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5 Things You Need (No Purchase Required) To Go Zero Waste

I believe that less waste is firmly linked to less stuff. Yes, I do have a bunch of reusables, and yes I use them and find them useful. But the focus of the zero waste conversation doesn’t need to be around “stuff”.

Rather than talk about the things we can buy to reduce our waste, I wanted to talk about the things we can do, and the ways that we can change our thinking.

Because we can have all the zero waste reusables in the world, but without the right attitude and mindset we’re going to end up frustrated, defeated…  and those reusables will end up languishing on a shelf.

Instead of creating another one of those “5 Things You Can Buy” posts, I thought I’d create a “5 Things You Can Be” post for going plastic-free or zero waste.

A little encouragement, with no purchase required.

1. A Can-Do Attitude

If we want to achieve something, we have to believe it is possible. That doesn’t mean we have to think in absolutes. Let’s be realistic about what is possible, for us, and build on that.

Too many people trip up thinking oh, I could never be 100% zero waste, or I could never do all my shopping at the bulk store, it is too expensive. But there’s no rule that says you have to do that. Not being able to do everything is no reason not to do what we can.

If 100% zero waste or plastic-free isn’t for you (and let’s be honest, in today’s economy, with today’s systems, it is impossible to achieve 100%), decide what is for you.

Choose a different percentage, or even better, choose how much you want to improve by compared to where you are now. Maybe you’d like to reduce your bin by half, or maybe you’d like to make one swap every month until Christmas.

If the bulk store is too expensive, commit to doing 10% of your shopping there, or just buying your herbs and spices there.

Too often people assume it has to be all-or-nothing, and if they can’t do it all it doesn’t count and they shouldn’t bother. Wrong. It all counts. Every single action counts.

What you need is a goal that is achievable and realistic for you, one you can feel good about and know is within your grasp. Ideally one that involves no comparison with what anyone else is doing. That will keep you upbeat as you work on making change.

Let’s not forget that there will be slip-ups, mistakes and moments where it all gets a bit too hard. See them for what they are, part of the learning process, and know that despite any backwards steps, you can do this.

2. A Focus on Solutions

There are a lot of things about the world that could be a whole lot better. It can be a little overwhelming to think about it all. So don’t.

We can recognise that there are a huge amount of things that we care about and want to see changed – climate change, peak oil, farming practices, the food system, plastic pollution, over-use of plastic in manufacturing, animal welfare, deforestation – whatever the things that are closest to to your heart.

This is our sphere of concern: the stuff we care about.

From there, we can think about what we are in control of, or can influence. We might not be able to influence the political decisions made by leaders in foreign countries, but we still have influence on others and the world around us.

We can write letters, or join campaigns. We can support local events, or create our own.  We can pick up litter, or choose to boycott unethical companies. We can refuse single-use plastic, and we can buy second-hand.

This is our sphere of influence: the things that we can do.

Try to spend less time worrying about the things that you cannot change, and more time doing the things you can to make the world better.

For specific problems, tackle them one at a time, and find a solution. Ask the internet. Talk to friends or colleagues. Try different things. Someone, somewhere, will probably have a solution to the problem staring you in the face.

And if you really can’t find a solution, put it aside, for now. It is in the sphere of concern, but not our sphere of influence (yet). Move onto the next concern, and look for a solution for that.

3. Some Creativity

If you don’t think you’re creative, don’t panic. You don’t need to be – you just need to find others who are. People are always coming up with great solutions and hacks for different problems, and the internet means they are freely shared.

Saying that, creative doesn’t necessarily mean artistic. I consider myself to be creative in the kitchen – but you won’t find me making cute cupcakes or icing cakes worthy of best-in-show rosettes. No, my creativity is based around my ability to make a meal out of almost anything. I am a dab hand at using up fridge dregs! Not Pinterest-worthy, but tackling food waste gets my creative juices flowing.

Maybe you know how to sew. Maybe your mending skills are extraordinary. Maybe you know how to fix stuff. Maybe you know how to make stuff. Maybe you can find a use for anything. Maybe you’re full of upcycling ideas.

Whatever your creative outlet is, use it in your journey to zero waste. Share it, if you can. And use the creative outlets of others to help you with the things you’re less good at.

4. Healthy Scepticism

I believe it’s useful to question things, particularly claims about eco-friendly credentials that a business or product might have, or those headline-grabbing claims that companies often spout. Read the fine print. Ask questions. Become your own investigator.

There is a lot of greenwashing and misleading information out there. I was someone who used to take these claims at face value. If it said “eco-friendly” on the packaging, that was good enough for me! But of course, claims like this aren’t regulated. We need to do our homework.

Any business can decide its product is eco-friendly and stamp it on the front of the box. Any business can make a media statement promising to ban plastic/single-use items/non-recyclable packaging by several years into the future. But claims and headlines like this are meaningless without explaining how, or offering an an actionable plan to back it up.

When you see a headline or product that sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Probe. Look deeper. Ask questions. Most companies with genuine ethical credentials will be able to answer your questions and address your concerns, or will tell you they don’t know and offer to find out. Anyone who ignores your request or is elusive or cagey: remain sceptical.

5. Community Spirit

We’re in this together! We really are. The reason that zero waste and plastic-free living is referred to as a movement is because there are lots of people joining in, all working together towards a common goal. We’re sharing resources and sharing ideas, and learning from one another.

Particularly if you don’t have much support from friends, family and colleagues, finding like-minded people elsewhere is crucial.

Be part of the community. This can be online, via social media (Facebook groups are good resource for creating online community spirit) and blogs. Share your thoughts and insights, and ask questions. Post ideas and success stories. Support those who are struggling, and celebrate those who are doing good things.

Help make our community positive, welcoming and supportive for others.

This can be offline, too. Join a local group or attend a community event (from beach clean-ups to movie screenings to DIY beeswax wrap making, I guarantee there will be something out there). If you’re feeling brave, offer to run an event at your local library – it will be a good way to meet like-minded people.

At the very least, join a Buy Nothing group or local neighbourhood network. Whilst the platforms are online, the members are the people who live where you live. It’s a great way to start to get to know your neighbours better and share stuff.

If you think zero waste is too hard, it will be too hard. But if you think that reducing your trash or limiting your plastic use is within your grasp, you’re already on your way.

Look at the areas in your life where you can make tiny changes and improvements, and find ways that work for you. Whenever you’re stuck, reach out – it’s likely someone will have a creative solution for your problem. And if you come up with an amazing solution yourself – tell everyone who will listen!

Zero waste and plastic-free living is a lifestyle and a journey. There’s not some end point that you get to and you’re done. It’s ongoing, and every day brings new challenges. So forget about absolutes or perfection. Just do what you can.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you agree with this list? Any other attributes you think are helpful when trying to go zero waste and plastic-free? Anything you struggle with? Anything else you’d like to add? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

5 Tips for Letting Go of Unwanted Christmas Gifts

Before you even say it, no. It is not too early to be talking about what to do with unwanted Christmas gifts. If we don’t talk about it, those gifts will be shoved in a cupboard, where they will languish untouched for months, forgotten and unused.

What a waste of resources!

The best outcome for these gifts is that they are needed, wanted and well used.

If you or someone you know received a gift that they don’t want, it is much better to find someone who needs it rather than stuffing it into storage.

The Reasons We Hang Onto Stuff We Don’t Need: Guilt and Fear

Is it ungrateful or rude to pass on a gift that’s unwanted? I don’t think so. No-one asks for gifts they don’t want and don’t like. The gifter may have had the best intentions, but on this occasion, they got it wrong.

We all make mistakes and misjudge things sometimes. That’s just how life works.

