10 TIPS FOR A MORE SUSTAINABLE CHRISTMAS

Christmas is a magical time for most of us. We get to celebrate, indulge, give and receive gifts, spend time with family and friends and generally be jolly. It’s all so much fun, it can be easy to forget the good habits we’ve adopted during the year or just give in to the pressure to ‘consume’ and spend more than we’d like to. So, we’ve put together these 10 tips for a lower waste, more sustainable Christmas to help you navigate the silly season without letting all your values go out the door.

1. Less is more

This is something we are trying to teach our children – it’s about quality, not quantity. When you are buying gifts, make them count. Choose things that are well made and built to last. Even consider what your kids NEED too – not just what they might WANT. There are a few pairs of new knickers making their way under the tree this year for our 2 girls and they will be delighted!!

If you’re giving a gift to someone you don’t know very well, choosing something appropriate can be hard. Rather than spend money on something they might not like, try giving them something edible (OK…not built to last but sure to be enjoyed….!!). Some thoughtfully chosen chocolates or a nice bottle of wine would be very unlikely to go to waste!! Vouchers for their favourite store so they can choose their own goodies is also a great idea for those really tricky to buy for types. Every family has an awkward “Uncle Brian” (name changed to protect the privacy of individuals!) 😉

2. eCardsSustainable Christmas Cards

This is a cheap and very low waste way to keep in touch with people and send season’s greetings at Christmas. I can see the benefits….I really can. However, it’s not something I can whole heartedly embrace. I send approximately 30 Christmas cards every year – nearly all of these go from New Zealand to the UK. For some of the recipients, it’s the ONLY time of year that we keep in touch.

I enclose a recent photo of the family for some and always write a mini novel to each and every person about what we have been up to in the past year. I always use my best fountain pen and these sentiments are my ‘gift’ to those people that we still care about deeply even though we upped and left them 9 years ago to come and live in New Zealand. Sorry. An email will just not cut it here. And of course, I’m always thrilled to receive the same in return (although some of our friends are just not that good…). This year, I’ve chosen cards made of recycled paper and printed with vegetable inks which I’m happy is a more sustainable choice.

3. Secret Santa

If you have a large family or group that normally shares Christmas, why not try out a Secret Santa. Put everyone’s name in a hat and then take it in turns to pick one out – and that is who you buy a gift for!! This way, everyone only has to buy one gift, and you can even agree a budget or set a spending limit too so it’s all fair and square and nobody has to overspend.

4. Use a reusable bag when you go shopping and purchase an extra one as a gift

This is a no brainer and certainly not reserved for Christmas!!! I think we’re all on that page now aren’t we…?? But we can always use more than one reusable shopping bag or tote right…?? And some of us might have that friend who lags behind and maybe all they’re looking for is a super stylish reusable bag to get them on board (a great sustainable Christmas gift idea. You’re welcome!).

SHOP REUSABLE BAGS

Biscotti Xmas Gift5. Handmade gifts from the kitchen

This is an awesome idea and who doesn’t love a bit of home baking..?? Whether you have your own fruit supplies or just like to spend time in the kitchen, there are loads of tasty things that can be made and given as beautiful gifts. Marmalade, mini Christmas cakes, spice biscuits, shortbreads, homemade marshmallows, truffles…. These beauties on the right are biscotti – so easy to do and very easily adapted to whatever you have in the kitchen. These ones were cranberry and almond. Dish magazine is always a great source of inspiration for me and usually has a special ‘Gifts to Give’ section at Christmas. Check it out and be inspired.

6. GIVE

Instead of always growing our collection of ‘stuff’, Christmas is a great time to be grateful, recognise that there are others less fortunate than ourselves and share. Go through the children’s toy and book collections and choose some items to be donated to hospitals or charities that make up gift boxes to give to children who wouldn’t otherwise receive presents. Not only are you paring back all the ‘stuff’ in your home, you’re teaching your kids a valuable lesson, re-purposing quality items and giving disadvantaged children something to smile about on Christmas day. Win win.

7. Choose clean burning candles

Everyone loves a beautiful candle to add atmosphere after dark or to fill your home with amazing fragrance (gift idea right here people….!!). However, choose carefully. Avoid candles that are made of paraffin – they are no good for your health or the environment. Instead, choose beeswax, soy or vegetable wax candles with pure essential oils. I hope it goes without saying, but just in case….. none of the candles on Green Elephant contain paraffin.

