Deodorant! It is an essential item in every bathroom, particularly with outdoorsy men and (so I hear) teenaged boys. Nobody is that keen to trial a new eco-deodorant product and find out the hard way that it doesn’t work. It’s pretty awful when you suddenly realise you can smell your own armpits on the bus! Lucky for you, I have been quietly trialing several different products for the last 3 years. When I began this ethical living journey four years ago, I hadn’t come across any plastic free choices for deodorant at all. The only alternatives I had heard of involved making your own with baking soda. Initially, I was concerned with reducing plastic packaging and during the hunt for plastic free shampoo I found Ethique and their solid deodorant bars. I trialed one and loved it. I was a total convert to solid deodorant and haven’t looked back. Since then I have trialed a number of different types. This blog is a brief review of the brands I have used. All of them work and all of them are plastic packaging and climate-wrecking propellent free. Just in case you didn’t know most spray deodorants use propane, an oil industry by-product to spray out their choking fog!
Ethique: This was my first trial of a solid deodorant of any type. Way back in 2017 I got hold of an Ethique sampler pack that contained a lavender and vanilla deodorant bar. I loved it, and it worked. The tiny heart shaped sampler lasted for ages and kept me smelling fresh all day. I was so surprised at how well it worked that I had to keep checking how fresh my armpits were! Initially the first bar seemed to sweat oil beads in humid weather, but subsequent deodorant bars haven’t had the same problem at all. I trialed the Rustic deodorant bar and loved it too. Another positive is that they last for ages! I still have I tiny stub of each of those bars left that I can stash in my handbag or take travelling when space in a premium. These bars don’t stop you sweating, instead they keep you smelling fresh.
Aotea Road: This is my current deodorant. It is amazing and smells incredible. It comes in a push up cardboard tube which makes it a bit easier to handle and to travel with. I am using the Rose and Vanilla scented one and my husband is using the Zesty Bergamot and Lime one. Both are equally good and no-one has any complaints. Even after the hottest days and lots of physical activity, this deodorant works as well or better than the roll on varieties we used to use. I am a convert and I love that I can just get them at the supermarket.
Dirty Hippy: I love the name and I love the product. This deodorant is different from the stuff we are all familiar with in that you apply it with your fingers from a little glass jar. Don’t let that put you off though, because it is utterly fantastic and it really works. I used this for a long time before starting to trial other brands. I would definitely go back to using it again. You can post the jars back to be refilled if you choose. You can get trial sized testers if you want to try it out before you make your final purchase. I know a number of people who use this and all of them love it.
Bee Fresh: We also trialed this brand a year or two back and had no complaints. The smell was citrus fresh and the result seemed to last well, even on hot days. Definitely worth a try.
Make your own: If you are really keen on the idea you could make your own deodorant. There are many different recipes online to try. One of my friends swears that her homemade deodorant is as good or better than the bought ones. Here is a link to a homemade deodorant recipe I found on line that looks promising. Alternatively you could have a look at this website and try the recipe in the online booklet. I have a very dear friend who recommends this and has been making and using it herself. I haven’t had time to try making my own yet but it is definitely on my to do list for when I get a bit of free time to myself. If you have any great recipes then feel free to share them in the comments.
So there you have it, five different sustainable options for your armpits. No plastic packaging in sight and no needless rubbish to send to landfill. Better for you and definitely not stink for the environment!
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”. Mother Theresa
As we begin 2021 – a new year (one that we hope will be far less eventful that the previous one) it’s the perfect time to consider how we can use this year to change the world. Don’t underestimate your individual power to effect positive change in our world. Our buying decisions, and both our individual and collective voices are some of the most important tools we have to make a meaningful difference to the environment. Politics can often be difficult to influence as an individual, and political change is slow. Private companies are often far more responsive to changes in public opinion. Many of the options pushed at us these days as being fashionable, “on trend” or desirable are incredibly destructive for our environment and the opposite of sustainable. Day after day big companies market things to you hoping you won’t look deeper than the shiny advertising before you decide what to purchase. This blog contains a list of things you can do now to have an immediate positive impact on the environment and your carbon footprint. Making powerful choices doesn’t have to wait, you can begin today!
Think about the running cost and environmental foot print of kitchen appliances before you buy them. Gas hobs are terrible for the environment particularly if your electrical supply is renewable. Remember, gas is a fossil fuel. It is a finite resource, and it contributes to your families greenhouse gas emissions! Consider opting for an induction hob if you want something akin to a gas experience or stick with an electric oven/cook top. Our electricity here in NZ is 80% renewable so you are better off sticking with electricity than gas,
Don’t install instant gas hot water. Using gas to rapidly heat hot water is extremely inefficient and results in large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions. It is easy to waste hot water if you have gas hot water because it never ever runs out. We were stunned at how easy it was to use huge amounts of hot water when we lived in a rental with gas hot water. It was expensive. As I mentioned above, gas is a fossil fuel, and it is a finite resource contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Just stick with your electric hot water cylinder and consider adding a wetback and/or solar hot water. A future consideration that is important to bear in mind is that when the cost of carbon emissions are inevitably added to your gas bill in the future, the cost of heating your water will likely become prohibitively expensive.
If you are building or renovating a house, choose locally sourced and produced materials. Try and avoid exotic materials that have to be shipped half way across the world. Be prepared to use demolition materials and recycled features eg, doors and windows. Reusing materials from within NZ saves on shipping and prevents things like timber, framing, plumbing fixtures and the like from ending up in the landfill.
If you are building a house or significantly altering the rooflines as part of a renovation, make sure you consider the orientation and pitch of your roof so that you can put solar panels on. If you have a mono-pitch roof facing the wrong direction it will be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to put solar panels on your roof. Solar panels just make so much sense. I believe they are going to be a huge part of making NZ’s housing stock sustainable. We save a huge amount of electricity thanks to our solar panels, and they will have paid for themselves in a just a few years time.
Make your appliances last. Check reviews and warranties before you buy and opt for the most durable choices rather than the cheapest price. Consider where it is manufactured and the labour conditions in the source country. A handful of manufacturers offer much better parts service which allows you to repair and keep the appliance going for many years. For example, Dualit offers a toaster with lifetime parts, and Magimix does something similar for their food processors (we have been able to replace parts very easily).
Future proof your interior design. Consider the likelihood that furniture will fit with future fashion changes, and make sure it is high quality construction and designed to last. Once you’ve make your choice don’t be tempted to change it just to keep up with fashion.
Sort your rubbish. When you make a dump trip don’t mix potentially repairable or surplus household items with green waste, and general rubbish. If you sort things, you can always give away usable items to charity or advertise them via something like Neighbourly, Trademe, Ebay or similar.
If you build a house, make it the minimum size you actually need. Large houses have enormous carbon footprints and result in the production of far more manufacturing waste than small houses. They are also more expensive to heat and they reduce space for nature. The greenest house you can build is one you don’t build but renovate instead.
If you want a holiday property at the beach or by the river, consider camping on it instead of building another house. If you must have a bach, then make it small and easily moveable to prepare for future managed retreat of coastlines, ideally a tiny home that can be towed to new land.
Choose your food carefully. Animal products raised locally on pasture have a much lower environmental footprint than those which you can’t check how they are fed or cared for. Many global food producers are responsible for horrendous destruction of rain forest for conversion to palm oil and soya, much of which is used for animal feed. Grass fed local animals don’t have this impact. Likewise if you are vegan, make sure you are checking the origin of your food. As noted above, palm oil hidden on the ingredients as vegetable oil and soya grown on cleared rainforest land are something to avoid. Many reputable food suppliers have accreditations for their sourcing of these ingredients.
