Finite Resources

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There are many, many ways of looking at the environmental issues facing our planet today.  Different people choose to focus on different things but our goal is the same – to do the best that we can to preserve the health of the planet for future generations.  Right?

Some people try to source as much as possible second-hand, others eschew plastic at every turn, barely a handful of waste is the goal sought by another group and then there are those who are always looking for a way to recycle or re-use items that are no longer required.

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Plastic seems to have been recently declared ‘public enemy no. 1’ due to the masses of micro (and not so micro) plastics in our oceans and the detrimental effect it is having on marine life.  I agree with this sentiment and do the best I can to minimise my use of single use plastic products.  However, I have not rushed to get rid of all my plastic containers and other items as I believe it is my responsibility to use my existing products wisely and extend their life as much as possible.

Some people disagree because of the perceived potential risks of using plastic – particularly where food and drink are concerned.  I do not have a problem with this as I do not use plastic for storing liquids, oils, acidic foods nor do I use plastic where there is heat involved – such as the microwave.

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There will always be some plastic products but it is our responsibility to restrict the use of plastics to those applications where it is necessary.  Not only for the marine life but due to the fact that plastic is made from oil which is a finite resource – there is not an endless supply.  Most people can clearly recognise single plastics – water bottles, drinking straws, disposable cutlery, takeaway food containers and so on but it is the composite plastics that are less obvious.  These include takeaway coffee cups, reuseable ‘green’ shopping bags, ‘foil’ chip packets and packaging where plastic may be sandwiched between 2 layers of paper or cardboard.

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The purpose of this blog post is to encourage people really try to make a difference where plastic products are concerned.

Here are a few goals.

  1.  Minimise your use of single use plastic items – look for re-useable, non-plastic alternatives.
  2. Dispose of any plastic waste carefully to ensure it stays out of waterways and oceans.
  3. Remember that plastic is manufactured from oil and oil is a finite resource.
  4. Use recycling as a last resort – it is not a licence to keep using as much plastic (and everything else) as we want and assuaging our guilt by simply tossing it in the recycle bin.  At best, plastic is downcycled not recycled.  It only has one secondary life then it becomes landfill.
  5. Be a conscious and responsible consumer.

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It is not yet July but there is no time like the present to begin to phase out the single-use plastics from your life and consider what else you can change.

 

 

My Own Advice

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Today I am swallowing some of my own advice.

In my last blog post I talked about not trying to meet prescriptive minimalist goals.  I eschewed the extreme attitude of Bea Johnson at Zero Waste Home as being not for me quite early in my minimalism journey.  There are numerous other extreme ideas such as wearing the same dress every day for a year.  I applaud the people that choose to push the boundaries and carry out these ideas but it is not for me.

However, I have been somewhat seduced by things such as Project 333 and Plastic-Free July.  I have discovered that the life I live does not necessarily meet the lofty ideals of these and similar sites.

I think that part of my ‘problem’ which is not really a problem at all is the fact that I am a well-rounded person (not necessarily in the physical sense).  I dabble in range of strategies to live simply, reduce consumption as well as saving money and resources and have done for quite some time.

It is those ideas and strategies that I try to share with you here on the blog.  The little day to day things that may not look like much but add up over time.

There are many others out there who are doing the same stuff every single day and I want to encourage you to do the same.

There are no numbers that you have to achieve, it is not a race but simply an invitation to live the best life you can.

That is enough talk from me – from tomorrow I will be back to sharing some of the practical things that are part of my routine.

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Almost July

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In another 9 days it will be July.  Six months of 2016 will be gone – that is half of the year.  The winter solstice (in the Southern hemisphere) is gone and now the days will begin to get longer, although the coolest days are still ahead of us.  Here in Australia the financial year ends on 30th June each year and then there will be a flurry of activity of tax returns and hopefully, refunds.

This year, the beginning of July will also herald a Federal election on 2nd July after an inordinately long campaign of about 8 weeks.  In some respects, it seems much longer as we were subjected to much speculation regarding the date prior to the actual announcement.

None of this fills me with particular joy and optimism but there is one highlight and that is ‘Plastic Free July’.

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‘Plastic Free July’ began with one Council in one city in Australia 5 years ago and last year the concept was embraced by groups and individuals in 69 countries around the globe.  You can read more here.

I have read various discussions in which people have mentioned that are are setting themselves up for the challenge by buying or making tulle vegetable bags and beeswax wraps as a substitute for plastic film.

My plan is continue much as I currently do and redouble my efforts to get rid of more single-use plastic from my life.

What single-use plastic could you eliminate?  What alternatives would you use?  Are you looking for ideas?

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas to develop a discussion where we can all learn from each other.

Here are some plastic-free treats from our vegie garden.

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Dragged Down

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As much as possible I try to keep my blog posts positive.  Now I know why.

