Friday, 31 July 2015

Modern Cloth Nappies - Washing and Care

Over the 18 months that I have been using modern cloth nappies (MCN) I have continued to improve my washing methods through a bit of trial and error, as well as some online research. As a result I feel like I spend much less time on physically standing at the sink now. I think either myself, or Mr Fix It, would spend roughly 5mins rinsing nappies daily and 10mins to load the wash every second day. I can't say for sure but I think we used to spend roughly 30mins diddling around doing stuff or fussing over rewashing loads every day at first. What follows is a summary of the main lessons I have learnt.

Turtle rocking cloth at the Great Cloth Diaper Change in 2014

1. Use environmentally friendly laundry powder at half strength or soap nuts. I have used both and they both clean the nappies well. I did find, however, the nappies seemed to be stiffer when I used the soap nuts. The soap nuts are great because they are a natural chemical-free product with barely any packaging. They also last for a few washes each time so they are great value for money.

2. Sunlight helps to remove all the stains from the nappies so dry them with the top layer facing the sun. This seems rather obvious but I (of course!) didn't figure it out for a few months and hung them with the top booster facing away from the sun, or out of direct sunlight.

3. Don't use any barrier creams if you are not using disposable liners between babies skin and the nappy. If you do use a cream then make sure it is water soluble (Brauer paw paw, curash or coconut oil). I learned this the hard way (of course!) by firstly using a petrochemical based paw paw cream (Lucas) which is a big no no. Then I used the water-based barriers but still found that they were building up in the nappy. This was probably due to both using a barrier cream without a liner and my washing methods weren't up to scratch either (note that I stopped using barrier creams a few months ago with no problems. On the odd occasion Turtle has a slightly red bottom I might put a small amount of moisturiser or paw paw on before she goes to bed in a disposable). These mistakes lead on to points 4 and 5.

4. The washing process for nappies will vary slightly depending on your machine. Here is a link to the official advice from Australian Nappy Association. If I had seen that prior to my journey I'm sure I wouldn't have messed around so much.

Storing Used Nappies

We use a bucket with a lid to store used nappies. Wees go straight into the bucket. Poos are scraped into toilet. The liner (and remaining poo on it) is removed and put into the outside bin. Then the nappy goes into the bucket (with the lid firmly in place!). The liners are supposed to be flushable but I want to do a bit of research on this before we decide if we will flush them or not. We use 2 buckets to store used nappies over 2 days. Having 2 buckets helps when rinsing nappies too. Our buckets cost about $4 each from the local hardware store.

At the end of each day we rinse and scrub (using a nail brush for stubborn bits!) used nappies in running water.

Washing MCN Nappies

Every 2 days we do a load of nappies as follows:
  • rinse in cold water (no detergent but I add a sprinkle of bicarbonate soda) for 23mins (my washing machines rinse cycle) with 2 pre-soaked towels,
  • wash with detergent at 40 degrees for 1hr and 40mins, leaving towels in,
  • rinse again for 23mins in cold water (no detergent), leaving towels in, &
  • hang out to dry in the sun (weather permitting, which is most of the time in Perth).
The towels add weight to the load, which is necessary to trick my front loader machine into using enough water to cover the nappies. I wasn't doing this at first and I wasn't getting very good results. Quite a few nappies had stains that wouldn't move and the washing machine itself became dirty (gross I know!). Front loaders are great for saving water but if you need nappies cleaned then you need enough water to do it properly. I used the advice from The Healthy Honey's blog (follow this link) about front loaders and experimented a little to find out what worked best for us.

5. You might need to strip wash your nappies if you are concerned that they have become hydro-phobic or they are repelling water. This might be because you have used too much detergent and it has built up in the nappy. Or it might be because you have been using a petrochemical based cream (like me!) and it has not been washed out of the nappy. 

