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Helpful Resources

Helpful Resources
Helpful Resources

Upcycling twine success

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

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.

Review: KeepingItNatural Zero Waste Cake Mascara

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.

Just a quick note, I purchased this product myself and was not asked to review it by the owner. 

Baby shower gift ideas

If you're hosting a baby shower, mother blessing, push party or babyq to celebrate the arrival of a baby, there is high chance someone will bring along a present. Rather than say no gifts to avoid the waste and plastic, I generally find it easier to offer family and friends options, because there are people that want to give. It's in their nature. I say work with them, not against. Not only does it stop me from receiving something I don't want, it's also another way to share the zero waste and plastic-free lifestyle too ;)

My pregnancy nausea prevented us from hosting a babyq (bbq for the baby...get it? Very popular atm). We did begin the planning of a special day. The Builder saw sense pointing out that it would not be overly joyful if I'm laying on the couch for most of the party or randomly vomiting because someone smelt weird. This happened more than I like to remember. Had we ended up hosting our baby shindig, we would have kept it zero waste by choosing food in bulk, making things from scratch where needed or purchasing in our usual reusable containers, borrow decorations, use real plates and glasses, no plastic straws and compost our food scraps. It would not have been too different from any other event we had hosted.

This list of zero waste baby gift ideas was carefully picked to help ease parents, like us, as we stumbled into the new role. Since we were able to acquire most of our baby's needs like clothes, wraps, blankets, prams and furniture from family and friends, we did not need anything specifically for the baby. This list revolves more around the parents. Perhaps I should have given the blog post a different title... anyway, let's begin before said baby wakes up from his nap ;)


Cooked food that can be heated up in a pinch is a new parents ultimate gift. It's so important a breastfeeding woman eats and not skip meals. They are required to up their calorie intake even more than pregnancy. A fun gift would be to put together a menu option or food tickets so the parents can call them in. Like an UberEats, but by family and friends. Think simple dishes full of roasted root vegetables, slow cooked meals, soups, rice, fruit and desserts. I'd advise against anything that could cause colic (gas) if mum is breastfeeding. For inspiration, look up anti-colic diets. Food can be divided up in glass jars as individual meals, ready for the freezer.

Nappy cleaning services

If you know parents that are doing reusable nappies, also known as MCN's (modern cloth nappies), this gift would be AMAZING. Dirty nappies are picked up, washed, dried and dropped back to the tired parents. This is the kind of gift that could woo parents into trying cloth nappies too. Many of the services offer gift vouchers. If this is a gift that you think would be a hit (I can guarantee it would!), do double check what detergent the nappies are washed in. Us eco mama's don't want anything too harsh that will end up close to our baby's bottoms.

Cleaning essential wipes

If they are using cloth nappies, chances are cloth wipes will be on the agenda too. Cleaning Essentials have put together a glass jar for making zero waste, safe and effective eco-conscious DIY reusable wipes. I love that the instructions are on the jar, meaning there is no risk of ever losing them. The jar has three sets of instructions ranging from gentle, all purpose and heavy duty. Once the jar is not needed to make the baby wipes (gentle), it can be transformed for use in the home (all purpose or heavy duty). It's easy and compact, making the jar ideal for parents to take out of the house with them.

Toilet Paper

The gift of toilet paper? Am I that sleep deprived to make a crazy statement? Maybe, but hear me out. Toilet paper is right up there with food as an essential item for new parents. The focus for the first year is on a new tiny human, not keeping the toilet holder stocked. Day to day chores like buying toilet paper is going to be far down the list of things to remember. And if a parent can save some extra time not shopping for an essential item like toilet paper, that is a gift in itself. Now i'm not suggesting you run off to the supermarket to buy a trolley full of loo rolls. There is a far smarter and discreet option called toilet paper delivery.

Who Gives A Crap sell a box of 48 rolls for $48 made of either recycled paper (post-consumer waste, like texts books) or bamboo (tree free!). Each rolls is individually wrapped in fun, reusable paper (a law requirement they are individually wrapped). 50% of all profits are donated to Wateraid to build toilets and improve sanitation in developing countries. Who Gives a Crap are one of only a small handful of companies (another one is Pure Planet) that sell toilet paper plastic-free. Those paper wrapped toilet rolls by Safe found at the supermarket has a thin layer of plastic. Gift vouchers are also available.

Use this link to receive $10 off your first order.