SHOP ECO CANDLES

8. Use leftovers

New Zealanders throw away 122,547 tonnes of edible food every year. Make sure you do not add to this statistic this Christmas. Plan your meals, shop accordingly and know how the leftovers can be used properly. Who doesn’t love a ham sandwich or a turkey pie…?? But not day after day into the new year…. Get creative and think of a few other ways the leftovers can be used so you don’t get bored. Make sure you have made space in your freezer if it will be needed and have plenty of suitable containers on hand for proper storage.

Xmas pressies wrapped in flyers under our tree9. Choose wrapping paper carefully

Gift wrap is a bit of a pet hate of mine. It’s not so much the paper itself, because there are some beautiful and more sustainable choices available, but the frenzied tearing and the subsequent wasting of the beautiful paper that doesn’t sit so well with me.

I am one of those people that takes their time, carefully easing off the tape or string so the paper can be kept intact and reused. Yes..I am THAT person. Children cannot be relied upon to go to this much effort, so last year we used flyers and free papers to wrap our tree presents.

A nicer alternative if you are gifting to others (not family…!) is to use recycled brown craft paper that is also fully recyclable after use. This can be decorated using stamps or children’s colouring and a piece of twine or ribbon makes a lovely addition too.

10. Offer/promise of a service or an experience

Your time is valuable. Have you ever considered giving your time and expertise as a gift..?? This is an especially good one for children – they could mow the lawns for a month or clean the car each week for your neighbours or friends. Maybe they could cook a meal..?? It doesn’t cost much to offer this, but has the potential to be a really meaningful experience – for the kids and the recipients!!
And there you have it. Our top tips for a lower waste, more sustainable Christmas. If you have any of your own tips to add, we’d love to hear from you!!


Words and images provided by Gillian at Green Elephant. Read more from Gillian on their blog.
Check out Poppy’s Christmas tips from last year.

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DIY Christmas Advent Calendar!

Since we are now safely passed the mid-November mark, it’s an acceptable time for a Christmas post! As a kid, one of the staple Christmas traditions in our house was the advent calendar. Chocolate every day, before lunchtime! What a friggin’ treat. This year I decided that I wanted to bring back the advent calendar to my holiday celebrations. I wanted to have a go at making my own, since the regular supermarket kind aren’t vegan-friendly, and also because it seemed less wasteful to create one that I can use again. So if you are a celebrator of Christmas and are interested in making your own advent calendar for the December countdown, this will interest you!

What you need:
Something to make your calendar pouches with (I used brown parcel paper)
Scissors, glue, measuring tape/ruler
String
Mini pegs
Somewhere to hang your beautiful creation (I used my old corkboard)
Numbers to decorate your calendar pouches
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Step One – Make your pouches
I’m sure you could find pre-made pouches or envelopes somewhere, but I had plenty of paper to use so figured that would do the trick. I cut the paper into sections of 9cmx16cm, and folded some thin tabs along the longer sides. I then glued along the tabs and folded the paper in half (tabs together), to make a little pouch as shown below:

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This does take a bit of time when you are making 24 of them!

Step Two – Decorate
I was nosing through the craft section at The Warehouse and found a pack of mini craft pegs and some pre-made decorative numbers, which were perfect. You could absolutely make your own decorations for the front of the paper pouches, but I was short on time (and I’m not artistically talented and wanted it to look nice). I think I picked up both items for $7. So I glued all my numbers on and while I waited for them to dry, started setting up the corkboard.

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Step Three – The finished product!
All that was left to do was get these cuties pegged onto the board. I pinned four rows of string horizontally across it, then attached my little pouches with my pegs and voilà! My very own DIY, reusable advent calendar. The final and most important thing is, obviously, deciding which treats will be going in it. Mine is still empty but I think I’ve settled on getting some fruity barley sugars to fill it.

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My completed advent calendar!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you would like to create your own advent calendar this year, there are heaps of awesome ideas on Pinterest, or feel free to make one like ours! We would love to see your creations. All the best for the holiday season! You can also check out our Christmas craft from last year, when we made gift boxes out of old toilet paper rolls!


header image sourced via negativespace.co

EHRA – Every Human Requires Adventure (Poppy’s Back!)

Guess who’s back (back, back). Back again, (‘gain, ‘gain).

It’s me, Popizzle – real name, no gimmicks. Throwin’ back to a bit of early 00’s rap. No regrets….

So I’ve been off the radar for waaay too long, but I have an excuse. I’ve been visiting other continents, meeting new people, and doing a whole lot of cool once-in-a-lifetime type things. Not to brag or anything. Remember that you can’t beat a kiwi summer.

