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.

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!

 

 

 

Lazy Honey and Ginger Tea

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Today I’m fighting a nasty cold. It’s not something I’d usually go to the doctor for (not unless it gets bad anyway). But I might normally pop a few cold and flu tablets and rely on caffeine to keep me awake and get me through the day.

This time, I decided to look up a few more traditional cold and flu remedies. I found a “recipe” that even the most cold-addled person can prepare in two minutes – another advantage: no plastic!

  • Crawl out of bed (definitely the hardest part)
  • Boil the kettle
  • Roughly chop some Fresh ginger (about half the size of your pinky finger). You can eat the peel, or save it and make it into broth.
  • Put the ginger in a mug with the boiling water.
  • Add a teaspoon of honey.

Voilà, honey and ginger tea! Drink it while it’s hot and you can eat the ginger pieces at the end if you like. I did. It’s making me feel much better (temporarily at least).

Disclaimer: I’m not sure honey and ginger does anything medically, but staying hydrated is definitely important when you have a cold. I can’t taste anything at the moment. It just tastes tingly (from the ginger) and soothing (from the honey and steam).

Grocery Challenge (Week 1)

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Today’s haul: pasta, bread, carrots, ginger, leek, broccoli, baker’s flour, toilet paper, three kinds of cheese, pasta sauce, dish washing liquid, coffee.

Hi peeps, look what I found! Most of it came from Piedimonte’s supermarket. Wild Things Grocer coughed up toilet paper, bulk flour and dish washing liquid (I brought the old milo tin and jar from home). The huge wheel of cheddar, coffee and large bread came from the old-school Italian deli on Miller Street in Fitzroy North. That old deli is the best. The bread is so cheap ($2.50!) and the coffee was reasonable at $7, freshly ground on the spot.

I found all this within a 15 minute walk from home. Hey, you pay more rent, you get to walk to places – gotta be some perks, right?

(Partial) success … bread, pasta and cheeeeeese

  • I brought a paper bag with me just in case. Ended up using it for some of the bread. No strange looks from check-out person. Excellent.
  • Margaret River cheddar is wax coated. What is wax anyway? Who knows?
  • Taleggio seems to be wrapped in paper. How is this possible? I will find out. It came all the way from Italy though. Boo. Many carbons. Poor choice.
  • Barilla fettuccine is just sitting in a cardboard box – no sneaky plastic inside. It’s much cheaper than the organic macrame version at Wild Things. Correct.

All the cheeses have stickers on them, but whatever. Also, the deli man felt obliged to give me unnecessary deli paper (which I discovered is plastic coated … whyyyy?)

I’m not at the stage of making my own tomato pasta sauce from scratch. Don’t even go there. I need to level-up before that can happen.

Happy no plastic month to my friends who are also having a go at this!

 

One Day to Go

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Stocking the Plastic-Free Pantry

The shit gets real tomorrow. I can’t believe it’s June 30 already! In the last two weeks, I’ve made some discoveries:

Secret plastic-free shopping

Westfield Doncaster (or ‘Shoppo’ for those in the know) is a secret plastic-free haven. On the ground floor, you can buy soap with no packaging at the health food store. Then scoot about three metres to the Nutshack and fill your bags with nuts from the bulk bins. Upstairs, Spudbar serves baked potatoes with plates, knives, forks and tables: everything you need for a quick lunch. Here in consumer heaven, we have one of the best plastic-free food courts I’ve seen. I know, it’s very confusing.

When life gives you dragon fruit

School holidays started last week. I had half-prepared muffins but ran out of time to bake them. Not wanting a half-baked result (god, I’m hilarious), I searched the house desperately for a last-minute solution, when my eyes fell on that dragon fruit. I bought it in a spontaneous plastic-free frenzy a week before. Ridiculous pink-flame skin and bright-red, black dotted interior that bleeds profusely when cut, subtle sweetness like pandan; that’s what I brought my classmates for our end of term party. And they seemed to like it. Either that or they were very polite – I only had to eat half of it. Thanks to this little experiment, I’ve discovered I’m a fan of this impossible cactus fruit.

Recent failures

  • Panic-purchasing: spices for mulled wine, crumpets and peanut butter for dinner. You know, the usual.

It’s all about habits

I have a few bad habits that feed off each other and make it harder to stay off the plastic:

  • having no idea what’s in the pantry
  • waiting until something completely runs out before buying more
  • rushing off to the nearest convenience store whenever I need something

I am thirty-two. I have been adulting for fourteen years. Don’t say it.

If I’m going to make this work, like, really work, I need to make sure we always have stuff in the house. I’ll start with the seven essentials for hopeless vegetarian cooks: milk, bread, cheese, mixed herbs, oil, red lentils, tomato pasta sauce: not hard. I also need to make time to shop and cook (not much time but, you know, more than zero). I’m going to block out some time in my calendar. Maybe I can fit it in somewhere between re-runs of Crownies and Game of Thrones. Maybe I can make my own pasta. I’ve done that three times in the last fourteen years. Should be a doddle.

Plastic-free can be spontaneous (sort of)

Spur of the moment shopping

After working for an hour at a local café, I wandered around aimlessly looking for the library (which was closed) and so I ended up drifting into Wild Things grocer down the road. I’m normally too embarrassed to buy food there. It’s a bit fancy. Piedimonte’s supermarket over the road is more my style (their deli is excellent). But we had a couple of plastic fails at the supermarket recently so I thought, what the hell?

I hadn’t come prepared. I didn’t have any containers for collecting bulk foods and my bag was crammed with work stuff. Still, here’s what the spontaneous purchase coughed up …

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Spontaneous plastic-free shopping

I shoved everything into my bag next to my laptop except for the bread which I carried home in my arms. Sure, I ended up with some baker’s flour on my jacket but, luckily, I have hands. If anyone looks at me strangely, I can just brush it right off (which I did, in front of the mirror at home).

Easy beans on toast for lunch

Ingredients

  • Fresh sage, courtesy of person with a garden (it keeps for weeks in a glass of water)
  • Beans (I used black eyed peas, but whatever)
  • Tomato pasta sauce from a jar

Method

  1. Cook in a pan.
  2. Serve with bread and maybe cheese.
  3. The end.

 

This is the semi-spontaneous bit: a while back I had all these dried beans in the pantry and I was like, how do you even cook dried beans? Who has the discipline to soak them the night before? Nobody, that’s who. So I just boiled the crap out of them while doing some stuff at home and then (here’s the organised bit) I froze them in single portions. I’ve had bad times trying to defrost huge chunks of cooked beans (especially with only two of us in the house).

This time, I found the lid had created a vacuum seal. No problem: I just soaked the jar in some warm water (and did the dishes at the same time – my turn on kitchen duty). Before, the place looked as though a troll had finger-painted the benches with food. Now it looks like an almost functional adult lives here. Win.