5 February 2021

Marvellous Mulberries :: Our favourite cordial recipe

Our very favourite garden tree is our mulberry. It's the biggest in the food forest, planted 9 or so years ago, over Tiny Owlet's placenta. It grows generous amounts of fruit, provides cooling shade, juice for ink-making, leaves for tea and silk worm fodder, and a stunning autumn display as it's leaves turn yellow where the sun lands on them. Actually, all the plants in our perennial food forest are wonderful. They’re super low maintenance, and feed us huge amounts of food each year. We’re so glad we planted them when we did. If you’re strapped for time, but have some space in your garden for perennial food plants, throw some in and feed your family (friends and neighbours), for years to come. It’s well worth the investment. But back to the mulberry.
Last year, we made the mistake of not throwing a net over our mulberry tree. The tree had grown so much in the year prior, it outgrew the nets we had, and we naively thought there would be enough fruit for us and the blackbirds to share. We didn’t pick a single ripe mulberry.

So, this year we were prepared. And the extra rain we’ve had meant mulberries as far as the eye can see. The laden tree’s heavy branches are sweeping the ground, and every leaf has berries waiting underneath to be picked. Unfortunately the combination of wind, rain and heavy fruit mean the tree is almost lying horizontal at this point. It won't be the same beautiful upright tree, and the food forest is somewhat changed, but that's the adventure of gardening and tending to an ever-changing ecosystem. We’ve still been sneaking out to the garden to scoff and slurp on juicy mulberries all month - bright magenta juice staining our fingers and toes... And, of course, we've been putting some aside for winter.

Bottled mulberries for the cupboards for winter guzzling. Fresh berries and mulberry cordial to enjoy right now. We'll make some cordial into jelly and some fruit into jam. We've been playing with mulberry cordial recipes for a few years now, and here's our ultra-simple favourite. We make a habit of simplifying things, because we find we're more likely to find time for an easy recipe we can remember by heart. Mulberry Cordial

1kg mulberries 1L water 750g sugar 2 lemons 1. Place the mulberries in a large saucepan, with the water and sugar. 2. Add the zest and juice of the lemons 3. Place the pot over a medium-high heat and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. 4. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, continuing to stir when you remember. 5. Line a large bowl or jug with a fine mesh bag, cheesecloth or strainer while you wait for the pot to simmer. 6. Remove from the heat and pour into the mesh bag/strainer/cloth lined bowl.

7. Allow the liquid to drain from the fruit pulp. We like to use a mesh bag and suspend it from a kitchen cupboard handle over the bowl. Set the fruit pulp aside. 8. Use a funnel to pour the cordial into clean bottles. Sterilise the bottles first if you're going to store the cordial for a while. 9. Seal with lids and move to the fridge when cool if you're planning to enjoy the cordial over the next couple of weeks. Pasteurise the full bottles in a large pot of boiling water if you plan to store them for up to 12 months.

Enjoy your cordial mixed 1:4 parts water. Mulberry fizz is lovely if you have a Sodastream, and mulberry mixes well with alcoholic drinks, too. Use the fruit pulp (and lemon zest) in your favourite crumble, pie or muffin recipe. It's delicious added to an apple base filling. Alternatively, freeze it for smoothies or nice-cream, or for baking another day. 

Happiest Mulberry season! 

~ Lauren. xx

17 January 2021

Ode to a worm farm :: How to make a pet poo worm farm

If there’s something we didn’t expect pet ownership would make us grateful for, it’s poo. Growing up, there was always lots of it - dog poo, cat poo, picked up before school, tied up in two plastic shopping bins, and flung into the bin for rubbish day. It was taken away so we didn’t need to think about it, or smell it anymore. When we both moved out of home and adopted pets, we continued the same daily tradition of double-bagged poo-flinging, into the stinky bin, and away. 

But then we started living waste-free, and we stopped shopping at supermarkets, so there were no smelly bins, no plastic bags, and no more away. So along came our worm farm, and the piles of poo (just poo), and the re-used brown paper bags we use to pick the poo up on dog walks, land in there. Our worm friends turn all those stinky piles into incredible compost - black gold for our fruit trees. There’s absolutely no smell. And very minimal need for us to do anything other than dig out the amazing compost, tickling the worms out of it as we go, once a year or so. 

