My Interview at GlenEira Magazine

So after I had a workshop for GlenEira City Council Staff at the their lunch time presentation event, they contacted me to ask some questions for their magazine as I was living in the area at that time.

Here is the content:

Living Sustainably by Dr Sam Shokravi

1. Why is living sustainably important to you? (for example: reduce environmental impact, save money etc)

Sustainability is our lifestyle; we decided to be as sustainable as possible long time ago because it makes sense. Why would you want to pay more, harm the environment or harm your society. You can avoid all these by very simple steps and all these mean you are living a sustainable life. I believe that this earth and all in it are gifts to us and we should take care of it, so we and those coming after us can enjoy all its goodness. When you think like that, avoiding waste in any aspect of life becomes necessary. This means wasting your money on things that are not essential, wasting your natural resources, like water, energy, and wasting your (or others’) time on worthless tasks or on spreading hatred.

2. What kinds of things do you do at home to live more sustainably?

We try to make it clear what is our goal, we want to live waste free, enjoy life and have a great time living it with others. So we think and for instance before we shop, we use shopping list and make sure not to buy things that we can easily make ourselves at home and have fun in the process of making them. We bake almost all the bread and sweet treats that we eat. Only buy the essentials from local stores or markets, usually in bulks to minimise the packaging. We also make our own cleaning products from vinegar, natural soap nuts and alike. Ultimate goal is that nothing manufactured abroad entered our house and we try our best not to have plastics in the house or at least not discard plastics (soft plastic included) in the landfill (normal trash bins) as they take more than 1000 years to discompose in the landfill and during these 1000 years they emit CO2 and methane that is one of the drivers of Climate Change.
To share our lifestyle with our guests, we give them a visitor pack which opens up a conversation about our values and why we are living this way and encourages them to do the same. So not only for the time they are staying with us but also when they go back to their own house, they apply these easy steps to their own lifestyle.

3. Do you have any plans for the future to live even more sustainably?

Our ultimate goal is to be living self sustained. That means producing all our fruit and vegetables and reuse all that we have. It is rewarding to make all that you need and spend your time enjoying all the glories in this world.
We also want to spread sustainable living to all around us so everyone can enjoy the little things as we do. This also spreads happiness and happiness means health.

We launched a new community project – MomySwaps.com

I am quite excited and busy at the same time. On Sunday night we launched a new community project, MomySwaps.com . It is a website where new parents (or any parent really) can swap baby stuff that they no longer need and get those that they need now for free.

As a new Mom, or new-ish as my daughter is now 15 month, I have a lot of used and new clothing, toys and stuff in general that I don’t know what to do with. I have donated quite a lot of them, tried to sell some of the new ones with not much success, so I am left with this urge that I want these stuff to get used and I don’t want to add to landfill or any waste (sometimes this include donation as charities receive so much stuff that they can’t even handle). So I started this new website, where you can give what you have, new/used, to someone that wants it for free. Instead get something from them for free or get something from someone else that you do need for free.

You might say, oh I have a very expensive piece of clothing and I won’t just swap it with any grubby thing. Well the idea here is not financial gain is to reduce waste and increase the useful life of your item. The “very expensive piece of clothing” that you have worth nothing to you as you can’t use it. The ” grubby thing” might be worth even more if you need it now. So don’t think financial here, think necessity and zero waste.

Based on my research this is the first time something like this is available, at least in Melbourne. And I hope people find it useful.

There is of course Gumtree for selling and buying your items but it takes for ever to find what you need and sell (if you manage to sell) what you own. Also there is always some money exchanged and you might end up spending more than you earned. In MomySwaps you don’t exchange with money. If you find a match for your item and they have what you want as well. Perfect, catch up and swap your items. If they don’t, you get a MomySwaps credit and when you find what you need, you can use the credit to get it. Again it doesn’t matter how much in dollar the swapping worth, they all are equal in the eye of the MomySwaps.com 😉

So on the Swap page you can see what there is out there and then request it. When you are match with an item you and the owner will both receive an email and get connected so you can meet up and get swapping.

The stuff are categorised into three rough groups, Clothing and Shoes, Toys and developmental gear and Everything else.

Clothing and Shoes is the first category because, we all get inundated with clothing that our babies grow out of or never get a chance to wear as they were too small to begin with. So here you can clear your storage of all of them and instead get clothing that your kids can wear now or in the near future.

