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Expanding our garden

It has been a long time since I’ve shared anything about my garden. The last time I posted was two years ago and much has changed in the last few weeks.

With the upcoming addition to our family, we have turned our thoughts to the house. I have been asked by friends if we will move, so our kid can have a "proper backyard". While it would be great to have a backyard, we are lucky to have an array of public parks in our neighbourhood. Plus our proximity to public transport makes it hard for me to uproot and leave for the sake of having a backyard. I have access to trams, buses and trains, which is perfect as I don’t have a car and we are going to try being a one car family. Yes, this country girl is quite happy to stay in our suburban town house for the next five years. That should be enough time for me to woo the Builder into making a tree change to a country town ;) Regardless if that ever happens, our home without a 'proper' backyard, will do just fine.

Early in 2015 we made plans to try for a baby in 2016, way before a zero waste wedding was ever talked about, and I have been squirreling money away from then. Since we decided that I would take two years out of the workforce to be the primary carer, I thought it best to put some money aside as Australia does not offer the best maternity leave scheme for women or men. I have saved enough, but we still had to look at other areas where we can save money. Food is probably that area we could reduce spending. Truthfully, it's probably the only place, other than bills, where any of our money goes. While we are pretty good at being frugal food shoppers, we still wanted to cut down on what we spent as we switched to a one income family. So we decided to look at our garden and try maximizing each space, turning what we have into a proper food resource.

We grow some of our own food, but never enough to avoid a trip to the farmers market each week. Two years ago, the Builder added planter boxes and made space for me to grow some vegetables. It was enough to play with. At the time I could not ask him to remove the birds of paradise and palms that took up most of our courtyard garden. But over the years they grew too big and eventually, the Builder saw the space could be more useful than ornamental. It was decided that the birds of paradise, palms and other decorative plants would go. Adverts went up on our local Buy, Swap, Sell Facebook group and one by one, the plants were dug up and taken away to new homes. Now the space is empty, ready for vegetables and herbs.

Expanding our garden

Expanding our garden

Over the years, it has been trial and error, understanding what grows well and what does not. With the new open spaces, I will have to relearn how it to make it work. I don't believe myself to have a natural green thumb, but I do work hard at it. I think the Builder has more of an inbuilt way with plants that he is not aware of. But I can see it. While the garden we have is small, it is larger than many people have, and we intend to make the most of it. Properly this time.
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Creating memories with MyBestGift, the online marketplace dedicated to gifting kids activites and experiences

Ahhh Christmas. Or as I call it, stuffmas. Because that is what the day has become…a day of handing over stuff. Over packaged plastic stuff.
Each Christmas, my parents would load us into the family car and we would travel west, past Goulburn to my grandparent’s farm. No matter the year, Christmas day would run in the usual order; open presents while the parents and grandparents sipped on sherry, and then proceed to have lunch. Once our bellies were full, we would be let loose to play on the farm.

One year, my brother was asked to write about his Christmas Day for a school assignment. He would have been young, still in primary school. My mother had read his report before it went off to his teachers. Recently, she shared the words my brother had written. He did not mention the presents being his favorite aspect of the day. It was playing cricket with his family. His favorite memories he had accumulated were all about doing things, not the presents.

When my mother brought up this story, I tried to recall the presents I had opened throughout my Christmases. Truthfully, I could not remember many of them. I remember the car rides, playing with the dogs on the farm, exploring the old shearing shed, generally running amuck. I remember toys played with, but they are not the things that made up the happy memories of my childhood. It was the activities I shared with my family and friends that make me smile.

I love receiving experiences as gifts and I love gifting experiences. When it comes to gifts, I’d rather choose moments over things. Not add to the unfounded belief that giving a physical object is the only way to celebrate an occasion. Happiness is not tied up with stuff.

