Is zero waste and green living a middle and upper class luxury?

 
Bulk Bags Photo by paul morris on Unsplash
Photo by paul morris on Unsplash

This morning on the radio I listened to the end of a segment where they mentioned that some people think consider “green living” (which includes things like zero waste, but also all levels of sustainability), to be a luxury only afforded by the well educated, and middle and upper classes in our society. They went on to say that these sort of movements actually contribute to more of a class divide in our society.

At first listening to this really shocked me, as I haven’t really heard much negative press for green living before. Luke and I had literally spent hours last night talking about the ideas and principles of zero waste, and how we could reduce our waste further. But I tried to consider what I had heard (especially having only heard the end of it), and think if this was really true.

The more I thought about it, and talked it through the more I decided that it wasn’t an accurate representation of green living and zero waste. I do agree that middle and upper class citizens do have more opportunity to change their lives to green living quicker, and with less hardship, but that is actually a luxury they have for pretty much every issue they want to pursue. And to be honest, I don’t think that we should be trying to criticise anyone who sees an issue, learns about it, and then takes action to improve their life and the world around them.

As I pondered all this I ended up brainstorming a whole bunch of different ways that low income families could reduce their waste with little cost. I’ve listed them below.

  1. Sell off unused and unwanted goods.
  2. Refuse plastic bags. If you buy a couple of reusable shopping bags from the supermarket (not the best, but certainly better than the standard plastic bags) each week it wouldn’t take long to have enough to do your whole shopping. If you’re handy with the sewing machine, you could even use old clothes or spare fabric to make your own bags
  3. Refuse straws. 
  4. Compost. It doesn’t take much to start a compost heap in your back yard, but even if you don’t have a back yard to compost in, there are many community garden projects around (particularly in our area – Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast) that would happily have a compost heap.
  5. Bake snacks and treats instead of buying them. Making a round of ANZAC slice, or cupcakes will be a lot less wasteful then buying them pre-made (and individually wrapped!!) in the supermarket.
  6. Make sure you recycle everything possible. The local tips do EXCELLENT talks and interactive sessions on recycling and zero waste, so it’s well worth calling them to book in a time so you can find out all about what can and can’t be recycled. Better yet, organise a group so more people can learn!
  7. Turn your jars into storage! I have a lovely shelf of glass jars that I keep all my pantry items in, and MOST of these jars are just leftover pasta sauce bottles or the like. Reusing stuff you have in a different way is a great way to get greener with no cost.

Lastly I just wanted to say that even though I do happen to be a well educated middle class person, most of the knowledge that I have on zero waste and green living is from free sources. It’s from following blogs and instagram accounts, and searching for things on Pinterest. I know how to compost stuff because I binge watched a ton of youtube videos one time. So the point of that is to say that information is all around you, and you just have to get out there and be hungry for it!

Rubbish Photo by Bas Emmen on Unsplash
Photo by Bas Emmen on Unsplash

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Family of 5 – No Spend Month

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Today is Rosh Chodesh Iyar (well, technically the 30th of Nissan – but that’s just how the Hebrew months work sometimes…). This month we are doing a no spend month!

Why a no spend month?

The easiest way to sum up why I want to have a no spend month is this – I want us all to get out of the habit of mindless spending. I want our family to move past common consumerism, and to be more grateful for what we have.

I am obsessed with watching videos on youtube about tiny living, minimalism, and simple living. I love those things, and I yearn for them to be more true to my own life when I watch those videos, but the reality is I feel like my life is far from it.

Last week when I came to a head on this, and thought back, I could see that my children were consistently asking for things every time we would go somewhere. Sometimes big things (“I’ll put it on your Wishlist for your birthday” I’d say), and more often small things, $2 things, ya know? Annoying little toys from machines, or their favourite chocolate. Often I would say yes, either to appease them, or to get out of the shops quickly, or even sometimes because I wanted them to be happy and to reward them (or bribe them).

We end up with a hole in the wallet, and crappy toys filling our house.

I could see that the kids were not content with what they had, and worse than that they were always “bored” – so what good were these annoying toys?

