Allie: You are listening to An Environment for Change, an eight-part series, looking at some of the many people in the Mount Alexander Shire who are working to combat climate change and promote sustainable living. These are local people who are working towards changing our habits so we can all move forward into a vibrant, healthy, and sustainable future.
In this series we will hear from local farmers, Boomerang Bags, Repair Cafe, local environment groups, activists and concerned citizens.
Theme music for An Environment for Change plays.
This week on An Environment for Change, I’m speaking with Mel and Rachel again. You might remember that a couple of weeks ago I spoke with them at the start of July about doing Plastic Free July. This is our end of month reconvene. We have come together again to have a chat about how the month went and whether or not it was easy or hard, and what surprised us.
Allie: So, it has been a month and we’ve been attempting to live plastic free to various degrees for the month. Let’s start with just sort of, like, the immediate impressions of how it went for you guys. I know we had a few things came up last time that were challenges for each of us. Mel was going to try and figure out plastic free wine—talk some local winemaker into doing barrels. And I was going to see how possible it was to still get cheese. Rachel, I think your challenge was just trying to negotiate the family and to figure out how to balance your decision against all of their stuff. So, who wants to go first?
Rachel: Yes. Well, the month started off quite well actually. I did have a few, like, kind of moments where I was in a supermarket, which I generally try not to experience too much, but, yeah, for sort of staple things, and I’m walking around going “there’s actually nothing in here pretty much”, you know, yeah, so it was just looking at, how do I get cheese? How do I?… I haven’t had coconut yogurt all month.
Rachel: But I have had other things, like in the end, I think the second trip I went, okay, we’re just getting cheese, because everyone’s going to go “where’s the cheese?” after a while, so there was a lot of little incidents like that, but then…
Allie: So, you got plastic-wrapped cheese?
Rachel: I got plastic-wrapped cheese and I sort of went well, it’s really thin plastic, you know—you’re trying to justify it—so it’s not like a big, hard container, you know that’s just going to get tossed out or whatever or put into recycling and not actually recycled for years and years, if it does.
I had like, you know, I did a few different things that I hadn’t done before like I went to the butcher and I took my own bag and actually Temu, my son went in and he did that and the bag—he was in there for ages—and he came out and he said, “the bag’s split!”.
General laughter and comments
Rachel: Oh my God, you just wouldn’t believe it! like, it was a really sturdy pasta bag and everything, anyway, but they were happy to do that. That was really great.
Allie: Which butcher was that?
Rachel: That was Cliffords (Cliffords Quality Cuts butchers, Castlemaine).
Allie: Yeah. They’re the one down towards Campbell’s Creek
Allie: And they were great for me as well, ‘cause I went for dog food and I took my own plastic containers and they weighed it and then they put the food in them, you know, and they also gave me dog bones in a paper bag instead of a plastic bag, because I was like, can you give me a bone? And they’re like, “oh, well we don’t…” I don’t know, it wouldn’t fit in the container, “you haven’t brought a bucket”. And then they’re actually using paper bags now as carry bags and they just put the bones in there, and I put them in my fridge that way. And, yeah, it was fine.
Rachel: They did that for me too. We got lamb shanks and sausages, and they were totally fine. And, you know, just got home and then put them into the little glass dishes I have. Yeah. And then I also did that at, went to the little IGA and I handed over my plastic containers and they happily at the deli put my meat into that.
So that was all great. And then, but they also, they just have like a tiny little, um, thing…it’s wrapped in paper, but they don’t use a plastic bag. They use like a little thin lined plastic on one side, so it’s not too bad. Yeah.
Allie: Yeah. I went to another butcher and they said, “oh, everything’s already, pre-wrapped in plastic, so we’d be taking it out of a plastic bag to give it to you in your container”. And I was like, okay, don’t worry. And then I went to the Maxi IGA and they said, “no. Company policy: we’re not allowed to put things into your containers”, which is kind of fair enough because of food contamination and if we come back and say I got food poisoning, then you know, whose fault is it really? But it’s nice to know that there are shops in town who were prepared to do that. So, you just start going to those ones. Go to the…it’s not called Maddens anymore. Is it? the IGA on Barker Street?
Mel: No, they changed owners.
Allie: But everyone knows it as…
Mel: Yep. IGA-B
Allie: IGB! And the other thing, while we’re on the topic of meat and things, is I went to the pet food supplier in Chewton (Chewton Pet Supplies), you know, on the main road? and they were great too. They said, “can you leave your container?”, and then a week later I went back and got my containers. I took three or four in and got different stuff and then I’ve put them in the freezer. And so they were great about it too, and they do that for a lot of people apparently; they will fill it with whatever your chosen pet food is.
So, I liked that because that was a big dilemma for me for ‘cause I’m… I mean, as a vegetarian I don’t like handling that stuff anyway. I want it to be as simple, a process as possible, getting the animal food.
And what else, Rachel for you?
Rachel: What else? I mean the takeaway thing that was great. There was only one. We were down in Geelong one day during the holidays and we went out for dinner and then afterwards we had heaps of food left, well, not heaps, but a bit of food left over—we had laksa leftovers—and we took a takeaway container.
So, I felt like a little bit bad, but then again, I was with my family again! And they were like, “Oh, come on, you know, tomorrow”. So, yeah, and I think it was mainly just not thinking ahead , so I tried as much as possible to kind of plan the day and you know, I’ve now got my bags permanently in the car with, um, you know, jars and making much more of an effort to source things, you know, out of pre-packaged and going more to ‘Green Goes’ (Green Goes the Grocer, Castlemaine organic food specialist store), so…
Allie: it’s great if you’ve got it in the car, because I think then if you’re just on your way somewhere and you go,” oh, I forgot that thing”, and you could swerve in for that last minute thing, then you’ve got it; you’ve got something ready to do that with.
Rachel: Yeah. I think that’s critical in.. yeah.
Allie: Because you cannot plan the whole day, you know, it’s just, it doesn’t quite work.
Rachel: No, you can’t. Yeah. That’s definitely a key to it having those there. So, I’ve got my basket and then, you know, my bags for the groceries. And then the extra kind of …
Allie: Your re-useable cloth bags
Rachel: Yeah. Yep. Re-usable bags and jars and things. So, it went reasonably, went reasonably well; I was actually pretty happy with the effort. Yeah.
Allie: Yeah great. Was there anything that really caught you by surprise and you went, Oh, damn!
