Books That Will Inspire Kids to Protect Our Planet

21 July 2019
Books That Will Inspire Kids to Protect Our Planet



Much like the audience they are intended for, kids books are successful at getting to the point on an issue. There are wonderful titles focused on exploring, explaining and inspiring young minds on big environmental and social problems our world is facing without the doom and gloom many of the books us adults read on the same subjects.

I often think it's the simplicity of kids books that results in the young readers simple and obvious solutions. Maybe our big adult books make it harder to see the solutions?

At some point in the not to distance future I know our son will want to have chat about why we hire toys from the toy library instead of buying brand new or why we don't buy most of our food in plastic packaging plastic. Unless of course by some miracle there has been a sweeping change in the next year (I can dream!). Instead of Mum going on a spiel about pollution and the devastating effects our overflowing bins can have, I'll use books to help start the conversation.

I thought it would be nice to share the books I have collected to help start those conversations and hopefully inspire. Thank you to Penguin Books Australia and Scribe Publications for sending me two new kids books to add to my collection. These have been marked with an asterisk *. If you have any other books that have helped you and your family, send me an email as I'd love to add them to the list.

If you happen to click a link and buy an item from the website Book Depository, I will receive a commission that is of not extra cost to you. 

How to Save the Whole Stinkin' Planet : A Garbological Adventure

by Lee Constable and Illustrated by James Hart

TV Host and science communicator uses her skills to train up young readers to be ultimate waste warriors. Lee explains where our stuff goes when we put our rubbish and recycling bins out, the ways we can reduce and divert waste from landfill properly, how to set up a compost. As kids work their way through the book they earn badges. Sections of the book are hands on with fun DIY activities, big information is turned into accessible facts, plus questions are asked along the way to help this new knowledge stick. It's a fun hands on book that would be suit that would be great for the whole family to work through together. For those who have read the book and wondering what my Waste Warrior recruit name is, well it's The Great Splatto. This book was a gift from Penguin Books Australia.

Plastic : Past, Present and Future

by Eun-Ju Kim and Illustrated by Ji-Won Lee

Eun-Ji Kim book details plastics invention and history, from its uses throughout society to looking at how complacent we became leading to the devastating impact on our environment. The book then looks at attempts being made to reduce our reliance and what is happening around the world to fight plastic pollution. I love Ji-Won Lee's bright illustrations and diagrams help explain the complex processes of plastic production and recycling in an easy to follow method. The overall book is the first children's book one I've read that explains in depth everything about plastic. This was a gift from Scribe Publications. 


I like Old Clothes

by Mary Ann Hoberman

This poem was published in 1976 follows two children as they talk about their love for used clothing. To them wearing hand-me-downs, clothes from friends and charity stores is normal. I enjoy when topics like this are presented as normal and now more than ever second-hand clothe shopping needs to be made regular. It would make a great book to read with kids helping them understand where clothes come from, how to care for them and where they can go after we stop wearing them.

Sea Change 

by Joel Harper and Illustrated by Erin O'Shea

The main character has red hair, but you never know her name because there are no words in the book. Instead it's purely beautiful illustrations that take us through a young girls trips to the beach where she encounters a plastic rubbish that she then starts picking up. The rubbish is then taken home and turned into a sculpture to be used as school to inspire fellow classmates to help clean up the beach that then leads to the whole school community to also clean up the bach; one person can make and inspire others. The book is printed on 100% recycled fibers using 100% post consumer waste.

All The Way To The Ocean

by Joel Harper and Illustrated by Marg Spusta

Another Joel Harper book and this one does have a written story along with illustrations by Marg Spusta. Issac shows his friend James what happens to rubbish that ends up in our gutters as it travels through the storm water drains, leading to our oceans, lakes and rivers. The book focuses the marine life directly affected by plastic pollution. Similar to Sea Change the book ends with the two kids sharing what they know with others and encouraging a clean up at school.

Ocean Warriors: Plastic in Paradise 

by Cath Witten and Illustrated by Jasmine Kammeyer

This book was a gift to my son from my sister and her family. You know the cool sister that told me I should watch The Clean Bin Project. The story is in Bahasa Indonesian and translated into English underneath. Which makes sense since all proceeds from the book go to creating a sustainable waste management system in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, the Amazon of the Ocean. Two siblings work together to reduce plastic pollution after rescuing a tea turtle from eating a plastic bag.

