Zero waste sun protection

28 January 2021
Zero waste sun protection

I take sun protection very seriously, all year round. But especially during Summer.

One look at me and you'll know why I do. My skin is fair and covered in freckles. It's prone to burning more than other skin types. I have had many uncomfortable sunburns over my lifetime that can happen within 10-15 minutes.

Once upon a time I relied on sunscreen for 90% of my sun protection. At beaches or pools I would take a rash vest (sun shirt) but would usually leave it off because vanity. I'd wear singlets and tiny dresses when out of the house then forget to reapply my sunscreen. There wasn't a summer without a bad burn somewhere on my body.

It wasn't until I started going plastic free that I changed my sun protection habits. Actually it still took me a while after reducing my plastic to realise clothing can provide most of my sun protection and it was the best zero waste sun protection.

Turns out long sleeve shirts, pants, wide brimmed hats are some of most environmentally friendly and zero waste sun protection steps we can make. And the most obvious too.


Zero waste sun protection

First step - clothing, hat, sunglasses, and seeking shade


During the warmer months when the UV index is high you'll find me covered up in loose but long sleeve clothing and a hat. I find it so much easier than having to reapply sunscreen constantly, which is something I would sometimes forget or keep putting off because it required a bit of effort. These days I only need to reapply to the areas exposed like my face, neck, ears, hands, and feet. I buy all of my clothes and hats from local secondhand shops to help reduce fashion waste.  

At the beach I always wear a long sleeve rashie with matching bather bottoms in the water. When I'm back on the sand I'll slip on a pair of long linen pants (in the photo below), my hat, then sit under the shade of our canvas beach tent to dry off or lay in the sun for a little bit. My whole body is covered and I haven't been burnt in the years doing this.

My current rashie is about five years old and is starting to show signs of wear. This means it's not offering me the best sun protection anymore. Next season i'll be getting a new one. I will look for secondhand but of course be mindful to only purchase if it's in good condition. I know there are many brands selling swimwear and rash shirts made of recycled plastic but as for recycling the rash shirt at the end of its life, well it doesn't seem to be an option yet. I'll have to do a deep dive to find out more.

I discovered Australian made plastic free swimwear and swim shirts made of wool at Swimm and Merino Country as an option. A woollen rashie, another option to look into too!

My sunglasses are made of upcycled wood my husband gifted me buuuuut Op Shops have so many second hand sunnies that you could buy a pair there. Using what we already have is usually the most sustainable and zero waste option. 

Of course shade should be a priority if you are spending a long time outdoors. Find an option that works best for you and your location. Finding shade on a stretch of beach in Australia can be hard so we bring along a secondhand canvas tent. I don't know the name or brand as it was sold without any information. 

Zero waste sun protection
A photo of me post swim with my linen pants pulled over my swimming bathers and rashie shirt on top

Last step - Sunscreen


I don't use much sunscreen. Now before assumptions are made I'm advocating against sunscreen please know I am a big advocate for sunscreen use. Keeping myself covered and staying in the shade helps me reduce sunscreen. I put sunscreen as the last step in my sun protection so I prioritise clothing options first.

I typically apply sunscreen on my face, neck, ears, hands, and feet. These are usually the only exposed areas. 

I have tried the following sunscreens over the past eight years. All have been great with no issues except the zinc getting onto clothes. A bit of a scrub and it does come off.
 

Our kiddo uses one specific for kids. Like his Mum, I keep him in long sleeves and long shorts to minimise sun exposure. Kids are far more covered these days than when I was little, which is great. Although he has inherited his fathers darker Lebanese colouring we are still careful. I find Op Shops have a good selection of long sleeve button shirts for kids that are good for warmer weather to keep the sun out without overheating him. I also find kids rashies in good condition at Op Shops too. My guess is they grow too quickly before they get worn out. 

You would have noticed in my sunscreen list the packaging hasn't always been plastic free. My sunscreen has come in metal, paper and recycled plastic. I advocate for people to choose what works for them regardless of packaging. Sun protection is important. Choose a sunscreen you will use not one that will languish in the back of the cupboard.

We have prioritised reef safe sunscreen but it turns out there is only one verified sunscreen as noted in this article, "Here's what you need to know about your sunscreen and the sea." As the article says, if unsure double check with the brand directly, which is what I will be doing going forward. 

