Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

In common with many gardeners I am trying to do a little bit more each day to be more sustainable in my garden. My halo is definitely quite crooked and I still have a long way to go. But I am going.

The fact that I now reuse/recycle all of my toilet roll cores at home is now a cause of great pride for me. If you think that is a little pathetic, try holding on to all of yours for a month and see if they are a waste issue or not.

Then think of something to do with them that doesn’t involve them ending up in the waste or industrial recycling stream.

Happy seedings in toilet roll cores the worms will eventually eat.

Lately I’ve been retaining as much as I can that looks like it might be re-purposed in some way from the rubbish and recycling bin. As I’ve mentioned before, our local council is pretty responsible when it comes to waste management. We have three separate bins supplied for rubbish, recycling and and green waste (with the rubbish bin being significantly smaller than the others).

I’ve also been fortunate to see what happens to some of the material that goes into the recycling bin (as a result of tagging along with one of my daughters school trips), so I can rest easy that it is recycled…not quitely deposited in landfill when no one is looking.

The bin with the red lid is for rubbish, the large bin for recycling, the third bin that is not pictured is also a large one for garden waste to be recycled.

But it’s pretty common knowledge that industrial recycling takes energy and resources too, so anything kept out of the waste/recycling stream is a bonus.

Now, retaining ‘what looks like it might be useful’ brings me to my sore point.

It has highlighted for me that is still just too easy for me to throw things away  without thinking. Holding on the waste confronts me with the very real issues of how to store it, what to do with it and how very  much ‘stuff’ I have consumed without thinking. Did I mention how quickly it builds up?

'Green bags' have come under fire in Aus as having created an industry in themselves...but they are still a better way to go than single use bags - as long as you remember to take them shopping!

Hopefully being confronted in a very real sense with this waste will encourage me to think a bit more about what I buy and reduce a lot of the surplus packaging and needless junk that we bring into the house.

The other part of the issue is that it’s all very well to hang on to something that ‘looks like it might be useful’, but I better find a real use for it damn quick or we are going to end up buried in the stuff…which might be quite fitting when you think about it.

So far the uses I have found for salvageable waste are as follows:

Kitchen vegetable scraps – ‘wormery’ and compost.

Toilet roll cores – plantable seed raising tubes and compost addition (thanks again to Barbara in Mannaheim Germany for this one – influence from the other side of the world!) If you are a bit grossed out by the idea of planting seeds in toilet roll tubes, throw them slightly crumpled in the compost, they break down quickly and help add pockets of air. Or get over being grossed out :p

Unpainted cardboard – compost additions, mulch underlay/weedmat.

Yogurt tubs – seedling planters…but I’m only going to ever need so may of these if I reuse them as much as I can. Many will end up in the recyling bin.

Clear plastic packaging trays (from biscuits, berries etc) – seed raising trays (thanks to Helen at Summerhouse Art Blog for this idea). But again I’m only ever going to need so many…

Cotton clothing – pass on for re-use via opp shop if in fit state, compost if not. Worms love cotton!

Newspapers – mulch underlay, compost.

The things I can’t find enough reuses for, or can’t recycle on site include…plastic bottles (dishwashing and clothes washing liquid ones along with milk and soft drink)

Colourful brochures and papers that sneak past the ‘no advertising material’ sign on the letterbox via inserts in the local paper still add up and end up in the recycling.

Colour printed cardboard boxes. Are the dyes used on these really so bad that I can’t throw them in my compost?

Plastic wrappers. OK, so these don’t even look useful for a second go at anything. Reduction is the key here and  I need to confront my laziness in buying pre-packaged muesli bars for my daughter’s lunchbox.

So my challenge to you is to join in this gentle challenge with a serious purpose.

You can do this in three ways:

By offering a post with ideas of how you reuse or repurpose one or more household items that usually ends up in the waste stream or industrial recycling.

