5 reasons I love my fruit and vegetable box

Earlier this year my family started getting a box of fruit and vegetables delivered to our house each week. We decided to order from a company called Ooooby — Out Of Our Own Backyards — because they specialise in local, organic produce, but there are a ton of other companies offering a similar service.

After a couple of months using the service, here are five reasons I love our fruit & veg box.

1. It’s fresh, local, seasonal, and organic

So this is four reasons rolled into one, but they’re all related. Ooooby makes a point of sourcing all their produce as locally as possible. The fruit and veg arrives fresh at our doorstep within a day of being delivered to Ooooby. Because the food is fresh and locally grown, it’s in season too. And Ooooby also focuses on organics, making it much easier (and cheaper, and less packaged) than buying organic produce at a store.

2. It’s super convenient

Between our weekly Ooooby box delivery and a bulk shopping trip for dried goods every month, we don’t have too much more in the way of grocery shopping. That saves a lot of time each weekend that we used to spend traipsing around the supermarket.

3. It’s like Christmas every week

I get excited about receiving a package full of healthy, tasty goodness each week! Opening up the box and seeing all the fresh colours there gives me a thrill similar to unwrapping Christmas presents — but without all the waste and misdirected consumerism.

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Sneak peek… look at that colour!

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A week’s worth of delicious fresh fruit and vegetables

4. We get to try new types of food

Each box comes with a different variety of fruit and veg, depending on what Ooooby’s growers have available that week. And each box includes all sorts of items I never would have bought (or even seen) when shopping at the supermarket! So far the new types of food I’ve tried cooking thanks to Ooooby include:

  • Chestnuts
  • Kale
  • Beetroot
  • Tatsoi
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Fennel
  • Daikon radish

We’ve also received exciting new varieties of familiar plants, like pointy capsicums and rainbow chard.

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Another week’s haul (minus a bunch of kale that had already been sent to the fridge)

5. It’s (almost) waste-free!

The main packaging is the box, which Ooooby collect and reuse each delivery. Aside from tape on the box, paper to protect leafy greens, paper bags for dirty root vegetables, and the odd rubber band, our produce now comes virtually packaging-free, which makes it much easier to avoid plastic and other waste — perfect for Plastic Free July. It also means no more pesky fruit stickers! And we can now buy organic, fair-trade bananas without the plastic tape they come wrapped in at the supermarket.

Of course, getting our produce delivered is not a perfect setup. We have less control over how much fruit and veg we get each week — some weeks we’re barely scraping by and others we end up with a lot more than we need. And when the supply chain is this short and local, any hiccups at the supplier’s end have a much greater influence on us as consumers. But on balance, I’m totally in love with my weekly produce delivery and I highly recommend it as a way to buy local, seasonal, and plastic-free food.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Ooooby in any way; I’m just a happy customer.

Galvanize Me

I’ve been feeling rather at odds with the world in the past couple of weeks. It’s like I’ve reached a tipping point and I’m just so fed up with all that is wrong with the world—the lack of female representation in the media and in my work environment;  the casual disowning by retiring baby-boomers of the myriad issues facing their children and grandchildren; the modern economic lens that frames every decision as ultimately selfish; the way so many people are locked into a consume-and-dispose mindset…

At the same time, I’m surrounded by events that roar with love—close friends getting engaged, another recently married, and the celebration of some big milestones in my own marriage.

And a part of me realises that this slow-burning fury can galvanize me into action, into living as though a better world is possible. After all, surely the point of anger is to help us protect ourselves and those we love most. So, in that spirit (and with an unapologetically cheesy wedding theme), here are a few things that have been inspiring me recently:

Something old: I’ve rediscovered the pop punk anthems of my teen years—and I still love them! I was amused (but somewhat disheartened) to find that the rebellious songs of my youth still feel so applicable, what with all the condescending advice older generations keep spitting in the local media.

Something new: I’ve started using instagram, and it’s bringing me a lot of joy. The combination of artful pictures and simple words packs a powerful punch. I’m even tempted to start posting my own photos, although I’ve always preferred to express myself using words rather than images.

Something borrowed: A wonderful blog post by Ryan Cope on Plastic-Free Tuesday highlights the gossamer-thin line between being either weighed down or motivated to keep fighting by the endless stream of plastic waste humanity is generating.

And some blues: Mahogany L. Browne’s poem, litany, captures some the essence of blues music, as well as some of my own recent feelings of frustration. I’ve written before about my love for blues dancing, but reading litany made me question whether I—as a privileged white woman from halfway around the world—have the right to seek and receive so much pleasure from a music style with deep roots in hardship and struggle. Perhaps the answer is to further educate myself about the history of blues while continuing to appreciate the music and the dance for the joy it brings me and others in my community. After all, it’s times like these we most need shared moments of joy to bring us together and remind us what’s most important in life.

