Ginger and the Plastic Pirates

18 December 2015

Around 6 months ago I announced on Instagram I would like to publish a children’s book. Previously I have been asked to write a zero-waste guide for adults by American publishing companies but I don't know If I'm ready to commit to that. Or if I have enough experience to do it. A kids book would be less daunting. At least that's my logic. 

The main aim is to present an ordinary family, doing ordinary things and how changing a handful of habits can reduce single use plastic and potential pollution. My biggest hope is that it will act as a tool for education and drive conversations within the family home.

...and yes the main character will have red hair! 

Let's see if this will eventuate anywhere though. I get distracted easily!!

My local bulk food store

17 December 2015
This is my local bulk food store in Melbourne.

It's not your typical, new one. It does not have everything I need either. But it has the essentials. The space is small and smells like roasted nuts.

My local bulk food store

Not much is organic, but it's mostly Australian and very affordable. Everything sits in the bags they are delivered in. Beans, lentils, nuts, dried fruit, flours, salt, grains, popcorn, ...really just about anything dry is available. The only thing wet is peanut butter and olives.

It was the first bulk food store I discovered.

The place has been in its location for over 20 years, originally part of a big market in Moonee Ponds, of which is now a desolate parking lot (soon to be apartments). Ray's Top Nuts is one of the few survivors of the old market and is still run by the same man all that time. My boyfriends Teta and Jeddo (grandma and granddad) shopped there, then his parents and now him. I kinda like that this place and its owner, have served generations of my boyfriends family.

They never bat an eye when we first brought in our bags or jars, commenting that some of the older customers use cloth bags.

And that is my local bulk food store in Melbourne.

Odd habit confession

13 December 2015
I realised the other day, that a odd habit has grown from my attempts to reduce my waste.

If I am running late, not prepared my lunch for the week, can't afford to get lunch out at a cafe or takeaway in my own container (you know, the last couple days before pay day....) I will usually hastily throw some apples and oranges into my handbag for lunch.

Since we don't compost at work (yet!!), I take my scraps home. You know, the apple core and orange peels. One day I did not have a container to take my peels I put them into my drink bottle. This was at lunch time too. I continued to fill it up with water during the day. Strange yes, but the water tasted nice, like orange and apple.

I took photos of my odd habit...

It made me wonder, if anyone else has any odd habits that have created while trying to reduce waste? Share below...

Plastic Bag Free Victoria - the beginning (Update 1)

10 December 2015
I never ever considered that I would end up being an activist. Like, ever!

Jump back to three years ago and I barely recycled anything other than paper, glass bottles or plastic bottles. Yet, here I am, helping run a campaign to get plastic bags banned in my adopted state of Victoria.

Well not an entire ban - we are starting with asking for ban on limited-use plastic bags distributed at retail points of sale in Victoria.

Lucky, I am working with an energetic and knowledgeable group of people, that have in a short amount of time, gone above and beyond to get this state wide campaign running. No one is paid to do this, it's done out of passion.

Plastic Bag Free Victoria - my foray into activism part 1

We had our first workshop a month ago, where we nutted out the plans for our campaign. Since then we organised a petition. This was a fidly process - there are rues and regulations that go into submitting a petition to government legit. If it's in any way inaccurate, then it won't be considered.

To get the petition to parliament, 10,000 signatures need to be collected. We had our petition signed off the week of the climate march in Melbourne (27 Nov). Members of the group headed to the march and gathered 1,000 signatures. We have 9,000 to go.

We cannot do an online petition - they do not hold up in the Victorian State Parliament. They are great at raising awareness but not so great for what we want to achieve right now.

Already businesses and individuals have asked for the petition too. Soon, people around Victoria will be able to check the Plastic Bag Free Victoria website and locate where petitions can be found. At the moment we only have a facebook page and instagram.

I designed a simple logo for the campaign:

The campaign is not solely about gaining signatures. While we are aiming to beat Plastic Bag Free NSW efforts, they got 12,472...we want to get more....state rivalry ;). It is also about raising awareness for reusable bags, showing alternatives to bin liners, and generally showing how to live without any plastic bags in general and not scaring people. The last thing we want to do is build a campaign on fear.

Positive education is KEY.

We are joining with local communities that are either plastic bag free or are working on their own campaigns of which there are many.

We have our second workshop this Saturday, all details are here. I would love LOVE to have you visit :) This workshop will focus on education and community awareness, plus talking about the website. Don't worry, you don't need to be at the workshop to be apart of the campaign. Email us at if you would like to offer help, no matter where you are in Victoria.

The plastic bag debate is growing in Australia. South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the ACT have already enacted bans. NSW, QLD and WA are the states lagging behind. Right now plastic bag bans are a state issue.

State Environment Ministers meet in Sydney on December 15th to make some big decisions about tackling plastic bags.

Plastic pollution, including plastic bags, is a major threat to wildlife. Globally it is estimated that 1 million sea birds and over 100,000 mammals die every year as a result of plastic ingestion or entanglement.

The Boomerang Alliance has created a thunderclap. Thunderclap is a tool that lets a message be heard when you and your friends say it together. Think of it as an "online flash mob." Join a Thunderclap, and you and others will share the same message at the same time, spreading an idea through Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr that cannot be ignored. It is a one time message and will not be repeated (no spam!).

I know people look at things like this, thinking couch activism or slacktivism does nothing...but I don't like those terms. They are ableist and discouraging.  

The industry groups and politicians do look at numbers. If 20,000 people across Australia have a status or twitter update asking for a plastic bag ban, that is hard to ignore!

