Search the Guide

Browse the Guide

- by product type
- by category
- by brand
- by company

Follow us

Share us

Zero Waste Week Challenge

26th July - 1st August, 2009


BLOGS was the week?


>> Nick's comments

>> Neesh's comments

>> Shaun's comments

>> Hugh's comments

>> Alicia's comments

>> Monica's comments


...back to intro page..

Nick's Blog

Preparation week and there's already something to say.

Thursday we did a big family shop at NSM in Brunswick. Lots of stuff there. We came away with a year's stash of lollies - since snack wrappers miraculously appear in our bin. My find was the salty dried broad bean chips. Tasty. It was when we returned to the car that we realised that Charlie our 11 month old son had been helping himself while being carried around on Janet's back in the baby carrier. The bright blue jube stuck to his t-shirt was the give-away.

Then off to Friends of the Earth Food Coop in Collingwood. There is so much here that has other featured as well as no packaging. Organic drinking chocolate ($13.42/kg). Organic & Fairtrade el Campasino instant coffee ($59.70). They even had Gluten-free pasta. Unfortunately we'd already got a heap of San Remo in cardboard boxes (with small plastic window) from NSM, thinking it was a good choice with minimum waste, still we know for next time. Got assorted wheat free cereals too. Four different things - corn flakes, rice flakes, buckwheat puffs, rice bran. Turns out that our cardboard quota was the product itself - only 1 out of 3 being edible (well tasty). Also potato flour - a base for our own gluten free flour.

Also I have realised that there are going to be some suprises along the way this upcoming week. Checked the mail and the local taxi service had sent a fridge magnet with a cardboard backing (how do you stop this stuff?). Was sending out our guides in Australian post 3kg bag and realised that the bit you peel off to stick the tab down is plastic, usually destined for bin (can we use them for kids crafts?). Bandaids... where do they go? (tried cotton-wool balls attached with masking tape as possible alternative).

Janet took her own container to Plump Organic Grocery to stock up on coffee. (It's from LA FEM, an all female led cooperative in the highlands of Nicaragua). My mother dropped by and brought us a nice loaf of Gluten-free bread ... in the usual plastic bag! Love those gifts!.


Friday. Woke up to the sound of the garbage truck outside and realised I hadn't put the bins out. Of all weeks to have a load of extra 'past' rubbish round. When you want to start with a clean slate. Turns out Janet had put it out. Up there for thinking mate!

More suprises. Got our coop vegie box and found the Pak Choy strung together with plastic tape.

Janet went on the hunt for some rubber-sealed lids for some fantastic big old glass 1 gallon flagons that she picked up from a church fete some time ago. She wants to have the Yarraville Farmer Market milk man fill them with unpasturised milk tomorrow.

Then she went off to a friends 'Tuppleware party'. I wasn't sure how to interpert this in the light of the Challenge - good thing - replacing disposable packaging - or just more plastic destined for 'somewhere' at the end oif its life. She returned with ... just the catalogue!

Luckily we haven't started the challenge yet... just warming up!


Saturday. Trip to Yarraville Farmer Market where we took our plates and mugs for local sausage and coffee. I brought my themos of peppiment tea. Found that Plump didn't get Elgaar farm milk in this week so we'll be getting our regular Pura in cartons from the milk bar across the road. Not a bad option, given our main goal is seeking to avoid plastic.

Made Toothpaste with Talitha this arvo. Pretty basic - peppiment oil, bicarb (3 parts), salt (1 part), glycerine. Also added one drop of green food coloring, which is kinda not cool given the colouring number but does add to the child appeal. Read another recipe that I think may be better in long run. peppiment oil (2dps), safflower oil (10ml), powdered oris root (2tbsn), quince gel (1 tbsn). Will try it some time. Also made crackers. really basic - sorghum flr, besan flr, potato flr, salt, butter. Mix dry, cream butter in, add water to make dough, roll out, cut, cook in hot ovan.

Enquired about razor refills for my old double blade wilkinson razor. Amazing that you can still get these for about $1 a blade.


