A Juliet Garden

November 8 2010

I love the creativity real estate agents show when listing properties, and I wasn’t disappointed to hear that our balcony is affectionately called a ‘Juliet Balcony’. Presumably, its because there is just enough room for Juliet to stand on to call down to her lover. If he did manage to scale the 33 floors to get to her, they’d have to go inside for a cup of tea as there certainly is no room to sit on the balcony.

So with all of this in mind I was a little skeptical when my Juliet, Waveney, announced she wanted to have a garden on this somewhat riddiculous balcony! But she prevailed, and with significantly more support from her father than from me, we now have a garden on the 33rd floor!

There were a few hurdles to be … well, hurdled. The first being the issue of the sun generally falling in the same spot we like to stand when out on the balcony. “Fear ye not my Romeo, we shalt place the whole caboodle on wheels” said Juliet. And so it came to pass that the garden now rolls effortlessly between the bedroom and living room ends of the balcony depending on circumstances. The second problem was the 900mm solid balcony railing meaning the garden had to be 900mm high in order to get sun – done. It tends to get a bit windy that high up so some sort of barrier to protect the tender plants was needed which is where some perspex my brother had sculling about came in to play, and before the week was out we had a 300mm wide, 900mm tall, garden with a perspex wind barrier!

It was quite funny doing numerous trips through the lobby and past the reception, (the building is also a hotel), with some crazy looking pieces of construction, but it was all done successfully and this is the result…


Great ay! Not only that but there are obviously rubbish free genes in Waveney’s DNA as her father was able to use various pieces of scavenged and recycled material to construct the masterpiece! Being able to grow our own fresh herbs and greens makes it a lot easier as it can be quite difficult to find fresh herbs without a layer or two of plastic. Time will tell how the tomatoes will do as they may quite easily grow up and over the barrier which may prove interesting for pedestrians if it starts raining tomatoes on them! And as the happy couple settled back and admired their new garden Romeo turned to Juliet and asked, “Do you reckon bees will come up to the 33rd floor?”  To be continued…

Here’s some challenges for you – with prizes!

November 1 2010

Jules is the co-ordinator of the Lyttelton Time Bank and she has issued the Rubbish Free Community with a challenge! Every year the Time Bank helps with two street festivals, one is summer and the other in winter. We have thoroughly enjoyed the winter one when living in Christchurch as there is an emphasis on it being a Festival of Light. Following this last winter event however, Jules said she received some constructive criticism regarding their decision to sell glow sticks as a fundraising item.

According to Wikipedia, “Glow sticks contain hydrogen peroxide and phenol is produced as a by-product.” The wiki entry also goes on to say that, “Because the product is a one-time use device and is made from plastic, and because of the number sold, the device is considered to have a high environmental impact for purely recreational entertainment. The toxic internal substances, if released, are also damaging to the environment.”

So, an alternative is needed, and this is where the Rubbish Free Community swings into action! Jules has challenged us to come up with an alternative light emiting source, which they can sell at next year’s Winter Street Festival by way of a fundraiser for the Time Bank. Any improvement on the glow stick would be great and an ideal solution would be something able to be reused, composted or recycled with relatively non-toxic ingredients.

Challenge number two comes from an email we received from Irenee wondering whether we know of a source of either rice or oat milk where the packaging can be reused or recycled. We don’t, but if it exists we know someone reading this will be able to tell us about it! Unfortunately the only brands Irenee has been able to find use tetra-paks which, due to the multiple media involved in their construction, are very difficult to recycle. She is unable to drink soy or cow’s milk but would really like to find a environmentally lighter way of consuming the alternatives.

To up the stakes, we’ll give the person with the best suggestion for the Street Festival light a free box of 12 bamboo toothbrushes valued at $45, and for the person who can solve the ‘rice or oat milk in recyclable packaging riddle’ you’ll receive two free toothbrushes valued at $9. Click here to submit your winning ideas!

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Good, Better, Best!

October 18 2010

This whole rubbish free thing is a bit of a roller coaster! During the weekend we went down to our local Farmer’s Market and bought spinach, bok choi and asparagus. We would’ve bought a whole lot more but all that great organic food was wrapped up snug in plastic packaging…arghhh! So, the next step there is to start having a quiet word with the vendors and see if there are alternatives they could consider…like no packaging for one.

But then later, when doing a bit of internet time, I came across Lola who has been lobbying Griffins to reconsider the plastic tray they added to their biscuits a few years ago and it seems like they’ve been having a good dialogue! Apparently, Griffins have spent about $70 million on upgrading their plant so they can remove trays from packets of biscuits. They’ve also looked into using corn starch packaging but it doesn’t have a long enough shelf life. Still they seem open to incorporating more sustainable packaging once it becomes available.

Maybe Griffins won’t have to wait too long! According to this article, mushrooms have been used in the development of a material called Mycobond which is biodegradable, heat and fire resistant, energy absorbing and low impact material. Apparently Mycobond is set to make a large impact initially as an alternative to foam packaging, but also has potential as insulation and Ford are considering using it in panels and bumpers for their cars!

