Happy Environmentally-Friendly New Year!

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Hello and Happy New Year from the Daily Grapefruit! It’s been a whirlwind festive season with far too much food and family.

But we’re over that now. Welcome to January! I realise I’m a few days late. I’ve been recovering from overconsumption of my favourites: latkes, zuccotto, stuffing balls and Doctor Who Christmas Specials (I’ll send you the recipes later) but there’s still time to make some New Year’s resolutions.

With six months to prepare, this year’s Plastic Free July is going to kick some serious arse. But why wait for July? Here are five environmentally-friendly New Year’s resolutions to get this year off to a great start.

(1) Try Veganuary
OK, so you’ve missed the first four days. No big deal. Did you know that dairy production uses a shit tonne of fossil fuels? Eating a plant-based diet can help reduce your impact on the environment and it can be healthy too. Just make sure you still eat a balanced diet with all your vitamins and minerals. Don’t get lazy and eat nothing but peanut butter toast for thirty days. That would be very not good. Just saying.

(2) Read. Share. Read some more
Want to read more in 2017? Why not join your local library or start your own book exchange with friends? You might even find a Little Free Library in your neighbourhood. If you are tied to the house/office and can’t get out, you could always order second-hand books online and have them delivered. Try somewhere like Brotherhood Books.

Don’t become a book hoarder like me – when you’re done donate them, pass them on to friends or leave them on the train for strangers to read. Spread the literature love ♡.

(3) Flour + eggs = pasta
Look, I eat a lot of pasta, right? In fact, it’s pretty much the only thing I cook at home. Every 500g of pasta comes in its own little bag from the supermarket. Over the course of a year, that’s a lot of plastic packaging.

OK, I realise these days you can buy expensive pasta in bulk from the wholefoods store. But for the financially bereft amongst us, why not crank out the old flour and egg method. Cut the dough into lasagne or pappardelle by hand or use a pasta machine to get your fettuccine or spaghetti.

At first, you might come up with a doughy, sticky mess. But once you get the hang of it, it’s quite meditative actually. My mum can pump out fresh pasta in the time it takes the water to boil. But she’s a genius. Allow an hour for your first time and work up from there.

(4) Totally broke + no talent = fresh herbs for free!
This one doesn’t need much money, time, space or talent, so it’s ideal for someone like me! I’m currently growing rosemary cuttings in the stairwell of our apartment building (it’s an outdoor stairwell).

I just chopped off some sprigs of a rosemary plant and put them in a glass of water till they grew roots (cost = $0). Then I potted them in some soil enriched with food scraps (soil taken from a family-member’s garden, food scraps from our kitchen, pot scrounged from the side of the road = $0).

If they die, I’ve got nothing to lose. If they live, I’ve got rosemary for my cooking.

(5) Go for long walks
There’s nothing healthier than a long walk by the river, along the shoreline or under the trees. Date night? Go for a walk. Catching up with a friend? Go for a walk. Need a moment of peace and quiet? Go for a walk. It costs nothing – for you or the environment. In fact, walking in nature releases stress, leads to great conversations and gets your lungs full of clean air. Win. Do it every day and you’ll see what I mean.

With those ideas up your sleeve, go on and make this year your best yet! Here’s to a low-impact, high-powered 2017!

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Indoor picnic spots in Melbourne

Hi there! I drafted this post a while ago when the weather in Melbourne was bad. Now the sun’s come out, you might find you need an air-conditioned picnic on those 40 degree days.

OK, so here’s what I’ve been thinking. Let’s say you’re in the CBD and it’s raining. You’ve packed a delicious lunch. What do you do now? You could bust out your waterproof pants and parka while water droplets soak into your sandwich. Or, if you’re me, you could go to a café and buy a coffee for $4 (right now that’s half my fruit and veg budget for the week.) After the coffee, maybe you’re still feeling hungry. Should you stay at the cafe, eating into your ‘rainy day’ money, literally, or should you move on in the bad weather?

Your bank account tells you splashing the cash on solo dining might not be the smartest move. But it’s still raining. Where can you eat your sandwich?

Well, since you asked, I made you this map. These are under-cover places where, with a bit of luck, you can hide out and eat your lunch in peace.  

