The Big 4

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When it comes to Plastic Free July and reducing your single-use plastics for the long-term good of the planet in general and the oceans in particular, there are 4 major culprits.

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Although they are the worst offenders, I think it is relatively easy to make changes to eliminate many of them.

In no particular order they are:

Coffee cups
Bags
Straws
Bottles

Why are they regarded as the biggest problems?

  1.  Volume – there are just so many used every single day.
  2.  Only used once in most instances.
  3. Lightweight – so they easily become unintentional litter which ends up in waterways and ultimately in the ocean.
  4. Unnecessary – there are easy alternatives.

What do you currently do and what can you change to reduce your usage of these plastic ‘nasties’?

I will address one of these items each day and today I will begin with coffee cups.

Australians have developed a love affair with coffee, and more specifically takeaway coffee.  Once upon a time we were a nation of tea drinkers and coffee was almost a special occasion drink.  Even more recently the norm was to go to a cafe and sit down with a cup of coffee.  However, the trend of grabbing a coffee ‘to go’ has become a national pastime and we are killing the oceans in the process.

Those innocuous paper cups are NOT recyclable, compostable or anything else.  They are rubbish, that at best ends up in landfill or at worst in the ocean.  This is because they are made of composite materials, including a layer of plastic.

The recent ABC television program, ‘War on Waste’ shone the light squarely on disposable coffee cups and the havoc they are creating.

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I am not a coffee drinker and fail to grasp what amounts to an addiction to coffee but you can still have your ‘caffeine fix’ without destroying the planet.

Simply take your reusable cup along to your favourite cafe and have it filled for you to take away.  Simple.  Easy.  We could very quickly eliminate disposable coffee cups.

Some cafes even offer a discount as an incentive to bring your own mug.  If your cafe is not willing to oblige you could vote with your feet and take your custom elsewhere as there are no shortage of cafes looking for your business.  Remember, conscious consumption can make a difference.

So, what is your coffee story?  Do you take a reusable cup for your coffee?  How it is received?  Do you get a discount?

 

 

Everything Good

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Tonight I want to share a find for ‘Plastic-Free July’ which officially begins today.

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We recently discovered a local business on the Steve Irwin Way at Glasshouse Mountains.  It is called ‘Everything Good‘ but if you drive this way you probably know it simply as the fruit and vegetable stall between Glasshouse Mountains and Beerwah.

The unassuming frontage hides a treasure trove of fruit and vegetables, much of it locally grown and some organic.  The majority is unpackaged, too.  The tables at the front offer up a variety of punnets of flower, vegetable and herb seedlings.  If you head out the back there is an amazing nursery with a great range of healthy plants.

When we were here a couple of weeks ago I noticed some ‘Boomerang Bags’ hanging up behind the counter.  Each time we have shopped here I get some positive feedback from the staff about my tulle produce bags.  It is lovely to feel that we are among like-minded friends when shopping at ‘Everything Good’.

Today we had a longer conversation with the gentleman who runs the shop and it is obvious that he is passionate about limiting plastic packaging so he has definitely won my custom.

Although they do not have a website, the link near the beginning of this post will give you a little more information about this great business.  I noticed on this page a mention of recycling punnets and pots so I will definitely be chatting to him about returning punnets for reuse.

We grow some of our own fruit and vegetables but it is fantastic to have a local business where we can source unpackaged produce without a battle.  Congratulations to ‘Everything Good’.  May there be many more similar shops in the not too distant future.

Are you committed to reducing your consumption of single-use plastics during July and beyond?  What are your specific plans?

A Particular Passion

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During the holiday break I have had time to read and post in various groups and forums.  I participate to varying degrees in several groups.  I find that many of them have quite a narrow focus, sometimes to the exclusion of all else.

Some of the topics covered include:

Frugal Living
Zero Waste
DeclutteringMinimalism
Veganism
Upcycling
Buying Nothing New
Simple Living
Plastic Free Living

I dabble in all of these to some degree apart from veganism although we have reduced our intake of red meat to quite a modest level.

