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In this post we uncover the REDcycle story and share how you can easily recycle soft plastics at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets.

Despite your best attempts to reduce your plastic consumption, it can be difficult to avoid plastics entirely in the modern world and our love affair with plastics are clearly visible in waste statistics.

Plastics commonly make up a large proportion of a household’s regular waste stream. In fact Australians typically generate about 2.5 Mt or 17 kilograms per person of plastic waste each year! (Source: Australian Waste Report 2016)

While much of our hard plastics are recycled thanks to widespread kerbside recycling services, conscious consumers have long been at a loss with what to do with their soft plastics (e.g. food packaging like cereal packets).

Thanks to one innovative mum, Australians now have the opportunity to recycle their soft plastic via REDcycle.

The REDcycle Program is a recovery initiative for post-consumer soft plastic. RED Group has teamed up with Coles, Woolworths and some of Australia’s most-loved brands to make it easy for you to keep your soft plastics out of landfill. 

In this podcast episode, Rebecca Gleghorn shares the REDcycle story and how Australians can easily recycle their soft plastics.

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https://lauratrotta.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Recycling-Soft-Plastics-with-Redcycle-Mixdown-1.mp3 How did the REDcycle Program come about? What inspired the founders to set up a program to capture household soft plastics for recycling?


REDcycle was actually started by a mum, Elizabeth Kasell, who was really kind of confused by the fact that, when she was putting her recycling out every week, all her soft plastics were ending up in the normal landfill rubbish bin. That really perplexed her.

It became a passion of hers to start figuring out how she could rectify that particular situation, so she started looking into soft plastic recycling.

She started the program in schools, at her son’s local school. Just to see how it would go, and then it grew from there. She got some funding through some grants to replicate the program in some other schools. And then when she realized how many people would actually be interested in soft plastic recycling and how important it was, she then explored the avenue of going to supermarkets and pairing up with supermarkets because she was conscious of trying to reach many more people. Everybody goes shopping at some point or another, so that seemed the most obvious way for her to go. And hence, the REDcycle Program was born.


How long ago was this? I mean, I’ve heard a lot about it in the last 12 to 24 months, but is it a relatively new concept? And I guess, what was Elizabeth’s background? Did she have a background in waste management or environmental engineering or anything like that? Or she just had this idea and went for it?


She had a background in retail, and so this was a totally new thing for her. Just like I said, it was born from a passion. Looking with a wasteful eye, looking at what was going to landfill and feeling really quite disheartened by that, and so she started this program. She started in 2011, so it’s relatively newish. It’s been going for seven years, and it really started to pick up within the supermarkets in 2013. So from there and particularly this year, obviously, there’s been a lot more expansion of the program. But she’s a champion. She’s a hero.

How does the REDcycle Program program work? What soft plastics are collected and how are they gathered?


In terms of what we collect, all sorts of household soft plastic waste, some people refer to it as unavoidable plastics, plastic packaging. Some people don’t like the term unavoidable because, obviously, we’re all trying to avoid plastic as much as possible. But when we say unavoidable, we’re talking about things like frozen food packaging, the inside plastic bags of cereal boxes, bubble wrap, white bags. All those sorts of plastics that you can’t really avoid when you go to the supermarket if you’re just buying your groceries. We do have a much more comprehensive list on our website. But basically, if you can scrunch it and it’s scrunchable, then it’s recyclable through the REDcycle program.

So what happens is this. Like you mentioned, we’ve got bins in Coles, so we’re in every Coles store in Australia now, & we’re expanding to every Woolworths store, as we speak. That process will be finished by the middle of this year. So there’s the REDcycle bins, you take your soft plastics that you collect at home, you just take them in, deposit them in the bin, if the bins are full, lay them beside the bin, or give it to the people at the service desk because they actually empty the bins.

They then take the plastics out to the rear of the store where there’s a collection point where either our trucks come and pick them up, or we’ve got a thing called reversed logistics, so in a more remote locations trucks that deliver the goods to those stores, instead of coming back with empty trucks they’re now bringing back the soft plastics to our depot here in Melbourne.

Now contractors in other states, they’ll wait till they got a massive container load full of the plastics, and they may get shipped to Melbourne but ultimately it all comes back to our depot where we sort the plastics. We do an initial sort, and then we give it over to one of our partners, Replas for example who then melt it down, turn it into pellets, and then they create all these amazing products with the plastics that are recycled.

What sort of products are the recycled soft plastics made into?


They do everything. It’s amazing. They do park benches, bollards, decking, counsel signing, speed bumps, garden products, there’s a whole list of things that they do. Dog agility crosses, physical education, equipment that some local councils are putting in their parks now, a whole range of stuff, decking.

If you visit replas.com.au, you can see the full list of the products that they make. And it’s amazing. They basically created a bridge for local [inaudible 00:06:09]. So instead of an ash field bridge they actually created a plastic bridge now which with their material is incredibly durable, and it’s a lot longer lasting than some of the other materials that are currently used

They’re now even making piers out of recycled plastics instead of wood, because wood deteriorates whereas the recyclable plastic has a lot longer lifespan and is more durable.


Just on those plastics they’re turned into, are they then able to be recycled again? If they make the recycled soft plastics into cricket stumps for kids games, can they be melted down again so we can have this continual circulation?


All the products that they make, have an incredible long lifespan, but if they do get broken or for whatever reason they deteriorate, which they shouldn’t, they can be recycled. That’s the great part of this whole using these products because not only when you’ve got these products they’re going to be recycled and they won’t then end up in the landfill. And that’s quite a common question you get from the public about what happens to those products, but yeah, they can be recycled.What are current volumes like? Is supply much greater than demand? How are you managing this balancing act?

What are current soft plastic volumes like? Is supply much greater than demand? How are you managing this delicate balancing act?


Just to give you some facts and figures, because I think this might blow some people’s minds, in the last 12 months, so from May last year to April this year, we collected 67.85 tons of plastics. That’s 16 million pieces of soft plastic. In 2017, like the haul of 2017, we collected 480 tons, that’s 120 million pieces of plastic diverted from landfill. That’s an increase of 291 tons a year since 2013. We’re now actually collecting four times the volume and weight than when we first started. That’s a combination of people becoming more aware of the program obviously, but also the fact that we’re now in so many more locations, and so many more people are able to actually give us their soft plastics. And yes, supply is greater than demand in terms of the product that are being produced but hopefully that’s going to change as more partners come onboard and start purchasing more of the product, like our partners for their usabilities, but in the meantime we’re actually able to store the plastics until our amazing partners like Replas for example make them. So nothing goes to waste.

But just on that I will say, because we often get the question, does anything end up in landfill? This is going down. It was up to seven percent of the plastics that we received did have to unfortunately go to landfill, mainly because of contamination. So some people have used the bins unfortunately as a bin, for example unchecked their coffee cabin which then renders pretty much all the plastic in that bin useless cause it becomes wet, and wet plastics become mouldy, and then that makes that we can’t use those plastics. So as more people are becoming aware of the program, contamination is becoming less of an issue, so less is going to landfill. But that was one of the roughly seven percent used to go in landfill, so hopefully that will come down.

Do you have any requirements on the quality of the soft plastics that we do put in the bins?


Do we need to wash the plastics out before placing them in the bin? Let’s say if you bought a packet of biscuits and there’s some crumbs in the packet. Are you alright with the crumbs in there, or do you have to wash it all out and make sure it’s dry before it goes in?


No, you don’t need to wash stuff, and in fact purely wanting to save water if nothing else but also the fact that we got to ensure that we don’t have any wet plastics. They would then have to wash their plastics but as long you dampen you use. As long as the crumbs have been shaken out as much as possible and it’s as clean as possible, if there’s something on it then you just wipe it out, that’s fine. It doesn’t need to be pristine but we do just need to make sure there’s no possible moulding issues. That’s why we can’t really accept anything that’s had meat in it for example because that becomes an issue.

But one of the question we often get for example is you know the pouches, the yoghurt pouches or the baby food pouches that you now buy, as long as they’re squeezed as much as possible out of that and the lid is put back on. Now that seems counterintuitive because that lid’s a hard plastic but that actually keeps the product inside, and so it doesn’t squirt out and create mould issues. So you squeeze as much out as possible, put the lid back on, and then it can be REDcycled.

But you know, your dog food bags, your cat food bags, all of those can be REDcycled, again just make sure you’ve shaken them out and they’re as clean and as dry as possible.

There’s been much media coverage in recent months about China no longer accepting our waste and recyclables. What impact do you see this having in the short to medium term and how can Redcycle fill this need?


Well the good news is the ban doesn’t actually affect us at all in terms of REDcycle because we’ve never ever sent out plastics to China. So that’s not an issue for us. And given that Coles and Woolworth are now operating the REDcycle bins within their stores, any plastics collected in those stores now are REDcycled anyway. Whereas ones upon a time some stores may have had other recycling programs, all Coles on the West coast will now have a REDcycle bin, and so it’ll come to REDcycle anyway. So it won’t impact what we do, and it won’t impact how people recycle because most of it will come to REDcycle now anyway.

What have been the main challenges faced by Redcycle so far and how has the organisation overcome these?


The absolute main challenge that we’ve had from the beginning is people wanting access to the program, and requesting bins in their areas. It used to be a daily question, and not just one person, we’ve had questions from all over the country constantly, all the time about when are you coming to my location, how can we recycle our soft plastics? So given that request and the enormity of that task, that has been the challenge.

So Elizabeth has worked really, really, really hard to ensure that we can roll this program out to every Coles across the country. You can only imagine that with that, and its challenges but it’s part of the nature of the business is that managing the logistics of rolling out bins to every store, and what that means in terms of correction, and then what that means in terms of maintaining the integrity of the program.

Elizabeth is very, very, very conscious of maintaining the integrity of the program and the current level of service that we provide which is why the rollout has taken a little bit longer than we had hoped. But that’s been a very deliberate thing to make sure we’re doing it right the first time and the people are getting the bins in those areas where they never thought they were going to have one. And for us to be able to continue to run those collections and get the materials back here to have them processed.

Is REDcycle a not-for-profit organization? Is there a point where it’s not economical to collect these soft plastics and process them into new products?


It’s a not-for-profit in terms of the business doesn’t make a profit. There’s enough money coming in to be able to run the logistics basically. It covers the cost of logistics and the program. And then the other part of the model that’s incredibly important is the circular model of the program, so that the main people that we work with, Coles and Woolworths for example, then purchase Replas products, so that there’s a full circle of recycling, and that’s incredibly important. A lot of people do request to have bins and want collections, but that’s part of the process that people then need to commit to purchasing Replas products to then keep the supply and demand going.


This is such a logistically heavy exercise, requiring a lot of transport and people power, just from a business perspective, you can see that’s going to cost millions of dollars a year to run the operation.


Yes Elizabeth often feels like she’s operating a logistics company more than a recycling company!

When she started out recycling was her passion but then it’s turned into a logistics operation. It’s such a big undertaking which is again why some of the rollout’s taken a bit longer because she wanted to make sure that she doesn’t drop the ball on any of side of stuff. It’s really important that we keep up with the program and keep its reputation because it’s a great program.


At least it sounds like it’s self sustaining at the moment.


Yes. Yeah, absolutely.

How can our listeners today best support Redcycle and the work you do?

The best way that your listeners can support what we do and support REDcycle and support soft plastics recycling is to go to the REDcycle Website.

There’s a full list of what can and can’t be REDcycled, and it’s important to become familiar with that. Some people print it out, there’s actually resources page so there’s posters on there that people can download, and other videos that people can watch to become familiar with the program and familiar with what we do which is great. There’s resources there for little kids too to get kids involved, and I can actually mention schools in just a minute. But the main thing is people making a conscious effort to sort their soft plastics at home, making sure they’re as clean as possible, and then take them to their local participating Coles and Woolworth stores for recycling.