Like most stuff I share on this blog my zero waste sun protection is suited to my own experience and needs. Do your own research, find what works for you and your own beautiful body. 

Eight Environmental books I read in 2020

4 December 2020
Eight Environmental books I read in 2020


Each year I make a plan to share a list on the blog of all the books I have read. After eight years of blogging I've finally managed to remember. I found the draft blog post from 2019 but forgot to share the books I read then. If you are interested the books related to the environment from my 2019 book haul were:
  • Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta
  • Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
  • Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia Edited by Anita Heiss
  • Hidden in Plain View by Paul Irish
  • The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage
  • A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. Washington
  • Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta Taylor
  • Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States by Carl Zimring
  • Treading Lightly: The Hidden Wisdom of the World’s Oldest People by Karl-Erik Sveiby and Tex Skuthorpe 
  • Welcome to Country by Marcia Langton
I’ll admit the books I read in 2020 with an environmental theme featured no POC authors. I didn’t even realise until after I made the list. I apologise for this and realise now I should have done better. I also didn't read as many books with an environmental focus. This year I enjoyed more fiction and non-fiction too. Let's get into the eight environmental books I read in 2020


How to Save The World by Katie Patrick

Technically I read this in 2019 but it is one book I have come back to a lot this year appropriately titled How To Save The World. This book originally began as a powerpoint presentation I stumbled across one day. Thankfully author Katie Patrick expanded on it and I'm so glad she did. Katie is an environmental engineer and designer with passion to help people change the world using game design and data.

Over the years I have watched environmental campaigns miss the mark while community driven movements like Plastic Free July and Zero Waste continue to shift habits. It wasn't until I read this book that I began to understand how these two became so popular. Both were focused on behaviour narratives lead by everyday people rather than just direct education full of guilt and doom. Katie's book really drives home that education alone is not going to help change the world let alone save it.

The book looks at how data, game design and behaviour psychology can be harnessed to create programs that will actually work to create change. How To Save The World is divide into ten sections with thoroughly researched actionable ideas alongside well considered case studies and examples of success stories and failures. It's technical but written in a way that makes the content accessible and fun.

Food or War by Jullian Cribb

This book was an interesting read. It was a little depressing at the start as Cribb goes through the ways humans have used food to harm, control, manipulate, and spur conflict on. We see it happening today with heartbreaking famines and the rise of food deserts. The power of controlling food has been overlooked as humans become more and more separated from it where it's being grown and by who. I'd like to think this book wasn’t written purely because of the issues at hand. Instead I hope it's because people are wanting to turn the system around fast. According to Cribb if we could grow more of our food in our cities with the help of tech (depending on location and climate) we'd save up to 20% in emissions used to transport food around the world. This along with other fascinating ideas could help provide more peace and stability in the world.

I don't find many of his proposed ideas too far fetched. Reduce military spending to reinvest in regenerative local agriculture, prioritising food education for children (growing, eating, sharing – you know life skills), accessibility to more healthy food, rethink packaging, sharing innovation, accessible tech for all farmers, rewilding lead by Indigenous leaders, giving farmers pay rises, and put more women in charge. I found myself nodding along to most of these and perhaps you will too.

2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration by Damon Gameau

2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration is to accompany the film. Since I saw the movie after reading the book I can safely say you don't need to have watched the film to enjoy this book.

The book begins with the issues we are facing and what inspired Gameau to make the film. From there the book is then broken up into six chapters, with the first four focused on energy, transport, drawdown & sequester, consumption. Like the film each theme is looked at from two angles; where we can scale up and the individual actions people like you and me can make. There are planet friendly recipes prioritising ingredients that are good for the soil or sequester carbon. It's an uplifting book, inspiring, and easy to read. The only thing I didn't like was the plastic debossing and embossing on the front of the book.

The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen by Lindsay Miles

This is a beautifully illustrated and well written guide to reducing waste in the kitchen. Whether you are starting out or are familiar with zero-waste I can guarantee you’ll learn something from Lindsay Mile’s second book. 

It will help answer those niggling questions beyond packaging and bulk food stores like food miles, carbon footprints, that can make decisions fickle and hard at the start. The type of foods you’ll encounter at a bulk food store and what to do with them. Tips for reducing food waste to landfill. Basic recipes and food preservation to get you started in your less waste no fuss kitchen. 

