Galsies (and Menses)

So… tampons suck.

How’s that for a conversation starter. But honestly… nobody LIKES them, only some of us might prefer them to pads… which also suck. Ok I’ll stop pairing the word suck with menstrual products now.

I’m going to do a comparative review of non-plastic menstrual products in a later post (here’s a great divacup review by Hine Taiao). But first I want to talk a little bit about this topic.

I also want to say – Men – this post is for you to read too. Let me outline a couply reasons why:

1. Only half the world understanding the oppression of women that is characterised by the putrification of a completely natural process, will not bring about the change that is needed. When you freak out and turn your back on a completely natural process, you’re not only CHOOSING to be less supportive of the women in your life, you’re validating a message that the subject of menstruation is taboo, unmentionable, and aberrant. That is offensive in the extreme. It is a natural process, that relates to the most divine function of bringing children into this world. If your mother did not menstruate, you would not be here. If that thought made you cringe then you DEFINITELY need to read this post (a few times).

2. If you have children, this is an incredibly important example to set for them. Your daughters need to know that you do not see them as weird or dirty for one week of every month. Your sons need to see that their primary role model treats women with respect for who they are as nature made them. I’m not saying you all need to go sit down with them and talk the whole thing through (if you think you can without mortifying them then by all means do). But you certainly can be receptive, open, use positive language that DOESN’T pose menstruation as unsanitary or aberrant, educate yourself on the realities of what women go through, and support your children in doing the same. Honestly I can’t go past THIS GUY for the perfect example of what I’m talking about. Legend.

3. If you have a partner who is feeling emotional/sick/tired/bloated because of her moon phase, then showing a little bit of understanding will go a LONG way. I don’t mean patting her belly or asking her if it’s “that time” again (unless you fancy being impaled by The Look). What I mean here is – you have demystified the subject for yourself, and over your relationship you have been mature enough about the topic of menstruation to develop a space where she can feel safe to discuss it without being looked at strangely or judged, or having it used against her. It means you are aware of the power of running a warm bath for her, or giving her the space she needs. You know (and acknowledge) that what she is experiencing (difficult or not) is a manifestation of a much larger, divine process – a process that is necessary for the continuation of humankind. Believe me – take this point on board and you will be considered a Jedi partner.

4. What I’m discussing here is the the empowerment and protection of your future generations, as well. You should want to be a part of this discussion.

So understanding that we’re lied to about what we consume is not a new thing, for me – but this journey has highlighted it. This high-consumption economy doesn’t work for men or women – but, especially for women, there is an element to this economy that tells us we aren’t pretty enough, we aren’t attractive enough, we aren’t sexy or hot or desirable enough unless we buy THAT new product, or emulate whatever current fashion is being dictated – and a lot of it goes back to the imperative that we need to look like pretty chattels. You’re only allowed hair on your head, not your body, you should only show flesh if you’re a certain size, here wear this dress, here put this chemical on your skin, here insert this inside you, hide that sweatpatch it’s unseemly – smell like this, look like this, walk like this. We all need to stop blindly trusting that voice – and women in particular need to tell it to naff off. I’m not saying to STOP wearing dresses or cosmetics. I’m saying be in control of when you want to, and how you want to wear these things rather than being the passive recipient of toxic thought and product. In being a passive recipient you are enslaving yourself to an economy that is ultimately telling you how to perceive yourself, and respond accordingly (by consuming). The difference is illustrated by the questions you ask when you look in the mirror – are they related to how happy YOU are, whether you are reflecting your own desire and happiness – or whether you are constantly judging yourself with the assumed voices and thoughts of others.

kissself

Originally, in this journey I applied the term “stealth plastic” to the packaging that looked non plastic but, after opening, you’d find some plastic inside of it (inevitably I’d do a little shaky-fist kind of “currrse yoooou” dance). Now, however – I’ve found the notion of stealth plastic to be a lot more insidious, and far-reaching. Growing my awareness about the level of toxicity that I’ve been exposed to all my life to this point has been a scary, and often angering process. It’s REALLY highlighted my notion of kaitiekitanga in relation to not only our land and resources, but of my own body, and as a woman, in particular – being a kaitieki for future generations. I’ve come to clarity about the fact that the battle for Papatūānuku begins within us – and so it should be that so often we find women at the forefront – not only for the fact that we have borne the brunt of this economy’s tactics for so long but also because, as women, we are the micro of Papatūānuku. We are Mother Earth, manifested. The relationship between what we have allowed to happen to Papa is a direct reflection of what we have allowed to happen to ourselves.

papatuanuku
“Papatuanuku – Earth Mother” By the very talented artist Wiremu Barriball.

We have been lulled into a space where we place faith in what others provide to us – and those others have ulterior motives. We have become the passive recipients of toxic suggestions and products upon, and within, our bodies – and that, first and foremost, needs to stop. How we perceive and respond to the issue of menstruation is perfectly reflective of this – we insert chemical laden products into the most sensitive part of our body – our whare tangata – and over our lifetime each of us women will do that roughly 16,000 – 24,000 times – all the while perceiving it as a “sanitary product”, the inference being that menstruation is an unsanitary process. Keep in mind that whatever we absorb through our skin is not broken down in the same way saliva and stomach acid breaks down what we eat, so toxins can arguably be even more dangerous – and some of these toxins are being absorbed into our bloodstream at the most vulnerable point of our being – our whare tangata, where the skin is most delicate and the absorption swift and direct.

