Tag Archive for: eco living

Exciting News! My Plastic-Free eBook Launching Soon…

I’m so excited: I’ve been working on a project behind the scenes for what seems like forever (we’re talking almost 12 months) and finally finally finally I can tell you all about it!

So here’s the news: I’ve been working on my first eGuide “That’s a Wrap: Practical Tips, Tricks and Inspiration for Living Plastic-Free” and last weekend I got the final finished version back, which means it will be available to buy this week! How exciting is that?!

“That’s a Wrap” is an eGuide divided into 8 chapters, and is packed full of practical tips, tricks and inspiration for living with a lot less (or even a little less!) plastic. I wanted to create a guide that was fun to read, easy to understand and beautiful to look at. I didn’t want to create a shopping list of products or stores or brands, so this isn’t a guide of what to buy, or where to shop. It’s all about HOW.

Plastic-free living is a journey, and I want to help give you the tools to help steer you on the right path. It’s the biggest project I’ve ever worked on, and I’m hugely proud of the result.

Want a sneak peek? Here you are!

ThatsAWrap_Banner_940x300_pages

Writing this book felt like a logical step because plastic-free living was where my journey began. It led to all kinds of unexpected benefits: I ditched the junk food, removed the chemicals from my home, I eat better, support local businesses, met (and continue to meet) super inspiring people as well as wasting a whole lot less! Most importantly, it helped me transition to a life where I was living out the values I believe in: protecting the environment, supporting social justice and connecting to the wider community. How could I not want to share that with you?

Hands up if you relate to any of these?

  • You want to make a commitment to the plastic-free lifestyle, but you feel overwhelmed with what to do and where to start?
  • You’re taken some steps towards reducing your plastic consumption, and feel ready for the next stage?
  • You feel frustrated when faced with the sheer amount of information on the internet?
  • You struggle to change old habits, and find it hard to think of alternative solutions?
  • You’re passionate about the planet and want to make a difference through the choices you make?
  • You want to be part of a community that’s working to make the world a better place?

Let’s get started then!

“That’s a Wrap” is available to buy from Thursday 7th May. Find out more here.

I can’t wait to hear all your comments and feedback! It’s the questions that you ask and emails you send that have helped shape this eGuide into what it has become – so thanks for all your help so far. I want more than anything to provide value and create useful content for you on this site, and all your ideas and emails and messages directly help me to serve you better, so please keep them coming!

Only two more sleeps…!

Why Quitting Plastic is an Opportunity

There’s no doubt that plastic harms the environment. From the iconic Chris Jordan pictures of the dead Albatross chicks on Midway Atoll, who died from starvation after mistakenly being fed plastic by their parents, to the countless images of marine life caught in discarded fishing line or other plastic that should never have made it into the ocean in the first place; from the reports of whales dying after ingesting golf balls, plastic bags and DVD cases; there are articles and stories all over the internet regaling tales of how plastic is damaging our marine life.

It’s not restricted to the oceans, with plastic washed up on beaches and littering the landscape, and land animals are also ingesting this plastic. It harms people too – the people who process plastic for recycling by melting it down, the people walking through rubbish tips finding plastic to sell, and the people whose environments and waterways are littered with plastic.

When I first decided to quit plastic, it was because I cared about all these things. I care about the environment, I love being out in nature, and I also believe in social justice – and plastic affects the poorest people in the poorest countries the most.  I cared, but was I doing much about it?

Probably not. I didn’t want to be adding to the problem, but in some ways I was. I certainly wasn’t helping to solve them. Before I really understood that plastic was causing all these problems, maybe I could justify my inaction. But once I knew, how could I not do something to make a difference?

It is a great feeling, beginning to align your behaviour with your values. Rather than thinking, in the future I’ll do this, or when I retire, I’ll change that, making a stand for what you believe in every time you make a decision – and we have these choices every day – and starting RIGHT NOW.

Being done with the excuses – I don’t have the time, I don’t have the money, I’m just one person – and accepting what it is that I can do. What we can do. Maybe we’ll never be the CEO of the bottled water company, and we won’t be able to change their policies alone, but we can stop buying their products, and we can start now.

Quitting plastic was the start of a journey that has brought so many benefits, and helped me live a life according to the values and principles that are important to me. Reducing my impact on the environment was a key one, but there were many others:

