The Rogue Ginger: Blog

Showing posts with label Blog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blog. Show all posts

How to recycle toys

5 May 2022
How to recycle toys

Our eldest child has a generous collection of toys. 99% of them have been passed onto us from older cousins, friends, and picked up secondhand (Op Shop, Facebook Marketplace and eBay). They mainly consist of anything with a wheel. My feet have stepped on a fair few matchbox cars in the past few years. Ouch!

The reality of choosing only secondhand toys is they have been pre-loved and pre-played, meaning the toys can be very close to breaking by the time we get to them. Notably toys picked up from Op Shops are the ones close to becoming landfill.

My guess is some people feel guilty about putting toys in the bin, so they choose to pass slightly cracked or chipped toys onto Op Shops for one more play. I get it. I used to do it with clothes. Recent research found 80% of children’s toys in the global north are going to landfills, incinerators, or the ocean.

The material a toy is made with and its original quality plays a part in the longevity too. I try to repair as much as possible but sadly the bulk of toys are designed and manufactured without repairing or Extended Producer Responsibility.

Metal toys can withstand longer play and are easier to fix. On the flip side of this is parts are harder to find for replacing. While plastic parts can be created using Toy Rescue 3D Printer files from Toy Rescue and with 90% of toys made of plastic this looks like a good solution. The amount of hours I have spent fixing a toy to then have it re-break within a month is more than I expected. You can even read how my local Repair Cafe saved a beloved toy for us.

It does get to a point when some toys cannot be salvaged by repairs and become unsafe to use. In our house this is when we move them to 'the land of broken toys' … which is an old cardboard box I keep in my office. I don't know what I planned to do with them? Make a sculpture for the annual SCRAP Art Show? Before baby number two came along I asked my then four year old while I was organising/cleaning/nesting if he'd like to create an artwork with the broken toys. His repose was “can we just recycle toys? What do you do with broken toys?”

Can you recycle broken toys in the kerbside recycling bin?

The short answer is no

But, the long answer would be: A Councils could accept different types of toys, depending on the material. For example, a 100% plastic toy or 100% metal toy might be allowed BUT (!!) it's best to check with your Council recycling rules first. Just because one Council accepts toys in their kerbside recycling bin does not meal yours will. Any item going into the kerbside recycling bin not supposed to be there will end up in landfill. Always ask. I repeat, always ask.

On top of asking the Council, the manufacture should be providing this information too. After-all they produced them and should create a system for recycling or disposal themselves. I have contacted out to two toy suppliers in the past asking how to repair and recycle their toy cars with no luck.

Let's find out how to recycle plastic, metal and wooden toys.

Are there special drop off points to recycle toys?

Big W offer Toy's for Joy a joint initiative with TerraCycle to help reduce toys going to landfill. Broken toys are sorted and then disassembled to seperate the different materials (plastic, metal, wood). The varying materials are then moved on and made into new items. Any toys donated that are still workable and usable will be passed onto a charity. The Toys for Joy program is primarily for broken toys. Most of the plastic (there are up to six types!) can only be recycled once more into decking, benches, garden beds before it goes to landfill. Technically this is downcycling. 

How to recycle toys
My local Toys for Joy drop at Big W

The Toy's for Joy recycling program CANNOT ACCEPT ALL toys - the following are not allowed to be placed into the Joy for Toys toy recycling bins: books; batteries in toys; board games; wooden toys; Play-doh, paint and slime; pens, pencils, crayons or paint brushes; oversized toys such as bikes, scooters, skateboards; sports toys such as soccer goals.

How to recycle books, batteries, board games, wooden toys, Play-doh, paint and slime, pens, pencils, crayons or paint brushes, oversized toys such as bikes, scooters, skateboards; sports toys such as soccer goals?

Batteries in toys - Woolworths, Officeworks, Aldi have drop off boxes.

Board games - TerraCycle accept these in their Toys Zero Waste Box.

Wooden toys - TerraCycle accept them in their Toys Zero Waste Box. Later in this blog post I explain why we shouldn't compost broken wooden toys

Play-doh - This is not recyclable as it contains plastic. Homemade playdough with natural colouring can be composted.  I found a fun tip to revive it. 

Paint and slime -  If you can't pass it onto someone else check with Paintback to see if they accept kids paint. Sadly store bought slime is not recyclable.

Pens - Officeworks accept pens and markers as do TerraCycle.

Pencils - Terracycle offer a Pens, Pencils and Markers box. Before recycling take the time to clean up old pencils, organise and donate first.

Crayons - Not recyclable. Instead get crafty and melt them down to turn into new crayons. There are some fun tutorials on the interwebs.

Paint brushes - Not recyclable. Instead think how they could be upcycled if they are beyond use. Visit Pinterest, Youtube or a Upcycling facebook group for ideas.

Bikes, scooters, skateboards - Bikes beyond repair can be pulled apart and the metal dropped at a metal recycling program. Check with your local Council or locate a business for queeries. Look up Recycle Fun for skateboard recycling. A broken  scooter would have to be disassembled like a bicycle. Depending on the make and brand you might be able to get replacement parts for your kids scooter. We have replaced parts on our secondhand micro scooter easily.

Sports toys such as soccer goalsTerraCycle have a box for beyond repair and broken sporting goods

Why are toys so hard to recycle?

The mixed components of most manufactured toys, the high volume made of plastics, and designing a product without consideration (or care) for its end of life makes for recycling toys difficult. If we want recyclable toys the change needs to start during the design process. For instance there are a small number of brands using plastic from milk bottles to create a toy recyclable up to 9 times. 