There were many moments during my travels that were an environmental challenge or experience. I’m going to be reflecting on these over the coming months, but first I want to talk about a really special project that I was involved in for a fortnight in Namibia.

The Elephant Human Relations Aid (EHRA) is an award winning conservation project dedicated to conserving desert-adapted elephants by working to reduce the conflicts between humans and elephants in the harsh environment of the Namib Desert. They monitor the movements of the herds, protect and build water points, and educate locals on the best way to peacefully coexist with the giant, glorious, dangerous, clever, and thirsty grey mammals who j-chill in the area. It’s a pretty full on job, and they rely on the help of volunteers who want to lend a hand and have an awesome experience at the same time. Elephants have always been my favourite animals, and seeing them in real life was definitely on my bucket list. Helping contribute to a safer natural environment for them? Even better.

Namibia is one of the sunniest countries in the world, with around 300 days of sun per year. The reality of this is the country is thirsty. I was in the project during September, just as winter is ending and the dry season coming to a close. It is blatantly obvious how precious and rare water is, especially in the rural areas. And of course this isn’t just an issue for people; even small flies constantly dive-bomb your eyes and mouth in search of moisture. I mean I’m all for eating insects, but I’m not so keen on them getting in contact with my eyeballs.

Elephants have also had to adapt to this environment and sometimes this causes issues with locals. In the area where my project was based, elephants had detected water sources by smell and dug up pipes at the local school. EHRA runs in two-week blocks, and our first week was dedicated to building an alternative water point in a dried up riverbed nearby.

The first week was challenging but so fulfilling – digging, collecting rocks, and mixing cement in 40 degree heat on some days! We were a group of fourteen from all over the world, ranging in ages from eighteen to eighty-seven (!!) but we all chipped in and managed to finish the structural wall within the five days. The team leaders really made the job a lot easier, as the actual construction of the wall is much more difficult than it first seems…

We would start our days very early with coffee in bed, delivered by the pair on duty, the gulp down some porridge and get to work. The evenings would be spent chatting, napping, playing games, eating delicious food, freestylin’ some rhymes, and admiring the gorgeous stars from one of the best viewing spots in the Southern Hemisphere. Can’t complain.

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Me smashing rock run

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Our completed water point!

After Build Week finished we enjoyed a weekend at Base Camp, finally grabbing a quick shower, visiting the local town for an afternoon, and sleeping on an open-aired platform in a tree. Elephants would walk right past us in the night, pausing to munch on branches from our tree/bed. Talk about rude awakenings yo.

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The sleeping platform at base camp

The second week is a reward for the hard labour of build week. We go on patrol! Imagine rocking around in sick land cruisers, taking note of the location and activities of various herds, spotting lots of other rad animals, and sleeping under the open sky in the desert. Bad-ass.

We spent lots of time watching the elephants of course, but also saw many different types of antelope, birds, jackal, baboons, ostrich, zebra, giraffe, and even lions!

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Camp set-up one evening

I cannot stress how gorgeous and ever-changing the landscape is, even in a relatively small geographical distance. White sand, red rock, red sand, green and brown grass, scrub, sand, plains, hills, sandy riverbeds. Sand. This is the desert after all. I was very content to just sit in my sleeping bag in the back of the cruiser watching the beauty go by, and this is only partly because I am a lazy sloth-human.

Trip Highlights:

  • Sleeping under the open sky in the desert
  • A scorpion running over my foot while I brushed my teeth one night… Eek
  • Seeing an elephant in real life for the first time
  • Cooking delicious meals over the fire each night
  • Eating, learning, sleeping, and joking with a bunch of awesome folks
  • Having so much while simultaneously living in a simplified way – very little food wasted, very little rubbish, strict conservation of water
  • Sun-downers. The beauty of the country in general really
  • Meeting local farmers, and visiting the local school
  • Learning about elephant/human conflicts, why they occur and how to solve them

I mean, based on my waffling reminiscences it was clearly an incredible experience for me. And it can be for you too! Check out the website and get involved. Yes, it does cost a bit of money, but that goes towards your food and supplies, salary for the employees, and simply keeping an important organisation doing good stuff. I recommend doing the project and also taking time to explore the gorgeous country that is Namibia – it makes the big trip over a bit more justifiable. I spent five weeks there and it was legit.

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Mumma and Bubba

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The team!

Aight OG’s. That’s a (w)RAP for this month. A huge thanks to the team at EHRA for such a life changing experience. And big ups to my cousin Giles for putting up with my company for five weeks – may your life be blessed with many guineafowl moments. As usual, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments!

Peace out, homies.

