It’s my belief that aiming for simplicity in life is not only good for our state of mind but for the planet, too! In these posts, I talk about several “consumerism detoxes” I have embarked on and other issues related to pairing down.

Is it worth continuing to try? .. Coming to terms with the health of the Great Barrier Reef

Do you ever find yourself avoiding environmental reality? For months – years – I had been tuning out to a lot of the updates about the health of the Great Barrier Reef. I always supported the efforts to help it and advocated a sustainable and plastic-free lifestyle, but the facts were sometimes too much to handle and I chose to stay largely in the dark. Then suddenly, recently, while scrolling through Facebook I started coming across the reports that the reef has succumbed to another major bleaching event. This, again, after last year’s major bleaching event which killed two-thirds of the reef’s precious corals. Some authorities have pronounced the reef dead, while others say that is in critical condition. Either way, this second bleaching event is another devastating blow and not a situation that is forecasted to improve.

I have an eighteen-month-old daughter who is just learning to talk. Every morning she takes me by hand to the baby-proofed drawer that holds her swimsuits and pajamas. She points to it and says “beach?” We live in a beachside neighbourhood so a play at the beach is a part of our normal morning routine. This morning, while she took off her sandals to jump into the warm, sparkling, bright-white Australian sand, my heart broke. For decades, environmentalists have been warning us to change our ways, or we will lose our natural wonders. Somehow, I don’t think most people really understood the warning or comprehended what it would really mean – and how it would feel – to lose something as magnificent as the Great Barrier Reef. Will I have to explain what the reef was like to my daughter the way that her teachers will describe the dinosaurs? Is there no possibility of showing it to her in person?

Sitting on our bath towel while my daughter played with shells, I wondered if it is worth continuing in my environmental pursuits. For all our efforts, the reef is dying or maybe has already died. The tropical rainforests of Indonesia and Brazil also continue to be decimated, and the planet continues to warm. Is it worth trying so hard to get my partner to stop bringing home plastic bags? Is it worth posting photos of my plastic free shampoo bars to Instagram in hope of inspiring one or two more people to do the same? Can the meaningful small efforts of those of us who care really make a dent in the overwhelming issues that seem to be snowballing and suffocating our delicate Earth?

I really am not sure of the answer to these questions but despite my haunting sadness, I feel that if we were to stop trying to help, our souls would die along with the reef. I know that for me, at least, the answer is to keep going.

 

Note: for anyone local to the Gold Coast, please support my friend Mollie’s initiative to project the Great Barrier Reef. She is holding a beach cleanup and event to support the reef this Sunday, the 30th of April.

Shock horror in the baby food aisle

Shock horror in the baby food aisle – 3 steps for saving money and reducing the carbon footprint of your baby

This post was originally published on 1 Million Women.

I have an eight month old baby but it’s only been in the past two months that I’ve started cruising down the baby aisle of the supermarket. She was breast fed and I used cloth nappies so I really had no reason to be there. It wasn’t until I was ready to start her on solid foods that I started having a look at what the supermarkets had to offer.

I was horrified.

I had no idea that most of the baby food that is available for purchase these days are packaged in single use, plastic squeeze tubes. I assumed that everything was still in glass jars like they were 30 years ago when my brother was a baby. I discovered that you can still buy baby food in jars but the selection is severely limited and the glass section tends to be down low, away from the flashy squeeze tubes at prominent eye level.

I then looked to the other side of the aisle where they keep the nappies and nearly fainted. Huggies Little Swimmers (disposable swim nappies) were selling for $14.99 AU for a twelve pack. Yikes!! That’s $1.25 per nappy and they’re not biodegradable.

 

(Can you hear my screams?)

 

Here are three small things every parent can do to reduce their carbon footprint. As a bonus, all of these strategies are also money savers. How’s that for two birds with one stone?!

1. Invest in a cloth swim nappy.

Cloth nappies and cloth wipes, in general, are awesome but if you aren’t sure about making the switch to full time cloth, a cloth swim nappy is so easy, so convenient, and so economical. You just throw it in the wash with the swimsuits and towels, My daughter has so far never pooped in her swim nappy but should that ever happen, you just have to get the poo into the toilet somehow before washing it (note -for babies exclusively breastfed that haven’t started on solids, you don’t have to do this – the poo is water solluble and can go through the wash). We have a little scrubby brush for doing this with her normal nappies. It sounds disgusting but it’s really not a big deal.

 

2. Simplify your dinners so that your baby can eat what you eat.

When you’re really busy, the thought of making your own baby food can feel like such a chore (seriously – lugging out the food processor can be such a pain in the rear) but if you just aim to cook meals that have things your baby can eat anyway (roast veggies you can mush with a fork, risotto, small pasta pieces, sliced avocado, etc.) it’s not a drama to just make a little extra and then freeze small portions for other times. Or you could even consider baby lead weaning where you skip the mushy ‘baby food’ thing all together. It’s worth a google.