And then telling their friends, family, neighbours to do the same thing. Jump on our Facebook page, get involved. We put up a lot of notifications about new stores being added or a lot of people ask questions there about what can and can’t be recycled, so we are very active in that space, so people can then share that. Have a look at what Replas is doing. Encourage your local Council to purchase Replas products. If your local Council is looking at doing new decking or bollards or signage or anything, get them to consider Replas products instead of the old-fashioned products because creating that demand for the recycled plastic products is really important.

A lot of schools are getting involved by teaching kids about recycling, and they’re developing little roster systems within their schools once they’ve collected the products to then take them to their local participating Coles or Woolworth stores, and working with the stores like that they might have an increased volume once every two weeks or however you manage that. It’s like creating a community kind of engagement is really good, and often you know if they’re lucky the local Coles and Woolworth stores are giving away the benches, the recycled benches to their local communities or schools as a reward for the soft plastics that they collect. Hopefully this program is not just about collecting soft plastics and turning them into something, it’s about community involvement and community engagement, so people are starting to talk to each other about these issues and getting involved with their local community and seeing how they can help. Hopefully that’s the mission that the people get when they get involved with REDcycle.


Well, you just planted a seed in my mind because I know that the school my children go to is about 300 meters away from a Coles. So I think there’s plenty of opportunity there to get a bin in the school, and I might just take that onboard myself, with my sons and see if we can get that in place.

There’s always something we can do, even those of us that are being aiming to live sustainably for 20+ years, there’s always, that’s what I love about sustainability, there’s always one extra little thing you can do to help. So thanks for highlighting that to me today.


I have to say that I was really surprised once I became involved with the program and the company obviously in initiating this in my own home. The amount of landfill that we put out, rubbish that we put out has decreased so dramatically it’s not even funny.


Thanks again for your time, Rebecca. I’m really, really grateful for you making the time today to come on to Eco Chat and sharing the REDcycle story with my listeners.


Not a problem, and thank you for helping share the REDcycle message.

Like this Post?

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In this post I’ll share which of my favourite natural cleaning products I used to complete the exit clean on my house in our recent house move, and how they performed.


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Moving house.

It’s right up there as one of the top stresses in life, alongside death of a loved one, divorce, major illness and job loss.

There’s the decluttering, packing, farewells, relocating, unpacking and resettling.

And of course, the cleaning.

Earlier this year we made our BIG family move from the small town of Roxby Downs to the city of Adelaide, 600 km away. It was a move that had been quite literally years in the making yet, still involved much work and effort in decluttering and packing our belongings and cleaning the house we’d called home for over 10 years.

I contemplated outsourcing the exit clean to save time, but with the ever-increasing costs of our new house build, and my desire to leave the house looking as good as new for the new tenants (coupled with the belief that we were best placed to make that happen), we decided to complete it ourselves.

I also secretly wanted to put my favourite natural cleaning products to the test to see if they were up to the big task of a leave-no-surface-spared exit clean, and they didn’t disappoint!

In this post I’ll share which of my favourite natural cleaning products I used to complete the exit clean on my house and how they performed.

Why Use Natural Cleaning Products?

I’m not a fan of cleaning at the best of times, but I particularly dislike cleaning when it makes me feel physically sick.

Common commercial household cleaners like chlorine bleach (active ingredient: sodium hypochlorite), oven cleaners (active ingredient: sodium hydroxide) and even humble multi-purpose sprays like Mr Muscle (active ingredient: Benzalkonium chloride) make me feel faint and giddy, more prone to headaches and leave my hands dry and cracked, and I’m not alone!

With side effects to common synthetic cleaning products including irritation to the skin, eyes, mucous and respiratory system, it’s no surprise that more and more people are making the switch to natural cleaning products to improve the health of themselves and our planet.

I stopped using synthetic cleaning products over 15 years ago when I was suffering chronic migraines and have guided hundreds of participants in my Home Detox Boot Camp to do the same.

In fact I’m constantly testing new natural cleaning products that hit the market and have a small list of favourites that I used to complete my exit clean. The list was so small that all these products fitted in a standard bucket, so at the end of the clean, we just popped the bucket and contents in the back of the car with our suitcases and drove to Adelaide!

Do Natural Cleaning Products Work As Well As Heavy Duty Chemical Cleaners?

In one word, yes.

In fact in most cases they work just as well, if not better.

For example, natural cleaning products like white vinegar, tea tree and clove essential oils are more effective on moulds than chlorine bleaches (which just bleach moulds white).

Even the oven, possibly the trickiest area of the home to clean, can be cleaned perfectly with the non-toxic koh (formerly ekoworx) Universal Surface Cleaner and Diamond Sponge, rather than a toxic sodium-hydroxide based commercial oven cleaner spray. Of course baking soda and vinegar will have a red-hot go here, but the cleaning power of koh on a grimy oven truly has to be seen to be believed.

As mentioned, one of the reasons why I wanted to complete my own house exit clean was to show that natural cleaning products were up to the task.

And they totally were… the real estate agent and incoming tenants were thrilled with the result!

My Favourite Natural Cleaning Products

So what were the natural cleaning products that I used for my house’s exit clean?

The following list is a summary of the individual natural cleaning products I used to undertake an intensive clean of our house.

For a detailed list of which product I used for each cleaning task (including quantities and recipes), download my FREE eguide here.

1. Young Living Thieves Household Cleaner

A concentrated, natural, multi-purpose cleaner with Thieves essential oil blend as the magic ingredient, Young Living Thieves Household Cleaner was a godsend during my exit clean.

I used it concentrated to clean my toilet bowls, diluted to clean my floors, and I also made it into a multipurpose spray to clean particularly grimy areas like bathroom drains and toilet seats (the base beneath the plastic seat… which I removed to disinfect).

It’s a strong disinfectant, yet is gentle on the skin and leaves a pleasant, non-irritating scent after the job is done.

Click here to purchase Young Living Thieves Household Cleaner.

For instructions on how to purchase Young Living products click HERE.

2. Young Living Thieves Dishwashing Liquid

Similar to the Young Living Thieves Household Cleaner, Thieves essential oil blend is the active ingredient in the Thieves Dishwashing Liquid.

I used this gentle, vegetable-based detergent to wash many components of the household like exhaust fans, outside windows and toilet seat covers.

Click here to purchase Young Living Thieves Household Cleaner.

For instructions on how to purchase Young Living products click HERE.

3. Microfibre Cloths

When it comes to dusting or cleaning down any surface, I choose microfibre cloths above any other fabric and in particular, Norwex Enviro Cloths.

What I LOVE about microfibre cloths is that they can be used damp or dry.

Used dry for dusting, the microfibres create static electricity that lift the smallest particles of dust and dirt up into the cloth and prevent them from resettling on surfaces. Used damp, they pick up dirt and grime using just water, leaving a sparkling finish in their tracks.

During my exit clean I used microfibre cloths to wipe out all our kitchen cupboards, clean mirrors, bathroom sinks, shower, bath, walls and even skirting boards.

4. koh (formerly ekoWorx) Universal Surface Cleaner and Diamond Sponge

The koh Universal Surface Cleaner has taken the Australian cleaning industry by storm these past 12 months and for good reason. It works!

Formulated by a team at the University of NSW, the koh Universal Surface Cleaner is a weak solution of potassium hydroxide. Used together with the diamond sponge (which despite its scouring capability surprisingly does not scratch surfaces), the combo is a powerhouse for many cleaning applications in the home and the results truly have to be seen to be believed!

During my exit clean I used them to clean my oven, bath tub, shower recesses and walls (the combo was effective at removing scuff marks on the walls courtesy of my children’s feet!). I also used the grout brush to clean the grout in the shower and kitchen splashback and was very happy with its performance.

Click HERE to try out koh products for yourself and receive $10 off your order.

The discount will automatically be applied once you proceed through the checkout and applies to items on sale.

5. ENJO Window Cleaner

The ENJO Window Cleaner and cloth are so quick and easy to use, especially inside, as cleaning windows this way doesn’t splash water and suds on internal furnishings.

Rather than spraying the window with water, I rinse the fabric cover in water and wring it out at about 80% before placing back on the cleaning device. The squeegee attachment removes the water beads from the windows and finishing with the window cloth ensures no streaks are left behind.

Note: whilst I washed our outside windows at the same time as the eaves using a soft broom and soapy water (the detergent was Young Living Thieves Dishwashing Liquid), I finished them off with the ENJO Window Cleaner to ensure a streak-free finish.

6. Essential Oils

I’ve long been a fan of cleaning with essential oils and there were two in particular that I used in my exit clean.

Eucalyptus Oil was effective in removing the stickers my sons had placed on various surfaces throughout the home.

I used Young Living Thieves Essential Oil blend when I needed some extra disinfecting power throughout the home. I also finished off the house clean by placing a drop of this oil down the drain in every sink, shower and bath to prevent mould growth and to leave a lovely, fresh smell for the new tenants.

Click here to purchase Young Living Essential Oils.

For instructions on how to purchase Young Living products click HERE.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to my favourite natural cleaning products, my husband and I completed our house exit clean within two days with no headaches, irritated skin or dizziness.

Better still, we left the house looking as good as new and the new tenants were thrilled to move into a sparkling clean house without the toxic chemical smell.

Over To You!

What’s are some of your favourite natural cleaning products that work as well, if not better, than commercial cleaners? Share below!

Like this post?

You might also like:

5 Simple Ways To Declutter Your House

3 Ways To Clean With Food – the waste-free, safe and natural way to clean that doesn’t cost a fortune

The Health Impacts of Household Dust

Five Ways To Improve Indoor Air Quality

Six Good Reasons for a Home Detox

How To Remove Mould The Natural Way

The Magic of Microfibre Cloths

The post How I Completed My Entire House Exit Clean With All Natural Cleaning Products appeared first on Laura Trotta.

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I love a sunburnt country

A land of sweeping plains

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains

I love her far horizons

I love her jewel-sea

Her beauty, and her terrors

The wide brown land for me.

I’ve been able to recite verse two of Dorothea MacKellar’s famous poem My Country since early childhood and it comes to mind every time Australia is hit by a terrible natural disaster.

I probably learnt it around 1983 when the Ash Wednesday bushfires blackened my birth city Melbourne’s skyline with a thick ash and a bright orange moon. Living in flood-prone Gippsland in my late childhood and teens, it again was close to mind when my deb ball was postponed in 1993 due to widescale destructive floods and the local basketball stadiums (where the ball was to be held being turned into emergency accommodation and food shelter.

But it’s the sunburnt country and wide brown land references which have been the most relatable to me over the past 18 years as I’ve lived in Outback Queensland and South Australia.

It was during this time, from the late 1990s to 2010, when Australia experienced a prolonged period of dry conditions, known as the Millennium Drought.

Said by some to be the worst drought recorded in Australia since human settlement, it placed extreme pressure on agricultural production and urban water supply in much of southern Australia. It pushed farms, and farmers, to the brink and many farming families today still haven’t recovered from the stress and loss of livestock and income from that time.

During the Millennium Drought, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane were all affected by persistent or periodic drought episodes and water restrictions were the norm.

The Drought led to the construction of six major seawater desalination plants to provide water to Australia’s major cities, and to changes in the management of water in the Murray-Darling basin, most notably the formation of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

Seeing the devastating effects of this drought first hand on the landscape and many of his friends led inventor, Peter Cullin, to ask himself what he could do to help.

He began by researching domestic water consumption and soon stumbled on data which showed that the bathroom, and more specifically the shower, was the most wasteful area in a typical dwelling.

Further research confirmed that the problem was a global one. Every minute of every day, in hundreds of millions of homes around the world quality fresh drinking water was being wasted due to inefficient showers.