Sunday - day 1. First day of 'official' Zero Waste and all was going swimmingly well until about 10am when I tried to sterilise a fowlers jar to make yoghurt in. Never put boiling water into glass because you end up with 'broken' glass and what are you going to do with that? Into the bin! Also used our first litre of milk - one for the recycling bin.

But had the real dilemma when we tried to put away the large boxes of gluten free pasta that we'd bought in bulk. These came in 3 large cardboard boxes that we will reuse, however in making space for these items Janet found some things in the pantry that had gone off - rancid oil, rancid millet, old rice cakes, old baby porridge - and of course these were in plastic bags/wrappers and bottle. Couldn't we have done this cleanout yesterday! Most can be reused except rice cake and porridge wrapper.


Monday - day 2. Here's my almost-zero-waste stories for today.

Today Janet had a nice day with Talitha, our daugther, making 'rabbit ears' costumes out of cardboard, so we had some 'trimmings'. Talitha continued the 'cutting things up' theme and tranformed a plastic ricotta tub which had been a water pot for paint into itsy-witsy pieces of plastic. yowee! not ideal for the m-t bin!

We've been freezing bread from the market and needed to make room in the freezer, so decided we'd have some pre-prepared frozen soup for lunch.. Unfortunately take-away containers when frozen become somewhat brittle and this particular one cracked big time! Not so bad if a plastic No5 (polypropolne) but this was a 'no-number' and so has been bannished to the trash-zone! ... Janet says "I'm a big fan of tuppleware".

Cooked the flathead fish from the market in the same pan as lamb chops and used a piece of foil to seperate it. The foil had been used before, but is not likely to be used again. Very fishy now. To the recycle zone! (... remember to crush al foil into a tight ball so it isn't mistaken for paper in recycling sorting process).

Janet bought a newspaper... to wrap up the broken fowlers jar from yesterday?

Cat food. Always a problem in the past for us. Lots of tins left over. Have experimented with getting fish-heads from the Footscray market (free) and freezing them then microvaving them (moved the mic outside). Worked for a time (rather smelly). Now we buy mince from the market, bring our own bags, cook it up, freeze it. Also chicken that we make into stock first, then meat for the cats. The cats love it. Irony is we are quite particular about buying 'free-range' meat for our own consumption, but have compromised with the cat food. (free range organic chicken is $13+ each, regular boilers are 3 for $10... cost is part of the equation). But in terms of this weeks goals, cat's are packaging free. (Also, you can get dry cat food from pet shop in Footscray market where you fill up your own bags).


Tuesday - day 3. Went into the local tobacco shop in Footscray to enquire about razor refills. Turns out they only had one option. Pack of 10 blades, made in Germany, but in cardboard box with thin plastic wrap around outside. Previously I'd only seen them in a plastic box (see pic). This pack of 10 cost $1. (Others were $9-$16 for known brands - ie. Wilkinson, Astra, Merkur Super). So packaging and cost wise - this is not a bad option. (for travel miles its rough). Now let's see how long each lasts and whether they rip my face apart.

Tonight our meal was in my hands. I tackled wheat-free homemade gnochhi which was quite ambigious and... well not exactly successful. It kinda came apart like dough in water (which it was) rather than being like little smiling wigitty-grubs. My sauce, though tasting great, was partly due to the fact I added a secret ingredient to my vegies, mushrooms and pine-nut mix. This was half a 190ml jar of pre-prepared Leggos pesto sauce. I really can make pesto myself but needed a degree more prep time. Unfortunately this leaves me with a glass jar to add to this weeks recycling.

ps. We have 4 more chickens (while in transition to Shaun & Neesh's). Hoping they will remind the other 4 to lay eggs.


Wednesday - day 4. This morning went to the Footscray market to get Alba ricotta and mozeralla (made in Brunswick) in my tuppleware tubs and Andrew's sourdough bread in my bags. Talked to deli lady about week's challenge. She was not sure what to make of me, and made sure I kept the receipt.

Returned home from work this afternoon to find this flyer had been delivered in our mail box.

Our mailbox is posted with 'No Junk Mail' sticker and more recently a 'Personal mail only' sign, and so I was a little upset that these had not only been ignored but also this junk mail was encouraging the delivery of 'more' junk mail. Rang up the number and talked to the very apologetic lady about how the council was going to 'get her'.