 

3. If you do decide to purchase baby food, go for the glass jars.

At least with the glass jars, you have some options. You can re-use them to store your leftover baby-friendly meals (yes, you can freeze jars), you can up-cycle them into other things like these super cute picture frame magnets which the grandmas in my family are toootally getting at Christmas or to organise like a boss.   And of course, with jars, you always have that option of chucking them into the recycling bin.

 

Kick start your climate action journey

This article was originally published on 1 Million Women

 

THERE’S A MISCONCEPTION OUT THERE THAT GOOD ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP HAS TO BE EXPENSIVE.

But in many cases, major corporations are simply greenwashing to add a higher price tag to their products or services. Environmentalism has become a marketing scheme but it doesn’t need to be this way.

One of the simplest ways to work those environmental muscles is to invest five bucks into a good old fashioned library card. I don’t know about you, but for years, I kind of forgot about libraries. When I was a kid we always went to the library. However, as an adult, this habit fell by the wayside. Instead, I’d spend $30 for a book I’d read once and then stash away on a bookshelf where it would collect dust.  As I’ve mentioned before, excessive consumerism is troublesome for three major reasons:

 

1. It increases our carbon footprint

2. It’s costly

3. It creates clutter

 

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

I re-discovered libraries a couple of years ago. While I don’t always go as often as I would like, I am always glad when I do. I always find some obscure, out of print book to borrow that I might not have been able to find in a traditional bookstore.

These kinds of reads are ones that I’m curious about, but really wouldn’t want to buy and keep forever – things like knitting books, cookbooks, inspirational books on really random topics, and novels I can’t imagine I would re-read. I also usually come home with a couple DVDs and magazines, too. Plus most libraries provide free Internet, which makes them a great resource if you don’t want to foot a wi-fi bill at home.

Image: UnsplashI think what I love most about libraries, is that they remind us we don’t actually need to own everything. It really is ok to enjoy something and then let it go again. And that’s not just a lesson in frugality and consumerism; it’s a spiritual lesson as well. Libraries remind us how to share; read a book, return the book, and let someone else have a turn. It’s nice to be a part of a sharing culture, instead of a “me, mine, now” culture.

The tradition of a library bag is another great lesson in sustainability. Libraries don’t supply plastic bags to carry our items home. So they also give us that great gift of reminding us that it really is possible to use our arms to carry things instead of non-biodegradeable single-use plastic bags.

 

Related: The two plastic bag habits by grocery stores that piss me off the most

Roadtest: The Pros and Cons of Cloth Nappies

Image: Kingston & Merton Real Nappy Network

This article was originally published on 1 Million Women.

 

It’s amazing how things that are environmentally savvy also tend to be economical.

Almost four months ago I entered into a new phase of life. I became a mum. It has been exciting, rewarding, exhausting, and illuminating. One of the biggest surprises was discovering just how often a newborn baby ‘goes to the bathroom’ and just how expensive single-use diapers are. I had no idea.

It didn’t take me long to learn that it’s not unusual to change a baby as much as ten times a day which over the course of a year amounts to over 3500 nappy changes. For babies like mine that seem, to fill up a nappy that was put on just five minutes earlier, that number might be far higher!

By the time a child reaches that most highly awaited milestone of being fully toilet trained, most parents will have paid over

I love picking out cute nappies to match my baby's outfits

I love picking out cute nappies to match my baby’s outfits

$3,000 for single-use nappies and that doesn’t include the cost of wipes. Not surprising, the environmental ramifications associated with nappies are frightening as well. In the United States alone, enough single use nappies are disposed of each year to fill Yankee Stadium 15 times. And as a non-biodegradable product, that means that this giant mass of diapers just sits in landfills, growing year after year, generation after generation. The feces contained within the nappies also leak out and contaminate ground water but that’s an even bigger can of worms that we’ll open up another time.

As a greenie from way back, I was always planning to use cloth nappies when I had children but I’ll admit the process of actually doing this had me pretty intimidated. Most of the baby supply stores in my area didn’t carry cloth nappies and the Kmart and Big W type stores only sold the old fashioned ones that my mother’s generation used. They are basically square shaped towels that you fold and pin yourself in a form of bum origami. I did buy a few packets of these but, in the end used them mostly as burp cloths.

