Kermit the Frog is on the money. “It’s not easy being green.” It’s challenging when you want to go the whole way. When you want to be so eco-friendly that trees come past and thank you. It’s also challenging, occasionally expensive and extremely educational and rewarding. It can also be a very difficult balancing game sometimes.
I’m a mum to 3 children under 4. We live in inner Melbourne next to a major freeway but we’re lucky enough to have a good sized house and enough garden space to truly play when we get the time. We have Jasper who is 4 in just under a month. He is a high octane boy with a LOT of curiosity and is definitely an out doors kid. Then there is Allegra. She will be 3 in December. She is definitely a tom-boy, getting out there and getting mucky with her big brother. At the moment she is all about attitude as only a 2 year old can be. Then there is Orik. He was our little home-birth baby and has been our all natural baby in so many ways. He’s nearly 1 which I am finding very hard to believe and he’s giving this walking gig a good go too. He’s a complete snuggle bug and has been my healing baby too. He’s the first child I’ve had where I haven’t been plagued with ante-natal and post natal depression.
Our green journey has been a gradual awakening. My husband, Martin, is mostly happy enough with what I decide if it’s financially viable. This isn’t his pet project, it’s mine and although he agrees with what I’m doing and is all for it, I don’t think he’d have gone down this path if not for me. I think it’s starting to become more personal for him now though. Me, well, I never wanted to be one of those hippies, urban or otherwise and was adept at turning a blind eye to non-vaccinators, organic eaters and non-chemical. I mean, the government won’t sell us poisons will they? But it’s been a slow process of realising that they may not sell us poisons but they will turn a blind eye to those that do and they will make it easy for companies to hoodwink us. Some of it is semantics, some is downright bullshit but I am slowly learning.
I think one of the first things we changed when we moved in to our house (I was 6 months pregnant with Jasper) was deciding to use cloth nappies. I did little research, bought some that looked pretty and were cheap and we went from there. Being lazy I immensely disliked the more frequent changes and the washing required and we soon converted to eco disposables which soon changed to non-eco disposables.
By this time I was using a natural SLS free shampoo and conditioner (Babyscent) and loving my super soft and silky hair. I was also drinking organic fair trade coffee. Allegra came along and due to rising expenses we tried cloth nappies again with somewhat more success. We love the range from Eenee and although microfibre is man made it does dry super quickly and it was one of the first times I had to sit down and make a conscious compromise. We try to use their cloth nappy range, occasionally with the pad inserts and we have their 100% compostable nappies on standby for back-up. We are using environmentally unfriendly disposables right at the moment though but every day the guilt eats me. I just can’t physically handle the washing at the moment with 2 kids in full-time nappies and 1 at night. If it wasn’t for exploding poo and the fact we are soon moving…
Using cloth nappies led to other green changes. We clean with vinegar and bicarb, use homemade washing powder, softener and my house and clothes smell fresh and lovely because of it. My bathroom is just about chemical free with natural toothpastes, eco toothbrushes, homemade hairspray and natural soaps and it’s the room I’m proudest of aside from my laundry. But it’s been a process to get there. It came down to the “I am using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth because my teeth hurt but every time I use it I worry about its ingredients. What do I do” kind of choice. Then there’s the “I’m using a so-called eco dishwashing liquid but just discovered SLES is an ingredient and I know it’s bad but I don’t have a replacement ready to go so what do I do”. This has now been replaced with Castile soap which works a treat and I KNOW it is safe.
And plastic! I was willing to allow plastic in my home because it’s just too expensive to do otherwise but since the Bisphenol A (BPA) disrobing and the untrustworthy Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) I have learned not to trust the government and there is way too much evidence for ME to be comfortable using BPA products, no matter what the FSANZ says. And if this plastic is bad then who’s to say the others are safe. We have decided to try to nearly completely de-plasticise our house. This has been a tough call in many ways as we had to throw out a LOT of toys and replace them. We scour 2nd hand shops, markets and eBay for wooden or metal toys. And we have found them a metal shopping trolley, wooden trains, my old dolls bed which my dad made for me 30-something years ago, metal cars, etc. It does mean that they outlast the 1-2 weeks lifespan of plastic toys though. There are some things we have allowed though. Duplo, dolls, and later on, Lego, Barbie (eek) and other such toys. Plastic, I know, and it makes me cringe, but I feel there are some things that are just necessary in childhood and I don’t want my kids to be the nerds at school who don’t have anything “cool”.