Rubbish free on the 33rd floor!

October 13 2010

We don’t mean to be extreme, honest! But after having spent the last two months living amongst beautiful native bush and birds in the Waitakeres, we’ve now moved into a 34sqm apartment, on the 33rd floor, in the Auckland CBD! It has one bedroom, and what is affectionately called a ‘Juliet balcony’ – it is only wide enough to stand on…just!  And now that we’re here, we’ve absolutely no intention of giving up our rubbish free ways.

Perhaps surprisingly to many people, we’ve always been drawn towards high density living and are wrapt we’re finally getting to give it a real go. As we’ve ranted on about in the past, our primary concern that drives our rubbish free ways, is the pre-consumer waste generated in the production of the products and packaging we buy. In Story of Stuff they suggest that for every bag or rubbish we send to landfill, seventy equivalent bags of landfill waste have resulted from the production of the items in our single bag! For a long time I’ve been telling people it was 1:7, not 1:70 as it just seemed to unbelievable so I thought I must have it wrong. But the other day I watched the video again and there it was…70 times!!!

What’s that got to do with apartment living? Well it is consumer pressure that is going to force manufacturers to rethink their packaging and products and a whole lot of those consumers live in apartments. We’ve always said that although we had chickens, a large vegetable garden and plenty of space when we were doing our Rubbish Free Year, those factors weren’t essential to succeeding. So now it’s time to put our money where our mouths were!

After one week we’re off to a good start. The bokashi system is ideal for apartment living as it is small, doesn’t smell, and the product is welcomed by anyone with a garden! We’ve discovered the Recycling Room, (actually called the Rubbish Room but we think it should be renamed!),  and have found that they are very keen for separation of paper from other recyclables. Best of all it turns out there is a Farmers Market a block away every Saturday morning which, when we explored it last weekend, seems to be a great source of unpackaged organic veggies!

We’ll keep you posted on how it is going and in the meantime any tips or suggestions anyone can share on apartment living rubbish free would be greatly appreciated!

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Mmmmm…salami….

September 27 2010

Probably the most commonly asked question, in relation to our trying to live rubbish free, is; ‘what is the most difficult part’. Up until now I’ve generally answered either, ‘being prepared for spontaneity, such as the impromptu bbq on a Sunday afternoon’, or ‘nachos’. But that was because the real answer was much too difficult to admit to myself let alone anyone else…salami!

We both love spicy food, and I’ve always liked the honesty and simplicity of salami, particularly when out tramping and we sit and cut pieces off and eat them with crackers…actually that’s another sticking point…crackers. Anyway…yesterday we found ourselves at a great Sunday market in Titirangi and there I stumbled upon Salash Delicatessen selling their wares.

Salash is a family business with a heritage of five generations which we’re fortunate to have here in NZ from Serbia. They specialise in producing dry salt cured, cold smoked, air dried meats and salamis and for $13 I was able to buy the two lengths pictured of salami without any plastic packaging at all, just a brown paper bag.

So, now I’ve added a Salami page to the Guide and it’d be great if you could email me suggestions of rubbish free salami in your town or city and I’ll add it to the page.

Along with the new salami page, I’ve added one on hand cream and updated information on menstrual products and plastic bags. As always, anything you’d like to amend or add we’d love to hear it, so flick us an email!

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Just give me some space!

September 20 2010

Since moving to Auckland, Waveney and I’ve been housesitting which has been heaps of fun. However, with summer approaching we’re keen to get away ourselves during the weekends so are now looking for a place to rent.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about the best place to live considering where we work, I’m on the North Shore and Waveney is in Three Kings which is south of the city – so yep, opposite directions! We’re keen to use public transport and so think an apartment in the city could be the go. That way we can both wander down to the bus station and go our separate ways, against the traffic, and with pretty reasonable commuting times. Besides we’ve always been curious to see how we’d go living rubbish free in an apartment – the experiment continues!

So, now we’re in the midst of checking places out, and it is occurring to us that the difficult thing with apartment living and being rubbish free is a lack of space. One of the keys to avoiding rubbish is being prepared and buying in bulk. That way when friends drop in suddenly and you want to give them kai, in the freezer are some sausages that were purchased rubbish free from the butcher, saving a quick dash to the supermarket and the resulting styrofoam. But, a lot of these places don’t even have freezers, often just little beer fridges, let alone space for lots of baking soda, vinegar, flour and all the other staples of a rubbish free life!

On the other hand, being rubbish free is once again making the search a bit simpler. In a previous post I wrote about doing a late night dash to a supermarket to buy curry powder where I was confronted with four different brands all about the same price. But there was only one I could buy rubbish free – decision made! It is a similar situation with apartment hunting. With 301 apartments available in our price range in central city, being able to disregard a fair few because there is no space for a freezer or storage is actually really handy! We’ll let you know how we get on.