Rachel: Well, actually. So, toothpaste. We ran out of toothpaste and I went to get, I think Weleda one they do in a metal tube?
Rachel: But I didn’t end up going there because the day that we needed it, I didn’t have time to do another stop.
Allie: Where do you get that from?
Rachel: I think the health food shop on Barkers Street did stock it; they did years ago. So yeah. I really struggled to find a non-plastic container for toothpaste, and then I looked it up and we were planning to make it—and we even had the whole conversation in the car one day—I was reading out recipes to the family and went…”Ooh, that sounds disgusting!”, and then yeah, ideas about what you put in, like possum poo…it was very comical…
It was cute. So yes, we didn’t do that in the end, I bought a plastic one, but. um, yeah, lots of little things, kind of earmarked to bring in as the next sort of level of it.
Allie: Yeah. Sure.
Rachel: Overall really positive in terms of like, getting really conscious again of where…oh just, I think, just how much stuff is in plastic. Like it’s yeah it’s extraordinary, really.
Allie: Yeah, I kind of felt like even though I was making all these decisions, not to purchase plastic or have plastic in the purchases I’m getting, I’m still surrounded by plastic everywhere. Like a lot of my containers at home are plastic but also in the workplace—I work in a workplace where there’s plastics so I’m handling it—and you know, a lot of this, in my house, like, a month isn’t enough because I’m still using up the stuff that I bought that was in plastic. So, I’m still handling the plastic bags and putting them in my bin, my bins still got empty plastic bags of pasta or whatever in it. Because I feel like if I keep this up in the future, it’d be nice to watch that sort of fade out as I use up all that stuff. And gradually my bin will be, less and less full of empty plastic things.
Mel, how did you go with your wine?
Mel: Well, I think I just had a general overall fail.
Allie: Laughter. Fair enough.
Mel: To be completely honest. Um, Yeah, I think it’s just also been, not a great month for me in general. So, I think after our first interview, I kind of had forgotten, I know that sounds weird, but I had forgotten that I was going to visit an old friend in Western Australia. So, I caught a plane.
Allie: That’s all right.
Mel: It’s all right, but oh…
Allie: It wasn’t plastic was it?
Several overlapping comments about the plane and aeroplane food in plastic
Mel: The plane wasn’t plastic but everything in the plane was plastic…and, you know, kind of, I went to Melbourne the night before, and I didn’t know if I was going to get food on the plane or not, and I was staying at a friend’s house, so they just gave me whatever it was in their cupboard. So that was all plastic.
Allie: You didn’t buy that. That was a gift.
Mel: Yeah, but I feel like I could get away with pretty much every, all my failures this month by doing that. So, I went to my friend’s house in Perth, and I kind of said “oh, just so you know I’ve been doing this” but I don’t know, we were just talking, I guess, that one time around dinner table and then, you know, it was cool, it started that big conversation and all of that stuff. And I think the friend that I was staying with is collecting lots of the soft plastic to, that they’re I think, they’re giving to ‘Woolies’ (Woolworths supermarkets) or something…
Allie: To recycle?
Mel: Yeah, yeah. So, like, she was quite onto the recycling thing, but yeah, I don’t know, it just didn’t really feel like my place,
Allie: But it’s cool that you had that conversation. You know.
Mel: It was good to have the conversation, but it kind of also just made me quite aware of how easy it is to have conversations and then how hard it is to change lives.
Allie and Rachel: Yeah.
Mel: Not saying that they need to change their life, but just in general it’s quite easy to have the conv… Sorry. Maybe I’m being a bit daft?
Allie: No, that’s true. That’s a criticism people have of social media advocacy and all of this stuff where people are like shouting into the void about these causes, but are you actually prepared to put your own life into discomfort for the sake of this cause that you are shouting about?
Rachel: Yeah, what level are you prepared to go?
Mel: Yeah, and I kind of, I think…Going away visiting my friend was quite a culture shock in general anyway, because I was kind of, I was in a suburb where all the houses are kind of the same and you know that’s where they live. And so, their closest access that they have to food is, I think it’s an IGA or I don’t know, maybe a little ‘Woolies’ or something, but that’s their shop. So, we’re really lucky that we have access to bulk food, that’s yeah, it might be a bit more expensive that’s true, but we also have access to it. Well, I know there’s that interesting access thing again, but, they just didn’t even have a choice. I mean, they do have a choice if they go to Fremantle, probably…
Allie: So, it’s a drive.
Mel: It’s a drive with a young kid. She’s a couple months pregnant; she’s solo parenting; she’s exhausted. She’s also working, so, you know, it’s not in her realm of energy possibility, all of that stuff. So, I kind of, it was just interesting to be in someone else’s life and realise…
Allie: It’s hard.
Mel: Just a different, just very different life. And yeah, it kind of made me realise how different my life is maybe, which is okay. So yeah, so I did that and then I ate all the plastic food on the way back. I was only there for about six days, or five days…
Allie: Laughter. On the plane?
Mel: Yeah, and then I got really sick, so, I was like, well I need drugs and yeah, I’m going to make chicken soup. So, I bought chicken frames that were in plastic, even though they were good chicken frames, they were in plastic. And I bought drugs, so Nurofen, and you know, I just kinda was like “nup, I just need to do this” and then bunkered down at home. So, I kind of didn’t… I took a takeaway cup, my own reusable cup, to the airport to get coffee.
Allie: Oh, that’s good, and they let you?
Mel: Yeah, they were annoyed, but they did it.
Allie: Yay. Great. That’s interesting because one of my fails was medication. So, I ran out of my asthma medication, my Ventolin which is my reliever, and my preventative. And I’m like, well, I’m not going to die of an asthma attack for the sake of this, so I bought a little, my little puffers which have a plastic seal around them, and the whole thing. And then I also bought painkillers and stuff like that, and I sort of thought, that’s a…like, the medical world in general, like, if I got hit by a car and was taken to the hospital, I’m not going to say “no plastic, no plastic!” as they unwrap their sterilized equipment so that they can save my life. You know what I mean? I feel like the medical industry, in some ways, if anything’s going to be exempt, could be.
But on that track, one of the things that came up for me was I’ve been doing my own tattoos, like home tattoos and you buy needles that are sterilised. And they come in their individual little plastic packet and I was like, “oh, I really want to buy some more, but it’s Plastic Free July! Do I just wait until the end of the month?” or, you know? And I kind of very briefly had a look online of how you can do it without using a sterilised metal needle, which is so high-end and you can do beautiful, detailed work.
