Tag Archive for: Western Australia

How I started a community street planting project

When I moved to the street where I now live two-and-a-half years ago, I immediately noticed the weedy strip of land at the end of it. My street is a cul-de-sac, but at some stage in the past it must have been a through-road to the street behind, because there is still a road-width strip. Now it features a couple of straggly trees, along with a footpath/bicycle path.

The length is about 20m, so it’s not an insignificant size.

Pretty soon after moving in, I hatched a plan to clean it up and plant it out.

And now, with the plan in full swing, half the residents of the street involved, the land weeded, mulched, planted out and two-thirds of the tubestock we planted having survived the hottest and driest summer on record, I thought it was time to share.

As well as sharing some progress shots (it will still be a year or so for the truly glorious “after” pics!), I want to do is tell you about the project and the progress and the reasons behind some of the decisions that we made. Hopefully I can tell you about it in a way that will give you some ideas and direction if you’re wanting to tackle a project like this of your own.

Because the more guerilla planting, and making use of neglected urban spaces, the better!

Step 1, create a plan (even if it’s only in your head)

The first step was to figure out what would be the best and most practical way to transform the space.

I’m no stranger to projects like this, and I started a community fruit tree project at my old place, planting out 34 fruit trees on vacant land, which is still thriving even though I’ve moved away and don’t take an active role there any more.

But the two locations are a little different, and so there were different considerations.

One of the biggest limitations in Perth is the climate, in particular the harsh sun and the lack of rainfall all summer.

The reason the fruit trees worked at the other site was that they had access to water via the bore at the strata property next door (with agreement from the strata). So we installed reticulation at that site.

This site doesn’t have this option. There’s one adjacent neighbour and no bore. The current cluster of residents at the this end of the street have been generous with their loan of taps and hoses, but there is no guarantee they won’t move and the new residents won’t be keen.

Established fruit trees need some water, vegetable crops need heaps, but native plants can get by with minimal water, once established.

Water is one of the biggest limitations for garden design in Perth. But it isn’t the only limitation.

  • I had no idea how enthused people in the street would be about doing the work, so I wanted something that I knew we could do with a just a couple of people – or even myself.
  • I wanted a project that once it was planted out, was low-maintenance. No need to worry about pruning, or pests, or constantly replenishing the soil, or complex watering schedules (all things that need to be considered with fruit tree plantings or veggie gardens).
  • I wanted a project that was low cost and with low ongoing fees – maybe replacing a few plants here or there, but nothing more.

So that’s how the plan formed into this: native Australian plants with a few interesting bushtucker plants incorporated.

I toyed with the idea of a couple of olive trees because they are one of the few trees that will survive without to much water once established, but then I thought it would be more fun to keep it native.

And no olives means room for macadamias.

As for funding it, I came up with a brilliant (even if I do say so myself) idea – collect and cash in all the street’s beverage containers eligible for a 10c refund via Cash for Containers.

It also means that people who aren’t interested or physically able to do the gardening part can still contribute.

Step 2, tell everyone about your plan. More than once.

For the first year, whilst I was still forming the plan in my head, all I did was tell everyone in the street about the plan. At every opportunity.

Of course, no-one thought it was a bad idea. Even if they weren’t keen to do the actual work themselves, who is going to complain that you want to transform the weedy patch that gets sprayed twice a year with chemicals into something that is less of an eyesore?

But chewing people’s ears off about the project was a good way to get the idea cemented that it was going to happen, and give people time to warm to the idea of helping.

There were two main questions I was asked.

The first was, “are you going to ask the council?” to which the answer was “no”.

There were a few reasons.

I subscribe to the idea of “ask forgiveness not permission” when it comes to projects like this. Plus I knew the council had a formal Urban Forest Strategy in place. This was exactly the kind of project they were wanting more of.

Having worked with them on the fruit tree project and understanding the steps we needed to take with that, I was fairly confident they’d be happy with this one.

Worst case they could demand we pull the plants we planted out and let the weeds regrow so they could continue to spray them with glyphosate twice a year. This seemed unlikely.

The other sticking point is that it seems that it is not actually council land. Because it was once a road, it’s likely it is road reserve (land kept aside for potential future roads) and owned by the state government, not the council.

(Our last project was also on road reserve.)

Plus, I didn’t really need to ask the council, because I didn’t need anything from them. We had a plan, we had funds for plants, we had labour.

The next question I was asked was, “why don’t we ask the council and see if they will contribute anything?”

I didn’t really see why we needed to do this as we already had everything we needed (and I hate “free” stuff for the sake if it). And I soon realised “why don’t we” meant, “why don’t you” – as in me, Lindsay. And I could not be bothered with more emails.

So I said to a couple of people who raised it, that if they’d like to they were more than welcome to.

No-one ever did.

Step 3, choose an action, set a date, tell everyone about it… and stick to it.

The first action we really needed to do was weed. It’s not everyone’s favourite job, but I quite enjoy it. So I chose a date, told everyone, and then showed up on the day. I was fully prepared to be the only one, but a good handful of neighbours turned out.

Progress had begun.

(I think if you’re the ringleader of a project, it’s important that you chose a date/time that you know you can make, that you turn up first and you stay until the end of the time you said you’d be there until, even if you’re the only one. Turning up yourself is the single best way to get others to turn up next time.)

Step 4, keep momentum going.

As soon as the first action was taken, the second one was arranged, for a couple of weeks time.

We have a street Facebook group which makes it easier to keep everyone updated, share progress pictures and create events.

