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 change.org - http://chng.it/7YyS2dYc

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, facebook.com/EcoFriendlyPeriods4VicSchools.

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. 

Eight Environmental books I read in 2020

4 December 2020
Eight Environmental books I read in 2020


Each year I make a plan to share a list on the blog of all the books I have read. After eight years of blogging I've finally managed to remember. I found the draft blog post from 2019 but forgot to share the books I read then. If you are interested the books related to the environment from my 2019 book haul were:
  • Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta
  • Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
  • Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia Edited by Anita Heiss
  • Hidden in Plain View by Paul Irish
  • The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage
  • A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. Washington
  • Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta Taylor
  • Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States by Carl Zimring
  • Treading Lightly: The Hidden Wisdom of the World’s Oldest People by Karl-Erik Sveiby and Tex Skuthorpe 
  • Welcome to Country by Marcia Langton
I’ll admit the books I read in 2020 with an environmental theme featured no POC authors. I didn’t even realise until after I made the list. I apologise for this and realise now I should have done better. I also didn't read as many books with an environmental focus. This year I enjoyed more fiction and non-fiction too. Let's get into the eight environmental books I read in 2020


How to Save The World by Katie Patrick

Technically I read this in 2019 but it is one book I have come back to a lot this year appropriately titled How To Save The World. This book originally began as a powerpoint presentation I stumbled across one day. Thankfully author Katie Patrick expanded on it and I'm so glad she did. Katie is an environmental engineer and designer with passion to help people change the world using game design and data.

Over the years I have watched environmental campaigns miss the mark while community driven movements like Plastic Free July and Zero Waste continue to shift habits. It wasn't until I read this book that I began to understand how these two became so popular. Both were focused on behaviour narratives lead by everyday people rather than just direct education full of guilt and doom. Katie's book really drives home that education alone is not going to help change the world let alone save it.

The book looks at how data, game design and behaviour psychology can be harnessed to create programs that will actually work to create change. How To Save The World is divide into ten sections with thoroughly researched actionable ideas alongside well considered case studies and examples of success stories and failures. It's technical but written in a way that makes the content accessible and fun.

Food or War by Jullian Cribb

This book was an interesting read. It was a little depressing at the start as Cribb goes through the ways humans have used food to harm, control, manipulate, and spur conflict on. We see it happening today with heartbreaking famines and the rise of food deserts. The power of controlling food has been overlooked as humans become more and more separated from it where it's being grown and by who. I'd like to think this book wasn’t written purely because of the issues at hand. Instead I hope it's because people are wanting to turn the system around fast. According to Cribb if we could grow more of our food in our cities with the help of tech (depending on location and climate) we'd save up to 20% in emissions used to transport food around the world. This along with other fascinating ideas could help provide more peace and stability in the world.

I don't find many of his proposed ideas too far fetched. Reduce military spending to reinvest in regenerative local agriculture, prioritising food education for children (growing, eating, sharing – you know life skills), accessibility to more healthy food, rethink packaging, sharing innovation, accessible tech for all farmers, rewilding lead by Indigenous leaders, giving farmers pay rises, and put more women in charge. I found myself nodding along to most of these and perhaps you will too.

2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration by Damon Gameau

2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration is to accompany the film. Since I saw the movie after reading the book I can safely say you don't need to have watched the film to enjoy this book.

The book begins with the issues we are facing and what inspired Gameau to make the film. From there the book is then broken up into six chapters, with the first four focused on energy, transport, drawdown & sequester, consumption. Like the film each theme is looked at from two angles; where we can scale up and the individual actions people like you and me can make. There are planet friendly recipes prioritising ingredients that are good for the soil or sequester carbon. It's an uplifting book, inspiring, and easy to read. The only thing I didn't like was the plastic debossing and embossing on the front of the book.

The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen by Lindsay Miles

This is a beautifully illustrated and well written guide to reducing waste in the kitchen. Whether you are starting out or are familiar with zero-waste I can guarantee you’ll learn something from Lindsay Mile’s second book. 

It will help answer those niggling questions beyond packaging and bulk food stores like food miles, carbon footprints, that can make decisions fickle and hard at the start. The type of foods you’ll encounter at a bulk food store and what to do with them. Tips for reducing food waste to landfill. Basic recipes and food preservation to get you started in your less waste no fuss kitchen. 

