Plastic Free July: The wrap up

Four weeks and countless coffees and bulk chocolate honeycomb pieces later, and Plastic Free July is almost over.
So what has been the take away for our household from this experience? In a nutshell that reducing single use plastic is far easier than you think.
Many times throughout the month Steve and I would recount to each other just how we were going, conversations we were having with others about the challenge, and the reactions we were getting. But we also spoke a lot how bringing any plastic at all into our house made us feel horrible, despite our initially resolving to focus on avoiding single use coffee cups, cutlery and plates, straws, plastic bags and bottles. Once you begin to notice that sneaky little devil, it's impossible to unsee it.
We also began to really notice the little things we were already doing to minimise plastic use in our day-to-day lives - I’m looking at you farmers’ markets, homemade skincare, beeswax wraps and pyrex storage.
However, as the end of the month began to draw near it also became clear when plastic-free fatigue set in, and a cheeky little desire to start cheating a bit set in.
Convenience is a great enabler, and when you're faced with fitting in a special trip to the bulk store to pick up a forgotten essential, or - gasp - going without until the next shopping list, the urge to simply say "bugger it, let's just buy it in plastic and recycle it back at the store" began to rear it's head. I mean, why make three trips when you can grab everything in one place? And that right there is why change has to happen. A little bit of effort can, and does, go a long way.
So we stayed strong. We found the time to make the trip to the bulk store, or we made do without (even if it resulted in some pretty lacklustre flour tortillas). In fact, most of the time I discovered the forgotten element was a “want” rather than a “need”. And also normally involved me buying my weight in bulk chocolate.
So, where to from here? They say it takes 21 days for a habit to form and I think Steve and I are getting there. We may not be so totally stringent in the future, because it is impossible to be perfect – case in point was when Steve ordered a coffee at a café and the barista put it in a disposable coffee cup before delivering it to our table. Still trying to work that one out. But overall the benefits of Plastic Free July far outweighed the negatives.
The start of the week meal planning meant we not only reduced our overall plastic intake, but also ate food of far better quality, learnt new skills, and severely reduced our food waste. This thinking ahead also meant we could extend the food we’d already cooked into other meals, or could pop it into the freezer so we're stocked up for those nights when we really couldn’t be bothered cooking.
We also learnt the power of asking the simple question. It may make you cringe to initially ask “can I bring my own container/coffee cup/smoothie glass” but it quickly became obvious most people are open to change and the resulting conversation is often an eye opener. Either that, or the entire country really did watch The War on Waste.
Were there any negatives? Only one comes to mind. If you don’t own a dishwasher, then I sincerely hope you enjoy washing dishes because they are never ending! 

Hot Tips:
Here are a few little tidbits we've picked up along the way.

Laundry: If you don’t have access to a bulk store that sells laundry liquid or powder in bulk, and don’t fancy making your own, then grab the Aware laundry powder. It comes in a cardboard box minus internal plastic bag or scoop. I’ve also heard rumours that Ecostore doesn’t have a plastic bag either

Skincare: Open your pantry instead of reaching for that plastic bottle. Olive oil, coconut oil and sesame oil are all fantastic moisturisers and cleansers. Yes, you read that right. Massage a little onto your face for about a minute to remove your make up at night before wiping it away with a warm cloth. Do a little research and find the right type for your skin. Bi-carb soda can be a fantastic facial exfoliant, or combine coffee grounds with a little brown sugar and the oil of your choice. Buy a food-grade rosewater and use that as your toner or pop some gentle, high quality essential oils in a spray bottle with cooled boiled water and spritz away.
Need a dry shampoo? Sprinkle on a little cornflour, massage it in and then give your hair a brush.
Perhaps the most obvious of all is look for a gentle soap that is either unpackaged, or packaged in paper.

Cleaning: Make white vinegar and bi-carb soda your friend. You can clean everything from your floor to your bathroom with this simple combo. Add in a little clove oil to remove mould, or a citrus essential oil to disinfect a kitchen bench.

And finally, make Google your friend. There are endless websites dedicated to zero waste or plastic free lifestyles that are a veritable goldmine of information. And even if you don't want to go all in, just one small step can make a difference.

Now over to you. How did Plastic Free July treat you?


