Wood Spirits Are Calling

Hand me downs in the form of clothes, toys and books is common in our household with three small children, and recently there has been a re-hashing of movies from the now nine year old’s collection. One in particular has taken the toddler’s fancy and also mine.


My Neighbour Totoro is a Japanese animation from 1988 created by Studio Ghibli that tells the story of two sisters who have friendly interactions with wood spirits upon their move to rural Japan. It’s a sweet story that shows the bond between two sisters and childhood imagination that is enchanted and enriched by the natural world.

Mei chasing the wood spirits




The simplicity of the home and lifestyle in the film is very appealing to me at a time when I am questioning all the ‘stuff’ in my own home and life. The endless washing, cleaning, driving, working and entertaining of modern family life is constant and draining. In the film the family’s possessions are sparse and their home life is fairly subdued. Aside from the practical appeal of this (less stuff = less mess = more time) the aesthetic is also appealing.


Another aspect of the film I like is the village community that is multi-generational and has a garden at the heart. Belonging to a community garden somewhat full fills this role for me but I would love to live closer and for it to be a hub for the community to share and look after eachother (work in progress!).

Mei and Satsuki eating some cooking made by a neighbour they call ‘granny’

The film is also a reminder of a child’s prerogative to be amongst nature and learn and grow alongside it and for me as a parent to encourage and provide the opportunity. I hope my children encounter their own wood spirits whilst out in nature.

Marcy found a baby hedgehog at the community garden



Waste comes to life

Since my journey into waste reduction began in 2014 there have been some uncanny instances where bits and pieces from my past experiences and memories have surfaced in relation to waste. Here are three examples:

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Te Rau Puriri Regional Park


One of the beaches that I spent some time at during my childhood was Karekare. I have a clear recollection of looking out of the car window on the way to the beach at the trees alongside the windy roads. I remember being fascinated when someone told me that you can use the leaves to make tea. During the summer of  2014/2015 we walked the track at Te Rau Puriri Regional Park. We stopped and swam at the beach and marvelled at how lucky we are in New Zealand to have such a beautiful landscape. I also noticed the trees near the beach that had fascinated me as a child. I took a few leaves home and found out that they are Kanuka, from here I began making my own creams and balms as a waste reduction measure as well as a renewed fascination with nature’s ability to provide.


Jacques-Louis David. The Death of Marat 1793 Oil on canvas. Royal Museums of Fine Arts Belgium

Image from Google Art Project


In high school one subject I was particularly fond of was art history. When studying the Neo-Classical period we of course looked at the work of Jacques-Louis David. The above painting was shown on a slide and I remember looking at it for a long time and it having an impact on me. I went on to study art history at university, and throughout my studies I didn’t come across this painting and to be honest had forgotten about it. Last year during a waste documentary watching-athon we watched Waste Land. I watched it without any prior knowledge, (yep didn’t even look closely at the poster). The painting that moved me over 15 years ago features in the documentary and plays an important role in the film literally and symbolically. Not only did the imagery move me again, but equally moving was how waste was infiltrating into my forgotten joys.

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Recently I made a display at my local library to promote a waste free parenting workshop that the waste reduction group I belong to was hosting. Whilst I was putting up the display I saw my science teacher from high school. Let’s just say I wasn’t the best student and didn’t and still don’t have a science-y bone in my body. She commented to say that it was good to see I was putting science towards something worth while. It felt good to redeem my lack of enthusiasm for science class with the work I am now involved with.

People often ask how did I come into waste. I tend to say it was and continues to be a gradual process of education and experience. However, it’s hard to ignore these signs. I think the waste reduction ethos has always been in my veins and connecting past experiences is one way to know I’m on the right path and to listen to what the world is telling me.






3 Olive-y things

It’s olive season here in NZ and trees are laden with olives! Since becoming a zero waster it’s hard to walk away from anything that may go to waste. There are many olive trees near where I live, I also have one in my garden. Here are three olivey things I’m doing right now.

Preserved Olives


I followed the method found on this blog and have had good results :


  • You will have to soak them for up to three weeks and change the water each day. When you drain off the water use it to water your pot plants.
  • Smaller olives are mainly all pip so find an olive tree that has big fat olives.
  • Preserving olives requires you to slit or prick each one, so getting the bigger olives is a lot easier to do this.
I found a tree up the road that has nice fat olives. I asked before picking of course.

Olive Leaf Tea

Excuse the beetroot juice in the background.

Really simple! Pick some leaves, leave to dry out of the sunlight, this could take a couple of weeks. You then put into a processor or a bullet thingee to blend to a tea like consistency.

The leaves will curl and become crispy when dried completely.

Composting the leaves

My neighbour must love that I sweep up leaves from their driveway.

The leaves from olive trees can make a bit of a mess on the ground but are great to use for the brown layer for your compost.

I was invited recently to join a group of people who were given permission to pick olives from an olive orchard and then use their olive press to make oil. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it but it’s good to know that these opportunities exist.