Hand cream

If the parents have committed to cloth nappies, they will be rinsing and washing often, potentially resulting in dry hands. I love to take five minutes once bub has goes down for his evening sleep, to rub a decadent smelling moisturiser over my hands to keep them soft. It's a nice ritual and helps me relax. Etsy offers beautiful ready made options, like this lemon myrtle cream. Get more personal by creating a DIY blend using ingredients from Biome. In each Biome store, or via their online store, you can buy the ingredients in handy reusable glass jars. If you are lucky to live close to their Balmoral store, all ingredients can be picked up in bulk from the naked beauty bar. All of Biome's products are 100% palm oil free too.


I have yet to meet a mum that does not have a crick in their neck and ache on the body either left over from pregnancy or bending over and picking up baby all day. While those babies start off small in weight, they grow quickly and pretty soon you're carrying around 8kg. Taking a break for an hour to relieve the aches and pains will not only be good for the body but also for the mind.

Photo frame

I didn't think we'd be taking as many photos as we have been. I plan to be in the moment but then part of me wants to record everything because they grow so quickly. Sometimes I wonder if we even took enough photos in the first week! Lucky, second hand stores have plenty of photo frames to put the memories into. 

Offer your time

Offering services like cleaning dishes, vacuuming, going for a walk with the new parents or just visiting to watch baby while either mum or dad can have a shower, meal or nap is a thoughtful gift. The parents will also appreciate the chance to have an adult conversation. I know it helps me.

Put together a hamper

Pick up a secondhand basket from the local charity store and begin filling up with items from the list above. Before leaving the charity store choose some children's books and clothes that the new parents might like too. You could even tuck a list of baby friendly cafes in their neighbourhood into the hamper. Baby friendly = space for prams and comfortable seating to feed in (ie, seats with a back on them). Cafes won't actually turn a parent away! Don't forget to add in some hankies for the new parents too. You can read why I think they are a wonderful zero waste gift to pass along here.

Looking after the wellbeing of a new parent is important. It might feel more traditional to lavish the baby with gifts, but honestly their needs are primarily the parents. If the parents are doing well physically and mentally, the baby will be well looked after. I look forward to reading other gift ideas you may have in the comments below. Tifl has not woken yet from his nap, so i'm going to tempt fate by making a cup of tea...

Recycling is not the solution, but we can't abandon it yet

Last Monday night Four Corners reported on Australia's supposedly unravelling recycling and waste sector in their episode aptly named 'Trashed.' It left many people wondering if we should bother recycling.

Recycling is not the solution, but we can't abandon it yet

This is last weeks recycling. I was inspired by fellow zero waste blogger Lindsay who back in April let us peek into her recycling. While she provided a month's worth, I thought it best to stick to a week. If I committed to a month, I'm not sure i'd remember to photograph it! I walked out of a cafe the other week without our babies pram, only the baby. Just an example of where my brain is at for you all. I had intended this post to follow the format of Lindsay's, but with the recent recycling industry scandals it's morphed into something different. But first, let's have a look at what I added to the yellow bin:

  • Two pizza boxes – We rarely ate takeaway before baby arrived. Oh how sleep deprivation changed that. They make the BEST vegan pizza. 
  • Postal satchel – I bought my son extra nappies from a Facebook Buy, Swap, Sell. I had asked for a paper satchel...
  • Foil – My mother-in-law dropped off cabbage rolls on a plate, wrapped in foil. 
  • Scraps of paper – I write shopping lists and dinner schedules on the back of envelopes my husband’s work receives. 
  • Toilet roll and packaging – WGAC and Pure Planet toilet paper.

The story ran by Four Corners has been one of many exposes into the recycling industry over the last few months. In July a fire broke out at a recycling facility in North Melbourne. Cardboard, paper, plastic, glass and aluminium that had been stockpiling went up in flames, sending debris from the fire across the metropolitan region. City residents, especially those with children, were advised to stay inside. Homes close to the fire were evacuated, with some residents ending up in hospital due to respiratory issues. My husband told me that it smelt horrible and could taste chemicals at the back of his throat. This was the fourth fire at the facility in the past year, with many questioning if the blaze was an accident or a way to deal with the stockpiled recycling. Prior to the fire I had heard rumours of companies stockpiling recycling here in Victoria, but not at the amount Four Corners uncovered.

The zero waste philosophy puts recycling as a last resort. It's not a system that works well enough for us to rely on it. It has become a bandaid, masking a rather horrible reality. It's also a business, the value of materials dropped into those yellow bins each fortnight is driven by market prices. If the value is low, it won't be recycled right away like most Australians think.

Let's take a look at the most common materials recycled. Recycling aluminium is 95% more efficient than using virgin aluminium. Metals have always had high market value. Recycling plastic is 85% more efficient, but China who have previously taken most of it, is no longer wanting to buy our plastic to recycle. This is mix of low oil prices and the plastic we recycle is not to a high enough standard or sorted properly. Paper is 50% more efficient, but can only be recycled up to seven-eight times. Lastly, recycling glass is 40% more efficient.