It was still kind and generous that they gifted something, and the meaning is in the giving, not the actual object.

But when it comes to letting go of the gift, we can feel guilty.

We feel guilty that they made a poor choice.

We feel guilty that we weren’t clearer about our dislike of hot pink, or the fact we actually went vegan 7 years ago, or the fact that we already own every single cookbook/novel by that author.

We feel guilty that they wasted their time, or money.

The thing is, all of this is about the past. The gift has already been purchased and gifted, and we can’t turn the clocks back. Whether we keep something or give it away won’t change the fact that the gift was a poor choice.

The difference is that keeping something reminds us of this, every time we see the item. Letting something go will let go of this guilt.

Finding new owners for our unwanted things is a great way to alleviate the guilt we feel about parting with stuff – it is hard to feel guilty when you’re bringing joy to someone else.

When it comes to letting go, we can also be fearful.

Fearful that the gifter will find out, and we’ll be judged.

Fearful that if we’re found out we will be seen as ungrateful and maybe not be given gifts again.

This fear is about something that hasn’t happened yet. It may never happen. Is it really a genuine cause for concern, or if it comes true, will it actually be slightly uncomfortable for a very small window of time?

Fear and guilt are not reasons to keep things we don’t need.

Think about it from your own perspective. How would you feel if you knew that a gift you’d purchased for someone was unwanted, disliked and would never be used? Would you rather the person kept it out of guilt or fear, or would you rather they passed it onto someone who loved it?

To Tell or Not Tell?

There’s no need to tell the gifter you don’t like the gift and you’re passing it on, if you don’t want to. If you think it will upset someone, or you’ll feel judged, there’s no need to mention it.

Most people won’t ask what became of the gift, but if you’re worried about that, have an answer at the ready.

If the gifter told you that they kept the receipt in case you want to exchange it, consider that an invitation to tell them that you’d like to exchange it. Obvious as that seems, it can be an awkward conversation, and one we prefer to avoid. But the fact they mentioned it means they’d rather you had something you actually liked than try to protect their feelings. If this option exists, don’t shy away from it.

On the other hand, you might prefer to tell the gifter of your plans. If they were wildly wrong with size, style or taste it may be helpful to say so.

If you put clear boundaries around the gifts you wanted and didn’t want, and these boundaries were trampled over (oh, I know you said only second-hand gifts but these plastic trashy items from the big box store were such bargains!) then it can be helpful (and rather satisfying) to explain your decision. It will also help clear up future misunderstandings.

Don’t forget, if they have no way to know you didn’t like the gift, they may continue to gift in the same spirit.

There’s no right or wrong answer to this. Do what feels right (or easier).

Options for Letting Go of Christmas Gifts

Take it back to the Store.

Some stores will let you exchange items even without a receipt over Christmas, so it is worth asking. Call ahead before you make the trip to double-check. The item will need to be still tagged and unused. You won’t get a refund, but if you simply want to switch size or colour, or swap for another product it is probably the lowest hassle solution.

Sell It.

Online auction platforms like eBay and classifieds platforms like Craigslist and Gumtree are great for listing items for sale from the comfort of your own home. Decide a price you’re happy with, take a few pics, and wait for a buyer. There are also marketplaces on social media for finding interested buyers.

Donate It.

Rather than dump your unwanted gift at the closest charity shop along with all the other unwanted gifts, consider giving the item away by other means. Charity shops are overloaded at this time of year, so it might be better to donate to an organization that will use the item, rather than resell it. For example, a homeless charity might accept sleeping bags and blankets, a refugee centre might take small electrical appliances, women’s refuges might take cosmetics and personal care products, and a food bank will accept food items.

Ask yourself, who might want what I have?

You can also give items away on online classifieds platforms, you can give away via local neighbourhood networks such as Buy Nothing groups, and you can regift – if you think the person will want the item.

If you’re worried about being judged for passing on unwanted Christmas gifts, donating them to a worthy cause can help. It might be a lot easier to say you donated something to an animal rescue centre or hospice than it is to say you sold it on eBay.

That’s not to say one choice is better. As long as the item ends up in the hands of someone who will use it, it is a good outcome.

Letting go of something we don’t need, don’t want and don’t like; it doesn’t make us ungrateful or selfish. It doesn’t make us greedy (if we decide to sell it). Stuff shouldn’t have that kind of power, and it only will if we allow it to. The best thing to do is to pass the item on. Out of sight, out of mind.

Difficult things become easier, and guilt will pass.

Now I’d love to hear from you! What do you do with unwanted gifts? Any additional tips? Do you struggle with guilt? How has this changed over the years? Do you find it easier now than you used to? Any other thoughts? Share all in the comments below!

10 Easy Zero Waste Hacks from Instagram

There are plenty of zero waste solutions and plastic-free living hacks, and many are so small and simple (when you know what they are, of course!) that they never make it to a blog post. They’re the kinds of snippets that I share on Instagram – but that’s not very fair for those of you who don’t use the platform! Even if you do, it isn’t always very easy to find them again.

So I thought I’d put together some of my most popular tips over the year for you. None are big enough to be a blog post in themselves, but that doesn’t mean you should miss out!

1. Don’t let fresh water run down the drain – collect it to use.

Most of us are comfortable with the idea of turning off the tap whilst we brush our teeth, but when we’re waiting for the cold water to run hot, it’s easy to let it go straight down the drain.

Instead, use a bottle or container, collect the water and use it later.

I used to use old wine bottles to do this, but because my hot water tank is on the roof three stories up, it takes forever to run hot – it can be 7 litres of cold water first. And that is a lot of wine bottles. Now I have two big Klean Kanteen growlers, and I use my other water bottles for the extra.

I’ll use the water for cooking, and also in the garden. My hot water tank isn’t old, so I’m not too worried about using the water to boil pasta. However some people have old water tanks and don’t trust their pipes, and if that’s you, use the water for cleaning, to water house plants and on the garden.

2. Use your cooking water on the compost.

Sticking on the subject of water, collect the water from cooking rice, pasta and veggies, and pour it on the compost (or on the garden). There’s nutrients in that water, and they are going down the drain if you don’t save them!

If it’s water from cooking veggies you can probably use it to water plants, but pasta water will be too starchy.

I tend to use a saucepan to collect the water – ideally a dirty one so the hot water dislodges some of the food – and tip that outside.

3. Label your bulk jars using a grease pencil.

I rarely label my pantry jars, I mostly know what things are without the labels. Pasta – yep I can tell that by looking at it, no label required. The one thing I’ve found hard to identify is white powders. There’s a big difference between laundry powder and bicarb soda and rice flour, so it’s quite an important one.

I use a grease pencil. It’s a wax pencil, it comes off fairly easily so I’m not committing a jar to one type of ingredients forever, and the lead is wrapped in paper.

 Wax pencils (they are sometimes called chinagraphs) can be found in art supply stores, usually without packaging. I have a black one and a white one, although the white one is rarely used.

4. Reusables do not need to be single purpose.

I’m a fan of anything with multiple purposes – it means less stuff, and more use for the things I own. My KeepCup has been used far more often as a water glass, for buying things at the bulk store and taking home leftovers than it has been for buying takeaway coffee – which is something I rarely purchase.

Glass jars can be used for takeaway smoothies and lunch on-the-go, produce bags can be used for straining nut milk. The best one I heard recently was somebody using their hat to buy loose mushrooms from a grocery store!

5. Remove the labels from your glass jars without getting jar rage.

Glass jars are so useful in so many ways, and upcycling old glass jars is the most zero waste solution. But first, you need to get that old sticky label off. And sometimes, that can be a battle and a half.

