22 April 2019

Smell the Roses & Save the Earth

We're enjoying the Easter long weekend and a few days to slow right down and take time out together with each other and with the world around us. We're always keen to go adventuring, whether it be to visit somewhere new or to revisit a favourite spot and observe changes there. Our most recent adventure was to the bit of land we can see from our kitchen window, on the other side of the river. A totally different landscape to the one we're on, and to many others we've visited. It's soon to be converted to a golf course, so it may not be so easy to visit next time, but I'm glad we made time to visit it this weekend. Days in nature always bring us closer together. 

Stopping and observing nature can be a great educator and motivator for change. And change is what we need! This Earth Day, with potentially a few days off up your sleeve, we reckon one of the best things you can do to get motivated to care for the earth and formulate a plan for how you're going to do that, is to get outside. In honour of Earth Day, here's a little excerpt from our book, where we share some of our favourite things to do in nature, and why. 


We think that one of the root causes of wastefulness in modern society is a 
disconnection from nature. There is a tendency for people to feel (and often be) apart from nature, rather than a part of it. But when we observe nature and see it as something we are connected to and part of, we can begin to view it differently. Research shows that a connection with nature promotes the adoption of pro-environmental behaviours and the most effective way to form a connection with nature is to get out in it. So, as far as we’re concerned, it’s absolutely vital for the future of our environment that we experience nature regularly and we provide meaningful experiences in nature for our children.

You can bring yourself a little closer to nature very simply, by spending time in your garden or backyard, or (if you don’t have a yard) at a local park or reserve. Your children may already spend time interacting with nature, making mud pies, collecting insects and climbing trees – we hope they do! Or you can go on bigger adventures that take you into wilder spaces. In any case, here are some ways to broaden your family’s interaction with and observation of nature, by utilising all of the senses and having a little adventure.

Ecosystem Explorer 
Observing different ecosystems in nature gives us clues as to how we can keep our own home systems in balance and it helps us connect with natural processes and nature in general. Observing an ecosystem can be as simple as wandering outside your back door, or going on an adventure further afield and it’s well worth doing at any time of year.

Go on a fungi walk
Fungi are the unsung heroes of native ecosystems. They’re the ultimate zero-wasters. They help to decompose dead and decaying matter and many species have mutualistic relationships with plants. However, it is easy to walk through a forest and overlook these often small, but beautiful, organisms. The easiest place to look for larger fungi is in a wet forest or rainforest, although they occur in almost all ecosystems. You may even notice some in your garden. Fungi can usually be found at any time of year, although autumn tends to be the best time for viewing. Children tend to spot fungi easily, once they’ve gottheir eye in for them, as their eyes are usually closer to the ground! Take a camera along and see how many species you can find! Our philosophy is to try not to pick or disturb fungi needlessly, so that the next walkers can see and enjoy them!

Hunt for beach treasure 

Our coastlines are a diverse and interesting place, where things can grow and nutrients collect. They can also be where a lot of our waste ends up, both new and old, so you might like to have a beach clean-up. Otherwise, go for a stroll along a beach and see what treasure you can find there! Children adore treasure hunts and while you’re looking, you can check in with the balance and health of this very fragile and important ecosystem.

Evening neighbourhood walk
Our local areas can look completely different at night time and you may be surprised by the wildlife that is living alongside you most nights, if you go for a wander outside your door. Our neighbourhoods can come alive with possums, bats, owls, cats, foxes, insects and so much more. Urban environments especially, can be spaces where certain nocturnal animals thrive and they can even have a hidden connection to us through the waste we create, or the food that we grow. Make sure you’re warmly dressed, grab a torch and some friends and go for a wander around your local neighbourhood. Spend some time being very quiet and listen to the sounds all around you and just observe what’s going on. How many animals do you see? Is there anything you come across that is unexpected?

While you’re outside, flop on the trampoline or grass, rug up and spend some time looking up at the stars. What do you notice? Do you recognise any constellations? Try drawing lines between stars to invent your own constellations! Consider your place on the planet and in the universe. Remember that you are made of stardust. Tell stories, watch for shooting stars, satellites, look at the moon and enjoy the space and peace of the evening sky.


