10 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Trash

When we buy a product it is so easy to neglect to envision the whole life cycle of that thing. Where something has come from is relevant to us – we should be aware of what the product is made from and how that effects us and our environment. We should try and buy products that have been ethically produced, whether we’re thinking about the impact on the planet or the impact on communities. People are starting to show more awareness of ethical issues when purchasing new products. The mass boycott of products containing palm oil is one great example of this. How often do we neglect to consider where our product will end up when it’s life is over?

Thanks for the image, wehatewaste.com.

Thanks for the image, wehatewaste.com.

This summer I’ve been reading Amy Korst’s The Zero-Waste Lifestyle: Live well by throwing away less. I have found it incredibly inspiring. (And, by the way, I am also recommending it as an easy, engaging and particularly instructional read.) As a household we have a long way to go before we can consider ourselves rubbish-free, but every day we are learning to make better choices for ourselves and our environment. The idea of living with no waste at all can be really daunting.

There are degrees of living this type of lifestyle – you might be an individual or household who wants to halve their waste or find a better way to dispose of what they already use. Perhaps you’d like to downgrade from your current size curbside garbage bin to a smaller (and cheaper) version. We pay for the size bin we use in our rates in Australia. Could you be saving your household money by throwing away less? You may be someone who believes you can get to the stage where you only create a shoebox full of waste a year, like Amy and her husband. We don’t think we can get down that far, but we would like to reduce our waste by at least 50% this year. When we get there I’d like to see if we can go further, but for the time being we’re sitting at that goal. By now you’ll have learned that I I’m particularly motivated by goals.

The reality of throwing an item away is that it ends up in landfill. There is no magical land where our rubbish goes, breaks down and ceases to be. It sits in huge mounds, creating a dangerous atmosphere in which it is nearly impossible for anything to biodegrade, even your “biodegradable” rubbish bags.

If you think you are ready to make the change to a less trashy life, here are ten quick things you can change now.

