Cause for Optimism

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It is easy to feel worn down and thwarted at every turn when you try to live according to your values with regards to reducing your carbon footprint.  However, this is not always the case.  At times there is cause for great joy and optimism and I have experienced that feeling this week.

I have been buying laundry liquid, pre-soak stain remover, dishwashing liquid and dishwasher powder from Felix at Kin Kin Naturals for a number of years now.  This family business is located at Kin Kin in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, about 80km north of where I live.  The products are available nationally particularly in Queensland and most especially on the Sunshine Coast.

Felix also sells the products at the Kin Kin markets which are held once a month in the small village.  We make the trip about every 6 months and stock up because it is cheaper to buy them direct from the producer.  Additionally, if I pre-order by email I can avoid new plastic packaging and buy the liquids packaged in re-used 2 or 3 litre juice bottles.  You can see some in the photo below from when I cleaned out the laundry cupboards.  You can read about it in this post.

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Last week I emailed an order to be collected at the next market at the beginning of April.  I decided to make it a bit more than just an order and sent the following email.

Hi Felix

I have previously purchased products from you at the Kin Kin markets on several occasions.  I have bought the dishwashing liquid and laundry liquid in the reused 2 and 3 litre juice which I really appreciate as it helps to limit the amount of plastic waste which our household generates.

I would like to buy:

8 litres of lavender and ylang ylang laundry liquid in the reused bottles
4 litres of tangerine and mandarin dishwashing liquid in the reused bottles
1 x 2.5kg refill pack of lemon myrtle and lime dishwasher powder
2 x 1.2kg eucalypt and lime eco laundry soaker

Does the laundry soaker come in refill packs?  If so, that would be my preference.

Is it possible or have you ever considered having bulk containers of all products at the market so that people can bring their own containers to be refilled?

There is a growing movement of people who are trying to reduce/eliminate single use plastic (including packaging).  Many of us are keen to buy/support locally produced/family businesses such as yours who produce a true eco-friendly product. Any opportunity to purchase these products without additional plastic would really be appreciated.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your help.

Kind regards

I really had no idea what sort of response I would get so I was absolutely delighted to receive the following email 2 days later.

Hi Yvonne,

Thanks for your order – and for thinking with us on how to reduce senseless packaging.

I will put 2.5 kg of laundry soaker in a refill pack rather than 2 of the plastic jars. Depending on the exact size of the re-used bottles on hand when we fill we’re looking at about 17 kg/L total x $5 = around $85 for your order please.

I can see the beauty of refilling on the spot at the markets but I prefer the current way of pre-ordered re-used containers because we are doing only the Kin Kin markets which are on only once a month and would be stuck with remainders of the refill drums of each of the 4 liquid variants for months which wouldn’t be ideal for product freshness.

On your broader question of packaging reduction, great point. Our current approach is to encourage stores to get our 20L drums and offer refills from those. The problem is that apart from a few stores in an area with refill-minded people (e.g., Cooran and Pomona) this refill route isn’t doing too well, I think mainly because stores don’t like the extra effort, mess – and of course selling a prefilled plastic bottle is easier, but that’s what Coles and Woolies can do too. If you have any ideas, don’t hesitate..

See you at the April markets.

I will respond to Felix and also look forward to discussing some possibilities when I see him next month.

In the meantime, this has renewed my confidence in the ability of individual consumers to influence positive change.  Not every approach will be received as positively as the example above but I will definitely be making more of an effort in the future to provide feedback to suppliers and retailers regarding plastic packaging.

Upcycling

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Over the past few months I have become involved in a couple of zero-waste groups on Facebook.It is not a concept which is particularly new to me as I have been using resusable shopping bags for well over 20 years.  I do not use plastic film or alfoil and generally take my own containers to buy most of my unpackaged groceries.  Single use plastic is my main focus but zero-waste means different things to different people and there is always something new and exciting to learn.

Many in the group have bought or created their own ‘eating out’ kit.  This has not been a priority for me as I take a packed lunch to work and have access to a kitchen.  I do keep my own set of cutlery in the drawer of my desk.

However, I rethought how I could incorporate this idea when an Air BnB guest asked for a serviette (napkin) when she was making her breakfast in the kitchen.  It occurred to me that I could do something similar to provide all of the utensils and napkin ready to use in one simple bundle.

I set to work with an existing placemat and some heavy cotton fabric which was once a bedspread but has been re-purposed for several uses.

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I added a divided pocket to hold the cutlery, a fabric loop for the linen napkin and a tie to the back to secure the kit when it is rolled up.

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Ready for dinner.

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The linen napkin is one of several I made a few years ago from some spare fabric but had not used.

Here it is rolled up and ready for use.  I will make a second one of these and add them to the facilities provided for our Air BnB guests.  This way they will have everything at their fingertips and can easily use it at the dining table, outdoor table or breakfast bar.

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If I was making one for taking out and about, I would probably consider making a small, cylindrical drawstring bag for it.