Check you retirement investment portfolio. I investigated many of the common NZ and Australian retirement funds which are available for Kiwisaver investments and found to my horror than many are investing in oil, mining, weapons and active deforestation of the Amazon. My husband and I were deeply troubled and began to look into alternatives. One in particular which looks promising is Caresaver, and this is what we eventually chose, but you can also compare funds here. This simple action doesn’t take a lot of time and once you make the change to an ethical Kiwisaver option you are sending a powerful message to the banks and the government about what you think is acceptable. It is important that our investment actions match what we claim to be passionate about. The other thing is that this choice continues to support worthwhile causes indefinitely while you go on earning money and getting on with your life. Your choice of Kiwisaver fund is a powerful choice with far reaching consequences. I urge you to look into it and make the change to something ethical.
Check on the environmental impact of your computing. If you are creating a website check on the environmental implications of the hosting company here. WordPress which I use for hosting doesn’t have a great record in this respect so I am investigating better options. Remember that cloud storage, subscription online service and streaming (including online gaming) use huge amounts of electricity, most of which comes from fossil fuels. Where possible choose a more efficient provider and where you can’t try contacting the company to lobby for change.
Give feedback to companies about things you like or don’t like and ask questions. Where is your soy sourced from? Have you considered using recycled plastic instead of virgin plastic in your components? Have you considered using compostable packaging? Would you consider stocking ethical choices in your shop?
Don’t wait for the government to fix the planet. Consider offsetting your carbon emissions by investing in carbon sequestration schemes directly. That way you can make sure the scheme you choose is actually benefiting the environment and not just an accounting scheme. Do your own carbon sequestration by joining up with a local community group to restore a river, beach or wetland. How about growing or buying some trees for it? Some examples include Ekos and Carbonclick.
Opt for eco-courier services where possible. Some couriers make efforts to offset their carbon emissions and it is worth throwing your support behind companies that are prepared to make an effort. A couple of examples include Kiwi Express, and Urgent Couriers.
When you are sending packages make an effort to use the new recyclable NZ Post paper bags. This is an exciting initiative that I am really pleased to see. Packages coming from my family in Germany have been wrapped in brown paper for as long as I can remember, and other packages have come in tough padded paper bags. I don’t know why it has taken so long to catch on here in NZ but now that it has let’s all support it.
Buy a double skin drink bottle and an under-sink water filter and ditch single use plastic water bottles. You’ll save money and cut your single use plastic consumption.
Sodastream vs bottles. This is something we have done as a way to reduce the amount of plastic bottles we have to deal with/recycle. We buy our syrups in glass bottles, or make our own from seasonal fruits.
Have a compost heap and compost your food scraps rather than sending them to landfill where they will emit methane as they decompose. Home composting is a really big thing you can do to reduce needless food waste. Instead of paying the wheelie bin company to cart away your household food scraps, you can make your own compost for the garden. Anything that is not meat or fat can go in your compost heap. You can even compost toilet rolls, cardboard boxes, newspaper, and (as home compostable packaging becomes more mainstream) you can even compost some bags and packages. We have managed to do this quite successfully with Proper Crisps chippie packets. Our compost heaps are functional but not perfect textbook examples of how to do compost. Despite this our heaps have handled the compostable packaging we have thrown at them. There are some awesome rodent proof compost solutions available now if you are keen to get started.
So there you have it, a list of 20 things you can do now to have a positive impact on our planet and the environment you live in. We are completely dependent on our environment, without it we can’t survive. The damage we have been doing is often invisible to us as we struggle from one day to the next, but the impacts will be felt by our children and grandchildren and they will thank you for taking steps to make change. As a species we have created a built environment to live in and we forget that we are actually creatures of nature. We tend to think of nature as something to visit rather than something we depend on. We need to constantly remind ourselves of this and put the environment front and center in our lives. Every little thing you do has real power to promote positive change. As we head into a fresh year, take some time to consider how you can commit to reducing your impact on the environment and getting your voice heard.
“How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment: we can start now, start slowly changing the world!” Anne Frank
Washing clothes is an endless task for many Mums and and it is never ever finished. No sooner have you dealt with one lot and there is another lot of dirty clothes building up in the dirty washing bin. The way we wash our clothes is also an area where we have made a few changes in the last year or so since we embarked on the journey to become more sustainable. The laundry is a place where we can all make small changes that will mount up and make a difference to the environment around us and contribute to the future we leave for our kids and grandkids.
Here are some ideas to inspire you to make some small but meaningful changes to your laundry in order to make it more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Most of them have an impact on our water, and so the laundry is an important place to start.
Soap nuts: I was very skeptical about these things, thinking that they were probably not very good. Then I got a bag of soap nuts given to me (for my birthday) and I was immediately fascinated and curious, after all I am slightly plant centric (being an avid gardener) and I am always interested in interesting plants. These things grow on trees and they wash your clothes, two of my boxes ticked straight away. My cousin told me she used them and was hooked. I tried washing our clothes with them and aside from some extremely filthy socks they did just as well as the conventional washing powders for almost every situation. I still use them when I can get them. You can use them multiple times and then you just throw the used shells into your compost! No plastic involved (just a cellophane bag).
Ecostore laundry liquids and powder: I find these products far better than those with artificial fragrance and enzymes. I have used Ecostore laundry products for years because I found them better for my sensitive skin and I prefer the scent of the natural fragrances to the artificial ones in other laundry products. They are safe for septic tanks and that means they are better for our environment. Additionally they are a NZ owned and operated business and they manufacture their products right here in NZ. This is really important for me when I choose products in the supermarket. I try to avoid imports to lessen the carbon footprint. There are now other eco-brands out there but Ecostore was one of the first and is an established quality brand
Ethique laundry bar: This little gem is a great little bar for taking tramping or travelling. It works very well as a spot stain remover and I use it all the time. I have taken it tramping and I would also take it traveling to use for hand washing items where there isn’t access to a washing machine.
Ethique Household concentrates: Spray cleaners often live in the laundry cupboard, and they usually come in plastic bottles. These are new products that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to trial, but a friend of mine has been using them and says they are brilliant. Spray cleaners are something that we all take for granted these days, but spray bottles are something that people usually dispose of and rebuy with the next shop each time they run out. It appears you simply break off a square, dissolve in water and pour into an old reused spray bottle. Spray bottles are a brilliant invention and they can last (if looked after) for many years. Why do we get a new one every time we replace the contents? Even the refills come in a plastic bottle. It seems like a terrible and un-necessary waste of plastic. The idea of a solid concentrate bars sounds brilliant. Until now, our solution had been to buy 4 litre bulk refills and reuse an old spray bottle. We might switch to these concentrates if they turn out to be as good as they sound.
Ecostore whitener: This stuff works just as well or better than the Napisan that is usually used to soak baby and toddler clothes. In fact years ago I switched to Ecostore whitener and never noticed any difference. I felt better about the ingredients in it and was happier to use the product for things that were in contact with the sensitive skin of my precious babies.
Wash cycle options: cold water over hot, eco-cycles to use less water, thus saving electricity to heat water. These options can appear as a bit of an obvious choice but many people overlook the value of something as simple as selecting a different wash cycle option.
Full loads only: In order to maximise the efficiency of your loads of washing, try (where possible) to do full loads of washing. The fewer loads of washing you do the better.