  1. Think about every single thing you put in the rubbish. Think outside the box. How could you re-use this instead of throwing it away?
  2. Don’t buy packaged goods. You can buy packaged everything, but in the same vein, you can get most things unpackaged. Avoid anything with double layers, too much plastic and styrofoam trays. Shop at stores or markets where you can return the packaging. Shop in bulk when you can. Recently I *accidentally* purchased a four pack of mangos at Aldi. They were housed in a little plastic box with four mango shaped molds. They even had nutritional values listed on the front. For mangos?! They were inexpensive and they looked great. I completely forgot about the rubbish they were creating – buying four mangos should always be a zero waste purchase. Think hard about everything you put in your basket.
  3. Search Google for alternative uses. The world is full of innovative and resourceful people. The web is full of their ideas. For example, when I searched alternative uses for styrofoam trays I found that they could be used for planting seeds, making toys, creating collages, framing photos and crafting in a gazillion ways. One savvy trasher even created a Pinterest board dedicated to reusing the sly old styrofoam tray.
  4. Which brings me to our best trashing resource – Pinterest. If you have a child, or are associated with a school, kindergarten or childcare centre (or if you know someone with a child…have I covered most options here??) then you have somewhere to pass on your crafting resources. Pinterest is a whole world of new ideas for ordinary things. This summer when I caved and accidentally bought the cheaper (and more fun) frozen yoghurt pop sticks, instead of the less trashy tub, I washed and kept all the pop sticks. I know these little wooden blighters will come in handy one day. Similarly, I collect bread bag ties. At the moment they are helpig my worn out thongs (if you are not Australian read: flip flops) last out the summer. Maybe one day I’ll make a gown out of them.
  5. Sell it. I have a friend who sold a broken answering machine, which was declared as such,  at her garage sale. Just because you think it is trash, it isn’t to everyone. Did you know that in the US you can sell toilet tubes in bulk lots on eBay? There are about a billion crafts that you can do using them. In Australia we are not allowed to use them in schools anymore due to dubious hygiene concerns. What a shame! Check out where your trash can make you some money and be re-used or repurposed.
  6. Have fewer bins. This suggestion is straight from Amy’s book. If you take the bins out of the bedroom and bathroom you’ll have to think harder about where that rubbish goes. While you are transporting that rubbish to the kitchen bin you’ll have time to think about what it is, how it could be reused or, failing that, recycled. What is is made up of? How did it end up in your house? How can you avoid it in the future?
  7. Don’t buy one use items. They are everywhere! My Mum bought a packet of 6 sippy cups when my nephew was born (almost 6 years ago). She only realised much later that the brand name was “take and toss”. They were designed to be thrown out. These sturdy, colourful sippy cups are still in use. It’s unfathomable that people buy things like this to throw away. Many one use items, including tissues, nappies, wipes, breast pads,  sanitary items, razors, paper plates, plastic bags,  plastic cups, take away coffee cups and plastic cutlery can easily be replaced with reusable items without too much stretching of the imagination.
  8. Stop lining your bin with bags. Check your council regulations. Some will allow you to put your rubbish directly into the garbage bin without a bin liner or bag. Others require you to contain it so it doesn’t fly away when the bins are emptied into the truck. Our council requires this, but there is no reason for us to have a fresh bag every time we empty the bin. Buy larger garbage bags to cover your bin, if this is necessary, and fill that throughout the week. One. Bag. Otherwise, use paper bags. If you’re composting (this is easy, too!) then you won’t have much mushy waste and paper bags should suffice.
  9. Recycle plastic that can’t go into your curbside bin at Coles. Did you know that Coles collects biscuit packets, plastic wrap, pasta packets and the like to recycle into playground equipment. I know! How awesome! You can read more about that here.
  10. Find a better way. Crunch this: If you replace your toothbrush as recommended (every 3 months) and youIMG_5208[1] live, say, 70 years, how many toothbrushes will you throw into landfill in your lifetime? 280. Two hundred and eighty toothbrushes! That’s 280 for you, 280 for your spouse, 280 for your children, 280 for your parents, 280 for your neighbour. That’s a huge amount of dental hygiene waste lying around in landfill. A little bit of research brought us to Environmental Toothbrush – an Australian (yay!) company who create compostable toothbrushes. They’re made from sustainable bamboo and are entirely compostable. Also awesome – they cost about the same as a normal toothbrush and come in cardboard packaging. We’re in love. When at all possible, if you cannot avoid the product, find a better way.

These ideas are designed to be easy to implement, but they are just the beginning.

What do you do to reduce your trash? What’s your number one tip for those getting started?

Mama xo

Buy Nothing New Month

We have snoozed a little on this, which is almost unforgivable. October is Buy Nothing New Month and although it is already the 5th day of the month, you can still pledge here. The website offers tips, tricks and encouragement to those who choose to play along. Of course you can pledge to buy nothing new any time at all – you don’t need others to set a time or date. The best thing about doing it in October is that you can share in the support offered by others who are doing it then, too. Or we’ll give you support any time!

Those of you who have been reading along with The Fearse’s for awhile will understand that buying nothing new doesn’t mean buying nothing at all. It means adding the thrill of the chase, the hunt for treasure to your purchases. You can buy almost ANYTHING second hand. In the process you might have time to think about your own consuming habits and what they mean for your life and your home and your environment. Or you might just find some kickass second hand goods to add one-of-a-kind personality to your home or wardrobe. Or maybe you’ll find yourself with a little extra cash at the end of the month so you can go out to dinner with your friends, or pay off a debt, or put away some savings. Either way, I can’t see how you’d regret it. Give it a go. I dare you.

Please, if you do decide to pledge, keep us up-to-date on your progress either in comments here or on Facebook.

Mama xox

Links we’ve loved #9

Fun love.

This is awe inspiring.

Little Fearse has been getting real kick out of Pixar Shorts this week. Some of them are that perfect length to maintain a 15 month olds interest. Here is her favourite so far.

This article made us chuckle, but it hides an issue worth considering. Not buying stuff we do not need is only one consideration in a journey towards responsible citizenship. We really need to consider where our world is headed, what we can do to help it and what we will do if it gets to that sad place.