Lelani and the Plastic Kingdom

by Robb N. Johnston

Lelani opens a plastic bottle floating in the ocean to find a note inviting her to visit an island made of rubbish from all over the world. It's on this Island she meets Sam, who shows her the plastic straw forest and and marine animals entangled in rubbish, all caused by the waste sent to this now growing island from the Fast Lands. Lelani is inspired to make changes when she returns to her home and share this knowledge with her community. This book would be suited for older childern around the age of 8-10. The watercolour illustrations are beautiful and worth purchasing the book for alone.

Friends of Our World

by Alexis Todorovski and Illusrated by Azzalene Todorovski

Alexis's book focuses on illegal dumping of items which is huge problem. It's not just the dumping of rubbish in remote locations, but right here in our own neighbourhoods. The characters Mondo and Amigo ask their friends from around the world to share the message of reusing and recycling instead of dumping stuff like clothing, furniture and other household goods.

A Bag and a Bird

by Pamela Allen

Set in iconic Sydney, A Bag and a Bird follows Alex and his mum on a picnic outing when one of their plastic bags blows away and gets stuck on an Ibis (a well known bird in Sydney!). Through Alexander's story we learn how plastic bags can damage the environment and those that depend on it. A great story to help kids to becoming more aware of the impact of their choices.

Compost Stew

by Mary McKenna Siddals

Keeping those organics like food scraps out of landfill is important to helping fight climate change and putting much needed nutrients back into the soil. Mary's book aim is to show how easy it is to do this by composting, how to start and what can and can't go into a compost.

Sullie Saves The Seas

by Goffinet McLaren

Following Memorial Day weekend a seagull calls a meeting with other beach birds asking for help to do something about the rubbish left behind on the beach. They then go about teaching humans how to reduce their rubbish and not leave it in their natural habitat. I did find some parts of this story sad and think the book is best suited for older children 8-12.

Happy reading :)

Waste Not Everyday

Waste Not Everyday


My second book Waste Not Everyday is out in the world! Did you get your copy yet?

This book is the younger sister to my first book Waste Not.

Waste Not Everyday
has 365 tips, one for each day of the year. My goal with this book was to provide digestible information in an easy to use format that would help get people started on reducing their waste.

It’s broken up into three sections using the same structure of a professional bin audit; food and organic, recyclables and other. A bonus fourth section is focused on reducing waste in the wider world.

It can work as a companion to Waste Not or given to someone who wants to make changes but feels overwhelmed or doesn’t want to subscribe to a particular lifestyle, but is determined to start somewhere. There is no preaching. No guilt. Only solutions to help fight climate change through reducing, reusing and reconnect.

Just like my first book 5% of the profits I make will be passed onto Waste Aid Australia.

Waste Not Everyday is available in all places where books are sold and of course, at your local library.

Why I will never buy clothing made of recycled plastic (and it's not because of the plastic microfibers)

29 June 2019


Water photo created by jcomp

The other day I was scrolling through Instagram when a post stopped me. The image featured a jumper made of recycled plastic. 12 plastic bottles to be exact. However it was the caption explaining how the item of clothing was going to save us from drowning in a sea of plastic that had me rolling my eyes. I looked through the comments hoping to find someone else as unimpressed. Instead all I found was praise.

Clothing made of recycled plastics is a growing market. Shoes, pants, tops, activewear, accessories and much more are being sold to us as the solution to keeping plastics out of our oceans and landfill. These items are made of bottles and fishing nets, discarded in the ocean. Well that's how it's sold to us. Yes, the fishing nets made of plastic fibres (also known as ghost nets) are discarded. But I was not as convinced about the bottles. I asked seven companies selling clothing made of recycled bottles where these bottles were collected from and the response was a country or region; India, China and around South-East Asia. No other information was offered.

When I first started learning about plastics plaguing our oceans the idea of clothing made of ocean plastics was very appealing and sounded like it could be part of a solution. I even wrote a blog post in 2014. However, my views have changes considerably and it's not because of plastic microfibres or the impact recycling plastic has on the environment. Well, these are part of it but not the sole reason for my change of mind. 

Plastic bottles and discarded fishing nets turned into clothing, shoes and accessories will not save the oceans. This is simply a bandaid. Obviously halting plastic production would be the ultimate fix. Since we don't have access to the off switch in the plastic manufacturing facilities, one of the next best steps is providing financial assistance to organisations focusing on education and setting up clean drinking water facilities.

When I see sweatshirts made of plastic bottles selling for $55 by the brand Everlane, all I can think of is “gosh, that money could be better spent going to education programs helping communities understand the need to break free from plastic.” 

Similarly $68 on a pair of Girlfriend leggings would be much better invested in creating safe accessible drinking water in areas of this world where there is none or setting up recycling in communities that have nothing. Safe drinking water would have a huge impact beyond plastic pollution. 