I ordered some mulch (via mulchnet.com – it’s free but you never know when it’s going to be delivered) and it arrived almost instantly.

And from there, things just snowballed.

We organised a day to finish weeding, and get the weeded areas mulched.

People who couldn’t make the planned days did some weeding and mulching in their free time.

We ran out of mulch! So I ordered a second pile – which came as quickly as the first!

Next it was time to plant.

Our local council gives out free native tubestock once a year to households that register, and a few households on our street signed up, and then donated the plants for our project. Topped up with the natives we purchased with the funds raised from the Containers for Change scheme (we’ve raised over $500 from this!), we had plenty of plants to start the planting.

The initial plan was to plant out one half of the space the first year, but we ended up with enough to plant about two-thirds of the area. (The council, when they found out about our project, donated some leftover tubestock from two of their planting days, which helped fill in some gaps).

Step 5, maintenance (the least fun but most important part)

The fun part is the action – getting everyone together and transforming the space, and planting plants. But maintenance is what keeps it all alive. In summer, the most important thing to do is water. And then water some more.

As the plants get more established, there will be less need for hand watering, but the first summer it’s critical to keep things watered.

As you might expect, there was less enthusiasm for the watering part. If it wasn’t for the next-door neighbours who donated their hose and tap, and ended up doing most of the watering, I think we’d have a much lower success rate with the plants.

(That’s not to say they were the only ones. I marched up there with the watering can plenty of times, and also did hose duty There were others who did their bit too! But we had such a hot and dry summer this year – we are talking record-breaking temps and lack of rain – and they really held the fort with it.)

We have placed an empty IBC container on the space. Originally the plan was to connect to the neighbour’s downpipe, which would have helped in spring but would not have solved the summer watering problem – an IBC container holds 1000 litres, but that wouldn’t have lasted for six months of no rainfall.

The council have now offered to fill the tank with their watering trucks (the ones they use to water the street trees) which will mean it will be much easier to water in future years.

Step 6, plan the next steps

This winter, once the first proper rains start to fall, we will plant out the rest of the area, we will replace the tubestock that didn’t make it, we will order anther truckload of mulch to spread and we will keep on top of the weeding. (In summer there’s no weeds as it’s too dry. But once the rain starts…)

This will be when it really starts to take off, as the plants from last year will come into their own and it will be more plant cover and less woodchip cover.

And you might be wondering how the council are suddenly contributing, when I said at the start that we hadn’t contacted them?

We didn’t need them to start the project. But once the project was underway (and we had something to show them) we invited them to take a look.

And that was when we were offered the excess plants, and later on the agreement to fill the water tank. And they are looking into sourcing a couple of macadamia trees for us!

Of course we welcome their contribution, and are grateful for everything they’ve been able to offer us. But I’m still glad we didn’t speak to them before starting the project. It might have slowed things down. And it’s better that the people of our street feel ownership over the project.

It’s worked out well this way.

It’s now been almost a year since we first began the project. With the winter rains coming the transformation is really going to happen in the next few months.

This year I’m going to do a similar thing with my own verge (plant out with native waterwise species). Maybe it seems strange that I decided to tackle the community project first before my own back (well technically front) yard.

But there’s just something immensely satisfying in getting a group of people together and achieving something collectively as a community.

Where I Find My Zero Waste Consumables (Groceries and Food)

This week I headed off on my six-monthly journey up to the Swan Valley, which is the other side of Perth, to stock up on some bulk products that I simply can’t get anywhere else.

It made me think: there’s plenty of places I talk about often, because I use them often (such as my local bulk store, or my local veg box delivery).

But there are other places where I source zero waste items that I talk about less often.

If I’m going to paint a complete picture, I thought it might be helpful to explain where I source ALL the things I use.

Of course, if you live in Perth, these lists will probably be extra useful! If you’re not in Perth, hopefully it will give you some ideas about the kinds of places you might be able to source products in your own area.

At the very least, it might open your mind to new alternatives.

There’s a lot to say, so rather than overwhelm you, I’ve divided it up into sections. Today I’m talking about zero waste consumables (food and grocery items).

I’ll follow up next week with a post about consumable personal and cleaning products, and then with non-consumables (the buy-me-once type items) in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Where I Source Zero Waste Consumables

By consumables, I mean things that run out, get used up and need replacing. Things like food, personal care products, and cleaning products.

Whilst I source things from a number of different places, I’m not going to all the places all of the time. Some places I only visit twice a year. Others I visit weekly. Over time I’ve established a routine that works for me.

Zero Waste Grocery Shopping: Dry Goods

This is the one that gets talked about all the time, because food runs out more quickly than anything else (well, it does in my household)!

Bulk food stores are where I source all of my dry goods (pantry staples like rice, flour, lentils, pulses) and my liquid products (tahini, soy sauce, macadamia oil).

Specifically, I purchase about 95% of my bulk goods from The Source Bulk Foods (my local store is in Victoria Park, about 5 minutes from my house). They have a great range, the store is spotless and they stock a lot of local produce (I particularly like the Australian-grown nuts and quinoa, but plenty of their products are also home grown).

There are a few groceries I don’t buy from the Source Whole Foods:

I buy vermicelli pasta nests from Swansea Street Markets in East Victoria Park (The Source Bulk Foods don’t stock regular pasta, only the gluten-free kind).

I buy wakame seaweed (a bit of an obscure ingredient) and white vinegar for pickling from Manna Whole Foods in South Fremantle (the only place I’ve ever seen them both).

I occasionally have a moment of weakness and buy a bar of good quality dark chocolate wrapped in foil and paper from a local grocer, or even (if I’m desperate! It happens!) from the supermarket.

