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Our Simple, Sustainable Wedding (Part 2)

In my last post I talked about our ideas for a simple eco-friendly wedding, and what that meant for us in real life when we got married in November! Here in Part Two I’m going to talk in more detail about the things we did to try to keep within our simple / low waste / sustainable living philosophy.

Our Wedding Philosophy

Our wedding philosophy was pretty straightforward – keep things simple! Do I need it? Can I borrow it? Can I hire it? Can I do without it? – Only after these four questions came the question – should I buy it?

Some things (like food!) we had to buy. Where we could, we used what we had.  The venue had furniture, so we made use of it – why go to the trouble of hiring different furniture when there is some already there? We kept decorations to a minimum. We had very few preconceived ideas of how we’d like things to be, so this made it easier.

The Venue

We chose the bowling club because it meant people could be outside (and the view is stunning) and the bowls was a great way to keep people entertained. We wanted an informal space where people could spend time with the people they knew (no rigid seating plans required!) and get to know others freely.

Stationary

We didn’t bother with stationary – it seemed like a waste of resources. Invitations and envelopes and stamps, plus all that hand-writing (not to mention the time to to craft handmade cards)? No thanks.

Everyone has email these days, so we sent our invitations electronically (my delightful and talented sister designed them for us). We sent them via emails for those whose email addresses we had, Facebook for those that didn’t, and we printed two copies for the two people who didn’t have email addresses.

Simple, easy, quick. Job done!

Save the Date

Paperless Save the Date…

Lindsay + Glen Wedding Invite

…and Paperless Invitations

 The Dress

Ever since I was small, I never saw the point in traditional wedding dresses. I could never get my head around the idea of spending so much money on a dress you wear once. I’m not sure what horrified me more – the cost or the wastefulness! I definitely wasn’t one of those girls who dreamed about a princess wedding and a big fluffy meringue dress.

I had three ideas regarding dresses. Option 1 – find a second-hand wedding dress from a charity shop / eBay / vintage shop. Option 2 – find a sustainable eco wedding dress (a new dress but made with vintage or Fairtrade fabric). Option 3 – find a non-wedding dress that I was happy to get married in, but would also wear again.

Option 1 sounds like the most obvious sustainable choice. It also sounds like a lot of work… trawling around charity shops searching for wedding dresses in my size was not something that appealed to me. Dress shopping felt like a chore – I just didn’t want to spend that much time on it.

The shop I found in London specializing in sustainable wedding dresses cancelled the appointment i made a few months prior because they decided not to open on that day after all. Charming. That was my one and only flirtation with dress appointment booking.

I settled for the third option. I didn’t really have the time or inclination time to look for second-hand dresses. Instead, my sister and I spent a couple of hours in London looking in shops for a dress that I liked, fitted and I could wear again, and I bought my favourite. Yes, it was new. Yes, it was more than I intended to spend. No, it wasn’t vintage or sustainable. But I felt comfortable in it. I’ve already worn it for a second time. It’s off the shelf so it will be easy to sell for someone else to enjoy. Plus it only took 2 hours of my life to find it : )

Wedding Dress

The dress. Not recycled, or Fairtrade, but simple nonetheless.

 The Rings

Our rings are made with recycled metal. I found an ethical jewellers in London called Ingle & Rhode, who specialize in Fairtrade and recycled metal wedding and engagement rings, and conflict-free gemstones. We both have plain metal bands: mine is gold and Glen’s is palladium with a brushed border. Simple and ethical.

Ingle & Rhode Recycled Gold and Palladium Wedding Rings

Our recycled gold (mine) and recycled palladium (Glen’s) wedding rings.

 The Flowers

I didn’t want to buy flowers that had been flown from interstate or overseas, and I didn’t want flowers that were grown artificially in hothouses either. I just wanted some colour. The solution? Glen’s mum and aunt raided their gardens for everything they could find, my boss donated a whole heap of flowers from her garden too and we arranged them in old jam jars. There was no colour scheme to worry about – whatever was growing in gardens on the day would do!

Jam Jar Vases Flowers from the Garden and Hessian Table Runner

Freshly picked garden flowers in jam jars. Simple but effective. Some of our guests took them home afterwards so they didn’t go to waste!

I wasn’t going to bother with a bouquet, but a friend pointed out that it’s good to have something to hold. I do have a tendency to flail my arms about the place, so I relented. She suggested a single giant protea. As fate would have it, Glen and I stayed in an airbnb place before the wedding, and in a vase in the kitchen were 6 giant proteas! So I borrowed one and wrapped the stem in twine. You are meant to have something borrowed at your wedding, aren’t you?!

Total flowers spend: Zero.

Giant Protea Wedding Bouquet

This giant protea was my wedding “bouquet”, and I wrapped the stem in twine.

 Hair and Makeup

There was never any doubt I’d do these myself. I washed my hair with my usual bicarb and vinegar method. I made do with the make-up I already had – it’s not something I wear often, so most of it is pretty old, but it was good enough!

Bicarb and vinegar hairwashing and DIY makeup

Bicarb and vinegar hairwashing isn’t just for everyday – it’s good enough for weddings too! (My friend in the photo is also a convert)

The Decorations

The bowling club where we held the wedding reception was a dated building with a beautiful view. It looked like a bowling club. The simplest thing was to accept that it looked like a bowling club. Spending thousands of dollars on silks to drape about the place wouldn’t have changed the fact it was a bowling club.

So we accepted it for what it was, and didn’t worry about trying to transform it. We did do a few things to brighten it up, though.