Imagine what 1,110 Euros, the price of Prada's new Re-Nylon backpack, could do for a community group lobbying government to set up legislation to reduce plastic use in a country with inadequate waste collections. 

It's hard for me to watch the praise these companies receive. They are profiting from this so called solution by tapping into our habitual need we've learned to buy new stuff. Shouldn't we pass it onto those doing meaningful work in areas of the world where clean water is lacking, recycling systems are poor or non-existent and waste education needed?

With second hand clothing stores in most of our neighbourhoods filled with so much inventory or the many second hand online outlets popping up these days, wouldn't it be smarter and kinder to choose second hand or even go without, and pass on the $55 to help fix the real issues? 

It's only easy to throw out when communities have no access to education or waste services. By the way this jacket costs $175 which would provide THREE water dispensers for a school canteen in Indonesia.


But what to do with all the bottles out there? I hear you and I don't have the best solution. Ultimately I would rather see a plastic bottle turned back into a plastic bottle. Not clothing. Until plastic bottles are potentially phased out then it makes much more sense to collect and repurpose as a bottle for people in areas without access to clean drinking water. Instead of clothing companies using fishing nets while selling washing machine filters to catch the microfibres, they should change their business model. These companies just want you to continue buying their stuff without the guilt. It's part of that belief consumers should change, not the companies. It has to be both. Cute active wear is not a necessity. Clean drinking water is. 

I understand it might sound like a big ask for people to donate $50 towards an environmental group without any tangible immediate return like a sweater. I don't know where the need to have physical proof to prove we care comes from. T-shirts with eco slogans or recycled plastic backpacks have become a status symbol. This isn't just in the environmental movement, the practice is everywhere. We should be OK to pass on money to help without some kind of return.  I can assure having worked with and interacting in many grassroots environmental organisations, our donations are pivitol when it comes to fixing clean water, education, waste and recycling services.


There are a number of organisations tackling plastic pollution closer listed below. But before clicking through think about your own neighbourhood or a region in your country where that money can uplift. Here in Australia half of Aboriginal communities have no rubbish bin or waste pick up service. This is why I have chosen to donate 5% of my profits from Waste Not and Waste Not Everyday to the organisation Waste Aid Australia to help change this. Here are suggestions for other groups and projects:

Donations for A Plastic Oceans go towards facilitator education programs within local communities in local languages, creating youth educational films, installing Elkay water refill station at under-served schools and supporting local activism.

The Oliver Ridley Project works to not only remove ghost nets from oceans but also provide educational outreach while working with fisheries to minimise and reuse fishing gear.

Bottle for Botol sets up education, reusable alternatives and tools to empower students to create change in their own communities.

There is also projects like Sri Lanka's Poseidon Army, Cambodia's first Nature Discover Centre, help build an accessible library out of eco-bricks in Malawi, fund a small island recycling & waste management in Fiji, provide assistance to Reef Check Malaysia to create a waste management and recycling system on a Borneo island and Reduce Plastic in Tanzania. I could continue with this list.

The greatest teaching during my “journey” to create less waste and reduce plastic is learning to pause before buying anything and meditate on how the impact my money (or other resources like time and physical energy) can be used to help lift up others. I realise it's a luxury to think like this, so I don't take the responsibility lightly. And that's not to say I'm perfect in that thought 100% of the time. But as always, I try. 

I live in an area with robust recycling and waste management, quality environmental education within reach and clean drinking water in abundance. This scenario is not the same everywhere and by redirecting my purchase hopefully one day it will be. 

Sneaky plastics in our food packaging

20 June 2019

Did you see the video posted by MEL Science revealing the hidden layer of plastic inside aluminium cans? If you missed it, watch it below




Plastic is typically used in canned food and drinks to stop metal leaching into the food or drink. Carbonated drinks and some foods have high acid levels meaning they leach faster. Even if the food are not high in acid the metal can still leach. If you see cans are BPA free this doesn't mean it's free of plastic, instead the BPA has been replaced with BPS or BPF. You can read here about studies being conducted on the BPA replacement as to whether they are safe or not here.

Because the plastic amount is small it's typically removed during the recycling process usually by high heat when cans are recycled.

These type of plastic linings are not solely in aluminium cans either. The metal lids on glass jars will have a lining of plastic too just in case the food comes in contact with the lid. This is the main reason why businesses accepting glass bottles and jars for refill will not use the metal lids as the plastic will be removed during the sanitation process. Those metal lids are usually sent off for recycling and they buy new ones, or use plastic lids.

