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

5 June 2019

Waste-free Sourdough Crackers

I live with a baker now. In January, Oberon set out on a mission to learn to make bread, using our friend Bonnie Ohara's wonderful book, and he did! This has meant lots of yummy warm and fresh bread, and an abundance of sourdough starter in our house again. And the owlets have a renewed interest in baking, and a new activity to enjoy with their Dad.

Also, unrelated to this, but since we started living waste-free, we haven’t bought crackers for almost 4 years. We haven’t really missed them too much, but they’re a nice snack to have on hand. Happily, our abundance of sourdough starter means we have a regular cracker supply once more! And a very quick and delicious savoury treat to snack on. And no waste, while we’re making our food stretch further. Hooray for new skills and new ways to be creative with turning waste into resources.

Sourdough Starter Crackers
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp sea salt

Mix all the ingredients together into a ball of dough. Dust your table surface with a little flour and knead the dough until it’s fairly smooth. Roll the dough flat until it’s only a few millimetres thick (thinner = crunchier). I do this on the back of a baking tray, lined with parchment or greased and dusted. Cut the dough into squares with a knife or pizza cutter, then prick each square with a fork. Drizzle with olive oil and spread the oil gently with a pastry brush. Sprinkle whatever flavours you’d like on top - things like sea salt, sesame seeds, seaweed salt, herbs like rosemary are all great. Bake at 180 degrees for 25 minutes. Let cool and eat with your favourite cheese or dip, or just as they are!

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