Alternatives to Plastic Bags

In an effort to help us all to ‘do the right thing’, I’ve decided to uncover some simple alternatives to using plastic bags. Two of which are home-grown!

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It’s plastic free July!

Did you know that they are estimating that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than there are fish!

To help us curb the habit of living with plastic Plastic Free July was born to help raise awareness and to give people the challenge to go without plastic for one day, one week or for the full month! Visit Plastic Free July for more information and to sign up for the challenge! In the meantime read on for few ideas to help you curb your plastic addiction, and feel free to add your comments and links for alternatives in the comments section below. Let’s get this message out there!

 

To replace those small plastic bags used for fruit and vegetables? . . .
introducing Fregie Sacks . . .

Fregie Sacks, an alternative to plastic bags in the fruit & vegie aisle Photo Credit: thefregiesack.com.au
Fregie Sacks, an alternative to plastic bags used in the fruit & vegie aisle
Photo Credit: thefregiesack.com.au

I originally came across Australian made Fregie Sacks back in 2009. Fregie, (a combination of the words fruit & vegie) Sacks are little re-usable bags in a variation of sizes and colours made from a lightweight see-through fabric. This lightweight, see-through fabric means you can take them into the supermarket and put your fruit and vegies into them instead of the ‘tear-off’ plastic bags supplied. They don’t add to produce weight and checkout operators can also clearly see the goods inside. These durable bags which can hold up to 4kg+, come with biodegradable cotton drawstrings and are washable for re-use over and over again. They’re not only useful for the fruit and veg, but you can use them for a myriad of storage ideas or pretty enough for gift wrapping. Fergie Sacks also make calico bags as well and are available for purchase online at thefregiesack.com.au or refer to their website for nearby stockists.

What about plastic bin liners?

‘Biodegradable’ bin liners that state they meet Australian Standard AS 4736-2006 on supermarket shelves, are made from plant-based materials like corn and wheat starch rather than petroleum. While an option, they still take about six months to biodegrade ‘if’ composted. So instead, we need to ‘re-think’ each thing we throw into the bin, and do more work when separating our rubbish.

Once we separate the compostable and the recyclable, we are mostly left with packaging. So in essence we are plastic bagging more plastic. In days gone by, people would line their bins with newspaper, but even newspaper isn’t really a solution. It also takes time to biodegrade and comes printed with toxic inks. There is actually nothing wrong with household rubbish straight into an unlined bin or council bin, we just need to learn how to creatively dispose.

Re-use recyclable packaging such as larger cereal and other cardboard boxes and paper based juice cartons to hold rubbish such as meat bones and scraps and re-fasten the lids. Pop all these neatly into the bin. Invest in some large brown paper bags to contain other food scraps for composting. Kitchen foil can actually be recycled. If you do want to line a bin with paper, try to use brown wrapping paper.

Video on how to make a bin liner out of newspaper. Photo Credit: www.greenbinottawa.ca
Video on how to make a bin liner out of newspaper.
Photo Credit: www.greenbinottawa.ca


Easy Origami Style Newspaper Bin Liner

For easy instructions on how to make an origami bin liner or bags to contain waste within your bin I’ve found a very easy video from Organic Origami. So easy, it’s demonstrated by a 6 year old.

Click on this link for a downloadable instruction sheet.

 

 

Make your own washable grocery bags! Photo Credit: boomerangbags.org
Make your own washable grocery bags!
Photo Credit: boomerangbags.org

 

Boomerang Bags:
The Sustainable Shopping Bag

In the meantime if it’s a one of kind shopping bag you’re after, be sure to visit our friends over at Boomerang Bags where every bag created is your own personal masterpiece!

Boomerang Bags came up with such a wonderful and sustainable incentive with regard to replacing plastic shopping bags that their idea is spreading across the country and there’s bound to be a workshop near you. Another benefit with Boomerang Bags is the opportunity to meet some really cool people at their sewing bees while you’re creating or make it an outing or a fund-raiser with a group of friends where you’re not only helping yourself, you’re helping the planet.

 

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*Article also featured on Hills to Headlands magazine, for Gecko – Gold Coast & Hinterland Environment Council

2016 International Year of Pulses: Good for You & Good for the Environment!

 

2016 has officially been declared the
International Year of Pulses (IYP).