A friend of mine was making white lacy bunting out of old tablecloths and curtains for her own wedding and kindly lent it to me for the day to hang about the place.

I used jam jars to put the flowers in – some from home, many more borrowed. I also used some old tins (fished out of the recycling bins at a local cafe – with permission!) that I wrapped in hessian ribbon and wrapped in twine. Some were used inside for flowers and others for cutlery.

Jam Jar Sorting for the Wedding Flowers

Sorting and cleaning jam jars for the flowers

upcycled tin cans

I sourced these old tin cans from a local cafe, wrapped in hessian and tied with twine to make flower containers and to use for cutlery.

upcycled tin cans with hessian

The finished hessian tin cans

One of the things I did buy was hessian. It was the most natural, undyed fabric I could find, and I thought I’d be able to use it afterwards – or compost it at least! As well as wrapping the tins, I bought two 6m lengths to use as table runners. My plan is to cut this up and sew two together to make place mats to use at home.

The other thing I bought was beeswax candles, made in Australia by a company called Queen B. The bowling club only had fluoro tube lights, which aren’t the most atmospheric! I didn’t want to buy string fairy lights. I found some zero-waste inspired beeswax candles in tiny glass jars that can be refilled with wax and reused again and again. They weren’t cheap, but they were sustainable, plastic-free, natural, reusable, locally produced…how could I use anything else?!

We hired tablecloths and tea cups to put pistachio nuts in. The end result:

Rustic hessian table runner with beeswax candles and jam jar flowers

Our minimal simple decorations: upcycled jam jars, flowers from the garden, a hessian runner and beeswax candles.

The Food

One of the first things we decided on was hiring a pizza oven. After all, who doesn’t like pizza?! I wanted cake first (it’s all about priorities) so we decided on cake at 4pm and pizza at 6pm. The savoury bits were added after a friend suggested that not everybody would want cake at 4pm (Really?! Is that true?! Surely not!). We didn’t bother with a wedding cake -far better to have normal cake that everyone wants to eat!

All the food was made by local businesses; our friend made the Indian treats as a wedding gift. Sadly we didn’t get a photo as it was all demolished by the time we got to the reception after the family shots – but at least it meant everything was delicious!

Wedding reception menu, beeswax candles and plastic-free snacks

No sit-down meal or fiddly canapes… Big slabs of cake, and pizza for supper.

Oh, and I made sure we brought enough containers so that any leftovers could be taken home safely – no food waste here!

The Drinks

To avoid packaging waste, we only served tap beer and cider (no bottles or cans). Wine was served in bottles (we made sure all the wine was produced in Western Australia), and soft drinks were served in jugs. No straws or other plastic in sight! We also had tea (loose leaf English breakfast in tea pots) and coffee. Plus we had a compost bin for the used tea leaves and coffee grounds!

Blackboard at the wedding

When Everything Comes Together

Keeping things simple meant that the lead up to the wedding was pretty relaxed. People kept saying to us: “oh, you must be so busy!” We’d feel slightly worried, and ask each other: “Busy doing what, exactly?!” But there wasn’t lots to do. We booked the venue, bought outfits, found catering, sent out invites… and got on with our lives. There was no stress – what was there to be stressed about?

It wasn’t the greenest wedding ever. It wasn’t the cheapest wedding ever. It wasn’t the simplest wedding ever. It was, however, everything we could have hoped for (I won’t say everything I dreamed of, because I’ve never dreamed about my wedding – I’m just not that sort of girl!). We weren’t trying to prove anything, after all.

We were just trying to celebrate our day in a way that reflected who we are – and that’s what we did.

Disclaimer: I loved the Queen B zero waste beeswax candles so much that I am now (since 2018) a proud affiliate. This means that if you click the link and choose to make a purchase, I may be compensated at no extra expense to you. I would never recommend a product I didn’t believe in or think that you, my readers, would appreciate. 

Reflections and Lessons from 2014

As we hurtle towards the New Year and 2015, it’s easy to get swept up in plans for the year ahead – all the things we’re going to do, all the habits we’re going to change and all the goals we’re going to accomplish. But what about the year that’s just been? The year might be (almost) over, but I don’t want to brush those lessons, achievements and experiences under the carpet in the excitement of planning the future. After all, this year (and all those lessons) will no doubt shape the coming year. Not only that, but in amongst the “could do better”s and “should try harder”s there’s a whole heap of other stuff – goals that I achieved and moments that I’m really proud of. I don’t want to forget about those in the excitement of what’s around the corner!

Rather than getting ahead of myself and blindly wrapping myself up in all my big dreams for 2015, I spent some time looking back at 2014. After all, this year was no doubt just as big a year as next year will be.

What Happened this Year?

Quite a lot, actually! The Less is More Festival happened again in February after many months of planning, and was really successful. My blog had its first anniversary; I was asked to write some guest blog posts; I was a finalist in the Waste Authority Infinity Awards; I spent time back in the UK, my family came to visit, I got married, started a new job and signed up to buy an apartment.

Phew!

It was by no means plain sailing. I spent a few months unemployed in the middle of the year, which led to a lot of soul-searching. I tried desperately hard to find a job in a field I’m truly passionate about, but alas, it was not to be. Life doesn’t always go the way you want it, does it?!

When we think about the year just gone, we always seem to start with the mistakes and plans that fell through, and proceed to beat ourselves up. I’m gonna turn this on its head and start with the things that went well; the things I’m proud of achieving this year.