Toys and developmental gear is the second group. Toys are meant for a specific age to challenge your child and entertain them at the same time. If there are toys lying around your house that your baby doesn’t even look at any more or there are those that are not apt enough for their developmental stage, then let’s swap them for something more age appropriate. Just make sure it’s not your child’s favourite teddy bear 😉

Everything else includes anything like the bathtub that is too small now, the pram that you no longer need or even your maternity clothing that you can’t wear any more, everything baby related that doesn’t come under the other two categories is listed here. It is perfect as you can easily use this category to de-cluttered quite a bit. It is the dream for all the de-cluttering junkies out there 😉

So let me know what you think, I am quite excited to know your honest opinion. As it is the first stage there is a lot to do and the site is not perfect by any stretch of imagination but we can use any help to make it work. Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2. Still reducing

As I first mentioned when started this step (i.e. Step 2), it never really finishes. Throughout years we have collected quite a number of items under the umbrella of “necessities” in our lives and getting rid of all these artificial convenience take time and dedication. In some cases it also take lots of patience and perseverance to stick with it and do not get dithered by criticism or hardships.

Other things that we are in the process of reducing are:

1. Shampoos

Shampoos are “necessities” of daily life, aren’t they? Well you do not need to wash your hair every day and in some cases every week. It obviously depend on the type of your hair and there are so many people out there that agree with this. I am in the process of reducing my washes throughout the week. Every week I try to add another day or half day to my non-wash period.

But also you don’t have to use conventional shampoo to get the job done. The way we are all conditioned to using fragrant shampoos with all these exotic aromas and empty promises of growth and smoothness and so on just shows how marketing is a powerful tool that can be misused. There is no way by using a shampoo (that last couple of minutes on your hair at best) you get the silky shine or regrowth that they entail. But we still fall for them.

Anyway, my point being look into alternatives. I can tell you about what I have experienced.:

Soap Nuts are type of berries that contain saponin, a natural detergent. The shell absorbs water and releases the saponins which circulate as a natural surfactant in the wash water, freeing dirt, grime, and oils from clothing. I tried them a while ago and they are quite cost effective. A kilo can give you up to 35 litre of liquid (boil them in water) that can be used as shampoo (you can add essential oil to add the aroma you like), detergent, hand wash and body wash. They don’t make as much foam you are use to with conventional shampoos but do the job


If you want to get best idea about essential oils there is this free e-book that you can enjoy:

 

2. Dry shampoo

I use dry shampoo to longer my non-wash period. Now I make my own but there are lot of options out there many of them organic:

The key to using dry shampoo is to brush your hair few times a day to distribute the oil in the root of your hair to the whole length and then use the dry shampoo powder and brush again to allow the powder absorb the oil in every corner of your head. This is really useful as you don’t fee like you have greasy hair but you still haven’t wash it. So you can go about your life like you normally would.

3. All cleaning agents

I talked about these products in another post, and even though we don’t use whole lot of these kinds of products we still use detergent specially if I am washing reusable nappies as they are quite fussy and I don’t want to ruin their waterproof layer with soap nut detergent or homemade detergents. Also we use dish washer soap as distinguishing is mainly my hubby’s chore and he refuses to use anything that doesn’t foam enough in his opinion (i.e. soap nut liquid). Hence we are in the process of reducing, or convincing at this stage 🙂

4. Toothpaste

So I had problems with conventional toothpaste that have SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) not because they are carcinogen or anything (there is no proof or disproof on this). It’s just they make my mouth really dry, like seriously dry, so I changed to SLS free toothpaste and bought a few of this brand:


My plan is to make my own but before that I will give a go at the tooth cleaning powder that I heard so much about and will let you know how it goes. The reason I am changing from this toothpaste is not that I don’t love it because I do. It is fantastic but it lasts me only a month or month and a half if I really be careful with the amount I put on my brush. Disclaimer, I brush at least twice a day.
So the powder that I am going with is this one, happy to get suggestions if you out there are using something totally amazing:


5. New stuff in general

I am one of those people that can’t wear second hand clothing if I don’t know where it comes from but I have no problem buying new clothing or new stuff in general off of people who do not want them. So I became an avid second hand shopper (gumtreer). In the past year, we haven’t bought anything for the house, mainly kitchenware, that was from store. All came from people that own them, either bought them or receive them as gifts. This guarantees to get what I want as I research them and purposefully look for those items. Hence no sales person can impact my decision. Also I don’t pay the premium in-store price as these items are in the second hand category I can pay a fraction of the price and get a lot of discount if I haggle and the person I am buying from is also good recipient of haggling 😉

I also started making a lot of my own clothing also made couple of dresses for my daughter. This saves a lot of money and I get the material and design that I want. I never pay for the design (or pattern in this case), either make my own quirky pattern or search for free ones on the web.