So what does that mean?

Official Logo by Thomas CizauskasI’m glad you asked.

It has nothing to do with your blood pressure or your heart beat however, the benefits of pulses such as Chickpeas, Faba and Broad beans, Field peas, Lentils, Lupins and Mung beans have many health benefits. In fact it may surprise you to learn that peanuts also fall into the pulse category even though many believe it to be a nut.

Pulses belong to the grain family known as legumes. They are an important source of nutrition throughout the world but unfortunately not commonly considered to be a large part of the typical Western diet, unless of course you have a largely vegetarian or vegan based diet. Truth is, we should be eating more of them as pulses are loaded with good things such as fibre, protein and essential nutrients such as potassium, folate and vitamin B. Soy beans are also one of only a few plant foods to provide all essential amino acids.

Image 108(c) copyThe health benefits of pulses to the diet can help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, by lowering cholesterol levels, which in turn lowers blood pressure. All of which is important for a healthy heart. They are also a lower-glycemic index food, which means an inclusion of pulses in your diet will help you to manage your blood sugar and lessen the risk of diabetes. Folate, which is a good source of vitamin B helps to produce and maintain new cells. This is especially important during periods of rapid growth and thus helpful for mothers during pregnancy and for children during growth spurts. Vitamin B basically converts food into fuel, allowing us to remain energised throughout the day and is also great for helping reduce your stress levels.

It’s no surprise then that pulses are looked upon as the future of food but this is also because they are seen as a sustainable food trend for coming decades, and this is where the story gets interesting in terms of what this means for the environment. Pulses are ‘good’ for the environment. They fix their own nitrogen needs, use less water and are good for soils. They also have less impact as a protein source than livestock and are also cheaper to produce. Given these properties, it is also easy to see why they are a vital and easily produced food source for developing countries.

Back in January of this year, around the world, people took the ‘Pulse Pledge’ and many organised ‘Pulse Feasts’ to kick off the yearlong event. There are however, still many other pulse food events taking place all around the country during the year in which to partake or be involved in, from food festivals to cooking demonstrations, and farming expos. You may even want to host your own!

A photo and video competition was also launched with the support of Pulse Australia to help showcase Australian’s pulse growers’ stories from the 2015-16 growing season. Check out this entry from Ash Teasdale, from Rupanyup in the Victorian Wimmera.

There is still time for students to participate in another competition with science and art projects featuring pulses. The Hermitage Plant Science Competition is still open from now until June 24th, 2016.

If you’re after some Pulse recipes, why not try the winner of the Australian IYP Signature Dish submitted by Ms Alison Victor from WA. Check out her recipe for Quinoa, Black Lentil & Roasted Barley Salad with Chickpeas, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate in Apple Cider Vinegar, along with recipes submitted by other talented entrants.

Now you have plenty of incentive to include more pulses in your diet, devote time to growing your own small patch of pulses in the back garden or via pots on the balcony. If you’re really limited for space, why not invest in a bean sprouting kit for the kitchen? All you need is water and some pulse seeds and in three days you’ll have sprouts for a salad sandwich or Mung Beans for the stirfry! Then you can really say you’ve ‘Bean there and done that!

For more information and details of events on the International Year of Pulses check out the websites for both Pulse Australia and Global Pulse Confederation.

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*Article also featured on Hills to Headlands magazine, for Gecko – Gold Coast & Hinterland Environment Council

International Composting Awareness Week: May 2–8, 2016

Monday 2nd – Sunday 8th May is International Composting Awareness Week, an international event which hopes to put a spotlight on that wonderfully rich organic matter that helps to build healthy soils from which all plant life grows.

ICAW-A4-Poster-2016-image-for-web-3We want Australians to realise that each time they throw organics such as food scraps and garden waste in the rubbish bin they are contributing to climate change. Most people are unaware of this and we believe that if they knew, they would try to do things differently”, explains Eric Love, Chairman of the Centre for Organic Research & Education (CORE) – the not-for-profit organisation has been running the campaign in Australia for 11 years in an effort to reduce the amount of organic waste going to landfill.