Ok so let’s look at the physicality of what I’m saying here: The comparitive review I mentioned earlier? I had, at one point, intended to include paper applicator tampons in my review until I found out that the paper applicators get their smooth finish by the inclusion of phthalates. Phthalates are plastic chemicals that disrupt our hormone balance and have been clearly linked to breast cancer.

So that’s the applicator – what about the tampons themselves? What is actually IS IT that we are placing inside our whare tangata every month?

Largely, it’s cotton, and/or rayon. Non-organic cotton will have been sprayed with a variety of pesticides and may well also be from GMO cotton crops (50% of the world’s cotton crops are GMO). Rayon is made from cellulose, which is derived from woodpulp. To be specific – it’s cellulose xanthate, which is woodpulp derivative that is treated with caustic soda. All tampons undergo a bleaching process using chemicals such as chlorine dioxide or hydrogen peroxide. The exception to these are the organic, bleach free alternatives such as what’s on offer from Natracare. Organic, plant cellulose, bleach free, and compostable in your back yard.

So – if you’re using tampons, there you have it, a nasty little chemical compound inside your whare tangata every month. The home of all of your future generations. You alone have the power to protect it and you alone must make the choice to do so.

So now let’s have a look at pads. Most pads contain crude oil plastic, odour neutralizers, phthalates (yes that nasty hormone disruptor that’s linked to abnormal cell growth and cancer), and other plastic chemicals. In fact your standard pad contains the equivalent of about four plastic bags. Consider that if we are using an average of 16,800 pads per lifetime that’s a LOT of plastic going to landfill or for incineration (The National Women’s Health Network estimates some 12billion pads going to US landfills every year – that’s the equivalent of 48billion plastic bags).
padmadness

Not good huh. Again, the exception to plastic content in pads here would be the organic options such as that offered by Natracare.

OR you could always make your own:

Needless to say I won’t EVER be using standard tampons or pads again.

So let me be clear in what I’m saying – we would ALL benefit from severely reducing the amount of plastic in our lives. It has become patently clear to me, however, that as women, we are under particular pressure to consume products laden with toxic, plastic-based (and often carcinogenic) chemicals. Many women spend a lot of time giving out to others without due consideration of care of self. My time in Māori health has taught me that Māori women IN PARTICULAR are prone to falling ill to lifestyle illnesses that are directly related to caring for everyone else, all the time, and not being vigilant enough in their self care and self protection. Philosophically and spiritually, this practice leaves us in a weakened state – physically – the results are that we overburden ourselves, consume convenience products, do not safeguard ourselves against toxins, and the results are that we are constantly over-represented in illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.

In understanding that our language has the following meanings:

Whenua = Land/Placenta
Whānau = Family/Birth
Whare Tangata = House of Humankind/Womb

here, then is what I’m talking about, in a visual form:

KAITIEKIWAHINE

What I am suggesting here is that we all must have multiple spheres of protection – each of which require OUR OWN protection from toxic suggestion, toxic behaviour, toxic perception and toxic products.

These spheres begin in our inner sanctum – protecting the whenua within, the place of birth, the House of Humankind. Within that space stands Hineteiwaiwa.

There is then the space of tinana (body) – the embodiment of wellbeing – the outer sanctum of our temple that must also be protected and cared for as the context and grounds within which your whare tangata must survive. Within that realm stands Hina.

Then there is the realm of whānau (family) – The realm which women hold to protect and provide for those around them. Within that realm stands Hine Korako.

Then there is the realm of whenua (land) – The macro of ourselves, where humankind dwells, and we hold the space of caring for the land so that it can nourish us, and our loved ones. Within this realm dwells Kahukura ki Uta.

Understand that these Ātua Wāhine sit within my own conceptual framework of the spheres of protection. Yours may well differ and that is fine – my point is that within each of these spheres there is a space for you to erect a pou and remain viligant in your protection of this sphere.

The wellbeing that is fed to your innermost center flows naturally up and out into the outer spheres and circulates back through from the whenua back into your being as well. In this way do we receive and return our wellbeing between ourselves and the taiao (environment). As you can see from the diagram – the harmony of this process is reflected in the synonymous terms for our feminine center and the other realms. Coming to grips with this is infinitely more beautiful than anything you will find on a magazine cover.

shave2

Last week I went ahead and shaved my head for cancer (thankyou if you are one of the many who donated to the cause). I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my “wth am I thinking” moments leading up to the shave. A lot of people who had shaved before spoke of how liberating it would feel. Well, to be honest – I felt proud (and a little chilly). I thought a lot about my Aunty Lena, who is battling cancer and is a MASSIVE inspiration to me. I thought about my other close family members and friends who have battled it, some who have won, some who still battle on, and of course, those that have lost. All of these thoughts flicked through my mind as the locks came off.

