Environment (20) Shopping (15) DIY (11) Palm Oil (11) cleaning products (7) Ecology (6) Fair Trade (6) Savings (6) Social (6) baby (6) Food (5) Social Justice (5) health (5) Chickens (3) free range (3) Buy Local (2) Home (2) RSPO (2) Recycling (2) chocolate (2) cloth (2) nappies (2) Christmas (1) Electronics (1) Fish (1) Free (1) Music (1) Native Fauna (1) charity (1) coffee (1) eggs (1) neighbours (1) travel (1)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Going shampoo-free

Sounds disgusting doesn't it? Just the idea can give people visions of greasy, smelly, dank-looking hair sitting on top of an equally greasy, smelly, teenage boy...

Why go shampoo-free?
Well, aside from the cost of shampoo and conditioners ($$), most seem to contain sodium laurel sulphates (SLS) and/or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)* which are both detergent surfactants and effective foaming agents. You will find SLS or SLES in industrial products including engine degreasers, floor cleaners, and car wash soaps. In lower concentrations, you will find it in toothpastes, shampoos, shaving foams and as an additive in food as an emulsifier. As stated in our 'Ingredients List' blog, it can also be made from Palm Oil, which makes it especially avoidable for us. 

-- as a side note, we still have not heard back from Pantene or Huggies about whether their products contain Palm Oil. As a consequence, we will be looking into alternatives, though perhaps not for shampoos if this method works. 

We also are trying to get away from buying a lot of plastic packaging, even though most of it appears to be recyclable now days.

Washing your hair using detergent based cleaners is a bit of a vicious cycle- the cleaners remove the oil and so your sebaceous glands work harder to produce more oil and so on and so forth. When you use conditioners you are really just putting artificial oils back into your hair. It has really been only in the last century that people started washing their hair more frequently. This article** written in 1908 in the New York times suggests that one could wash their hair as frequently as once a fortnight but only once a month to six weeks if your hair was in good condition. The idea is that your body finds a balance of oils on it's own if you leave it alone.

How do you go shampoo-free? 
From our research done online (though we do know people who have done this sucessfully as well), it would appear that their are two methods for going shampoo- free (or as some call it, 'poo-free): the water-only method and the baking soda/cider vinegar method.

The water only method is just that- rinse your hair under water on a daily basis, but making sure that you massage your scalp to help distribute your natural hair oils (sebum oil).

The baking soda/vinegar method:
Baking soda is said to remove the grime without stripping your hair of its natural oils due to its basic pH. The vinegar (notably most recipes use apple cider vinegar) has a low pH and is said to balance the pH of the hair and some claim that it also helps detangle and clarify the hair.
This intructable does a great job of explaining this method:

Both methods seem to have an adjusting period of a month- 6 weeks. Currently E is on week 2 of the water only method and K has actually been doing this for well over a year.

Getting your head around the idea of not washing your hair is a hard one, but one we hope will become second nature in time.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fair Trade Fortnight: Coffee

Offically Fair Trade Fortnight ended last week, but we havn't finished yet!

Fair Trade Coffee is similar to chocolate in that it is very widely availible in supermarkets and usually a similar price. Non-fair trade coffee is also similar to chocolate in its exploitation of the people that produce it. Oxfam NZ says:
"Over 25 million people in the developing world depend on coffee farming to make a living. But the volatility of coffee prices makes it a very unreliable source of income for growers.
At times, coffee prices have fallen so low that growers have been unable to cover even their production costs, leaving many growers and their families suffering from malnutrition and often forced to abandon their family farms... Just a few cents of the price we pay for a cup of coffee actually gets back to the coffee farmer."
"Buying  fair trade coffee is a great way for shoppers like us to make a real difference to the lives of coffee farmers and their families. More and more coffee farmers are working their way out of poverty through Fairtrade. By selling to the Fairtrade market, coffee farmers are guaranteed a fair, stable price so that they can always cover their production costs and meet their basic needs. In addition, coffee producers receive a Fairtrade premium for investing in local community development projects, such as schools, water wells, health or training."
There is an excellent film made about the coffee industry and the effects of fair trade on the lives of coffee growers, it is called 'Black Gold'. Find out more at and it is also availible at trade aid shops.

