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Plastic free July – Plastic Bags

Posted by on Jul 13, 2014 in Environment | 6 comments

“There is absolutely no reason why a single plastic bag ever needs to be produced again. It is absolutely within the capability of everyone shopping in the known world to vow never to use a single plastic bag again” – Mark Watson (from his very funny book “Crap At the Environment”.)

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My nanna trolley and big squid bag

 We are half way through “Plastic Free July”. Although I haven’t formally signed up, I am trying my darnedest to adopt the “refuse single use plastic in July” motto – namely water bottles, plastic bags and coffee cup lids. In keeping with the above quote, I am going to take it one step further and make a vow to myself not to ever use a plastic bag ever again. I think, armed with my pretty nanna trolley and array of re-useable bags I have collected, it will be an achievable and fairly easy feat. (Don’t have a nanna trolley in your life ? – check out these ones !)

I have been pretty good with my (non) useage of plastic bags for many years now but I still remain a bit “crap at the environment” – in quite an illogical manner too. I refuse to buy bottled water whilst out and about but I drink my fair share of large plastic bottled mineral water and cranberry juice at home.  Inconsistent and illogical – most definitely !

There are many good reasons to try to rid our world of plastic bags. They fill up our landfill (429,000 recyclable plastic shopping bags are dumped there in Australia EVERY HOUR !!) and, horrifyingly, find their way (even from land fill via the wind)  into our oceans and rivers where they suffocate, cause obstructions in the digestive system or maim thousands of birds and marine animals like seals, turtles and whales – who often mistake the plastic debris for food. Only 3 % of bags are currently recycled and 10 million new plastic bags are used every day in Australia. They are made from non-renewable crude oil which is obviously unsustainable. Plastic bags take up to 1000 years to break down and, even then, this process leaks toxins into the soil.

NSW is being left behind (again) with what seems to be an easy to fix problem.  Bag taxes in Ireland and Denmark have led to massive (around 90%) decline in plastic bag use. Single use, light weight plastic bags are banned in the  ACT and South Australia and Coles Bay in Tasmania has been plastic bag free since 2003 due to the threat that plastic bags posed to migrating whales (and a one man campaign from the local baker – love these stories !!).

If, like me here in NSW, you are twiddling your thumbs, waiting for your State government to make some kind of educated reform about plastic bags, we can take some action for ourselves. This is what I’m doing – not just this month but from now on :

No longer using bin liners: In our Odd Couple household where I am very much Oscar and my fella is totally Felix Unger incarnated, I thought this suggestion may cause some horror. I have been given the green light but am under strict instructions that I am now the keeper of the bins in every respect for this proposal to work. I am 1 week  in and, so far, so good. Anything a bit dribbly (like the old baked beans I just turfed) is wrapped in newspaper prior to being deposited into the bin and everything else is carefully placed in either the recycling bin or the compost bin as per normal.

Making a habit of saying “no bag thanks, I have one” no matter where I am shopping :

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www.bagladies.com.au

 Again, illogically, I have mastered the no plastic bags at the supermarket fairly well but as soon as I purchase something from somewhere else, say Myers for example, this rule often goes out the window. But no more. My pretty little scrunched up bags will remain on standby in my handbag permanently. You don’t have to stick with the ubiquitous “green” supermarket bags either…..there are so many cute ones available…..food shopping wise, I love my aforementioned nanna trolley and have just discovered these ones, which I have my eye on for next time. I have a few Onya ones for general use as they scrunch up easily and are made out of plastic bottles (!!).

* Bagladies have a great array of captioned bags including the one pictured above (with $3 going to PETA Australia).

Using biodegradable dog poo bags : I cannot think of a viable alternative to plastic poo bags for our dog and I am too scared to investigate what is considered viable for people who are determined to live completely plastic free. I buy these biodegradable ones from Maxpak but I like the look of these too as a profit (50% !!) goes to dog rescue groups and they are biodegradable.