My Highlights of the Year:

  • The Less is More Festival was awarded Community Event of the Year, and my second year as Festival Coordinator saw the event grow and attendees almost double to almost 1000! Not bad for an event with a total spend of $72! After achieving everything that I set out to with the 2014 event, I’m happy with my decision to step aside and let someone else take on the Festival and lead it down a new path.
  • My blog had its first anniversary and readership has steadily continued to grow. It’s so encouraging to know that I’m not the only one with a slight obsession with waste and a craving for a simpler way of living! Thanks guys : )
  • My wedding! Glen and I finally figured out a way to celebrate our marriage without generating too much waste, sticking with our values and not taking out a mortgage to pay for it : ) I’ll be writing about this in the New Year, so if you’re keen to know more, keep your eyes peeled!

What Fell by the Wayside?

Of course, it wasn’t all trophies and gold stars and roaring success. Here’s the not-so-good bits – the bits I hope to learn from and build on this coming year!

  • At the start of the year, Glen and I declared 2014 the Year of Exercise. It began well, with long walks and bicycle rides, and I got back into going to yoga regularly. And it felt good. However, the job, wedding and family visits meant exercise has completely fell by the wayside over the last few months. Definitely a priority for the coming months!
  • I still haven’t gotten myself a sewing machine, despite my many assurances to you all that it would happen :/
  • My plans to woo you all with awesome recipes on the blog this year fell apart when we moved to our new flat with an impossible gas oven. My last attempt at chocolate brownies required five hours of baking time. Five hours. And yes, they were still gooey in the middle after all that time.
  • The “no new* clothes” rule. No idea quite what happened there. What happened to my wardrobe minimalism pledge?! (*new meaning new for me)

What Lessons Did I Learn?

Quite a few! The main one being that we can’t do everything at once. Social media may make it seem like we can, but life is all about balance. Balancing health + exercise + working + chores + pursuing your passions + giving back + creating + learning new skills + relaxing + spending time with family and friends… that’s a lot to fit in! It turns out you can’t do all of it, all of the time. I definitely have a tendency to take on more and more until it’s too much, and then have to let go, and then start to build and build and build again… Compromise is something I’ve talked about on the blog a lot in the last year, and whilst things often feel like compromise, maybe there would be less compromise if there was more balance to begin. I’m not sure, but it’s something I’ll be working on in 2015!

What’s Next?!

My word for 2015 is… “b a l a n c e”. That’s the theme to guide how I’ll live my life in 2015. How I’d like to take care of my mind, body and spirit. Working on balancing my commitments with my desires, my needs with my wants, passion with practicality. What this means in real terms?! Doing all of the things some of the time. Choosing what’s important and building that around what’s necessary. With a good dose of what’s fun thrown in!

Now I’d love to hear from you! What were your best bits of 2014? Let’s focus on the good stuff – tell me what you achieved, what you’re proudest of, and what your favourite moments were in 2014! Were there any lessons you learned that you’ll be holding onto in the coming year? Any guiding themes or words to focus on? Please share them by leaving a comment below!

My Meeting with the Minimalists

A couple of weeks ago, the Minimalists were in town promoting their book “Everything that Remains”, and held a free talk which I went to. The Minimalists, in case you haven’t heard of them before, are two Americans (Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus) who both had successful corporate careers, earning 6-figure salaries and living the American Dream (read – buying lots of stuff; gadgets, cars, huge homes, getting into debt) and who both gave it all up, becoming minimalists and embracing a slower, simpler, more meaningful way of life.

My husband has been following the Minimalists for a while. He feels he can relate to their story. He finished university and secured a good job straightaway, and progressed through the ranks. He spent his money on nice furniture and fine dining (he even bought a brand new car…and waited five months (!) for it to be available in the specific colour he desired). But despite the money and stuff, he wasn’t particularly happy. After getting rid of most of his stuff, travelling overseas and working as a volunteer (and meeting me!) he came to the same conclusion as the Minimalists – money doesn’t buy you happiness. Experiences, connections and living with meaning are what are important.

I can’t really relate to the Minimalists’ journey, because it has been very different from my own. I’ve never had the big six-figure salary. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever earned more than (or even the same as) the national average. When I got my first job after graduating, in 2005, I earned £12,000 a year. (In 2005 the UK national average was £22,411.) I never had the spare cash to spend on fancy gadgets. That said, I still saw shopping as a form of stress relief, and I still aspired to have/earn more – because more would make me happier, wouldn’t it? I had a few epiphanies in my late twenties and early thirties that have led me down this minimalist path – stories I’ll share with you another time. My conclusions have been the same as the Minimalists, however – stuff doesn’t make people happy. Neither does money. We may have followed different paths to get here, but we have the same philosophy.

Well…partly. I have my big zero waste/sustainability focus, which can be at odds with the minimalist philosophy. (Get rid of it. You can always buy another one if you need it. Something I struggle with!) A friend came with us to the talk. “Look around you!” she said. “None of these people are into sustainability!” People everywhere around us were clutching plastic water bottles and takeaway coffee cups. She was genuinely surprised. Another sent me a text: “Are you going to the talk by those Minimalist guys with the enormous ecological footprint?”

But minimalism isn’t about avoiding flights or bringing a reusable cup, it’s about living consciously. Living with meaning, rather than living on autopilot. Building relationships. Giving back. Recognising what is important – and what is important is different for each of us. Joshua and Ryan aren’t dictating a lifestyle. They aren’t telling anyone what to do. They are just sharing their story in the hope it will inspire others.

As someone very familiar with the idea of minimalism, the most inspiring thing for me was a room packed out with people who wanted to know more…but others were so moved they left in tears. It’s a reminder that each of us are a different point in our journey. I could easily have rocked up three years ago with a takeaway coffee cup in hand, without a second thought.