Here is the liberation, though – I get to define my beauty all over again, and I get to defy the long-locked, or styled ideal that rests so easily with many of us.

At the same time, the “#nomakeupselfie” campaign swept through facebook – and there were many critics of this campaign. Terms such as narcissism and superficiality were bandied about…. and really – even though I myself didn’t take a non-makeup selfie shot – I ENJOYED the campaign. Helped that I knew it had raised over $6M NZD in a couple of days for breast cancer. Still – even without that – I enjoyed the wave of natural beauty sweeping across my newsfeed. Many cancer sufferers worry a lot about their appearance, and the augmented beauty in the media only makes their experience worse – so I enjoyed the wave of profile pics that defied the imposed standards of beauty. I enjoyed the mutual support for one another, and ANY opportunity for us to remind ourselves that we can be beautiful in our most natural state should be taken… because honestly – we DO spend too much time and money on trying to achieve imposed measures of beauty, rather than deciding and defining for ourselves what beauty means.

I work closely with young women in my other job as a health researcher – and I’m so very keenly aware of the pressure women are under to look a certain way – and of course, under the same pressure to consume massive amounts in order to look that way. Cosmetics, cleansers, fragrances – again full of the same harmful phthalates that are linked to cancer and premature birth. This of course is in addition to the microplastics found in exfoliating scrubs. BIG UPS to New York and California who are legislatively banning microbeads in cosmetics. As far as scrubs and soaps go – my personal fave (gawd how I love their soaps) is Lush. As for cosmetics – I rarely wear them anyway, save a bit of eyeliner… but am keeping an eye out for organic eyeliner that doesn’t have a plastic lid.

But you know, really the last line of defence (and often the only line of defence) is ourselves, ladies. It’s for us to be discerning in the content of what we consume and the level of our consumption. And you know what else – I think we owe it to our whānau to police this area for them as well. This, of course, also applies to the many wonderful amazing fathers who are in positions of defining the environment their children are in. I came across this blog a few weeks ago and can’t applaud this woman enough for the lengths she is going to in maintaining a healthy environment for her whanau:


http://www.thecrunchychicken.com/p/non-toxic-avenger.html

“After coming to terms with the fact that the autism and cancer which had impacted her family were most likely the result of environmental toxins, author Deanna Duke undertook a mission to dramatically reduce her family’s chemical exposure.”

I already know that I won’t go back to consuming plastic once this year is done, and I’m very grateful for people like Deanna Duke who is sharing her story, and providing me with inspiration on how I can detoxify my environment even more.

I am a Ngāti Porou woman. I am the kaitieki of my body, whānau and whenua.

Serious as…

Today we’re going to get serious as, well… cancer.

Most who have looked into the harm of plastics will have heard at some point about the links between plastic and cancer.

Last month for World Cancer Day (and National Cancer Prevention day in the US), leading health and environmental experts, including Dianne Cohen from the Plastic Pollution Coalition, were in a panel discussion in Washington DC that looked at how we can reduce risks for Cancer by promoting healthier lifestyles and environments.

Less Cancer Board Members (l) Veronique Pittman, Bill Couzens, Stormy Stokes Hood
National Cancer Prevention Day February 4, 2013 Capitol Building, Washington, DC

The links between plastic and cancer have been discussed for quite some time, but recently more and more clarity is being provided about these links – and it’s becoming quite conclusive how very direct these links are.

We also know that cancer rates have skyrocketed in recent decades, and are projected to continue to do so unless we make some serious changes to our diet and lifestyle choices. With what we now know about links between plastics and cancer, I’m going to suggest that those diet and lifestyle choices need to include LESS plastics – less plastic packaging, and prevention of plastics going into our waste stream, and into the environment where they are also entering our food chain, through worms, and through fish.

Cancer doesn’t JUST restrict itself to class, ethnicity or income level – however we also know that the lower to middle income groups suffer with the highest rates of cancer, and that this is both linked to lifestyle AND to access to appropriate health care. So again, I find myself reflecting on what this means to me within a Māori context, in light of the fact that we also suffer the highest cancer rates in Aotearoa. Our health systems pose serious barriers to our people being able to access early diagnosis and health care. Those structures do need to change but structural change of the kind that we need takes a long time.

Meanwhile – here’s what we can do. We can make healthier choices for ourselves, our whānau, and our manuhiri. We can recognise that we are a PART of nature. That when we pollute nature, we pollute ourselves and make ourselves (and our children/future generations) more vulnerable to cancer. We can promote that within our whānau and communities so that the message spreads, and more of us are making better choices.
So, while we’re talking about raising awareness, and cancer – here’s what else I’m doing:

March 24th I’m shaving my head.

So shaving your head is big, for women… and it’s big, for Māori too. We have all sorts of cultural and spiritual attachments to our hair. One of our most commonly known stories of haircutting was that of Taranga, Mother of Maui who fished up the North Island – who, believing Maui was dead as a baby, cut off her hair, wrapping it around him and casting him to sea (hence his name Maui-Tikitiki-a-Taranga, “Maui, of the topknot of Taranga”).


