Laura Trotta | The Leading Voice On Eco Living | Sustainable Living...+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
I'm an award-winning Eco-living Educator on a mission to make green mainstream by empowering parents to make more sustainable lifestyle choices. Here’s to making green mainstream and creating a future that’s a happier, healthier place for generations to come
If you’re an avid reader and are keen to learn how to indulge your habit in the most sustainable way possible then you’re in for a real treat today!
I’m joined by my friend and author Lisa White, who only recently dragged me into the 21st Century where reading is concerned…..
You see, I’m an avid reader and ‘demolish’ on average one book a week from my local library. In fact I generally have at least three on the go at once – a novel I can escape in, a business book I can learn from, and a health or lifestyle book to continually improve my lifestyle.
I love the fact I can return them and get new ones…. aka so eco-friendly and economical!
Buuutttt I’ve been wondering how I can read while away for 5 weeks on my upcoming trip to Antarctica with limited Internet and the small luggage limit… so not practical!
Enter (finally) getting a Kindle……
I’ve always resisted purchasing a Kindle because, well I’m on screens all day and don’t want to ‘relax’ on a screen, plus I’m rather against E-waste. But I’ve just been swayed over to the side of electronic reading…. Even if I have my L plates on.
In this episode Lisa and I are chatting all about books v e-books (plus enviro implications) and how she recently made the leap from naturopath (and author of many cookbooks available through her Alternate Chef Kitchen business) to fictional author with her brand Contemporary Fantasy novella “A Touch of Magic” which is available now.
Let’s dive in!
What Prompted You To Make the Switch From Traditional Books to a Kindle and Why Do You Love E-Readers So Much?
Well, I was thinking about this recently actually. So there are a couple of reasons. Really the reason I started reading via an e-reader is when I started publishing books. I actually published the first few e-books without ever using e-books. In fact, I really didn’t like them. I hated them. But it seemed the thing to do, you do the print book and you had the e-book available.
It wasn’t until I came to publish my third book that I started fiction writing again for fun. I was listening to podcasts of a well-known fiction writer who has a blog and podcast for writers and stuff. She was saying, “If you’re writing and you’re publishing, you really should be reading the way that your readers as an indie author are going to be experiencing the content.” I was like, “Oh, light bulb, of course.”
I really should. So at the time, my brother-in-law had given us their old iPad and probably didn’t even have that. We had computers and that was it. I’ve never been credited with actually being one of the first people for anything electronic.
I am not an early adopter. I’m maybe a small step up from a luddite, but I’m not an early adopter. So I have to laugh that here I am, I’m the one that brought you here. So anyway, I started using an e-reading app on there because our designer was saying you need to test the Kindle format and the e-pub formats. Which are the two different e-book formats when you’re buying them online for e-readers. Just to make sure the links and everything working. So we started using the app.
Then after listening to this author saying, “You really should be testing it yourself in the format.” Because my Kindle for example is a black and white one. So when you’re doing recipes and stuff, a lot of that visual is colour. And colours in colour and in black and white, that makes a difference. It was like, “Ah, I really should be interacting with this as the way people are.” So I did and it’s certainly changed the way I write the books, the cookbooks.
The fiction not so much because after a while you adapt pretty quickly when you’re reading fiction. It’s just words on a page after a while and you’re absorbed and drawn into the story. You don’t really think about how you’re absorbing that story.
But with the cookbooks, I was like, “Oh my god, I’ve got too many links. The links have to go. This is cumbersome as a reader.” So it was really good. So that revolutionised the way that I wrote the book. I really simplified the whole thing and it brought it down to basics. And it was like, “Well, what do people really need when they’re going through my cookbooks?” It was just the recipe and a link to the video and an easy way to access all that information.
So it was really good. That’s what brought me kicking and screaming towards an e-reader. It didn’t take long to really fall in love with it because … and let me preface this with I love books. I am a book addict. I am a book buyer.
We’ve got nine bookshelves in our house. I’ve been decluttering, trying to clear the house out of stuff that we didn’t need anymore. The books stay of course, but we don’t have room for more bookshelves.
So when I went to the e-reader, it’s like, “Okay. This has some kind of cool potential.” Because Kindle have their cloud. Obviously I’ve got a Kindle, there are different e-readers, but that’s one that I’ve got. But they’ve got their cloud where you can store all the books you buy and you can download whatever you want on your device. They’ve got a couple of cool things where you get … I’ve got an app on my phone, the iPad, and on the actual Kindle reader itself obviously. I can download the book that I’m reading on any of the devices I want.
It can also sync with your other devices. So if I am waiting at a doctor’s appointment or whatever and I’ve only got my phone with me, I can read the book on my phone. Then when I come home that night, if I feel like reading more of my book and I pick up my Kindle, you open the Kindle and within about three seconds, you get this popup saying, “Oh, our records show that you were up to page 50. Would you like us to take you there?” “Yes, yes I would, thank you very much.”
Laura: So you don’t even need a bookmark.
No. I haven’t gone as far as highlighting text and making notes and stuff ’cause I don’t like typing on the keypad. Textbooks are things that I would still buy print. I’m a series person, so when there’s a favourite series like Game of Thrones or something, I will definitely be having that collection and Harry Potter. The keeper book ones. But there were a lot of books that I was buying that I liked, but I probably wasn’t really going to read that many more times. It’s great.
The other thing that I like about it is that you can carry your whole library on your Kindle, or your reader. Up to 1,100 books to 6,000 books, depending on the size of the reading device that you have. I just love that.
Without cluttering my house at all. Then the other thing is the books are less expensive as well. A lot of the indie books are less expensive. A lot of the print like books, a lot of the e-books from the main publishers tend to be a bit higher in price. But they’re still less expensive than a print book. That’s mostly because obviously the publishers want you to buy the print book ’cause they’ve got to move that stock, kind of thing.
Whereas for the indie authors, it’s better to have the ebook sell because then it doesn’t matter. You’re not mounting the stock anyway. That’s why I’ve become converted. I didn’t think I would. Even my husband, he was another like, “Yeah, thanks, Lisa, it’s not gonna happen. I’ll keep reading books.” So then I put the app on his phone and every time I look, he’s getting more and more books on his app.
So there’s some cool things about them which I was turned off to for many years. Was I not trying to publish, I never would’ve come across them.
Similar to me! If I wasn’t about to go to Antarctica on a ship with no Internet and with a very small luggage allowance I’m not sure I would have made the jump yet. I think I’ve got a 15 kg luggage allowance which doesn’t really allow for many books!
The thought of being totally disconnected for just three weeks on that ship without just reading a few pages before I go to sleep every night. I thought, “Oh, panic stations. Lisa, what am I gonna do?” Yeah, so yeah, I guess if I didn’t have that on my very near horizon, I probably, I don’t know. I would probably still be, “No, I’m not going to switch to a Kindle.” But anyway. We would’ve gone for a walk on the beach and you would’ve convinced me otherwise.
Lisa: I’d say, “Laura, have a look.”
Like So Many Industries in Recent Years, the Publishing Industry Has Been Disrupted by Digital Innovation. Is There a Positive Environmental Benefit To More Consumers Opting For A Digital Read?
So this is something I’ve been wondering about for a while myself. So I have gone looking for numbers because as an ex-scientist, I like numbers.
So basically the short answer is it’s going to depend on who you’re chatting to. But the short answer is mostly it comes out pretty much even. Environmental impact wise. Which kind of surprised me. I expected the e-reader to be better for the environment. But I have seen other numbers, which basically say that, “Yeah, it is better, a little bit better.” As well. So there’s lots of factors that are going to affect whether or not it is better for the environment as well.
I think rather than making up global question are e-readers better for everyone? Because when you look into the account of the life cycle of them and what it takes to produce the e-reader and the minerals and everything to make with the electronics and all that stuff. Then it’s more a case of are you a high volume reader? Because if you’re a high volume reader or a book addict, then yes, definitely it’s goning to be worth your while. Because basically, I’ll give you some of the numbers that I found.
To talk about whether an e-reader is good for the environment, I need to just explain a little bit about life cycle of a print book. To make a print book, obviously the author writes it. Yeah, I know they probably write it on their laptop. Then they go to a mainstream publisher. It’ll go through many rounds of editing and all that. Then it will go and get printed. Print runs vary in size depending on who the author is. So a big name author would have anywhere from 200,000 books plus. A smaller author would maybe have anywhere from 5,000 books, it’ll depend on how big a hit they think that first book would be.
So the books that don’t, they get given to a bookshop on basically sale or return. So if the books don’t get sold, then they get either sent back to the publisher or destroyed. What they call pulping them. Some of that gets recycled or some will get sold at a very inexpensive price just to try and move them.
In terms of what does this mean for books? How is this … is an e-reader more environmentally friendly? I found some numbers. Now I had trouble finding really recent numbers, so these were mostly quoting articles from a study that was done looking at how green e-readers are back in 2009.
Basically they’re saying there’s about a million books published a year. Of those, two thirds are from indie authors. So the actual number of books then is probably a bit more than a million. Because not all indie books have an ISBN and this number came from one of the places that issues ISBNs. But so that leaves about 300,000 print books a year around the world published. So that’s titles, individual titles, not print runs.
In terms of what’s the book wastage in a year, the number that I found from 2009, one came from an article in the Daily Mail from the UK. Which said about 77 million books are unsold each year and get returned to the publisher. Most of those would be pulped or some will be sent out, some will remain. It’s a big number isn’t it? That data was from a UK publication. They said 61 million of those books were from the UK publishers. With some from overseas publishers.
Now I’m in an author group and someone in that group was saying that she used to work in a job where she would collect the books that didn’t get sold from the bookstores for one store chain in America. Basically, based on the number of books that she had to destroy at the end of each week, and she multiplied that by the number of weeks in a year and the number of stores that chain had. That number came to around 70 million books. That’s an average of novels. So it’s a phenomenal number.