Global water consumption rates are so high that surface water is shrinking at an alarming rate and groundwater reserves are depleting much faster than they can be replenished.

It also became clear that most people were painfully aware of the impact they were having upon our planets fragile environment but there was simply no practical and affordable solution to the shower waste problem available to the market.

So began the quest to create, from scratch, a new type of shower that would overcome the seven major waste problems inherent in typical showers.

Peter’s invention, the Cullector is now recognised as the world’s most efficient DIY retrofit shower. It’s a multi award winning ultra-efficient shower that combines several water saving solutions into one simple water saving shower, it’s self-powered and provides a quality showering experience that saves water, saves money and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

The Cullector is one of many simple solutions to the complex problem of water shortages. I’m thrilled to have Peter joining me today to share the story of how the Cullector came to be and discuss the many ways you can save water in your home.

While many of our references will be in the Australian context, water scarcity is a global problem and one we all need to be addressing.

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What inspired you to invent a product that would tackle water consumption in the home?

It goes right back to when I was a kid growing up in Victoria and my mum and dad were my two major influences. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, my mum was an eco-warrior herself way before that term was coined. Our house backed onto a nature reserve and we spent all our time down there playing when we were kids. There were echidnas, wallabies, snakes, turtles, and we could just drink the water out of the creek. That’s where I fell in love with nature.

My father was a television technician. He was the personification of a ‘mad scientist’ with his wild hair, glasses and 4B pencil stuck behind his ear. He was able to fix or invent anything. There was nothing that he couldn’t do. His laboratory downstairs was like a mad scientist’s lab. His junk box was my toy box. There were springs, broken clocks, etc. He taught me a lot of the skills that I have today in being able to put things together and pull them apart. He taught me how to create prototypes and working models. They’re my two strongest influences.

During the Millenium drought in Australia in 2006 – the devastation was horrible and I felt compelled to help. I started doing research on water consumption and domestic water consumption in particular. It was an area where people like myself, or anyone really, could do some good. After looking at houses I found that the bathroom and more particularly the shower was one of the most wasteful areas in a typical dwelling.

Standing in the shower one day, I watched all that beautiful fresh drinking water go down the drain whilst waiting for the shower to warm up. I thought of the millions of people around the world just doing the same thing every single day. We are so entrenched in our upbringing that we don’t even notice that it is happening. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. How can we collect and use this water in an easy simple way that would not detract from the showering experience?

It became quite an obsession and I went out to the shed and started building prototypes. It took a couple of years – there were around twenty different working models before I came to an idea where I could alter the geometry of a standard 3 way ball bell to use that as a venturi as well. This meant that we could collect the water that was normally wasted during warm up time and then reintroduce that water back into the shower stream during the course of the shower. That was the simple idea and it’s developed on from there.

Why is it so important that we take steps to reduce our household’s water consumption?

The main thing that I learnt when doing my research is that water is a finite resource. The planet doesn’t make any more of it – what we’ve got is what we’ve got. We have to learn how to do more with less. The population is growing. We need to be able to provide water for more and more people.

A lot of people think that science will come and save us and that 70% of the world’s mass is covered in water from our oceans. But desalinisation is not really an answer. Desal plants are terribly energy consuming which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. This is not the way that we want to go because it compounds the issue. Additionally, what do you do with all the salts and minerals that you strip from the water? If it is just dumped out to sea again it creates a further ecological problem.

The other thing is that people are stripping all the water from the aquifers at the moment. We are using more water than is being provided from our catchments. Quite often the water from the aquifers has been under the ground for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s beautiful crystal-clear water. It has been filtered through the sediment as it trickles down. But they’re drawing it out so fast that it’s pulling water in from the top layers which has contaminants and further minerals which is actually destroying the aquifers.

At the moment, Cape Town is looking to be the first modern city that’s ever run out of water. They are heading for Day Zero where they will have to turn the taps off. There is 4 million people who live there that will have to queue for water. There will be 200 distribution points and they’ll only receive 25L of water per day each. They’ve done well to reduce their consumption by 50 % in the last 2 years. To me this shows that it can be done and we can do a lot more with less water. At the moment we’re not doing as well as we possibly can.

It’s good for the environment and if you can take sensible steps around the home it can make a big difference. It seems to be such a huge global problem that I think sometimes we feel disempowered, helpless or even depressed. We know that we’re contributing to the problem but we don’t have the tools or the knowledge to be able to do anything about it. I’m a firm believer that if enough people do a little bit, it makes a huge difference.

With the Cullector in particular, you may look at it and think you’re only saving 20-30L per shower but if everyone in the house does that, it adds up to a lot of water. It’s a huge contribution, it’s a matter of getting enough people to do it.

How does the Cullector work?

I designed the Cullector to eliminate what I call the 7 Deadly Sins of Inefficient Showers.

The first sin is that quality fresh water is lost to the drain whilst waiting for the shower to warm up. Secondly, people have the tendency to turn the shower on, walk off, and then come back to it. This is a behavioural change.

The third sin is the water wasted while adjusting the taps for correct temperature. Also further water is wasted when readjusting the taps for correct temperature after pausing the shower to soap up or shampoo.

Number five is that a normal shower provides no clear signal to indicate when shower time is up. There can also be inappropriate or no flow restriction showerheads. Also inefficient showerheads can cause the user to spend longer in the shower than necessary.

In order to eliminate these problems, the Cullector combines several water saving features into one simple self-powered device. I’ve designed it so that it’s super easy to install. It simply replaces your existing shower. Just unscrew your showerhead from the wall, screw the Cullector on and you’re ready to go.

Everything you need comes in the box, there’s no drilling or plumber required.

Once your Cullector’s installed, you set and forget your shower tap to your preferred showering temperature. You don’t have to fiddle with the taps anymore. Off, on, and save, are now controlled with the little handle on the Cullector mechanism.

To start your shower, you move the lever to the ‘save’ position. All of the fresh water that would normally be lost to the drain, is now being collected in the bottle. You can see the bottle filling up and that always makes me feel great because I can see the water that normally would have been wasted. A little bit of water comes out of the shower rose so that you can monitor the temperature. As soon as the temperature is right, you flick the lever to ‘on’ and start showering.

All of the water that has been collected in the reservoir by a venturi effect, gets mixed back into the shower stream. This increases the flow rate and the pressure of the water by about 1 L per minute. After 4 – 5 minutes all of the water that has been collected, has been used up. You can see the water level in the reservoir going down while you’re in the shower.

Once all of the water has been used up, a little bit of air is drawn into the system. This creates a gentle pulse in the shower stream. This gives a tactile sensation to remind you that it’s time to get out. So it works as a shower timer as well.

You can pause the shower at any time just by switching the lever to ‘off’. This pause to soap up or shampoo is often called a military or navy shower, and it saves an enormous amount of water. Then you can switch it back on without readjusting your taps.

The showerhead is specifically designed to work at low flow rates. You get a full flowing shower that does everything that it is supposed to do at 7 L per minute. Most of the earlier showerheads without flow restriction, use 20+ L per minute.

All of the showerheads now are tested for WaterMark and WELS standards. This means they’re tested for flow rate, pattern, and temperature drop.

So exactly how much water does it save? If you don’t have a flow restricting shower in your home at the moment, and you use all of the features on the Cullector including the ‘pause’ feature, you will be saving in the vicinity of 35 000 L per year per person.

Water is probably not the most expensive commodity that you use in the house. You are also using electricity to heat the water. Up to 80% of the water that is coming out of your shower can be coming from your hot water service. So every litre that you save is another litre of water that you don’t have to heat. We calculate that the money saved on power is $260 per year per person. This is significantly more than the money saved on water – which is about $80 per year per person. That adds up to a total saving of $340 per year per person.

If you’re using power from a coal fired power station for instance, in our area (Far North Queensland) you’ll save one tonne of greenhouse gas per person per annum. Imagine a million people doing it? There are 20 million showers taken every day in Australia.

What are some other steps you take to reduce your household’s water consumption?

The first one is to check for leaks. If you have a dripping tap it adds up over time. One of the sneaky ones that a lot of people aren’t aware of is the toilet. They can leak, and because of the configuration of bowl, the leaks stay on the side and you can’t actually see the water dripping. Take the lid off the toilet and put in a couple of drops of food dye. Put the lid back on and come back in 20 minutes or so. If you see that food dye moving down the side of your bowl, you’ve got a leak.

Another little trick that you can do with your toilet is if you take the top off the cistern and get a plastic bottle full of water and drop it in. That will displace a certain volume of water to reduce your toilet outflow a little bit.

The other thing people can be aware of is that some leaks can be invisible, they might be under the ground. The only way to tell is to switch everything off in the house, and listen to your water meter. If it’s ticking then you’re in trouble because there’s a big leak. If it’s not ticking, check it again in an hour to make sure the numbers are still the same.

There is also the washing machine outflow. Simply hook up a garden hose to the outflow of the washing machine and put it out the window and on to the garden.

If you can afford it, install a water tank. Sometimes there are local council or government subsidies available for water tanks.

Mulch your garden beds. Plant native trees because they’re more water resilient.

When purchasing new appliances have a look at the WELS star rating. The more stars the better off. It might be more expensive initially but it will definitely pay for itself in the long run.  And it’s good for the environment as well.

Where can we go to learn more about the Cullector and purchase one?

The best place is to go to watersavingshowers.com.au. You’ll see a video that gives a very good visual idea of exactly what the Cullector does and how it does it. Then you can go to the product page to purchase one.

We ship Australia-wide for free. We ship worldwide at the best rate that we can find.

Recently we ran a Facebook campaign for Cape Town where we were shipping to them for free just to try and help them out. Because of the shipping fees it was a break even exercise for us but I think it was well worth doing.

So there you have it! I hope you have a greater appreciation of the value of water and some ideas for how you can reduce your household’s water consumption.

To help you get started reducing your household water consumption, pick up your FREE Cheat Sheet that covers 30 Simple Ways To Reduce Water Use In and Around Your Home

It includes many of the simple tips I shared with households during my time as a home sustainability auditor.

Simple go to http://watersaving.lauratrotta.com, enter your email address and you’ll be on your way!

And if you’re interested in being part of an active community supporting each other to continually make small changes to create a healthier, more sustainable home and lifestyle, join my growing Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs community.

If you’re keen to try out the Cullector Water Saving Shower for yourself Peter has offered a 20% discount on the full range at Water Saving Showers between now and end May 2018. Simply enter code ECOCHAT to save!

While reducing your household’s water consumption won’t change the fact that we live in a land of droughts and flooding rains, it will help ensure that our water resources are able to stretch further and that’s one big step forward to making green mainstream.

The post How To Reduce Your Household Water Consumption With Peter Cullin From Water Saving Showers appeared first on Laura Trotta.

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When did you last purchase a new item of clothing?

When did you last move an item on from your wardrobe? And where and how did you move this item on?

How much of your wardrobe do you actually wear on a regular basis?

I encourage you to take moment to reflect on these three questions. You may not be aware of it, but your wardrobe may be the source of your greatest impact on the environment.
If you’re anything like the average person, you only wear around 20% of the clothing in your wardrobe. If you’re anything like me, the 20% that you do regularly wear is activewear and jeans. Yet that may not have always been the case for you.

Today I’m going to introduce you to two amazing women who have created a shared economy for high end fashion. But before I do, I want to share a story with you….

14 years ago I was working in an office as a consultant engineer. I’d go to work most days in heels and a good quality dress shirt and pants or a skirt. I enjoyed purchasing this wardrobe because the six years prior to this job I fronted up to work each day on a mine site in work wear…. King Gee or Hard Yakka pants and shirts with reflectors on the sleeves and legs and my name stitched on my left breast and right butt cheek. So sexy I know!

The point I’m making is I enjoyed wearing my new office attire and I loved my job. It was my dream job except for the fact that my then-boyfriend and now-husband, was living and working on the other side of Australia.

