Our low waste adventure

Our biggest success story as a family this year has been our waste reduction (or production?). As a family of four, we now only empty our kitchen and bathroom bins of general waste once a week, and we rarely hit more than 12L. That’s only 10% of our waste bin, which used to be pretty damn full each week.

We are in no way zero waste, or perfect at this, but we are trying. The biggest game changers have been our Bokashi bin, Eka opening up and the online shop Flora & Fauna. I would love to give you an idea of what we’ve done to show how easy it is. It’s all about thinking before purchasing, and just changing a few habits.

Kitchen

A while back, we realised that most of our waste was food waste. We now have 2 bokashi bins on rotation, and the contents get buried at the back of the garden. I meal plan and shop once a week, which reduces the agonising chore that is shopping, and means less waste, as I only buy what we need. Mostly.

For a while I folded my own newspaper bin liners, but then I discovered that we don’t really need bin liners as there’s nothing gross going into the bins! I just wash the bins out now and again.

I wash and reuse our ziplock bags so I haven’t had to buy any new ones for ages. We also have reusable sandwich wraps. I refuse to use any more gladwrap, and I now use Agreena silicon wrap and beeswax wraps. If I really need something disposable for a school baking fundraiser or something, then I use aluminium foil, and I’ve managed to buy already recycled foil. The kiddies have lunchboxes with lots of compartments, so they don’t need any plastic. I do my best to bake for them, and buy things in bulk to avoid the plastic, but it’s so hard. There’s so much tempting convenient lunchbox food out there.

Detergent, and other cleaners, are refillable at Eka.

To replace disposable washing up cloths and sponges, I use washable cloths. I just bought them at the supermarket and they’ve been going strong for AGES. I also recently bought Safix scrub pads which are biodegradable, so will throw them in the compost when they’re wearing out.

All our unavoidable soft plastic waste goes in a separate bin and we hand deliver it to the special bins in the supermarket.

Bathroom

I have switched to ‘No Pongdeodorant that comes in an all-metal container. So, it is easily recyclable, but also the tins are super cute… so I keep them for storing little things in.

Only wooden toothbrushes now! They can be buried in the garden.

I use a combination of shampoo soap that comes in a cardboard box, as well as Luv Luvo liquid shampoo, which comes in a plastic pump, but is refillable at their shop. I also refill my hand wash plastic pump bottles there.

For my period, I use a combination of Tsuno pads and tampons which are biodegradable, and Hannahpad fabric pads. After having cloth nappies for a long time, washing pads is totally fine.

Unavoidable bathroom packaging goes into the Terracycle program that I’ve co-ordinated at our local kinder.

Laundry

We now use soap nuts for washing clothes that come with no plastic packaging. It pays to check though… the first lot I ordered came in a plastic bag!! I still use normal washing liquid for super dirty clothes, but I can refill that at Eka.

Out and about

I use reusable veggie bags for the shopping. These are so great because you can wash your veggies in them too and just pop them straight into the fridge.

My tea and coffee cup of choice is Frank Green, because they actually seal and I feel much safer around the children with them, especially at the park. If I want a coffee to stay extra hot for a long time (ie. long drives) I use my Cheeki cup.

We’re yet to take them out, but I own stainless steel straws that we use when the kids request one for tea parties at home.

I think one of the hardest thing about our low waste adventure is the cost. The eco-friendly way is often not the cheapest way. But it reassuring knowing that we are leading by example for the kiddies, because it’s their future.

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A Gruffalo Birthday Party

Oh dear… long time no post. Life sneaks up and gets in the way a lot. Oh well.

We had a fantastic Gruffalo party for Mr. A’s 4th birthday!

In the past I’ve always gone a bit crazy on the activities, but this year, I just planned one. And it was excellent. I pre-prepped a massive load of brown play dough. I looked at a lot of recipes online, and conferred with the kinder teacher experts and I made 3 batches of this cocoa play dough recipe, for the perfect gruffalo colour:

  • 4 cups of plain flour
  • 2 cup salt
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 4 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 4 tbsp of any oil

Mix these ingredients together, then add 4 cups of boiling water. Stir it in, and when it’s cool enough, give it a good knead.

I also pre-packed a named, small box with purple spikes, goggly eyes and beads. During the party, the kids could help themselves to the pile of playdough and create their own gruffalo! I then packed the completed gruffalos back into the boxes and put them in their party bags to take home. Along with some colouring in pictures and a box of smarties.

We also pre-made a Gruffalo cave. This seriously kept the kids entertained for a full day before the party. Painting, drawing, sticking… the works.

The party food was inspired by the picture book: roasted fox, poisonous warts, gruffalo crumble, scrambled snake, and owl icecream. The cake was inspired by the good ol’ women’s weekly cake book. And hot dogs. Because they were on request from the birthday boy.

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Things I have learnt from having lots of at-home parties:

  • You can never have enough fruit platters
  • Count on every child having an adult and a sibling when calculating lunch
  • Set up a DIY coffee/tea station for the adults
  • Plan 1 activity to entertain… then just let them run wild
  • Have some bubbles/beer ready to go for cake time, because by then, you’ll need it!

Egg carton crafts

As the weather starts to turn, we look for more indoor crafts, and my munchkins were given this amazing book from Ann for Christmas.


And it is exactly what it says!! It has a really good range from simple ones that only use a couple of ‘cups’, up to creations using multiple cartons. 


Snake! Meticulously coloured-in by the colouring queen!