My parents had called in to visit and brought with them a lovely ball for Charlie who's almost 1 year old. He likes it, although as grumpy old me pointed out, he will have to find a home for it when it's holey and deflated at the end of its life

My dad had bought the most amazing gift for Janet - a big box of fowlers jars he'd picked up from a friends garage, including some of the rarest finds ever - Nos 3, 10, 14 & 65! .. may not mean much to many people, but Janet was over the moon. I was pretty excited too about the paper they were wrapped in. The Age, January 25th, 1962. Pictured here is the other gem - a recipe from then for tomato sauce. Check it out!


Thursday - day 5. Janet collected our Elgaar Farm milk from Plump Organic Grocery today - all 10 bottles of it! We'd ordered it for before the trial began but it didn't come. Elgaar Farm is excellent because it comes in glass bottles which have a container deposit added, so when emptied we return them to the retailer for a 60 cent refund. The bottles are collected and refilled. They have about 9 lives before being recycled so I'm told.

Neesh found out some great things recently about the farm and their emphasis on the ethical and humane treatment of animals. They are one of the only (if not the only) dairy farms in Australia that let the calves suckle naturally on their mothers for an extended period of time (2 to 4 months) and also let the calves run with the herd from then on. The average Australian dairy cow is sold off to the meatworks after four years of milking, but Elgaar Farm’s work for up to a decade, and retirement means grazing the paddocks for the rest of their natural life, sometimes into their 30's. (Lads don't have such luck though). No artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides are used on paddocks. Also Elgaar Farm does not use animal derived rennet in the production of cheese so it's suitable for vegetarians.
The down-side is that the farm is in Tasmania so they've travelled some distance to come to us. The other downside is that they cost $2.45 ($3.05 - 60c refund) for 680mls which works out to be almost exactly one third more expensive than the Pura we usually get from the milk bar across the road in 1 litre cartons. So this is very much 'just for the trial' for us as we explore waste-free alternatives.

Charlie and I went to the library today and found that you don't need to buy things to accumulate waste. Paid a fine - they printed out a receipt - borrowed a book - another receipt. I left them there but was reminded how we really have a lot of unecessary systems that produce waste.

Gave some thought to the nappy creams that we use on Charlie. Zinc and Castor Oil.. Comes in Plastic Polypropolyene tub (plastic No. 5). I wonder if there is an alternative that we can make up, and its ingredients can be sourced with less packaging?

Janet was sharing that she's been a bit amazed today at the difference in her attitude that this week has brought. Although she's got money in her purse, she hasn't spent it on snacks or 'things' because of the packaging. There's $$$ to be saved in this new way of approaching what we need and why we need it.

Janet thinks the goal now should be to have less trash in our bin at the end of the week than the trash and packaging that blows into our front yard from the street. We keep collecting it. It reminds me that Footscray is all about sharing.


Friday - day 6. Does your Blue Tak lose it's flavour on the bedpost over night? ... where does it go at the end of its life? (Janet says "into the carpet")

Had a fantastic night. Went to Critical Mass the bike ride once a month through Melbourne's CBD. Took Talitha for some Dad & Daughter time - her first CM ride, my first one since she was born. Bought our tuppleware bowls and had Nori rolls. Bought a 'one car less' sticker but then remembered that we can't really peel of the back and stick it without... rubbish!!! So we rubber-banded it to her helmet. Will peel it off next week.


Saturday - day 7. Started the morning on a high - off to the Western Urban Harvest Swap Meet, held at Grassland Coop once a month, that Neesh co-ordinates. A place to bring your own excess produce and take home someone elses. Lots of fun people and great ideas flowing. Very much in the spirit of Zero Waste.

We returned via the Dancing Dog cafe for a hot chocolate and snack. Ordering the only gulten-free option - a florentine - we had to send it back when served, as it came with a layer of thin plastic film on top. Then realised I'd forgotton the essential pile of face washers, needed with kids, unless you're going to use serviettes. Usually it would be okay - I'd just make do - but (as Murphy would have it) there was an accident (he was a realist) and a need to mop up some hot choc. A serviette was used and added to our small collection at home. This raises an interesting angle on waste - we often don't see or acknowedge the waste we produce 'off-site' or away from home. The drink that's bought then binned, or wrapper that never makes it's way back to our household bin.

