2 November 2013
By: Laura Trotta (BEng(Environmental), MSc(Environmental Chemistry))
The Environment is certainly THE issue of our generation and more and more people are jumping on the eco bandwagon to do their thing to help, or "save" it. Which is awesome. It really is.
If you're reading this post, chances are you've jumped on the eco bandwagon and for that I applaude you. You're probably trying to convince others to get on board too and why not? There's room for everyone!
But have you ever thought about what drives you to be green? What was THE thing or moment that switched on your LED light globe? What is your ECO FORCE?
Occasionally I get asked why eco is my thing. To be honest, I can't really pinpoint when or why it became my life purpose. It has just always been there. It was there as a young girl when I told my father's friends not to throw their cigarette butts overboard when we were out fishing. I remember being ridiculed and called a greenie by these big burly men, but I didn't mind. I was ok with standing up for what I believed in and even way back then I realised that the average person wasn't always aware of the impact they were having on our environment.
Fast track 25 years with a couple of environmental degrees under my belt, a rewarding career working as an environmental engineer and now a young family and eco business to focus on, I have a bit more clarity around what drives me to be green. Here are the components of my ECO FORCE.
Do any of them resonate with you?
I love the freedom of being green. I don't need to (and I don't) buy anything from the baby aisle in the supermarket (and I still have a baby). I don't even need to buy menstrual products (and I still get my you. know. what. each. month.). In fact, if the shops all shut tomorrow and we were all told to stay in our own homes for a week, I'd feel confident my family would have enough food from basics in the pantry, vegies from the garden and eggs from our chooks to make it through. We wouldn't live like royalty, but we'd be ok for a short while. In short, being green gives us the freedom not to rely on society too much and that feeling is liberating.
Those of you who have known me for a while know I like to make stuff from scratch. Especially in the kitchen. The sense of pride I get from cooking meals, preserves and other foods from raw ingredients is undescribable. And heady! The same feeling can also come from sewing, quilting, gardening, mending, upcyling and all these awesome other green activities.
I have never taken more notice of the responsibility I have to live green as much as I do today. As a mother of two young boys I am acutely aware that I have a direct influence on how they will end up leading their lives when they are grown men. This influence is something I take seriously and it's good to see that most parents do too.
Going green is one of the best ways to lead a healthier life. Whether it's eating organic, walking more, slapping less stuff on your skin or ditching your bleach for an eco-friendly cleaner, living greener has huge benefits for your health. I rarely catch a cold or get sick and am so grateful for my good health as I'm a mum and mum's can't afford to get sick.
Consumerism has alot to answer for and is one of the reasons we are all just oh so busy these days. It's the "must keep up with everyone" that just leads to people's homes being full of stuff. Who wants to spend their weekends fighting the crowds in large shopping centres, sorting through crap, turfing stuff out, putting things away, cleaning all the extra belongings in their home? I don't. I'm having too much fun cooking and playing with my kids.
While frugality and sustainability are different drivers to a similar end result, it goes without saying that living greener can save you bucketloads. Living more sustainably can also often help delay the return of the primary caregiver to the workforce, if this is something they choose to do, which takes me right back to my first point and my eco force, FREEDOM.
Living sustainably gave my family the freedom for me to step out of my environmental engineering career and start this little eco biz while caring for my babies, and for that, I am eternally grateful. x
So what is your ECO FORCE? I would absolutely love for you to share with me below. :-)
About the Author: Laura Trotta is an environmental engineer, eco mum and founder of Sustainababy. She is passionate about helping parents lead a more sustainable lifestyle. Laura lives in regional South Australia with her husband and two young sons.
10 October 2013
By: Laura Trotta
I've been thinking about today for months.
Ever since my friend Leah invited me to her Thermomix demonstration earlier this year not a day has passed without me dreaming of this machine. As a self-confessed foodie and keen "make it from scratch" home chef, I really had to stop myself from drooling when I first saw the Thermomix in action.