So I am calling on all Australians to join our Plastic Bag Free Thunderclap. Follow the link below:

I plan to share more about the campaign as we move along. It is interesting, requiring alot more than I thought it would. We could completely fail in our efforts...but if we can convert one person to using reusebale cloth bags, then i'd say that is a win.

I would love to know, if you have ever been involved in a campaign. What tricks or tips can you share? If you live in Victoria, and would like to know more, our email is

20 tips to reduce waste during the holiday season

1 December 2015

Christmas can be a tricky time of year. Everywhere you look, there are ads on TV, telling us what we need, where to get it.We are busier than ever before. So I can see, how easy it is to say yes to everything, just to make it through the holiday season unscathed. But there are ways to reduce waste over the festive season.

1. My best advice is to TALK.

And by talk, have conversations about where you stand on waste/plastic and why.

If you don’t want a Christmas present OR don’t want to buy one for others (new, secondhand, handmade, experience, whatever), let people know. You are not forced to buy a present for everyone. I will be buying one present for my Kris Kringle/Secret Santa and that is it.

The Builder knows not to buy me anything, not even a card, because we had a conversation.

If you would prefer handmade, second-hand, experiences, whatever – let people know.

The conversations around creating less waste or avoiding plastic crap, doesn't have to only be about presents.

Entertaining is a big part of the holiday season. Recently we had our friends over, about 20+ people, for a holiday get together. We reminded people in the invitation (Facebook message and texts) that we try to live a zero waste and plastic free life, and if anyone brings stuff that cannot be recycled in our kerbside recycling, they would have to take it home…including cigarette butts.

When I hit send on that invitation, a part of me was nervous. Was I too mean? Was it harsh? I pushed those thoughts out of my head. It was neither. It’s a bit like when you visit someone else’s house and are asked to remove shoes (we don’t do that, but we should…). This is our home and our rules. Your family and friends will understand.

So that is my number one tip for reduce waste at Christmas – have conversations and let people know about your desire for less waste and less plastic.

Reducing waste at Christmas is not a new idea. Read about the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving, a group created over a hundred years ago to fight wasteful spending at Christmas.

Image on the left from SPUG Image on the right from

2. Suggest a Secret Santa/Kris Kringle. Participating in these will reduce how many people you will have to buy presents for. Instead of buying a gift for five different people, you can now choose one gift.

3. Try your hand at homemade gifts, like jams, relish, chutneys, a cake, body scrub, face oil, wooden toy, artwork…the list is endless.

4. Re gift items. Take a look in your jewelry box, kitchen cupboards, and give away items that you don't use and think someone else might enjoy.

5. Ask yourself questions like, do they really need this or will this be useful (again, conversations).

6. Experiences over things…movie tickets, theater, dinner events, dog walking, bush walk. Check out MyBestGift for children specific experiences.

7. Give plants like vegetables or herb plants.

8. Make a donation to a charity on the behalf of your loved one.

9. I learnt this one from a very nice lady. On a piece of paper, everyone writes down three things they would like to achieve, like running a half marathon, learning a new skill and saving for a holiday. The papers go into a hat/bowl/box, and like secret santa/kris kringle, individuals in the group pick a name out of a hat. The person you choose is the one you are there to support, so they can help achieve their three goals throughout the year. I really like that idea.

10. Wrap presents without plastic.

11. Upcycle old sheets into cloth bags, that can then be reused for others things, like bulk food shopping or at the bakery.

12. Make present labels with toilet paper rolls.

13. Eat all the food in the freezer before Christmas day, that way it is empty, ready to store leftovers.

14. Start composting. There will be a lot of cooking and eating done over the holiday season. Composting is a guaranteed way to reduce what is sent to landfill.

15. If you are ready to go package free, go bulk food shopping with your own bags. Take containers to the deli, butcher and fish monger. I know for a fact that the Sydney Fish Markets will accept peoples containers for prawns. Don't forget your reusable bags :)

16. Learn about the RedCycle program. Again, there will be much cooking and eating. Set up a bin to collect all your soft plastics. It is better they are recycled then going to landfill.

17. Store your leftovers in jars, plates over bowls, beeswax wraps or containers. Ditch the cling wrap this year.

18. See what food-scraps you can keep to make a stock or broth.

19. Use a tree or plant you all ready own as a Christmas tree. If you do buy your own real one, take it to your local transfer station or chop it up once Christmas is done, then put the pieces into your green waste bin.

20. Make your own ornaments, check local op shops or buy locally made options from places like the Men’s Shed.

The festive season might seem overly daunting and wasteful. But the problems we see, we can fix. We have the solutions. We just need to buy a little less, think a little different...

How do you plan to reduce waste over the holiday season?

Things might not ever change in my lifetime

30 November 2015

Last week, my plastic free and zero waste life, was exposed to a wide audience. My freckled face was appearing on national TV, my voice heard on radio here plus around the world, and my words were appearing in various publications.

The opportunity, while unexpected, was humbling, daunting and exciting. I connected with so many wonderful people.

I was feeling really good. Great, in fact. That was, until I realised, there's a huge chance things won't ever change for years, decades...or even in my lifetime.

I might not ever see plastic packaged food and plastic water bottles vanish from shelves. I might not ever see landfill contribution decrease.

It took me a couple days to let this settle over me.

Things might not ever change in my lifetime, and I am okay with that. But I won't stop doing this.

Every interview ended with the same question, "is this for the rest of your life?"

Yes, it is.

This is how I want to live my life, regardless if others follow along, regardless of mass change.