Fairtrade Label
Look for this logo



Where To Buy:
Fairtrade coffee is availible in lots of places and is sold by many brands. Most supermarkets sell it with the regular coffee, some brands have one or two varieties certified, others have their whole range. Look for the fair trade logo. Most fair trade coffee is also certified organic so if you are interested in that look out for one of the certified organic logos, see for more infomation.

Many cafes also sell fair trade coffee, and 'Wild Bean Cafe' at BP service stations sell fair trade coffee and hot chocolate. Again look for the fair trade logo and ask if you are not sure.

What is your favourite Fair Trade cafe? let us know in the comments.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fair Trade Fortnight: Chocolate

We have found that Fairtrade chocolate is by far the easiest Fairtrade item to get excited about! Aside from the obvious- that chocolate is amazingly great- it's also fairly easy to purchase Fairtrade chocolate.

Chocolate is the kind of product that many people claim they 'cant live without'. What used to be a luxury product which only the rich could afford is now something which kids can buy with their pocket money.

Oxfam (NZ) has estimated that  
"More than 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa is grown in tropical West Africa, where over 10 million people are dependent on cocoa farming for their income.
Historically, Chocolate- or Cacao, as the raw product is called- comes from South and Central America.
It was the Spanish that took it to Europe and consequently set up colonial plantations in Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lankand other countries where Cacao was not traditionally grown. This was at a time when slavery was rife and acceptable. Slavery was abolished in England 1838, USA 1865, and prohibited internationally in 1926 by the slave convention. Despite this, according to the International Justice Mission (IJM) there are approximately 27 million slaves in the world today which is more than in any other time in history. Many of these slaves still work on cocoa plantations. Fairtrade isn't specifically about stopping slavery though- there are many fantastic organisations which do outstanding work in this area.
The Fairtrade association (international) do state that they are:
 "building partnerships with leading international development organizations specializing in projects on location to protect children from the worst forms of child labour. 
ICCO, which is the International Cocoa Organisation* has stated in their International Cocoa Agreement of 2010 that
"Members shall give consideration to improving the standard of living and working conditions of populations engaged in the cocoa sector, consistent with their stage of development, bearing in mind internationally  recognized principles and applicable ILO** standards. Furthermore, Members agree that labour standards shall not be used for protectionist trade purposes."
Fairtrade cocoa allows the cocoa farmer to make a good living as the fair trade standards include a minimum price. For those who love graphs, here's a good one which shows the difference between fair trade and the New York Market prices: "

Where to buy:
Several manufacturers in NZ produce Fairtrade chocolate. 
- All Scarborough Fair products are fair trade including their chocolate range and are available in supermarkets
Similarly Trade Aid products are all fair trade but are mainly available in Trade Aid stores.
- Candbury's 'Dairy Milk' range is fair trade (but not their other flavours - check for the fair trade logo) 
- Whittakers 'Creamy Milk' range is fair trade (but not their other flavours - check for the fair trade logo)

The great thing about fair trade chocolate is that usually (at least in the case of Candbury and Whittakers) it does not cost any more; and as there is no fair trade palm oil, it will taste better too.

* ICCO is composed of both cocoa producing and cocoa consuming countries with a membership. 
** International Labour Organisation run by the UN and is an international organization responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labour standards.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Cloth Nappy Week, New Zealand

It would seem that this week is the week for Weeks. 

Today marks the start of Cloth Nappy Week, run by a website by the same name and sponsored by, well, practically everyone. says:
Cloth Nappy Week 2011 is dedicated to educating and celebrating the benefits of stylish, eco-friendly cloth nappies in New Zealand. Whether you're new to cloth nappies or have a collection that's taking over the nursery, we welcome you! 
There are lots of events on, experts available for advice on the use of cloth nappies and heaps of specials.
As we've said before, we are passionate about cloth nappies and love to walk down the baby aisle in the supermarket and buy NOTHING.

