Harriet Hubbard Ayer make up compact

Look what I found at an antique store! A compact make up case that perfectly suits the powdered foundation I’ve been wearing. Life without packaging can pose some practicality challenges… I’ve been getting powder ERRYWHERE!

Want your own low waste library? Buy, swap, sell! Need another gift idea? Books! 

I grew up in a library. My dad had thousands of books in his study. At the heart, was a set of second-hand lounge chairs, a coffee table and lots of painting supplies. It smelt like old books and tobacco. That’s where we’d spend time together as a family. During philosophical conversations, he would refer to his books just like we google questions today. Sometimes he’d read us a poem or a passage of interest.

Every Sunday, Dad would take me on garage sale adventures to hunt for more books. He would sell, swap or keep them. Every book allowed him to exchange for a better book. About 3000 books passed through his study in this way. I didn’t know it, but I was being trained in the art of book dealing.

I remember yearly trips to ikea to buy more bookshelves. Dad created aisles and nooks so he could fit more in the room.

Later, I worked at a second hand bookshop for a short spell. I understood the value of certain titles so I was able to buy books as well as sell them.

Today, I use this experience to keep a steady flow of books in our home. Like Dad, I want my books to flow in and out. In contrast to Dad, I don’t want to buy more bookshelves 😆 This is my approach: Periodically, I take a pile of titles to @brownandbunting to exchange for more books or cash. They have a good idea of what I like, so they recommend new books for me to read. The ones that I can’t sell are given to the street library at the tram stop. That way, they’ve got the best chance of their pages being turned.

On selling books: Second hand bookshops are competing with @amazon, so they often prefer near new quality (unless it’s a rare first edition). Near new sells better because it’s a socially acceptable gift. You can help preserve the quality of your book by not folding pages, bending the spine, or throwing soft cover books into a handbag with scratchy keys. Love your books and they’ll live forever. There is nothing quite like the amazing smell of a great second hand book

Low waste gifts.

I love giving gifts to people that I admire. It’s a special ritual that allows me to show my appreciation for an individual. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always hit the target. I believe the best way to avoid waste at Christmas is to help others navigate the gift giving. It would be so much easier if I had some hints.

Have a think about what you want for Christmas. To maintain the joy and surprise of the gesture, it shouldn’t be too specific.

Got some ideas? Now, tell one person. Preferably someone close to you with instructions that they must pass it on if anyone asks 😉

For me? I don’t need or want anything. Plus I am the WORST because my birthday is 2 days before Christmas. If I love giving gifts then I should make it fair for others too. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about what you might like… What would make me happy? A membership that also gets me an experience! A gift voucher for a bulk foods store! A holiday! Or something that helps me have a holiday! Concert tickets (Sidenote: this concert changed my life and was the catalyst for our move from Sydney to Melbourne) Tea! A cleaner ocean! Beeswax so I can make more balm! A nice dinner! Essential oils! A cuddle! Soap! Less plastic! Pretty handkerchiefs! A true democracy! Plants or seeds! A caravan home experience! Less exclamation marks! Homemade dukka! Less poverty! And any zero waste goodies from brands I trust and admire!

Zero Waste Christmas gift ideas

There’s still time to discuss more minimal approaches to gift giving (ie secret santa, gifts for kids only, plastic free, etc – more ideas in this post #christmasgifts203). Here’s a bunch of gifts that I’ve received/given that I found successful:

  • Mini homemade product samples (maybe steer clear of deodorant balm and toothpowder unless you’re absolutely sure the receiver is into it)
  • Donations or memberships (I loved having a @zoosvictoria membership for my 30th birthday)
  • Homemade marmalade, iced tea, dukka, beer or bread
  • Soap blocks such as coffee body scrub, shampoo bars, etc (@ethiquenz have a great range of different plastic free products)
  • Beeswax wraps (Surprisingly expensive so they make great gifts for those that have expressed an interest to try but were turned off by the price)
  • Experience tokens or workshops
  • Show/concert tickets
  • Plastic free toys and bamboo/hemp blankets for babies
  • Linen napkins, or special tea towels that also double as wrapping
  • Boutique beer and wine
  • Take away coffee cup or thermos: my favourites are @keepcup and @t2tea – Cash! A teenager’s favourite gift of all time 😜
Multipurpose beeswax balm | Ain’t no Planet B

Orange marmalade | Ain't no Planet B
When we have too many oranges, we make marmalade, orange juice and orange cleaner.
Low waste gifts
Low waste gifts

Successfully avoided the freebies.