Now you ask, like when we’re chatting, about how does this mean for Australia? Because obviously we’re the smallest market out of the UK and America, out of those three. I found the number on the author Ian Irvine, on his website. He’s got a really excellent article, a really long one, about what publishing and writing is all about. But he said on his website, the number he said is about 20,000 books per year published in Australia. So yeah, putting that into context then. However many of those become, how many of those have a small print run, and big print ones. I don’t have an actual number of books in Australia.
So what the environmental resources in making a book? Apart from obviously printing and all that. We think about the trees and the paper. Apparently one tree, I’ve got into another article I found from Hindu Business Line Inc. I think. I’ll give you a link. ‘Cause it was fascinating, absolutely fascinating read.
According to that article, he was saying, ’cause he was quoting the study that was done in 2009. But it’s a 2017 article. About one tree I think makes around 20 books. So from this, from the memory, I’ve got the notes written here. So hopefully I copied that correctly. Yeah, that was just really interesting.
So now let’s look at an e-reader. When you consider that … oh, and there were two different numbers quoted for what makes an e-reader worthwhile. As in more environmentally friendly than buying print books. One was 20 books makes an e-reader a better choice. The other was 100 books makes the e-reader a better choice. So anyway-
Laura: Is that per year? So if you read 20 books a year? Or just for the whole lifecycle?
Lisa: For the life of an e-reader.
Laura: What’s the life of an e-reader?
Lisa: So about three years could be, according to what I could find from these articles.
Laura: Yeah, right.
Lisa: Yeah. So it’s quite interesting isn’t it? So if you’re high volume reader and by high volume reader, I found a study-
Laura: What about one novel a week? Or one book a week? That’s probably on average what I read. I go the library every week and I’m always, I’ll get a book and a couple magazines from the library a week. Then return them a week later, pretty much. I think I’d be high volume then.
Yeah, you’d be high volume. Because the study I found rated average reading quantities. It was an American study and it was quoting numbers from 2012. But the average number of books read by adults were 12 per year. That was the actual average, but the median, where most of the numbers actually fell… So not counting the people who were reading like 100 books a week. And the people who were reading one book every 10 years. The average was five books a year, which was quite interesting really. I lot of people I guess are busy and they’re holiday readers. They mainly read when they have holidays. For those people then the library and books is probably just as environmentally friendly.
But if you’re a high volume reader, then it looks like the e-reader would certainly win.
In terms of recyclability of the e-reader, there are three different brands out there of the most common ones that you would hear of. That’s Kindle obviously, Kobo have one, and Nook have one, that’s the three main ones that you’ll hear the most about. All the companies seem to have a recycling policy. Certainly for the northern hemisphere. I haven’t looked in to see what our options are here in Australia.
Another option is if people buy them and they decide they don’t want them, they can certainly clear the memory and then sell them. So you can buy secondhand e-readers as well.
If you don’t have an actual e-reader device, you can just use your phone or your iPad, which are also recycled.
How Do You Get Started With an E-Reader such as a Kindle…. From purchasing one to downloading books to read?
Okay, so getting started with e-readers is surprisingly easy. So you buy them. Depending on where you are, you could either buy it online. First of all, you choose your company. So some people love Amazon, some people love other companies. So you find a device that you want.
There are different stores that sell the different devices here. So I think I bought mine from Office Works, but Big W sell them, and JB High Fi I think sell the Kobo. It’s been a while now since I went looking. But basically, some stores will sell them. So you can either go into a physical store and buy them, or you can pop online, create an account with a store that you want to buy it from, like Amazon for example. And you could buy it online if you wanted to do that.
The other thing is, you don’t actually need an e-reader. You could just read on your phone or on a tablet or iPad, if you wanted to without purchasing the e-reader. So basically all the companies that deliver e-books also have an app and the app is free. So you could just download the free app and read via that. What you would do is you create your account, you would then go and download the app for say, your phone. Then login to the app, once it’s downloaded on your phone.
Then you can start reading books. Just go to the website, choose a book you want to buy, login. It’ll have an option with for example Amazon, that’s the one I know the most because that’s what I’m using. You click on buy with one click and then it just says, “Where would you like this delivered to?” Because I’ve got the three, the apps in three places, I would just say, “Oh, Lisa’s Kindle.” Or my phone or whatever. I can choose where I want to download the book.
Or alternatively, if I’m out and about and I didn’t download the book on my phone, I can just go into the reading app and just choose the title from my library, which is in the cloud and say download. So providing I’ve got internet, I can download the book to my device that I want to read it from.
Then providing I’ve got battery power for that device, I can read it when I’m not online. So obviously you just can’t sync or do anything that would require internet like downloading, purchasing a new one, or I said, syncing the page with the other device if I’m not in range. But that doesn’t matter because if you’re not in range, you’re usually … so like when you’re in Antarctica, you’ll have the one device with you anyway. So as long as it’s charged and you’ve got your charger and a way to charge it, then you’re cool.
If you don’t have that and you’ve got a blackout, then books are the way to go. But having said that, when we had that massive blackout last year in Adelaide, so in South Australia, I was reading from my Kindle because it was charged and it was too dark to read. I didn’t want to waste the torch battery reading on my book. Whereas if the Kindle went flat, big deal because it was close to bedtime anyway.
In terms of the battery life, they last a surprisingly long time. I found with my Kindle the battery can last for weeks, depending on how often you’re reading it obviously and how bright you’ve got the screen.
Giving my eyes a rest from the screen has probably been my biggest resistance to getting an e-reader. I’ve worn glasses since I was 11 years old. My first glasses were tinted because of the computer screens at the time, with their black backgrounds the green writing. I would get headaches from computers at school and everything and suffered from glare from the computers.
The screens are so much better these days, but I still find that if I don’t have to look at a screen, I don’t. And that’s why I prefer the physical books and resisting the e-readers. But when I was chatting with you, you were saying that obviously the e-reader doesn’t have that glare that an iPad or doesn’t have that blue light or whatever you call it.
I like reading off the e-reader. I don’t like reading off the iPad or tablet. I find the same glare from the screen and it’s brighter.
I love seeing the cookbooks in all their colour on the iPad. But I tend to read them before bed. I prefer reading Fiction on the e-reader. You can change the brightness of the screen as well. You can choose an option that isn’t back lit.
I’ve got a Kindle Paperwhite. It’s a black and white screen and it does have a back light that you can choose how bright you like it. I find it’s not as hard on the eyes. In fact, when I get tired, I like the fact that I can make the whiteness of the background a bit brighter as well. I find it easier to read without having to really squint and concentrate too much.
Now for listeners who are going, like me, as I’ve just mentioned, love the physical nature of the books and are regulars at their local libraries, how can we feed our reading habits digitally without clocking up big bills?
Is there a way to rent or borrow books through an e-library to read on your Kindle?
Yeah, there is. In terms of for the buyers, so I know there are just some people who are book buyers. So I’ll just cover those options first. But yes, there is library options as well.
For the book buyers, basically e-books are usually less expensive than print books for starters. So that in itself saves a few dollars. How cheap are they? Amazon has a massive range of free books, so do iBooks and Kobo, and Nook. So they’ve got a range of free books that you can download. They’ve also got really inexpensive books from 99 cents to the average price of a novel is about say five dollars.
So many of us grew up with the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ mantra that’s as ingrained in our psyche as the ‘Slip Slop Slap’ sun protection slogan.
But just as ‘Slip Slop Slap’ has moved with the times and been revised to ‘Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide’ I thought the start of a new year was the perfect opportunity to cast an eye over ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.’ In particular I’m keen to share my thoughts on where the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ mantra needs an upgrade, and why.
I hope it’s a fabulous one for you and that 2018 is THE year where you make significant inroads to eco-fy that home and life of yours. If you need some guidance setting your green goals for the year ahead, check out my super simple process on setting green goals for the year ahead.
Now, let’s talk about waste!
Where Did the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ Mantra Come From?
Commonly referred to as the Three R’s, the birth of the popular ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ phrase, logo and practice can certainly be viewed as one of the main catalysts for the environmental movement as a whole.
The origin of the phrase is often debated, but it can be traced back to the growing environmental movement in the 1970’s. At the time America was at war with Vietnam and many Americans were demanding greater attention to air pollution, waste and water quality.
Under an initiative of Gaylor Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, the nation came together for the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Twenty million Americans united under shared common values for protecting the planet. This historic gathering lead to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that same year.
In 1976, Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act to increase recycling and conservation efforts as waste became a bigger problem. It is estimated that the slogan “reduce, reuse, recycle” was born at this time (source).
While the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle‘ mantra has greatly influenced society to be much more conscientious of our waste and the planet’s health, there is still much more to be done.
Why is ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ Not Enough?
Just like Cancer Council Australia have updated the popular Slip Slop Slap campaign of the early 1980’s to include two more preventative measures (seek and slide), I believe the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is in need of a makeover.
All mantras to minimise harm should include a prompt to avoid harm in the first place.
This is in line with the precautionary principle that implies that there’s a social responsibility to protect the public to exposure from harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. In other words, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Cancer Council Australia have added ‘Seek’ to encourage Australians to avoid the sun and seek shade in the hottest part of the day.
So, using the same rationale, let’s preface Reduce, Reuse, Recycle with ‘Refuse’.
Rather than reducing the harm we’re having on the environment, we should be actively seeking to avoid it in the first place.
Makes sense, right?
By refusing to buy into excess and consumerism and instead avoid the purchase or consumption, we’re saving resources both up front (creation) and at the end (disposal or reprocessing) of the product lifecycle.
Furthermore, the mantra currently stops at ‘Recycle’ but technology nowadays enables us to reprocess or recover waste even further to generate energy. In practice this can look like the capture of methane from landfill for power generations or as simple as composting your vegie scraps at home to produce fertilizer for your garden.
So let’s also add ‘Recover’ to the mix!
How Can We Easily Implement ‘Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover’ In Our Homes?
Let’s finish by taking a closer look at the revised ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ mantra and cover some examples to help us in our efforts…..