If ever there was a time to give cloth nappies a go (even just a trial) then now is the time!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fair Trade Fortnight: Bananas

So it's Fairtrade Fortnight again, the time of the year to celebrate all things Fairtrade. First up is bananas. Only one NZ company (All Good Bananas imports fairtrade bananas so that makes it simpler, if a little one sided. Apparently NZ eats more bananas per capita than any other country in the world, which means our decisions about this humble fruit can have large impacts. All Good Bananas says this about the standard banana trade:
"The majority of banana plantation works don’t earn enough to live and support their families. Some earn less that $3 a day. However bananas have made big profits for banana companies and supermarkets. To keep prices low – and profit margins high – farmers and plantation workers at the bottom of the supply chain don’t get much in return. This pressure inevitably means lower wages, longer hours, and deteriorating working conditions for the growers. It’s difficult for them to voice their concerns, as they’re often prevented from forming trade unions to protect their rights and improve their situation."
This is a fairly common problem with most third world produced food, but bananas are by far the most common in NZ. And it doesn't cost that much more - usually you will pay around $2.99 for a bunch of bananas, All Good Fairtrade Bananas cost around $3.99. So what do you and the grower get for for the extra buck?
"Fairtrade provides a lifeline for these growers. This is done by an agreed stable price which covers the cost of sustainable production and enables workers to provide for their families. Cooperatives also receive a Fairtrade premium which producer organisations invest in community projects like healthcare and education facilities. Farmers decide themselves how to invest the premium they earn.There is no other ethical trade initiative that holistically addresses the problems faced by small-scale producers working at the far end of global supply chains, over which they have no influence, but in which decisions that are made affect their whole lives."
This is pretty much the standard idea when it comes to fairtrade. However All Good bananas are also free from dangerous sprays which are commonly used on regular bananas (Although they do occasionally get fumigated on import by MAF). And that is good for both the grower and you. More infomation on this at

So where can you get some?
Not all supermarkets and fruit & vegetable shops sell fairtrade bananas yet, although lots do. All Good Bananas have a cool banana finder map on there website: If you can't find any in a shop near you then ask them to get them! It does work, many stores have started stocking fairtrade bananas because people asked for them. They will be right next to the regular bananas and you can tell the difference because there will be a slight glow emanating from them because they are so good. Oh wait, I read too much All Good Bananas promotional material in researching this article! Actually they have All Good Bananas/Fairtrade tape around each bunch and usually a branded sign too.

enjoy your bananas!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Greening the world with palm oil? -

Greening the world with palm oil?

Very in depth article on palm oil. As well as the ecological problems it also discuses some of the social impacts of palm oil production which is new to me.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Gecko thieves jailed - NZ Herald News

Gecko thieves jailed - NZ Herald News
"Two German men who admitted travelling to New Zealand to steal rare native geckos have been jailed."

It's great to see those that seek to plunder our native species for personal gain caught and punished, but four and a half months jail is pathetic, especially given the price these geckos would fetch on the black market. It is sad when foreign collectors place more value on our native species than our law does.

Hopefully the review that is underway will rectify this discrepancy.

The joys of Couchsurfing

The title sounds a little sarcastic, but it truly has been a joy to have been a part of the Couchsurfing network.

For those who are new to this concept, Couchsurfing is not a movement of people using their couches as surfboards, rather it is:
"A worldwide network for making connections between travellers and the local communities they visit" - 
Essentially, you open your home up to travellers who, in turn, share their experiences with you. If you're travelling, it means that you can stay with a local for a few nights and learn more about their home/way of life etc. It is almost the polar opposite of the type of travel where you stay in a tourist enclave and never see the locals.

At face value it sounds like it is the visitors who benefit from this scheme the most. In actual fact, Couchsurfing has opened us up to meeting a wide range of people, hearing a multitude of stories and has allowed us to give these travellers a warm New Zealand welcome. Even though it is against Couchsurfing rules to accept money, we do receive the occasional gift as a thank you.

