Happy Earth Day! 🌏 Introducing EarthSavvy

So, you might have noticed that things have been a little quiet on the blog front lately.  It’s not due to laziness and I haven’t run out of things to say about waste (not even close – you should see the size of my drafts folder!).

But I have been a little distracted.

For the last couple of years, on and off, I’ve been working on a project and I am so freakin’ excited to finally share it with you all.

Without getting too ooshy gooshy, I’m dedicating this labour of love to my daughter, Savana, who recently turned 5.  Savvy, it was you who inspired me to take a closer look at the world we adults are leaving behind for you and your friends, and that led me to understand how I was connected to the problem and how I could be part of the solution.

This business that I’m launching today is my little piece of the puzzle.  Proudly presenting EarthSavvy. 🌏💚✊

 

Please note that from today onwards, I will be blogging from my new website.  Feel free to continue following my zero waste adventures by subscribing here!

 

PRESS RELEASE:

NZ waste-busting business launches on Earth Day

EarthSavvy press release photo - small

After learning about the zero waste movement three years ago, West Auckland resident, Kristy Lorson began to transform her household, replacing environmentally-damaging disposable products with sustainable reusable alternatives.  Now, with her husband and their 5 year old daughter, the Lorson family take nearly two years to fill up a wheelie bin with rubbish.

For almost every disposable product you can think of, there is a money-saving, planet-friendly, reusable alternative.  But, when I first started to reduce our waste, I found it a bit time-consuming and expensive to gather those resources that help to make this lifestyle possible”, says Mrs Lorson.  “I wanted to simplify the process, in the form of an affordable, one-stop zero waste shop”. Enter EarthSavvy, a business named after the Lorsons’ daughter, Savana (Savvy, to her friends).  EarthSavvy is a fun online store providing reusable products for those who want to make a serious dent in their household waste.

Mrs Lorson believes that Earth Day is an ideal day to kick-off her business, and significantly, the theme for year’s Earth Day is plastic pollution, with the official Earth Day website declaring war on plastic:  “From poisoning and injuring marine life to disrupting human hormones, from littering our beaches and landscapes to clogging our waste streams and landfills, the exponential growth of plastic is now threatening the survival of our planet.  In response, Earth Day 2018 will focus on fundamentally changing human attitude and behaviour about plastics and catalysing a significant reduction in plastic pollution.”

Behaviour change is exactly what Mrs Lorson hopes to achieve with her business.  She is launching EarthSavvy with affordable zero waste starter kits, containing reusable produce bags, cotton cleaning cloths and more…and aims to branch out from there.  And as well as waste-busting products, there are also educational resources on the EarthSavvy website, including a detailed room by room zero waste guide.

Mrs Lorson has been educating people about waste issues for the past two years.  She began by writing a blog and, soon after, started the now mega-sized facebook group, Zero Waste in NZ!, which has grown to an impressive membership of over 15,000 people.  “Our members are appalled by the 8 million tonnes of plastic that end up in our oceans each year – that’s like a truckload of plastic every minute”, says Mrs Lorson.  “We’re embarrassed by the fact that New Zealand was recently named the most wasteful country in the developed world (per capita).  It makes you realise that we have a lot of work to do in the “clean and green” department.”  But, Mrs Lorson says, everyday kiwis are starting to take notice of these issues and, over the past year, there has been a groundswell of support for the reduction of single-use plastics.

It’s fantastic that two of our major supermarket chains (Countdown and New World) are phasing out plastic bags by the end of this year and that the government’s ban on microbeads comes into effect next month.  But plastic bags and microbeads are just the tip of the waste iceberg”, says Mrs Lorson.  “We need to do so much more to address this issue”.

Ultimately, I knew I had to change.  Once I understood how I was connected with the problem of overconsumption, I knew I had to rethink the way I lived my life.  I couldn’t have just carried on as usual – I wouldn’t be able to look my daughter in the eye. We cannot continue to plunder the earth, fuel climate change and leave a trail of waste behind for future generations to deal with.  Our waste is our responsibility and reducing it is something tangible that all of us can do.”

ENDS

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Zero Waste – a room by room guide

So, what is “zero waste”?  Well, for me, it means sending as little waste to landfill as possible.  Yes, we recycle, but recycling is not a magic bullet – it is a hugely energy-intensive and polluting process where many products, particularly plastic, are down-graded into lower quality products and will eventually end up in landfill.  So, recycling is not the best option.

I find it helpful to follow the 5 R’s, in order:

5rs-from-zero-waste-lifestyle-e1396687227509

Here’s a room-by-room rundown of the changes we’ve made so far on our journey to zero waste.