  • Before I quit plastic, I shopped regularly at supermarkets. Now, I rarely go there at all. I support local businesses that add value to the local economy, rather than big multinational companies that have complex tax structures and often don’t even benefit the countries whose communities they sit in.
  • Before I quit plastic, I’d buy junk food, particularly when it was on ‘Special’ (and isn’t it always on ‘Special’?!). Now I avoid plastic, the only treats I buy are those made with real ingredients, freshly crafted and without preservatives, additives and fillers. Often I bake my own – many things take a matter of minutes to prepare. My diet is a lot better and I have far more energy, and so does the rest of my family.
  • Before I quit plastic, I’d use conventional shampoo, moisturizer and shower gel without realizing they contained irritants and carcinogens, and buy brands that were marketed at me the hardest – meaning big pharmaceutical giants. I’d clean my dishes and my kitchen worktops with products marked “hazardous”. Now I’ve discovered that it’s possible to find natural skin and haircare products with safe ingredients, and I use green cleaning products like bicarb and vinegar to clean my home.
  • Before I quit plastic, I’d buy things I needed from the shops, all wrapped in plastic. Now I’ve discovered the joy of second-hand stores, charity shops and asking friends to borrow items rather than buying my own. I’ve embraced the sharing economy, starting with my local library…and I’ve saved money in the process.

None of these things happened overnight, but over time they did happen. It started 3 years ago when I made that one simple decision to have less plastic in my life. That’s a decision that you can make too.

Now it’s your turn – I’d love to hear from you! Have you quit plastic, or started to reduce the plastic in your life? What benefits have you found, and how many were unexpected? What’s your favourite thing about living plastic-free? Maybe you’re just starting out – in which case, what appeals to you most about plastic-free living? We’re all in this together and I’d love it if you shared your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

My Story: How I Quit the Plastic Habit

As part of the event I spoke at last week organised by Plastic Free July, I was asked to talk about my own journey in reducing my plastic consumption. One of my favourite topics! It was a great chance to reflect on how my life has changed in the 3+ years since I gave up plastic.

For those of you that couldn’t come along I thought I’d share my story with you here too.

Back-track to 2012, and I thought I was doing all the right things when it came to being environmentally friendly. I diligently recycled everything I could. I was a master recycler, sorting the plastic PET and HDPE bottles from the TetraPaks and the polypropylene plastic packaging, and disposing of it all responsibly. I religiously took my own bags to the shops.

Of course, every now and then I took a plastic bag at the checkout – after all, I needed them to line my rubbish bin…

I first heard of the Plastic Free July campaign when I saw a flyer at my local library. I’d been living in Australia for just 6 months, having moved from the UK, and I was still finding my way around my local community. The challenge was to give up plastic for the month of July. Give up plastic for a month? I thought. Easy!

As part of the pre-Plastic Free July launch, there was a movie screening of the plastic documentary Bag It! I went along. It changed my life.

It was literally a lightbulb moment. A realization that plastic was a problem. A waste problem, a health problem, a lifestyle problem, a political problem and an environmental problem. And a realization that it was a problem that I could do something about.

I realised that if I wanted to see things change, I had to start with me. I also realised that giving up plastic wasn’t something that I was only going to commit to for a month. I was in it for the long-haul. Plastic-free was going to be my new way of living.

Going home that night, I was aware for the first time that plastic was everywhere. How had I not realised?! Had I been walking around with my eyes shut?! Everything was packaged in plastic! My pantry was filled with plastic-packaged products and my bathroom shelves were lined with plastic bottles. Shrink-wrap, bubble-wrap, plastic-wrap, plastic-lined, plastic-coated, plastic-sealed – arghh!

And so my plastic-free living adventure began.

That first plastic-free shop at the supermarket, I took home bananas, bread, apple juice in a glass bottle, pasta packaged in cardboard, toilet paper wrapped in paper and chocolate. The only plastic-free things that I could find. I realised that if I was going to commit to this, I had to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the first things I did to ease the transition:

  • Got hold of a reusable cup and reusable produce bags
  • Switched to bar soap and ditched the shower gel and hand wash
  • Looked up local veg box delivery schemes to avoid the supermarket packaging
  • Hunted around for bulk food stores – even places that sold a single item like olive oil
  • Headed to Farmers’ Markets to see what options were available
  • Dusted off the cookbooks and tried new recipes featuring ingredients that were easier to find in bulk
  • Learnt how to make my own yoghurt, bread, nut milk, dips, you name it!
  • Learnt how to make basic toiletries like deodorant and toothpaste
  • Talked to local producers / traders about selling items to me without packaging
  • Bought more things second hand and made use of the sharing economy – like using the library
  • Started using newspaper to line my bin rather than plastic bags!

In the beginning I made mistakes. Lots of mistakes! I bought plenty of things that I thought were packaged solely in paper or cardboard only to find sneaky plastic inside! I’d forget my reusable coffee cup, or my produce bags, or purchase random ingredients in silly quantities, like 3 kg of sesame seeds simply because I’d found them in bulk but without having the slightest idea what I was going to do with them! Like all things, you keep trying and slowly you get better. Habits form and it gets easier. Now it’s second nature, and I don’t really need to think about it.

The benefits have been enormous, and in plenty of ways that I hadn’t expected. The journey that giving up plastic has taken me on has been so much fun! I never though that giving something up would give me so much more, but it has.