Traditional cultural tattooing is done with sticks, bone or bamboo or sticks, or, you know, but I feel like there’s ritual around that which involves knowing how to do it safely. And I don’t know what the rituals are, I don’t know how to make that safe, you know? And if you look online at the infections that people get, when they do home tattoos, it can be hideous. So, I was just like, all right, well, that’s sort of on the edge of medicinal, but it’s actually a lifestyle choice luxury to do my own tattoos, you know, it’s not like I need it to live. I need it for my creative expression, but that’s totally different.
So, I didn’t end up buying the needles but it was definitely something that came up for me. And then the asthma stuff was legitimately a medical need for me and so I bought it and I was like, “Oh, well, that’s just a thing”.
Background piano theme music with Allie speaking over the top. You’re listening to An Environment for Change. And in this week’s episode I’m speaking with Mel and Rachel about how we went during Plastic Free July and whether we were able to achieve that, which none of us did actually for various reasons.
The next little bit of the interview is something that women have to face every single month. And I know a lot of women I know, have thought about it a lot and have tried to find various solutions for their monthly period. If you don’t want to hear this bit of the conversation you can tune back in, in about 15 minutes and keep listening to us as we talk about Plastic Free July.
But for the next 15 minutes we’re going to have a chat about periods and all the various things that women do to try and make that as easy and mess-free as possible in a plastic-free way.
Mel: Um, I can’t remember if we talked about it on air last time but we did talk quite a lot about women having their periods. And I knew that I was probably going to get my period. Well, I guess it’s a month, you get it sometime during the month. Right? Laughter.
Yeah, and so that was also an interesting thing and we actually had that conversation as well around the dinner table at my friend’s place who I went to stay with. And yeah, one of my friend’s sisters had bought the period, the undies, you guys were talking about.
Allie and Rachel: The period proof undies.
Mel: And I had kind of half committed to doing the cup, but I just, I didn’t. After I got sick and kind of was not feeling great. I just didn’t.
Allie: You just needed life to be easy at that point.
Mel: Yeah. But I think it was the same realisation maybe as you Rachel in a different way of just kind of being: Wow, even though I generally try quite hard, I was like, it’s really hard to not use anything, because it’s just so predominant.
Allie: Yes, it is everywhere. So, Rachel, you are about to run a class. This is going to air on Monday morning and you’ll be running it that day, I think.
Rachel: Yes. At 10 o’clock on Monday morning.
Allie: Oh, just as this episode ends!
Rachel: Yeah, so get on down!
General laughter and comments
Allie: Where was it being held? And can people just rock up?
Rachel: Yeah. People can just rock up. So, it’s at the Ray Bradfield room (community meeting room, Castlemaine), so after we had our conversation last, whenever it was three, four weeks ago, we had a little chat sort of at the end, which was about…
Rachel: Yeah, off air, about how to, you know, what are the options for plastic free periods. And I just sort of thought about it and I was like “0h, why don’t I do a little presentation on it?”, so that’s happening on Monday morning at 10:00 AM at the Ray Bradfield room and…
Allie: In Castlemaine.
Rachel: Yeah, in Castlemaine. So, the beginning of that will be, there’ll be pretty much an hour just discussing the options and bringing a lot of samples along. I’ve done a lot of research in that time and called a lot of different companies to see who is producing something that’s fully plastic free. And even, you know, discovered that a lot of tampons have plastic in them. A lot of pads have plastic in them. So…
Allie: I guess that’s the leak proofness of it, is a plastic shield, isn’t it.
Rachel: Yep. That’s right.
Allie: Do period-proof undies have a plastic layer?
Rachel: I actually don’t know the answer to that. I haven’t got to that. We did look at those. So, the second part, just coming back to the presentation…
Allie: The workshop.
Rachel: Yeah, the workshop. The second part of it is, I’ve got Julie Red, who’s a local sewing teacher, Julie Red projects, she’s going to come in and together we’re going to make re-useable cloth pads…
Mel and Allie make background exclamations!
Rachel: Yes, yes, really rad! We were in her studio last week and we looked at a few different designs and looked on the internet for patterns and came up with something really simple and really great. And, so part of that research also involved, yeah just the materials to use and how that actually can impact women’s health.
So, for example, I mean, I came across this whole heap of information, and there was a campaign in United States in 2015 which was called Detox the Box, and it was looking at a couple of products that had known carcinogens in the pad. So, it was the fragrances that they were using in them, and also, um in tampons as well…
Allie: So, the disposable pads that you buy and chuck out and…
Rachel: That’s right.
Allie: …and how pretty they make them; they make them as pretty as possible so they put fragrance in them, and that’s carcinogenic?
Rachel: Yep, and so the campaign was about, okay, there was actually no laws around having to disclose what was in the product because it’s considered a medical device, not a medication or something.
Allie: And it’s also not being ingested, I guess, so that would make a difference too…
Mel: Is that pads and tampons?
Rachel: Yes, pads and tampons.
Mel: Because tampons that kind of yeah, I mean, they’re not ingested through your mouth.
Allie: No, but it’s in your body.
Mel: In your body and your body and walls, your body walls, yeah.
Rachel: Yeah. Well, you actually, I believe you take in more through the walls of your vagina than you would if you actually ingested food ‘cause it’s such a porous…
Allie and Mel: Wow, wow.
Rachel: So, yeah, that was the whole side of it. And yeah, if you want to hear more about it rock on down. And so, we really looked at what fabrics we were going to use and we decided to go with—so the Rad-Pad, which is one that probably many people are familiar with, they don’t have any plastic in the middle, or no sort of PPU lining like the nappies have no waterproof lining—so we decided to go with a backing which is like a corduroy. And then the inside is an organic hemp, hemp and cotton absorbent pad. And then the top layer is Merino with little snaps. So yeah.
Rachel: So, they’re really awesome.
Rachel: Very cozy.
Rachel: But there’s the option if, you know, wool is like irritant to someone, then you can put a cotton lining on the top.
Allie: I used to live with someone back in the 2000s, maybe? It was in a share house, and she got very excited about Rad-Pads and started making her own with cloth that you could take out of it and wash and put back in it and stuff. But I actually, I never loved them because it was so bulky and kind of like, they’d slip around, and so I’d love to see your design and see if they are more comfy to wear.