Even if all toys going forward were forever recyclable and repairable, there are still a lot of broken toys bundled up in cupboards and at Op Shops that are simply not. The process to recycle (or downcycle really) won't be perfect for a long time. If it was a black and white scenario we'd stop manufacturing news toys, try to repair and recycle what we have now, and rethink the need to manufacture new toys at the rate we do now.

Should we make everything from wood and other natural materials?

Wood and other natural materials might seem like the best option as they can break down in something like a compost bin. For instance wooden toys are usually simple in construction and are easy to repair but it can also become complicated. We have found many wooden toys are often made of MDF, a wood product made of soft and hard wood fibres mixed with a resin often containing formaldehyde. It chips and breaks off easily. This should never be left to break down in a compost. Paint, varnishes and glue also makes wood hard unsafe to compost or even recycle properly. The above issues need to be considered when it comes to a wooden toys design through to end of life just the same as metal or plastic.  With 50% of the worlds timber still coming from native forests (including some FSC) sourcing were the wood comes from is major consideration. 

The Toy's for Joy recycling program is a helpful option to recover materials and i'm optimistic this is a stepping stone to change and not a scapegoat for the problem at hand. The problems being there are so many toys with many of those designed to break! I recommend this article by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation to learn about initiatives in the toy space to rethink and redesign.

There is enough evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, that suggests kids don't need that many toys. Louise Grimmer, senior lecturer in retail marketing at the University of Tasmania, and Martin Grimmer Professor of marketing at the University of Tasmania share that children with less toys are better at self regulation, helps with problem solving skills, develop more gratitude, and improved quality playtime.

I'm going to end this blog post before I go into the topic of how to request less toys from family and friends. Because that's a blog post in itself!

Where to shop, donate and sell clothes beyond the Op Shop

10 March 2022
Where to shop, donate and sell clothes beyond the Op Shop

“We can't take your donations, sorry. Our storage is full.”

I overheard this response to another customers at the Op Shop just after the new year. It's not the first time either and I have also received this response when trying to make a clothing donation. 

Before I learned about the major environmental and human impact of the fashion industry, Op Shops were the go to place to help me make way for the old so I could replace with the new. Essentially, they were my scapegoat. I could unload a bag at their stores, or into a charity bin when the store declined my stuff. There was never a moment I wondered why they couldn't take my stuff or where everything donated ended up. 

I bundled up scruffy shoes, stained clothes, shirts with loose buttons, dresses with broken zippers, and mistakingly shrunken clothes alongside piles of stuff that wasn't in fashion anymore, believing Op Shop employees would find a customer or give it away for free. To this day I cringe remembering all of the high heel shoes I donated - when really I didn't want the guilt of throwing something away because I trashed them on a night out or the clothes I moved on after a handful of wears. It's appalling I would try donating something visibly wrecked or poor quality to another person when I wasn't happy enough to wear them. Peak privilege. These days I aim to use my privilege to only choose secondhand, repair what I have, upcycle when possible and recycle responsibly. And call out fast fashion businesses to stop making so much clothing.

It wasn't long into my quest to create less waste and live more sustainably I learned charity stores like Op Shops receive so much stuff that is beyond their ability to sell. According to Jana Bowden Professor of Marketing at Macquarie University, charities reportedly send about 60,000 tonnes of unwanted items (clothing, electronics, toys etc) to landfill every year. The cost of sending items to landfill can cost charities over a million dollars a year. Money that should be going to community programs. 

Not all of the excess a charity store goes to landfill here in Australia. It's sent overseas - kind of like how Australia used to send plastic overseas for recycling. 70% of donated clothing is shipped to secondhand markets in on the African continent. Last year Foreign Correspondent ran a segment titled Dead White Mans Clothes. The show reported the never ending bales of clothing sent to Kantamanto Market in Accra, Ghana. 40% of the clothing exported is going to landfill due to low quality (you know, like my stained clothes and wrecked shoes) creating environmental and humanitarian issues. 

Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda have tried to implement a complete ban on all imported secondhand apparel, claiming the industry harms local environments, people, and textile industries in these countries. Unfortunately countries like the US, one of the main players responsible for sending many of these secondhand garments, have pushed back against these import bans.

I have a pile of clothing and shoes I need to move on. The photo above is a snapshot from the box. There are many reasons why people need to move clothing on; weight gain, weight loss, change in lifestyle, shoe size changes (ha, thanks pregnancy!), new locations with different climates, new style interests, allergies...really the list in endless and not always because of needing to buy new stuff. But for many the Op Shop has become a place to deal with our unwanted stuff. 

These days I don't solely rely on Op Shops to donate and buy clothes. To alleviate the stress they appear to be under from donations I look at shopping and passing on via an array of different outlets alongside Op Shops. These actions help to invest in new circular shopping models too that could help make shopping secondhand easier and most importantly normal. 

Clothing Swap Party

A clothing swap party is an event where attendees bring a certain number of clothing and accessories. All of the items are laid out and everyone is encouraged to “shop” from the clothing supplied. It can be an informal get together with friends in a house or a more organised larger event with clothing exchanged for buttons that are used as currency to “buy” new (to you) clothing. Check The Clothing Exchange (Aus), EventBrite, Facebook Events for clothes swap events happening near you.

Buy Nothing New Groups

The mission of Buy Nothing New Groups is to build community and connect people through local gifting of items like clothes. Find out more via the where you can find the app. Many of the Buy Nothing New groups I have found have been via Facebook.


Facebook provides a variety of ways to move stuff on. There is a dedicated Facebook Marketplace, locally based Buy/Swap/Sell groups, specific groups for garment items like clothes, shoes, handbags or brands, age, and sizing.