The Minimalists’ Perth talk was their 100th tour date – their final one. In the time they’ve been touring, their popularity has grown and there were a thousand people queuing around the block to see them. In order to avoid turning people away, they held another talk straight afterwards as the venue could only accommodate 400 people! I love that they genuinely tried to reach as many people as possible. Ecological footprints aside, these guys have a mission, and a great message to share.

The Minimalists have critics, of course. Not just my friends! People say it’s easy to eschew money when you’ve had it. If you’ve been rich, then isn’t it hypocritical? But minimalism isn’t about advocating poverty. It’s about recognizing what is enough.

Did the Minimalists come to a city near you, and did you have the chance to see them speak? What did you think? Do you like their message? Or is minimalism something that you just can’t embrace? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please leave me a comment below!

Life changes, Soul Searching and Time to Reflect

It’s been silent on the blog for a while, and if you’re not subscribed to my newsletter you probably won’t have any idea why. (If you don’t like missing out, why don’t you sign up? It’s free!) If you are subscribed, hopefully you found my excuse a good one! You’ll have to wait a little longer for the blog posts relating to that, but stay tuned – they are coming!

The last few weeks have been interesting. Most of the time I feel like life is unfolding before me and I’m just treading my path and taking things as they come. The last month has not been like that. Choices have needed to be made. There have been big, black-and-white decisions. This path or that. Choose one. There’s been some soul-searching, and plenty of reflection, but the decisions are made and this is the path I’m taking.

Firstly, there was the job. There’s no doubt I need a job to pay the bills. I’ve tried for so long to find a job that is a real extension of who I am, that allows me to follow my passions to the full, but alas, these jobs are few and far between. Eventually the need to find work won over the quest to find the perfect job. That doesn’t mean I’ve sold my soul and gone to work for a big corporation. I’m working for a family-owned event hire business (and the owners are two of the nicest, fairest and most generous-hearted people you could wish to meet) and there’s no compromise in ethics or morals. Plus I like the role!

The need for a job came from the decision we made to buy a flat. I’ll write a blog post on this sometime soon but it wasn’t a decision we made lightly. We’ve been discussing it for months. We love renting and we love the idea of tiny houses, but in the end the ‘conventional’ house-buying won. Property in Perth isn’t cheap, and it means we will need to get a big mortgage. We will also need a big deposit – which is where the job comes in. We plan to move this time next year. The job and the mortgage and taking the conventional path seem at odds with how we want to live our lives – which I suppose is why it took so long to make a decision, and why there’s still some soul-searching going on now. I really want to write more about this soon so keep your eyes peeled!

Then comes the lack of free time to pursue my passions that comes with working. It’s like adding insult to injury – I’m not working in the sustainability or waste field, and I have much less time to pursue these passions outside of work too! It’s easy to wish I’d done more with the free time I had, but I don’t want to lament the past. Nothing lasts forever, and I’m sure there will be time to pursue all these things again! No doubt the world will still need saving when I’m less busy : /

The lack of free time has also meant that I’ve decided not to organise the Less is More Festival next year. This was a big decision. It’s been such an important part of my life for the last two years, and I’m so proud of how it’s grown and how many people it reached, but I feel like I need time out. Fortunately the Earth Carers, who supported me for the last two years, have decided to take the helm and will take on the running next year, so the event will still be going ahead. They have some plans to take it in a slightly different direction and their ideas are really exciting. Whilst I’m sad to be stepping back, I know in my heart it is the right thing to do.

One decision we are still grappling with is whether to buy a car. Glen’s office is relocating and whilst it will be very close to our new house, it is a painfully long and awkward commute from where we live now. My new job is just a few minutes from our current flat – and we have just renewed our lease. Buying a car could solve the commuting problem – but what about our values? We debated buying an electric car (expensive, and another step down the conventional corporate road?). We thought about buying an old banger (much less embedded carbon but far more polluting). We also thought about what buying a car would mean to our identities and how it fits with our beliefs. We are still trying to make the decision. I could write a whole blog post on this too (and plan to).

All these changes have meant taking time out to adjust, but really, of course, I’m still the same. My values haven’t changed. My passion for zero waste and plastic-free remains. My quest to minimalise continues. My obsession with vegetables (particularly sneaking them into desserts in a quest to make them healthier – chocolate avocado mousse anyone?) goes on unabated. My desire to connect and share and grow my community still burns as strongly as before. So I’ve made the obvious decision.

Get back to blogging! There’s still so many things to talk about, people to connect with, and ideas to share. I’ve missed you guys, and I’m glad to be back : )

A new beginning…

Today I re-join the employed ranks of the world. I’m starting a new job. Not only that, but it’s a full-time job. It was never my intention to be unemployed for so long (since April this year). Way back then, I was feeling pretty optimistic about my future work plans. I had some exciting work and freelance opportunities I was hoping would come to fruition, but one by one, they fell by the wayside. I dreamed about setting up my own sustainability education business (something I’d still love to do), but these things take time, money…and, seemingly, a lot more confidence than I can muster.

It was time to find a job.

The last two weeks have been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, if I’m honest. I find job applications stressful, interviews difficult and the waiting game frustrating. The job I applied for (and got) fits with my values and ethos (I’m not about to start working for the big-chain supermarkets!), but whilst I’m really pleased I found this job, at first I felt like I’d failed. I want so much to be more involved with the sustainability movement, not less. Full-time employment is going to be a bit of a culture shock, particularly with the reduced amount of free time I’ll have. I even wondered whether it was time to give up the blog, accept that I’d failed at what I wanted to do, and move on. And probably go shopping to make myself feel better. (About the shopping – just kidding! : p)

Fortunately I have friends who are able to talk sense. One pointed out that far more people want to work in the sustainability industry than there are jobs for; and that starting your own business is hard, plus it takes time. Another said “Who do you have to be in the sustainability industry to make a difference? You don’t!”