Interestingly, I spend far less on food now than I did before I quit plastic. Partly because all the processed food comes packaged in plastic, all the junk food that adds up on your grocery bill but doesn’t actually fill you up. Plus I stopped buying into those deals that seem like great offers until you end up with packets of stuff you don’t really need.

My diet is a lot better. I shop locally so the fruit and veggies I buy are a lot fresher, I eat far more whole foods and a lot less sugar, and I have a lot more energy.

I learned so many new skills.

That was all in the first six months!

I began my plastic-free journey by looking at the actions I could take, the changes I could make so it was very much a personal journey. As my expertise grew, as I learned more and more about not only the problems of plastic but also the solutions, I was determined to spread the message and to inspire other people to use a little less plastic in their lives.

I started writing my blog, which has connected me to thousands of other people looking to live a similar lifestyle, has allowed me to share my knowledge and enthusiasm, and also learn so much more. I’ve also got involved in my local community, not just with Plastic Free July but also the Earth Carer network and Living Smart, and I also organized a Sustainability Festival called the Less is More Festival in 2013 and 2014.

What really gripped me right from the start about plastic-free living was that it was something that I could do. It’s something we can all do. Plastic is something that we’re faced with every single day. Multiple times a day. We can choose to use it, or we can choose to avoid it, and we make these choices every single day. We can make a difference. We just need to decide what kind of difference we want to make.

You’ve heard my story and now I really want to hear yours! How did you stumble onto the plastic-free path? What have you done to reduce your plastic consumption? What have you found easy? What’s been your biggest challenges? Whether you’ve been working on it for years or you’re new to the idea, please share your journey so far! Tell me your successes and your hopes in the comments below!

Who Made Your (My) Clothes?

This week it is the two-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster. On 24th April 2013 the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed killing 1133 people and injuring 2500 more. The people killed and injured were making clothes to be sold in Western countries. Many of the companies resisted paying compensation, some even denied their garments were being made in the factory at all. Benetton (one of the companies that originally claimed not to have used firms located at the Rana Plaza complex) only agreed to donate money to the victims’ compensation fund last week, almost two years since the accident happened.

With all the major Western fashion retailers involved having contributed, the fund remains $8 million short of its target.

To ensure that these deaths and the tragedy that occurred would stand for something, Fashion Revolution Day was born. The idea is to make people question where their clothes come from – who made our clothes? Often we buy garments with no idea who was involved, what their working conditions are like, whether they are paid a living wage or where they even live. Fashion Revolution Day exists to try to reconnect us with this chain and the values and relationships that are embedded in it.

So..Who Made My Clothes?

A good proportion of my wardrobe is second-hand, and since 2013 I’ve pledged not to add anything more to my wardrobe in an attempt to minimize and streamline. My goal is less items, more staples, better quality, responsibly manufactured, and made of natural or sustainable fabrics. Sure, there’s been a few hiccups along the way, but I’m slowly wearing things out.

But do I know where my clothes were made?

No.

Well, I didn’t…but in the spirit of Fashion Revolution day, I took every single item out of my wardrobe and read the label. Every single item. In fact, I took a photo for prosperity. There were a few things with labels so faded that they could no longer be read, and socks and tights don’t seem to come with labels, but everything else has been inspected.

Here are the results.

China: 52 Items.

Who Made My Clothes? Fashion Reolution Day 2015 China

Hong Kong: 2 items. Phillipines: 2 items.

Who Made My Clothes? Fashion Revolution Day 2015 Hong Kong Phillipines

India: 6 items. Bangladesh: 2 items.

Fashion Revolution Day 2015 Who Made My Clothes India Bangladesh 600 px

Turkey: 8 items.

Who Made My Clothes Fashion Revolution Day 2015 Turkey

Portugal: 6 items. Italy: 2 items.

Who Made My Clothes Fashion Revolution Day Italy Portugal

Malta: 1 item. Morocco: 3 items.

Who Made My Clothes Fashion Revolution Day 2015 Malta Morocco

South Africa: 1 item. Sri Lanka: 1 item. Israel: 1 item. Australia: 1 item.

Fashio Revolution Day Who Made My Clothes Israel Sri Lanka South Africa Australia

Romania: 3 items. USA: 1 item.

Fashion Revolution Day 2015 Who Made My Clothes? USA Romania

Unknown origin: 2 items.

Who Made My Clothes

I was shocked. The items in my wardrobe come from 16 different countries, plus 2 have no labels at all. Who knew my wardrobe was so multicultural? I certainly didn’t.

Of course, knowing what country at item was made in doesn’t tell me the conditions of the factory, or the minimum wage of workers. I like to think that by choosing not buying the cheapest brands (even buying most of my clothes second-hand, I avoid the cheapest brands) means I’m avoiding the sweatshops, but actually…how do I know?

The idea behind Fashion Revolution Day is to start asking questions. To look at the labels to see who the brands are, and ask the question – “who made my clothes?”

