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Plastic-Free Vegan Chocolate WIN

I just had to share… Mrs Flannery’s (an organic health food shop in Queensland) has changed the recipe for their dark chocolate, so it no longer has milk in it.

So now, my fellow Queensland vegans, you can get:

  • Dark chocolate covered strawberries
  • Dark chocolate covered cherries
  • Dark chocolate covered blueberries
  • Dark chocolate buttons
  • Dark chocolate chunks (all sizes, including some rather giant chunks. I drool a little when I see them).

It is really nice dark chocolate. I do like strong, bitter chocolate (like 70% or 85%), but sometimes I want something a little milder and sweeter. I miss milk chocolate sometimes, and while soy chocolate is nice, it’s just not quite the same. This chocolate is not milk chocolate, but it totally meets my needs. It is definitely dark, but it is almost like a 50% or something, which I’ve never before seen without milk. It’s sweet and almost creamy… or maybe I’m just comparing it to 70%…

Even Mr Teeny-bop likes it, and he hates dark chocolate.

You can find these delicious products in the bulk foods section at Mrs Flannery’s so you can totally avoid plastic or other disposable packaging when you buy it! Mrs Flannery’s weighs their food, so they supply light paper bags for you, so they don’t really add to the food weight. Yankee Elv and I save our bags and reuse them. They do allow you to bring your own containers, but you’d have to get them to weigh the container first and take the weight off, and I think that might be challenging on a busy day at the store (like Supa Saver Saturday – the first Saturday of every month, when you save about 15% off bulk foods if you are a store discount club member). You could give it a go though.

Anyway, I’m really excited and I totally love it!

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The Story of Stuff

I just read a great article about Annie Leonard, who created The Story of Stuff. The Story of Stuff is a short, animated film that explains our consumer lifestyle and how it is affected us and the planet – from go to whoa. Here’s the video if you haven’t seen it before (you can choose different languages and captions if you click through to the site).

I like how the article allows Annie to better explain some of the points people have refuted. I also like how it gives us a bit of background to how she got into environmental activism. I especially like how the article is appearing in a major magazine – Elle – so lots of people will get to hear more about The Story of Stuff. Good stuff, Elle!

P.S. I really like the idea of a kampung. Does anyone know of any western (specifically Australian) types of these? Mostly I’ve seen eco-villages, but they don’t allow you to keeps cats and dogs and that doesn’t work for me (although I understand their reasons). I would love to live near like-minded people, eventually, and the whole sharing of resources and community appeals to me.

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Spotlight: Toilet Lid Sink

I saw this interesting little item on Greenopolis the other day – the toilet lid sink (technically called the Sink Positive). Basically, it’s easily installed in place of the cistern lid on your toilet, and when you flush, the clean water comes from the water supply, to the tap (under which you wash your hands) and then it goes down the plughole into the cistern, replacing the water that has just been used to flush the toilet. The next time you flush, this water is then used, and replaced… and so on. In this way, the water is used twice, rather than just using fresh water to flush. This would save heaps of water in hand-washing – and would restrict people to a certain amount of water for washing too.

Have a look at the video explanation (no captions, sorry), then read what I consider to be the downsides.

Downsides:

  1. I’m a pretty quick hand-washer and I think this would give me more water than I actually need most of the time.
  2. Where do you stand to wash your hands? Do you straddle the toilet? Try stand to the side of the toilet? It would be difficult to position yourself in any situation, but especially in separate toilets, like we have in lots of Australian households (as in, the toilet is in its own separate little room).
  3. I just know someone will knock the soap into the bowl. I know it.
  4. Cats love sinks. Imagine going to the toilet with a cat sleeping right behind you on top of the cistern. Interesting…
  5. There’s no way to modify the water pressure.
  6. How do little kids reach the sink? Stand on the toilet lid?

Do you think this grey water solution is beneficial enough to the environment to overlook the downsides?

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Sustainable Menstrual Pads

I read an article on BlogHer today called iPads and Maxi Pads: Changing Women’s Lives in Uganda. Alison McQuade (the author of the post) uses the hype around the new iPad to draw attention to a more important issue – that Ugandan girls are dropping out of school at puberty because they have no access to sanitary items (pads, panty liners, tampons, menstrual cups etc). It struck a chord with me today particularly because I’ve just been trying out a new cloth pad. I’ve had it for ages but have been so enamoured with my menstrual cup, supplemented with cloth panty liners, that I hadn’t worn it before today – and I just felt like trying it out. The sock monkey called to me.

Arty farty shot of my (then new) sock money pad, from Moon Pads. (The sock monkey part is one of the wings.)

Arty farty shot of my (then new) sock money pad, from Moon Pads. (The sock monkey part is one of the wings.)

Anyway, I digress.

