I am so moved by the recent surge of interest within our local community to not only use less plastic on a day to day basis, but to change our approach to living, making more sustainable lifestyle decisions. When interviewing the lovely Sarah Tait of Wander Lightly, she acknowledged how much harder it can be for mums and families to live a plastic free life. So I thought how fabulous it would be to speak with a local family who are on their own journey to do just this.
Meet the Georgesons. Mavournee (affectionately known as Mav) and her husband, Kano, live with their two beautiful children, Ivy and Beau, in Avalon. They love being outdoors, connected with nature and are passionate about our community and taking care of the beautiful earth we live on. Mav is one of the most kind and generous spirits that I have the pleasure to call a friend. She is calm, collected and seems to take everything in her stride. Despite her busy schedule and having already given me an afternoon of her time, when disaster hit and my toddler took it on himself to give my phone (and our recent taped interview) a soak in the bath, Mav was quick to offer to write up her answers and review any questions I had. Mav is benevolent and big-hearted. She is open to sharing her learning, thoughts and ideas and ready to pass on clothes her kids have outgrown and to lend out books that she has found inspirational. Despite being time poor like all of us – she always makes her self available to catch up with friends and invariably seems to manage to bring enough food with her to share around. She is an organised, interested, passionate and engaged people person, befriending all those who come into her company. Oh and did I mention she is extremely creative? And an amazing cake decorator to boot!
Kano, Mav, Ivy and Beau
What brings you joy?
I love the simple pleasures of home, beach life, good food and time with family and friends. If I can get an ocean swim and a workout in each day or a few times a week I’m stoked. Getting outside in nature, mountains, countryside, wherever! I love a chat so getting plenty of those in with friends or people in the community always brings me happiness'
What motivated you to start living more sustainably? Was there a specific time/moment where you decided to make a change or has it been more of a gradual process?
I had always considered myself a fairly conscious person, a nature lover, someone in touch with environmental issues. But becoming a mother was a turning point for me.
With my first pregnancy with Ivy we made fairly good eco choices preparing for her arrival, but it was a light hearted, exciting time. It was during my second pregnancy with Beau that things shifted. I was more sensitive and vulnerable and was tuning in to that. I started to really question humanity and modern living and experienced big fear coming from a place of deep love for the children and their future. At times I felt debilitated with worry and thoughts which circled around in my head.
I felt over whelmed by the impact of humanity on the environment and deflated thinking about the world we are bringing our children into. Our society is now so disconnected from our world as a whole. It weighed on me heavily and distracted me from my enjoyment of daily tasks.
There were moments where I found myself frozen staring into our rubbish bin. I felt terrible about our contribution to landfill. This actually become one of my main starting points for change. The more I learnt about landfill the worse I felt about throwing things in the bin.
I started researching sustainability and how to live a more sustainable life. Through this I deepened my wonder and understanding of life’s’ interconnectedness. With time, lots of crying, good discussions and guidance I sat with the phrase ‘I do not know’ for the future and turned fear into peace. I decided to focus on living positively in the present, on educating myself and on gradually making eco changes within our family life. I wanted to continue to deepen my own and my family’s connection to nature by actively making changes within our own family to protect the planet as a whole, re-shaping our habits and decisions accordingly. Living on the beaches I was also particularly motivated to cut back on our plastic waste after learning more about the the masses of garbage in the ocean. I felt compelled to protect our oceans health and Earth’s biodiversity.
More and more we are exposed to images of and information about the worlds general plastic and waste problem. For me there was no other choice but to do something!
What were the first steps that you took to live more sustainably?
We had already been shopping for mostly organic food, using reusable options such as water bottles, coffee cups, shopping bags and purchasing what we thought were more eco-friendly home and life products. But we decided to be even more resolute with avoiding single-use plastic and set ourselves the challenge of reducing our purchase of plastic packaged food products.
Visiting the Boathouse at Palmy with their reusable cups
Instead of going to the supermarket we started buying our fruit and vegetables from the organic store in Avalon, getting our meat directly from butcher with our own glass containers and buying fresh bread from the bakery using fabric storage bags. I started to use scoop in Mona Vale for all our beans, lentils, grains, pasta, rice, flours, sugars, nuts and for snacks such a dried fruit and chocolate. Then eventually I added Manly Food Coop to my list to get our cleaning products.
Many nights when the kids were in bed I started researching on google, Pinterest and Instagram any questions that would pop into my head, like: local recycling guidelines, compost information and other random things such as what to do with human hair or dryer lint… why we should avoid palm oil and is salt a renewable resource? When I wasn’t searching for something specifically I would do general searches for Eco toys, frugal tips, simple or sustainable living and save some ideas to Pinterest. I started following blogs and people on Instagram for inspiration. And since it is important for this to be a positive journey for me, I am careful with who I chose to follow. I want it to be a joy-filled process.