Recently, I discovered MyBestGift. An online website that is all about gifting experiences to kids. Launched this year, the website allows us adults to find experiences for kids by age, theme and location. Looking for something not made of plastic for a 10 year old boy? Try a lesson on abseiling, kayak, skateboarding or cooking. There is also a section dedicated to parents and bubs. I’d much rather a enjoy attending a music class with my baby to come, than collecting toys, that will become forgotten too quickly.

MyBestGift
caters for children of all ages, from newborns to 18 year olds. I spoke with founder Sara Eastwood about her venture and what it’s been like creating a site that promotes choosing moments over things and tips to have waste free Christmas. 

Creating memories with MyBestGift

Creating memories with MyBestGift

What is My Best Gift and what inspired you to start this service?
MyBestGift is an experience gifting site, dedicated entirely to kids' experiences. I have two little girls, Mila 5yo and Sophie who's about to turn 2! I realised last year that my girls already had more than they needed and I couldn't imagine them receiving more toys for every celebration, it just seemed excessive and wasteful, given they had their favourite few toys they'd always play with. As a big fan of experience gifts myself, I asked our family to give experiences to our girls instead and initially looked on the existing sites, only to find they didn't cater to kids. I then suggested ballet lessons for Mila, but the local ballet school didn't offer gift vouchers and so my parents paid for the lessons and didn't have anything to show for it so they bought her a toy as well, and the whole thing was a bit of a disaster! I felt like there had to be a better way and after doing some research, decided to start the site myself!

What has been the challenges developing My Best Gift?
I'm not a developer, so that was always going to be my biggest challenge in starting an marketplace online. I brought on a business partner early on, who has the tech experience and knowledge, so we compliment each others skill set.

What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?
I've been really pleasantly surprised by how many people want to help you succeed. I've learnt that if you share your dream with people, they'll do whatever they can to help. I've had complete strangers offering their skills, networks, feedback and encouragement, it's been really incredible.

I realised last year that my girls already had more than they needed and I couldn't imagine them receiving more toys for every celebration, it just seemed excessive and wasteful, given they had their favourite few toys they'd always play with.

So many people assume that giving a present involves buying and wrapping a physical gift. Do you have tips for people on how they can approach/talk to family and friends, asking for no physical gifts?
Yes! Talk to your friends and family about your childhood memories, we remember the things we did and the people we were with, not each and every barbie doll we had. The opportunity to give those experiences is so much more meaningful and creates lasting childhood memories, which is something they'll cherish if they understand the impact they'll have. Whether it's their first surfing lesson, ballet lessons, or a jet boat ride or a trip to the local wildlife park, it's going to be memorable!

They can also get creative in giving their experience gifts! You can set up a treasure hunt in the backyard, with little clues leading them to their ultimate treasure, their experience gift voucher! We have lots of ideas on how to 'wrap' your experiences, you can find them here.

Creating memories with MyBestGift

Creating memories with MyBestGift

Christmas is fast approaching (eek!). What are two easy actions you will be making during the holiday season to reduce rubbish?
1. Experience gifts!! (no surprises there!)
2. And Secret Santa. Instead of everyone trying to buy something for each and every person, just one gift, that you can take the time to think about what that person would really appreciate.

What plans does My Best Gift have for the future?
So. Many. We're launching in the five capital cities prior to Christmas and will be working really hard to continue to grow our coverage in those cities and expand into other areas. We'll also be expanding our offering next year, so stay tuned for our updates ;-)

If you could ban one item of single use plastic from anyone using it, what would it be?
Plastic bags!

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Rubbish - who is responsible for making it and reducing it?


Many zero wasters keep their rubbish in a jar. It’s a weird concept. Someone described rubbish jars as a kind of waste taxidermy. Of course, living zero waste does not require any rubbish to be housed in a glass jar. Or kept in the home at all. I simply started to keep mine because a) I thought that’s what living zero waste entailed b) I could track what rubbish I was creating to make improvements and c) continued because it’s a great example of what can be achieved when I give talks on waste reducing.
Recently I have been wondering if it’s really setting the best example. Is keeping all the waste in my jar asking for change? Sure, it shows that with thought and intention, the consumers rubbish can be reduced. But now I am not as convinced that hoarding every little but it of it, in a glass home, is the way forward.

