26 September 2016

Zero Waste Celebrations :: 11 tips for a waste free Christmas and birthdays




Times of celebration can inspire us to forget our waste-free ways and give in to the urge to splurge. We want to show our loved ones how much we love them and many of our traditional ways of doing that - the ways we've grown up with, can make us feel like it's ok to let ourselves off the hook just this one time. In Australia, it is estimated that waste volumes increase by 30% at Christmas time. We also use 100% more glass (party drink time) and 53% of Australians admit to throwing out one unopened gift each year. Food waste contributes hugely to the waste pile too. But it's actually not that hard to celebrate without waste, and do it well. It might mean creating some new traditions, slowing and simplifying a little. From our experience, that makes it seem all the more special. 

Here are some things we've found helped reduce our waste output at Christmas and birthdays:

1. Start the conversation. Talk to your friends and family. Let them know what you're attempting to do and why. Suggest low-waste alternatives they might like to consider for gift-giving and meal planning. Be gentle and listen to their concerns or reflections. Lead by example, choosing low-waste alternatives yourself. Be respectful, patient and gracious around the waste brought into your home by loved ones and focus on taking responsibility for yourself.



2. Choose experiences over 'things'. Gifts that get you out and about experiencing new things can be just as special and enriching as the ones that can be played with or sit on a shelf at home. Even better if the gift-giver can experience it with you. A camping trip, special dinner at a restaurant, classes in a new skill… We've been lucky to receive tickets to TSO's family classics season for the last two Christmases and it's a wonderful treat we've all enjoyed.

3. Choose great quality, useful gifts. Something practical that can be used over and over again, making the recipient's life easier or more joyful, is great. They'll enjoy thinking of you when they use it, play with it or wear it, for years to come.

4. Choose second-hand. Spend the time to seek out that super special vintage gift that you know your recipient will love. Or have something you've loved fixed up and hand it down. Our owlets have all loved receiving treasures from us and the stories that come with them.

5. Choose compostable. Give some thought to what will happen to the gift once it's time of usefulness has been served. Avoid battery operated gifts if you can. Something that can go back to the earth is ideal. Give some thought to packaging too and whether it can be re-used, composted or recycled.

6. Make it by hand. Something you've grown, cooked, knitted or sewn with your own hands is wonderful. The love and thought you've put in to create the gift from scratch really shows. Even better if its something the recipient particularly likes or needs.



7. Get into Furoshiki! These traditional Japanese wrapping cloths can be so beautiful and a wonderful way to wrap gifts without waste. We've found its also quieter and quicker - which is great for late-night, last-minute wrapping sessions. Buy traditional furoshiki or make your own using second hand vintage fabrics, organic cotton, old pillowcases, drawstring bags or trims that reflect the recipient's style and favourite colours. Afterwards, collect the fabrics and keep them in your stash to use next time!



8. Eat seasonally. The best Christmas celebrations we've had are the ones where we've taken advantage of the abundance of berries, garden veggies and seafood available to us locally. Have a look at what's available around you, or if there's something you really yearn for out of season, do some forward planning to source and preserve it for the day. Looking forward to your favourite foods makes celebrating with them even more special.

9. Make your own drinks. Have a go at home brewing or make seasonal cordials and fruit champagnes.  Kombucha, ginger beer and lemonade are wonderful options too. Alternatively, some micro-breweries will happily refill your bottles, meaning you can save lots of glass waste.

10. Ditch disposables. Serve your food on real plates and drinks in real glasses. Use the good china and silverware. Use real cutlery and cloth napkins, and a real tablecloth. Ditch straws, or find reusable ones. Budget options might include plates collected at op-shops and jars to drink out of, napkins stitched out of vintage bedsheets. If you party regularly, you might like to set aside a box of your collected party-ware for those special occasions. Celebrate the times you come together with the people you love and take the time to wash up and laugh together after the celebrating's done!







11. Choose natural, compostable decorations. Flowers and foliage collected from the garden makes beautiful seasonal decorations with minimal effort. Compost them when you're done. Make ornaments and decorations by hand from compostable materials. Christmas crackers from old toilet paper rolls and recycled paper you've decorated yourself. Hand crafted party hats. Choose a tree that will last for generations, grow one in a pot, or go for a drive and harvest a weed tree. Pine trees often escape from plantations and grow on land nearby. Check regulations and harvest weeds on public land if it's safe to do so. Compost the tree when you're done, or try your hand at hugelkultur!