Happy olive season!


Sewing for less waste

I must confess I have way too many hobbies, and sewing is one of them. I am an amateur sewer, and can pretty much only sew a straight(ish) line. But that seems to be all I need to whip up a few zero waste essentials such as bags and well, more bags, actually mainly bags.

Sewing supplies are nearly always at op shops, and sometimes they are not necessarily ‘sewing supplies’. I have used shoe laces, mosquito netting, sheets and pillow cases to make bags.

Pillow cases can be turned into bags easily by cutting through the middle and sewing the edges together and if you can manage, sew a casing at the top to pull a drawstring through.

Here’s my how to tutorial:

The pillow case, scissors and braided string were bought from an op shop.

Depending how many bags you want, cut through the middle as shown in the picture below. I have chosen to make three bags in this instance, two smaller and one large.


For the smaller bags made from the bottom end of the pillow case it’s a matter of sewing one side together and leaving 2-3 centimetres at the open end (this is if you intend to put drawstring in).

Turn the fabric inside out before you start sewing.

Use an iron or pins to fold a casing along the top and stitch around the edge. Using a safety pin thread your string through the casing.

A close up showing the stitching of one side and casing with an opening for the drawsrting.

For the bags or bag you will make from the top section of the pillow case you will need to do a bit of unpicking and cutting to remove the flap. You will be left with two open ends and partially sewn sides. Sew across the bottom, sew one of the sides to the top, and on the other side as above leave 2-3 centimetres open to leave an opening for a drawstring if needed. Fold the top to create a casing and stitch around the edge. Thread through string.

These bags have endless uses!

  • produce bag
  • bread bag
  • lunch bag
  • nappy bag
  • toy bag
  • toiletry bag
  • gift bag


And that flap of fabric you removed – don’t throw it away, it can be used to make a headband! Or keep it in a bag of scrap material to one day make a rag rug or string made from scrap fabric twisted together.

Sew in a piece of elastic


I believe there is enough stuff in this world. Let’s reuse, redistribute and make do.

I write this post upon seeing the documentary True Cost a revealing documentary about the fashion industry. If you haven’t seen this I urge you to do so.

Goat farming isn’t for everyone

When transitioning to zero waste you become aware of all the things that you can make for yourself in order to remove packaging from your home. When I was transitioning to zero waste I experimented and tried to make many things from scratch. It’s now been over a year since my family began zero waste and I have figured out that there are some things that I can do without, or are easier to buy.


I have never made soap and I am not likely to do so in the near future. A store brand of unpackaged soap is available from Huckleberry Farms and you can buy The Eco Store soap there too which is also unpackaged. I used to make hand wash and dishwash liquid which was simply grated soap and water. Now we do without the DIY liquids and clean pots and pans with baking soda and vinegar and hands and body with an old school bar of soap.

Ria’s Natural Health Soap. An online order delivery.

I also like using shampoo bars for my hair ( I also use baking soda and vinegar ). They are great for travelling as they are small and double as a body soap. Shampoo bars can be bought unpackaged from Lush stores, I get mine from Ria’s Natural Health Soap – great prices and amazing variety.


Homemade sourdough – recipe from Michael Pollan’s book ‘Cooked; A Natural History of Transformation’.

I love home-made bread, especially sourdough. I have made it in the past and have had pretty good results. When making sourdough it is a 2 day process (excluding the time to grow the initial bug), which requires some close attention.

We decided making sourdough or bread made with yeast is not worth our time and effort, especially as the kids don’t really eat much of it, nor is it a staple of mine or Max’s diet. However, I do still occasionally buy it to keep in the freezer for visitors or the odd occasion when the kids do feel like it. Our local bakery makes a nice wholemeal loaf and they are used to using my cloth bags.

Our local baker Rachel from ‘Four Seasons Bakery’ on West Tamaki Road.


Dishwasher Powder

I tried a few recipes for dishwasher powder but found they often required more ingredients than I was prepared to use or yielded poor results. We tried for a very short period not using the dishwasher, however the ease got the better of us so we decided to buy dishwasher powder that is available in bulk at Bin Inn.

Cleaning product variety at Bin Inn.


I am always looking for ways to simplify our home life whilst being zero waste. For us it’s a matter of weighing up cost, logistics and practicality. I never want to be guilty of going out of my way in order to prove a point. I’ll leave you with this gem that makes me laugh and I never want to be THAT person.

I stumbled across this on the net, it’s from 2010 author: Magpie Industries, on a discussion thread on producing elektronika music.


3 Garden Things

I have a small plot at home plus some plants in containers that I try my best to keep on top of. I almost always grow from seed and adapt permaculture principles where possible to ensure a productive and sustainable garden. I like to grow a wide variety of vegetables and I acknowledge that I am lucky to have the space and time to do so. So I thought I would recommend three edible plants that are highly productive, hardy and versatile for those considering gardening that may have little time and space.