Poppy

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Me being gangsta and Giles being a dork


header image via http://www.desertelephant.org
all other photos belong to Poppy Stowell

Green Elephant

greenele

If you haven’t heard of Green Elephant yet,  prepare to be enlightened! An online marketplace based in the Bay of Plenty, with an exceptionally well curated range of healthy, ethical, and sustainable products – these folks have it all covered! After researching alternative, natural products for their own personal use, they soon discovered a raft of NZ companies with incredible stuff to offer. Then came the realisation that these things should be easier to find and shop for, and so Green Elephant was born. We love this conception story, because it is pretty much identical to that of this blog! Twinsies.

You will find everything you need for inside and outside your home, including health and beauty, food, clothing, and even goodies for the non-human family members! As if they didn’t already sound amazing, they also stock some of Use Good Stuff’s all time favourites – Ethique, Pouch Products, The Green Collective and Pip Pottage Designs.

My favourite thing about this website is their impossibly helpful badge system. These adorable little icons sit on on every product page, giving you a quick summary of the item you are looking at so you can be sure that it ticks whatever boxes are important to you. The badges indicate which products are fair-trade, cruelty free, water and forest friendly, sustainably packaged, and a whole bunch of other good stuff.

Their blog is also 100% worth checking out – it is a real hive for handy info and tips! Gillian will be sharing some of her blog content with Use Good Stuff from time-to-time, so expect to see more from Green Elephant around here in the future!

Be sure to check out Green Elephant on Facebook, too! Happy shopping everyone, welcome to the marketplace 🙂


images via greenelephant.co.nz

The Climate Change We Need – Local Body Elections 2016

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-5-21-29-pmBy Matthew Fanselow: published author, maker-of-change, doer-of-things, West Coast Gentleman.


October 8th is polling day for the 2016 local body elections, and many of you are surely wondering “why should I care”? Across the country only 42% of New Zealanders cast their vote in the 2013 local elections, with turnout being even lower in the 18-34 demographic. The politics game has a great many perceptions, almost all of which are negative: “politicians don’t listen”, “money-wasting bureaucrats”, “don’t raise my taxes”, “my vote doesn’t have an impact”. But the reality is that elections, from national down to local-level, have a huge impact on our daily lives. At the local level, the Mayors and Councillors we elect next month will set the district and regional agendas for the next three years or more, determining what level of importance and resources should be allocated to issues ranging from roading to buses, event management to rubbish collection, tourism to conservation. As citizens living in a free and democratic country, it is essential to the public good that as many of us as possible engage with the process and cast informed votes on that day.

Through Use Good Stuff we aim to inform and educate Joe Public about the importance of issues like climate change, conservationism and little changes you can make to help reduce your footprint on the environment. And, while social media is an effective vehicle for drawing attention to issues and mobilising individuals to a cause, a Facebook group or a Twitter trend are unlikely to be impactful in engendering the sort of change needed to avert our current disastrous trajectory. And while it can be equally argued that local body politics does not have an impact at that scale, it is the first step for empowering the masses to engage in the political process, reduce the apathy that has taken hold in recent decades, and ultimately force the Government to act on the colossal challenges facing planet as a whole, as well as our little piece of it.

So many people (especially the millennials) feel either excluded from the political process, or that the barriers to entry are too high in terms of developing an informed opinion. But the reality is that in Aotearoa there are so many issues and challenges which can be negated, and opportunities which can be seized, if the voting public tell the candidates that enough is enough and changes need to be made. Every region and town has its own unique landscape of challenges and chances, but our three main urban centres tend to receive the bulk of the media coverage (and not for no mean reason). Christchurch continues to regenerate from the catastrophe which struck it in 2011; Wellington faces challenges ranging from roading and public transport through to housing; and in Auckland the average house price is nearing $1m.

While these are the issues which grab the mainstream public eye, they are discrete issues within an overarching ecosystem of pollution, environmental degradation and overconsumption. Generation Zero have compiled an absolutely awesome scorecard system of Mayoral, local council and regional council candidates in several main centres. Candidates were asked for their views and policies on the issue of climate change, and received an A-through-E ranking based on the scoring guidelines. This is a clear and user-friendly tool to help inform you about the candidates and where they stand on the issues closest to you.