Depop, Poshmark, ThreadUp, Vestarie Collective, The RealReal

Re-commerce is the category online platforms like Depop, Poshmark, ThreadUp, Vestarie, The RealReal, among others, fall under. Individuals sell via the apps or website. Depop, Poshmark, ThreadUp are peer to peer, while Vestarie Collective and The RealReal approve clothing and then collect (via mail) to sell on. All platforms take a small cut from the total transaction amount, plus shipping on some. I have used Depop to buy pregnancy clothing and found the process user friendly.

Charity Bay

Charity Bay allows people to sell unwanted items and donate the sale to a charity of the sellers choice. It's done via their app and website. You can read a blog post about my experience with them. I have a handful of clothing items ready to sell with Charity Bay soon.

Ebay, Gumtree

The Ebay and Gumtree platforms have been around for a long time helping people shop, donate and sell clothes and shoes. In my early twenties I would spend hours (and many dollars) on eBay searching for secondhand designer clothes. Gumtree has been wonderful to find baby clothes, nappies and shoes. 

Consignment Clothing Stores

Consignment clothing stores were a complete unknown until five years ago. A consignment store sells preloved items either purchased from the customer or they pay a percentage of the sale price once the item has been sold. I have been offered 30% of the sale price or I can take 50% of the sale price as a voucher to use in store.

Most stores will require customers book a time to bring in the clothes they wish to sell. An employee will vet all items for missing buttons, holes, stains and to make sure the garments have a resale value with them. Most won't resell fast fashion brands.

I can see how consignment stores and their online versions can help fill the void for people who want to update their wardrobes often and also incentivise people to look after their things.

Consignment stores local to Melbourne are Mutual Muse and Goodbyes selling clothes from $30 to $100+ and then Secondo, Stop Staring, EuroTrash and Mio Tesoro catering for more designer items. There is even a consignment store dedicated to baby and maternity clothes called Use-Ta.

Any clothing unfit for repair or wear can be passed onto the following locations:

Remember: rethink donating clothing (or anything else) to an Op Shop unusable or unwearable. They deserve our best like everywhere else. 

I don't blame Op Shops for needing to send bales of clothes overseas or turf to landfill. But they could be part of the solution. I have yet to find out more information on how or if Australian Op Shops are advocating to be part of conversation.  Of course by buying less new clothing and fast fashion companies vanishing is fundamental in addressing the issue (okay a bit more complicated but nothing the billionaire owners of these companies can't fix with their wealth!). We truly have enough clothing and textiles on this planet. In the meantime I have enjoyed trying different ways to shop, donate and sell clothes beyond the Op Shop and I hope you do too.

Our newest family member + has a second child altered our zero-waste habits

2 March 2022

This is an overdue announcement for blog readers - we have a new addition to the family. To be honest it kinda feels like he's been with us for more than five months. There's a feeling of him being here forever. Old soul perhaps? If I could describe him in one word it would be jolly. Or peaceful. He radiates a soothing energy I'm clinging to in these turbulent times. The dark hair in his newborn photo above has fallen out and is now golden. Sadly, neither children have inherited my ginger hair. He is desperately trying to push and lift his small body up to crawl. Once he's mastered this there's no doubt his older brother will be the one he'll follow everywhere. 

I've been asked if the arrival of our second child altered our zero-waste habits. The answer is no, not really. Refusing, reducing, reusing, repairing, composting...all of these usual zero-waste habits are firmly entrenched in our daily routine and decisions.

More broadly we kept furniture, prams, clothing, nappies, wipes, toys, books from our first child, which was purchased or gifted to us secondhand originally. I added extra secondhand cloth nappies as some had worn out. Due to a lockdown I was on my own with my four year old for postpartum and I planned for this by stocking up the freezer before birth with soups and snacks in old glass jars. My husband bought the ingredients package free in our own containers.

Related posts: Our Baby Room - Tips For Borrowing, Sharing And Buying Secondhand Baby Items and My Newborn Zero Waste Essentials List and Our Cloth Nappy Story

Admittedly there were two instances where disposable nappies and wipes have been used due to illness.

I could lay out the reasons to plead my case but this is not fair on me (or anyone else). Just because I used disposables for a moment of time in one area of my life doesn't mean I abandoned reducing waste and trying to avoid single-use everywhere else. My mindset and habits are wired now to consider how my actions will impact others and the planet. I have the privilege to do this (not everyone does) and I make sure to use it. But, life came along with a few hurdles and disposable nappies were the option to make life easier while in hospital and getting better after. I did the best I could, where I was, with what I had.

Each and every one of us will come across different blocks that can prevent us from choosing the less wasteful choice. Some people can face constant hurdles and others will only have them temporarily or none at all. If we can create new systems and continue to normalise less wasteful solutions, the people who find reducing waste the hardest because the system makes it difficult for them will benefit the most. Those with temporary hurdles or none at all should always use our privilege to advocate for wider accessibility and system change. 

I guess what I'm trying to articulate (probably not very well, thank you baby brain) is anyone can be zero waste/low waste/minimal waste/waste free/low impact/eco minimalist (whatever the term you use) without getting it “right” in all areas of our lives. For instance, if you are a family able to shop secondhand, repair clothes, choose reusables nappies, but purchasing food package-free is can still say you live zero-waste (or any other term that suits you). 

Do the best you can, with what you've got, where you are. 

My little one is soon to stir from his nap. Time to pop on the kettle, gather some peppermint leaves from the garden, and have a cup of tea before he wakes.

How we are managing our children's Christmas gift expectations

8 December 2021
managing our children's Christmas gift expectations

My 4 year old has become fixated on receiving a lot of gifts this Christmas. It’s the first Christmas he knows presents are given by Santa and who Santa actually is. The expectations on the present front are high and the list he wrote for Santa is loooong.