KITCHEN

Food…

Pantry staples from Bulk Barn Henderson using BYO cloth bags and jars

Some food refills from Organics Out West

Bread from local bakery in BYO bag

Fruit & veges from the Avondale Markets using mesh produce bags & BYO tofu container (or I go to a local fruit & vege store and ask for not-yet-packaged produce from the packing room)

Takeaways using BYO containers

Restaurant food:  request no straw or disposable items and have a container handy for leftovers

muslin bagsonya weighfoodinjars2

Homemade food…

Food waste…

Compost!  So easy, free (after initial compost bin purchase) and great for your garden.  Check out the free composting workshops run by The Compost Collective

Cleaning…

knitted dish cloth

Wooden dish brush
dish-brush

Knitted dishcloths

Homemade spray cleaner

Ecostore bulk refill dishwashing liquid (available at Freemans Bay store)

Ecostore dishwasher tablets

BATHROOM

Compostable Go Bamboo toothbrushes and homemade toothpaste:

Ecostore bulk refill shampoo (available at Freemans Bay store)

Ecostore package-free soap (available at Freemans Bay store)

Cloth toilet wipes (being used part-time…not fully committed!)…we have a simple, clean system – used wipes are popped into a lidded bin next to the loo and then thrown in the wash.  No smell…no waste…easy peasy!

toilet wipes

Greencane recycled sugarcane/bamboo toilet paper

Homemade air freshener

Lunette menstrual cup

lunette cup

Cloth panty liners

panty liners

Cloth tissues/hankies

Homemade deoderant (I do the low-fi version of this recipe, without the shea butter – and just mix the ingredients together)

Stainless steel safety razor

edwin-jagger-de89lbl-1

LAUNDRY

Eco Planet laundry powderbaking soda vinegar

Knitted washcloths

Homemade spray cleaner

Homemade “Jif” cleaning paste

Drain cleaner:  white vinegar & baking soda from Bulk Barn Henderson with BYO containers

Reusable cloth vacuum cleaner bag

vac-bag

BUBBA’S ROOM (Savana has been toilet-trained for quite some time, but when she was a bub we used the following…)
nappies

Cloth nappies:  Real Nappies purchased secondhand on TradeMe

Baby wipes:  cotton washcloths

HOUSEHOLD GOODS/CLOTHING/GIFTS

Bought secondhand on TradeMe – if not available for local pick-up, I request sustainable (paper/cardboard) packaging.

Gifts are usually either secondhand, homemade or “experience gifts” (vouchers for massage etc.)  Buy Nothing Christmasfuroshiki-main

For gift wrapping, we either recycle paper/boxes we already have or we use the furoshiki fabric wrapping method

We’ve been working towards zero waste for the last three years.  One step at a time.  Some areas that we will need to find solutions for once we run out of resources are:

  • stationery
  • art supplies
  • make up
  • first aid

When you’re painted as a hero

Recently I went to a friend’s house and was introduced to someone as an “eco warrior”.  And, I have to say, I was a bit taken aback by the label.  Although, I’m obviously passionate about environmental issues, and hey, I’m aware of the name I’ve given my blog, I was a little troubled by this title.

eco warrior badge

Firstly, referring to me as an “eco warrior” paints me as some kind of hero.

I’m not a hero.  I’m a normal, bog-standard, everyday person.  With flaws – oh so many flaws.  Yes, I try my best to not bring trash into my house.  But, my life is not perfect – not even close.  My house is often a mess, I struggle with time management and am a master procrastinator (facebook!!), I can be lazy, selfish and judgemental and, even though I strive to be zero waste…I drive a car, I take long showers – actually I waste too much water in general, my vege garden is a nightmare – well, I’m not even sure I can technically call it a vege garden anymore (do weeds and a giant ageing rosemary bush count?).  And, despite being appalled by dairy industry practices and the impact they have on our environment, I’m still buying butter and cheese.

So, no, I’m not a hero.  And I think that calling me that doesn’t help our planet one iota. Putting someone up on a pedestal makes that person seem extraordinary and that what they are doing is unattainable to mere mortals. But, the stuff that I’m doing?  Buying food at the bulk store, getting things secondhand, choosing glass, metal and wood over plastic, bringing my own bags and containers, cutting down on purchases in general?  It doesn’t require superhuman strength and it’s something that everyone can do (okay, if you live out in the middle of nowhere, the bulk store might be tricky – but the rest of it? – totally doable).