There was a lot of sticky tape used on this one, but my cutting skills just weren’t accurate enough for glue. I really like this guy – something about his eyes…

Lucky we eat a lot of eggs!

Squid obsessions

Isn’t it funny what children become obsessed with. One trip to the South Australian museum, and they were hooked on squids! (For those of you who don’t know, there’s a life-size giant squid built into a lift shaft in the museum). The kiddies went with Grandma and Grandpa, and then a few days later, had to take Mummy and Daddy on a tour. Complete running commentary and excitement as we made our way up the 4 flights of stairs.

And these are some of our follow ups:

Toilet roll and wool squids

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Paper cup squids

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And millions of drawings (here are my two faves)

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As well as our craft activities, we hit the library and checked out a number of non-fiction books to look at the pictures. And watched a few youtube videos too.

And it all culminated in this:

The Giant Squid Cafe and Restaurant!

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Fairy Garden

A pic of our fairy garden! Just another excuse to get the kids’ hands dirty in the garden!

 

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I made the door and window out of scraps of wood. The washing line is fabric scraps. The kiddies then chose random things from our garden and shed to finish it off. Always a work in progress…

It’s also a great place to put things that the children have collected on their adventures. After reading ‘Penguin and Pinecone‘ (such a sweet book!), we found a closed pinecone that we’ve left in the fairy garden. We discussed how trees use pinecones to spread and release their seeds, and now the kiddies regularly check back to see how much it has opened up.

Garden exploration

Two of my uni subjects crossed over quite nicely last semester, Primary Science and Health and Wellbeing. Both involved getting out and about outside to enhance student’s connection with the world around them. For my assignments, I did a number of teaching activities that involved my kiddies and their friends, incorporating literature with outdoor activities for Prep-aged children.

Amazingly, a lot of the things we did have stuck – which is really satisfying for me! Bug collection has become a big one in our family, and probably the highlight has been finding praying mantises. I really feel that it’s helping my two with their fear of creepy crawlies. Making collections is another, and we now have a permanent “nest” by the front door where all our goodies are deposited.

There’s nothing like being outdoors, and the kiddies just seemed to get so absorbed in whatever they do, whether that be sweeping leaves, digging to China, extracting toys from blocks of ice or looking for birds through their toilet roll binoculars.

Recently we made bird feeders from old cartons. I cut out the windows, and my two decorated them with stickers. We hunted around the garden for appropriate sticks, filled them with seed and hung them in the trees. Applying the stickers, cutting the string, and spooning the seed were all fantastic fine motor skill activities. We also discussed recycling and repurposing, as well as what birds like to eat.

img_0446img_0450img_0452img_0453There’s something lovely about having an addition to our garden routine. As well as checking on the worm farm, looking for vegies, inspecting the fairy garden, and watering, we can now also check bird seed levels!

Kiddie Cooking

My two love getting their hands dirty in the kitchen. To be honest, also their faces, arms and feet. When it gets to witching hour, it’s nice to have some little treats which they can cook, which ultimately leads to them eating their dinner! If they are involved, they eat.

I really try to do my very best to let them do as much as possible. It is very tempting to do the pastry cutting and lifting by yourself, but it is so beneficial for them to learn how to manipulate the world around them. Plus, the kitchen gives us so many opportunities for safe risk-taking, such as supervised knife use. And watching them break eggs for baking is downright hilarious.

These are a few new things that we’ve been making recently:

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Parmesan puff pastry stars – I think this was an idea from a Coles magazine. The kids cut out the pastry stars and sprinkle them with parmesan. A quick bake in the oven just before serving, and voila! Despite this delicious soup being the infamous green colour, it still got eaten. Amazing what a delicious dipping star can do.

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Dino dippers – Another soup one. I bought these dino sandwich cutters from Officeworks, but I’ve also seen them at Spotlight. Cut, a little bit of butter, a few minutes in the hot oven, and soup will be demolished.

We have also done a few sushi shapes with great molds from Daiso. Sushi rice is fun to manipulate, but be prepared for sticky rice to be everywhere!!!

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Rainbow pizzas – Another Coles mag idea. These were such a hit… and it meant we finally moved off ham and pineapple pizzas! We had red tomatoes, orange carrot, yellow corn, green broccoli, and ‘purple’ beetroot. Admittedly, not the tastiest pizza I’ve made, but these are the things we do for our children.

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Podding broad beans – fine motor skills, and deep concentration. Say no more.

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Wrapped pies – these are a great way to use up leftover casserole or pasta sauce, as they are easier if the filling in cold. Cut a piece of puff pastry into 4, place in muffin trays, fill, then ‘wrap’ the contents to close. They would probably look a bit prettier with an egg wash, but I was out of eggs that day.

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Chocolate spiders – yes, these are treats! I remember making these as a little one. Melt dark chocolate and some peanut butter together, and mix in crunchy noodles. Sprinkles make good eyes.

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Chocolate Coated Ritz – (one more treat!) I found this recipe in ‘4 Ingredients kids’ (Kim McCosker). Sandwich two jatz/ritz/savoys together with peanut butter, and dip in melted dark chocolate. Set in the fridge for half an hour or so. These two loved doing the spreading in particular. I realised that they hardly ever have the opportunity to use a knife, so it was very interesting to watch them do their best!

I find my two really relate well to stories about their food. They are so much more likely to eat it if they know that something used to be their favourite food when they were babies, or food that we ate all the time in China.

What have you made recently with your children?