I buy coffee from local coffee place Antz Inya Pantz in East Victoria Park, who roast their own beans.

I source honey from my neighbour, who keeps bees.

I collect olives from public trees with a group of friends every April, and press them locally to get a year’s supply of olive oil.

Zero Waste Grocery Shopping: Fresh Produce

The fresh produce that buy is fruit and vegetables, bread, and deli items like olives.

I no longer buy fish, meat or dairy products for my personal consumption. I do buy pet mince, chicken necks and chicken frames for my greyhound from The Butcher Shop in the Park Centre, East Victoria Park. This butcher (like many independently owned businesses) is happy to accept and fill my own containers. I use old yoghurt tubs I sourced from my local Buy Nothing group as I don’t mind if these get lost. I usually drop the containers off and they will call me once they have been able to fill them for me to collect.

I have a homegrown veggie patch, which provides some of my fruit and veg – dependent on how much time I have and how much I can put into it. I’ve always got herbs (mint, parsley, oregano, thyme, coriander in winter and basil in summer), there’s always some kind of greens, capsicums, chillis and sweet potato.

There’s also a few fruit trees. Lemons are available almost all year round, there’s a passion fruit vine and at the moment, guavas and kumquats.

I order a veg box once a fortnight from The Organic Collective, based in Hamilton Hill, which is delivered direct to my doorstep.

I top my veg box up with fruit and veg shopping at Swansea Street Markets in East Victoria Park, who have an excellent range of loose produce (including fresh herbs, peas and beans, salad leaves and other harder-to-find items).

They also stock a lot of West Australian and Australian produce, and label their Country of Origins properly.

My friends have a market garden and fruit orchard, and run the Guildford Food Hub (in Guildford) on Saturday mornings. I sometimes get fruit from them.

I occasionally pop into the supermarket to top up things like onions, avocados and mushrooms.

Swansea Street Markets also has a great deli counter. I occasionally buy olives and other antipasto type things from here, using my own jars (which they happily weigh before they fill). They also sell cheese and cold cut meats.

If I’m in Fremantle, Kakulas Sister has an excellent deli counter also, and are happy to tare and fill containers.

I don’t go to the Farmers Market regularly, but when I do I look out for what’s in season: boxes of strawberries, boxes of tomatoes, loose cherry tomatoes and other hard-to-find-without-packaging items.

My two favourite markets are the Subiaco Farmers Market (open on Saturday mornings) and the Growers Green Farmers Market in Beaconsfield/South Fremantle (open on Sunday mornings.

If I’m at the Farmers Market, I always buy bread. My favourite Wild Bakery has a stall at both Subiaco and Growers Green. Otherwise their actual bakery is located in South Fremantle. I pop in when I’m in the area, or ask my friend who lives around the corner to pick up a loaf for me if we are planning to meet.

I also buy bread from my other favourite bakery Bread in Common (in Pakenham Street, Fremantle).

As neither are local to me, I tend to buy two loaves at a time and freeze one. If I run out, I don’t eat bread until I stock up again. There are other bakeries close to me, but I really like good bread, and the others just don’t compare.

I also make my own bread, but that tends to be a little seasonal.

Something that I buy as a treat occasionally is ice-cream. There’s an amazing ice-cream shop in Victoria Park called Pietro Gelateria, with a small-but-mighty vegan ice cream selection (most of their offering is traditional dairy ice cream).

One of my favourite things is the plastic-free ice creams on sticks, mostly for the novelty. I take a Pyrex to the store, they pop two in, and I bring them home for later.

 Zero Waste Groceries: Things I Make

I tend to make things if they are easy, far more delicious when made from scratch, and/or unavailable without plastic or excessive packaging.

Some of the simplest things I make are apple cider/apple scraps vinegar (literally an apple core, some water, a bit of sugar and some stirring), refrigerator pickles (a 10-minute job), pesto and hummus.

Back when I ate dairy, I’d make my own yoghurt (another ridiculously simple thing to make).

Things that take a little longer (but are oh-so worth it) are sourdough crackers and chickpea falafels. With falafels, I make a huge batch and freeze at least three-quarters. This also stops me eating the entire lot in one day.

Zero Waste Food: Takeaway

I rarely get takeaway. I prefer to eat in, and use real plates and metal reusable cutlery. I’m more likely to take home leftovers than actually order takeaway, and I always pack a reusable container when I head out, just in case.

I hope that’s given you some insight into the kinds of things I buy, and where from, and maybe some ideas for things you could incorporate into your own life. If you’re in Perth you might like to visit some of the places I’ve listed. If you’re not, maybe there’s something similar close to you.

In my experience, when it comes to plastic-free and zero waste living, there’s always a lot more options than we first expect.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Is there anything you’re trying to source that I haven’t covered? Anything you’ve had success with that you’d like to share? Anything that needs more explanation, or any tips you can add? Any other questions? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Changing the Story: Talking Rubbish on the Tedx Stage

Taking the stage at last year’s TedX Perth event has to be one of the highlights of the year. On behalf of the zero waste and plastic-free community, the opportunity to share the message about living with less waste with 1700 people was pretty mind-blowing.

From a personal perspective, talking in front of that many people was pretty mind-blowing too!

I never thought of myself as a public speaker. At school, if asked to speak in front of the class, I’d end up bawling until I was allowed to sit back down. (I’m sorry, classmates, for having to put you all through that.) And yes, this was in my teens.

When I first began writing this blog back in 2012 it was completely anonymous.