After many months of him (unsuccessfully) applying for work in Townsville where I lived, I applied for an environmental engineering job at the mine where he was working, in Outback South Australia.

Needless to say I was successful in obtaining that job, so it was back to the minerals industry and reflective workwear for me…just 12 months after I thought I’d left it behind.

My new corporate attire hung disused in my wardrobe for the next 5 years constantly reminding me of life working in the city as a consultant engineer, while I again worked as a remote minesite environmental engineer.

It wasn’t until a couple of years later, when doing a huge wardrobe cull as a new mother did I move many of these beautiful clothes and suits on. Of course they no longer fit me and with an endless stream of nappies and sleepless nights ahead of me I couldn’t realistically see when I’d ever get the chance to wear them again, even if I did manage to lose those 10 kilos that had crept on.

The workwear and steel-capped boots were also relegated to the past and activewear and sneakers became my new uniform as I’d walk my baby into town to meet friends or go to the gym, before returning home and working on my online business while my baby slept.

Nine years on and I wear my “mum wardrobe” of activewear, jeans or nice casual clothes most days. I’ve continued to slowly purge my corporate wear and heels as the years have passed. Most notably in our recent house and city move where I donated the final bags to a charity providing clothing for women returning to work.

This sudden change of identity and lifestyle is common for many women who change jobs or become mothers. And this sudden change not surprisingly can have a large financial and environmental cost.

This week is Fashion Revolution Week. If you’re not familiar with Fashion Revolution Week, it’s basically a week of campaigns and action to demand greater transparency in the fashion supply chain.

It takes place each year during the week of 24 April, the date of the Rana Plaza building collapse, in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Rana Plaza housed a number of garment factories, and when the building collapsed on 24 April 2013, 1,138 people were killed and many more were injured. The tragedy highlighted the dreadful working conditions faced by many people within the garment industry.

Fashion Revolution is working to end exploitation in the fashion industry. During Fashion Revolution Week they encourage people around the globe to ask fashion and clothing brands ‘Who made my clothes?’, using the hashtag #whomademyclothes.’

Fashion Revolution Week isn’t just about questioning the social impact of the Fashion Industry, it’s also a time to shine a light on its sustainability.

The Fashion Industry is reported to be the second most polluting industry, second to the oil industry. Our increasing appetite for fast fashion, is driving demand and as a result the industry is having a significant impact on our planet.

In episode 80 of Eco Chat I chatted with Melinda Tually of The Fashion Revolution about the impact of fast fashion and why we should ask #whomademyclothes. If you haven’t listened to that interview I highly recommend you do so here.

Today we’re taking a look at another side of fashion and I’m chatting with two gamechangers who have co-founded a clever start-up to make it easy for us to both move on quality items we no longer need and replace them with an entire new wardrobe….without spending a cent.

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Through SilkRoll, Erin Wold and Janet Wu have created a shared economy for high end fashion. In this episode we chat about why the fashion industry needs an eco-makeover, some of the advantages of sourcing your clothing this way and the challenges faced by Erin and Janet in getting SilkRoll off the ground and how they overcame them.

Hold onto your seats because after this article, you’ll think three times before ever buying a new item of clothing again!

What’s going on in women’s wardrobes and why does the fashion industry need an eco makeover?


For those people who don’t know this fact I’m about to share right now, it can be very alarming. Most people know that oil is the most polluting industry in the world. It’s now becoming widely known that agriculture is number two. Fashion, believe it or not, is the third most polluting industry globally.

Every year women are spending three trillion dollars on new clothes. The average woman now will own over three thousand items in her lifetime. She’ll wear about 20% of that. The other 80% is the stuff that gets trashed and ends up in landfill. Last year in the United States alone, over 14 million tones of fashion was dumped into landfill.

The business was originally started from a fun idea because we thought it would be cool to exchange clothes. In San Francisco, sustainable living is a big deal and it was actually other women that brought it to our attention and said ‘this could be huge for the industry’. The more that we learned about the ability that recirculation could have if done in a way that really works for people, we could significantly reduce the impact that new fashion production is having.

There is a resistance that people have to reselling their clothes. If you paid $150 USD for an item and then tried to resell it, you would only get around $30 USD max. They barely get any money back for it, they justify why they bought it in the first place, put it back in their closet, and never wear it again.


We take care of our customers in the sense that our target customers are women who have busy lives. The last thing that they have time for is to take photos, spec out their items, measure and then list them. Then communicate with the buyer on shipping and logistics. All of that is a burdensome process. Our customers don’t have the time for that. Internally we have a propriety processing workflow that allows us to photograph, list, and fulfil orders, in an efficient manner.

One of the biggest shifts in the fashion industry over the last 20-30 years is the whole concept of fast fashion. It’s only with the recent changes in supply chain and cheap labour that has allowed brands to manufacture things offshore at very cheap prices. The fast fashion industry was for the last 20 years or so the fastest growing industry in retail.

When we think about brands such as H&M and Forever21, these companies generate tens of billions of dollars in revenue a year. The more that is getting produced and the more that we consume, the more that we are wasting.

We did a tour in San Francisco with Goodwill which is one of the largest donation centres in the US. They told us the 85% of all the garments they receive go straight to landfill. Simply because they don’t have enough staff to process them or enough stores to place them on the shelves.

It’s alarming that this is what it has come to. But, at the same time it’s not been talked about. We really do see now that there is this sustainable fashion trend movements and advocates out there. We are here to be part of that conversation, which didn’t really exist 5-10 years ago.

How did Silkroll come about and how does it work?


The inkling of the idea originated several years ago when I was living in Hong Kong. At my mum’s house one day, she came back to the house after taking out the trash. She commented that she saw great quality designer clothes in the neighbour’s trash that was being thrown out. In that moment I was thinking, if my mum can just see these beautiful things trashed out in our neighbourhood, what is really going on at a community, a country, a global level. How much are we trashing?

At the time I didn’t think about it as a business, just an awareness. I was an investment banker and a couple of years later I moved to San Francisco with a startup that I was working with. I entered a new climate and a new community. The tech community is drastically different from the banking community, and the weather changed. I realised that 90% of my closet became obsolete.

I wanted to create a way for me to share these beautiful designer fashion pieces that I had with people who would want them and love them and really use them. Also I wanted to retain their value. I wanted to literally swap my closet out with outfits that I needed for San Francisco.

I had quit my banking job and was on a startup budget so I didn’t want to go out and spend a ton of money getting a new closet. So this is the origination of the idea. I shared this with Erin and she had a different but useful way of looking at it.


We were at a 4th of July BBQ that day and we had just met. Janet told me she had this idea to start a company, that she wanted women to be able to exchange clothes. She had these nice clothes that she didn’t want to resell but wanted to trade out.

I hadn’t spent my money on high-end workwear but I needed it. I actually needed high-end workwear at the time. Instead I spent my money on high-end dresses that I would wear to weddings. I’m in my late 20s and it was wedding season. I would buy a new dress every time I was invited to a wedding. I remember thinking literally earlier that week that if I hadn’t spent all that cash on all those dresses, what else could I have purchased instead?

So, when Janet told me her concept, and I got that I could leverage what I had already purchased to acquire what was more fitting for my lifestyle, I was like, this is a golden idea. We were in two completely different situations and we both needed the other persons wardrobe.

I wanted to know more about the idea so we arranged to meet at her work to discuss further. When she told me the address – we discovered we were working in the same building! I continued to work for the company I was with for about a year while we sorted out how we were going to turn the idea into a viable business.


SilkRoll is a digital exchange with a points earning system which differentiates us. Women can send in clothes with prepaid shipping bags that we mail to them. We value all products based on estimated retail value and award them with points that they can then use to shop and refresh their closets without spending the extra cash. All of the products they redeem with these points are owned by them. They can keep them forever or use them a few times and return it. Unlike other retailers or ecommerce stores, we welcome returns. We know a garment can be shared multiple times with multiple women. Some of our most actively traded garments can be in and out six or seven times already. This really extracts the value out of one garment. It allows for a full experience of a sharing economy. We use the points system because there is no other way that women can retain that value in the cash world.

We only charge a standard 5% service fee or we offer a subscription service which is a monthly subscription fee. This is useful for our users who are very active in trading.

What are some advantages for people to source their clothing this way?


The main advantage is that you can refresh your closet without spending the cash you would otherwise have to spend. That is the main driver behind why people use SilkRoll.

Secondly, there is flexibility of using the points as a way to either own or rent. It has the best of both worlds.

Another advantage is that our customers don’t have to think about selling their own merchandise. They just ship it to us and we take care of the rest. It takes us a few business days to evaluate everything, they get their points within 5 business days and they can spend it right away. If you sell online, you often have to wait weeks or even months for things to sell and then get the cash. With us, all the points are given to you upfront.

We don’t have a restricted list of brands that we accept. We encourage customers to trade in very unique items. Over time it becomes a discovery platform for people with unique styles or they’re looking for unique pieces. Even from large-named brands but they can no longer find that piece in store anymore because it’s a discontinued design.

We often find pieces from well-known brands such as Banana Republic and we think they’re amazing because we never would have found them if we walked into their store now. There is a lot of value added for a shopper in entering the second-hand market. The ‘after-market’ allows you to discover new things that you have never seen.


It takes something like 600 gallons of water to make one t-shirt. From an eco-conscious standpoint, it’s a really big deal.

Sometimes it’s the money factor that really gets people, sometimes it the ability to refresh their closet. Then there’s the big group of us in the market that we’re interested in growing, which is having people being conscious that sourcing your clothes in this way makes a big difference.

Is it exclusive to the United States? Any plans to expand?


At the moment we are only shipping within the United States. However, I’m originally from China, I grew up in the UK, and I have lived in Hong Kong. I have friends from all over the world. All my girlfriends from all over the place are asking me ‘when is SilkRoll coming to us?’ So we do see that the service has a huge demand already from potential users in other countries.

Right now, we are focusing on growing the US market because the opportunity here is so big and it hasn’t even been tapped into. We’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg, if that. Once we reach a stage where our cash flows are healthy and we’re generating profit, then we can mirror a similar concept into the global market.

What have been the biggest challenges in getting SilkRoll off the ground?


I don’t have a technical background but at the same time we are building a technology platform. We also have this private virtual currency that we’ve come up with that users can redeem on the site. There is a lot of intricacies in the technical aspect of the business. That has been interesting to say the least! For me to be managing engineers, getting engineers to deliver features, how to communicate them effectively, it’s a brand-new concept. It’s like stepping into a whole new world and you have to learn a different language. There were definitely some ups and downs until we figured out the best way to overcome this is just to keep going.

One of the things I’m grateful for is that a year ago we found somebody who has a strong technical background. He was an engineer. He came on board to become our acting CTO and tech adviser and that really shifted everything. To have somebody as your sounding board provided so much more clarity.

If anyone wanted to start a technical business, the founders don’t have to have a technical background. But I would highly recommend an advisor from the industry who can help guide you.


The biggest challenge for me was leaving my comfortable job where I was making good money to be in this full-time. It was scary not knowing what was going to happen, how I was going to get by day-to-day. But I had faith in the product and the traction was incredible. It took a big leap of faith but I trusted Janet. We operate with a high level of integrity in our communication and partnership. We’re completely transparent with our relationship and this business.

I overcame that challenge by having a really strong cofounder who I trust, and I just jumped in!

How do you manage the influx of clothing that may not be suitable for repurpose?


Great question! Right now, the good thing is that most of our customers know the type of stuff that we will accept. We have great take-over rates. About 80% of the items that people send in, we qualify them.

We currently work with several local and non-profitable organisations in the area who are all supporting different women’s causes.

We work with charities that support women who are victims of human trafficking, and others who are women who have recently been released from jail and are re-entering the community.