Plastic-Free July: The First Installment

I’m a third of the way through Plastic Free July (PFJ) and so far it’s been a success and a failure in roughly equal measure.

Let’s start with the good news: I haven’t bought any new plastic!

On the other hand… I have generated copious amounts of plastic waste at home by using up products in plastic packaging that were bought before I considered doing PFJ, a grand total of 234 grams (and that doesn’t include the two meat trays that are living in the freezer until we put the rubbish out).

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A pile of plastic bags, wrappers and containers generated by my husband and I in 10 days. There’s plenty of room for improvement here!

If I was being really strict, I could have tried to avoid using anything that came in single-use plastic packaging. However, I’m viewing PFJ as the start of a long-term reduction in packaging and waste, so it seems silly to pretend that the single-use plastic we’ve bought previously doesn’t exist for July because we’d just throw it away in August instead. So let’s consider this tally a baseline level of plastic packaging from my pre-PFJ life, which I can compare my later tallies against (and hopefully show a reduction in plastic!)

Good plastic-free things I’ve done so far

I started July 1st with a brand-new bamboo toothbrush. It’s not technically single-use plastic, but my old one needed replacing anyway so I figured I’d take the opportunity to switch to something with a smaller environmental footprint. Unfortunately, I’m not quite convinced about the decision. I actually used a bamboo toothbrush a few years ago but found it left my lips feeling raw and I’m having the same problem again this time. Does anyone else struggle with bamboo toothbrushes or is it just me??

My little household has switched to bulk-bin breakfast cereals and we’ve started using a bread-maker to bake our bread. These are both things we use a lot of, so eliminating the plastic bags that our bread and cereal previously came in should make a big difference over time. Of course, the yeast comes in a (recycleable) plastic jar — I’ve yet to investigate whether plastic-free yeast is a thing — but in the grand scheme of things I feel it’s good progress.

As I mentioned previously, milk and yoghurt were going to be impossible to source plastic-free so I gave myself special permission to keep using them, but I have made an effort to reduce my use of dairy products for PFJ. This week I stopped using milk on my breakfast (though I’m still using it in copious hot drinks during the current cold snap). Instead, I’ve been making a sort of bircher muesli by soaking my muesli overnight in water — which, as it turns out, is delicious thanks to the dried apricots in the mix.

As well as the actions I’ve started this month, there are a number of other waste-reducing measures I’ve been using on and off for several years now, such as baking my own muesli bars, making my own hummus, refusing plastic bags when shopping, buying fresh fruit and veges in reusable produce bags, and buying nuts, legumes, oats and dried fruit from bulk bins. I’ve restarted or continued each of these actions, and PFJ just means being more diligent about preparing for and making these decisions each time I shop.

Hurdles as yet un-hurdled

Trying to avoid plastic has thrown up some interesting hurdles. It turns out plastic is everywhere. In preparation for PFJ, I started to notice all the little bits of plastic that used to slip by unnoticed — produce stickers and pet food packaging, lids on jars and linings on tins, contact lenses and tampon wrappers — along with other questionable materials like thermal receipts (not plastic but coated in BPA) and waxed paper (the wax coating is derived from petrochemicals). Even the chocolate block wrapper that I always assumed was just paper appears to have a thin plastic coating; I simply didn’t see it until PFJ made me look really, really closely.

While I’m happy to choose plastic-free chocolate, I don’t relish the thought of relinquishing fruit in the name of plastic-free living… For now, I’ll continue to buy fruit loose and add the plastic sticker from each piece to my PFJ tally, but I’m hopeful that I’ll come across a source of un-packaged, un-stickered fruit.

The other hurdle I’ve come across is in the bathroom at my work, where the toilet paper and liquid soap come in plastic and the paper hand towels are sent to landfill. These decisions are not made by my employer, so at this point it seems the easiest solution may be to BYO. It’s easy to control what we buy as individuals (within the constraints imposed by what is available in local stores). It’s often harder to influence the purchasing decisions of those around us, including the companies and organisations we’re involved with.

Plastic on beaches

As suggested by The Non-Plastic Maori, I headed down to the local beach to pick up what plastic I could find. Turns out there wasn’t much at all and I picked up a mere 21 grams of plastic waste. I’m not really surprised, because I’ve had similar results on most of the previous local beach clean-ups I’ve done. Next week I’ll try collecting plastic rubbish from my local streets instead, which will prevent it from heading down the stormwater pipes and into the ocean.