Don’t let apathy be the winner this election. The investment of time and energy in determining your candidates is small, compared to the consequences of a system which continues to ignore the big issues while overplaying the trivial. VOTE!


header image via greatnewsmag.com

Matt’s very professional corporate headshot via martinjenkins.co.nz

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Lately, I’ve been struggling to find motivation. Whether it be to exercise, to cook proper meals, or to go out and socialise – it just hasn’t been coming easily. Lack of motivation is something we all battle sometimes, but recently it’s been creeping in to places I don’t want it to. As much as I hate to admit it, my energy and drive for sustainable living has also taken a hit. I’m assuming (and hoping) that this is something a lot of our readers can relate to from time to time. While I commit to making my best efforts and have changed a lot of my consumer behaviour in the interest of being more eco-conscious, it can be hard to give it 100% at all times.

We have days when we’re all guns blazing, we have days when we don’t do enough, and we have days when we don’t do anything. I’m not encouraging you to do less than you know you can do, but please don’t get discouraged by where you aren’t completely perfect! Something will always be better than nothing. Unless it’s, y’know, scabies or something. You get what I’m trying to say.

After acknowledging and accepting how I’ve been feeling about all this, I put a bit more consideration into why this may be happening, and how I could make it better. I’d like to share these thoughts with you, just in case you need a bit of reassurance or encouragement for your own greenie journey. I’d also like to preface this by saying that it is going to sound a bit negative and/or depressing in places, but I believe it’s important to be honest about the hurdles we encounter. If we don’t talk about it, we can’t find a solution!

The problem is too big, and I am too little

Ah yes, this old chestnut. It’s a thought that often gets me down. Something that got up my nose recently was finding out that a lot of companies are replacing tea towels and dish cloths in shared staff areas with disposable ones. Many businesses will explain that there are hygiene concerns associated with having many people sharing these items, which I don’t entirely disagree with, but I can’t help but think it’s a cost saving initiative more than anything. There is considerable expense in having shared towels and cloths professionally laundered, and this can be avoided by buying cheap cloths or paper towels and throwing them out once they’re soiled. While it might be easing pressure on the company wallet, it’s only further contributing to the harming of our environment. In the interest of having more money or making more profit, many businesses will choose cutting costs over considering the planet. I guess it’s things like this that really exemplify the larger systemic issues that we are up against. I look at it and think, “I’m trying so hard, but can’t possibly fight against this!”. It can be a real motivation killer.

It seems like there’s been so much environmental damage done so quickly, and now we are virtually helpless to reverse it. Without sounding too pessimistic, there is some truth to that. It’s kind of like being on a little boat with a group of people, and the boat starts sinking. It’s taking on water quickly, and you’re bailing it out as fast as you jolly well can… But everyone else on board is just sitting back and watching you. You’re never going to win that way! If everyone picked up a bucket and started helping, it’s going to be much more effective. So, while you may only be doing little bits here and there that don’t seem to stack up against the larger issues, you’re still doing something beneficial. Team all of your little things up with everyone else’s, and that’s where we start seeing the difference.

It’s expensive

This one is quite relative. There is the assumption that buying eco-friendly brands and products comes with a much heftier price tag, which can be both correct and incorrect. It depends on a few things:

  • Accessibility – If you live in cities or bigger towns, you’re going to have easier access to the larger chain supermarkets, where stuff is always available at low prices. If you’re in a more isolated place or live rurally, maybe you only have regular access to smaller, family owned stores. In that situation, not only are you going to have less choice of products, they will often be more expensive for you.
  • The product – I find that eco-friendly household products like cleaning supplies, laundry powder, toilet paper, and tissues don’t cost me any extra at all. They’re pretty much always on special somewhere and haven’t added more to my grocery bill. For me, the biggest expenses in my weekly shopping are the meat-free and dairy-free alternatives that I buy. These products are a bit pricier and, since becoming an enviro-vegan, I’ve noticed an increase in my grocery spending by about $15 a week. It’s not essential to my diet to buy these items, I just like them.
  • Priorities – If you are super into organic or locally grown stuff, then you aren’t going to mind the extra couple of dollars here and there. If those sorts of things aren’t that important to you personally, it’s just going to seem like an unnecessary expense.

For me, I’ve chosen to eat a vegan diet to be a little more helpful to the planet. It’s important to me, so I’ve made a couple of little sacrifices like less takeaway food and coffee – things I can do without anyway. That frees up a little more in my budget that can be spent at the supermarket. It’s also pretty crucial to remember that we, as consumers, drive the market. If there’s an increase in demand for environmentally savvy products, we will see more of them at more affordable prices.

I get criticised

Yeah, this one isn’t really any fun. First of all, I am my own worst critic – something I know a lot of people can understand. For example, in the previous paragraph I was talking about money and budgeting. I feel quite uncomfortable writing about things like that, and I don’t believe that it’s always as easy as “just cutting back” on other things. The truth is, being able to choose to be an eco-consumer, and have access to all of these alternative products, makes me very privileged. An awful lot of people don’t have the resources, the money or the choices. I find myself getting stuck in a loop of wanting help and encourage others, but feeling like I’m imposing too much of my own standards and privilege on them.