There is a platform Good360 that matches supply vs the need. Every time we have a bulk of things that we have deemed for donation, we can list it on the platform and get matched with charities that actually need them. We know that every piece of item, even if it is donated, is going to end up with a non-profit organisation that actually need it. Not a non-profit organisation that has too much to process themselves already.

If we receive clothes in detrimental condition, they’re just too worn or have stains or damages, we send them to I:CO. This is a company here in the US that actually shreds the fabric and repurposes them into pillow/mattress stuffing and insulation etc.

We know that everything that comes through these doors will end up being useful in some way.

How can we best support you and SilkRoll?


First of all, if you’re in the United States, go to our website www.silkroll.com and check us out. See if there is something you’re willing to try. It takes about 30 seconds to sign up and request a free trading kit from us.

Everyone can help us by spreading the word. We are looking for social media influences to work with. Plus other types of digital media forms that we can actually participate in and have our word out there. For those of you who have connection or network into that industry, contact us!

So far we’ve got some really great investors here in the United States but the funding obviously doesn’t have to come from within the country. If anybody in the world has an interest to invest into something like this that could really make an impact and change the way we shop, we want to hear from you!


For Fashion Revolution Week we’re hosting a huge fashion exchange on Sunday April 22nd 2018 at 11am. It will be a three-hour event and we will have brunch. Last time we did this we had about 60 women show up and had hundreds of items for exchange. Whoever doesn’t find something that they want, we will still give points for the items that they bring in. So they’ll be able to shop online as well. If anyone is in the San Francisco Bay area, it is an awesome event to join us and participate. Details of the event will be posted on our Facebook page.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it.

I hope this episode has opened your eyes up to the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry and your individual wardrobe!

I personally love the concept of SilkRoll and how Erin and Janet have created a shared economy for high end fashion, allowing their members to continually update their wardrobes as their lifestyle changes. If you’re in the US I highly encourage you to check them out and support their platform. If you’re outside of the US, be sure to follow SilkRoll and encourage them to expand beyond their shores to have an even greater impact.

Until SilkRoll reaches your shore, be sure to take continual steps to eco-fy your wardrobe. If you need tips to do so refer to episode 78 here where stylist Alma Barerro shares her sustainable style secrets. By eco-fying your wardrobe you’ll be taking yet another step forward to help make green mainstream.

Taken steps already to eco-fy your wardrobe? Share your best sustainable style secrets below!

The post Silkroll: Reducing The Environmental Impact Of Your Wardrobe appeared first on Laura Trotta.

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(image credit: Jess Leask)

In this Eco Chat I catch up with Samantha Reynolds of ECOCEAN on whale sharks, conservation and following your dreams.

Do you have a long-held dream to work in science or sustainability but have yet to taken the plunge?

If that’s the case, you’re not alone!

I’m super excited to introduce you to my friend Samantha Reynolds. Sam’s a passionate marine biologist and works with ECOCEAN, Australia’s only not-for-profit organisation dedicated to whale shark research and conservation. But Sam didn’t always work in this field….. in fact, she didn’t start her science studies until her forties!

Sam’s is the first story of the many amazing women I spent 21 days at sea in Antarctica with Homeward Bound that I’m sharing with you.  I love the work that she’s doing with whale shark research and conservation but I also really love her story.


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Can you share your story of how you came to be working with whale sharks?

I became a marine biologist later on in life. I went back to uni at the age of 39 and did my Bachelor of Science. After completing my Honours in 2016, I took a year off. Now I have just enrolled in my PhD at the age of 45. I will be looking at whale shark movements and how these relate to marine protected areas. I will be trying to find out more about important habitats for whale sharks and how these might change under future climate change scenarios.

Before this, I was working in an office in Brisbane and feeling quite unfulfilled and bored. I had completed an Arts degree and studied languages at University and travelled the world.  I was really into scuba diving and went on lots of expeditions. Looking at all these amazing things underwater made me dream of becoming a marine biologist.

Then something happened that changed my life. I went on holiday with my mum to Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia to swim with whale sharks. There I met someone who was living my dream! He was a marine biologist who was studying whale sharks and doing important conservation work for the species. Almost six years later, he’s my partner and I am living my dream along with him.

I’ve been volunteering with his not-for-profit group ECOCEAN all through my undergrad and have used data that we have been collecting on whale sharks for my Honours thesis. I will be furthering the work during my PhD.

Can you tell us some more about ECOCEAN?

It’s a not for profit group that focuses on whale shark research, conservation, and education.  ECOCEAN has been involved in lots of conservation work for whale sharks including contributing to in IUCN Red List. This list gives the conservation status for lots of different species so it looks at how the populations around the world are changing. Unfortunately whale sharks have now been listed as endangered. Their population around the world seems to be in decline. The population in Ningaloo Reef where we do our work seems quite stable.

What role do whale sharks have in the ocean ecosystem?

Whale sharks are one of only three species of shark that filter feed. As the name suggests they are like a whale in that they eat zooplankton. They are the top of a very short food chain. Phytoplankton, and then zooplankton, and then whale shark.  Nobody really knows the impact that removing whale sharks from the ecosystem would have, but like any top predator it will have cascading effects down the food chain. It’s important for their own sake, and for ours as we get to enjoy them.

What are some of the risks that are impacting whale shark populations worldwide?

Most of the risks are anthropogenic i.e. human-induced. Hopefully as part of my PhD I’ll be able to look at the effects of climate change on their movement and distribution. They are vulnerable to ship strike as they spend a lot of their time swimming just below the surface. There is increased shipping traffic around the world at the moment.

They are still hunted in some parts of the world mostly for their fins. They can also be caught as by-catch in different fisheries especially tuna.

Are whale sharks distributed all over the world?

They’re thought of as a tropical species. They’re found in all oceans but usually between 30 degrees north and 30 degrees south. Recently we have been tracking them a lot further south. We’ve had anecdotal sightings of whale sharks from the south coast of Western Australia. We’ve tracked some whale sharks via satellite to Perth and just south of Perth as well. So they’re distribution is slightly hazy. We think we know but there is a bit of leeway there.

How do you track a whale shark?

We use position-only tracking at the moment. The tags are on a clamp that attaches to the dorsal fin of the whale shark and are linked to overhead satellites. When the shark’s swimming at the surface and the fin comes out of the water, the tag transmits the position to the satellite and we can access that data. So we know where in horizontal space that the whale sharks are and we can follow their movements.

Why is this important information?

Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the sea but we know so little about them that it’s crazy. No-one has ever seen whale sharks mate or give birth. We don’t know where these important habitats for them are. A lot of the coastal aggregations that we know of for whale sharks are made up of mostly juvenile males.  There’s only been a handful of sightings of really small whale sharks and the only aggregations we know of large females are the Galapagos. We don’t know a lot of these areas that are important for the different life stages and reproduction. In order to protect whale sharks as a species effectively, we need to know where these important habitats are so that we can protect those.

How do you fund your work?

A lot of our work is funded through philanthropic donations but we’ve also been running a program recently called the ECOCEAN Whale Shark Race Around The World. We’ve partnered with the Western Australia Department of Education and they’ve developed a suite of learning materials for schools to use. Schools in Western Australia have been sponsoring our satellite tags, we put it on the whale shark, and the schools get to follow the tracks of their whale sharks on an Open Access website. They learn about whale shark biology and ecology and all about the marine environment that they’re inhabiting and all kinds of other things about the oceans and our planet.

Where can our listeners learn more?

You can find our website at www.whaleshark.org.au there is a link there to contact us.

We are on Facebook and Instagram and you can follow our research there.

Any advice for those considering a career in science or sustainability?

It’s never too late to find your passion or follow your dreams. You never know where you will end up. Maybe even Antarctica!

The post Whale Sharks, Conservation and Chasing Your Dreams with Samantha Reynolds of ECOCEAN appeared first on Laura Trotta.

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In this off-the-cuff chat I reflect on my recent expedition to Antarctica and my involvement in the Homeward Bound Program.

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My experience on board with the 80-odd other women in STEMM was incredible and as life changing as being in the pristine and rugged environment of Antarctica.

In a safe and collaborative space we networked, developed strategies to lead, increase our visibility, and act on issues that align with our individual values and lift women up in the call to create change for the greater good.

If you’re interested in participating in Homeward Bound register your details here.

Thanks to my sponsors Macpac, Travel with Jane and Civil Construction Partners, as well as my crowdfunding supporters, for making my participation in Homeward Bound possible.

The post Reflections on Antarctica and my Homeward Bound Experience appeared first on Laura Trotta.

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As you may be aware, I’ve spent the past 3 weeks on a ship in Antarctica with 77 other female scientists, all participating in the Homeward Bound program.

To say the experience has been life changing wouldn’t do it justice.

We didn’t just look at penguins!! In a safe and collaborative space we networked, developed strategies to lead, increase our visibility, and act on issues that align with our individual values and lift women up in the call to create change for the greater good. All of this in the spectacular setting of Antarctica.

In coming podcast episodes I’ll be reflecting on the voyage and sharing the outcomes and resulting projects, but first I wanted to give you a solid background on what is Homeward Bound.

Today’s episode is a warm and candid chat Homeward Bound co-founder Fabian Dattner, recorded on the ship on one of our final days on board.

Homeward Bound was initially the idea of Fabian Dattner (leadership activist and partner at Dattner Grant) and Dr Jess Melbourne Thomas (Antarctic Marine Ecological Modeller), together with Dr Justine Shaw (Antarctic Conservation Biologist), and Assoc. Prof. Mary Anne Lea (Antarctic Marine Biologist).

Since then Homeward Bound has been developed by this team, together with Julia MaySarah AndersonKit JacksonMarshall Cowley and Hayley Young joining the team along with the support of Dr Fern HamesDr Merryn McKinnonDr Denise Hardesty and Assoc. Prof Heidi Steltzer.

So while I’m chatting with just Fabian today I want to acknowledge the Homeward Bound leadership team for their tireless efforts to bring this program to life.

In this discussion Fabian shares the inspiration and vision behind Homeward Bound, why women with a STEMM (science, technology, engineering mathematics and medicine) background are central to the mission, why Antarctica and some of the biggest challenges the leadership team have overcome on the journey.

Click HERE to apply for Homeward Bound.

Follow Homeward Bound on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Homeward Bound Co-founder Fabian Dattner

Eco Chat Transcription

So Fabian, thanks so much for coming on Eco Chat today.

Fabian Dattner:

My pleasure. Really lovely to be with you and to talk to all the people that love and respect what you do for them.

Laura Trotta:

Thank you. So let’s just start at the beginning. Where did all this start? How did you come to have the vision to not only create a global network of 1000-odd female scientists, but take them through an intense year-long leadership training programme culminating in a three-week voyage to Antarctica? Where did this start?

Fabian Dattner:

Well, I’d like to say that that has a simple answer, but it probably doesn’t. So I’ll give you the shortest version I can. As a woman and as a leader, I’ve been exploring the narrative of leadership for a very long time. And it started with my own trial by fire and the mistakes I made very early on in my career as a leader. And then that led to six or seven years of interviewing people who would be led to find out what it is they really want from leaders. And I had what the Greeks refer to as metanoia, a moment of realisation, that the hierarchical construct of leadership was fundamentally flawed. First it was a style of leadership that favoured men and secondly, in the world that I could see coming, was unlikely to be sufficient to guide us collectively towards a sustainable future. And that realisation really happened in the first half of the 90s.

And so I begin a business, which was originally Fabian Dattner Group and then became Dattner Grant, with my business partner then, Jim Grant, that focused on transformative leadership. And that means that it’s not transactional, it’s not the teaching of a particular skill, although skills are taught, it’s far more relevant, what the deeper whys for doing it. And for me, the why always was based on a deep belief that all people should be heard. And that the function of leadership is not to know and do and be the final arbiter of all that’s right, but it is to facilitate, to lead, to be open to feedback, to coach, to develop, to be able to be vulnerable with people such that they’re not frightened of giving you feedback, and so on and so forth.