I still don’t know who made my clothes. But I know where they came from, which is more than I knew last week. It’s a good place to start from. Now I just need to ask more questions…

Now I’d like to hear from you! Have you heard of Fashion Revolution Day? Are you taking part? Do you feel you have a good sense of where and how your clothes are made? Maybe you make them yourself? Or are you like me with no real sense of where they came from? Do you have any tips for finding ethical and sustainable brands? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

Can you be Zero-Waste and a Minimalist?

They sound so contradictory, zero waste and minimalism. Zero waste seems to mean hanging on to everything, and minimalism seems to mean getting rid of everything. Surely you can’t get more opposing ideals?

Yet I feel that I belong in both camps. I aspire to zero-waste living, and I’m equally drawn to minimalism. What’s more, I don’t really feel an internal struggle between the two. Which means they can’t be so contradictory at all…can they?

Minimalism, Zero Waste – and How It Began for Me

Was I a minimalist first, or a zero-waster? I’m not entirely sure. I think both ideas were there, even before I became either. At Christmas and birthdays, I’d always feel confused about being bought presents. After all, I didn’t really need anything, so I’d suggest that the gifter found me something useful.

It didn’t occur to me back then to say I didn’t want or need anything at all, but I knew that something wasn’t quite right. Anything I did have I knew could one day come in useful, so I kept cupboards full of glass jars, and shelves full of old tins, and a wardrobe full of clothes I might need if it suddenly got hot enough to wear summer clothes / I lost half a stone / I gained half a stone / hot pink suddenly started to suit me.

The minimalism really took hold when I moved to Australia. I didn’t have anywhere to store stuff whilst overseas, and I didn’t know how long I’d be staying, so there was no point shipping my worldly possessions across the oceans (not to mention, I didn’t have the funds for that). Everything I brought with me had to fit in 1 suitcase.

I remember thinking, when I move back home, I want everything I own to still fit in that one suitcase. It was my first real experience of how liberating it is to have few possessions.

Once we found our first place to live, the things we owned started to add up… but slowly. Our first flat was so small we couldn’t fit a lot of unnecessary furniture. It wasn’t that we consciously tried to be minimalists, but circumstances led us to be that way.

Then, a few months later, I found out about the Plastic Free July campaign. Quitting plastic for a month? Sure! Up until then, I’d been an avid recycler. I’d save my plastic bottles up and traipse across the city to the only depot for recycling. I’d wrap all my tiny bits of aluminium foil into a big ball before putting it in the black box to ensure the machines could pick it up. I composted my scraps. I thought that was enough.

Quitting plastic was only meant to be a month-long challenge, but once we’d seen the devastation that plastic causes in the environment, and understood the health implication from exposing ourselves to plastic, how could we ever go back?

I gave up plastic, and switched to buying things in cardboard and glass. Both of these are noticeably heavier (especially when you don’t have a car to carry your shopping home) and I became aware for the first time of how much packaging I was consuming. Packaging that served the sole purpose of moving something from A to B, and then, with no further purpose, was thrown away.

During that month of Plastic Free July, I also found out that glass isn’t recycled in my state. Yes, it’s accepted in the recycling bins, but it’s either trucked to another state or sent to landfill.

My zero waste journey began.

Zero Waste and Minimalism are both about Simplicity

It’s easy to think that zero waste and minimalism are conflicting ideals. One seems to advocate keeping everything, whilst the other seems to advocate throwing everything away! Actually though, they are both much more similar than first appearances might have you think.

Zero Waste means sending nothing to landfill. Truly zero waste means sending nothing for recycling either. For most zero-wasters it’s an ideal we aspire to; a journey with a destination we may never quite reach but one we are always working towards. For me, the biggest realisation with zero waste is if I don’t want to send anything to landfill or recycling, I have to control what comes in through my front door.

Zero waste means simplifying. I buy in bulk using my own containers. It means I’m limited to where I can shop, so I don’t get dazzled by special offers or buy more than I need. I no longer have multiple bottles of toiletries cluttering my bathroom because I felt compelled to stock up whilst they were on 3 for 2.

If I can’t find what I want without the unnecessary packaging, I look for an alternative, consider making my own, or go without. Occasionally none of these are options, and I’ll make the purchase anyway – I am human after all, and that is why zero waste is an ideal! It’s not about deprivation, but making conscious choices.

Zero waste means I avoid shopping malls where beautiful models try to sell me clothes that I don’t need, or gadgets, or toys. I don’t go to the shops to browse, only when I need something specific. I think about the life cycle of a product before I buy it: what’s it made from, will it last, and how can I dispose of it at the end of its life?

Hang on…or is that minimalism?

Minimalism is about asking ourselves, what is enough? Keeping things that are useful or practical, and getting rid of the clutter. Getting rid of all those “just in case” items that fill our closets and spare rooms and storage space. Choosing the important things and ditching the rest.