This is what’s normal for our kids now. A life where everything is a valuable resource, and we take responsibility for what happens to it, right here, where we are. A life where we’re all part of an interconnected system, even our pets (both dogs and worms). And that’s a lesson that will last our kids their whole lives. 

How to set up a pet poo worm farm*

It is possible to use the waste pets create as a resource in your garden. You can convert their poo to compost in a dedicated worm farm and use the compost to feed ornamental plants and fruit trees (we’d keep it away from veggies and edible herbs so as to avoid any immediate toxins). A worm farm can fit in a garden, a courtyard or on a small balcony, and when working well will produce no smell. Just luscious compost for your garden.  

A container to keep your worms in. Some ideas include an old bath, Styrofoam boxes, an old bin or barrel, old car tyres, a purpose-built box or a kit from your local nursery.
A piece of mesh to cover any holes and keep the worms in. Fly screen or shade cloth are ideal.
Some bedding material. Some ideas include mushroom compost, garden soil, coconut fibre or garden compost, or lightly dampened shredded paper (this is ideal if you’re planning on composting pet poo).
Worm food. For composting pet poo, don’t feed them other food along with the poo as they’ll just eat the food and ignore the poo (who wouldn’t!). If you want a regular worm farm for your veggie scraps instead of poo, make sure to stay away from citrus and onions. Worms love soft food scraps, hair clippings, crushed egg shells, vacuum cleaner dust, coffee grounds, tea bags, sawdust, soaked cardboard and shredded paper.
Worms! You’ll need about 1000 worms specifically bred for farming. Look for tiger worms or red or blue wrigglers. Common garden worms are great for soil improvement, but not so effective in a worm farm.

If you’re creating a layered box system to collect worm tea, you’ll need something watertight for your bottom layer. In a bath, you might choose to place a bucket under the drain hole. If you’re using a Styrofoam box, place a watertight one on the bottom. Grab the box or container where your worms will be housed and make sure there are holes in the bottom for drainage. Place it on your watertight, tea-collecting bottom layer, if you have one.

Place mesh over the holes. If you’re using a bath, cover the plughole.

Place your worm bedding material in the box or container.

Add your worms to the middle of the box. If you’re using a bath, place them at one end.

Add some poo for the worms to eat. Use your worm farm when you’re cleaning up your kitty-litter tray or dog poo, in conjunction with carbon matter like shredded paper or recycled paper kitty litter. We collect dog poo in re-used paper bags when we take the dogs for a walk, and this feeds the worms well. Try and keep a good balance between the carbon and nitrogen based matter in your worm farm, as you'd do when making compost. If you’re using a bath, just feed the worms up the end where the worms were placed.

Make sure not to overfeed your worms. Start with a small amount of food and watch to see how quickly they can break it down. Keep an eye on them as you add more.
Don’t feed pet poo to your worms if you’ve recently wormed your pets – worming medication may kill your worm farm! Technically the medication should be benign when it leaves your dog, but if you want to be sure, leave it for a few days before adding it to your worm farm. 

Place a doubled-up sheet of dampened newspaper on top of your worm farm to retain moisture and keep your worms comfy. Then pop a cover on your worm farm – a layer of hessian, or the lid your kit came with will work.

In a few weeks you’ll be able to collect worm tea to feed your garden! Stick to ornamentals and fruit trees if your worms are eating pet poo.

As your worm farm fills up, you’ll be able to place another box or layer on top and fill it with bedding and food for your worms to migrate to. If you’re using a bath, start feeding the worms at the other end of the bath and they’ll move along to their new feeding place.

Harvest the beautifully broken-down compost from the previous nesting/feeding box and use it on the garden. If you have cats, you might like to bury it under some soil and mulch to keep native wildlife safe, while making valuable nutrients available to your plants and out of landfill or waterways. Happy farming!

*This is an excerpt from our book 'A Family Guide to Waste-Free Living', published in 2019 by Plum. You'll still find it at most good bookshops and libraries, or signed copies in our shop

6 April 2020

25 Ways to Holiday at Home

This post appears in response to this week's theme for our #52climatesolutions series on Instagram. You can pop over there for more information on how holidaying at home can be a useful skill to learn for the future. 