1. REFUSE the generation of waste
This first step simply encourages you to avoid the purchase or consumption in the first place. Do you really NEED the latest and greatest of everything? Can you do without some of the latest gadgets and gizmos? Does your clothing always need to reflect the latest trend?
By the way, this principle extends to the smaller items as well….
Politely decline a straw with your drink, plastic bag with your purchase, disposable cutlery that comes with your take away, even the gifts with purchase you don’t need!
(And believe me – most of those gift with purchases you don’t need! Take it from me…. as a flash cosmetic fan in my early twenties, I collected a mountain of travel size, luxury lipsticks, mascaras, eye shadows and creams. Items that really came in handy when I was working in the field in my overalls as an environmental engineer (not!). Fast forward to now… after 15+ years living in a draw in my dressing table, they’ve now all expired or are past their best. What I haven’t been able to move on has recently been laid to rest courtesy of my house move declutter…. And for this I feel terrible. But luckily these days I no longer fall for the gift with purchase hook. In fact, I’ve long since given up fancy cosmetics… but that’s a story for another day……)
The point I’m trying to make here is this…. Become a conscious consumer and question every purchase or acquisition of item. By only taking what you truly need (with the occasional want thrown in there to stop you feeling deprived) you’ll be stopping waste where it counts…. at the source.
2. REDUCE the amount of waste you create
The sheer fat that we’re living and walking on this Earth means that we’ll have an impact. But there are many ways in which we can minimise the impact that we have.
Simple measure you can take include buying in bulk, choosing products that have less packaging, planning your meals and shopping and cooking to plan to minimise food waste. Another strategy is to simply wait for longer period before you replace an item. Can you put up with your perfectly good smartphone for another year before upgrading to the latest model?
Invest in quality items that will stand the test of time and in doing so you’ll significantly reduce the amount of waste you’ll create.
3. REUSE items that could have a future purpose
This step involves you adopting the mindset of ‘Single Use Sucks’. Bit by bit replace as many single-use items in your home and workplace with reusable alternatives. Some of my favourite reusable items include reusable food covers instead of plastic wrap, reusable coffee cups instead of plastic-lined paper ones, menstrual cups rather than tampons and handkerchief rather than tissues.
2014-15 Australia produced about 64 million tonnes of waste, which is equivalent to 2.7 tonnes of waste per capita. Almost 60% of this was recycled.
More and more Australians are taking advantage of initiatives like kerbside recycling and even soft plastic recycling (where offered), which is fantastic news!
But remember, recycling uses resources too and it’s definitely fourth in line after Refuse, Reduce, and Reuse.
5. RECOVER energy from waste generated
As we get smarter with our waste management systems and technology continues to advance, there will be more and more opportunity to recover energy from waste. Many Councils are already capturing gases from landfills to use as energy sources, and recovering by-products of sewage for fertilizing degraded lands.
But we can actually do this step on a small scale in our homes too!
What waste stream are you producing in your own home that can become an energy source for another purpose? Food waste is a great example here. By either composting your food scraps or feeding them to animals like chickens or a worm farm, you’re turning your waste into a valuable resource.
What do you think of the revised ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ Manta?
Would you be happy to take steps to Refuse the generation of waste and Recover energy from the waste you do produce?
What’s one thing you can do this year to ‘Refuse’ and avoid the generation of waste in the first place?
Share your thoughts below!
If you’re keen to be part of a growing community of like-minded conscious consumers all keen to create a healthier, more sustainable home, check out Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs! It’s the place where I guide you through the process of creating a self-sufficient lifestyle, without the overwhelm and without turning your back on the modern world.
In this post I’ll share how I automated my social media and got my life back in the process!
Let me let you in on a little secret.
Just a few short years ago I hated my business.
Sure I loved the fact I’d created an income aligned to my passion of sustainability. And I was stoked I could easily work around my young family and that I had the freedom to run my business from anywhere.
But I hated the constant pull of social media. And it was a constant pull.
If I wasn’t spending 2 hours + every day sharing unique content, I was checking the comments, likes and shares on my posts. And if I’m honest, comparing myself and my business to others as well.
It was exhausting. But just one tool changed all that and made my business and my life much easier.
Put simply, Meet Edgar is a social media scheduling tool. It allows you to schedule the posting of images and videos onto your Facebook pages and groups, Linked In and Twitter accounts in advance.
But where it differs from other social media tools is that you can upload your content to a library and automate them to post according to a schedule you set.
This allows you to put your social media on AUTOPILOT.
Of course for maximum connection and reach, live posting wins hands down, but if you’re going through a busy period, or simply want to take a holiday and be fully present with your significant other, friends or family, Meet Edgar is your right hand gal.
Let’s chat about the Lifecycle of a Fidget Spinner and Five Alternatives to Gifting Fad Toys.
As Christmas fast approaches and adults the world over look for cheap stocking fillers to gift to their children and children’s friends, I thought it was a great opportunity to chat about fad toys and the impact they have on the environment.
In particular, I wanted to check in on the fad toy of 2017… The Fidget Spinner.
A couple of months ago I was contacted by a student in Launceston Tasmania. Chloe was keen to research the environmental impact of fidget spinners and had hit a roadblock right at the start of the project (as there was little information online). She was keen for some ideas for how she could conduct her research and she reached out to me.
I gave her some pointers and encouraged her to survey local families and extrapolate the results based on population data for kids in a certain age group within Australia.
A few weeks later she contacted me with her findings and was happy for me to share them with you.
No doubt many of you are parents or aunties or uncles, or you may even have younger siblings who have all latched on to the fidget spinner craze, and before that, the fidget cube craze of 2017.
If it wasn’t that this year, it could’ve been Shopkins last year, or it could’ve been Loom Bands the year before that… basically whatever was the fad toy at the time.
What Are Fad Toys?
Fad toys are toys that come in from nowhere and they disappear just as quickly. Every kid wants one and they seem to be discarded a couple of months afterwards and forgotten about.
We’re talking millions and millions of fad toys that are purchased every year that are discarded months, or even weeks, after purchase.
When Was The Fidget Spinner Invented?
Chloe found that the first spinner was invented in 1993 by a lady called Catherine Hettinger. She invented it because she wanted to come up with a way to occupy herself and others, but she couldn’t get any toy companies interested in marketing her product. She had a patent on the idea, but she let it go about 12 years ago in 2005.
This year, 2017, toy company Hasbro decided to manufacture the product, and obviously the rest is history.
The Fidget Spinner became a global craze with children.
Sensory toys in general have been hot this year, for kids with and without sensory issues, and every kid has wanted a Fidget Spinner.
Chloe was really trying to find how many fidget spinners the average child in Australia has, and then connect that to how many children in Australia there are in a certain age group. She also wanted to discover whether or not all these kids are still playing with their fidget spinners.
She sought to survey a group of 40 families and got just over 30 responses in return. Of the families she surveyed, they all had children in between the ages of four and 15. The average number of children in a family was 3.3, and most children had two fidget spinners each.
Of course, some children had more fidget spinners and others had less, but that was the average. Of the 30 families she surveyed, 27 had at least one fidget spinner and only three families had none at all. So 10% of the families surveyed didn’t have a fidget spinners at all.
The family with the highest number of fidget spinners was a family that had four children, and she reported that they had 25 fidget spinners! That’s about over six fidget spinners per child, or maybe the adults had some too, who knows?
She also found, really interestingly, that no families had thrown out any of the fidget spinners, but almost all of them said that they were now in the bottom of a drawer, and they were no longer played with by their children. Not surprisingly, just a few months after being purchased, the fidget spinners were no longer the toy of choice. They’d come in to the household, occupied the children for a few days or weeks, and been tossed aside.
Chloe then went and did her maths, and she extrapolated the data.
I know if you work in the statistics or science field you might say, “Well this isn’t really statistically significant. A group of 30 odd families, and extrapolate that out to the millions of families in Australia.” I get that, but this is the data that she was working with.
How Many Fidget Spinners Have Been Sold In Australia?
She found that there’s about over 3.3 million children in Australia aged between four and 15 years. Based on her survey findings that there were two fidget spinners per child, she estimated that there was approximately 6.2 million fidget spinners sold in Australia this year; most of them not played with anymore.
In fact, Chloe then worked out that if these fidget spinners were laid next to each other in a line, with their approximate length of 7 cm, she estimated that they would reach from Launceston, down to Hobart, and back to Launceston again. Those of you who don’t live in Tassie, Hobart to Launceston is around about a two hour drive, couple of hundred kilometres. If you lay them all out in a row, it would about 400 km long, or take you four hours to drive.
Chloe also found that the fidget spinners are typically made from plastic and metal. These are components that when tossed out, they just don’t break down in land fill. So you could say that there’s been well over 6.2 million fidget spinners sold this year that will most likely end up in waste and will sit in a land fill, and never ever break down.
Of course, Chloe was pretty alarmed by that, so she said next time she goes to the shops, she’s really going to think twice about buying any toys, and especially about buying fad toys. She said she couldn’t get over how fast the fad had faded, even though it only started earlier this year, and that most of the fidget spinners were just disused.
I’m really, really proud of Chloe and the work that she did, but also how it made her look at her life and the toys that she plays with. It’s going to change her behaviour moving forward, and obviously the behaviour of some of her friends too when she shares her findings.
What do we do as parents or aunties or uncles, or when your child gets invited to all those birthday parties, or you’re hosting a birthday party and the pressure’s on to produce little goody bags, stocking fillers, all these small, little gifts of about $10 value that you’ve got to chip in?
I want to talk about some alternatives now because that issue is real isn’t it? Let’s look at five alternatives to gifting fad toys to the children in your life.
5 Alternatives to Gifting Fad Toys
1. Gift an Experience
If you’ve followed me for some time, you will already know that the number one thing that I like to gift when you’re expected to give a physical gift is to gift an experience. For kids, this can be a movie ticket or a zoo ticket. I know they’re a little bit more expensive than a movie ticket, but you can also gift tickets to a water park or a pool or a water slide playground or an indoor skate park. There’s so many indoor play areas as well.
