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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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

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!

 

 

 

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.

I have to tell you about kohlrabi!

Our failure-tainted voyage to the supermarket last week yielded two new taste sensations. The first was Maasdam cheese and the second, which I forgot all about, was this guy …

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Photo by You as a Machine, licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

That’s right, it’s kohlrabi. We were going to buy cabbage, but they’d chopped the poor babies in half and covered them in … you guessed it, plastic wrap. This guy was naked so we took him home (sorry).

To my huge surprise, roasted kohlrabi is actually tasty. It’s sort of crunchy, a bit like broccoli stalk (which you can eat, by the way – slice it up and put it in stir fries). My other half (the other one who lives in our house, you know) served the kohl with roast potato, black beans and sumac and it filled up my stomach hole so perfectly I can’t wait to eat the leftovers after this.

P.S. In case you read my donut post yesterday, it was a mirage and the donuts were shrink wrapped. Rather than just eat potato, I eyed off the only plastic-free meal containing more than two food groups: a bacon and egg muffin. Only problem is, I’m veggo. I was reminded of the little cartoon person in The Trolley Problem (only a lot sillier and more Kantian) as I bought the muffin and proceeded to throw out the bacon. Feel free to mock me.

 

Blame it on the brie

Breakfast

Today I indulge in a double ristretto coffee which, I know, is hipster. Very hipster. I tell myself I get a free pass on Saturday mornings. I manage to avoid coffee for the rest of the day. Tick. Coffee is followed by toast and jam, and we buy a loaf of bread straight from the bakery on our way out. No plastic here. Double tick.

Lunch

Delicatessens are wondrous things. They sell you cheese wrapped in paper, carefully carved from wheels twice the size of your head. They stock cheeses like Maasdam from The Netherlands: a fragrant, springy Dutch take on the Swiss Emmental. We shave slivers off it to melt over toast. For some reason, we also opt for one of the pre-cut slices of brie covered in cling wrap. Fail.

Combined with our café breakfast, this is not our cheapest day.

Dinner

Nothing to see here. Today’s offering is left-over home-made pesto courtesy of the fridge, and pasta which came from a plastic packet already in the pantry. I cheated, I guess.

Total plastic: a piece of cling wrap, one band-aid, pasta packaging from the pantry

Things I used instead of plastic: paper, failure