This article was linked in the comments of the previous article. It has us thinking differently about our own clothes washing habits already. Often something will be washed when it might just need an air. Any reading that can change our mindsets for the better is worthy reading.

Little Fearse is popping out the teeth like there is no tomorrow. It’s got us thinking a bit about how we’re going to keep them clean. She has enjoyed brushing her teeth with her finger sitting on the bench in the bathroom while we clean ours. We considered it a good opportunity to introduce her to the idea of the toothbrush, rather than forcing it on her when she’s not interested. A bit of research unearthed this company who make natural toothpaste (we’re not getting that yet) and biodegradable / recyclable toothbrushes for littlies. We picked up a toothbrush which Little Fearse uses to brush her tongue and a finger brush which she will sometimes let us run over her teeth and gums.

It has also led to more pinterest browsing of crafts Mama will never do.

Aubrey Plaza would make an adorable Daria and we wish this was real.

Happy weekend – got any links you can recommend?


The Fearses

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Links we’ve loved #8

If you are, or ever were a Seinfeld fan (we all know they jumped the shark eventually, but some people managed to push through and maintain their love) you will probably think this is amazing.

On a related note, we have really been enjoying Jerry’s latest project, even though Mama gets rage from the bad stock coffee making shots.

This article explores the reason why Aboriginal Hip Hop isn’t given more attention in Australia – something that needs to change.

A list of minimalist don’t haves (not ours). Meanwhile, we kind of love the simplicity of this page. Our layout bothers us, but is the only one we can find that has a print large enough for Dad to read, and that, to us, is more important than how it looks.

Although neither of us are into the idea of dropping your butts, this is a pretty innovative idea.

If you’re renting the conundrum of hiding ugly fittings won’t be new to you. We like these solutions!

This entry really resonated with us. That feeling that no matter what you’re doing that feels right there are a million other things that you know you should be doing better. Also helps to reiterate the need to stop comparing. What we are doing is what we are doing. It’s not what we are recommending you do and you know, the other way ’round.

If you have a quiet moment you may enjoy these inspiring TED talks. Mama has just watched the first one so far and was blown away. Looking forward to hunting own some half hour patches to watch the rest (maybe when cooking, aye?).

This kind of freaks Mama and BP out but Little Fearse likes to sing along…in a kind of babbly way.

Have a great weekend,

Mama, BP and Lil’ Fearse xoxox

When we start buying again.

Next year, if we decide to end our BNN adventure, we are going to completely change our buying habits. If we decide to buy new things from now on we are not going to buy the best bargain. We are not going to buy the cheapest thing we can and we are not going to get sucked in by sales that are not really offering us a good product or a good price.

I want to buy clothing made from quality materials. When possible I want it to be locally or hand made. When we can’t do this we will continue to buy second hand. We will have less clothing, but it will be better quality.

I want to buy the best quality home wares. I want to buy kitchen pans that will last forever. Knives and forks that are sturdy and quality and lovely to hold. We will have less home wares, but it will be better quality.

When we start to think about new carpet and new curtains and other new things around our house we will search for Australian made, hardy and quality goods. We will have to save for longer and hunt harder to find things we can afford that meet our quality requirements. We will need to prioritise and be willing to wait for the right things.

Purchasing things we need will take time and research and sometimes a lot more money than before. If we shop this way we won’t be able to buy on impulse. All of our purchases will be considered.

In an ideal future, this is how I want us to be.

Mama xo

Links we’ve loved #5, Part 1.

My parents tried to sell their piano for years. When that failed they tried to give it away. No one wanted it. I was really shocked. Like many people I had thought that pianos were expensive to buy and something people valued. I was wrong. When BP and I bought our house he asked if he could have the piano. I wasn’t so sure, but as it turns out it has been a great addition to our home and a beautiful instrument for Little Fearse to explore. This article talks about putting free stuff on the curb, but also includes a really upsetting youtube clip of pianos being tossed in the tip. Adopt a piano, you won’t regret it!

If you want to squee a little go here.

This isn’t my favourite article on this topic, but it is the most recent I’ve read.

This is pretty cool – imagine being plastic bag free entirely.