‘I have a bag thanks’

September 13 2010

I, (Waveney), just popped down the road to get some rolls for lunch.  I went to Bakers Delight and, as is habit, took my own bag.  I asked the teenage girl serving if she would mind using my bag.  She looked utterly confused, like I had just asked her if she minded using a can opener, as she tentatively reached out her hand she said “All our bags here are free,” then with a smile added for clarification, “we give them away.”

Now, its true that I have been asking butchers, bakers and even the occasional Chinese take out if they could use my bag or other container since February 1st 2008, but I’m not sure I could honestly say its something I particularly enjoy.  My butcher in Christchurch was such a gem (Corner Stanmore and Avonside Road shops).  He would smile when he saw me coming, simply stretch out his hand to take my container and effortlessly recalibrate his scales whilst commenting on the weather. But since moving to Auckland we haven’t had great small-retailer luck. It seems to prickle some people and fluster others. Others are happy to pander to the weird customer but just don’t get it.  Neither Matthew or I do the ‘weirdo’ thing very well, we just want what we are doing to be normal, no fuss. But instead the practice of using a plastic bag just once, before its starts a 500 odd year journey of polluting and decomposing, is normal.

So, wishing I’d been organised enough to bake rolls this morning, I say, “Thanks.  But its not about the money, its about the plastic” Her blank look returns, I add “Plastic lasts for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years so I’m just trying to use a little less of it.”   She fills my bag with rolls, and says that’s “4.90.” I hand her my card.  And then, she says: “So you’re against plastic but you use a plastic eft-pos card?”  Well! What was going through her head? “Plastic has rights?” or “If you can’t save the world then its OK to contribute to screwing it up?” I’m genuinely annoyed, tempted to unleash years of tertiary study on this unimposing teen.  I stand there with options scrolling through my mind: Wrath? Laughter? Lecture? – I go for pleasantries. We both wish each other a nice day.  But as I turn to leave, I think better of it.  I say that because of the way our world is, it’s pretty much impossible to live without plastic and that I was simply trying to minimise it’s usage.  When I make it home with my rolls I tell Matthew all about it, expecting sympathy, but he thought it was hilarious.  At least one of us still has a sense of humour.

Perhaps you already know of some environmentally switched on small traders who would welcome the opportunity to create less waste?  If so, comment below. If you’d like some information on how to cut down your usage of single-use plastic bags when shopping for fruit, vege, meat, fish and bread then click here, or go straight to the rubbish free store to buy reusable bags . And don’t worry, if we all do it then it will be nice and normal in the twinkle of an eye!

New packaging for our toothbrushes!

August 30 2010

We are wrapt to announce a change in the…ah…wrapping…of our bamboo toothbrushes! The brushes are now contained within a light paper wrapper and inserted into an unbleached cardboard box. The pack of 12 also come in an unbleached cardboard box. The packaging can either be recycled with your paper recycling, composted, however, I find the 12 pack box really handy for holding all sorts of things and for sending small packages in so tend to hang on to them.

We launched the new packaging at the Nelson Eco Show last weekend where it was very well received and lots of people took the opportunity to stock up with brushes that our children’s children won’t have to live with. The brushes are made from bamboo which, as anyone trying to get rid of it from their garden will testify to, is remarkably fast growing and self renewing. The bristles are made from nylon 4 which is a biodegradable material so the brushes can be safely composted. They’re available individually or in a pack of 12 in the Rubbish Free Store.

A Weekend in Nelson

August 24 2010

Its not every Sunday evening that I think, ‘well that was a cracker of weekend’, but it was this one! I’ve just got back from spending the weekend in sunny Nelson, which while being the obvious couplet, is also extremely true – they predicted rain each day of the 10th Annual Nelson EcoFest and on both days blue skies were the only things reigning.

The Rubbish Free stand seemed to go down very well with the public and organisers and in fact went down so well that we won the Best Community Stand Award! We were on the end of a row and so had three sides, one of which displayed the rubbish we couldn’t avoid from the Rubbish Free Year, another some of our products from the store, and the third provided space for folk to enter a competition we ran. On Friday night we spent an hour picking up rubbish around Nelson. This was strung up in a clear plastic bag above the stand and people were invited to guess how many individual pieces of rubbish were in the bag. We have three $80 shopping kits to give away thanks to the generosity of the Bin Inn, Ekko Solutions and Rethink. The kit includes;

  • Bin Inn vouchers to the value of $50
  • 3 x Ekko grocery bags
  • 3 x Rethink reusable organic cotton produce bags

The first guess was a rather pessimistic 2,793 countered by an equally optimistic 35! The actual number was 122  and so our three prizes will in fact be split in four! Congratulations to…

  • Laya Mutton-Rogers with 122
  • Jay Pope also with 122
  • Leonora Soares with 123
  • Margaret Ufton with 123

What I found very heartening was the relative difficulty we had in finding enough rubbish for the bag! I really thought it’d be a 10 minute job, but it did actually take an hour with the bulk of the waste being from the ‘big four’ junk food places. Nelson folk bought me back to earth however by saying we were looking in the wrong places and there is plenty to be found and this was supported by the manager of the Nelson Landfill who came by our stand. He was saying that they now work on an equation of one tonne of waste being thrown out per person in Nelson per year which is significantly higher then the 720kg I’ve heard is the national average. He also told me that they are able to heat the Nelson Hospital with the methane collected from the landfill and that they have enough space for another 40 years or so at that rate!

