Eco-friendly Wet Weather Gear

In case you have missed it (and if you don’t live in South East Queensland, then it’s entirely likely you have), Brisbane has been experiencing some seriously wet weather. My shed has flooded for the first time ever. On Tuesday, we had the wettest day in 23 years. It’s been pretty crazy.

And I have a broken umbrella.

Fortunately, Yankee Elv had a spare unbroken umbrella, so I’ve been using that, but it did get me thinking about the broken state of my umbrella. One of the metal spines (arms? prongs? what do you call them?) is snapped in half and the nylon fabric has become detached from another metal bit. It was a pretty cheap umbrella to start with. The plastic handle was really uncomfortable and it was super flimsy. As one blogger, Sharon Russell, said:

Many people have adopted the belief that buying several cheap umbrellas is less costly than buying one umbrella of good quality that will last a few years. Instead, they simply plan to replace broken umbrellas whenever they need to.”

I must say, I have fallen prey to this attitude. What’s worse, when I stopped to think about, it occurred to me that pretty much every bit of an umbrella is non-biodegradable and non-recyclable. Also, considering the cheapness, I’m pretty sure it’s not made from recycled materials. A bummer all around.

So this led me to thinking… what kind of environmentally sustainable wet weather gear might there be available? The answer: not much.

Treehugger has a nice list of umbrellas, but everything is American (except one, which is British). I found a Dutch raincoat (but seriously, brown and yellow? what possessed them?), however it looks a bit thick for our climate. It mostly rains in summer here. Ecouterre has a list of raincoats but they are all so expensive! There are some good, inexpensive, Australian umbrellas made from recycled umbrellas available at Positive Impact, but they only sell them in sets of 1000 or more for corporate clients. I think that might be a couple too many. Even ebay can’t help me. 😦

I guess I could go for the Urban Dictionary definition.

Does anyone know where I could get some eco-friendly wet weather gear?

Short of making my own raincoat out of the one Ikea bag I happen to have available and would rather like to keep?


Reduce: Green(washed) Bags

You know how everyone raves about green bags? We have a bunch of them at our place, in our efforts to reduce the number of plastic bags we bring home from the grocery shop. You all heard me rattle on about my unwilling connection to plastic bags, and my alternative green bags a while ago.

Well, it turns out green bags aren’t so green after all.

I had a suspicion this was the case. I knew they were made from plastic, but I already owned the green bags and never really bothered to look into it. Bad hippy, I know. Anyway, now I know the deal:

  • Green bags are also made of plastic (which comes from oil and biodegrades extremely slowly)
  • Green bags are difficult to recycle
  • If green bags are recycled, they make nasty thermoplastic elastomer (used in things like snowmobile tracks, shoe soles and catheters)
  • Green bags tend to be manufactured overseas and thus plenty of energy is expended getting them to you
  • Green bags break too, eventually (trust me on this!) and are difficult to repair
  • The piece of black plastic in the bottom of the bag snaps and is generally a pain in the arse (it’s not recyclable either).

Ok, so the last two I added myself, but they are just as valid.

We buy 5kg bags of basmati rice in a cotton bag (sort of like the little one on the right).

We buy 5kg bags of basmati rice in a cotton bag (sort of like the little one on the right).

Do I think green bags are a better option than regular plastic bags? Sure thing. It’s still better to reuse plastic a bunch of times than go for single use items. However, if we can make the same product out of natural, biodegradable fibre (like our Guard basmati rice bags), isn’t that an even better choice?



Reduce: Tissues

I’ve been feeling guilty about not making a bunch of hankies a bit sooner, like I said I was going to. Reusable hankies will help me stop using tissues so much. That being said, I don’t often need to blow my nose, except when I’m sick.

But when I’m sick… oh boy.

I’ve just gotten over a sinus sort of thing. At the height of it, I used about 4 boxes of tissues. As Yankee Elv so eloquently put it as I went to recycle box #1: ‘You killed a tree today!’

Yeah, thanks. Now I feel more guilty.

My only consolation is that I would have had to use some tissues anyway, cos there’s no way I would have made enough hankies to keep up. My biggest regret outside of the environmental factors is that apparently cloth hankies are softer on your nose than paper, and my nose got sooooo chafed.

Another thing I’ve been doing to try to reduce my tissue usage is make these flannelette face wipes. I’ve been slowly hand sewing them out of old, ripped pairs of pyjama pants.

