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 > https://forms.gle/4NUCtnXKr2SRTE1k9

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!

Modern Mending

21 May 2020
Modern Mending

I can't sew. Okay I'll take that back. I can do basic hand sewing with backstitch being one of of the only stitches I remember as an adult and can somehow do in a straight-ish line. I used to be under the impression having little to no sewing skills means you couldn't repair clothes properly and if you tried, well then the world couldn't see your attempt. Turns out you don't need professional sewing skills to mend clothing (hurrah). All you need is the book Modern Mending by Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald and a basic mending kit to get you started. I liked Erin's book so much I put my endorsement on the front cover. True story. 

If you have been a long time reader of my blog you might recall a post about a small electrical repair enterprise called Bright Sparks. After the (sad) end of Bright Sparks owner Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald  began offering clothing repairs. The style was not the mending I was used to. It was called 'modern mending' and everyone could see it! Stitches or whatever application placed over the hole in your clothing was thereto be seen, a rebellious gesture to the hyper consumer world showing you cared about your clothing and all the resources that went into making it.

I commissioned Erin to mend holes on my much loved green speakers shirt. She not only fixed the the holes but also added personality to my top. From there I was hooked. So hooked I asked Erin to contribute to my first book sharing her mending tips. Over the years Erin has unsurprisingly become a highly sought after teacher and spokesperson in the mending and repair space with her workshops continuously booking out, face popping up in publications, media and voice on the radio.

I had wanted to participate in one of her mending workshops but always missed out. Erin was adamant no one has to be a great sewer to mend, they simply needed to try. She really believes anyone can make do and mend. So when she told me a book was in the works I was delighted. Finally I could have Erin's knowledge and guidance at home with me.

Years of teaching visible mending helped Erin create a book that is for everyone. When I first sat down to read it and try my hand at mending my three year olds pants it felt like like Erin was holding my hand as I worked through the new to me techniques. And I really enjoyed the humour sprinkled throughout.

Around the time I received Erin's book for an advanced reading Woolykins reached out to me asking if i'd like to try their mending kit. It felt serendipitous so I said yes.

My own sewing kit is basic (created by Mum, master sewer extraordinaire!) and has served me well for my basic level of sewing and repairs. Erin does explain in her book how to create a mending kit on your own with second-hand thread, patches and other items handy for mending. But if you are like me, a ready made mending kit was really REALLY helpful to get started and try a variety of techniques. My local secondhand store don't have robust sewing supplies like stores in other areas. And I don't really have anyone to ask for donations. Except Mum. But like most sewers I doubt she would relinquish too much from her own sewing kit just yet, holding onto all her much loved tools, thread and scraps. Luckily the Woolykins Mending Kit is available on Erin's online mending store along with a growing variety of items specific for modern mending.

Modern Mending

Before I talk about Erin's book, let's look at the kit...

The Woolykins kit arrived by post in a cardboard box with a small amount of paper packaging materials. Both have been put into my child's craft pile and can be composted at home or recycled via kerb side recycling. Everything for the kit is packaged inside a cute blue bento style bag. Here is a list of what is inside the kit:

Darning mushroom made from reclaimed hardwood
Darning needles
Thread scissors
Dry felting needle
Biodegradable earth foam block
Needle threader
Thread card with assorted wool and alpaca yarns
Thread card with assorted line and cotton threads
Wool fabric patches
Linen fabric patches
Wool roving (the fluffy stuff)
Loose leaf tea

Thread cards, wool patches, and roving were inside home compostable zip lock bags by the company Better Packaging. These bags are a good option if you have a home compost but I'm not convinced the bags were needed for shipping. I understand moths would have a feast on the wool but perhaps advice on how to store to avoid this happening could work better. The bags clearly ask for re-use before composting and we will do that. The kit is plastic free a commitment I like.