This article made me really glad to know that we have so many strong females in our lives.

Our FB page includes links and photos throughout the week. We’d love to see you there.

Have a great weekend,

Mama xox

Small decisions.

Weirdly, we haven’t blogged a lot lately about buying nothing new. It’s funny how starting out this project we had so many concerns about challenges that might arise. None of those things we worried about have been an issue so far. The things that trip us up tend to be smaller things, the day-to-day. We have conversations often that go a little like this:

Mama: “We need to start brushing Little Fearse’s tooth soon.”

BP: “But we don’t have a tooth brush for her.”

Mama: “Are we allowed to buy one?”

BP: “I don’t know, are we allowed to buy one?”

I mean, ultimately, of course we’ll buy Little Fearse a toothbrush if we need to. But finding a common solution to simple issues is a regular conversation starter in our household now. I think this is a really good thing. We purchase things only when there isn’t an alternative solution. For instance, some people use a bit of baking soda on a face washer to clean their babies teeth. This is probably a good option for us and something we would not have researched if we weren’t trying to be more aware consumers.

Other minor issues that we have had to discuss include purchasing:

  • dish washing brushes
  • plastic wrap
  • baking paper
  • smoke alarm batteries
  • tampons and pads.

We intentionally didn’t add a ‘consumables’ clause to what we’re allowed to purchase, because we believe that we don’t need to use all the consumables we buy. We avoid using plastic wrap and in most circumstances can use a lidded container instead. We have decided that we won’t purchase any more of this when we’re finished the current roll.

Make Do and Mend Year‘s recent silicon baking sheet disaster made me realise that with a bit of forethought we could have dealt with the baking paper issue. We may have a little hunt for one of these second hand before we run out of baking paper, as I use this quite a bit.

We will not replace our dish washing brush, instead we’ll use a coth as others do. We have reusable / machine washable cloths and (due to a well meaning house guest) an abundance of disposable sponges.

We will definitely be replacing the smoke alarm batteries. No ifs or buts.

Tampons and pads is something that BP wisely has no opinion on. Many people have asked me about this and although I am aware of the many alternatives I’m not ready to start exploring them yet. I’d love to hear from people who have looked at other less disposable options.

Buying Nothing New, or becoming a more aware consumer, isn’t just about the big purchases or the major items that cause large and obvious impacts on our environment. It’s about all those little day-to-day things that we often don’t think about. It’s those things that are filling up our rubbish bins and toppling into our landfill more than anything else.

Mama xo

Is more knowledge better for us?

I don’t say this often but I’m really lucky to have BP around. He is a great Dad and a terrific husband. This week he has cooked every night to give me extra time to work on school reports. Today he took Little Fearse to swimming and stayed out of the house for three hours to allow me uninterrupted writing time. I haven’t even thought about the washing this week – it’s just been done. In the past few months I haven’t even stepped foot in a supermarket. BP has done all the supermarket shopping. He’s my blessing. I really appreciate him.

On Thursday, however, I did go to the supermarket. It was an awful experience. Since our BNN year started we’ve been cutting down on stuff but boning up on knowledge. Every new thing we learn about consumerism, advertising or food quality helps us to make more informed choices when we consume. But are we making better choices, or is it just harder?

When I read a package I know I’m being duped, somehow. I just have to read it the right way. But what is the right way? What are they really telling me with their befuddling statistics, deceptive ingredient lists, colourful images and use of words like “natural”, “organic”, “healthy” and “real”?

We used to shop a lot by price. What was our cheapest option per 100ml / 100g? We no longer get tricked by the ‘less is more’ marketing scams. Now we are focusing on buying the best quality – which rarely equates to the best deal. How do we really know we are choosing the most ethical option that is also the best option for our health?

I feel as though every new piece of information conflicts with the last. Don’t buy items containing palm oil. Also, don’t buy from this company, because of that awful thing they did here. Buy fair trade. Buy local. Buy organic. Help this community by buying their something or other but don’t buy this from this place because it’s negatively affecting their communal health.