I do wonder if the zero waste movement is taking too much responsibility for the rubbish we don’t want to create. No one living zero waste wants to create rubbish, and we are forever trying to avoid it. For instance, I have several straws in my jar that I specifically did not ask for…but now are my responsibility. Why is it my responsibility?

The first month of my pregnancy, I was very ill. I couldn't keep anything in my stomach. Including water. It’s kind of scary. No food was staying down, which meant no nutrients. So I did what probably most new Mum’s do, and followed the doctors’ orders to buy a pregnancy multivitamin. I chose the most well-known brand, Elevit. They come in blister packs, that are made of half plastic and half aluminum, packed in a cardboard box. There was probably another multivitamin in a recyclable jar, but I grabbed this brand because I knew of it and I also could not be bothered sussing out another brand. At that stage getting out of bed was difficult. Trawling the internet or pharmacy for a more sustainable option was the last thing I wanted to do. My only concern was my baby and finding a discreet place to be sick after I left the pharmacy.

The brand I chose is the most popular and trusted pregnancy multivitamin in Australia. I know that I should have picked one that has recyclable packaging. And I take full responsibility that I did not. As I mentioned, my stamina for making a sustainable decision was non existent, so I went with what I felt was best for my body and baby. 

Not too long after this, the doctor discovered my thyroid was not functioning properly and I needed to get onto a medication pronto. Again I followed the doctors’ orders, and took the medication. This time it was packaged in aluminum blister packs. No plastic. Everything can be recycled. I didn't even ask or look for a sustainable packaged option.

I began to wonder why Elevit didn’t do the same, or use glass and plastic bottles. Each fortnight, I began emptying a blister sheet of Elevit, placing it into my jar, the same thought of 'why don’t they' floating in my mind. Then I wondered if we should always have to compromise our decisions because of packaging, especially when it comes to health? Is that truly fair? Will that make the big companies take notice?

Stuffing this rubbish into my jar is not going to push for any change. Elevit has been good. I can’t fault it, other than the packaging. But holding onto it, is not enough. I can help make a change and my rubbish can do more than sit there.

It's my responsibility to speak up if I want to see change.

So now I am saving up all the Elevit blister sheets, and I'll send them back to Elevit (Bayer) with a letter and suggestions on how they can provide better packaging. Because there are alternatives. They exist and they can make a change. It should not always be up to me.



Living zero waste is not just about making better choices for myself. It's demanding better choices for everyone. One of the most effective actions to reduce waste is asking for change at the source. There is not a low waste alternative to everything yet. But if I start speaking up, maybe one day there will be.  

I’m not just stopping at Elevit. In my jar are blister packs for Nurofen and Panadol. I know these can be housed in plastic bottles. I have seen it in the US and sometimes I see it here. Though now that option seems to be less available.  I have seen my own thyroid medication housed in aluminium, so why can’t they do the same?

I have airline tickets in my rubbish jar. I can send them back, explaining the risk of BPA on the tickets and asking for another option like digital boarding passes. My old mascara tube, the broken sunglasses, plastic food stickers...I can identify sustainable solutions for each. So I am going to let the companies know. 

I'm not trying to get rid of all my rubbish. I still have plenty left in that jar and no doubt, much more to take responsibility for in my future.

Imagine if we all started doing this? Having conversations that asked the producer to make smarter decisions rather than us zero wasters constantly avoiding items or stuffing it away into a jar. These companies might have never thought about sustainable options in the original design. They might not know about the zero waste movement. The responsibility of rubbish sits equally on the shoulders of both producer and consumer. I believe we are going to have to work together to make less rubbish, and for us zero wasters that just might entail speaking up. 
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