Modern Mending
My red jumper pre-mend


When I saw the red wool thread in the mending kit I immediately jumped for joy. A much loved red woollen jumper has been sitting in my mending pile for about a year and the red thread matched the jumper perfectly. After completing some basic mends on my sons pants I decided it was time to attempt my fave jumper with the help of Erin's book.

This red woollen jumper was purchased second-hand in Hobart sometime in 2014. You'll easily see me wearing this every other day from autumn through to early spring. With its frequent wearing holes developed under both arms, one on the hem, a hole near the breast, the beginnings of another under that one, and lastly small dark blemishes on the bottom left.

There are five technique themes in the book ranging from beginner to more experienced. I of course kept to the beginner steps. Here are some photos of the book to give you an idea of info and layout:


First up the holes were darned using the classic darning method. I did have to start the first one several times since the weave of the wool was fine. But once I began to understand the fabric (something Erin helps with in Fabric 101 at the start) and the right darning needle, it became easier to do. In hindsight I should have practiced on the holes under the arms.

A glimpse at what needed mending


After the two holes near the breast were mended I decided to sew a heart around each one mimicking the large heart already on the jumper. Both were a little wonky but I liked them. I did use templates I cut out on scrap paper to help sew a heart shape.

Once the holes were mended I was a little stumped on how to cover the small stains.  As I flicked through Erins mending guide I kept coming back to needle felting using wool from the jumper. I could needle felt a heart shape over the stain and the two darning mends higher up the jumper.

Needle felting is essentially taking a clump of wool and pushing it into the fabric where it somehow magically stays. I didn't have an exact colour match for my jumper so I took Erin's advice to use wool from the same jumper, pulled out my wool comb/sweater comb. Well it worked and I'm pleased with how the hearts turned out. I was so impressed I considered offering commissions myself. Kidding. I have enough worn knees on my childs pants to keep me busy. 

Modern Mending
Needle felting in progress

I looked forward to working on my jumper after my toddler went to bed each night, enjoying the meditative task to unwind from a busy day. My mum tried really hard to teach me to sew when I was a child but I didn't enjoy how slow and fiddly sewing was. Admittedly I was around eight years old and even more stubborn then. Getting into modern mending has helped boost my confidence to try learning sewing again and once classes open up after this peculiar time I look forward to joining. 

Erin's book has a lot of photos and illustrations making it very easy to follow along. I appreciated the close up photos and detailed step by steps provided. It was simple for me to figure out if I was doing something right or not. Her writing is down to earth and chatty but straightforward where it needs to be. You can tell from the text Erin is passionate about mending and reducing fashion waste. Modern Mending isn't only about mending; creativity, problem solving, and activism is also at the heart of this book.

Modern Mending
I'm not sure why the photo has blurred but you get the idea :)
Modern Mending
Finished!

Modern Mending
Another photo because I'm proud as punch :)

I couldn't wait to put on my “new” jumper. When I left the house for our afternoon walk I wanted to tell everyone we met I fixed my own jumper. I darned holes. I needle felted. I learnt a new skill. On reflection I think what I really wanted to tell people was I can look after my clothes and stop them from going to landfill, so can you. Visibly mending clothing is a growing trend and it's no wonder Erin's book is a popular resource leading the way.

Modern Mending is available at all good book stores and online.

The Woolykins mending kit can be found on their website and at Modern Mending Shop, Erin's mending supply store.

SCRAP, Swanpool Creative Recycled Art Prize

8 May 2020

Last year I took a road trip to visit my grandparents on the South Coast of New South Wales. The journey required a detour to the very tiny village of Swanpool, 20 minutes off the highway, in country Victoria. My sister and her family had left behind car roof racks when they finished their housesit in the village. Since they were now in Sydney it was easier for me to collect the roof racks on the way through.

I jumped out of the car quickly to collect my sisters things hoping kiddo would stay asleep in the backseat. But as I started chatting with the owner of the house my son woke up. I had hoped he would stay sleeping so we could stop further along the highway. Seeing anxiety on my face as cries grew louder the kind person suggested I visit the local hall for the Swanpool Creative Recycled Art Prize and have something to eat.

