Living with less blog #2

I talked in our first blog in this Living with Less series about simplifying, what I didn’t add was that the meaning behind it is not just possessions – but less clutter, less stress, less waste!

Now we are NOT perfect at all (and perfection isn't our goal! Good decisions are). One thing I love about social media is that it can drive change and awareness, but sometimes it can paint a distorted picture of how someone lives their life. We put up photos of things we are doing to try and encourage others, but we are on a journey too; yes,­ this morning at Bunnings I accepted the lady giving my son a plastic Bunnings truck packaged in plastic, last week I got the little aioli container with my fries because I really wanted it and I didn’t have a container with me (felt totally crappy afterwards – because that decision didn't line up with my truths!)

However, we do try to live a life that is aligned to our core values and when we live consciously with these our journey follows that path and the consequent decisions are ones that fit in with those! When you find out those for yourself and are aware of them you will find your journey will turn in that direction…but beware it can kinda takes over your life (for the good of course).

So in this Living with Less series we wanted to talk about some ways that we have reduced our waste (trust me we still have rubbish and I’m not happy about it, but we are getting there!)

Here are a few facts to shock you:

  • Over 40,000 plastic check out bags are dumped in landfill every HOUR in New Zealand and every year New Zealanders use more than 1 billion plastic shopping bags (source: Plastic Bag-Free New Zealand).
  • In the past 25 years in New Zealand we've increased what we throw away by over 70%, if we accumulated all our waste together onto a rugby field, it would stand 30 stories high every MONTH.
  • Americans use 500 million plastic drinking straw every DAY.

We make challenges to ourselves to reduce our waste…we do it small and consciously and the changes stick or evolve and become part of our life, so it doesn’t feel like extra work or more time consuming. Just becomes part of the flow!  I have separated into three categories to give you some examples of what we do:

Home

  • We live in a shipping container that is made from mainly recycled materials – it is AMAZING what you can find on trademe, at the dump, at building sites! And even what friends and family are getting rid of! Upcycle, recycle, reuse – it is all good!
  • Cleaners: We make our own cleaners for bathroom and kitchen, they are made from minimal ingredients – baking soda, vinegar, castile soap and essential oil. We bulk buy dishwash liquid, clean windows with vinegar and Mum makes a great oven cleaner from orange peels that I need to steal.
 Our simplified bathroom

Our simplified bathroom

  • Bathroom: We use bar soap and shampoo bars, with no packaging, with an apple cider vinegar rinse now and then for our hair. I used to use baking soda – but very stripping! And have tried no shampoo for about 6 months and it was great and then my scalp got really itchy. But no shampoo is a great option too! We don't use anything on the kiddies, they have never had their hair washed, they don't need it. Once you start washing it, it will strip their natural oils.
  • We use tooth powder in glass jar with bamboo toothbrushes.
  • Use rose oil in a glass jar for my face.
  • We have a compost toilet so that our nutrients are kept in a cycle. We eat from the land as much as possible, we compost our humanure (for at least 12 months!) and we then use this beautiful, nutritious humanure around our fruit trees.
  • I use a moon cup for my moon cycle (research this yourself if you don’t know what it is).
  • Kitchen:  We use wooden brushes with vegetable fibre bristles to wash dishes, old rags for wiping benches and mumma for my bday even found some recycled cloths – which are pretty funky! We never buy gladwrap.
  • We are transitioning to glass jars ….for….everything!
  • A few years ago we made the investment to buy a thermomix to make a lot of food easier from scratch.
  • Compost - we separate our food scraps from those that can go to the chickens and the rest we compost. We grow carbon crops in our garden so that we are producing higher quality compost, with a balance of carbon:nitrogen ratios adding poos too from our cows and chickens, seaweed, dynamic accumulators such as comfrey and natures garden fertilizer.
  • Laundry:  DIY laundry liquid or soap nuts. We have an indoor clothes drying rack (plug for Crafty Gatherer) it is my best friend in winter, hang the clothes up and they dry over night with the fire on.
  • We have a NO junk mail sign (even though the postie ignores this sometimes!)
  • We recycle; obviously, this is a given – although this isn’t the ideal solution as the machinery for recycling uses a lot of energy intensive processes, we are working on reducing our recycling as well through alternatives such as bottling our own goods, fermenting and pickling.
  • Clothing: We buy second hand, look for NZ made, natural products, we use cloth nappies. We use bamboo pegs on the washing line!