It may seem a little strange to be sharing this list while none of us really have much choice but to be at home. Those of us who are fortunate to have a home, that is. We’re in the midst of a stressful situation that’s shifting our priorities, bringing forward anxieties and rewiring our brains and how we see ourselves moving forward. Business is anything but usual. Giving ourselves a little space to just be where we are and appreciate our surroundings (like we do on holidays), may be just the ticket. Particularly if you’re self isolating with kids (never was there a clearer oxymoron). Shifting to learning at home full-time isn’t easy, so focusing on spending time together and strengthening relationships can be very important. Perhaps the school holidays came just at the right time. 

When this period of time is behind us, will we go back to our old ways? Will we ignore the impacts travel has on the environment and holiday like there’s no tomorrow? Perhaps we’ll take some lessons from our period of time at home and holiday at home intentionally again. Whatever you choose in the future, here are some suggestions for now. We hope they help:
  • Camp out - in the backyard or your lounge room. Pitch a tent and sleep under the stars, or under twinkle lights by your tv. We can’t guarantee you a good night’s sleep but your kids (and pets) will love you all the more for it. 
  • Cook with fire - if you have a wood heater or space for a little outdoor campfire, toast some marshmallows, bake some damper, enjoy the warmth and gaze into the coals. 
  • Stargaze - If you have a backyard or a balcony, a little stargazing can be a wonderful way to connect with nature, and observe what’s happening around you. If you’re in the city and can’t see the stars to clearly, perhaps try an app like Sky Safari, or a sky map to help you work out where the constellations are. 
  • Nature walk in your street - what seasonal changes are you noticing? What sounds and scents? Try taking some photos and draw from them when you get home. For extra fun, go after dark, with torches and spot nocturnal wildlife. 
  • Start a holiday diary - perhaps a nature journal, or just daily observations of the world around you. 
  • Move your furniture around - Swap bedrooms, look at your home and how you use it, in different ways. A change is as good as a holiday!
  • Give your bedroom a deep clean - Change the sheets (there’s nothing better!) and put a chocolate on the pillow if you like!
  • Bring the outdoors in - Plant some pots up with herbs, indoor plants or flowers that make you happy, provide food or freshen the air a little. 
  • Send postcards or letters to the friends you’re missing - Tell them what you’ve been up to. There’s something special about receiving a note in the mail. 
  • Send a gift - whether it's a bunch of flowers or a favourite book you’ve been reading, find a small and local business to support and have them send a gift on your behalf, if you’re not able to attend the post office in person.
  • Learn a new skill - Learn to bake bread, knit, grow food, play an instrument. Emerge from your holiday at home with a skill you can share with your friends and family when you see them next. 
  • Find out about a different culture - learn the history, language and perhaps try the foods of the place you’d like to learn about. 
  • Visit museums, galleries and zoos, virtually - webcams and virtual tours are happening now in facilities all over the world. Go exploring and learn all the things! 
  • Write to a pen pal - reach out to people in other parts of the world and look for a pen pal (perhaps through friends of friends or someone you know online?). Send them a lovely message telling them about what it’s like where you are, and ask them to describe their day-to-day. There’s solidarity and connection to be found in the written word! 
  • Learn the history of where you live -  Find out about First Nations people, the geological formations, famous landmarks, favourite buildings. 
  • Read all the books! There’s never been a better time to catch up on the books you’ve been meaning to read. If you don’t have an unread stack and prefer not to buy books, you might try borrowing ebooks and audio books through your local library. Some subscription services are offering freebies now too. 
  • Splurge on a take-away meal - give yourself the night off and support a local hospitality business who makes great food. Many are struggling right now and have opened up take away and delivery meal options. Look for restaurants who cook using local ingredients and ask about compostable packaging! 
  • Eat local food - be a locavore and experience what your local diet really tastes like, whether it’s bought, foraged or both.
  • Go dancing - well, maybe just in your lounge room, but have a dance party and truly let your hair down. 
  • Initiate new routines - perhaps you’ve been meaning to maintain a sourdough starter and bake regularly, do a little yoga or walk each day, or you’ve been meaning to reduce your family’s waste output? Now’s a good time to start incorporating new things into your daily rhythm so they’ll be second nature when life’s feeling more normal. 
  • Get some sunshine - If you have a little sunny space to sit or stretch out, take time to rest in it and enjoy the sun's warmth and a bit of Vitamin D.
  • Catch up on watching old movies - or nature documentaries you haven’t had time for. You’ll have a family of film buffs and nature lovers in no time.
  • Play games - board games, card games, do the crossword.
  • Take a nap - The sign of any restful holiday. Nanas of the world will agree!
  • Slow down - Remember how to slow down and take each day at a time. Be gentle with yourself. These are unusual and uncertain times we're living through. Know that while you stay home, you're currently supporting front line workers and the broader community, and significantly reducing the impact your family has on our changing climate. 