Luke and I have been doing a lot of extra spending the last few months – we’ve been using our extra income to buy some big ticket items (new bed, new mattress, photo books, conversion application, mower etc. These were all necessary things, and we don’t regret buying them, but having the extra income also made us (maybe just me?!) a bit more lazy with sticking rigidly to the budget – things like my acupuncture and herbs aren’t technically in the budget, and I have spent a bit of extra money investing in health things. Again, I’m not saying this was so bad, I’m just saying it contributes to a lazy budget attitude, and it’s something I want to reign in.

In summary, I want to give everyone in our family a spending detox, and help us make good decisions about our spending in the future.

You’ve still gotta eat! What can you buy?

Of course! We still have to eat, and pay our bills, and there’s no way around that. I asked on instagram stories for some suggestions of what we should put on our “can spend” list, and got some great answers. Here’s our list:

  • Groceries (stick to the grocery list though, and no extras snuck in like magazines or Diet Coke at the checkout!)
  • Paying bills
  • Acupuncture (am considering this a health bill as we’ve already made a commitment to continue it for a certain amount of time)
  • Petrol

Any extra money from this will just be put into the kitty (we use a cash based system) for some sort of family experience at the end of it all (zoo day, ice-cream party… etc.), or give to a charity – depends how much (or even IF!) we save anything.

Out of interest, what can’t you buy?

So basically we can’t use our bank cards for anything other than to get the cash out that we need.

No online purchases – no games, no apps, no things we’ve been wanting that come up on special (because they totally will now that we’ve committed to this).

No coffees, no buying snacks, no spending money to buy whatever we life (for me that’s often art supplies or crystals). You get the idea, right?

No take-away, no random grocery top-ups above the standard grocery budget, no buying lunch when we’re out.

What do you foresee to be the main challenges?

Surprisingly, I don’t expect the kids to be a bit problem. We will sit down with them today and talk about it (I will try to tie it into our daily study of the sefirot as we count the omer), explain why we’re doing it, and how long it will go for. They usually respond well to these types of scenarios, so while there could be a few hairy days, in general I think they’ll be fine.

I actually think the hardest thing with me will be not buying snacks/lunch out. For example, today we are going up the coast to visit my parents, and will stay overnight. We’ll be out and about during lunch time tomorrow, and usually I’d just buy some lunch. In this particular situation it should be okay, as I only needed to do a small grocery shop this week, and have some spare money from that, so I can technically buy them lunch. BUT to keep with the spirit of it I’ll just be heading to Coles and getting some “real food” things (even if it’s just bread and peanut butter), rather than going to a food court for sushi.

The other hard challenge will be resisting sale items as they come up.

Awesome!

So that’s what we’re doing! I hope it will be a good exercise in self control, and that we’ll be able to stick to it. I am woman of extremes, and so my first thought was definitely to do it for a whole year, but I wasn’t really sure we were up to that! If this works out well, I think it would be a great exercise to do again later in the year!

It’s possible that emergency things will come up. That’s okay. This isn’t some sort of massive things I absolutely can’t fail at – if we need to buy new tyres, or there’s something we have to pay for for school, that’s also okay. For these sort of things though my decision making tool will be to ask myself if it needs to be bought NOW, or if it can wait until next month. And its level of urgency.

How To Take A Break From Facebook

Whether you like it or not, you will probably find that quite a lot of your life is connected to facebook. Sometimes this is great – finding our information, connecting with people and making friends, and knowing about fun events. But sometimes it’s bad (and hard to escape!). For those of us who end up being a bit addicted to facebook and social media in general it can become important to take a little break in order to re-calibrate, and make space for bigger things.

But taking a break from facebook isn’t always easy. Earlier in the year when I had considered taking a break from facebook I wondered how I would do it. How would I know when the next homeschooling event was on? We were only newly moved to the area, so I was quite reliant on the facebook groups to meet new people and connect with homeschooling events. How will I update my blog / business’s facebook page? How would I keep up to date with other important things? How would I connect with friends? Eek!

Here’s how I did it: 

To solve most of these problems I simply made a second facebook account with no friends. With this new account I joined only the groups I desperately NEEDED to be part of.

Step 1: Log out of your current facebook account, and then create a new account.

