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My first six months living zero waste

This is my first six months living zero waste. Below is all the rubbish I have produced from June 2014 - December 2014.


My first six months living zero waste

Way back at the end of June 2014 I was coming close to completing my first year of plastic free living. I wrote a blog post about my first year plastic free and reflected on what I had learnt. By the end of my first year I was not actively putting anything into the bin. What could not be recycled was put into a box and I would go through the contents every couple of weeks and find ways of recycling or reusing. As the first year living plastic free came to a close I realised that I was putting less and less into the box. So I casually told the Builder that I was going to try and be zero waste to which he replied “you pretty much live that way anyway, why not?”

So the last six months I have been actively living zero waste. What this essentially means is that I have sent nothing to landfill. And below are my results from June 2014 – December 2014.

My first six months living zero waste

The contents is a mix of items that cannot be recycled (yet) by the local recycling companies.
  • Receipts, plane tickets, a bus ticket, and baggage tags 
  • Scratchies 
  • Two tea sachets 
  • Three straws 
  • Two clothing tags 
  • Broken rubber band 
  • Cling film 
  • 4 medicine blister packs 
  • String with plastic bits on the end 
  • Staples 
  • Parts of my old makeup packaging that could not be recycled 
  • Two produce tags 
  • Stickers and plastic packing tape 
Going zero waste was easier than I thought it would be. But I do believe there are two reasons that made it easy for me. The first one is that I had been living plastic free and so the transition was a gentle natural step. The second is I live in a big city and have access to so many more tools that allow for this kind of life.

I have friends that live in the country town where I grew up and after talking to them I can understand how cushy I have it compared to small town living folk that want a similar lifestyle. It can be done but would require a lot more effort.

This is something I want to explore because I kinda feel like a fraud. While it is okay for me to type away about how successful living plastic free has been and how little trash I have produced in the last six months, the reality might not be that easy for everyone and I want to help provide solutions for the small town dwellers and not just us city living people that have access to bulk stores and the like.

Will I continue plastic free and zero waste living in 2015? You betcha! This lifestyle has become so deeply ingrained that I cannot imagine going back.

Do you think a plastic free or zero waste change is on the cards for you in 2015?
8

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.

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.

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 shirt that I had cut up for rags.


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.

What is your favourite type of tea?
16

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.

Do you have a hobby that is predominantly plastic? Or not so good for the environment?
4

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
Image from deathtothestockphoto.com

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.

What is your favorite indoor plant?

14

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


Do you wrap your presents? or do you prefer to give gifts unwrapped?
12

The messiness and unmessiness of living plastic free and zero waste

Image from deathtothestockphoto.com
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.

6

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
2

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?
4

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 and 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.
4

Walking slow

Walking slow

I had a tete-e-tete with my sister via text today. We were swapping thoughts about the Melbourne Cup, the lose of one horse and injury of another. I shared with her a quote from Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.

I thought I would share the passage here because it is fitting for the slow lane life I have started living more and more. Maybe it will resonate with you too.
“If I tried to ride that donkey it would stop and I'd never get there at all,” Po said. “Besides, I don't ride animals.”
“Why not?” Pea asked, amazed.
“It's not civilised,” the old man said. “We're animals too. How would you like it if somebody rode you?”
Such a question was too much for Pea. He didn't consider himself an animal, and in his whole life had never given one minute's thought to the possibility of being ridden.
“You mean you just walk everywhere?” Newt asked. The notion of a man who didn't ride horses was almost too strange to be believed. It was particularly strange that such a man was coming to cook for a crew of cowboys, some of whom hated to dismount even to eat.
Po Campo smiled. “It's good country to walk in,” he said.
“We got to hurry,” Pea said, a little alarmed to be having such a conversation.
“Get down and walk with me, young man,” Po Campo said. “We might see some interesting things if we keep our eyes open. You can help me gather breakfast.”
[…]
“I like to walk slow,” Po Campo said. “If I walk too fast I might miss something.”
“There ain't much to miss around here,” Newt said. “Just grass.”
“But grass is interesting,” the old man said. “It's like my serape, only it's the earth it covers. It covers everything and one day it will cover me.”
2

Make upcycled food labels for your plastic free and zero waste pantry

Looking for a plastic free, zero waste and sustainable alternative to labeling the food in your kitchen? Look no further, I have you covered.


recycled food labels

When I started on shedding plastic from my life I naturally tackled my food cupboards first. That was where most of the unnecessary plastic packaging hid. I began storing my food in glass containers when I made the switch from pre-packaged food to bulk bought food. I mainly collected jars from Opportunity stores and kept some old food jars too. Many of these jars came without labels. While I knew the name of most items there have been instances where I went to pick up the polenta and instead grabbed the falafel mix. Plus I am not sure the Builder knows what beans are what…but that’s a different kettle of fish. These jars needed labels, stat.

