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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?
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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?
2

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?

10

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.

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