“Taranga” by artist Robyn Kahukiwa – see original in gallery here.

Through such narratives we can see the cultural attachment and significance of our hair, as Māori. Hair cutting is a form of grief expression, and had many other spiritual uses as well. I was having this discussion with a dear sister the other evening. We spoke, over skype, about the meaning of hair, about hair as a shield, about vanity, and perception, and identity – and how all of it was influenced and framed by our hair. We were discussing whether or not I could, or should, go ahead and shave my head to raise funds and awareness for cancer (and also, importantly for me this message goes hand in hand with the links between plastic and cancer). In the middle of this I get an email from a friend whose 9 year old daughter Liv has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. This is Liv:

Isn’t. She. An Angel.

So I hung up from my sister and started chatting with my friend about Liv’s battle, about the battle they are all, as a family, fighting alongside her. I honestly have no words for the respect and admiration I have for Livia and her family. I recalled fighting that battle alongside my father, and seeing through his final days… and the many other people in my whānau that have fought this horrid disease. I thought of all the young children just like Liv who are spending their days in hospital right now, and their parents who sit, lives on hold, breath held, by their sides. I wept a lot that night… and I realised – my hair’s big but in relation to THAT… it’s not THAT big. It can go. If it can raise some money to help ease a family’s load through this journey they are facing, it can go. If it can bring more awareness to the links between plastic and cancer, it can go. If it can make someone who DOESN’T have a choice about keeping or losing their hair feel better, it can go.

If you’d like to sponsor me – here’s the link. Please also consider donating to Liv’s fund (details are on the picture or you can find her facebook page here).

Now…. MY PLASTIC TALLY FOR FEBRUARY! It’s not been a great month… I kept getting couriered things and each time they arrived in a plastic bag :-/ I’ve saved the bubble wrap for a little project I have in mind (will show you when it’s done).

febtally

Weight: 40gms Yep… an INCREASE on January 

The bulk of it is due to me still working the plastics out of my household from last year (shampoo and conditioner is now all gone, as is the sugar from last December’s baking blitz).
A few bottle tops (that’s fast becoming my achilles heel, so going to make a concerted effort to have my drink bottle topped up with yummy lemon-honey water).
Receipts… always receipts…
and the aforementioned courier bags.

MARCH, COME AT ME! I’m going to aim to half that weight this month.

Mauriora everyone. xo

Distance

Kia Ora Everyone…

It’s late at night and I’m sitting in the wharekai of our humble, beautiful little marae in the backblocks of Rangitukia (not that I’m sure Rangitukia has frontblocks but anyway)… I’ve been going through scholarship applications with my rural students before they embark on their second year of tertiary study, my Uncles are snoozing discreetly next door (my Aunties are the loudest snorers in our whānau and none of them are in the whare tonight), my cuzzies are sitting out back in the kauta swapping dive stories. They’ve all been working away all day putting a new roof up on the wharenui. It’s a warm night, so all the doors are open. Outside, Hina is full and heavy above the horizon, highlighting each angle and plane of our whenua and bathing everything in an iridescent blue light. Above, Ranginui stretches out, resplendent in his diamond-studded korowai, and again, as always, I look to the stars with an instinctive notion to seek guidance, just as all my ancestors have done before me.

So I’m relaxing in the soft interplay of familiar noises when another one barrels over the top – our old fridge rattles and starts whirring into action – with a force that sounds like it’s trying to create it’s own internal iceage. It only goes for a short while and even though the cacophony stands out – it still sort of fits and in any case it makes me smile. Because, like pretty much everything else in our beautiful whare – it’s humble. Our seating is a mix of pews, wooden dining chairs and aluminium framed plastic chairs – and a broken lazyboy. We have a bunch of donated glassware, our cutlery doesn’t match, the bare wooden floor is unpolished but carries the patina of generations of bustling foottraffic.


Here, come sit with me in the broken (but still comfy) lazyboy and listen to the sounds of our whare kai at midnight (best with headphones).

The cheeky laughter of my cousins outside and distant soft snores of my exhausted Uncles next door are all that is required to feel rich in this space. When I hear those, I look around at the humility of everything else and it all comes together. Like the old knitted jersey that your mum makes you. Like nan’s recipes for simple old school cheese scones. These things have our heart. We make do, and there’s an honour in making do. There’s value in something having a history, in being a part of your history, of playing a role in your life. I don’t just love our whare in spite of these things – they strengthen my feelings and make me smile, GENUINELY smile, and feel thankful for what we have (especially each other), and what we can make do with in order to keep what we have (especially each other).