 

Now, some food courts are fancy and they might not take kindly to indoor picnics, but I reckon I’ve found a few where you can get away with nomming on a packed lunch and maybe even breaking out the old thermos. These are all pretty casual venues so I don’t think you’d get any sideways glances unless you spread out a full picnic rug and start popping champagne. Let me invite you to an indoor picnic. Give it a try.

 

The Norway files

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It’s now three weeks since I returned from Norway. I’ve missed writing about sustainability and I’ve been reflecting on some of the failures and challenges I experienced, as well as some of the joys.

The first thing I will say is, Norway is a fabulous country for cycle touring. We climbed fjords, zoomed along rail trails and camped alongside mountain lakes and snow drifts watching reindeer zigzag across the far away hills.

It’s also a fabulous country for electric cars (we saw numerous charging stations in Oslo). And it has a pretty good recycling system, including a container deposit scheme where you earn small change every time you drop off your plastic bottles for recycling.

Having said that, prepare yourselves for a few challenges: overseas travel is damned difficult when you’re trying to go low impact or plastic free. I didn’t do nearly as well as I’d hoped. So, I thought I’d tell you a few of the struggles I have had. Here we go:

  • In-flight meals and kits: there’s no escaping these and they are jammed full of single use plastic. When you’re tired and grumpy after ten hours of flying, you’re not going to want to save your plastic packaging to recycle on arrival. If you have to change planes, you’re not going to want to explain it to the airport staff who go through your bags either. I doubt you’ll be quick enough to pull out your keep cup when the coffee cart comes around. And those airline blankets look pretty tempting when you’ve been up for 24 hours and have lost the will to live.

At the very least, you can bring your own snacks, headphones and water bottle. That’s about all I managed, despite my good intentions.

  • Carbon offsets: properly off-setting the cost of your flights is expensive. Like, really quite expensive. My goal for this blog is to come up with affordable solutions but there’s no getting around it: flights spew out a sh*t tonne of greenhouse gas and that is going to cost you.

Factor it into your budget and look at alternative means of travel if they exist. Otherwise, suck it up, do your research and pay for some genuine carbon offsets like I am (eep).

  • Shopping: even with good preparation, things don’t always go to plan. On our third day in Oslo, we rocked up at Mølleren Sylvia ready to stock up on couscous, nuts, chocolates and red lentils for our cycle tour, only to find the store was closed for the whole summer!

Luckily, almost all Norwegian supermarkets sell some nuts and sweets in bulk, but we went through plenty of packaging to round out our meals. If I had my time again (and was organised) I would consider dehydrating meals to bring with us.

  • Recycling: In theory, it should be easy to recycle in Norway but the reality wasn’t always so straight forward. A lot of the camping grounds had just one bin and we couldn’t carry all our rubbish as well as our cycling gear. Unfortunately, we put quite a few kilos of waste into landfill, especially since we couldn’t find enough un-packaged food to keep us going.

My hot tip: bring some colour-coded, sealable bags or containers to help you sort your waste. If you’re cycling, save some space so you can transport your recycling and dispose of it responsibly.

Do you have any travel tips? Let me know in the comments.
– DG

Week 4: sustainable flying, really?

As I mentioned in my last post, we’re going to Norway! The last few days of my Plastic Free July will be spent on a plane, in Oslo and on a bike somewhere between Oslo and Trondheim.

I’ve always felt a little bit guilty about my penchant for overseas holidays. But since starting this project, my internal sense of irony has grown to the point where it’s pushing against my forehead from the inside (like a dalek eye stalk). I. Am. A. Dilettante. There. I said it. I’m an environmental dilettante.

I’m not sure that’s what I want to be anymore.

Having said that, there are several good reasons to go to Norway, one of which is friends, the other of which is cycling. Yay!

Now, on to the sustainable, plastic-free whatsit …

Carbon offsets

The internets tell me that my return trip to Oslo will generate 6.478 tonnes of carbon emissions. That’s the size of a large-ish elephant. And that’s just for one passenger.

So, what do we do? Well, Carbon Neutral in Western Australia is conducting an accredited reforestation project. Businesses can purchase carbon offsets through their website. Since we have a small consulting business, we’ll be purchasing credits for our flight. Maybe it’ll help in some small way. Maybe it won’t. It’s a half-way house solution.

On the plane

Airline meals come with oodles of plastic. Then there are the headphones, blankets and all that jazz. How am I going to deal with that?

