Plastic Free July

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Well, it is a week into to Plastic Free July and I decided that rather trying to to buy any plastic for the whole month, I would simply shop and live as I do on a regular basis and try to capture a true picture of my plastic consumption.

Having our own vegetable garden and fruit trees certainly helps.

Orange juice ready to freeze.

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Grapefruit marmalade.

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Yesterday I took a Weck jar when I went to buy feta cheese at the deli counter of the local IGA.  This was a definite win, but only after reminding the attendant to weigh the jar before filling it.  A reminder that this is not yet the norm and you need to be ever vigilant to ensure that your plastic-free attempts are not hijacked by well-meaning staff.

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Fruit and vegetable shopping is relatively easy to achieve plastic-free, particularly if you choose local, seasonal produce as much as possible.

Here is what I bought today.

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The supermarket is a very different story.  The items I bought today represent the majority of what I buy at the supermarket.  By its very nature, everything is packaged.  The cans are recyclable as is some of the plastic but, as we know, recycling should be the last resort.

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There was also a bottle of vinegar which did not make it into the first photo.

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We make at least some of our food from scratch which helps to eliminate some plastic packaging.  These include bread, pizza bases, tomato sauce and peanut paste.

These pizza bases are partly pre-cooked and ready to be frozen.  The plastic wrap is old cereal packets which have been washed and re-used many times.

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I am far from perfect when it comes to Plastic Free July (or any other time for that matter) but by making and growing some of our own food, having virtually no takeaway and not shopping for recreation we are fairly successful at limiting our single-use plastic consumption.

Are you participating in Plastic Free July?  How is it going?

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Remember, there are no failures – just increased awareness.  And that is a good thing.

 

 

Beyond the Bags

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The ban on single-use shopping bags seems to have garnered all of the media attention recently and not all of the publicity has been positive.  I have already had my say about some of the ridiculous commentary here.

Tonight I want to talk about moving beyond simply banning one particular type of single-use plastic bag and look at other things we can do.

Plastic-Free July is just around the corner so now is a great time to focus on the many single-use plastics that are still part of many people’s everyday lives.

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Here is a list of some of the single-use plastics which have combined to create enormous islands of floating waste in our oceans.

  • Bottled water
  • Soft drink bottles
  • Single use cups – styrofoam and plastic
  • Plastic plates
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Plastic straws
  • Balloons
  • Clingwrap
  • Ziplock bags
  • Plastic produce bags

All of these items have relatively cheap and easy alternatives/replacements.

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  • Limit your consumption of soft drinks
  • Carry your own reusable cup – Keep cups are suitable for hot drinks.  Seek out cafes who will accept your own mug.  Check out Responsible Cafes or just ask.

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  • At home – choose to use regular crockery.  When eating out – take your own reusable plate.
  • At home – choose to use regular cutlery.  When eating out – take your own reusable cutlery.
  • Skip the straw – ask for ‘no straw’ when ordering your drink.  If you really need to use a straw, consider buying a stainless steel or bamboo one.

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  • ‘Message’ balloons – consider a card or practical gift.  Decorative balloons can be replaced with paper decorations.  Balloon releases are just mass littering.  They do not go to heaven, they end up harming wildlife on land and in the oceans.  Plant trees or scatter wildflower seeds in memory of a loved one.
  • At home – replace clingwrap with a lidded container, plate on top of a bowl or beeswax wraps.  Refuse to purchase produce wrapped in clingwrap.  Buy it unwrapped.

 

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  • Ziplock bags – use lidded containers.  If you have ziplock bags, use them multiple times – they can easily be rewashed.
  • Plastic produce bags – buy or make your own produce bags for buying fruit and vegetables.  Tulle or mesh curtains work really well.

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As with any change, it is probably best to start with a couple of items and work from there.

What will you commit to changing for Plastic Free July?  Make it a new habit that you can carry forward into the future.  Then build on your achievement with other changes.

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The Bag Ban

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I really wish I did not feel compelled to write this post and I apologise in advance to those readers who live in jurisdictions not affected by the impending plastic bag ban in Queensland.

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It seems to have generated some of the most ridiculous comments I have heard in a long time.

I offer the following observations.

Lightweight plastic shopping bags have not been around forever.  They have been in use in Australia for less than 50 years.