This is, for me, a really important part of this journey. When I consider what it means, as a Māori, to be Non-Plastic, all of these things are related. I consider the fact that it’s simply not necessary to buy the newest, the flashest, the next model up… Just a generation ago people stitched their socks, they fixed their appliances, and they purchased more locally – they consumed less and interacted more. What does our throwaway culture means in terms of how we view and treat relationships?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publishing of “No Ordinary Sun” by Hone Tuwhare, and last night I went to a moving performance piece based on 8 of Tuwhare’s poems. It stirred me, and immersed me in a pool of thought about relationships. Relationships with each other, relationships with the whenua, and even relationships with our material belongings. It is just this most recent generation that has become the “throwaway” generation… and I can’t help but also consider the many states of distance this generation experiences. The distance from our ancestors, the distance from our rights, the distance from our land, the distance from our impact upon the land, and, of course… the distance from each other.

tuwhare
The very talented Puriri Koria, Teina Lee Moetara and Pereri King taking us on a journey with Hone Tuwhare.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t abhor any and all technological advancement. Some of it is invaluable in helping us to maintain and strengthen our relationships – some of it can be of great use to help bridge these distances. Of course there are times when we NEED to upgrade. But much of our consumption is for consumption’s sake, and much of our upgrading is for upgrading’s sake. Many of our rights are given away when we become complicit in these systems of high consumption… a perfect example is the personal investment each of us pour into petroleum based plastics, and by that I mean plastic bags, cellphones, polyester clothing, plastic packaged food, and well… pretty much most things plastic. This, of course supports the industry that exploits fossil fuels at the expense of many of our rights (human rights, land rights, and indigenous rights). So while some of these purchases may be necessary – let’s face it, most of them aren’t. But we do it anyway, because we distance ourselves from the impact of our actions upon the environment. And in doing so we’ve distanced ourselves from the environment – and particularly for Tangata Whenua that means we have distanced ourselves from ourselves. By that, I mean, the most authentic version of ourselves.


Io – Universal Spirit, by Liam Barr
“The vibrational song of the earth is reserved for those who are prepared to listen. Here the Tiki figure embraces Papatuanuku as an infant gains comfort from its own mother’s heartbeat. Tuatara act as guardian to the infant and offer guidance and wisdom in the ways of being.”

We are people of the land – the very term “Plastic Māori” from which I derive my moniker is a reflection of the relative value of ‘synthetic’ to ‘natural’ in Te Ao Māori. When we call someone a “Plastic Māori”, “Plastic” takes the position of all that is inauthentic and therefore untrustworthy in this world, in direct conflict to the word “Māori” which relates to all things natural. We are, as Māori, at our most peaceful when we are in nature. Many traditional healers consider plastic vessels inappropriate for natural medicine. There is a resonance in all of these facts, that being: We are our most authentic selves when we are in touch with nature. The further from nature we shift, the less in touch with ourselves we become.

The natural symbiosis of the environment – the interconnectedness and interdependence of Rangi and Papa, of Tāne, of Hine Moana, and all their mokopuna across the spectra of genus and species speaks to us, with every breath, and in every way, of the importance of relationships. A healthy community is a symbiotic community where every member has a contributing role. This is as true for a whānau as it is for an ecosystem – and of course it is a truth that exists with us as an equal contributing member of an ecosystem, one that affects, and is affected by it. As Tangata Whenua, our whakapapa extends beyond our Aunts and Uncles, beyond our Nannies and Koroua and Tīpuna Tangata – it extends to tipua, it extends to Atua, and it extends to rākau, to manu, to pēpeke. It expands beyond our islands and across Te Moana Nui a Kiwa to our Pacific ancestors both beneath and above the waves. It expands celestially at the same time as it stretches forth terrestrially. We hold a space in a multi-dimensional genealogical chart that includes all manner of denizens from the realms of ocean, forest, and sky. We simply cannot hold this space effectively, as Tangata Whenua, and continue to turn our backs on the impacts of our actions that cause harm to our Whānau Taiao. In claiming our rights as Tangata Whenua, we need to understand what this truly means in a balanced sense… and that can be a challenging notion for many of us. Is our “Tangata” balanced with our “Whenua”? Or are we living as TANGATA whenua. These are the notions that I’m exploring and engaging with on my journey. The preciousness of our relationships to each other, to ourselves, and the world around us… and how bolstering one, can strengthen the others.

Mauritaiao, Mauriora.
xo

Foiled!

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SIGH…. Ok so my Aunty wanted some Monoi Oil from Rarotonga we ordered it last year and after a long journey it finally arrived… Packed in 3 courier bags because I had to send the courier bag for it to come back in (and I’m grateful that they reused that to keep it from leaking when they sent it to me ) and then it had to be resent because of the awesome courier. Funny thing about going plastic free – this much plastic in the house feels like an abomination! Ok sooooo… I guess I can retrieve the bubble wrap for re-use! :-/

Plastic Bag Ban in Bali

Less than a day after that last post and I’ve come across a petition for the ban of plastic bags in Bali!
Here is a great write up, along with some shocking pictures of the pollution I was referring to in last night’s blog post

Young Balinese surfer Sonny Perrussel and his friends are calling for a more permanent solution. “It’s just disgusting and really sad,” Perrussel said. “It’s really bad for surfing because it smells and your skin gets oily.” Sick of surfing in the foul water, they started an online petition to ban the use, sale, and production of plastic bags on the island of Bali. Luckily, Governor Pastika promised the boys that if they obtained one million signatures, he would honor their plea.