Plastic Free July: that sneaky little devil

One of my local bulk food stores

A writer I love once wrote that in order to have a good morning routine, you need to have an excellent night-time routine. What does that mean? Well, if you want to be one of those people who get a good jump on the morning, whether that's via morning exercise, meditation, a good healthy brekkie, a delicious packed lunch or simply not sprinting around the house like a crazy thing as soon as you jump out of bed, it’s easier to have it all organised and ready to go the night before.
Why am I writing this? Well, I’ve found it also applies brilliantly to nailing this whole Plastic Free July thing.
Throwing your keep cup in your bag so it's ready to go the next day, pre-filling a water bottle and putting it on the kitchen bench next to your cutlery/grocery bags/produce bags means you’re ready for whatever the day throws at you without the added stress of trying to do it all in that precious time between waking and heading to work/social engagement/wrestling clothes onto a child who appears to have grown 20 extra limbs overnight and attempting to leave the house.
And that brings us to now – at the end of the third week of Plastic Free July.
So, how are Steve and I going? Despite a number of challenges raising their heads in the past two weeks, I’d still say we’re going well.
Yes, some plastic has still entered our house. Some of that has been knowingly done (see my earlier post about milk and garbage bags), while some of it has been taken out of our hands, often after we’d opened something we thought would be plastic-free only to discover a lovely layer hidden somewhere in it. Or, shock horror, when we forgot and remembered way too late.
Single use plastic, it’s a sneaky little devil! And it seems that no matter how organised you are sometimes you simply can't avoid it. It's just the way our society is wired.
For the past two weeks I have toted my pyrex dishes into the butcher, only to find on one occasion they used a plastic bag to grab my meat (note: I found this varies butcher to butcher. Some have washed their hands and grabbed the meat bare-handed). Well-meaning friends would buy us drinks in plastic bottles, an event would only have plastic cups on offer, or a late afternoon walk to the bakery to grab bread – with pillowcase in tow to bring it home in – would be fruitless after discovering all the bread had been pre-sliced and bagged.
The majority of this could be, and often was, counter-acted simply by our being prepared. It was easy enough to pour a drink into my keep cup rather than a plastic cup at a party, or to eat with our hands to avoid using a plastic plate.

Loose leaf tea in my own jar

But it also brought home just how used to grab and go convenience we, as a society, have become. A trip to a bulk store to refill a spice jar, grab some flour and icing sugar as well as snacks for the week cost me a grand total of $2 - not even close to how much it would've cost to buy everything new at the grocery store. And yet, because it involved walking to a third business I found myself initially hesitating over doing it. And walking down any aisle at the grocery store became an eye-opening experience when you realised the majority of the packaging would be thrown away.
I should also note that even if we were struggling badly at reducing our plastic use, I would still say this month was a success if only for the conversations it has started.
Friends and family who know us and our left-leaning ways were unsurprised by our efforts, but would be curious about the challenge and ask straight up how it was going, while other friends began to jump on board the bandwagon, getting themselves reusable straws or keep cups, bamboo toothbrushes and reusable bags or simply becoming more mindful about single use plastic.
Those who hadn't heard of the challenge would listen with interest – or outright surprise – when we said we were avoiding single use plastic for the month. Very occasionally we would run up against the negative nancy who would tell us our efforts would make zero difference in the long run (FYI, between the two of us we saved more than 40 disposable coffee cups alone going to landfill this month. That’s not a small number. Imagine 
But there are other ways this challenge has benefited us.
In our house, the food we're buying is of better quality. Fewer nutrition-free snacks or "just in case" purchases, more cooking from scratch – and realising how easy it all is.
Habits from childhood also re-emerged. Growing up my mum would always throw a water bottle and a piece of fruit in her handbag before heading out, and I began to emulate this again, as well as putting that shampoo I didn't like into my handwash container and using household ingredients like vinegar, bi-carb soda and essential oils to clean. Homemade lotion is easy-peasy and cheap to do and, thanks to stores like Biome, the ingredients and recipes are accessible all in one place. Or, just open your cupboards and grab that olive oil and slather it on. It works just as well and is super cheap.