As this year's Earth Day theme is Protect Our Species, you might like to research local threatened species in your area an consider how you can help them. You might also like to spend Earth Day writing to local councillors, political candidates, or businesses to solve problems and create change. After all, Earth Day began in 1970 as a protest movement, and to tackle all the issues this earth faces, we need to create change quickly, and on all levels. 

You can also read about change in our book, "A Family Guide to Waste-Free Living'. It's available in all good bookstores and libraries, or you can find signed copies in our shop. Published by Plum Books. 

8 March 2019

Women and the mental load of waste-free living (+ a soap recipe)

There's an elephant in the room, when it comes to waste-free living. In the majority of households attempting to reduce their waste, it is still largely the work of women. Women often have the desire to make change in practical ways, and carry the burden of researching and strategising ways to implement waste-free shifts in their households. Women and children worldwide are also most likely to suffer the impacts of environmental issues and poor waste-management. It's been well documented that women are at the forefront of the actual day-to-day work of environmental change. Anecdotally, Oberon and I have seen it in the Facebook group we run (Zero Waste Tasmania), where more than 80% of members are women. And across social media, the majority of accounts devoted to the practical business of zero waste living are women. Women are the ones buying our book, although hopefully the men in their lives are reading it and trying things, too, and we've addressed this in the book. Waste-free living doesn't have to be burdensome. In fact, it can be joyful and enriching as you find a closer connection and care for nature. It's even fun! But in our home, it's fun, and not burdensome, because it's shared.

Women carry the mental and physical load of waste-free living, and we need to see that shifted. It has to shift for more of us to be able to make space to take more waste-free living practices on. It was the manufacturing of plastic packaged products and 'convenience' foods that simultaneously gave women freedom from their homes and created the huge environmental problem we face today. Meanwhile, men have, for the most part, carried on as usual, embracing 'convenience' products and being left somewhat off the hook. This has to change, for all our sakes, but especially for our children who will discover the full effect of choosing 'convenience' over responsibility.

But for today, on International Women's Day, I'm going to leave the mental load of pushing for that shift to the men-folk (thanks, Huz), and recognise and celebrate the women who have done so much practical work to care for their families, their homes and our planet. I'm often drawn to think, on such days, of the people who lived on the patch of land where I live, before me. First the muwinina women who cared for it so very well that only a midden and stone fish traps by the foreshore remain as evidence that they'd impacted this land. And then the farmer's wife, who possibly seldom made it to our patch of the orchard while she tended her home and garden. Or the housewife who lived here before us, who saw fit to install lots of small cupboards for their preserves, which inspired me to think about filling them with preserves of our own.

While we were in the process of compiling recipes for our book, I visited my Mum's place and she pulled out a couple of notebooks she'd had stored away. Simple notebooks featuring beautiful handwriting, on plain, lined paper, yellowed now from age. The pages were filled with recipes and notes, taken by my two grandmothers, who began them as young, newly married housewives. They began writing them towards the end, and immediately after WW2, and both notebooks reflect how they were striving to stretch their resources further when they were required to keep their homes running, and families fed, on very little. It was a time when food was rationed, Victory gardens were encouraged, and wasting food was illegal or very much frowned upon. And women bore the brunt of that work.

As I turned the pages of hints & tips, so often shared by friends or in newspaper articles, government publications and magazines in a time before Google, I found many that looked like the handy hints we've come to know and love, in our waste-free living travels. But one of my favourites as I flicked through, was my maternal grandmother's method of using up all the old soap ends to make new soap. I snapped a photo so I could bring it home to try. I never met Doris, my mum's Mum. So having a little routine of hers in our own family rhythm seemed like a wonderful idea. So we saved up the soap ends, and gave it a try.

I had to do a little tweaking and estimating to quantify things like how many soap ends a family might make in 3 months, or how big a small cup or her pie dish might be. But we got there in the end. I was delighted to share the making of it with Little Owlet, and I'm happy to say it worked well. And so we have olive oil scrap soap in our home, stretching our resources further, and creating a beautiful product from old, as my grandmother did. Here we've shared the recipe, as you can find it in our book. It's one that's dear to our hearts. 