Word has gotten out, and the petition has gained more than 20,000 signatures in the last few days. Currently, it has just over 38,000 names, still far from the million needed.

Let’s help them get to 1,000,000! Here is the petition: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Byebye_Plastic_Bags_On_Bali/?cPcZNgb

Please sign and share!

Thanks Plastic Is A Drug for the heads up on this!

Month 1 tally, highlghts, a recipe, and the interconnectivity of capitalist markets, social justice and environmental consciousness

Here ’tis!

My first month’s tally… if I’m looking meh about it that’s just because, well… I’m meh about it.

It wound up being more than I’d hoped for – so some of it is stuff that was actually bought last year but has only been used this year and I’ve not included those things that I did accidentally pick up this month, but am re-using (like the antipodes bottles which are now my reusable water bottle and my vinegar bottle, and the ginger beer that is now my sesame oil bottle). It consists of some cellotape, a sauce sachet, some plastic bags (from last year), some wetwipes packets (shuddup I liked the freshness ok) let’s see what else… oh yes the pill bubbles that Ella’s worm medcation came in,  plastic razor packet (from last year), tampon wrappers,  some plastic wrapping from Ella’s last Chunky dog roll which she finished early Jan, gladwrap from the kaanga waru I had made over Christmas, thermal receipts AND… tin cans that I THOUGHT might just be tin but were lined with plastic inside. Flippin’ stealth plastic grr.

Sorry Toroa. :-/

So my plastic waste weighs in at 45gms. It’s ok, I’m kind of ok with that for my first month, but had better expectations, and I certainly hope that’ll go down in future months.

Overall, you know… it’s not been as hard as I thought it was going to be, and so many people have remarked to me “oh my gosh it must be SO hard!” that it’s making me double check myself to see if I’m cheating… if there’s something else I should be missing out on that other people are factoring in, that I’m missing.

But no, I think in general it’s just a mind shift, and we make it seem harder to ourselves than it is for whatever reasons. In any case – I haven’t found it a major inconvenience at all. When I say I miss wetwipes, well… I DO but I don’t pine for them, I’m fine without them and am happier knowing that I’m not creating unnecessary waste just for the sake of a convenient freshness fix.

So…. tip of the month this month?? Has to go to the cuz Te Hamua Nikora who shared this pic with me on how to repurpose an old tshirt into a bag:


Great way to stop those plastic fibres from entering the waste stream. 🙂 Made me want to rifle through my draws and pull out all my t-shirts to see if they’d make cooler bags than they do shirts. Ok that is what I actually did.

Best recipe? Most definitely, hands down… the almond/banana ice cream. Good Goddess in heavens above and around and all the saints and satyrs and demi gods there ever were…. it. is. YUM.

Like… ‘even-if-I-could-go-back-to-buying-plastic-I’d-still-go-for-this’ yum.
Pic courtesy of “Eat lean, Train mean, Live Green” (I got 2/3 of that equation SUSSED. Well… most of the time)

Extra bonus was making my own almond butter… I LOVE that stuff but it’s soooo expensive and I just knew that the glass jars had plastic in the lids so I haven’t bought any. My almonds only cost me $10 at the Bulk Inn and I only needed like… a cup of them. That made me a decent amount of the icecream and I still had a punnet of the spread left afterwards. SOOOOO GOOOOO ARRRGHH….

You know, by and large, people have been just really lovely. A few of them read the article in the local paper, or heard the radio interview, and have gone out of their way to be supportive. Like Lois at Warehouse Stationery

Who scoured the store for a plasticfree rubber and then got a paper bag especially for me – she was very helpful and incredibly supportive and just all round bubbly and supportive in a way that makes you even happier to be doing what you’re doing.

Similar experience at Bunnings today in the Garden section – even if they don’t stock what I need they’ve still gone looking for an alternative solution in their store, or have tried to figure out with me what an alternative might be at home, or even another supplier that might have plastic free alternatives. People have genuinely wished me well and believed in what I was doing, which made me wonder why more of us aren’t giving it a go, too. Anyways… I guess that’s a whole nother story and a good portion of why I’m doing what I’m doing is to demonstrate it’s achievability and make it even more achievable for others. In any case – all the lovely support made me think there probably is something that we can do, as a community.


So this is Te Tūranganui a Kiwa, Tūranga, Gisborne, or Gizzy. BEAUTIFUL city, gorgeous beaches – and unfortunately produces twice the national average of plastic waste. In this past year Hawaii went plastic-bag free

“Being a marine state, perhaps, we are exposed more directly to the impacts of plastic pollution and the damage it does to our environment,” Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club’s Hawaii chapter, said in 2012. “People in Hawaii are more likely to be in the water or in the outdoors and see the modern day tumbleweed — plastic bags — in the environment.”

All of which apply to Aotearoa/New Zealand… and in particular to a coastal community, like Gisborne. I can only speculate on what the precise reason is for us having such high plastic waste but it would not surprise me at all if it is linked to the low income stats in our region, and that brings me to another, important point. Our local councillor Manu Caddie is travelling around Asia at the moment and recently posted his observations on the high levels of pollution that is seen there. I recall being appalled at the pollution I witnessed in Indonesia as well… It reminded me of when people say that environmentalism is a luxury for the rich and middle class.