I will continue to share; continue to write and talk. When you find something that makes you happy, it's hard to stop. And I love living plastic free and zero waste. I am happy to  keep doing what I can, with what I have got. It might not be perfect and that's ok. The thing is we don't need everyone doing this zero-waste life perfectly. Reality is we need a bunch of us doing it imperfectly.

Whatever happens, thank you for all the plastic free and zero-waste support :)

Can I buy zero waste and plastic free make up?

29 November 2015
Many people have been asking about my beetroot lip/cheek stain and the mascara I make.

...and many people, have been asking me, if they can buy zero waste and plastic free makeup.

Image from
They were not asking me if I sell it (I don't, at least not yet). The questions were from people who have no inclination of making their own makeup BUT would love to buy makeup that allows them to reduce waste.

Last night, I found two fantastic items. I asked the makers a heap of questions. Answers were sent back. And now, I have ready made makeup on their way to me to test.

I will share reviews next year.

Thank you Bright Sparks for fixing my blender and keeping it out of landfill

25 November 2015
My blender broke. It was purchased from Kmart way back when I moved in with the Builder. It is glass, sturdy and has whizzed up many a soup…and the odd green smoothie.

I felt smelt its demise over winter. Each time I put my soup into the jug, turned the dial up and hit the button, there would be a faint burnt smell. I ignored it, until the thing would not turn on one day.

Once upon a time, many moons ago, this blender would have gone into the bin OR I would have done something sneaky and dropped said item into a charity bin “expecting” someone to fix it. They don’t. Don’t do this. Most of the larger charity stores don’t take electrical goods, working or not.

Enter Bright Sparks, a not-for-profit enterprise that endeavors to keep small appliances out of landfill. Right up this zero waste girls alley.


Bright Sparks aims to:
  • Encourage reuse by building a market for pre-loved electrical items
  • Extend appliance lifecycles through repairs and upcycling
  • Recycle what cannot be reused or repaired, ensuring maximum landfill avoidance
  • Influence consumer disposal and purchasing behaviours through education and engagement

So off I went, blender tucked under my arm and trained/bused it over to their store.

My blender was looked over, my name was taken, asked whether I needed it urgently (I said no) then I was told that I’d receive a call to let me know the prognoses of my blender. 6 days later, I got a call to say the motor had burnt out and a part would need to be replaced. I gave my blessing, then waited for the next call that all had worked.

Thank you Bright Sparks for fixing my blender and keeping it out of landfill

Thank you Bright Sparks for fixing my blender and keeping it out of landfill

Well, all worked. And it’s back in my kitchen, blending and not smelling like burnt rubber.

Total cost? $35. If it could not have been fixed, there would have been NO fee.

Bright Sparks has a qualified electrician on staff. Everything about the service was professional. I am pretty sure I talked the Builders ear off about how enjoyable my experience with Bright Sparks was. Supporting individuals and community really does give me the warm and fuzzies, that and keeping electrical appliances out of landfill. Did you know that electronic waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in Australia?

The good news is, if you would like to donate your unwanted items, there are now donation points available around the city of Melbourne. Each drop off point allows you and me, to sort into working and broken. This helps the staff know what they need to fix and what can be sold on. If goods cannot be fixed and sold on, they will be recycled.

Melbourne Drop Off Point Locations:

Brunswick: Brunswick Town Hall
Camberwell: Boroondara customer service centre
Camberwell: Boroondara recycling and waste centre
Coburg: Moreland Civic Centre
Coburg North: Newlands Community House
Collingwood: Collingwood Town Hall
Epping: Whittlesea works depot
Fitzroy North: Holden Street Neighbourhood House
Hadfield: Bright Sparks HQ
Mill Park: Mill Park Library
Northcote: Northcote Library
Reservoir: Darebin Resource Recovery Centre
Richmond: Richmond Library
South Morang: Whittlesea Civic Centre
Thomastown: Thomastown Library

If you have an item you want repaired, you will need to go to their workshop in Hadfield. And if you are like me, without a car, you can walk from Fawkner Station (through the cemetery) or get a bus from Glenroy station.

Thank you Bright Sparks for fixing my blender and keeping it out of landfill

Repair works are guaranteed for 90 days. The website has a list of items accepted for donation and repair.

They are also selling items on site too. I saw a hair curler, cute lamps and fans; just in time for an Aussie summer.

Do you have repair services for small electrical goods in your area? How do you deal with broken electronics?

This was an independent review. Bright Sparks has not asked me for a review or to write a post. I am only sharing what I think to be a genuine and needed service.

No more time wasted reading food labels

12 November 2015
Plastic free living saves times
Image from
Last week, I was putting together a presentation for my first public speaking event with LiveWell Yarra.

I got to a part of my talk, where I was going to discuss what benefits going plastic free and zero waste, has brought to my life.

  • Eating more fresh vegetables and fruit 
  • Saving money
  • Investing in my local community and Victorian farmers
  • No longer wasting time reading food labels
Image from
The last point, was one that I had never really focused on, whenever I would talk to new acquaintances about the perks of my lifestyle.

I used to spend an enormous amount of time reading the ingredients on food labels. Whether it was an item stocked in a big name supermarket or a health food store, I would be there; eyes squinted, looking out for words or numbers that were a little suspicious. The list beloware some of those that I would look out for…

Sunset yellow (E110)
Quinoline yellow (E104)
Carmoisine (E122)
Allura red (E129)
Tartrazine (E102)
BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
Ponceau 4R (E124)
Sodium benzoate (E211)
Sodium nitrite (E250)
Propyl gallate (E310)
Carrageenan (E407)
Aspartame (E951)
Acesulfame-potassium (E950)
Cyclamic acid (E952)
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Hydrogenated Soybean Oil
Monopotassium Glutamate
Sodium Caseinate
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)

Then there are the words blazing across the packet like sugar-free, low fat diet, gluten free, additive free…

I would also look for the words vegetable oil, which is a way to disguise palm oil.