Step 2: Choose a different profile picture (so the next step is less confusing), and make a status update that says something like “I’m taking a break from facebook, and this account is purely for keeping up to date with XYZ. Please do not contact me via this account or send me a friend request. You can contact me via [email protected] or 04….my phone number…”

Make sure it’s a public status update. Also, take a screen shot of this status and make it your cover photo, so it’s super clear for people.

Step 3: Make friends with your original facebook account, so that you can easily invite yourself to the pages you admin, or the groups you’re part of.

Step 4: Log out, and log back into your original facebook account (the ones with all the friends, and all the stuff). Accept your new friend request from yourself, and make yourself an admin of the pages you manage, and approve yourself to join the groups you need to be part of. You may need to contact a group admin and just explain what you’re doing, as a secondary account with no friends of a person who’s already part of the group is a bit sus! So just let them know that you’re taking a break from facebook, but still want to keep updated with what’s happening in the group so want to join again with your temporary account.

Step 5 (optional): Log back into your new account and check you’re part of the groups you need. Request to join them on your own if you need to.

Step 6: Deactivate your original account! Facebook hates this, and you have to just through quite a few hoops in order to deactivate it.

Now, this is just a deactivation – you can reactivate it at any time and keep your history and your friends and your photos and what not when you’re done re-setting. If you want to permanently delete it, well, that’s next level.

And there, you’re done! 

When I first did this it did not reduce the amount of times a day I went to check my facebook, but every time I went there, there was basically nothing to do or see there, and so the TIME I spent was very minimal. And boring. So basically I’ve been training my brain that facebook is a boring place. So hopefully, if I do go back, I will have learnt that 1. facebook isn’t fun and 2. I can make better use of my time.

Kids are awake, gotta run (to bed)!

Feature photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

 

Post Natal Depression Awareness Week

During the week I went on the radio to talk about my experience with post-natal depression, and how social media possibly contributes to this problem. It was a good experience, and I wanted to follow it up with some more thoughts to re-iterate what I’d said there, and also add some additional information.

For those that don’t know, I suffered post-natal depression after the birth of my first son. His birth was hard, and he suffered a dairy intolerance as a baby.  I was helpless, and hurting that my baby was hurting. I yelled and cried, and when I told the health nurse, or the GP at mine or his checkups I was repeatedly told that he was fine – he didn’t have the right symptoms for ANY sort of problem, and it was just colic. Oh, and that I was probably exaggerating things. 

// Having people not believe you because you are a first time mum is very hurtful, and certainly contributes to higher PND in first time mums //

// Find a good GP! If your GP doesn’t take your concerns seriously, or doesn’t believe you, just find a new one. Seriously. There are actually heaps of GREAT GPs out there, you just have to find them (and probably wait for an appointment!) //

After a few months of this, my thyroid totally spun out, although I didn’t know that was the problem at the time. By this stage I had discovered Lior’s dairy intolerance, and we had things mostly under control, but the damage was done. I suffered in silence for many many months after that, and at 13 months postpartum I went to a new doctor and was diagnosed with post-natal depression. Even that part of the story did go smoothly, and I was screwed over by the mental health services at the local hospital. I gave up, and Luke, Lior & I put everything we owned into storage and hung out in Israel for a while, where I found myself not only cured, healthy, happy and at peace, but also after not too long a time, pregnant again. Ha!

// Definitely not saying everyone should just pack up and move to Israel, but also… it’s a miraculous land… // 

// Holidays are great – don’t underestimate the power of changing your routine and lifestyle for a period of time //

I re-wrote the above story of my first year of motherhood, it made it sound horrific, and terrible every day, but in reality it wasn’t. I had lots of really great days, and in general I soldiered on, making the most of my life, and appreciating what a gift it was to be a mother, and to have my darling little boy. He was adorable, and lovely, and I loved spending time with him. And I think lots of people would attest to this being their reality when they experience  post-natal depression. Little things being fine, and yes to fun things, yes to laughing, yes to generally “coping”, but having a bit of a cloud hanging over you. To have the running theme of your life somehow being hardship and sadness, even though rationally you know that this is not so much the case.