This conversation highlighted the most enjoyable aspect of the weekend for me – yarning to some fantastic people. Everybody we talked to seemed to be doing things to the various degrees they are able, and to make changes that reduce the need for packaging and therefore rubbish. On the store side of things, the biggest selling items were the sandwich wraps, toothbrushes and handbook.

Thanks to everyone who came by our stand, and to those who made it possible. In particular thanks again to the Bin Inn, Ekko, and Rethink for the prizes, Jo Reiley the Ecofest manager, and my Dad, Graham Luxon, who went above and beyond the call of fatherly duty in accompanying me from Christchurch to Nelson and imparting sage like wisdom and reassurance!

Rubbish Free Hair Care!

August 16 2010

It’s been a long time since I, Waveney, blogged – but I want to tell you all about my hair!  During our Rubbish Free Year I felt that nice, expensive salon shampoos and conditioners were ‘permissible’ – partly because I had chosen brands with hard plastic containers that can be recycled at kerbside, but mostly because my hair isn’t what it used to be.  I know that’s the cue for the 50 somethings to say ‘honey you haven’t seen anything yet’ but nevertheless, as the sun has set on my silky 20-something hair a growing dependence on allsorts of hair products has steadily risen.

I say all this as a defense of some sort because I don’t use the shampoos and conditioners at my local bulk eco food stores where I can refill my own container. I also have to confess to not trying any of the completely natural, and rubbish free, suggestions that people in the know have offered – until two weeks ago that is.  My mum rang me all excited,  she had been told that cider vinegar is an amazing hair conditioner and she had just tried it, “Its silky” she said, ‘’you’ll have to feel it to believe it.”  And when I next saw her I actually was impressed. It sat better, it looked better, it really was silky.

Do you get that problem when a hair product that used to work really well starts to be less and less effective?  My conditioner has been getting that way recently and mum’s hair was looking better than mine (and she’s 60 something).  It was all the convincing I needed, I tried it and actually couldn’t believe it. It worked better than my salon silky treatment stuff, in fact I don’t know if my hair has ever looked and felt so nice.

And that’s not the end of the story.  A few weeks earlier I had actually read a blog, by the legendary Lyn of Taranaki (Pigs Tits and Parsley Sauce), saying that cider vinegar conditioned and baking soda cleaned hair.  And Lyn was raving about it, saying all the heady things I’m saying now.  Although I hadn’t quite believed it, I did remember it. So yesterday I went back to the blog to sus out the baking soda thing feeling convinced that Lyn could be trusted and that I was on to a winning ticket.  Consequently, my hair got the double-hippy-whammy, first the baking soda then the cider vinegar! I waited expectantly as it dried.  And the verdict? Silky, shiny 20 something hair! With results this good saving a serious bit of cash and helping the planet out almost fade into the background. I couldn’t recommend it more.  But if you don’t feel quite  ready to flush decades of lab tested, break through developments down the drain, then next time you think your product of choice isn’t working as well as it used to, wash your hair just once with baking soda, it will completely strip away the build up of the hair product out of your hair thus allowing it to become fully effective again.

Check out the shampoo and conditioner page in the Rubbish Free Guide for a step by step walk through on how to do it.

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Statistically Speaking

August 3 2010

Statistics aren’t always useful, as Des McHale observed with, “The average human being has one breast and one testicle.” However, today I’ve come across two statistical announcements which seem very much more useful.

The Christchurch City Council have released information on waste collected and processed for the year ending 1st July 2010 which you can check out in full here. Christchurch introduced a new kerbside collection system around the start of 2009. The system involved giving all residences three wheelie bins, reducing in size from the yellow lidded recycling bin, to a smaller red lidded rubbish bin, and an even smaller green lidded organics bin with organics collected weekly from the kerbside and the other two bi-weekly.

It appears that while Christchurch folk have embraced with gusto the recycling and organics options, this hasn’t meant a reduction in the amount of landfill rubbish being disposed of residentially. Rather, there has been an increase of about 4,000 tons. Despite this anomoly however, the total amount of rubbish being sent to the Kate Valley Landfill has reduced by about 50,000 tons, presumably due to commercial operations reducing their rubbish output and finding new waste recovery options. I assume that there is a financial incentive at play here, with it being worthwhile for businesses to reduce their rubbish output, whereas it doesn’t directly impact residential dwellers in the same way.