That much is true, to a degree, but I also think it’s a radical over simplification. To commodify environmentalism and say that it’s something you can afford overlooks the fact that OUR hyper-consumerism directly contributes to the pollution in ‘developing’ countries. ‘Developing’ countries who are often the ones mass-producing and packaging the products that we are consuming, and producing high levels of pollution and waste whilst doing so. ‘Developing’ countries who provide incredibly cheap labour to us and unregulated work environments, trapping workers in cycles of poverty and exploitative, toxic work conditions. ‘Developing’ countries like Indonesia which we go to, and revel in their poverty so that we can feel like intrepid travellers, and then add to their pollution, and, having turned our noses up at their waste issues, return home to our tidy high consumption lifestyles. I write ‘Developing’ like that because most if not all of these countries labelled as developing are actually enslaved by debt which hinders their self determined development (but contributes toward the economic development of capital market players in stronger countries) – and it’s unlikely that they will ever ‘develop’ in any fashion other than that determined by their creditors. My point here is that when we frame environmentalism as a “luxury” we evoke guilt for caring about the environment – nobody should feel guilty for caring about the state of the environment. Rather, we should be mindful that our own LACK of environmental consciousness exacerbates environmental issues in other areas of the globe arguably moreso than in our own backyard. We should be mindful that waste production for us AND for overseas countries begins with where we spend our money and what we spend it on, not just what we do with the packaging. We should also be aware that environmental issues are inextricably tied to issues of social justice, which we can also pay better attention to rather than judging the populations, or, even worse, judging environmentalism. The very least we can do is acknowledge the link between our complicitness in an economy that places over 40% of the world’s resources in the hands of 1% of the population, and supports 500 multi billionaires while 3.8billion live on less than $2.50 a day – and the social burdens of these poorer populations that place them in survival mode.

40percent

Here’s why the “environmentalism = luxury” line starts to annoy me – because it turns people away from the very measure that could ameliorate that problem in the first place. Living more sustainably, investing in local economies, being more aware of your impact upon the global economy by way of your own expenditure and lifestyle choices… in short, taking measures to divest yourself of the role you play in the global capitalist economy – THAT MATTERS. Understanding that when you ignore social justice issues, there will be a raft of ramifications including environmental ones… THAT MATTERS.

So taking this back to a local context – yes – we have a relatively low income level for our households here on the East Coast – but rather than conceptualising that as simply a short cause and effect relationship between low income and high pollution – we should be viewing both of these factors as being symptomatic of a gravely flawed system that has causes both economic and environmental harm to our community. The economy and the environment exist hand in hand. Economic improvements CAN occur through environmentalism. There are many sustainable practices that actually save us money and so encouraging and promoting these practices CAN lead to economic improvements and lessen social burden. But also, environmentalism can occur through recognition of indigenous rights. Environmentalism can occur through recognition of housing needs. Environmentalism will occur through an improved education system and healthier children. Acknowledging the burden that these issues place upon households IS doing something for the environment, and doing something for the environment IS doing something for these households.

SO ANYWAYS – here’s what I’m doing (apart from the non-plastic path)…

I’m going to make our town plastic-bag free. Well…. me and a good couply thousand friends. We’re all going to do it… and if you want to sign our petition and put a few words in as to WHY going plastic-bag free is such a good idea – then please do – just click on this image:

petition

Don’t be shy just because you’re not from here – like I said – environmentalism has meaning and impacts far beyond local boundaries… not to mention that the more signatures and points made, the better (and we can still see who has signed from Gisborne for the purposes of local numbers anyway). So feel free to share, too. Then we can all say we’ve done something just now, for the environment, and for social burden too.

HAPPY FEBRUARY! Hey like the new look blog? I doooo!! Mauriora everyone!

Media Coverage

So in my first month of going Non Plastic I’ve been fortunate enough to have two media opportunities –

Marino Harker-Smith did this article for the Gisborne Herald (behold my Jedi powers of levitation).

Aaand I had an interview on national radio with Maraea Rakuraku –

Thanks, ladies, the opportunity to promote the kaupapa is REALLY appreciated.

Saturday – Infographic Day

Day didn’t start SO great –

BUT picked up. Took Ella to the beach with my Mum and brother, stayed at the beach for breakfast… then came home and wrote up some of my health research, digitised some family whakapapa (genealogy), noticed messages from friends on my facebook feed both about the drastically increased level of oil exploration going on here in NZ and their new awareness of plastic… which prompted me to make this infographic:


easel.ly

So yeah… I pretty much geeked out all day

How to give yourself a cerebral hemorrhage over ethical purchasing.