By planning ahead just a little bit, and looking at what's available to you when you celebrate, you can avoid creating a heap of waste. You may find you slow down a bit and enjoy the simpler things and time with your loved ones. You'll be treading a little lighter on the earth too, which is cause for celebration in itself. 

What are your tips for creating less waste while celebrating?
Are you making any special gifts by hand? 
What's your favourite party food? 

Cheers!

~ Lauren. xx


23 September 2016

Mama Nurture: Run away sometime...


Winters are long here. Days are short and cold. Tempers shorten too, and it's hard to stay cheery every day. We hibernate and see our friends less often, opting for time by the fire as opposed to the beach or playground. Huz barely sees daylight and we sleep longer, forgetting the longer days of summer and the extra gardening time... Then, of course, there's the busy spring-summer season in our shop and our garden, where we're working and learning and volunteering and gardening and it all gets a bit much. We get so caught up with the busy that we can forget to breathe.


There's a breaking point for this mama. I try and pay extra special attention to all of our energy levels, but especially my own. Sometimes we all need a break, but me especially... I'm nearing days when running away on my own, or with Huz, might become a reality (eek!). But my absolute favourite thing is when we all run away together. Sometimes we plan ahead and go on a weekend adventure, but occasionally we take advantage of Huz's flexible and family-friendly workplace and steal away for the day mid-week. Often our adventures are very last minute and happen on a whim. That seems to add to the excitement. I'll wake up and suggest we run and no-one takes much convincing.


Usually, running away means a day-long adventure somewhere. The kind where you pack a thermos and sandwiches and visit a favourite spot. There might be some exploring, bushwalking, taking in the scenery. Maybe some foraging. Definitely chatting and laughing and blowing away the cobwebs.


Probably the day finishes with fish and chips, sandy toes, windblown hair, and a promise to return soon, as we drive home while the sun sets. We arrive home to a darkened house, hungry pets to be fed, showers to be had and hopping into bed rather than lighting the fire. We all sleep soundly, deeply, refreshed and ready to begin a new day, and deal with normal life tomorrow. It's usually just what we need to set things right in our little world again.

As part of my Mama Nurture Project, I'm resolving to run away more often. Just as soon as I shake off this spring cold. I'm going to eat some bowl food with a little of that seaweed we gathered on the last adventure, and hopefully that'll help knock it on the head. At the very least, it'll remind me to run away sometime and collect some more.


How are you travelling right now?
Do you have the urge to run away?
Any weekend adventures planned?

Love and gentle nurturing hugs,

~ Lauren. xx


20 September 2016

10 tips for waste free flying

The world is a way more connected place for humans than it used to be. In the good old days (I’m talking pre-19th century), few people ventured far from their home turf, except for intrepid explorers, merchants, pilgrims, and military folks. But since the advent of aviation, or rather the advent of affordable aviation, millions of people have been scooting around the world with nary a care. So, before I get to my plastic waste gripe, I’ll just remind you that Australian airline travel contributes approximately 3% of Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions (yay, climate change! *sarcasm*). So we’re already off to a pretty wasteful and polluting start, even before the snacks are served.





The problem of airline waste


Our family have been playing the waste-free gig for about a year and in that time we’ve well and truly developed our waste goggles, spotting single-use plastics from a mile away. Last week I travelled to Sydney (from Hobart) and was sickened by the waste I saw at airports and on planes and other places. But let’s just focus on the planes, and the in-flight menu.

Once the plane gets to cruising speed on, the air stewards roll their meal carts down the aisle and dish out snacks. On longer domestic flights, you might get a more substantial meal. Usually, there is also an in-flight food menu available. In all cases (that I’ve observed) there is waste, lots of it. Confectionery wrappers, plastic coffee stirrers, cling-wrap, plastic milk pods, headphone wrappers and other assorted single-use waste. Ugh. On a single long haul (international) flight, there can be 500 kg of waste produced! 


Domestically, how much waste are we talking about here? Well in the financial year ending 2016, there were 58.44 million passengers carried on domestic flights in Australia.  So, what appears as small amounts of waste (to the individual), can add up to quite the waste monster when multiplied by 10s of millions (per year!). And it would be typical for the average punter to receive or purchase at least one item of food and one drink (bottle, can and/or plastic cup). As I took my seat on a flight from Hobart to Sydney (a Virgin flight), I saw the bagged up waste from the previous flight leave the runway on a motorised flat-bed trolley. Two very large garbage bags full of what appeared to be plastic cups, bottles, cutlery and other miscellaneous waste – the result of (presumably) one short domestic flight.


