Posts

What I’ve been up to…

Do you ever get yourself into a situation, and wonder how on earth it was that you ever agreed to get involved in the first place? This time last week, that was me. You may have noticed (from the distinct lack of personal photographs on the blog) that I’m not a particular fan of having my picture taken. So how was it that I agreed to be photographed last Monday morning wearing a pair of overalls, sitting in a knitted (yarnbombed) wheelbarrow, clutching a live chicken?

Well…

Let me tell you about the Less is More Festival. Read more

Spreading the sustainability and clean living word

When I started this blog, I was motivated because I felt like I was at a real turning point in my life. I was on a journey… a journey that started with a bigger commitment to being more sustainable, but became so much more than that.  It has led me down all sorts of interesting paths. I felt like I was learning so much, and I really wanted to share what I was finding out, as well as keep a kind-of record of my progress.

I love being able to share what I know, and as part of that I got involved with Living Smart, a not-for-profit organisation based in Australia that provides practical knowledge and skills for people to live more sustainable lives. Read more

Some Recommended Reading

Yesterday afternoon I dropped my parents off at Perth Airport for their flight back to the UK. They visited for just over four weeks, and it has been insanely busy. Partly because they have been staying in our flat, and my boyfriend and I stayed at his parents’ house, which means I have been making the hour-long commute (one way) between houses each day, and then taking them out to see the sights, before trekking back. This was compounded by us sleeping in a bed that was far too small for us (well mostly my boyfriend, whose ankles stick through the railings meaning it is impossible to move without waking us both up), meaning we have been running on minimal sleep. I had a lovely time, and it was great to be able to spend so much time with them, but now they’ve gone I’ve been hit by a tsunami of exhaustion. I’m tired, emotional and mentally frazzled… which wouldn’t matter so much if everything else in my life wasn’t still going full steam ahead.

This isn’t a blog post about woe is me, though. All I need is sleep, time to unwind, the chance to relax and to eat some nourishing meals and I’ll be ready to go again. I’ve had an awesome month; I’m blessed that my parents were able to come to visit, and for such a substantial amount of time. No complaints here : )

In order to get these things though, I need to prioritize my workload. I was really hoping that I’d be able to keep blogging whilst they visited, but unfortunately I didn’t have the time. Now that they’ve gone, I have a number of looming deadlines to address, and that doesn’t include blogging. I really want to write but I don’t have the time to do justice to the millions of thoughts that are whirring away in my mind. I have still had time to read the posts that others are writing, so I thought that rather than write a rushed, garbled post of my own, I’d share some posts I’ve read over the past month that I have enjoyed. I get so much enjoyment/knowledge/motivation/inspiration/etc from the bloggers that I follow and so I wanted to share in the hope that you might enjoy them too. Far better to share inspiration than write a blog post about not writing a blog post – who wants to read that?!

My recommended reading list

  • EcoGrrl wrote a great post about how conventional beauty and advertising sell women the message that they aren’t good enough in order to shift their chemical-containing products. She’s taken so much time to research this and all women should read it:  Tuesday Go Ponder: Redbook’s Bevy of False Claims, Misleading Ads, and Shaming Women. [NB This link has been removed as it now points to a wrinkle-busting scam, and I can’t find the updated link. If you find it let me know!]
  • Journey to Ithaca shared a great post entitled Thoughts on “Rants”. I probably don’t need to explain what this is about. It begins with the line “I used to be a ranter”, and is thoughtful, well written and definitely has a lesson or two in there!
  • Westywrites is starting preparation for Plastic Free July next year early – 8 months early! She has so much energy and passion for the subject – check out Plastic-Free Me: An Introduction if you’re interested in trying to be more plastic-free (or any of her subsequent posts). Her enthusiasm is infectious!
  • I’ve also been following blog posts by A Girl Called Jack, who blogs about feeding a family for less than £10 but is also a campaigner for Oxfam and Child Poverty Action Group. That description doesn’t actually do her any credit – she’s opened my eyes to all kinds of issues, like foodbanks, benefits, poverty in the UK, how completely immoral the Daily Mail is (and I thought I knew this, but no, turns out they are worse than I could ever have imagined). She’s made me question my own feelings and actions regarding food, poverty and sustainability – in a good way – and I’m still processing all my thoughts.
  • Lastly I wanted to share with you Make it Your Job, a blog post considering why we get resentful and angry. It is the most recent post by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, a minimalist who embraces simple living. I think every post he writes is super inspiring.