Lindsay’s balanced friendly approach will help you find the right choices for your life, without any goading or preaching. This book is a welcome addition to my kitchen I’ll be reaching for again and again.

Eight Environmental books I read in 2020

Plastic Free: The Inspiring Story of a Global Environmental Movement and Why It Matters by By Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, Joanna Atherfold Finn

Before I begin I will note the author and founder of Plastic Free July is a friend of mine and I must congratulate her on this book. I know she was a nervous about writing it but I think she has done an amazing job alongside her co-author Joanna Atherfold Finn. I really enjoyed learning about Rebecca's early life, where her inspiration and passion for the environment came from. It set a good grounding for the book and how Plastic Free July would eventually come to fruition. While the book does have tips on reducing plastic this is a story about how Plastic Free July begun and its contribution to the plastic free movement, the people it has inspired, change created, and hope for the future. You might see my name inside its pages ;) 

Ninja Bandicoots and Turbo-Charged Wombats: Stories From Behind The Scenes At The Zoo by By Hazel Flynn

Full disclosure this book is for children. I did start to read parts of it with my kiddo (it's for older children 9-12) but ended up liking it myself. The author packs a lot of easy to digest information about the inner-workings of a zoo and animal hospital. If I had read a book like this as a child I probably would have become a vet or zoologist. There are fun facts about Australian native animals throughout that I had no idea about. I enjoyed reading about the real adventures from actual zoo keepers, how they came to their jobs, skills needed, and the fun they have with their roles. There are chapters on different animals, why they might be under threat, their life in a zoo or wildlife sanctuary. The chapters end with actions we can do to help make sure the animals are protected.

The Waste Between Our Ears by Gerry Gillespie

“The only place that waste exists is between our ears, because waste is not a fact — it is a concept.” This sentence from Gerry Gillespie's book is a ringing reminder the habits (in industry and through the individual) around waste have been formed and that there is a breadth of opportunity to change this.

The author of The Waste Between Our Ears is a zero waste campaigner based in Australia known for his interest and advocacy in the collection of properly sorted organic waste to reuse in the agricultural sector for regeneration. Much of his book is about the need for proper source separation as this would help turn materials back into something of value. Gillespie provides plenty of examples on how different materials could be recycled and reused on a local scale rather than picked up and shipped to a large city in fuel guzzling trucks. It's a timely book with the shake up in the Australian recycling industry.

I appreciated the author reminding us that many solutions won't work everywhere. Instead locally designed systems should be sought to fit with regions to address local issues. While much of the book is about resource recovery through recycling the ending focuses on the need to regulate and redesign if we want to advance any type of zero-waste system. Not just the products but also how the waste and recycling industry is structured. Gillepsie believes the more information the public knows, the more they'll want the current systems to change and to help participate in making that happen. The Waste Between Our Ears is helpful book to do just that.

Connecting With Life by Martin Summer

Living in a densely populated city myself made it easy to connect with Martin Summer's book. And with Melbourne, particularly my suburb, going through the longest Covid-19 lockdown this year had me questioning if it was possible to connect with life when I'm surrounded by so much concrete and brick. This is a well researched and nicely written book. 

Summer details the different challenges a city presents then provides solutions and benefits, most of which are accessible in my city and for me. This might not be the case for everyone and making nature more accessible to all residents in our built up urban environments need to be a priority. There are many tips for enjoying nature where we are, the overarching one being to look a little more closely and it will be there.

Next on my to-read list are Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom and This One Wild and Precious Life by Sarah Wilson. I'd love to hear any suggestions you have via email or comment on Facebook. 


#trgcollab: The books Connecting With Life by Martin Summer, The Waste Between Our Ears by Gerry Gillespie, Ninja Bandicoots and Turbo-Charged Wombats: Stories From Behind The Scenes At The Zoo by By Hazel Flynn, 2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration by Damon Gameau, Food or War by Jullian Cribb were gifts by the authors and publisher. I use the hashtag #trgcollab to help readers idenifty items or services that were gifted to me or are a paid post. These items were unpaid gifts and I was not compensated financially to post about them. All views are my own. I only accept gifted items or services I would use personally.