Then, there’s the external criticism. When new people find out about this blog and what we do, they often ask questions, which is great! Most people genuinely want to learn and know what it’s all about, which we love. Unfortunately, it isn’t like that with everyone. Some seem to almost take offence by it, as if a vote for sustainable living is somehow a vote against their own choices. They’ll become very defensive, start pointless arguments, or just straight out mock you. Maybe it’s the perception that greenies/vegos/vegans are just trying to claim the moral high ground that puts people off sometimes, I’m unsure. But it can be very demoralising, and also plain hurtful! I feel a bit like a whiney kid mentioning it, but I wanted to because I know plenty of people who have been on the receiving end of it. Obviously, this sort of thing is harder to tackle and will probably always exist to some extent, so trying to present a solution is a little difficult. Be assured that you aren’t doing anything wrong by believing in and talking about this stuff, and if someone is trying to make you feel otherwise, then the problem is theirs. I’m reminded of a semi-applicable quote from poet Sir Walter Scott – “Ridicule often checks what is absurd, and fully as often smothers that which is noble.”


So, there it all is! Going out of your way to make sustainable choices, be they big or small, is an awesome thing to do. It may not always be easy and you might make the odd mistake, but your effort and good intentions are the most important things. Thank you for bearing with me though this one, I really hope it helps anyone who might be feeling a little unmotivated. We all hit a slump sometimes, we just gotta help each other through it!

Thanks, team.

Blick


header image via http://www.imagefully.com/green-apple-sad-clip-art/

Junk Free June!

We talk a lot about junk on this blog. Mostly, we’re discussing possessions and meaningless commodities – “stuff” that we accumulate that we really don’t need. Y’know what else you don’t need though? Junk FOOD! This year, Use Good Stuff is getting behind Junk Free June, a campaign all about giving up junk food while raising money for an important cause. A poor diet is linked to the development of many cancers and other health concerns, so it makes sense that we cut those bad things out in the name of good health! Absolutely all of the money made through Junk Free June donations goes directly to the Cancer Society of New Zealand, so get involved either by making the junk free pledge for yourself, or by donating via someone who is!

JunkFreeJune-02I have no problem admitting that I have a soft spot for treats and snacks, so I’m expecting this to be a bit of a challenge. It’s important to note that “junk” food will be different for everybody, as we all have our different vices. It’s also good to point out that having a healthy diet doesn’t mean never eating anything remotely “naughty”. Balance and moderation is key. That being said, I’ve made a list of the things I am personally going to try to avoid over the next 4 weeks, or at least drastically reduce my intake of:

  • ALCOHOL – Probably my biggest vice, awful for my health and my bank account…
  • ENERGY DRINKS – These I’m not too bad with, but if I’m feeling super tired or drowsy I will sometimes reach for a Red Bull to get me through the day. I would have about 4-6 a month usually.
  • CHIPPIES – I am a potato chip fiend and will eat an entire family bag alone in one sitting, easy. Just try me.
  • OREOS & SKITTLES – I love to treat myself with these as they just happen to be vegan. I can go without for a few weeks!

Things I can do snacking on that are healthy (or okay in moderation):

  • FRUIT
  • NUTS
  • POPCORN (not buttered, obviously)
  • DARK CHOCOLATE (a few squares occasionally is great, a whole block in a day… Not so much)
  • WATER/GREEN TEA/BEVERAGES NOT FULL OF SUGAR

So now it’s all planned out, all that’s left is to do it! While eating healthy and being charitable are things we should all do as much as we possibly can, events such as this one that raise awareness and get people motivated are very valuable. That’s why Poppy and I (along with Poppy’s super cool friend and flatmate Colleen) have teamed up to give it a go! Be sure to let us know on Facebook if you are also taking part and let us know how you do! Read more about Junk Free June on their website and sign yourself up if you’re keen for the challenge. If you would like to donate to the Use Good Stuff campaign you can do so here.

Thanks for the support!

– Blick 🙂


images via nz.junkfreejune.org

Use Good Stuff Turns 1!

It’s our first birthday! 

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Hello everyone, Blick here! Needless to say, this is a very special day for us. A whole year has passed since we launched this blog, and what an incredible time we’ve had. As we’ve continued our Use Good Stuff journey, we’ve been learning and sharing as much as we can about living more sustainably in our own homes. The best part of this project is being able to connect with wonderful and likeminded people, so we can all help each other make more conscious choices.