Step 2. Reduce deodorant use

Let me tell you that I always had issues with BO. I don’t like to be the stinky one in the room, but probably I am. I read all these articles about how deodorants and antiperspirants contain unpronounceable chemicals, many of which pose serious health concerns and some are carcinogens. And putting these chemicals on our skin may actually be worse than eating them, because they enter our bloodstream. Although when eating small dosage of toxic chemicals, the enzymes in the saliva and stomach break down what’s ingested and flush it out of the body.

But then I read this article in The Guardian that says “Deodorants and antiperspirants are probably as safe as the other chemicals we use on our bodies: soap, shower gel, perfumes and moisturisers. There doesn’t seem to be a good reason to demonise one set of chemicals over another. It makes sense not to use any products on broken skin, and to stop using them if you develop allergic reactions.” that makes sense, right!?

However, some of these chemicals cause hormonal disruptions – such as a class of substances called parabens. If you look at your deodorant or antiperspirant ingredient list, they are probably mentioned there as butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, methylparaben, or propylparaben. These are actually preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast, and negatively impact the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects.

Moreover, the Aluminum compounds (e.g. aluminum chlorohydrate) that we hear so much about them, they are used in deodorants to block the sweat ducts. But some say that they mimic estrogen, and promote growth of breast cancer cells. Again, no scientific evidence links the use of these products to the development of breast cancer. But how can you be sure that these studies weren’t sabotage or blocked by the deodorant companies and lobbyists. Don’t forget that the deodorant and antiperspirant market size was just over US$70 Billion.

The small samples under study in the research that found Aluminium and paraben compounds in the deodorant carcinogen are the issue. 18 out of 20 is not a good sample size for any study let alone research that wants to diminishes a widely marketed products that most believe is keeping the fabric of our societies together and keeping us from intoxicating each other with our BOs.

Also Triclosan that is flagged as a risk to both human health, the environment, and animals have shown it alters hormone regulation and contributes to antibiotic resistant bacteria. Research has also linked triclosan with allergies, weight gain, inflammatory responses and thyroid dysfunction, and there are concerns it may interfere with fetal development in pregnant women. The research on Triclosan found it in the urine sample of nearly 75% of people tested! But how many people were tested? We don’t know! Under what research condition? there are so many questions unanswered.

It has been noted that deodorants and antiperspirants can irritate skin. I can assure you that if I shave my underarm and then put spray or roll on deodorant on, it sting and irritates my skin but that is quite a given. Isn’t it? That is just common sense, put a bit of alcohol on your irritated skin, doesn’t it burn?

 

They say that Antiperspirants are keeping you from sweating, or as the tag line goes “Keep you Fresh!!!”  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines says “an antiperspirant product must reduce sweat production by at least 20 percent over a 24-hour period after application using the guidelines for effectiveness testing referred to in Sec. 350.60.” in order to be allowed branded or marketed as 24-hour protection. I don’t know about you, but 20% is not much for me.

On the other hand, you actually want to sweat to regulate your body temperature. We have all these, between two million and four million, sweat glands that must have been put there to do something necessary not just to hang out and get plugged by chemicals, you would think!!

Experts even recommend to switch antiperspirant/deodorant brands every six months as they become ineffective while your body figures out how to unplug its glands. So it must be something unsavoury for your body that is trying so hard to shake it off.

 

They also stain my clothes, yellow underarm stains are unsightly, embarrassing and ruining dresses and shirts specially white ones. The Wall Street Journal reports that deodorant makers, detergent manufacturers, stain-removal companies, doctors and textile professors all disagree on what exactly causes the underarm staining, although many believe it’s the aluminum in the antiperspirants.

So you agree there are a lot of negatives about them but for those of us that stink what is the solution. Well there are a lot of natural options out there. I can tell you what I did.

I start rinsing with apple cider vinegar to kill the bacteria on the surface of my skin that feed of the sweat and emit the gas that is  causing the odour of BO. This obviously doesn’t work for the whole day as you can’t keep showering with vinegar if you lead a busy life like me and are out of the house for considerable hours.

You can use Bicarbonate Soda which is a salt as well. I used the food grade one that doesn’t have aluminium. It is powder and I carry it around to freshen up when needed. But some people are allergic to it and irritates some other.

For those that are allergic to Bicarb Soda, you can use natural salt roll on or sticks. There are some marketed salt deodorants out there. Like:

 

They last quite a while, so more cost effective and they let you sweat but the salt kills the bacteria off. So it creates an inhospitable environment for the bad bacteria but doesn’t plug the glands.