Soak the jar in water, and hopefully the label will come loose. Try to scrape it off. If that doesn’t happen, wipe coconut oil on the label and wait a few hours, and then the label will come off.

You’ll probably be left with a sticky, gluey smear on the glass jars. For this, eucalyptus oil (and I’m told lemon oil works but I have never tried this myself) will get it off. Dab a small amount on an old rag, and wipe.

The result: gleaming glass jars that don’t have Dolmio labels with an expiry date of 1994 or “keep refrigerated” sitting in the pantry.

6. Save your onion peels (and other veggie scraps) to make stock.

Whenever I peel an onion, I save the tops and tails and outer skins and pop into a jar in the freezer. (Yes, glass jars can be frozen.) I collect until I have a good amount, and then I make stock.

To make stock you boil the skins with water. You can add other veggie scraps (or bits of veg) – zucchini, carrot, potato, garlic, herbs. I’ve found too many brassicas (broccoli, kale stems, cabbage etc) doesn’t make for good-tasting stock, so I leave these out.

I don’t tend to peel carrots or potatoes so I rarely have these scraps, and I often make stock just with onion. I then use the stock to make risotto. It can be cooled and frozen too.

7. Make DIY vanilla essence.

Anything in little bottles tends to be more packaging than product. To avoid the tiny little bottles, I’ve been making vanilla essence for years – using brandy. (I purchased a bottle to make a Christmas cake years ago, used a teaspoon – as you do – and then discovered I could make vanilla essence with the rest.)

Use 1-2 vanilla pods, slit down the middle with a knife, pop into a glass jar, cover in brandy and leave. The flavour infuses over time. I probably wait a month until I first use it.

Once it’s run out, I top up again with brandy. I do this a few times until I notice the vanilla flavour has diminished. Then I dry out the pods, grind to a powder and use in baking.

8. Cook more than you need, and freeze for later.

I rarely cook a meal for one. I’m a huge fan of cooking extra, eating leftovers few a few days, and freezing meals for later. Pasta sauce, lentil stews and dahl all freeze extremely well. I make quadruple batches of falafel and freeze half. Roasted veggies, extra lentils or beans – yep, I freeze it.

Crumble topping – make one, freeze one for later.

It doesn’t take much extra time to make more, and it makes exactly the same amount of mess in the kitchen, so for me it’s win-win. It means that when I don’t have much spare time to cook, I can fossick through the freezer and find something healthy, homemade and delicious without having to do too much.

9. Hack your recycling.

If the two choices are landfill or recycling, I want to opt for recycling. Because of the way our recycling is sorted in WA, size matters. Anything too small (smaller than the palm of your hand) will be missed, and probably jam up the machines.

There are a few hacks to get around the size issue.

With bottle caps, which are steel, pop into a steel can, and once it is half full, squeeze shut. The caps can’t fall out and will be picked up by the magnet when the metal are sorted.

With aluminium foil, save it up until it is a ball about the size of an Easter egg, and pop that in the recycling. When it’s this size the eddy current will be able to sort it. Wine bottle caps that are made of aluminium can be added to the ball, as can aluminium blister packs (if there’s no plastic).

10. Make tea from fresh herbs.

This is one of the easiest, cheapest and tastiest hacks ever. Rather than buy dried herbal tea, find the fresh stuff and make your own. Mint grows almost everywhere, it is hard to kill and people who grow herbs often are willing to share, so you don’t even need to grow it yourself.

I tend to drink mint tea, or lemongrass and ginger tea (I grow lemongrass, and can buy Australian ginger). My neighbours drink sage tea and lemon verbena. There are plenty of options.

Zero waste and plastic-free living is about thinking creatively and finding solutions. These solutions don’t need to be complicated or expensive. Often it is the simplest ideas that work best!

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have yo any great tips to share – either that you learned from someone else or made up yourself? Are there any hacks above you’d never thought of before? Anything you’re going to embrace? I’d love to know what simple hacks, tips and tricks you’ve learned so please share in the comments below!

Buy Nothing Day: 5 Things To Do Instead of Shopping

In the week of Thanksgiving, my anxiety goes through the roof, and it is nothing to do with preparing pumpkin pie or family social gatherings. I’m not American, I don’t live in America and the only reason I even know that this week is Thanksgiving is because of all the emails I receive and ads I see which are talking about the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday.

Basically, the day after Americans give thanks for everything they have, they are encouraged to buy more stuff they don’t need through sales and price drops and special “Black Friday” offers.

Whilst Thanksgiving may not have spread across the ocean, Black Friday most certainly has.

As someone who has unsubscribed from almost every store newsletter, has a “no junk mail” sticker on the mailbox and uses adblockers on my laptop and phone, I’m still being heavily exposed to ads this week. Every business (whether selling products or services) seems to be trying to get me to buy stuff.

I don’t want to feel bullied or worn down into making a purchase. I don’t want to feel pressured or guilt-tripped into making a purchase. I do not enjoy being bombarded by adverts. Even if I actually need something, Black Friday will not be the day that I buy it.

On the day that every business on the planet seems to want to sell me something, I put my foot down, and buy nothing.

Black Friday is also international Buy Nothing Day.

Buy Nothing Day is an international day of not buying stuff. First organised in 1992 “as a day for society to examine the issue of overconsumption”, it has been held on Black Friday since 1997 (technically outside the USA and the UK, it is the Saturday after Thanksgiving).

For me, Buy Nothing Day is an opportunity to take a quiet personal stand against the pursuit of more. It’s a gentle protest.

Yes, it is only one day. It is not so much about giving up shopping for a day, as the significance of giving up shopping on this one particular day.

On the day where retailers are counting their customers and raking in profits and celebrating one of the top ten shopping days of the year, I choose to opt out.

And I’m going to invite you to, too.

Buy nothing. Sure, not the new electronics and new white goods and new clothing and new footwear. But also, no second hand items either. No eBay shopping or charity shop purchases. Not the groceries. No petrol. No stamps from the post office.

Literally, buy nothing.

It’s just one day.

It shouldn’t be that hard, should it?!

If you need a distraction from the pull of shopping, here’s 5 things you can do instead. No buying stuff required.

1. Borrow Something.

Head to your local public library and borrow books, magazines, board games, DVDs and more. Or, if the library is shut, browse the online catalogue and make some reservations. Some local libraries have ebooks, emagazines and even digital copies of movies for borrowing.

Or, if you’re not a member, become a member! At the very least, pencil in a time that suits you (and they are open) to join up.

Find out if there’s a tool library, or a toy library, or a library of things in your area.

Ask a neighbour or a friend if they can lend you something that you’ve been needing or wanting for a while.

And then, once you’re done with whatever it is that you borrowed, give it back.

2. Write Something

Write a blog post. Write a comment on your favourite blog post. Write a thank-you note to a friend. Write a to-do list of all the things whirring round in your head.

Write a letter to your local councillor or MP. You could add your voice of support or concern for a local project, or raise issues you think are important and would like them to address.

Write a letter to a business telling them what you think of the way they do business. Do you love their commitment to zero waste? Let them know? Do you find their lack of commitment to zero waste disappointing? Let them know.

Do you have a question about their sustainability policies, stance on single-use plastic, or eco-friendly initiatives for the future? Have you been wondering why they choose to do business the way they do? Do you have ideas for making their business more sustainable?

Don’t just think it…say it. Tell them what you think.

3. Bake Something

Don’t go out to the shops, though! Instead, look in your pantry and fridge and see what ingredients you already have, and then find a recipe that suits. It’s a great way to use up random ingredients that have been languishing in the cupboard a little too long.

Not a baker? Don’t have the ingredients to make cakes and cookies and sweet things? Well, get creative with what you do have. Discover a different way to cook a vegetable, or make a dish you’ve never made before.

