plastic. Really, I have tried. With vegetables it is easy but finding seeds and cuttings for many of the above is a little more difficult. Apart from trying to grow from seed or cuttings the next best thing is to move your plants to a ceramic pot and take your plastic pot back to your nursery or plant store for reuse. I have yet to encounter a nursery that will not reuse plastic pots.

Jungle love and clean air,

4 December 2014

Wrap your presents plastic free

Wrap your presents plastic free

Christmas is not that far away. Today I am sharing different ways to wrap presents plastic free.

Traditionally wrapping presents requires two things; paper and something to hold it together. Usually this is tape made of plastic. Plastic tape is toxic and is a pain for recycling companies to take off our boxed or paper items. Here are options for plastic free tape.


Try Gummed Paper Tape or Cellulose Plastic-Free Packing Tape.

Or you could do like me and use string, twine or wool. Just make sure it is organic, compostable and ethically made like Shon Twine.

Another idea is to turn old bed sheets or any type of cloth and turn into ribbons to tie presents up with. I even have an odd selection of shoelaces that work too. 

If you want to try wrapping with no tape or twine, Beth Terry has step by step instruction on how to achieve this. 

I don't always wrap presents, but if I do I like to use old newspaper or brown paper to wrap. While newspaper is great as it is being reused there is that chance the ink will rub off onto your present. If you are looking for brown paper choose recycled paper and let your recipient know that they can compost, recycle or even better, reuse it. A great company in Australia is Ecocern. You can use vegetable dyes like carrot or beetroot and create stamps out of potatoes to add patterns to your brown paper. If you accept gift bags keep them and reuse for future gift giving.

Another way to wrap is to try Eco Chici cloth wrapping. This is the perfect guilt free way to wrap presents. It is based on a Japanese cloth wrapping tradition. Eco Chici have a wide range of cloth wraps available and can be reused and reused and reused.

You could even make simple cloth bags too.

If you are looking for a fun way to create gift tags, try upcycling toilet rolls, like I did for my food labels


Happy wrapping,
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2 December 2014

The messiness and unmessiness of living plastic free and zero waste


I carry a single cloth bag with me at all times. It is there if I want to collect things like the odd cookie, fresh pasta if I happen to walk by a certain store on my way home or even to simply grab a sandwich if I did not pack my lunch that day. I have many cloth bags and each one roll up small, fitting into my handbag without fuss. Really it makes my zero waste and plastic free life easier. 


When I hand my little cloth bag over to be filled with sweets, pasta or a sandwich, the shop keeper meets my request with a concerned comment that my bag will get dirty. I know they mean well but sometimes I have to contain a laugh. They are genuinely concerned that a bit of sauce might spill form the sandwich or crumbs will form in the bag. I let them know that it is okay.

They are right, crumbs do end up in the bag. It does get messy. But I will tip it out and let the birds pick up what crumbs they wish. Sometimes it will get a little greasy. And when it does I will wash it. I have access to a washing machine so its not so bad.

Sometimes living plastic free and zero waste requires getting used to a bit of mess. Yes there will be lots of crumbs accumulating. But the crumbs were there when I bought these items in prepackaged form whether in plastic or paper, it's just that I use to throw them away. I did not have to carry them home to clean out. I never made it my responsibility.

While I got used to this new type mess I came to realise that I was removing another mess from my life. A life with less packaging and what seemingly others would view as less convenience eventually removed many messy choices that I used to let clutter my life without seeing.

The mess I am referring to are the shelves of choices I used to encounter everyday. All neatly packaged in plastic or paper. Sometimes it was the same thing packaged in a different way with a slightly different name. And I was there, umming and ahhing about which to choose. In reality I was lost choosing between what do I want and what do I need, and also what do they have in their trolley.

Now it is so much simpler. Choices are limited. If I don't have my cloth bag or some kind of container to collect what I need, then I simply cannot get it. My choices are not messy anymore. And with that in mind I can handle crumbs in my cloth bag.

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28 November 2014

Seasonal food blog discoveries

I shared my switch to eating only seasonal and local produce and why. During the transition from eating zucchini whenever to only in summer, I have had to ditch the old food blogs I use to frequent and find new ones that focused on seasonal cooking.