And so for nearly 25 years, that’s what we built. We built a company in Australia, it does a lot of work globally, but it’s based in Australia, helping leaders in all sorts of quarters explore the nature of transformative leadership. And helped thousands of people in hundreds of different organisations. And in the journey of doing that, I become a diagnostic specialist, so I have, you know, something … Many, many, many different diagnostic accreditations. I become a good coach. I learn a lot about what it is to help people to become something more than they thought they could be. Not based on me being the source of that wisdom, but rather helping them overcome the things, the hurdles, that they have inside themselves that put a brake on their potential.

But as time progressed and as the 20s progressed, I became more concerned that there was always this relentless wicked absence of women in all the work that we were doing. So, on average, you know, the ratio, if I’m being generous, would be 70/30, 70% men, 30% women. But way too often with executive teams, for instance, in universities, in business, in education, in not-for-profits, would be men. And the ratio would basically 92% men, 8% women or, you know, 88% men and 12% women.

And early in my … That phase of exploring what was actually fundamentally flawed about it, I think I was caught in the belief that if you wanted to lead, you would, as a woman. And that, you know, I hadn’t seen impediments for myself and I believe that it was an issue of determination. And then I think there was a moment where, frankly, I lifted my head from the feeding bin and I started to watch how women interact on their own. And I saw something so profoundly moving, so precious, so capable of love and inclusion and wisdom and a legacy mindset and always a focus on what they’re doing on behalf of, rather than what they’re doing for themselves, at their best, that I realised something was wrong. You know, this was not what I thought. And as I looked more and more, I started to see that if by chance of birth, or proximity to a really constructive leader, you had learned how to hold your space in very competitive or power-based or oppositional cultures, then you would prosper. But if you hadn’t had that fluke of circumstance, then you were going to struggle. And so, I started to watch women struggling.

And then as I started to work with women much more and as I started to work with them, I saw this deeply ingrained lack of self-confidence. Because they’d been told for such a long time that they needed to be like this model leadership to be successful and yet when I saw them together at their best, I saw a different model of leadership.

So that took me to the journey of our Australian national programme campus, which we’ve had over a thousand women participate in and we’ve seen phenomenal outcomes from. But always emerges this issue of safety and self-confidence. And so I began the journey of really helping women help women in this domain. Now the battling part of that, the challenge and some of the dark side of that, is that sometimes who have risen up the ranks can become the hardest people to other women. Not always but enough for us all to question what happens to us when we rise to the senior ranks.

So I think I hit despair about the narrative of leadership and as someone who’s dedicated their life to it, probably six, seven years ago, where I could see, it was so clear in my mind’s eye what we needed to do with leadership and yet there was this deep, deep resistance to doing it properly and this persistent belief that in the end the leader has to make a decision, in the end the leader is a source of wisdom, in the end an executive will make a decision.

And as our world became more complex and as we kept using these endless litany of words around change and flexibility and adaptability and resilience, I began to believe that the absence of women meant that we would not make it through. And while we talk about climate change and sustainability, frankly the planet will rebound. The question I think we confront is not whether the planet rebounds, it’s whether we’re there to rebound with it. And I don’t think we’re doing much effectively to insure that. And that is the frustration and despair that many of your audience confront is that scientists involved in, whether it’s plastics or deforestation or climate change, know perfectly well that there seems to be this insane resistance to listening to and digesting the facts about the planet, which have been raised since the 60s.

So I then … I’m in Tasmania so you see two pieces in play at the moment. One is a dead knowledge of leadership and how it plays out in our world. And the second was an increasing love for and understanding of the complexity of working with women. And then I’m running a programme in Tasmania, all sponsored by the Australian Antarctic Division. Tasmania’s in the southern tip, little island off the end of Australia and that’s the gateway for most of the science to Antarctica, many nations go through Hobart to do science in Antarctica. And I’m running a programme for about 27 women, 23 of whom were scientists. And I remember that really compelling moment under a stairwell where stories about Antarctica that were being shared, which were joy and magic and the mystery and the grandeur of Antarctica, suddenly devolved stories of hope and joy and exhilaration to stories of frustration, to stories of despair, to grief, and the women were crying. And the grief was that they thought they knew what they could contribute but were constantly being run over for positions of senior leadership by less qualified, less experienced men who just fitted the paradigm. I calm everything down and I get them back into the programme. I go home but that’s the night I have the dream and, you know, that’s where it started. And the dream was just so clear, then all the pieces in the dream fell into place. And that’s where Homeward Bound was born.

Laura Trotta:

Wow. What a story, Fabian. I’m intrigued for you to just share what this dream was about. I mean, I’ve heard you tell us, the participants on this voyage, but would you mind just telling the listeners today what was in this dream? And what was so clear? And what stood out for you? How did you feel when you woke up?

Fabian Dattner:

Well, the first thing for anyone who has lucid dreams … A lucid dream is where it’s in colour, it’s crystal clear, it’s a lived experience, as if it were real. So I had a lucid dream and in the dream, we were on a ship and the ship strangely was very like the back of the Ushuaia, that big room we work in which has got this 220 degree view through the windows. I could see white beyond … I knew we were in Antarctica. I could see the women in chairs on the floor in front and I knew exactly what we were giving them that was leadership capability, it was strategic skills, really about being strategic about themselves and it was about science that informs the state of the planet so we could all become informed, not just about a pet project, but about many aspects of our world. And I could see the word “homeward bound” on my left-hand side. So the name of the programme was on the wall on the left-hand side and behind us was a film crew. And I knew we were making a film that was an interrogation of leadership and why it was, the practise of leadership, was failing, seen through the lens of these women’s perspective.

And that’s what I saw. It was clear as the day is long. And I woke up from this dream and I went, “Man, that’s a good dream. That’s so doable.” My instinct was, “That would be a wild thing to try and do.” So that morning I rang Dr. Jess Melbourne Thomas, who had actually done one of my women’s programmes two years earlier. 30-year-old Jess with dreadlocks down to her bum, who, she and I, had clicked very, very early on in the pace. She’s a wonderful can-do sort of person. And I think if I’d rang anybody else, this would not have happened. So although Jess is not involved with Homeward Bound anymore, all honour to that first call, ’cause it was the first follower.

Because when I told her the dream I simply finished with, “Do you think it’s got legs?” And she said, “Mmm, I do. Why don’t you try writing it up?” And as fate would have it, that day I had client cancel for an emergency and I had three hours spare, so I just sat down and I wrote a 10-page document that fully scoped out Homeward Bound, including the people globally who I thought would be important to talk you all. And I sent it to Jess that afternoon and within a month, that had escalated up through the Australian Antarctic Division, past the chief scientist Nick Gales to the CEO and all of them thought it was a good idea and it got endorsed by AAD. They couldn’t fund it but they thought it was an idea worth pursuing.

Laura Trotta:

Wow. What a story. And here we are right now.

Fabian Dattner:

I know. You and I in the cabin of a ship in Antarctica!!!

Laura Trotta:

Exactly! At the end … Towards the end. We have got our last crossing today for your second voyage. So you’re two down, eight to go on this 10-year programme.

Fabian Dattner:

We might do more.

Laura Trotta:

Yeah, you could. Definitely. Why limit it to a thousand?

Fabian Dattner:  Yeah.

Laura Trotta:

So you have touched on this but I just want to succinctly ask, first of all, why women? Why women in STEMM? (Science, technology, engineering, maths, medicine). Why now? And why Antarctica?

Fabian Dattner:

Great. Those questions are really important.

So why women? Because the issue of safety and connection for women is our number one need in the world today, I think. And that we are not really all of ourselves when there’s only one of us. You know, we don’t have an “I” model of the world. You know, that’s different for men. I think you have to go out and fight the battle and forge the river. You have to climb into those difficult spaces and, in the end … I’m not saying don’t do this, no, I’m using this as a metaphor, but it’s more of an I mindset.

And for women, you know, once we were in a tribal environment in a camp and we did everything in that camp. We gathered 4/5ths of the food, we stoked the fire, we cooked the food, we cared for the children, we cared for the elderly, we thatched the roof, we made a collaborative home space. So our brains are very wired to talking and being in a space where no one task is more important than another task. So our ability to collaborate, to be inclusive, to have a legacy mindset, to be trusted with the assets of the collective, is an ancient pathway and it’s kind of like, in a world which is structurally hierarchical, where men and the way men think may have prevailed in the model of leadership, our model of leadership has not really had an opportunity to be kindled or rekindled. So why women? I think we need space to remember who we are together. That’s number one, to feel safe and to remember who we are together.

Why STEMM? I think two things actually. And this is more I’ve come to confirm it was the right choice, although it’s the hardest choice. Frankly, a ship full of marketing, advertising, sales, human resources, community activists would be a thousand times easier than you all.

But what you are is this phenomenal brain grunt. Clever, trained, critical brains that have am immense capacity to take on board knowledge and improve it. And that has not been easy. So the STEMM side has proven to be the right thing to do but I can say I find it easy. I find it really hard. This has been joyful, this second trip. The first was a mess of learning curve. And I’m fully expecting there to be things that people didn’t like and want to change and improve. But what the group’s got to learn is to improve it all without hurting any of the individuals. That’s the art of improving things. And I think you all do it better, but not as well as the fifth group or the eighth group. And I’m hoping by the time we get to a thousand, we have a model of leadership that changes the world. That’s what I hope.

So why STEMM? ‘Cause you’re smart as all get out. And I’m not saying other people aren’t smart, they are, but you are trained to think and think critically. And I see it amongst you all. But you’ll notice we’re slowly seeding in activists and social scientists and there’s an economist on board, and there are policy writers on board. So as we progress, I think we will allow for other people who’ve got that same critical thinking to start to be part of, ’cause I think it adds value. But I think the final outcome, and even now I’m saying it, it’s probably the first time I’ve said it, is when we get to that thousand, we will know how to lead and then we can go out and help other people see what the influence can be.

And why now? Because science informs everything where our planet is today. And as we face a deeply problematical future, it will be science, STEMM, science, technology, engineering, maths, medicine, that will give us the solutions going forward. So I sure as hell want you in there telling us what to do. And not to have women there is to take away a wise voice. You know, I have an image in my mind’s eye, the R&D of a high-tech company and when I look across it, I see 200 people and I maybe see 20 women, so I see 180 men, and they’re young men, and I think to myself, “Is this the voice that creates our future?” Where is the mitigating voice that says, “It’s fantastic what we’re doing with iPhones, but is this really what I want my kids to have? Is this how I want it to look?” Where is the plan and the thoughtfulness around the addiction? Where is the plan and thoughtfulness around human community? Where is the plan and thoughtfulness about the legacy we’re leaving?

You know, there’s the wild, crazy, exhilarating, chemically-fuelled challenge of improving what we’ve got and inventing something new and making that game more exciting and exhilarating and thrilling. And all the games have got war in them. And we say it doesn’t affect people. Well maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t, but would women design it the same way? And I tell you what, I give my odds on bet that they wouldn’t. So I want women in there. I want women at the table where medicine, in its extraordinary exploration and genius of development, also includes where humans are. And, you know, where is the conversation about death and dying and the grace of death and dying? Where is the grace and connection to the full magic of birth? Where is the thoughtfulness around palliative care? And so on and so forth. There’s a lot of things where I think women’s voices … And that’s not to say we can’t invent the valve that will forever change the threat of heart attack, you know. That is women and men side-by-side. But there’s something women bring that’s currently missing and I think we have to elevate it.

Laura Trotta:      I whole-heartedly agree. And why Antarctica?