Oh yeah!

Isn’t that what I’m always talking about on the blog – how small everyday actions actually make a real difference, and lead to big changes?!

Another friend (goodness, I do keep the company of some wise people) reminded me of the saying “if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it”. I’m going to have a lot less free time, but hopefully I will be more motivated to use that free time far more wisely. When the days merge into one another and there’s no timelines or deadlines, it’s easy to put things off. There is always tomorrow.

So whilst it’s going to be a huge shift for me, I’m realising that it doesn’t mean I’ve failed, or that I’m going backwards. I’m still going in the direction I want to go in, just maybe more slowly than I’d imagined. But isn’t that often the way? The reality doesn’t always (if ever) match up to how we think things will be. Whilst I love the idea of not needing money and being self-sufficient, let’s be real here. I am not anywhere near that, and money is pretty useful for things like food and rent! Whilst I’m not quite sure what the next year will look like yet for me, the good news in the blog is staying. I hope you’re pleased! : )

Green Living Inspiration from my Holidays! (A Summary in Pictures)

Now I’m well and truly back in Perth, Australia (having finally adjusted to being in the same time zone as everyone around me) I thought I’d do a bit of a recap of my holiday. No, I don’t mean a whole heap of holiday snaps featuring stunning sunsets, glorious landscapes or what I ate for dinner, but rather all the cool stuff I saw relating to living sustainably on the European and English side of the world. Far more interesting, don’t you think?!

I’ve only been away for two years, but I’d forgotten how much further along Europe and the UK are down the path of making sustainability a mainstream topic, and how much more people seem to embrace it! I found it hugely inspiring to see how individuals, community groups, small businesses and even big chains were trying to do their bit to reduce their impact on the environment. Hopefully this is a sign of what’s to come for this side of the world. Bring it on, I say!

Zero Waste and Plastic Free

My favourite topic! I’m always intrigued to see what can be done to reduce waste and there was plenty of inspiration to be found…

Refillable bulk oil and vinegar Bruges

Bulk stores pop up in surprising places, and more often than you might think, if you only keep your eyes open for them!

Bruges bulk vinegar store

Bulk buy spirits! These barrels contain cognac and other alcohols. You can find everything in bulk if you look hard enough!

Returnable bottle deposit scheme Belgium

“Leeggoed” means “empties” – Belgium has a refundable bottle deposit scheme! You are charged 10 cents when you buy a bottle, and get your money back when you return it. Such a great way to reduce waste : )

Bruges Dine In Only

Good for you, waffle shop! If you want to eat a waffle, sit down and enjoy it properly : )

Loose blooms no plastic in sight

Farmers Markets are always inspiring, but what I particularly loved about this one was all the loose blooms you could buy without all that unnecessary plastic to accompany them.

Blueberries and Raspberries in Metal Aluminium punnets

These berries at the market were packaged in aluminium foil punnets rather than plastic ones. These punnets have more potential for reuse than plastic ones, plus foil is far easier to recycle than plastic. Bonus points for signs made out of old cardboard!

Packaging Free Fruit and Veg London

I loved how much fruit and veg was available loose and unpackaged from this greengrocer in London. Even fancy mushrooms come without uneccessary plastic bags.

Bulk tea in York

Bulk buy tea at a shop in York. And my, what a lot of tea they had!

Faversham cafe Reusable Keepcups

KeepCups might have been invented in Australia, but it’s good to see that they are catching on across the other side of the world too.

Sustainable Transport

Bicycles in Bruges

Bicycles rule in Europe, regardless of the weather. Less cars and more bikes and everyone benefits!

Free air bike pump Bruges

Free air for pumping up your bike tyres! Cycle infrastructure at its best.

Building Community

Makers Workshops Bristol

There are so many community-led initiatives all over the UK, but it was particularly great to see new things popping up in my old haunt of Bristol.

Companies (and Organisations) Taking Responsibility

Recycling in Belgium Station

Bin systems like this one were almost everywhere in Europe and the UK, making it easier than ever for people to dispose of their waste responsibly. Much better than one “landfill” dumpster!

Free Hangers Reuse Upcycle Hate Waste

Even the local shopping centre was doing its bit, offering unwanted coat hangers to the public for free to stop them heading to landfill.

Eurostar Green Britain info 2

Almost every company, no matter their size or industry, has some kind of statement publicly available about how they try to be sustainable. Most people are aware than train travel has far less impact on the environment than flying, but its good to see companies addressing these issues and telling people what they are doing to make a difference.

Eurostar info board

I might not agree with the amount of waste being generated, but I was impressed that they are actually thinking about what they are doing – it’s a step in the right direction.

Eurostar Green Britain info 1

What can I say…it’s a start!

Charitable Water Project Thali Cafe Frank Plastic Free

I noticed that lots of restaurants offer filtered water in refillable glass bottles rather than plastic bottles. I loved this scheme at the Thali cafe in Bristol where customers pay a donation for filtered water, which goes to funding water projects in India.

Cafe Kino Waste and Recycling

The waste and recycling statement hanging proudly on the wall of a local Bristol cafe.