There are other types of packaging with sneaky plastic hiding within. The most popular item most people will know is the cartons used for milk (including plant based milks) and juices, where the plastic is layered between the cardboard. The plastic helps stop the milk from leaking while lasting longer on the shelf. Take away cups used for coffee also have a layer of plastic otherwise that hot drink would leak also. Even some tea bags contain plastic.

Below are a few items that have have plastic linings and other chemicals you may not know about.

A cardboard box at a conference (food was supplied), coffee cup found outside the house (my street sits just off a main shopping strip. Alot of coffee cups get left behind near us), ice cream (again, another littered item) and the chip cup (asked staff for the chips on the plate but the request didn't make it to the kitchen).



To find out if a cardboard or paper based item like the ones above have a lining of plastic is simple. I cut off a piece and place into hot water, then let it sit for 10 minutes. The plastic will seperate from the cardboard. Each one had a lining of plastic. It was the cardboard box which surprised me the most. But there you go, plastic is sneaky and almost everywhere. This type of plastic could be recycled via RedCycle soft plastic drop off at the major supermarkets...but who is going to do that?? Plus the resources going into creating these for a single use is not needed for most of us.


A friend was going to throw out this pack of puff pastry. It has been over six year since I had used this kind of product but I knew there was thin layers of plastic between the pastry but as the cardboard outer packaging caught the light I saw a sheen that had me wonder if this had sneaky plastic. So I did the hot water test...and yes, there was hidden plastic again.



I'm not anti plastic, simply anti the misuse. With the rise in awareness of plastic pollution, I'm beginning to see more and more food businesses swap out takeaway food packaging for paper based options because they want to do the right thing. However these will be lined with petroleum based plastic or plant-based plastics. The thing is, how would a customer know there is even plastic lining these items let alone what type of plastic. If it can be recycled will the lining be recycled with the paper? will it break down? or will it be sent to landfill? If people think it's compostable at home will the sneaky plastic end up in the compost pile? None of this information is available on the packaging and staff rarely know themselves. And if it's not lined with plastic will the packaging contain PFAS?

Related blog posts: Is shopping at bulk stores or co-ops the best way to reduce packaging waste? Zero waste shopping does not exist, is there a solution?

So who needs to make changes. The Government should make it a requirement for all companies to explain in detail on the packaging what it's made of similar to the The Australasian Recycling Symbol. Ingredients for food are mandatory so why not our packaging. If a cardboard based product is going to be easier to compost with a compostable plant based lining, then why not enforce this as the standard lining too. That way there is no confusion for composting at home and encourage more public composting bins. I'm not 100% aware what would happen should this kind of compostable plastic lined paper end up in the recycling stream and i've been waiting for answers from a couple of sources. Plastic water bottles and plastic containers made of compostable plastics do contaminate regular plastic recycling. 

As you can see there is a lot of processes that need to change. The funny thing is the solutions are easy for most of us when it comes to avoiding this confusion in take-away packaging:

  1. Take the time to sit down and eat a meal on a real plate. Get away from the office desk and use the time to enjoy a break.
  2. Order takeaway in your own container. Simply phone ahead to see if the cafe or restaurant will allow you to bring a container to use instead of a single-use option. Visit TrashlessTakeaway.com.au  for a list in your area.
  3. Australian businesses Returnr and ReTub are partnering with business encouraging the reuse and refill of food containers. Customers simply put down a deposit for a reusable container when paying for the meal. Customers get the deposit back when the container is returned. This system is not new, India has been offering returnable tifins for a long time.

I understand some of our food will always need packaging including takeaway. And I'm aware we won't give up take-away food, not because our modern society loves it, simply humans have always enjoyed some form of takeaway food. 

However when I see what looks like complex “solutions” to the problems of packaging, in particular takeaway, rarely do there conversations address our need to change mindsets. Packaging made of seaweed or mushrooms....great, but how much would we need to create this for takeaway packaging alone. Does it just exacerbate the go go go loop we are stuck in. The packaging needs to change but also so do we. 

Is shopping at Bulk Stores or Co-Op's the best way to reduce packaging waste?

14 May 2019

Is shopping at Bulk Store or Co-Op the best way to reduce packaging waste?

Have you ever walked into a bulk store or co-op with cloth bags and jars tucked neatly into your basket ready to do a zero-waste shop, feeling a little smug you won't be creating any rubbish? Only to spot an employee filling up the bulk bins from a plastic or paper bag. The realisation there is packaging in waste-free shopping has you turning away in horror, wondering if you are even making a better choice by trying to shop so called 'package free'. 