I did not want to buy a marker for the purpose of labeling my glass jars. A marker would create so much unnecessary waste during its production and then sit in landfill for years after the ink had dried up. I thought about painting names on but I swap jars as they empty, and when I wash them the paint would no doubt come off.

So I created my own sustainable, reusable and compostable labels while upcycling old toilet rolls in the process. These can be taken off before washing and moved around different jars to your hearts content.



Twine
Scissors or a stanley knife
Toilet paper rolls
2 x Pencils



Flatten your toilet rolls and cut down the fold, then cut in half again, giving you four pieces.

Pick a side to write your label on, then flip over. Take two of your pencils and using one of the pencils top flat side trace a circle around the pencil onto the top edge of your label. You could use a pen or crayon or even a stainless steel or glass straw…because you live plastic free and have a these right?

After doing this, draw an X inside the circle. Take your scissors or stanley knife and cut the lines of the cross. This is where you will pull your twine through that will attach your label to your jar.


Flip your label over and write the name of your food onto the label. I just used a black pencil. You can use whatever you wish.


Cut your twine. I cut mine at 40cm.



Then fold in half and pinch at the place it is folded over. Now push 5cm of the looped twine through the hole. Take the other two ends through the loop and pull.



Marvel at what you have made.

recycled food labels

Tie your new label around your jar, put back into cupboard and never be confused again.


TIP: If you are using old jars that have old labels on them here is a trick to remove them easily. Soak in hot soapy water. Try and remove the label by peeling at the edges. If you have some left over residue from the labels use an oil like lavender, eucalyptus or tea tree oil on a cloth and rub over the residue to remove it.

The Builder thinks our pantry looks professional..whatever that means. What do you think? Are you a fan of the labels?
13

Learning to let go

I wrote in my last post that my hiatus was busy but sadly not as productive as I had planned. A dose of illness was mixed in leaving me with plans that went astray. It is nice to be back on the blog, writing about my eco journey. I was afforded some time to do a spring clean. I slowly piled up items that we don't use and have two or three of (like three cheese graters?!) and took them to our local Op shop. There were two items that I kept picking up and putting down again. I would stand and stare at them, knowing too tell they had to go but I couldn't figure out why I could not shake them off.

What was even more baffling is that both items were broken. Unable to be used. They sat on a shelf above my desk. One of the items had been broken for two and a half years.

Learning to let go

The first item that sat in pieces was a mug that I had bought when I moved to England. I had just arrived in London, my life packed up in a suitcase. I was staying at a friends place, sleeping on their kitchen floor (they were in a small studio room in Stockwell). After two weeks of applying for jobs and rooms to rent I decided to go and explore the country I had moved to. The jobs and room could wait. It was a bitter and cold winter morning in January when I jumped on a train to Salisbury. I had only intended to go for the weekend but this turned into an adventure that took me down to St. Ives on the Cornwall Coast. I visited a variety of small towns along the way, marvelled at Tintagle, watched the surfers in Torquay, ate fish and chips in Penzance and then settled into St. Ives for a week renting a room above a pub. I was on my own, free to wander and do as a pleased. It was bliss.

St. Ives has a rich art history and it was here that I discovered the Bernard Leach pottery house. I visited often during the week talking with the local potters and learning more about the area. So before I returned to London, I decided to take Bernard Leach mug as a momentum of the wonderful two weeks I had.

I have had this mug with me since. It was my special mug. Never went into a dishwasher. Usually sat on my bedside table. It was not special because it was a Bernard Leach design. It was special because I attached sentimental feelings to it. So when I dropped it one night in the bathroom as I went to fill it up with water, I was close to tears. It was a bit silly in retrospect. I have many wonderful memories of that trip that could be conjured up, and continue to be, without the need of a mug.