They don’t have a scent so if you are like me and don’t like the scent of these chemical sprays then you are safe.

You should also make sure to wash regularly, both your body and your clothing. Moreover, keep an eye on your diet. Avoid foods that make a juicier sweat for the bacteria like spicy foods, garlic and onion, caffeine, alcohol, processed, fatty and sugary foods. Minimising intake of these foods, also help your gut bacteria and keep your tummy happier too.

Keep your liquid intake up to regulate your body temperature without sweating too much. And herbs like parsley, basil, mint, sage and rosemary, along with supplements like chlorophyll and wheat grass, are all said to be natural body deodorisers.

Make sure you’re getting enough of the B Vitamins, and Vitamin C, as these water soluble nutrients encourage toxins to be eliminated via the urine rather than the skin.

The least is that by not using conventional deodorant, I feel less sticky in my underarm, I feel happier and I save between $3 to $5 every month. So go natural.

Step 2. Reduce the size (Continued- part 3)

3. Chips and Dips

Have to admit, this was difficult. I have a confession to make, my name is Sam and I was a chip addict. I had the addiction since I was in school and probably that is what led to many of my gastro problems. These problems were also the trigger to make a change in my diet and get rid of chips altogether. Goes months before I taste another one and now I pace myself, so I don’t get into the trap again. We started making our own hummus and replaced the chip with our trusty home-made bread slightly more toasted than usual. This made a great treat or snack for us and when we have company. Given hummus was my favourite dip anyway, I didn’t miss a thing at all.  As a healthy version of chip, we also considered vegetable and fruit chips but haven’t go for this one yet. I was having my eye on a fruit and vegetable dehydrator, like a one below. I will let you know if we end up getting one, let me know if you like a review of this or the bread maker that we do own and love for over three years.

4. Jam

Making our own jam. Well this one is a hit and miss, not that it is difficult to do, because it’s not. It is easy specially with our trusty bread maker. Oh Yes, it makes jam too 🙂 I told you, I am in love with it:

Right, back to jam. So jam making is easy but I am a sucker for good glass container for free. So when I see jam on sale in cute glass jars, I just get rubbery hands and buy them. I actually estimated the price of buying frozen fruit and sugar and compared it to the same amount of jam in jar from the market and it turned out to be cheaper to buy the jam and I went for it. Actually got four jars. Before you judge me, I utilise the jars for various purposes around the house and in my office. I also use them to give hand-made gifts to others.

Disclaimer: I also add a bit of pectin some time to some jams, but the price per jam is so minimal I didn’t bother mentioning.

 5. Cookies and Cakes

I might have mentioned before that I didn’t baked until I was 26, oh wait no, this was supposed to be my secret 🙁 ok between you and me, I didn’t baked until I got married.

I always wanted to, but never got to do it. So as soon as we moved to our new apartment with my hubby, we baked. It was one of those cake boxes that you buy from supermarket. The mix comes in a bag but you have to add an egg and oil the container. This is to make you feel you are actually doing the baking. This addition of egg was introduced later after few years of selling cake mix in a box after they interviewed bunch of housewives and understood that they felt guilty feeding their family cake mix cakes from a box as they thought they haven’t done enough. So they changed the recipe to eliminate the egg in the mix and ask the user to add it to the mix at the time of baking and include them in the baking process hence increasing their sense of self worth. See the power and brain of marketing.

Anyway, I digressed. So we baked and I liked it and we did this for a year or two. Until I realised, we don’t what exactly goes into this mix except the egg that I have to skilfully add. So I used my trusty cook books and started to bake the easy recipes first. I worked my way to the hard recipes eventually. And now I can follow any recipe that I find on internet. Let me know if you are interested in recipes I use and how I find them.

6. Conditioner

I think this is a girly thing so might not apply to the boys out there. But conditioner was never relevant to me. I only dyed my hair once in my life and I hated it so I never did it again and for that reason my hair didn’t get brittle or dry and I never felt the need for conditioner. So it was easy to eliminate it. This took a while, as I had bought bunch of them in bulk when they were on sale and I had to go through them before never buying again. But after that, we didn’t look back. Let me know if you have to use a conditioner, in that case I share with you a easy and quick recipe for a home made all natural conditioner that will be quite useful based on what I heard from my friends.

