Before Plastic Free July

24 June 2014
I am going to share something I allegedly said before plastic free living, before zero waste, before grabbing a sustainable lifestyle with both hands. A friend reminded me of something I said over the Christmas break of 2008…

“I love being on holidays because you don’t have to recycle.”

Ha! Did I really say that six years ago?

So not only has my hair colour gone back to a more natural state (I forgot I went brunette!) but so has my thinking, which is now more naturally attuned.

If you are a little afraid to make a change like taking something familiar as single use plastic out of your life, don’t be. Taking a challenge like Plastic Free July does not mean you have to go plastic free forever or in all areas of your life. It is about giving it a go and challenging yourself, like a marathon or committing to giving up wine for a month.

If my declaration from six years ago is anything to go by it shows that even someone who was once not a full time recycler could get excited by it and even enjoy not only recycling on holidays but going plastic free.

Right now I have a friend who is going to take on the 2014 Plastic Free July challenge and I am super proud of her. And I would be just as proud if she only did the challenge for two weeks or one day. Just to give it a go is worth applauding. She is asking me all types of questions and I am glad that I can be of some help having gone through the challenge myself and now living the plastic free life full time.

Plastic free cloth shopping bags

20 June 2014
My mother is a talented lady. Like the rest of my family and friends she is supportive of my plastic free life. So when I told her that it would be handy to have cloth bags to collect vegetables or grains in when I shop she put together two plastic free cloth shopping bags up-cycled from my dads old work shirts (thanks Dad!).

I don't have a sewing machine and my sewing skills do not match my Mothers. She has made and tailored a lot of my clothes throughout my life. She even made my grade ten formal (prom) dress! But when my Mum broke down the process to make the cloth bags I realised that it was so easy that even a novice sewer like me could give it a go and learn a new skill. I have old clothes that would be perfect to upcycle for this project. Watch this space as I will upload a tutorial soon.

These plastic free clothing shopping bags have been a great replacement for the old plastic bags we have been reusing for the last year. Not only are the cloth bags much easier to clean but they will be easier to mend when they become worn. Plastic is not favourable for mending and easily becomes worn as I have found out. The old plastic bags have gone to recycling at Coles.

Plastic free cloth shopping bags

Plastic free cloth shopping bags
When my Mum put them into the post she did so without any plastic tape. Instead opting for old fashioned brown paper and string that I can reuse. Thanks Mum!

Part of me is in a rush to make so many changes but i think to keep my sanity its best to stick to progress and no perfection. What do you think? Best to just do the best I can with what I've got where I am

Plastic Free July 2014

19 June 2014
In eleven days, Plastic Free July 2014 will begin.

plastic free july 2014

If you are new to the challenge, or are curious about what you can do to shed a little plastic from your life, I have put together five easy ways to quit plastic.

Let me know, if you are going to do the challenge in the comments below.

Have here or take away?

12 June 2014
alternative to take away coffee
Image from
It has been a year since I had a take away hot beverage. I cannot remember where I was or what it was.

What I do remember is standing in the cold July weather last year. I was waiting for my tram, the frigid air beating around my ears. In front of me was a cafe that sells lovely hot chocolate. I was so tempted. My brain was saying to me 'Just walk across the road, grab a cup and come won't miss your tram. Go on.'

Earlier that day I had declared my intention for no more takeaway containers. This included no more take away cups too. Plastic Free July is about limiting the promotion of plastic. Even though I could go lidless it still felt weird and against what the challenge was about. I let out a breath, looked at the next tram times and then walked across to the cafe. I ordered a hot chocolate to have in the cafe. I missed my tram but enjoyed the 20 minutes with my thoughts and my hot chocolate. It was a turning point for me.

And I have stayed true to that moment. I have not indulged in takeaway hot chocolate. Instead choosing to sit down and enjoy my hot beverage in a good old mug. Life has become simple and slower, but for the better. The lure of a milkshake on the run or an ice chocolate (straw free!) in summer are saved for times when I had the opportunity to sit down and take the time to enjoy the experience. Not gurgle it down and rush about.

The builder is an avid coffee drinker. Our first date was at a cafe. He had a long black and I enjoyed a chamomile tea. As long as I have known him he has had coffee daily and because he is always on the road will routinely have it ‘to go’. He made the change to go without a plastic lid as a result of our house hold going plastic free. This was his preference and I cheered him on for making a choice to go without a plastic lid.

That was until we got back from Hong Kong and he decided to make the change to forgo the ‘to go’ option instead to sit down and have his coffee in the cafe.

