Living the eco-baby life

I know I said it would probably be a while before I published another blog post, but I have learned so much in the past month I couldn’t resist!

In an ideal world, many people would prefer a natural birth with no drugs or interference and a labour that is not particularly lengthy. This is what I also hoped for but as my due date grew closer, I was readying myself for anything.

After being told I may need to be induced early, something changed for me. I was ready and understood that the baby was ready to come out!

So, my birth didn’t start off going to plan but after being induced, having my waters broken and a couple of hours of contractions, out he came.

Our beautiful baby boy is now with us and we are loving every bit of the journey. We are learning so much every day, and instead of feeling constantly overwhelmed, we are enjoying it as much as we can and I am focusing on expanding my knowledge because there is just so much to learn!

Being the eco-conscious person that I endeavour to be, I ordered a bunch of both cloth nappies and biodegradable bamboo nappies before the birth. I had heard that cloth nappies weren’t the easiest on newborns, but I was keen to eventually give them a go and planned to use the bamboo nappies in the meantime.

After returning home from hospital, we got to work on our eco-baby routine. Bamboo nappies, check. Bamboo wipes, check. Biodegradable nappy bags, check. We were set and it felt really good. But I felt like I could do more, I mean I had enough cloth nappies for part time usage and a heap of old school terry towelling nappies too.

It’s like people tried to put me off, telling me cloth nappies aren’t easy, and that I wouldn’t last long using them, especially without a dryer. But I am pretty determined, and I don’t mind cleaning a bit of poop here and there. The biggest issue I am having at the moment is with the fit. Once he is a bit bigger I think I will find them more useful and won’t need to change the sheets so frequently! But I have decided that a little bit of extra water usage in the interim is better than a mountain of waste that will take a lifetime to break down. I know that even biodegradable nappies take a while to break down, but their environmental footprint is better than that of non-biodegradable nappies.

I have also been researching the best chemical free or chemically reduced options for things like nappy rash, sunscreen etc and have been asking anyone with a child what they did. I am now using paw paw ointment as barrier cream for nappy rash, which seems to be working well. Apparently nappy rash will be an issue with cloth nappies, due to moisture build up so I make sure I lather it on at least once a day!

I had to order of a different type of (still Australian made) biodegradable nappies, as the ones I started using decided to start leaking occasionally too. These new ones I have ordered claim to have a high absorbency and have been pretty good so far.

This is my life now and I am loving it! It has been such an important time of learning and we love watching our baby as he takes in the world and responds differently every day.

If anyone has anything they want to share, please leave a comment!

Are we in a world that change can fix?

My post from last month came at a time when I felt so relaxed and ready to take on 2021, so today I wanted to focus on some more pressing issues.

Acknowledging the impact

Like the bushfires that very recently swept across Perth suburbs in Western Australia. Almost 100 homes were lost as well as a huge amount of wildlife. This is all too familiar with us residents in the east, as we were reminded of the devastation of the Victoria/NSW fires not so long ago. With recent findings revealing that logging increases bush flammability for up to 30 years, and that it is 7 times more likely for the canopy of a forest that has been logged to burn, we have to wonder, what is being done to counter this? We can not simply hope that things will change, and that Australia’s environmental future will somehow be spared, we have to act on it; we have to actually do something about it.

Protecting biodiversity

Which brings me to this article from The Conversation AU, ‘To fix Australia’s environment laws, wildlife experts call for these 4 changes – all are crucial’. The post looks at steps that need to be taken to reverse Australia’s current track record of protecting biodiversity, including:

  1. Setting standards
  2. Greater government accountability
  3. Decent funding; and
  4. Increase ecological knowledge.

It is an interesting article and I encourage you to have a read but for now I want to reflect on the last point, the need to increase ecological knowledge, again coming back to my point of adapting to changes occurring around us, rather than hoping. The article suggests expert committees are a requirement in increasing ecological knowledge and really learning about our threatened species and ecological communities so that we can fully invest in forming active recovery plans. We should be paying more attention to this issue, as it affects the environment in which we exist, yet for the majority of the population, contemplating such an issue is just too hard. Why worry about these complex issues when the immediate future is at stake?

In Melbourne right now

Right now here in Melbourne, we are 4 days in to a 5 day lockdown. This is the first time Victoria has tried such a short lockdown in an effort to combat a recent COVID outbreak, and we are all waiting to see if it has paid off so that we can return to the lives we were getting so used to again.

As I said last month, I think this year will be a huge case of trial and error. Even though the vaccine/s are in the process of being rolled out across the country as we speak, it does not mean it is going to abruptly come to an end. It felt strange yet familiar as we suddenly plunged into lockdown at 12pm on Friday night, all plans for the weekend out the window. Which is why this year at least; our plans need to remain as flexible as they can. Certainty is not something we can be sure of, so we need to adapt and whatever we do, we can’t forget the lessons learned in 2020.