Also I would check the country of origin – was it made in Australia with local or imported ingredients?

80% of my food comes from farmers market or a green grocer. No labels, unless it’s stating where the vegetable or fruit came from. 15% is bought from bulk stores where there is only a single ingredient in the food bins. There will be a label with the name of the item, where it comes from (usually somewhere in Australia) and if its gluten free or biodynamic. The remaining 5% is the readymade items I buy from the deli, like cheese or dolmades.

Eating a diet high in vegetables and fruit is the easiest way to shop plastic free and zero waste. I can make my own version of anything I find in the supermarket and don’t have to worry about preservatives. For instance, last night I made mayonnaise.

No longer wasting time reading food labels....I would definitely say that is a benefit of living plastic free and zero waste.

What non obvious perks have there been in your plastic free or zero waste life?

Instagram love

5 November 2015
Occasionally I do this silly thing where I end up on the wrong train. The builder has received phone calls from me, a little voice on the other end telling him that I got onto the wrong train and will be home a little late.

Looking up to realise I am on the line to Sunbury or Upfield is frustrating, but really I have no one else to blame but myself…and um Instagram. I usually jump onto the app on my way home, turning it on when I leave the office and start scrolling while waiting on the platform. Without looking up I will step onto a train, thinking it’s mine, when in reality my train has already come and gone.

I love social media. I love that an aspiring market gardener can post a photo of their garlic and ask other gardeners if it’s ready to be picked or not. I find it generally very helpful plus I love the connections made. I love interacting with the zero waste and plastic free community. Nothing but love, support and advice for those when they need it.

Here are some of my fave Instagram, accounts that do not have blogs. None of them are overly styled, just regular inspiring people showing that making small changes leads to big changes.

Do you have an Instagram account that does not have a blog or website, you would recommend?

Regrowing vegetables in water

31 October 2015
Has anyone else seen the latest craze for regrowing vegetables? 

I am right into it. 

It is a great way to use up left over scraps of veggies that might go to compost. The biggest highlight is how easy it is, far easier than growing from a seed. It's plastic free, zero waste, and free! 

Right now I have springs onions and celery ends sitting in water, ready to be transported into pots. 

Regrowing vegetables in water

Regrowing vegetables in water

Regrowing vegetables in water

Regrowing vegetables in water

How do you do it, I hear you ask. Just plonk that end of the celery, the part usually thrown to compost or tucked away for homemade veggie stocks, into water.

Same goes for the spring onion ends. Then watch them grow.

Once they are in their pots I will be able to cut off only what I need and let the plant continue to grow. Especially happy to have that option with the celery.

These veggies have been in water for two weeks, changing the water every couple of days.

I'd love to hear from you about regrowing veggies. What do you regrow? Leeks? Lettuce? pineapple? Do you have any tips or tricks?

The First Cookbook - The Books of Apicius

29 October 2015
The Books of Apicius is considered by many to be the first written cookbook, dated around 1st century AD.

Image taken from The Books of Apicius

I found the allegedly oldest cookbook, when I was wondering how or where the obsession for cookbooks ever came from. My search led me to this little gem. The cookbook section in bookstores seems to be expanding, with new books hitting shelves each week. The internet is awash with them too. Recently I ventured into a Dymocks where the cooking section covered over a quarter of the store. My curiosity got the better of me, and I began to research when our love of cookbooks began.

Turns out it's been a popular subject for a long time.

The Books of Apicius is divided into ten chapters, similar to our modern cookbooks. A chapter for fish, a chapter for fish sauces, poultry, legumes. My favorite would be the first chapter, The Careful Experienced Cook. It has guides for preserving food and some medicinal concoctions.

There are no chapters dedicated to bread or cakes. From what I have read, this is due to these chapters being lost or people bought bread and cakes as specialty items from bakers. I like the idea of the latter because I am struggling to get motivated to make my own sourdough bread and I barely make desserts now. I can't remember when I made anything sweet...I think a persimmon pudding at the start of winter or thereabouts. Gees, one dessert in the last 10 months! I used to make a dessert every fortnight...

While there is no dedicated section for desserts there are simple sweet meals in the book but not many. Fruit, honey and a type of wine reduction was used to add sweetness, since the cane sugar we know of today, was not yet known to Europe. Some sources note that the pepper would have been a spice blend of different varieties.  

The whole animal is consumed, from milk to cheese, and every organ in between. Fish liver pudding anyone? Stuffed dormouse? At first glance some of the recipes might cause an eyebrow raise, but really they are not that unfamiliar in essence. 

The best part of the book is that it really does encourage that every part of the animal is used. Nothing goes to waste something many modern cookbooks do not cover at all. Many recipes call for broth, meaning the bones were too cooked too. It's fair to say the diet was heavily meat and legume based...and might explain the inclusion of recipes to aid indigestion or move things along. 

It's interesting to read the same spices and herbs used continuously. Vegetable choice is limited as well. This book is written well before items like tomatoes or potatoes and a host of other vegetables made it to Europe. And since the text is translated, there are funny edits from around the 1920s, that either vouch for the dish, declare is not satisfactory or try to fill in the questionable words left during translation. 

Below are some of the recipes that intrigued me...







I like the look of the green string beans and just might surprise the Builder with it once the beans are ready this summer. 