Donate some re-useable shopping bags to someone not so environmentally “keen” : In this case, at my workplace. Our “social club” shopping is always done through the use of a multitude of plastic bags as nobody is ever organised enough to buy the green bags. I have just ordered 5 of these cute ones from Animals Australia to donate to my workmates – which not only promotes re-useable bags but also compassionate shopping, whilst supporting the brilliant work of Animals Australia.

Taking those inadvertent collection of plastic bags to a good place : In general, I do not like the duopoly of the big supermarkets but Coles and Woolies have done the right thing by supplying bins to take your plastic bag waste which cannot be recycled via your normal household bin system. Coles participate in a worthy scheme known as Redcycle where your “scrunchable” plastic waste (including biscuit packets, pasta bags, bread bags, shopping bags) is made into outdoor furniture for schools and kindergartens. This enables so much of our waste to be used for good (furniture) rather than evil (landfill).

Scorn the thick plastic soil, mulch, compost gardening bags :  Aaaahhhhh – this particular dilemma is driving me nuts. If you were to peer into my garage, you would find a pile of gardening plastic bags reminiscent of the most devoted hoarder. I have written emails to all and sundry about where I can recycle them and, to date, nobody has given me a solution so there they wait until I find one.  The irony of buying soil, mushroom compost and the like to do the eco friendly thing of creating a vegi garden whilst being left with swathes of thick, un-breakdownable plastic to be sent to landfill does not escape me. Unfortunately, I only had this epiphany about 6 months ago, at which time I bought some lovely big, white sturdy, reusable bags from my local hardware shop. The next time I need some soil, I will visit my local gardening center equipped with my bags to manually shovel and fill them up. Slightly less convenient but good exercise, cheaper and definately kinder to the environment.

Reuse where possible : Rather than relying on glad wrap and the like, a plastic bread bag or similar can be used again and again and again to accommodate your lunchtime sandwich.

Ignite the beachcomber within : I love the “Take 3” initiative (of taking 3 items of rubbish away with you when you visit the beach, rivers etc). There is a slight feeling of this being like picking up a grain of sand in a desert when you do this but you still have the satisfaction that the one bottle top or straw you remove from the beach may be one less thing for a beautiful sea creature to ingest.

Niggling those big businesses into doing the right thing : Writing a quick letter or face book post is a good way to have a bit of a vent to those big businesses who have so much influence on our habits. I wrote on the Cole’s facebook page with my suggestion about how shopper’s who are doing the right thing by bringing their own bags (and, therefore, cutting the costs for the supermarket) should receive a little incentive (like a small shopping voucher). Shops like to please consumers so feedback is a good way of voicing your concerns. My local council is next on the list. Petitions are always good too – here is a link to Animal Australia’s one seeking to ban the one use plastic bags in Australia and New Zealand. It takes 1 minute to complete.

Using alternatives when fruit and vegi shopping : I am going to invest in something from here to get around the “what do I put my baby spinach in ?” dilemma at the fruit shop. Until then, the paper bags usually reserved for mushrooms will do.

It a nut shell, the mantra of the 5 R’s – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Re purpose, Recycle (in that order) – is a good way to live, for many things, not just plastic bags.

Planet Ark has an informative FAQ page about plastic bags if you want to learn more.

I would love to hear if you have any tips on reducing your own plastic bag usage. Please let me know in the comments section.

 

 

 

 

 

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Kind (and beautiful) Bags & Wallets

Posted by on Jul 19, 2015 in Kind Companies, leather | 10 comments

“When you dress in suede or leather, Or some fancy fur or feather, Do you stop and wonder whether, Are you wearing someone’s brother, Perhaps it’s someone’s mother” – Dr Doolittle

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My aptly captioned bag from www.bagladies.com.au

I remember a time, not all that long ago, when I would not have thought twice about buying something made of leather. I found it synonymous with quality and luxury and found the vegan anti leather beliefs to be a bit nuts. When I did give it any thought, I justified my purchase by telling myself “it’s just a by product of the meat industry, right ? I am honoring the animal’s life by making sure that every part is used etc etc.”