Holiday here this year and don't forget to take along your empty esky

22 October 2020
Holiday here this year

Rural towns in Australia have been hit hard in the past twelve months. They have faced droughts, bush fires, and now COVID-19 keeping visitors away. As restrictions begin to lift and the weather warms up Aussies will be looking to plan their holidays, and with limits on international travel many of us will be looking to domestic trips.

Before Australia experienced the first lockdown earlier in the year my family took a short trip to regional Victoria and NSW, taking along our empty esky after coming across the #emptyesky pledge on social media. 

The Empty Esky pledge is to get people to visit townships and support small businesses affected by the Australian bush fires. Travellers are encouraged to take along their eskys to fill it with local produce and wares. 

I documented our road trip hoping to inspire others to holiday here this year and support towns in need of visitors. 


Holiday here this year

Our destination was the Southern Highlands to visit my parents and attend a wedding in Kangaroo Valley. To break up the journey we visited Mansfield and Adelong in country Victoria and New South Wales, two communities impacted by the bush fires. 

On day one, our lunch stop was in the small town of Yea. We stretched our legs with a walk along the main street and visited the Y Water Discovery Centre and Wetlands. My three year old enjoyed the interpretive displays and we learned more about the area too. There is an information centre on site, tables and BBQ outside the building. There were some antique stores I would have loved to check out but a tired toddler derailed this idea. We made a note to return here in the future for explorations of the region.

Holiday here this year
Inside the Y Water Discovery Centre and Wetlands

We spent our first night at Delatite Hotel, Mansfield. Arriving late to the town meant we didn't get to see much. After dinner we walked along the main street and played at the Mansfield Botanic Park with our toddler. Mansfield does offer many activities and is a great jumping off point for exploring Victoria's High Country. Coincidently I ran into a friend from high school at the pub bistro running Hidden Trails a local horseback adventure tour company and got to hear first hand how the fires hurt the regions tourism over summer. 

The next morning we woke early, collecting breakfast from the local bakery. We usually sit down and eat in, keeping our reusables for collecting snacks. 

As we moved past the town of Holbrook there were hints of burnt landscape here and there along the Hume Hwy. Turning onto the Snowy Mountains Hwy the evidence of the catastrophic fires is everywhere. We saw homes and sheds destroyed, the country turned black. It was heartbreaking to see. 

I chose Adelong specifically because this part of the snowy region was one of the worst affected by bush fires. It's an area known for apple and pear farms, most being destroyed during the natural disasters. Blaze Aid are still on the ground lending a hand between the south coast and snowy region. 

My husband, The Builder, has not traveled around this part of Australia. The snowy region is one of my favourite parts of Australia and I like to drive through on the way to Batemans Bay to see my grandparents. 

Adelong is a village with less than 1000 people nestled in a valley next to Adelong Creek. The main attraction is remnants of the gold rush at Adelong Creek Falls Gold Ruins. The town consist of two pubs, a hotel, local supermarket, RSL with a Chinese restaurant, Op Shop, antique store, Post Office, real estate, community bank, local wares shop...pretty much the usual operations a small town offer. Most rural towns will boast an Op Shop as their only clothing retails store. I really like that about Australia.

We visited the Adelong Creek Falls Gold Ruins. When we arrived we kicked ourselves because we forgot the hiking carrier for our son back in Melbourne. We got as far as the water but couldn't go further down the track. Which was a shame as the creek walk looked beautiful from what we could see. 

Adelong


Our accommodation was very cute. An old house brought back to life. It could easily fit a larger family or two small families inside. 

Adelong

We enjoyed a delicious dinner at the local Chinese restaurant inside the RSL. We weren't the only ones that liked it, with many locals popping in to pick up takeaway throughout the evening. 

The following morning was the final drive to Moss Vale to see my parents. Before leaving we ventured to the main street to visit some of the local stores. First stop was the Op Shop (thrift store).

Adelong



A cute top that I had to take home with me. I rarely buy new to me clothes, mainly because I'm nervous my son will spill something on it. But I couldn't resist this one.

We walked down the street to Rustic Creations and walked out with arms full of locally made soap and jams. 



We filled our empty esky at a farm gate before leaving Adelong. Raspberries, pumpkins, more jams and chutneys went in, to be shared with my parents. We got to chat with the owners of the road side stall about the fires and how they have hurt business, including hers. She hadn't heard of the #emptyeksy initiative but liked the idea of people visiting gems like Adelong on their adventures. 