4. Plan Something

We all have more ideas and less time than we’d like. Rather than go shopping, make a plan for putting one of your ideas into action. Whether it’s a bit of decluttering, planning a holiday, finding out where you can learn a new skill and when it would fit into your calendar, organising a catch-up with friends or family, or figuring out a few days to go hiking in nature, take some time to turn one of your great ideas into an action plan.

Next step, execute the plan!

5. Donate Something

Even better than not buying anything – give something away! Gather together some items that you no longer need, use or love, and take them to the charity shop, list them for free on Gumtree or another online classifieds platform, or – best of all! – join your local Buy Nothing Group and offer them for free there.

If you have packaged food or unopened toiletries, you could donate to a local food bank or refuge. If you have unopened pet food, or old towels and blankets, you could donate to an animal refuge.

If you’re really keen to spend some money on Buy Nothing Day, make a pledge to your favourite charity or local organization. Be sure to check the “no stuff” option – donations in exchange for “things” (sponsoring an animal and receiving a “free” stuffed animal toy, for example) is a little too similar to buying stuff!

If you’re in North America, then happy Thanksgiving. I hope you have a marvellous time eating good food with great company, and that you have enough reusable containers that all of your leftovers may be saved for later.

Whether you’re in North America or not, happy Buy Nothing Day. I hope you’ll choose to opt out of the spending frenzy, take the time to borrow something, write something, bake something, plan something, donate something – or however else you’d like to spend your day – and buy nothing.

It’s only one day. Let’s make the most of it.

Now I’d love to hear from you! What are your thoughts on Black Friday? How have your views changed over time? Have you heard of Buy Nothing Day? Are you keen to take part this year? (Oh, go on!) If you’ve been taking part for many years, what tips do you have for things to do instead? What do you plan to do to avoid the shops and adverts and pull of buying stuff this year? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Zero Waste and Plastic-Free Make-Up Options

I’ve never been a big wearer of make-up, and when I went plastic-free back in 2012 I decided it was easier to simply skip the make-up altogether. Six years later and make-up is something I’m beginning to explore again, for a couple of reasons.

The first: people often ask me what the zero waste make-up options are, and I like to be informed about the answers! Second: whilst I don’t think make-up will ever be something I fully embrace, as I get older maybe I can appreciate what it offers a little more.

I always remember in a teen magazine I read, it said: “blusher is for making you look like you’ve had a good night’s sleep when you haven’t.” Colouring my cheeks in, I’m open to that. And in serious need of that, on occasion!

I thought I’d share some of the solutions I’ve come across so far. I’m no expert, but hopefully you’ll be able to share your own experiences too and we can put together a useful resource!

The DIY Zero Waste Beauty Approach

I tried to make activated charcoal by burning almonds once in order to make eyeliner, and I made a huge mess and swore never again. Fortunately now it is possible to buy ingredients like activated charcoal from bulk stores (I know The Source Bulk Foods has it). Other ingredients I’ve seen used in DIY beauty products that are available in the bulk store include cocoa powder, beetroot powder and maca powder.

For me, I just don’t use enough and I’m just not interested enough to get experimenting with these things. If you are, the bulk store is a great starting point.

The one DIY-type thing I have done is used Australian pink clay as blusher. I tend to apply after I’ve moisturised as it’s easier to rub in, and I apply with my fingers.

The Done-For-You Plastic Free Beauty Options

Fortunately there are individuals passionate about creating cruelty-free, plastic-free beauty products, so if the DIY approach is not your thing either, it is possible to buy ready-made options.

Dirty Hippie Cosmetics

Dirty Hippie Cosmetics is based in Canberra, ACT. Danni (the owner) set up her business after giving up plastic and realising the only plastic products she was buying were make-up products. Not being able to find alternatives, in 2012 she started her zero waste business and sells eye and face make-up, as well as skin care, body care and man care products.

All the packaging is glass, aluminium and compostable cardboard, and the products are sent without plastic packaging. It’s possible to request products without stickers. (I asked for stickers for the purposes of taking photographs!)

The products I’ve used are the black mascara and eyeliner (which come with optional bamboo applicators), a tinted moisturiser and a concealer.

Dirty Hippie Cosmetics sell their products via Etsy and in eco stores. If you’re in Perth, the Raw Kitchen in Fremantle is a stockist.

Website: Dirty Hippie Cosmetics

Clean-Faced Cosmetics

Clean-Faced Cosmetics is a US business based in Michigan, and Laura has been selling products on Etsy since 2014. She has a penchant for fun colour and has lots of interesting shades of eyeshadow and mascara. There’s even a gold mascara! No, I didn’t buy that one.

Most of the products come in reusable recyclable aluminium tins. The website has some products in glass with plastic lids also.

There’s the option to ask for no applicators and no stickers on the packaging, and the products are all sent plastic-free.

(I purchased some products from this store because I wanted to talk about them on my blog because many of my readers are American. From a eco footprint perspective, it’s always better to choose the most local option. If you’re in the US this may be it! For me, it isn’t.)

Website: Clean Faced Cosmetics

Luna Beauty (Not Longer Trading)

Whilst I was in the UK I ordered a mascara and blusher from Luna Beauty, but by the time I got round to writing this post, Elisha had decided to close the business to concentrate on her other job. I don’t know whether she will re-open in future, but currently there’s a UK-shaped hole in my listings, so I’d love to hear from anyone who knows another great business.

I’m no make-up expert, but I’m heartened to know that there are people creating zero waste and plastic-free make-up options. When it comes to waste there’s always multiple solutions. Being make-up free might work for me but it doesn’t suit everyone, and it’s great to have a choice.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Are you a fan of make-up, or do you prefer the natural approach? Has that changed since you started learning more about waste? Do you know any great DIY make-up recipes? Do you know any waste-free brands selling eco-friendly products? Anything else you’d like to add? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

How To Be A Better Recycler (in 8 Simple Steps)

I don’t love recycling. I’d much rather things didn’t need to be recycled in the first place, either because I’ve avoided them or because they are being reused exactly as they are. Much better to refill a jam jar than for it to be picked up from my kerbside, driven to a resource recovery centre, separated, crushed, melted down and manufactured back into a new jam jar.

Much as I don’t love recycling, it’s a necessity. We all recycle things.

When we start out on our waste reducing journey, recycling is the perfect place to start, because recycling is much better than landfill.

Down the track, we learn to reduce our recycling. But recycling doesn’t drop to zero.

So if we are inevitably going to recycle things, let’s be the best recyclers that we can be. Recycling correctly is better than recycling incorrectly.

Whether you’re a plastic-free or zero waste newbie, or whether you’ve been on the journey for a while, there’s probably the opportunity for you to be a better recycler. Here’s 8 tips to consider.

1. Get informed on what can be recycled where you live

There’s a big difference between ‘theoretically recyclable’ and ‘actually recycled’. Lots of things can be recycled in theory, but they aren’t – because it’s too expensive to process, there’s not enough volume for it to be viable, or there’s not enough demand for the recycled product.

Companies want us to think that their products are recyclable and so they splash recycling logos all over the packaging. But if it’s not a material that is recyclable in your area, it won’t be recycled, however much both you and the company who produced the packaging want it to be.

You need to find out what’s recyclable in your area. What’s recyclable overseas or even in the next town isn’t necessarily what’s recyclable for you.

If you have kerbside recycling, it is your local council that provides the service (either themselves, or contracted out). Contact them to find out what can and cannot be recycled. They’ll probably have information on their website, but you can also call and ask to speak to the waste officer.