Strip Washing

Use 10-20ml of dish washing liquid in a hot wash. Make sure it's a long cycle (I use 40 degrees for 1hr and 40mins). Then I usually do the shortest wash cycle afterward (cold for 30mins in my machine) with no detergent to make sure the soap is removed before hanging them out to dry. 

6. Using disposable liners in the nappies helps to stop the poo from sticking to it and thus you don't have to scrub them so much! I started using disposable liners recently and I wish I had started earlier. I was given some when I bought my first lot of secondhand nappies but they were really rigid and crinkly so it turned me off using them. The ones I am using are soft against babies skin so I'm not worried at all about them being uncomfortable. They have really reduced the amount of time I spend scrubbing nappies at the end of the day. 

I think that covers all of the important things that might go wrong when learning to care for your MCN. I would love to hear any other tips that you might have come across too.

Does this all sound too hard or are you feeling more confident about tackling the cloth?

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Plastic Free Bread

Since Plastic Free July started I have found myself being much more mindful each time I head to the shops for groceries. This has been particularly true when buying bread.

A friend is in the habit of baking her own (delicious!) sour dough bread. While this is a goal I have set for myself I am not quite ready to take it on just yet.

The next best thing, which is a lot less time consuming, is to simply buy bread without plastic. I have done this on four separate occasions in the last couple of weeks. Each time has been from a local chain bakery - three different ones so far.

The first time I was on my way home from toy library duty and had not prepared myself at all for the task. I grabbed a reusable shopping bag from the back of the car, took a quick look in it to make sure it wasn't too grubby, and used that.

I'm not sure if I was feeling conspicuous the first time, or if the girl serving me was just a total cow. I asked for a loaf of bread (unsliced) to be placed into my reusable bag. She immediately grabbed a plastic bag that they would normally put the bread in. I quickly repeated that I didn't want plastic and she curtly replied, "I need to use it to pick up the bread". After that she would not meet my eye. I even smiled and tried to catch it. She did not make eye contact. She clearly thought I was a crazy hippy freak.

Each time since then has been completely fine with the person serving me being lovely and helpful. On one of the occasions I was organised enough to bring my own soft plastic bag (see picture above). The lady sliced the bread and tied it for me. I have kept the tie to reuse.

I reused the bag and tie when I bought six rolls to have lentil burgers last week. Since I didn't have the foresight to bring two bags I bought unsliced bread again at the same time (for $6.20 - bargain!).

I am pleased to have overcome whatever it was that was stopping me from previously buying my bread plastic-free. I am confident that I can continue doing this in future.

Thank you Plastic Free July!

Have you ever thought about buying your bread plastic-free?

Once again linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT

Friday, 17 July 2015

Decluttering: The Magic of Tidying

After visiting the baby market I started to put my newly acquired tidying skills to use. I admit it was out of necessity since I needed to make space for the secondhand winter clothes that I had bought for Turtle.

A tidy drawer is a thing of beauty

My "tidying" phase of decluttering is inspired by Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. I am not the kind of person who can usually sit through a non-fiction book (about tidying no less!) but this one had me hooked. This may reflect my dedication to decluttering. I found the book was easy to read and quite humorous with a down to earth approach to tidying and managing belongings.

KonMari (her nickname and the name of her tidying method) is a self professed tidying fanatic who started her tidying hobby as a child. She became obsessed with storage options as a teenager, trying fads of containers, shelves, and hanging space to try and resolve mess (or clutter) in her families home. Eventually she decided that storage was not the solution. It was the amount of "stuff" that was the problem.

By focusing on her families things KonMari realised that she was avoiding the responsibility of addressing her own clutter problems. She ruthlessly began to throw out her own belongings. The way that she did this was quite different to the processes that she had previously used, as per recommendations in home magazines from decluttering or storage experts. KonMari held every item individually, focused her attention on it and asked herself, "does this spark joy?". If the answer was yes then it was kept. If the answer was no it was discarded after being thanked for its service to her.

The concept behind this method is that you should surround yourself with things that you love. As you change your belongings also need to change. This ensures they reflect who you are and where you see your life going. I love the idea of only being surrounded by things that bring me joy.