When you consider that 3% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions comes from organic materials rotting anaerobically (without oxygen) in landfills, thus creating toxic methane gases, we could help turn this around by simply committing our food scraps to organic compost to feed our gardens and nourish our own vegie patches. In other words, by helping ourselves, we in turn help the planet.

To give you a better idea of how much organic matter is wasted, on average about 50% of the rubbish put into our mixed-waste garbage bins could be better put to use if it is made into compost and mulch for our gardens or returned to agricultural land to improve soil quality.

Once you take a look at what can be composted you soon realise how much we each individually unnecessarily contribute to landfill each week. On the flip side when you look at what can’t be composted, you can see how much worse we are making the landfill problem by not composting what we can.

Here is a guide to good and bad composting ingredients:

L=M Image Good & Bad Compost Table ©AMiller-Davis

What if you don’t have a garden? How can you still contribute your waste to do good?

  1. If you don’t have room for a garden of your own or are a unit dweller, you could still compost your waste and donate it to a local community garden who will gladly put it to good use. If you also ‘join’ your local community garden, you will get to ‘benefit’ from the produce your organic matter will support, save some money on fruit and vege, get a work-out, de-stress, make some new friends and get some fresh air all at the same time.
  2. If you don’t have a local community garden in your area, maybe there is someone you know who would be grateful for your compost ingredients in exchange for some free produce?

Can I put my compostable food waste in my Council Green Waste Bin?

Many councils around Australia offer a collection service for garden waste, unfortunately however currently many councils (Gold Coast included), don’t yet collect compostable food scraps. Both owner/occupiers and rental tenants can apply for ‘Green Waste Bins’ from the Gold Coast Council for a yearly fee, and the bins are usually collected each fortnight. For a Green Waste Bin visit the City of Gold Coast Website. For more information on food scrap collection it’s best to contact your own local council.

Green Waste bins are still only for garden clippings
Green Waste bins are still only for garden clippings

What happens to the Gold Coast’s Green Waste?

Currently all green waste that is diverted from landfill is used as a clean energy source (Biogas) to generate electricity or to produce composts.

According to the Gold Coast Draft Solid Waste Strategy 2014-2023; in the 2013-2014 year it was estimated that 58,000 tonnes of green waste was lost to landfill, contributing to the City’s carbon emissions. This spearheaded an initiative to expand the Green Waste Bin service over the next five years. In other cities around the world the collected food and garden waste is available to householders free of charge for their gardens.
In February of 2016, a 6-month food waste recycling trial by about 10 Gold Coast restaurants was launched with the aim of helping to reduce landfill created during the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The State Government has contributed $80,000 for the trial and, if successful, the program will be rolled out to commercial food businesses across the city; the compost most probably ending up as fertiliser for the city’s public gardens.

While this initiative is a start, and targets ‘commercial’ food waste, it would be great to see an initiative tackling household food waste as well. This is already happening in other countries such as Sweden, which in 2012 converted 673,180 tonnes of waste into soil. For more on the Swedish story visit leanpath.com

For more information on local Composting Events happening during Composting Awareness Week, visit the Compost Week Events Calendar.

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*Article also featured on Hills to Headlands Magazine, for Gecko – Gold Coast & Hinterland Environment Council

Earth Hour: Switch Off at 8:30PM!

Once again tonight at 8:30pm it will be time to turn off our lights and powerpoints for Earth Hour.

 

Back in 2007  when WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Australia encouraged Sydney-siders to show their commitment towards climate change action 2.2 million people and 2100 businesses participated. It has now become a worldwide phenomenon where more than 162 countries and over 7000 cities and towns participate worldwide, that is an estimated 50 – 100 million people.

For more information on this movement visit earthhour.org.au to see what’s new for this year’s campaign and see how you can get involved by registering your support. While on Earth Hour’s website, make sure to email your MP with your concerns regarding climate change. Another feature is an interactive module called “Choose Your Climate Future.” This interactive feature shows how your world could change as global temperatures increase and how to work out what needs to happen in order to reach your chosen pollution target.

In the meantime – plan now! Get your supplies together, candles, batteries, lanterns, etc and put them in a spot ready for 8:30PM tonight.

So what can be done in one hour with the lights off?

There are some suggestions on Earth Hour’s website under the ‘Get Involved’ and ‘Events‘ tabs.

Some other ideas . . .