Fabian Dattner:

And why Antarctica? Well I used to joke and say, in the beginning, it’s ’cause I always wanted to go to the Antarctic so I had a dream that got me there. But actually, I think some part of my intelligence knew that it was the ultimate frame for care for the planet. I can’t think of a space more compelling, more visceral, more demanding, more strangely beautiful yet harsh and that is ultimately the refrigerator of our planet. And prosaic as that sounds, when this goes pear-shaped, the planet goes pear-shaped. So come see it, own it, let it seep it’s way into your bones as a women and then ultimately remember you are a universal mother. Whether you have children or not, you have the capacity to love deeply in your bones someone else’s children. And I think that we call it Mother Earth for good reason, but we’re not treating it like a mother, we’re treating it like a slave.

Laura Trotta:

So let’s talk about Mother Earth for a minute. And the tagline or the catch phrase, or whatever you wanna call it, for Homeward Bound is “Mother Nature needs her daughters.” So where did that come from and what’s the intent behind that message?

Fabian Dattner:

Well, this is the magic of the very beautiful studio that did the branding of Homeward Bound, Elmwood Studios. And that was a connection from Kit Jackson who runs the strategy component. And it was a love at first sight with Elmwood. And, you know, the first meeting, this happened over a three, four month period, we sat down with this amazing group of young dudes, 2/3rds of them were young men, and a third were women, and we just had several meetings talking about the philosophy behind Homeward Bound and what we were trying to do. And I think we were so clear … It’s all been..

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Gut Health, or more specifically, poor gut health has received much publicity in recent times and for very good reason.

Gut bacteria and poor digestion have been linked to many diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, obesity, HIV, auto immune disorders, arthritis, mental illnesses and autism.

Hippocrates said “All Disease Begins in the Gut” over two thousand years ago and it is truer than ever today.

Why Am I Talking About Gut Health today?

Because looking after ourselves and our planet go hand in hand. We can’t perform at our optimum and care for our Earth if we’re sick or low in energy.

Personally, my health has taken a turn for the worse in recent years and I’ve developed auto immune disorder, Hashimotos… most likely caused by genetic factors, stress and some prolonged antibiotic use for acne way back in my teenage years that impacted my gut health. I’ve been turning my health around by improving my gut health and I’m keen to learn more about this and share my journey with you.

Which is why I have one of Australia’s leading experts in gut health on Eco Chat today.

Micheline Andrews is a nutritional health coach focusing on gut health. A bone broth advocate, speaker, and author of a brand-new cookbook ‘Bone Broth Basics’ which we will talk about today.

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Would you mind sharing your story?

About 8 years ago I was involved with a workplace accident and received quite a big injury to my right hip. I was incapacitated both before and after surgery for about 2 years all up.

Living on a small farm and not being able drive meant I was quite isolated. I had a lot of time to myself and was able to do my own research to see what I could do to help myself, as the standard methods of healing weren’t working.

I came across the Weston A. Price Foundation which is an American firm and they were healing ailments with bone broth. I thought I would give it a go. Luckily for me I lived on a farm and had access to my own animals. So, I cooked my own bone broth and started taking one cup per day as recommended.

It became my healing elixir. After being out of action for so long and on heavy medications, my hair and nails were really brittle. The first thing I noticed after a few weeks was that I had amazing hair and fingernail growth.

My next major reaction was that I had movement in my injury site. Then I had pain relief.

For a long time I was on constant heavy pain medications. Plus anti-inflammatories, anti-inflammatory creams, and cortisone injections. I was also on huge amounts of laxatives. After 6-8 months of this medication regime, my body could not longer tolerate them. After taking my medication, 20 minutes later, I would vomit it all up again. I knew that I had done some damage.

It was after having my bone broth that things had started to change. I knew healing had started to occur in the gut area once I could take paracetamol for a headache and I could keep it down. This is what got me interested in trying to get it out there and help others to heal.

My biggest obstacle was how do I get it out to others. I did some research and experimented with a dehydration process which turned it into a powder.  Then I was able to pop it in glass jars and ship it around. The testimonials that I received were amazing. Many stories of gut health healing and helping with joint pain. It spurred me on and kept me going. I needed to increase production and get it out there economically so that people could afford to buy it.

My business ‘Broth of Life’ started 4 and a half years ago. I ran it for 18 months and then sold it onto a new owner. But coming from a personal journey, it doesn’t ever really leave you.

During my recovery from my injury I also started Nutritional Studies which I put on hold whilst I had the business because I was quite busy. Since selling the business I have completed my studies and also did my health coaching. Now I do health coaching consultations around gut health. I also bought out ‘Bone Broth Basics’ which is a book with wholefood recipes of how to incorporate broth into healthy everyday foods. It also has bone broth recipes and they are really easy.

What Are Some Of The Causes Of Poor Gut Health?

Obviously it’s based on individual people but generally we can start with foods and poor diets. So, we look at excess sugars, lots of processed foods, food additives and preservatives. Dehydration comes in to it because we’re not consuming enough fluid anymore. Environmental factors such as exposure to pesticides on our foods, toxicities in our household cleaners and beauty products. Stress has a huge impact on our health. Germ warfare which includes over-sanitising and not being out in the dirt and building up our resistance. Overuse of antibiotics and other medications. History of using birth control. The list goes on and also includes sleep, parasites, and lack of vitamin D! There are loads of different factors to look at.

What Are The Signs of Poor Gut Health?

In general, we look at bloating, food sensitivity, thyroid conditions, fatigue, joint pain, headaches, skin issues, digestive problems, weight fluctuations and food cravings. Again the list goes on. Nearly everyone has at least one of those symptoms.

What Are Some of The Implications of Poor Gut Health?

Over time it can be big contributor to autoimmune disease especially with long term leaky gut. Also skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Weight gain, digestive problems, the list goes on.

Is It Possible To Heal Our Guts?

It is possible to heal which is exciting but once again it depends on the individual and what state their gut health is in at the time. I like to think of it as a journey towards a long-term destination. It can take many years to heal. Although it’s not an instant repair, there are certainly steps along the way that will happen such as building up immunity and getting more energy. It’s all baby steps towards healing. That is where bone broth is a key factor in helping to heal leaky gut. It’s a step in the journey. Even though it will take a long time, there will be benefits and factors that will be noticed along the way.

What Are Some of the Easiest Ways To Heal Our Guts?

Diet plays a big factor along with bone broth. We really need to remove inflammatory foods and irritating foods. Reducing our consumption of caffeine and alcohol can be a big factor. Getting away from trans fats and hydrolysed vegetable oils. Removing our sugars and adding in whole foods and real foods. Then we go into eating seasonally and locally.

Getting outside in the sunshine for vitamin D. Not stressing about germs because we get rid of the good guys too! Finding ways to destress. Enhancing our bodies by moving daily. Taking note of our eliminations. Poo can be a big factor in gut health. Chewing our food more is important. Drinking more water. Adding in bone broth and pre and pro biotics can assist with repairing the correct balance of bacteria and enzymes in our gut.

Everything comes into play with gut health and it’s important to look at the bigger picture.

What Are Your Best Tips for Making Bone Broth?

Bone broth isn’t hard to make – its all about time management. That’s one of the reasons I bought out my book because people think that there is lots of restrictions and rules. Just throw your bones into a pot. If you’ve got cooked chicken bones that’s fine but preferably mix them in with some raw bones as well because that’s the opti nutrients come from. The longer your bones have been roasted, the more nutrients have been depleted.

The apple cider vinegar (or we call it a pre-soak) is really important because that’s what draws out all the nutrients. Cover your bones with water and add in a good splash of apple cider vinegar. Let it rest for an hour and then start. Another alternative is lemon juice. You can use frozen bones because the apple cider vinegar pre-soak thaws the bones really quickly.  Its really important to use the apple cider vinegar made with the mother, which is usually found in the health food section of the supermarket. It is unfiltered and looks cloudy.

I like to focus on trying to source ethical bones from animals preferably organic but grass fed is your next best option. (Check out the recent blog post What Is The Most Sustainable Meat for plenty of tips on sourcing organic grass-fed meats in Australia).

Another tip is taking a little bit of time to cut your vegetables. If we cut them to 2cms or smaller, it actually absorbs the nutrients in the vegetables as well. I take the bones out and leave the connective tissue and everything else including vegetables in the broth. Then I take a stick mixer or the like and whizz them in. Honestly it’s a game changer. You get a huge thick broth and the vegetables change the taste slightly.

If you want herbs and spices add them in the last hour of cooking so that they don’t go bitter. Roasting your vegetables first also helps with the flavour.

Once it’s finished I let it cool and rest in the pot.  Just for a couple of hours depending on the size of your pot. If you’re using bigger boned animals like beef, pork or lamb there will be a fat layer that will form on top. Scrape that off and keep it in your fridge for high heat cooking. Use for roast veg or frying etc as it’s really stable fat and has the same minerals as the bone broth.

Nothing is wasted except for the bones. However I have recently learned that you can reuse your bones. I have a Facebook group called Bone Broth Basics and there are members from around the world. Premium bones in other countries are really pricey so those overseas often use their bones 3-4 times. Obviously the nutrients are getting less each time, but they’re still getting the gelatine factor and benefits.

How Can We Easily Improve Our Children’s Gut Health?

I hid the bone broth in my children’s food so that they couldn’t taste it. It can be used easily in so many dishes by almost replacing the liquid content of it.

It’s very easy to hide and you can make it as bland as you want it as well. You don’t have to add any vegetables. Or you can make it as tasty as you want if you will have it as a drink by itself.

With children’s gut health it’s also important to focus on their diet. Keep them active and in the sunshine so that they get enough vitamin D. Encourage children to get back and play in the dirt so they’re getting the probiotics of the soil and building up resistance to germs. Encourage them to eat a rainbow of foods. Try to add in fermented foods.

It’s really the reason I bought out my book because I had to hide bone broth in everything. Even for my husband!

Is it possible To Heal Your Gut If You’re Vegan or Vegetarian?

Absolutely. You would start by generally cleaning up your diet and increase healing foods such as rich vegetables, fermented foods, probiotics, coconut products, and prebiotic foods such as resistance starches and greens. Eat cruciferous vegetables. There’s also vegan broths out there. I’ve got one in my book. Obviously there’s not the animal gelatine component, but you’re getting other nutrients from seaweeds, and herbs and spices. There are certain components mixed together that can bring out the nutrients of the vegetables.

What Recipes Do You Have In Your Book?

In my book I’ve got recipes for little side dishes and snacks. There are guest recipes in there. It mainly focuses on main meals but there are salads as well. People see bone broth as a winter food however I do a salad dressing with my broth in it and no one knows it’s in there. Ice blocks or ‘brothsicles’ and one of my guests has given me a recipe for gelatine gummies. There’s a whole array of ways to use it.

Where Can We Learn More?

I have a website – Micheline Andrews Health and Lifestyle Mentoring and a Facebook page for the Bone Broth Basics Cookbook.

Also join my amazing Facebook group Bone Broth Basics. There are people in there from all over the world and they make broths from animals like bison, elk and moose! It’s incredible listening to how they make their broth. Obviously different cultures do it differently but it’s really interesting to watch.

I travel around doing gut health awareness talks which is an hour of making people aware of what the gut does and how to help heal ourselves and incorporate foods and things like that. I always say that it’s not an instant result. It can take years but the baby steps are huge steps in the long term. It can be done and I’m a personal testament.

The post How To Improve Your Gut Health …With Micheline Andrews appeared first on Laura Trotta.

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When most people talk about healing the earth, they mention simple acts we can do to minimise out impact. It’s rare to find someone who is prepared to go that extra mile and speak the truth… that minimising our impact isn’t going to cut it.

Dr Mahdi Mason is an environmental consultant, author and land healer. She recently released her second book ‘Earth Healing: Healing the Earth to heal ourselves’ to critical acclaim. Her passion is helping people to understand the importance of reversing our environmental impacts, not just reducing them.