Avoid ironing if you can: Ironing uses electricity, it causes fabrics to deteriorate, and it shortens the life of your clothing. I very rarely use an iron because ironing is not a chore I have much time for in my busy family – although it is strangely satisfying to smooth creases out of clothes. Instead I chose clothing that is unlikely to require ironing. If you are a person who regularly uses an iron, here are a few tips to make ironing less necessary. Hang clothing on clothes hangers while still wet and let gravity and the weight of the water in the clothing pull the wrinkles out. Fold clothing (or sheets etc) straight off the line where you want the creases to be. Then put folded clothes in your drawers underneath other clothing which will help to further press them.
Wear it more than once: If you can reduce the amount you have to wash then you can reduce the number of washes that you do. Simple really!
Air dry your washing: Use a clothes line, or an airing rack on the veranda. This might appear obvious, but really it is an important action you can take to reduce your impact on the environment. The clothes drier uses a lot of electricity which costs you money. The sun and wind outside in the fresh air is absolutely free and uses no electricity. As an added bonus your washing gets that lovely fresh sunny smell. Line dried clothes last longer because there is less wear and tear which is an added bonus. In our house the cloths drier is always a last resort. We have a rotary clothesline, we have put a line up under our veranda and also have a hanging homemade clothes airer in our back porch. In some parts of the world there are restrictions placed on people to prevent them from using outdoor clothes lines. Here in New Zealand, caveats on some new developments are beginning to infringe on the rights of people to have a visible outdoor clothes line. If you are buying into a new development request a copy of the covenants from the real-estate agent. Take time to check that the caveats will not prevent you from line drying your clothes and instead lock you into an energy and carbon intensive requirement to use a clothes drier.
Sustainable clothes pegs: When replacing your plastic clothes pegs try stainless steel, bamboo or wooden pegs. I wrote a blog about this last year and after another year of use my old plastic pegs have almost completely disintegrated (after years of prolonged exposure to sunlight), but my eco pegs are still going strong. I am a convert to bamboo and stainless steel pegs, but if you really want plastic pegs then hunt out a brand of NZ made recycled plastic peg. Stainless steel and bamboo pegs work brilliantly though so don’t be afraid to try something more expensive. They really are worth it.
Choose natural fibres/fabrics: Consider the fabrics your clothes are made from and avoid synthetics that can break down to micro plastic particles and end up in streams and rivers. Microplastic contamination of the oceans is one of the world’s most pressing environmental concerns. Microplastics are defined as small particles of plastic that are 100nm to 5mm in size. Fibres from synthetic fabrics can get into the water from our washing machines. These microplastic particles are small enough to be ingested by many organisms and as a result there are concerns about bioaccumulation. This is not just an environmental problem but also a health problem for us because these microplastics make their way into soils and waterways and from there into the ocean and ultimately into the food chain. In most parts of New Zealand, the councils will allow you to reuse your greywater for irrigation purposes, but it is likely that you will have to install a greywater filtration system. If you reuse your greywater in this way it is all the more reason to consider very carefully what you put down the drain!
Although not directly related to your laundry, do remember to think mindfully about the type of clothing you buy and how much clothing you really need. We are constantly having seasonal fashion pushed at us and the pressure of “fast fashion” is everywhere. This marketing is a dangerous myth. Buy quality natural clothing that is made to last, and then when you wash it you won’t be contributing to the micro-plastic particles in our waterways. Additionally, you will be slowing the consumerist fast fashion machine that hurts the environment and the garment factory workers who manufacture your clothes in substandard conditions.
Choose lifetime guarantees: When buying or replacing a washing machine consider paying for the model with the longest guarantee and reputation for reliability. The longer the machine lasts the better it is for the environment. Planned obsolescence has a huge (and unnecessary) environmental impact. Consider the availability of spare parts for the machine, repairing is better than replacing.
Cane or wicker clothes baskets: Replace plastic clothes baskets that crack or break and contribute to the plastic disposal problem, with wicker ones. In the past this is something we have done, but currently I am guilty of owning three plastic washing baskets. I was given two of them and purchased the other one when we were away camping and a cane washing basket couldn’t be located. I take care of them and I am determined to make them last as long as possible before they reach the end of their lives. It was easier with the cane washing basket when it bit the dust. We composted parts of it and used the rest for kindling.
So there you have it, lots of ideas to help you to make your laundry more sustainable and environmentally friendly. There are so many things you can do, I am sure there are other ideas I have missed. Don’t be afraid to make some changes and try some new products. The impact of our choices mounts up in a way that is largely invisible to us, but every little change we make has a positive impact downstream. I know it can often seem hopeless when we are faced with the magnitude of the problems facing our environment. Despite this we have to start making changes somewhere, and looking after our fresh water is a very powerful, yet meaningful change to make. The laundry is a great place to start!
I am really excited to have recently had a bit of an epiphany about what we class and edible and why. I think, like many people, I have become overly reliant on what is in the shops to guide my fresh food choices. If it isn’t in the shop then (while I might be aware of it) I might not remember it or think of it when I am trying to choose fresh produce for my family. If it isn’t there in the shop then I can’t buy it. I think we are so blinded regarding what we can actually eat that we have can no longer see the possibilities. For example I tend to forget that many flowers can be eaten and added to salads etc. Take pineapple sage. It is super pretty and attracts bees into the garden (and my 9 year old who likes to suck the nectar out of them), but I had never considered how they might be added to a salad to add flavour and a splash of brilliant red colour.
I was looking for a relish recipe in one of my favorite recipe books and I noticed that you can pickle nasturtium seeds and use them like capers. I was immediately curious and decided that a lockdown activity would be to pickle some. I picked a jar of green nasturtium seeds and following a combination of several recipes I successfully pickled them. They have been maturing in the fridge since the lockdown and are now ready to open and try. A friend told me they are crisp and crunchy and a bit spicy. I can’t wait to crack them open the next time we make homemade pizza.
As New Zealand headed into the covid19 pandemic people suddenly started thinking about being more self sufficient as a way of making sure they could feed their families if things got really tough. Seedlings and seeds were suddenly in demand. One thing that didn’t occur to so many people is that the food we see and take for granted in the produce aisle is only a very small sample of the produce that is actually out there. There are so many things that you can eat that you can’t buy in a supermarket or even at a green grocer (if you are lucky enough to have one local to you). Perhaps an even bigger issue here is that the produce we see is often not the only part of the plant you can eat.
This latter point has come as a bit of a revelation to me as I considered during lockdown how I could provide for my family as we headed into winter AND tried to avoid unnecessary trips to the shop for produce that spoils quickly and can’t be stored in bulk. This thought process has continued for me as we emerged from lockdown. There are a lot of things that might be growing in your garden (flowers, herbs, fruits, vegetables and even “weeds”) unnoticed and unappreciated. Just because you only buy a broccoli head doesn’t mean that is the only edible part of the plant. When you buy a couple of beetroot tubers, shorn of their leaves and glad-wrapped onto a plastic tray it is easy to forget that the leaves are edible too. A whole edible part of the plant has been removed and as a result we tend to forget about it and we are unable to make use of those parts in our cooking. This has caused me to begin looking at the plants in my garden and the produce we eat differently. I am surprised how much we waste because we forget that it can be eaten! I hope to inspire you to look differently at your garden and the plants we consume. So here is some food for thought.
People usually grow radishes for the root, but did you also know that you can also eat the green radish seed pods? Pick some to try with a salad. That isn’t the end either because radish seeds can be used as a spicy sprouting seed, and as a micro-green.