I know movie tickets these days are around about $10 each, so they fall into that price point, so if you’re going to gift a birthday present to a child’s friend, a movie ticket’s a great idea.
2. Make a Gift
I think back to one of my son’s birthday parties a couple of years ago where he had an Octonaut party. In the goody bag, I always try and just fill it with wholesome food like some wholefood, or something I make myself.
For this party I made some biscuits cut into fish shapes, so they were fish biscuits, which went really well with the Octonaut theme. No one complained. In fact, they all loved them, and so many of the parents said, “Thanks Laura. Thanks for not throwing heaps of cheap plastic toys in there that just break and just go in the bin.”
You don’t have to make biscuits. Depending on the age of the children, you can make some play dough or a craft activity. It doesn’t really matter, just let your imagination run wild, and either make something, or give them the tools so they can make their own.
3. Gift Something That Grows
A plant is a fabulous gift.
It might be a herb or one of those little fly catcher plants. In fact, my son Matthew was gifted one of them for Christmas once by a family friend, and he loved watching it. A fly would land on the plant, and then the plant would open up and capture the fly. For a young boy, a gift like that is better than a toy. They love it!
Most plants like herbs or a small tomato bush are around the $10 price point as well – perfect!
4. Gift Eco Stationary
Another alternative, not so much for the fad toys, but all the funky plastic stationary that’s popular with school aged kids, is eco-stationary. There’s one business in South Australia that I particularly love, and it’s called Earth Greetings.
You can purchase eco-highlighter pencils and little pads, and they’re all printed on 100% post-consumer paper waste, with vegetable based inks. They’re a great alternative to standard notes and note pads and textas.
5. Don’t Gift
Last, but not least, the fifth alternative to gifting a fad toy is actually not to give a physical gift.
At some point in time we need to question our constant obsession with giving and receiving stuff.
Stuff that we don’t need and stuff that doesn’t last for long.
Stuff that’s not used after a few days.
Stuff that breaks or gets tossed aside to, more often than not, end up in landfill where it never breaks down.
Question the tradition and say, “Okay, we’re having this gathering and maybe we don’t gift a bag of all these little cheap, flimsy, crappy toys. Maybe we’ll just spend our time together and enjoy our company and be present in the moment, rather than hanging out for this bag of crap at the end of a party.”
You don’t have to be a party pooper, you can do this in a nice way and word people up beforehand.
You can all agree as parents in a friendship group of children that you’re just not going to do these sort of things.
Have the conversation.
Or maybe you just gift one quality item, rather than filling the whole Santa sack or Christmas stocking full of cheap, fad toys.
If you do buy the fad toy, such as the “next” fidget spinner, don’t buy it in every colour, in every pattern. Instead, recognise that it’s a fad toy, and maybe just give or buy one.
You don’t need to have the entire range or four or five of them per child.
Just get one.
But I’d really like you to just have a think about it and say, “Is there some of these traditions that we can question or that we can get rid of?” in your family or your group of friends.
Ask the question, have the conversation, change your behaviour.
I hope this post has got you thinking about what sort of presents you’re going to buy for the children in your lives this Christmas. I may have scared you off fidget spinners, I may not have, but who knows? There’s probably some new fad toy in the shops right now for this holiday season with marketing all over the place to try and make you buy it, or all over YouTube where your kids see all these other kids unboxing those gifts (I know my boys LOVE those clips!).
You can pick up my free Seasons Greenings eGuide which has got some awesome tips for you to help you have a cleaner, greener Christmas.
All the best with your Christmas shopping or Christmas making or Christmas growing. Whatever presents you choose to give this Christmas, my challenge to you is to try and make it a fad toy free Christmas. In doing that, you’ll be taking one massive step forward to help make green mainstream.
In just 2 months’ time we’ll be packing up all our belongings to move to Adelaide and the task is not a small one!
While I thought that we’ve been pretty good and haven’t accumulated too much stuff over the years (living in a remote town hundreds of kilometres away from the shops helps!), the volume looked a little different once we started to declutter.
We’ve lived in this town for 13 years and during that time we’ve welcomed our two gorgeous boys into the world and the fair amount of stuff that comes with having a baby and young children in the house.
But it wasn’t just the kids’ toys and clothes that we needed to declutter. My wardrobe needed significant attention, thanks to my every changing body size and shape throughout this motherhood journey.
As eco-minded folk we naturally wanted to rehouse as many items as possible, to save them from landfill and give them a second lease of life. This obviously takes more time to sort and move on, however I can honestly say is not without its rewards.
From giving away items to op shops, friends and charities, to selling them locally and online, here’s the 5 main methods we’ve used to declutter our house.
5 Ways To Declutter Your House:Garage Sale
We held one garage sale very early on in our decluttering attempts. It was great to move on some big items like our baby pram and play gym, but it was especially effective for our baby toys. We had quite a collection of high quality wooden toys priced to move, and naturally, they got snapped up in a hurry.
We went in to our garage sale with the aim to not make heaps of money, but to move stuff on as quickly and responsibly as possible and in that regards it was a great success!
Car Boot Sale
We managed to take a car load of items to two local Car Boot Sales in the past few months and they were worth the time to declutter more belongings. Smaller items like cookbooks, pot plants and children’s books sold well here and the advantage was that we had a steady stream of people checking out our gear. We didn’t need to advertise at all – the people came to us!
Online Auction Sites
We spent the time to upload quality items in good condition to EBay and while they sold for a fraction of the price we purchased them, it was nice to receive some money and give them a second chance at life! EBay was great to help us declutter many new items like clothing with tags and unused shoes.
Local Buy Swap Sell Groups
Our town’s Buy Swap Sell Facebook Group has helped us move many items on quickly with the bonus that we don’t have to post the item. The downside was having people constantly coming to our house to collect their purchase (or not collect in some instances) but that’s a small inconvenience to move items on and continue the declutter process.
The Buy Swap Sell Group was great for moving on items like our toy kitchen, high chair, baby rocker and modern cloth nappies. We found that smaller priced items (anything less than $10) didn’t sell well though – I guess it has to be worth it for people to actually venture out and come and collect!
At the same time, items over $100, despite how good a condition they were in, didn’t sell easily either. People naturally are after a bargain we found if they were going to spend that much, most people preferred to buy new items. So again, in order to declutter and move items on quickly, we just slashed the prices.
Giveaway or Donate To Charity
Without a doubt, this is the quickest, and most rewarding way to declutter your house.
Giveaway to Friends
Friends rummaged through our tubs of baby and boys clothing before we donated the rest to the Local Op Shop. In our decluttering exercise we found that not only was clothing the largest item we needed to move on, it was also the most time consuming to sell! Taking photos and uploading the item online takes TIME and EFFORT and it just wasn’t worth it to sell bundles of clothes for a few dollars.
Giveaway to Child Care Centres
We gifted a large tub of quality jig saw puzzles and books to our local Early Learning Centre. They also happily received a bag of jocks and socks and some clothing too which they use for their toilet-training kids.
Giveaway to Local Op Shop
Our local op shop received bags of clothing in particular (whatever was left after friends rummaged through them) plus a few other odd items.
Giveaway To Specific Charities
Specific charity organisations received particular items including:
Prescription Glasses – I posted four pairs of prescription classes to the Lions Recycle for Sight Australia where they’ll be provided to people in need in developing countries.
Business Clothing – jackets, shirts, pants, skirts and shoes from the days when I worked as a consultant engineer were bundled up and delivered to Dress For Success, a worldwide organisation that distributes business clothing to women in need preparing for their first job interview to enter or re-enter the workforce with a job that could change her life.
Decluttering our homes, while requiring considerable effort, is part of being a conscious consumer in our modern world. We need to take responsibility for the stuff that we not only purchase, but the items we’re given.
We’re responsible for the entire life cycle.
It is such a waste to hang on to stuff. We need to make the effort to move our items on so they’re not sitting idle in a garage, shed or bedroom cupboard. It’s much better to give them to people in need who can use the item.
I’m really happy to have decluttered our home. I’m feeling lighter and more excited about our upcoming move.
One thing that I do want to share is that moving on our Stuff, and spending countless weekends sorting, selling and donating our cherished belongings has made me even more determined to not accumulate as much stuff in the first place!
With Christmas fast approaching I’m particularly mindful as the Toy Invasion is very real. I’m requesting relatives to gift experiences or a very small number of quality items instead. Just trying not to get in this position again where I need to spend a few weekends moving items on!
Do you need to declutter your house?
Are you decluttering at the moment? Where are you moving your items on to? Feel free to share any specific charities below!
If you’re a creative entrepreneur, chances are that you suffer from Bright Shiny Object Syndrome. It’s where you’re easily distracted by other opportunities and end up taking on way too many projects, and not completing any of them (or significantly deferring the ones you do manage to complete).
If you’ve done any of the following, chances are you’ve been hit with Bright Shiny Object Syndrome:
signed up to online courses you’ve never completed
joined Facebook communities you’ve yet to interact in
bought software your business doesn’t need or you don’t know how to use
gone to live events in the hope that you’ll learn that one thing that will help you get your business off the ground.
Want to know the best way to get your online business off the ground?
Stay focused, show up and do the work, consistently.
I’m a big sufferer of Bright Shiny Object Syndrome however, I’ve developed methods over the years to help keep me focused so I can work effectively and stay on track as best I can. In this post I’ll share one simple mindset shift that will help you to avoid Bright Shiny Object Syndrome so you can achieve your goals and make the impact you want to make in this world.
How To Avoid Bright Shiny Light Syndrome in Your Business - YouTube
I was actually at a training a few weeks ago, and I came across a really simple tool that shifted my thinking about how to avoid getting distracted in business. This tool changed my mindset around how I work, and I really, really wanted to share it with you.
Is this you?
You’re working on project A. At the same time, you might be doing a couple hours of that each day, and then you get a little bit bored, so you work on project B. Oh, hang on. Let’s not forget project C. You’re working on A, a little bit of B, little bit of C, little bit more of A, and then a little bit more B.