Short of stacking and unstacking your dishwasher, this baby claims to do just about anything in the kitchen. It can chop, beat, mix, whip, grind, knead, mince, grate, juice, blend, heat, stir, steam and weigh food and will even wash itself when done.
The catch is the price. It is a slightly-scary $1939. Yup. That's why I've been thinking about it for months and only after going to several demos, and having my own recently where I really grilled the demonstrator, did I take the plunge.
You see, my youngest son is wheat intolerant and I'm a bit over paying $6.50 for a small loaf of gluten free bread that if left on the bench, will stay "fresh" for days. Our family also slurps down over 5 kilos of yoghurt a week and while I buy this in bulk containers, I'd really like to make my own. Based on yoghurt and bread making alone, I figured I'd save enough cash to pay off the Thermomix in no time.
Which leads me to today.
I was like a little girl at Christmas time. I couldn't get the machine out of the box fast enough. After carefully washing each component and skimming over the instruction booklet, I put it into action as fast as I could and made my first loaf of gluten free bread. Oh, and a batch of chocolate almond cupcakes for good measure!
I decided to share my first impressions of the machine with you today, as you'll no doubt hear me ramble on about it in future posts.
- All the things it can do.
- The ability to make food from scratch in a fraction of the time compared to conventional methods.
- Without a doubt, cost. The upfront cost is a big deterrent but if used regularly it appears it can be saved back pretty quickly.
- Noise. I milled my own rice flour and almond meal today and the noise was too loud for me and had Mr 16 months in major tears. I will need to re-think how and when I do my milling and grinding. Ear protection will be a must!
On the whole I was thrilled with my first two dishes and the rest of the family lapped them up in no time. I truly can't wait to further experiment with my new toy.
Do you own a Thermomix? I'd love to hear what you think of the machine and your favourite dishes. Feel free to share below.
Please note: All opinions in this article are that of the author. No payment was received by Thermomix for this article.
About the Author: Laura Trotta is an environmental engineer, eco mum and founder of Sustainababy. She is passionate about organic gardening and clean eating and ensuring her family eat a healthy and varied diet free from preservatives. Laura lives in regional South Australia with her husband and two young sons.
20 March 2013
By: Tim Ellis
Essential oils are becoming more popular as people discover their range of uses. One of the most popular essential oils, eucalyptus, has natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, and is a versatile oil for treating a wide range of ailments. The five most popular uses are listed below.
Inhaling eucalyptus can help with respiratory problems caused by the common cold, bronchitis, or sinusitis. Add a few drops to about two cups of boiling water and inhale. The steam will help open the air passages making way for the oil to deliver its antiseptic properties into your lungs.
Another way to use this oil is to mix it with a carrier oil such as olive oil, and rub it onto your chest and back. Breathing in the eucalyptus vapours will also help relieve congestion, ease coughing and reduce inflammation.
Eucalyptus is reported to help some patients with asthma, but trigger an attack in others. If you have asthma, you should be cautious if considering the use of eucalyptus oil.
Joint and Muscle Pain
Eucalyptus essential oil has anti-inflammatory properties that help ease muscle and joint pain. You can rub the oil directly onto painful areas, or mix with a body massage oil or another oil. The eucalyptus will help to reduce pain, inflammation and stiffness associated with arthritis or over-used muscles. It is especially beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis, muscle sprains and general body aches.
Eucalyptus is a natural alternative to commercial insect repellents. You can use eucalyptus mixed with body massage oil, or mix a few drops into your favorite lotion. Often, people worry about the chemicals in commercial insect repellents, and this alternative protects you from mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. You can also mix a few drops into water and spray on your cat or dog to keep them flea and disease free.
Wounds and Burns
Using eucalyptus oil has a wide range of uses for wound care. Used on cuts and bruises, it promotes healing and reduces the risk of infection. It is also useful for burns and aids the healing process while its antibacterial properties keep the area free of infection. Other uses include healing ulcers, and getting relief from bug bites and insect stings.