Rachel: Yeah, I think they will be.
Allie: It would be good to have really good instructions on how to clean them too. Like, um…
Rachel: Yup, we’ll be going through all that. So, these don’t have a takeout; the insert is sewn in the absorbent bit, but there’s the option of doing one layer or two layers, so if you have like a heavy cycle, you can, or heavy days you can use two.
Allie: Yep. Great. So, I have used the period-proof undies for a couple of months and I got an American brand ‘cause I didn’t know about the Australian brand at that point, and I’d be interested to try the Australian brand, which I think is called Modibody.
Rachel: Yep. They’re the ones that I’ve got. Yeah.
Allie: So, I got the American brand, Thinx, which got heavily marketed several months ago and I caved and bought some and they were really good at first, but I did notice that I had to take several spares in little bags on the really heavy days. And I would just swap them out as soon as they started—they sort of leak around the edges a little bit, is their failing if it’s a really heavy day—but I love them because they’re really lightweight, thin, comfy things. And I think as long as you swap them out often enough; but they’re not cheap either like the 30 or so dollars per pair. But if they last you five years, that’s great.
A friend of mine was saying that she—because I’ve had this conversation a few times—she was saying that the period-proof undies didn’t really work for her a hundred percent, but what she wants to do is wear a cup with those undies at the same time, and then just have all of that going on at once I think. And I reckon if you had nice svelte, thin, Rad-Pad type things with those undies, that would be a really good combination too.
Rachel: Sort of like a backup. Yeah.
Allie: Yep. Yeah, because I think one of the dangers of the Rad-Pads is that you do bleed through.
Background comments from all.
Allie: Period-proof undies would be a good solution to that, though right.
Rachel: Yep. Absolutely.
Mel: That’s so cool Rachel!
Rachel: Yeah. I’m yeah, really pleased to have done that actually, because I discovered a whole heap that I didn’t already know.
Mel: Yeah, and you already knew a fair bit as well!
Rachel: Yeah. Yeah, I did.
Allie: Yeah. That’s really cool. Yeah. I wonder, are you going to make like little information sheets or something to give out?
Rachel: Yeah. I will hand out some information sheets and you know, we’ll look at the comparisons of costings, if you can go with this, rather than that,
Allie: And the longevity of each one…
Rachel: And the longevity, yeah. And also the kind of health, maybe concerns with using some things over others and that the main thing being the plastic or anything that might be added to the product that we don’t know about ‘cause it’s not on the box. So, you know, I have really looked at organisations or companies that are making a great product—and there’s a few new ones around and there’s more kind of popping up—and yeah I got the samples so I’ll bring those along and…share…
Mel: Cool, Awesome! I know that I’m not going to be able to make that time on Monday. Will you do another one by any chance?
Rachel: There’s every chance. I’d like to be able to put that information up online at some point. Yes, but definitely in the pipeline is the plan to run more of those makers sessions because we’re aware that it’s in school hours and there’s probably going to be a lot of teenagers or, you know, school-aged children who’d like to come and have a go at doing that, so that will be on the cards. And if, you know, if someone wants to hear the information again we would be happy to run it again.
Allie: Yeah. I reckon that’s great. That’d be good to do it outside of work and or school hours, ‘cause I can’t make it because of work as well. Because it’s one of those things that we all do it quietly every month and with the disposable stuff, it’s just endless, relentless. You know, if you use a pad, the pad itself is made of plastic, got plastic in it, and it’s wrapped individually in plastic and it’s in a plastic bag that it comes in, its just like!!… and it’s all about hygiene and all of that stuff in theory, but I feel like we’re emerging from that need to be as vacuum-sealed in our lives!
Rachel: Yes. Yeah. I just wanted to mention this: one of the companies, Bamboo Babe, they sent me heaps of samples and yeah, their stuff is all biodegradable, and so there’s no plastic at all in it, no nasties added to the products they have.
Allie: So, what sort of products do they have?
Rachel: So, they have pads, yeah, they’re really great pads. You can get free samples and then go on a subscription so they’ll actually send them out to you every month. That’s a really, really awesome product. And then I also contacted Lunette, which do the little cups, yeah, they also sent out a great sample box. The Sustainable Period Project, so they are actually sending out their samples and other, you know, sustainable options to every high school in Australia by, I think it was 2019, so yeah.
Allie: Wow, they’re an Australian company?
Mel: That’s great.
Rachel: Yeah. Australia and New Zealand, so they’re there as well
Allie: So that’s Lunette?
Rachel: Lunette, yeah.
Allie: Nice, oh great. I love that people are thinking about this stuff and really coming up with some awesome solutions. I feel like as much as all of this plastic in our lives is about our convenience, we’re smart enough as a species that when we need to, we’ll come up with other solutions that are heaps better. And we’re just given this stuff. Most of the stuff that’s plastic-wrapped is for cost-effectiveness and hygiene, but it’s actually like, if we think about it, we can do without it. Laughter.
Rachel: And convenience…it’s the top thing.
Mel: Convenience and habit.
Rachel: It’s like, yeah, it’s a comfortable thing to be able to do whatever it is. And then toss it out at the end and not to worry about cleaning it up or…
Mel: Yes, so we don’t have to deal with it. We don’t see it therefore, it’s very easy to be cool with it.
Allie: And in some ways it’s a great thing that China’s shut down and not letting us send our recycling to them anymore because suddenly we have to actually look at this thing that we’re doing, which is producing all of this waste. And we all like as a nation and as individuals are going to have to look at that and figure it out. And I think we should, we should deal with it in our own backyard. Why should it go somewhere else? Laugher.
Mel: I don’t even know when that started, no one knew about it until they stopped it.
Allie: Yeah. Yeah. I didn’t know it was being processed off shore, because it’s travelling halfway across the world!
Rachel: Yeah. It’s crazy. Isn’t it? The amount of energy that that’s then taking to move it somewhere else, to deal with it, yeah, ‘cause we don’t deal with it.
Background piano theme music with Allie speaking over the top. You are listening to An Environment for Change. My name is Allie, and this week it’s a catch-up session between me, Mel and Rachel, who all took on Plastic Free July. And we’re talking about what happened this month as we tried to do that.
Allie: So, Mel, did you make any inquiries about the wine?