Yorkshire Dales 2

The Yorkshire Dales are beautiful, and surprisingly free of rubbish…

Yorkshire Dales National Park waste management

…but it’s something that’s actively worked towards. No litter bins encourages people to take their litter home.

…And the Not-So-Good Bits

Whilst there was so much good stuff to see, it wasn’t all perfect. Here are just a few examples of things that made me want to tear my hair out.

Apples from NZ in our hotel during British summer

We stayed in a hotel in Yorkshire that I chose because of its commitment to green principles, use of local produce and ethical credentials. It was the height of summer when British fruit is in abundance. So why on earth were they providing apples shipped all the way from New Zealand?!

My Worst Nightmare Plastic Shop Bruges

Arghh! This shop has to be my worst nightmare! Even the name sends a shiver down my spine!

Krispy Kreme Wasting Plastic Straws

Clearly not all companies have quite got the green message. Seriously, Krispy Kreme, quality is not measured by the number of disposable plastic straws you provide. I think you need a new marketing team : /

As you can see, there were so many things that made me feel really inspired. Most of them are little things, but all of these little things add up to make real change! It made me realise that increasingly, people, companies, businesses and groups “get” that they need to act more sustainably, and they are embracing it and having fun at the same time!

Of course, there are also those hair-pulling moments that make me realise whilst we are heading in the right direction, there is still plenty more work to be done!

Right, no more holiday snaps from me. Promise! : )

Zero Waste Living: Glass Dharma Reusable Glass Straws

Plastic straws. Is any single-use plastic more wasteful than the plastic straw? (Okay, yes; I can certainly think of a few other examples, but plastic straws have got to be up there with the best – or worst – of them.) I’ve been using a stainless steel straw for a while, but I don’t like the way it feels against my teeth, and it’s quite hard to keep clean as you can’t see inside.

So when Glass Dharma, who make reusable glass straws, asked me if I’d be interested in trying out their glass straws, of course I was more than happy to oblige! I’ve brought them on holiday with me, as that’s the time when I’m eating (and drinking) out more often, and at unfamiliar places where I don’t know the local straw policy!

One of the great things about Glass Dharma is they actually understand the plastic waste problem, and they don’t send their straws out in a heap of plastic bubble wrap. Each straw is packaged in a card box, and the parcel was plastic-free too. Although the straws are made from glass, it’s toughened (they use borosilicate – the strongest commercially available glass) and they offer a lifetime guarantee against breakage.

GlassDharma plastic free drinking straws plastic-free packaging

Four Glass Dharma straws, with no plastic in sight!

GlassDharma plastic-free drinking straws

They sent me four different straws to try, and a miniature brush for easy cleaning! There is a decorated straw, a bendy straw, a bubble tea straw (which is wider) and a shorter straw.

I have plastic-free living friends who question the need for straws at all. Whilst I agree that often straws are unnecessary and I always refuse disposable ones, I have found at least three situations when a straw (reusable only, of course) is preferable to no straw.

The first is when drinking smoothies or juice. Because you end up with moustache marks in the colour of your drink that can be surprisingly hard to wash off. If you ever drink out of a glass jar, all trendy like, you make end up with juice on your nose. It has happened to me. With turmeric. And with green smoothies. Those drinks stain!

The second is when ordering frozen drinks. I remember when my parents and my boyfriend’s parents met for the first time, and we all went out for dinner. Someone ordered a daiquiri. I insisted there were no straws. When the drink arrived, it was frozen (of course), and the waitress, who had remembered there was no straw requested, asked if we’d still like no straw before handing one over with a very smug expression! Now I have my own reusable straws that is something that will never happen again!

The third is when ordering a drink that requires stirring or mixing. Of course, you could request a spoon, but depending on the glass, a long-handled spoon might be needed and might not be available. My mother drinks tomato juice with tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. They always give her a plastic stirrer to mix it all together. She was under the impression that they were washed and reused, which of course they aren’t. She double-checked with the bar person who told her they get put in the recycling (which doesn’t neccessarily mean they get recycled, that depends on the company that manages the recycling; it does mean they are single use).

This possibly one of those single-use plastic items that is actually more pointless than the straw: the single-use stirrer!

This is possibly one of those single-use plastic items that is actually more pointless than the straw: the single-use stirrer!

The next step was taking them out for testing! I thought I’d share the work with my straw-using friends and family, to make sure they all got a workout.

First up - the decorated straw, as tested by my mother for her regular tomato juice. No silly plastic stirrer needed!

First up – the decorated straw, as tested by my mother for her regular tomato juice. No silly plastic stirrer needed!

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Bendy straw!

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Bendy straw again : )

I thought the glass straws were great. Glass feels better in my mouth than stainless steel (and definitely plastic!), and being able to see if it was clean was definitely a bonus that the stainless steel straw doesn’t offer. I’ve been carrying mine around in the boxes they came in, and that seems to offer enough protection. The glass straws are taller than the stainless steel one I have, which fits neatly into my To-Go Wear bamboo cutlery set, but the shorter Glass Dharma straw fits. I prefer them to the stainless steel straws and I’d definitely recommend them.

I love anything that makes zero waste (and plastic-free) living easier, and I love it when companies really get behind the reasons why people want to live this way (to avoid waste, to avoid chemicals, to protect the environment and live sustainably). Glass Dharma do this perfectly, and they also make products that are designed to last (no built-in obsolescence here).

Just to clarify, Glass Dharma sent me the straws, but my opinions are my own. As always! : )

Zero Waste Week is Coming Up…

You know me…any excuse to bang on about waste and I’m onto it! Which is why I’m super excited to be an ambassador for Zero Waste Week 2014. Zero Waste Week is…yes, you guessed it…a week of living with less waste, and it runs from 1st – 7th September.