 

 

I Bought a Bucket

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This may seem like mindless consumption as I did already have a bucket to collect the kitchen scraps for the compost but I recently bought a new compost bucket.

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I first considered buying this over 12 months ago when I saw the one my daughter had at her place.  The thing that appealed to me about it was the drop-in lid with a silicone seal.  The following photo shows the lid  and also  the bucket insert.  It is also rather more stylish when sitting on the kitchen bench and has the added bonus of being labelled which is a help to guests who are unfamiliar with our kitchen.

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These are the 2 buckets I have used previously.  Each one is a bit larger than the new one so I will definitely need to empty it each day but that is not a great imposition.  The lid is the main problem as it takes 2 hands to seal it tightly as opposed to the drop-in lid on the new one.

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I ordered the bucket online and it arrived packaged in a cardboard box.  This had clearly been re-used which is pleasing but the downside was that it had 2 layers of plastic tape.  I managed to remove all of the tape so that I can use the cardboard as weed mat in the garden.  There was quite a pile of tape.

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In fact, the tape contributed quite a significant portion of our waste for the week.  You can see it all here.

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The rubbish for this week weighed in at 264g which is considerably more than the previous couple of weeks.  This is due in to the plastic sticky tape from the cardboard box.  There is also a selection of items, including, plastic bags from rice paper wrappers, tortillas, cheese and carrots, an expired credit card, foil packet from medications, festival wristband, bottle tops, screen cleaning cloth and plastic packaging from a computer program.

Back to the Scales

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Some years ago I weighed our rubbish each week for a period of time.  The quantity was small but I cannot even remember the approximate weights.

I have decided to make a start on this again and redouble our efforts to reduce our small amount of waste that goes to landfill even further.

This is the contents of our kitchen bin for approximately 2 weeks.

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Not all of it is identifiable but there are 2 cheese wrappers, packaging from a parcel we received, an old sponge (left by housesitters 6 months ago), a mouldy ziplock bag which was beyond being salvaged, a small mayonnaise bottle and a butter wrapper (Aldi have changed to foil wrappers – not happy so I will be voting with my feet and buying butter elsewhere in future).  The rest is mostly plastic packaging of one sort and another – mostly one off items from Christmas gifts/catering.  The silver star looks like something from a child’s toy which has been left here – so not strictly our waste but it does have to be discarded.

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Here it is – all packaged up.  I put most of the small bits compacted into the ziplock bag.  I always try to contain any small, lightweight rubbish as the last thing I want is for it to drift out of the collection truck or the landfill site and end up in a watercourse.

The next step was to put it all in the parcel post bag and weigh it.

152g or 5 and 3/8 ounces for my non-metric friends.

Once I had done this I put the rubbish in the bin, except for the post bag which I have saved for next week’s rubbish.

From now on I will weigh and post about the rubbish each Friday so that we have a weekly total for comparison.  It will vary from week to week as some things are only discarded rarely but my hope is that we will continue to generate very little waste.

Plastic is definitely the major culprit when it comes to items going to landfill.  The challenge is to look for feasible alternatives and investigate any recycling options for those items which I do not currently recycle.

Do you generate much waste?  Are you looking for ways to reduce your use of single-use plastic items?  I would love to hear your stories so that we can encourage each other.

Not My Trash

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There seem to be various reasons for people choosing to substantially reduce the amount of waste that their household produces but it is essentially about not turning our planet into a mega rubbish dump.  One of the most visible issues is the plastic in our oceans so removing single-use plastic items from your life is a good first step.

The goal of zero waste is admirable but what about the litter that seems to be everywhere?

This morning I went for a walk.  We live in a semi-rural area on a narrow secondary road.  This is what I collected.

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Pepsi bottle
Iced coffee bottle plus 2 pieces of the plastic label
Flattened soft drink can
Turkish delight wrapper
Half of a single serve yoghurt container
Plastic bag
Broken reflector from a vehicle

Apart from the reflector, all of the other items were knowingly discarded.  Almost everything relates to food and drink and the aluminium drink can is the only piece that is not single use plastic.

I know this is only a very small sample but I think these items clearly tell the story of where change needs to occur.

Things you can do that will make a difference (apart from not littering):

Pack your own food and drink for when you are out and about.
If you buy take-away take your own containers or choose compostable packaging.
Lobby governments to introduce container deposit legislation for all beverage containers.
Lobby for a ban on plastic bags.

One of Each

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I wear very little make-up but I do use a dusting of blush and some lipstick each day I go to work.  I have streamlined to the extent that I own and use just one lipstick and one blush.

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Today I noticed that both items are well-used and will be emptied at some point.

I found this blog post from 11th January 2016 in which I mentioned needing to buy some new make-up.  12 months later and these are still going strong.  I expect that it will be about another 3 months before I feel the need to buy any more.