Mel: I actually didn’t ‘cause I was away and then I got sick. So, and I, in that time I didn’t really drink wine. The wine that I did drink, actually, when I was at my friend’s house, we drank bottles so no casks and I’ve thought about our discussion, but yeah, I didn’t do anything ‘cause I was kind of just out of it. Laughter
Allie: Yeah, fair enough. Fair enough.
Mel: Yeah, but I can keep you in the loop if I do anything, ‘cause I still think it would, I think it would be awesome.
Allie: Yeah. Do keep us in the loop and I feel like it’s those sort of enquiries and that sort of thing that actually makes that stuff happen. It’s just a matter of someone going, “Hey, you know, would you guys do this?”
Mel: Totally, Yeah.
Allie: …and maybe they would! Well, I was looking, I was on the lookout for cheeses because I didn’t want to have to… especially like rennet-free cheeses. And I went to the big IGA and they just said flat out, no, they can’t fill my container with stuff from behind the counter at the deli, so I went to Mulberry’s (Castlemaine delicatessen) and they were great, anything behind that counter they were happy to, ‘cause they had big wheels of cheese and blocks of cheese and they’ll cut it up. Some of it they already had wrapped in plastic and I said, “Oh, sorry, I mean taking the plastic off that doesn’t solve my problem” so, she cut a fresh piece for me and someone else can buy that one that’s already got plastic around it.
Oh man! I discovered because I was also asking about rennet which—animal rennet in cheese is what helps cure it, but it’s not vegetarian, so rennet-free cheese is what I try to buy as a vegetarian—and most of the cheeses didn’t, did have rennet, but they had a cheap Brie, and I love Brie, that was rennet-free and it was Australian made and I’m like, this is awesome!
Rachel: Wow, who’s making that.
Allie: I don’t know the brand. I should figure that out! But I was so happy about it. But just the basic yellow cheese, they didn’t actually have one. They have a lot of gourmet fancy cheeses, so there wasn’t a basic yellow cheese that you do cheese on toast with, or, you know grate onto your pasta.
But I did inquire at the smaller IGA and they were happy to cut stuff and put it in my container if I bring it to them. And they said, it might take a little while if you’re happy for it not to be instant. And I was like, yeah, of course, that’s fine. So that’s good. There’s that there. And I also went to Green Goes and enquired about things that I hadn’t enquired about before. So I got Maple syrup; I saw that they do indeed have sesame oil..
General laughter and comments
Rachel: I got sesame oil too!
Allie: Great. And I took jars and I got detergent for the washing machine. Because I was like, okay, so shampoo and conditioner I believe they have that on tap as well, but, and detergent, ‘cause those are the things that I will buy, just grab a bottle and have it, and the detergent is made by a local woman.
Rachel: Oh right!, ooh.
Allie: Or someone relatively local, you know? And I felt like that was an even better solution. That’s great, but I haven’t used it yet though! Laughter.
Rachel: I used to have the soap nuts. I used to get those and then I think they said people weren’t buying them, so they ended up getting rid of them but they were great.
Allie: Yeah. What else? I went to Green Goes and I got a few, quite a few things there. And I was a bit happy about all of it. Like, I feel like it was a big step up for me ‘cause I know they do all this bulk stuff and I’ve gotten some nuts and rice and stuff from there relatively regularly. I felt like a bit of a win that day I went to Green Goes.
Rachel: It does feel like a win, doesn’t it.
Mel: Yeah, it’s definitely satisfying. Yes. Like, “cool, I’m kind of empowered with my own food decisions”. That’s how it makes me feel.
Allie: Yeah, definitely.
Rachel: I do feel though as well, like, so probably my main way of dealing with stuff was changing the consumption habit in terms of eliminating something rather than actually keep…well, yeah, there was probably a bit of both. There was sometimes looking for a different product, but then if it wasn’t available, like, if I couldn’t get it in glass or cardboard or whatever, then the change would be in my consumption habit, being I would just take it out. Whereas I think the next level is to really start being the voices that are saying, okay, well, yeah, what are the options? And contacting companies and saying, can you… I guess that’s how change happens isn’t it, enough people doing that?
Allie: How did you find people’s responses in shops if you were asking them the next level? ‘Cause I had one woman just be straight face “I can’t help ya”. But there was one time when I was like, I was in a shop and I was like, I wanted some takeaway food and I sort of could have got the pizza, but I wanted the pasta. And I was like, so what’s your takeaway option? Is it plastic? And he’s like, “Oh yeah, we do have plastic”. And he was trying to be really helpful. And then I was like, “Oh, well, I guess I’ll get a pizza”. And then I saw that they had the metal containers with the cardboard lid and I was like, “Oh, you do have those” and he’s like,” ah, yeah, I thought you wanted plastic “.
Mel: In a staged voice…Yes…I can get pasta!
Allie: And I got a really delicious gnocchi, it was great! Laughter.
And there was another one where I was like, talking with a lady and just negotiating plastic bags versus something else and she was so happy for me. Her response was just really positive and I was like, “Oh, that’s great”. You as a shop assistant will give out plastic bags because it’s your job, but maybe as a person, you really don’t want to, you know.
Did you have any responses from people when you were asking them to fill a container or to do something else that’s out of their normal?
Mel: Um, no. Because I don’t think I really did that. The only thing that I did was my takeaway coffee, like brought along a cup at the airport. Laughter
Allie: It’s interesting. I guess in airports, they’re used to people having such small amounts of luggage space that they don’t bring their reusable stuff, so they’re not used to being asked.
Rachel: That’s, right. And you’re on your way to somewhere where you probably don’t want to have it.
Mel: Yeah, its busy.
Allie: Because you said they’re a bit grumpy about it.
Mel: Yep. Mm.
Rachel: I found the responses I got were great, like everyone was very willing to help out with what I was requesting. Um, but again, you know, there was times like I did actually have one day where I was out—and I was like, Oh, ‘cause I haven’t been drinking coffee I didn’t have my coffee cup, but I felt like a warm drink—so, I was like, I’ll go get a Chai, like, ah, “I don’t have my takeaway coffee cup”. So again, I just changed and go, well, do I really need it? I don’t really need it. Like I actually don’t really need it.
So yeah, looking at that. What’s that level of comfort that I’m prepared to drop knowing that I’m just going to take more plastic home if I go with it. I just completely diverted on a tangent.
Allie: No that was good.