You'd think living in a zero-waste home that practices minimalism there would be no expectations to receive a bounty of gifts. I was puzzled at the start too. Neither myself or his father actively talk about Santa, Christmas, or gifts, to warrant it. Where did this come from? How did a list of 20 trains, 11 Disney Pixar Cars, a new train set, matchbox cars, hot wheels cars, and more, come to sit on a piece of paper front and centre on our fridge?

We discovered the expectations creep in via books, conversations with children in his Kinder (preschool), TV shows, and even the decorations out and about on the main shopping strip and around our neighbourhood. From November onwards it is everywhere. 

I like receiving gifts and our family are not anti-gift giving. We lean towards choosing activities, helpful and useful items. When I went zero-waste I worked hard to tackle the notion my happiness and self worth was dependent on receiving material items, even if they are secondhand or homemade. Ultimately I don't want my children to equate joy or even traditions with consumption or expecting someone gives them a gift for being good. 

The thing is traditions can alter. After all, the original story of Christmas and Santa Claus has changed. Without a doubt the current Christmas expectations around gifts needs shift.

We considered telling the truth about Santa but I'm 99% certain he’d tell e v e r y o n e in his Kinder class, the cousins, a random child at the park, and the old lady two doors up from us...basically everyone.

So I Prompted him to put socks or a new hat on his list as something helpful. Then I tried talking to him about all of the other fun things to enjoy at Christmas time. These conversations kinda fallen flat. As they would. 

Next I decided to try a letter from Santa explaining Christmas can be enjoyed for more reasons beyond a gift. Even though I’ve reiterated the contents of the letter I think hearing it from someone other than Mummy will have more impact. Especially if it's from the person my 4 year old is anticpating all these presents from.

In the letter Santa says thank you for his list of gift ideas, then goes on to gently share there is more to Christmas like:

  • Getting to see his cousins and playing with them
  • Eating yummy food
  • Singing songs and dancing with the family
  • Helping other people
  • Walks in the neighbourhood with friends
  • Visits with loved ones we don’t see nearly enough

These are what Santa enjoys the most too. Or so the letter will tell him.

Will it work? I don’t know. But I can try. The letter will appear the week of Christmas to help keep Santa's wisdom fresh in the 4 year olds young mind. I've left the letter below if you'd like to use it.

Dear xxxx,

Thank you for your letter. I read it with my reindeer and elf friends. We liked the list of gifts you have asked for – they are fun toys. I like giving gifts and will ask my elf friends to help me find the ones on your list from secondhand stores. We won't be able to get everything on your list. I don't always receive everything on my list at Christmas time and that's OK. My favourite things about Christmas are seeing my cousins and playing games with them (I like playing hide & seek and tag with my cousins), eating yummy food, singing songs and dancing, going for walks to explore the neighbourhood, visiting with friends we don't see nearly enough, and being helpful.

I hope you have a lovely Christmas with your family and make many fun memories.

Best wishes,
Santa Claus

[tip: if your child is older and knows your handwriting, then asking someone else to write it out or printing it out would be advisable]

I managed to find four secondhand Disney Pixar Cars he'll get from Santa. My husband and I will gift a new bike. Grandma & Grandad will surprise him with a secondhand Flik Flak watch. And no doubt he'll spend most of the day playing hide & seek with his cousins and that is probably what he'll remember the most. 

Why individual actions matter

24 June 2021
Why individual actions matter to help reduce plastic and waste

Every few months an article or graphic appears debating the importance of individual actions in response to reducing waste and plastics compared to the steps business and government can take. It's a worthy debate, especially as many of us are realising most environmental destruction and social injustice has been steered for centuries by business and governments.

For a long time these businesses and governments have distracted us, helping craft the message that it's the individuals responsibility to make changes, do the right thing, litter less, turn off the lights, recycle right etc.

I want to see businesses and government step up and make changes, take responsibility themselves. It's absolutely necessary if we want to make changes quickly. I have lobbied and repeated this cry beyond count.

What can be forgotten about these BIG businesses like the top plastic polluters Procter & Gamble, Coco Cola, Nestle, Unilever, Pepsico to name a few is that they didn't come together and take over immediately. Each businesses started with an individual and attracted others that had similar goals and beliefs. It's sad and alarming so many for so long propped up and propelled these ideas of over production and mass consumption at the risk of people and planet. 

I was one of these people, and you probably were too until you were inspired by another individual to make a change. We learn, choose to reform our individual habits, and naturally end up gravitating towards others with similar goals and beliefs; less plastic, less waste in this case. If it wasn't for individuals realising something needs to change we probably wouldn't know who the biggest polluters were and what companies are doing the most harm.

When the debate of individual vs business/government rise to the surface they are looking at individual change through the lens of activism. Why not? Activism can work. It's where a movements visibility becomes seen. I'm incorporating the modern day definition of activism beyond the rally; this is consumer changes alongside petitions, social media discussions next to in person town hall talks.

I've always viewed our individual actions to be critical, if not necessary to moving the needle. It's the individuals coming together collectively that steers the business and government to our causes or at least enough to make us think they are doing us a service. But then they have to because both need the individual to stay engaged. So that's why we see governments are getting plastic bans across Australia, businesses of different levels are making changes or developing new solutions.

The individual actions prompt conversation and education in our close circles and wider communities that can run all the way to boardrooms. According to Gerald Mackie, Ph.D., people cannot be forced to change their ways by outlawing or preaching. Empowerment through community action and integrating new policies into existing culture is the fastest way to enact change.

Coles Bay in Tasmania was the first Australian town to ban plastic bags. The ban inspired Modbury, Devon to do the same. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown praised Modbury's action. From one side of the world, to the other, the actions of some individuals inspired change. It did not stop there.