Remembering to take your reuseable bags is as simple as remembering to take your purse and keys when you go shopping.

The ban is about the lightweight carry bags only – not the thicker plastic bags which some supermarkets may choose to sell, nor the flimsy plastic bags for produce.  However, you can choose to refuse these too.  Bring your own reuseable carry bags – fabric ones are best.  They are strong, durable and can be washed as often as required.  You can also buy or make lightweight produce bags for fruit and vegetables.

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You do not need supermarket carry bags to line your bin.  Rather than re-invent the wheel please read this post.

Instead of railing against the fact that supermarkets are profiteering, that the ban will not reduce plastic use, that you will not have a bag to line your bin, that other plastic bags are still available and so on, let us use this as a real opportunity to take a leap forward in moving away from a range of single-use plastics.  We do not have wait until change is legislated and forced upon us.  Take the lead and make a difference now.

The ban on lightweight carry bags should be just the beginning.  Plastic Free July looms on the horizon so tomorrow I will address some of the other single-use plastics that we should be campaigning to eliminate.

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Do you have a bag story?  Please share in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boomerang Bags

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A few months ago I wrote this post in which I mentioned the fact that I was interested in getting Boomerang Bags started in Maleny.  Well, interest was as far as I got before life and other stuff got in the way.

However, others were a bit more pro-active.  The latest issue of the local newspaper, Hinterland Times, featured an article about 2 enterprising young women in our local community who have set up a Boomerang Bags group in Maleny.

Thanks to the article and the Facebook page, a group of about a dozen people gathered on Monday to discuss how to progress this fabulous idea.  There was lots of positive discussion and I came away with a renewed enthusiasm to be involved in this initiative which has the capacity to make a real difference.

I came home to check my freshly organised stash of fabric and found several pieces, several of them gifted to me, which will be perfect for making the bags.

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My job this week is to wash and iron all of the fabric ready for cutting out.  The calico at the front of the photo will be used for making the screen-printed Boomerang Bag logos which are sewn on the bags.

I am really excited and determined to see our small group have an impact on the plastic bag usage in our town.

If you are reading this and live in or near Maleny and are interested in being involved in any way or donating suitable fabric please let me know.

Here is the official Boomerang Bags website if you would like to set up a group in your community.

Instead of despairing the lack of action by governments, becoming involved in grassroots community initiatives like Boomerang Bags may be the way forward.  I believe we hold the potential to define our future in our own hands.

Camera, Internet and Rain

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I am sure you are scratching your head at the title of this post so I will explain what these three things have in common.  There has been precious little of any of them and all are impacting on my ability to post.

The camera is currently being repaired and will be ready next week, I hope.  It had been playing up for a while with the automatic flash getting stuck intermittently.  This was becoming more of a problem so I decided to take it to be repaired because I want it in good working order when we head off overseas in November.  So, I will use existing photos for any blog posts at the moment.

Our internet access (not NBN) is average at best but lately it has been virtually non-existent for hours at a time which culminated in minimal, very slow access for the past couple of days.  It seems to be better at the moment so I am grabbing the opportunity to post.  At least I haven’t had to resort to carrier pigeon!  It is not as though we live in the outback – we are barely 80km (50 miles) from the CBD of the third-largest city in Australia!

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Speaking of things being non-existent – that is the state of our rainfall here at the moment, too.  We live in what is generally regarded as a high rainfall area with reliable rainfall throughout the year, however, thanks to climate change it is becoming much less reliable.  The type of vegetation which grows in area is dependent on regular rainfall so everything is a bit stressed.  I have not planted too much in the vegetable gardens except beans which I am hand-watering.  I am also watering the blueberry bushes as they are loaded with fruit at the moment and I want to make sure that I don’t lose that precious fruit.  The kale just keeps on growing regardless of heat, cold, water or not.  It is very resilient.  I know that it will rain again but in the meantime the lack of rain is impacting on my enthusiasm for the garden.  We depend entirely on tank water but we are in a better position than most as there are only 2 of us, we are generally fairly frugal with our water usage as we know what it is like to have very little and we have twice as much storage as most people in the district.

Thank goodness for a hose!

