Green tips

Our newest Committee Member, Geoff, shares tips from his waste minimisation journey. 

The recent attention on waste, sparked by the Chinese import restrictions on foreign recyclable materials, has led many to ask “what happens with our waste?” While many great minds are working on how to solve this challenge, including by developing local manufacturing industries to use recycled materials, one way we can all contribute is by reducing the amount of waste we produce in the first place.

Achieving ‘zero waste’ or ‘plastic free’ can seem daunting, but I recommend breaking down the challenge into manageable chunks and tackling one waste item per month. I have done this over the past 12 months and been amazed how quickly new habits can form. Some ideas from what I have done:

  • Avoid plastic packaging by shopping for dry groceries at bulk stores; there are many great options in Yarra including The Source and Friends of the Earth(and remember your reusable bulk food bags – I recommend Onya).
  • Avoid single-use milk containers by sourcing milk in refillable glass bottles direct from the vat at St David Dairy in Fitzroy. 
  • Start a compost or worm farm for your organic waste (you can buy these at a discount from Council), or if you don’t have space find a neighbour willing to take the organics on ShareWaste.
  • Replace personal cleaning products (soap, body wash, shampoo/conditioner, deodorant etc.) with plastic-free alternatives. There are many online retailers; some of my favourite are Biome and Ethique.
  • Line your bin with newspaper using this origami technique
  • Instead of paper/sticky tape gift wrapping, try the Japanese art of cloth gift wrapping called Furoshiki.

Remember – you’re aiming for sustainable change so don’t try and do everything at once. Gradually introduce new habits into your routine, one per month. Happy waste minimising!

Recycling Video

Not sure which plastics are recyclable? Yarra Council has created this video to help.

Remember soft plastics can go to the Yarra Recycling Depot in Clifton Hill and, more controversially, to many Woolworths and Coles supermarkets.

Bars are Better

Solid shampoo and conditioner

Shampoo and conditioner contains about 80% water and that’s the only reason why they have to be sold in plastic bottles. Some manufacturers have decided to remove the water and create solid shampoo and conditioner bars. No more plastic bottles! (Also easier to transport when travelling.)

Here are three manufacturers that we know of who provide them:

  • Tasmanian company Beauty and the Beesproduces a range of products that claim to be completely chemical free. Shipping costs.
  • NZ company Ethiquewas created solely to reduce plastic. YCANer Carole uses their products and recommends them. They have bar facial moisturiser too! Shipping costs.
  • Lush is a UK company with plenty of shops in Melbourne, so more easily available. Their products contain Sodium Lauryl Sulphate and tend to be heavy on the fragrance.

And don’t forget the humble bar of soap. Manufacturers have done a spectacular job of convincing us that soap is better if it is diluted and comes in plastic bottles, and bar soap is getting harder to find. The manufacturers mentioned above sell it, and Australian Botanical Soaps can be found at these stockists (and at the Flower of Sorrento, Spensley St, Clifton Hill).

Brrrr – Winter Has Arrived!

Here are some tips on how to stay warm and focus on efficient heating:

  • Put draft stoppers on your doors; cheaper and better for the environment than dialling up the thermostat.
  • Seal gaps around windows.
  • Reverse cycle air conditioners are generally more efficient for heating.
  • Put rugs on timber or concrete floors.
  • Close curtains and blinds at night.
  • Have your heaters serviced for efficient use.
  • Use a hot water bottle or wrap up in a blanket.

Say No to Drinking Straws

I don’t know who came up with the idea that giving adults a straw with their drinks was some sort of value-added bonus, but it has led to them becoming an environmental scourge.

Whether you’re buying a freshly squeezed juice, a lemonade or a gin and tonic, next time you order a drink say No straw, thanks! And have a conversation about the possibility of banning straws or keeping them under the counter only for those who really need to use them.

Lids on or off?

When it comes to recycling bottles and jars, there often seems to be debate about whether to put lids back on or leave them off.

The word from Yarra Council’s recycling guru, Lisa Coffa, is “lids on”. Squeeze out as much air as possible from plastic bottles and then put the lids back on.

Festive season tip

As the 2017 festive season approaches, YCAN members have been turning their minds to sustainable gift giving. Kerry: Avoid buying wrapping paper. Who Gives a Crap loo paper wrapping is great for gifts. Also colourful magazines, or brown paper bags – especially for kids who just tear the wrapping apart anyway! Ewan: No wrapping paper required for Oxfam’s Unwrapped gifts. On behalf of your gift recipient, you purchase such things as a goat, a well, a veggie garden to help people lift themselves out of poverty. Kevin: When buying gifts for children, instead of four gifts make it three and give a donation to a cause they can relate to. Adeline: If you can’t get around gift giving, gift cards for services, eg massages, a dinner, etc. are a good option.