I only heard the words “art prize” and “eat.” Eating was a good idea for both of us but art prize, maybe not. I drove up the road to the Swanpool Memorial Hall hoping there was a small park at least because a cranky toddler wandering around an art show is the perfect disaster recipe.

Surprisingly the carpark was busy and as I started to undo my seat belt the dark clouds I had been driving under let fourth the rain I had been hoping to avoid. The art prize it was.

Related blog post: The Ersatz Fantasia Project

As we settled down to enjoy a scrumptious home cooked lunch and piece of cake I looked over the literature given to me on our arrival. The exhibition was dedicated to recycled art.

A war on waste art show.

Was it fate a zero-waste advocate stumbled upon an art show made of rubbish?

I eyed my son. Judging by his calm behaviour I knew the energy from his lunch had not kicked in yet. So I had at least 30 minutes before he needed to burn that energy off. The art would be safe.

The Swanpool Creative Recycled Art Prize is the largest exhibition of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Entries must be created from at least 75% recycled material, including salvaged or repurposed materials. The work can be wearable, functional and artistic pieces, outdoor art, two and three dimensional works and more.

I was very impressed with the entries and decided to snap a couple of photos to share on the blog.

This would be a great exhibition to visit with kids. My then 2.5 yr old loved everything but I think older kids would get a lot out of seeing how waste can be repurposed and how art can be used to make comment on environmental and social issues.

At the moment the 2020 Swanpool Creative Recycled Art Prize is planned to run from Saturday 1 August to Sunday 16 August.

Entry forms are available online: www.swanpoolanddistrict.com.au/scrap-2020-update.html





Our contaminated recycling and what we can do to help

30 April 2020
Our contaminated recycling and what we can do to help

According to ACOR (Australian Council of Recycling) our household recycling and waste has increased by 10% as more of us are at home during COVID-19 lockdown measures. Along with this is an increase in recycling contamination.

Contamination is an issue because it can derail the hard work of those recycling diligently. The wrong items placed in our recycling bins lead to collections being unusable and ultimately thrown into landfill. 

The CEO of ACOR Mr Shmigel said in a recent interview there has been an increase in soft plastics going into kerbside bins when this should be going to the soft plastic recycling drop off points located at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets. Soft plastics wreck havoc on the machines at the recycling sorting facilities.

The article went on to mention the rise in single use coffee cups in recycling bins. A majority of the single-use coffee cups can't be recycled through kerbside recycling because of the plastic and paper body. The cups can be recycled through Simple Cups drop off points found at 7-Eleven stores in VIC, NSW, QLD and WA. If you are going to use a single-use coffee cup please recycle because the paper is really valuable as it's considered high quality. 


So what can we do to help stop contamination?


You might be wondering why those in the zero-waste movement should do something after all recycling is a step only exercised after refusing, reducing and reusing. However it's a peculiar time. More people are cooking at home therefore more packaging. The takeaway coffee once enjoyed in a reusable is no longer available. And just because people choose a reusable coffee cup doesn't always mean they know how to recycle right either.

So while some of us know how to recycle these items correctly, others might not. If anything the current situation can be helpful in learning how and where to recycle correctly presenting a stepping stone we can build on in the future. 

How do we encourage others to recycle right?


More of us are online than ever before which giving us an opportunity to partake in online community education. Facebook is the preferred social media platform for most Aussies and we love a Facebook group. Something like a Buy Swap Sell group also doubles as a way to find out local information quickly or pass on notices. So I'm going to use my local Buy Swap Sell and another community group to help remind everyone to recycle right and not add to the contamination. I'm also using it as a way to get those food scraps out of the landfill bin and into our green organics bin or to start home composting.

If you'd like to do the same feel free to use the example below:

Join your fellow Moonee Valley residents in helping to recycle better.