When visiting Hong Kong we found that when the builder asked for a coffee with no lid the request was consistently ignored. Patrons were sitting in coffee shops drinking from take away cups rather than a cup that could be reused again and again. It baffled us and we got to talking about coffee and tea, and how this beverage was once enjoyed with loved ones drinking from a ceramic vessel that could be reused. And now we choose to sit down at a café and have the hot beverage in a flimsy paper or (shudder) polystyrene cup. Has it become too hard for us to find minutes in our day to sit down and enjoy a drink?
alternative to take away coffee
Image from
We watched the patrons taking their cups and sliding into cafe seats. It was like viewing an assembly line. No one questioned where the paper cups end up or the plastic lids. This led the builder to change his ways make a decision to sit down rather than take it 'to go'. It is kind of funny how concerns for the environment prompted him to grant a break in his day.

It comes back to value. Are we not worth those 10 minutes to sit down and have a coffee? Or 20 minutes? Is convenience worth more than our environment?

Thinking about the resources used to cut, pulp, assemble and ship coffee cups to coffee shops around Melbourne makes me cringe. Then there is the added effort to recycle (if the cups don’t end up in landfill). Add the plastic lids, spoons, stirring sticks or straws into the added waste and it all looks silly. I know people will say that it is OK because some of these items are wood or paper and will recycle or biodegrade – but that is an added resource that is destroyed for a take away coffee. Or for convenience.

One valuable lesson that I have learnt from going plastic free and now to a waste free life is that if we value our environment we ultimately end up valuing ourselves. It has taught me that our actions have a reaction. Even something as small as a cup of coffee.

We have yet to find the builder a suitable reusable ‘to go’ coffee cup for the days that he is running between the job site and the hardware store. Currently he still asks for no lid when he cannot sit in. Hopefully when he does find a reusable cup there will be days that he will continue to sit down and have a cup of coffee the old fashioned way – in a ceramic cup. And I bet he will enjoy it more too. As would everyone.

Wilsons Promontory

10 June 2014

I work in the heart of the city and travel in by train or bike five days a week. I see a constant stream of plastic and waste. Sometimes I need to get away to a place with less people, more trees and no plastic. I really value going on a walk and not encountering left behind trash along the streets of my area (No matter that I pick up rubbish every time I leave the house, it never seems enough). 

With the company of my brother I took myself to Wilsons Promontory National Park, or 'the Prom' as it is know. Beaches, islands, rainforests, and mountains are protected over 50,460 hectares on the southern most tip of the Australian mainland.

Wilsons Promontory

Wilsons Promontory

Wilsons Promontory

Looking at the photos I am reminded why I have to say no to plastic and saying yes to a waste free life. It's so sanctuaries like this remain as they are, for future generations and not polluted with dumb plastic and waste like this...

Download this: the BULK app

5 June 2014
I am a wholehearted lover of sharing of good information. It makes me very happy to share tips and tricks that will make life easier for the plastic free and waste free people of the world. And anyone else really.

Plastic Free July is coming up next month so it was perfect timing to pass this resource onto the new wave of plastic free challengers. I only wish I had this same tool when I started my Plastic Free July challenge last year.

My initial challenge was food as a majority of the goods I used to buy were wrapped and folded in plastic. I practically became a vegan until I discovered bulk food buying. Beans, legumes, pasta, nuts and grains…I was overjoyed to find a store that allowed me to shop with my own container. The only downside was locating these bulk stores.

Bea from Zero Waste Home came to the rescue and created an app that allows users to locate a bulk store. I downloaded the app today after Bea left a comment on my Instagram account. Two new stores for local Melburnians to shop package free has been added thanks to this ginger.

Bulk store locator

The app is efficient and easy to use. I can label what the store offers like cleaning products, grains, oils, sauces, pet food, wine, beer…pretty much everything you would find in a normal supermarket but in bulk for your consumption. Once I add the information with address and store name, the information is added to a map so I can easily see where the stores are located and any others close by. I also have the ability to identify if the store allows shoppers to bring their own containers. I can search by what item I am after too.

I recommend downloading this app. It is not only free but very VERY useful.

My tips for a sustainable holiday in China

3 June 2014
My trip to China marked the first time I have made an active choice to have a holiday that focused on sustainable accommodation choices.

This was my second adventure going plastic free and waste free abroad. Travelling in Myanmar was harder. Probably because it was the first time I attempted such a feat and did so in a developing country. But many of the lessons I learned there (and here at home) were carried into the planning of this trip.