// PND is different for everyone – having someone to regularly talk to is a great way to keep things in check and notice when that cloud just won’t go away. I’m sorry to tell you that this person is almost definitely not your husband, or your mum. //

As I said on the radio, if you’re a mum (new or “old”!), then finding the right tribe on social media is so important, and during my second pregnancy I found that. Finding people who’s parenting style you resonate with, and who are honest about the ups and downs of motherhood. No one wants to watch people sad and moping online, but also it’s not helpful only seeing the highlight reel.

// You might find that by being honest you actually help other people. If you’re someone who is open about their own realities, then you might make people feel safe enough to ask you for help should they need it. //

My personal manifesto for using social media is to keep things real, and being mostly positive. Sometimes, times are tough, and life is just not positive. It’s about a year ago that I got some hard core burnout from over-commiting myself, and that was actually pretty hard to share online, but I’m glad I did. I hope it helps someone else not over-commit themselves. Sharing the tired days when my baby didn’t sleep, and I am desperate for coffee – this is real life, and I share this too. Sharing the joy my kids bring me, and things they do that make me proud – this is also super important, and part of what makes a strong online community. We’re about to embark on a three week trip with 3 small children and a 20 hour transit, so if you’re keen to see the fun and also the hard of travelling with kids, definitely head over to my instagram. 🙂

// Be honest! Be vulnerable! But this is partly why having that right tribe is important. If you’re surrounded by people who like to give tons of advice when you didn’t ask for it, or judge you for give them the ol’ heave ho, and block them. Aint nobody got time for that. //

// On one of our trips both our kids weed and pood in their clothes whilst sleeping on a 12 hour flight. That was incredibly fun. Not. Hopefully nothing like that will happen on this flight!! //

I just wanted to lastly add that if you’re a husband, keep an eye on your wife. Don’t let things get so bad. If you’re a wife, even if you may have PND yourself, don’t forget your husband! I think men actually get PND in a different way, but quite frequently, it’s just not diagnosed (and they can get through it a bit easier, because they don’t have the hormonal interference. But still, a psychologist can really help. If you’re in Australia, just go talk to your GP about it, and you can most likely get a bunch of free session to see if it’s going to help you!

// Post-natal depression is not a women only issue. Men can also suffer post-natal depression. //

// Post-natal depression not only affects you, but also your spouse, baby, and other children. Seeking help is the best thin you can do, if not for yourself, then for the people you live with who are affected. //

Photo by S S on Unsplash

Finding Flow – prayer, the beach and painting.

We love our beach days. Apart from family and friends, the beach is definitely the number one thing I miss about living on the coast. Actually probably the only other thing. And miss it I certainly do. Last weekend, as I lay on the sand watching the kids make sand castles and memories I felt so sure that this was my happy place.

I listened to a podcast about “flow” the other day. I tried to think about how that fit into my life as a mother with small children, as a homeschooling mother, as an artist, and how I could achieve it. Definitely with meditation and prayer – which go hand in hand for me, and something I do most day. Saying the Amidah in the mornings. Art journaling and painting – specifically the abstract intuitive pages. But also, the beach. The rhythm of the waves coming in and going out. The connection with nature (I am a lover of earthing), and the feeling of my skin soaking up Vitamin D. A happy place for sure, but also definitely a “flow” place, and a place of inspiration and rejuvenation. A holy place in many ways I guess!

finding your flow at the beach / family playing joyfully at the beach finding your flow at the beach / seaweed at Maroochydore finding your flow at the beach / boy playing joyfully at the beach finding your flow at the beach / boy playing joyfully at the beach finding your flow at the beach / family playing joyfully at the beach finding your flow at the beach / Mother and son finding your flow at the beach / family playing joyfully at the beach finding your flow at the beach / boy playing joyfully at the beach finding your flow at the beach / boy playing joyfully at the beach finding your flow at the beach / boy playing joyfully at the beach finding your flow at the beach / boy playing joyfully at the beach

My baby aint a baby anymore

My baby, my sweet little girl is 21 months old tomorrow. When her eldest brother was this old I was nearly ready to pop with her second brother. When her second brother was this old, I was more than half way through my pregnancy with her. 

This week I realised she’s not a baby anymore. She’s big. She has long legs, and tells big stories with her hands. She is sneaky and cheeky, and can follow almost any instruction you give her. She has a cute little bob haircut and her clothes are size 2. TWO! Geeze. She is not a baby anymore. When her brothers got this big I was relieved and excited for the next stage of toddlerhood, especially because I was also looking forward to the arrival of a new little squish. But this time it’s different.

