29 July 2014

Welcome to my garden patch

I spout about my garden but have yet to show it. I took a couple photos before I jumped in and planted new seeds over the weekend. The space we have is small but I have not let that stop me from making something of it. Welcome to my garden patch.

When the Builder and I first started dating two years ago he had only been in the house for a short time. He had landscaping done with a range of tropical plants and there were many balmy afternoons spent watering and caring for his plants to make sure they survived the summer. 

When I moved in late last year I began adding various sized wooden wine barrel pots and started growing vegetables. In fact the first birthday present I gifted the Builder was a lemon tree because he loves lemons so much. The guy will eat them like an orange! 

With the back wall and corner getting the most sun I was limited as to how much I could fit on the deck. 

The builder decided to move two plants from the garden to add a raised garden bed. He then went on to build planter boxes coming off the retaining wall. Construction was completed two weeks ago and with blue skies this past weekend I jumped in and started planting.

I was gifted an Aloe Vera and Silver beet plant. Both have found there way in and are looking good. I also added more radish and expanded my lettuce into the planter boxes hanging off the back garden wall. 

The raised garden bed is now home to Kale, Snow Peas, Spinach and Chinese Broccoli. The pots have a variety of plants that need to be moved about or removed. I already had four snow pea plants in a pot and are producing lovely sweet morsels. The radish were harvested this weekend too and have been added to my lunches for the week. My favorite crop is my Horta mix. I keep track of what is planted and how it is going in an old note book.

While it would be great to replace the various birds of paradise and palms with vegetables, I simply can not do it. Especially when I know how much effort and time went into getting it established. I have plans to put pots in between plants and utilise as much space as the weather warms up. 

Hope you have enjoyed a peek into my garden. I will do an update in the spring as I am sure I would have put more plants in by then.

Happy gardening,
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23 July 2014

Tips for reducing waste in the office

Tips for reducing waste in the office

The Builder has outgrown his current home office and is on the lookout for a new space. I am very excited for him knowing his hard work is paying off. Not only will he be able to unplug properly outside work hours, we also get the lounge room back. With his impending move I began to think about ways to reduce waste when setting up an office.

Here are my sustainable tips for reducing waste in the office:

Second hand furniture

If you are moving into a workspace void of furniture skip the trip to Ikea. Instead fill your new space with second hand furniture. Scope out thrift stores near your office for great bargains and find interesting individual pieces. There is also a variety of sharing websites that have free stuff.

Go digital with Adobe PDF

Instead of printing off documents to mark up changes, scan and send back why not do it all digitally. Most computer programs have the feature to convert documents to PDF. With Adobe Acrobat Pro users can mark-up PDFs with ease by adding comments. This will save reams of paper and space in your office. I am currently doing a course and instead of printing out the course material I have decided to use Adobe Acrobat Pro to mark-up with my notes.

Refillable pens

Offices go through so many pens with the usual reason being that the ink has become dry or simply ran out. The whole pen is thrown away when really it is one item that needs replacing – the cartridge. Did you know that you can refill pens? It is not a new concept. The inexpensive pens we use every day have been around since the late 1940s. Prior to that people wrote with pens that were refilled. These still exist and are worth the investment. Goodkind pens offer refillable options that come in brass and not  non recyclable plastic! Companies like Auspen offer a variety of refillable solutions for your office needs too. Don’t forget non-toxic pencils are a great option too.

Tips for reducing waste in the office

Ink cartridge refill

Pens are not the only item in the office that can be refilled. Printer ink cartridges can be refilled easily. Drop them off at a Cartridge World or similar, and pick up recently refilled ones. You will save on packaging and money.

Use a sustainable font

Changing your go to font can save ink which means less time and money spent refilling your ink cartridge. Ryman Eco sustainable font has been designed in a way that when printed would save 33% more ink than the office go to font Times New Roman. The beautifully designed font is eligible to read at any size plus the font is free to download.

Sort your bins

An office can generate streams of different waste that when inspected closely can be recycled or even composted. Instead of having a single bin and/or recycling bin under each desk put a bin for landfill, different types of recyclables and compost in one area of the office. Sharing bins in an office helps accountability with what is being thrown where, rather than sneaking waste into bins under desks. Plus it gives the worker an excuse to get up and stretch those legs and arms.