We’ve almost completely cleared out the pantry and storage container cupboard of plastic including original and vintage Tupperware which I got from my grandmother, (some contain BPA – 2nd last FAQ), other plastic containers, and other sundry plastics. Some are special but to me, not as special as the safety of my family. They went to my mum who was warned what contained BPA, and what she didn’t want she passed on to a friend of mine who was also subsequently warned. The other non-BPA plastic food storage containers (recycle code 5 etc) have also been passed on to a friend who is in the know so I know she is also safe. In their stead I have spent quite a bit and bought glass containers. They do have plastic lids but all are confirmed to be BPA-free. The lids aren’t heated either which reduces the amount of plastic toxins released to what I consider acceptable levels. My pantry is full of glass jars with stainless steel lids, home preserved pasta sauce and tomato puree and I am almost rid of the cans in there. I am constantly looking for ways to replace canned food with homemade and I’m nearly there. I even bought a vintage stovetop Fowlers Vacola preserver and jars and am as proud as punch of the 12 jars of pasta sauce gleaming redly back at me. I’ve also preserved nectarines, peaches, apple and in large amounts, tomatoes. I’ve also recently bought a canner which, when we move I will break out so I can safely can vegetables and legumes etc. It’s not safe to preserve these using the waterbath method. Only pressure canning will do.
Going green with our food has been the easiest part of our journey surprisingly. I am lucky enough to own a Thermomix which is pretty much every possible kitchen appliance rolled into 1 with a few other bits thrown in for good measure. Rarely a day goes past where I don’t cook with my Thermy. He (yes, in our house he is a member of the family) allows me to make my own of so many things. I make my own bread, butter, sauces, spreads and can cook delicious meals like Butter Chicken in about 30 minutes without using a jar of paste or sauce. It makes me feel good knowing I am also serving up nutritionally superior (it cooks at a much lower temperature which doesn’t destroy all the nutrients), low or no preservative food that tastes divine. I take no credit for my cooking skills either. I enjoy baking but I really hate cooking so Thermy is my lifesaver.
I still feel guilty not using certified organic all the time but at the moment we need work out how much we are saving on our food bills with bulk and raw buying and then we can consider organics. I do buy organic where I can – herbs and teas are a great place to start. It is a bit dearer than non-organic teabags from the supermarket but the extra taste is well worth it. We also live near a market where we go probably every 2 weeks and buy up dried fruits and nuts in cotton and calico bags so no plastic wrapping. Gladwrap and foil sit in my draw and grow dusty and I have some reusable tin liners which replace baking paper, and we also make our own yoghurt and ice-cream from scratch. And I make both with Thermy’s assistance now so I can reduce the carbon miles and packaging there too. Our local farmers market is a big deal for us too. It’s such an important family outing for us all. I also dry my own fruits, vegetables and I’ve even made beef jerky and yoghurt roll ups. Homemade fruit roll ups, home dried banana, apple, apricots, peas, the list really is endless as to what I can do. I’m so excited!
If I sit and look around my house I see so many things I still want to change. I’d love to wear organic and natural fibre clothing, avoiding cotton for its water-hungry properties, buy local produce only and keep our carbon miles low, reduce our rubbish low (this has improved but not enough for my liking), lower our power reliance and bills, get our veggie gardens going, fruit trees producing and so many other things. Many of these are earmarked as urgent jobs for once we’ve moved. It’s overwhelming and it’s constant. But, I’m learning that compromise is ok when you’re starting. I’m learning that it’s a step by step thing and that if you try to do it all at once it’s not sustainable to mind or wallet or lifestyle. I’ve learned that sometimes it is ok to fall off the wagon (like our current disposables phase) and that you need to forgive your lapses and sometimes necessary choices. I’ve also learned that there will be setbacks, like Sunday when I found that my deep freeze containing nearly 1/2 an organic lamb had been switched off and unplugged and the entire lot was off. Heartbreaking! However, the environment understands that in today’s society there is a LOT to change and that it’s not easy starting to be green and she is grateful for what you ARE doing to help.