So if there is packaging at a bulk food store, is it this the best choice compared to buying packaged food at a supermarket? 

Let's compare cashew nuts packaging from the supermarket to those found at bulk food stores.

Is shopping at Bulk Store or Co-Op the best way to reduce packaging waste?

On the left is a 200g packet of cashew nuts purchased at a supermarket in exactly the same way I shopped for food before I went zero-waste; grabbing the first bag of affordable nuts I saw and rushing to the cashier to pay.  Never stopping to consider the packaging at all or where they came from. 

To the right is a large plastic bag I collected from a bulk food store that originally held 2.5kg of cashew nuts. The contents of this plastic bag was emptied into a bulk dispensing bin at the store.

Both the supermarket and bulk store nuts were delivered in cardboard boxes, with the supermarkets version containing more individually wrapped packets of nuts within that same box. The bulk delivery contained this one bag.

Most cardboard boxes delivered to the supermarket are flattened and recycled, while bulk stores allow customers reuse these boxes first before they will be recycled. Some supermarkets are setting aside a small collection of boxes for customers to use as an alternative to plastic bags but again this is a small number. Already the bulk store gets extra points for reusing this component of the packaging before recycling.

Let's look at the packaging:


200g packet of cashew nuts purchased at the supermarket:
This is made plastic and foil, so that's two materials. Two resources. It doesn't pass the scrunch test so it's not recyclable at any of the soft plastic drop off locations. I double check the back of the packaging to see if the new Australasian Recycling Symbol can confirm this. They don't have it - only the Do The Right Thing landfill logo. I know there are nuts sold in soft plastic bags that would make it recyclable but I was in a smaller supermarket and they didn't have the option. It was this or or another brand in similar packaging.

Is shopping at Bulk Store or Co-Op the best way to reduce packaging waste?


This is the Australasian Recycling Symbol beginning to appear on packaging. It helps tell the shopper what can and can't be recycled. Especially handy when trying to figure out if there is sneaky plastic inside a cardboard box:

Australasian Recycling Symbol



2.5kg bag of nuts from bulk store:
The see through plastic is similar to a bread bag and passes the scrunch test. It can be recycled. Well down-cycled. What is worth noting is the lack of colours or other materials, meaning there is no ink used in the manufacturing process. No advertising. No logos. Just a simple (big) bag of nuts. Fewer resources compared to the other packaging.

The bag is large and with a wash in soapy water I could find another use for this before it would ever go to recycling. 

Is shopping at Bulk Store or Co-Op the best way to reduce packaging waste?
Is shopping at Bulk Store or Co-Op the best way to reduce packaging waste?


Most (not all) bulk food stores are founded with an environmental focus and make sure the packaging from their products is disposed of properly. I know many bulk food stores actively engaging with their suppliers on ways to reduce the need to even recycle or at worst throw away anything, instead working together to return and refill.


This 2.5kg bag of cashew nuts equals 12.5 of the 200g packets. 12.5 pieces of foil, plastic and ink ending up in landfill and that's if every single packet goes into a bin. 

Should the packaging have been recyclable, then we have to hope all 12 would even be recycled. There is no way we can guarantee the customer will make the choice to do so.

The single plastic bag from the bulk store is easier to manage since there is only one to take responsibility for. In this case it will be down-cycled into outdoor furniture such as park seats, bollards, play equipment, boardwalks amongst other items. It's not perfect but again it's a step in the right direction of resource value.

It comes down to one piece of packaging being disposed of responsibly vs twelve 

Look at how this pancake mix is shipped to the store. Plastic upon plastic plus stickers galore. I'll happily get my pancake mix from my bulk food store. Yes that's right you can buy pancake mix at a bulk store!

Is shopping at Bulk Store or Co-Op the best way to reduce packaging waste?


I often hear the argument plastic packaging is needed to reduce food waste but I don't see it this way at all. If anything it promotes food waste. Bulk food shopping allows me to dictate how much food I need. If a recipe calls for two tablespoons of cashews or one cup of lentils, then I can buy exactly what I need and not forced to buy more.

The lack of logos and advertising at bulk stores and co-ops is not only more pleasing on the eye making the experience relaxing, i'm also not bombarded with gimmicky words or 2 for 1 deals telling me to buy more more more!

Bulk stores and co-op's are having a resurgence and with more people waking up to the packaging waste I can only foresee more change to come. It's hard to tell now if the answer will be bulk stores. Until then I'll happily support my local store pleased to know they are on my side when it comes to fighting the war on waste. 
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