I’m not someone who loves the limelight.

My first public speaking opportunity came in 2013, when Plastic Free July asked me to talk for 5 minutes in front of 60 people. The only reason I said yes was because I felt that the message I had to share was more important than my personal fear of embarrassment/humiliation/self-doubt.

I remember pacing in the toilets beforehand, heart racing and sweaty palms, panicking about standing in front of all those people.

After that 5 minute talk, where I spoke too fast, flailed my arms wildly and trembled, a radio host who was watching asked me for a pre-recorded interview. I said no.

He approached me again as I was leaving. After some persuasion about how important the message was, I reluctantly agreed.

Then the next community group or organsiation asked. And the next.

And that is how this non-public speaker became a public speaker. Whenever I was asked to speak or present, I’d remember that the story and the cause is the most important thing, and I’d bite my lip and agree.

And in time, with practice, I got better. I learned to slow down. I learned not to panic. I felt more confident in myself, and in what I was talking about.

I still flail my arms uncontrollably! Something to work on ;)

Now, I love to speak to others. It’s a way to amplify the message. I can do what I do, and tell all my friends, but the impact is limited. When I start to speak to people who don’t know me and share my story with them, that’s when the message really starts to spread.

If you’re passionate about the plastic-free life and the zero waste movement (or something else!), then I encourage you to get out there, into your community, and spread the word. You don’t have to take the stage at a big event (at least, not at first)! I have spoken to groups as small as 15 people.

The opportunities are everywhere: at your local library, the farmers’ market, your workplace, a local school or community group. Your message is too important not to share.

You don’t have to be a public speaker. I wasn’t. You don’t have to love standing in front of an audience, or have confidence in spades. I didn’t. I’m just someone with a message I want to share. That’s all you need to get out there and make a difference.

Now I’d love to hear from you! If you get a chance to watch the video, I’d love to hear what you think! And if you’ve tips for keeping flailing arms at bay, I’m all ears ;) Have you personally had any experiences of speaking in public? Is it something that you embrace, or that you dread? Is it something you’d like to do in 2017? How have you managed to conquer your nerves? Do you have tips for anyone starting out? Is it something you still struggle with? Anything else you’d like to add? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

Can You Have A Dog and be Zero Waste?

My husband and I have been wondering about adopting a dog for a long while. The shelters are full of unwanted animals, and we felt that we now have the energy, time and space to give one a loving home. Having never had a dog before (the only pet I had as a kid was a hamster) I wasn’t sure what the reality would be.

How do you prepare for something you’ve never done before, and make such a commitment?

Then we came across greyhound fostering and adoption. Despite greyhound racing being banned in many countries across the world, it is very much happening in Australia (New South Wales announced recently that they will be banning it – it is being appealed, of course). Greyhounds are overbred to increase the selection pool, and bred solely to run fast. Those that aren’t fast enough, or won’t chase, are disposed of. In fact, 17,000 healthy dogs are killed ever year in Australia.

Greyhound rescue charities exist to try to take some of these dogs and rehome them. Some more conscientious trainers will arrange for charities to take unwanted dogs; other times it is the vets that pass these dogs on to spare them. These rescue organisations don’t have kennels of their own so the dogs go straight from the racing kennels to foster families.

Sometimes there is less than 24 hours notice that a dog will be needing a new home.

My husband and I decided that fostering a greyhound might be a good way to see if our home and our lifestyle is suitable for a dog. We have a small fenced-in yard that wouldn’t suit a lot of dogs, but greyhounds (surprisingly) don’t need much space. They need walking, of course, but 30 minutes a day is adequate. They are indoor dogs as they feel the cold.

They are different to other rescue dogs in that they are used to human contact and other dogs (although, only other greyhounds). They are gentle, calm and unfazed by most things, plus they are toilet-trained.

It happened really fast. We called to say we’d installed a gate so our yard was secure, but we still had a few things to source – like a bed, food bowls and food. The next thing was, they called to say they had a dog and we could expect him the next day. I’m sure you can never be totally prepared, but my, did I feel woefully underprepared!

Hans arrived at 6pm last Tuesday. He’s 3 and a half, so we think he’s been racing for 18 months. We don’t know much else about him. He’s calm, placid and settled in quickly.

Of course, I want to keep things as waste-free as I can. But is it possible?

Hans Greyhound Rescue Hans Side View Hans

Is it possible to have a dog and be zero waste?

Bedding, Bowls and Toys

Zero waste and plastic-free living is important to me. I’ve spent the last 4 years living like this, and I can’t just undo it or not think about it. Even the idea of buying things new really stresses me out, let alone wrapped in or made from plastic.

We’d hoped to source the food bowls second-hand and use a second-hand cot mattress for the bed, but there were none on Gumtree at the time and with less than a day to find something, we had to buy new. We found 100% stainless steel bowls (one water, one food) and a mattress covered with hessian, which I could replace with upcycled hessian coffee bags if need be (our local cafe sell their old ones).

We’re using old bedding on the mattress to extend its life – the bedding is washable, whereas the mattress isn’t. Fortunately none of these things came with extra packaging.

We found a toy made from 100% rubber, but all the soft toys were polyester. It is possible to buy natural ones on the internet, but after being given a soft toy by a colleague we’ve discovered that any soft toy will not be worth the investment – it will be gone in 5 minutes! Greyhounds don’t really play, so we’re not too worried.

Dealing with Dog Poo

I built a dog poo worm farm in the back yard using a white “builder’s bucket” donated to me by my local bulk food store (it previously had washing powder in it). Worms will eat dog poo provided there is no other food in there.