The cookbook is available free via Project Gutenberg. All the recipes are plastic free and zero waste too ;)

Have you inherited or read an old cookbook? Is anyone else interested in the history of cooking? Do you think were has been an over abundance of cookbooks lately or is that just me?  

Am I really living a simple life?

22 October 2015
This past weekend I decided to try my hand at making silverbeet and ricotta ravioli.

The idea came when I had a bunch of silvertbeet left over. Rather than cook it up the usual two ways that I do, I decided to try something new. It was my first attempt at making ravioli of any kind. I won’t go through the process of what I did. What I will share, was my frustration, at how time consuming and fiddly it was. I kept telling myself “this is your first time, so of course the process will be long and hard.” After an hour of scooping the filling and folding the dough over, my thoughts turned to, “this is not simple living.”

My kitchen was a mess and I was barely half way.

The thing is, this is not the first time I have questioned, whether my new found life falls into the simple living category.

I usually tell people of the benefits of my lifestyle, one being that it is has made my life more simple. Explaining my shopping routine to new friends will usually coax a response of “that sounds hard,” and then when I tell them I make pasta by hand or make my own...well anything...they find it difficult to grasp the simple part. Sometimes I look at the effort required by some of my choices and's not simple by societies standards.

It makes me wonder if the terms easy and simple have been tangled up together and hijacked to sell products of convenience, resulting in people to believe living simple to be easy, void of hard work. I think my old life was harder work. I had more choices to make, more places to waste my time, looking for some kind of happiness through things. There were many more questions. 

While cleaning up I remembered a wonderful post penned by Bec of Think Big, Live Simply. The post, which I implore you to read, kindly put forward her own version of simple living while offering a reminder that the definition of simple living depends on the person. There is no universal catchall for it.

To me a simple life is a life of intention, not necessarily of ease. A life where you are choosing the way you live each day. A life where you are involved in its creation, rather than just as a participant in it as it unfolds. A life where you know what means the most to you, and why, and where you make choices each day to stay aligned to that. Why Living the Simple Life isn't a simple life - Think Big, Live Simply

On the outside looking in, my life does not look simple. But to me it feels like a more simple way of living. It's not to do with making and doing things from scratch, it has more to do with something else I can't quite put my finger on. I am more at ease, even if there is more work required.

 Here are some of the ways my life has become simple to me:
  • Not wasting time at the supermarket, wandering around aisles. My shops are planned with precision and are cheaper too.
  • Making my own makeup means I don’t compare brands or look for the best newest shiniest product. Same with shampoo, body moisturiser, perfume etc
  • Reducing my wardrobe and only buying second hand clothes has allowed me to spend less time worrying about some new trend and I spend less time getting dressed.
  • No time wasted buying things I don’t need
  • Eating more fresh seasonal food from local farmers has boosted my immune system and reduced illness. 
  • I am no longer worried about what I am putting into my body or onto my body. Living plastic free and going zero waste automatically reduced the stress and time looking at labels.
  • Removing myself from the consumer bubble reduced my stress levels too
  • Buying and owning less stuff = less to clean
  • Life feels uncomplicated 

I didn’t have to make the ravioli. I did it to learn a new skill. There are oodles of easy ways to cook silverbeet and I can buy ready made ravioli from various delis in Melbourne. It’s not simple to try new things. It can be hard. Much like Bec’s definition of simple living, my choice was done with intention. My old life of packaged convenience left me a participant, not a creator. I didn’t have to think too much. Convenience somehow tricked me into believing that if the task is hard, it’s not worth my time. That if it took up too much time, I had somehow failed, because we need to do everything superfast and now and in an instant. 

Simple living can sometimes be hard work, but knowing it’s my own life that I am creating while trying to not leave a mess for the next generation, is worth all of it.  

I have not come up with my own definition of simple living yet, all I know is that it has to do with kindness and living with intention. What is your definition? 

Spreading the word offline

14 October 2015
As a teenager I used to be obsessed with Marie Claire. I would buy it each month without fail. I even completed my work experience with their publishing house during University. So when they contacted me in July about a feature, I could not say no.

The story features myself, Lauren from TIFT and Bea of Zero Waste Home.

While it's an honour to be in a magazine (never thought this blog would lead me there!), I am much more excited that a popular magazine in Australia has covered the zero waste lifestyle. I hope it sparked conversations among girlfriends or better yet, inspired a teenage girl somewhere in Australia.

I have (poorly!) scanned a copy of my section, in case you care to read it. I would like to make one point – the Builder did not move in with me, I moved in with him.

If you pass by my Facebook page, you might have seen that I working with a passionate group of locals, to get a Plastic Bag Free Victoria campaign up and running. We need 10,000 signatures that we can then present to the State Parliament of Victoria. Alot of hard work and dedicated time will be needed to convenience people to ban plastic bags, but it's worth the fight.

NSW recently had their own campaign and presented 12,472 signatures to State Parliament. Victoria and NSW have a playful rivalry, with each state trying to best the other. I am challenging Victorians to beat the NSW count and hopefully hit 15,000 – 20,000.

We will also be looking at other ways to reduce plastic pollution too. Right now everything is in the planning stage, and I will share more on the 'how to’s of local campaigning' as I move along.

There is no website yet, but you can keep up to date with Plastc Bag Free Victoria's efforts on the facebook page

Alternatively, you can join the Plastic Free Living Victoria Facebook group

For those not on Facebook there will be events coming up to talk about the state wide campaign. 