2. Follow the Rules!

Recycling is different everywhere, and the rules that your council or recycling provider tell you to follow are the ones that you need to follow. If you see something that seems like a much better idea on the internet but goes against what your local council says to do, don’t be tempted!

3. Clean your recyclables

Whether your council tells you to or not, it’s always better to rinse out your dirty recyclables. (Use the water at the end of your washing-up, and give them a quick rinse.) There’s a chance that someone somewhere might have to handle them, or breathe in the air where they’re processed and stored.

It might not be necessary for the machinery, but it is better for the people who work in the industry. Dried-on fermented cat food or sour milk never increased the value of recyclables, ever.

4. Check for updates regularly

What’s recyclable now isn’t necessarily the same as what was recyclable 6 months ago, and it might change again 6 months into the future. That’s because recyclables are commodities, and their value increases and falls with supply and demand. Many materials recovery facilities sell recyclables using short-term contracts, maybe as little as 3 months.

Fluctuating markets affect price, and if something isn’t valuable enough to recycle, it won’t be recycled.

Don’t assume that just because you checked the council recycling guidelines once in 1997 that the information you remember from then is still relevant today. It probably won’t be! It is much better practice to check in with your local council every three months or so, to find out what’s changed.

5. Look for alternative solutions (beyond kerbside recycling)

Recycling isn’t limited to kerbside collection systems. Plenty of things can be recycled at drop-off points provided by your council or at collection bins at businesses and more responsible retailers. Textiles, light bulbs, paint, scrap metal, printer cartridges, eWaste (old electronics) and oil can all be recycled.

As well as your council website, these national recycling databases have information for where to take recycables:

recyclingnearyou.com.au (Australia)

earth911.com (USA)

recycleforscotland.com (Scotland)

recycleforwales.org.uk (Wales)

recyclenow.com (England)

6. Don’t wishcycle

Wishcycling is when we put something in the recycling bin and hope it will be recycled, even though we know the recycling bin isn’t the proper place for it. Don’t do it! (Yes, we all want everything to be recyclable and we all feel guilty about landfill. But wishcycling isn’t the answer!)

Recycling properly can take a little more work, to find out where to go and then drop the item off. In the scheme of things, it isn’t a very big ask.

I was once told by the guide of a tour of a materials recovery facility, that the craziest thing he ever saw in a yellow-lidded kerbside recycling bin was a car door. Of course, being made of metal, a car door is completely recyclable. But it isn’t meant to go in the kerbside recycling bin! The materials recovery facility is not set up to deal with that kind of material, and incorrect materials damage machinery. The car door could have been taken to a scrap metal recycler instead.

Take the time to find out the best place for the item you want to recycle. And if you really can’t find a place to take the item to be recycled where you live, accept that it has to go in the landfill bin.

(Your next step is to figure out how to avoid that item again in the future.)

7. Less Recycling is Better

When I say ‘be a better recycler’ I do not mean ‘recycle more’. Less recycling is better. That’s less trucks on the roads, less machinery sorting materials, less energy spent processing our recyclables, less resources consumed.

An empty recycling bin is better than a full recycling bin.

Yes, at the start of our journey we all start out with a full-to-overflowing recycling bin. Plus if you’re anything like I was, you’re mightily proud of said overflowing recycling bin.

It’s a journey, and one that starts with maximum recycling works towards minimum recycling.

First we learn exactly what goes into our recycling bin, then we learn where to recycle all the other things, and then we start to think about how to reduce our recycling.

Recycling is where we start. It is not where we stop!

8. Refuse, reduce, reuse (before recycling)

Recycling is only one up from landfill; it’s a not-quite-last-but-not-far-off resort. If we’re going to create less recycling, we need to be thinking further up the waste stream. We need to be thinking about refusing, reducing and reusing.

Refusing happens when we avoid the packaging and materials that will need to be recycled in the first place. Choosing loose produce over the prepackaged stuff, not taking a plastic bag, asking for no plastic straw.

Reducing happens when we know we need some kind of packaging, but we try to limit what we take. Opting for the bigger packet rather than the multi-pack of individually wrapped packets, or choosing a single bottle of juice over several juice boxes.

Reusing happens when we either take our own reusables to the shops: produce bags for fruit and veg, containers for trips to the deli and other counters, a coffee cup to the local cafe.

By looking at the packaging in our recycling bin we can see exactly where we might do better, and start looking for solutions, one item at a time.

Now I’d love to hear from you! How does recycling work where you live? Do you have kerbside recycling? Where else can you take your recycables? How have you managed to reduce your non-recycables? Anything else to add? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

8 (More) Tips for a Zero Waste Wardrobe

With 6,000kg of clothing and textiles discarded every 10 minutes in Australia alone, there’s a huge potential for us to reduce our waste when it comes to our wardrobes. Last week I talked about how we can make better wardrobe purchases. This week I’m going to talk about the other end of the spectrum: what do to with the clothing we no longer need or want, without sending it to landfill.

1. Donate or Sell Clothes You Don’t Wear

Take it from someone who let unworn clothing sit in her wardrobe for years: if you don’t wear it, donate it.  If it was expensive and you feel guilty about wasting your money, sell it to alleviate some of the guilt.

Unworn clothing is not serving any purpose languishing in the back of the wardrobe.

Things sitting unworn deteriorate, get moth eaten and are a waste of resources. Whilst it’s sitting there someone else could be wearing it and loving it. Give them the chance to do so, and make the best use of the time, energy and resources that went into creating that item.

2. Learn Simple Clothing Fixes

I don’t know how to sew particularly well or use a sewing machine competently, but I have mastered a couple of basics.

Firstly, I do know how to darn. It’s simple, therapeutic and has saved many a jumper and sock of mine from landfill.

Natural fibres do have a tendency to develop holes, so knowing how to stitch them back up again is helpful to extend the life of things.

I’m not going to give a tutorial here because I’m no expert, but the principle is making a little cross-weave of thread across the hole. Sew strands up and down first, and then from left to right weaving under and over the other strands. (PS my darning mushroom is an orange. Does the job.)

Similarly, I know how to stitch a button or popper back on. Another very simple thing to do. I’ve purchased shirts from the charity shop that have likely been donated because a button was missing. An easy fix. I’ve also had buttons come off in action.

If I lose the button and there’s no spare, I move a button from the pocket or the very top (which I don’t use) to replace the spot where I need the button.

I purchased this shirt from the charity shop which had obviously been donated because one of the poppers was deformed. I simply stitched a new one on, and I had an almost new shirt.

If you’re a total newbie and/or the idea of attempting a mend on your own stresses you out, Repair Cafes and other community sewing groups exist. Here you can find sewing repair tutorials, where you can learn to fix your stuff for free (or low cost) with the help of someone who actually knows what they are doing.

3. Pay a Professional to Fix Your Clothing

If you don’t know how to fix something, and have no inclination to learn, find someone who does. My boots have fallen to pieces more times than I care to count (actually, I think they’ve been repaired 4 times).

I have no idea how to fix shoes, but luckily for me there is an awesome shoe repair service at the local shopping centre.

Over the years my boots have needed resoling, restitching, reheeling, reglueing, a toecap put in and a zipper replaced. But every time they come back good as new, and for much less than the cost of a new pair of boots.

I’ve also used a mending service to fix buttons back onto jeans (I think they need a special tool: it definitely isn’t a sewing job).

4. Repurpose Fabric

There’s a whole step between stopping wearing clothing, and tossing it out. Repurposing.

Clothing rarely disintegrates entirely; it tends to wear in certain spots. A pair of jeans might wear through at the bum, crotch and knees but the legs are often fine. A dress might wear out at the armpits or sleeves but the body is fine.

