Oasis Beauty

So here we are, back again with our first post of 2017! After a restful holiday break, we are getting into the swing of things with a new product feature for you. Oasis Beauty is the favourite this month – read on to find out why!

Oasis Beauty is based in beautiful Oxford in Canterbury, with all of their products made locally in Christchurch. Natural and organic ingredients are used throughout their range. They specialise in sun care and skin repair for sensitive skin, don’t test on animals, and will even send free samples with every order made directly from their website!

Their commitment to animals doesn’t stop at being cruelty-free. They are supporters of numerous charities including World Animal Protection and SAFE, and their Oasis Retreat, located nearby their HQ, provides a safe haven for rescued and re-homed furry friends.

oasis-sun-50ml-tube-web_1024x1024_00240f0e-d413-4573-87df-dab48243b337_1024x1024You’ll find amazing moisturisers, cleansers, and makeup among the Oasis range, but the product that sold me is their sunscreen. As an individual with (very) pale and mole-y skin, sun protection is pretty vital. Add to that my skin’s tendency to be sensitive, irritable and prone to acne… Finding a decent sunscreen has been a bit of a mission! The Oasis range has been a huge relief for me, and just in time for the harsh New Zealand summer! I’m very grateful to finally have reliable and effective sun protection, all from a generous local company!

Oasis Beauty get a big thumbs up from us, so why not try it for yourselves? Shop online or at any of their retailers across New Zealand, and find them on Facebook!

P.S. Check out the video on their About page for some bonus info on their smart postal packaging!


images via oasisbeauty.com

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.

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

WE’AR Yoga

logowearWe are always on the lookout for ethical and eco-conscious fashion, and WE’AR is quickly making its way to the top of our favourites list! WE’AR is a New Zealand owned company, and their clothes are manufactured in Bali in small home workshops and factories. Their products are made from responsibly sourced organic cotton* and bamboo. They place a lot of importance on conscious living and conscious consumerism, and their extensively developed social profit, environmental and ethical policies are all available online. WE’AR is a living wage employer, and supports Yoga Education In Prisons Trust among other community and charity initiatives. They are an ideal model of a business taking their responsibility to the planet and to people very seriously. All of that makes them pretty darn good in our books!

A few weeks ago I got my hands on a pair of their New Romantic leggings, and I am very much enjoying them. It almost goes without saying, but they are beyond comfy. I’ve had an old back injury playing up recently, so have been doing a more-than-usual amount of lounging around with my hot water bottle stuffed down the back of my pants. My New Romantics have been the go-to comfort pants of choice. The high and wide waistband isn’t just for holding that hottie in – when I’m actually doing my yoga workouts it keeps the leggings from moving about or rolling down. Nothing more annoying than having to adjust clothing when you’re zoning out into your yoga zen – you won’t have that problem with these!

The bird pattern on the waist and the ankle cuffs is gorgeous, and the lower leg rouching is a great touch. The waist and ankles can both be folded up or down, so you can wear them however you like! These leggings come in a few different colour options, I’ve got them in the grey/orange but I’m eyeing up the navy ones too…Maybe the black….

Also, it’s not just yoga clothes! WE’AR have a huge range of fashion clothing, along with accessories, shoes and some BEAUTIFUL yoga mats which are naturally sourced, non-toxic and biodegradable.

See more good stuff from WE’AR on their Facebook or Instagram.


* all of their colour ways except grey marl are made from 90% organic cotton

images via facebook.com/wearyoga
more about ethical/eco fashion from our blog here and here

Fiji Spice Queen

Meet Francesca Brice. Successful business woman, entrepreneur, parent, perfumer, frisky bohemian, lover of adventure, travel and all that life has to offer. And if it’s not offered…she’ll go looking. Born in Wellington, Francesca lived out a cheeky childhood. At the age of 20, she did the OE thing and found herself in Greece which is where her adventures into perfume began. Now she is back in New Zealand, but never one to sit still for long, she travels extensively, immersing herself deeply in the countries and cultures she experiences. This lady has stories to tell…that’s for sure!!

