The Rogue Ginger: Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waste services beyond the kerb

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

Grants

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

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

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

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

Working with businesses

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

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

Plastic Wise Policy and Zero Waste to Landfill plans

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

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

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

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

Connecting with community and programs for developing projects

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

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

Link up with your Council

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

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

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

Photos in this blog post are by Stonnington Council

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.


P.S I'd like to thank FeedSpot for featuring me in the Top 30 Eco-Friendly Mom Blogs and Websites To Follow in 2020

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 community repair cafes and hubs

16 February 2020

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

Across Australian suburbs, Repair Cafes and Repair Labs are offering communities a local place 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. The Repair Cafes and Repair Hubs are laying this groundwork and reviving forgotten skillsets.

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

A local initiative started in Australia is the Repair Labs. They have events in WA. Join the Facebook page or Instagram to keep up to date on upcoming repairing sessions. 

How does a Repair Cafe or Repair Lab work:

Depending on the Repair Cafe or Lab 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 group.

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.
  • Check with the Repair Lab about details on opening one in your area. 
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 and Repair Lab?

Below is a list of Repair Cafes and Repair Labs in Australia. 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 location. 

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
Knox Repair Cafe

Repair events held at the Gawler Environment Centre

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Repair Lab Perth (covering East Vic Park, Victoria Park, Wembley, Fremantle, Claremont, Peppermint Grove, Mount Claremont)
Albany Repair Cafe
Jarrahdale Repair Cafe
Fremantle Repair Cafe
Belmont Repair Cafe
Perth Repair Cafe
Doubleview Repair Cafe
Bassendean Repair Café
Cockburn Repair Cafe


Follow the Repair Cafe Australia page for national repair news and events. 
International readers can visit the map for repair cafe locations in your country. 

The list is up to date as of 17.06.2021. 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 all superheros. And so does my kid. 

Zero-waste and plastic-free underwear: my review of The Very Good Bra

31 October 2019
Zero-waste-plastic-free-underwear: a review of The Very Good Bra


I have a few rules when it comes to buying apparel for myself:

  1. Secondhand first
  2. If a particular piece cannot be sourced secondhand then I choose clothing made of natural fibres grown and sewn in Australia by brands with ethical values and full transparency
  3. Choose materials that are as natural as possible so they can break down in my compost after it's beyond repairing and repurposing.

These above rules have been fairly easy to follow. In the past seven years I have purchased 90% of my clothing secondhand, three new jumpers that adhere to rule 2 and 3 (all were from Woolerina). And my shoes have been bought secondhand.

But underwear is where I draw the line, for now.

Rule 2 was always hard to follow when it came to buying underwear especially bras as they can contain quite a few components like elastic and clips that can't make it zero-waste. So I chose brands with ECA accreditation (Ethical Clothing Australia). Obviously wearing no bra would be the most zero waste option but I like the added warmth in winter! In summer I'm happy to go without sometimes. Plus I found a bra a non-negotiable when breastfeeding because I leaked for a year. 

When I was pregnant The Very Good Bra appeared on the scene with their zero-waste bra. Naturally I bookmarked them for when I would be free of maternity bras. Just as my son was starting to reduce his breastfeeding a timely email from CEO and founder Stephanie Devine landed upon my inbox asking if I'd like to try the black zero-waste bra for free.

Now, anyone who has breastfed will know just how worn maternity bras become. Your breasts morph significantly throughout, stretching the fabric. And at the beginning the poor bra can become saturated with milk, no matter how many breast pads or towels are shoved down there. At least mine did. So after two years of my breasts belonging to someone else, being sucked and chewed at all hours of the day you can understand why I would be excited for a new bra? And this wasn't just any bra, it was a zero waste bra! Meaning the life cycle had been accounted for and it could avoid landfill.

I've worn the bra for six months and I must say, it's incredibly soft. It felt so nice to slip it on during winter especially. The fabric is made of Australian knitted and dyed Lenzing fibre Tencel, with tree rubber and organic cotton elastic and custom made organic hooks and eyes. If you would like to learn more about Tencel visit Good On You. I do understand that Tencel is not perfect, but then most massed produced fabrics seem to have a negative. It is worth noting that the company Lenzing are working to reduce those negative impacts.