BTW, Avocado shampoo is going well :)

Avocado Seed Shampoo

5 October 2015
We eat a couple avocados a month. Lucky the avocados we buy are almost a year round indulgence, and come from a farm three hours from Melbourne. The same farm supplies all of our citrus fruit in winter, growing the best blood oranges EVER.

I try my hardest to use up as much of the food I buy. Right now I have a pot on the stove full of food scraps that I am turning into broth. And if part of a vegetable can't be used in some way, then it goes to compost. Avocado seeds were one item I threw straight into the compost, until recently.

Did you know the seed can be turned into a shampoo? Me either! Turns out avocado seeds are used in a variety of ways. You can grind them into a powder, to use as an exfoliant. The seeds are used for cooking in Mexico. It has been ground up for use as an age old dandruff remedy. And some people even put them into smoothies. I will stick with the shampoo today...

Avocado Seed Shampoo

Trying alternate shampoo methods seems to be a rite of passage for the plastic free and zero wasters out there. It's no secret that most of the commercial shampoos are full of weird concoctions and are not the healthiest for us or the environment, plus there is the added plastic packaging.

I have tried bicarb and apple cider vinegar with poor results. Both irritated my scalp, leaving it sore and red. Rye flour was not a successful swap for shampoo. It took far too long for me to wash out of my hair, meaning I was wasting water. In between my two failed attempts to use simpler methods, I have been refilling my bottles with shampoo from local bulk stores.

After trying these two methods the idea of avocado seed shampoo was not that crazy.

The method of making avocado seed shampoo is pretty simple, and I'm hoping I can use it to help wean myself off of shampoo and move to water only just to see if I actually do need shampoo. There is that awesome money saving aspect that appeals to me too!

I followed the method from Bread with Honey.
  • Pull your seeds from the avocado, wash and dry. I kept the seeds in the pantry until I had three ready to use. 
  • Put 6 cups of water into a pot
  • Grate the seeds. The colour of the grated seed will be white but will turn orange (made me wonder if I could dye fabric with it?)
  • Place the grated seeds into the pot and bring to a boil, then let simmer for 30 mins. 
  • Strain into a bowl, cool and pour 3 cups into a bottle with ¼ cup of your shampoo. My original 6 cups cooked down to exactly 3 cups. 

I have only used it once. My hair is clean, my scalp does not feel dry or irritated. I will write a follow up in a couple of months. Maybe I'll be shampoo free by then!

Update 16.4.2016: Here is the Avocado Seed Shampoo blog post update 
Update 10.01.2019: My zero-waste hair care routine, still shampoo free

Cutlery wrap sewing tutorial

28 September 2015
Cutlery wrap sewing tutorial

My talented sister is sharing a step by step guide to making your own cutlery wraps.

I am selling these in my Starter Kits for Plastic Free and Zero Waste Living (sold out), and it was my sister who made these and the bag for the kits. I know there are plenty of people who are handy with a sewing machine (or a needle and thread) and would be interested in making these rather than purchasing one.

My cutlery wrap sits in my handbag, goes with us to the farmers market each Sunday, has travelled across the US and to the Phillipines.

I am in talks with my sister about selling these individually - until then, enjoy the tutorial.

The cotton poplin is vintage Ken Done and a repurposed red canvas. Thanks sis!

Cutlery wrap sewing tutorial

What you will need

Sewing machine
Ruler/tape measure

Cotton canvas
Cotton poplin
Cotton tape

Cutlery wrap sewing tutorial

STEP 1 - Draw pattern

You can make it as big or as little as you want depending on your needs. Below are the dimensions I used. 
  • 50cm x 25cm
  • 1cm seam allowance
  • Draw a notch for cotton tape insert 21-23cm up left side of pattern 
  • Fold line 11cm up

STEP 2 - Cut/Lay fabric

Iron fabric.

Cut 1 cotton canvas and 1 cotton poplin.

Cut 50cm of cotton tape.

Notch (2mm snip with scissors) appropriate markers such as seam allowance and cotton tape 
parameters on fabric.

Right sides facing each other (poplin on top).

Fold cotton tape in half.

Place the folded end of tape in between the two pieces of fabric at the notch indicated.

Pin down.

STEP 3 - Sew

Sewing machine -Stitch length 3.

Sew the three sides.

Snip the 2 corners at an angle and cut away ¾ of the cotton poplin off the three sides. This removes some bulk when turning it out.

Turn the wrap out, use the scissors and gently push the corners out to make right angles.
Iron down corners and edges.

STEP 4 - Now to enclose the wrap

Stitching will be visible from here on. So you may change the stitch length to 4 as it is more aesthetically pleasing.

At the opening, fold 1cm seam allowance inwards, pin it together and iron.

Line up the foot of sewing machine to the edge of wrap to close this opening. This will be 7mm.

Now on the other end, fold up 10cm, iron and pin.

Sew from the folded end up (follow the edge as you did previously) both sides.

Cutlery wrap sewing tutorial

STEP 5 - Onto the pockets

From the left side of the fold I make 4 cutlery pockets (3cm each) the remaining pocket is for the cloth napkin (9.5cm)

Adjust pockets to fit your cutlery needs, just sew from the folded end up 10cm.

Cutlery wrap sewing tutorial

Voila, that’s a WRAP!!!!!

To fill up your kit, look out for eateries that have wooden takeaway utensils and keep them for your wrap. If you are going to put metal cutlery into the wrap, remember to remove if you are taking the wrap onto a plane in your carry on as there is a high chance you will loose all your cutlery! A simple old hanky can work for your napkin too. If you want to buy a reuseable straw, check out Biome's range.