After a year of posting, Use Good Stuff now contains a whole lot of information about a very broad range of topics. The vision from the very beginning was to have a little hub of information that was free and easy for people to find, written by a collaborative team who are passionate about it, but are also still figuring it all out.  I think we are well on our way to achieving this, and while it’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication, it’s been worth every bit!

This milestone is an important one, so I wanted to celebrate the only way I know how. With food. Since I moved to Wellington last year, unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to get the whole team together for this occasion. But our (impossibly handsome) graphic designer William and I teamed up to bake a tasty cake for this momentous event. We went with a vegan lemon cake,  and oh golly, it was good. We added nutmeg to spice things up a bit, which is why it didn’t turn out looking like a traditional lemon cake (also we burnt it a little, shhh). Here are some pictures of our birthday cake adventure:

Now to get all gross on you, I wanna say how much I appreciate all of the support this little blog gets. It’s a labour of love, costs money but doesn’t make any, and some weeks I can spend all of my free time working on it. But literally none of that matters when I see people engaging with it, enjoying it, and learning from it. Thank you all for reading, and for encouraging.

Of course, the biggest thanks are for the beyond-cool team we have. William, Poppy, E Cus and James – you are all very inspiring and talented. Not entirely sure how I convinced you all to take part in this, but I’m very glad you’re here! Thank you for an incredible year, I’m very excited to see where the next one takes us.

– Blick ❤

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Don’t Be An Egg – Ethical Easter Tips

Easter time is upon us, and and we would all love to enjoy days of endless sweet snacking without any guilt, right? Well, I can’t do much about your sugar or calorie intake, but I can try to help you find ethical and sustainable choices for your Easter holiday. So let’s start there!

Fairtrade-logoWhen it comes to chocolate, Fairtrade certified is best. Always. You wanna know that to the best of your ability, you are supporting the people who work hard to produce it, instead of exploiting them.  Look out for the little Fairtrade logo so you know that what you’re buying is good stuff. Also important is no freakin’ palm oil. Palm oil is awful for the planet and is responsible for the destruction of animal habitats across Indonesia and Malaysia. Remember when Cadbury tried to sneak it into their recipe back in 2009? Fools!

The foil packaging commonly found on Easter eggs is a bit rubbish (geddit?). It’s only recyclable if it is clean, in tact, and in larger quantities. Even then, a lot of recycling plants don’t have the facilities to process it, and it ends up in landfill. Saaaaad. It’s estimated that in the UK alone, 3000 tonnes of packaging is made each year, just for Easter eggs! Do your best to find chocolate goodies with as little packaging as possible. Trade Aid have introduced compostable packaging, which is rather impressive and will hopefully be adopted by other companies in the future.

For those that are this way inclined, there are  plenty of vegan Easter treats, too. A lot of dark chocolate is vegan, you just have to read the ol’ ingredients list to make sure that it is just cocoa in there and not milk chocolate. The Cruelty Free Shop actually have quite a few options for vegan deliciousness, so it’s worth a look if you are interested.

So keeping all of the above in mind, figure out which of these things are important to you and peruse the little list below. Hopefully something takes your fancy.

Be sure to let us know if you have something to contribute to this topic, we love hearing from you! Hope everyone has a lovely long weekend 🙂

-Blick


header image via http://www.rd.com

Livin’ La Vida Vegan

A little while ago, I made a post about switching to a vegetarian diet. I noted that I would probably go vegan eventually, and that I would really miss cheese. Well, now I have… And I do. But it has certainly been a lot easier than expected. Just like last year when I was removing meat from my diet, I took my time with it and made one step at a time. It is much more simple than you might think. If you are considering vegetarianism or veganism but are concerned that it’s going to be too much of a challenge, then I would implore you to read on.

When discussing veganism with people who aren’t super educated about it, there is one question I always hear – “But what CAN they eat?!”. The answer is HEAPS. Vegans can still eat a whole lot of tasty things, and as an added bonus, no unfortunate creature has died or been exploited in the process. Now THAT’s yummy.

For this post, I wanted to share the aspects of my diet that I focussed on once I’d committed to cutting out animal products. Meat was already gone, so aside from that I had 3 other food groups that needed addressing – The Cheese group, the Snacks group, and the Alcohol group. I do not believe that these are official food groups, but they were the most significant in my own diet. I will cover all of these in more detail below, and also throw a bit in about the health/beauty products that I regularly use, which are all cruelty free and vegan.