I was looking for ones that allowed me to browse via the seasons. Here are four that have been added to my favorites with inspiring recipes and gorgeous to look at.


Seasonal food blog discoveries

Seasonal food blog discoveries

25 November 2014

The benefits of eating seasonal and locally grown food

I have made the move to eat only seasonal and locally grown food. It is one of the best decisions I have made. My wallet and health agree with me and you might too. 


The benefits of eating seasonal and locally grown food

Do you know where your food comes from? No not the location of stores and markets where you gather the weekly groceries. Where is your food grown and harvested? How many kilometres does your food travel before it gets to your shop? And do you know what seasons your food grows?

I didn't until recently. Now we have made some changes and decided to become local and seasonal food consumers.

When the builder and I moved in together we made a consciences effort to shop and support local business as we navigated the ins and outs of living and shopping plastic free. We frequented the green grocer, butcher, fish monger and the grain and nut store. It was not until the Builder questioned whether our green grocer's fruit and vegetables were organic that I began to investigate what it meant to eat sustainably.

I looked at our food buying habits. Nope we were not buying organic fruit and vegetables. Although we were supporting a small business not all of the food was coming from local farmers. Much of it was travelling from several states away resulting in a larger carbon foot print.

We decided that aside from organic fruit and veggies, we also wanted to make less of an impact and could achieve this by simply supporting local farmers and eating what is in season. Aside from being a sustainable earth friendly choice there are other benefits too only buying food that is in season and from within our own State. Let's look at why...

Environment

Our food has a smaller distance to travel equaling fewer carbon emissions. The fruit and vegetables we buy come from farms that are less than three hours away, some even closer. An organic farmer will steer clear of toxic chemicals and pesticides, using only friendly methods to grow food. If the farmer grows organic it is a sign that he cares about the environment just as much as you and me. Eating locally grown food means we have to eat seasonally. It goes hand in hand.

Supporting local businesses and community

Recently one of Australia's big name supermarkets were sprung marketing and selling freshly baked bread that was...no joke...baked in Ireland and shipped to Australia. Now no harm to the Irish, you are very gifted bakers. I adore your soda breads and potato breads dearly but this was ludicrous. It makes me cringe when I think of not only the environmental impact but also the economic and social impact eating food shipped from far away countries and regions has on food growers in my very own State. By going to a certified farmer market we support food businesses in Victoria which in turn supports local families and the local economy.

Save money

Eating seasonally will also save you money as food that is purchased out of season can be marked up. Think about it; tomatoes grow naturally in summer. They are a summer fruit and a delicious one at that. So for farmers to grow tomatoes out of season will require more effort which requires more money. The farmers then have to pass this added price onto the shop owners. Then the shop owners can mark it up using the valid reason a tomato is not in season so it is a premium sale. Since buying food that is in season we have enjoyed a reduction in our weekly grocery bill.

Health

I am limited with the food I can buy. Coming from a habit where I used to buy whatever I fancied I did find the change limiting. But now I am glad for this change. I know food is picked when it is ripe, providing my body with all the nutrient benefits. Let's take the humble strawberry which is in season right now. It is programmed by nature to be eaten this time of year. The farmer should not need to add anything to them to help them grow or put them into greenhouses, which are usually made of plastic to prolong seasons. There are no weird chemicals, waxes or preservatives to make them look nicer. Nor have they been picked and frozen. They come as they are, never looking supermarket perfect but always bursting with flavour. The foods that flourish in the different seasons are aligned to help our bodies through winter, autumn, spring and summer.

At the farmers market I am able to talk to the people that nourish me. I have a direct relationship with the person that grows my vegetables and fruit; farm to plate to belly. I am cultivating community.

We downloaded a list of what is in season from the Victorian Farmers Markets Association to help us understand what food is in season. Sometimes there have been items at the market that are not on the list so we ask them how they are storing the food. There are even some leeks still available but now they are on the smaller size because the season is finished. The list is there a guide. The best person to ask is the farmer or produce seller.