There’s no way to avoid airline food waste. A quick internet search tells me anything I don’t eat will probably get thrown in the bin. Nobody’s going to want my second-hand ‘Asian Vegetarian’ meal option.

I think I will enjoy my meal (if I can) and then recycle the plastic packaging in Norway. Seems a bit extreme but I’ll do it because, well, why shouldn’t I?

I think I can bring everything else I need, so I won’t be unwrapping any airline blankets.

in flight

My in-flight kit

I’ll be back with an update from Norway in a month. Plastic free July will be finished but I’m going to continue the sustainability journey here at the Daily Grapefruit, I just won’t be spamming Facebook quite as much. Over and out.

Panic Buying

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OK, so I fly to Norway in a week and a day. This is confronting because:

  1. I won’t be earning any money while I’m over there.
  2. I don’t cope well with long haul flights. They give me no sleep and make my body turn against me in multiple ways. Oh, and they give me cankles (the cankles I can handle, the rest not so much).
  3. In Norway, I may possibly meet one of these Ghastly Arachnids of Doom … which means dealing with my not-so-mild phobia before I go.

So, yes, my mind has been melting these last few days. As a result:

  • I found myself in Coles buying discounted white capri pants that were two sizes too big. That’s right, I panic purchased cheap middle-aged mum-wear from a supermarket. Still not sure why.
  • I went to Hudsons today. Not only is Hudsons one of the worst places to get coffee in Melbourne, but they serve bad quiche. I bought a bad quiche, with a side serve of plastic cutlery and I sat alone eating it while planning a visit to Emporium. “Is there anything more hipster than that?” I hear you say. That’s right, I think my superego has melted. Beneath this counter-culture façade is a raging “normal”, just waiting to break out. Help me, I’m trapped in the body of a composting, meat-shunning cyclist!

Side note: I felt bad about the plastic cutlery, so I brought it home with me. I’m not sure that helps and it may technically count as hoarding. But I’m going to try and use it on the plane and then bin it when it inevitably breaks at some point during the trip.

 

Week 3 – An Amazing Transformation Occurs

What’s this? One minute I’m chucking vegetable scraps in the freezer to save ‘just in case’. Next minute, wait? Is that? Vegetable stock from scratch? Hello.

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I totally mashed the edges of the photo. That is how much I can be bothered with life. And I still made vegetable stock.

This is the easiest, laziest thing to do on a Saturday afternoon when you can’t be arsed leaving the house.

  • Roughly chop some onion, carrot and garlic (& maybe celery if you have it – I didn’t)
  • Fry them in a big pot for a few minutes
  • Add a lot of water
  • Throw in some herbs like bay leaf, parsley and thyme (no need to chop)
  • Add your veggie scraps from the freezer if you have them
  • Cook for ages

I have never done this before.

The thyme in the stock is the same bunch I used a few weeks ago in my easy bean recipe. It keeps for ages in a glass of water, or even just in a dry glass on the windowsill.

I think Plastic Free July might be working some crazy magic on me. I actually enjoyed making the stock (for all five minutes of “active” making). I even went on to make potato and leek soup and vegetable curry. And I cleaned the kitchen. Something is very wrong with this picture.

This is tidy, by the way

29 Acacia Road, Dandytown

Such rubbish. Wow.

I just did a household rubbish audit (ew, gross). This is how much rubbish the two of us have generated for the past two weeks, after I filtered out the recyclables and the compost.

Rubbish

So many paper packages have plastic lining, making them hard to recycle

Basically, the big ticket items this week are:

  • “Paper” packaging that is lined with plastic e.g. the coffee bag, deli paper, the failed taleggio experiment and individual teabag wrappers and tags.
  • A roached old pillow case that we used for cleaning our bikes, which I then tried to use as a bin liner (now it’s all gross and rolled up inside the paper bag).

I was surprised how much organic material we are still reflexively throwing into landfill: things like breadcrumbs, teabags, paper bags, eggshells and orange peels all mysteriously ended up in our rubbish instead of feeding the bokashi monster. (We have a bokashi bin in the kitchen of our third floor apartment. Every couple of weeks, we empty it into the compost bin we installed on a patch of dirt in our car park downstairs.)

We were also throwing out a large amount of soft plastics, like cereal packets. These can be recycled through REDcycle.

All up, we have generated about 150 g of landfill per person in the last two weeks (that stupid pillow case is taking up most of the weight). We’ll see if we can beat that next time!