What is ‘enough’ varies from person to person, so there are no hard and fast rules for minimalists either. Again, it is an ideal. It’s also a journey and one that requires constant work, because there is always more stuff. As with zero waste, one of the most important ways to keep clutter out of your home is to control what enters through the front door.

Minimalism is actually a huge complement to zero waste living, because it addresses the elephant in the room – or rather that huge big pile of stuff in the room that we’re keeping in case it might ever be useful. Well, that’s how us zero-wasters justify it to ourselves. Don’t want to send it to landfill, it might come in handy!

Look more closely though, and that pile of stuff is probably harbouring a whole heap of negativity. Things we bought that we didn’t need, or want, or use. Waste. Guilt. Things we received as gifts that we didn’t like. More waste. More guilt. Clothes that no longer fit. Further waste. Further guilt. As zero-wasters, we feel guilt even more, because we care about the embedded energy in these things.

The irony is, that as these things sit collecting dust and generally not becoming handy, they may as well be sitting in landfill.

Minimalism is confronting. It makes us question these choices. It makes us look long and hard at our shopping habits and spending patterns. Most importantly, it makes us buy less of what we don’t need – meaning less waste.

Can you be Zero Waste and a Minimalist? Yes!

Zero Waste isn’t about hoarding. Minimalism isn’t about sending constant streams of stuff to landfill. There’s only one key area where zero-wasters and minimalist thinking differs – convenience. Zero wasters are all about reducing what they send to landfill (and/or recycling). Minimalists are all about reducing clutter. Zero wasters are more likely to carry reusables;  minimalists are more likely to use disposables. It all comes down a personal decision as to what is “enough”, and different people have different values. There are zero-wasters who will never embrace minimalism, and minimalists who will never live a zero-waste lifestyle.

Then there are those of us who want to do both.

And yes, it is possible. Both ideals have so much in common. They are both a reaction to waste, to rampant consumerism, to buying more than you need. They are both about mindful living and making conscious choices; deciding what’s important and doing more of that, and less of the stuff that isn’t. Buying fewer things and choosing well. Making do or doing without. Simplifying.

Now I want to hear from you! Which side are you on…are you a minimalist, or a zero waster, or both? (Or are you neither?!) Which came first? Have you found one path has helped you on the other, or hindered your progress? What are your biggest challenges, and what have been your biggest realisations and triumphs? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

Not Quite Homesteading: My Balcony “Farm” Project

Living in England, I had a beautiful allotment, and I loved growing my own food. It gave me so much pleasure! Moving to Australia meant giving that up, and the flat we lived in for the first 2.5 years had a dark balcony and no natural light, so it was almost impossible to grow anything.

Last May we moved across the hallway to a flat with a much bigger balcony with a much better aspect, and I was determined to get some plants growing. After all, this was what I was going to see every time I looked out my living room window if I didn’t…

Concrete Balcony

The concrete balcony outside our flat (and living room window)

When we moved, the plan was to be here for about a year, and then move onto somewhere where we could actually grow our own plants. We decided to keep things in pots that we would be able to transport with us to the new place.

First up, we bought some trees. A lemon, a lime, a strawberry guava and a blueberry bush.

Balcony gardening fruit trees

A Tahitan Lime, Strawberry Guava, Blueberry bush and a Eureka Lemon tree.

Next up, we bought a couple of old wine barrels from a local winery, and four planter boxes made from old mattress parts (sold by a local company that recycle mattresses).

Drilling Wine Barrels2

Drilling holes into the wine barrels for the citrus trees.

recycled planters

Four planter boxes made from old mattress components – the trellises are made from old cot mattress springs!

We also got herbs and seeds from friends and family, and slowly planted these into the planters and other pots that we found on the verge.

Not Quite the Garden of Overflowing Produce I’d Dreamed Of…

We quickly realised that we didn’t get enough sun to grow many veggies. My early experiment with seedlings saw them grow elongated and straggly. Fortunately the planer boxes are on wheels, so I was constantly moving them about to get more sun, but from the whole first planter box, I grew two radishes and four carrots. The kale would have made it had the caterpillars not decimated it first…

Planter with seedlings

Poor straggly seedlings : ( Two radishes made it, and 4 carrots, plus there’s one kale seedling still clinging to life several months after it was planted out…

The other problem that came with the lack of warm sun and the exposed position on the corner above the driveway was that it got very cold in winter. My lime tree didn’t make it.

My peas and beans in the trellis planters never took off either, and I had a handful of beans and a couple of peas.

The odds may have been against us, but we kept on trying. And we did have some successes.

Not Quite Urban Homesteading – but it’s a Start!