I do plan to have another child. Heck, I might even go crazy and have two more children. But not now. Her brothers didn’t scream this loud or high pitched, they weren’t as emotional, and they didn’t still feed 3+ times during the night and at any possible chance (even asking when I’m on the toilet!) during the day. I know my body needs a little rest from the stress and pressure of pregnancy, birth, and the first year after, but knowing this rationally does not stop me being a little sentimental, and a little sad, that I definitely don’t have a baby in my house anymore.

Of course I don’t want to be all down about her growing up – it is after all a great blessing and a really joy to see her and her brothers grow and mature each day. Luke and I are often commenting to each other saying “Wow, don’t you think Eli is so grown up with his words?!” or “Do you remember when Lior couldn’t read ANYTHING, and now he can sounds stuff out so good!”, “I love that Ahava is so great at helping and sharing now.” etc. So in honour of that gift, here are some things that make me grateful to have a full blown toddler daughter instead of a baby one.

  1. She’s fun. She loves to read and play peek-a-boo and do games and things like this. She has a lovely smile.
  2. She is a good helper. She can go fetch things, and follow instructions. She likes to be in on the action, which I usually get frustrated with, but am making a conscious effort to be grateful for and to try and include her more rather than just giving her a different task.
  3. I absolutely 100% love the way she stares and copies. Sometimes it’s me she copies (cue cute games we can play!), but often it is her brothers. She simple HAS to be the same as them and have her own little crown if we’re making crowns (lovely Rosh Hashanah craft), or if the boys are playing dressing ups she also wants to to play dress ups. 
  4. She is able to really show love in a tangible way. We all know babies love us, or at least need us and feel attached to us, but it’s so nice when they’re older enough to express it. She gives cuddles and kisses, and pats on the back. 
  5. Toddlers are cute. Need I say more?
  6. Toddler babble – also cute.
  7. Also, I can put her hair up now, and even though she HATES having her hair brushed she loves having her hair done up & often insists on it (yes, this makes hair time just as difficult as you imagine it to be…)

Ahava Miriam

An Introduction

Hello! I’m Talia, and this is my blog.

I’ve been blogging with WordPress since 2005, and this little blog is my latest re-invention. I’ll get into more of that later, but first let me do the normal instructions.

I’m married and have three kids. We live in Brisbane, QLD, Australia. A beautiful part of the world. We homeschool, and are lovers of the outdoors and nature. We recently made a big God-driven move to Brisbane to start attending an Orthodox Synagogue. Our experience so far has been really positive, and we’re grateful for the way this community has welcomed us, and for the things we are constantly learning about ourselves.

Some of you will be here because you’ve followed The Climbing Tree for many years, but when you get here you’ll notice that there’s (practically) no content left here! Perhaps you’re wondering why that is. Towards the end of 2016 and into the start of 2017 I had a case of burnout. I was unable to stay awake past 10am (but you know, there’s only so much napping with you can do with 3 kids under 4, so I would power on…) and my whole body felt heavy. My doctor did some surveys and tests and my stress and anxiety were off the chart (not ACTUALLY off the chart – just really high!), and so I took a break. Actually, I went a little crazy, and I deleted everything on this blog, and I deleted everything from my Facebook, and all sorts of things. That’s a bit of another conversation though.

Looking back now, almost a year since this first started, but probably 8 months since I actually acted on it, this was all part of the breaking away from the “old me” to embrace the new purpose and life Hashem has for me. A bit of a cocoon situation, you know? I’m sure I’ll talk about that more in future blog posts.

This blog isn’t necessarily a religious blog, but in all honestly, this is such a huge part of my life, that even when I try to just talk about homeschooling I end up talking about the parasha studies the kids are doing. Even just about art journaling seems to focus on spiritual matters. Not that I’m complaining!

I’m not here to teach you – even though I am, and always will be a teacher, my focus has to be on teaching my children as we homeschool, and learning about God through the lens of Judaism. This is my calling right now,  and perhaps one day I will be at a place to teach adults. For now I just want to share my life here on this blog and the things that I’m learning and doing. 🙂