Peas can be grown as a winter crop (although ours are off to a slow start) and everyone is familiar with peas in pods and shelling them into bowls. But did you know that you know that you can also use peas shoots as a salad green, and you can eat the flowers?
Nasturtium flowers can be eaten, but so can leaves shoots and seeds (as caper pickles). I have always loved nasturtiums. I love the riot of flowers cascading out over paths and climbing over the top of boulders and tree stumps. The flowers are so bright and vivid that I almost feel they hurt my eyes and are so bright they can’t be actually real. I always find I am drawn the the intensity of the flowers, and so I always have them in my garden. I have known for years that you can eat the flowers and I sometime dress up a salad by adding some. But I didn’t know until this year that you can also eat the young leaves and the seeds as well. We used the leaves in salad sandwiches during lockdown while we waited for our lettuce seedlings to get big enough to harvest from, and we loved them.
Beetroot is another plant that we often forget is about more than the root. The young leaves can be used as a salad green as well and the leaves in general can be used like silverbeet. So often we think of beetroot as just coming in a tin but it is easy and rewarding to grow (providing you cover them to protect them from hungry birds).
When people pick celery they usually discard the leaves. But celery leaves can be used to flavour soup stocks, and can be chopped into salads as well. Personally I always use celery leaves when I am making soup stock.
Pumpkin is another versatile vegetable that has many more possibilities that the big ripe orange fruit we tend to think of. For example pumpkin leaves are edible and can be used to wrap food for steaming. The young shoots and leaves can apparently be steamed and eaten like silverbeet. Small baby pumpkins can be used like courgettes. The flowers can be added to salads and the seeds can be saved for next year.
Broccoli is an incredible plant with so many possibilities that you won’t see in the supermarket produce aisle. Broccoli leaves can be used in both salads and stir fries, and they can be used like cabbage. Broccoli is much more that just the delicious flower heads we usually consume. If one of your plants goes to seed, you can sprout the seeds and eat them (and you can collect and save the seed for next year). Even the flowers themselves can be used in salads. So many more possibilities than you might think!
I only learned recently that the leafy green tops of carrots can also be eaten. According to my investigations they are nutritious and taste of carrots with a parsley overtone. I gather that they are rather coarse so might benefit from being finely chopped if you are adding them to salads raw. I think they sound perfect for adding to soups and soup stocks. The leaves are apparently a rich source of vitamin c (containing more than the root). Who knew that? All those years of discarding the tops! I am going to try this the next time I make soup.
I have heard of growing mustard before (as micro-greens) but I hadn’t realised that the mature plant can be eaten as well. You can eat them as sprouts, micro-greens, and as leafy greens for salads and sandwiches. Apparently the stems (before they get woody) can be eaten and taste a bit like spicy asparagus. You can eat the flowers, and finally the seeds can be made into your own whole grain mustard. You can bet I am going to explore this vegetable further. I have just planted some out into the garden . I am watching and waiting impatiently for the seedlings to grow a bit bigger before I start plucking leaves off to taste.
Even some things we usually class as weeds can be eaten e.g. dandelion and plantain leaves. I have to admit that this is an area that I am not very knowledgeable about yet. I just hadn’t really stopped to think that I might have food plants growing all over the place but that I have been overlooking.
I think my grandparents knew a thing or two about growing produce and surviving through tough times. They lived through the great depression and two world wars and they raised a family awhile living a more frugal and self sufficient lifestyle. They always had a variety of well maintained fruit and nut trees, and a productive vegetable garden. As the years have gone by it seems that many of the subsequent generations have lost a lot of the knowledge our grandparents took for granted. Growing your own produce and preserving the surplus was normal for them. They saved seed, bottled, dried, preserved, and pickled away happily while producing a lot of the produce they needed for their growing family. The art of growing vegetables and fruit has been lost as consumerism has driven a change in how we shop and provide for our families. Important knowledge (like how much of a plant is edible) has increasingly been lost as well, and the way we buy food in supermarkets limits what you can actually get.
Discovering that nasturtium seeds could be preserved and that the leaves taste amazing in salads and sandwiches was the beginning of a revelation. I had been blind to how much edible green produce was sitting in my garden. I didn’t need to worry about how we would provide fresh produce during lockdown, because we had an abundant supply of things we had never considered just sitting in our garden. For me this feels like the start of an exciting new stage in my gardening journey. I really hope I inspire you to look again at what you have in your garden. It is easy to be blinded by what is laid out in the produce aisle, but what they don’t provide is even more exciting. Don’t be afraid to try something new or to put in a vegetable patch. You won’t be disappointed.
Plastic pollution in the ocean is largely invisible. The water looks blue and the waves sparkle in the sunlight, but beneath the surface there are microplastics, and they are being ingested by the fish that end up on our plates. There is also larger plastic rubbish washing up on beaches, and being ingested by our precious bird species, which leads to the starvation of chicks and adults. Although it is usually invisible, every breaking wave on the shore is carrying a burden of plastic pollution! We have to take steps to change our consumer choices and reduce our consumption of plastic.
Plastic pollution is a huge problem for our generation to grapple with. Plastic can seem like the simple solution to so many problems. For decades we have been seduced by how cheap it is, how light weight it is, how durable it is, how easy to replace, and now it is found everywhere. The problem of plastic pollution is now a problem so overwhelming that it is often very hard to find plastic free alternatives to anything. Worse still we have become blind to single use plastics, seeing them as convenient and necessary. Happily there are a growing number of companies that provide sustainable alternatives to plastic items we usually just take for granted (or at least I did until a few years ago). I became concerned with the state of our climate, our environment, our water, and the future that we are leaving for our children to face. Greta Thurnburg is right when she says that we should be ashamed of the future we are leaving for our children to clean up. I have been bothered by that thought since before Greta began her school strike. It is what motivated me to begin to make small changes as often as I can to look after this precious planet.
Cotton buds are common in many houses, they live in bathrooms and make-up bags everywhere. They are intended to be discarded after use (who wants to reuse a cotton bud?) Almost all of them are plastic these days, but when I was a kid the stems were made from rolled paper (like some lolly pop sticks still are). Somewhere between my childhood and today, they switched to plastic. Suddenly they couldn’t go in the kindling box, or the compost anymore. I remember my Mum and I discussing it and being frustrated that we just had to throw them in the rubbish. Three years ago, I began looking seriously into alternatives for plastic products and I came across bamboo cotton buds. Our family switched as soon as we needed to buy new cotton buds, and we have never regretted it. The switch was not hard at all. The first ones we found were Go Bamboo cotton buds. They are 100% biodegradable and the box is unbleached cardboard so that it can be composted.
Then in January this year I found that The Humble co. makes cotton buds too. These are also 100% biodegradable, and the packaging is made from recycled cardboard. These cotton buds are pink tipped if you prefer colourful cotton buds. There is no good reason that I can think of not to make the switch to bamboo cotton buds. If cost is a concern just consider the cost to the environment instead. The image of a seahorse holding on to a cotton bud is not a pretty picture, and I am not about to let my cotton buds get into the ocean or contribute to the growing plastic pollution problem. I want my kids to see that as a family we can make a positive impact rather than a negative one. Every action (no matter how small) has real power to effect change. Reduce, reuse, re-purpose, repair, recycle. As soon as you find an alternative to plastic that is sustainable, switch to it. Let your purchasing power speak for you.