Swap your post-it notes for scraps of paper

While post-it notes come in a variety of colours to suite your space and mood remember there are other waste saving alternatives. Envelopes, the bottom of a letter, or an old print off can be used to write to do lists or jot down that phone number. Cut them to size and put them into a spot on your desk for easy reach.

Buy kind paper, use both sides and print black & white

You are not truly recycling unless you buy recycled and this includes paper. 1 tonne of recycled paper could save up to 17 virgin trees. Look on the paper packaging to make sure it is from post-consumer (recycled) paper and if in doubt call their hotline. Don’t forget to look for Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) or Processed Chlorine Free (PCF) too. Ecocern supplies post-consumer and bleach free paper.

Printing on both sides will also reduce waste as will only printing in black & white. Printing colour means more ink cartridges need to be refilled.

Keep your office kitchen package free

Buy food like tea, coffee, and sugar in bulk and store in glass containers for easy access. Also choose metal cutlery and ceramic dishes from thrift stores. Think about cleaning products like dish washing liquid that can be bought in bulk too.

If you have any tips for reducing waste in an office, add them in the comments below. If you found these tips helpful please share.

Green office love,

22 July 2014

Join the Plastic Free Living Melbourne and regional Victoria Facebook support group

Over the weekend I visited a bookstore in Sydney. It was a expansive space that would make any bibliophile happy. I wove through the aisles peering at the names of titles looking for the sustainable living section. 

For the size of the bookstore I hoped that there would be a plethora of green titles for me to gaze at. Instead there were five books and none of them Australian based. I usually shop at second hand book stores and understand if there are less than ten titles on a particular subject. I used to work at a second hand bookstore; I understand that genres will be greatly limited. But a book store that catered for the new with next to no books on green living left me feeling deflated.

While the internet is great, sometimes I have the same limitations as I did in the bookstore. The internet does serve as a great way to gather information and I have been inspired greatly by it. But many digital sustainable resources are not based in my part of the world and sustainable stalwarts prefer the local answers to local questions. Questions like, where to find local milk in a glass bottle or where to buy plastic free flour. The essence of sustainable is supporting local business and buying local goods that have not had to travel a long way.

When I first started on my journey I had moments when I wished a group existed in my area that I could turn to with a problem or tell someone my latest find. A year on, I still wish this existed. 

So instead of waiting I decided to start a group for people that live in Melbourne and regional Victoria that want to connect with like minded plastic free living buffs and other relatable discussions on sustainable lifestyles like zero waste living.

Plastic Free Living Melbourne
A community space for people that live in Melbourne and regional Victoria.
Share your plastic free life here.
- News and events on plastic free living
- Shops that cater to plastic free patrons
- Restaurants that boast zero waste
- Cafes that choose no plastic
- Questions on living plastic free
- Food, beauty, & general shopping queries
This group also caters for zero waste enthusiasts and related sustainability devotees as plastic free living overlaps or leads into these lifestyles.

Basically it is a support group for plastic free living, zero waste and sustainable living specific to an area. I ask that you join, share your knowledge, ask questions and help get a community going.

Hope to see you there,
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17 July 2014

The sharing economy: My top 5 websites for getting free stuff

The sharing economy is happening on a small and large scale. Without a doubt the movement is expanding.

The sharing economy, also known as collaborative consumption, is all about sharing items for other people to use, take off your hands at no cost or sometimes a small fee. The idea is based on community based living and is the resurgence of a centuries old community pillar.

“There are 80 million power drills in America that are used an average of 13 minutes.” 
Brian Chesky CEO of Airbnb - Welcome to the ‘Sharing Economy’.
 I wonder what the number in Australia would be?

As the 'sharing economy' gathers more active members it will hopefully help alleviate product waste. It is a system that works both economically and more importantly environmentally by moving items from a linear process and into a cycle. Sharing is a key component of not only zero waste living but also fundamental sustainability.

Here are my top five sharing websites for finding that thing you need for free plus one easy idea too. 