So, if you haven’t made a start with zero waste, it’s not too late.  If you want to think of folks who are already on their way with this lifestyle as heroes, go right ahead…but you’d best have a phone box in the vicinity for a quick change.

Because if I’m a hero, you are too…you just have to put your cape on.

superheroes

 

 

A visit to Visy: my recycling reccie

I was a child of the 80’s…an era when the prevailing environmental message was “recycle! recycle! recycle!”.  I have fond memories of going on a school trip to the Coca Cola factory where they taught us about the many interesting ways that one could repurpose a plastic Coke bottle.  We even got to take home the (*cough* propaganda) handy reuse booklet.  Bird feeder, anyone?  

So…they taught us about repurposing and about how important it was to recycle.

What they didn’t teach us was the fact that when a Coke bottle is recycled, it doesn’t turn into another Coke bottle.  Downcycled-Plastic-Bottles-The-Story-of-Bottled-Water

And it was only a couple of years ago that I learned the truth – that each time you recycle plastic, it is made into a product that is more inferior in quality and you can only do this 7-9 times before the integrity of the product degrades to the point where it will be sent to landfill.

Recycling, however, is still regarded as an important piece of the waste solution puzzle…and it does have its place.  So, I thought I’d better learn more about the business of recycling and when the team at EcoMatters got in touch with me to ask if I’d like to come along on their tour to the Visy Recycling Centre in Onehunga, I jumped at the chance.

After a brief journey through the streets of Auckland, we rolled up in our bus and disembarked with the faint sweet stench of garbage in the air and seagulls circling overhead.

DSCF6372

Visy is NZ’s largest recycling centre (otherwise known as a Material Recovery Facility or MRF) running 24/7 with 200 deliveries every day.  They receive all of Auckland’s recycling (a hefty 230,000 tonnes each year), which they then sort, bale and forward to processing facilities, most of which are overseas.

DSCF6328

Recycling trucks collect the contents of our curbside bins and make their way to Visy, where the loads are emptied onto a huge heap at the back of the building.  The items are then picked up by a digger and dumped onto a conveyor belt that snakes its way into the facility.

A team of people do the pre-sorting, pulling non-recyclable items off the conveyer belt.  It’s challenging work, made even more difficult by the need to handle some seriously unpleasant items (dirty nappies!)…so, think of those brave souls when you’re chucking things in the recycling bin and make sure that items are clean and actually able to be recycled.

The recyclables then go through a series of rotating cylinders with different sized holes to filter out different types of materials.  Metals are collected by magnets and plastics are sorted by infrared cameras.

The recycling machine gets stopped at least once a day due to wraparound issues (non-recyclable materials jamming the machinery) and any untangling has to be done by hand (and can take up to an hour!).

After a short time in the education room, talking to Caroline, Visy’s educational advisor…we all donned high vis vests, safety glasses and shocking pink hard hats for our tour around the perimeter of the facility.  I have to say, I was a little disappointed that we wouldn’t be able to see the factory floor.  It would have been awesome to watch the machines at work, but, unfortunately, that area is highly restricted (for some reason), and no peeking is permitted.

As we watched the trucks driving in and emptying their contents and the digger hard at work, Caroline talked about some of the more unusual things that found their way to Visy.  “You would not believe some of the things that people put into their recycling bins.  Once we found an entire single mattress that had been squashed into a bin.  We get a lot of hazardous waste – car batteries, paint tins, needles.  All of the guys have to have Hepititus injections before working the machines.  One time, a truck came in and, unbenownst to the driver, his load was on fire – a car battery had ignited.  We had to wave him down and put out the fire.  We’ve also had a rifle turn up.  We had to shut the place down and call the police.  And one time, someone even decided to try and recycle a dead cat.”

wishcycling

champagneIn the same way that you can tell a lot about someone from the contents of their shopping trolley, Visy staff get an insight into Aucklanders’ lives based on our recycling habits and there are trends at particular times of the year.  For example, in December and January, Visy receives tonnes of glass as a result of Christmas & New Years celebrations.  In November/December, they get loads of cardboard and paper from Christmas gift-buying.  And, in June/July, they collect mountains of milk bottles (cold weather equals lots of hot drinks, it seems).