Here is a quick list of the other take aways we’ve found from the three weeks of Plastic Free July:

  • ·     Organisation is key. Have everything ready to go so you can just grab it. Make lists your friend too! From meal planning (which also helps reduce food waste) to what you need to get from which store.
  • ·     Bulk is beautiful. Grab your flour, sugar, tea, coffee, peanut butter, oil, washing up liquid, laundry powder and soap from your local bulk store. Or, if you can’t do this, look into better options that are available at your local supermarket. Can you buy things in glass jars or paper packaging rather than plastic?  Just remember that recycling is a great place to start, but a terrible place to stop. For more info about that, head here.
  • ·     Make google your best friend. There are so many blogs, websites and Facebook groups that can answer your questions when it comes to reducing plastic in your life. And we’ve found the results are often better, and cheaper, than store-bought items.
  • ·     Hit up your local farmers’ markets with your own bags. Take a plate and coffee cup and grab brekkie while you’re there and really make a day of it!
  • ·     Just start somewhere. We began this month aiming to refuse plastic bags, straws, bottles, disposable coffee cup and plastic cutlery. We’re ending it having significantly reduced all our plastic use! But at the end of the day, one less coffee cup in landfill is still a win.

Now, over to you. How’s your Plastic Free July experience going?

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Well-brewed women: Alanna Hankey

Alanna Hankey is one of those women whose Instagram account you get lost in for hours. A yoga teacher and mama who's recently relocated to Tasmania with her son, Rumi, and partner, Nigel, Alanna is also an incredibly beautiful writer whose words have been featured on cult social media account Tribe de Mama.
Here we have a chat about motherhood, finding space and exploring Brisbane.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Alanna and my beautiful man, Nige, and I are the loving parents of our sweet 13-month-old boy, Rumi. We shared a beautiful waterbirth at home and since have become a free spirited, conscious, loving family having heaps of fun. I am a yoga teacher and secret song bird inspired by the world we live in.

You’re mum to one-year-old Rumi. How has this past year changed you?
In every way. I never thought I wanted children... I just didn't think it was my path. However, when we fell pregnant a few years ago and later miscarried, I realised that it was something I wanted. Motherhood has revealed an undiscovered layer of myself and of my relationship with Nige that I don't believe I would have discovered without becoming a mother. Then again, maybe motherhood hasn't changed me at all. Maybe's it's just awoken a part of myself that i have been searching for.

Do you have any advice that you wish you’d had when starting out on your motherhood journey that you can pass on?
Trust. Trust that you always know what is best. Keep listening to your heart, it will never lead you astray.

How would you best describe your parenting style?
Conscious and intuitive. Nige and I are really united in the way we parent and we take it day by day, learning as we go and following what intuitively feels best for us.

Motherhood is fantastic but can also be exhausting both mentally and physically. How do you manage these demands on your body?
Yoga and meditation. In some way, shape or form, every day.

You’ve been running yoga classes and retreats this year. How do you balance everything?
To be honest, it's been a challenge and a steep learning curve to find a balance between my time, my energy, my work and motherhood. However, I am surrounded by support from family and a deeply supportive partner who help me in making it all possible.
I also involve Rumi in as much of the preparations as possible, making it fun and stimulating for both of us. He is always in my note book or on my mat or listening to mantra with me... That's is just how life is now and the sooner I surrender to that, the sooner balance comes.  I think a lot of motherhood's power is in our ability to accept what is.

What’s your favourite thing to do in Brisbane with Rumi?
Walk along the river at new farm, bird watch and GoMA.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Yes! we are currently on a tree change to live a greener existence on our farm in Tasmania. It's been a dream in the works for years, so it's a really exciting time for our family that we are finally here. We're building a sustainable house, an orchard and a yoga retreat so everyone is welcome as soon as our farm gates are open!

You can find more about Alanna on her Instagram page: yogawithalanna
All images are from Alanna's Instagram page.


Life: June

Life is a little snapshot of happenings over a month whenever I get a chance to tap away at my computer.

Oh June, where did you go? It seemed like one day I was celebrating the (alleged) onset of winter while holidaying in Byron Bay, then it was winter solstice and suddenly the month was over. It was a beautiful month here in the Sunshine State with crisp yet warm days under a deep blue sky. It was also the month I began a new chapter in my life - yoga teacher training. It's fantastic learning the other side of something I've got so much love for, and that has become a integral part of my life.

Wanting:  A massage! As the little one gets heavier, his weight is starting to cause a few aches and pains in my body. Add in an increase in yoga and a weekly high intensity session and I'm feeling a bit sore. Side note: Brisbane mums, if you want a great workout in a child-friendly space head to Lang Park PCYC. You may not be able to walk properly the next day, but you'll be feeling great!

Loving: Hot porridge. Every morning! Nothing more need be said.