The other broken item that I could not bring myself to part with was also a souvenir. They were two decorative wall hanging plates, part of a 12 piece set. According to my Danish friends they are the kind of thing you would see at your grandmothers house...a bit daggy and not very trendy. But I liked them. They told the story of a woman and a man falling in love, each plate showing a month of the year. I bought them at a garage sale while enjoying a Saturday drive around Southern Denmark near Ondense. Anyway two broke on the move back to Australia (I did not pack them very well..). During the whole two years I was in London, these hanging plates never hung on a wall and when I got back to Australia three years ago, they sat in a box until early this year.

Learning to let go

Learning to let go

I wanted to get the two broken plates fixed but new it would not be a easy fix with some small parts missing. If they hung on a wall my eyes would focus on the imperfection. And part of me did not want to throw them out because then I would not have a complete set. Only I would know that. I doubt the Builder or any of my friends would know March and December were missing unless they were experts in Danish decorative art from the 1960s. The photo above is of me at the garage sale. I had just cut all my hair off and looking very Fraulein Maria. I do not need the plates or even the photo. The memory is fully intact.

I was able to move pass the sentimental attachment and instead have decided to break up the pieces and use them as drainage in pot plants. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate somewhere to recycle pottery so this was the best solution. Either way hanging onto them as they were was not productive and now they are being productive.

This somewhat idiotic process taught me that I need to not attach sentimental feelings to items. The world will keep turning without the mug – I have a cupboard full of mugs that work just as well. The plates will look nice on our wall if two are missing. I have written before about the need to value our stuff. But sometimes our things break by accident. If they are worth fixing I will fix them. But holding onto them, hoping that they might be fixed when they cannot, does not serve me. If they have been sitting there untouched for over two years then it is a sign to pass it on and give it another life.

Perhaps being able to let go is the key to a simple life and wanting less stuff.

Congratulations you made it this far. I promise the next blog post won't be as wordy. Tell me, do you find it easy to let go? Are you a big souvenir collector?
6

Like buying new? Don't feel guility and swap to shop + win two tickets to National Swap Day

Women wear only 30% of their wardrobe. I can attest to this and I bet you can too. We all have our fave items that are on rotation each week with the rest sitting there worn only a number of times. No wonder standing in front of our closets can be frustrating.


Like buying new? Don't feel guility and swap to shop + win two tickets to National Swap Day
Image from imcreator.com
We are faced with bulging closets but only pull out the items we know makes us look good and feel good.

There is no shame in wanting something new to wear. But this desire can be expensive and really is not that sustainable. Especially if we are adding clothes to our wardrobe to compensate for only pulling out 30% each week. No matter how much we buy we never seem to wear 100% of it.

Each spring people around the world clean out their homes, emptying the stuff they don't use and then filling it with new. We must be spoilt with stuff to complete a purge of our wardrobes each year. In reality spring cleaning was originally the act of opening the windows and letting fresh air into the home and giving the house a good clean. Not empty it and fill it with new stuff because we can. This is the type of attitude that taxes our natural resources and adds to the already mountains of waste we have.

It could be said that removing and cleaning out our wardrobe creates a good feeling. Releasing. Purging. Letting go.

When we are surrounded by so many images of new season looks it can be hard to ignore the push to keep up. Perhaps there is something inside us that makes us want new too. It could be to try something out – to experiment. I don't think there is anything wrong with this. There should be no guilt wanting to try something new. What we need to do is open ourselves up to an updated definition of new so that we all can experience new. Let's define new as something that passes into our hands for the first time. Let's all be nice and share.



One of the most sustainable ways to enjoy new stuff is through collaborative consumption. 

I have written about collaborative consumption and some of my fave ways to share rather than buy new. Sharing allows for that joyful feeling of letting go without the guilt of waste. Getting involved in the cycle of sharing brings new items into your life. When I became more and more involved with sharing, the attachment factor on my wardrobe stated disappear as I realised my clothing is not mine but part of a cycle. 

The Clothing Exchange has declared October 9th to be the fourth annual National Swap Day.

To commemorate the day, The Clothing Exchange will host simultaneous clothing swaps in Melbourne, Sydney and the Sunshine Coast to create environmental awareness and social change by starting with our overstuffed wardrobes. Sharing is a playful alternative to shopping that saves patrons their pennies and the planet too. It creates community. I love going to clothing swaps. I have found many gems and passed on my own items to new closets.

The Clothing Exchange has generously offered two tickets for you and a friend to celebrate National Swap Day at one of their events in Melbourne, Sydney or the Sunshine Coast.

