Week 23 – All around the world

One of the statements I am never quite sure how to take, when talking to people about our rubbish free challenge, is “…you guys just seem so normal.” Without getting into a psychoanalytic discussion of ‘what is normal’, we have intuitively felt that we are relatively normal, a feeling that has been reinforced recently with a large number of international connections being made with other ‘normal’ people trying to reduce their rubbish footprint. It began with being contacted by Karen in the UK who has a website www.therubbishdiet.co.uk From her I learnt that we are ‘garbloggers’, and that there are many such people in the world. I’m not sure who decides, but there is a list of the top ten at takepart.com. She wrote a blog highlighting some garbloggers and we subsequently have connected with a few of them. A woman that I found particularly interesting is in Oakland, California and can be found at www.fakeplasticfish.com. She is trying to reduce the amount of plastic she consumes and what I particularly liked about her is that she has made a long term commitment to do so. She has not gone down the road of ‘no plastic for a year challenge’ or similar, rather she simply tries everyday to remove more plastic from her life. Her site has some great suggestions for plastic free alternative products.

I was keen to find out what she does about oral hygiene. Although a relatively low contributer to the rubbish bag, we are keen to get our landfill waste as close to zero as possible so everything is under scrutiny. We still have not found a great solution to toothbrushes, having ordered a wooden one with natural fibre bristles that is compostable, but with it arriving in a sturdy plastic container. From the fakeplasticfish site I found that she is using Preserve toothbrushes which are made out of recycled yoghurt containers in the States. When you have finished with the brush you send it back in a postage paid envelope for it to be recycled into picnic tables. I’ve ordered one and look forward to seeing what it is like. Although it appears that there is no way of getting around nylon dental floss, there is an alternative to the 700 million plastic floss containers discarded each year. We have discovered ‘Gentle Floss’ which is contained in a cleverly designed cardboard box which is recyclable when finished, and in addition the floss is ‘vegan waxed’ as opposed to waxed with beeswax. We have been given permission to distribute the product in New Zealand so now have a page on our website which you can check out if interested. Who would have thought this challenge would have led to us being distributors as well!

January Trial

We are now in our trial month. We put our rubbish bin outside in the shed. The first time I found it irriating was when I went to put a piece of dental floss in it (still don’t have an alternative to dental floss). Spent ages pouring through recipe books trying to find things we can eat. There will be lots of beans and lentils consumed before we can come up with more ideas. Matthew was disappointed to find out he couldn’t buy most diary products, tofu and falafel. We could eat meat by taking our own bag to the butcher, or recycling the plastic bag it comes in from the delli, but we don’t often buy meat as we find we eat enough of it when we are out. We’ll have a go at making our own naan bread and tortillas, got as far as downloading some recipes.

We also have been busy outside, we are now ready to build a dog poo self composting toilet, aka pit, also handy for fingernails, chiken bones etc. The great thing about it is that it has a lid and is rodent proof (we jut bought a recycled plastic bin and cut the bottom out of it). We’ll get some sawdust to sprinkle in so it doesn’t get smelly. What else? we bought a bucket – stainless steel for $25! That took will power when we knew we could get a Wharehouse plastic wonder for 99 cents. Maybe we will have that bucket for the rest of our lives!

I got hungry when I was out today and bought a pie, plastic wrap in the bin…

By the way, christmas went well. We gave our nieces and nephews a hand made baking kit and, where possible committed to baking with them and then taking them on a picnic. Seemed to go down well. Oh and we both like our new deoderant from Weleda. Packaged in glass with a spray top. So far so good.

Researching Alternatives

In the lead up to the Rubbish Free Year challenge we are of course trying to create as little rubbish as possible, but there is a persistent myriad of mostly plasticy things filling our bin. The following catergorises the offending items into food, toiletries, stationery and misc. Looking at both the problem and the solution.

Food

Food relentlessly reappears as a rubbish problem every week. Food packaging is our household’s biggest contributor to the landfill, (the food itself is easily dealt with). We have so far come up with several ways of obtaining food without its non-recyclable packaging.