In the afternoon we met for our celebratory wrap-up of the challenge. Neesh treated us to her amazing homespun Chai. I contributed the soy milk that I'd made with her soy milk maker. I can recommend this - takes 20 minutes, uses about one cup of beans per litre, which equals about $1 cost, with no tetrapak. Normally you soak the beans overnight, but this time I just boiled them for 1 hour then put them through the machine twice. Great results. Used the pulp for soy ice-cream (banana, soy pulp, cashews, mayple syrup - whizzed up, frozen, rewhizzed - presto!). Also had homemade crackers & hommus, ginger & buckwheat biscuits, and Monica's home-roasted seeds & goga berries. Janet suggested that with this food fare we all should be wearing 'socks and sandles' and having our squirrel fill up on peanut butter (see terrific Untalkative Bunny cartoon episode of same title).


Sunday morning. Counted the trash!


What we had at the end of our week:

Trash (to landfill)

  1. broken fowlers bottle (glass) - able to be recycled but not through present collection system
  2. torn plastic bag from chop - had previous life before chop
  3. felt offcuts - leftovers from a Talitha project
  4. (found the plastic ties that came around our Pak Choy from the start of the week, after photo was taken)


  1. aluminium foil - used for cooking fish - had some previous uses before being too soiled
  2. broken plastic takeaway tubs (plastic 5) from freezer - previous lifes
  3. cut ricotta tub (plastic 5) - Talitha's discarded craft project
  4. newspaper
  5. paper offcuts
  6. junkmail flyer
  7. chip bucket and paper - from Janet & Talitha's trip to swimming pool (had left precut sandwich on bench at home)
  8. paper serviette - from Dancing Dog cafe on Saturday
  9. toilet paper wrapper


  1. milk cartons x 6 - to be reused as seedling guards
  2. toilet rolls - to be reused as kids craft
  3. glass pesto jar - to be reused for homemade mayo or jam
  4. matchboxes - to be reused as kids craft
  5. eggs cartons x3 - to be reused as kids craft

(Recycle and Reuse pictured together here).

We were pretty pleased with this. Learned so much by simply being mindful of what we use each day. Always room for improvement but I can see lots of alternatives now. Our desire to stop the plastic wrap in our bin was largely met by no longer getting our gluten-free pasta, and gluten-free flour from the normal supermaket and deli. We got a bunch of San Remo pasta in cardboard box (with plastic window) from NSM, before we realised we could get it with no packaging from FOE (Friends of the Earth Coop). We actually have a bulk supply of Orgran flour, bought some time ago, in cardboard and plastic bag, but now know we can get the base flours (potato, corn maize, tapioca) from FOE and make our own mix, which we'll do when we run out. Also 'snacks' from NSM means the many impulse buys of chocolate, lollies, chips, etc can be replaced with a stash from the pantry.


Epilogue. Well it only took us till Tuesday to undo all the good work we'd done in the previous week. Found ourselves at Highpoint shopping centre after going swimming with the kids and decided to get lunch at the food court. Soon realised that we hadn't brought the essential bag of cutlery and stuff. So in just one lunch of Nori rolls, chips, hot chocolate and muffin we ended up with 6 paper bags, 2 serviettes, 2 plastic spoons, 3 soy sauce fishes and 1 cream cheese mini tub plastic no7. Two lessons here: #1. Remember your bag of goodies. I have just packed a new one and put it in the car (plastic plates, mug, cutlery, extra bag, facewasher & bib). Now need to remember to wash them after use and put them back. And #2. Get in quick when refusing the 'extras' that come with take-away... "No bag, serviette, spoon , sauces ... ..thanks". How long til we learn.... top...


Neesh's Blog

Monday - Day 2. I have been super lazy and haven't made toothpaste yet, but haven't bought any other packaging except ... I bought vegies and the shop created a receipt! hmmmm need to think about asking for receipt free transactions!!!! top...