During this peculiar time our waste and recycling has increased by 10%. Our recycling bins are being contaminated with soft plastics (like fruit and veggie bags, toilet paper wrapping, food packaging Australia Post delivery bags) and even single-use coffee cups. You can join your fellow neighbours by double checking what can be recycled on Moonee Valley City Council website mvcc.vic.gov.au/live/my-house/waste-and-recycling/

Other tips for recycling right:
- Soft plastics (hint: they can be scrunched into a ball) go to Coles and Woolworths soft plastics drop off.
- Avoid putting your recyclables in plastic bags as plastic bags break the machines.
- Single-use coffee cups can be taken to participating 7/11 stores. Due to the plastic lining within a coffee cup these can't go into kerbside recycle. You can find the nearest drop off here forms.simplycups.com.au/locations
- Food scraps should go into the green organics bin. This is turned into compost and passed onto farmers to help grow yummy food for us. Or start your own home compost and worm farm.
- Electronics (anything with a cord or battery) are not allowed to go into our landfill bins. Instead take them to the Transfer Station located 188 Holmes Road, Aberfeldie.

For tips on recycling other items visit www.recyclingnearyou.com.au


Hope you are all doing well at this time :)

P.S if you don't want to drop off items recycled through special programs right now keep them in a seperate box or bag until then, for example the coffee cups.




You can either snap a photo to go with your post or simply use the text above.

Now I'm aware there is the very slim possibility of some not so friendly comments but I have faith (or more hope) the majority understand I'm only trying to be helpful. It can be nerve-racking stepping outside the eco themed facebook groups to more general one talking about this kind of stuff. Just remember you are sharing information to be helpful and protect the planet. At least this works for me.

I believe social media an effective tool for sharing sustainable living tips organically and to help normalise wasting less. While it would be great for our governments (Council, State or Federal) to put out this information and we'd all make a change instantly the reality is the majority make a change because others are doing it too. Plastic and waste continues to be a popular topic in Australia so why not leverage it and help your community get it right on bin night.

Join a Toy library to reduce plastic and waste

14 April 2020

Sharing, borrowing and hiring services are essential to slowing down the manufacturing of new materials like plastic, curbing waste and helping address the collective need to have new stuff. There are many other benefits the act of sharing and borrowing provide like accessibility, connection with others, community wellbeing, learning to care for resources that belong to everyone, to name a few. I have noticed a growing interest in sharing rather than owning and today's blog post is about the magic of toy libraries.

I feel a blog post on toy libraries to be long overdue. Actually, I KNOW it's overdue. My son is now three years old. Even though I have not technically written about toy libraries here I did write about them in my first book Waste Not: make a big difference by throwing away less. And during my talks especially those on sustainable parenting I gush about them.

A post was planned and the photos were taken back in 2017 but sadly this blog took a back seat while I figured out the whole new parenting thing/writing a book. So if you are looking at the photos wondering who the baby is you can rest knowing it's my only kiddo.

Toy Libraries were not a new thing to me when I became a parent. I had already committed to the idea of toy libraries when I began reassessing my plastic use and living zero-waste life. Should I ever become a parent I would become a member instantly. And when our son was born we signed up as members of our local toy library and have enjoyed it.

Manufacturing new stuff like toys has a big environmental and social impact. Alot of resources are needed to create toys whether they are big toys or a tiny Barbie hair brush. Let's take a brief look at some...

  • Oil is needed to make the plastic (though a lot of plastic toys are made from down-cycled plastic – plastic that has been recycled but can't be recycled again) or new wood for wooden toys
  • Dyes and paints are manufactured to colour the toys
  • There is the coal fired electricity needed to keep machines running and factory lights on 
  • The fuel needed to transport the end product around the globe
  • There is the production of packaging
  • And of course the batteries should the toy be electronic
  • Don't forget 70% of an items waste, toys in this instance, is created during the manufacturing process

According to AmusingPlanet.com 75% of toys and their packaging are made in China where the wage a toy worker will earn over six months is the equivalent of what the toy will cost once it's sitting on shelves. The conditions they are working in wouldn't be considered fair in most countries these toys will eventually end up.