I really like Mahdi’s view on life and passion for sustainability, and I’m thrilled to be sharing her message with you.

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Would you mind sharing your story?

It all started with animals and just being obsessed with animals from when I was born. I was always one of those kids who was just fascinated at seeing bugs and birds and pets. I loved my pets probably way too much, and hugged them way too much. They probably need a lot more space than I gave them! I’ve always loved animals, and I couldn’t ever stand to see any of them suffering.

So, it all started with animals and of course animals live in an environment. As I got a bit older I understood that to be able to protect animals on a large scale I needed to understand about their environments and their habitats. I needed an in-depth understanding of ecosystems. So my interest has all come from my love of animals in the beginning, and that led me to study environmental science at university. After studying environmental science I was able to get a job in environmental management in mining.

I always got the question about how could you possible work in mining if you care so much about the environment.My response to that is you need people on the front line who, actually really care and who are going to take the time to educate people in the organisations. And really make sure that they’re minimising their harm as much as possible.

The other thing that I realised about was that I had much more of a chance for people within the organisations to listen to me if I was working in the organisation. I knew if I was working for one of the green groups or something perhaps they would not listen as much. I saw it as a chance to really change people’s behaviours and a real position to educate people.

Additionally when I was working mining, I was able to earn some really good money. That enabled me to go travelling overseas and see animals in their natural habitats around the world.

I was also able to go and spend time with indigenous populations around the world. Learning first hand from the Inca and how people in Peru and the Amazon worked with, treated, and saw the environment. I was able to go and spend time with the indigenous Australians in Central Australia, and to understand what made them sustainable cultures for 80,000 years.

There was a big different between the way we were treating the environment here in Australia and mining and all of our other industries in the Western world, as opposed to how the indigenous cultures saw and were treating the environment.

So I was able to take some of that wisdom back from travelling around the world and apply it to the way that I managed and saw the environment. Not just in my job but also in my home life. The key difference I saw was that indigenous cultures never took anything from the environment without giving something in return. This is what made the indigenous cultures so sustainable, because they had this balance between what they’re taking from the land and what they’re giving back. That is what was missing in our way of managing and treating the environment here in Australia and across all industries.

I realised that until I was starting to address that issue, until we are starting to give back to the environment in the same sort of ways that we are taking from it, in the same sort of volumes. That we were never going to be a sustainable society. That’s what led me to write my book on earth healing.

Can you please explain what an earth healer is and how the average person can become one?

Earth healing is simply this idea, this concept of giving back to the environment. Think about all the things we take from the environment. We need air, which comes from the environment. We need water, which comes from the environment. We need food, which comes from the environment. We need shelter. We need the environment for mental wellbeing, for our spiritual wellbeing. All these things we’re taking from the environment all the time, and quite often not giving anything back in return.

The term ‘earth healing’ is the practise of giving back to the earth. It’s something that every single person can do from home. There are a million different ways you can do it and it won’t cost a cent. It’s really taking the next step in environmental management. We’re taking the next step in sustainability.

It’s getting people out of this mindset of simply reducing our impact on the environment. Because the damage we’ve done is so huge now that we can’t be depending on other people. We can’t be dependent on the governments to fix the environment for us. Or the green groups. We can’t be relying on anyone else, we all need to start taking responsibility ourselves.

We need to start taking things to the next level. Most people are doing things like using reusable shopping bags, reusable coffee cups, using eco friendly products, picking up plastic pollution, trying to stop using single use products. So those things reduce our impact, and those things are great but they only slow down our rate of destruction on the earth. They don’t stop them and they don’t reverse them.

If we really want to be helping the environment, consider the state that we’re in … We’ve killed over 50 percent of the ocean life within the last 40 years, we’ve got climate change, which is causing icebergs the size of countries to break off and melt now. The environment is in dire straights, so all of us need to be doing more than just reducing our impact. we need to be reducing our impact and taking things a step further to reverse our impact. That’s where I consider earth healing. It’s really doing those things to help the environment to reverse the damage we’ve done.

You have spent so much time with indigenous people around the globe. How do you think we can better harvest the wisdom of these people’s law?

The first step is to develop a relationship with some indigenous people in your local area. Most places have cultural centres that have a wide range of information where people can go and ask questions. But, just show that you have respect for land and that you really want to learn, and everybody opens up and shares the information they have. Because in the indigenous culture everybody wants to see the land is well looked after and that it’s cared for the way that it used to be.

Some of the key differences that we can harness that I’ve learned from indigenous cultures is, number one is that we can’t see ourselves as separate from the environment. Just because we spend so much time indoors and we don’t know what every plant species is, and we don’t grow all of our own food. It doesn’t mean that we’re not part of nature. We’re very much part of it and every single action that we have has an impact on it.

Every second of the day we’re taking something from the environment even if we can’t see it. Even it’s the carbon from the air or giving carbons to the air, I should probably say. Or drinking water from the rivers or whatever. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean we’re not taking from the environment. We need to start seeing ourselves as part of it and just like the indigenous people do, we’ve got to start playing our part. As humans we probably see ourselves as separate from the environment, and that means that we don’t really feel like we have a role to play, or we don’t have any responsibility in looking up. But every other creature has a part to play in the ecosystems they live in.

Indigenous people understand that we, actually are part of the environment. And because we take so much from the environment we have a responsibility to give things back as well. We have a responsibility to look after the environment just like every other natural creature does.

Another key difference is that you never take anything from the environment without having some gratitude, or without thinking about where it comes from. So, there’s some really key differences that I’ve noticed from the way most of western society thinks and the way our indigenous ancestors lived.

How did we get so disconnected from Mother Earth and how do you think we can reverse this, and rebuild strong connections again?

I think that we just got caught up because we do have technology to do things a lot faster, and to have to do so much more. We’ve become so caught up that we forgotten what is fulfilling for us as a people. We’re caught up in consumerism and convenience. People think that things are going to make us happy, whereas that’s not the case at all.

We need to go back to remembering what is actually fulfilling for us. And those are the things, like taking time out relaxing, spending time with our families, spending time in nature. Once we do that we realise we don’t need any of those other things at all. We don’t need the latest shoes or the latest fashion. We don’t need everything to be done instantly. That just stresses us out and makes us more unhappy.

An easy way to do that is to just start spending time in nature again. Start becoming grounded again. We can remember and start to value how we feel from the things like spending time in nature. And we become more balanced, more relaxed and happier people.

So all we need to do to start a connection with nature again is to stand … I recommend 20 minutes a day physically connecting with the ground, or physically spending time in nature. That means either sitting on the earth or standing barefoot on the earth. It might sound like 20 minutes a day is a long time. And I know so many of us are busy, but I’m telling you this will change your life. It will make you so much happier. So much more relaxed. So much more available to take on the hardships in your life. You’ll just come from a much more grounded place.

It’s been proven that spending time in nature reduces anxiety, reduces pain, increases mental capacity. It reduces blood pressure and stress, reduces cortisol levels. And you know what, I’ve been doing it for about 18 months every day and since then I haven’t been sick. So I think that there’s really something to say, and it really does help your body to function better.

So I put out a challenge to all of you to just try it for two weeks. Doing 20 minutes a day spending time in nature. And I promise you will be a different person. Once you do, just start to recognise how much nature does for us. That’s how much of a benefit we get from the environment just by spending time in it. You can probably tell I’m a bit passionate about this! But it’s an amazing thing.

Can you explain what you mean by embracing feminine energy?

I was talking about being in this fast paced world where we have to do the undoable all the time. We have to get things done. We have to send that email. Nothing can wait for two seconds. We are always on the go and we’re always exhausted. That’s our masculine energy. Every single person has their feminine energy and their masculine energy. Most of society is well in their masculine energy. What we really need to do is come back and be more balanced and bring in our feminine energy. And the feminine energy is just what we were talking about. It’s taking that time out. Just stopping, forcing ourselves to do nothing. Allowing things to happen at their own pace. Taking the time to nurture ourselves, to spend that time in nature. Allow our bodies to rebalance and rejuvenate.

Spending time in nature is one of the best and most efficient ways to rejuvenate and embrace our feminine energy.

When we’re in that feminine state, we’re more relaxed and just let things happen. When we do those sort of things instead of rushing, and getting things done and buying things we’re being much kinder to the environment. Because we’re not consuming as much and we’re having less of an impact on the earth.

There, so that’s why I say it’s important to be embracing our femininity but also it makes us happier people. We’re going to be kinder to the environment and others if we’re happier ourselves. It’s so important that we’re taking the time out to embrace our feminine energy and to look after ourselves.

In your book you discuss reducing our metaphysical impact on the Earth. Can you explain how it helps to heal the environment?

Metaphysical energy is simply the energy that we can’t see. We all know that there’s the physical stuff like hard things that we can see. What we can’t see is all the other matter and energy that’s happening around us at every second.

For example we all know that there’s different atoms in the air, different chemicals, different things that we can’t see. There’s WIFI going on.   All of those things are quite often forgotten about when we are talking about healing the environment. But those things have the potential to impact the environment just as they have the potential to impact ourselves.

Human beings also have a metaphysical impact on the environment in terms of our negative energy that we carry around. We have dense emotions and we’re unhappy. All of these things carry vibrations, which are denser and heavier if they are unhappy or sad or negative. Or they’re lighter, if they are happy and healthy and light. We have the potential to be either walking heavily on the earth if we are potential to be impacting the environment with our own health, and with the way that we live our lives.

If we really want to be helping the environment, we need to be thinking about the impacts that we’re individually having on the environment metaphysically. So that means we need to be doing things to look after our heath. So a good diet, getting exercise, embracing our feminine energy. It means taking care of our emotions, releasing the stuff that no longer serves us. We need to be watching our thoughts and making sure we’re not always thinking negatively as this makes us heavier on the earth.

Can you share some of your best tips on how we can heal the earth?

The first one that I always suggest people start with is composting. Sending our waste food to landfill means that  none of the nutrients go back into the earth. Composting involves taking our waste food and putting it in our own yards to allow the environment to make use of those nutrients.

I recommend planting local, native trees. The importance of doing local native trees rather than just native trees is that they’ll still be wildlife in your area that is dependent on those sorts of plants, and that need that sort of food and can use those sorts of plants for shelter. The other benefit of planting local native plants is that they don’t take much to maintain because they’re used to the climate.

We can make our back yards habitat friendly. So putting all different types of habitats, or things that creatures can use as homes. We have things like leaf litter, some different rocks that things can hide in, maybe a little pond. A wide variety of species can come in and use our yard for staying in and finding food. A wide variety of plants will help to encourage biodiversity and more things coming back into our yards.

We can make our fences animal friendly so that they can get between areas of remnant vegetation.

Set up habitat boxes in your backyard. Leave out water for birds and for insects like bees. Set up native bee hives. We can give back areas of our yards … Create a space to give back to nature.

Another tip is starting a really basic permaculture systems. That means growing your own food and then putting your waste back. You create a whole system where you’re taking from your garden and giving back to it as well. Permaculture is absolutely wonderful, and it’s a huge, big topic. But if you’re interested there’s plenty of different articles out there on the internet.

Metaphysically we can also be educating other people of how we need to be giving back to the environment. We can be looking after our own health and making sure that we have a light  energetic load on the planet.

It’s all about supporting our local ecosystems.

Where can we learn more about you and pick up a copy of Earth Healing?

Everyone can head to my website to learn a bit more about me and buy a copy of my book. My website is drmahdimason.com. My books are also available on all of the major online retailers. This includes Amazon, Booktopia, The Book Depository, and many others.

The post Healing The Earth…With Dr Mahdi Mason appeared first on Laura Trotta.

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Are e-readers like Kindle more sustainable than traditional books? Find out in my latest Eco Chat interview with author Lisa M White!

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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..

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