The Coles Bay bag ban lead to the whole state of Tasmania enacting legislation for a 10c levy. The Modbury bag ban lead to England's widely popular 5p levy, resulting in an 85% drop in plastic bag use. Governments and businesses get the shiny media article and pat on the back for making big changes, but these changes were driven by individuals. 

There is one important point I have yet to see brought up as to why individual change is critical and that is recognising how changing our mindset, habits, and our hearts will hopefully stop our destruction from happening again in the future.

Because when we change within our hearts rather than through force and recognise the undeniable need to see ourselves as nature, can we only learn to protect long term.

When I change not only my habits but also mindset, I will pass these lessons down to my children and hopefully these teachings will continue, so we are not here in 100 years time taking advantage of new resources and exploiting people again. Perhaps I am sounding a bit too idealistic but that's where I see one of the powers of individual change. Well, so long as they change is not being driven by desire to fit a trend...

There is also the missed recognition of individuals power in building the local futures movement and recognising not all solutions have to come from business and government. We can problem solve by turning inward to our communities and building localised systems to meet peoples needs as appropriate to the area. Coles Bay didn't wait, they acted themselves.

We've seen a rise in Buy Nothing New and Good Karma groups promoting the sharing of stuff for free, mutual aid, repair groups, community gardens, community solar, food sharing projects, community co-ops, and the list is growing - each of these are a responses to waste, plastic, over-consumption, food miles and the many other issues driving climate change. When you sit down with a group of individuals in your community, pooling resources and skills to address issues, you'll be quick to find solutions exist right here in our neighbourhoods. For so long we have relied on the big end of town to lead the way out of situations when in reality we can rely on ourselves for some of it. System change is important to changing so much of what is creating harm, but who should we trust to build these systems? The ones who created it or working alongside our neighbours? 

Maybe it's business and government starting the debates over individual vs them, trying to derail us from the idea that we the individual have solutions that can lead to meaningful heartfelt change. 

Charity Bay, the new way to give back and shop secondhand

27 May 2021
My husband, The Builder, had a bedside clock/alarm/phone charger gadget. The thing wasn't being used. Well since we had a child, it certainly wasn't. Our four year old is our 6am alarm clock. It sat around in a cupboard for a long time. I could have donated the alarm clock to my local charity store but I'm always nervous about passing on small electronic items as most Op Shops don't have a tag & test team (to test electrical items for safety and if they work) and won't accept electronics. If the alarm clock does get accepted by a charity store and should it not be sold, what happens to these items? Sent for recycling? I'm definitely for recycling electronics rather than landfill (it's illegal in Victoria, Australia to send electronics to landfill) but ultimately if the gadget is still usable I'd rather the item be passed onto someone else. Then the lovely team at SisterWorks introduced me to the award winning online marketplace Charity Bay at the right time. 

Charity Bay allows people to sell unwanted items and donate the sale to a charity of the sellers choice. Founder Haidar Al-fallouji wanted to help do something about the never ending piles of working household items continuously stacked up on nature strips to be hauled away to landfill. Most of it was furniture and larger items that can often get turned away from traditional charity stores due to the stores lack of space. People sell their items through the CharityBay app or website, and can still provide financial assistance to charities with the sale. I fell in love with the concept immediately and even got to have an online meetup with the dedicated team last year.

Downloading the app and setting up my free account was easy. Items available for sale are listed on the homepage. Users can either search by item or browse via category.

Selling an item is as simple as taking photos, uploading to the app, providing a description, and choosing a charity to donate the sale too.

We sold the alarm clock for $10. CharityBay deducted a .45c transaction fee and the remaining $9.55 was passed on to my charity of choice SisterWorks. 

The next item I will be donating is a projector I used for my talks & workshops at venues without the equipment. It sadly won't be in need as I'm taking time away from that part of my work (new addition to the family is on the way!). The device works well and is in great condition – let's take photos and load it up onto the website.

Charity Bay, the new way to give back and shop secondhand

Community Resources was my chosen charity for this sale – they run several social enterprises and community services, one being Waste Aid Australia. If you have purchased my books part of the profits go to the same group too. What I love about being able to choose your own charity is that it allows lesser known groups doing amazing work around Australia receive funding. 

Once the advert is up, it's published to the home page. I then wait for someone to place a bid. Once a sale has been finalised it's all taken care of by CharityBay. The item is then organised for pickup by the buyer or can be posted depending on the size.

CharityBay's tag line is the new era of giving back – our household loves that we can save our unwanted items from landfill, give them to someone who will use them, and support charities at the same time. Download the app (iPhone and Android) or sell your unused items via the website.

Clothing rental options for pregnancy, baby clothes, kids formal wear and vintage

13 May 2021
Clothing rental options for pregnancy, baby clothes, vintage and kids formal wear
Photo from Mama Rentals

As a child of the 90s I watched many characters on TV and in movies look through their large closets bursting with clothes moaning they had nothing to wear - the only remedy was more clothes. If characters were feeling sad, a trip to mall would soothe their feelings. Fashion magazines would print photos of curated celebrity wardrobes filled with the latest trends, sold as a shiny sign of success and happiness. Is it any wonder my generation became obsessed with fashion, centring shopping as a cure for everything and believing having more to be the marker of a well lived life? 

By the mid 90s fast fashion brands made it easier to get the latest “wardrobe essentials” helping to fill the void of having “nothing.” Copies of the latest celebrity style would turn up in stores within a fortnight at an affordable price.

As companies revenue climbed and fast fashion brands were hailed heroes for getting those much needed styles into stores quickly, many of us were unaware of the full breadth of exploitation garment workers and their communities faced beyond the occasional child labour story that made the news.