Shaun's Blog

Post challenge. Neesh & I have already reduced our usage of food packaging quite substantially. We buy our groceries in bulk mostly via our food co-op (the Seddon Organic Collective) & from Friends of the Earth, so there isn't much more we can do in this area. We generate waste in other ways though, most significant of which is probably sewerage. Having just attended a workshop on composting toilets, I'd been considering the way in which mostly of us urinate & poo into drinking water (I suspect that future generations will come to regard this practice with disbelief). So I'd been wanting to build a composting toilet, but couldn't quite find the time to collect all the parts & assemble it. Setting my sights a little lower, I decided just to focus on urine. So firstly a few facts (from

  • One person produces annually appr. 500 l urine
  • The urine fraction contains 98% of the nitrogen, 65% of the phosphorus, and 80% of the potassium excreted by a human
  • Most of the nitrogen in human urine is in a form suitable for plants
  • The urine of a healthy person is essentially sterile

Cool huh?! So what do you do with it? There are 3 main options:

  • dilute it to 1:8 parts water & use as a fertiliser
  • urinate directly on high carbon materials (e.g. dead leaves, straw, old books with the covers torn off) & these materials will break down into odorless, nutrient-rich compost
  • urinate directly onto compost piles to greatly accelerate the process (just remember the you need to maintain the carbon-nitrogen balance & wee is nitrogen-rich)

Peeing directly onto mulch piles beneath fruit trees (particularly citrus) also works a treat, but just be aware that peeing onto small concentrated areas, or bare soil can chemically burn roots & leave a bad smell!

This process makes me think that natural systems (like our bodies' functioning) are already designed with zero waste. So we just have to figure out how to restore the natural relationship of these process to our environment & suddenly we have resources, rather than waste. Imagine how much water & chemical fertiliser we could save if we all stopped flushing our wee! top...


Hugh's Blog

Monday - day 2. Being an individual attempting to do this within a household where there are others who aren’t participating makes this a little difficult, so I have decided to accumulate my waste separately.

I started preparing Saturday morning by collecting my reusable/ empty containers, and paper and vegetable bags and popping them in my backpack. I jumped on my trusty ‘fixie’ bike and headed to Organic Wholefoods in Lygon St Brunswick. To my disappointment I did not allocate enough paper bags for what I wanted to get so I ended up using three of the paper bags offered at the shop. These and a tetra pack of oat milk were the only additional packaging produced in my outing. I reused a few containers for things like pasta and shampoo. Needless to say that the paper bags will be used until they are ready for the bokashi bin and I’m thinking of using at least part of the empty tetra pack to raise seedlings in!

I then went to the Radical Grocery store which reminded me of the vast amount of packaging that a lot of ‘mock’ meat products have! I often question the legitimacy of vegetarian/ vegan food when it feels like it only negates the plastic that surrounds it! I opted for the gluten flour that comes in a resealable bag. This will be useful for purchasing other raw and unpackaged ingredients in the future like quinoa and chickpeas.

So as of 1pm today I have generated:

Organic stream:

2 banana peels
1 x 1 person plunger Coffee grinds

General stream:
1 X Tetra pack lid seal

Recycling stream:

I’m generally happy with this so far and already see that I’m thinking about making my own oat milk for breakfast, but I’m fearing that it will go a bit pear shaped towards the end of the week when things start being emptied. Also, I had a coffee this morning at a cafe’. What to do??? I am fairly confident in getting the equivalent back from them as they are nice people and part of a project that I coordinate, but I need to be more diligent I guess.

Only 5 ½ more days to go, keep at it!!! top...