By offering a post with ideas for reducing the consumption that produces surplus waste. An example might be an easy recipe for me to use to make my own muesli bars or yougurt…saving on the mass produced packaging…which is petro-chemical in origin and worth pause for thought.

By offering a post where you set yourself a challenge to reduce repurpose or recycle at home one common waste item that you haven’t tackled to date.

My own challenge is to deal with the plastic bottles. The more I think about them the less I want so many of them in my life. I’ll update in a month to let you know where I’m at.

Contents and containers that need a second thought.

Although I had already started to draft this post before today, I offer it up with the fact it is World Enviroment Day tomorrow in mind. Reading the post ‘I Hate all of Us‘ by Benjamin at The Deep Middle moved me to finish it.

This  is my way of reaching out to the blogosphere to say every last one of us can take a step today, whether it is our first, or one of many. Have hope and take action.

Link your post back here if you would like to (copy post link into reply for now) whenever you would like to. Pass on the challenge in your own way.

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Comments on: "Help Me Reuse and Repurpose with Purpose." (26)

  1. We used to buy a row of individual pots of fruit yoghurt – he likes … I like … But a larger pack means less wasted packaging, so we now buy one litre pots of plain, sometime fruit, yoghurt. And those 1L pots are perfect, in size and depth for planting in. (but most have to go for recycling, even I can only plant so many!)

    And is the picture your laundry detergent etc? I use soap powder in a cardboard box. No fabric softener, if you wear cotton, you don’t need it. Fabric softener is to reduce the static in Plastic clothes, definitely not on cotton towels – makes them less absorbent. And to add that nauseating Plastic Aroma that wafts over, each time your neighbour does washing. Yuck!! And it does damage in the rivers and lakes when you discard the grey water. Enough reasons for you?

    (Sorry, rant over 😉

  2. Hi Diana – thanks for the ideas 🙂 I forgot to say that we use mainly the one litre tubs too.
    As for the washing liquid…my problem is that I have a front loading machine which, on the plus side saves water, but on the minus side can’t use powder (as far as I can work out so far) which is what I used when I had a top loader. It also seems to wear clothes out faster as it is not as gentle 😦

  3. I’m with you on recycling. It is vitally important to all of us and a few can really make a difference. Here we have a bin for these types of plastic bottles, in addition to cardboard, cans, and paper. I can’t think of much to do with them except maybe bird feeders (you only need so many). I use some of mine to hold limbs down on trees I want to train too but not many. Anyhow you have great ideas on repurposing!

    • Hi Tina. Hmm…I want to put in a couple of apple trees so I might hold on to some to use as weights. But it does seem that, like you say, there is only ever going to be a use for so many of these bottles. I think I might be in for researching an alternative bulk supply or home made mixture!

  4. Great blog! I love to repurpose items and will definitely do a post on it soon. We do make our own yogurt and bread and try to buy as little packing as we can. We also grow most of our own veggies and fruits and belong to a CSA for our meat and eggs. Any of the paper shipping stuffing material I use either for my craft worktable surface or put it under mulch in my flower garden area. Although we compost, we still have some recycling and a bit of trash.

    Anyway, thanks for the post and I plan to see what I can write about this topic real soon.

    • Hi Lynda and thanks for visiting 🙂
      I’ll have to visit your blog for a good look around – and to see if you have any yogurt recipies tucked away there! I’ll look forward to seeing your post on the topic as I’m seriously on the lookout for more ideas that I can adopt!

  5. Good for you on the recycling awareness. It is such a challenge, right down to the muesli wrappers. I am amazed at how many items are in our huge recycle bin (pickup is every two weeks) — so much! And we are only two people. The wine bottles add a lot of bulk, but really, the glass is reusable….

    • Hi Laurrie, we still tend to come close to filling our recycling bin too and I’m certainly happier to know It’s being recycled rather than dumped!
      I did see an idea for rustic path edging with wine bottles somewhere…but I’ve gone and forgotten where!