And when the hardest of this is behind us… holidays at home might include visiting local museums, galleries, ecosystems, restaurants, and hotels. You might try camping not too far from home or bushwalking somewhere you’ve never been before. Support your local businesses, keep carbon emissions low, and your local community resilient.  

27 February 2020

80 Life Skills for Kids to Learn

We've spoken before about how the way we've educated our children over the years (at their request!),  has shifted to incorporate more of the practical. The life skills they'll need in the future, whatever that future might look like. Skills for resilience so they can care for themselves and their community. We're also educating them for the present, so that they can contribute to household life, but also so they have the skills they need to help avert climate change right now.

Over a year ago, we all sat down together and wrote up a list of skills we wanted our kids to have, or that they wanted to have, and some us adults  needed to work on ourselves - because we reckon learning and sharing skills is important for everyone, and there's always more to learn!

Our list has columns for each of us to tick off as we get to doing each task, or mastering each skill. There were 80 skills listed originally, and the kids have added more as they've thought of them. The list is now pinned to the fridge, and we've slowly ticked of skills as we've completed them after the list was hung - so there are some skills us adults have learned in pre-list days, but we're not ticking them off until we've done them again since hanging the list. It's proving motivating for all of us, and interesting to see how many are covered in our day-to-day. And it's been lots of fun learning and sharing skills!

After a few requests on our Instagram last week, we've shared our list, with blank columns for family members, here. You might like to use it for a base list for your own family, adding and removing skills as you like. Let us know how you go!

12 July 2019

How To Start a Community Food Co-op

Plastic Free July is rolling along along, and we've been chatting with people about their experiences with it, and waste-free living in general. As always, there are a few issues that come to light, and we'll be sharing our tips for a couple of the big ones shortly (budget, time...). But for a great many people, the main issue in reducing household waste is easy access to package-free foods. In the greater Hobart area, we have a high number of bulk food options, ranging from small supermarkets to dedicated wholefoods stores where everything is available package-free. Although where we live we're technically in a food desert, we're very fortunate to be a short bus ride away from some amazing resources, and have access to homegrown foods through the community garden and local sharing network. But what do you do if you live even further away from shops and food outlets? You need to find creative ways to bring food closer to your community.

We were fortunate to visit the Bruny Island Food Co-op at the beginning of winter. We were invited to talk to their members about waste-free living and have a look around, and what we saw was more than a little inspiring. Bruny Island (lunawanna-allonah) sits on the south-eastern coast of Tasmania, with a population of 600 residents and tens of thousands of visitors each year. It only has a couple of small shops for basic groceries, and seasonal food producers and cafes that appeal mostly to the tourist demographic. It's accessible via ferry from mainland Tasmania and most residents need to shop for fresh food off the island.

Our friend, Liz, noticed a shortage of access to good food in the Bruny Island community and helped establish a food co-op there. The co-op is run in the community hall each month and you can buy most of the basics and some special luxuries there, without packaging! They're able to keep costs fairly low, helping more people in the community access package-free food. Alongside the co-op, they run skill shares and workshops and a space for members to swap and share food, with future plans and ideas for strengthening this inspiring community hub. We asked Liz about her experience with establishing a community food co-op and she has very generously shared her thoughts with us below. If you're living somewhat remotely, perhaps there's some inspiration here to help you build a co-op of your own. 

How did the idea to start a food co-op come about?

After doing the Spiral Garden Seedlings Permaculture eCourse, I really started to think about the waste we were producing in the kitchen. I'd always thought of ourselves as buying little processed/packaged food, but when I checked our bins I was surprised at how many of the plastic bags could be avoided if we bought in bulk. So I joined a food co-op off the island which was not too far away, and started buying lots of food from a bulk wholefoods store also off the island. When talking with a couple of friends in a cafe on Bruny Island one day, we were envisaging how great a food co-op could be on Bruny Island. What we didn't realise is that a local couple on the next table were listening to us dreaming and before they left the cafe, they came over to wish us luck and offered us a very generous donation to get started!