Hope is a funny thing. Once we get a glimpse of it, it can be very hard to turn our focus to anything else, but we need to remember that we are still a world that change can fix to some extent. Whether it’s our health or the environment or something else altogether, we need to be able to properly identify the challenges around us; often times, the situation we have put ourselves in. We all have the ability to improve and invest in making a difference to future outcomes, both health and environment related, so let’s make an effort to properly understand what’s going on around us.

An appetite for action

This year has certainly been unlike any other year like I have never experienced before, for a number of reasons that affected so many people. Starting late 2019, was the heat and the bushfires that much of Australia experienced. I remember packing up and leaving the beach house in a hurry just before New Year’s, once the power shut off and our dog struggled in the heat. On the drive back to Melbourne we listened to the news on the radio, with warnings for Melbournians to evacuate if they were in close proximity to a fire, and to take care and watch with caution if they were in a surrounding area.

I will never forget heading to work in the CBD in early January to a city I had never experienced, with a haze of smoke and dusty skies. It was a constant reminder of what was happening all around us, as Australia truly begun to understand the impacts of climate change.

But part of me wonders, do we actually know? Do we really understand the causes, the problems, and the lasting effects? Spending time at my Dad’s property in February definitely got me thinking about our relationship with nature, and how important every aspect of our ecosystem is in cultivating growth and change around us.

The COVID situation

After a quick trip to Tasmania in February to enjoy all the region has to offer (quite literally) and attend a friend’s wedding, we were back in Melbourne with a trip to New Zealand planned for early March. As we heard the news of ‘coronavirus’ breaking out in countries far away, we were unaware of the significant threat it posed, or that we would soon be experiencing one of the harshest lockdowns in history.

We made it to New Zealand without a hiccup and stayed informed of the news as we travelled around the North island for ten days. We had a wonderful holiday; packed with rainforest walks/runs, waterfalls, sailing the Bay of Islands and indulging in some incredible food and wine. We visited the town of Taupo, where we were amazed at the size of the lake; we had never seen one so big, only on American TV shows. We experienced the stench of Rotorua and marvelled at the sulphuric springs as they boiled away, letting off steam.

We heard coronavirus warnings on the radio as we drove from town to town and were impressed with the speed at which the country was informing the public. We doubted that Australia would have such precautions in place this early on. We had just finished a tour of the Waitomo glow worm caves, one of the most incredible things I had ever seen, when things really started spiralling out of control around the world. It was our second last night in New Zealand, and while we were having an amazing time away, we were looking forward to getting back to a familiar place, as chaos unfolded around us.

We made it back within a few days of the mandatory quarantine being enforced for people who had been out of the country. Not that we went anywhere or did anything when we returned anyway; we found ourselves working from home and not leaving for many other reasons at all, other than to shop for food and to exercise.

The state of being

I have shared my thoughts and feelings throughout the year, and some of my posts may have been slightly repetitive, which only emphasises the state of being for 2020.

While I write of cities, of the bush, of time spent travelling earlier this year, I reflect on these major events and wonder what the next year, even the next 10-20 years will bring. It seems that this way of living has already become ‘business as usual’.

Here in Victoria, Australia, we have been doing so well at keeping cases down, but as we begin to let international travellers back in, I can only wonder what will happen after the last debacle, and with what’s going on in New South Wales at the moment, who knows. Of course, I am hoping for the best, for a level of control, for strong leadership and guidelines that will mean that we don’t find ourselves to a similar situation that we were in earlier this year in 2021, for both the pandemic and the environment, although things are not looking great.

But there are signs of respite, such as this beautiful story of a thought to be extinct pygmy possum being recently found on Kangaroo Island after bushfires destroyed much of the island last summer.

As America comes to terms with the idea of a new president in Biden, someone that has climate change well and truly on his agenda, we can only hope too that Australia has a plan, because if things keep going the way they are, it doesn’t seem that we will be able to enjoy our country for much longer. Every summer will be the same; fires, loss of and significant damage to wildlife and an enormous volunteer effort to manage the situation. As David Attenborough would say, this is just not a sustainable way of living; we need to drastically change our approach before it is too late.

This year has shown that when given strong leadership, we as a community can do it, we can get out of almost anything, or at least turn things around. So, let’s make 2021 a year of learning, reflection and action on anything that is within our control.

Have a safe and happy Christmas break everyone and see you next year!

Preserving our environment

A couple of months ago I went to visit my dad who lives in the bush. By bush I mean total bush – thousands of hectares of it.

My dad and his wife spend a lot of time and effort working on ways to conserve their land. They don’t farm livestock (do chickens count?) and have a pet dog who loves the land as much as they do. Over the weekend we went for many walks around their property, which I had done so many times before, but never really absorbed the information. This time I consciously learnt about the many different things there were to appreciate.