Moving on a couple of years and things have changed somewhat. I’ve read up on what the real cost of leather is to both animals and the environment and it is not pleasant.

There is an interesting debate going on at Mamamia – over the scorn that a rabbit vest-ed wearing staff member copped from her leather jacket clad workmates. Reading through the comments, it became apparent that the most common view point is that fur wearing is evil and it’s wearer should be shunned because of the inherent cruelty behind it’s production but leather is OK. I agree that it is possibly the lesser of the two evils – but only just. Afterall….(and what has put me off ever buying leather again) :

  • most leather comes from China and India where animal welfare considerations are zero. You can almost guarantee that the animal who was killed for it’s skin died in pain and fear. Read more here.
  • recent investigations have shown that dog skin is commonly used to make products like gloves, imported from China, and legally sold here. It looks exactly the same as cow, pig and goat skin (read more here) so you would never know what animal’s skin you are actually wearing.
  • It is a fallacy that leather is just a by product of the meat industry and much leather comes from young calves (as well as an array of other animals) who’s meat is not used (read more in this interesting article from The Guardian)
  • In India,exhausted cows are made to walk to their deaths by people breaking their tails and rubbing chili into their eyes to make them walk to be slaughtered. (read more here)
  • The tanning process of making an animal’s skin become leather is horrendous for the environment and the worker’s health.

Despairing.

HOWEVER, the glorious thing is that in this day and age, there are so many gorgeous alternatives out there to leather. This post will concentrate on wallets and handbags. Shoes, belts, car interiors, footballs and all the myriad of things commonly made from leather…they’ll have to wait for another day. I hope if you are after a new wallet or bag made from non animal materials, you’ll consider one of these lovely, artistic, ethical and (mostly) local companies. Such a better place for your money to end up than the alternative wouldn’t you agree ?

Needle vs Thread : Simply stunning array of bags / handbags of all varieties made in the Blue Mountains – you can pick your own fabric (including Kokka Wolves, Koi, Foxtrot – how do I choose ??). Whenever this stall is at Marrickville Markets, I dither around, fondling and gazing at the bags but leave empty handed (nightmare customer) due to quite literally having too many fantasy bag choices to pick from. Well, maybe this one

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Needle Vs Thread Small Messenger Bag

 

(but with Koi fabric) is winning the race….(shameless hint to boyfriend with my birthday on the horizon !)

Anna Nova : Stick an owl, fox or elk on something and I’m sold. I own one of these elk motif-ed “faux leather” wallets (with a matching baggage tag) and would highly recommend this affordable brand if you are not into plain wallets.

Catherine Manuell Design : If you can’t find a bag (handbags, travel bags, wheely bag, slouch bags – you name it) here which tickles your fancy, I give up. This Australian company feature a lot of Aboriginal designs too which assist Indigenous women in outback Australia. I have a beautiful maroon CMD shoulder handbag which is now headed into it’s 2nd decade.

Orange Oranges : Gorgeous Brisbane company selling a vast array of cruelty free bags, even man bags. They stock the highly acclaimed…..

Matt and Nat bags and wallets too. This Canadian Company sell their beautiful, sleek, elegant array of bags / wallets / purses of every type in Australia. Their environmental kudos is outstanding (including the fact that 100% of their linings are made from recycled plastic bottles !)

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Vegan Ware’s Belperio bag

Vegan Wares – another wonderful, cruelty free wonderland with bags (love the Belperio bag above) and wallets galore. I recently bought my fella a Vegan Wares wallet to replace his tatty looking (leather !) Country Road wallet. It looks like the real thing and has opened up a whole array of debates amongst his very blokey work mates about all kinds of animal welfare issues which is what all of this is about….making people think !

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My fella proudly displaying his new Vegan Wares wallet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuban Pink – I fell in love with my Cuban Pink handbag many moons ago. It is still going strong and I am always receiving lovely compliments about it. My google searches have led me to the belief that these handmade bags (with each fabric an original) are now only being sold at Bangalow Markets. Anyway, I wanted to show it off !!