Alicia's Blog

Sum up. I really enjoyed reading everyone's blog. it is great to hear how people prepared for and got through the week and where little bits of unintended/unexpected/certainly not requested packagaing snuck into their lives. My first bit of packaging came with a cold (my first for the season) I had run out of echinacea and so bought another bottle from my local (to work) health food shop. They are normally super good about my quirky packaging requests, even to the point of finding my a washable cup so I could trial the chai on offer in store. However, I wasn't able to refill a bottle of echies. The gentleman in the store told me I should just make tea with olive leaves which I know I should have but I was feeling lousy and looking for some comfort. I am a product of my quick-fix culture, it seems. I washed one down with hot, lemon and honey from a friend's dad. Happily, we are able to return his containers for top-ups.
The challenge inspired us to start making yoghurt again which saved on some packaging but that meant buying extra milk. Lygon Organic Wholefoods decided at the start of the year not to purchase elgar farm milk so we have a couple of cartons to account for along with toilet rolls and paper packaging, the local rag, some junk mail, the echinacea bottle, a number of receipts and tram tickets (are they recyclable?) oh and a movie ticket from Food Inc - which was probably worth the waste. Otherwise, we survived quite well, with about one sixth the of the regular amount of solid waste. In our bin at the end of the week: a plastic rice crisp sleeve (brought over by a party guest some time ago - I bravely ate the last few stale biscuits to prevent extra waste), some ear cleaners - a nasty but compulsive habit, a few tissues - from when there were sneezes without hankies and the toothpaste tube - we certainly did try squeezing out an extra couple of days to no avail! I will try your recommended recipe too now.

And that is roughly it. I look forward to reading more blog posts. Our top tips are already listed on the northside resource list. We had a nice vist to NSM for our monthly supplies for which we are always the happier (I love Rosa) and we Ceres did a lot of the rest of the work for us. We are very lucky to be so well supported over this way and by the westside crew too! top...

Monica's Blog

I did some preparation in order to reach zero waste.

Until now I was composting in the backyard ground. Now I made two enclosures where I am depositing my kitchen scraps and the left over from my hens, rabbits, quails and ducklings. They are two square spaces that have in each corner a wooden post and along the contour cardboard. I will enforce the contour with chicken wire. With this new space for composting I can use wiser my ground.

I am cooking at home and in winter I use a lot of beans , lentils broccoli, cauliflower pumpkin and green leaves from NZ spinach, salad, chicory, culinary herbs produced in my garden.
The egg shells I am collecting, crushing and putting back in the poultry food.
For my aromatherapy I use my lavender, rosemary, ru , cologne mint.
For medicinal purpose I use as a protective for my skin the worm wood and ru leaves.
I use for culinary purpose all my culinary herbs that are some perennial in my garden some self seeding: rosemary, basil, parsley,chinese chives, coriander, oregano, vietnamese mint, chocolate mint, piper mint, rocket in salads and soups, sorrel in soups, salads, bay leaves, mallow for tea and soups etc.
I don't use black tea but I use instead my herbal tea: nettle, oregano, rosemary, basil, St John's worth, chickweed, chocolate mint, lemon rind, mallow etc.

When I go shopping I have always with me the green reusable bags and before I buy I think of how can I use the containers. For example I use the bottle jars for jams, chutney, gelled, compote, pickles etc. I try not to accumulate any more plastic bags.
I am not drinking coca cola or pepsi cola but I use the 2 l, 1 l bottle for my plant propagation because I can create like a glass house environment for the future plants. So I help my friends to get rid of their plastic bottle which otherwise will end up in the tip.
My friends that have wooden fire are collecting for me the ashes to incorporate in the soil. The ashes contain potassium which are required for plants to set fruits and seeds.
I have a neighbour that is a mechanic and he is giving me the burned oil from the engine to treat my planks where are sitting my plant pots (against rotting).
The oil and the animal fat I am collecting and making my own soap as I am sensitive to the soap that is made from petrol produce. I add to the soap also medicinal herbs and lemons from my tree.

I go to a workshop where they make out of hard wood windows and doors. They give me saw dust and wood shave that I use for bedding to my poultry and rabbits. When they are dirty I change the bedding and I put them in my composting hip.
I have a few comfrey plants so I use their leaves for better, faster composting.
I drink milk which comes in card board packaging. I use this packs for plant propagation.
Occasionally I have coffee with my guests. The left over from coffee making i use for pot plants as a fine mulch and nutrient for growing pants.
From the Council depot I get for free my mulch which help me to save water and combat the weeds.
If I have excess lemon fruits,true seeds, seedlings, poo from my poultry or rabbits, plants I am taking to our swap meet market and I get something that I haven't got.
I have practically no rubbish at the end of the week. top...