When spring came this year, the trees fruited! All of them! The strawberry cherry guava (which may not actually be a strawberry guava at all but a lemon guava) has several fruits, and the first three were harvested at the weekend. The lemon tree flowered prolifically and has about 15 lemons slowly maturing on the branches. Plus my mandarin (which replaced the lime) has a sole fruit – it did have two, but the other dropped off. The blueberry has, to date, yielded 2 blueberries…

Cherry Guava

Strawberry cherry guavas… except they’re not red! The yellow colour seems to mean they are actually lemon guavas. Regardless ,they were delicious!

Lemon Tree with Lemons

My lemons are slowly ripening on the branches…

Balcony Project March 2015

Can you see the lonesome mandarin? On the tree on the far left – it’s on the right hand side. It’s still very green at the moment!

We’ve had success with the seedlings we’ve pushed against the railings. A couple of cucumbers, a single capsicum (with a second on the way), and heaps of cherry tomatoes. The aubergines have been flowering continuously, but are as yet to bear a single fruit. Still, it makes me happy that they are there, greening the place up. We’ve also got oregano and parsley, and last week I planted a mango seed that I found sprouting in the worm farm, so we’ll see what happens with him!

Aubergine plants

I have 7 aubergine plants, and despite their continual flowering, I’m yet to get a single aubergine. Ah well. I enjoy their company!

Tomato Crops 2015

Tomatoes tomatoes! I had three plants and these have gone great guns! Plus I love the pop of colour they add to the balcony.

Whilst it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to stop food shopping any time soon, the few things that we have managed to grow have given us heaps of joy. Gardening is so magical, and I never tire of the excitement of a seed sprouting, or a flower turning into fruit. I’ve probably spent far more in soil and planters than I’ll ever recoup in food, although I hope the planters last for many years, and the soil I can amend with compost and worm castings which are free. I’m excited that in 6 months time we’ll be moving to a place with a proper garden, and I’ll be able to go crazy!

Sadly Not Everyone Thinks Like Us…

My husband and I are very proud of our little corner of greenness, but sadly one of our neighbours isn’t. (He’s the neighbour that heads the Strata Board (and built the whole building), and last week we received a letter from the Strata company informing us that pot plants need to be kept out of common walkways. Whilst we consider this to be our own private space, our landlord has taken this to mean we can only have a couple of pot plants by the front door, and has threatened to issue us with a “breach of contract”.

Threaten away, landlord, because I’m not getting rid of my beautiful plants without a fight! Removing my plants will be like cutting off my arms! How can I get rid of them, when the outcome would be this?

Doom and Gloom - our Balcony with No Plants

Doom and Gloom – the view from our front window if we moved all our glorious plants…

Have you had any experience of balcony gardening? Are there any tips you’d like to share? Plants that grew well, or things that didn’t? How about strata companies…have you had anyone try to evict your plants (or you!) simply for trying to grow some tomatoes? And tell me…who’s willing to come round and chain themselves to my fruit trees if it comes to it?! ; p I’d love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below!

A Quirky Celebration of Bike-Riding

Saturday was the start of Bike Week, an event that is held every year in WA to celebrate bicycle riding and to promote cycling as a method for transport. The events that are run over the course of the week are always really creative, and have appeal for a wide range of people whether regular cyclists or not, so it’s really hard not to get involved in one way or another.

This weekend I spent a fair amount of time engaged with Bike Week activities, and I wanted to tell you about not one, but two events that I found really inspiring.

Pedal-Powered Movies

Movies screenings…with a difference! On Saturday night I went to a community movie screening of BMX Bandits (a 1980s film starring a very young Nicole Kidman), and the whole thing was powered by bicycles!

The setup is a collection of fifteen exercise bikes (the really old ones with a bicycle chain) and 15 Fisher and Pykel washing machine motors, which a local Physicist has engineered into a setup that can power a movie projector! The project has taken him 15 years, as every single piece has been picked up from verge collections and scrap.

Fifteen people pedal the bikes, which power the movie. The cyclists can enjoy the movie too of course, and if at any stage they get tired, bored or saddle-sore, they simply raise their hand and someone else from the audience steps up to take their place.

And they're off! Pedal Powered movie gets underway as the sun sets in Victoria Park.

And they’re off! Pedal Powered movie gets underway as the sun sets in Victoria Park.

It was so much fun! The bikes were never unmanned as the second that someone put their hand up to have a rest, multiple people sprang up to take their place. The kids in particular loved it, and would often get off the bikes having had enough to jump straight onto the next available one less than a minute later!

The Giro d Perth

The Giro d Perth is described as a “back lane bike odyssey” and is a cycling event held in Perth every year as part of Bike Week. You pay a registration free to take part, but it’s not a race, or even a ride in the traditional sense: it’s part cycling adventure part treasure hunt (with quiz questions and answers rather than treasure to find). The organisers describe it like this:

Giro d Perth Info

The Giro d Perth – What it’s About

Riders don’t even start at the same time; registration opens at 8am and you can set off any time between then and 10am. Plus yes, as it suggests above, you can stop along the way for breakfast – and many people do!