  6. Heidi, I had a similar response to Benjamin’s post, but couldn’t quite formulate what I wanted to say — that we are not helpless; that we can start at home and take responsibility for our own environmental impact — so thank you for expressing these ideas. It’s good to be reminded that ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ is intended to be a prioritized list of actions — the first course of action is to reduce; if you can’t reduce, then reuse; when you can’t reuse any more, recycle.

    • Hi Jean, I’m so happy you share that feeling. If we think it is too late, then it is and what hope is there for us?

      I keep reminding myself of the beautiful song by Paul Kelly and Kevin Carmody ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’. It is about a different subject – the struggle of the Gurindji people to win land rights – but it so wonderfully captures the idea that little steps can lead to big changes that I am almost always moved to tears when I hear it. I certainly think it applies here too!

  7. A very important post, Heidi. I am blessed with a husband who makes recycling a top priority. However, I believe we need to give more thought to ‘reusing’. As for reducing, we NEVER buy bottled water. I will be reading the responses to your post with interest. Thanks.

    • Hi Pam, I’m going to be challenged by some of the things I’ve hung on to with the idea of reusing them…so I am going to have to lift my game there myself!

  8. Great post, Heidi! It’s a message we all need to take seriously.

    Hubbie and I find it a lot easier to reduce and re-use now that the boys have left home!! We tend not to eat so many food products that are packaged with lots of plastic and we use far less power!!

    We have the energy efficient light bulbs, refrigerator, front loading washing machine and air-conditioners. By the way, my front loader uses powder … so I buy an enormous box of it at a wholesaler warehouse or one of those cheap discount warehouses.

    Like you … I use the green shopping bags every time I shop. I re-use plastic bottles for seeds. The ducks eat a lot of our food scraps … cardboard and newspaper is shredded to line the henhouse boxes … newspaper is also used in garden beds to suppress weeds.

    At my school, each classroom has a re-cycling bin as well as a rubbish bin. We have an enormous tin and glass re-cycling bin at the staff car park entrance. Our school also has tanks to collect rainwater … and every tap has one of those reduced flow heads.

    Once you start thinking seriously … there’s just so much you can do!

    • Hi Bernie,

      Is it ok if you share the name/brand of the powder? I would like to see if I can get my hands on it!
      I have also started to do a little research and have found a couple of recipes for home made washing powder that is supposed to be ok in front loaders, so I’m going to experiment with a batch of that this weekend… I’ll let you know how I go 😉 If I can stop putting all those little bottles made and filled with nasties into the recycling that will be a great step forward for me!

      Great to hear about all the reduction and recycling that goes on at your school too! My daughter’s has an ‘animal shed’ with chooks and bunnies that eat a lot of scraps and the school also promotes ‘rubbish free lunches’ which got us on to buying reusable sandwich clams and snack tubs 🙂

  9. Interestingly the Silicon Valley company I work for has gone all green this year. They allow almost anything in the compost container, recycle as well. I thought they had “gotten religion” but really, they have just gotten a new line item to check off in order to sell to the European market! Well whatever works, and thanks Europe!

    Personally we are pretty bad. Trader Joes (a chain of stores here) makes decent fast food without loads of food additives etc but it comes in plastic bags that contain more plastic bags, and I hate to cook so I use them at least once a week, and feel guilty. So my challenge to myself is pretty low on the totem pole: simply to cook more from fresh ingredients.

    • Hello County Mouse,

      I guess it is the same for all but a few companies the world over – the bottom line is what promotes action. Still, those European buyers highlight the power of the consumer!

      I’m secretly glad to find another gardening blogger who also isn’t a huge cooking fan 😉 Although I’m lucky that I don’t have to do much of the cooking! Having said that, I’m finding that starting to grow a few herbs and veges is inspiring me to use them more, so that’s a win all round!