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2013

As part of the challenge, you need to make a waste pledge, and the theme this year is “one more thing”. I’m already reasonably close to zero waste and I had a go at a completely zero waste week back in June with reasonable success (completely zero waste meaning no landfill and no recycling – only compostable waste), so I wasn’t sure what my pledge should be at first.

What extra thing could I manage?

Then I realised, I’m actually away from home that week, and it’s always much harder to keep standards up when on holiday. So I decided I’m going to commit to not sending anything to landfill during Zero Waste Week, although recyclables are acceptable.

No matter how zero waste I try to be, there’s always something that sneaks into the rubbish bin, so I think this will be a good challenge!

Lindsay Treading My Own Path Zero Waste Week Pledge 1

Do you like my Zero Waste Week pledge? I wrote it on the back of the cardboard packaging from an empty box of pasta! (Which then went into the worm farm.)

The challenge began in the UK, but you can take part no matter where you live. The problem of waste is global, after all, so let’s make this an international challenge! There’s still plenty of time to make a pledge. Check out the Zero Waste Week website for some more inspiration, and then join us and sign up for the challenge yourself : ) There’s no excuses: you still have almost two weeks to prepare!

Once you’ve decided what your “one more thing” will be, please leave a comment below telling me what you’ve pledged. I’d love to hear from you!

To Anyone Who’s Ever Had To Compromise

I’ve been planning to write this since I wrote about buying an iPad. I received some criticism for it (which was to be expected, given the nature of this blog), and that got me thinking.

Did I make the wrong decision? Did I abandon my morals? Am I a bad person? Have I fallen off the wagon?

Trying to live in a sustainable, ethical way isn’t always easy. There always seems to be compromise. It isn’t so much about the right thing to do, but the least bad thing to do.

I remember when I first stopped thinking about doing more, wishing I could do more, and decided to do something about it. I started doing postgraduate studies in Environmental Decision-Making, and I secured an internship at a UK charity called Tree Aid. Whereas at my previous workplace I was sometimes referred to as a tree-hugger (getting an internship at a charity called Tree Aid in no way helped this!), now through study and work I was surrounded by people who cared as much about sustainability, ethical consumerism, social justice and the environment as I did. Maybe they even cared more.

As someone who was just beginning this journey, I was expecting the people I was now exposed to to be hardened “greenies” (although what I thought that meant, I’m not sure). Yes, everyone was passionate, enthusiastic and dedicated. What I found surprising though, was all of them did things that I didn’t consider to fit with this image I had created.

There were the vegans who didn’t use animal products for environmental reasons, yet drank soy (soy production contributes to rainforest destruction).

There were families that wanted to connect more with nature so lived in the country, but had multiple cars to make this possible, including a four-wheel drive for the many trips into town for supplies, school and social outings.

There were people who would not step foot inside a department or high street store, and only bought ethical clothing, yet would shop for groceries at the supermarket.

There were people who took regular flights to visit projects or attend courses or seminars, or to travel to remote places to reconnect with nature and feel re-inspired.

At first I felt a little indignant. How can these people call themselves environmentalists when they fly/shop at Tesco/drive a gas-guzzling car?! Then I realised…they weren’t calling themselves anything. I was the one labelling them. They were just trying to do the best they could with the resources they had available to them.

Another thing I’ve slowly come to realise, is that you can be passionate about many things, but often they are in conflict with one another.

  • Believing in Fair Trade, wanting farmers in poor countries to be paid a fair wage, and wanting to provide a market for these products…whilst also believing in supporting local producers and the local economy, and avoiding high food miles.
  • Wanting to support organic, sustainable farming practices with free-range, grass-fed animals, whilst recognising that a vegetarian/plant-based/vegan diet uses less energy and is considered more sustainable.
  • Flying uses huge amounts of fuel, has a huge carbon footprint and is a massive source of greenhouse gases…yet it enables people who do great work on sustainability to travel and reach wider audiences to spread their message. It also allows people to connect with nature and remote places, or see social injustice and poverty, and feel inspired to fight for them.
  • Electronic gadgets mean mining, manufacturing processes that use chemicals, questionable working conditions and end products with short shelf lives that contribute to landfill…yet they are the main means of communicating the in 21st Century; if people want to connect, to inspire, to teach and to learn, these gadgets are necessary.

When faced with conflicts like this, we have to choose. How we choose depends on our situation, our resources, our experiences at that moment. It doesn’t mean we’d make the same choice next time. It doesn’t even mean we made the right choice this time – after all, making mistakes is how we learn, and grow, and get better at what we do.

When I bought my iPad, I made a decision, and I was faced with a choice. I wanted to be able to connect with other people online, and be a part of the sustainability online community. I wanted to be able to work online outside of home, and the freedom this gives me. I wanted to be able to read books, magazines and articles electronically, to learn more and feel inspired. The decision was to invest in a tablet. My choice wasn’t about whether this was the most sustainable thing to want; it was whether I could achieve this in a more sustainable way. Looking at options, there was no ideal solution, just a “least bad” one. That’s how I made my choice.

You know what? Sometimes, that’s how it is. We have to compromise.

Having to compromise sometimes doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my principles (tweet this). It doesn’t mean I care less about living a sustainable lifestyle, Fair Trade, social justice, landfill waste or plastic pollution.

It means I’m not perfect. But I’m doing the best that I can.

Would You Wash Your Hair with Bicarb and Vinegar?