Of course there’s many more amazing blog posts and writers out there who I love, but I don’t want to overload you all! I hope you enjoy some (or all) of these posts. I’m off to get on with my to-do list!

Friday night movie – the Clean Bin Project

I went to see another “eco” movie at a community screening on Friday. This time I saw the Clean Bin Project. It’s about a Canadian couple, Jen and Grant, who pledge to buy nothing for a year, and each collect their landfill waste for 12 months to see who has the least impact. The goal is zero landfill waste. The movie isn’t really about the competition, but rather the journey, and the issues with waste and landfill. There’s some great interviews with some really inspiring people involved in spreading the waste message, too. Read more

My public holiday nightmare… and some advice needed

This Monday was a public holiday here in Perth, and we had plans to take in Kings Park and the wildflowers and go for a leisurely walk around Lake Claremont, relaxing and generally enjoying the extra free time.

Until, on Sunday night, my boyfriend pulled a bag out of the wardrobe. “Do you think this is mould?”, he asked, showing me some white marks. Hmm, it did look like mould. We pulled a few more things out. More mould. The further we looked, the more we found. Arghh.

And so it was, we were able to make the most of the glorious weather that is so long overdue… Read more

Moving into fifth gear…

For a few months now, my life’s been ticking along nicely. Projects and other things that keep me busy have come, and gone, and the various plans and schemes that I’ve dreamed up have been swirling around in my mind, and on paper, but haven’t grown more than that.

Then in the last couple of weeks, everything seems to have picked up speed. Potential plans have firmed up, new opportunities have presented themselves, and projects that only seemed like distant dreams have come together all at once.

Suddenly everything seems to be going very fast. Read more

Everyone buys too many clothes…

“Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody’s buying far too many clothes.”
– Dame Vivienne Westwood

That was what Dame Vivienne Westwood, the famous British fashion designer, told the press after the launch of her show at London Fashion Week this week, as reported on the Telegraph.co.uk website.

I’ve got to say, I love her message. It’s something I’ve believed in for years. I remember going clothes shopping with my sister as a teenager, and we’d browse through the clothes rails and pick out bargains. When I asked myself if I really liked the item I’d found, how much it cost always came into the equation. “Hmmm, it’s £10 nice”.  Which meant, I like it because it only costs £10 – if it cost more I probably wouldn’t want it. Once I realised that I was only buying things because I saw them as a bargain, often never really wearing them, it made me question my buying habits. There were many reasons why I’d never wear the things I bought – they didn’t really suit me, I didn’t have the right occasion to actually wear it, it didn’t really fit properly… and many more. Every time I’d been seduced by price, but it had ended up being a false economy.

So I decided in my early twenties to take price out of the equation completely. When I was looking for something, I would only buy things that were absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t consider price until I’d found what I wanted – and then I’d check the price tag and decide if I was willing to spend that much. If something is perfect, and I’m sure I will wear it many times, I am willing to spend a little more. It’s a much better system than buying heaps of cheap items that were a “bargain” but that I’ll never wear. Not to mention cheap throwaway fashion that will only get one or two wears before they stretch, fade and/or become mis-shapen.

How has this worked for me? Well, I no longer need to go shopping in the sales. That stuff isn’t really a bargain – it’s all the stuff the store couldn’t sell at full price so had to discount to shift it. Why didn’t it sell in the first place? Whatever the reason (badly cut, odd sizing, strange colours), it may be a reason why the person who buys the “bargain” never actually wears it either.

I spend more per item, and I buy a whole lot less. I buy things that I like, that fit properly, and I know I will wear. Spending more on an item definitely guilt-trips me into wearing it, whereas it’s easy if something only cost a few dollars to cast it aside if you change your mind.

It is something I aspire to, but I’m not perfect. When I first switched from shopping in clothes shops to shopping at second-hand stores and on eBay, I had a brief phase of buying things solely because they were cheap. It seemed guilt-free as they were used items, but I still ended up with items in my wardrobe that I didn’t wear that just took up space. It seemed strange to spend decent amounts of money on second-hand items. Now I’ve changed my mind and if I find something I want, I’m happy to pay whatever the seller asks.

This year my sole non-underwear clothes purchases have been a second-hand jacket, jumper and skirt (plus a new pair of trainers). The jacket and the jumper were not super cheap as second-hand items go, but are really good quality and things I specifically needed. The skirt is an example of my hoarding tendencies and shows that I still have lessons to learn – it is actually the same as a skirt I already have and love, and wear all summer long, so when I saw the second one on eBay I had to buy it. Probably not necessary. Scrap that, definitely not necessary! Shows I still have a way to go!