Mel: Yeah, there was, I had dinner with my uncle in Melbourne, last week actually and we had that same thing. We, it was just two of us, and I think we were quite hungry when we ordered so we ordered too much food. Um, and, but they were so great because I mean sometimes you are not even allowed to take away your leftovers. And so… but it was that same thing. And I was like, “ah, that’s plastic” I’m like, that’s okay I can use it as paint things; I can use it as, you know, my—’cause I don’t have any Tupperware, but I just will reuse those containers—yeah, it was just kind of that thing again, of ahh it’s so ingrained in us that that’s what you use.
Allie: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And I have used those takeaway containers from restaurants for putting the dog food in when I go to the dog food place, that’s exactly what I took to them because it seals and it’s nice. So, there is, I mean, there is ways to use it.
I got caught out today, even. I thought I was doing pretty well this month and then today, a friend of mine just had a baby and I was taking them lunch and I went to a place and they gave us the food in a paper kind of container, which is awesome. And then I asked for some chillies on the side and she gave me the sauces on the side and I just went out and I hadn’t even thought about it until we’d eaten the meal, and at the end of the meal was when I went, “Oh no”, because all the sauces were in little plastic containers and I was just like, I didn’t even think of it. It was just so like normal that I didn’t even think of it. Laughter.
Rachel: Yeah. We just really, I think it’s a huge change of habit that needs to happen, you know, like, well, if there is no other option there for sauces like if jars are too expensive or they’re not prepared to do that and then take them back and wash them, then we eat in the restaurant. Because you know, we are all kind of on the go, like grabbing the coffee, grabbing the food. We want to go, go, go, like, who sits down and, you know, makes the time?
Allie and Mel: Yeah.
Rachel: I’m not saying that, you know that that’s the case every time, like in your case today, but yeah I think a lot of that stuff…Oh actually, I had an experience: I was in Melbourne for an appointment on Tuesday and I had to buy lunch and my breakfast out, and I was walking around going in this big sort of buffet area and it was like you know it was all plastic cutlery, and I was like, “Oh, I didn’t think to bring my own spoon or my own fork”. And yeah, I just was quite shocked. It was like, wow, there was so much stuff churning over, like plastic that’s being thrown in the bin.
Mel and Allie murmur in agreement.
Allie: Yeah. And what a Food Court would see in a single day, is just outrageous, isn’t it? And I, when I think about taking my own, like, you know, re-usable cutlery in my bag or something, I just know that I’ll use it and then put it back in its container and it’ll sit in my bag unwashed and it’ll just get so skanky. Laughter.
I just know I wouldn’t maintain it very well. So, I’m like what, I wonder what I could do. Like, I think a lot of restaurants are now using bamboo implements and stuff like that. And I guess it is still a resource that requires production that is disposable, but at least it can be…
Rachel: Broken down. Yes.
Allie: …composted. But if it’s being thrown in the bin with all the plastics and it’s getting taken to landfill, then that’s not actually a better solution.
Mel: No. And it’s still that thing of what you’re talking about, Rachel, of, you know, our actual consumerism habit; it’s kind of just replacing the habit with something that we feel better about rather than yeah…Laughter
Allie: Yeah, absolutely.
Rachel: I think, yeah, I think, you know, the answer or the solution there is, it’s just tackling one habit at a time, not trying, you know, like you were saying, or probably all of us “oh, that’s just too much”, like I’m doing all this and the amount of energy and consideration and planning that it takes, it can be quite exhausting. So, to actually just go, all right well this is the first level and then bring things in slowly.
Mel: Yeah, it’s finding that level isn’t it of not flogging yourself too badly, but trying, and then not flogging yourself too badly and not doing anything…
Allie: Not giving up altogether.
Mel: Yeah, so finding how you can still do something.
Allie: But I do feel like this month has, for me—every time I’ve touched plastic I’ve been aware of it, you know?, so it’s made me so much more aware of how much plastic is in my life and even the stuff that I’ve already had in the house, all right, even long-life plastic things. Yeah, it’s definitely made me much more aware of where the plastic is and that’s a benefit on its own even if I didn’t achieve the month completely and even if I don’t maintain it, at least I’m more aware of where it is, and I’m more confident now also just to ask. Because quite a few times I couldn’t see immediately whether the place I was at had a solution for me asking for it not to be wrapped in plastic or contained in plastic, and often when I asked, they did have a solution and were quite happy to provide it.
Mel: That’s really great. We just take hold of all that, I reckon.
Mel: Because, you know, I can get scared of it. I’m just thinking about myself on that, yeah, be a bit braver, get braver! Its alright, they can just say no! Laughter They could say yes!
Allie: Yeah, exactly. And if they do say no, then you get to just make a choice and sometimes I’ve walked out, you know, and I’d be like, all right, well, I’ll just go across the road. And the next solution is not that far away often, but sometimes the solution is too far away or you’re not going to get a meal because it’s your only option. I would probably have the meal or eat in or you know, whatever it is that allows me to do that, but you know, at least you, then are making a choice about it rather than just taking it automatically.
Background piano theme music with Allie speaking over the top. You’re listening to An Environment for Change on MainFm 94.9. And today I’m talking with Mel and Rachel and we’re catching up on how our Plastic Free July month has gone.
Some sounds you might be able to hear in the background are Rachel’s kids who were doing their very best to be quiet as possible and actually did the most beautiful daisy chain and put it around my dog Bobbi’s neck, laughter, and led her by a lead of four-leaf clovers and daisies. But they were making a little bit of noise in the background, which is probably what you can hear.
Rachel: I was going to ask actually, or just raise did anyone come across it in fashion or clothing industry? because that’s like one of the biggest wasters of plastic or consumers of plastic in fashion.
Mel: Oh really? In which way?
Rachel: Well, I’m just guessing its packaging and the plastic hangers and the little, I mean, every time you get something with a tag and you rip it off, there’s a bit of plastic that, where does it go?
Mel: Oh, that’s true.
Rachel: Into landfill mostly.
Allie: I hardly ever buy clothes, let alone new clothes.
Rachel: Me too, but you know, we are probably in a minority.
Allie: Yeah, I agree. Yeah absolutely.
Mel: And that’s what I mean about “Oh yeah, that’s right”.
Allie: Other people live totally differently.
Mel: Exactly. Yeah. I’m weird.
General laughter and comments.