Cheese/Milk

Cheese was probably my one true love. I liked it on pizza, nachos, crackers, in burgers, sandwiches (toasted and regular), maybe even just on its own, by the slice. Reserve your judgement please, we’ve all done it. So, needless to say, it was hard to say goodbye. I did have a couple of go-to break-up tricks up my sleeve, though. It helped to think of the not-so-great things about cheese. At first I had nothing – cheese was bae. Then I started thinking about how cheese always makes me feel kinda bloated, even constipated, and gives me gross chin acne. Also, y’know when you’ve been eating a delicious plate of something covered in melted cheese, then the dregs of the cheese dry and go super solid and get stuck to the plate and it takes about 3 months to scrape it off? Yeah, that. F**k you, cheese.

The next step was to find a suitable replacement. Something that could distract me from the cheese and fill the void it left, while I went through my period of mourning. I found that replacement in Angel Food and will never go back. Angel Food is a yummo, plant-based cheese alternative which I actually first discovered at Hell Pizza. Yeah, vegans can eat takeaway pizza just like everyone else! #equality4all

Milk wasn’t too much of a struggle, really. At least not compared to the whole cheese saga. I really only drink milk in coffee, so it’s pretty easy to replace with soy or almond milk. When I get takeaway coffees now I get soy, it sweetens the flavour but I still like it, though it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (coz it’s coffee, not tea haHA). At home, though, I have almond milk. I’m a bit paranoid about the hormones in soy so I try to restrict my consumption of it. Plus almond milk is super yum, and you can get stuff that’s specially formulated for coffee and it tastes very good. I get mine at Moore Wilson’s, but I’m sure it’s available in plenty of other places.

Snacks

So many of my fave snacks are vegan and some of them actually really surprised me. Licorice is delish, especially the red RJ’s stuff, and it’s animal product free. Also chippies are yummy and there are heaps of potato and corn chips that are vegan, you just have to do a bit of back-of-the-pack reading before you buy. Also OREOS. Freakin’ Oreos are freakin’ vegan! My newest obsession is Serious Popcorn which has no animal stuff and is super nice, but like, all popcorn is vegan, just don’t have it drowned in butter obvs. I’m also very in love with the Fry’s range, they do vegan pies and other meat alternatives which are all pretty tasty. Most dark chocolate is vegan, too, so I really don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything! I can still have my nights in with Netflix and a stash of delicious treats and have the time of my bloody life. I mean, there are also things like nuts and fruit but… Yawn.

Alcohol

Animal products are commonly used in the production of wine, beer and cider. But not to worry, there are plenty of bevvies for me to enjoy. Barnivore is a pretty good resource for checking the vegan status of beers; there isn’t a huge range of NZ wines on there but my go-to is Peter Yealands. Since 2014 they have been making all of their wines without animal products, and lead the way for sustainable wine-making in NZ, so we like them.

Health/Beauty/Sexy Stuff

I’ve covered a lot of this sort of product on the blog already, so I’ll do a quick summary of the cruelty free stuff that I am currently using most frequently. For shampoo/conditioner, Ethique is a dream. I also use ecostore stuff, though some of it uses (sustainable) palm oil. I don’t use face wash because it’s never really worked for me, I just wash my face with warm water and follow up with the herb farm rosehip moisturiser. I also have the herb farm jojoba cream for any problem areas as this seems to soothe my spots. For the big puffy baggies under my eyes, I use the coffee eye cream from 100% Pure. Makeup wise, I can’t afford the decent natural makeups. Plus, I don’t like covering my face with it anyway, so tend to just not use foundations anymore, unless it is a very special occasion. Australis is cruelty free, relatively cheap and can be found at most department stores, so that’s probably the most accessible for people. As a helpful aside, who knew that traditional condoms aren’t vegan?! I was quite surprised and also a bit grossed out by that discovery. Not only do a lot of the leading brands test on animals, they actually contain milk products. Yurgh. Vegan and cruelty free condoms/lube are available, but not readily in supermarkets, so you gotta visit the specialty stores for those bad (good) boys.

So, there you have it! In terms of actual meals, I pretty much live on vege stirfrys, burritos, nachos, sandwiches, burgers and the like, all of which are very easy to do vegan. As for the reasons behind my decision, I don’t want to delve too deeply into them here. A lot of it is obvious from the post I made about vegetarianism last year. Generally, I just no longer want to support industries that aren’t good for the earth or for helpless animals, and it is important that my behaviour aligns with my values.

Be sure to let us know in the comments below or on Facebook if you have any helpful hints for going animal product free!

– Blick