Staying in a hotel for a few nights and we successfully avoided the freebies. These little rascals can be a tempting way to create waste. Other things we’ve done include leaving a “do not disturb” sign to avoid unnecessary cleaning of our room, separating our recycling in the hope that staff will dispose of responsibly, minimising air con usage, using only one bin for our very minimal landfill (this avoids multiple bin liners being replaced); and sneakily burying coffee grounds / compost in the hotel garden (mwahahahaaa). 🤓Burying coffee grounds just before the cleaner walked by gave me an adolescent adrenalin rush like I was skipping class or hiding a cigarette from the headmaster. Highly recommend for those who like to play it fast and loose

One million dollaridoos is destroyed every hour.

Why is Australian money always crisp? Australia’s damaged bank note policy!! One million dollaridoos is destroyed every hour. It’s shredded and melted into pebbles of plastic reused to make building components, plumbing fittings, compost bins and other household and industrial products.

🏦From the reserve bank: “The Reserve Bank of Australia aims to have only good quality banknotes in circulation. This helps to maintain confidence in Australia’s currency by making it easier for people to check the security features on banknotes and make it more difficult for counterfeits to be passed or remain in circulation.
The Reserve Bank works with authorised deposit taking institutions (ADIs) and cash centre operators to remove damaged banknotes from circulation as soon as practicable.”

Something about this feels really conflicting to me. I like that our money is kept as secure as possible. I don’t like how much is being wasted, but happy to hear that’s it’s reduced since the 1990s. I like that our polymer money is easier to recycle, compared to paper money. I don’t like the inefficiency and futility of this as a workflow. Because our money is so familiar, it makes me question everything around me. What else is being deliberately destroyed for the sake of newness? Are there similar policies overseas?

One million dollaridoos is destroyed every hour.
One million dollaridoos is destroyed every hour.

White handkerchiefs kinda pass for tissues.

Second hand find: handkerchiefs. I have a theory that white handkerchiefs will seem less gross for onlookers. Kinda looks more like a tissue. It’s just a theory based on my own self-consciousness but it might encourage me to sniffle less on crowded public transport

Reusable food court cutlery

I got served. Thank you @emporiummelbourne for a food court system that enables so many restaurants to go #zerowaste. Not only is it an environmentally friendly approach, but it also makes it easier to eat! Funny that reusable cutlery can make a meal seem so luxuriously gourmet. Thank you for serving us dinnerware realness.

Re-purposing old cologne

When we first cleared out our toiletries, we found a dormant cologne bottle that was given to us as a Christmas present. As lovely as it is, the perfume didn’t seem to get much use. Instead of donating a partially used perfume to charity (where it will also sit dormant on a shelf), we use it as a room spray in the bathroom and cupboards. It’s absolutely perfect for this. And it’s even made a comeback for the body as well.

Aside from gifts, I now avoid spray perfume because I’ve discovered that essential oils are far more versatile. I dab a little oil on my wrists and mix it into my homemade deodorant. I also use essential oils to perfume our clothes with our homemade fabric softener (white vinegar + a drop of essential oil).

All of these little luxuries help us to feel pampered as we minimise everything and form new habits. This kind of positive reinforcement is a key part of successful habit-forming.


My approach to zero waste home decor is: Try to buy quality; Favour natural materials; Choose a design that gets better with age; Look after it, and accept that scratches and marks are part of its story.

Rather than getting a small dining table and extra bench space, we saved and got one massive table for the kitchen/living/dining. We cook, eat, paint, drink, sew, draw, play and work at this table. It’s been the conduit of many amazing conversations.

I’ve found that buying quality second hand or upcycled items gives a clue on how an item will age. Plus it comes with the ever-so-intriguing element of mystery history  Table from @nookvintage