Miss 9 is a member of her schools enviro group. The school has been working towards its EnviroSchools Green-Gold award. In a couple of weeks the judges are coming to see if the school as done enough to achieve this goal. My daughter is passionate about the environment and I am stunned at her drive and determination. If she can walk the walk at school with her friends, I am determined we will do the same at home. She is refusing to use shampoo in plastic bottles because she knows how big the plastic problem is. Instead she has been using my Ethique shampoo bars on the sly. Even telling her that the Ecostore shampoo that we buy comes in sugar plastic bottles from a renewable source doesn’t dissuade her from her desire to avoid using products in plastic. She finds this really hard at times when popular toys she is keen on turn out to be plastic, but most of the time she sticks to her guns and prefers to avoid it. Honestly – if a nine year old girl can make tough decisions to avoid plastic, then so can the rest of us. Start with choosing plastic free cotton buds next time you need some, a plastic free dish brush or plastic free clothes pegs. We owe it to our children to do something now.
Conservation and restoration is vital to our survival as a species. It’s important because we inhabit this world together with a myriad of creatures both large and tiny. The way we lead our lives, dispose of our waste, decide what to purchase, and even what pets we own has an impact on the species’ with which we share New Zealand and the world. They have no voice unless we choose to advocate for them. No chance unless we value them, and no future if we don’t take action.
New Zealand is rather special in that it was the last large habitable land mass in the world to be colonised by humans. It is also the most recent large landmass to experience an extinction event. New Zealand was the last ‘primeval’ wilderness on the planet, and as such it was utterly unique. The extinction event in NZ occurred as a result of the arrival of humans, first Maori and then the subsequent arrival of European explorers and settlers. Often I think we tend to view the extinction events associated with the arrival of humans in NZ as being in the past (done and dusted years ago), but in reality we are living right in the middle of it. It isn’t over. We just don’t notice it happening and that is the real tragedy. We just don’t notice until it is too late!
Maori brought the pacific rat or kiore. Then Europeans brought mice, norway rats, ship rats, black rats, stoats, weasels, ferrets, cats, possums, hedgehogs and more. New Zealand’s native fauna evolved for millions of years in isolation. An enchanted archipelago of islands where birds and insects filled almost every niche that mammals would have occupied elsewhere. We even have a ground foraging bat! It was like nowhere else in the world. If we don’t do something to stop the extinctions, and halt the decline of our threatened and unique species, then all we will have are animals that can be found elsewhere. We will no longer be unique.
But it was not only the introduction of predators that decimated our native flora and fauna. Maori began clearing the land through the use of fire, and the clearances intensified after the arrival of European settlers. The signature of these two waves of land clearance show up in pollen and charcoal records from around NZ. In some places the bands of charcoal are still visible in soil profiles today.
The clearances were unimaginable in scale. Most of NZ is now denuded and bare of its native forests and ecosystems. What remains is still threatened in most places. Against the saws and the fires of clearance our majestic forests stood no chance. Now as you drive around NZ you drive through kilometers of rural landscapes, green grassy paddocks and hills dotted with sheep and cows and pine forestry. But those same grassy fields should have towering trees covering them, filled with kokako, huia, and piopio. Sometimes when I look at the fields around me I feel heart sick at what we have lost.
A little over a year ago we managed to buy our first home. Two acres of rural bliss, with a handful of pet sheep and some chickens to keep us busy. One thing we decided to do is to replant parts of the property in locally rare native plants in order to create a seed source. We located some amazing local native plant nurseries that specialise in the specific plants for our particular part of the world. Then we just started planting as often as we could afford to buy the plants.
Myrsine salicina (Toro), planted in our fenced off restoration area.
Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium. One of many in our small scale restoration.
We fenced off small areas at the edges of our paddocks to create windbreaks and shelter for our sheep. These areas are being replanted with natives. Not everything has survived, we estimate that we have had a 20% loss rate among the things we have planted. This loss rate is largely attributed to the damaged soil resulting from more than a hundred years of being farmed. The plants are in puggy degraded soils completely unlike the rich soils that would have been here 200 years ago and there is no shelter. It is hard work getting anything established in that.
Pimelea prostrata (native daphne) planted to create habitat for native skinks.
Fuschia procumbans, planted to help create a gecko habitat and food source.
I recently planted a selection of native plants with my 9 year old daughter and 6 year old son. We turned over the sods and shook the soil from the clumps of grass roots, and I found myself feeling excited as I watched the hands of my children placing native trees into the soil. It felt good to work together to put things back the way they should be, even if it is only a tiny area.
Some things we can put back, like the plants I planted with my children. But some things are gone for good. There are no huia now, no matter what I plant, they are gone for good. There are no kakapo here anymore and no kiwi either. I might not get huia, kakapo or kiwi back by planting a seed source, but I will get, more geckos, skinks, wetas, tui, bellbirds, fantails andkereru. It is worth all the effort just to get them.
We depend on plants and vegetation for our environment so we need to plant intelligently. At various times and for various reasons, exotic plants have been introduced to New Zealand. Unfortunately many of them were unwise choices. Invasive plant species such as gorse, ivy, old mans beard, pampas, sycamores, evergreen buckthorn, elaegnus and many more are a huge problem. Invasive weeds destroy our native plant communities and ecosystems. In light of this, another way that we are trying to make a difference in our little slice of heaven, is to systematically weed out any noxious weeds that we find. We have a LOT of ivy to eradicate, and also a lot of evergreen buckthorn. Given how prolific both buckthorn and ivy are with their seeding I imagine this is going to be an ongoing occupation for many years. If you are keen to “do your bit” then familiarise yourself with the noxious weeds in your area and remove them from your property.
Bee’s are essential to our ecosystem. Even our food sources rely on them to pollinate our food plants.
A native bee busy doing its thing in a purple crocus.
Consider bees (both native and introduced) when you plant your garden. Put in some flowers for them, or plant manuka! New Zealand has 28 species of native bees. Our bees don’t produce honey or live in hives, but they do provide a critical but overlooked role in pollinating native plant species such as kanuka, manuka and pohutukawa. Throwing a few native plant species in your garden will help our little native bees.
I have always been passionate about NZ. It is the only home I have ever had and the only place I would ever call my turangawaewae (place to stand). I am a part of this place, it is a part of me. I feel much the same about protecting our native flora and fauna and land as I do about protecting my children.
“They are our national monuments. They are our Tower of London, our Arc de Triomphe, our pyramids. We don’t have this ancient architecture that we can be proud of and swoon over in wonder, but what we do have is something that is far, far older than that. No one else has kiwi, no one else has kakapo. They have been around for millions of years, if not thousands of millions of years. And once they are gone, they are gone forever. And it’s up to us to make sure they never die out“.
Conservation can seem daunting when you step back and look at the scale of the problem. But doing your bit doesn’t have to be huge or onerous, it can be as little as reconsidering what shrubs you plant or taking the time to trap rats. Here are some ideas to get you started. One or two steps are all that you need to do to begin to make a real difference in your own backyard.
Ways to help NZ native species in your own back yard:
Purchase of a humane predator trap e.g. Goodnature traps – a humane, simple, and effective way to manage pest species in your back yard and around your property.
Careful management of pet cats and dogs. Keep track of your pets.
Go out into nature and teach yourself and your tamariki to value the things that are hidden in plain sight. Taking time to go out and see the amazing animals and plants we share NZ (and our world) with. Visit places like Pukaka Mt Bruce, Zelandia, Nga Manu, Hinewai, Orokonui Ecosanctury or just take the time to go on a day walk or and overnight tramp in our national parks and reserves. It is easy to overlook the beauty that is all around us if we spend our lives with our eyes on a screen or cooped up inside.