The amount of clothing created and sold has grown to unprecedented levels, with most fast fashion brands today churning out micro-seasons, some even one each week according to The Good Trade. The impact of fashion and the realisation our overall consumption levels need to slow down has people searching for ways to reduce their wardrobes impact.

According to an article by UNSW Newsroom, the clothing rental industry is a growing area, fuelled by millennials and Generation Z's desire to shop with intention. Glam Corner, The Volte, Style Theory, Designerex are just some of the mainstream Australian online options. Then there are local business like Yours + Mine in Adelaide and other similar stores around the Country.  

Renting clothing is not a new business model. Hiring formal wear like mens suits and dresses has been around for decades. I even looked into renting a dress for my wedding and hired a hat for the races (back when I went to the races...).

Personally I'm a fan of the clothing rental idea and think it can offer solutions to those moments in our lives when we might only need a clothing item for one event or short period of our lives. Then there are parts of I'm not a fan, like the clothing subscription boxes. I think the setup is similar to fast fashion and continues the “i need more” narrative.

But what I do look forward to is the niche markets expanding and this blog post is going to show you four Australian online businesses leading the clothing rental revolution in pregnancy, baby clothes, vintage wear and kids formal wear.

Mama Rentals - Pregnancy

For most people pregnancy can alter the shape of your body making it hard to fit into anything already in your wardrobe. Should a special event pop up its not really worth it to buy a new dress or spend time visiting the non existent maternity section at the local Op Shop.

Alice was of the same mindset and saw a gap in the market for pregnant people wanting a hire a pregnancy friendly formal dress for baby showers, blessings, weddings, maternity photo shoots and other important occasions. Mama Rentals stocks sustainable brands like Fillyboo, and also sources from Reclamation and more. While all dresses are bump friendly they can be hired by non pregnant people too. Mama Rentals has expanded to include the hire of accessories and dresses for young girls.

The thing is pregnancy is only for nine months, and investing in a new wardrobe can take not only a lot of money but also time. I have to say pregnancy clothing is an area of the rental market I'd be interested to see expand.

Alice is passionate about zero-waste encouraging her customers to send back the used compostable satchel with their dress so she can look after the composting. Perfect if you don't have a backyard option.

Clothing rental options for pregnancy, baby clothes, kids formal wear and vintage
Photo by Conscious Koala

Conscious Koala - Baby clothes

Babies grow very, very quickly. If you are like me finding secondhand organic, ethical and sustainable clothing made of natural fibres without bleach or non toxic dyes is difficult. Hard as in you are looking for a needle in a haystack. Here is where I don't mind a subscription box because it's kind of needed with the growth spurts a new child goes through.

Each box contains 14 items of clothing including day and night wear. When you are ready the clothes can be shipped back (even with stains because babies will baby!) and move up to the next size. The clothes you send back will be cleaned and sent onto the next family. Any items that are beyond wear are recycled. Your clothing will be sent in compostable packaging too. 

Concious Koala offer gift cards, the perfect baby shower gift.

Yarn Yarns - Vintage

Yarn Yarns is based in Melbourne selling and renting vintage clothing. I have been a customer myself, hiring a cute jumpsuit for a panel event with 1 Million Women (photo below). Sadly due to the Melbourne lockdowns last year they had to close their bricks and mortar store in Northcote. Thankfully they are still selling and renting online. At present the rental part of the website is not up but customers may contact Yarn Yarns if they see a piece they would like to hire. I'll be sure to update the information here once the rentals side of the website is ready.

Small Smarts - Kid's formal wear

There can be a lot of formal events and roles young kids might need an outfit for. Think weddings, pageboys, christenings, birthdays, family photoshoot, really the list is long. Small Smarts provide a one stop place to hire for those fancy occasions. There are options for both boys and girls from 6 months to 10 years, and yes there are accessories available. Rental periods are four – eight days, and include a paid return bag for easy shipping. 

Renting clothing has many benefits like reducing waste, saving money, and slowing down our consumption of new clothing. I don't think hiring will be the core solution to the high volumes of clothing being made – there are many different layers that need addressing. If anything I hope the growing popularity of rentals, hiring, and borrowing will help question our need to own all the things and truly look after them since its being shared with other. I'm excited to see if other areas of the clothing sector could be hired rather than owned. School uniforms? Activewear? Outdoor adventure gear? Perhaps dear reader you're working on an idea right now.

If you know of other Australian businesses that offer clothing rentals in niche markets send me an email via the contact page as I'm still trying to get the comments section fixed.

How to ask your Council for a Cloth Nappy and Reusable Sanitary Product Rebate

31 March 2021
Council for a Cloth Nappy and Reusable Sanitary Product Rebate
Photo by Gavin Green & Hardie Grant Books for Waste Not: Make a big difference by throwing away less - buy here

**Another UPDATE  at the bottom of the blog - 2 Sept 2021**

Update: thank you to The Age newspaper for writing an article about the campaigns (including mine) asking for a cloth nappy rebate in Victoria - link to the article

Last year I discovered the UK was considering a Nappies (Environmental Standards) Bill to help promote reusables nappies. The Bill included a rebate to make the switch accessible, along with a push to stop manufactures of disposable (eco or not) from making claims that aren't true. The conversation is ongoing in the UK and you can read about here and here.

I began researching cloth nappy rebates and found there weren't that many available compared to the UK. They have over 40 programs, while we have 18 (when I first wrote this blog post a month ago it was only 11). After many emails it seemed the best place to prove there was interest in rebates from the community was for more Local Government's (our Councils) to roll out rebate schemes. In the UK local Councils also run the rebate programs. So, I decided to start with mine, Moonee Valley City Council. After sharing my intentions on social media many readers showed enthusiasm to pitch similarly to their own Councils and I promised a blog post on what I have done so far to help you get started. I hope you find it useful.