I won’t be adding the castings to my veggies but it will break down into nutrients and go back into the soil – better than the bin. It’s safe to do, and I have plenty of friends with dogs that do this. (Here are the instructions if you’re interested in how to make a DIY dog poo worm farm – I realise it’s a niche area!)

Digging In DIY Dog Poo Worm Farm

White “builder’s bucket” with the bottom cut out, dug into the ground with 2 inches showing on top.

Worms for DIY Dog Poo Worm Farm

Adding worms, and shredded paper to the dog poo worm farm.

DIY Dog Poo Worm Farm

The finished dog poo worm farm. If I could be bothered I could paint the lid – I could even stand a plant on top. It could be very discrete : )

I pick up the waste with newspaper. If we’re out and about I can put in dog poo bins – there are a couple close by – and we are lucky that the domestic waste in our suburb actually gets put through an industrial composter.

In fact, as Hans had worming tablets when he came, I can’t use the worm farm for two weeks, so I’ve been putting it here. No, I’m not keeping it for my waste jar!

Food and Treats

The lady that placed Hans with us brought dog food with her, so it was one less thing to worry about. At least, it should have been. But I’ve realised that as someone who doesn’t buy meat because I don’t want to support industrial agriculture, I’m going to struggle with this.

I’m also going to struggle with the packaging, and the “processed” nature of dog food.

Kangaroo meat is a possibility here as it isn’t farmed, it’s wild. But do I want to cook and handle it myself? I’m aware that dogs have thrived on vegetarian and vegan diets but it takes sound management and doesn’t work for all of them. Racing dogs are often fed cereal (cornflakes and Weetabix) with milk for breakfast, and pasta for dinner -greyhounds will eat most things. But should they?

They need a complete food, and to be healthy. A local bulk store is looking into stocking dog kibble – it will contain meat but there will be no packaging. Lots of options, but none are perfect.

I don’t have the answer, but I have enough kibble here to spend some time looking into this further.

The Stuff I Didn’t Think About

After three sleepless nights, we learned that leaving the light and radio on overnight is necessary to maintain calm. I am someone who never leaves unnecessary lights on! Whilst I know that it’s negligible in terms of waste, it still stresses me a little, and it’s another adjustment I have to make.

I also didn’t expect to be thrown into a whole new world. The last week has been eye-opening, stressful…and emotional. I’m not talking about my lifestyle now, I’m talking about the world of greyhounds, and greyhound rescuers. To have met so many people who are completely dedicated to saving these beautiful animals has been humbling.

They open up their homes and give up their weekends to try to find forever homes for these dogs.

They are all volunteers. They are doing everything in their power to save as many animals as they can.

Whatever my personal dilemmas are about waste, ethical living and sustainability, clearly none of this is Hans’, or any other greyhounds’ fault. They are part of a broken system that breeds dogs simply to make money and provide entertainment for a few, and then discards them when they no longer perform.

I’d never really given greyhound racing much thought before, but having seen and read what I have in the last ten days, I’m appalled. For all the dogs that are rescued, many more won’t be. In Australia, it’s estimated 50% of dogs are destroyed. I hope that the NSW greyhound racing ban remains, and that it is the start of the end for racing dogs in Australia.

Stuff shouldn’t be wasted. Resources shouldn’t be wasted. Lives shouldn’t be wasted, either.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever fostered or rescued a dog before? What was your experience? Do you have any tips to share? Are you trying to live plastic-free or zero waste with a pet, and what have your successes been? What about your dilemmas and struggles? Are you vegetarian or vegan with a pet, and how have you made your choices regarding the food you give them? Did you know about the reality of the greyhound racing industry before, or was it something that you never considered? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

Local Zero Waste Living (+ How to Shop at Bulk Stores)

A couple of months ago I was at an event, and a friend came bounding up to tell me she had someone she wanted me to meet – a lady who’d recently moved from Sydney to Perth who was passionate about plastic-free living. I went over and introduced myself, and told her that if she had questions for plastic-free shopping, I would be happy to help.

She asked me if I had a list of all the places to shop in bulk. Awkward silence. No, I don’t have a list. It’s all in my head!

I realise that storing all this useful information about local zero waste stores in my head is really not the best place for it, but I wasn’t entirely sure where to share it.

I didn’t think this website was the best place, as I talk about other things besides waste and also, my audience is global. It needs to be accessible to people who live locally without boring everyone who isn’t. I’m pretty sure for those of you who don’t live nearby, hearing about where to buy bulk oats or olive oil in Perth on a weekly basis would get very tiresome!

The other issue is that compiling a list like that and keeping it updated is a big job. Perth doesn’t have a huge population (1.3 million) but it does occupy a rather large area – the same size as Greater London. That means that there are actually quite a lot of bulk stores scattered about the place.

Whilst I know about a lot of them, I clearly don’t know them all. A collaborative approach would be much better, allowing people to add the info that they know… but was that getting a little complicated?

In the end, there was a simple solution. Facebook Groups. After all, pretty much everyone uses Facebook, it’s free to set up a group, it’s possible to upload files and create documents, and anyone who’s a member can edit them.

Plus there’s an opportunity to share images, ask questions, post useful links and connect with others. Perfect!

So I’d like to introduce Zero Waste + Plastic free Living, Perth, Western Australia (the Facebook Group):Zero Waste + Plastic Free Living, Perth, Western AustraliaEverything (pretty much) that is stored in my head regarding shopping plastic-free and zero waste in Perth has been added to this page. I’ll also be hanging out there if people have questions or want help. So if you live in Perth, join us!