Most toys are not recyclable. When they become forgotten as children grow all of the resources including the effort and time people put into making the toys is discarded to landfill or dumped at Op shops.

Lastly repairing modern toys can be hard because they are either not repairable due to the material used or produced in a way that makes it hard to repair. When I had my sons Thomas train repaired the kind Repair Cafe volunteer explained most electronic toys break because they are not created with repairing in mind. It's planned obsolesce so you are forced to buy a new one.

Toy Libraries are one antidote to the problems manufacturing new toys create. Rather than buying new toys thus encouraging the burden on planet and people to continue my family can borrow a variety of toys instead of buying new. Beyond the environmental and social impact, a toy library is a fun way to ease the influx of toys from entering the house and later finding ways to dispose of responsibly.

Inside the Moonee Valley Toy Library
Looking through the building blocks
Loans and returns

What is a toy library?

A toy library is similar to a book library in that members hire items for a number of weeks. These toys are then returned and the process repeated. In Australia our public book libraries are funded by the government (our taxes) while Toy Libraries run independently funded by membership fees, small grants and fundraising. There is a committee of employees and volunteers keeping everything running.

Memberships vary from branch to branch, with some offering half price fees in exchange for a handful of days of volunteering. We chose this option and I attended four two hour shifts where I helped hire toys out, collect returned toys, count all the pieces that had been returned, keep the toys clean and the premise tidy. It was a lot of fun meeting other parents but what filled me with joy was watching the excited children hire toys. Kids truly don't care about having new toys, they simply want something that is new to them.

There are over 280 toy libraries in Australia and the easiest way to find yours is to visit Toy Libraries Australia. They are the peak body representing Australian toy libraries, providing support and helping promote them.

What can be borrowed?

Toy libraries offer musical toys, baby & toddler toys, costumes, construction toys, puzzles, games, imaginative toys, electronic toys, literacy & numeracy toys, books, special needs resources and toys, bikes, scooters. What is available varies from branch to branch too. Loan time again depends but is usually 3 weeks or longer.

Most toy libraries offer party packs a great idea for adding extra toys in the backyard, house or rented hall at a low cost. I have even seen jumping castles. Some might also hire out plates, cups, cutlery, kids chairs and tables for parties too. Membership is not always required to hire out a party pack.

Toys are suitable from birth to around 6-10 years old age, depending on each location.

As you can see in the photos below smaller toys are housed in reusable plastic bags with a label explaining what is in each bag and how many pieces. At my local ty library everything is hung up for easy sorting.

The toys are categorised by theme not gender something I liked immediately.

An example of how the toys are organised
The plastic bags toys are kept in and descriptions

Cleaning and what to do with broken or missing toys

You are encouraged to clean toys before returning. We cleaned our toys using a cloth soaked in soap and hot water. I would do this when I brought the toys home and before returning. This might come across as a chore but I see the process an opportunity to teach children how to look after items and to reiterate the need to respect and care for it as we are sharing the toy with other kids.

There is the chance a toy will break or returned with missing parts. Don't worry, you won't be shamed and banned for life. Instead a fee is paid when returned. And just like other libraries a late return incurs a small fine.

Forgot to clean the toy at home? You can clean them at the cleaning station
A wall of toddlers bikes

We don't have a toy library in our area, but I'm keen to start one!

It would be great to see toy libraries in communities across Australia and the world. Toy Library Australia have a brief guide on their website but encourage those eager to contact them directly for more detailed info. There are many successful libraries running for over 20 years and are happy to help with the set up process.