The eucalyptus oil should be applied directly to the affected area. If necessary, dilute it in a carrier oil such as grape seed oil or olive oil.
Eucalyptus is known to invigorate the senses. When used as aromatherapy, it can reduce mental fatigue. It is said to have a cooling property, which aids in the treatment of depression and other mental disorders. Simply place some essential oil on a cloth or cotton bud and smell. Other ways to make use of this mental wake-up oil is to add a few drops to boiling water and let the smell infuse the room.
When using eucalyptus essential oil, it is important to be cautious. Do not ingest essential oils. If used in large quantities, there is a chance of a toxic reaction. Eucalyptus is considered a safe option for the treatment of a wide range of ailments, and can make a great alternative for chemical laden products. If you are ever unsure about the use of eucalyptus essential oil, you should consult your doctor or a knowledgeable homoeopathic medical professional.
About the Author: Tim Ellis is a director at Bulk Apothecary and has over nine years of experience in natural healing remedies. He is consistently researching natural healing techniques with essential oils, aromatherapy and spices. Tim loves the outdoors, yoga, exercising and writing. When he's not playing in the outdoors he stays busy with his two children and beautiful wife.
2 August 2012
Research has shown that fathers are a significant factor in breastfeeding success. Here Tanya, who is breastfeeding her toddler Billy with the full support of husband Andy, shares how dads can best support their partner to establish and continue breastfeeding.
Tanya breastfeeding son Billy with support from husband Andy. Photography by Viva Photography, Fremantle WA.
An important message to all new (and not so new) fathers out there – you are extremely important! Of course your partner is more qualified to tell you this than I am. I am simply here to talk about one of the ways that you can apply your influence as a father to help your partner, your environment, your wallet and help to give your children the best possible start in life.
I am talking about breastfeeding. True, you don’t have the necessary equipment to breastfeed a baby yourself, but there are many ways in which you can help.
The physical and emotional benefits of breastfeeding to both mum and bub are well documented so I won’t go into them here. The environmental benefits of breastfeeding as opposed to using artificial baby milks are also significant; breastfeeding requires no packaging, no fossil fuels for transport, no plastic bottles, no chemicals or power for sterilising and no water to make up feeds. It is also cheap, portable and in most cases easy once both mother and baby get the hang of things.
This last point holds the key to your involvement. Breastfeeding isn’t always easy at first. Numerous Australian and international studies have shown that partner support is a significant factor in breastfeeding initiation rates (Dennis 2002; Scott et at 2001) and duration (Rampel & Rampel 2004).
So how can you help?
Learn about breastfeeding - how it works and why it is important. Your conviction in the importance of breastfeeding, along with her own, will encourage your partner to start breastfeeding and persist through any tough patches.
Get involved in caring your baby – Some fathers worry that they won’t be able to bond with their baby if they can’t help feed them. But dads bond in so many other ways for example by bathing, changing nappies, cuddling or babywearing. And dads play very differently to mums too, so just by spending time playing with your bub you are giving them a special gift that no-one else can! Maybe you can feed your bub some expressed breastmilk occasionally, but if not you can look forward all the more to introducing solids at around six months.
Lighten her load - many new mums feel they don’t have time to do anything but sit and feed their baby, so it can be stressful if other jobs keep piling up. Remember that feeding is her most important job at the moment, so you can help by doing more than usual around the house, with the baby or with older children.
Help her relax – this will help to make her milk let down more quickly, making feeding easier for both mother and baby. Maybe you can help out more around the house, bring her a glass of water, a shoulder massage or just sit and talk to her if this is what she needs most.
Get help - if your partner has concerns or problems with breastfeeding at any time, encourage her to seek help. This is not an admission of weakness. She or you could speak to another experienced breastfeeding mother, a medical professional or an Australian Breastfeeding Association Breastfeeding Counsellor.