  • Enjoy some good old fashioned family time by playing board games, charades and tell one or two ghost stories.
  • Set up a real challenge by playing something like Jenga in low light.
  • Why not set up a tent in-doors and pretend you’re camping with the kids?
  • Fire up the BBQ and have a romantic dinner by candlelight?
  • Gather around a fire pit, with Djembes, bongos and guitars and have a sing-a-long.
  • Grab some torches and see if you can find some nocturnal wildlife in the trees.
  • Have a pool party by Tiki lanterns.
  • Go for a stroll along the beach by starlight.
  • Meditate or practice yoga.
  • Have the bath full of scented oils and take time out.
  • Find a nice scenic spot and gaze at the stars through a telescope.
  • Actually talk and connect with your loved ones.
  • Play 20 questions.
  • Play with your pets.
  • Play with sparklers in the back yard.
  • Catch up on some housework, like folding the washing, bagging up the garbage, rearranging a drawer, de-cluttering the kitchen bench.
  • Write a shopping list or to-do list.
  • Go through your wardrobe and drawers and find items to donate to charity.
  • Take a food and toiletry parcel to the homeless.

Mark your calendars and set up your reminders in your smart phones now! And remember, while benefitting the Earth for an hour, you can benefit yourself and your relationships by literally switching off. Future generations will thank you for it.

*Original Article also featured on Hills to Headlands Magazine, for Gecko – Gold Coast & Hinterland Environment Council

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Clutter Control and Our Emotions

Ever heard yourself saying any of the following?

Featured on Less Equals More
Featured on Less Equals More

“I feel so bogged down”
“I don’t know where to start”
“I feel like I am suffocating”
“I’m so confused”
“I don’t know how it got like this”
“I am overwhelmed”
“It’s hopeless, every time I get rid of it, it comes back”
“I can’t get rid of this it belonged to …”
“I can’t get rid of that, it is still in good shape”
“I can’t get rid of that I paid good money for it”
“But I think I will use it one day”

An interesting article on Life Hacker by Mikael Cho “How Clutter Affects Your Brain (and what you can do about it)”, addresses our inner ‘attachment issues’ when it comes to item acquisition and why it can be so hard to part with things we really don’t need.

Home Schooling and Your Carbon Footprint

While home schooling is not an option for most – others may find this next question a tad controversial. Have you ever thought about the impact mainstream education has on your carbon footprint?

LEM Image 106A few years ago I worked my business around home-schooling my son, and while the business is no longer in existence … (6 years later I am ‘still’ homeschooling my son) back in the earlier days of our adventure we looked at the topic of human impact on animal habitat and the Earth (that is his project in the picture above). We also looked at climate change and discussed what ‘carbon footprint’ meant. Later for fun we did a comparison exercise when it came to ‘going’ to school vs ‘schooling at home’.

Here is what we observed . . .

  1. I save on petrol and car wear and tear and thus pollution, by not having to get to school every day (whether by car or public transport). I don’t have to travel to school for teacher meetings. I don’t have to waste their electricity providing me a meeting room. All correspondence is done via email or phone.
  2. I don’t have to buy school uniforms or bags etc. or replace those that go missing. Imagine the saving on our carbon footprint by cutting out the need for production of such items?
  3. We don’t have to buy school lunches – either to pack or to purchase at the school tuck-shop, thereby reducing our need for packaging and our need to freeze ice-bricks to keep lunches cool. It also eliminates food being brought home ‘un-eaten’ due to the ice bricks not doing their job, or because my child didn’t eat the food. Making lunch at home ensures a healthy diet and nothing is wasted. Scraps are put straight into the compost or worm farm.
  4. The vegie patch, compost bin and worm farm have become part of our ‘home schooling’ curriculum. My child sees a direct correlation, and loves being involved.
  5. Paper isn’t wasted, it’s re-used or shredded immediately. Shredded paper is then either taken to the pet shop (for use in cages), put in the compost, worm farm or mouse cage, or used to pack fragile parcels for posting.
  6. We don’t need to wrap school books in plastic or contact to preserve their school life. Our resources are sent to us via mailed workbooks – as are some resource library books and audio/visual materials, which are then returned after use for re-use for future students. Any textbooks purchased are easier to keep in good condition for resale because they’re not beaten up throughout the school year from transportation in school bags. Over time more and more work is able to be done ‘on-line’, saving even more paper, postage, freight costs, petrol, fumes and time.
  7. We save money. We don’t need to ‘re-sell’ uniforms at the end of the year, or feel dreadful if we’re unable to ‘re-sell’ them.
  8. As rental tenants, we’ve never had the luxury of air-con, not that we could really afford it. So if on the rare occasion it gets too hot in the house and the ceiling fans give no relief, we go and work at the local library where we use the library’s air-conditioner (also saving power bill). The library environment also ensures work gets done, provides a change of scenery and is close enough to catch a bus and leave the car at home.
  9. The local mainstream school has one less child using their water supply, sewerage, and power. And one less child contributing to the school rubbish ending up in landfill.
  10. We save on doctor’s bills and are healthier, both physically (because we are exposed to less school yard bugs) and mentally (because school room and school yard stress isn’t there). We don’t need as many medicines to get through a school year nor visit the doctor as often (nor need head lice treatments!). If you think of the footprint required to make medicines and head lice treatments, including their packaging – it soon adds up, and of course again we didn’t have to ‘drive’ to buy or use any of these things.
  11.  Lastly, we choose to use a brand of computer, which, with each new year, uses more and more eco-friendly components.