Was it easy to find support in the community?

Yes, we put a post on the community Facebook page asking for expressions of interest and got a handful of people who were interested to come along to our first meeting, where we just brainstormed ideas and what people wanted. We then set up a Facebook page asking people what they wanted to order and put an ad for the first meeting in the community news. As we didn't have any money we couldn't buy products up front to sell, so we had to take orders and try and make sure that a bulk product was already sold out before we even bought it. The most difficult part of it all was finding a location to hold meetings. While this could have been at someone's house, we had a vision of what we wanted to achieve and it was more like a shop and none of us had the space for that at home.

How many members are involved?

We have about 70 names on our email list, over 150 members on our Facebook page, and about 50 paid members. We have been open about 3 years and over that time the numbers have been steadily growing. The tricky thing is trying to find an opening time that suits as many people as possible, so while we have the numbers who support us, not everyone turns up to every meeting. When we first started there were 3 of us running it, but over time that has reduced to 2 with a couple of people who are often free to help us as needed. We are now at the stage were we need to think about asking volunteers for their help in a more formal way. We are thinking of having "active members" who volunteer their time for reduced prices. However we need to think carefully before implementing anything as we have been advised that managing volunteers is often more time consuming that just doing it ourselves!!!

How often do you meet in the community hall?

We meet once a month - the last Tuesday of every month from 2 - 5pm. At the beginning of the year we were open from 3 - 5pm, but this was just too busy - being open 1 more hour just eases the pressure when lots of people arrive at the same time! We are happy to open more often if we think we will be supported, and this is something we are working on at the moment.

Does the co-op have a formalised structure? Memberships?

When we first started we needed to have a bank account and the only way we could do that was to become a Not for Profit incorporated business. So that's what we did. I guess we are really running it a bit like a small business. Membership is $20 per year, per household and for that members get products at good prices, non-members pay 20% more. Members are also able to bring their excess fruit and veg or jams, pickles, bread, cakes etc etc to swap or sell. We also hold workshops and members pay $5, non-members $10. The money for the workshops goes to the speakers (80%). This is to encourage members of the community to come forward to run a workshop, We think of the workshops as more of a skill share kind of thing - I don't like the idea of "teaching" each other, more sharing what we know. We really want to encourage community involvement and think of co-op as a community hub as opposed to just being a place to buy food. Nicola Hubbard and I work together behind the scenes to organise the workshops, products etc and for that we are now able to get paid a nominal fee - it is a lot less than the work we do, but it's a start!

Did it require much financial investment to get off the ground?

We had nothing but the $400 donation, which we used to buy our first products. Over the 3 years we have made enough to gradually buy buckets, scoops, a very expensive set of scales, a POS system, a computer and insurance. 

How much time does running to co-op take each week?

Now that we are organised and in a routine, it doesn't really take much. At the end of each meeting we have a rough idea of what we need more of for the next meeting, so it's a matter of putting in an order, updating the POS and product list and going to pick it up. We also sent out a monthly email with our workshop details for the following month and our latest product list. We put an ad in the local rag and that's about all. The most time-consuming part is the banking - we are happy for people to pay via a bank transfer as we don't have a card payment system yet, so we have to go through the sales and check them off as the money gets deposited then message anyone who has forgotten - this is a bit time consuming. We estimate that we spend about 10 hours a month between the two of us, then of course there's the time that co-op is open, but we think of that as the fun part!

How have you decided on the product range?

We're always open to new product ideas. Initially we just bought what we wanted as we knew that if we were left with it, we could buy it ourselves!!!! As time went on, people have suggested products they would like. The difficult part is keeping it simple. We are not in a position to have heaps and heaps of products yet and we have to keep in mind how long things like nuts stay fresh as we're only open once a month. We did get products from a variety of suppliers but that proved time consuming - more ordering, more time picking up etc, so now we mainly buy food from one supplier with a big range and a just a couple of other places occasionally. We aim for package free bulk foods, as local as possible and if possible organic. 