I’d absolutely love it if you can add your own nuggets of wisdom and pieces of knowledge to make this page really comprehensive and useful to our community : )

Most of this information is about stores that sell in bulk. Just in case you’re not sure how shopping this way actually works, I thought I’d give a brief rundown on the “how to” of bulk shopping.

How to Shop at Bulk Stores

  • The first thing to know is that zero waste shopping is about shopping “from bulk” rather than “in bulk”. It’s not about buying 60kg of oats at a time. Zero waste bulk stores are those that sell their products loose, usually in barrels, drums, plastic containers or sacks. With zero waste bulk stores, there may be a minimum weight for purchases, but that is usually so that the products register on the scale.
  • Bulk stores are not packaging free themselves: they buy products in packaging, but in large quantities. Their customers don’t contribute further to packaging waste if they bring their own bags and containers. The amount of packaging required for one bulk sack is far less than if that product was split into several thousand small packages, each with their own label.
  • You are more than welcome (and usually encouraged) to bring your own bags to fill, although often bulk stores will have paper and even plastic bags available. Container are more suitable for some products (think oils, pastes and anything very fine). If you bring your own jars or containers, you should ask someone at the cash register to weigh your container before you fill it. You should also know the volume of your container as some products are sold by volume rather than weight. Measure it out before you get to the store.
  • Don’t mix products in bags, even if they are the same price unless there is a sign that tells you it is okay to do so. Stores need to keep track of what they sell to order more and avoid running out, so putting 3 different products into one bag isn’t helpful!
  • Some stores will ask you to write the products or stock numbers on bags. If you have your own bags, you can write these on your phone or shopping list as you go round to keep track.
  • At the checkout, be as helpful as possible. Tell the shop assistant what is in each bag, especially if they aren’t see-through!
  • When you get home, it can be helpful to pop any grains, pulses and beans (and any flours from these) into the freezer for 24 hours to kill any weevils or eggs that might be in your products. Whether you do this depends on how fresh you think the items are, how quickly you intend to use them up… and how bothered you are by extra protein ; )
  • Whilst bulk stores are set up for people bringing their own containers, many other places are actually open to the idea – they probably haven’t thought of it before. Butchers, fishmongers, cafes and delis are places where you can bring your own containers. You just need to explain clearly what you’re doing (can you put the product directly in my container?) and why (I’m trying to avoid using any plastic or disposable packaging) before you hand over your container. The why is important if you don’t want your glass container popped in a plastic bag or sealing with cling wrap once it’s filled! Tips: If you’re nervous or worried you’ll be rejected, avoid busy periods and if there’s anyone waiting, let them go first. Smile, act like it’s the most normal thing in the world to be doing and go for it!

Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any tips to add? Anything I’ve missed off the list? Any facepalm moments you’d like to share about your experiences of trying to buy groceries without packaging? Any lessons learned or benefit of hindsight moments? Please leave me a comment telling me your thoughts below!

Fancy a Look Around My New (Sustainable) Home?

In case you missed the news, we’ve finally moved into our new home, and oh, it feels good! We have solar panels and solar hot water, a rainwater tank, solar passive design that means no air-con required even in our 40°C+ summers, and a veggie garden pre-planted with vegetables. We’re two minutes from the train station and there’s a newly opened bulk store within walking distance.

Plus we’re in the heart of a vibrant and engaged community and we can’t wait to join in!

I thought it might be fun to show you round, to explain some of the sustainability features and how they work and to highlight why we are so excited about our new home. Welcome to the tour!

Just to give you some background, my husband and I live in the city. Whilst we’d love to move to the country some day, buy a block of land and be completely self-sufficient, we don’t have the skills (yet) to do this. Not even close! Plus our work, friends and community are all based in this city and we’re not ready to leave.

We don’t have the money to buy a big block of our own within the city, and we don’t have the funds or know-how to renovate a doer-upper (is that even a word?). What we dreamed of was an apartment with solar panels that didn’t require additional heating or cooling, close proximity to amenities, space to grow our own food and a community feel. We’ve found it in this place and we feel really lucky.

There are 3 building on the site, with 7 homes in total. This is the back view of our building – there are 3 units in this one. There are 3 solar hot water systems and 3 solar PV systems on the roof – one for each of us.  The communal veggie garden sits at the back of our building : )

Solar Panels and Solar Hot Water Sustainable Home Green Swing

Solar hot water and solar panels, plus a communal veggie garden.

The veggie beds have to be my favourite part of the whole development and I cannot wait to start growing my own food. Luckily some seedlings were planted before we moved in meaning there is already food to harvest. The beds are second-hand and there is some leftover metal from the roof to make more if we decide we need them (I’ve already decided we do!).

The wooden boxes mark the boundary and have fruit trees in them. They are made from old pallet tanks / IBCs, which are basically huge square plastic drums for transporting bulk liquids. They’ve been cut in half and clad in scrap wood.

Communal Veggie Garden Sustainable House Green Swing

Garden beds in full swing, and plenty of space to add a few more ; )

Upcycled IBC Tank Sustainable House Permaculture Green Swing

An old pallet tank cut in half and clad in scrap wood to made a planter. The three planters all contain citrus trees. Pleased to report too that my compost bin had already been dug in!

This side of the building faces the sun, so normally rooms facing this way get ridiculously hot. In addition to double glazing and glass tinting, all the windows and doors have been fitted with solar pergolas. That’s what the big metal frames with slats above the windows and doors are.