Getting fishy with their plastic collection post-storm clean up on Avalon Beach
Have you continued to make other changes since? What are you and your family now focusing on for your plastic-free sustainable journey?
Well, when we need a new item for the kids or home I do my best to find the more ethical version of that item. We recently got Ivy a single bed and found an awesome secondhand hardwood base and mattress on Northern Beaches Buy Sell Swap – she loves it and its perfect!
I particularly like being resourceful with our food. For example, semi stale bread becomes French toast, really stale bread becomes breadcrumbs for future meals, sad veggies become soup or stock. If I get stuck with beetroot, I bake it into a cake or pickle it in vinegar. I often mix the leftover vinegar with milk to make pink buttermilk for chocolate mud cake. I love making mismatched, experimental meals to achieve zero waste food! It all sounds simple – which it is!
I like getting involved with people in real life so I took the Compost and Worm Farm Workshop and the Introduction to Permaculture Workshop with Peter Rutherford at Eco House and Garden in Kimbriki. I loved doing these FREE workshops and highly recommend them for locals!
In April I signed the family up for Sustainable Table’s Give A Fork Campaign choosing the ‘Drop Dead Grexy’ (Green/Sexy) option where we had to collect all of our trash in a jar for the month. This focused on ethical eating and was super informative as we received a daily email with tips, links, real statistics and recommendations for products and places to eat.
I also signed up for Zero Waste Families hosted via Facebook by the Spiral Garden family. This was a number of families sharing zero waste living information, tips and ideas. Plus, we participated in Plastic Free July and Take 3 Representative Regan Jade Taylor (@reganjade) sent daily emails to help the process.
With each step I realise this journey is a rabbit hole, you learn about something new which connects to something else and leads you further in. Also when you think you are making good choices you often find there are even better choices. For example, buying earth friendly cleaning products and recycling their containers turns into keeping their containers and refilling them at a bulk store or making your own! Now I am even soaking orange skins with white vinegar in old Passata jars to be used for cleaning and then composting the the skin after! But you just need to focus on one step at a time.
Some things happened more slowly due to nerves and it taking me time to build new habits. Like taking our own container to get meat from the butcher and keeping jars, bags and containers in the car for when we encounter food leftovers eating out. We gave away our leftover roll of cling wrap and garbage bags and now use beeswax wraps or jars/containers instead and newspaper to line the bin.
Do you try to mainly eat organic foods?
We do where possible, but we are also taking into consideration the overall environmental benefit of our choices. For example, organic meat often comes in plastic packaging from the stores. So I would prefer to support our local butcher and buy grass-fed meat where I can take in my own glass containers.
What have been the easiest changes to make on your journey to being more sustainable?
Reusable water bottles, coffee cups and shopping bags are a piece of cake. I just won’t have a take away coffee now if I don’t have my reusable cup on me. I carry reusable cups, straws and bags on me.
Shopping in bulk has taken care of dry goods, oils, nut butters, cleaning products etc. And we buy our bread from La Banette or other bakeries and use linen and cotton bread bags (or you can use a pillow case) to keep the bread in the fridge. I try to remember my bread bag to pop the bread straight in at the bakery.
We now use a wonderful local fruit and vegetable service, The Organic Scarecrow. you can find them online. The veggie box is plastic free, organic, seasonal produce. They also collect the previous week’s box when they drop off the new one – so we don’t waste the cardboard. In the last few weeks we have also added Berkelo bread to our veggie box order.
I find that we can still have our coffees and treats at cafes and get ice cream in cones.
Ivy and Beau digging into the family’s The Organic Scarecrow veggie box delivery
What changes have been hardest to adjust to as a family?
I would probably say letting go of certain food products or brands that are hard to come by plastic free. It hasn’t been as challenging for me, as I don’t really have any attachment to particular food items. But Kano loves cookies and chips and the kids used to have cheese and yoghurt regularly. I now bake cookies for Kano to replace the packaged sort. It does take being organised and a lot of planning and thinking. I notice myself now thinking so much further ahead in my head. Not just for food planning but also for general running of the household. It has become easier as I have formed patterns, like taking my containers with me when I visit my sisters in Manly so that I can swing past the Manly Food Coop to collect my dishwashing detergent. When I am not organised or unexpected things pop up, like the kids or I get sick, it can be hard to keep on top of all my practices.
Polite refusal of children’s gifts, unnecessary/plastic toys, plastic party bags, trinkets and freebies will also take some getting used to.