Although this has nothing to do with rubbish, sticking with statistics a bit longer, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority recently announced that there has been an overall increase of 3.4% in the number of people using Auckland’s trains, buses, and ferries. There has been a huge increase in June of this year compared with the previous June with an increase on the buses of 6.7% and 8.8% on the trains. Cool ay!

The 10th annual Nelson Eco Show – & we’re going!

July 28 2010

Apparently the Nelson Eco Show is one of the largest environmental events held in NZ for environmental products, services and messages, and not only are we going to check it out, we’re going to have our own stand there! If you’re in Nelson over the weekend of the 21st and 22nd of August, and end up at the show, please drop by and say hi, it’d be great to meet folk the old fashioned way – face to face!

So, now it is all systems go as we try and get a stand together, and of course we’re trying to do it rubbish free! The first step has been to work on signage. We’ve managed to get hold of an old stand-alone banner and are planning on sewing a piece of calico which we can then paint on to, to fit the stand. Likewise, we’re painting calico with our logo in order to make a banner at the back of the stand. Any suggestions as to appropriate paint for calico would be appreciated. Our plan at this stage is to use some left over paint that friends and family have.

The idea is that people will be able to check out the rubbish we couldn’t avoid during our Rubbish Free Year, have a look through the website, buy products from the store and most of all have a yarn about what would help them to live rubbish free. We’re also going to have a competition where people guess how many pieces of rubbish were collected from a one hour walk around Nelson the night before the show starts – hopefully there is some rubbish on the streets, otherwise it might be a very easy competition!

SIFT – Sustainable Initiatives Fund Trust

July 22 2010

Did you know that…

  • in Canterbury alone, around 25 million styrofoam meat and vegetable trays head to landfill each year!
  • there is a new scheme in Canterbury whereby farmers are given the opportunity to recycle agricultural plastic waste such as the plastic wrapping around silage bales with it being turned into recycling bins amongst other things.
  • anecdotal research suggests that household waste accounts for about 3.8% of all waste to landfill (the rest is commercial and industrial and construction and demolition) and for some reason those who recycle at home may not necessarily recycle at work.
  • and that Westpac is leading the way in using 100% recycled plastic in their new ATM cards.

How have I suddenly become a font of knowledge for interesting rubbish related facts? It’s all due to the SIFT website. SIFT stands for Sustainable Initiatives Funding Trust and they were set up around 2004/05 with the specific aim of reducing the amount of material going into Canterbury landfill. Essentially they do this by funding clever projects that will help towards this aim. They are un-abashadly Cantabrian in focus, but there are heaps of great resources and links on their site relevant for everyone and very worth thinking of if you are a Canterbury based entrepreneur with a fantastic landfill reducing idea! This page in particular I find really inspiring when feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all and need an extra dose of hope!

Rubbish Free dogs!

July 15 2010

Rencently we added the category ‘Pets‘ to the Guide which got us to thinking about the issues of disposing of dog poo rubbish free – so, new to the store this week are Biodegradable Dog Bags!

We haven’t chosen to stock biodegradable plastic bags lightly. Biodegradable plastic can seem like a great alternative to standard plastic products. However, there is a lot of controversy over the wide and varied claims as to what biodegradeable means. The main problem is that there are no clear national guidelines governing these claims and it is left to consumers to decide what they feel constitutes biodegradable and as consumers we don’t neccessarily have the scientific knowledge, resources or time to work it all out.

Some biodegradable plastics are merely standard plastic with a chemical added that makes them break down into fragments faster, but like normal plastic will only break down so far where they can easily enter the food chain. Plastic only ever breaks down into fragments and never completely disappears. Often these fragments find their way into oceans and waterways where they are mistaken as plankton by fish. The other problem is that these smaller fragments tend to attract molecules to themselves and end up being significantly more toxic than when initially produced!

We are however confident in the claims to biodegradability of these dog bags. That is because the product has been certified by 19 different processes by countries including; Australia, Japan, USA, Germany, Belgium, Finland and Norway. The bags are made from non-GE plant material, using crops that are non-food in origin.

BioDog bags are certified disposable in home composts and in quality compost will decompose within about 90 days, meaning these bags will safely disappear at about the same time as the ‘material’ they contain!

Putting dog waste in with you standard compost is also not wise however as the bacteria contained can upset the balance of your compost pile as well as it being bad for humans which could happen if you use the compost in your veggie garden. The solution is to have a pet waste compost system. Essentially a hole in the ground it is easy to build your own, but if you don’t have space or permission to dig a hole in the backyard you might want to check out one of these systems. Whatever way you do it the resulting hummus created is great for ornamental plants and gardens.

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‘Rubbish Free Couple’ loving a rubbish collection…what the?

July 13 2010

We’ve just had the opportunity to witness firsthand Auckland’s inorganic rubbish collection. We’ve been hearing about it for years and this past weekend the area in which we are currently housesitting, Birkenhead, was scheduled for collection – and we love what we saw!

The idea is that it provides an opportunity for people to have items too big for the weekly rubbish collection picked up kerbside for disposal at the landfill – why on earth would we be keen on that? Well it’s what happens before the official trucks come by that we are big fans of.

The collection stretches over two days, with piles of stuff appearing on the roadside – old couches, bookcases, lawnmower catchers – it all gets put out. Walking around the area you see folk checking out the piles and picking up bits and pieces that are useful to them, old wheels for a trolley, a new handle for a drawer, etc. That’s how we got our old queen size, rimu, slat, bed base. My talented father-in-law noticed it on the roadside, was able to repair the one broken part, and we had a bed! Chatting to a visiting friend the other day they said they were on the look out for a vacum cleaner hose as their’s had a hole. Later in the day they called to say they found one on the way home – perfect!

Repairing or reusing items always beats recycling in terms of energy required to prolong the life of a material, and that’s what this collection seems to encourage. I understand that Auckland City does one every two years and the North Shore is annual – does your Council do a similar thing? Let us know if it does and we’ll add it to the Guide.

Now, excuse me, I’m off for a walk to see if I can find anything useful…

Appliances & Batteries

July 8 2010

Thanks to Ellen and Eric two categories were updated this week – Appliances and Batteries!

Ellen wrote in letting us know what she and her partner have been doing in their workplaces to help people get their spent batteries to the right place; “We converted two old cardboard boxes by making a slit on top and putting some battery pics all over and our names if people had questions. We put the boxes in highly frequented spots and our colleagues have started to use this for their dead batteries. This ensures that people who have only a few batteries (not worth going to the drop off station for many reasons) recycle their batteries and we just make a trip to the Hazmobile (Akl) every 6 months – and then it is worth it, we get rid of probably 40kg of batteries, most of which would have ended up in the rubbish.” We’ve updated the Guide with Ellen’s suggestion under the batteries category.

Meanwhile, Eric also wrote in with a great idea which we’ve added to the appliances category. Eric suggested that often when DVD players refuse to play DVDs anymore, they still play CDs fine, so unplug it from the tv and connect it up to yours, or someone else’s stereo, and you’re in business! Also, Eric said that cellphone cameras pick up the LED rays from remote controls. So, if you’re having issues with your remote, take a photo of it when pushing a button down on it and if all is well you should see the infrared beam in the photo – cool ay!

Ellen & Eric are this week’s winners of a 3-pack of Rethink reusable produce bags. We’ve got two more packs to give away so contact us with your ideas and suggestions in to be in the running!

Potato chips – help!

July 1 2010

One of the health benefits of living rubbish free is by default avoiding many of the common processed foods due to their unsustainable packaging. By and large this has been a welcome byproduct, but every now and then my resolve is sorely tested as the packets of potato chips (crisps) tempt me with their salty artificial flavoured goodness from the supermarket shelves! I had pretty much come to terms with the issue though over the past two years…at least I thought I had, and then Nicola from Christchurch emailed!

Nicola has made some incredible changes in her home towards being rubbish free. She kicked into gear two months ago, and with help from the kids, now has a veggie garden, homemade jam, shops at the bulk food stores, has meat sorted and has the kids using sandwich wraps instead of cling film which they love – what a legend! However, although Nicola and I share a passion to reducing our environmental footprints, we also share a taste for potato chips & we need help!

Waveney and I had a bit of an attempt at making our own a couple of years ago but it was very unsatisfactory result! We’d love to hear from anyone who has either a great recipe for making your own chips, or a suggestion as to how we can source them rubbish free. The best I can think of is the Pringles brand which come in cardboard tubes which are handy for reusing, but they also have a plastic lid which would be good to avoid.

Come up with a great suggestion and you stand a very high chance of winning next week’s 3-pack of Rethink reusable produce bags! And in the meantime, this weeks winner is Nicola who, (despite almost causing me to fall off the potato chip wagon!), is well deserving for all of the incredible changes she’s made – well done!

Rubbish free hydration!

June 25 2010

Waveney and I have been using stainless steel water bottles for a few years now and would never go back for a few reasons.

Firstly, although many plastic water bottles are recyclable, in the same way rock beats scissors in paper, scissors, rock, reducing and reusing both beat recycling.  Recycling obviously beats landfill in the same game, but the problem is that estimates suggest 90% of plastic bottles don’t make it to recycling plants. And when you consider the energy required to manufacturer a bottle, distribute it, and then recycle it (if it makes it into that waste stream) reusing and reducing demand win every day.

Secondly, there is growing awareness of the issue of chemicals from the plastic water bottle leaching into the water it contains. This issue is ten-fold when the bottle is refilled numerous times as PET bottles are designed for single use only. The plastic used generally contains a plasticiser commonly called BPA. Studies have linked mild exposure to BPA to permanent changes to genital tract, increased prostate weight, decline in testosterone, breast cells predisposed to cancer, prostate cells more sensitive to hormones and cancer, and hyperactivity.  A study conducted in America suggested that 95% of the people tested had been exposed to BPA.