During the last few days I have stumbled on some really negative and downright depressing discussions on the internet.  I have realised how much I have been dragged down by it all.  This combined with being tired from a busy work schedule has drained my creative juices and made writing a blog post almost impossible.

One of the discussions was related to this article which is well-written and contains some really useful information in the article and also within the links.  However, many of the responses were negative and ranged through bitterness, envy and disbelief.

The other was about global warming, although I prefer the term ‘climate change’ as a more accurate descriptor.  I was astounded and dismayed at the number of people who seemed unable to accept the premise of human-induced climate change which is accelerating at an ever increasing rate.  Even more worrying were the links being shared which referenced articles from such ‘luminaries’ as Ted Cruz, Andrew Bolt and Lord Monckton.

However, my faith was somewhat restored when I read this comment in the discussion.

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I thought I would add what I have been doing personally as I am very concerned about this issue myself.
I have read Naomi Klein book This changes everything. It was very hard to read for me as I need things set out more clearly in non fiction but she raised some good points. I also read Vandana Shiva Soil not oil which was much easier to read and something I felt I could do more about.
Switched to power shop for my electricity. Compost all food stuffs though council. Reduce car usage etc. Trying to cut down meat consumption. I know a lot of people think we should all just go vegan and angrily support that but I think think that would be like a badly failed diet for everyone. I think think you’re better off encouraging a slow change to encourage permanence.
I have joined one million women, 350. Org , green peace and a heap of others to support their works sign petitions etc.

Need to work on my plastic bag use and buying unnecessary packaging, although I am doing better than most I know.

It is lovely to hear of others who are prepared to do their bit and I applaud every small step that each and every one of us can take.

It is only 2 weeks until July – and that means 2 weeks until ‘Plastic-Free July’ so please take a look here and consider what you can do to make a difference.

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Going Shopping & Gluten-Free Muesli

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As many of you would be aware, I buy most of my dry goods from the bulk bins at Simply Good.  This means I can buy as much or as little of an item as want with no packaging and no waste.  This is a topic dear to my heart and one which is being encouraged during ‘Plastic-Free July’.  I use re-usable mesh bags for things like dried fruit, seeds and nuts and reuse paper bags for flours and almond meal.  Once I get home they are decanted into storage jars.

Storage jars
These are the ingredients I use to make my gluten-free muesli.  You can adjust the quantities to suit yourself.

3 cups coconut
3 cups pumpkin seeds
3 cups sunflower seeds
3 cups almonds (roughly chopped) – I use the food processor
2 cups sultanas
2 cups flaxseed meal
1/4 cup cinnamon

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Gluten-free muesli
I store my mix in a large airtight container.

Muesli container
To serve – I use 1/4 cup of muesli and add 1 dessertspoon each of chia seeds and psyllium husk.  I usually add 1 apple (grated) and 1 kiwifruit (chopped) plus a spoonful of plain yoghurt.  It makes a delicious and satisfying breakfast.

Plastic Free? – Not Yet

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As we approach the end of the month I feel as though I am limping towards the finish line with respect to Plastic Free July.

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On Wednesday we bought a new telephone for home.  It has an inbuilt answering machine and a second handset.  It was packaged in a cardboard box which is great but every single item was separately wrapped in plastic!

Plastic packaging

I generally keep any plastic bags that do happen to make their way into our home.  Even ones with air holes are used for containing rubbish.  These are too small to be of any use so I think I will have to pack them all inside one bag and then put them in the rubbish.  This is far from an ideal solution but the main thing will be to ‘dispose of thoughtfully’ so that they do not end up in the marine environment where plastic does untold damage.  Here is an example that I saw posted on Facebook the other day.  It comes from this page.

Photo: As a little baby this poor snapper turtle swam through a plastic ring and got stuck. Conscious Consumers - think about the plastic you buy and how you dispose of it.

Today I bought a book for our guests to write comments on their stay.  I looked at several different ones but in the end I decided that rather than a generic one with a black vinyl (plastic) cover from the newsagent that I would buy a handcrafted one from an independent bookstore in our town.  It is made in Sri Lanka using handmade paper from elephant dung and post-consumer waste paper.  The only problem was that it was packaged in shrink-wrap plastic.  This will go in the bin along with the telephone packaging.  Here is the book (plastic removed) and the addition of a title (printed by me).

Guest book

I have also bought more yoghurt, cheese and milk – all in plastic.

So what have I learned from participating in Plastic Free July?  Awareness, mostly.  It is pretty difficult to live an existence that is completely free of single-use plastics.  I think in the scheme of things that I do quite well, but there is room for improvement.  The dairy products are the only things that I buy regularly in plastic.  Reducing consumption in all aspects of your life and not buying new will certainly limit the plastics more than anything else you do.

I bought the regular things that I do this month so this is a true indication of the single-use plastics that I contribute to the waste stream.