Oh, gosh, I haven’t touched project C since last week or the week before. Better do a little bit on that one. I’ll go back to A and go back to B and go back to C, and then you finally finish the projects.
This could be over a three month period, for example, and then they’re all finished the same time. Bang, you get paid.
This is a pretty common way to how most of us work. We work on project A, B, C, A, B, C, A, B, C, all at the same time, and it takes us a while to get paid. Let’s say that that’s three months. All right?
Now let’s rejig that around and look at an alternative and how I recommend you work.
If, instead of working like that, we give all our focus or as much as we can, and I know other stuff gets in and there’s emails and there’s social media and all this other stuff that can get us off track, but let’s try and turn them off for a few hours and plough through project A until we finish it.
Bang, we get paid.
Then we can move on to project B, and maybe that might be 80% of your time and 20% you might be maintaining project A so it doesn’t all fall over. Then we get paid for project B. Then we work on project C, and then we get paid for project C.
You can then see the benefit of working like this…
Just say you’ve got a payday at the end of month one. Then you’ve got a payday at the end of month two, and you’ve got your payday at the end of month three, as opposed to just getting a payday at the end of three to four months if you worked on all three projects simultaneously.
When would you prefer to get paid? I think I prefer to get paid sooner.
How does this look in real life?
At the moment, you could say I’ve got multiple products and multiple services in my business, which isn’t ideal. However when you look at how my business has evolved over time, you’ll see that I actively try to work on only one project at a time to avoid getting distracted by bright shiny objects.
Let’s go back to 2014… I’d been running my existing eco-baby ecommerce business for 5 years but wanted to add an online program to support women to create a healthier home, so I created my Home Detox Boot Camp. In 2015, I added another online program to my suite, greenHOUSE Home Energy Blitz and while struggling with the workload around a busy family life with pre-schoolers, I took a few things off my plate. I sold my main retail business, so I could just focus on my eco-living programs.
If I had tried to do all of these at once, I actually don’t think I would have achieved anything. It’s just too much of a workload. Instead, I basically focused on one big project at a time and bedded it down before starting the next one.
As entrepreneurs we also need to remember that if we’re busy creating all these new things, we need to let some things go. Don’t forget that there’s always work maintaining what we’ve already created, so you always need to factor that in too!
Close some old programs that aren’t selling or put them on evergreen so they just sell automatically, whatever it might be,. But if you are just starting out, if you’re fairly new in business, and you’ve got all these different ideas, I really, really encourage you to just map them out and plan what to start first and what to do next when your first project is completed.
Think of the first one you’re going to achieve, then the second one, and then the third one. Please don’t get stunned by Bright Shiny Object Syndrome because you just defer when you’re going to get paid.
The earlier you get paid, the sooner you can reinvest the money into creating project B, and then reinvest the money to creating project C. But if you’re working on all your projects simultaneously, you’re just really all over the place. It’s really, really hard to get traction.
Over to you!
Are you working on projects A, B, and C all at one time, or are you really, really good with your focus and just stick with one and see it to the end? Share in the comments below which type you are. Also, if you’ve got any tips that help you stay focused and avoid Bright Shiny Object Syndrome, be sure to share them in the comments so we can all learn from each other.
I hope you got something out of this little tip to tweak your mindset and help you avoid Bright Shiny Light Syndrome. Just work on one project, one at a time, and then you’ll get to your goals sooner and make that impact that you want to make in the world much, much sooner. xx
I mean if you walk into a typical supermarket meat section you’re faced options such as organic, free range, grass fed, grain fed, no added hormones, antibiotic free, pasture raised and more! It can be hard to make an informed choice!
If you’re keen to discover once and for all what the most sustainable meat is, this post is for you.
I’m chatting with Peri McIntosh from Borderpark Organics and we uncover what is the best meat to eat from an environmental and health perspective.
Before you dive in though, you may like to also listen to:
In this episode Peri and I dive into what all those different terms for meat mean, what are some of the common additives included in conventional meats, and how you can better ensure less waste from the animal (i.e. tip to the tail eating).
This episode is a meaty one (ha ha!) but I hope you get a lot out of it. Because if you do choose to eat meat, I really want to help you make the most sustainable choice for you and the environment.
Let’s start at the top Peri! So a lot of my followers are telling me that they’re really quite confused with the meats on offer in their supermarket these days. Of course, they’ve been changing over time and we could see no added hormones, pasteurised, grass fed meats, grain fed. They’re confused, I’m a little bit confused, so we thought we’d bring you onto the show to answer some of these questions.
So, what are some of these terms that we’re seeing in our supermarket, where they sprung from and what do they mean?
That’s a really good question Laura. Since about 60% of Australians currently buy meat from a supermarket, we’re largely seeing a lot of different labels come about, and as you said there’s so many that we now see. It’s confusing, we don’t know whether they’re actually legitimate. We can’t necessarily tell the difference between them and we can’t even test whether they are true or not.
We in Australia, at least are really spoiled for choice, but it’s trying to differentiate between what free range is and grass fed or no added hormones or antibiotic free. We’re just going to have a quick look at what organic or certified organic usually means. It’s not a regulated term under Australian law, but it is in most of the countries. It means that not only do we exclude application of chemicals, but it’s a holistic approach to food production. The livestock must be free to range, they have to access pasture or grass that is pesticide free, and also GMO free.
There also has to be certified organic whatever feed that is that they’re given. They’re not allowed to be given hormones, no growth promoters or preventative antibiotics, only for sick animals. You would expect to pay more whole organic meat, but what you’re really looking for is a certified organic logo, that will give you real peace of mind, knowing that it’s being accredited by an independent body, and they are one of or there are seven different bodies in Australia at the moment.
Good. There’s always one for every state and territory.
Absolutely. It’s obviously a growing area of concern and people are really shifting towards organic foods of all different types. Then we’ve also got free range. This is a really commonly used term and we might imagine we’ve gotten in mind that we’ve got happy animals running around open pastures. There’s a little bit more to it than that. Again, there’s not legally binding definition of free range meat in Australia, so it really does depend on the processor or the producer or the manufacturer up to the definition of the term.
Obviously there are different animals and who require different things. Some need more protection than other, obviously larger livestock can have access to pasture without a threat of attacks, but other things like chicks need to be more carefully managed as do pigs, because they’re obviously exposed to the elements. Yes, again, free range is a little bit of a term that can be used to mean many different things.
It can mean that they are born inside a shelter or a shed, and then allowed to go out. Or the other way around, they can be outside and they’re moved back into a shed. If you are looking for free range, if you’re looking for animal welfare, we really suggest that you look for accredited free range meat.
Is There a Specific Logo or Accreditation Body In Australia for Free Range Meat?
Okay, so is that a specific logo or certification body I guess in Australia as well? Or is it a bit like the organic one, where there’s like seven or so different ones?
Yeah, there are actually different companies I guess that would put themselves down as being free range. Obviously organic is one of them. There’s also a humane choice or RSPCA or FREPA, I’m not sure how you pronounce that for the poultry association, but again, they’ve all got their own different levels. It could be that the free range, but it might be 20,000 birds in hectare. Or it could be 1500 bird, so it’s very variable, there’s no clarity.
Just to clarify there, so if you’re buying an organic meat, does that automatically mean that it’s free range as well, because I guess organic or whatever the word is, supersedes that or it has to be free range to be organic?
Absolutely it does, and that’s why we always Suggest, sort of all the organic is sort of the top notch, that’s the one to aim for on the number of different farms, but yeah. It especially with free range they cannot be contained, they’ve got to be free to express their normal animal behaviours. They can’t be just in a small confined area.
Why Would We Want to Know If Our Meat Has Been Grain Fed?
What about some of the other types of labelling that we see on meats, so grain fed. Why would we want to know if our meat is being grain fed or not?
That’s really interesting. If we’d had this conversation probably 10 or 15 years ago, everybody would have been off to grain fed. Grain feeding, essentially assures consumers and gets restaurants and production supplies that you’re getting a consistent product. If you’re feeding grain, you’re able to do that no matter whether the season is a poor one or whether it’s lash. You’re also meaning that, you’re actually very carefully managing the rations that each of the livestock in that situation receive.
You’re going to be able to turn out say 6,000 rams over the course of a year, but each of those are going to not only have the same properties, they’re going to taste the same, because the big rations are all the same. Also, they’re going to have the same degree of marble and you’re going to be able to … If you buy loin chops, you’ll know that they’ll have a particular flavour and they’ll cook up well because the animals haven’t been stressed for feed in any way.
That you’ve said that sort of changed that these days people may not be looking for grain fed meat?
Absolutely. There’s been a massive change, not only in tastes, but also just in consumers awareness about what, I guess the effects of grain feeding do. Largely people are wanting to get back to more natural production systems, so they’re wanting animals to be either grass fed or pasture fed. They’re sort of pretty interchangeable lowest terms, and so they’re actually getting the chance to get a feed that’s got a great mix of different grasses and shrubs and produce and legumes and all sorts of things.
Each of those different feeds give a unique taste and flavour. What we’re looking at is thinking more about the animal welfare side of it when we’re looking at pasture fed, but we’re also looking at the health benefits of it. We know that grass fed meat in particular has higher CLA levels, which is conjugated to mean the linoleic acids that mostly got a much healthier ratio of omega 3s and omega 6s, and there’s a host of other extra minerals and nutrients that you’ll find in the meat profile of a grass or pasture fed animal.
I understand and it’s a much more environmentally beneficial way for the animal to eat as well given that the grains can be grown overseas and obviously there’s land clearing just to grow grains and food for livestock in other places in the world. There’s an environmental aspect of the grain feeding as well I imagine.
Absolutely. It’s about I guess being able to grow what you need largely on your own, so it’s obviously reducing food costs for the grain, but it also gives a unique aspect to each of the animals on that particular areas, because say in far North Queensland, they feed their stock with different sorts of pastures than we say we do in South Australia, where 90% bushland and things.