So, as you can see, home-schooling reduces our consumption, our carbon footprint and of course provides us with other benefits as well, but regardless of whether you’re home schooling or not, hopefully there is some food for thought here in how you go about your daily lives, and look at ways at reducing your carbon footprint by revisiting some of your habits and making some better choices on how to go about things?

Drying Laundry in Wet Weather

After a week or more of rain is the laundry piling up?
Don’t have a dryer?
Or want to save electricity?
Perhaps you live in a small apartment?
Let’s look at some options.

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Maybe you’re a rental tenant like me, and have limited options?

I actually hate using dryers; I hate the way they put up the power bill; add to the carbon footprint; steam up the house and occasionally shrink things – so for me it’s three strikes against them and they’re out. This means that for me, it’s airers (drying racks) for laundry, although it took me a while to find the best ‘airer’ for me. One that has also managed to adapt to several moves over the years and holds a ‘big’ wash when it needs to. I’m not a big fan of letting my washing pile up either. So when it comes to a situation when it can rain for days and days I do seem to manage the washing well, until of course ‘sheets’ and ‘towels’ need washing and drying. At the same time I’m only washing for two and not for a big family.

So I thought I’d do a bit of research into some solutions (outside of the local laundrette), for those of you with bigger family circumstances and also see what products are out in the market at the moment that you may want to consider instead of draping things all over tables, chairs, indoor stair railings, or tying unsightly, sagging and sometimes dangerous washing lines all over the place.


General Tips:

  • Safety First! Use your common sense and don’t take risks. Be ‘very’ careful not to hang clothing too close near fireplaces without fireguards and never place washing close to bar or gas heaters. Many people will drape items onto enclosed radiators, this too is not safe practice, as clothes can dry to the point where they will eventually burn. Some fabrics heat up quicker than others. Get out of the habit. It’s better to put your clothes on a small free standing airer at a safe distance near a radiator. If you have small children in the house please think like them. They will be tempted to grab anything; play hide and seek under dangling clothes and accidentally bump into them. Consider the domino effect of that near heaters. Also, always check garment drying instructions, some synthetics shouldn’t be heated up at all, or may not be treated with fire-retardants.
  • Try and confine the wet laundry to one room of the house. This will stop damp and that damp smell transferring into other soft furnishings.
  • Best room choices are obviously a garage or carport if you have one, indoor sunrooms, patios with cover. Next best … the laundry itself if it’s big enough, or the bathroom. Avoid dangerous areas like kitchens and kids playrooms. Look for a room with adequate ventilation.
  • Be cluey! A friend of mine has her hot water tank in a cupboard in her laundry and had her husband purposely fit a wardrobe rail inside it, this enables her to hang items like her husband’s work shirts on hangers in there and shut the door, the heat of the hot water tank soon dries them. Likewise heat from car engines returning to the garage can help add a bit of warmth to strategically hung items. Maybe finding a way to erect a tarp over an existing outdoor line could be helpful? Lifestyle Clotheslines have a few on offer, and check with the makers of your outdoor line, as some may have custom made covers.
  • When it comes to sheets, this really comes down to how often you change your sheets. Consider factors such as time of year (e.g. sweating more in summer); whether you are prone to asthma or respiratory allergies; whether pets are allowed on the bed; whether there are little ones working through bed-wetting or members of the family who are ill or bed-ridden. I came across a great article by Rita R. Robison of  The Survive & Thrive Boomer Guide, who did her own research into the sheet changing habits of people, which includes some polls and health recommendations. In general I always suggest to have three sets of sheets. One on the bed, one in the wash and one spare. So if you really need to wash the sheets, pull them off the bed, put them aside until the next sunny day and put the spare set on. It’s a rare occasion that you’d get three weeks of rain in a row. Focus more on getting all the other day to day immediate wash done first.
  • Same rule of thumb for towels, blankets and any other heavy linen. If really necessary take heavy items to the local laundrette and use the big industrial dryers they have. I tend to do this routinely anyway to make sure nasties get a good occasional toasting. At least that way the electricity is paid for upfront, and because those dryers are bigger, I can get more dry in less time and I know they’re getting a good amount of air around them in the drying process – almost like on a hot breezy summer day!