This is literally the most lazy repurpose in the world – I used the denim from a jeans leg to make an iPad case. I shuffled the iPad down the leg until it fit, then cut the leg just below and stitched the two sides together to make a case. It might look lame, but that was in 2014, and I still have that case. It does the job.

If the material is good quality or hard-wearing, it may be possible to donate to someone crafty to repurpose, or for projects for kids. Whether it’s for recreating into new altered clothing, making hankies, Boomerang bags, fabric bunting, cushion covers or something more creative, people can make good use of old clothing.

Buy Nothing groups are a good place to make inquiries, and Gumtree is a good option to place a free listing.

5. Use Old Natural Fibre Clothing As Rags

When my clothing from natural fibres is life expired, I chop it up to use as cleaning cloths – for the kitchen first and then the bathroom. They can go through the washing machine a few times, before ending up in the compost bin. Zero waste.

I’ve tried this with synthetic fibres but it doesn’t work nearly so well as plastic doesn’t absorb water. Now I stick to only natural ones.

6. Compost Natural Fibres

If your clothing is completely, utterly worn out, and is made entirely of natural fibres, you can compost it or put in a worm farm. If your clothing is part natural fibres, you can put in a worm farm, and the worms will eat the natural part, leaving the synthetic part.

If you don’t have access to textile recycling (or you don’t trust your textile recycling) consider composting your old clothing.

I’m not sure what the etiquette is with donating old underwear for recycling, so I pop in the worm farm. I get left with an elastane shell, and the cotton is recycled into soil. I also use old clothing as a cover for the worm farm. Eventually it breaks down.

7. Donating Clothing to Charity Shops as Rags

Not all charity shops offer this service, but some do – they will take clothing specifically for use as rags. It’s best to call first to find out if this is the case, and they will be able to tell you what they want and what they don’t.

If this is an option for you, be sure to label your donation clearly as “Rags”. This saves someone rummaging through it all and coming to the same conclusion.

8. Donate Worn Synthetic Clothes for Recycling

Worn clothing can be donated for recycling. Increasingly clothing companies and department stores will take back their own brand of clothing for recycling, but a few companies (including Levi Strauss in the US, and H & M worldwide) will take back any brand of clothing.

I take any won out synthetic clothing I have to H&M, because textile recycling is hard to find on Perth (and I want H&M to shoulder some of the responsibility for the excessive textiles problem they have helped create). If you’re lucky, you may have a council collection service or drop-off facility.

Now I’d love to hear from you! What do you do with old unwanted textiles? If you’re creative, how do you repurpose old fabric? Are there any ideas I’ve missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

8 Tips for a Zero Waste Wardrobe

My wardrobe wasn’t the first place I thought of when I went plastic-free and zero waste. No, the first place was the kitchen, and the second place was the bathroom. After all, these are the places where we generate a lot of packaging, because many of the things we buy are consumables (meaning, we use them up and they need replacing).

But once I’d been on the zero waste journey for a while I started to think about clothing. I’m the kind of person who wears things well past their life expiration date – things will have holes and be almost threadbare before I’m ready to part with them.

At this point, clearly they aren’t fit for the charity shop.

It was then that I realised that many of these fibres in my wardrobe were synthetic, not compostable and not really recyclable.

  • Textile recycling is limited in availability (meaning recovery rates are low – in the USA recovery rates are estimated to be 15%);
  • Textile recycling is also limited in effectiveness and is generally not closed-loop: many textiles are recycled “thermally” (meaning incinerated for energy) or using chemicals;
  • Let’s not forget the sheer volume of textile waste created every day. (It’s estimated that Australians discard 6,000kg of fashion and textile waste every 10 minutes. That’s just the waste in one country…)

Figures like this can be a little depressing, and I don’t like to focus on the problems. I much prefer solutions! Over the years I’ve been working on making my wardrobe as zero waste as possible, and I want to share what I’ve learned.

There’s a lot to say. I’m going to start with what choices I make when I let things into my home to ensure they get the best use and last well, and how I plan for zero waste with the purchases I make.

Next week I’ll share how I let go of things I no longer need, or things that have life expired, without chucking them in the bin.

1. Buy Stuff You Will Actually Wear

This sounds so obvious, but I have definitely been guilty in the past of buying clothes that then just sat in the wardrobe, tags still attached, unworn.

There were a few reasons for this:

  • Choosing items that were a little too tight, or that looked good but weren’t actually comfortable;
  • Choosing an item that I loved the look of in the shop (or on the model) but that didn’t actually suit me;
  • Choosing something that wasn’t the kind of thing I actually had an occasion to wear (I might love the idea of dresses in reality, I love to wear jeans more than anything else);
  • Not being practical about whether the item I bought matched the things I already owned.

It was only after I decluttered my wardrobe down to my essentials that I really began to understand exactly what I wore – the colours, the styles and the materials. Now I’m much more strict when I chose things.

If it’s not a definite yes then it is a no. There’s no room in my wardrobe for maybe.

2. Don’t Be Tempted by “Bargains”

I’ve purchased many “bargains” in my time that have sat in my wardrobe, unworn (usually for the reasons mentioned above). I used to have a real weakness for labels telling me the item was 70% off.

However, I can get an even greater bargain, and save 100% of my money, by not buying things that I then never wear.

When I first started shopping for clothing second-hand, the same thing happened. There were so many great items that were so cheap! Rather than thinking – Do I need it? Will I wear it? Is it worth it? – I’d think, wow, what a bargain!

Cue more things I didn’t wear.

A bargain is only a bargain if it is something that we will wear, and often. Now I ask myself, would I buy this if it was full price? Meaning, do I love it that much? I need to love the item more than the price tag for it to be worth bringing it home.

3. Choose Clothing You Can Wear 30 Times

Yes, it is better to only buy clothing that we love, that fits, that suits us and is practical for our lifestyle. If we want a zero waste wardrobe, we also need to think about how well made things are.

Buying something we love only to find that after 3 washes, it is bobbled and misshapen to the point of being unwearable is disappointing, frustrating, and a waste of resources (the materials it is made from, the effort that someone put into making it, and the work we’ve done to to pay for the item and bring it home).

Whenever I’m thinking about whether to buy an item, I ask myself two questions:

  1. Will I wear it 30 times?
  2. Can I wear it 30 times? (Will it last?)

If I can’t honestly answer yes to both of these questions, then I don’t make the purchase.

(Of course, things don’t always go the way we intend. We can mean to wear an item, and then change our minds later. But the more honest we are with ourselves the less likely we are to buy things we think we like, but don’t. If an item disintegrates after 5 washes, we can learn from this and be more mindful about choosing that material or brand next time.)

4. Avoid Excessive Embellishments

Beads, sequins and tassles might look fantastic on a brand new item, but they make an item much more difficult to wash (often meaning handwash or dry clean only) and they tend to fall off quickly.

If we’re not inclined to sew things back on, this can mean a premature end for our clothing. However, most beads, sequins and embellishments come off and are lost (meaning we can’t sew them back on, even if we are inclined to do so). Plus many are plastic, meaning plastic pollution.

I’ve made purchases like this in the past. I had a dress covered entirely in sequins, and whilst I loved that dress, it didn’t make it to 30 wears.

I still have a jumper sewn with tiny black beads that I’ve owned since 2011, that has lasted more than 30 wears. I’ll snip all the beads off before I compost the jumper, but it’s not something I’d purchase again.

However pretty sequins or beads are, now I choose not to buy these things. That way I don’t have to worry about where they will end up. I want clothing that will last, and I don’t want my clothing contributing to plastic pollution.

5. Shop Second Hand

I’m often torn between wanting to shop second-hand and wanting to support ethical, Fair Trade clothing companies by purchasing their (new) products.