How has having access to food in this way impacted on the community?

Initially most of our members were people who were already thinking about waste and organic healthy food etc etc, but over the 3 years the range of types of people who are joining is widening, as they hear about the co-op so come to take a peep.. As both of us (organisers) work at the local school, and the hall is opposite, we are able to reach a broad range of people through the school newsletter. 
There has recently been some discussion on Bruny Island as to how to move forward within the community with the number of tourists etc. and one of the ideas is for the community hall to become a bit of a hub. We are trying to set that in motion by opening co-op at the same time as the community library, and the online access centre and encouraging people to pop in for a cuppa, bring the kids and say hi - building a bit of community spirit! 

Any lessons learnt or anything you'd do differently?

It is a commitment, but it is something that we both love, so that's no problem. I think if we had thought too much about it, we might never have started it as it can be quite daunting at times, so I guess my advice at this stage would be that if you are thinking of setting up something like this, to just do it! Buying a POS system has been a huge time saver (before that we were using an excel sheet and neither of us could understand excel!) and I'm glad we started properly from the beginning with our own bank account etc, rather than using our own bank accounts, then getting in difficulty with tax etc. As I mentioned before we need to really look at the way we run the co-op now as a business - we might find that we wish we had set it up differently, I'll let you know! Also, we never borrowed money or got into any debt etc, so actually there's no pressure - if it doesn't work, we can stop!!!! But for now that's the last thing we want to do.


Are you tackling Plastic Free July this year? How are you travelling with it so far?

We'll be talking in a few places in Hobart and Melbourne throughout the next month. You can find all dates for talks and workshops updated regularly, here.

We talk about food co-ops and other solutions for making waste-free living possible, and communities stronger, in our book 'A Family Guide to Waste-free Living', published by Plum. Signed copies are available in our shop, or you can find it in all good bookshops. If you're in the Northern Hemisphere, you should have luck finding it at Book Depository, or in eBook format, available here. 

~ Lauren. x

24 June 2019

Plastic Free July: Why a commitment works for waste-free living

Four and a half years ago, I decided I wanted our family to make some changes so that we'd be living more harmoniously with nature and utilising the knowledge we'd gained in our permaculture learnings. One of the ways we were going to do this, I'd worked out, was to reduce our family's waste. I made a list of how to approach it, and the slow, incremental changes we might need, to get there. We'd already mastered composting, and had a dry bin, so food waste was pretty much taken care of. Our focus for the next part of this journey would be on reducing packaging waste and specifically plastics. It didn't seem too overwhelming, but we didn't know quite where to begin, and the list was long and would take some time and persistence to make sure we got to the end of it. Then life got busy and I forgot all about the list.

Later that same year, I'd gained some knowledge about how damaging plastics are in our environment, and the realities of downcycling and recycling. I wanted to do more. And surprisingly, an opportunity to challenge ourselves to commit to living more sustainably, arose. Focusing not just on waste, but on water, energy and other habits, we had two weeks to challenge ourselves to live more sustainably. I knew we needed to aim to live waste and recycling free. We made a family pact, knowing it was only for two weeks and we could change back to our old ways if we wanted, at the end of the challenge. We put away anything in the pantry that was plastic and prepared to pretend that for two weeks that it didn't exist. And we made the leap. It was exciting. Something we could problem solve as we went along. It felt a bit like a game, and because we'd committed to it, any decisions we faced had a clear cut answer, for us and the kids.

After the second week, we realised how easy the shift had been for us, so we decided to keep going for as long as we could. By the third week, new habits were well formed and everything became quicker and easier within our new normal. Then we started seeing all the plastic everywhere and were horrified that we hadn't really seen it before. It's been nearly four years now, and we haven't looked back. The slow nature to detangling ourselves from the evidence of our pre waste-free life is where baby steps were used, but that happened naturally as things broke or were used up and became legacy waste, and we learned not to choose them again.

We often consider the approach we took in shifting to waste-free living, and for us, the only way it was achievable for us was a time-based commitment. The long drawn-out baby-steps approach, using arbitrary time limits, would have led to fatigue and confusion about what was acceptable and what wasn't. It would be difficult for a child to understand why we might buy rice crackers in plastic, for example, but choose not to buy chips. Instead, we looked for alternatives together, and had fun doing it. We've found that when making a change as a group or family, a strong and simple commitment is best. And setting a time limit makes it not too daunting.