Allie: You’re not weird, but you’re an anomaly when you look at statistically, how Australians live…
Mel: Yeah. Oh yeah, you kind of feel like…actually, yeah, no, I guess you are the minority. Yeah. But even badges? They’re plastic. I love badges that’s what made me think of that when you said fashion that was the first thing I thought of. Laughter.
Rachel: You could probably make those with—I can’t think of the word—you make like a seal, like if you make a collage you can put a seal on it?
Allie: Oh like a painted…
Mel: Oh Yeah!
Allie: Yeah. But you know, anything acrylic is plastic.
Rachel: Oh, so that’s acrylic is it?
Allie: Acrylic is a type of plastic.
Rachel: You couldn’t do it with like the flour and water of some kind?
Allie: Oh yeah. You can use oil vanish stuff, which is turps and oil, or you can use shellac, which is ground up bugs.
Mel: Oh yeah. I always feel weird about that.
Rachel: Ground up bugs. Sorry vegans!
Mel: All the painters out there that you know. Laughter.
General laughter and comments.
Rachel: I mean, meaning maybe you’re finding the bugs that have already died. I don’t know how that works. I’m not meaning to offend anyone with that.
Mel: I don’t know! Yeah. Interesting, the fashion thing.
Allie: Yeah. And even acrylic clothes, like, I get itchy with wool, so any scarf or anything that I have is often an acrylic weave or a knit.
Rachel: And then any time you’re washing that its shedding the little, like it’s a polar fleece or…shedding tiny little micro particles. Yeah.
Allie: And the really soft wools are really expensive.
I guess maybe the last question is, do you guys feel like you’ll try and carry this on beyond this month?
Rachel: Yeah, absolutely.
Mel: Yeah, me too. I think I’d like to, actually… I want to do the period thing. Yeah ‘cause I kind of…most other things after hearing you guys, I can, I’m like, “oh yeah, cool, yep yep”, especially the cheese. But yeah, I think the period thing is definitely, I do it every month and I don’t, I would rather not. And every month that comes around and I’m like, I hate this!
Allie: Not the period.
Mel: Well sometimes that too!
General loud laughter and comments
Mel: (It’s about) what I buy, and so I think it’s also the money thing for me. I’m okay. Yes. This is ridiculous!
Allie: Amount of money, each month.
Mel: Well, like I throw it in the fire now that it’s winter, so I kind of feel a bit better about that, even though I know it’s burning up there, I kind of feel better about that option then putting it in the rubbish. But it’s still not, it’s yeah, it’s the money and it’s like, I know that in summer I will throw you in the bin and it’s just gross, like its…
Rachel: You can compost them as well. I’ve spoken to a few women about composting them. I pretty much use all re-usable stuff. So, um, I haven’t done that, but yeah, like with the compostable nappy, I’m not sure how, in terms of like you know, health stuff, how that works, but I think it’s possible to do that. So, you just have to get one that’s like the Bamboo Babes or the Natura? I think is another brand, I’m not exactly sure of the name, but yeah. So, if you didn’t want to go the full re-usable, you could go for those others as a more convenient thing. And that’s also more you know, there’s sort of like that, there’s that whole kind of idea of, well what do you do with it when you’re out? ‘Cause if you are in the workplace, like, is it convenient to wash the cup out or what do you do there?
Allie: Are you going to carry a used something with you for the whole day? which I do do.
Mel: I do that already because where I work doesn’t, you know, it’s not always nice to put those sanitary things in a bin that we all use for everything else, because we don’t have a toilet that works. Yeah.
Rachel: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a big conversation.
Allie: Yeah, it is. And I feel like with a period, yeah, it’s also that thing where you just want to not have to think about anything. You just want to sit down or lie down and you know your energy is really low; you’re feeling heavy and you just need it to be okay and not be a pain. And I feel like that’s why a lot of women are just like… too hard basket for that stuff, and I feel like the solutions need to be really easy enough for someone who really isn’t feeling great to still do it.
Mel: Yeah, but you know, imagine if we were brought up with this, you know, reusable or cup or this is what you do, we wouldn’t even think about it, but we weren’t brought up like that. So, because that wasn’t, I mean, they used to just use rags, and so, you know.
Allie: Or have a red tent. And sit in that for a couple of days.
Mel: Or go away for a week because you have your period and we…
Allie: Or just have lots and lots of babies and never have…
Mel: Ow Gawd!!
Rachel: Or rest on the heavy days, like, you know, come on workplaces where’s our menstrual leave…?
Mel and Allie: Yeah.
Mel: You know, it’s really…Aww it’s huge!
Rachel: Yeah. There’s change. It’s good.
Mel: Yeah. But yeah. Allie, sorry to answer your question. Definitely. And I would like to maybe when it… ‘cause I’m still not really drinking much wine at the moment…
Allie: That’s good!
Mel: Um, yeah. When that, when I kind of feel: jump back on that horse again, I can talk to the local wine guys, that would be cool.
Allie: Yeah, great. Well maybe…
Mel: I’m quite inspired by our conversation. Yeah.
Allie: Yeah cool! great. So, this series is got like, maybe a month left in it so I might check in with you guys and not necessarily interview you again, just check in where you’re at with a few things and give an update for everyone at the end of the series. See if you have conquered the wine!
Mel: Its going to be the everlasting.
Allie: I think it’d be so great if you did though. Like how good is that?
Mel: Yeah, it would just make me want to be back in Spain!
Allie: Nothing wrong with that either. All right. Cool. Thank you.
Rachel: Thank you.
Mel: Yeah. Thanks Allie.
Rachel: Thanks for getting us in and having the conversation and then having them with everyone else out there.
Mel: Yeah, great.
Rachel: It’s really great.
Allie: Yeah. Well, it is funny because every now and then like, okay, so here’s one more story. Last night was the brass bands AGM and everyone brings a plate. And I had just… I actually had the time pressure on me for this interview today. I was like, I need to get cheese before the interview to know that I can, or if I can’t and how hard it is, you know? So yesterday I was on a mission to get cheese and then I didn’t have time to actually buy anything for the AGM and my plate that I had to bring.
So, I took the cheese that I just bought and then I bought some bread from the IGA, the mini IGA – IGB. And I put it in a paper bag from the mushroom section—I grabbed some paper bags in the mushroom section so that I didn’t have to use a plastic bag for the little breads that they bake on site—and took that. And that was great.