With only 15% of all clothing donated to charity shops actually re-sold (the rest is dumped overseas, processed into rags or landfilled), I tend to lean more towards the second-hand option.

Buying second-hand means less new resources used, and less items heading for landfill. I shop at a couple of charity shops that I know sell good quality items and don’t have an overwhelming amount of choice. If I’m looking for something specific I use eBay.

6. Choose Natural Fibres (Where Possible)

I would love my wardrobe to be entirely natural materials, but let’s just say that is a work in progress. I’m very conscious of the materials I buy, and I always check the label before making a purchase.

It can be hard to find natural fibres in charity shops or second-hand.

I’ve had some great successes, for example this skirt (cotton and elastane, percentages unknown), denim shirt (97.8% cotton) and silk top (100% silk) were all second-hand from the charity shop.

Recently I needed some shirts for my talks/workshops, and I had to settle for two polyester numbers. I can tell the difference when I wear them immediately (I feel like I’m wearing a plastic bag), and I’m planning to re-donate them to the charity shop once I can find a natural fibre replacement.

7. Choose Recycled Synthetics (If Natural Fibres Aren’t An Option)

Whilst I try to limit my use of synthetic fibres as much as I can, sometimes it is unavoidable. When I headed off on my camino adventure, I purchased a rain jacket. I’ve really needed one for years, but the trip pushed me over the line.

The raincoat I purchased was made by Patagonia, who are well known for and committed to pursuing sustainable practices. The outer is made from 100% recycled nylon.

8. Shop Ethical

When I need to make a new purchase, I try to support ethical, sustainable brands. I don’t buy many clothes brand new, but it does happen.

One thing I always buy new is underwear. There are two brands I buy, Etiko and Mighty Good Undie: both are Fair Trade and use organic cotton. I don’t have a preference, but usually one brand is out of stock when I go to order so I go with whichever has my size.

Etiko is slightly cheaper but also slightly lesser quality, and the sizes also come up slightly bigger than Mighty Good.

Yes, both brands are more expensive than regular non-organic big box store brands. After I have a minor heart murmur over the price, I remember that I don’t buy new underwear often (maybe once a year) and I don’t buy new things often, and when I do make purchases, I want to act in line with my values.

That means supporting small business, supporting organic farming, and supporting Fair Trade practices.

To me, that’s worth the extra few dollars. In reality the difference is less than the price of a glass of wine or smashed avo on toast, and supporting a better world is worth prioritizing.

I don’t purchase everything second-hand, nor do I purchase 100% organic, Fair Trade and natural fibres. My ideal would to be able to find everything that fitted all of these criteria (except perhaps for second-hand underwear!) but the reality is, there’s often compromise.

My goal is to do the best I can with the options available to me and the resources I have; to learn as I go, and strive to do that little bit better next time around.

Now I’d love to hear from you! How do you reduce your eco footprint when it comes to your wardrobe? Do you love second hand stores, or do you prefer new ethical fashion? Is there anything you particularly struggle with? Any tips to add? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Toilet Paper That Builds Toilets? Yes, that’s a Thing…

If there’s one brand that’s consistently been with me since very early on in my plastic-free living and zero waste journey, it’s Who Gives A Crap toilet paper.

The thing about Who Gives A Crap toilet paper, is that it isn’t just about the toilet paper.

For me, it isn’t enough for a company to print a green leaf on their packaging and tell me it is eco-friendly. I want to know how; I want to know the details.

The more ethical, sustainable and environmental boxes that can be ticked, the better.

Who Gives A Crap tick a lot of these boxes for me. When they asked if I’d be keen to collaborate on a post because they are currently offering new customers a FREE TRIAL (yes, YOU get to try their toilet paper for free – Australia and the UK only) well, how could I say no?!

I use their toilet paper every day, and I recommend it to everyone who uses toilet paper.

 

Not to mention, it is a great opportunity to explain what Who Gives A Crap do, and why they do it (as well as why I think they are pretty great) – it’s about more than just selling loo roll.

(I was wondering exactly how long ago it was that I first started using Who Gives A Crap. They only actually started selling toilet paper in March 2013. Turns out, I placed my first order back in January 2014.)

Firstly, Let’s Talk Eco Friendly Toilet Paper

I started buying Who Gives A Crap toilet paper because it was plastic-free. It’s also made of 100% recycled paper. There’s plenty of recycled toilet paper out there, but finding a plastic-free toilet paper is surprisingly challenging.

Not buying anything in single-use plastic is very important to me.

Who Gives A Crap is plastic-free and 100% recycled, and they do not put inks, dyes or scents in the paper. As natural as toilet paper can be.

I order online (I order the 48 double-length rolls, which is the most toilet paper for the least packaging), and it gets delivered in a big box. Cardboard and loo roll, nothing else. (Oh, except a bit of sticky tape to seal the box shut.)

 

Even now, I still appreciate the “nice bum” comment printed on the box. Thanks, guys!

Each roll is wrapped in colourful paper (Who Gives A Crap have just updated their packaging – it was fun and colourful before, but now I like it even more.)

As someone who doesn’t do presents, opening a box of brightly wrapped toilet roll is about as Christmassy as it gets for me! Yes, I get my present-opening fix with boxes of loo roll ;)

(A quick note on the packaging – individual wrappers might seem wasteful, but actually it’s only possible to wrap a maximum of 6 wrappers in paper. It also needs to be thicker. With the individual wrappers, the net use of paper is the same, but it avoids any plastic, still protects the rolls from moisture, and looks fun.

You can read more about the decision-making around the wrappers, if you’re interested.)

In every box, there are three “emergency” rolls, wrapped in red paper. This is possibly my favouritist (yep, that’s a word) feature.

I can tell you, since switching to these rolls, I have never run out of toilet paper.

The trick is to pack the emergency rolls at the back of the cupboard though, so they are definitely the ones that are used last!

I can wedge most of my loo roll into my under-the-sink cupboard in the bathroom, but because it looks so good, I don’t mind having a few rolls stacked on the counter.

It brightens up the place!

I never put the wrappers straight in the recycling. Firstly, they are too pretty. Secondly, they are too useful!

I’ve used the wrappers to wrap gifts, but as someone who doesn’t do presents, this has limited demand. What I do with them instead, is use them to pick up dog poo. They are cut to the perfect size and strong enough for the task.

I actually tend to purchase this toilet roll 10 boxes at a time, by getting together with a group of friends and neighbours and splitting it up. Doing it this way means it’s much cheaper ($39 AUD a box rather than $48 AUD), and it also means there isn’t a truck driving round the suburb dropping off one box at a time to 10 different houses.

Even better, my neighbours then leave their finished wrappers in my letterbox, so I can use them to clean up after my greyhound too!

As for the toilet paper itself (it is easy to get distracted by the wrappers!), well, it does all the things that you’d expect toilet paper to do. It’s 3 ply, and as strong and absorbent as toilet paper should be.

Sometimes eco friendly paper can be so feeble that you end up needing to use twice as much, which rather defeats the point of choosing eco-friendly. Good news is, this is definitely not the case with Who Gives A Crap. A single square can meet all your needs ;)

Second, Let’s Talk Ethical Toilet Paper

Who Gives A Crap meet the eco-friendly toilet paper criteria for me by using 100% recycled paper (meaning not trees are harmed in the making of the loo roll); not using dyes, scents or inks on their paper; and not using any single-use plastic packaging.

However, their impact goes far beyond simply wrapping a few loo rolls in paper to skip the plastic.

Firstly, Who Gives A Crap donate 50% of their profits to their charity partners, to help build toilets and improve sanitation in less economically developed countries. The business was established to do something about the fact that 2.3 billion people do not have access to a toilet.