#EmptyEsky

#EmptyEsky

Having grown up in a country town I know visitors are important for sustaining local business and adding to the wellbeing of a small community. I'm excited to see where everyone will holiday here this year and fill up their empty eskys with locally grown and made food.

It might sounds weird for an eco blog to encourage a road trip. Aren't cars bad for the road? Yes, they are. We all know that. Unfortunately the most eco friendly options are not the easiest for all. Getting to many of these small towns by public transport requires two-three days of travel and sometimes costs more than a flight or road trip. It's not impossible and is part of a growing movement called slow travel. We have travelled by train many times between Sydney and Melbourne, and highly recommend the trip.

One way to reduce your impact is to offset your trip through an offset program or by personally owning your carbon through volunteering to restore habitats in your local area as suggested by Zero Waste Dork

Holiday here this year


How local government can help communities go zero-waste and plastic-free

8 October 2020
How local government can help communities go zero-waste and plastic-free

Our local government Councils provide hundreds of services we use day to day in our communities and they are most likely the first level of government we interact with. I wasn't always aware of this and often wondered what Councils do beyond charging rates and collecting our bins.

It wasn't until I was hired by Councils as a zero waste speaker that I realised how much our Councils do and the tools they can provide in helping make successful zero-waste and plastic-free communities through education, guidance, grants and community collaboration.

Some of us might know our local Councillors. They are the people we vote in every four years to represent the community. Compared to State and Federal elections the Council elections don't seem as important but this is probably because the role is considered part-time. Plus the larger media outlets pay little attention to them. But the roles are important and learning how these elected officials can help create positive environmental change is valuable.

Alert! In Victoria local government elections are happening right now. Every Victorian will be receiving a ballot pack this week to be returned by 23 October. Engage with candidates and find out if reducing waste, tackling plastics and addressing climate change is part of their plan. Because Candidates are unable to door knock starting conversations with them on social media, by phone and email will help. I saw one candidate in a neighbouring ward stat they wanted to just keep collecting rubbish. Over the years I have engaged with Councillors passionate about reducing waste and plastics and this is who we want elected.

Behind the Councillors are Council staff, hired by a CEO to work on projects and maintain the liveability of our communities by making sure services run smoothly. If we want something added to our communities we can approach Councillors that will then work with the teams at Council to make it happen. For example I could approach a Councillor about a cloth nappy rebate or creating a seed library for residents. They would pass a motion at a Council meeting to look into setting one up or liaise with the Council team to see if it could happen.

Each Council has a sustainability team with dedicated waste education officers in some. The role is to create, deliver and promote the services on a range of sustainability projects, like waste and recycling.

Councils can also work with a body like a Metropolitan Waste and Recovery Group or the regional equivalent . They'll also work with the State government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, agencies such as Sustainability Victoria, the EPA (Environment Protection Authority ). Then there are environmental and sustainability consultants that come in to advise or run projects too. Council is kind of an extensions of State government.

Individuals, business and government are becoming more aware of the impact of waste and the need to make changes. While many of us look to our Federal and State governments to create legislation that would see change move quickly the role of Council and its ability to enact change and even help create new systems local to us is overlooked. In this blog post I will list the different avenues Councils can provide assistance to growing and and helping facilitate behaviour change and even system change for reducing waste and plastic, and creating local solutions for fighting climate change.

Education

Our Councils organise free community events across various topics. The events with a focus on waste and plastics usually fall under the genre of Green Living or Sustainability and these are spread throughout the year. The events can range from talks, hands on workshops, and larger events like a festival. Topics might include composting, looking at energy efficiency, how to organise solar or draft proof your home, starting a garden, preserving, cloth nappies, DIY eco beauty and cleaning, keeping chickens, understanding greenwashing, reducing food waste, general guides to starting a zero-waste life, plastic-free living tips, how to recycle right, how to start a wildflower garden, keeping beehives. Some Councils collaborate with organisations to run a six week sustainable living program that residents can sign up for and commit to as well.

When I first started giving talks for Councils on zero-waste living I was so shocked to discover 99% of events were free to the public. FREE! Okay so they are not technically free, some of our rates go towards this which I think is great. Reinvesting money for free education, yes please.