There are more options to recycle in China than Myanmar which was helpful as we encountered plastic. The builder had his clothes dry cleaned (before I got there...) and every item was wrapped in plastic! A lovely lady offered the last of her local treats and we were left with the plastic packaging. And there was a required poncho (it rained and rained!). We had intended to carry all the plastic back to Australia to recycle but we were informed that we could recycle it all when we arrived in Hong Kong. Apart from these items we were able to easily avoid plastic and all other unnecessary waste to enjoy a  fantastic holiday with comfortable sustainable accommodation in China. 

sustainable holiday in China

The Secret Garden - Yangshuo, China

Researching to find eco accommodation was not easy in mainland China. It was not that China did not have the green options. They did. But for any traveller that favours a greener eco abode to call home (when away) they were few and far between, especially in a rural setting like Yangshuo. I was blindly typing into google the words eco, accommodation and Yangshuo. With the first eco response booked out I felt a little panicked. My definition of eco accommodation was narrow minded and needed expanding. I broke down what eco accommodation meant to me and stopped hunting for dwellings that only had the word eco, green or sustainable in their title or tagline.

The The Secret Garden embodies many eco credentials that I overlooked in my original search. The hotel is outside the main city of Yangshuo in the ancient village of Jiuxian. What makes this place a sustainable choice was that it preserved an old building rather than knock down and rebuild. Local timber and stone was reused, harnessing the skills of craftsman to carry on local building traditions while incorporating foreign sustainable building elements too. This was done to carry out the least impact on surrounding environments and enrich the community. A reed bed and lily ponds are also in use for waste.

sustainable holiday in China

sustainable holiday in China

sustainable holiday in China

The name is fitting for the boutique hotel as there are many gardens filled with native plants. It is a wonderful oasis set among farms that has a delightful casual restaurant attached sourcing only local ingredients for their nourishing meals.

I did not have to boil my water on this trip like I did every night in Myanmar. Instead the hotel had water coolers so we could refill our water bottles. This was great for the long bike rides we enjoyed. Bikes were supplied by the hotel and offered us the best eco transport to get around the Yangshuo county. 

sustainable holiday in China

sustainable holiday in China

Eaton Smart Hotel - Hong Kong

Finding an eco-savvy hotel in Hong Kong was a breeze. Eaton Hotel came up time and time again, and once I read the website I knew Eaton wold meet our needs. I actually stayed here in 2008, before the eco renovation. The hotel has made profound changes that resulted in them winning the Best Eco Hotel in Hong Kong by HotelClub in 2012.

Our room has not one but TWO recycling bins. The hotel also had recycling bins in the public areas. There was no excuse to not recycle here. Glass refillable bottles sat in place of standard plastic bottles and were refilled with filtered water each day. It might seem like such a small thing to become ecstatic about but when you think about how many rooms a hotel has and then the plastic water bottles in each room…well it is staggering how many ‘complimentary’ bottles were being saved at Eaton Hotel. While we took our own products we saw room amenities refilled rather than tossed out. 

sustainable holiday in China

sustainable holiday in China

The lobby housed a green living wall creating an efficient and healthy air cleansing system. The builder was inspired and wants to put one into his next build. There was also a lot of natural light throughout the hotel making lights unnecessary during the day.

They also work to provide sustainable food and donate foodstuff to organisations for those in need to lessen food wastage. 

sustainable holiday in China

Tips for a plastic free and waste free sustainable traveler:
  • Don’t write off options because they do not have the word eco in the name;
  • Email or call the hotel to ask questions. They could be of some help. After all they live in the country so know what you could expect when it comes to recycling and other green living questions;
  • Prepare to take some items home that cannot be recycled. We did;
  • Take your own cutlery, steel or glass straw, serviettes, and water bottles. No matter what country you visit this practice is always wise so you are prepared to avoid plastic when out and about;
  • Carry your own carry bag. This will stop using unnecessary plastic bags;
  • Carry a rain jacket so you don’t have to buy a flimsy plastic poncho;
  • Find out where your local food markets are so you can buy fruit and nuts to snack on. This will stop you from buying packaged food where many of the packets cannot be recycled;
  • Take a container to grab any hot local market food;
  • Use google to translate ‘I do not use plastic straws’ into the local language. Write it down and take this with you. I wish we had done this. Trying to explain we do not want a straw was difficult. One attempt ended up using a mixture of Charades and Pictionary;
  • Try places like Airbnb or camping. Both offer great ways to lower your impact. 
sustainable holiday in China

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