Going into my third week and things are looking ok. Not a spotless record yet – I’ve clocked up a couply stealth plastics (from inside lids)and a piece of sticky tape (from the wrapping around last night’s fish n chips). My biggest blunder was the tomato sauce packet I instinctively grabbed the other day when I was running around like mad before heading out on our camping trip… Yep, total facepalm moment when I got to the car and registered what was in my hand. But still it’s a minimal tally so far, and if that’s what I go out on for my first month then I’m ok with that.

UPDATE: for those that aren’t on my facebook page, Ella has a meat supplier! Many thanks to Paul Oettli who put me on to Darryn Clyne from The Gisborne Deli & Butchery – Darryn’s very cool and actually often uses uses paper wrapping anyway, and is happy to wrap meat orders plastic free upon request. AWESOME GUY, very supportive. Ella’s pretty happy about the whole thing (the whole thing being life, in general). Oh they also source their meat locally, and make GREAT coffees in the deli.

So that brings me to a topic I’ve been considering a lot, of late… The whole paper vs plastic vs bioplastic vs aluminium vs child labour vs bug cruelty etc etc discussion. I touched upon this earlier when I mentioned my own personal longstanding philosophy of “just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you should do nothing”. Yeah… paper uses trees, and encourages pine afforestation, which has it’s own issues. Technically, the process involved in producing an aluminium drink can is more harmful than that of a glass bottle with a bit of plastic on the lid. There is very little way to get around doing harm of SOME kind in this high consumption economy where, by and large, socio-environmental concerns will only matter where the profit margin allows for it. And then there are bioplastics and cellulose plastics – which could be significantly better than aluminium cans or non-recycled paper options.

So I’m going to lay this out clearly. My definition of non-plastic for 2014 will include bio-plastics. That’s not because I don’t support the development of these plastics – I honestly celebrate their development. There are undoubtedly some areas that we need plastics and in those cases of course it would be wonderful if they were degradable. Of course I’m thinking more medical supplies than multipack potato crisps here. I advocate for LESS plastic, not better plastic – and the notion of “better” plastic is still a very, VERY grey area. There are still concerns over the length of time some “biodegradable” plastics still take to degrade, there are still concerns over the production processes and the emissions – my particular concern is that it does not address the fact that we consume way more than we need to. I’d rather reduce my consumption while redirecting it to better nonplastic options along the way. People have labelled that “minimalism” and while I think we could all minimise, I wouldn’t at all call my current lifestyle minimalist.

In my opinion, we live a life of hedonism. We don’t actually need a WHOLE lot of what we buy – and we’ve become accustomed to simply sating our appetites regardless of the impacts. Making do without something is becoming unfathomable to many. I go to the supermarket now for one or two things and I can’t help but glance at the trolleys around me, loaded up with plastic goods – and visualise the collective mountain of plastic packaging that will be sold through the checkouts just on that one day. It’s pretty sobering. And it’s not stuff we NEED. It’s… Cheezels multi-packs. It’s single serve yoghurts. It’s plastic packaged fruit, for freaks sakes. Come on guys – how many of us buy the plastic net sack of fruit only to take it home, rip it open and put the fruit in the fridge anyways???

You know… this hasn’t been AS hard as I thought it would be. It has it’s inconvenient moments, but it’s quite clear to me that that was more because of the dependency that I’d developed than any true difficulty. Actually I’m saving a LOT of money buying in bulk, and through the vege shop, and being a more thoughtful, planned shopper has led, of course, to much less impulse buying (also because I’m spending less time in the stores that are geared to encourage impulse buying). I’m enjoying supporting the local businesses more and am maintaining, if not improving my nutrition choices.

And getting back to my earlier point – you know what – funnily enough going plastic free has led to LESS agonising. I used to pore over packaging to see if it was tested on animals, how many additives and codes it had, what was the company’s environmental commitment, was it locally made etc etc. Honestly I’d annoy myself with my little ethical quandry – and no flatmate ever shopped with me more than once. Now it’s simple… I don’t do ANY of them – I’m working my way through the last of what I have, and have sampled and settled upon alternatives that are absolutely not tested on animals and are sans numbery codes. Forcing myself to make do without, or find the next most environmentally sound alternative has cut down on a LOT of the epic nail-gnawing drama in the hair-care aisle.

As for the aluminium cans and paper products – no… the plastic alternative is not always “safe” for the environment – but go have a look in the trolleys – they’re not stacked up with cans (unless everyone’s stocking their bomb shelters – in which case maybe there are more immediate issues for you to be concerned with) and they’re certainly not stacked up with paper cups – both of which are recyclable. If you do neighbourhood cleanups and certainly beach cleanups – it’s not the cans and paper you come across. I’m going to deal with this – in a way that ALSO tries to cut down on that, where possible. I made a commitment to a kaupapa, however – no plastics – and that is where my priority will lie.

And at the end of the day – hey find SOMETHING and stand for it. Make a stand against carbon emissions in processing, make a stand against bug cruelty in baking (yeah it’s a thing). Better than standing for nothing. We might be going about it in different ways – but we’re both looking down the same path of better alternatives.

I’m going to copy some of my facebook posts over to this blog as well – for those of you who are “facebook free” (I get it… I did that for a bit too and it felt GREAT).

Mauriora, everyone
T