      As for your goal being ‘low on the totem pole’, I disagree! I think every step we take is an important one and one that is focused on ‘reducing’ is a shining light 🙂

  10. Hi, Heidi! I’m inspired by all you’re doing for the Earth. As for the laundry detergent bottles, last birthday my sister gave me homemade countertop cleaner, and laundry detergent, and glass-cleaner, and mop solution, in a lovely reusable grocery bag, because she was getting into organic solutions rather than the chemical ones (usually derived from petrochemicals, and not good for the environment) that we buy in the store, and knew I would appreciate this gift.

    A side benefit to this is reusing old bottles and not needing to buy any more. The only things that seem to wear out are the nozzles and sprayers — planned obsolescence, no doubt — but you can also ask your neighbors to donate those to you rather than throw them away. (Our local recycling center won’t accept the nozzle portion anyway, and if you leave it attached to the bottle, they throw the whole thing away. Sigh.)

    When I ran out of those organic cleaners during the winter, I was in too big a hurry to go research how to make my own, so I went and bought at the store — and instantly regretted it. The stench was eyewatering after I’d gotten used to such gentle ingredients, and my hands even felt the sting of some of the chemicals. I quickly learned how to mix up my own — and it’s even been less expensive to do so!

    The bonus is that I can add my own essential oils together to create a fragrance that is pleasing to me, which permeates my entire house. I even use an Australian native in my mixes: tee tree oil, which is so refreshing and light. 🙂

  11. Hello Meredith,

    Wonderful! I’m even more inspired to look for more ‘recipes’ for home made household cleaners to experiment with now!

    I particularly like the your idea of using some of the essential oils that smell good and have germ fighting capabilities too – we have both eucalyptus and tea tree oil about the house, and I think I can use both of those in different ways 🙂

  12. I dont have any ideas that you or others haven’t already outlined but I am reading with great interest.

    I do the homemade house cleaning now – my boyfriend was amazed when I cleaned his oven with a paste of bi-carb and vinegar – it works so well. Let sit for 5 mins and wipe with a scourer/cloth.

    I also do a carpet freshner with by putting essential oils in a shaker bottle of bi carb (leave it for a few days so the oil soaks in to the bi carb) – shake onto the carpet, leave for a couple of hours and vaccum up. House smells great!

    Counter/benchtop cleaner – vinegar, water and eucalytus oil in a spray bottle.

    Em x

  13. Hi Em and thanks for even more great ideas!
    Both the oven cleaner and the benchtop cleaner sound simple and effective – so I’ll be trying those out this weekend…well…I might not clean the oven this weekend, but you’ll get my drift 😉

  14. Really enjoyed your post, and will now be saving my toilet rolls. What a great idea for seedlings. Will pass it on at my community garden.

    • Hello Greenearth and thanks for stopping by 🙂 It would be a real treat to see a photo of a bunch of seedings in their toilet roll cores at the community garden 🙂

  15. Heidi … the detergent I used is called ‘Aware Eco Choice’. It’s grey water safe … we use our grey water on garden beds so it’s nice to know it has no phosphorus and is garden friendly.

    It also has no enzymes, no optical brighteners, and is not palm oil derived … so no rainforests are cut down to help produce it. It’s made from renewable plant based ingredients and the ingredients are listed on the side of the box.

    This product is endorsed by Planet Ark. I also like the fact that it doesn’t come with a little plastic scoop … you have to use your own measuring cup or spoon!!!! On top of all this, it’s produced by an Australian owned company and uses Australian plant products.

  16. Hello Bernie – thank you very much for the info! I’m experimenting tomorrow, but if all I end up with is a mess I’m going to go and track that brand down!

  17. Tx for the link about allergies. Port Jackson does look pretty when it is in bloom.

  18. This year I also used toilet paper and paper towel cores cut into sections for seedlings. Worked great! It is sad how everything is pre-mixed, pre-cooked, wrapped and double wrapped these days. All this plastic can’t be good, and I suspect it is the culprit behind a lot of the cancers we see. We are all in such a rush, everyone works, everyone wants what’s quick and easy, but we pay a consequence for our disposable society, socially as well as environmentally.

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