A waste audit conducted by Qantas found that 54% of in-flight waste (by volume) was recyclable, but sent to landfill. This gives you an idea of how (relatively) easy it should be to reduce airline waste by at least 50%. Similar proportions (45-58%) of recyclable material waste were reported in 2003 for international flights.



Attempts to reduce airline waste


What are the airlines doing to reduce waste? Well I did a bit of keyboard-warrior googling and found out some interesting things. Qantas (who also owns Jetstar) have made attempts to improve their waste management – they reduced their waste to landfill by 20% between 2009 and 2014. By 2020 they want to reach 30% waste reduction (over 2009 levels). It’s a start, I suppose.

Qantas also have on-board recycling on ‘some’ flights and they are moving towards plastic-free headsets. They claim to have reduced plastic packaging on many of their on-board amenities to reduce waste and weight, which in turn reduces fuel consumption. They have also installed recycling bins in public spaces in all major Australian Domestic airport terminals that they occupy. Their Australian Packaging Covenant Action Plan (2010-2015) also notes that they have replaced polystyrene cups with 35% recycled content and recyclable packaging.


Virgin airlines (who also own Tiger airways in Australia), like most large Aussie companies, are also signed up to the Australian Packaging Covenant, and their action plan (2011-2016) sets out some of their waste reduction initiatives. Note-worthy initiatives (to be completed by 2012) include ‘reviewing’ of all existing catering product packaging, implementing a policy to mandate the use of sustainable packaging guidelines when designing and implementing all new products, and setting up recycling facilities in their lounge. Now, I don’t mean to sound cynical, but these seem like small fry plans for a major airline – to my mind, they don’t demonstrate serious efforts to reduce waste, rather they sound more like token green-washing.  


Unfortunately, none of the major airlines have really tackled the in-flight food waste packaging to any great extent. I understand the small steps approach (airlines don’t want to upset customers and risk damaging their profits merely for the sake of protecting the little old environment!). And I am somewhat comforted that there are initiatives to ‘do better’, however it’s going to need more action from us too (see below). I’m glad to see initiatives to increase recycling of in-flight food, drink and newspapers and I expect that will continue, and hopefully will become the norm on all flights. Whilst the airlines' initiatives are not ‘zero waste’, but rather less waste to landfill, they do reflect steps in the right direction.



Tips for waste-free flying


We don’t have to leave waste management up to the airlines. We can do a lot as individual passengers to reduce this huge waste problem. Here are my hot tips for flying waste-free:

1. Take your own snacks in your own home-bought container. I took snacks from home on my trip away, and then I bought a lemon tart at the airport, put directly into my container for the trip home. Choose foods that don’t require utensils (as you’re unlikely to be permitted to take your own on the plane!)




2. Carry your own drink bottle. I use “klean canteen” bottles, but there are many brands. These can be filled at the airport – free water can be found in the bathrooms or at water fountain stations. I’m not sure if the wash taps in the bathrooms on planes are designed in a way that drink bottles could be refilled – does anyone know?


3. Carry your own fabric napkin or serviette, for those turbulent spills.

4. Say no thanks to wasteful airline food. You have the power of choice.

5. Utilise on-board recycling facilities (if available). Otherwise, hold onto your waste until you find a suitable recycling location for it afterwards.

6. Keep food scraps for composting later, but only if you’re allowed to bring those food items into your destination location (some don’t due to quarantine laws). You may want to carry on a lightweight bag or container for storing food scraps.

7. Take your own headphones – really, why does anyone need those free in-flight ones? – they are crappy quality anyway.

8. Take your own reusable keep cup for your hot drink of choice. I’m not sure if you can get these filled during your flight (no harm in asking though!) but most cafĂ©s in airports should accept them. 

9. Offer solutions to your airline - you may want to let them know that you would like them to reduce their food and packaging waste (e.g. request that they provide in-flight recycling or composting facilities, waste-free snack and meal options, plastic-free options).

10. Support airlines that are accountable for the waste they produce, and which demonstrate significant positive actions to reduce waste. 

I would like to see an airline that offers the following on their flights:
  • Zero single-use plastics;
  • 100% of food and drink waste is composted;
  • 100% of packaging is compostable and diverted to a composting facility (and actually composted!); and
  • Encouragement for customers to bring their own food and drink, with guidelines and tips provided for doing this.
Do you think this is too much to ask? What other waste-free flying tips can you share?

Happy and safe travels!

~ Oberon.