Summer crops are coming to an end. Banana tree trunks line the edge to stop the kikuyu weed getting into the garden. An old play pen rail is used for a trellis for my cucumbers.

Silverbeet aka Swiss Chard

Red and yellow stemmed swiss chard growing in a container.

Silverbeet can be grown throughout the year, the white stalk silverbeet is commonly sold however yellow and red stemmed silverbeet are easily grown and have slightly differing flavours. It’s a great leafy green to add to soups and stews, the stalks are edible too but require slightly longer cooking time (a minute or so longer). The leaves can also be chopped finely and eaten raw in salads or if you have large leaves use them for wraps, layering between vegetable bakes, or blanch them to make dolmas in replacement of grape leaves. It is highly productive and hardy and will eventually go to seed. Plant seeds every couple of months to ensure an all year round supply.


Rhubarb grows amongst the native spinach.

Perhaps the most hardy in my garden and is another plant that grows all year round. The stems are the part you eat, (the leaves are poisonous, so don’t eat them – put them into your compost heap.) This plant can get quite big so if you plan to grow in a container, use a large one. We mostly stew our rhubarb and enjoy it with muesli or porridge, or for desserts like rhubarb crumble. Stewed rhubarb also freezes well.


Marcy loves eating peas straight from the garden.

I especially like growing peas because my toddler loves picking, opening and eating them. They are also good for school lunches and require no prepping or wrapping – just throw them in! Raw peas are nice in salads and freshly picked steamed peas with a little butter is delicious. Peas require a trellis to latch and climb on to so erect this first before planting so you don’t disturb the roots or other plants. If you have small children plant them in your garden or in a container where they can have easy access to so pick them. My experience with growing peas has only been in the cooler months in year with a Spring time harvest.

Those are my top three easy and versatile edible plants – please share in the comments your recommendations, I would love to hear from people!

Lunches for big & small

School has begun and work is back to it’s steady pace so back in full swing is homework, early nights, drop off’s and pick ups, clean uniforms and of course a packed lunch each day. An adequate lunch for the eight year old and the city worker requires a bit of prep during the week and is always determined by seasonal and zero waste foods.

Our eight year old is a bit of a picky eater, however she doesn’t tire of the foods that she does like easily, so her school lunches are the same each day until she does eventually decide she wants a change. However, I don’t think she will ever tire of popcorn. Whoever rises first makes up first a small batch each morning, any leftovers are eaten by the toddler or set aside for after school snacking.

At the moment for her lunch she likes eating a mix of rice and quinoa (50:50 ratio cooked in vegetable stock), we cook perhaps 1-2 batches at night per week, it’s also handy to have in the fridge for Max’s lunch and last minute dinner concoctions. A piece of seasonal fruit and/or vegetables and a home-made treat are staples in her lunch-box. When we do buy lunch on the go a good option is sushi which I get made to order, left uncut and put in a cloth napkin.

Max’s to go breakfast & lunch. Top Right: breakfast :steel cut oats with flaxseed and stewed plums and rhubarb. Left: kumara and tomato. Bottom right: lentil patties with marrow chutney, avo and fermented tomato sauce.

Max’s lunch is almost always leftover dinner or concoctions from various foods in the fridge and pantry. On the days he buys lunch, usually sushi, he takes his own container, which is praised by the sushi lady who often gives him treats such as tofu pockets or kimchi. He also buys on occasion Revive, which is bought in compostable packaging (tried and failed to use own container). Another good option in the city is the Hare Krishna food stall that is active during the university semester (Wednesday 12 – 2 @ Auckland Uni, Thursday 12 – 2 @ AUT), it is only 5$ and even allows a second helping at no extra cost which is bought home to add to dinner or for my lunch the following day.

A refill to be bought home from the hare krishna food stall, even includes dessert!

Making your own waste free takeaway breakfast/lunch may take a little time but it is cheaper in most cases and it is one less thing you need to think about at work (what shall I have for lunch today?). However, for the days when you do feel like buying something opt for a food place that uses real plates and cutlery and sit down and enjoy your lunch – you deserve it! Or use your trusty reusable containers to take away.


  • Steel cut oats are available in bulk bins where I live and are great to have prepared in the fridge for breakfast. We use The Zero Waste Chef’s method of cooking steel cut oats.
  • Get your children cooking! Our eight year old is now baking her lunchbox treat. At the moment her favourite (and mine!) is banana oat chocolate cookies, which we call ‘mookies’ because their appearance and texture are a cross between a cookie and a muffin – well that’s the result we get.
  • Buy bread/rolls loose in your own cloth bag from a local bakery.
  • Keep a napkin and container in your car or bag for the unexpected.
  • I came across this great online resource from the Nelson City Council that clearly outlays the cost difference between a packaged lunch and unpackaged lunch. It’s a PDF so you can download it for your reference.
  • Kids Spot NZ also have some great tips and ideas for rubbish free lunches.