To WIN tell me what your favourite second hand/thrift store item of clothing is and why by emailing hello@therogueginger.com OR in the comments below by Sunday 5th October 2014. Winner will be notified Monday 6th October 2014.

5

Home made plastic free toothpowder

Home made plastic free toothpowder

My toothpaste was one of my first personal care items that I swapped for a plastic free home made alternative.

My first batch was made of bicarb soda and mint. The Builder being his usual supportive self gave my toothpowder a go. The first two weeks went by and we were happy with the switch to plastic free toothpowder. Then the mint began to fade. Instead of the fresh zing we started with we were left with a bicarb taste. It was not pleasant and the Builder fell off the wagon and swapped to an organic toothpaste.

The minty taste was not lasting and it could never mask the bicarb flavor enough. Out of determination and stubbornness I stuck with it and began experimenting using different ingredients. It was not just the plastic and packaging that kept me away from store bought toothpaste. After all TerraCycle allows fans to recycle their toothpaste tubes. It was the different chemical compounds plus the added fear of plastic microbeads in popular toothpastes that guided me to make the switch for a homemade tooth powder. Since I brush my teeth twice a day, everyday I wanted what ever I use to be safe, friendly and taste good. I wrote here about my promise that I would only put ingredients onto my body that I can put into my body. Simple. Kind. Handmade by nature. 5 ingredients or less. Making my own products affords me the knowledge and reassurance that there is nothing toxic and harmful making its way into my body or the environment.

I tried different combinations of coconut oil, mint, activated charcoal, salt and clove oil. But none of the recipes out there left a good taste in my mouth. I liked the hint of clove as it had a lovely fresh taste. I decided to match clove oil with sweet orange oil, cinnamon and bicarb to create a warming toothpowder. If you are from the northern hemisphere this will have you thinking of Thanksgiving and Christmas.


Clove, Cinnamon, Sweet Orange Plastic Free Toothpowder

Ingredients
5 tablespoons bicarb soda
10 drops clove oil
10 drops sweet orange oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

Method
Add the bicarb into a jar. Add the clove oil. Put the lid onto the jar and shake vigorously. Open the jar and add the orange oil. Close and shake again. Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder and give a final shake.

If you want to make it a paste melt down 2-4 tablespoons of coconut oil and add to the mixture.

Home made plastic free toothpowder


Clove oil is antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, and antiviral. Used for centuries in dental care clove oil continues to be a popular ingredient in mainstream toothpastes. You might see it on ingredients list as eugenol. Even though this is a natural product use with care. It is a painful product if used incorrectly.

Sweet orange oil is anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antispasmodic, antiseptic and boosts immunity. Plus it blends well with clove oil.

Cinnamon is also antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-fungal. 

This toothpowder has the thumbs UP from the Builder. I try not to make more than 5 table spoons at a time. This is so the powder keeps its taste. This quantity will last 3-4 months between the two of us.

You might think that paying between $15-20 for a oil is a bit much. Remember that these oils hold multiple uses and usually have around 100 drops per bottle. Clove oil is great for mould and mildew. Orange oil is perfect in home made household cleaning products.

I have a dentist appointment due in two months. I won't tell them what I use just to get an open and honest assessment of my teeth. Dentist approved!

Essential oils are not the perfect plastic free or zero waste item to buy. Check out Tiny Yellow Bungalow's recommendation on whether essential oils are necessary and choosing a more eco friendly option.

Do you make your own plastic free toothpaste/toothpowder?
35

Bupa Health Influencer nominee (aka what my blog has to do with health!)

So this happened. 





My blog has been nominated in the Social Good Category for the 2014 Bupa Health Influencer Blog Awards!

What does healthy living have to do with plastic free, wasting less and sustainable living?

Everything.

Absolutely everything.

My life has become healthier because I have eased back on plastic. I am no longer tempted by store bought treats because I can’t buy anything packaged. If I want to feed a sweet tooth craving I reach for a piece of fruit whose packaging I can compost as nature intended.

I support local farmers because the food has less of a distance to travel, meaning a smaller carbon footprint. This has resulted in meals that are all organic and chemical free. None of my food comes wrapped in plastic. I say no to plastic wrapped food because most plastic that food comes wrapped in will never go away and adds harmful toxins to this earth, which is where I ultimately get my food.