Last year while I was visiting Rosebud Library giving a zero-waste talk an elderly lady put up her hand to tell me and the audience she was thrilled to hear me talking about toy libraries as she was one of the founders of Australia's first toy library. You can read about my encounter with Evelyn here:

"This lovely person is Evelyn and she founded the first toy library in Australia 43 year ago with two friends in the Melbourne suburb of Mitcham. She came along to my talk at the Rosebud Library on the Mornington Peninsula to hear how I reduce waste. Of course I talked excitedly about toy Libraries in my presentation! As if I wouldn’t!! She wasn’t expecting to hear about toy libraries or chat about it either. But I’m glad my talk prompted Evelyn to tell me about her story and how the first toy library came together in a small community, the idea quickly spreading throughout Australia eventually turning into Toy Libraries Australia. There are now over 280 toy libraries!

I gave Evelyn a big hug to say thanks for laying foundations that do so much to not only reduce buying new toys and creating waste but what it does for communities. Of course she shrugged it off. These days she helps out with the local Boomerang Bag group in Rosebud.

There are a multitude of changemakers within all of our communities doing important work and they are usually quite volunteers. Their stories aren’t always told or even known by most. It’s the work of people like Evelyn that has helped the modern zero waste movement be easier to navigate. I’m simply standing on the shoulders of giants."

If anyone would like to contact Evelyn for an interview let me know as I have her email just in case.



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This lovely person is Evelyn and she founded the first toy library in Australia 43 year ago with two friends in the Melbourne suburb of Mitcham. She came along to my talk at the Rosebud Library on the Mornington Peninsula to hear how I reduce waste. Of course I talked excitedly about toy Libraries in my presentation! As if I wouldn’t!! She wasn’t expecting to hear about toy libraries or chat about it either. But I’m glad my talk prompted Evelyn to tell me about her story and how the first toy library came together in a small community, the idea quickly spreading throughout Australia eventually turning into Toy Libraries Australia. There are now over 280 toy libraries! I gave Evelyn a big hug to say thanks for laying foundations that do so much to not only reduce buying new toys and creating waste but what it does for communities. Of course she shrugged it off. These days she helps out with the local Boomerang Bag group in Rosebud. There are a multitude of changemakers within all of our communities doing important work and they are usually quite volunteers. Their stories aren’t always told or even known by most. It’s the work of people like Evelyn that has helped the modern zero waste movement be easier to navigate. I’m simply standing on the shoulders of giants. Image: two women standing side by side. #toylibrary #toylibrariesaustralia #toylendinglibrary #ilovelibraries #authortalk #wastenot #wastenoteveryday #wastenotbook #zerowaste #volunteer #ecovolunteers #communityservice #lesswaste #ecocommunity #share #sharingeconomy #borrow
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The play mirror our son picked out
Time to go home and play

My visit to Yarra Valley Estates Edible Forest Garden

28 February 2020

One hour from Melbournes bustling CBD tucked away in the rolling hills of the Yarra Valley is one acre of Edible Forest Garden. Louise Ward owner of Yarra Valley Estate where the food forest garden is located created the space out of a desire to reduce food miles but has since evolved into an education space open to the public interested in learning about growing a food forest garden at home, how to create healthy soil naturally and the importance of food security.

A food forest is a self maintaining perennial polyculture meaning there are a variety of crops of different heights within the same space similar to how a forest works. The plants, with some help, look after each other.

Food forests are a regenerative form of growing food that works to keep soils healthy rather than deplete them of carbon and minerals. Our current food production systems have been working in the opposite way. A regenerative method like a food forest garden helps to return carbon along with nutrients to the soil. If the soil doesn't have nutrients, this affects our health.

The goal of reducing exposed soil by covering everything in plants reduces soil erosion, protects groundwater, puts nutrient minerals back into the soil, allowing farmers and home gardeners the opportunity to move away from synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. A return to regenerative farming and gardening would helps address malnutrition, food insecurity, healthy water supplies, limit food waste, and reduce pollution from the production of agriculture chemicals. And a bonus is gardeners don't have to weed as much.





As I entered the Yarra Valley Estates Edible Food Forest Garden I felt like I was being drawn into a calming hug. The space is abundant in over 850 of edible and medicinal plants, with some specifically used to improve soil quality. Everything growing on the site is cultivated for the guest kitchen on site and used in workshops held in a up-cycled shed overlooking the garden.