Some other interesting facts:

  • Visy is owned by the Pratts, the second wealthiest company in Australia.  The name “Visy” comes from Mr Pratt’s great-grandmother, whose nickname was Visy.
  • Visy was opened in 2008.  When they started operations, they were sending 30% of what they received to landfill.  Nowadays, they send around 11% of deliveries to landfill.
  • Aluminium is the highest paying commodity.
  • All glass stays in NZ to be recycled, however Kiwi companies are accepting less glass these days, as it’s cheaper to bring pre-manufactured glass in from overseas than it is to make it in New Zealand 😦 .
  • Pizza boxes are recyclable (as long as no food scraps remain – a smear of oil is fine).
  • Disposable coffee cups are not recycled due to inconsistent labelling.
  • Small bits of paper must be placed in a sealed envelope or box…otherwise they’ll get lost.
  • Cans of spray are recyclable…but they must be empty as they are a fire hazard! (although, apparently the guys don’t mind too much if it’s a can of potpourri or Lynx deoderant that explodes, as it makes their workplace a little less stinky!).

At the end of our tour, I asked Caroline if I could show her some items I’d brought along to clarify whether or not they were recyclable.  And, happily, she obliged.  I was pretty well convinced that most of the things in my “box of shame” were landfill-bound, but, it doesn’t hurt to double-check these things.

And the outcome?

Out of all these items….

DSCF6431

This pitiful trio of tinfoil, were the only items that are recyclable.  

DSCF6435

And the rest?  All headed for the dump.

Boo.

One area of confusion for me was jar labels.  Paper labels are obviously recyclable.  However, some labels are lined with plastic (the way you can tell is that they are usually shiny and can’t be torn).  I always wondered what happens to those plastic-lined labels attached to containers that go to the recycling centre.  It turns out, they are definitely not recyclable, and, once removed, they get sent to landfill.  Boo again.

So, from now on, I’ll be seeking out companies that don’t line their labels with plastic…and I’ll be contacting those that do to ask them to consider switching their labels to those that are plastic-free.

At the end of our visit to Visy, as our bus rolled away, the following thoughts remained:  Yes, recycling is important.  It’s certainly a better option than sending waste straight to landfill.  But, as we know, recycling is an energy-intensive and polluting process.  Much of our recycling is shipped overseas.  And plastic has a limited recycling life.  So, it’s certainly not a solution.

5rs-from-zero-waste-lifestyle-e1396687227509

There’s a reason why recycling is a fair way down the waste reduction hierarchy.  If we’re aiming to be zero waste, we should be recycling less not more, focusing our efforts on Refuse, Reduce and Reuse…and then, as a last resort, Recycle.  And no, dead cats are not recyclable.

A workshop and a screening

Well, I’m feeling positively giddy.  On the horizon, is my very first zero waste workshop, which I’ll be running as part of EcoMatters’ fabulous month-long EcoWest Festival.

If you’re in West Auckland and new to zero waste, book yourself a spot!  You’ll find more details here.

Trash Talk

The other exciting EcoWest Festival event that I’m organising is a screening of the new film, “A Plastic Ocean”.

Filmed in 20 locations over four years, in beautiful and chilling detail, this documentary shows us the global effects of plastic pollution – and introduces technology and solutions that can, if implemented in time, change things for the better.

a plastic ocean pic revised 5

Join us up at Lopdell House on April 6 for an evening of education and inspiration.  It will be a great opportunity for our community to connect around this issue and talk solutions with our special guest speakers.  Be part of the wave of change.  More info here.

EcoWest Festival is chock-full of fabulous events and, if you’re Auckland-based, I highly recommend you take a look at their website to check out what’s on offer.

 

 

I don’t think this is going to fit in our Trash Jar

My darling sister and her partner recently travelled over from Melbourne for a short holiday.  As well as catching up with friends and family, one of the reasons for their visit was that they had signed up to do a sustainable Earthship building course, which involved them camping out at a building site on a lovely rural property in West Auckland.

It wasn’t very practical to travel trans-Tasman laden down with camping equipment, so we happily said they could borrow our tent and airbed while they were here.  They arrived in Auckland, came to collect the gear and off they went to pack tyres with earth, stuff straw into frames and plaster mud onto walls.

And then I received a text a few days later…with unfortunate news.

Through no fault of my sister or her partner, the seam of our second-hand, nearly-new (but apparently not great quality) Kathmandu airbed had not survived the camping trip.

So, my dilemma now is, what the heck do I do with a double airbed that is punctured beyond repair?

DSCF5979

Well, I’ve done a bit of research and these are the solutions I’ve found so far…

  • cut it into small pieces to patch other inflatables
  • groundsheet for a tent
  • painting drop sheet
  • rug protector for under a child’s chair
  • car boot liner
  • whip out the sewing machine and use my non-existent sewing skills to make:
    • outdoor cushion covers
    • a beach bag
    • a painting smock or raincoat

Or….would someone take it off my hands if I listed it on a Buy Nothing page (with helpful suggestions for reuse)?