Feel free to leave any questions about this tutorial below, and my sister will answer. Feeling keen to make a wrap? I'd love to see it. Take a snap and send it to me or post it to your social media with the tag #bringyourowncutlery

Sustainability in Style: Navigating the world of synthetic and natural fibres

25 September 2015
My post on synthetic fibers was nothing more than me trying to nut out my thoughts. I try to live a plastic free life, and this blog is the records of my experiments. So after I hit publish on that post I received emails from some of you, letting me know that i can't save the world. This is true, I cannot save the world and believe the world will adapt in its own way with or without us humans.

Essentially I was confused about my clothing. I feel like I have sorted my life when it comes to avoiding plastic. But then something sneaks in or reminds me that it won't ever be completely plastic free leaving me with the feeling that the only option is to run into the hills and live in a cave. I can only do the best with what I have got and since I was feeling a little lost and confused about synthetic fibers as a contributor to plastic pollution I decided to contact Katie of Sustainability in Style to help me navigate new and second hand fashion. Since I did not have the well rounded knowledge Katie has, a former fashion industry employee, I asked her to pen a post for you and ME that would help us understand the world of synthetic and natural fibers.

Sustainability in Style

The world of fashion can be difficult to navigate.

From finding a car park outside the department store to finding the right sized bikini, there is a multitude of problems to solve every time we head out with intent to add something new to our closet. Some issues we can solve easily: like riding our bike to the store instead of driving or choosing to shop online, while others (like finding the right bikini) aren’t necessarily within our immediate control.

We live in a world where the supply of fashion items is becoming increasingly abundant. Our world that now consumes eighty billion pieces of clothing each year. This is up 400% from just two decades ago. To meet this increasing demand for fashion world fiber production is now 82 million tons, which requires 145 million tons of coal and somewhere between 1.5 trillion and 2 trillion gallons of water to produce. You would think that this abundant supply would make shopping for clothing and accessories (including the dreaded bikini) easier and more enjoyable. However, designs are dictated by seasonal trends and the current industry trend is ‘fast’ with some stores operating on the release of 52 new collections a year. If trends or the season aren’t suited for your purchase it can be difficult to find exactly what you want. Worse still, there is very little transparency in the garment manufacturing chain so it can be difficult to know the background behind your purchase, and many fast fashion brands are guilty of using cheap off-shore labour. The kind that encourages manufacturing in conditions like those of the Rana Plaza, where 1129 people were killed when a garment factory collapsed despite factory managers having been warned to evacuate the unsound structure in the day’s prior. Furthermore, 91% of companies surveyed for the Baptist World Aid 2015 report don’t know where all their cotton comes from, and 75% don’t know the source of all their fabrics and inputs. From this it is easy to see that for The Rogue Ginger conscious consumer who aims for a life of mindful and simple living; free from trash, plastic, and toxins, the world of fast fashion can be minefield of hidden nasties.

Sustainability in Style

The Thoughtful Fashion Purchase

As conscious consumers it is important to consider the entirety of the purchase. From product conception to end of life disposal there are implications of each and every item we buy. This concept of thinking is called ‘cradle to grave' lifecycle assessment. Taken a step further, some folk in sustainability design circles have developed a cradle to cradle’ approach. Cradle to cradle design looks beyond the grave into how a product that reaches the end of its life can be transformed into a fully usable product with minimal to no waste. While some fashion companies do use cradle to cradle manufacturing techniques, much of the discussion on this cradle to cradle ‘closed loop’ design is focused on synthetic fabrics because these are more readily recyclable than biodegradable natural fibres. Unfortunately these synthetic fibres don’t readily align with the goals of living a plastic free lifestyle. Which brings us to the bit where we talk fabrics.

Polyester is Plastic

Synthetic fibres are derivatives of the coal (and sometimes gas) industry. They are clothing made from polymers that do not occur naturally. These fibres are products of years of scientific research and are made in the laboratory and chemical plant. Commonly used synthetic fibres in fast fashion manufacturing include polyester (from polymer, polyethylene terephthalate), acrylic (from acrylonitrile), nylon (from polyamide) and lycra (Polyurethane). Polyester production now exceeds 50 billion pounds a year worldwide and is the dominant fiber. A quick Google on the sources of synthetic fibres and you will find they are the same sources used for the production of everything from soft drink bottles to takeaway food containers. This is how companies like Patagonia can turn old plastic bottles into board shorts. Synthetics are highly desirable within the fashion industry as they are easy to care for, long lasting, and readily available on the global textile market.

However, Luz Claudio paints a not-so-pretty picture of the manufacturing of polyester in the paper Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry, stating that:

“the manufacture of polyester and other synthetic fabrics is an energy-intensive process requiring large amounts of crude oil and releasing emissions including volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride, all of which can cause or aggravate respiratory disease. Volatile monomers, solvents, and other by-products of polyester production are emitted in the wastewater from polyester manufacturing plants”

Also adding that:

‘The EPA, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, considers many textile manufacturing facilities to be hazardous waste generators”.

Synthetic Fibres and End of Life

While there is potential for synthetic fibres to be recycled and for synthetic fabrics to be made from recycled material (ECONYL is the new darling of the recycled fabric scene and gaining serious traction in swimwear circles) this practice isn’t common. The average American is throwing away 82 pounds of textile waste a year adding up to 11 million tonnes of textile waste from the USA alone. Assuming that around half of this textile waste is comprised of synthetics that make for at least 5.5 million tonnes of non-biodegradable textile waste from one nation. Nylon, as an example, takes up to four decades to decompose.