But first, what is a Cloth Nappy and Reusable Sanitary Product Rebate?

A household can receive up to fifty percent of the purchase back on new and secondhand items with proof of receipt at limit of $150. These reusable items can include:
  • Cloth nappies (all ages)
  • Swim nappies
  • Nappy liners
  • Cloth wipes
  • Wet bags
  • Nursing breast pads
  • Cloth menstrual and incontinence pads
  • Menstrual cups
  • Period underwear
  • Period wet bags
Rebates are usually provided alongside education programs too. 

These councils provide rebates in Australia:
  • City of Casey (VIC)
  • Wyndham City Council (VIC)
  • Cardinia Shire (VIC)
  • Mornington Peninsula  Shire (VIC)
  • City of Wodonga (VIC)
  • Shires of Indigo (VIC)
  • City of Whittlesea (VIC) 
  • Hobsons Bay City Council (VIC)
  • City of Ballarat (VIC)
  • City of Parramatta (NSW)
  • Council of Federation (NSW)
  • Greater Hume Shire Council (NSW)
  • Shire of Towong (NSW)
  • Albury City Council (NSW)
  • Sutherland Shire (NSW)
  • Brisbane City Council (QLD)
  • Logan City Council (QLD)
  • Livingston Council (QLD)
  • City of Holdfast Bay (SA)
  • Shire of Augusta Margaret River (WA)
  • City of Cockburn (WA)
  • City of Melville (WA)
  • City of Bayswater (WA)
  • Town of Bassendean (WA)
  • City of Hobart (TAS)

I'll continue to add Councils as they provide programs :)

Why should our Government provide this? There are a couple of reasons...

A rebate will essentially provide accessibility for those unable to afford reusables, help normalise these products, provide a place for eduction and start conversations, and reward those wanting to reduce their waste.

Australian is one of the highest generators of waste in the world and all levels of government are aware behaviours, process, and products need to change to help reduce what we send to landfill. And it's happening, albeit a little slowly.

Most of our local Councils around Australia, the ones in charge of collecting residential waste and recycling, are focusing on getting organics out the landfill by introducing FOGO collections and tackling food waste. Rightly so, food waste can make up to 40% of our bins a home. As more FOGO rolls out and the system is working (ie, limited contaminates) the landfill bin collections will inevitably be moved to fortnightly.

After food, the next organic waste to land in or bins is the contents inside nappies and sanitary items. When any Council has announced their plan for fortnightly landfill pick up the most common complaint is disposable nappies. You can read what residents said in Golden Plains Shire Council and City of Penrith recently. It's a fair concern for those using disposable and biodegradable nappies.

Disposable nappies (including biodegradable nappies because they are single-use and also go to landfill unless they are collected separately) make up 4% of our landfills in Australia. With a child going through 6,000-7,000 nappies before toilet training, that is a significant amount of waste being picked up each week. Then there is the fact most disposals nappies require resources like oil to make the plastic, old growth forests for the inner lining, chemicals used inside to create that absorbency, plastic packaging, shipping of materials to factories for processing, and of course transport to stores AND the diesel fuelled garbage trucks to take it all away. Oh, and the energy needed to travel to the store to buy the product each time. Now think about all of this then apply it to menstrual and sanitary products.

That's not to say cloth nappies don't have an environmental impact, they do. But compared to disposables it's far less and will outperform when sold on for a second use or in the case of menstrual and sanitary products used for three-five years. The secondhand nappy market in Australia is HUGE, you'll find it mainly on Facebook through specific groups, marketplaces, and Gumtree.

On top of nappies being a huge part of our landfill, they are also in the top three contaminates in our recycling bins. I have heard from those in the recycling industry its getting worse and might be to do with the flashy words like 'Eco-friendly' or 'Recyclable' or “Biodegradable” are put on boxes and the everyday person assumes all eco things go into the recycling bin.

Encouraging the use of reusables, like cloth nappies and sanitary products, will ultimately save Councils money that could go back into health and wellbeing programs

According to Real Nappies for London, nine Local Councils in London collectively saved over £320k in waste costs in four years from the cloth nappy rebates they offered. I don't have data for Councils in Australia as many are looking at ways to track this sufficiently. 

Since nappy and sanitary product waste is big in volume, providing residents a reward has its merits especially when those products, say cloth nappies are passed onto someone else. For someone like me who actively tries to throw nothing into my landfill bin (or recycling!) my efforts are not rewarded and I still have to pay the rates for a service I use rarely.

A rebate is not a demand for all parents to use cloth nappies or people to buy cloth pads

I was a parent that went back to work full time when my child was three months, and I understand how exhausting parenting can be. I would be lying if disposables weren't appealing on some of those days. And truthfully it was my husband that did a lot of it and some of us don't have that extra help. Plus there are a group of other reasons why reusables, whether it's nappies or sanitary products, are not going to be suitable for everyone. Peoples ability could limit use, mental health, access to washing machines. This isn't a campaign to force these swaps onto everyone. And i'll never judge someone for not choosing reusables. 

A parent for example could find out through their Maternal Health meetings (run by Councils) or via another parent that their local Council provides a rebate...they might not take it up, BUT could encourage the parent or caregiver to research other ways to reduce their footprint like a joining a Toy Library, shopping secondhand, taking their own produce bags, volunteering for Landcare. It's all connected.

Here are steps to get started on your local campaign:

1. Start a petition

I created my petition for my own Council on -

Most Councils prefer physical petitions as it's easier to track those signing are actually from local residents. But because of Covid I decided to go with an electronic option. The petition was shared in local facebook groups and my own page. You can use parts of my petition to make your own.