Flannelette facial wipes made out of old pyjama pants

Flannelette facial wipes made out of old pyjama pants

I use tissues to apply my witch hazel toner, so these will dramatically reduce my tissue consumption. I tried one out yesterday and it worked well! I was worried it was going to take a lot more witch hazel to soak through the material than it does to soak through a tissue, but it didn’t actually, so that was unexpectedly good news. (Especially since I’m using bloody expensive organic witch hazel so I could refill my bottle rather than buy a new one. I’m still not sure whether I’m going to do that again.)

I got the idea to make flannelette facial wipes from this post on the Towards Sustainability blog, but I made up my own pattern. All I did to make one was cut two circles out of flannelette, put them together (right sides facing each other, so the un-sewn pad was inside-out) and sew around the edges using a regular hand-stitch. Once I’d sewn all around the edge except for a little gap, I turned it right side out and carefully sewed up the gap. Then I sewed all around the edge in blanket stitch to make it look pretty and to ensure the two pieces were securely attached. Voila! Facial wipes.

Now they facial wipes are done, I’m moving on to the hankies. For once my chunky thighs are paying off – more pj pants material with which to make hankies! Wasn’t that just so totally Pollyanna?



Reduce: Paper

I hate paper.

Ok, I don’t really. Actually, sometimes I love paper – like when I want to read a book (that I already own or have borrowed from the library – I try to avoid buying new ones). But I do like to avoid using paper unless I really have to. I’m especially conscious of it when I’m at work – reading on-screen and using notepads made from old company letterhead.


This article outlines some tips you can follow to help you reduce your reliance on paper. I don’t think digitising your existing paper is necessary for any reason other than personal preference though – you already have the paper anyway.

The other thing I would suggest is to consider other sources of paper that you can also reduce:

  • Paper cups and other disposable ‘crockery’
  • Tissues and toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Paper and cardboard food packaging (buy in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging).

Of course, that’s just reducing. There’s an awful lot of reusing and recycling that could occur – but reducing should come first.



Reduce: Tool Replacement. Grr.

Ok, I’m a bit ticked off.

We have a push mower – my parents gave it to Yankee Elv and I as a Christmas present in 2007. We were really happy to have it. Our yard is quite small, so it was great to have an eco-friendly (no fuel required!) way of keeping it in shape. It’s very achievable to mow it by hand and it’s a good work-out. I prefer it – I’m always paranoid that pebbles will fly from under a regular mower and hit me in the leg.

push mower

Ozito push mower, with blades no-one will sharpen or replace.

Anyway, the blades on the push mower are dull. We have been trying for more than 6 months to find someone to sharpen or replace the blades and no-one will do it. Bunnings used to (that’s where my parents bought it originally), but apparently it’s too cost-prohibitive for them to continue anymore. Everyone else has the same excuse. We’ve called mower places, hardware stores and tool shops. We even reached out on Freecycle and had someone agree to do it for us, but then he backed out. I emailed the mower company and got no reply. I’m very frustrated!

The mower is not usable, and we can’t continue whipper snipping the lawn, small though it may be. The day before yesterday, Yankee Elv went to Bunnings – one of those shops that won’t sharpen my current mower’s blades! – and bought a new mower. The fact that she needed to do that really pisses me off!! We got an electric mower, so at least we can use green power rather than gasoline… but that’s really not the point. The push mower we have is just fine.

It annoys me that people feel it’s not worth keeping up a perfectly good product because of their impact on their bank account. What about the impact on the environment? It’s not like the damned mower is recyclable even.




Reuse: Denim Insulation

Ever thought of using denim jeans for building insulation? These folks have.

Typically, insulation is made from fibreglass. Fibreglass is exactly what is sounds like – tiny glass fibres. In an earlier post I discussed (at a high level) manfacture of glass. It’s not fabulous for the environment (although better than plastic in my opinion). I would definitely say blue jeans are better. They’re better for people and the environment. I like that the jeans are either old ones that would otherwise be discarded, or denim off-cuts from denim manufacturers. Considering cotton (which denim is made of) is such a water-intensive crop, however, is the best choice for the environment though?

If it was up to me, I’d go strawbale. The straw is just leftovers from grain crops, cheap, easy to construct and very effective.

An exterior truth window on a strawbale house, showing the straw inside. Photo from Paso Straw Bale Construction Blog.

An exterior truth window on a strawbale house, showing the straw inside. Photo from Paso Straw Bale Construction Blog.

Besides, strawbale* is pretty. I like it.

I wonder if the federal government would provide a rebate on building a strawbale house, under their insualtion scheme? Somehow, I doubt it. Hmm.

*Photo from Paso Straw Bale Construction Blog.