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At times it seems that I am not sufficiently passionate about any single topic, however, I feel that they are all inter-related and one aspect can support another.

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Hence, this blog contains posts which cover and wide range of topics and I hope you will find something of interest to you.

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Please let me know if there are particular topics which you would prefer to see more of or less.

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A New Bag

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I promised I would share some of the things I spent my time on during my Christmas/NewYear break from work.

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This is a bag which had definitely seen better days. It is over 20 years old and the handles were worn out.  I had cut the handles off before I took the photo but you can see that they really needed replacing.

My daughter arrived a couple of days before Christmas and had used a couple of large paper carry bags from boutiques to pack some of her Christmas gifts.  One bag had split and could no longer be used so I cut the heavy ribbon carry handles off it.  They were just the right length to use to replace the handles on my bag.

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I wonder if it will last for another 20 years?

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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Competing Priorities

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Today I want to address the problem I have with all of the different issues competing for priority.   Do you buy locally produced or imported organic?  Fairtrade or the cheapest available?  What about produce that is cheaper per kilo if it is already bagged in plastic?

Clearly, this the best.  Grown without pesticides within 100 metres of my kitchen and no packaging.

005Unfortunately, we cannot produce everything ourselves, hence my opening question.

Some bloggers are very clear in their strategy and I admire them for their single-mindedness.  However, I do not not want to be quite as fanatical on any one particular issue but rather to approach the things we do buy with a more holistic view.

Here are some that I read:

Zero Waste Home – as the title suggests
My Plastic Free Life – as per the title
Frugal Queen – frugality first

I have tried to minimise the plastics that we use, particularly single-use items, for many years.

This is one of our stainless steel drink bottles.  I am not saying that we always take our own drinks or that I never buy drinks in plastic bottles.  However, we have got rid of the 15 or so plastic drink bottles that we had acquired over the years and I studiously avoid collecting any more from corporate events and the like.

004These are some glass storage jars in my pantry, albeit with plastic lids.  They are old coffee jars which came from my mother.  I do use plastic screw top containers as well in my pantry.  While it would be nice to have everything stored in glass, I would prefer to re-use something I already have than go out and buy more things.  I do not see a significant health risk in storing dry goods in plastic food-grade containers.

006I do try to use glass containers rather than plastic for heating and cooking in the microwave.

007Despite my best efforts not to acquire any plastic bags over the past 10 years we still have some.  They are used for various purposes, washed and re-used over and over again.  Here are some hanging out to dry.

2012-04-21 05I buy a lot of our dry goods from bulk bins and store some of them in large plastic buckets.  Here is my new storage cupboard showing the buckets as well as the boxes of plastic bottles that The Duke uses when bottling his home-brew.  There will be doors on the cupboard once they are finished being painted.

First and foremost my strategy is to buy only what we really need.  If you remove excess consumption from your lifestyle then you eliminate a lot of waste immediately.

I buy as much as possible from bulk bins and am constantly looking to source less wasteful options for everything I purchase.  However, I know that quite a lot of this is imported.  The upside is that dried beans for example, weigh less than the equivalent in canned beans, therefore the transport costs (petroleum products) are reduced.

I source meat and fresh produce as locally as possible to reduce ‘food miles’ but do not set arbitrary limits, such as the 100 Mile Diet.  This concept began as a blog in 2005 by 2 Canadians.  I cannot find the original blog but this link explains it.  The idea is excellent and it reminds as all to consider the source of our food.

I take my own containers to the butcher to eliminate plastic bags from that source.

I have reusable mesh bags for buying fruit and vegetables and pay mostly pay the extra for loose produce.

Why organic?  Read here to see which fresh foods are likely to retain the most pesticides.  Consider growing your own if possible or buying organic of at least some of ‘the dirty dozen’.  I do not necessarily follow all of my own advice on this one but intend to re-double my efforts.

Fairtrade?  Coffee – always.  Chocolate – rarely bought so I have not been so diligent.

What about you?  Are any or all of these issues important to you?  How do you decide what is a priority for you?