My much used Cuban Pink handbag

My much used Cuban Pink handbag

For a final shout out whilst we are on the bag topic, for an evening clutch, you need to peruse “Biddy Bags”. A treasured friend bought me the red Signature Sarah Blasko biddy bag a few years ago and, for my increasingly rare nights out on the town, I adore it. They are such a great company too – connecting isolated “mature age” ladies who share their amazing talents to whip up gorgeous bags (and teas cosies).

So many durable, original, cruelty free local designs out there. As per the beautiful mantra from Edgar’s Mission “if we could lead happy and healthy lives without harming others….why wouldn’t we ?”. Why indeed.

 

 

 

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Feeling angry !

Posted by on Oct 26, 2014 in Live Animal Export | 6 comments

“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems – not people, to focus your energies on answers – not excuses” – William Arthur Ward

https://www.facebook.com/maxmaxmoo/posts/273846172747899

Ollie the Activist Dog (how cute is he ?)

Has anything made you angry / sad / mad this week ? I have frequent triggers for such feelings…..factory farming, the recent closing down of local women’s refuges in spite of soaring domestic violence, our government’s inaction on climate change, being the only person at the supermarket this morning not to be using plastic bags, the unprecedented number of dogs being euthanased at local council pounds in recent weeks, most stuff that comes out of Tony Abbott’s mouth, birds in little cages, people not walking their dogs and treating them like they are a piece of outdoor furniture, violence towards people and animals in the name of religion, road rage towards cyclists, Barnaby Joyce’s face, finding out that my favourite vegetarian laksa is made with chicken stock……grrrrrrrrr.

Feeling mad (in an angry way that is) is not pleasant but does have the positive result in spurring us into action sometimes.

This week’s sad / mad / angry feelings are directed to our government’s ongoing failure to protect our livestock unfortunate enough to be part of the live animal export trade. I am not going to share the images here as they are painfully sad and distressing and not everyone wants to view them. However, these atrocities involving animals from Australia, which were captured in the recent Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) in Kuwait, Jordan and Gaza  have been documented everywhere this week – including Lateline, Sydney Morning Herald and the Animals Australia website.

Live animal export is indefensible. Despite repeated images of these poor, tortured animals being released, nobody has been charged or made accountable and a charity (Animals Australia) finds itself in the position of always being the ones to document and investigate the horror. How any farmer could continue to send their animals overseas, knowing that the majority of animals are still slaughtered without being stunned first or fall into the hands of bumbling, untrained locals to be butchered in the street is beyond me. That is if they survive the harrowing 3 week journey at sea first.

As for our morally bankrupt government, all they want to do is expand the trade into yet more places such as Saudi Arabia where laws protecting animals do not exist. The “it’s good for our economy” or ” but it’s their livelihood” excuses wear a little thin. I have put a few links at the bottom of this page about live animal export and they address all the standard “but they don’t have refrigeration overseas”, “our farmers will go broke”, “that Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) ensures humane slaughter right ?” lines.  New Zealand banned the live animal export trade back in 2007 (and now focuses on exporting boxed meat) due to the systemic cruelty so why can’t Australia ?

Moving on,  anger can lead to positive action which can be cathartic and hopefully make a little drop of a difference. So today I have harnessed my anger by writing a letter to my local MP (yet again), sending a donation to Animals Australia outside of my monthly donation, here and now publicly thanking the decent politicians who take a stand against live animal export ( including Andrew Wilkie, Lee Rhiannon, Kelvin Thomson, Melissa ParkesLynn McClaren and Ed Husic) and donning my anti live animal export t-shirt with a vengeance…..none of which are earth shattering moves but I am pleased to have done SOMETHING.

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Up close and personal !

Has any thing made you crazily angry this week ? More importantly, what were the little steps you took to address it ?