Oh and nappies. Unfortunately, these are the only thing that we currently send to landfill.
What brands do you choose to purchase?
We use some modern washable cloth nappies and also disposable ‘eco-friendly’ nappies – Ecoriginals or Naty.
I realise that even if a nappy is more eco friendly/biodegradable or even compostable (in a commercial composting facility), we don’t easily have access to proper disposal facilities and even though they are deemed more gentle on the environment, they still require use of resources for production, transportation and disposal in landfill. There is a section on nappies in Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson which covers this topic. She makes suggestions which include ‘elimination communication’ and early toilet training.
We often collect loads of baby wipes during our beach cleans. What do you use for wipes? Any particular products or brands you recommend?
At home we use a washable wipes kit by Cheeky Wipes. It involves soaking cloth wipes in water and essential oils and does require you keep on top of washing. We dry these outside in the sun with any of the cloth nappies used. There are out and about pouches included in the kit, but we tend to use Wot Not biodegradable wipes when we are out or travelling.
You have made such incredible changes to your way of living to date. It is very inspiring. How has your husband Kano responded?
Kano is on board and has been making suggestions for some things that I hadn’t considered. It helps that he is handy, resourceful and a landscaper by trade. He leaves me to take care of the compost, so that’s my baby. Same with any food growing ideas. I try to shine the light on the positive benefits of the things he is hesitant about.
And what about family members and friends. Have they been receptive?
Friends and family members are great. I try to be positive and not forceful or annoying with information. I am passionate but its not all I want to talk about. Lots of our friends share kids’ items and currently we are fortunate enough to use almost all hand me down clothes for Ivy and Beau. We buy shoes and items here and there but haven’t really had to go shopping for seasons worth of clothes. We keep passing these on, they come back to us and then we store them to be handed on to new babies. Our moses basket started with Ivy 3 years ago and since then has had 8 other newborn babies sleep in it.
Do you have any particular ongoing family goals to improve your sustainability?
We are still learning and implementing this lifestyle and it takes planning and practice. We are not perfect, not the most ‘green’ family out there and certainly don’t think we are better than other families! We make mistakes and it takes time to introduce new habits and adapt. We will continue to work our way around the home, our businesses and life applying ‘zero waste’ and sustainable alternatives.
Right now I am keen to grow food and explore alternative energy options like solar / solar battery storage and look forward to advancements in these options.
I hope to take more workshops or courses to learn more about permaculture for our home and beyond.
We have changed lots of things quickly and are enjoying the holistic benefits of those changes but we plan to continue learning and showing the children how to be every day ecologists.
What we are doing isn’t new, or profound and many of these ‘eco’ practices were done by our Grandparents so its really more about unlearning wasteful habits that we never questioned and letting go of some modern ‘conveniences’. We are fortunate to be living comfortably in a beautiful area with access to more than everything we need in life. So we feel it is even more important for us to make good choices for those who can’t.
What do you hope for your children’s future?
I hope for a peaceful, loving, fair, sustainable future for all life. Most people are doing their best within their circumstances but we all need to work really hard now to protect life in the future. I am excited to see the enthusiasm and ideas of the younger generations. I see some little kids doing beach cleans, talking about protecting the dolphins and turtles, and I hope this connection to nature grows.
I like to imagine Ivy and Beau playing in the clean ocean in a healthy, biodiverse world until they are old and grey with their own children and grandchildren.
MAV’S GREEN LIST
It does take a bit of research to find ethical, sustainable, eco friendly items and to tick most/all the boxes. People need to be careful of ‘green washing’ and do a little bit more research into ingredients, resources used, packaging etc. I try to consider transport miles when purchasing, especially ordering online.
I keep this positive, and if something starts taking the joy from my life I try to take a break from it for a while or leave it behind completely. I choose not to watch the news, TV and ads, read the newspaper, or listen to the radio. I know the world needs helps and I choose not to be exposed daily. I feel I stay more positive and motivated as I no longer get fatigued by or desensitised to environmental needs and suffering. I stay informed in other ways. I vote at voting time but I also vote every time I purchase or refuse particular items. I sign petitions via email as they arise for environmental and social causes.
@milkwoodpermaculture (also offer workshops)
(There are heaps of zero waste people on Insti)
@magnesiumblue (holistic, creative, inspirational mother)
@tribedemama (empowering motherhood style)
Stay open minded and thirsty for knowledge. While we may only personally be such a small part of a huge planet, the impacts from our daily decisions ripple out effecting our immediate friends and family, our communities, our countries, our continents and even our world. Focusing on reshaping our individual thoughts, habits and daily decisions can have more of an influence than one might think.