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Taking it to the Streets

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Blog posts have been pretty thin on the ground over the past couple of months.  There has been plenty going on here which would generally be perfect material for posts, however, I have written about most of it before, and in some instances, several times.

I know that there is no reason not to revisit a topic but I have been grappling with a broader issue and want to discuss that here today.  I am looking for other people’s views and would really appreciate your input.

It is good to be doing what you can within your own home and personal decisions with regard to reducing your carbon footprint but should we be doing more?  To really make a difference it is vital that we work to influence change on a bigger scale.  This can be overwhelming and make you wonder whether it is even worth trying but we need to remember that change does not happen overnight nor is it likely to be easy.

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In the past few weeks we have been busy.  We attended a local screening of ‘Before the Flood’ and associated audience discussion. This is a 2016 documentary on climate change features Leonardo DiCaprio.  Like anything on this topic it left me torn between optimism that we can all make a difference and despair that any action will really be a matter of ‘too little, too late’.  However, my final decision is a renewed enthusiasm to really make a difference as soon as possible.

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On a more local note, I went to an information evening about recycling in the Sunshine Coast Council area which was presented by Barung Landcare with a speaker, Sandie Johnston from Envirocom, an environmental consultancy who provide education and training for Sunshine Coast Council.  Waste minimisation and recycling have been at the forefront of my actions for over 25 years and this was an eye-opening presentation.  Some things have changed with regard to recycling so it is great to have up-to-date information that I know is accurate for our local council area.  I am looking forward to sharing this information in the hope that it can be disseminated more broadly which should lead to a greater compliance with recycling ‘rules’.

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I also attended one of the five consultation evenings regarding the ongoing management of the Maroochy River estuary as preservation of our natural environment is critical and the issue of coastal management is paramount if we are to protect low-lying areas such as Cotton Tree from inundation.  Whilst the issue of replacing the geotextile bag groynes with rocks may only have come to the notice of some people recently, there has been a small but dedicated band of people working to preserve the natural river mouth for at least 40 years.  This is a perfect example of long-term activism.  If you live in the Sunshine Coast Council area or visit the Maroochy River estuary (Cotton Tree) please consider completing the council survey here.

Just like charity, activism begins at home, or at least in your local area so here are a few ideas that have caught my interest.

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I have begun looking into the idea of Boomerang Bags with a view to getting this idea up and running in Maleny.

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A couple of months ago I joined Spare Harvest, an online platform dedicated to sharing garden produce and resources.

I have been active in a couple of different Zero Waste/War on Waste Facebook groups and am pleased to have discovered a local Sunshine Coast group.  These really seem to have gained momentum since the ‘War on Waste’ television program here in Australia.  I am hoping to be able to connect with more local people to see what difference we can make as a group.

I will continue to write about the small things I do each and every day to live more sustainably  but I am looking forward to trying to extend this to more people in the community and I hope to share more of that with you, too.

 

Spring has Sprung

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Even though it is barely the middle of August there is definitely spring (some would say summer) in the air.  Our winter was very mild here and we could be in for a long hot summer so it makes sense to get a head start on the summer growing season before it gets too hot.

I harvested the last 4 purple cabbages and dug over the bed in readiness to plant some beans.

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We have never had quite enough soil to fill these beds to the level I would like so I took the opportunity to add some more material to the bed before I planted the beans.

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This is one of the various mulch/compost piles that are dotted around our property.  GMan uses this one exclusively for grass clippings.  I know that the purists say that you cannot compost just one type of material such as lawn clippings but I can assure you that the underneath of this heap had broken down beautifully into rich compost and was teeming with worms.

We removed the decomposed material from the bottom of the heap and returned the rest to the heap for another day.

Here is the bed topped up and ready to plant.

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Meanwhile, I weeded the carrots which are continuing to grow nicely.  I have harvested some baby ones as I thinned them out.

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The newer blueberry bushes which are now a couple of years old, are finally getting established and showing some real signs of progress.  Some, like this one are covered with flowers and fruit.

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A closer view.

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Finally, a reminder that the garden is not only about growing food.  It is about enjoying our surroundings.  This photo is of the natural sculptural form of the the deciduous white cedar which dominates the back garden.

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What season is it in your garden?  Is it changing?  Have you modified your planting habits or even what you can grow to accommodate changes?