So, here are a few gems; some insights into the colourful life and times of Francesca Brice and her newest brand Fiji Spice Queen. I love the way she writes so whilst I came up with the questions, the answers are all her own words.

Fiji Spice Queen HandsWhen was your first visit to Fiji and what was it in particular that inspired you to create the spice queen..??

The first real visit to Fiji came in about 2002 when I was on holiday there with Kate, my business partner in Pacific Perfumes. Those of you who have a self made business will understand it always travels on your shoulder, especially at the beginning. Strolling through Nadi we decided to check out the possibility of selling our Perfumes there and bingo! We ended up in the executive boardroom of a large corporate tourist retailer there. Wearing holiday gear and with a handful of testers and a couple of restless kids in tow we clinched a deal to supply a few starter packs of solid perfumes to them.

Years later and with friendships under my belt, another major retailer friend suggested I create some skincare in Fiji and my enthusiasm was ignited. Borders have never inhibited me. Of course, I could never have done it without my wonderful friend and Co-Founder of the Fiji Spice Queen, Linley Ramsay, who brings a whole lot of talents to the mix. We started school together and when I was looking for a partner and asked her, she was right in there. Just like we did as kids. The playing field is different but our energy is the same. We really balance and support each other out through the challenges, the highs and random balls that get thrown at us.

Fiji Spoice Queen Where your world meets paradiseWhats the story behind the name of this brand….??

As a perfumer for my other company, Pacific Perfumes I interact with a blog called CafleureBon, a perfume and beauty blog featuring perfume reviews, beauty news, perfumer interviews, etc. The Editor in Chief, Michelyn Camen who is an amazing woman, suggested that I create a perfume called Fiji Spice Queen. I immediately fell in love with the name but couldn’t feel the essence of how a perfume would unfold, how to do justice to such a powerful name. It excited me enough to hang around in my head so when the concept of a skincare range was born it was clear that the Fiji Spice Queen was a title that could take on a skincare range, a Legend and more. I’m forever grateful to Michelyn for the gift of her creativity.

You’re experienced at this….!! You know there are heaps of beauty brands out there. How is the spice queen different and how do you keep coming up with new and exciting things for her to be..??

Fiji Spice Queen is Fiji’s first Certified Cruelty Free skincare company and we are setting a real point of difference there in Fiji. We want to educate people about this. It means people connecting more with animals and realising that they deserve to be treated with respect. There’s a long way to go everywhere with this and especially in Fiji as people have not had the educational opportunities about animals that we have here in New Zealand. There are some terrific people on the ground there working for animals. Let’s give a shout out to animalsfiji.org.

We also have a vision to collaborate with other companies in Fiji to produce more of the natural raw ingredients that we use in our skincare, which currently we must import. We’re working on this. Our skincare is top notch – we worked with Dr Wendy Maddocks, (a whizz in the lab) here in New Zealand to produce formulas which are truly nourishing and rich with goodness and we didn’t compromise on this. We harness the goodness of pure organic Coconut oil, Dilo oil (a true healer) and Noni and we use Fair Trade raw sugar in our Scrubs.

Finally, as a company we’d like to be a forerunner with sustainable environmental practises and how we share the economy, collaborating with community partners on issues such as waste education, getting into schools and instigating projects with kids. We’d like to become an influencer for other local start-ups in Fiji, with a special focus on gender equality issues.

You travel a lot – obviously Fiji has been a huge inspo for you after Greece. Are there any other places close to your heart, and why/how have they left such a lasting impression..??

I have always loved India as a place to travel. It’s so wild and uncontrolled in many ways. It appeals to my emotional, spiritual side where the fact that animals wander the streets, cows, camels, monkeys and even elephants is a world I like. It’s chaotic but I find peace there. I have to also mention Japan where Zen Temples, Harajuku Bridge, Snow Monkeys, Hokusai and Horseback Archery have all contributed to my rich travelling experiences…and meeting the Tokyo designer who created the Issey Miyake catalogue for his Pleats Show. Inspirational.…

I like to feel that my identity is fluid when I travel. It can shift from who you were before you traveled, who you are in the present (surrounded by difference) and where you are being led to in the future. It’s freedom from convention in many ways. After leaving Greece I realised that a part of the attraction of living in a different culture was the fact that I was apart from it. Being a “Xeni’ or ‘foreigner’ as I was called then gave me much more leverage to do things differently and a logical explanation/reason in other peoples (Greek) minds for it 🙂

Francesca Fiji Spice QueenIf you could teach us a lesson about business, what would it be..??