Overall outcome so far

Plastic purchased: none
Plastic collected from beach: not much (21 g)
Plastic used in pre-PFJ life: a whole damn lot (234 g)

During the first week of July I was feeling rather daunted by the challenge I’d set myself (and wondering why on earth I’d told everyone so I couldn’t back out!) But blog posts from two waste warriors helped me regain motivation. The Zero-Waste Chef reminded me why plastic waste is such a huge problem, with her post on the insane amount of plastic currently floating in the Pacific Ocean and all the awful things it does while it’s there, while Lindsay from Treading My Own Path posted about an inspiring new bulk store that actively encourages people to choose reusable packaging.

Going completely plastic-free is hard, but reducing the amount of plastic in our lives is easy! Everybody can, and should, start making small changes in their lives to reduce the amount of plastic waste they produce.

A Low-Impact Guide to Christmas Presents

It’s December already, which means Christmas is just around the corner! My childhood love for Christmas has remained intact into adulthood — I love spending time with family, delicious seasonal food, summer holidays by the beach, and even Christmas carols. I also love the excitement of unwrapping gifts, but I don’t love the needless waste that comes with Christmas gift-giving. (Note that gift vouchers are part of this waste. They may provide a bit more choice to the giftee, but ultimately they’re still enforcing the idea that we have to buy more stuff, and typically come from big chain stores rather than local independent retailers).

It started five years ago when I moved out of home for the first time. I had to pack and move boxes upon boxes of accumulated belongings, much of which had been given to me by other people. I’ve moved to a different flat every year since then, and each time I move I think “oh hell, I have so much stuff!

After the first big move, I sent out an email to my aunts, uncles and grandparents requesting that they don’t give me any Christmas presents. I explained that I just don’t need the extra stuff, and if they felt the need to spend money I’d rather it went to a good cause like Oxfam Unwrapped. I’m glad to say that every Christmas since then I’ve received a variety of charity gift cards from my extended family, and no presents more physical than chocolate (and who can say no to chocolate!)

I like to think my request benefited my family too. By letting them spend less time and energy on shopping, they have more time to spend doing other things.

So here are some ideas for reducing the amount of stuff you give this Christmas:

  1. Charity gifts let your money go to those in need. There are plenty of options available, such as Oxfam Unwrapped, Unicef Survival Gifts, CWS Gifted, Greenpeace Giving, Heifer International, WWF Adopt an Animal, and SPCA Give some TLC. If none of these appeal, you can make a donation to any charity of your choice and create your own card telling the recipient which great cause their gift is supporting.
  2. Give the gift of time. For example, you could offer to help with housework, gardening or babysitting, cook them a meal, take them out for a dinner or coffee date, or buy tickets to see a movie, play, comedy show, concert or other event.
  3. Food can be enjoyed once, then it’s gone and doesn’t sit around cluttering up your home. Bonus points if it’s homemade — my partner’s ginger-bread houses went down a treat last year!
  4. Bath products are consumables like food, but use this option with caution: I’ve always struggled to use up all the body washes and moisturisers that I receive so they end up being clutter anyway. You also have to watch out for the nasty chemicals that many products contain, and be aware that many people have sensitive skin.
  5. Ask them what they really need — this is something my immediate family always does and it works well for us, but it takes away the element of surprise so not everyone will appreciate it.

If you can’t move past the idea of giving a lasting physical object, then consider buying something that will have a positive impact on the world. Think fair trade or locally made; carbon neutral; cruelty free; second hand, recycled or upcycled; organically grown; minimally packaged; reusable and built to last; or home made. Great places to start looking include Trade Aid, ecostore, Huckleberry FarmsRed Cross or Mercy Hospice Shops. Or choose a gift that can provide hours of entertainment and social fun, like a board game or a ukulele for indoorsy types, or a soccer ball or frisbee for sporty types.

On the other hand, you could make a joint decision with your family to not give presents at all, and instead appreciate the time spent with loved ones at Christmas. However, I am hesitant to suggest moving away from gift-giving altogether, and not just because I enjoy unwrapping presents! Giving can have personal and social benefits. At a personal level, the Sovereign Wellbeing Index notes that “giving money away tends to make people happier than spending it on themselves.” And many cultures see gift-giving as an integral part of forming and strengthening social bonds. For example, New Zealand historian and author Michael King wrote in Nga Iwi O Te Motu that in Māori culture “aroha and mana gave status to distribution, not to accumulation.” In other words, you would gain prestige and affection from your community by sharing your wealth instead of hoarding it. Perhaps, then, the best way forward is to reorient our modern gift-giving practices to focus on sharing not shopping.