Four Corners obtained a report suggesting that in NSW glass recycling might need to stop. Too much of it is being stockpiled, obviously waiting for its market value to increase. This may have sounded alarming, but they did not explain how it could be fixed. The obvious would be to cut back on our glass consumption by encouraging reusing and refilling by businesses. Another option is changing how glass is collected for recycling. Preferably glass should be sorted by colour and intact. It's easier to recycle glass this way. Our glass is mostly commingled and broken. If done right, recycling can work well enough to recover resources. Due to the low prices for recycled materials vs raw materials, waste recovery businesses don't want to invest in the infrastructure to set these systems up. 

Recycling is not the solution, yet we can't abandon it. If we removed it or halted materials like glass from the recycling process, there would be HUGE leap in valuable resources dumped into landfill. I could only foresee a domino effect happening. Any confidence in waste recovery would be lost and people might stop trying to keep resources out of landfill by any means. Recycling is not perfect, but it's much smarter option than landfill.

So back to the issue; should we continue recycling if the industry is in such disarray? My answer is a loud YES! Please keep recycling, but continue to use it as a last resort. To me, I see recycling as a necessary bridge we have to use until a new direction is built. Learn the correct way to recycle in your council area. Each council and State deal with their recycling differently. Last nights episode only focused on a small part of the recycling industry. There are places in Australia that are doing it right. There are good people in the recycling industry. Truly!

When I'm invited to give talks on reducing waste, part of the discussion covers recycling. I encourage people to look at their recycling bin as much as I do for their landfill rubbish. Understanding how a system works, especially a flawed system, will give the extra boost to make changes. Part of recycling smarter is using less resources at the start that require recycling. Less new packaging, more reusing.

But until reusing is the social normal everywhere, there are other ways we can improve the recycling system. Below are a couple of ideas, but i'd love to hear yours too.

Write, email and call State and Federal Members of Parliament

The recycling industry clearly needs regulation. Tell them we want to make it mandatory that a certain percentage of our packaging requires Australian recycled materials. Businesses could be given financial incentives from the government for choosing recycled products over non recycled. If you have more ideas, tell them! Don't think your voice does not matter, it does.

Try to refuse, reduce and reuse

We are recycling more and more, yet our buying habits have not decreased. What we need is more focus on refusing, reducing and reusing. Less consumption = less recycling. Plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cutlery, plastic takeaway containers can all be replaced with reusables.

As you can see from the contents of our recycling, we can improve on the refuse, reduce and reuse. We'll admit to buying items in glass as well, especially beer and the odd stir fry sauce (more so now with a baby...). The Builder is going to save up a keg of beer from Kegs on Legs and we'll make more of an effort to cook sauces from scratch and freeze. Instead of getting takeaway, we have decided to try planning dinner a little earlier, and walk to the pizza store on days that neither of us feel like cooking. The emphasis is on try. I'm well aware life happens, some choices are easier than others and everyones lives are different. Refuse plastic packaging, buy in bulk where you can and don't forget the reusables. We can all look in our recycling bins and see what we can all try to do differently.

Support companies that reuse and refill

There is a growing number of companies that champion the refill revolution! Responsible Cafes will help you find venues that encourage the reuse of coffee cups. TAP. Wines in Melbourne are installing wine on tap in restaurants, saving MANY glass bottles from going to recycling. St. David's Dairy is now offering drive through milk refills. The Vegan Dairy will take back glass jars for reuse. Zero Waste Beauty is also offering a glass return program.

Speak up

If you want more of these types of service, speak up. Plant a seed. Drop an email to a company that you think could offer a refill and reuse service. We need more places to offer refill and reuse options if we want to break free from our reliance on recycling.

Support bans on single use plastics (eg. bags, straws, single-use plastic takeaway) and cash for container schemes

Search for groups in your area that are working on these campaigns or start one up. Jump into a zero waste Facebook community to find one or ask your local council.

While the show did not offer any advice on what we can do as citizens, I did appreciate that it shifted responsibility to those at fault. Consumers shoulder too much responsibility when it comes to doing the right thing. We can't blame ourselves for this if we've been led to believe that everything going into our recycling bins is taken care of responsibly. We can control what goes into our bins, but we have no control once the contents is picked up by the trucks. But that doesn't mean we don't have a role to play. With knowledge comes caring, from caring comes change.

How did you feel after watching Four Corners 'Trashed' program? Were you angry? Disappointed? What other ways can we as citizens help create change? I'd love to know of other businesses that refill in your area too. Share away :)
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