Back to Dame Vivienne. Obviously her comment has attracted some criticism. Some think she is being hypocritical because she works in the fashion industry. Others think that by promoting quality she is actually promoting the sales of her own designer goods – her comments were simply a way to sell her products. Personally, I think that because she works in the fashion industry, she is in a better place to make her comments and have her views listened to. You need insiders to help make change in every industry, and fashion is no exception. Of course she wants to make money from her work – but you don’t see racks and racks of cheap Vivienne Westwood garments in every store you step into. She doesn’t produce wear-once-and-throw-away items. The comment about buying better quality seems less likely to be a cheap marketing plug and more likely a reference to the irresponsible, sweatshop-produced, poorly made rubbish that flies of the shelves each week – and ends up in landfill in the weeks after that. Not everyone can afford her prices, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all spend a little more ensuring the items we buy are things that are made responsibly, that we’ll love and wear many times. As Dame Vivienne said:

“Instead of buying six things, buy one thing that you really like. Don’t keep buying just for the sake of it.”

Why I volunteered to spend my weekend washing up for other people

Okay, so maybe I’m misleading you. It wasn’t the whole weekend. In fact, it was for a little over three hours on Sunday – but that doesn’t sound nearly so sensational, does it?!

I was volunteering with the Earth Carers – the fantastic group of people who came up with the Plastic Free July campaign. One of the local councils in our area was organising a family fun day called “Celebrate Lake Claremont”, and the Earth Carers decided to run a washing-up station next to the coffee stand so that all the coffees sold would be in ceramic cups – which we would wash up – rather than disposable takeaway containers. They ran a similar stall at the Mosman Park Eco Fair back in June which was a massive success and eliminated disposable coffee containers completely at that event. This was the inspiration to try to offer free washing-up stations at other events… and this one was next.

We do what we can on an individual level. My boyfriend and I haven’t purchased anything in a single-use disposable food container of any kind since July 2012. But we’re just two people. There’s only so much that we can reduce with our own habits. There’s a whole world out there that needs educating, or inspiring, or motivating to change too. So what better way than to get out there in the community and make it super easy for the people at the event to lower their impact?

You’d think that everyone would be totally supportive of such a service. We rock up for free, bringing our own standard barista-sized ceramic cups, and wash them free of charge for the consumers before returning them to the coffee stand for re-use. What’s not to love?

There was actually a bit of wavering at the start though, because someone questioned whether it was hygienic. Yep, you read that right. There was actually the suggestion that washing up coffee cups using ordinary water and washing-up liquid might not be hygienic. We weren’t washing up anything else. Just empty coffee cups. Can you believe it?! We couldn’t either.

So we set up a system to maximise the cleanliness of our cups. We had a four-bowl dishwashing system, with the cups moving from the bowl on the left through the middle bowls to the bowl on the right, and the water getting hotter with each bowl. The last bowl, with the water at 70°C, was for the final rinse. We didn’t make it up either – apparently this is a recommended practice for washing-up stations (we asked Google, although I can’t actually find the link now to share with you).

washingup2

In the three hours we washed up about 100 cups, probably more. Whilst it doesn’t even make a dent on the number of cups being sent to landfill (it is estimated by KeepCup that 1 million cups end up in landfill EVERY SINGLE MINUTE), it is far more than I am stopping heading to landfill with just my own individual action of using a reusable cup.

This is why it’s so important that as well as doing the best we can on an individual level, we try to get out there and inspire change at a community level. We can achieve so much more. It may be small, but it was still 100 cups that would have ended up in landfill without our intervention. It is more than just numbers though – it’s all the people we spoke to and explained what we were doing and why, who will take that message with them. We’re helping the idea to spread and the word to grow. Imagine if every community event, or every other event, had a washing-up station and a zero disposable waste policy? Imagine how many we’d reduce then?

If I want to see change happen, I personally need to do something about it. I can’t just sit around lamenting that other people don’t do enough. I need to get out there and do what I can to make it easy for other people to do more. Which is why I gave up my time on Sunday to wash up other people’s dishes.

Goal setting – three months on

I decided a while back to make goal setting one of my routines. I figured it would help guide my thoughts and be a stepping-stone to making all the dreams I have become realities. The technique I decided to try is called 3 1 5, with goals set for 3 months time, 1 years time and 5 years time, under four categories: emotional/spiritual, financial/vocational, heath/education/recreation, and friends & family.