While donating clothing to charity can in fact divert items from ending up in landfill, statistics from The True Cost indicate that only 10% of items donated end up being sold in charity stores, with the remainder being shipped off for second-hand clothing markets (which have their own ethical issues), or being sent for rag recycling and eventually to landfill.

Wear and Wash Issues for Synthetics

Upon invention in the 1940’s synthetic fabrics were a dream for housewives and single men across the globe as they are naturally more resistant to creasing and often require very little ironing. But like most things that seem too good to be true, synthetics have their downside when it comes to wash and wear. Ever smelt your armpits while wearing a synthetic shirt? There is a good chance that they were a little stinky. You don’t believe this? Rachel McQueen, an associate professor from the University of Alberta has conducted studies into the stink factor of fabrics and has discovered that polyester is the number one offender when it comes to retaining body odour. Stink factor has more implications in life than having people move away from you on public transport, it also means you will be washing your garments more frequently.

Laundering of garments contributes to around 82% of the items total energy embodiment and 66% of its solid waste and half of it’s emissions to air come from washing and drying. The less frequently you have to wash, the more environmentally friendly your purchase becomes. According to McQueen’s research you are better off opting for fibres like wool, that have natural antimicrobial properties that help keep stink at bay (between you and I, my wool might only get washed every few months) as these usually only require an airing between wears. There have also been some murmurs around the web that synthetics when washed can release fibres into the waterways contributing to global oceanic pollution.

The saddest part about this polyester washing mission? Polyester tends to hold smells even after washing, so that sport shirt that never seems to smell quite right probably never will no matter how diligently you wash or how many different laundry powders you use!

What are the alternatives?

Every day new and innovative fabric ideas are being created and we are now seeing everything from spoilt milk to fruit are being made into material for the manufacturing of clothing and accessories. While some of these fabrics haven’t reached mainstream textiles, clothing, and footwear manufacturers just yet, the industry openly embraces innovation if it can be made at the right price. At present the most common fabric alternatives to synthetic you will find on the market are: Viscose/Rayon/Modal/Bamboo, Cotton, Wool, and Leather (click each one for more info). The first group are man-made fibres from a re-constructed natural source, primarily manufactured through a chemical process of reconstructing plant cellulose into usable fibre, while cotton, wool, and leather are all grown, harvested, and converted to product using traditional manufacturing processes (some of which can be quite chemical intensive). Of course this list only focuses on the most predominant fibres found in our stores. There are a variety of alternatives out there in fabric land and this site is a favourite resource of mine for learning about fibre types.

Sustainability in Style

So what fabrics should I choose?

Unfortunately there is no definitive answer to this multifaceted question. The final thoughts from research into the life cycle assessment of synthetics vs. natural fibres states that:

“In reality, no single fabric is the best for the environment. It is up to consumers to demand that manufactures take a closer look at the processes to produce clothing and find the best way to make it healthier for everyone involved”.

What it all really comes down it is asking yourself ‘what do I value', doing your research, and getting the right item the first time around. When it comes to values we all differ. Many people opt for synthetics as an alternative to animal based products like leather handbags and shoes, however if you values are orientated around plastic free living this may not appeal at all. Generally I like to consider the end purpose of my items when deciding on what fibres to opt for. Most of my bags and shoes are leather (around 80% purchased second-hand) as I appreciate the durability of leather products and the fact a leather crafts person can easily repair them. Many of my shoes have been to the cobbler at least once and I own one pair of leather boots that are now reaching their 15th birthday and are still functional. With my values firmly placed in ‘functionality’, living in a hot climate means 97% of my closet is made up of natural fibres and some viscose/rayon (which are a breathable man-made alternative) because sweaty stinky synthetics doesn’t cut it in the humidity. The remainder? Yoga pants, swimwear, and pantyhose. While my synthetic yoga pants may make some plastic free folks shudder I have yet to find a pair of cotton/bamboo leggings that can live up to the number of sun salutations that I put mine through without pilling or bagging out. Synthetic ones last me half a decade, while natural ones are lucky to get me through six months (I have tried). Fortunately there are some great recycled and ethically manufactured options out there now and when my reach their end of life they will be lovingly recycled as stuffing for yoga bolsters.

I hope that you enjoyed this little insight into fabrics! While it’s not all-inclusive hopefully it (and all the attached links) provide a start to get us all thinking about what our items are made from.

What did you learn from Katie's post? What other issues around sustainability and fashion do you find confusing? How do you think we can inspire change? Be sure to let us know if you have any additional insights on fabrics, or the way you choose to shop for fabrics, in the comments below.

How To Reduce Your Water Footprint

21 September 2015
Last weekend was the annual International Coastal Clean Up. Over 500,000 volunteers in 80 countries rolled up their sleeves and picked up rubbish from beaches.

While I could not get out to a local beach to help, I did follow the many people on Instagram, who were taking photos of the waste collected. A photo by one clean up team showed a small mountain of plastic water bottles. It was not a photo from a country where water is unsafe to drink. The empty water bottles were collected from a beach where tap water is safe and abundant.

How To Reduce Your Water Footprint

It is fantastic that there are selfless people who get out there to pick up rubbish, like plastic water bottles. But really these people should not have to pick up after anyone. So please share the graphic below, and let's teach those who don't understand the wide reaching impact a plastic bottle of water has.

Let's ditch plastic water bottles and invest in refillable water bottles that we can use everyday for the rest of our lives. 

Buying a bottle that can be used over and over is one of the easiest ways to reduce your water footprint. 

Let's give those 500,000+ volunteers less plastic water bottles to pick up next year. 
Reduce Your Water Footprint by Wheels For Wishes

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