Food

  • We garden…we mainly grow our own seedlings (except for those times when ¾ of your brassica plants get annihilated by the white butterfly and you just want to grow some broccoli!!!)
  • We preserve from our garden – pickles and ferments, make home brew and kombucha (still very much on a slow learning journey with this but take inspiration from our friends Brad and Rach from @Grow Food Instead).
  • We buy bulk foods such as organic cheese and butter, which come in big slabs and then we cut up and freeze until we need.
  • I used to bake our own bread. I don’t eat bread really, just the boys, so it became a little unmotivating for me! We now buy from local baker Flaveur Breads, who will not wrap in plastic packaging for us. We buy in bulk and put in the freezer. (This was one of those changes that evolved!)
  • We make a lot of our own food and we keep it simple. We pretty much just eat real food, again we’re not perfect, the toddler loves weetbix and crackers and sometimes this just makes life a little bit easier (as much as I cringe about the weetbix!) but to be honest (apart from chocolate as well) we don't buy too many other processed foods. We have made chocolate in the past and the packaging on this is not great - so will one day find an alternative/make our own (not gonna lie and say we will cut it out, but it is a possibility.)
  • We buy milk from Walnut Tree Farm which is a raw milk vendor down the bottom of the road and we take our own glass jars.
  • Make our own almond milk – no more tetrapaks – which can NOT be recycled easily! This has only been a recent change, you would think with my thermomix I would have been doing it AGES ago, but again it is these slow changes as to not overwhelm ourselves!
  • Make our own broth…amazing for so many things! And it is recycling because you can use bones you have already cooked with.
  • One of the main culprits for our rubbish bin was the yoghurt containers (our son loves it!) – even the organic yoghurt from supermarket was plastic #5, and not recyclable in our area! We tried making Caspian Sea Yoghurt, from a bug we got from a friend, but he just liked the thick organic stuff from the supermarket. So now I have mastered a thick homemade yoghurt for him, which is my biggest win lately.
  • We have our own beasties for meat, a big journey for me a recovering vegetarian (a story for another day)! We have just had our first animals from our property butchered, a hard thing, but so worth it knowing we are getting meat that doesn’t have chemicals, or vaccines in it, has very low carbon miles and we know they were very healthy! The meat was still put into plastic bags unfortunately but next time we are going to give them compostable bags to put it into/ask for it to be put into cardboard boxes!
  • Have chickens for eggs and will use for meat when that change happens.
  • We make our own tea from either fresh herbs from the garden or dried herbs dried in our solar drier.
  • We dry herbs, fruit, flowers and seeds in our solar dryer and Marco is working on an even better model for the Summer.
  • Buy coffee beans in bulk from roaster.

 Out and about

 

  • We take bags, containers, jars, stainless steel straws, wooden chopsticks, reusable cloths, takeaway mugs and utensils with us in case we want something to eat/drink while we are out. Also try to take food with us for the kiddies. Note: we aint perfect, the little darlings sometimes get a suckie yoghurt if we go to the supermarket, just so I can concentrate (totally against what I believe, but just telling you so you know that I am real too and sometimes mummy sanity is important as well!) and the suckie yoghurt will be a change one day too! Small changes=forever changes!
  • We take our own containers and bags to the butcher and local organic store for any meat, nuts or grains we buy. Sometimes bacon and organic chicken bones, for example, we still get packaged as we haven’t found somewhere to get them unpackaged yet…or until we eat our chickens and get a pig!

Things we are still working on:

  • Dog food for our awesome Border collie, Blue Heeler, Toko! The butcher gave us lots of bones from our homekill recently and can also make dog meat with the leftover trims. We give him bunnies Marco shoots on the property (they are rife!) and he hunts them out too.
  • Herbal medicines, I have been researching making my own olive leaf and Echinacea tinctures (as we grow both) to ward off bugs and making our own Manuka honey and olive leaf lozenges. At the moment we are using tinctures from KiwiHerb which are in glass bottles – we will reuse these glass bottles to make our own. But we had been sucking on Comvita lozenges this winter when needed (old habit!), which is really not ideal as each one is wrapped in plastic – but we are supporting local....next year this will be different!
  • Toilet paper....we use cloth wipes for the babies bums so we are thinking why not use cloth wipes to go with our compost toilet! We have friends that do this, and will be a change we will adopt too....one day!
  • We have had a beehive for coming up a year, we didn’t take honey the first year as we wanted to leave it for the bees for their first winter in their new hive. But this next season – our own honey!!!!
  • Maybe one day having a house cow for milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt.

Marco and I are not really pushy people, we are passionate but often just try to be the change instead of being activists as such. However more and more I am realizing it is important that we let companies know we want better packaging by talking, emailing, or using social media to get their attention (shout out to Jess, our little inspiration for this).

Businesses and organisations respond to what the consumer wants, so let’s drive the change.

We aren't telling you these things to be like "oooh look what we do", we are hoping to spark some ideas you may not have thought of and we would love to hear your journey and any tips you have too. The more we share with each other, the more we can be encouraged and carry on the journey.

3 key things to take from this blog:

  1. Create challenges for yourself/your family. For example: start by saying no to a straw, or take your own coffee cup, or your own container to sushi. Plan on a week each month for not consuming anything new, or one day a week to make no rubbish.
  2. Making less waste seems daunting at first, but when you apply the idea of simplicity, simple meals, simple home, less clutter… it then becomes part of your life rather than something else you have to do.
  3. Never ever think that one little thing you do won’t help, because collectively we are ­creating a snowball that will and is making a difference!