For product ideas check out my other articles:
• Organising Laundry on Wet Days
Revenge On The Sock Thief

Put it away, Put it away NOW!

This is the song we sing after Deck The Halls!

Featured on Less Equals More
Featured on Less Equals More

Today I’ve put together a quick run-down of great ideas on how to pack your Christmas ornaments, lights, trees and wrap ready for next year and a basic checklist to help prepare you for next Christmas.

Step 1: Take down all the decorations from around the house before you even attack the tree. Gather all the baubles, garlands, glassware, snow-domes, music boxes, trinkets, Santa socks and hats and put like with like, and start wrapping fragile items in paper, shredded paper, foam noodles or bubble wrap ready for containers.

Step 2: Dismantle the tree! Start with the decoration on the top and remove all the free hanging baubles. Next remove any tinsel or garlands, and lastly the lights. Note: this should be the reverse order that you put the items on. Again, put into groups of like with like and baubles together in either colour or size groups, fragile and not so fragile.

Step 3: Christmas lights. Before you put them away, plug them in, check for any worn wiring and broken bulbs and make a note of any replacements needed and pop them onto your next shopping list now and replace asap while it’s cheaper to do so.  If lights are broken beyond replacement or repair, wrap them in newspaper and bin them. Once all lights are packed away, add a label to the outside and store. Don’t keep anything unsafe.

Video: How to pack away your Christmas lights and prevent them from tangling by recycling a cardboard roll. Note, I also use this cardboard roll method for controlling beaded garlands and tinsel.

Step 4: Put away the baubles and tree ornaments. Fragile decorations will require some sort of padding for protection. Re-use old wrinkled wrapping paper from Christmas day, and use cardboard from other wrap to make dividers for inside shoeboxes and the like. Wrap and discard all broken items. When all are boxed safely label the box and store.

Step 5: Taking down the tree and packing it away. This is really dependent on the type of tree you have. Real vs artificial. Size of tree etc. Please recycle cut trees responsibly. Where possible break it down into what can be used for firewood and what can be used for mulching. If you can’t use the firewood or mulch, donate this to someone who could. If it’s a potted tree, work out whether it can be kept potted or replanted or re-potted, again if you can’t keep it donate it to a school or someone else who could benefit.

Basically when all is said and done, when it comes to artificial trees only you know how to put up your tree and how to pull it apart again. Where possible try and keep the original box. If that box starts to fall apart over time you need to look at other storage options, such as strong drawstring bags that are waterproof. I remember seeing my Dad using string to hold secure all the compressed branches, then using masking tape and newspaper to delicately wrap the tree up every year. These days you could use bubble-wrap, or a product on the market that can be utilised for the purpose. Label your tree and store with your other boxes of decorations.

Step 6: Christmas wrap, bags, ribbons and trims. Remove any tape, recycle and fold neatly any you can salvage for use next year. Find something to keep them all in and label.