MAKE THIS :: Olive Oil Scrap Soap

What you'll need:
1 cup soap ends
1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra for oiling 
soap mould - a small glass baking dish works nicely
1 cup water

Grate the soap ends and place them in a
saucepan with water. Make sure the water just covers the soap. 
Place over a medium heat and stir well until
the soap fragments have dissolved.
Remove from the stove and add olive oil,
stirring well.
Beat well with a whisk and, while the
mixture is still warm, pour it into an oiled
dish or mould.
When the soap block is completely cold,
turn it out onto a board and cut it into
Leave your new soap bars to harden for
a few days before using. 


Our book 'A Family Guide to Waste-Free Living' is available in all good bookshops (including ours!), and libraries now. Published by Plum Books and featuring photographs by Natalie Mendham, who also took the first picture in this blog post. 

~ Lauren. xx

5 March 2019

The one where we wrote a book

 Last Friday, we held a very special celebration in one of our favourite bookshops. Family and friends where there, and the place was bursting with supportive folks. Then we answered some questions and signed our names... It felt a bit like our wedding day! Only, we both had headset microphones, instead of a celebrant, our friend Hannah (from Good Life Permaculture), led us in conversation under the watchful eye of our three children, and we signed our names several times over, in copies of our very own book! And so this rather large side-project we've been keeping to ourselves all this time, was launched and sent on it's way, with big hopes and dreams that it will help to make a difference in this world of ours.

How did it come about? Two years ago, we were contacted by a publisher who suspected we might have a book to write about waste-free living. We agreed, and set to work (through a long winter and a flu season that has now become family legend), and we photographed, edited and finished the book, only to see our publisher fold in the week it was due to go to print. Fortunately, the very wonderful Plum Books rescued our project, and turned it into this magnificent book that arrived on our kitchen table just a few weeks ago. There was much whooping and cheering, and a r
ound of applause because this little labour of love is just as much the work of our children as it is ours.

Why a book about waste-free living?  Because we want to take personal responsibility for the waste we create, the legacy we leave, and what we normalise for our children. In a world heading for environmental destruction, its vitally important that those who can, do. That we curb the trend of overproduction and waste. That we stop draining the earth's resources. And in a political climate where decisions are being made that hinder the protection of our environment, it's an act of hope to work against and outside the societal structure that creates wasteful systems. We're voting with our wallets, and with our time. It feels joyful and we (and our children) can sleep a little easier at night. Waste infiltrates every aspect of our lives, and working to live without it, as individuals and communities, can go a long way towards creating the kind of positive change this world needs.

‘A Family Guide to Waste-Free Living’ is a collection of our favourite recipes, information and handy hints all in the one place. It’s the book our kids will take with them when they leave the nest. It’s filled with recipes from our mums and grandmothers. And it’s filled with hope. Beginning with tackling food waste, to packaging and household waste, and then how we approach waste in our interactions with friends, family and the broader community, the book has a gentle structure that can be followed (it's actually the process we followed when shifting towards waste-free living), or it can be dipped into as needed. We called it 'A Family Guide...' rather than *The* Family Guide, because it's our process and what works for us. It isn't prescriptive. But it's our hope that readers will find their own path with it, personalise it and make it their own.

One happy reader, who picked up a copy at the launch, said this about it: ".... Get the book. Get it. It's so wonderful- a cheerful little guidebook for regular folk (families and singles and couples) to ditch plastic and other packaging and by-products, connect with community and care for the environment. There's no preaching, there's no greenwashing. There's also no fear. So, it's really readable and the tips are doable. I'm going to share more of it this week because every time I find a moment to steal I read another random page of it and smile." 

Our book is available now in all good bookstores and libraries, and if you’d like a signed copy, you can pre-order one from our little shop, Spiral Garden, and we’ll post it to you.

Huge thanks to all at Plum Books and Pan Macmillan for publishing our book and helping it make its way in the world. Thanks also to brilliant Tassie photographer, Natalie Mendham, for the beautiful photos. And to Michelle Mackintosh for the beautiful design, Chris Middleton for the excellent cover photo, and to the always wonderful Costa Georgiadis for setting aside time to read the book and provide a beautiful foreword. We're still pinching ourselves that we've been given this opportunity, and that people are finding it practical and enjoyable to read is a massive bonus. Go well, little book!

~ Lauren. xx