On a personal note, I am lucky enough to have an extremely supportive husband who has always been 100% supportive of our breastfeeding journey. Our son Billy was exclusively breastfed for six months, but there were no problems with bonding between father and son. They both love their ‘Daddy play’ time, including playing cricket in the lounge room since before Billy was one. My husband is as strong an advocate of breastfeeding as I am, and I am confident of his ongoing support to breastfeed Billy (currently 18 months) until he and I are ready to wean.
About the Author
Tanya Fyfe is an eco mum and environmental engineer and lives in the WA Goldfields with her husband Andy and son Billy. The family's aim is to live sustainably and for Billy to grow up understanding where food comes from and how it is produced. They generate solar electricity and have an organic vegetable garden and modest orchard irrigated entirely with grey water.
Dennis CL 2002, Breastfeeding initiation and duration: a 1990-2000 literature review, J Obstet Gynecol Neonata Nurs 31(1): 12-32.
Rampel LA, Rampel JK 2004, Partner influence on health behaviour decision-making: Increasing breastfeeding duration, J Soc Pers Relationships 21(1):92-111.
Scott JA, Landers MC, Hughes RM, Binns CW 2001, Factors associated with breastfeeding at discharge and duration of breastfeeding, J Pediatr Child Health 37(3): 254-261.
4 July 2012
By: Lisa Reid (BEng(Environmental))
They may be brightly coloured and entertaining but how toxic and environmentally unfriendly is your child’s toy collection?
Toys are everywhere in our home, which is not surprising given we have two children under the age of three. The toys are all shapes and sizes – cars, soft toys, blocks, musical instruments, balls, puzzles, boxes, dress-ups and art and crafts. While I know toys can help a child’s development in so many ways, I am concerned about the volume we have and the potential impacts on both the environment and our children.
During 2011, approximately $1.1 billion was generated in retail toy sales in Australia (source). This is an alarmingly high figure given our population at the time of 22.7 million (source), with 18.3% (or approximately 4.14 million) people under 14 years (source).
Over the years, children’s toys have evolved from being simple and hand-made from natural materials to being more complex and mass-produced from cheaper, oil-based plastics (source). This coupled with our ‘throw-away’ society has meant that many perfectly good toys now unnecessarily ended up in landfill, where they will remain for many years.
Most modern toys are made from plastic, of which oil, a non-renewable resource, is the main component. While plastic toys can be robust and long-lasting, some can also easily break and be difficult and expensive to repair, further contributing to the escalating amount of landfill waste.
Approximately 75% of the world’s toys are produced in China (source). Most toys sold in Australia are therefore imported and have travelled a significant distance to reach your home. Working conditions reportedly vary in these toy producing factories, a factor which should be considered when making your purchase.
A more serious concern associated with plastic toys is the chemicals additives used in manufacture which may be exposed to your baby or child during play. Of specific concern are toys containing phthalates (an additive in polyvinyl chloride (PVC)), Bisphenol A (BPA) and lead. The table below shows each chemical, its use, exposure route and potential health impact. It should be noted that the concentrations at which each of the following chemicals are considered toxic vary and are dependent on a number of factors, such as age and length of exposure.
Consider the following points when choosing toys for your children to help minimize the environmental and health impact of your purchase:
- Material – if purchasing new toys look for those made from a renewable, recycled or organic material such as those available at Sustainababy.
- Origin – consider where and how the toy was made and opt for locally made toys or those made under Fairtrade conditions.
- Longevity – consider the life of the toy in terms of age appropriateness and physical durability.
- Second hand – can the toy be bought second-hand?
- Reusablity - can the toy be passed on to family, friends or charities rather than throwing out.
- Alternatives – would a toy library membership (approximately $50 per year) be more suitable?
About the Author: Lisa Reid is an eco mum and environmental engineer and resides in Melbourne with her husband Tim and young children Jacob and Edith. Lisa is working to reduce her family's eco footprint by growing her own vegetables, using less chemicals and making her home energy efficient.