7. Toilet paper

This is a sensitive topic for some. Ok, let me tell you why with some cultural background. So again, I am originally Iranian and lived there most of my life. We was ourselves with water from a hose in the bathroom after going number 1 and two. Some families do dry themselves with toilet paper, but it might sock you to know that some don’t even bother. In my family we do bother  🙂

In Colombia on the other hand, like most western countries, they use toilet paper for everything. They difference between Colombia and some other western countries, for instance, Australia, is that after using toilet paper, they put it in bins, not closed bins, in massive wicker baskets that they consider bin. In Australia for example, we trow the used toilet paper down the toilet and never to be seen again.

Ok, now that you know my hubby and I came from culturally diverse background for toilet paper, you might appreciate the challenge that we had and still have in terms of replacing wasteful disposable toilet paper with reusable toilet cloths. I started this when I got pregnant as I was researching about reusable nappies and wipes and it seemed the same concept to me to use reusable toilet cloth. So I started it and by the end of that year I was exclusively using reusable cloths when I went to toilet at home.

My hubby was a different story. The idea of washing yourself with water and wiping yourself dry with a toilet cloth was strange and bizarre and unnecessary to him, still take a lot of encouragement and at the first sign of discomfort goes back.

I wash these cloths in a load of their own with high heat and 15 minutes cycles. Sometimes include reusable period pads that are rinsed or baby wipes or nappies. No complaint there.

I should probably talk to you more on the baby reusable stuff but maybe another time. Sleepy hour for me now.

Don’t forget to comment and maybe recommend the topics you want to read about. Anything zero waste and sustainability is relevant.

Step 2. Reduce the size (Continued- part 2)

What took longer to eliminate

  1. Bread

So I clearly remember, it was late 2014 and by this point we were buying bread from our local bakery where shall be remain nameless. It was going well as it was package free and a relatively ok quality. Until one day we found a piece of spinach in the baguette that we bough that day. It would have been fine if my hubby didn’t mention that the baker had a piece of spinach in his teeth that day as well. ARGHHHHHHH!!!

So you know what happened we didn’t go back. Went and bough ourselves a piece of machine called bread maker, this is the one and I cannot recommend it high enough:

That changed our lives. As this trusty bread maker comes with a handy recipe book that has more than 30 types of bread, cake, jam and dough that made our lives easier, tastier and richer. We bake for people and give them when we visit them or when they come over and they seem not to get enough of our bread. We can make any type of bread, pastry, and dough including pizza, pasta, pastry and the list goes on.

The cost is not comparable with the store bough bread, no matter how fancy you go on material it won’t be more than a dollar for a freshly backed fancy fruit loaf or mixed nuts and grain sour dough. I told you there is no limit but your imagination. Go buy a bread machine and you won’t regret it. I recommend this one too if you are gluten intolerance:

This purchase pay itself off after a month of bread making and not buying. I would say this was one of the best decisions in my life and I stand by it forever. Easy, cheap and tasty, waking up to a fresh baked bread smell in the house and so much option at your fingertips, this is what I call perfect replacement.

 

  1. Sauces

So you probably remember that one of the early steps, was to reduce the amount of shopping and do most things at home, for instance cook your food at home. So we were using some premade sauces to do the cooking, namely Asian sauces and Pizza sauce. They were packaged and premade so brought in preservatives, bunch of ingredients that we couldn’t even pronounce and of course packaging, lots of it. to our house. So we set to eliminate them, the Asian ones were easy as we just replace them with a trusty combination of soy sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce. The Pizza sauce was also easy for me to make but my hubby wasn’t a believer, so it took couple of try and errors to turn him as well. Just used a good portion of tomato paste, warm water, pepper and salt and if handy some dried herbs mainly oregano, thyme, coriander and parsley. After that we didn’t buy these and saved tons as each pack was roughly a dollar or two on special. Probably as you notice, we are making our own Pizza and this is beneficial from two aspects, first we save tons of money and second we know exactly what goes into our Pizza, have to confess having the bread maker for making the dough is a huge help. The dough still has to be kneaded and that is when my helpful hubby come into play.

Have to admit having invested in bunch of good and easy cookbooks also helped us a lot to create new foods and don’t get bored as well as eating well and nutritious food with healthy  ingredients. These are some of the books we have:

Step 2. Reduce the size (Continued)

4. Cleaning products

Being renters, we used to buy all sorts of cleaning products to make sure the place that we are renting is spotless especially when we first moved into a place or when we were leaving one. Cleaning is part of our everyday routine but deep cleaning was never my thing. However, in order to make sure I don’t have a mammoth task of cleaning at a end of our lease I always tried to keep the houses I rented in a as good as new (first moved in) condition. Hence, we used to buy window cleaners to clean the glass and mirror surfaces, oven cleaners for the obvious use, antibacterial wipes and antibacterial liquids to clean kitchen surfaces, shower and toilet cleaners and bunch of other chemicals that I just ceased to remember.