Time to explore

On a walk with my sister, we got to a gate marked ‘Ogyris Gate’. I asked her what it meant, and she told me it as a species of rare butterfly, native to Australia and sighted on their land. I never saw one that weekend but was curious, so I looked into it some more when I returned home and I learned that the Ogyris genoviva is a large purple/blue coloured butterfly, found primarily in east and southeast Australia. Its wingspan is 50mm, and it is most often found in Eucalypt woodland.

Offsetting carbon with native flora

They have planted so many trees over the years – and due to drought, not a lot of them have survived. These are the challenges of living on a property like that, changing weather is inevitable. There is a patch of young eucalyptus trees not far away from their house, covering maybe 30 square metres. The trees are thriving, as they have been planted in a patch of irrigation. They are 30 years old – as old as me, and they still look so young and green, not your average climbing tree that’s for sure.

In their ‘front yard’ (an area of grass at least 2km squared), dad told me proudly that there were 11 different species of native grass. Most evenings, dad would walk around the ‘yard’ and pick out prickle patches, cussing the nasty weeds. I had brought only my casual runners for the weekend, and after every walk, I spent time removing the prickles that had embedded themselves into the soles.

A new perspective

I really enjoy staying at Dad’s place. The feeling of being with nature and (almost) living off the land makes me feel somewhat relaxed. Learning about plants such as Old Man Saltbush and taking time to watch the resident eagle through a telescope is not something that happens often for me back in Melbourne.

It has been a challenging start to 2020, first Australia was affected by the ravaging bushfires (while fires had only recently been extinguished in other areas of the world) and now COVID-19. Some good news is that with the majority of people working from home and travel being restricted, carbon emissions have reduced, and nature is slowly changing. While it has taken a global pandemic for this to happen, it will certainly be interesting to see what we learn from all of this; and how our perspective of the issue may change for the better.

Life is recycled

Many aspects of our lives have always been recycled and a particular object or building may have a great history, whether it is known to the new owner or not. Other aspects of our recycled culture are new and quite interesting as they present many environmental concerns.

Whether it is homes, cars, clothes, food scraps, jobs or previous partners, there is an emerging need to recycle everything in life.

Some things we recycle have always been that way – they present an undeniable recycling truth.

Take a home for instance. Homes are recycled time and time again and sometimes transformed drastically before the next round of recycling begins.

I am quite comfortable in the house I live in at the moment but when I think of how many people have been happy here before me, I wonder exactly what they loved most, and what they changed to suit themselves better.

Second hand cars make perfect sense. If a car is in good condition but the owner has outgrown it, why not sell it to someone who it suits more?

Recycled clothes are also exciting. Trash or treasure, the fact that these clothes once belonged to someone else may make the new wearer curious about the stories they contain. Did someone outgrow them, get tired of them or have to get rid of them for another reason altogether?

I have gotten better at reducing wastage of clothes and shoes over the years. I try to just buy what I need and make do with what I’ve got.

Minimising food wastage has become a necessary trend in today’s dining scene, and when preparing food at home. Most of us recycle leftover food and many of us use every bit of a vegetable when cooking, including the peel, sprouts and leaves.

Jobs are another interesting element of life that is recycled, especially when the modern workplace is so volatile, and knowledge is readily available.

A person may finish a job that they fitted well, that they had adapted to suit their skills and their life. When the person leaves, and a new person comes along, they will bring new ideas and a slightly different skill set, so the role may be adapted again to suit the new person.

Of course, this doesn’t happen everywhere. Many professions are black and white. It is clear what is expected each day and tasks may be somewhat repetitive. The people encountered on a day to day basis require the same amount of effort and the priorities rarely change.

I am certainly not underestimating the vital role such positions play but I’m not sure I could stay in a job like that for long.

One last topic I want to consider is the recycling of partners. Sure, there are some people who settle down with the first person they meet but most of us have had past relationships. We have all created different memories with another person, shared different jokes and been to different places together.

I think when it comes to recycling, people are the most difficult. Finding someone ideal for a job or finding a new partner or friend will always mean that the replacement has a shadow to fill.

When this shadow is filled, and a similar pattern of behaviours begin to occur, it can be decided if it fits.

People may be the most difficult to recycle, but they are not the biggest problem.

With waste management so topical today, I think it is important for this issue to remain front of mind.

We have it instilled upon us that waste is bad, which is a good mentality to have.

But most of us are guilty of creating unnecessary waste.

The first thing I am going to stop buying is coffee pods. These add up quickly and are not easily recycled and when there are so many other options available, it makes perfect sense to cut them out of my life. But the convenience of popping a coffee pod each morning is what makes me still use them. In minutes I have a delicious cup of short coffee to enjoy with my breakfast.

If we step back and allow ourselves to become slightly less self-absorbed and think about the real issues at stake, we can consciously make an effort to do something about it and reduce (or recycle) waste whenever possible.

That’s it, no more coffee pods for me!