I’m lost. Am I allowed to buy chocolate? I think the answer is yes, but only if it contains no palm oil (unless you are able to assess that it is sustainable use of palm oil, and then carry on), is not made by Nestle, is locally crafted, contains a high percentage of cocoa and is very dark. It should also be fair trade and organic. If, after you have assessed all of these factors, you still want chocolate and have found one that ticks every box, sure, have one piece. You should really stop after one piece. It’s not good for your health. Where’s your will power? You’re an intelligent person, do you really need chocolate?

Even buying sultanas was a difficult and somewhat distressing choice. They all have the same ingredients – sultanas and oil. The price difference between name brand and no brand is huge. Is there a big quality difference? I DON’T KNOW. I HAVE NO IDEA. JUST CHOOSE SOME FRIGGIN’ SULTANAS.

You know what? I find all the extra knowledge just makes me feel distrustful. I don’t trust what the packaging is telling me. I don’t trust what the nutritional information is telling me. I don’t trust what my body tells me it wants.

I look at food in the super market and I know that I can make it myself. I also know that I don’t have the time to make everything myself. Is the best and most ethical option to go without?

As a society we are obsessed with food. We have too much choice and sometimes, too much knowledge. Am I making better choices? I have no idea. I have less idea than I did before I began.

This is NOT simple.

Mama xo

A few tiny steps.

We had two gift vouchers remaining from Christmas that were due to run out in May – one for a popular stationary store and one for Myer. We ummed and ahhed over what we should spend them on, as we couldn’t allow them to go to waste. Of all the ideas the only ones we had that seemed to make sense, or were justifiable, were to spend them on Little Fearse.

At the stationary store we purchased her a new lunchbox. She didn’t need a new lunchbox. The one we purchased at the op shop is still going strong. We were just at a loss – we didn’t need anything at the shop. It was an empty kind of purchase and it felt like we were cheating on BNN and ourselves.

At Myer we bought Little Fearse a winter jacket (much more expensive than we’d usually get) and a winter top that will probably fit her this winter and next. Of course both items of clothing are ridiculously cute. I did get some pleasure out of this purchase because they were things Little Fearse will get a lot of wear out of. Although we can easily purchase clothes for her second hand it’s nice to have the opportunity to buy her something special. It sort of tickled the consumer in me in the way the previous purchase hadn’t.

Being at the shopping centre (for only the second time this year) was unlovely. The visuals there are like an assault if you haven’t been for a while. When you’re at a shopping centre already it becomes kind of second nature to pick up something here and something there. Since we’re not buying anything new we ended up purchasing coffee and snacks we didn’t need.

My tuna hand roll came in a plastic box with a little plastic tray for the wasabi and a tiny plastic bottle of soy sauce, held together with a rubber band. I felt really guilty about how much packaging was involved in my purchase of one tiny hand roll. I wished I’d had the forethought to at least get them to leave off the plastic container. They had paper bags, which would have been marginally better.  Feeling ill at ease about the amount of stuff left over when I’d finished eating I tucked the container into the bottom of Little Fearse’s pram figuring I’d try and find a way to reuse some of it later.

The wind was ferocious. While we were unloading the pram the wind stole the sushi box and rubbish and whipped it off across the car park. “Oh no!!”  I cried. Big Poppa got ready to chase after, thinking it was his steak that had flown away, or one of Little Fearse’s new purchases. As I saw the box sadly crushed under a car wheel then lift over the edge of the upstairs car park wall I said “Never mind, it was just my sushi box.” I felt kind of relieved in a disgusting way. I no longer had to come up with some fancy way to reuse it. And I felt guilty, too. If it had been one of our purchases or even a $5 note we would have worked hard to retrieve it. Instead I just watched the little box float away.

I wish it was easier – that we didn’t have to work so hard to be good and ecological. Isn’t that terrible? I know that it is true, though, that if it were easier we’d all be much more willing to recycle more or purchase organic food more often or try harder to reduce our waste. It makes me sad to know that even though our little family feels like we’ve come such a long way we still have so much (SO MUCH) further to go. We’re really just a few steps along the pathway to becoming more aware people.  A few tiny steps.


Mama xo