Push past the ‘Idea’ as a word and make it a reality. With attention and focus you can make it happen. When I need some encouragement I look up at my wall and read my favourite quote which for me, says it all:

‘Whatever you can do or dream you can do, Begin it! Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!’

Are you still in love with Elvis..?? Fave song..??

Sadly Elvis and I have parted 🙂 Fave enduring song and one I want at my funeral is Imagine by John Lennon. I love the remix version of this by Herbie Hancock featuring Pink, Seal, India Arie, Jeff beck, Oumou Sangare and Kokono No.1.

Thanks so much Francesca. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your answers and finding out more about you and the Spice Queen…I’m listening to Herbie’s version of Imagine as I write this – very cool. You’re an inspirational lady and I’m excited to be part of the Fiji Spice Queen’s journey.

To find out more about Fiji Spice Queen and shop their range visit their Green Elephant Store.


Words and images provided by Gillian at Green Elephant. Read more from Gillian on their blog.

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

Easy Vegan Choc Chip Cookies!

Since giving up dairy earlier this year, I have been missing some of my favourite baked sweet treats. I wanted to give dairy and egg-free baking a go but really had no idea where to begin, so started with a trusty Google search and took it from there. Chocolate chip cookies are a classic and I figured it would be pretty easy to do them vegan. I tried lots of different recipes to varied amounts of success, but this one from Domineke on Instructables became my fave and I just made a few of my own tweaks. After many batches of cookies and some serious taste testing, I’ve finally come up with my best cookies yet – and it would be selfish not to share! This recipe will make about 12-15 cookies, depending on how big you like them.

Before you start – You want your oven preheated to 180 degrees. I prepare my cookie tray first so that it’s all ready to go when the dough is done. You’ll see in my photos that I use baking paper on my tray, this isn’t required, but I live with meat-eaters and I got no idea what’s been made on that tray. Safety first.

IngredientsIMG_0324

  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate/vegan choc chips (I use Sun Valley)
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1.5 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk (can be any non-dairy milk, I just like the added flavour)

Equipment:IMG_0326

  • large bowl
  • medium sized bowl
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • silicon spatula (or whisk, or any other preferred mixing device)
  • cookie tray

 

Step One – Dry Ingredients

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Your flour, baking powder and salt all go together in your large bowl. Mix ’em together, leaving a well in middle, and set aside.

 

 

Step Two – Wet Ingredients (and sugar)

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In your medium bowl, mix in your sugar, oil, vanilla essence and almond milk.

 

 

Step Three – Combine Ingredients

IMG_0329

IMG_0330Pour wet ingredients into the well in the middle of your dry mix. Fold together with your spatula until everything is just nice and blended in. Add your chocolate chips and fold them through.

**Taste test the dough. Not essential to the recipe, it just tastes real good.**

Step Four – Get ‘Em in the Oven!

IMG_0331Spoon your dough onto your tray in tablespoon sized scoops. I flatten mine with a fork before putting them in to bake, is this a thing other people do? I used to watch my mum do it when I was little and I always do it to my cookies! Bake for around 12 minutes, but this may be different depending on your oven.

 

You will know they are ready to come out when the tops start to lightly brown. As mentioned in the original recipe, these WILL seem a bit too soft when you first take them out. They toughen up a lot as they cool down.


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Fresh from the oven ❤

These cookies have proven to be a hit with everyone, not just vegans! I’ve made a few batches for friends and workmates and they’ve been very well received. I especially love not telling people that they’re dairy-free, at least until after they’ve tried one, because you really can’t tell the difference. Next time you have an occasion that requires home-baking be sure to give these a try, and let us know what you think of them!

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The finished product!

– Blick

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


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