When the sun is high in the sky in summer, the pergola blocks the sun from entering through the glass and heating the inside. In winter when the sun is lower, the sun’s rays can pass through the slats and warm the house inside. Despite seeming like a simple and obvious solution for keeping the heat out (or in), very few houses in Perth are fitted with these. They have huge air conditioning units instead.

How Does a Solar Pergola Work Sustainable House Green Swing

The sun is hitting the pergola and casting a shadow on the outside of the building, rather than heating the inside. The bottom right image is the inside of the building: were the pergola not in place, the sun would be heating the floor where the shadows are. These pergolas are fixed but if they were adjustable it would be possible to eliminate any direct sunlight from entering.

This is the central area where the three buildings meet. All the entrances come off this central space (the 3 upstairs units are all accessed by the stairway) – a deliberate design feature so people are encouraged to speak to their neighbours and create community!

The wooden box in the left of the picture is a degassed old fridge (clad in wood) which is the communal worm farm. Plus all the pavers are recycled.

I’m not a huge fan of the lawn. My first idea was to turn it into a chicken coop. Now I’m thinking I’ll just dig up the grass and grow food! However, as my husband points out, we are 1 unit out of 7, and we can’t just tear it all out before everyone moves in. Democracy and all that. They might want to keep it.

Maybe I’ll start by planting food around the edge…

Centre Courtyard Sustainable Home Green Swing

I love the central space, but it feels very new and sterile at the moment. Looking forward to bring it to life!

In rather exciting news, there is a communal bike shed! We no longer have to store our bikes in the bedroom – hurrah!

Bicycle Storage Shed Sustainable Home Green Swing

Bike storage in action!

Bicycle Storage Shed Spare Racks Sustainable Home Green Swing

When not in use, the bike racks fold against the wall.

Rainwater tanks sound fantastic in a city that is so short of water it already uses two desalination plants to supply 40% of its water, and will be drinking treated sewage as of 2016. But red tape means it’s not quite as good as it should be. The units, which have a joint roof, are legally not allowed to use rainwater for anything other than the washing machine and toilet.

Ironic really, that we can’t drink rainwater for health reasons, yet drinking treated sewage is acceptable. Still, better than nothing. That’s why the tanks are smaller than you might expect – along with the fact that water is actually really cheap (it costs $1.50 for 1000 litres), meaning there is little incentive to plumb in rainwater unless you really care about sustainability.

Rainwater Tank 3000L Green Swing

A 3000l rainwater tank. Water in Perth costs $1.50 for 1000 litres, so it would cost just $4.50 to fill this from the tap. Madness!

This is the front of the house. The double garage that you see is actually a shared garage – each unit has one garage space and shares the garage with others. There are electricity points in each garage for the time when electric cars are the norm.

Front of Sustainable House Green Swing

This double garage is shared between two flats. There are more spaces for bike parking than car parking!

That’s the tour of the outside finished, so here’s a quick rundown of some of the sustainability features on the inside. Once we’ve settled in I hope to show you round the inside properly but until then, here’s some glimpses ; )

This is the floor in most of our unit – polished concrete. It’s a very sustainable flooring, great for helping to maintain the temperature and as homes are built on concrete slabs, it makes use of what is already there.

Polished Concrete Sustainable Home Green Swing

Polished concrete flooring. The cracked surface adds to the charm.

There’s no air-con in our home – insulation, double glazing, good thermal mass and correct orientation means we shouldn’t need it. There are ceiling fans to circulate the air.

Ceiling Fans Sustainable Home Green Swing

The ceiling fans have two modes – cooling in summer and heating in winter. You just need to flick a switch, apparently. I didn’t know that ceiling fan heating was a “thing”, so I’m interested to try this out!

I’ve had gas cooktops for many years, and I remember how terrible electric cooktops used to be. You’d lower the temperature of the hob, and your saucepan would continue to boil itself dry and burn your dinner because the hob didn’t realise you meant reduce the temperature NOW, not in about 15 minutes time.

Now we have solar power it doesn’t make sense to have gas too, and so we have electric hobs again – but induction ones.

Electric induction cooktops are a far cry from those dodgy electric hotplates. I’m in awe. I did not realise it was possible for a kettle to boil so quickly!

Not to mention they are easy to clean (always a bonus). I’m a convert.

Induction Hob Sustainable Home Green Swing

Convection hobs are a million light years ahead of those old electric cooktops. They’re faster and more energy efficient.

Finally I have to show you our toilet (yes, the toilet) because it has a sink built into the cistern. When you press the flush (there is a dual flush button either side of the tap) the water that ultimately fills the cistern runs into the sink so you can wash your hands.

You’d be amazed at how much water is needed to fill a cistern.

I’ll tell you. An old style toilet needs 12 litres. This one uses either 4.5 litres or 3 litres depending on which button you press. There is enough time to flush, walk over to the main (laundry) sink, remember that the toilet has a sink on top which is pouring water out of the tap and you’re meant to be washing your hands with this one, wander back, realise you left the soap over on the side, walk over to pick it up, return to the toilet-flush sink, wash your hands, dry your hands, return the soap and marvel that the water still continues to flow.

The reflex in me wants to grab a container to collect the water that’s gushing out of the tap…except it doesn’t work like that, obviously – it’s filling the tank!

Toilet Cistern with Integrated Basin Combined Pics Sustainable Home Green Swing

When you flush, the water that fills the tank first flows through the tap so you can wash your hands with the water.

That’s the tour complete – I hope you found it interesting! I’m looking forward to sharing how our new community develops and what the gardens are looking like this time next year – and all the learning and insights I have along the way. I’m sure there will be many!