Wearing: Jeans and converse. Comfy, practical and warm. I rediscovered a pair of flairs I bought more than 10 years ago and am giving them a good workout at the moment.

Happenings: I've begun my yoga teacher training. It's too early in the course to really get into it, but I'm loving the mental and physical stimulation, and the related reading is also an eye opener. I'm sure there will be more on this to come! And after teasing us for months, our little man finally decided it was time to start walking. It's so cute to watch him totter around.

Eating: Roasts. Lots and lots of roast dinners. It;s glorious (especially when I'm not the one cooking them).

Drinking: Hot herbal tea, especially peppermint or dandelion. And, of course, tea and coffee since the little dude is firmly against sleeping solo these day, and he likes to hog the bed. Luckily his smile is pretty gorgeous to wake up to. 

Hearing: I'm back on the Richard Fidler/Conversations bandwagon. Tales of Mortification had me in convulsions. But Deva Premal is also filling my days too.

Reading: Jasper Fforde's The Fourth Bear. The way this man's imagination works is simply unparalleled. Now, if only he'd release the sequel to Shades of Grey.

Desiring: Um, nothing really strikes me right now. Possibly a trip somewhere. Or a hot chocolate. Actually, that sounds pretty good. 

Watching: The second season of Master of None. It's good so far. Funny, poignant yet awkward.

Life inspired by Heidi (and in turn by Pip).


Plastic Free July: the beginning

As I write this it’s July 5, aka five days into the Plastic Free July challenge.
What’s this you say? It’s a challenge currently being undertaken in more than 100 countries where people are attempting to reduce the amount of single use plastic in their lives.
No plastic bags, no plastic water bottles, no straws or cutlery or disposable coffee cups. You get the drift. Some people go the entire shebang and eliminate plastic entirely from their lives. Others tackle the smaller, more manageable challenges.
So why am I writing this?
Because I convinced Steve to take the challenge with me after we watched the ABC’s War on Waste series (side note: if you haven’t watched this, I highly recommend it. You’ll never look at a banana the same).
“We’ve got this in the (reusable) bag,” I chuffed in the days leading up to the challenge. And I honestly thought we did, because as a rule we have eliminated a lot of waste from our lives already. We’re on good terms with the farmers’ markets, we use keep cups, carry reusable cutlery and water bottles with us and have a nice swag of beeswax wraps.
But then, just four days into the challenge I realised something: we did have the challenge in the bag, with a fair few exceptions.
I walked into Coles and walked out with a roll of garbage bags, a bottle of milk and, later, walked home with bread from the local bakery in a plastic bag.
Four days in and I’d already failed.
And after telling this to Steve, and getting a nice ribbing about the bread (which to be honest was because my request for it to be in a paper bag had been too late) I realised I’m OK with these exceptions. What’s more, they don’t mean that we can’t or won’t adapt our behaviour in the future
I want to use garbage bags because I have a young child who wears at least one disposable nappy each day – mcns are expensive and something you have to slowly add to – and those dirty nappies need to go into something at the end of the day. On the whole we barely produce any rubbish, so one half full bag each week is OK with us.
Equally, we use milk. A lot of milk. And although it is possible to source this in glass, from an economical perspective this isn’t a change we’re willing to make at this point in time. That stuff is expensive! I also know we also could swap to a milk alternative that can be made at home, but again the amount of spare time you have in a day is severely reduced when you’ve got a young child. Pick your battles, I say.
FInally, I noticed that although we were refusing plastic, we are beginning to rely heavily on paper bags. Probably not the greatest swap in the long run.
But despite these failures, here are some of the wins we’ve had.

  • ·      A single email to a local butcher about bringing in our own containers was met with an immediate positive reply. So we have and, what’s more, so have others that we told.
  • ·      We discovered that homemade is often ridiculously easy. Years ago my brother told me how easy pizza dough was to make – and it is. Now we always have some dough in the freezer. Similarly, tortillas are very simple. I used this recipe, and within an hour they were ready to be eaten, along with a homemade spice mix. Next time I'll tweak the recipe so it's a little less doughy, but they were still yummy.
  • ·      The conversations about Plastic Free July are beginning. People are asking questions and taking note of the plastic in their lives. Case in point, when I mentioned the milk dilemma to a few people shock covered their faces as realisation dawned that a milk bottle was a single use plastic bottle.
There’s another three weeks to go, so I’ll post another update next week.

In the meantime if you’re interested in learning more, head to: