How to Compost for Zero Waste Living

Take out the plastic, and food is just about all that’s left in your rubbish bin. In zero waste living, your glass, paper, cardboard and metal are all commonly recycled so your scraps is all that remains.

Food waste makes up almost 40% of the typical domestic rubbish bin, including spoiled fruit and vegetables, the peels, the skins, the outer leaves, the cores, the husks, the seeds. The ‘inedible’ bits, basically.

Composting is one of the most effective ways that you can help the environment. By sending food waste to landfill, Australians are generating methane equal to around 6.8 million tonnes of carbonic acid gas. Methane is 30x more powerful than your average Co2.

Here, we show you options for composting in gardens or smaller spaces as well as environmentally-friendly ways to deal with your food scraps.

Types of Compost Bins

If you’ve got a backyard, you’ve got it pretty easy. You’ll be able to have a tumbler bin, an interior bin that stands alone, a worm bin or you have the option of trench composting.

Trench composting involves digging a minimum of a foot deep into the ground to throw your scraps in and then you bury them. Remember with this option, it’s important to make sure that you’re digging pretty deep so that animals aren’t able to dig them up.

If you reside in an apartment or inner city, there are other ways to compost, like bokashi bins and electronic composters that can be kept in your kitchen cupboard or on your counter tops.

Worm farms (also called vermicomposting) are also a good option if you only have indoor options available to you as they thrive in stable temperatures. They use composting worms, which are fast growing and fast eating, instead of earthworms that you just might collect from your garden.

Options for City and Suburban Living

A standard compost bin requires a patch of soil or dirt about 1m² so they are easy to accommodate in tiny gardens or small areas outside of your house.

Even if you don’t have your own garden, look for shared areas where might be able to put one. It might even be possible for you to borrow or share an compost bin with friendly neighbours in your local area. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and it’s an opportunity to build good relations with others in your area.

If you live in an apartment but have a balcony, a tumbler compost bin would work well as they don’t require being dug into the ground.

If you don’t have space to compost bin in your home, community gardens are an excellent place to take your waste for composting. Many accept food scraps without the necessity for you to be a member (although being a member may be a good way to support a neighborhood organisation doing good within the community). Research where the closest community garden is to your home, and get in touch to find out how you can use their bins.

Many areas are now collecting scraps within the organic waste / garden bins so it’s also worth checking with your local council about what they’re currently accepting.

Other ways to cope with veggie scraps

Food scraps can be used in a number of easy and useful ways; vegetable stalks and skins are great in homemade stock, apple cores and skins fermented down into apple cider vinegar, roots sprouted in water and planted in your veggie garden, stale bread makes the perfect croutons when roast or fried for french toast, soft fruit and veg can be used in baking, banana skins can even be used for cleaning! What you can’t, or don’t want to reuse, can then be thrown into the compost bin.

How do you deal with your food waste? Do you compost, or have a worm farm, or a bokashi? Which one is your favourite? 

9 Essential Items to Build a Plastic Free Starter Kit

We all have the best intentions of living completely plastic-free, but then you accidentally forget to decline your plastic straw when you order your drink, you grab a coffee and realise you left your reusable coffee cup at home, or you can’t make it to the bulk store. We get it. Life happens right?

Don’t get hung up on these things, move on and make changes now so that you can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

The first step towards change is often the hardest, but a good place to start living a life of less waste is a plastic-free kit.

A plastic-free kit is a collection of essential items which you can keep on your, or near you, at all times so that you’ll never run the risk of being without something and having to opt for the plastic version.

Perhaps you’re just starting out, or you’re looking for some inspiration on how you can reduce your impact even further, so we’ve put together 9 essential items that every good plastic-free kit needs.

Reusable Coffee Cup

Nothing tastes better than a ‘proper’ coffee from a coffee shop, made by an experienced barista. What used to be a quick pick-me-up has now become a morning ritual.

Australians throw out 2.7 million single-use or disposable coffee cups every single day. This adds up to 1 billion coffee cups thrown out every year. Can you even imagine what 1 BILLION coffee cups look like?!

Reduce the waste that you produce by grabbing yourself a reusable coffee cup. Not only do they usually look better than a paper or plastic version, they will keep your coffee warmer for longer and do good for the planet too.

Shopping Bags

Getting yourself a reusable shopping bag is one of the easiest ways that you can reduce your plastic waste.

Up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. These often end up in our oceans and are often consumed by turtles mistaking them for jellyfish, or by whales.

We love an insulated shopping bags to keep our veggies fresh and frozen food frozen for longer.

Tea Leaf Strainer

If you’re anything like us and average upwards of 5 cups of tea each per day, every day then over the course of a year you’ll be sending over 2,000 tea bags to landfills. The numbers are shocking when you think about it!

Teabags are made from a very fine plastic that realised particles into your tea, and our water stream. To reduce your impact swap your tea bags for tea leaves in a metal strainer instead.

Loose tea leaves are often better quality too, so it’s a win-win.

Water Bottle

More than 60 million plastic bottles end up in landfills and incinerators every day. Six times as many plastic water bottles were thrown away in the US in 2004 as in 1997. Plastic waste is one of many types of wastes that take too long to decompose.

Normally, plastic items can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills so add a stainless steel metal water bottle to your plastic-free kit and reduce your impact on the environment.

Metal Straw

Plastic straws are not biodegradable. Most plastic straws simply break into ever-smaller particles, releasing chemicals into the soil, air, and water that are harmful to animals, plants, people, and the environment.

Fortunately, saying no to plastic straws no longer leaves you with the option of a soggy paper straw. Equip yourself with a reusable straw, they are so easy to keep in your handbag so you’ll never be left without.

Zip Lock Bags/Wax Wrap

There are so many better options for eco-friendly food storage on the market than plastic.

Only recently have the wonders of honey bee products been discovered by the masses. In recent years, people are starting beehives in their backyard and now the benefits of beeswax are going mainstream as well!

They may not be a vegan option but beeswax wraps are safe for you and mother earth. They are made of 100% eco-friendly materials and can be left to compost when ready to discard.

Lunchbox

Say goodbye to pre-made sandwiches or salads in plastic boxes.

Get yourself a lunchbox that is made from natural and renewable wheat straw fibre, starch and food-grade PP instead. They are 100% environmentally friendly, BPA-free, non-toxic, renewable, degradable and food safe.

Toothbrush

It’s estimated that the average person uses 300 toothbrushes a year. That equates to billions of toothbrushes lying in landfills and oceans which never break down.

Swap your plastic toothbrush for a brush made from biodegradable natural fibres like bamboo instead.

Hairbrush

Another plastic product which can be easily swapped for natural material alternatives.

A plastic-free bamboo bristle hairbrush will look oh so pretty sat on your bathroom shelf and will also improve the condition of your hair and scalp. 

Do you have a plastic free kit? What do you keep in yours?

5 Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Valentine’s Day

Are you a full-on romantic, with Valentine’s plan carefully constructed in January? Or are you more of a last-minute, petrol station flowers and chocolate, panic buyer?

Plastic wrapped chocolates. Cute teddy bears made in sweatshops. Flowers imported from across the world. They might tell your significant other that you care, but what are the consequences for the planet, and the people making them?

Either way, if you want to celebrate the most romantic day of the year, it can be easy to get caught up in the hype. Often, this means spending money on things that aren’t environmentally kind or ethical.

Being more aware of what you consume on Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to mean missing out on all the fun and romance. You can still show someone you love them without extravagance or mass-produced plastic.

This year, have a little heart and show some love to the planet by aiming for an eco-friendly Valentine’s Day. Here’s how to keep it free from plastic and full of ethics.

1. Dinner for Two, Minus the Food Waste

A candlelit dinner is as green as it is romantic – think of the electricity you’re saving!

Eating at home can be as romantic as eating out. Set the scene with mood lighting, candles and music, and leave the washing up until the next day!

It’s also a great excuse to enjoy the warm weather of the Australian summer and pack up a picnic and enjoy a bike ride to a local beauty spot. An afternoon in nature is good for the soul, just remember to leave nothing but footprints behind!

Whether you go out or stay in, spending quality time with your loved one over a delicious meal is the perfect way to celebrate anything.  In either case, avoid over-ordering/cooking so that all the surplus food that you don’t eat doesn’t end up in the bin and aim to eat as much local produce as you can.

2. Free From (Plastic and Bad Ethical Practices) Chocolate

If you’re feeling the love, why should that be at the detriment of someone else? The chocolate trade is steeped in bad ethics, from unfair working conditions and pay, to the use of palm oil. So this year, look for a Fairtrade box of chocolates. Warm cocoa also makes a tasty drink to share with many health benefits. Cacao is available at most health food stores, look for one without plastic packaging.

3. Finer Florals

Seasonal, locally grown food is sustainable, and the same can be said for flowers. When it comes to beautiful bouquets, keeping things environmentally friendly means that roses are out. When buying flowers, consider the amount of plastic wrapping they come in too. Would a potted plant be a better option? It’ll certainly last longer!

Also, if your flowers have come from overseas, there’s every chance that they’ve been grown and cut by someone not paid a fair wage. This is especially true at this time of year to meet demand.

4. A Handmade Valentines

You don’t need to be a genius to be creative. Remember how simple life was when you made your own Valentines cards? Just because you’re an adult now, it doesn’t mean you can’t still make them.

Can you bake a cake or cook your Valentine’s favourite meal? Can you make them a beautiful Valentine’s card? Or write a poem, a piece of music or a song? Maybe you’re good with wood or metal. Painting or sketching. Can you sew without stitching yourself up? Whatever you can create, the chances are it will be more appreciated than something bought from a shop.

If words or art aren’t your thing, something else that can be given is a massage. Set aside an hour and do a loving massage for your partner. You could also make this into a fun activity for both of you by getting your partner to exchange the massage. 

Get as creative as you like, safe in the knowledge no one else will be giving the same gift. It doesn’t matter how good it is; it’s the thought that counts!

5. Valentines Experiences

Experiences are often worth so much more than stuff. You can keep it simple with a walk in the park or an evening together playing board games with no phones or tablets. Dedicating time to each other, including the kids if you want to, can be so valuable.

Buy gift experiences like cookery class if they love being in the kitchen and you have the budget. Or simply handwrite some IOU messages, and leave them around the house. You could promise a massage, making dinner for a week or a trip to the cinema.

If you’re thinking of going away for the weekend, look for eco retreats. One that is accessible (and affordable) by train rather than driving gives you even more eco points.

Go against the grain, and do something different whilst being mindful of the planet. Often, a simple “I Love You” with breakfast in bed is more than enough.

Have less of an impact, show the planet some love and opt for an eco-friendly Valentine’s Day this year.

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Let us know how you’ll be spending it this year in the comments below.

Zero Waste Food Tips

Food waste is a huge—but edible—problem. Food waste costs the economy around $20 billion each year. Each year we waste around 7.3 million tons of food – this wastage equals about 300kg per person or one in five bags of groceries. 

Food that’s taken land and energy to produce, required water and nutrients, needed labour to ensure it grew, could be harvested and processed, fuel to transport…and then it ends up in the bin. It’s estimated that food waste accounts for more than five per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. If that’s not the biggest unnecessary waste of resources, then we don’t know what is. 

Fortunately, there are many things we can do at home to reduce our food waste, so we’ve put together some of our top tips to help you reduce your food waste and take those extra steps towards a zero-waste kitchen.

Preparation is Key

One of the easiest ways to be successful in a zero-waste kitchen is preparation. Before heading to the supermarket or farmer’s market, organise your fridge or cupboards, create an inventory, plan your meals for the week and write a shopping list to ensure that you only buy exactly what you need and will actually use.

Store your food properly

An essential first step in reducing food waste is storing your food. Your produce will stay fresh and last longer if it is stored correctly. Learn to recognise if something is bad or not, rather than relying on the ultra-conservative supermarket “best before” dates and ensure that food is kept in clean, sealable containers either in cupboards or in the fridge as needed. It’s also a good idea to freeze what you can in portions as soon as you bring them home so you can use what you need.

Save your food scraps

Food scraps can be used in a whole heap of easy and useful ways; vegetable stalks and skins can be made into homemade stock, apple cores and skins can be fermented down into apple cider vinegar, roots can be sprouted in water and planted in your veggie garden, stale bread can be roasted into croutons or fried for french toast, soft fruit and veg can be used in baking, banana skins can even be used for cleaning! What you can’t, or don’t want to reuse, can be thrown into the compost bin.

Begin or Rediscover Composting

Whether you haven’t started composting, or you’ve forgotten about that compost bin in the corner of your garden, now is the perfect time to begin or rediscover composting. The food scraps you produce in the kitchen (think carrot peels, eggshells, coffee grounds) can create beautiful compost which is so much better for the environment then chucking those scraps in a landfill.

Cook in Bulk

Cooking bulk, one-pot meals are a great way to ensure that your produce doesn’t go bad before you’ve had a chance to use it. Bulk meals can be easily frozen in meal portions and used when you fancy them. Plus it will almost be like reaching for a ready meal after work saving you the time of preparing a fresh meal every day.

Reducing food waste may seem overwhelming or challenging at first, but remember that every single effort counts. If all of us began practising even a couple of these tips on a regular basis, that would have a huge impact on our health, our budgets and the environment. Start with easy things like only buying the amount of food you need, shopping in-season, buying from local farmers to reduce the carbon footprint of your food and cooking in bulk. There’s no better time to get started than now – today is the day!

How zero waste is your kitchen? Let us know in the comments.

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How To Throw A Zero Waste Birthday Party For Your Kids

Kids birthday parties are wonderfully fun for all, but in the way that they are traditionally celebrated, they are the enemy of zero-waste living. The average child’s birthday party generates vast quantities of waste. From streamers, balloons, cake, ice cream, pizza (all on disposable plates), presents stacked in one corner, plastic goodie bags stocked with cheap toys for all the children to take home, all of which eventually get thrown into a landfill by the end of the afternoon.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. A little planning well in advance will also take away the stress of trying to organise something a little different this year…or maybe it’s baby’s 1st birthday and you’re going green from the get-go. Throwing a zero-waste birthday party is absolutely possible, nor does it require a lot more work, but you’ve got a year to prepare. 

The important part of a zero-waste birthday party is having the birthday-being involved and excited to make their special party zero impact. Make it an excuse to spend quality time with your child planning and making decorations. Here are some ideas on how to cut down on unnecessary waste, save money and have a fun celebration that won’t damage our planet.

Decorations

For decorations, skip the balloons – as pretty as they are, they are also incredibly destructive to wildlife and the environment (See Balloons Blow or ENC for info and visuals). There are many great reusable alternatives to help accomplish a festive appearance. Some of our favourites include:  

  • making your own Happy Birthday banners by printing a personalized one at home.
  • bunting! Nothing says party like bunting, upcyclable or check out a fabric store for a unique pattern in an ‘end of roll special’. It does take some time to make, but you’ll use it again and again in the years to come.
  • crafting streamers from fabrics or recycled paper.

Food

Simple finger foods, cupcakes, fairy bread, fruit platters, and a pitcher of juice, coconut water or water are just as nice, easier to prepare, and you can get by with just napkins or recycled paper towel if you want. When it comes to birthday party snacks, avoid plastic-packaged foods and disposable dishes – instead, opt for:

  • shopping at local grocers, markets and small businesses in your area
  • loose plastic-free produce
  • snacks that can be bought in bulk (using your own containers), like nuts, pretzels, popcorn, candies
  • homemade items, like muffins, hummus, cookies, bread
  • a pitcher of orange juice or water with reusable cups, instead of juice boxes or bottled water or kombucha, non-alcoholic mixers and alcoholic beverages which are all available in glass bottles.
  • a container for food scraps. There’s always a few half-eaten plates leftover and have something to transport everything home without making a mess is essential.
  • asking guests to BYO their favourite plate and cup. Everyone knows whose drink is whose too.

Table

Ask the other parents to encourage their kids to bring their own plates, cutlery and drinking cups. Most kids will have a baby or kids bowl at home they use, depending on their age of course. Once arranged on your party table, it will give a bit more flair to the event by being somewhat more formal than your average get-together. If dishes, cutlery or straws are needed for the adults attending, stick to reusables, like bamboo cutlery and metal straws. Rather than disposable napkins/paper towel, use reusable cloths/towels and have a damp cloth ready for spills.

Entertainment

If you’re planning games for the kids, make your own instead of buying new. Use pieces of used cardboard or biodegradable tissue boxes and tissue wrap to make a pinata, pass-the-parcel or Pin The Tail On The Whale. It’s a great way to get the kids involved and a fun craft activity for a rainy afternoon. 

If your kid has a fair-weather birthday, go with some sort of DIY outdoor activity – which not only saves money but also encourages nature appreciation and creativity. Obstacle courses (whether in a yard or local park), scavenger hunts (like a ‘trash hunt’, a.k.a. garbage pick up), sports (set up games of cricket, soccer, tennis, etc.) or a picnic in the park are fun family-friendly activities. Musical chairs, duck duck goose and hide and seek are all winners too. 

Invitations

Make your own digital card and send to those invited or to their parent’s email. There are over 300 000 customisable cards available on Etsy.

Or get creative and make a little video to send out or privately on Youtube to keep between friends, which will make a great memory.

Goodie Bags

Skip the goodie bags. How long does your kid actually play with those cheap plastic items in a goodie bag? Usually, about the time it takes to drive home, and once you’re there they then move on to playing with their toys. Right? 

If you want to offer something to your guests, try pre-loved books, pencils, paper face masks, seed packets (of herbs or wildflowers) or homemade snacks like cookies or granola bars in recycled fabric bags.

At the end of the day, nobody is perfect and you will probably make a little waste, but that’s ok; think about how much you have saved. Savour those memories, compost your food scraps and start planning for next year!

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