Over the weekend the Builder had soil delivered to the house. There was left over soil from his project and he decided to give it away for free. Within hours of him posting the advert (see his beautiful photo below) to Gumtree the soil was picked up. Sign up is completely free and is geared mostly towards recycled products, amongst others.

The sharing economy: My top 5 five websites for getting free stuff

If you are looking to create space by getting rid of that rice cooker, have spare photo frames you would like to pass on or baby gear then sign up to TuShare and put them onto the free market. Users can choose to arrange free pick up or pay door-to-door delivery. The website is a breeze to use and is free.

“TuShare is an online marketplace where every item is free. We believe in generosity and gratitude, so you can join the community and give or receive items right away.”

Open Shed
Users can either share or rent items that they have or need. Available items can range from household gadgets to musical instruments. For example if I was having friends over for a movie night I could rent a projector and screen. Users are required to pay a small fee to rent the items.

“We CAN make use of the latest gadgets, still have exciting life experiences and de-clutter our lives at the same time through sharing what we have with other people.”

The Free Cycle Network has been growing a fan base of over 7 million members the last eleven years with a group base of over 5000. I am a member of the Melbourne group and receive emails daily listing wears that are on offer in my city.

The Clothing Exchange
I have written before about my love for The Clothing Exchange events. They are also online offering users an interactive space to swap clothes. Read more about them in this blog post about sharing.

Bonus! Another way to find a gadget is to ask your family and friends. Send out an email or a text; announce your request on Facebook. Through word of mouth I was able to get my hands on a food processor. It alleviated the prior owner’s clutter in their kitchen and made my life easier.

Have you tried sharing websites? I would love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

Sharing the love,

Image (edited)

15 July 2014

How to cook beetroot leaves

My parents make growing vegetables so easy. They have a plethora of robust vegetables in their vegetable garden that continues to grow each year.

So I thought that growing vegetables cannot be that hard right?

Last year was my first year growing anything other than herbs and I thought I would jump in and pick a vegetable I really love: beetroot. I was told my vegetable of choice was a little hard for a beginner but I turned my head up at the naysayers and went about growing my beetroots.

I figured it was down to my lack of experience that led me to harvesting beetroots that were the size of a marble. I told myself that when I try again next year I would have a bountiful harvest. No such luck. I planted my seeds three months ago and the bulbs have again grown no bigger than a marble. Beetroot should be ready for harvest at 10 weeks.

The leaves have done the complete opposite. While there was no large edible beet sitting snuggle in the ground for me to eat, the leaves were just to luscious to throw into the compost. So I decided to eat them!

How to cook beetroot leaves
Ingredients: 1/2 bunch beetroot leaves and stems (leaves and stems separated – stems cut into bite size pieces), thoroughly washed, 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 lemon.

Method: Warm up the olive oil in a pan and add the garlic. Cook for two minutes. Add the stems and toss around the pan until coated with oil. As the stems begin to soften add the beetroot leaves. Toss to coat leaves in oil. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze over the leaves and stems. Keep tossing the leaves until they have become limp. Pull of the heat and serve immediately.

It is such an easy dish and is super tasty. It works great as a side for anything, especially fish.

Beet love,   
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11 July 2014

Recycle your socks and keep your clothes smelling fresh

Recycle your socks and keep your clothes smelling fresh

A pair of socks goes into our washing machine and only one of the pair emerges. A single mate. No other socks match up and it goes into a pile with the other lost cotton socks, unsure what to do with any of them. Does this ever happen to you? I have come up with a fun solution to recycle your socks by turning them into soap holders. This easy tip will keep your clothes smelling fresh and help save on space in your bathroom.

Since I choose to live a life void of plastic I choose to use shampoo and soap bars. I can generally buy these void of any packaging. A shampoo bar is one of the best ways to avoid not only plastic packaging but also packaging in general.

I have been using shampoo soap bars waaaay back when packaging (plastic and paper) was of no concern. I first discovered them when I was living in London, hustling between Blighty and the European continent. They were just so versatile and weighed nothing. Plus there was the added assurance the bars had no way of exploding throughout my luggage!