PS Despite this rant, I am not usually a crazy, angry lady ! I can assure you that just as many things make me happy …..my dog’s antics, baking biscuits, the smell of jasmine wofting around,  planning a picnic with friends, boogieing at No Lights No Lycra, listening to Sia, the thought of having a pear Rekorderlig cider in the bath later tonight, hanging out with my beautiful man, indulging in a massage today after a busy week at work, getting an email from my mum on her overseas travels, receiving a gift of a good book to read (Goldfinch, Donna Tartt), Caramel sea salt chocolate,…….the list goes on….thankfully !

 Here are some good links if you want to know more about the Live Animal Export Trade

Frequently Asked Questions about Live Animal Export (Animals Australia)

The Alternative To Live Animal Export (World Animal Protection)

Ban Live Export (official site)

Live Export Facts (RSPCA)

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Get Writing !

Posted by on Jun 16, 2013 in Campaigning | 2 comments

“We live in a democracy and if enough people get their…campaigning up with sufficient force, then they change markets, they change economics, they change the way that people do things” – Julia Gillard (in response to a question about Live Animal Exports).

 

 

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Image from Michal A. Kessler’s facebook page

 

Letter writing, whether it be to a politician, a shop or the newspaper, is a valuable tool and we should all do much more of it. It allows you to communicate your beliefs which may influence others or expose something which makes an impact on you to somebody else. It spreads the word and, if you are an eloquent, persuasive writer, your words can influence others…even politicians who ultimately make the rules we have to live by.

Conveying a message can be done in a few ways:

1. Having a letter published in a newspaper or magazine.

2. Contacting a company via facebook. I like this option as it is quick and your comments are displayed publicly.

3. Writing an email or snail mail letter to an organisation or individual. A letter in your own words will obviously have more impact than a pre formatted letter.

4. Writing a review (eg on Tripadvisor or Eatability).

 

 If you are on Facebook, I would urge you to “like” “A Letter a week” which encourages just that……

As does, the sublimely kind philanthropist Philip Wollen as part of  his wise “list of daily dos and dont’s“, stating ” Write at least one letter to the media or a politician every week. It doesn’t have to be brickbat – a bouquet is fine too.”

Think about something which has really raised some passion in you recently and write a message accordingly. For some ideas….

– Do you feel unhappy about unsafe work conditions which recently led to the deaths of hundreds of Bangladeshi factory workers in a factory fire whilst making clothes for Westerners ? If so, why not write a letter to your favourite clothing label to see if they have signed up to “The Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord”.

– In light of yet more recent horrors being uncovered for Australian cattle in overseas abattoirs, you may wish to question Joe Ludwig, write to your MP or find out what the opposition leader’s view of Live Animal Export is (in short, it is shameful). Animals Australia provide a very easy link to enable you to write to your MP with the option to use a pre-formatted letter if you are short on time.

– My recent posts may have provided some fodder for a letter to :

* Ask Minister of Primary Industries, currently Katrina Hodgkinson, why mother sows can be immobilised for months at a time in cages or why it is legal in Australia for dairy calves to be denied any food or water for up to 30 hours.

* ask your local supermarket to stock more free range products.

* Demand CCTV in slaughterhouses by following link the here :

If your letter writing needs some fine tuning, there are some good tips here on “How to write a letter to a politician“.

My “letters of the week” this week have a taken the form of :

* A facebook message to cosmetic company Jurlique to express my dismay at their decision to sell their products in China despite the fact that ALL cosmetics in China have to be tested on animals. Basically they are selling their soul.

* A Tripadvisor review of a hotel I recently stayed at in Bali, favourably reviewing my stay but pointing out that I would like to see them install a water dispenser, as other hotels we stayed at had, to reduce the need for so many plastic bottles (30,000,000 plastic bottles are purchased each month in Bali !)

* A facebook message to Philippine Airlines to let them know that I would not consider flying with their airline whilst they continue to transport primates from Indonesia to the US for cruel animal testing. They are the only airline in the world to do so.

This week, the Australian Farmer’s Federation are on my hit list for bullying Coles and Animals Australia into ceasing the sale of the “Make It Possible” (against factory farming) bags.

What has made an impact on you this week which would inspire you to put pen to paper ?

 

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