Community education is great at helping build behaviour change. After all each person learns differently. Absorbing information on the internet or through a book is not for everyone. Some of us (like me!) find it empowering being in a room full of people that want to make changes, just like them. When one person is educated on the topic they can then take what is learned back to their homes or to school or workplaces, and share. So that's why I believe in providing education through different mediums.

These Events also provide a space for likeminded people to connect. I've seen attendees exchange numbers after Council run events and strangers quickly becoming friends plotting to reduce waste in local primary schools their children attend. Many local community groups have formed after events as locals discover their power in numbers.

The education programs Councils run are not only for adults. They also cater to early childhood, primary school and high schools. The Council sustainably teams can help organise excursions and incursions too.

Sustainability officers at Council work VERY hard to provide this free education and I always encourage people to engage and attend a session. Even if it's not on waste or plastic or climate change! See what your council offers and enjoy. Councils want to put on free events the community are interested in. So speak up and ask for topics you'd like to learn about.

Right now some Councils are running their regular events online. Like many people I'm looking forward to safe face to face events starting up again.

Waste services beyond the kerb

Councils are beginning to offer ways to recycle tricky items beyond our recycling bins. Items like CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, X-rays, electronics, soft plastics, mattresses, clothing. These collection points are being set up at Libraries, Council buildings, or added to Transfer Stations/Resource Recovery/Tip Centres. Some Councils will have dedicated Tip Shops or Resource Recovery Shops selling items meant for landfill but salvaged to sell on.

Grants

Individuals, community groups, not for profits, and businesses wanting to help reduce waste and plastics can apply for Environmental Grants through their Council. These grants range from $500 to $10,000+ depending on the Council and project tiers.

Grant applications can be confusing with many criteria's needing to be met. Luckily Council run grant application education sessions. These are helpful for the current application and any you might do in the future with external grant bodies.

I have seen a large scope of local ideas come to fruition thanks to grants from Council; toy libraries, tool libraries, kitchen sharing schemes, waste reduction education services for businesses, community gardens, mobile wash against waste trailers, reusable party kits. If your idea doesn't meet the criteria for their environmental grant you can ask if they know of other options to get grants or funding.

How local government can help communities go zero-waste and plastic-free

Working with businesses

Councils can also work with business to help them reduce their waste and plastic. Glen Eira City Council in Melbourne's East worked with 18 business to reduce and replace the common used single-use plastic items with reusable or compostable alternatives. Another Council The City of Yarra has a Proudly Plastic Free program working alongside businesses to cut back on plastics. A Council staff member is usually assigned to this role. They research and collate resources that would be applicable to business in the local area. Reducing plastic as a business does take time (something a small business might not have spare of) and with the extra assistance working towards a solution together is beneficial for everyone.

Last year the City of Yarra Council created a zero-waste map. This is an an online directory for residents in the City of Yarra municipality to find businesses and community initiatives promoting waste reduction through their products, services or business practices. I'd love every Council to have this!

Plastic Wise Policy and Zero Waste to Landfill plans

Councils don't have the power to enact bans on items like single-use plastics. But they can set up something called a Plastic Wise Policy for events run within the municipality. The Surf Coast Council has created a Plastic Wise Policy for event organisers to work with their stallholders, sponsors, contractors, volunteers, participants and patrons to use alternatives to single use and disposable plastic bags, packaging and promotional materials.

These policies can be extended to include all buildings run by Council like community buildings, council offices, and clubs.

Many Councils have zero-waste to landfill plans. For these plans to work they require change that is outside the control of Councils but that's not to say these plans are not worth implementing. Councils representative groups around Australia would like to have more uniform bans and legislation on materials like plastic and they can use their collective power to advocate this to Federal and State governments.

The zero-waste to landfill plans include building on behaviour change, creating new local systems, encouraging residents to seek alternatives. State governments collect a substantial waste levy that often sits around propping up budgets that could be released and provide more local grants to help small businesses or schools set up programs or integrate changes. I am wary of zero-waste to landfill plans because waste to energy is seen as a solution to keeping waste out of landfill. But it's not. It doesn't address consumption. Doesn't encourage repairing or choosing secondhand. Community will have to help make sure this does not become a "solution". 