**My petition is not one addressed to all Councils. If you want a rebate for your Council, then someone from your area needs to start one. I can't on your behalf since I don't live in your municipality. 

Below are a list of petitions in Australia:

Paula McIntosh, the Sustainability Leader of Melbourne Girls College has also started a petition asking for free reusable sanitary products in schools. Show your support for Paula's campaign by following on Facebook,

2. Letter to Councillors signed by multiple residents

An option outside of the petition or to run alongside is to create a letter signed by multiple residents to help strengthen the cause. This could be a group of friends or reaching out to likeminded residents in a Facebook group.

3. Start talking to your Council

Now you've started your petition or sent your group letter (or both!) it's time to find a Councillor you believe will help your cause. If you are not familiar with your local Councillors go to their social media, read their bios on the Council website, or ask in a eco Facebook group or parents group who they think would be an ally. If you have one aligned with sustainability it will be easier. Send them an email telling them your plan to start a petition and if they would like to submit the petition for you once its completed. When I did this my local Councillor suggested I give a presentation to all Councillors at a Public Forum.

4. A Public Forum presentation

This is an opportunity to put together a brief powerpoint (or not) and tell them why you believe Council should act on this. It's mainly an opportunity to educate. I only had three-five minutes to talk and shared four slides sharing what is a rebate program, why reusables are better for the environment, what will Council get out of it and what's in it for residents. 

Don't be nervous, Councillors are regular people. If you would like to see my presentation msg me and I'll pass it on.

The Councils below would be worth campaigning as they have been actively researching rebate programs and/or are running cloth nappy and menstrual product education seminars recently:
  • Yarra Ranges Shire Council (VIC)
  • Knox City Council (VIC)
  • Greater Dandenong Council (VIC)
  • Frankston City Council (VIC)
  • Maribrynong City Council (VIC)
  • Boroondara and the Councils (VIC)
  • Mildura Rural City Council (VIC)
  • Shire of Indigo (VIC)
  • Shire of Towong (VIC)
  • City of, Wodonga (VIC)
  • City of Albury (NSW)
  • Greater Hume Shire (NSW)
  • Shire of Federation (NSW)
  • Penrith City Council (NSW)

Campaigns can be a slow game, sometimes. At the moment I'm going to continue sharing my petition in local groups, then in a couple of months ask a Councillor to present it. Since my Council is more conservative they might turn this down. That's the risk of fighting for something you believe in, it can get turned down. I do believe in planting seeds and I know the collective action can work. Councils talk to each other, they are often part of region based groups within their States. If you do start your own petition or contact your Council, let me know via social media (for some reason my comments don't work anymore on my blog??) so I can add it to this blog post and share with others. There is power in numbers. 

While this blog post is directed at Aussies, I'd love to know if anyone from anywhere else has a go too. 

Good luck :)

I'd like to thank City of Casey for providing so much help in my own research and understanding for this topic. Thank you!!!

**UPDATE 2 Sept 2021** 

A lot has happened since I wrote this blog post earlier in the year. We were featured in The Age, ten more petitions have been started by community members around Australia, over twelve Victorian Councils have applied for funding to start researching cloth nappy and reusable sanitary rebates in their local government areas. Members of Cloth Nappy groups on facebook have been sharing their conversations with local Councils too to help to carry the message.

I made a formal budget submission at the start of May to my local Council – Moonee Valley. This submission was basically asking Council to include the cloth nappy and reusable sanitary rebate in the 2021/22 budget that would be handed down later in the year. I provided a breakdown of how much an annual rebate program would cost Moonee Valley City Council alongside a link to my petition. Thank you to several enthusiastic Councils for helping me figure out costings. I had already presented at a Public Forum to all Councillors in March on the topic too.

In July I received a reply from the Strategy & Planning Department stating my submission had been declined in this years budget BUT a cloth nappy and reusable sanitary product rebate would be considered for next year should the Council be successful in gaining funding from the Recycling Victoria Council Fund for a feasibility study with other councils to provide evidence based research that a rebate would work.

My unsuccessful bid was disappointing BUT I'm not without hope that Moonee Valley and other Councils around Victoria (and Australia) will have implemented a cloth nappy and reusable sanitary product rebate. After-all, my work to get a ban on plastic bags in Victoria was declined but then became a reality not long after the petition had been submitted and fobbed off. The thing with environmental campaigns is they might not work, that's just a fact. But what they do achieve is conversation within institutions and amongst the general public. So don't give up hope if you are reading this – the conversations we start today with our campaigns can blossom into meaningful change in the future.

While there is overwhelming proof from other Councils in Australia and abroad these style of rebates work, I do understand the process some Councils need to adhere too. I will endeavour to resubmit for the budget next year and hopefully have success.

If anyone would like to see a copy of my formal budget submission let me know and I'll pass it on. 

**Update (again) Jan 2022**:

Right now those 11 Victorian Councils (and anyone outside those Council areas in Victoria) are encouraged to share their ideas. Parents/carers who have/have had children in nappies (single-use or reusable) in the last 5 years can go to the link below and fill out the survey. Deadline is 21 Feb.

Thank you to everyone that started their own petition, wrote emails, made phone calls, and engaged in community conversations across Australia. There are 30 petitions in every State/Territory active right now. Two new Councils in WA and VIC have added rebates to their programs!

Your feedback will help the participating Councils to create the best rebate and education program…perhaps set in motion a State wide program?

*My original submission included reusable sanitary products too. Feel free to pop that into your feedback to nudge Council we’d like them in the survey.

Zero waste sun protection

28 January 2021
Zero waste sun protection

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

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

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

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

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

Zero waste sun protection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last step - Sunscreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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