 

A few nappies from our growing collection

A few nappies from our growing collection

After my baby had finally arrived, I stumbled upon what are known in Australia as “Modern Cloth Nappies” or “MCNs”. They cost anywhere between $10 and $30 a piece and are easy to use, come in lots of different colours and patterns (so great for an Australian summer – who needs clothes!), and best of all – can be adjusted in size to fit your little one from the time they are about one month old until they are fully toilet trained. There are many types of MCNs. The ones that I use have a pocket in the back where you insert a large, absorbent microfibre pad. The moisture from the urine gets sucked into this pad and your baby’s bum stays dry.

 

 

There are also many nappy companies run by what the cloth nappy community call “WAHMs” (Work at Home Mums). Supporting these companies gives you the opportunity to not only save yourself some money and help the planet, but you also get that awesome feeling of knowing you’ve just helped out a fellow mum.

I purchased most of my nappies from one such WAHM company called Little Aussie Monster for $10 to $15 a piece. I didn’t have enough money to purchase enough nappies all at once to move into cloth straight away (most people recommend you have at least two dozen cloth nappies for a newborn – less for a toddler). Instead, I would buy two or three nappies each payday until I built up a collection large enough to kick disposables out of my life completely!

 

I’m only a few months down the cloth nappy road but I’m really surprised by how much I am enjoying it. I find that the cloth nappies do a better job at preventing blow-outs than the disposables and are much more stylish. If I were to move back to disposables at this stage in the game, it would be like exchanging all of my clothes for plastic hospital gowns! I just could not do it.

 

For those of you with little ones, do you use cloth nappies or have you thought about it?  Let’s discuss in the comments!

The two plastic bag habits by grocery stores that annoy me most

Plastic bags.  The nemesis of the environmentally-minded.  They are an old issue but they are still a big issue.  And there are two things about them in particular that make me want to scream.

 

.. But first, let me please preface this by saying that honestly, I could live in a world with disposable plastic shopping bags and not feel the need to go on a crusade.  I get that people use them as rubbish bin liners and without them just end up buying plastic bin liners anyway.  And I don’t resent people that re-use them in that way.  It’s what I do.  Mostly because even though I try to remember to say “I don’t need a bag, thanks!”, I sometimes forget and suddenly all my purchases are being put into one and I don’t always have the energy to ask them to take the stuff OUT of the bag.  But the stats say that only 3% of plastic shopping bags are ever re-used so the bin liner argument probably isn’t grounds to keep them.  But alas, this isn’t even what pisses me off about single use shopping bags.

 

Here is my first major pet peeve about them –

 

  1. Is it really necessary for merchants to put ONE SINGLE ITEM into a bag?  I mean, is it really that much harder to hold a bottle of juice than to hold a bag holding a bottle of juice?

 

I mean if I was buying a big black dildo or something, I’d be all for it.  Bag that shit up!  But juice??  My favourite phrase in the world is “would you like a bag?” because it at least gives you a chance to think about it and be like, “oh duh, no I don’t need a bag for this one single thing”.  Or if you’re a girl, you might think to yourself, “My purse is gigantic.  I might as well put these two lip glosses I just bought into my purse instead of the TINY plastic bag that they’ll give me” ..  because let’s face it,  you’re NEVER going to use that tiny, useless bag again because it’s way too small to serve any kind of practical purpose.  Nope, you’ll just throw it away as soon as you get home.  Of course you imagine it’ll go to a landfill like it’s meant to but there’s a good chance it’ll fly off the back of the garbage truck on the way there.  I’ve seen sooooo many bags fly off garbage trucks and I’ve seen soooo many animals with bits of plastic bags inside them.  I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

 

And here’s another thing that just kills me –

 

2.   Is it really necessary for merchants to wrap “wet” items in separate bags to save your other items from the moisture?

 

Often I bring a re-usable bag to a shop and will buy something like a bottle of coke.  The merchants almost always start putting the coke into a plastic bag to “save” my re-usable bag from the condensation.  This happened to me just the other day and the conversation went a little something like this:

 

“oh I’ll just put that in my bag here”

“but it’s wet, I’ll just wrap it up for you”

“no it’s ok, I don’t mind”

“you don’t want a bag?”

“no, it’s ok”

“you sure?”

“yeah, I’ll be fine”

“oooohhh kaaaaaayyy”

 

Ummmm.  Hello, have you not considered that I brought my own bag because I HATE PLASTIC BAGS??!!!  I mean I get that I’m not in the Pacific North West anymore and there is a very different culture here around the environment but I’m sorry, a tiny bit of moisture won’t hurt anything but plastic bags do  .. all the time!  Enough already!  I’ve realised that the wrapping cold items in separate bags thing is considered good service but it just drives me totally insane.  The coke bottle incident happened at my local convenience store which is about 200 metres from the Pacific ocean!  It just kiiiiiiiiiiiiills me.

 

Will we ever wake up?