Step 7: Christmas Cards, make a list of who you received cards from and reconcile that with the list you sent to. Based on this make a new list for next year, or better still decide who you could email instead in future. Make a decision to recycle the ones you’ve received. If you really can’t part with them, scan the special ones and store digitally, or rip the backs off and find a way to store them for future scrap-booking, craft or school assignments, but really try hard to resist the temptation. To put this into perspective 2 thirds of my usual list was emailed this year.

Step 8: Unwanted gifts and gifts for re-gifting. If you are in favour of doing this then create a crate or box for these items but be savvy. Make sure you keep a list of these items carefully noting who gave them to you so you don’t re-gift back to the wrong person. For more on Re-gifting Etiquette check out an article by Debbie Mayne, Etiquette Expert on About Style.

Step 9: Gifts that are keepers. This is where you can apply the one in one out rule. For example for things like t-shirts, books, kitchenware, costume jewellery, bags, toys, shoes etc. For each new item you want to keep, try and discard or donate an old one to keep numbers from escalating. Another good thing to do is to re-visit your gift recipient list and note down what they bought you this year to help you plan a gift for them next year. Often people give what they’d like to receive, so if you got a groovy t-shirt or a CD, odds are they’d love one themselves. It will also help you budget. Discard any packaging appropriately: i.e. recycle where you can and keep any boxes that you feel could house a prezzie for next year or be useful in one of your own drawers as a drawer sorter or to house decorations.

Product Links

Where possible I’ve tried to locate items within Australia. If they’re not located in Australia then they do ship to Australia. If you do come across a similar product from an Australian supplier be sure to let me know in the comments section below this post. I have noticed this year however, that you can get some very reasonably priced products in the normal major retail chains, although you may have needed to purchase them ‘during’ the festive shopping period.

  1. Tangle Free Cord Wrap for Lights (23M)
  2. Mini Lights Storage Racks
  3. Storage Bags for Christmas trees, wreaths, decorations & wrap
  4. Storage Bags for Christmas trees, wreaths, decorations & wrap

Notes: If you can’t locate or afford a product mentioned, perhaps you can re-create the ‘idea’ with what you have. I don’t have a lot of Christmas stuff but at home I make do with:

  1. clip-lock resealable bags for some things that aren’t fragile e.g.
    – some garlands which have been gathered around cardboard tubes (as in the aforementioned video)
    – un-used gift tags, cards and envelopes.
    – left-over but re-usuable small off-cuts of christmas wrap, ribbons etc.
  2. cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes to house decorations
    – sometimes inside these boxes I will interlock home-made criss-cross cardboard separators.
  3. shoe-boxes with lids with holes in them for threading Christmas ribbon through.
  4. plastic crates, to house the above in.
  5. and for wrapping paper rolls to prevent moisture getting into the paper I use Multix Resealable Storage bags which I’ve found in most Aussie supermarkets, (although a large green garbage bag would do just as well) last Christmas I re-purposed and utilised an old shredder bin to stand them in. The shredder motor and feeder died but was able to be separated from the bin which is nice and tall for the job and sits neatly in a cupboard. This year I purchased a gift wrap bag for about $12 from BigW and it hangs from a rod in a cupboard.
  6. my artificial tree has lasted nearly 12 years and is still in the same cardboard box. When I originally got the box I used strong gaffer tape on all the folds and hinge flaps of the box to prevent wear and tear. It’s survived several house moves over that time and continues to work a treat!
  7. door wreaths, Santa stockings, etc. usually end up in a designated crate or one of those cheap striped bags with a zip which come in many sizes from the $2 shop.
  8. egg cartons, great recycling idea and perfect for housing small fragile decorations and baubles. They also stack. I’ve seen these up-cycled with a paint job and a label and you’d think they were professionally bought. For extra padding wrap the treasure in an ordinary tissue or piece of paper towel.
  9. lastly, storage containers for gift-wrap, trees and decorations make ‘excellent’ gifts for next Christmas, so why not buy a few and put them away for friends? I found them to be very well received. Most recipients saying they often thought of purchasing some for themselves ‘after’ Christmas but then never could find them and then forgot.

If you have a Christmas object or something else you’re not sure how to store, drop me a line. I love a challenge!

Buy Nothing Day – Will You?

“Buy Nothing Day” usually lands on the last weekend of November each year.