"Our accreditation system means that shoppers can be sure they are buying freshly harvested, seasonal, local food direct from the person who grew, reared, baked or caught it. And it means local food producers can get a fair price for their goods." Victorian Farmers Markets Association

Of course the best way to eat local and seasonally would be to grow your own and partake in local food swaps. But if you are like me and are still a novice gardener, lack the space or simply don't like gardening then I suggest you check out your local farmers market. If a farmers market is not an option and the idea of eating seasonally appeals to you search for what is in season in your area.

The benefits of eating seasonal and locally grown food

We are able to avoid plastic and any other packaging, keeping our shop to complete zero waste. If our food comes tied in elastic bands we take them back for the farmers to use. One upside of buying at the farmers markets is there are no stickers on our produce. One downside is that buying meat or fish is not worth trying as our market is took small to have effective refrigeration which is required to sell meat in Victoria. The upside is that we are now eating a lot less meat. 

Another downside is that most of my cookbooks are not season friendly. Like at all. Or the food blogs I frequent. So recipes have kinda gone out the window and ingredients have become king to inventions resulting in dishes that are simpler and resulting in less time in the kitchen.

Check out what is in season and locally grown were you live. I promise you will enjoy eating food that is good for you, grown with care and will feel good about making a sustainable choice that will save money too.

Tell me, what is your fave food to buy in season?

13 November 2014

Interview with No Plastic Fruit & Vegetables

You are in for a treat today. I was fortunate to get an interview with Luke Flesher, the Store Manager from Australia's first plastic free grocery store aptly named No Plastic Fruit & Vegetables located in Queenscliff, NSW. 


While the store has not been open long I feel that it has laid important foundations of what will one day be a shift in how the people of Australia shop. What makes the store unique is that its goal is to actively encourage shoppers to understand plastic is not necessary. While there are a growing number of bulk food stores that plastic free shoppers frequent this is the FIRST one I have come across that has chosen to focus specifically on minimising plastic. They are a small store with great big heart and I look forward to watching them grow.



Congratulations on being the first grocery store in Australia that is plastic free. What made you want to open a grocery store devoted to plastic free living?
Thank you! The store is owner Alex Grant's brainchild. He is a Sydney Northern Beaches local, keen swimmer and passionate plastic hater. He sees this store as his way of taking a stand against the amount of plastic in the world, particularly in our food supply chain. And to maximise the impact he could have, what better way than starting a dedicated store, enabling others to reduce their own plastic use at the same time? He wanted to show people that it is possible, and there are alternatives to what many think are the only grocery shopping options out there.

As Store Manager, it's my job to spread the word far and wide, provide great customer service to ensure positive word of mouth, and keep finding new products that fit our criteria of no plastic in the products themselves, or their packaging.

No Plastic Fruit & Vegetables

Even your store itself has minimal plastic, was this easy?
In most ways, absolutely. We chose wooden and metal display racks, and particle board free standing units. We don't have any of those plastic price tag holders you see on supermarket shelves, nor any laminated signage, stickers or price tags - instead we use paper, blu-tak and masking tape. Our bread is displayed in a second hand wooden bookcase, our newspapers on a recycled wooden crate, and our coffee machine sits on a second hand wooden table. We have metal shopping baskets instead of plastic. The concessions we had to make plastic-wise for our shop fittings were the till itself (sadly old-school metal tills don't quite have the functionality for what we need), the EFTPOS machine, and an air conditioning unit.

Were you living plastic free previously?
I come from South Australia, who have had a couple of excellent initiatives in place for a number of years - a ban on grey plastic bags at supermarkets (an imperfect solution but an admirable step in the right direction), and a drink container deposit scheme - both of which make plastic reduction a lot easier. I wouldn't by any means say I lived 100% plastic free, and I don't think Alex would either; although he certainly avoids plastic like the plague, it's an unfortunate reality that it has traditionally been very difficult indeed to completely eliminate it from every day life.

Since starting this business though, you can't help but look at your own plastic use, and, when you start to think about alternatives and see through research and hard work that there are legitimate alternatives, find ways to dramatically reduce your own use. Sites like your own are a tremendous resource for helping people, and we do commend you for the time you spend spreading the word!

And we're pretty realistic - it still remains very practically difficult for most people to live plastic free. No one is perfect, and I myself still make mistakes on occasion. But that realisation you've made a poor purchasing choice in itself is useful...as long as you act on that realisation and change.