These all meant that not only we are stuffing our lungs with fumes and our bodies with super bugs (this is not clinically proven though), we were emptying our pockets from money and filling the premium space in our apartment, because as you all know apartments in the Melbourne city, especially in north Melbourne where we used to live are small and each square meter that you have free from stuff can help you breath and let the energy to flow (#Feng Shui).

This all back when I used to have a Facebook page[1], so when I was going through my Facebook page, I read a post that my friend had shared with me on uses of vinegar. I started to read the post and realised that there is more to this smelly water looking liquid that I thought before, AKA vinegar. That was an epiphany, I realised not only I can toss all the above mentioned cleaning products and replace them with white vinegar and water cocktail but also I can save tens of dollars month after month.

It took me a while to convert my husband as he was one of those sold to the idea of chemical cleans like no other. Although I have to agree nothing is strong as bleach but you have to decide whether you value your longs and skin more than spotless toilet or not. Plus if you clean surfaces regularly you will never need a strong bleaching action, believe me!

I mixed one part vinegar and five part water to clean surfaces, including but not limited to kitchen bench tops, stove, oven, bathroom surfaces, fridge, toilet and bath plus all mirrors and windows.

You might think, girl your house must reek of vinegar. My response is, HELL NO! The diluted vinegar does not have an overpowering smell and even the slight odour that might be sensed at the time of applying is not distinguishable after couple of minutes. Vinegar water is a perfect solution for almost all cleaning problems in the house. More on other usage of this miracle liquid in my future posts.

5. Microwavable popcorn

I am all up for good old popcorn with my favourite movie but please ditch the microwavable one, save money and packaging and buy a kilo of corns from a bulk store and pop them in a pot on your stove. You’ll thank me for it.

The argument for these microwavable popcorn can be the ease of use and the speed of preparation. But the difference between the price of this type of corn and the bulk one can easily turn the argument on its head.

6.Papers towels/tissues

Some paper towels can be used even multiple times but majority of them are disposed after only one use. In either case, using a simple rag can be your safe haven; you save money and the environment at one go.

You might use paper towels for other purposes, for all those you can utilise a more sustainable solution. For instance, make your own floor wipe with old clothing that are not useful anymore. Or design and sew your own cloth napkins instead of using disposable tissues.

7. Antibacterial Hand wash

Refer to the 6th thing to toss as the same reason applies here. These hand washes are defeating their purposes, causing resistant bacteria living among us and therefore using normal bar soap that can be bought in bulk to reduces packaging and waste is your way to go. In this way you eliminate bottles of hand wash, paying for expensive and often illusive products and still keeping hygienic household.

Another way to eliminate frequent shopping of bottled hand wash is to buy bulk. You can fill your liquid hand wash dispenser with a hand wash you bought in bulk to avoid packing but still have the ease of the use of liquid hand wash.

8. Body wash

I agree that we are increasingly using bunch of corporately produced and marketed chemicals and smear them all over our bodies’ everyday just to get by. These chemicals with their synthetic smells make us feel acceptable in the society and abandoning them seems too outrageous and even frowned upon in some communities. You have grown up believing these products make you clean like no other and nothing else can do the job. WRONG! Your body does not need them. Your body is meant to sweat to get rid of toxins and regulate its temperature. To keep the Body Odour (BO) at bay you only need to keep the bacteria away from your skin surface that feed on your sweat and create the BO. These bacteria are easily washed away with a simple body scrub (wool or cotton one, even the synthetic will do the job). As long as you clean your body with water on a daily basis you will not have BO problem and do not have to use chemical to clean or cover the smell of your body, i.e., with deodorants and so forth.

Take the challenge and go chemical free and give a couple of weeks to your body to adjust to its chemical free life (like a rehab period for your body), and you will save money and time and your sanity next time you shop.

We use bar of soap for as body wash if we feel the need to wash with something more than water and scrub. I also use Bicarb Soda to kill bacteria underarm to avoid BO. They work fine for both of us so far.