Giro d Perth

Stopping off en-route to answer a quiz question.

Back lane bike odyssey

The Giro d Perth takes riders through interesting backstreets and laneways around the city.

The great thing about the Giro d Perth is that it gets people out on bicycles onto roads. There’s a safety in numbers with so many cyclists along the route (and I’m sure some of the car drivers were very surprised to see so many wobbly, amateur cyclists taking over the roads on Sunday!), and its a really fun and sociable way to spend a morning.

If you made it to the Italian Club by 12noon (and there was no finish time, so it didn’t matter if you didn’t) there was a presentation by the founder. There were prizes, not for fastest team or most correct quiz answers, but instead for best decorated bike, best vintage bike and a couple of other categories.

He made a really good point: the “lycra brigade” are always going to cycle. This event isn’t solely for them (although they are welcome to join in – and they did). This event is about getting those people who don’t ride often, who don’t have fancy bikes, who maybe aren’t so confident, out on the roads and showing them that cycling is for everyone.

I was also impressed that there was minimal waste at the event. Your registration fee gets you a number, a map and a pen, but there’s no token throwaway medals or branded T-shirts, no fridge magnets or other unnecessary paraphernalia included. At the end, there was no giveaway of plastic cups or drinks bottles (most cyclists have them already, after all) – instead there was a big water tank so riders could refill bottles they already had. Perfect!

Water refill station

No single-use disposable plastic bottles handed out at the finish line! Instead they had a water refill station – such a great idea!

Both events were so much fun! A great way to spend time with family and friends, get out into the fresh air, get some exercise, and celebrate the enjoyment that bicycles provide. A weekend well spent : )

Now I’d like to hear from you! Have you ever taken part in any interesting or unusual cycle events? Have you ever seen any crazy bicycle events but not been game to take part? Are you a regular cyclist, and if not, what holds you back? Do you find the “lycra set” intimidating, or are you happy to cycle on the roads with your less-than-polished ride? The comments make the conversation come to life, so please let me know your thoughts by writing below!

Have Experiences. Not Stuff.

One of the biggest highlights of our holiday last week was heading out to the Bremer Canyon to see killer whales (orcas). The Bremer Canyon, only discovered in 2013, is a place where more than a hundred orca come together to feed during February and March. It’s 65km offshore, and this is the first year that it’s been possible to go and see them as a tourist, and only for these two months.

It’s not your typical tourist adventure, heading out into international waters and rough, icy cold seas on a small boat for several hours, and even the small village where the boat departs from is in an isolated spot, a 2 hour drive from the nearest town and several hours drive from Perth.

When I heard about the tour last year something really grabbed my attention. Whether it was the idea of sailing to the edge of the earth, the rare opportunity to see killer whales in their natural environment, the fact that this spot is so newly discovered that very little is known about it…I’m not sure. I booked two tickets as a birthday present for my husband.

We’re not really into buying presents, and we no longer buy each other Christmas presents. For birthdays we often get tickets so we can experience something together – concerts, theatre, talks. We don’t have a budget or hard-and-fast rules about what we spend but we both agree: there’s no point shelling out money for the sake of it.

The tickets to the Bremer Canyon tour were expensive. Really expensive. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever spent that much money on tickets before. I ummed and ahhed about the cost. There was no guarantees we’d even see anything, and as the tour had never run before there were no reviews to check or compare.

But it was such a unique, exciting adventure, in the end I had to do it.

It made me think. I balked at the price, and yet a few years ago I wouldn’t have thought anything of spending the same price on a gift for my husband. When you consider how many people receive bigger (or smaller)  iPods, thinner iPads, upgraded mobile phones, better computer games consoles, expensive clothes and fancy cameras for Christmas and birthday presents, I wouldn’t be alone.

Now I’ve had a total rethink on stuff, and the idea of spending money upgrading something that already functions perfectly well makes me cringe. As does buying something new just because it’s the latest fad, or because there’s an obligation to purchase a gift. We have everything we need. Rather than spend money on newer, better versions of things we already own, we make do with what we have, and spend the money having new experiences and creating memories.

Back to the tour. Last Saturday we joined the boat, the other tourists and two marine scientists that were studying the orcas and headed two hours from land into international waters to see what was out there in the ocean. There’s no guarantee that the whales will be there. When we arrived at the co-ordinates, though, the whales came. And they were beautiful.

It was such an amazing experience. The orcas gather in groups, and they came up to the boat, swimming alongside and underneath it. We saw them surfing the waves. There was an enormous bull whale and some small calves, whose white patches were still yellow. They came so close it was incredible. The boat just sat there, bobbing in the ocean, whilst these amazing mammals swam around us. I had a couple of out-loud “wow” moments. It was worth every penny.