Now I want to hear from you! What do you think of my new home? What are your favourite features? Do you have any ideas you’d like to share about what we should do with the space? What would you do if you moved in?! Is it the kind of development you could move into, and if not, why not? Anything else you’d like to add? I’d truly love to hear your thoughts so please leave me a comment below!

Grocery Shopping…But Not As We Know It!

Last weekend I took a trip to the Hills to the town of Mundaring 45km  away… to go shopping. Not just any kind of shopping, mind. I went to visit a newly opened shop named the Wasteless Pantry. No prizes for guessing what kind of shop it is! It’s a new bulk grocery store that only sells loose grocery items, actively encourages shoppers to bring their own containers and even offers a Plastic Free July support group!

PFJ Shop Signs Wasteless Pantry

The Plastic free Support Group meets on Wednesdays : )

I’m lucky enough where I live to have a number of bulk produce stores to choose from, but this is the first store I’ve come across that sells groceries and cleaning products solely in bulk and does not offer any plastic bags or plastic packaging of any kind. It is like a dream come true!

Zero Waste Pantry Mundaring

A set of scales and a marker pen at the door means customers can weigh their own jars and containers.

Bulk oils sauces vinegars

As well as dry goods, there was a selection of oils and vinegars to buy in bulk.

Bulk spices

Bulk (plastic-free) spices and herbs can also be found here.

The store isn’t big, but is neatly laid out with almost everything you could wish for (and a few things you might not have known you even wanted) all available in bulk. There was also a blackboard on the corner for customers to write their “wish list” of items they’d like to see available in the future. I wrote down maple syrup. I’ve never seen it in bulk in Australia and it’s something I’d really like to be able to source!

My favourite bit was the bulk pasta section. I’ve written on social media recently about Barilla’s decision to start adding plastic windows to their previously plastic-free cardboard pasta boxes. Here there was a good choice (including gluten-free pasta) so we stocked up. Bye bye Barilla!

Bulk Pasta

Bye bye Barilla! Your stupid plastic windows mean I won’t be buying your pasta any more…I’ll be buying this instead! Plus it’s made in South Australia which means lower food miles : )

Other highlights were:

  • Bulk tortilla chips! Plastic-free! We bought an enormous bag full and devoured them within an hour of arriving home. To be fair, it was lunchtime. It’s probably a good thing that these aren’t commonly found in bulk stores!

Shopping for Zero Waste Tortilla Chips

If that isn’t excitement then I don’t know what is!

  • Hundreds and thousands. Not something I’d buy (just look at all those e numbers!) but quite impressed that it was even possible.

I'm also loving the little wooden scoops that accompany all the spice jars!

I’m also loving the little wooden scoops that accompany all the spice jars!

  • A little bit of upcycling: funnels made from old plastic milk bottles.

Upcycled milk bottles as funnels...repurposing at its finest!

Upcycled milk bottles as funnels to fill your own containers…repurposing at its finest!

  • Free bottles and bags, just in case you forgot your own or didn’t quite have enough. The store also sells new glass jars but I love the fact that they make old ones available to shoppers too.

Free glass jars and shopping bags Wasteless Pantry

The kind of community service other shops should offer ; )

No Bulk Stores Near You? Don’t Despair!

I didn’t write this post to gloat. I know that lots of you don’t live close to bulk stores. I’m lucky that I have so many close by to where I live, although this one doesn’t count – a 45km trip without a car makes this too difficult for regular shopping. Instead, I wrote this post to give you encouragement. This store only opened its doors on 1st June…that’s less than 4 weeks ago. Bulk and zero waste stores are popping up more and more…it’s a growing trend!

The Wasteless Pantry is the result of two women who were frustrated with the amount of waste they were consuming – and decided to do something about it.

Doing something about it doesn’t mean you have to open your own shop (although I know a few of you secretly – or not so secretly – harbour such dreams)! This might be at the more ambitious end of the scale, but we can all do something. Just because you don’t have a bulk bin store at the end of your street, it doesn’t mean bulk shopping is out of reach. Don’t make the mistake of doing nothing simply because you can’t do everything.

The fact that these shops exist mean that products are being sold in bulk. Most products are sold in bulk. All you have to do is find them!

  • One approach is to ask producers and farmers directly. They may sell to you or they may not – but the question must be asked if you want to know the answer.
  • Think about bulk buying groups. Food co-ops exist in many areas, but they don’t advertise so you’ll have to seek them out.
  • Bulk buying groups don’t have to be formal, either! They can be as simple as a group of friends who club together to buy a large amount of one product, and then split it.  It doesn’t even need to be food. When I needed to buy more toilet roll recently, I put it out there on Facebook and 9 other people agreed to buy a box too. I had 10 boxes of toilet roll delivered to my doorstep, and the 9 I didn’t need were collected by friends and family. It helped supported a local business, reduced our cost (bulk buying often works out cheaper) and stopped 9 other families buying plastic-wrapped toilet paper from the supermarket ; )

Start small. Choose just one item. Think of items you get through large quantities of, or items with a long shelf life. Investigate local producers or suppliers. No-one can do everything. But everyone can do something.

Of course, if you’re inspired enough to start your own zero waste store, go for that instead!

Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you have bulk stores near you, or do you struggle to find anything not packaged in plastic? Have you joined a food co-op, or found a Farmers market or producer that you can buy products without excessive packaging? What is your biggest frustration…and your greatest triumph in the war against waste?! Please tell me your thoughts in the comments 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!

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 : )

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.