The thread holding it all together is tencel too. Most clothing thread is a cotton polyester mix chosen for durability. So if a cotton t-shirt was placed into a backyard compost (after being reused as a rag obviously!) everything will break down quickly except for the polyester part of the thread.) When the zero-waste bra is at the end of its life the metal hooks and eyes can be removed for recycling and the rest buried where it will return to the earth. Metal, even those small parts can be recycled. In Australia check with your local council how best to collect and drop off. For instance I can take metal to my local Transfer Station. 

I'm pretty sure I would repurpose the material before composting, but thats me! I treat composting like I treat recycling; as a last resort.

But how does it fit?


I have the bra in a 32C and the fit is supportive throughout the day. The straps never fall off my shoulders, a problem I have had often in the past and the three clasps at the back are easy to use. So far it washes well with no pilling. This bra is underwire free. I will be buying the peach version for myself so I have more than 1 bra though I might try the 32B as that is what I used to be pre-nursing so I can compare. There is a small amount of room towards the top of the 32C but not enough that anything slips out when I bend over.

Tammy Logan from Gippsland Unwrapped wrote a review last year if you'd like to read it here. Her blog post also includes other reviews within the with people of different bust sizes.

There is a lack of machinery and skills available for this type of bra to be made locally since Bonds took their production offshore to China. The cost would also jump to over $120 if produced locally. I do know founder Stephanie Devine would love to have everything sourced and made locally. It's just not an option presently. Stephanie has such passion and drive that I can only see her brand continuing to do great things.

The bra currently costs $95 which I understand is a big investment when compared to a cotton bra from a brand like Bonds. But the fair treatment of garments workers and brands like The Very Good Bra is important to me. I'm investing in a sustainable fabric, carefully thought out materials and living wages. If more people that can afford this kind of bra and choose to invest into this system then the price would reduce. So share with others and let them know. 

The Very Good Bra has started making zero-waste undies too. Most undies (knickers, panties) contain a plastic elastane which is not compostable. Elastane is a plastic fibre that helps give underwear that stretch.

I am holding onto my maternity bras just in case we decide to try for a sibling. For those with old maternity bras that are in good shape you can pass them onto the Uplift Project. They would love reusable nursing pads if you have any laying around.

The Very Good Bra is packed by workers at Avenue. Avenue is a Co-Working Space in Parramatta where people of all abilities are supported to work, socialise and develop their individual skills, regardless of their support needs.


UPDATE from founder Stephanie 24.02.2020: 
Stephanie was sent an unfinished sample of the hook and eye used in the bras. Even though she was told there was no plastic there was indeed a small piece of polyproplene stabiliser within the hook and eye. She is currently searching for a hook and eye without the plastic. I'll update once it has been found. This means the hook and eye cannot be recycled. Thank you to Stephanie for being transparent with her customers. Transparency is not radical, and her honesty in a time when so many "ethical" clothing companies use a weak definition of transparency as a selling point. You can read more on the companies blog here

Are there any other zero-waste underwear options out there?


Now I don't like doing reviews on products I have not tried myself but I will share with you some brands I've found throughout the years worth checking out:

Rawganique:

The underwear in this link contains no elastane. The fabric used is either 100% hemp or organic cotton depending on the style. But the thread used is poly core (a cotton polyester mix). This is because when a cotton thread is used in the leg area and waist it can break easier due more movement. So technically the seams can be cut off and compost the rest. I'd do that.

Cottonique:

I found this brand while looking for zero-waste maternity bras when I was pregnant. There are some interesting bra and underwear options without elastane. Pieces in Natural are sewn with 100% cotton thread so technically these could be composted with the metal loops recycled. I have linked those options here: Women's Drawstring Brief (Natural) and Women's Drawstring Bra (Natural).

Up and Undies

This a small US business based in Seattle, Washington selling undies made out of used material like t-shirts found at secondhand stores.  These won't break down completely in the compost but I love the ingenuity of using a resource already in existence and the fun designs of the brand. All scraps are kept to knit rugs too. 


There is a wonderfully detailed blog post by Design Diary on how to sew your own underwear should you be inspired to try it yourself.


I'd love to know if I have missed any brands as I'd love to add then. Send me an email via my contact page and I'll put your suggestions onto the list.

Readers suggestions:
Farm To Hanger - The Bio Range



#trgcollab: The bra was a gift by The Very Good Bra. I use the hashtag #trgcollab to help readers idenifty items or services that were gifted to me or are a paid post. This item was an unpaid gift and I was not compensated financially to write about. All views are my own. I only accept gifted items or services I would use personally. 
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