We only managed to take a couple of photos. Letting go of the rail long enough to use a camera was a tricky task!

Bremer Canyon orcas

Bremer Canyon orcas

Bremer Canyon orcas

Bremer Canyon orcas

These photos weren’t taken with an SLR camera. They were taken with my husband’s point-and-shoot camera, with no zoom to speak of. We don’t own an SLR. We were able to go on this tour because we don’t own things like fancy cameras. Turns out, when you’re this close to whales, you don’t need a fancy camera anyway.

Orcas on camera

You don’t need a fancy camera (or any camera) to create memories.

These pictures aren’t the thing that’s going to stay with us. What will stay with us is the experience we had. The memories we created. Photos can’t capture the smell of the ocean, the sounds, the movements as these beautiful creatures rode the waves or glided in synchronised groups alongside and underneath the boat. The feelings of total amazement and wonder.

Collect memories. Not stuff.

Seas and Trees: A Week in Pictures

Last week there was no writing. No posts about rubbish bins, or plastic, or having too much stuff. Instead, I was on holidays, journeying through some of the National Parks and other beautiful places that Western Australia has to offer. There is so much natural beauty, amazing scenery and incredible wildlife here to experience.

Sometimes we just need to get out there and remind ourselves that the world truly is an amazing, beautiful, wonderful place. We’re pretty lucky, living on a planet like ours, and taking time out to appreciate just how awe-inspiring it really is really re-ignites my commitment to working to protect it.

I thought I’d share a few of the pics I took in the last week with you. I hope they inspire you as much as they inspired me…the earth is a beautiful place, and worth looking after : )

Bluff Knoll peaks WA

Bluff Knoll, Stirling Ranges National Park

Bluff Knoll landscape

Stirling Ranges National Park

Le Grand Beach Cape Le Grand National Park Esperance WA

Le Grand Beach, Cape Le Grand National Park

Cape Le Grand National Park Beach Esperance WA

Cape Le Grand Beach, near Esperance

Lucky Bay Cape Le Grand National Park Esperance WA

Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park

Hellfire Bay Cape le Grand National Park Esperance WA

Hellfire Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park

Flowers Cape Le Grand National Park Esperance WA

Shrub in Flower, Cape Le Grand National Park

Tourist Drive Esperance WA

Waves crashing on the rocks, Esperance

Tourist Drive Esperance WA Steps

Esperance coastline

Kapwari Wetlands Walk Esperance WA

Kapwari wetlands, Esperance

Boardwalk Wetlands Esperance WA

Boardwalk at Kapwari wetlands

Fluffy Clouds in Esperance WA

Fluffy Clouds

Stokes National Park Esperance WA

Stokes National Park, Esperance

Shark tooth wattle

Shark-tooth wattle

Bremer Bay Walk Bench

Moody Bremer Bay

Bremer Bay beach

Bremer Bay beach

Pelicans at Bremer Bay

Pelicans at Bremer Bay

Bremer Bay Beach walk

Bremer Bay in the sunshine

Beach at Bremer Bay

Around the cape at Bremer Bay

Orange Bottle Brush Denmark

Orange bottle-brush in Denmark

Nature is amazing, and it makes my heart sing : )

It Began With Chocolate Brownies…

On Wednesday it was my boss’s birthday, and I decided to make chocolate brownies to take to work. These raw chocolate brownies that I originally posted the recipe for back in 2013. (They are extremely simple to make, do not require baking and are so delicious – you must make them!)

I knew the recipe was buried deep in the archives of my blog, and I managed to find it. I realise though, that if you didn’t know that the recipe existed, you wouldn’t have searched for it, and you’d never have known it was there. That’s an awful lot of people missing out on delicious chocolate brownies!

The same goes for lots of other things I’ve written about. They’re lost in the depths of the internet. It’s pretty rubbish, not being able to find something unless you already know it exists. I’d like to think that some of that information would be useful to people!

Feeling inspired (and with the extra energy given to me by eating too many offcuts of chocolate brownie) I’ve set about rejigging my site to make it easier for readers to browse through old content. It still looks pretty much the same, but now there are four tabs at the top that link to pages that showcase some of the old archived posts.

The four new categories are:

Minimalism and Simple Living

Real Food and Recipes

Zero Waste

Plastic-Free

They aren’t perfect (I’m not a website developer!) and they don’t list every single post I’ve ever written, but it’s a much more user-friendly way to browse the site. I promise I’m going to work on making the introductory text a bit more exciting!

I hope you like them. Now you have plenty of things to do to keep you occupied this weekend – reading and chocolate-brownie eating! What a perfect way to spend your time! : )

Please give me your feedback! I’d love to hear your thoughts so please let me know any idea or suggestions in the comments below. Do you find the new pages helpful? Are there any categories you feel I’ve missed? Is there any other information you think I could add? I really want to make this site more helpful and user-friendly for you, the reader – so tell me your ideas!