The packaging is plastic and will be rubbish which goes to landfill.  While this is not a good thing, I feel that I am doing my bit by using very little make-up or beauty products.  By buying the absolute minimum I am making a contribution to reducing the waste produced by the beauty industry.

Zero Waste

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As a follow-up to my post from yesterday, I want to talk more about ‘zero waste’.  What is it?  Is it unrealistic?  Do you prefer an alternative term?  Does it really matter?

I have been tossing around these and other questions recently, so I thought I would share my thoughts with you.  I would love to hear how you feel about this, too.

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Zero waste is a phrase which first entered my consciousness about 5 years ago when I stumbled upon a blog by Bea Johnson.  More about that later, but apparently the term ‘zero waste’ was first coined in the mid 1990s.  This is what Wikipedia has to say:

Zero Waste is a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. No trash is sent to landfills or incinerators. The process recommended is one similar to the way that resources are reused in nature. The definition adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA)[1] is:

Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.

Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health

Zero Waste refers to waste management and planning approaches which emphasize waste prevention as opposed to end-of-pipe waste management.[2] It is a whole systems approach that aims for a massive change in the way materials flow through society, resulting in no waste.[2] Zero waste encompasses more than eliminating waste through recycling and reuse, it focuses on restructuring production and distribution systems to reduce waste.[3] Zero waste is more of a goal or ideal rather than a hard target.[4] Zero Waste provides guiding principles for continually working towards eliminating wastes.[2]

Advocates expect that government regulation is needed[3] [2] to influence industrial choices over product and packaging design, manufacturing processes, and material selection.[5]

Advocates say eliminating waste eliminates pollution, and can also reduce costs due to reduced need for raw materials.

I mentioned Bea Johnson’s blog earlier.  You can take a look here.  Many people find her style and enthusiasm inspiring.  I do not.  She presents herself with an almost evangelical zeal which I find irritating and I believe that could turn away many who want to dip their toe in the water because they simply do not feel that they can measure up to her exacting standards.

The following quote is an excerpt from her bio on the blog:

This blog and my bestselling book, Zero Waste Home (available in 12 languages), have launched a global movement, inspiring thousands of people throughout the world to live simply and take a stance against needless waste.

Good on Bea for having the idea to grab a catchy slogan “zero-waste” and market the concept but I take exception to the notion that she somehow invented the idea of seriously refusing and reducing waste.  Her timing was perfect – by 2008 there was a critical mass, particularly in parts of the USA and Europe, of people who were prepared to hear her message.  There are people in Australia, and globally, who have been living and promoting this ideal every day for close to 40 years yet there is barely an acknowledgement of their contribution in paving the way to allow this 2008 epiphany to occur.

Meanwhile, through this blog I am trying to connect with other concerned individuals to gently encourage you to begin to make the changes which will reduce the waste produced by your household.

As with everything, people have taken zero waste and put their own spin on it.  For some, it is about eliminating all plastics.  For others it is rejecting single-use plastic items such as supermarket bags and straws.  Still others are keen to replace disposables with reusable alternatives – handkerchiefs instead of tissues, cloths instead of paper towel, lids instead of plastic wrap and so on.

Whatever you call it, there are a couple of things I would like to remind you about.

It is not a race to zero.
Start slowly or the changes will not be sustainable.
Remember the hierarchy – recycling should be the last resort – not the first option.
Perfection is virtually impossible due to the way our society and economy are structured.
Do what you can but don’t be disillusioned.
Choose your battles.

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And finally, any reduction that you and your family make with respect to what is sent to landfill is a good thing.

Personally, I am not terribly comfortable with the term ‘zero waste’ in the context that many people choose to use it.  I prefer something as simple as rubbish reduction.  However, our goal is the same.

It is easy to become complacent because you have cleverly managed to take you own glass jar to have it refilled with some type of foodstuff, therefore it is zero waste.  Unless you go to the farm and pick the vegetables or milk the cow directly into your glass bottle I do not consider it zero waste.  The dry goods in bulk bins travel to the shop in packaging (generally plastic-lined) and the milk is transported in some type of vessel.  Whilst this may sound extreme, I am simply trying to point out that a true zero-waste meal is a bit of a myth unless you are foraging for all of your food.

I believe that single-use plastics are a very good place to start reducing your rubbish.

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Take fabric/reusable bags or boxes to carry your groceries home.
Make or buy lightweight bags for buying fruit and vegetables.  Remove plastic film from your life.  If you have not got it you will find an alternative.
Wash and reuse (as many times as possible) any plastic bags you already have in your possession.
Consider your shopping list.  Look for items with less packaging or able to be bought in bulk.
Take you own containers when buying products that are not pre-packaged – meat, dry goods, deli items.
Look for loose fruit and vegetable produce rather than pre-packed.
Try growing even one or two vegetables or fruit depending on your location and living arrangements.

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What do you already do to reduce the amount of rubbish which your household produces?

What changes would you consider implementing in 2017 to reduce your waste even further?