Lindsay’s balanced friendly approach will help you find the right choices for your life, without any goading or preaching. This book is a welcome addition to my kitchen I’ll be reaching for again and again.

Eight Environmental books I read in 2020

Plastic Free: The Inspiring Story of a Global Environmental Movement and Why It Matters by By Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, Joanna Atherfold Finn

Before I begin I will note the author and founder of Plastic Free July is a friend of mine and I must congratulate her on this book. I know she was a nervous about writing it but I think she has done an amazing job alongside her co-author Joanna Atherfold Finn. I really enjoyed learning about Rebecca's early life, where her inspiration and passion for the environment came from. It set a good grounding for the book and how Plastic Free July would eventually come to fruition. While the book does have tips on reducing plastic this is a story about how Plastic Free July begun and its contribution to the plastic free movement, the people it has inspired, change created, and hope for the future. You might see my name inside its pages ;) 

Ninja Bandicoots and Turbo-Charged Wombats: Stories From Behind The Scenes At The Zoo by By Hazel Flynn

Full disclosure this book is for children. I did start to read parts of it with my kiddo (it's for older children 9-12) but ended up liking it myself. The author packs a lot of easy to digest information about the inner-workings of a zoo and animal hospital. If I had read a book like this as a child I probably would have become a vet or zoologist. There are fun facts about Australian native animals throughout that I had no idea about. I enjoyed reading about the real adventures from actual zoo keepers, how they came to their jobs, skills needed, and the fun they have with their roles. There are chapters on different animals, why they might be under threat, their life in a zoo or wildlife sanctuary. The chapters end with actions we can do to help make sure the animals are protected.

The Waste Between Our Ears by Gerry Gillespie

“The only place that waste exists is between our ears, because waste is not a fact — it is a concept.” This sentence from Gerry Gillespie's book is a ringing reminder the habits (in industry and through the individual) around waste have been formed and that there is a breadth of opportunity to change this.

The author of The Waste Between Our Ears is a zero waste campaigner based in Australia known for his interest and advocacy in the collection of properly sorted organic waste to reuse in the agricultural sector for regeneration. Much of his book is about the need for proper source separation as this would help turn materials back into something of value. Gillespie provides plenty of examples on how different materials could be recycled and reused on a local scale rather than picked up and shipped to a large city in fuel guzzling trucks. It's a timely book with the shake up in the Australian recycling industry.

I appreciated the author reminding us that many solutions won't work everywhere. Instead locally designed systems should be sought to fit with regions to address local issues. While much of the book is about resource recovery through recycling the ending focuses on the need to regulate and redesign if we want to advance any type of zero-waste system. Not just the products but also how the waste and recycling industry is structured. Gillepsie believes the more information the public knows, the more they'll want the current systems to change and to help participate in making that happen. The Waste Between Our Ears is helpful book to do just that.

Connecting With Life by Martin Summer

Living in a densely populated city myself made it easy to connect with Martin Summer's book. And with Melbourne, particularly my suburb, going through the longest Covid-19 lockdown this year had me questioning if it was possible to connect with life when I'm surrounded by so much concrete and brick. This is a well researched and nicely written book. 

Summer details the different challenges a city presents then provides solutions and benefits, most of which are accessible in my city and for me. This might not be the case for everyone and making nature more accessible to all residents in our built up urban environments need to be a priority. There are many tips for enjoying nature where we are, the overarching one being to look a little more closely and it will be there.

Next on my to-read list are Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom and This One Wild and Precious Life by Sarah Wilson. I'd love to hear any suggestions you have via email or comment on Facebook. 


#trgcollab: The books Connecting With Life by Martin Summer, The Waste Between Our Ears by Gerry Gillespie, Ninja Bandicoots and Turbo-Charged Wombats: Stories From Behind The Scenes At The Zoo by By Hazel Flynn, 2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration by Damon Gameau, Food or War by Jullian Cribb were gifts by the authors and publisher. I use the hashtag #trgcollab to help readers idenifty items or services that were gifted to me or are a paid post. These items were unpaid gifts and I was not compensated financially to post about them. All views are my own. I only accept gifted items or services I would use personally.
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