I’ve heard before that many girls in third-world countries don’t have access to any menstrual items, but I was surprised that the solution suggested in the post was to donate to a non-profit group (the Kasiisi Project) who provide disposable pads to the girls. The other group I know of who used to try to combat the same issue was Goods 4 Girls, who provided cloth menstrual pads to African girls (Crunchy Chicken, who ran the group, has since had to let it go – I’m not sure if anyone else has taken up the mantle). The advantage of cloth pads, of course, is that they can be reused over and over again with just a simple washing between wears. Quite aside from the environmental impact, I envisaged the aftermath of introducing disposable pads as something like a less serious version of the Nestle baby powder tragedy of the 1970s/1980s. What would happen if the Kasiisi Project ran out of funds? The girls would run out of pads and be right back where they started.

However, I did a little more research and while I still think cloth pads are a better option, I like the holistic set-up the Kasiisi Project has set up better than the ‘make a pad and donate it’ style of Goods 4 Girls. (Of course, this likely came about because the Kasiisi Project is a well-established non-profit organisation and Goods 4 Girls was a one woman who took donations – so you know, fair enough, you do what you can.) The Kasiisi Project donates Maka Pads, which are produced in Uganda as part of a cottage industry – often employing the families of the girls who will benefit from them. They are made from locally-sourced papyrus and waste paper, using little electricity in production. They can be worn for 8 to 10 hours, much longer than a regular pad (depending on your flow of course), so you use less of them. They’re cheap (US 0.5 cents per pad) for the city women who buy them, but most of the rural girls access them through donation.

Clearly the people behind this part of the Kasiisi Project have thought beyond the immediate need of the girls who would otherwise miss out on an education – they have also considered how to help the community and the environment. If you’re interested, I found this video much more informative than the websites (unfortunately there is no captioning).

Now, don’t think I’m dissing Goods 4 Girls because I’m not. It was still a worthwhile effort, as is the Kasiisi Project – every little bit helps (in most cases). But you know what would be best of all? A combination of their methods, which would, in my opinion, be the best option. Keep up the local cottage industry, but produce cloth pads, which can be reused for a long time. Of course, that then brings up the question – where does the cloth for the pads come from? Is it possible the Kasiisi Project already considered this and found locally-sourced papyrus and waste paper to be the more sustainable option after all? I guess if you had to ship in the cloth over a long distance, that would be a significant impact in and of itself. Also, has the Kasiisi Project factored in the disposal of the used pads?

I may email them to find out. Will keep you posted!

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Unforsaken

Oh wee blog, I have not foresaken thee.

I am just swamped at work (typical) and now feel I have tried everything to get unswamped in my current role. As such, I feel comfortable that I’ve given it my best shot and will feel no regrets to leave. In the past I’ve made efforts to leave in a sort of angry ‘I can’t take this anymore’ kind of way. In contrast, I’m now working with folks to transfer to a different department within the same company. Initially, I think my workload will increase, but ultimately I think it will be better for me, my work-life balance overall, and my career prospects.

Also, I’ve been diagnosed with a reasonably serious illness in my spine. Serious in that it requires a series of day visits to the hospital for treatment (which I’m currently undergoing) and regular MRIs, but not that serious, in that it’s not degenerative or terminal or anything, although it might recur over time. Plus, it’s mild so far, so I’ll be ok… I’m not going to end up paralysed at this point! And hey, I’m re-using my hospital band… it’s loose enough for me to slip off my wrist, so I asked if I could just use the same one over and over and the nurses said I could, since I’m always the same person lol.

By the way, why do hospitals give you nasty sandwiches for lunch? I mentioned I was vego and I got egg and lettuce on white bread… none of which I eat, and all of which were particulary nasty versions of the foods in question. The woman who got them for me though was so proud to offer a meatless meal that I didn’t have the heart to not eat something… so I did some fancy bread slice switching so I didn’t have to eat the egg and then ate most of the disgusting lettuce sandwiches… I kinda hid some under the crusts though. I felt not eating crusts was kinda socially acceptable enough for me to leave them. I never even practiced food hiding as a kid, either… my mum had the eagle eye for food. I got served up peas for breakfast once because I wouldn’t eat them for tea. Mum won the battle but I won the war… she didn’t serve me peas again, but as a compromise, I had to eat lettuce (something green had to be on the plate!). I wonder if the copious amounts of eggs and lettuce I ate as a kid have anything to do with my complete dislike of them now…

Anyway, what with that stuff, Mr Teeny-bop’s birthday (including the last ever sleepover part of DOOM) and starting school, Yankee Elv’s on-going work woes and her own health issues, Loodle the escapee crossing a major road (fortunately in the middle of the night with much less traffic) and organising a bunch of extra stuff at work (such as the local company Clean Up Australia day), it’s been pretty full on.

However, just to show you that I haven’t forgotten you, and I’m still keeping up with all things weird and wonderful and environmental…

Check out these awesomely cool living root bridges! We have trees like this here in Brisbane so bridges like this would definitely be doable.

Root bridges in India

Root bridges in India

Living Root Bridges can tell you more about why they’re awesome…

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