For those who are used to the standard farming system of single crop structured in rows could be confused as how something wild like this would thrive. Forest gardens like this combine vegetables, fruit, nuts, herbs, shrubs and other plants to coexist aiding one another in their survival. The photo below is proof of this.



The large tree in the left photo is sugarcane used to protect the plants below it from the biting frosts in the valley. Yes, that is sugarcane growing in a very cold climate in Victoria. There are rambling strawberries for ground cover, something I had not thought of in my own garden. I discovered the plant Society Garlic, a perfect garlic alternative for me since I can't eat as much garlic any more. We munched on unopened Day Lillies (photo on the right) another unsuspecting specimen I have in my garden that I didn't know could be eaten. I feasted on gorgeous mulberries, tommy tomatoes, met cinnamon yams growing along side aromatic hops.


Yarra Valley Estates Edible Forest Garden is still in its infancy having started five years ago and only open to the public last year. Tours operate Monday to Saturday, at 10am and you can find out more on their website www.edibleforest.co/



What had me excited was the education this space will offer. I can't think of any other edible food forest garden space open year round so people can see it at different times of the year. Often these edible forest gardens are private and only open for a handful of days throughout the year. I can't wait to revisit in winter and spring. The staff are kind and passionate, happy to share their huge amount of knowledge with visitors. It was inspiring to learn urban gardeners are visiting from Melbourne looking for help to get their own edible forest gardens started. Involving people and having interactive places to learn is necessary to creating confident gardeners. It's different reading about an edible garden and being able to walk through one.

Growing our own food, even if a little, helps the planet in so many ways. We reduce food miles and our fuel, packaging is not needed and we help improve soil quality for future generations. We learn new skills. We help draw carbon down. Our bodies get to eat food filled with healthy nutrients. And if we are lucky we can share the surplus in our communities, growing and nourishing connections.


Plan your visit:

Edible Forest at
Yarra Valley Estate
2164 Melba Hwy
Dixons Creek VIC 3775
www.edibleforest.co

Tours operate Monday to Saturday, at 10am for approx. 45 mins—1 hour and an additional Saturday only tour at 12pm. Bookings are necessary.

Tour, Taste & Educate – $15 Per Person
Tour, Taste, Wine & Dine – $65 Per Person

Repairing Australia: the rise of Repair Cafes

16 February 2020

Repairing Australia: the rise of Repair Cafes
Thank you Moonee Valley Repair Cafe for fixing my sons beloved toy

Across Australian suburbs, Repair Cafes are offering communities a local hub to fix, mend and connect.

I'm a big repairing advocate for many reasons beyond reducing waste to landfill. Repairing means investing in important skills, telling companies I want items that can be repaired, valuing resources and the people who made my stuff. It's an act of environmental and social justice. And an important part of my families waste not framework.

There is also the happiness felt when you get something fixed. I'll never forget the joy I experienced at getting my old blender repaired by the crew at Bright Sparks, now sadly closed.

A sustainable future will feature an active repairing industry and Repair Cafes are laying the groundwork and reviving a forgotten skillsets.

The Repair Cafe movement began 2009 by Martine Postma in Amsterdam. It's simplicity has seen the idea expand across the world with over 2000 cafes. Australia currently hosts over 40 Repair Cafes.

How does a Repair Cafe work:

Depending on the Repair Cafe they usually run once a month in a local community space. Tables are set up with the fixer on one side and the customer (you and me) sit on the other. You can't just drop your item off to pick up later. Instead you are invited to watch, learn and talk with the person fixing your item.

Before you sit down, customers will talk to someone at the booking desk where they take your details, discuss the broken item you wish to have fixed and direct you to the fixer with the skills best suited to your item. There is a form to read, fill out and sign, so the customer knows that all repairs are undertaken at their own risk once they leave the premise with them. If the item is unable to be repaired by a fixer they will tell you straight away, directing you where to take it if they believe someone else can do it.