I would love everyone to understand and I blog for the reason to simply make people realise how silly some plastic can be. I want the next generation of Australians to not worry about pollution in our oceans or weird GMOs in our food. I don’t want another generation of young people to slather themselves in toxins for the sake of beauty. And then have the packaging build up in our landfill.

I want people to understand that recycling, while fantastic, also taxes our resources. I want the word reuse to become popular again like it was for our grandparents. I want a generation to make choices with wholeness and meaning. I want people to be aware of the actions they make and the companies they support, and understand how they affect all people all over this world. Because everyone in this world deserves to live a healthy life. Practicing sustainability is to practice generosity.

These choices make me healthier.

If the earths health suffers, everyone's health suffers.

I am not sure what happens next with the nominee thing. If I progress to the next round I will let you know. In the meantime I will keep blogging about living plastic free.
2

Seaweed: Feeding my garden plastic free

Some weeks ago my family visited from interstate. While they were here I asked my green thumbed parents to give me some pointers on what I can do to make my garden flourish.


Within a couple minutes of seeing my garden Mum declared I needed fertiliser and mulch. I confessed I had not used any explaining that store bought fertiliser and mulch comes packed inconveniently in plastic. I was kinda wishing the garden gods would see my plastic free life and grant me a bumper crop without the need to add fertiliser. You know, doing well for the planet by giving up plastic and be rewarded with vegetables. It was a simple wish. Unfortunately this had not happened and Mum explained that although my soil was organic, it was lacking nutrients and needed a serious boost.

I had a memory from my high school ancient history class that seaweed was used as fertiliser throughout coastal regions in the United Kingdom. I read up on seaweed to make sure a trip to the beach was not made in vain. Turns out my memory served me well and seaweed is in fact a fantastic FREE resource to use on the garden, working as a fertiliser and a mulch. 


  1. Works as a deterrent to slugs (yes, I so need this!). When seaweed dries it is scratchy and slugs don’t like that on their bellies. I tried wood shavings but that did nothing and the slugs had a party, with my lettuce being the main course. Add in the salty factor and my garden beds won’t be a hang out for them either.
  2. Full of good minerals that will turn soil into a nutrient rich place to grow vegetables. Will also help loosen compacted soil by allowing more air in as it breaks down. This is something that I have trouble with and am out there each weekend breaking up the soil so water can get in properly.
  3. Mulch, I have learnt, keeps the soil from drying out. With summer not too far away (and its predicted to be a hot one) the seaweed will reduce moisture from evaporating.
  4. Less weeds. I don’t have too many but better to ire on the side of caution.



Now, before you jump for joy at a package and plastic free fertiliser for your garden we did discover plastic in the seaweed; plastic in the form of pollution. We gathered ours from a popular public beach and this would explain why there was so much. I found the best way to get it out of the seaweed before laying it onto the garden was to submerge in water and the plastic floated to the top and sand sunk to the bottom. I have written about microscopic plastic before and I was worried it would make its way into my garden. I am hoping most of it came off when I rinsed it. Which ultimately ends up back in the ocean I guess.  Maybe I am not feeding my garden plastic free - but how will I know without using a microscope? Another good reason for everyone to stop using single use plastic.

The plastic that I did wash off and could see went into my ‘save from landfill – could be recycled one day’ box.


I don’t live near the ocean. Where can I get unpackaged and plastic free fertiliser for my garden?

The best answer would be to ask around. Gumtree.com.au helped me locate the following options below. My back up option was to ask local gardening communities.

Organic manure

Before I foraged for seaweed I was able to contact a organic farmer that sold bags of manure. I told him about my plastic free life and asked if I could bring my own container. The farmer obliged and said he would be more than happy to reuse the bag for himself. This did require me to drive 45 minutes. I like to think that the drive would weigh up better against the creation, delivery and pollution problem of buying new plastic. Plus I am helping a local farmer.

Lucerne Hay

I was also lucky to discover a married couple in Melbourne that sold cut up lucerne hay in paper bags. After I worked the manure into the soil and topped with seaweed, I then layered hay on top. The paper bag did come with staples that I have collected for recycling. And I can reuse these paper bags until they are ready for the compost.



The Builder and I planted vegetables for our spring/summer crop. I am hoping that with these added soul nourishing elements our garden will be feeding us well over the next two seasons.

If you know of any other package free gardening alternatives that enriches the soil please share below.
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