Connecting with community and programs for developing projects

Having been involved in many plastic-free and zero-waste community groups I know how important they are for creating change on different levels. Some Councils will publish a list of committed community groups on their website for people to find and connect with. If yours does not have this ask a Councillor to put forward the idea to include it. Having the list published publicly is a great way to let people know they exist.

I'm seeing a rise in Sustainability, Eco or Enviro Champion programs run by Councils. This is a course to help develop a community project that will help the environment. Participants learn a range of skills needed to create their project alongside environmental problems. You don't need an idea before doing these courses either, it might come during the program and you might end up working with someone you meet in the program to bring their project to life. In my area a repair cafe, children eco incursion business, online bulk buy service, and wildlife garden programs was created through this type of program.

Link up with your Council

The best way for community members to direct change, see policies and programs developed requires more than just making comments on social media. You and I need to engage through phone calls, emails, attending events.

Sign up for their newsletters or find other ways to stay up to date with projects requiring community feedback, join any advisory committees if available, attend a Council meeting so you know how it runs. Local government is the most accessible level government to us. Let's make the most it.

System change is important and something that needs to happen if we want a zero waste society to flourish. These system changes can be built today, by you and me, using the tools I mentioned above. It's possible to build resilient regenerative solutions accessible for all right here in our neighbourhoods. In fact we must if we want to move away from the harm of global capitalism. I could write another ten paragraphs about building local systems but not today. Instead I'm going to learn about the candidates plans for the area I live in and make sure I vote for those wanting to create zero waste and plastic free communities, like me.

Photos in this blog post are by Stonnington Council

My reusable party kit & how to join the Party Kit Network Australia

6 August 2020
Reusable Party Kit Network Australia
Three years ago I hosted my first waste-free kids party. It was birthday number one for our kiddo. Due to his inability to comprehend what was happening meant I had full control over everything and to be honest there were more adults than kids. You can read about it here

In the blog post about my sons first zero-waste birthday I wrote about my decision to keep most of the second-hand partyware I spent time collecting. My aim was to share it with anyone in my community wanting to host a zero-waste or low-waste party. Sharing my kit would help reduce single-use party supplies like plates, cups, platters, decorations AND save another person money and time sourcing reusable partyware.

The thing is people only found out about my reusable party kit if they chanced upon that particular blog article, an instagram post or info on Reusable Nation (thanks Vicky and David!). Luckily people have found out about the kit and it has been used by the community saving over 300 single use plates and cups for going to landfill in the past three years.

I began to wonder if there was a website that could help connect reusable party kit holders with members of the community and if not, could I build one. I believe sharing what we already have to be one of the first steps to reducing waste. I knew there were others in Australia with reusable party kits, the problem is finding and connecting with each other easily. A directory would help change that.

After a search of the internets I found nothing in Australia. However I discovered a brilliant set up based in the UK called the Party Kit Network. It was exactly what I envisioned for Australia and so much more. 

The Party Kit Network are a “non-profit community project working to make parties more sustainable. By providing reusable party kits we offer an accessible and easy way to avoid waste from disposables.”


On a whim I decided to reach out to the Party Kit Network asking if they would consider expanding into Australia. After seeing the popularity of community sharing through sites like Responsible Cafes, Trashless Takeaway, ShareWaste and OlioEx I knew the Party Kit Network would do well here too.

My message to the Party Kit Network was met with enthusiasm and I started chatting with the founder Isabel Mack. This led to a zoom chat and a month later a website for Australia - www.PartyKitNetwork.org!


Reusable Party Kit Network Australia
Screenshot of the Australian Party Kit Network website


Reusable Party Kit Network Australia
Zoom call with Isabel confirmed how talented she is!

So what is a reusable party kit?

A party kit has reusable tableware like plates, cups, cutlery, decorations and whatever else you think to be helpful. These help reduce the need to rely on single-use items, saves money and makes planning parties for young and old easier. Everything is picked up or dropped off in one box depending on arrangements made with the kit owner. 

Party Kits are either hired out for free or for a fee. For example, my kit is available for free. If the kit needs to be delivered I'm happy to do this within a certain distance.

A party kits can also be used by schools, community groups, not for profits as a way to raise money.

Information on what each kit contains is on the website along with information on how to book.