9. Antibacterial wipes

Antibacterial wipes can spread superbugs. Disinfectant wipes routinely used in hospitals may actually spread drug-resistant bacteria rather than kill the dangerous infections; most cases are associated with hospitals, nursing homes or other health care facilities. So if these wipes are defeating the sole purpose of their existence, it seems logical to get rid of them. Risking sound like a broken record, I suggest you use diluted vinegar spray and a simple rag to clean your surfaces. Especially surfaces in the kitchen that contact your foods are sensitive places that you don’t want to be covered in super-bugs. Water will clean most of the problems in the kitchen but to make sure all is clean acidity of diluted vinegar will do the job.

[1] I abstain from all social media, more on that in my future post

Step 2. Reduce the size

Reducing is the important part of the zero waste living, some refer to it as de-cluttering but I believe it is even more. De-cluttering is reducing your belongings but Reducing is minimising:

  • what you own
  • what you want
  • what you need both now and in the future

This step is by far the longest part of our journey as we still making changes, reducing on a daily basis what we own, what we buy, what we gather and what we think we should or should not bring to the house.

Eliminating things/stuff one by one was the approach that we decided upon, some go hand in hand with the previous step as we started making stuff in the house hence there was no need to buy them and some goes right into the fact that they were non-essential and could have been cut right out of our lives.

Here we go through each and every one of them, these eliminations might not be in order that they happened in our real life but they all happened at some point in early years of our zero waste journey:

What we eliminated with ease

  1. Bottled water

Bottled water must be one of the most over rated products on the market. In US people are now drinking more bottled water than milk or beer. Bottled water mainly contains tap water that in some cases are treated and purified but mainly is a glorified tap water, however as bottlers aren’t required to list the source of the water on the bottles there is no way to prove or disprove their advertising claims that their water come from purest spring waters on the planet. Moreover, the plastic or even the glass bottles mount to ridiculously huge amount of rubbish in the landfill or at best recycling loads that require massive amount of energy, water, time and man power to recycle.

Then there is the issue of fluoride that some bottled water companies use to lure the customers. They mention that you need fluoride for the health of your teeth. The fact is in most developed countries the fluoride is added to the tap water for some time already, for example back in 1945 fluoride was added to tap water in US. Therefore, you don’t need the bottled water to bring the all needed fluoride for the health of your teeth. Just fill your trusty water bottle

and enjoy all healthy and yummy drink that is water.

 

  1. Plastic bag

Plastic bags were made popular by a Swedish company in 1960’s. They were convenient and palatable to the 20th century men and women who were not largely as environmentally conscious as 21st century ones. Plastic bags are mostly not accepted by curb side recycling services and some stores like IKEA have banned them in their UK and US stores altogether (“IKEA to Phase Out Plastic Bags in U.S.”. GreenBiz. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2017). There are biodegradable options for plastic bags and given that 60% of the plastic bags are reused as bin liners or for other purposes (Plastic shopping bags in Australia. Environment.gov.au (2010-06-13). Retrieved 7 May 2017), it is probably a good idea to use the biodegradable options to avoid extra methane and CO2 emissions in the landfill. But you can toss the plastic altogether by using your fold-able cloth bag.

In Australia, major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworth, do accept plastic bags and in general any crunch-able plastics, like wraps and other packaging that crunch in your hand, for recycling. They turn these plastics into outdoor furniture for Aussie primary schools and pre-schools. In 2016, customers returned more than 299 tonnes of plastic to only Coles stores to be recycled.

While you are at it, get rid of plastic bags for good and replace them with produce bags like these

or get your own reusable shopping bags:

 

  1. Takeaway coffee cups

Each of us drink at least a cuppa or two a day and these disposable coffee cups can be mount into a mountain of plastic or paper trash. The solution to this one is easy. This one is a replacement option and there are so many trendy reusable coffee mugs/cups you can enjoy instead of the disposable paper or plastic coffee cup. Get customised reusable cups and taste the caffeine in style. Or use some trendy designed cups for example on various sites.

Another part of the coffee cup that is wasteful is the coffee cup lids. They are usually made of plastic, the first of which was patented in 1967. When using a reusable cups, these lids are made of silicones or durable plastics that are washable and there is no need for tossing at least for couple of years.

On an ABC program in 2017, War on Waste, they ran a whole episode dedicated to coffee cups that are perceived to be recycling by most Australians but they are not really! As the lining inside the cup that prevent the coffee leaking out is a type of plastic that doesn’t get recycled in a paper recycling process hence has to be taken out before putting into the recycling bin. and that by itself is an onerous task that no one is willing to do. So better and easier option to toss the disposable cups and use one that just need a rinse after each use.

More in the next post….