The service is free. Yes, free. The fixers donate their time and customers are welcome to make a donation at the booking desk.

The items usually brought in are are small electrical goods, bikes, clothing, small furniture, homewares.If you are unsure about an item that can be fixed contact the repair cafe first. Large items like fridges are not accepted. The general rule is that you should be able to carry the item into the cafe yourself. But again, double check with a message to your local Repair Cafe.

Also no one brings in a box full of broken items, one or two is encouraged per visit.

Repairing Australia: the rise of Repair Cafes
Sharing skills, meeting a member of my community, all while keeping this much loved toy out of landfill 

How do I set up a Repair Cafe in my area?

To find out out how to set one up, here are three ways to learn how:
  • The Repair Cafe international website offer a detailed Manual for 49 euros.
  • Michelle and Lindsay from Melbourne Repair Cafe have an explanation on their FAQ section 
  • You can also contact a Repair Cafe to ask their advice too. They are fellow waste and sustainable living enthusiasts, and will gladly offer their advice to help get another Repair Cafe into the world.
You don't need repairing experience to set one up either. Your role could be something else, like admin or booking or marketing. The repair movement needs more than just people with toolboxes!

Where to find a Repair Cafe?

Below is a list of Repair Cafes in Australia. Check the international map for locations in your country. Please note most links below will take you to the local Facebook pages for each repair cafe as they offer the most up to date information and events for each cafe. Follow the Repair Cafe Australia page for national repair news and events.

VICTORIA

Geelong Repair Cafe Highton
Geelong West Repair Cafe
Bellarine Repair Cafe
Repair Cafe Surf Coast
Southern Peninsula Repair Cafe
Mornington Repair Cafe
Port Fairy Repair Cafe
Wyndham Repair Cafe
Moonee Valley Repair Cafe
Darebin Repair Cafe
North Balwyn Repair Cafe
Warrandyte Repair Cafe
Ringwood Repair Cafe
Konx Repair Cafe
St. Kilda Repair Cafe
Latrobe Valley Repair Cafe
Ballarat Repair Cafe
Woodend Repair Cafe
Alexandra Repair Cafe
Castlemaine Repair Cafe
Seymour Repair Cafe
Bendigo Repair Cafe
Wangaratta Repair Cafe
Albury Wodonga Repair Cafe

ACT

Canberra Repair Cafe

New South Wales

Wollongong Repair Cafe
Bega Valley Repair Cafe
The Bower Repair Cafe – various Sydney locations including Oatley
North Sydney Repair Cafe
Mullumbimby Repair Cafe

Northern Territory

Alice Springs Repair Cafe

South Australia

Adelaide Repair Cafe
Unley Repair Cafe

Western Australia

Albany Repair Cafe
Jarrahdale Repair Cafe
Fremantle Repair Cafe
Belmont Repair Cafe
Perth Repair Cafe
Doubleview Repair Cafe

Tasmania

Hobart Repair Cafe

Queensland


The list is up to date as of 18.02.2020. Feel free to contact me if I need to add or remove a repair cafe. 


Mend it, Australia run by Karen and Danny Ellis feature stories from their travels to community repair events, discuss important topics and advocate for businesses and government to encourage repairing.

iFixit is a website everyone should bookmark. They have repair guides, forums, communities, comprehensive technical videos. There are tools for sale to help fixers repair. The organisation wants to be bring about radical change in our rights to repair, empowering customers to speak up and ensure our stuff is made to last.


Repairing our stuff is one of the many individual steps we can all take to help fight climate change. Manufacturing new items requires raw materials and energy, producing pollution along the way. By repairing we are challenging the make, buy, throwaway culture that is at the heart of the environmental and social issues our world is facing. Repairing teaches us to value, care, learn and connect.

Thank you to every person donating their time to repair items and help run these cafes. I think you are superheros. And so does my kid. 
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