Reusable Party Kit Network Australia

I love the huge amount of support there is to get a kit started. To learn how to put a kit together simply become a member. There is no charge for this. You'll receive a guide that will provide a lot of information plus access to a members section. Here you can downloading a logo for your kit, editable posters to advertise in your community (think schools, daycare, community notice boards), a price list template, inventory list, booking guide, discounts to help start up a kit, images for social media...really, everything! There is a supportive and active facebook group too should you need it. Isabel has made it very simple and straightforward.


Reusable Party Kit Network Australia

Once you have your kit organised and set up, you can then register your new listing via the registration form on the website. Here is a link in case you are ready to go > www.partykitnetwork.org/join

Should you need to make any adjustments to your information on the Party Kit Network website you can contact them directly using their email.

What's in Erin's Party Kit?

My reusable party kit in on the map. Here is a peek at my kit:
  • 30 plastic kids plates
  • 30 plastic kids bowls
  • 30 plastic cups
  • 30 sets of plastic cutlery (knife, spoon, fork)
  • 1 plastic jug
  • cloth bunting with the words Happy Birthday
  • reusable cloth pass the parcel bags 
Reusable Party Kit Network AustraliaMy original kit was a mix of kids and adult partyware. I decided to seperate the kits making it easier for sharing and storing. I'm just trying to find secondhand adult cutlery before I list the big people kit which will call proper crockery and adult size cups.

90% of my kids reusable party kit been sourced second-hand including the plastic tub. Originally everything was organised in multiple boxes making the process a little cumbersome. The only thing new are the reusable pass the parcel bags from Partyora.

I chose plastic plates for the kids tableware for two reasons. 

One) kids can be a little more clumsy especially if they are running about with their friends. I'm not so worried about crockery or glass breaking at my house. If someone was to break crockery or glass at a park then it could be hazard for others visiting. I don't know if it's because I'm a parent now but I'm hyper aware of risks. Kids wear open sandals in summer. One small shard of glass or crockery that wasn't picked up can easily slip under and get stuck. Or a child could fall on it. There is also the fear something would break and nothing would be picked up. So plastic was picked for public safety and durability.

Two) These plastic plates, cups, bowls, cutlery, jug were second hand and already existed, so I'm putting them to use rather than risk going to landfill. It wasn't hard for me to find plastic party plates. One look through a Op Shop or Facebook Marketplace and I had a matching set. If enough reusable party kits are set up then demand to manufacture new plastic plates especially from virgin plastic will decrease.

If you are unable to source items for your party kit secondhand don't fret. There are options for buying plastic plates made of recycled material through the Party Kit Network. Do what works for your budget, time and accessibility. The goal of the Party Kit Network is to encourage reusing.

Certain Councils in Australia do recycle this type of plastic tableware but not through kerbside recycling. Contact your local Transfer or Waste Recovery centre for the correct disposal should anything break beyond use.

Compostable options are a good option but still require a lot of energy to grow, make, transport to use once and put into a compost. My home compost would struggle with over 60 compostable products and my council doesn't accept compostable partyware in their organics collection.

What about the washing up?

Most kits owners ask that the items are returned cleaned. I don't mind washing up. There is always someone at the party willing to help so I say get them to assist you. Use the time to catch up and have a chat.

Erin, my town/city/state is in lockdown...

So is mine! While the State of Victoria can't host parties let alone visit with anyone, other areas of Australia are allowed to celebrate. 

If you are unable to host a party because of the current conditions consider using the time to put a kit together if you are keen to join the network. As I mentioned before the Party Kit Network has a compressive guide to setting up a party kit. You might have a lot of the items already.



Help me get the word out

Know a community group, council, library, toy library, neighbour, friend...anyone that has a party kit?Share the website with them. I'm hoping we can get 100 onto the map by September.

A party with 30 kids can equal up to 30 throwaway plates, bowls, cups, spoons, serviettes. Then there are the tablecloths, decorations. That could equal around 160 disposable items.

Creating a reusable party kit in your community will help reduce waste and normalise reusing in a big way. With 30 kids in attendance that's 30 people than can then share this information with their parents or caregivers. Something so simple as sharing and reusing partyware can have a far reaching impact on behaviour habits now and into the future. 

The Party Kit Network features everything I think is needed for a circular regenerative system; sharing, reusing, connecting what we already have with our neighbours makes the Party Kit Network a truly eco friendly alternative.

See you on the Party Kit Network map, Australia!

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