Thirdly, having a stainless steel water bottle around means I’m more likely to take it with me and therefore there are the health benefits of staying hydrated.

And so, this week we’ve been able to add ECOtanka water bottles to the Rubbish Free Store, in four sizes and with two different types of lids. As well as being really light, the food grade 304 stainless steel that ECOtanka bottles are made from will not leach substances either into, or out of, the liquid it contains. This means as well as it being safe for your body you won’t be able to taste the fruit juice from yesterday in your water today! The final reason for choosing ECOtanka for the store over other brands is that they are a NZ owned and operated company based in Nelson which is awesome!

Rubbish Free Pets!

June 22 2010

This weeks winner of a 3-pack of Rethink reusable produce bags is Andreas who suggested adding information on keeping pets rubbish free to the guide, and provided a couple of links. I can’t believe we didn’t have a page on the topic already! Well done Andreas!

So, here is a link to the latest addition to the guide – PETS!

Our lovely old dog Jess, who shuffled on last year, was very easily pleased when it came to food and didn’t seem to mind whatever we gave her. So, she got a cup of dry food in the morning and evening and any bones that came our way. We were able to buy the dry food at the bulk food store just filling our own bags with it.

The more challenging aspect was working out what to do with her ‘doggie do’s’! As I understand it, dog manure contains pathogens which are harmful to human health and can upset the balance of a standard compost and therefore are best kept separate. We found the easiest way of doing this was to have a separate system, which in our case took the form of a pit. We had an old plastic rubbish bin, (which we obviously had no use for anymore :), with the bottom cut out of it and placed over the hole. We didn’t dig too deeply in order to keep above the water table, and when it was full we just filled it in, however this seldom happened as it took so long to fill up! Some folk advocate putting in a starter similar to that used in sewerage systems however we didn’t bother with that.

The new page is by no means complete, so contact us with your ideas and suggestions for either the Pets page or any other new or existing page, and you’re in the running to win this week’s giveaway of a 3-pack of Rethink reusable produce bags – it’s that easy!

Latest additions to the guide; bedroom & bathroom

June 16 2010

This weeks winner of a 3 pack of Rethink’s awesome reusable produce bags is Aimee who submitted two links to the guide. She let us know about InNature who manufacturer organic bedding including pillows, duvet inners, sheets and mattresses in Auckland which Aimee testifying to there being no plastic in their packaging with recycled cardboard used instead, read about it under ‘bedding’ in the guide.

Aimee also told us about Go Native who supply organic organic, skin and body care products and most interestingly, a lot of ‘ingredients’ that you can use to make your own as well as ‘bases to go’. Apparently, their packaging is just as awesome as their products and we’ve put the suggestion under ‘soap’ in the guide.

Also this week, Scotty from Christchurch sent us a link to this great wee cartoon by Stuart McMillen which explains perfectly why we embarked down this road of becoming rubbish free. As a result, we’ve started a new listing in the guide called ‘Why’ which contains links to this resource as well as others which nicely sum up reasons for looking at how we are doing things on this beautiful planet.

Rubbish Free enters mainstream America!

June 11 2010

According to an article in the NZ Herald yesterday, living a rubbish free lifestyle is becoming more and more popular within mainstream America. Bea Johnson lives in Marin County, California and has been living ‘zero-waste’ and blogging about her experiences. In the article Bea says; “Before it was tree-hugging hippies who washed and reused their produce bags. Now we’re seeing a much more middle class movement, more moms with their kids, with Tupperware boxes and neatly folded linen bags.”

I’m still being a bit wary of the word ‘mainstream’ and it’s various connotations thanks to Don Brash and his infamous Orewa Speech! However, it is awesome to hear that there are enough of us modifying our consumption habits that the movement can be considered as moving from the fringes into mainstream society.

We are aware of at least two other websites detailing people’s adventures at living rubbish free including a family in Gloucestershire, UK and a couple in California called the Green Garbage Project. Global consciousness is alive and well it seems!

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Congratulations Jodee and Liz!

June 9 2010

We’ve had a great first week with our new site and really appreciate all the emails of support and encouragement – cheers!

The ideas for the guide are flowing and 3-packs of reusable rethink produce bags are destined for Jodee and Liz who made two additions each to the guide. We love Jodee’s idea of buying beer in swap-a-crates and using the lids to make a mat for scrapping the mud of your boots – read about it in the Alcohol article along with her addition to the Clothing article regarding rehoming clothes – thanks Jodee!

Liz has perfected a recipe for making Yoghurt that she got from her husband’s family, we didn’t previously have an article on yoghurt so it is good to be able to add one. Liz also provided a link to what appears to be a great website on natural family planning which you’ll find in the Contraception article – kia ora Liz!