The other appeal of KonMari's method is being free to let go of the things that you no longer use or need, no matter why you don't want them. It allows you to distance yourself from the guilt that often stops you from letting things go. The spontaneous expensive purchase that you have never gotten around to using. The lovely gift that didn't really suit your style. Things that are in perfect condition but never get used in your home. It's time to say goodbye!

This is, of course, easier said than done. KonMari has a strict method that she recommends for "tidying" and discarding things. Clothing is the first group to go through, then books, papers, miscellaneous items, and lastly sentimental items. This style of decluttering (or tidying) is by category of item. Every single item in that category needs to be touched to determine if it sparks joy. The idea is that you learn to discard with items that are less likely to make you feel bad about throwing them away. Then you work your way up to the more difficult stuff.

One thing that I didn't support throughout the book was the idea of throwing things away without regard for waste. I totally support the idea of sending things on their way if you don't need or want them. I do believe, however, that they should be discarded responsibly with the best opportunity for reuse. This may mean dropping them off at an opportunity shop. Or selling them on Gumtree. Or distributing them through Freecycle. You might think of a way to repurpose or upcycle some of the things too. Whatever the method, it is important to do your best to make sure those items are able to find a new home where they will be loved and needed.

Having said this I agree with KonMari when she advises not to pass on your problem. This could be by giving your unwanted items to family members. As KonMari aptly observes, your unwanted items are quite likely to be a similar problem for the recipient of your "gift". Passing on your problem is not respectful or helpful. Why burden loved ones with your unwanted things?

KonMari found that her clients who are younger sisters often have the largest amount of unwanted things in their wardrobe. She knows the average amount of clothes people discard and younger sisters always have a much higher amount. This is because they have been so accustomed to receiving hand me down clothing that they don't find out what their individual style is. What kind of image they want to have.

As a middle child I am familiar with this problem. It was quite enlightening to find an explanation about why I struggle to decide on clothing and why I don't enjoy shopping. I am now determined to go out and find clothes to create a style that reflects me.

This has taken a weight off my shoulders since I always felt guilty spending money on myself. Now I am confident that if I really like something and will get a lot of wear out of it, because it "sparks joy", then I should buy it and feel good about myself. If I don't really love it then I won't buy it. Hence it is a shopping experience that won't get out of control.

"The amount of storage space you have in your room is actually just right. I can't count how many times people have complained to me that they don't have enough room but I have yet to see a house that lacked sufficient storage. The real problem is that we have far more than we need or want. Once you learn to choose your belongings properly, you will be left only with the amount that fits perfectly in the space you currently own. That is the true magic of tidying. It may seem incredible but my method of keeping only what sparks joy in the heart is really that precise."  
p155 The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, Marie Kondo

The last thing I want to share about the KonMari method (clearly there is a lot more in her book - I recommend reading it if you are inspired by what I have shared here) is instructions about how to fold. You will have noticed the photograph I took of Turtle's drawer after it was tidied (above). All of the items are standing up in the drawer. KonMari is totally right - you can fit so much more in by stacking clothes this way. You can also see each item and don't need to dig through layers of stacks (see the mess this creates when dressing Turtle below). I am a complete convert. It truly works!

The usual mess we were dealing with each day

Starting with Turtle's things, unfortunately, means that decluttering my own wardrobe has been postponed yet again. Typical decluttering procrastination. Despite my previous post encouraging everyone to declutter I acknowledge you need both time and motivation to get it all done.

I am slowly starting on my things though. I will keep you posted on my progress. In the meantime I encourage you to start your own tidying.

Are you a KonMari convert too? Is it time to start tidying?

Linking up with With Some Grace today for FYBF

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Homemade Beetroot and Chickpea Dip

I have been meaning to make beetroot dip for ages. Whenever we get beetroot in our organic fruit and veggie box it is always my first thought. But then I look up recipes and get turned off. I always seem to be missing the dairy ingredient. I'm not sure if I would like the flavour with yoghurt or feta for some reason anyway.