Create your own mini native sanctuary in your backyard.
If you own a farm consider planting native shelter, fencing your waterways, creating native forest corridors to allow birds and insects etc to move from one place to another. Perhaps you could consider it a “tithe” for nature. Consider doing the same thing no mater what the size of your property.
Consider gifting trees as gifts for family and friends. Trees That Count is a great option.
Although native species might not have evolved to withstand mammalian predators, and the impacts of humans on their environment, the fact remains that they are the best and most perfectly adapted species for NZ’s unique environment. A humbling thought is that kiwi have been in NZ longer than humans have exisited! Many NZ species have withstood millennia of climate changes in the past and they are still here. We should not write them off as failures simply because they cannot withstand introduced predators and landscape destruction. We don’t have any more right to exist than our native species do. In fact they have been here in NZ longer than humans so perhaps the uncomfortable truth is that they have more right to exist here than we do.
De-extinction is no substitute for conservation. At the moment there is no way back. We can’t (yet) bring back what we have lost. Even if we can one day bring a species back it will always have limitations. It would be better not to find ourselves needing de-extinction in the first place.
We humans want quality of life, we seek happiness. Part of what makes us happy is variety and interest and beauty. If we allow species to be lost, then the world will be less interesting and permanently dulled. Unknown possibilities will be lost. Every time we think we have exhausted the options from nature, we discover another valuable commodity that is derived from a species we could have over looked. For example spider venom may be able to treat nervous system disorders.
Our species and our whole way of life depends on the other species we inhabit this earth with. If we don’t value them, then I don’t see how we value ourselves or our own future as a species.
A few months ago, I posted what has become a very popular blog post on DIY alternatives to conventional plastic glitter. The fact that conventional glitters are made from plastic is a fact that has escaped a lot of people. I don’t think glitter has ever seemed anything other than innocuous, crafty, and fun. It is rather sad then, that a microplastic menace is lurking in schools, kindergartens, and home craft cupboards everywhere. Increasingly, the general public are getting the message that microplastics and plastic pollution is a huge problem. Now we just need alternatives and sustainable options to chose instead.
Since I started making alternatives to glitter for my kids to use, I have talked to lots of people about it. I have now had the thumbs up on my DIY glitters from the kids at our church sunday school (where we used them to construct a sign pointing the way to the kids corner), and from one of the teachers at school. My own kids love the homemade sustainable alternatives, and they really haven’t missed the sparkly kind very much.
I have now discovered fully biodegradable eco-glitter thanks to my dear husband, who noticed it and decided to surprise me. Three Mamas eco-glitter looks like conventional glitter but instead of a plastic base, it’s made from non-GMO Eucalyptus cellulose, from a renewable source, and it is biodegradable. Now we can have fun making our own, but still have a source of sparkly glitter for those special things that just need some extra pizzazz. This glitter comes in both fine and chunky sizes and it comes in a large variety of colours. Possibly the cutest part of this glitter is that you can get it in teeny tiny glass bottles with tiny corks. I am a sucker for tiny things and and these push all the right buttons with me. Miss 9 is pretty captivated with them as well, because they look like fairy wish jars.
Three Mamas eco-glitter is vegan, and safe for use in cosmetics. It takes about 6 months to break down in compost or marine water. Their website has a number of positive reviews. So all in all a great discovery.
Microplastic contamination of the oceans is one of the world’s most pressing environmental concerns. Microplastics are defined as small particles of plastic that are 100nm to 5mm in size . These microplastic particles are small enough to be ingested by many organisms and as a result there are concerns about bioaccumulation in our food chain.
The problem of microplastics is a huge one, and one that we are only now beginning to grapple with. The impacts and consequences are far-reaching and long lasting, and the true effects of marine organisms and even ourselves won’t be known for decades. I know that craft and cosmetic glitter can seem a bit insignificant in the greater scheme of things, but we all have to start somewhere, and ditching plastic glitter is as good a place as any to begin. Little steps conquer big mountains. Each person that starts questioning and thinking about issues such as plastic pollution is one part of the solution. Why not show your children that there is a better way? Help them to be part of the change.
Have you ever considered clothes pegs? They are clever little things, so simple and so useful. But how sustainable are they? Clothes pegs are almost entirely made from plastic and are practically all manufactured in China. I have picked up pegs in some pretty strange places; footpaths, roads, car parks, playgrounds. But the most disturbing places I have picked them up is on beaches half buried in the sand. And I am talking about relatively isolated beaches. We even found them on Mana Island during a beach clean-up. This prompted me to start thinking about sustainable alternatives, and trying to find locally made pegs if I could.
I remember the day it occurred to me to wonder if my old broken plastic pegs could actually be recycled. I looked at the gravel under my clothesline and noticed the fragments of ancient looking plastic pegs. Some had simply been dropped and then stepped on. Some had suffered plastic fatigue and had broken mid-use leaving my clothes hanging oddly, or in a sad heap on the ground below the line. Others had served me well and probably date back to around 15 years ago, but had become pitted with age, faded, and brittle with extended exposure to the sun. As I gathered the remnants of my expired pegs I found myself wondering if they should go in the rubbish or the recycling. I turned to trusty Google and began researching, and then started firing off emails.
It turns out that while some plastic clothes pegs start out as technically recyclable plastic, extended exposure to UV damages them so that they are no longer recyclable. I discovered this interesting fact when I tracked down the manufacturer of Sunshine Pegs. I fired off my questions about how recyclable they are and they responded promptly to explain the effects of UV.
Clothes pegs are a surprisingly recent invention. The earliest references to clothes pegs date from around the early 19th century. Prior to that date washing was apparently draped over a line or hung out over bushes to dry. This might have been OK in England, but it wouldn’t work at all here in Wellington (the windiest city in the world) on what we would class as a slightly breezy day! In my grandma’s day back in the 1940’s with a young family, pegs were wooden (and no doubt made right here in New Zealand too). In fact my grandma managed to make do without plastic at all with three children during WW2 rationing. Although times have changed and life is different today, I find her example inspirational. The up-shot is that although plastic pegs are ubiquitous and convenient they are not sustainable and there are alternatives. Here are just a few that I have found.
These bright, colourful, plastic spring pegs are made in New Zealand, so don’t require shipping to our shores with all the associatedgreenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Although technically recyclable when the product is new, this isn’t the case after prolonged exposure to UV. Since pegs do most of their work outside on sunny hot days, they aren’t really a recyclable product. They are going to end up in landfill or washed down stormwater drains at the end of their lives. I have a supply of them, and they are great, but only while they are not UV damaged and consequently brittle. If you want to continue with plastic pegs, at least make sure that they are made locally.
These bamboo pegs were my first exploration into the world of sustainable alternatives to plastic pegs. Priced reasonably at $7 for 20 pegs and packaged in compostable boxes, these pegs were made for Wellingtons famous winds! They have an incredibly strong grip. I like them, and would happily have more of them. They don’t stain or mark clothing. However on the downside, their grip is so strong that they can be a bit fiddly to get on and off in a hurry (such as a sudden rain shower) and my Mum who has a bit of arthritis finds them nearly impossible to operate.
Go Bamboo make a lot of claims to be sustainable and to have good conditions for their factory workers, but they don’t back any of this up with accreditations such as fairtrade. This bothers me, but so far I haven’t found an alternative brand with accreditations and so until I do I will continue to use them. Basically they are asking me to trust that they are being 100% honest about what they are claiming, but an accreditation would make this a much easier decision.