Goal-setting isn’t something that comes naturally to me. It did take a while to gain the momentum and shift from thinking about it, and wanting to do it, to actually begin the goal setting. I wrote about my struggle with goal-setting on a previous post, three months ago, when I finally filled in all the boxes in the matrix.

Three months ago. Which means my goals are up for review.

I was a little nervous about this. Whilst I knew most of the goals I’d written, I hadn’t actually consulted my matrix during the three months. I decided to take myself out of the house and to one of my favourite cafes so I was in a neutral, but pleasant, environment.

I unfolded the matrix.

My first thoughts, when I looked at all the ‘3 month’ boxes, were “Oh no! I haven’t achieved any of it!” But when I looked more closely, I realised that I was actively working towards a lot of the goals, I just hadn’t achieved them yet. Others I had changed direction slightly, so the timescale was no longer valid. Rather than 3-month goals, these had become more like 6-month or 1-year goals.

The 1-year and 5-year goals were much easier to review because they are still goals for the future and I wasn’t expecting to have achieved them. It was super reassuring to see that they all still fitted with my general plans, though, and I did feel that I was working towards most of them.

Next came writing the new matrix. This was so much easier than the first time as I now had a framework to follow. It allowed me to address the way I’d phrased things the first time round to make them more appropriate. For some of the goals, rather than saying “I have…” I wrote “I’m working towards…”. It was satisfying to move one of my 1-year goals into the 3-month box, and one of my 5-year goals into the 1-year box because that now seemed like a reasonable timescale.

It was also obvious when I reviewed the matrix that I’d left some gaping holes with major aspects of my life not even considered, so now I need to think about how to address these.

One of my goals is to do this exercise four times over the space of a year. Whether it’ll be something I stick with long-term I’m still not sure about, but at the moment I’m finding it quite motivating. My favourite bit about it is that it’s so empowering – recognizing what I want and committing to working towards it. Taking control of my destiny, if you like!

If you’re not someone who regularly sets goals, why not give this a go? It’s a great way of thinking about what you want to get out of your life, and being pro-active, rather than lamenting the things you don’t have and can’t do. In three months time it will be New Year’s Eve, so rather than trying to make New Year’s resolutions whilst laying on your sofa nursing a hangover and eating comfort food, start thinking about what you want now. That way when it comes to New Year’s Day you can look over the last three months and congratulate yourself on what you have achieved…whilst nursing a hangover and eating comfort food. A much better start to the New Year!

New Year’s Day is not the time to start planning the rest of your life. That time is right now!

5 Ingredient Chocolate Brownie Recipe (No Baking Required)

This is my new favourite thing to make. Aside from the fact that it tastes amazing, it is also super simple to assemble.

Now I love a cooked brownie, when the edges are crispy and the middle is molten, but there’s a bit of an art to it. Knowing your oven well and being super accurate with timings is the only way to catch the brownie in that tiny window between still-raw-and-gloopy-and-dissintegrates-upon-touch and overcooked-and-crunchy-and-dry-all-the-way-through. There’s also a lot more mess generated, and washing-up, with cooked brownies, and you need more time. Luckily, his cousin, the raw brownie, means none of this to worry about!

With this brownie, there’s no cooking. Hurrah! You can’t over- or under-cook it, and you don’t have to wait ages for it to be ready. Also, you only need 4 ingredients (plus salt). How awesome is that?! The other great thing is you can make this in small batches rather than having to make a tray full. If you’re greedy like me and can eat 24 brownies in 24 hours, this is a great way to exercise some restraint – just make less!

I also imagine that these would keep much longer than normal brownies which dry out over time, but I’ve not been able to resist eating them long enough to find out. They will definitely keep for a week in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container, and I can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t last longer if you have more willpower than me.

This recipe makes enough for 6 pieces. You will need a food processor or high powered blender.

Ingredients

100g walnuts (approx 1 cup)
60g macadamias (a very full half cup)
10 medjool dates, stones removed
1/2 cup cacao powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (recommended but optional)

Method

Grind the walnuts and salt into a flour. Add the cacao and mix well. Blend the dates in a few at a time until the mixture has formed small crumbs.

Roughly chop the macadamias by hand. Stir into the mix.

Line a container with baking paper. Tip the mix into the container and press down firmly. Place in the freezer before cutting into pieces (it will cut into pieces better if it is cold).

brown1

Store in the fridge or freezer.

You can eat straight from the freezer, or allow to warm to room temperature. I dust extra cacao powder on the top to serve but this is optional.

brown2 brown3 brown4 brown5

Yum!