To date, Who Gives A Crap have donated over $1.2 million ($ AUD) to charities working in this field. As the company grows (and they now sell toilet paper in the USA and UK as well as Australia) this figure is only going to grow.

More toilet paper sales means more toilets built in places where people need them.

You can read more about how and why they donate to these organisations on their impact page.

(Alternatively, they do a pretty good job of explaining their mission and ethos on their toilet paper wrappers themselves.)

The other thing I love about Who Gives A Crap is that they are a certified B Corp. If you’ve not heard of B Corporations before, I like to explain it as similar to a Fair Trade certification scheme, except it is for businesses that manufacture goods rather than grow food, and use factories rather than farms.

B Corps explain it like this: Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

What this means is that not only do Who Gives A Crap claim they care about the environment, people and the planet – they have actually invested in being independently audited and verified, to prove it.

Who Gives A Crap have been a certified B Corp since February 2016.

This is important to me, because many companies make great claims about their mission, but few are able to demonstrate how.

Whilst some companies are simply too small to afford the auditing and certification process, those that can – and do – are demonstrating commitment to positive change, transparency, and integrity.

Whilst Who Gives A Crap is an Australian company, they manufacture their toilet paper in China. I’m a big believer in buying local, but I also recognize that China is the manufacturing hub of the world. For me, being a registered B Corp is proof that Who Gives A Crap are manufacturing responsibly. (You can read more about their decision to manufacture in China here, as well as how they audit their factories.)

Personally, I choose to purchase from Who Gives A Crap because they are an independent, Australian grown company with a transparent commitment to environmental responsibility and ethics, who donate profits to good causes.

No company is perfect, but those that recognise their imperfections, explain their choices and always strive to do a little better next time will always get my vote.

In short, I’m a long-time fan of Who Gives A Crap toilet paper, and I’d encourage anyone looking for a plastic-free, sustainably sourced and ethical brand to give them a go.

>>CLICK HERE to get your free trial.

This post is a sponsored collaboration with Who Gives A Crap, whose toilet paper I have been using for the last 4.5 years, whose products I genuinely love and whose business ethos I wholeheartedly respect. I only recommend products that I think you, my readers, will benefit from and enjoy learning about. All words and opinions are my own.

5 tips to get prepped for Plastic Free July (and living with less plastic)

Plastic Free July comes around on the 1st July and for the entire month of July, millions of people across the globe try to avoid as much single-use, unnecessary and wasteful plastic as they can. It’s a pretty amazing movement, built on the idea that we can all do something, and if we all do something, that can bring about huge positive change.

To say I’m a fan of Plastic Free July is a bit of an understatement. I first took part in 2012 and I’ve written about it every year since. It changed my entire world view and led me down the path to zero waste and working in the waste education space. (And in a wondrous circle of events, led me back to working on the Plastic Free July campaign and being on the Plastic Free July Foundation board.)

Who knew refusing a few plastic bags could have such a considerable life impact?!

To get ready for Plastic Free July this year, I thought I’d share a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.

First up – sign up!

If you’re taking part in Plastic Free July this year, sign up to the official campaign! You’ll find the form over at www.plasticfreejuly.org. (If you haven’t done so, head over there and do it now. I’ll wait. Yep, I’m still here. Done? Great!)

Signing up means that you’re counted, and that matters. Plastic Free July works with businesses and government organizations across Australia and beyond, and being able to say “people care about this issue. This is how many people signed up to Plastic Free July this year” is powerful in influencing future policy.

The recent WA plastic bag ban here in Australia came about in part because of the success and interest in Plastic Free July.

We all want positive change, and when we join together we create a movement… and movements drive change.

Don’t stress about the “stuff”

Over the next 31 days there will be lots of plastic-free wares on display, as people share things they find and companies share things they sell. Be careful not to get too overwhelmed in the “stuff”.

If we will use something often and can see the value in owning it, it is a good purchase. If it is shiny and plastic-free and on sale, that isn’t such a great reason to buy the thing.

Of course, reusables are the way we avoid the single-use disposables. I have reusables that I love and carry with my every day. But I didn’t buy them all in the first four weeks.

There is no such thing as a standard plastic-free “kit”. The things I carry around with me won’t be things that everyone needs. There are other things that other people consider a necessity that I don’t.

Pay attention, see what is around, check out different products but don’t feel like you need to buy anything today. (If you’d like to see what’s in my handbag, I’ve shared it – but only to give you ideas. It is not a shopping list!)

The thing about change is that it’s hard, and buying stuff is easy. Yet we buy things and feel like we made progress. It isn’t about the stuff. It’s about new habits.

If you do decide to buy something, ask yourself honestly: do I need it? (This is not the same as want!) Will I use it? Is it worth it?

Get one thing, make it a habit and then move onto the next thing. The less money you spend during Plastic Free July, the more you’ll enjoy the challenge. Promise.

Be gentle with yourself

In the same way that we don’t learn to play the guitar overnight or lose 10kg overnight or learn Spanish overnight, we do not go plastic-free overnight! Finding solutions take time. Creating new habits take time.

Allow yourself time… to look, to learn, and to make mistakes. When you go to the supermarket, allow extra time to walk up and down the aisles with new eyes and see what is there that you never noticed before.

Take time to look and find out if there are bulk stores, farmers markets or health food shops locally, and go see what they have to offer.

When you’re leaving home in the morning, take a few extra minutes to check you’ve planned for what you’re doing… will you need a reusable coffee cup? Water bottle? Shopping bag?

f you run out of time, or forget, don’t beat yourself up. Change is a process.

Be gentle, and give yourself time.

Set yourself reminders

We don’t remember everything in the beginning. We haven’t developed those habits. They will come in time – in the same way that you never leave your house without your shoes or keys, eventually you’ll add reusables to the list.

But in the short term, help yourself out! Write yourself little notes and pop them by the front door, or by your shoes, or the keys. Put them on the dashboard of the car. Put reminders in your phone.

Create visual cues whilst your subconscious is still working on memorising your new habits.

See mistakes or problems as opportunities and dilemmas

When we start, we make mistakes. (Hey, 7 years down the track I still make mistakes! Just less, hopefully!) Don’t see this as failing.

See it as an opportunity to learn and do things differently next time.

In the old days of Plastic Free July we used to encourage people to collect all their mistakes and plastic purchases and keep them in a “dilemma” bag. It’s not something we talk about today, but many people still find it useful.

The dilemma bag is a way to keep your plastic during the month, and rather than feeling bad about it, use those items as where to try to implement change.

Keep what you accumulate, and then one thing at a time, begin to look for alternatives. Whether it was because you got caught out unawares (how could you plan differently next time), or a product you couldn’t find plastic-free (are there other shops you could investigate) or it was simply because you had a bad day (and we all have those too!), use these dilemmas as clues for doing things differently next time.

Want more tips?

There’s plenty more about living with less plastic in the blog archives, but to stop you feeling overwhelmed at where to start I’ve put together a brand new free eBook with 9 tips for living with less plastic. I’ll also send you my latest posts (published weekly) with more thoughts on living with less waste.

I’ve talked about reusables a little in there, but I’ve also talked about some other simple swaps you might not have considered.For the last couple of years, I’ve also run a free daily challenge over on social media where I share a tip a day. If you’d like to follow over on instagram or Facebook, I’d love to see you there. Plus if you’d like the tips to keep, I’ve packed them all into a mini PDF eBook.

If it’s your first Plastic Free July then I wish you a fun and enjoyable challenge, and if you’re returning for another year then I hope that this year is your best yet. As always, be sure to share your tips and tricks and wins and a-ha moments with us!

We are in this together! Happy Plastic Free July!