Product comparison: By simply comparing products a solutions may be found. For example I thought buying herbs and spices would require sourcing bulk produce, but upon closer inspection I realized that Gregg’s cardboard box range is completely plastic free. Another problem I assumed was moisturizer, but once I actually checked a few I found one large recyclable plastic #2 bottle that I think should see out the year (or more). Consider loose fruit and veg (with your own bags), tins rather than frozen, glass jars rather than plastic.

Bulk food stores: To make the most of these places you need to be well organised (which we aren’t yet!). Places like Bin Inn provide plastic bags (which defeats the purpose) but its pretty easy to reuse bags or make your own more durable ones. I am also taking my own containers, and refilling with its original contents, e.g refilling an olive oil bottle with olive oil. I am still looking around op shops for big glass jars suitable for housing rice etc. Our local Bin Inn was a place I had meant to go for years, even now we still haven’t actually shopped there, as it seems like such a big deal. But it will be a life saver next year; aside from items like dried fruit, seeds, nuts, flours, rice, pasta they also have honey, jam, soy sauce, bleach, spray n wipe, jif, liquid hand soap… If ‘ethical’, ‘local’, and ‘organic’ are music to your ears then you could try out your local eco grocery store too, we can get a wide range at our local, Piko Wholefoods (corner Kilmore and Barbadoes) http://www.pikowholefoods.co.nz/

Butcher, Baker, Green Grocer: Smaller stores seem to be easier on the packaging. I imagine they would be happy let you take their produce away in your own container, or in something recyclable.

Farmer’s Markets and Organic vege box: A great way to avoid packaging is to get it straight from the source. We are hoping to get cheese this way – because anything else will be a no go. Its cheaper, fresher, local… its all good. If you can get on to a Vege Box Delivery scheme in your neighbourhood then thats the easiest thing of all.

Baking: If all else fails!!! We both like preparing and eating home made food, we just struggle to get organized and to find the time. Things that will fall into this category will be: biscuits, cake, muesli bars, hummus, pesto. We are thinking of having an evening once a week allocated to the task. See how we go, so far I have at least gone out and bought baking tins and measuring equipment…

Abstinence: Yup, there will be certain yummy things that we may just have to do with out 😦

Toiletries

• Toothpaste and deodorant: We found almost 100% recyclable packaging with a natural health companies products, Weleda (bought at the wholefood store).

• Toothbrush: Don’t know yet.

• Toilet paper: So far have just found one company using paper to package, Safe (available at the wholefood store)

• Soap: easy enough to buy in paper, having to by single bars though. Trade Aid soap is packaged in recycled paper and a little waxed paper bag. Cheap too.

• Shampoo and Conditioner: Check for recyclable plastic, or use bulk dispensers. Some quite good brands are available.

• Dental Floss: Don’t know yet.

• Headache pills: Don’t know yet. But honey is good. So is sleep and having a stress free life!

• Shaving: Electric Shaver or blade shave (wow)

• Period products: Mooncup (reuseable cup, comfortable and convenient) washable pads. (I haven’t researched either of these properly yet but I am sure you can buy it all online.

• Make up: check for recyclable packaging. Use less? Google what Cleopatra used? Ask your grandma?

Stationery

• The humble pencil is simple genius

• Pens with refillable cartridges, not disposable ones

• No vivids (permanent markers), try pen, pencil or paint.

• No felt tip pens, try colouring pencils, crayons etc (artist quality products have excellent colours and will last for years)

• Blutack, metal drawing pins and paper clips

• Wooden rulers, steel staplers, card ring-binders etc

• No twink (correction fluid). What did people do before twink?

• No sticky tapes, except for masking tape

• Real brown string, not plastic string

Misc.

In addition to most of the short life span items mentioned above, there are other slow rotating items, that will, over the course of a year give up, empty out, wear out, and break down. Batteries are a great example, instead of continually throwing them we bought a recharger (only $30 on Trade Me). But this is a huge category of products that we are only very recently starting to think about. Many things that used to last for decades, even a life time are now so cheap, and poorly made that we almost think of them as disposable, think about paintbrushes, buckets, seed trays, shoes, water bottles and other longer lasting things like electric jugs, toasters, toys, electronics and clothes. Next time we replace something if we can afford it we will buy quality, non plastic products that might just last us a life time. And if its non plastic its probably recyclable when it does break down. If we can’t afford it we could try buying second hand, to save something from the land fill, and we can sell it if /when we get the money to buy something better.