I love dips. Really love them. I'm a grazer by habit and love snacking every 2 to 3 hours. I haven't been buying dips lately, however, because I'm conscious of the packaging. Since Plastic Free July is occurring I am even more averse to buying them. So this week when we had 3 beetroots delivered in our box I decided the time had come to create a beetroot dip.

I decided I couldn't go too wrong with yummy fresh beets and chickpeas. Since chickpeas are a staple for us it makes it a convenient recipe too, which is always a winner. I am pleased with the results and thought you might like to try it too. The beetroot is the star flavour of the dip, with the chick peas providing a lovely texture.

Lizzing Lightly's Beetroot and Chickpea Dip Recipe

Time to prepare: 1hr 15 mins (1hr for roasting beetroot and garlic; 15 mins to prepare)


2 to 3 Beetroots
1 can chick peas (400g) drained and rinsed
1 to 2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp mustard seeds


1. Roast beetroots in moderate oven for 1 hour or until soft.
2. Roast garlic for 1/2 hour (add to pan with beetroots).
3. Take out beetroot and garlic and leave to cool.
4. Peel and cut off beetroot skin. Cut into wedges and then in half again.
5. Squeeze roasted garlic out of its skin.
6. Add olive oil, beetroot, garlic, lemon juice, chick peas and mustard seeds to food processor or blender. Mix until smooth.

Enjoy with crackers, bread or crunchy vegetables sticks.

Have you got any recipes at the back of your mind that just never seem to happen?

I'm joining Essentially Jess today for #IBOT

Friday, 10 July 2015

Why Plastic Free July is Important

Our Living Smarties group watched Bag It last week. It was a great way to kick off Plastic Free July. It reminded me that there are very important environmental, health and social reasons to reduce our family's use of single-use plastic.

The environmental reason that struck a cord for me is that plastic is made from fossil fuels (oil and natural gas), which take hundreds of thousands of years to form in the earth. They are non-renewable and, after a fossil fuel is burned, can never be used again.

Many single-use plastic products are used for less than a couple of hours before they are discarded. It doesn't make any sense to buy a single-use plastic bottle of water, for example, when we live in a country where we can get clean drinking water straight from the tap! It is such a waste of precious fossil fuels. My re-usable bottle is so much nicer to drink out of too.

The health reason that struck a cord for me is that since the late 70's we have been surrounded by plastic. It touches our food, our drinks, our medicines and everything else. Let's be honest. We are offered plastic shopping bags to carry food that is often packed in at least one layer of packaging or plastic. Although the use of some plastic elements (think BPAs) are being phased out of products that touch food we don't really understand the potential impacts of the other components yet.

Since plastic doesn't break down in the environment for millions of years it fragments and is eaten by wildlife, particularly in the ocean. Apart from being terrible pollution the plastic is then passed up the food chain to humans. How can we begin to understand the flow on health effects of that for not just humans, but all of the animals impacted within the food chain? Hormone mimicking effects (again, such as BPAs) are also realised through the food chain, particularly in the ocean.

Image Source

The social impacts motivating me arose directly from Bag It. The movie talked about plastic recycling and how numbers 1 & 2 (in the recycling triangle) are the most readily recycled products (as opposed to numbers 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7). I know this is true because when I was working to increase plastic recycling at my work the only plastics that were collected (because they have a market) were numbers 1 & 2. Bag It explained that numbers 1 & 2 (which include PET plastic drink bottles) can easily be recycled into the lower grade of plastics (3-7). The lower grade of plastics, however, can't be recycled into a plastic of high enough quality to be economical. This means that plastic is generally only recycled once and then it becomes unusable waste.

When the higher quality plastics are collected and recycled they can be shipped to third world countries and processed in abominable working conditions. Workers sift through plastic waste and melt it down with no safety equipment. That is a pretty considerable social price for my plastic use.