In one week, Plastic Free July will begin. It's a fantastic opportunity to commit to making change as an individual, family, or workplace, with an achievable timeframe. Although we reckon the simplest and most powerful place to start reducing waste is with food, to really take it to the next level, you'll want to look at packaging and plastics. For many excellent Zero Waste advocates we know, their successful commitment began with Plastic Free July, so it's a proven path towards waste-free living, and one we'd been aware of before our challenge. We might have saved tonnes more waste by committing sooner! By committing to living plastic-free for a day, a week or a month, you'll be examining how your food and household products reach you, and how you use single-use products when you're out and about. You'll be creating new habits and learning what resources are around you. You may be surprised where it leads you!

Plastic Free July have a fabulous new website full of helpful information, so hopefully you're now convinced and can pop over there to sign up and read more. But you might like to use this week to have a chat with the people in your household, make a pact, look at the plastic in your home and think up some solutions for avoiding it. Then leap in and have fun!


If you need more ideas and inspiration for July, there's always our book! It's bursting with them! We're also planning to offer a few workshops for Hobart locals, like this Waste-free Masterclass at the South Hobart Tip Shop and blogging and chatting about waste-free living online. Also, stay tuned for an extra special and exciting thing we've collaborated on, in the next week. We're looking forward to sharing it with you!

~ Lauren. x

The beautiful photos in this post were taken by Natalie Mendham.

18 June 2019

Educating our kids for the future they'll inherit.

One month ago, we wandered around the corner for a democracy sausage and to choose the government to take us forward into an uncertain future. Voting that day, it felt like choosing the world our kids would inherit. We were full of hope. It felt like so much depended on it, in terms of our response to the climate emergency, and how we care for each other as a community. We were hopeful there would be at least a glimmer of positive change. But for most people I know, the results that day were hugely disappointing. Even my own mum, an eternal optimist, was quite distraught. Friends began looking for ways to create positive change, at a personal and local level. Something we’re all about, because we know the positive impact such changes can make.

For us, it meant taking a moment to think about what more we can do. And explaining to our kids what had been chosen for them. Re-evaluating how we’re living and fighting harder to protect this beautiful planet. But also making sure our kids are prepared for what may come. For us, that also meant examining our home education program and making sure it addresses climate emergency and the consumption crisis. And suddenly the curriculum resources we’d been utilising didn’t seem so necessary any more.

In the same year we began to live waste-free, and after many years unschooling, the owlets asked for a plan. Something mapped out that they could use semi-independently, that would tell them exactly what they “should” be learning. We chose a secular curriculum, and loosely followed it. For the most part they’ve enjoyed it. The history and science learnings reinforcing some things they already knew, and they felt comforted that they were learning the "right things", what their schooled peers were learning. But that shifted for us all last month.

Suddenly, how to write an essay didn’t seem quite as important as how to write a letter to the local MP. Learning things by rote didn’t seem as important as learning from experience. Keeping up academically seemed less important than creative and entrepreneurial thinking and being good humans. Learning about events of the past seemed less important than how to live in the future. We talked about whether university education would be relevant for them and the knowledge and skills they'll need. They're undecided. And although it may seem like a dramatic response, as a family, we decided to let go again and embrace the way of learning we started out with. To trust and keep talking, and working on our passions, and keep learning about nature and how to live as part of an ecosystem, with less harm. But also a long list of practical skills needed now and into the future.

So far, our list is full of skills like baking bread, chopping wood, mending holes in clothes, fixing things, pruning fruit trees, learning how government works, learning about local indigenous plants, animals and people, catching the bus, and finding out about alternative currencies. Each of the owlets has popped their own ideas down and they’ll all be working towards doing each these things independently. Some of them they’ve already mastered. Some of them are in our book! Some are in our Seedlings eCourse, which we're doing again. Some of them we adults are yet to master, so we’ll be working on them too, and adding to this list as we go on. This sits alongside their individual interests and passions, all the books they like to read, the things we like to do and learn about for fun or necessity. We’re making the most of every minute, but also slowing down where we can. Learning what matters, together. Learning from life, and for our lives, now and into the future.

~ Lauren. x