 

Step 1. Rethink your journey

At the time I was living with my partner/husband with no children in the horizon. So I sat him down and had an honest discussion about what I believe in and how I think we should drastically but gradually change our consumptive life and led a simpler and more joyous living.

We both aspired to the path and agreed to do it in a way that will be lasting and not a short lived change.

The first changes we did were:

  1. Make a conscious decision of buying from market instead of supermarket to bring home less packaging
  2. Taking our shopping bags with us when we go for the weekend market haul
  3. Reusing plastic bags that were ending up in our house despite our best efforts
  4. Try to buy locally
  5. Religiously recycle instead of landfill
  6. Start and strive to make most of the food, bread, jam and in general our eating supplies ourselves in the house

These changes were conscious for about couple of years, when we were quite comfortable with them and they felt an essential part of our life style, more like a habit ingrained in our unconscious. However, being both immigrants-I am from Iran and my husband is from Colombia-we had visitors from overseas where consumption is unfortunately still mistaken as a sign of opulent living. So our attempt to have a simpler life was perceived as lack of economic means or outward stingy. It took me a while to change the dynamics and educate my immediate family on disadvantages of massive consumption but more on that in future posts.

My journey to zero waste living

In January 2010, I moved to Australia to pursue my PhD in Industrial Sustainability at the University of Melbourne. I am originally from Iran and it was during my research in Melbourne that my eyes were opened to the understanding of how our new industrial and consumptive life style is damaging the environment and our mother earth. Soon I joined the Climate Reality Corps led by Former US Vice President, Al Gore, to raise awareness about climate change and people power to convince politicians to act before it is too late when the climate change effects are irreversible.

I was one of 500 people from 94 countries who were selected to be trained by former US vice president Al Gore to deliver a version of the slideshow known to many as the basis of the award winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The trip was partially funded by my successful Peter McPhee Award from Melbourne University.

As a climate leader, I was committed to perform at least ten Acts of Leadership within a year of my training. These were acts such as speaking and presenting my version of the famous Al Gore slide show, and I also did a number of presentations including an end of the year showcase of my Peter McPhee and Dreamlarge grants.

After completing training with the Climate Reality Project in Istanbul in 2013, I founded Engreeneers as a new sustainable engineering group funded by a University of Melbourne’s Dreamlarge Student Engagement grant. In collaboration with the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and Australian Conservation Foundation, Engreeneers presented a series of group discussions on topics including sustainability and sustainability leadership. Each session ended with a list of ideas, recommendations or questions to be presented to the relevant expert guest in a follow up Q&A session.

Throughout all these volunteer works and studies, I realised that our current way of life is not sustainable and we cannot continue our consumptive living. Our current lifestyle is diminishing our bounded resources and filling up our landfills with trash emitting tons and tons of CO2 and methane. These emissions are the main sources of green house gas emission that is causing the climate change. Most of the problems in the world have simple reasoning behind them and reasonble solutions but the geo-political situations making those solution so out of hand that nothing is getting fixed and just deterioriate further and further. One example is the sheer number of poor and hungy people in the world that can be fed easily with the amount of food produced in the world but their number just increases each year and nothing get fixed, read more on this in Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity 1st Edition by Lester R. Brown (He actually signed my copy when I was at a conference in Columbus, Ohio, USA in 2012).

I soon decided that focusing on one aspect of action, zero waste living, and promoting it throughout communities can have more impact that just preaching change without clear and doable solutions. So I started first steps towards a zero waste household classes, seminars and workshops. These posts are written forms of those classes and goes into more details on how I started my zero waste journey and how I am still continuing to learn and make more positive changes for a less harmful impact on my mother earth.

These blog posts are to empower each and everyone of you out there to believe in the power of one and how it can grow to impact the whole world. So here I share with you step by step of my zero waste living journey. These are based on my experiences and do not count as my professional advice in any shape or form.

I want to inspire you, instigate action and make a change but also share my journey with those interested and feeling that somewhere few steps ahead or behind can provide them a different or maybe new perspective. I don’t think I even get to the end of my journey so long I live but having a record of my steps is heartwarming for me and those who care this shared cause.

Come on, hop on this journey with me and don’t be shy to leave comments and ask questions. As you see based on the dates of these posts, I am a novice in blogging and need encouragement to keep it up so I appreciate any word of advise, encouragement or constructive criticism. Just as a disclosure, your comments will be checked by me before posted on the site but I won’t be censuring any comments so long it is not insulting to anyone. Please also recommend content or posts that you find useful and relevant and I will try my best to accommodate your wishes within a time frame that will work for us both.

Ok let’s get to it!