If it produces a slightly different marketing, I wouldn’t edge, but a different marketing area.
Keen to still delve into some of these terms, because there is quite a lot. When you say grass fed or pasture fed, like I kind of imagine like those green fields of Ireland or Tasmania where just undulating green hills, but we don’t really have much of them in South Australia. Or if you are buying Queensland meat or even WA or NSW meat. What does this pasture or grass fed mean there? Like they’re not eating green grass, surely not.
Exactly, and that’s why we try to use the term pasture fed, because we feel like it’s more accurate where like the grass fed does conjure up thoughts of rolling green hills with grass. I guess the pasture like we said before is such a great idea of mixes that can be grown. Some do need to be seeded, so there might be a grain crop that’s specifically seeded for pasture. To be allowed to be fed and still be grass fed and certified grass fed, it needs to be fed off before the grain has actually formed in the head, so you are actually just getting the stem and the reeds of it, not the grain that’s formed.
Yeah, there’s things like native grasses, there’s small trees, cattle bush and there’s clovers, medics, all sorts of things, native plants that are often thought of as weeds or a nuisance. They will be very easily fatten stock and they have a natural preference for different things.
One thing to note is that, with grass fed, unless it’s been verified that it’s 100% grass fed or grass fed and finished, there is a possibility that the animals could have been fed other things, mostly grain to finish them up. It I hard to actually finish an animal year around especially in Australia and marginal areas.
Okay. What do you mean by finished? Do you mean like a Feed Lot? Where they get fattened up before processing?
Yeah, fattening up. They’re looking to get the last 50 kilos on, that will help with marbling, which usually is quite abundant in grain fed animals. With grass fed, they’re usually much leaner, because they have to walk a lot further to get their feed and their diets I guess haven’t been so manipulated so that it’s not as high protein. Yeah, so just be aware that if it grass fed that you’re looking for that you know the whole story and that if you want it grass fed and grass finished, to ask those questions whether it’s just been grass.
These questions are quite hard for a consumer to ask of or like all supermarket I guess that’s encouraging more people to maybe buy from farm gates and things like that, to which we’ll chat more about it towards the end of this podcast episode. Just recognising that some of these questions can be a little bit hard to get the answers to, which is I guess, where we might be looking for those accreditation labels or being aware of that hierarchy of the best meats to buy and organic might be at the top. Then free range or maybe grass fed or pasture fed or whatever, whatever that order may be.
That’s right. That’s why it’s really important that even if you do buy your meat from the supermarket, it’s important as consumers to still ask questions. They may not know the answers, but the more people who ask these questions, the more that’s actually going to feedback and they’re then going to be forced to either find out the answers or find a different supplier who they can trust.
Just you’re buying it off a supermarket shelf, don’t think that you can’t ask questions.
What Does “No Added Hormones” Meat Mean?
One other term that is on my particularly self-sufficient in the suburbs members are asking, it this no added hormone. About this no added hormones businesses, that’s obviously they’re not adding hormones to the animal or is it, can there still be hormones in the feed? I guess this is particularly around chickens isn’t it, but other meats as well? I mean what the hell is no added hormones?
That’s right. It’s a really popular marketing tool and people are really quite afraid of it. Actually the no added hormone category is one of the top five fastest growing claims in the industry. It shows that people are really sort of aware and they are now starting to ask questions.
Unfortunately, like some of the other areas we’ve talked about, there isn’t a specific certification. Basically you’re taking the producer or the manufacture as they were. Basically it’s an exercising trust. They do suggest that the no added hormones label is more accurate than hormone free, because as we know we’re all made up of hormones. When we’re saying no added hormones, it’s not necessarily at the time of processing. What they’re referring to usually when they use that term is that, when the animals still growing, that there isn’t any hormones either injected into them or as you said, according to their feed.
I know that knowing some industries there is more of a chance to be putting hormones in and that particularly relates and the same with antibiotics to intensive farming. The more animals you have together, the more whisk I guess of disease and not growing up to full potential, so in those types of systems, pigs and chicks, the area is that largely would see hormones and antibiotics used.
There are also routinely HTPs, which are hormone growth promoters, and they can be used in the beef industry as well. Both grain fed and grass fed, there is a chance that they might have been injected with a pallet. Again, it pays to ask questions to actually know whether that has happened.
Just capping those, all those terms often, I don’t think we have forgotten any main ones in there that you can think of, or I think we’ve covered …
That’s right. Most of the main ones, there’s actually about up to 15 different terms that you can find in the supermarket. There’s all sorts of things like sustainable and ethical and locally produced and MSA graded and a host of different things, but yeah. We have covered the main ones that you will see on supermarket shelves or butchers or even farmers markets.
What common additives are included in conventional meats like mince and sausages?
I want to just move on to some more of the processed meats around now, and you may or may not know this, because I know you don’t process too many of your meats. I know you’ve got your own organic sausages at Border Park, which are fantastic and keep all the ingredients now pretty clean, well very clean there and tasty. With a lot of the other products on our shelves, do you know like some of the common additives that maybe included in conventional meats? I mean particularly meats and sausages and how these differ to organic meats?
Yeah, that’s a great question. If you’re pitching around the supermarket, I guess the biggest thing to be aware is that, most supermarkets nowadays don’t process all cut up and what they sell. They might buy it in bulk and then they cut it up and package it this way. There are additives known to have been added in Australia, other buyers supermarkets or butchers, but it’s actually strictly controlled by the food standard code and you will be caught if you’re found doing it.
If we’re talking about meats and sausages, there is the possibility that it would have been treated with preservatives. This will help them keep looking fresh and they will be red in colour. The difficulty here is that, there are some people in our population who are extremely sensitive to sulphites. I’m thinking …
I’m one of them.
Yeah, asthmatic, yeah. It just pays to be aware. Again, that’s about asking questions, but this is a little bit more of a difficult area, because I don’t know too many processes you are going admit that they do add it in. Then obviously with your packaging, there’s a whole other area. What we’re trying to do is make it convenient for customers and extend their shelf life and enhance the tenderness of the meat, like it looks fresh and cherry red or a nice white colour, but the problem with say vacuum packed meat is that it might inhibit the growth of bacteria, but it also means that there are A lines that are really high level.
Again people with food sensitivities aren’t that tricky, so that’s a little area that if you’re buying vacuum packed meats and you have got either histamine or A line sensitivity just to be careful about that. The same with what they call mat packing, which is the plastic tray overlaid with a clear plastic at the top. Usually they will last weeks and weeks if not months on the shelf, but they can also and are usually gassed with carbon dioxide and nitrogen just to inhibit that bacterial growth.
It doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be labelled that that’s happened, but it can cause problems, yeah, for some members of the population.
Yeah, for sure, and then I guess who even really knows what’s in the absorbing pads at the bottom of those packs too.
Absolutely. That’s a whole other area.
How can we better ensure there’s less waste from the animal?
Yeah, for sure. I would say this episode is for the followers and the audience who choose to eat meat and they’re looking to eat meat in a much smarter way. Obviously got to go for the animal better for the environment and the way of producing the meat, but also making sure we can get the most of the meat. I’ve covered some of my own tips in previous podcast episodes, but I’m really after your tips on how we can, as consumers we can better in shortlist waste from the animal.
How can we bring back offal and bones and suet. I grew up eating steak and kidney pie and things like that, but that’s not really a common item on the household menu these days. So how can we bring back some of these things or what tips have you got for us to reduce wastage and ensure that we’re eating the whole animal, not just a fillet of beef?
Yeah, I love that question. Eating offal was so common enough until about 40 years ago, but it’s now fallen out of favour, because it does take extra time to prepare and also you’ve got to know how to do it. The skills that some mothers or grandmothers had weren’t necessarily passed on. We’ve opted for convenience, so we’ve missed a lot of that learning that we could have had and when you’re choosing to eat meat, you do want to use the whole, not only the whole carcass, but the who animal as best as you can and to make is as sustainable as possible.
There’s lots of different options. Going right back to the beginning, if the thought of having eaten organ meats makes you feel a bit squeamish, there are plenty of other easy options that mean that you can have a meal of economy and that you’re actually still using the animal. The two most popular and I guess loved meats are sausages and mince.
You might not necessarily typically attribute those to being sustainable, but the small trim that is not a knack of it to make a good looking steak, all of those bits and when bones are scrapped off and all the small bits that come from there, they will make up your sausages and the meats. These two products are actually one of the most sustainable meats.
If you’re doing that, that’s fantastic. The other things like you mentioned using bones to make bone broth, there is a heck of a lot of bones displaying the beef. That might make up 15% of the carcass, but if you’re able to use those bones to make bone broth, to make all sorts of nutritious foods, that’s another great way to reduce waste.
You might also want to try ox tail or pigs tails or beef or pork cheeks. They’re things that you may have to go to a butcher to find, because they’re not usually found in a supermarket. Or you might even want to, like I said, render some soubrette and roast your veggies in. They’re the really easy ways that you can make more use of the animal, yeah, without necessarily going towards organs. I mean I’ve got a whole host of ideas using organs.
Our family we do our best to incorporate organs wherever we can as much as the kids don’t love it, they’re learning to appreciate it.
Obviously you’re selling mince with liver and things as well, so you’re able to use up some of the organs and pass them onto the customers in a probably more attractive for a customer to buy them as well.
Absolutely. Yeah it’s more convenient, yeah, more convenient and it means that there’s I guess less fast and less in your face. Sometimes organs can merely be quite confronting.
I know I still remember just side tracking a bit, we were in grade five at school and we were learning about organs and each week we had to dissect a different organ. Like we’d all go to the butcher and get like a lamb’s kidney or a brain and I still remember it. I felt, I came home and I was white. I thought, “I’m never going to be a butcher or a doctor, I can’t handle any of these.”
In this post I share eight business lessons from my eight years in online business where I’ve founded and managed an ecommerce store, online education programs and membership sites and coached other impact-driven entrepreneurs to take their idea to impact in the online environment.