I recently converted the Builder to the wonderful world of package free soap. He took a container to the market and stocked up on All Australian Tea Tree from the Australian Natural Soap Company. I grabbed the Shampoo Soap. I also have a small selection of Tasmania’s Beauty and the Bees shampoo bars collected while I was visiting Hobart earlier in the year. If I find a place that sells shampoo soap bars, I will walk away with one. Let’s just say I have enough to last a year. It’s called bulk shopping for a reason because when anything of mine runs out I can’t just pop to the shops to pick up a bottle of shampoo. This lady has to be prepared!

Rather than keep these blocks of gorgeous smells sitting under the bathroom cupboard I thought our clothes draws would be a better place to store them and free up space under the bathroom sink.

Plus with them sitting in the draw they will keep my clothes smelling lovely. Rather than wrap in paper or risk them rubbing up against the clothes I decided to use old socks and repurpose them.

I simply cut the sock in half and slide the soap in.

Recycle your socks and keep your clothes smelling fresh
Recycle your socks and keep your clothes smelling fresh
Recycle your socks and keep your clothes smelling fresh
It is so simple, right? The toe end will already act as pouch. So as to not waste the other half of the sock (ankle end) sew up one of the sides, ready for another bar of soap.

When I travel I keep one sitting amongst my clothes. This is a great way to keep the suitcase or backpack smelling fresh.

Happy socks,

8 July 2014

Let's connect

Hello! Some of you may know that I am on Instagram sharing bits and bobs about my plastic free and zero waste life (among other snippets of my life).

I have also jumped onto Facebook. Add me www.facebook.com/therogueginger

Facebook and social media in general have been great for connecting with other like minded people. Giving me the ability to discover useful information and pass on resources makes it hard for me not to log on. 

This is what I intend to do with my Facebook page: pass on generous ideas all related to living the best sustainable life possible. I will also use the area to share new blog posts and create a community where sharing is king. Sharing is caring after all.

Hope to see you over there,
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P.S I am also on Bloglovin', Google+ and Pinterest

4 July 2014

Green reads: The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard

Living plastic free has evoked changes in my life. Along the way I have been called to question all that I was familiar with. While blogs have provided a great resource for finding answers, sometimes I have needed to dive a little deeper to understand. Normally my literature choices hover around historical fiction or memoirs on rock and roll bands. So jumping into pages that study the misuse of our resources has been a change. A big eye opening change!

Each time I delve into the green genre at second hand bookstores I get a tremendous urge to ditch my city life and build an eco-solar powered chemical free fortress away from everything. But that is not sustainable. It is way more sustainable to work with what you have and make better choices going forward – we don’t need more stuff! And that is what I learnt from my latest read The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard.

The story is cleverly put together and displays Leonard’s years of experience tracking trash around the globe. Her narrative explains in depth the linear journey of where stuff comes from and where it goes to die. The word Stuff being a collective summary of what we consume/purchase. She details her visits to factories around the world and the communities that are affected by our obsession for consumerism. Her stories of mines in Africa left me looking at my electronics in a different light.

The humour and language makes the barrage of information accessible, offering not only an informative read but also very enjoyable. There are cleverly drawn images to break down the ideas further. I do wonder if I had read this as a teenager would I have been as free wielding with my cash in my teen years and early twenties. I don't think I would. The book stirred up a lot of emotions which I was not prepared for. Waves of guilt were felt and tears were shed as I read about the western worlds mismanagement and cluelessness. I had no idea how much my choices as a consumer could affect others.

The author acknowledges the guilt and emphasises to not feel guilty about past choices instead focus on making better ones in the future. Leonard acknowledges it is hard to change habits. But by having the facts of where and how our stuff is made this powerful information alone will guide more people to make the right choice for the planet, those that make stuff and ultimately the consumer who uses stuff. It is about the power of knowledge and asking the right questions.

This book is not anti-stuff. It is pro value for the stuff we have and the people that mined it and made it. There are many valuable resources in the book to help find information so we, as consumers, can make better choices.

If you are not a reader then please watch the 20 minute documentary, The Story of Stuff. This is what kickstarted the book.

Happy reading,

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