That's something everyone can do, and this is something I always stress: make small but meaningful changes to their everyday habits. And that can definitely start with your grocery shopping. Our store is by no means a panacea for a global problem, but it provides a viable alternative and, hopefully, gets people thinking a bit more deeply.

No Plastic Fruit & Vegetables
Luke with a selection of the store's plastic-free offerings on a trade table at a local festival recently.

What common misconceptions about living plastic free have you come across?
  • That throwing something away means it's gone. It doesn't disappear - it goes into landfill. Or worse.
  • That releasing balloons at a party is a good idea. It's not. They get blown into the ocean.
  • That kids don't understand simple conservation messages like "take a bag to the supermarket instead of grabbing a plastic one". They do, and educating at a young age is the best possible way to instill behaviour for life.

What was the moment or event that made you want to live plastic free?
For Alex, I'm sure it was swimming or snorkelling at a local beach and being overwhelmed with sadness at the amount of rubbish on the sand and in the water.

For us here in the store, it's receiving the messages of support from customers and people on social media - it tells us that, despite the many challenges in running a small business like this an industry of true giants, what we're trying to do is touching a lot of people. That certainly does make it worthwhile.

What are the biggest challenges you have overcome?
Finding suitable products would be the number one challenge, certainly. It's often a case of "right product, wrong packaging" - there are countless great products that could be a great fit for our store, but plastic in one form or another gets in the way. And we don't budge on that - right down to a plastic label on a glass drink bottle instead of a paper one. But on the flip side, we have met many suppliers, particularly smaller ones, who are willing to work with us. For example, our most popular product is locally made Bobby Muesli, which normally comes in a plasticised pouch. But we worked together, and for us, Kristi from Bobby packages it in glass jars with paper sticker labels. We've also managed to reduce the plastic coming into our store; for example our regular bread delivery at first came on a tray wrapped in a large plastic sheet. We said we didn't want that, so the very next day it came simply covered in paper instead, and it has ever since. I think that says something about what is possible if you ask the right question, too.

It's always a great sense of achievement when we find our own solutions, too. Buying bulk, eco-friendly dishwashing detergent and repackaging it in glass bottles with cork stoppers and paper sticker labels is a nice feeling. Even though, yes, the initial 20L container is plastic, we're saving 30-40 single use plastic detergent bottles and lids, plus giving people the chance to refill their own bottles, and we send the containers back to the manufacturer to reuse. That is a great result by any standard of measurement.

As a small business, the obvious other one is creating awareness to convince people to change their habits away from shopping with the big guys. There's a nice bus shelter campaign in Sydney at the moment encouraging people to shop local and support local businesses, which is great to see. Social media is also great for bringing in like-minded people, and we never pass up opportunities to speak to people like yourself who are so obviously on the same wavelength!

What are your plans for the future?
As I said, we've been really encouraged by the responses we've had to our concept. We're still very much in our infancy and there's lots of work still to be done to establish ourselves in our current location. We want to keep adding new products to the store, keep spreading the word, and keep improving our own processes to ensure we adhere to our own principles as best as possible.

It's too early to talk about expansion or other stores, but I think the concept certainly has potential, particularly as the overall movement grows and more and more people start to change their ways.

No Plastic Fruit & Vegetables

What is your number one tip for reducing plastic?
Other than shopping with us? ;) But seriously, supporting people trying to make a difference is probably one of the best things you can do. Spending $30 or $40 in a store like ours makes a real difference to us, whereas it's just one more micro-transaction for the big guys.

Take the time, where you can, to educate yourself on alternatives. Buy a solid shampoo bar instead of one that is 90% water AND comes in a plastic bottle. It's a better product AND it uses no plastic! 

And ask for NO LID on your take away coffee...better still, bring your own cup!


Store info:

No Plastic Fruit and Vegetables
94 Crown Road, Queenscliff, NSW 2029

Opening Hours:
9:00am to 6:45pm, Monday to Friday
9:00am to 1:30+pm Saturday

www.noplastic.com.au
www.facebook.com/noplasticfood



Inspired much? I know I am. If you are too let your friends know about this store and feel free to share this interview. And don't forget to support your local businesses.

Happy Thursday,
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