Last week I enjoyed a huge milestone in business. It was eight years since I created my first online eco business.
At the time I was still working full time with BHP, the big Australian and I was 7 months pregnant with my first child. I had this awesome business idea and I just thought, look, I’m just going to do it, and I jumped. I knew that opportunities only have a certain shelf life. I registered the name, I picked up the trademark, and then I developed the business while I was on maternity leave.
The rest is history…..
That first business grew to over six figures in revenue within about 15 months or so. Since then I’ve created two businesses that were turning over more than six figures and multiple brands within those businesses as well, which has been a really great exhilarating experience for me.
There’s been plenty of highs, plenty of deep, deep lows but throughout that time I’ve learned so many lessons. I really want to share some of my main lessons with you in this post, so here’s eight lessons from eight years in business, and in particular in online business.
8 Lessons From 8 Years in Online Business - YouTube
Business Lesson 1: Business Building Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
The very first lesson I have to share is that business building is a marathon, it’s not a sprint.
This means we really want to pace ourselves.
You’re in for the long haul, so if you were running a marathon, you’d stop at the drink stops, grab a drink. I guess you’d prepare for it, you’d make sure that you had adequate sleep, and you ate well. Same as business, you want to be looking after your body, nourishing yourself with good food and sleep.
In the early years of building my business that’s where I compromised. I stayed up late. I mean, I was building my business around babies. The only time the house was quiet was really between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m. at night. They were my three magic hours where I basically built my business, 8:00 to 11:00 p.m., maybe even 8:00 to 12:00, sometimes 8:00 till 1:00 a.m., which was not sustainable. I was compromising my health. I simply wasn’t pacing myself for the marathon.
Indeed, that took a toll on me. It took a toll on my marriage. It took a toll on my health. Possibly even took a toll on my relationship with my kids, some days I was just too tired to engage with them. I’m not going to beat myself up about that, that’s how it was at that time, and when you do have a business you’ve got to put in those hard yards to get ahead at times. But, I just want you to be aware that it’s a marathon and it’s not a sprint. Make sure that you’re looking after yourself for the long run.
Another aspect of this is having a long-term vision for your business.
I’m driven by opportunities. I get excited about my ideas and I want to implement them as fast as possible. Again, getting back to the marathon, not a sprint, there’s been times when I’ve rushed and I’ve been sprinting, not doing a nice jog that’s going to take me a while, and I’ve rushed decisions and have made mistakes and lost money in the process.
One example was my Home Detox Boot Camp when I initially set it up. Now when I built my first ecommerce website Sustainababy in 2009, everything had to be custom coded and built with a computer developer. Around five years later when I launched my Home Detox Boot Camp, WordPress was amazing, and the capability was there to create a simple sales page using WordPress. But I didn’t take the time to really look at that. I got the sales page custom coded into my main Sustainababy site, which cost me thousands of dollars in web development fees.
I rushed into that. I didn’t look at all my options on the table. I was sprinting. I was rushing. I wasn’t having a marathon, looking around me, looking after myself, thinking about my decisions. The first two rounds of Home Detox Boot Camp just paid off my web development fees, which were like $8,000 or something. It was ridiculous. A very expense lesson.
On the other hand, opportunities do have a shelf life so if you know that there’s one awesome opportunity that you really should be implementing, focus on that, and clear out the clutter. Narrow in on that one.
Business Lesson 2: Build Your Dream Team
You can’t do it all.
I know I at times think that I can do it all or I want to do it all but it’s just not conducive to business growth. Often if you delegate or subcontract out, things aren’t always done perfectly, but they can still be done good enough, and sometimes even better than you can do yourself.
What you really want to be ultimately doing as you grow your business and step into this space where you can become the CEO of your business, and that can be CEO with two staff, it doesn’t have to be 200 staff, you want to be building your dream team. Now you can start by outsourcing to subcontractors. My subcontractors helped me build my business to be what they are today, especially my branding expert and web developer who have just been gold and so invaluable to my team.
Also, you can recruit. You could take on your own PA or even someone to help you with social media, or something like that, and actually have an employee. They can be casual employee. They don’t have to be some VA off in the Philippines or anything like that, you can have someone in your own town. I have a local VA and they’ve been an immense help in my business.
Building your dream team of awesome support around you enables you to work in your zone of genius… the area where you’re really good at. Which for me is creating my content, writing the content for my podcast, recording my podcasts and my blogs, and supporting the members in my online programmes, or coaching one-on-one with my coaching clients. This is the stuff that I can’t really outsource. So essentially, I want to be getting helping in all the other aspects of my business to enable me to work in these areas, my zones of genius.
For the record, the very first thing I outsourced was my bookkeeping. I can tell you when I outsourced that, I had 30 more hours to work per month. Because that was back in the days of running a retail business and dealing with MYOB. These days, I’m in Xero. It’s so much easier, everything’s so much more systematised and it’s so much better. But all the improvements and the move from MYOB to Xero, my bookkeeper took care of that. Thanks Linda!
Business Lesson 3: Invest In YOU!
You are the biggest asset in your business, apart from your email list of subscribers, of course, and your customers. But you are so, so important. Invest in you and your well-being and your sleep and nutrition, like we’ve already talked about, but also invest in your learning.
The best value and the best growth I’ve had in my business is looking for people in online business or business, they might be a few steps ahead of me, or even years ahead of me, and working with them, like getting some mentoring from them or maybe doing one of their online courses. I’ve actually found the best value from having a business coach and being part of a mastermind with people at a similar level to me.
A really decent business coach can shave years, I mean, literally, years off your business journey and also save you from making some really costly mistakes in terms of money and time.
Invest in you, whether it’s just a small course so you can learn how to run your own Facebook ads or help getting someone to help you with the strategy in your business model, piecing it all together.
Business Lesson 4: Protect Your IP
What you’re putting out into the world is your genius, it’s your creativeness, your gift. Your livelihood.
You want to protect that IP.
It could be your business name, it could be the name for your eCourse, it could be a name of a product. Wither way you want to protect that IP with a trademark. Without a trademark someone can just whip it out from under your feet.
You don’t want to have gone all these months or even years building a business just for someone to launch a business with the same name but they just happen to trademark it and then you have to change everything.
I’ve seen this happen and I’ve also been on the other end where people have tried to steal my business name and my product names, but lucky I had my trademarks could stand on my own two feet and get them to change what they were doing. They didn’t like it. Sure enough, I was abused. Not everyone in business is nice, not everything in business is nice, and there’s some nasty people out there. But to protect your livelihood you need to protect your IP. I’ll leave that right there.
Business Lesson 5: Learn Some Tech
This is a little bit similar to investing in you in terms of getting a coach to really shortcut the journey, but it’s a bit more specific.
It’s expensive to be dumb. I’m much cheaper to be smart.
I’m not telling you to go out there and increase your IQ. I don’t think that’s really that possible anyway. But I’m really talking about the tech aspect of your business here. Take some time to learn at least the basic tech stuff.
I see this a lot with my coaching clients. They’re awesome on the creative stuff, and they can service their clients and blog and talk on videos till the cows come home. But, I constantly hear things like “Oh my God, Facebook ads is doing my head in! Setting up an email delivery sequence, sales funnels, my goodness, what’s a funnel? I can’t do all that!”
It’s tricky. I get it. If you’re really driven by your right brain, switching to your left brain can be really tricky, or vice versa, the left brain can find it really hard to be creative.
I’m just telling you that if you’re not even prepared to even look at that other side, you can be paying and you can be paying A LOT for simple tech support. In short, you can get ripped off.
I have seen this with some of my friends in business. It might be a Facebook ad agency or it could be your website. I have one friend who was running an online business, a retail business, and her web developer, well, she said was deliberately keeping her dumb. They didn’t want her to learn how to change anything on her website and this developer was costing her a fortune. These days websites are so easy to build and make your own changes to. I’m not saying all web developers are like that but some will like to keep you dumb.
For example, I used to do my Facebook Ads and then I outsourced them for 2-3 years, and then I bought them back in-house. It came a time when I was just looking at my cash flow and seeing how much money I was paying for everything. Again, things can make really good sense to outsource, they keep you working in your zone of genius, but situations change over time too. It might be that you’re taking a pivot in your business, like I was, and my cash flow took a hit in the meantime so I needed to bring some things that were outsourced back in my business, and Facebook ads was one of those.
Then I just invested in myself and got up-to-date training in Facebook Ads and away I went again managing my own ads in bursts of 10 minutes here and there. It was much more effective and much cheaper than staying dumb!
Business Lesson 6: Review Your Numbers..Regularly
I’m talking about those that boring profit and loss statements, or just your cash flow, even if you’re just tracking everything in an Excel spreadsheet. Just look at it. How are your sales tracking? How are your expenses tracking?
Finances, yes, sure, they can go up and down, but the best way to get a handle on them is to really look at them closely. I am the worst at this. If my husband was reading this he’d say, “Oh, God, practise what you preach, Laura,” and that is so true. I will definitely say over the last year or two of my business I’ve got a lot, lot better at looking at my own profit and loss statements.
Really getting a handle on your cash flow so you can see what’s coming up, if you need to put money aside and anything like that so you’re not caught out. There’s nothing worse than having to pull money off the mortgage to support the business if you’ve had a couple bad months. Yeah, I’ve done that. I’ve done that many times. It just makes me feel terrible, it makes my husband get a bit cranky. “What’s going on? How are you gonna fix this, Laura?” Then of course, I go back look at the numbers and fix it. So, look at your numbers before you get into that situation.
Business Lesson 7: ASK, Don’t Assume You Know What Your Customers Want
Sometimes we have a really strong gut feeling about something and we’re 100% right.
When I launched my first online business Sustainababy eight years ago, I was solely driven by a really big intuitive feeling, a big drive. I just knew I had to do it, I was getting pulled towards it, like there was nothing I could probably do that would stop me from creating that business.