On a more positive note I should mention what an amazing product plastic is. It can do so many things and it is so cheap to manufacture! In countries where there is no clean drinking water I'm sure many would suffer incredibly without it. It's like everything - let's try to use a great product responsibly so that we can continue to use it in a much nicer world for a much longer time.

Do you share my concerns about plastic? 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Plastic Free July in Our House

I'm a bit late with this post... We are already a week into July. I can barely believe it! Since Plastic Free July is such a great initiative, however, I want to share what our family is up to this month.

I have previously posted about how to use less cling wrap. That is a very simple and easy thing to stop using around the home. Our family already takes our own re-usable shopping bags into the shops (well, most of the time!), doesn't use straws, and uses re-usable water bottles. These items are good ones to start out with when you are beginning to cut back the plastic in your life.

My glass re-usable water bottle. Sure it cost more upfront but I love drinking out of it.

This month I am challenging our family to reduce single-use plastic even further by:

  • Buying more bulk products, such as oats, beans, lentils, sultanas, & cleaning products, by bringing my own containers to be refilled.

  • I have bought myself a reusable takeaway coffee cup (at last!). I rarely buy take away coffee since I feel too guilty about the waste. This is a very exciting purchase since I am now able to indulge on the run.

  • I am saving all of the single-use plastic packets that we finish throughout the month in a (re-usable!) shopping bag.  I will review these products each week to see if I can find ways to reduce or eliminate more plastic from our lives.

  • I have spoken to my child care centre about trialling using cloth nappies for Turtle on the day that she goes there each week. They have agreed to trial them this week. If it goes well then we will continue to use cloth at child care in future.

Have you already heard of Plastic Free July? Are you inspired to try and reduce your single-use plastic this month? Please share any tips and ideas below.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Secondhand Baby Market

I often feel like I live under a rock. This is especially true in relation to keeping up with the news. I've always been guilty of it but with a baby I am so completely in the dark about current affairs it's quite embarrassing. I just never find time to watch, read or listen to the news. After I finish writing this I will surf the news sites (well maybe :-)).

Generally I do feel pretty "in the know" with sustainability type things though (since that's what I do, isn't it??). Recently, however, I found out about secondhand baby markets from a pregnant friend and couldn't believe that I had NEVER heard of them. It's devastating really since Turtle is now 20 months old. Although I don't need much baby stuff anymore I really wanted to check it out and right this wrong in my life.

I was too busy shopping to take a photo of the market - oops! Image Source

As market day approached I considered bailing on the event since I didn't need that much and life was busy. I'm so glad I went along. Apart from seeing what it was like I also wanted to buy size 2 winter clothes for Turtle.

The markets delivered. We rocked up at 9am and entered the hall. There was a variety of clothes, toys, shoes, bouncers, and general baby "stuff" across the stalls. The first stall I saw was Booty Crawl, whose nappy packs for beginners have been highly recommended to me by cloth nappy users. Apparently they make finding the right MCN style much easier and could have saved me a lot of stress had I known.

Turtle rocking her new purple jeans from the market with a secondhand raincoat I bought off Gumtree.

I bought 2 gorgeous dresses (ok, so one was a summer dress), 2 jumpsuits or onesies, 2 jumpers, 3 pairs of jeans, two very nice long sleeved tops, 4 basic singlets, a pair of flannelette PJs, two pairs of tracksuit pants, gorgeous floral shoes (that Turtle is in love with), and a toy mobile phone. All for the bargain price of $80.

It was a very successful shopping trip. These warm, cosy (cheap, secondhand - woo hoo!!) basics will make life so much easier when we are changing her 2 or 3 times each day. She is constantly covering herself with food, or playing with dirt, or... or... whatever else takes her fancy.

I just wish I had known about the market earlier!

Can you relate? Have you come across anything lately that made you feel like you live under a rock?

Today I'm joining With Some Grace for FYBF!