What about you?  What oversized objects have bitten the dust in your house?  And what clever concepts for reuse have prevented you from sending large items to the dreaded landfill?

 

 

 

A peek in our bin

Two of the most helpful steps I took when I started on the pathway to zero waste back in March, 2015 were:

  1. Making a list of every consumable we purchase (and then slowly working through that list in a bid to find zero waste alternatives).

  1. detective-magnifying-glassTaking a peek in my bin to see what our biggest waste items were (which, at the time, were tetra paks of soy milk and vege stock).

Pre zero waste, our household produced one 50 litre bag of trash every three or so weeks.  We’ve managed to shrink that down to around one 50 litre bag every five to six months – a fairly hefty drop in rubbish (fist pump!).  And the great thing is, despite the requirement for a large change in mindset, it hasn’t been all that difficult.

But, I figure, if I want to continue making progress reducing our household waste, I should probably take another peek in our bin.

bin-pic-nov-2016
November’s waste – headed for landfill

So, what exactly are we looking at here?

This is the landfill waste my family (my husband, our 3 yr old daughter and myself) created last month (November, 2016).

We have…

  1. a bicycle repair kit
  2. nylon bristles from a dish brush (when I’m washing jar lids, the brush sometimes gets caught on the inside of them and then I have to wrench it out – drives me nuts.)
  3. fruit stickers – predominantly All Good Bananas (why must we choose between fairtrade and zero waste?)
  4. the broken end of my daughter’s scooter handle – rubber
  5. plastic fragments from the bottom of my disintegrating slippers (previously my mum’s slippers, rescued from the bin)
  6. nylon from a rope
  7. a broken twisty tie (removed from a potplant)
  8. a plastic media pass (from my husband’s work)
  9. empty antihistamine tablet packaging (for my husband’s hayfever)
  10. stickers (given to my daughter at her dance classes and by her friend)
  11. dental floss (purchased pre Zero Waste)
  12. a small foam sticker (from the bottom of a potplant)
  13. a balloon (given to my daughter)
  14. masking tape (from purchasing wooden stamps on TradeMe)

…and a couple of items pictured that, in hindsight, probably don’t have to go to landfill:

  • acrylic wool covered in glue (from my daughter’s crafting) – I’m going to try washing the glue off the acrylic wool and then reuse the wool
  • plastic wrap from a balsamic vinegar bottle lid – I forgot that this is actually recyclable through our city’s soft plastic recycling scheme

Now, aside from disowning my husband and daughter (who created the lion’s share of this rubbish), what am I going to do to avoid this type of waste in the future?

Three ‘Zero Waste to Landfill’revolution-fist-2
Actions for this Month!

  • contact the folks at the Vodafone NZ Music Awards to see whether they’d consider using a biodegradable material for next year’s media passes
  • give Savana’s dance teacher a set of wooden stamps and stamp pad as a Christmas gift with the hope she will replace stickers with stamps – DONE (I’ll give you an update when classes resume next year as to whether this was successful!)

And here’s a peek inside last month’s general recycling bin…

dscf5398
general recycling for November
  1. two plastic yoghurt containers
  2. a balsamic vinegar bottle – glass
  3. five beer bottles – glass
  4. three cannellini beans tins
  5. a treacle tin (purchased pre Zero Waste)
  6. a vitamin C jar – glass
  7. three beer bottle caps

Two ‘Zero Waste to Recycling’revolution-fist-2
Actions for this Month!

  • try making my own soy yoghurt
  • have another go at soaking/cooking beans
    (I haven’t had much success with this in the past)

What about soft plastic recycling and paper?

Well, we’ve pretty much eliminated all our soft plastics.  The only bumps in the road are cheese packaging and the small plastic wrappers that cover some jar/bottle lids.

Unlike plastic, paper is a biodegradable material that the earth can absorb so it hasn’t been high on the zero waste priority list, thus far.  Let’s just say paper recycling in our house is a mountain I’m yet to traverse, despite the mostly-effective “No Junk Mail” sign on our letterbox.

paper-mountain

wont-somebody-think-of-the-children

Occasionally, I do have to remind myself, “it’s a journey” and to just keep chipping away at it, a little at a time.

What about you?  What are you sending off to landfill?
Go take a peek in your bin…and share your rubbish shame!  :).

(New to zero waste?  Feel free to check out the room-by-room guide I put together.)