These are my newest acquisition. My darling husband spotted them and got some for me to try. Not a cheap option at $27 for a bag of 20 pegs, but I have to say so far they are worth it. They are strong, easy to operate and don’t mark clothing. They have handled some pretty mean winds and my washing has stayed firmly on the line. I have no issues with these pegs. I love them.
Although I haven’t tried them yet, I did stumble across some New Zealand made pegs made from recycled plastic. They look good, and I am keen to sample them. A google search turns up several pegs that are made in New Zealand from recycled plastic. I think this would be a good option if you remain keen on plastic pegs. Although exposure to UV means they will not be recyclable at the end of their “working life”.
I am unsure which is best actually, sustainable pegs that have to be shipped here contributing to GHG emissions, or plastic pegs made here in New Zealand but that can’t be recycled, thus contributing to landfill and the rising problem of micro-plastics and plastic pollution. It is a tough one. In the end I have opted for imported sustainable pegs so that I am no longer contributing old pegs to the plastic problem in our landfills and on our beaches. I am hopeful that they will prove durable and will outlast the plastic pegs. But as soon as someone starts making sustainable plastic free pegs right here in New Zealand, I will ditch the imports and buy New Zealand made again.
It may seem like an insignificant step to make towards a more sustainable future, but I think it is worth while. Plastic pegs are not designed to last for long. They are designed to be expendable and easily replaceable. They must contribute a fair bit of plastic over the full life of an average family. I don’t ever want one of my old pegs to end up inside an albatross chick instead of fish, and I don’t ever want my old pegs washing out to sea to end up polluting a beautiful beach somewhere. New Zealand has so many native seabirds that this is a real concern for me. If my pegs are made from wood or metal, that will never be a problem. I challenge you to make a sustainable change in your laundry to remove another source of plastic, and wherever possible choose to buy local over imports if you can. Together our consumer choices can make a difference, even if it seems insignificant. Those discarded bits of plastic don’t seem very important to us, but it matters a huge amount to the albatross chick that gets a peg instead of fish.
What if the person who made your shoes was a young boy who wants desperately to go to school? How would you feel if that was your son? How would you feel if the person who made your tee-shirt was unable to afford to send their children to school? What if the manufacture of your clothing helped to destroy a habitat? These are questions that prey on my mind and are now shaping my purchasing decisions. Our collective clothing choices have power. Ethical clothing is not just good for the workers and the environment, it is good for your soul.
There are a lot of options to choose from when it comes to ethical clothing. I want to give you a taste of what is actually out there because a lot of people seem surprised that there are actually reasonable options to consider. It matters a lot to me who made my clothes. I want them to have fulfilled and happy lives and I want them to be safe and healthy and educated. In New Zealand we have labour laws designed to protect our workers as well as laws protecting our environment, which is why I think many of us take it for granted that other countries have similar laws. Because we don’t have clothing factories with horrific conditions here in New Zealand it is a largely invisible problem. Only a small proportion of clothing is actually made here. Most of our apparel and clothing is made overseas and is shipped here (which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions because New Zealand is so geographically isolated). Most of our clothing comes from places like Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mexico, Turkey, China and Indonesia – all of which have big problems with sweatshops, and poor environmental protection. Given recent world events, it is also pertinent to consider how a country treats its migrants.
Another closely related issue is that of “fast fashion”. Cheap clothing that is designed to be discarded seasonally as the fashions change. Fast fashion is not made to last and the fabrics and manufacturing are often poor quality. Fast fashion is hurting the factory workers and the environment, and most of it ends up in landfills. This happens because we have collectively bought into the lie that we need to look fashionable, and that buying more and more clothes will somehow make us happy and fulfilled.
Every January when we pack up for 3 weeks away from home in a caravan, I find I really don’t need most of my clothes. If I can manage for three weeks in the summer with just one tiny drawer of clothing, then I have far more clothes than I actually need. To be honest I feel pressured to regularly vary what I wear. I feel pressure not to re-wear the same clothes every few days. Now that I am aware of this I try to constantly consider what I have and why I need to buy something else. I do find it hard and I’m far from perfect, but I am making an effort. I am trying to buy new items of clothing only if I am replacing an item that is worn out. I have begun downsizing my wardrobe, but I do still find it hard to overcome the desire to have new things. I am lucky that I have zero desire to shop in big malls. In fact I can’t think of anything worse. I dislike the pressure to impulse buy, and I really struggle not to see things I would like but don’t need. It makes it much easier for me to stay away from malls and clothing shops. I prefer to source my new clothing online from places like Tumbleweed Tees that don’t have shops in malls. I guess I am trying to become a mindful shopper.
The good news is that there are options out there and not all of them are horrifically priced. It is now easier than it used to be to research the ethical credentials of clothing brands, and there are useful guides out there to help you make informed decisions. For example the Tearfund Ethical Clothing Guide is a great place to start. It is updated annually so is always current. Fair trade and organic clothing is something that I aspire to own and I am determined to consider the origin of my clothing choices every time I purchase. I buy to support causes. I buy to last. I also buy second hand. I repair rather than discard. Today I want to share some of the places you can find fair trade ethical clothing. I urge you to become part of the rising tide of people who consider where their clothing comes from, who made it and what its environmental impact is.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Kathmandu has good transparency, and now stocks fair trade items such as these mens and womens tee-shirts. I will be keeping my eyes open for these next time I am in a Kathmandu store.
The Paper Rain Projectis a local New Zealand company producing high quality creative and sustainable products. Their tee-shirts are 100% organic, fairly traded and locally printed using environmentally aware printing methods. More recently they have partnered with other brands and now stock a range of sustainable, socially responsible products. I love their tee-shirt designs and can’t wait to get one next time I need a tee-shirt. Well worth a look.
Humanity is another New Zealand brand that is committed to sourcing and manufacturing long-lasting sustainable products as part of a circular economy. I stumbled across their website recently and was pleased with the prices of its tee-shirts, which are not unreasonable. I share it here because I am impressed by what I see and the ethic behind the brand. I look forward to shopping here in the future.
Freedom Kidssells fun ethical, gender neutral clothing for kids in all colours and for everybody. They operate out of the Wairarapa and offer ethical kids clothing. Perhaps not as affordable as I would like it to be, this company still offers options that are hard to come by elsewhere.
Tumbleweed Tees are a small New Zealand business that designs and screen prints its own tee-shirts and other items. They donate $5 from every adult tee-shirt sold to a conservation group. Some of their designs are specifically linked with particular conservation groups/causes for example the Kea Conservation Trust. I love the designs so much that although my shag tee-shirt (seen in the picture at the top of this blog) is now very old and worn out, I still can’t bring myself to throw it away, the design is too beautiful. This is probably my favorite tee-shirt brand simply because they are New Zealand owned and completely unique. I love that I am supporting conservation with every purchase, and the designs are fabulous. I urge you to check them out for yourself.
My brand new Thunderpants knickers!
Compostable packaging with no plastic in sight.
Thunderpants are a small, ethical, family owned and operated company, based in the Wairarapa. They make a range of underwear and other items that are made in New Zealand from certified fair trade organic cotton. I have heard good things about them, and so I am thrilled to be able to trial some. It’s early days yet, but so far they are super comfortable and seem very well made. As a bonus they were posted out in a paper mail bag and their branded packaging is fully compostable.