Would you switch from using regular shampoo and conditioner to washing your hair with sodium bicarbonate (also called bicarbonate of soda, bicarb soda or bicarb) and vinegar? Sounds completely crazy, doesn’t it?! Why would actually do something like that?! Well, I’m gonna tell you not only who, but also why, and…what happened when I tried it out myself!

Who Would Wash Their Hair with Bicarb?

I’m not talking about eccentric old ladies with too many cats, the ones who sit at the bus stop talking to themselves. Maybe they do too; I’ve never asked. But if you think they’re the only people who would do such a thing, you’d be mistaken.

In fact, there’s so many people on board it’s even been described as a movement. It’s called the “no poo” (as in “no shampoo”) movement, but as someone who cringes at toilet humour, I try to avoid that description! No poo is bad enough, but combined with movement…nope, I just can’t (won’t) go there. However, if you Google it, you’ll be amazed how many entries pop up!

Broadly speaking, converts fit into three groups – the environmentally conscious, the health conscious, and the thrifty. Their motives are all slightly different, but the outcome is the same – clean, shiny hair!

Kate with Bicarb Vinegar Hair

This is my friend Kate Raynes-Goldie (@OceanPark), “doing a Shirley Temple”… “Getting ready for the WA Screen awards (and to think, once upon a time I had purple hair, and pink hair, and bright orange…) But, even more exciting is that as of the time this picture was taken, I hadn’t used shampoo on my hair in over a month (sodium bicarb and apple cider vinegar, baby! ” KRG

 Why Would You Wash Your Hair With Bicarb and Vinegar?

There’s actually a whole heap of reasons.

  • Shampoos can strip natural oils from the scalp, so the scalp produces more oil to compensate. This makes more regular shampooing needed to remove the oil, and becomes a vicious cycle. Feel like your hair is constantly greasy and needs washing every day? Ironically, your shampoo may be to blame. Dermatologists found that reducing shampoo use causes oil to be produced at a lower rate.
  • Shampoos typically contain synthetic ingredients and their safety is increasingly under question. Parabens have been linked to endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity, and 1,4-dioxane has been labelled a probable human carcinogen. Sodium bicarbonate and vinegar are both completely safe – we put them in our food!
  • Silicone derivatives such as dimethicone which are added to shampoo to coat the hair and make it appear shiny and more manageable are now thought to dry the hair out because they prevent moisture entering.
  • Plastic! The majority of shampoo and other haircare products come in plastic bottles, which contribute to plastic pollution in the environment. In addition, flushing these chemicals down the drain does nothing for our waterways.
  • Bicarb and vinegar are far cheaper than the majority of shampoos and conditioners, and if you’re on a budget, can help save money.
  • It’s another way to simplify. You probably already have bicarb and vinegar in the house, so why not multi-purpose them? By replacing shampoo and conditioner you’ve got two less bottles cluttering up the house, plus that’s two less things to run out of.

What will happen to my hair?!

If you’ve been using conventional commercial shampoos for a while, chances are you’ve got a lot of residue built up on your scalp, which takes time to wash away. You’ve also got to allow your sebaceous (oil) glands to slow down once they realise you’re no longer stripping the natural oils from your head.

It can take 5-7 day for your scalp to adjust, but usually 2-6 weeks is more usual to break the cycle. During this time, your hair may seem a little greasier than usual.

My Bicarb Vinegar Experiment

So what was my experience? My experiment began on 1st June this year. I’d been thinking about it for a while, and I decided that I should give it a go before making judgement!

As a bit of background, I have reasonably short (maybe shoulder-length) curly hair. I haven’t used commercial shampoos and conditioners for two years; I use natural products made locally. I only wash my hair every 2-3 days – curly hair doesn’t like too much washing!

Method:

Mix a few tablespoons of bicarb with just enough water to make a paste. Rub into your scalp and work towards the ends. Leave for a couple of minutes, and then rinse out.

Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with 1 cup (warm!) water. Tip your head back and pour onto your scalp so it runs onto your hair, and rub in with your hands. Avoid getting it into your eyes – vinegar stings!

Rinse off.

Results:

Please excuse the bad photos. There was no-one around, so I had to take them myself. Clearly I’m no master of the “selfie”…but that’s possibly a good thing…

Bicarb and vinegar hair experiment no poo just washed 2 Bicarb and vinegar hair experiment no poo just washed Bicarb and vinegar hair experiment no poo

The process was very simple, and my hair actually looked normal straightaway. There was no greasy hair, and no frizz problems. I was expecting a couple of weeks of bad hair days, but that never happened (or at least, no more than usual)!

It definitely needs washing less. Whereas before I would notice my hair getting greasy after a couple of days, now it will last three or four.

As for the vinegar smell… I read that the vinegar smell will dissipate after an hour. Not true! The first time I was paranoid that I was walking around smelling like fish and chips. I’ve since tried adding essential oils to the vinegar mix. Rose oil was too subtle and didn’t work. Lemon myrtle was a little overpowering. I’m currently using clove oil, which seems to be a good compromise. Lavender is often recommended but I really don’t like the smell. There’s plenty of options though, and they do work to mask the vinegar odour effectively.

Verdict: Overall, I think its great! I’m definitely a convert : )

Give it a Go!

Everyone’s hair is different, and just because it worked for me, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you…but that shouldn’t stop you trying! Why not give it a go?!

Now I want to hear from you! Do you already use the bicarb/vinegar method, and how have you found it? Did you try and admit defeat? Are you tempted…or is it something you’re still not even game to try?! I’d love it if you shared your experiences so please leave a comment below!