But at the end of the night, there was stuff left over. I was just chatting to someone and everyone else was packing stuff up and I had made a little plate of stuff that I would take home of the stuff that I brought, so leftover cheese and bread. And someone wrapped it in Glad Wrap for me…laughter…as a favour. And I said “No, I’m doing Plastic Free July!!!” ‘Noooo”.
General laughter and overlapping comments.
Rachel: This just does not make me glad. Laughter.
Allie: I’m not glad about this wrap!! Laughter.
Mel: Yeah, it kind of sums it all up really doesn’t it.
Allie: Yeah, but it was such a, like, they were doing me a favour, but it was… I’ve said that a few times, I’m like, “no, I’m doing Plastic Free July”, and so once it’s not Plastic Free July, I don’t have this greater thing you know, I can’t call on this external thing to say this is why I’m doing it, I’ll just be that person saying, I’ll be just self-righteous, “I live plastic free” and then I’ll sound like a tosser.
Mel: No but that’s the scale of what we were talking about before of like, trying and not feeling ashamed about it and being brave, but also not flogging yourself too hard.
Allie: Yeah, and not being too obnoxious about it either when you put people off by being so self-righteous that you, you know. I feel like vegans did that a lot or have done that historically. Veganism, I kind of liked the idea in terms of sustainability and the environment, I think veganism is great and there is lots of levels of it, but I feel like veganism gets a lot of ‘flack’ in the general public, the same way vegetarianism used to, because often vegans…there’s this story that vegans are also fractious and difficult to deal with, you know, and that doesn’t help anyone transition to veganism, that image, that public image of vegans doesn’t help people transition to it. Because they don’t want to be that difficult person or that ‘extremist’ in inverted commas.
I don’t think vegans are extremist and I don’t think that it needs to be that way, but there is this public perception of it. And so, what I’m really saying is I don’t want to be that person around plastic that creates an image of the person who denies plastic as being that difficult self-righteous person. I want it to be something that people just really organically want to accept into their lives without it being an extremist position. You know, that’s all I’m really saying.
Rachel: Sure, I get that. Roll in the relaxed vegan. That’s because I was vegan for a couple of years and there was one situation actually, where I had done a vision quest and at the end of it the food that was offered was dahl and dahl and dahl and dahl and dahl!! for me and I couldn’t handle it anymore, and there was the tuna and cheese and the…We were out bush for 10 days, so we didn’t have a lot of options; it was all had to you know, keep for a long time and eggs and stuff and I went, “Oh, well, I’ll just, I’ll just roll with that”. You know, relax a little, this is just what is being offered.
So yeah, but then there is that balance of when do you just relax and go, okay. yeah, this is just what there is. And when do really stick to your belief because it’s, you know, you have that. So maybe it’s relaxed plastic free; it’s like, you know, as much as possible, but if it’s going to be maybe slightly different to what you’re saying, it’s not…
Allie: I mean, on that note, I was at my brother’s house and they have bread wrapped in plastic. I’m not going to not eat that bread. They have purchased it, that’s their choice; I’m not going to refuse that and be you know. But I’m not going to purchase that for myself and if I was purchasing bread for their family, I would purchase bread that was plastic free. Yeah. Which might not be the bread that those kids will eat, which might be a problem. Laughter.
Mel: Yeah. That is pretty much exactly the same as how I felt visiting my friend and staying in someone else’s life, you know, and I was pretty prepared to be okay with that because I just don’t feel like it’s appropriate when someone is tired and…
Allie: and they’re hosting you.
Mel: Yeah, completely, you know, and we had a conversation and that is fine. I think, I don’t know it might sound wanky, but like, I think your intention, it comes through with all of that Allie. Like if you are doing it because you want to do it for you, that’s why you’re doing it you’re not trying to like, be a weird converter…
Allie: Laughs…Convert people to my weird plastic world…
Rachel: You haven’t got the t-shirt on!
Mel: Yeah. If it’s something that you actually care about and want to do, you’ll do it and you don’t need to necessarily like, broadcast it.
Allie: No, that’s right.
Mel: You know what I mean? You can just do it because you want to do it and it is something you want to do and believe in.
Rachel: Oh yeah, I was actually just going to say, because I did sort of briefly talk about my kids, but you know, my son at one point we were talking about the cheese, you know, and what are we going to do with the cheese? (and here he is right now!) And he just said, “I actually don’t even think I really want cheese, mum” and you know…
Mel: …What we think people want.
Rachel: Yeah. And we were just like, there was no: we can’t have cheese anymore because it’s got plastic in it, it was just like, the conversation was opened around what are we going to do in this situation? And yeah. Seeing what other people are—within your realm of like who’s around—what they’re prepared to do as well.
Allie: Yeah. I kind of feel… like there is a Buddhist idea that I’ve heard of which is that the monks can, if they’re out with their begging bowls on the street they can accept what other people put in it. And if people put a meat food in their begging bowl, they can eat that even though they have taken a vow to never take life or to kill, if it’s given to them as a donation, as a generous gift, by some householder they can accept that and eat that, you know? So, I feel like there is even within the highest spiritual realms, there’s sort of concessions that can be made and understanding that intention does go a long way.
Rachel: Yeah, well, absolutely, because what if that food then gets thrown out because you are righteous and you don’t want to eat it? Then yeah… this is a big conversation really, isn’t it??
Allie and Mel: Yeah!
Theme music for An Environment for Change plays.
You have been listening to An Environment for Change an eight-part sustainability series made possible by a community grant from the Mount Alexander Shire council. You have been listening to me, Mel and Rachel talk about how we have negotiated Plastic Free July; our wins and our losses through the month as we try to make our lives as plastic free as possible. You can listen to this and other episodes of this series on the MainFM SoundCloud page.
My name is Alison Hanly. Thanks for listening. Talk to you soon.
Transcription by Robyn Walton.
Note: Saltgrass is produced to be heard. Some elements of the podcast may not translate easily to the written word. We have also chosen readability over strict fidelity to the actual words spoken. Human speech relies on tonality, rhythm, and emphasis to give meaning to phrases that may seem fragmented on the page. Some mannerisms of speech are also perfectly acceptable to hear, but awkward on the page, eg. repeated words, filler words such as ‘um’ and ‘you know’. As such, we have not transcribed every word and have sometimes altered the text to keep the meaning true, but also be as readable as possible.
Our transcripts are created using both speech recognition software and human transcribers, and though we do our best to avoid errors they may occur, please check the audio before quoting in print.