Who knows what we’ll have added to the guide by next Wednesday when we’ll announce the next winners of rethink produce bags – maybe you do! We’d love to hear from you and your ideas so feel free to say gidday from here!

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Oil & Packaging

June 8 2010

Post consumer and waste, (landfills and the like), has always only been part of the motivation for us following a rubbish free lifestyle – although when considering ground water pollution, plastic in the oceans, greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and vehicles involved in transporting to landfills its probably enough!

The major motivation is the pre-consumer environmental and humanitarian impacts of producing ‘disposable’ items and packaging in the first place. The absolutely awful and ongoing tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, with reports suggesting it will be August before the supply of oil is finally fully cut off, vividly highlights our dependence on petro-chemical products and what can happen when things go very wrong. In a similar vein, last night I watched part of a programme on TV1 called “Ross Kemp: In Search of Pirates”. He was in Nigeria and highlighting the extreme environmental degradation of centuries old mangrove wetlands, destroyed by thousands of litres of oil. There appears to be some debate as to whether it is the fault of thieves breaking into oil pipelines, or oil companies not cleaning up after mining for oil in a particular place, but either way, locals are now struggling to find fish and livelihood due to the pollution of their rivers.

Reducing our dependence on oil involves more than finding alternative fuels for transportation. We also need to consider the non-economic costs of producing disposable packaging and products. The good news is that there is a lot of awesome work going in to finding alternative methods which reduce our demand for crude oil and the petro-chemicals derived from it in packaging and products. As consumers, we are able to send a loud message of support by consciously choosing to purchase the fruits of these labours, thereby reducing both downstream, and upstream, pollution due to manufacturing processes.

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The renovations are over!!

June 1 2010

Hurrah!! After all the yarning, planning, doing, yarning, re-doing…the new Rubbish Free site is up and running!!

Huge kudos to our good friends, Geoff and Fi from Attitude in Christchurch for venturing a long way beyond the call of duty in making it happen – if it wasn’t for the talent and patience of you guys we’d still be wallowing on page one of ‘Websites for Dummies’!

Our vision with this re-vamp, is to provide a place where people can more easily contribute and gather information and products which support their efforts in reducing waste to landfill. It has to be easy for people to exercise their consumer power if we are to influence how manufacturers and distributors construct and package products.

Any information that you’d like to add to the Guide, either to expand on an article, or with a whole new category, will be gratefully accepted. To provide even more motivation, Lisa at Rethink has provided us with 10 3-packs of their fantastic reusable produce bags to give away over the next five weeks to the authors of the best suggestions and additions!

We hope you enjoy having a look around the new site and we are in keen anticipation as to your suggestions and comments which you can email here!

Change afoot!!!

May 3 2010

This week our new bamboo, compostable, toothbrushes arrived – and they are great! Dentists recommend changing brushes every month, which if everyone actually did this, means one million toothbrushes would be added to our landfills every week! Perhaps one million toothbrushes doesn’t take up that much space in our landfills- but the thing that gets me is all of the energy and fossil fuels that have gone into producing these items which are then quickly disposed of along with their embodied energy.

This is what the environmental toothbrush website has to say about their use of bamboo – “The handle is made of bamboo, an environmentally sustainable timber. Bamboo is technically considered a member of the grass family. It is the fastest growing plant on earth, and incredibly abundant. Our bamboo is cultivated for three years, and then harvested. It re-generates itself naturally, with minimal rain and without the need for harmful pesticides. In fact, by harvesting and using the bamboo, we help to control unwanted spread into agricultural and natural forest areas.”

So what does any of this have to do with the title of this post?  Over the past few months as we’ve had a lot of conversations with folk about living ‘rubbish free’ and lightening their environmental footprint. It should be easy for folk to live this way, after all it is all closely tied to simplicity. Unfortunately, however there just isn’t a place that combines all the information, or supplies all the products to be rubbish free. As noted in a previous post, organic and wholefood stores – as wonderful as they are – can have more unnecessary wasteful packaging on their shelves than conventional stores and supermarkets. So in union with a couple of very talented friends we’ve decided to do something about it!!

We’re breaking out the metaphoric hammer and nails and giving www.rubbishfreeyear.co.nz a bit of do-up! We’ll tack on some things, move some others, give it a dust and polish, and like extreme make-over, present it to the world hopefully with lots of ohhs and ahhs by 1st June, – yup just 25 days away!

The aim is to make it as easy as possible for folk to find the information they need. So, if you’re wondering how to get round using cling film, type it into our searchable database, and all the info that you need will be there, along with suggestions on more sustainable products, some of which will be for sale on the site.  Want to know what to do about toothbrushes and toothpaste? – just type it in! Oh yes, a big re-vamp is in store people. Just hang in there 25 more days ok and then feel the loving support of your rubbish free community envelop you! We’ll even have these great bamboo toothbrushes for sale…:)