I didn’t ask then. I just probably knew. I’m glad I did that, it happened and that was great, and it was a success. But there’s been plenty of times along the way where I didn’t ask or maybe I asked and I didn’t listen and that cost me time and it cost me money.
I’ll share an example with you….
When I first created my Home Detox Boot Camp, actually before I created it, I surveyed my following to ask where they wanted help in creating a more sustainable lifestyle. I had different options: reduce chemicals in your home, organic gardening, reducing your household waste, all this sort of stuff, reduce your home energy use. Reducing chemicals in the home was a clear winner, so that was the first product that I created. Bingo. I asked and I listened.
I launched the course twice and was about to launch a third time, after deciding to invest in a membership site, when I self-sabotaged.
I ran off and created an entire new entire eCourse and then I had to launch it. This was my greenHOUSE Home Energy Blitz, a course on reducing home energy consumption.
Creating and launching this new course meant that I put the Home Detox rebuild and relaunch on hold.
11 people bought greenHOUSE in that first launch, whereas when I finally relaunched Home Detox Boot Camp, over 50 people signed up (launch revenue was greater than $20,000).
Why am I sharing this?
I tried to get a lot of buzz and momentum around greenHOUSE, but people didn’t really want to know about reducing their home energy usage. They wanted to learn how to reduce chemicals and toxins in their home. They told me that. I initially listened and then I went and did something else.
Don’t assume you know what your followers and clients want and, of course, recognise that what they want can change over time.
Business Lesson 8: Don’t Be An Island
Now, you can get to where you want to be on your own. I’m not going to say that you can’t. There’s so many successful solopreneurs out there and, sure, they might subcontract or they might have a PA or VA and stuff like that, and just be sustainably building their following. But if you really want to go from here to there on your own, that’s a little bit trickier. How do you get from here to there easier and quicker?
You partner. You collaborate. You work with others.
Believe me, partnerships are where it’s at.
This may mean you end up working with people that you initially considered as competitors.
The best people I collaborate with, technically could be competitors. We’re targeting a similar niche or maybe a similar demographic.
You can get there on your own, but you’ll get there much, much faster, and make a bigger impact, if you partner. There’s so many examples of this in business. Now I know a lot of you are into wellness and stuff like that, so you know Jo Whitton of Quirky Cooking. When she brought out her cookbook and partnered with Thermomix, that was an awesome partnership. Awesome partnership for her. She got distributed all over Australia and beyond, but it was also great for Thermomix too, because they could benefit from the credibility of a really successful Thermomix consultant and Wholefood blogger, which was Jo Whitton. That was a great win-win one.
I’ll soon be announcing a very exciting partnership with Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs, which will help many more households learn these skills to create a healthier, more sustainable home. Watch This Space!
So, they’re some of my best lessons, in particular my eight lessons from eight years in business.
Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to my business. I’m going to celebrate and just also take this opportunity to reflect and look back on my last eight years and actually be really, really proud of what I’ve created and I am intensely proud.
I’m going to put it out there too that I hope this time, in 12 months’ time, definitely by the end of 2019, that I would love for my husband to be working in my business as well. He’s seen the lifestyle that I have and how much I enjoy the business. When he was on long service leave not too long ago he helped out in the business and did some work with me SEO and some of the tech stuff, which he’s amazing at. He’s decided, well, he would love to do that in school hours and help out with the after-school activities with the kids as well. So, that’s part of his dream as well.
I’m very proud of what I’ve created and I’m very, very excited with what’s to come, especially with my big partnerships that are happening at the moment with Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs. I’ll keep you in the loop.
All the very best to you as you continue to grow your business and especially using the power and reach of the internet as the opportunities are endless. But please, please, please just remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Look after yourself and those who you love while you’re growing your business, because you want them to be all there at the end of it too when you really smashed those goals.
Over To You!
What do you currently outsource or delegate in your business? If you’re doing everything yourself, what is the first thing that you’re going to outsource or delegate to somebody else? Pop that in the comments below.
Also, what’s one thing that you can learn in your business in the next month? Something that could save you some money that you’re currently outsourcing. Or alternatively, something you can systematise or automate in your business to save TIME! Please share below!
Lotions and potions, deodorant, perfumes, soaps, exfoliants, shower gels and make up: many of us probably use some or most of these personal care products every day and may not give a second thought to the impact they might be having on the health or us or our environment.
In this post I’ll share why you need to be savvy when choosing which personal care products you use and why beauty products may not actually be that great for both you and the environment.
What’s Wrong with Conventional Personal Care Products?
Most of us have grown up accustomed to the slogan “you are what you eat”, but I don’t think this paints the real picture. I strongly believe that you are what you eat, breathe, wear and what you apply to your skin, hair and even nails.
Our skin is our largest organ and readily absorbs products that are applied. In fact, adult humans are reported to absorb 60% of what is applied to our skins and children are reported to absorb 40-50% more again.
Unlike foods we digest, products absorbed through our skin can directly enter our bloodstream as they bypass the liver.
Given that we can be applying hundreds of chemicals to our bodies every day, this is of great concern.
According to an Environmental Working Group study in 2015, American women apply on average 168 different chemicals to the bodies from personal care products every day. Men use fewer products, but still put 85 chemicals on their bodies.
Of most concern is that only a tiny percentage of these chemicals have been tested for safety. Of the chemicals that have been tested, they’ve typically been tested in isolation. The impact of applying combinations of chemicals to the body is at best, unknown.
Plus, so much of what we use in the bathroom gets flushed down our drains – so there’s a double-whammy where these products can impact both on your health and the environment. The impact of microbeads from personal care products alone has contributed to worldwide ocean plastic contamination. And of course, there’s also the environmental impact of the packaging these products come in too.
So, what’s wrong with conventional personal care products?
Let’s just take a look at the products you need to be most careful about and which ingredients are the worst offenders…..
Which Personal Care Products Should I Avoid?
Products applied to armpits and genitalia are more readily absorbed than what is applied to skin on other parts of the body. For this reason, it pays to think twice about what menstrual products, deodorants and personal lubricants you choose and be mindful of the nappy creams and ointments you apply to your children.
Products applied to the lips can both be absorbed through the fine skin of the lips and ingested. Many commercial lipsticks contain heavy metals such as lead, and arsenic, and out of date lipsticks and glosses are breeding grounds for bacteria. So yes, your lipstick could indeed be making you sick.
Perfumes contain many synthetic chemicals, most notably fragrance. Most of the thousands of chemicals used in fragrances have not been tested for toxicity, alone or in combination. Many of these unlisted ingredients are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines, and asthma symptoms. Laboratory experiments have also linked some individual fragrance ingredients with cancer and neurotoxicity.
What Ingredients Should I Avoid in Personal Care Products?
While some of the chemicals in personal care products are harmless, others are known endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and neurotoxins. There is also growing concern that the combined chemical burden from these products may be directly related to increased rates of reproductive issues and cancer among women.
Here’s a few particular ingredients that I go out of my way to avoid:
You could be forgiven for thinking that the term fragrance or parfum in an ingredient list represents just one ingredient, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The term usually represents a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals. Indeed, some 3,000 chemicals are used as fragrances!!!
So essentially, when you purchase a perfume or personal care products containing fragrance, there’s no way knowing exactly what you’re applying to your body, even if the ingredients are listed on the bottle, because if fragrance/parfum is listed there could be tens or even hundreds more chemical ingredients included than what’s listed.
This loophole in labelling regulations doesn’t just apply to perfumes for cosmetic use, it impacts all products that contain fragrance such as deodorants, perfumes and most cosmetic products.
Phthalates are commonly found in body products like perfume, nail polish, hair spray and body lotion. They’re known endocrine-disrupting chemicals and have also been linked to liver, kidney, reproductive, developmental, immune and neurotoxicity impacts. Phthalates are also commonly used to render plastics soft and flexible.
A common ingredient in commercial shampoos, conditioners, liquid hand soap and toothpaste, parabens have been linked to endocrine disruption, skin irritation and contact dermatitis.
Found in many body products and cosmetics including body wash, mouthwash, shampoos and conditioners, deodorants and even baby wipes, propylene glycol has been linked to skin irritation and allergic reactions in those sensitive to the chemical.
Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal chemical that can be found in cleaning products and personal items such as antibacterial soaps, detergents, toothpastes, deodorants, facial cleansers, exfoliants, mouthwash and cleaning supplies. The chemical has been reported to affect the body’s hormone systems, such as thyroid hormones, and consequently, may disrupt normal breast development.
Due to public pressure many major brands have quietly begun reformulating their products without triclosan, however there are still many products out there that contain this chemical.
What Are Some Natural, Toxin-free Alternatives to Commercial Personal Care Products
Despite what mainstream marketing will lead you to believe, when it comes to applying cosmetics and personal care products to your body, less is best.
Choose products with a shorter ingredient list and learn how to read labels so you know exactly what’s in these products. Opt for certified organic products wherever possible.
Alternatively, simplify your beauty regime and re-purpose some foods from your kitchen into powerhouse personal care products.
Here’s some of my favourites:
Coconut oil is a fabulous makeup remover, moisturizer, nappy rash ointment, even personal lubricant!
Natural Shampoo and Conditioner – it might sound crazy but you can wash your hair with bi carb soda and rinse with apple cider vinegar. It’s called the “no poo” method and it works brilliantly.
Toxin Free Facial and Body scrubs – almond meal, coffee ground, even sea salt. There’s plenty of food items that are effective natural exfoliants.
Intense Moisturizing Treatment – for a big hit of moisture, mash up a soft avocado and apply to your face and hair. Leave it to sit for 5-10 minutes and rinse off.
Natural Perfume – ditch the toxic perfume entirely or opt for a certified organic essential oil blend.
By ditching commercial personal care products for natural, toxin-free alternatives you’ll be doing yourself and the environment a favour!
What are your favourite eco beauty tips? Please share in the comments below Tuesday 31 October 2017 for a chance to win a FREE spot on my Home Detox Boot Camp!!