Featured on Less Equals More

In Australia each October we have ‘Buy Nothing Month,’ however internationally in November ‘Buy Nothing Day‘ has become the ‘thing’ you hear more about and for some reason, North America usually celebrates it a day earlier in November than the rest of the world so it’s best to check the website for the exact date.

The irony of how it always appears on the calendar just one month before Christmas, and follows the ‘Black Friday‘ sales (usually the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the USA) is also a fact not lost on me.

So the question is, (depending on what day it is in your time zone as you read this) “do you choose to follow the trend and resist the temptation to buy? Or not?” (this includes ‘online’ purchases my friends).

I can hear the excuses now . . .

“I didn’t realise what day it was at the time”
“I’ve been busy all week and that was my only opportunity …”
“Who cares?”
“Oh, was it? oops?”
“Oh well, perhaps I won’t buy anything today then.”
“But I needed an onion!” and “What a load of rubbish!!”

(well actually that’s the point).

Personally? Last year I knew about it, but forgot about it until mid-way through the day. This year I don’t need to buy anything as I’d purchased my fortnightly big grocery shop earlier in the week, but not because it was ‘Buy Nothing Day‘, but because I’m a creature of habit. Today, I simply have other things to get on with than part with my cash.  Having said that, I’m sure that somewhere in online land a direct debit for something could be coming out of my account for something beyond my control, probably paying for insurance or mobile phone. Does that count?

If you did physically ‘buy’ something on ‘Buy Nothing Day,’ not realising it, or not caring about whether you knew or not, I wonder how you feel about those purchases now that you’re reading this?

Perhaps your items are essential grocery or pharmacy items, or you needed to fuel the car? Of those which do you think will actually be used in the next week? Which food items will be left in the fridge ignored and eventually thrown in the garbage because they went off? Which will remain in the pantry until the expiry date gets discovered? If your purchases were luxury items, has the immediate ‘thrill’ already worn off? I wonder if in time you find the shoes hurt while at that party? Or the dress didn’t win the man? Will the CD or online music download only end up having one or two songs on it you actually liked? Or will the toy end up tossed in the corner after an hour? Will the new game for the Wii or XBox become too frustrating for words? Will that new kitchen gadget or beauty product not fulfill its promise? If so what will you do with those items? Could they be returned? Do you still have the receipt? and if not, what form of ‘occupy‘ will it take up in your homes’ limited internal real estate space that used to be (until that item’s arrival) ‘unoccupied?’

Therein lies the ‘gift’ of Buy Nothing Day. It is a day to free yourself from the slavery of decision and the parting of cash. It frees you from disappointment, clutter, waste and the impact on both your immediate environment and on landfill. I’m still curious about the bigger picture though.

Can’t help imagining what would happen if everyone on the planet complied and no-one bought a thing on one day of the year, would it be justification for a global public holiday in the retail sector? I doubt it, (ironically now that I think about it, depending on your religion and public holiday system isn’t that already Christmas day?).

There is also the justification that ‘buying’ something also feeds a chain of employment. From harvest or creation, from design to manufacture through to sales to pay cheque, to mortgage. Your purchase goes to feeding and housing someone else.

I think what we really need to do here is routinely ‘think’ before we ‘buy,’ and ‘plan’ before we ‘buy’. Resist the urge to impulse buy, and ‘try’ before purchase where we can. Whether that means really putting on the shoes and doing a few circuits of the shop and being honest with the fit – over the prettiness of the heel, or taking the time to listen to tracks on iTunes and listening to the demo there. Being honest about how many times we’d actually use the kitchen gadget to prepare the type of meals it helps create, and seeing if we can actually get a trial size of a beauty product to see if it works before committing.

Imagine the money, disappointment, time, energy, space and landfill we’d save!

I find it ironic in a calendar already filled with ribbons of every colour representing days of awareness, that humans now feel the need to create a ‘Buy Nothing Day‘ to make us aware of our own foibles, when in reality we should be applying this ethos to every time we shop.

Here’s a link for Buy Nothing Day if you want to look into it further, and a perpetual calendar of what date it falls on each year. Still it in your digital calendar to remind yourself and prevent an impulse buy each year.

I, for one don’t buy into the ‘special day’ approach. It’s just a way of life, a-la Less Equals More. Feel free to share your thoughts.