Etiko, whose motto is wear no evil, sell a large range of mens and womens shoes, apparel and bags, all of which is certified Fairtrade, Organic, and B Corp. My husband tried out some of their shoes with mixed results, but my 16 year old daughter has an awesome tee-shirt emblazoned with the words “This tee-shirt freed a slave”, that she grew out of before she wore it out. They are well worth a look.
SaveMart is a large retailer of quality second hand clothing. Our family recently visited and discovered some amazing bargains. I paid $15 for a couple of cardigans in perfect condition. I got new jeans ($4) and a merino thermal top ($5) for Miss 8, and new jeans ($4) and $3 soccer shorts for Mr 6. Miss 16 got a brand new (high quality brand) raincoat for $15 and a MacPak puffer jacket for $30. Shopping second hand is an affordable and environmentally responsible choice as it prevents clothing items from ending up in the landfill and it is easy on your wallet. Often you can find real gems like my daughter’s puffer jacket, or a pair of kids pajamas for $1. Second hand clothing is awesome. Try packaging up your old clothes if they are in good condition and hand them on to someone else. This is a great option particularly when it comes to kids clothing, they grow out of it so fast!
‘My Mums lovingly hand knitted pom pom hats.
The mother of one of my oldest friends knitted this gorgeous top for my son.
Another option that is often overlooked are hand knitted clothes. There was clothing before polar fleece people! I know it is not so common these days to knit your own, many people don’t even know how to. However you don’t have to look far to find someone who can knit. An aunt, grandma, or one of the retired ladies at church or in a local craft group will often have incredible knitting skills. There are quite a few knitters that have helped to clothe my children. My Awesome Auntie can unravel an old jersey, roll the unraveled wool into balls, and then re-knit it into an amazing kids jersey. I am in awe of her skills, because she can knit at speed and watch TV at the same time! My Mum keeps my kids heads warm with a lovely succession of pompom hats and she makes jerseys for them too. The mother of one of my oldest school friends has also knitted lovely things for my kids. We treasure these clothes because of the effort and love that goes into them. Perhaps there are knitters who would knit for you and your family. Maybe you could supply the wool. If you are crafty like me try learning to knit and you might be surprised how much easier it is once you get started.
Personally, I want my everyday comfy clothes to be as ethically sourced as possible. But that doesn’t always have to mean finding a company or brand that is ethically certified. It can be as simple as visiting a few second hand shops or even organising a clothing swap between friends or family. Why not be part of the change?
Wet wipes are widely considered to be essential for any new parent to carry everywhere but most are non-biodegradable, contain plastic fibers, come in plastic packaging, and can contain various things that can upset a sensitive skin. Marketed as quick, easy and convenient, wet wipes are a multi million dollar industry that is anything but convenient for our environment. Did you know that you can make your own? Quick and super easy to do, here is all you need to know have a go at making your own. They are inexpensive and you can be certain of what you are putting in. This latter point is essential if you or your children are like me and suffer from contact allergies and atopic eczema.
Most wet wipes are unable to be flushed down a toilet, and must be disposed of in the rubbish. I’ve seen them blowing around at the dump, and I have seen them spilling out of rubbish bins in public toilets. Many people flush them anyway, and then they contribute to the formation of “fatbergs” which block drains and cause headaches for local authorities. While technically “disposable”, in reality discarded wet wipes don’t just magically disappear when they are disposed of. They persist in sewers, drains and rubbish dumps for far far longer than any of us really want to think about. Wet wipes are an increasingly serious environmental concern, both here in New Zealand and around the world. Watercare in Auckland is now spending $1 million a year on removing fatbergs and blockages from the network. In an article in 2015, The Guardian labelled them the biggest villain of the year. They are ending up in rivers and waterways and they are making their way into the ocean where they contribute to the growing plastic catastrophe affecting ocean wildlife. A walk on a beach is increasingly a first hand opportunity to see the effects of our plastic addiction. For most people, wet wipes are an invisible contributor because once disposed of they are out of sight, out of mind.
A few years ago, as a Mum with two small children, I made my own baby wipes. At the time finances were tight. With my daughter I used organic wet wipes for traveling (when I could occasionally afford to get them) or baby sized re-usable cotton washcloths around the home. When I had my son 2.5 years later, I was given a recipe to make your own wet wipes. Initially dubious, I gave it a go and was instantly converted. I used them everywhere and took them everywhere by packing a smaller quantity into a smaller container for the nappy bag. I never had any problem with them, and it must have saved me a LOT of money over the years I used them. A huge bonus for me was that I could choose what I added to them. Some brands of wet wipes cause me huge problems with my skin condition. Making my own completely eliminated this problem.
A few generations ago, wet wipes didn’t exist. My Grandma didn’t use them for her children or struggle to keep them clean without them. She managed fine, just like everyone bringing up kids in the 1930’s and 1940’s. I find a lot of inspiration from thinking about how my grandparents managed without plastic. So many plastic things are sold to us as essential and necessary, but if they weren’t necessary and indispensable 70 years ago, are they really needed today?
Wet wipes come in plastic packaging which is currently not really possible to recycle, they are made from non-biodegradable materials, they are bad for our environment. The good news is that despite what the wet wipe companies would like us to think, we can do without them. You can actually make your own.
Here’s how to make DIY wet wipes.
First, you will need to get a roll of paper towels. They will need to be the super heavy duty variety, or they won’t work as well.
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Second, using your chopping board and a sharp knife, cut your roll of paper towels in half. It doesn’t have to be exact, just use your eye-o-meter.
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Third, in a jug mix 350mls of warm water, a couple of squirts of your body wash or baby wash, and a few drops of oil (I use sweet almond oil). If you want to you can also add a few drops of New Zealand Manuka oil. Manuka oil would be a great option given it’s clinically proven antimicrobial and antiviral properties – a good idea for anything to do with personal hygiene
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Forth, you will need a container with a leak proof lid that is big enough to fit your half roll of paper towels. Put your half roll into the container. Yes I have used a plastic container, but I already had it in my cupboard and it is reusable over a long period of time.
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Fifth, pour the water into the middle of the paper towel roll. Put the lid on and leave for a couple of minutes. Then tip it upside down and leave for another couple of minutes.
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Sixth, open the container and remove the paper towel roll, find the end and away you go. Home made wet wipes ready to use.
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If you find that the paper towels are a little bit dry (it depends on what brand you use how much they absorb) just add small amounts of warm water until they are the desired dampness.
Cheap, easy, and effective, and fully biodegradable, they are perfect to replace the expensive shop bought ones. They work for tiny bottoms, and they are perfect for camping, where handwashing and face washing are a little walk from the campsite. The only caveat is that in warmer weather they can develop mold if not used fairly quickly. Please note that in spite of being fully biodegradable they are a thicker grade of paper and still shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet because they can cause problems. Depending on what they are used for you can just compost them – for example if you are just wiping sticky fingers and messy mouths.
Another tip to replace shop bought wet wipes is to simply get a decent supply of small washcloths or facecloths and use those instead. This latter idea is particularly effective at home. I have a large box of baby sized soft cotton washcloths left over from when the kids were babies. I boil them with a small amount of ecostore soaker every now and again to freshen them up. I don’t know why people have forgotten about good old fashioned fabric cloths. They are such a wonderful solution to every kind of sticky kiddie mess and they are fully reusable. Simply run under the tap, squeeze out and clean up the messy hands, then drop in the washing machine.
Reusable washcloths and homemade wet wipes are another simple way to make a difference. One more step towards leaving a feather light impact on the environment for future generations. Why not give it a go and see how easy it is for yourself?