Couchsurfing is built on the idea of mutual trust and we have had a great experience with it so far despite hearing a few stories to the contrary; luckily these are the exception to the rule.
Despite increasing globalisation, the idea of opening up your home to complete strangers is counter-cultural. But in the current global situation this is exactly what the world needs, more trust, less fear. In saying this, we are careful with who we host.

Here are a few things we have learned during our two years hosting people:
  • The Nu Zullund accent can be hard to understand... especially when we both speak fast and slurred...
  • Kiwi slang is also not easy to understand even for english speakers because NZ slang has influences from England, USA and Austrailia, as well as out own inventions. We spent an hour or so writing out some common slang for one of our (many) German couchsurfers after completely confusing her within 10 minutes of meeting her. 
  • Respect the language barrier. We very nearly had a bad experience hosting due to this exact issue. We had just hosted people back to back and we felt pressured into hosting some more surfers (bad bad bad). This led to us not being quite as specific with time limits than we normally are. Essentially, we thought we had specified that they could stay one night- they thought it was ok to stay for a week... after they stayed a couple of nights (and got back really late each night) we made the step of apologising for the misunderstanding and clarified when they were leaving. Potentially bad situation turned positive and we have since learnt to be very specific with our information, especially when they do not speak English as a first language. 
  •  The opportunity to have a hot shower and a warm bed crosses all barriers even if you really have nothing in common! 
  • Hitchhiking doesn't seem nearly as bad or scary as we had previously thought. Most of our surfers do it at some stage during their time here and one couple even relied on it as their sole form of transport while in NZ. Not kidding- they spent a week hanging around marinas in Wellington and hitched a ride across Cook Strait on a yacht!
  • Germans are everywhere! We have hosted more Germans than any other country and they all say "Wow, there are so many Germans here!"
  • Maple butter is the best invention to ever come out of Canada. A lovely Canadian couchsurfer gave us a little pottle of it as a present and one of us (not naming names) has been craving it ever since.
We now have friends based throughout the world and many of them have offered us their couch should we ever travel near their city. Should we ever not be able to host, then we can instead offer to meet travellers for a coffee, show them around the city or just meet travellers at the local Auckland couchsurfing group for drinks.

We strongly recommend giving it a try. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dynamo: Palm Oil Free

We got a reply from Colgate-Palmolive today, and, we quote "Dynamo does not contain any palm oil in its ingredients". So while there is probably cleaning products out there that a better for the environment, palm oil is not one of Dynamo's crimes.

As we went though this process we realised that even so called 'green' companies use palm oil. Ecostore, for example, freely admit as much on their website ( It seems odd that a 'green' specialist company uses palm oil when a mainstream manufacturer does not, but it is because ecostore are not only 'green' but 'natural'. Dynamo is almost certainly petrochemical based, and ecostore is plant based. The debate about petrochemicals is for a different day, but beware because 'natural' and 'green' are not aways compatible.

We would be remiss not to mention that ecostore are members of the roundtable on sustainable palm oil ( but ecostore admit that this does not mean that all the palm oil they use is sustainable.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Some things baby... cloth bums... by E

I have to be honest here- it took me a long while to care about my environment and things in it. K had stopped eating fish a long time before I even asked why and I was pretty much a non-thinking consumer. 
While I haven't done a full 180 degree turn on many things, becoming pregnant with bub made me a lot more aware of how I live.

We made the decision to use cloth nappies on our baby from day one. A few people baulked at this idea, imagining the big white towels that our parents generation used. Luckily for us, the modern cloth nappies (MCNs) are quite simply, the bees knees. Its so satisfying walking right past the baby department and not having to buy disposables!

Here's a few reasons why I am a complete cloth bum convert:

1) The sheer expense of disposables is one aspect-, which is a New Zealand cloth nappy store has estimated
"based on the figure of 8 nappies a day for the first 6 months (you'll probably use more than this for a newborn, but I’m estimating conservatively!), and 7 a day thereafter, using el cheapo disposables worked out to $3670 for 2/12 years or $4510 for three years."

Buying a fulltime set of MCNs is between $300-$500 is a huge saving comparatively. 

2) It's honestly not any extra hassle to put on an extra load of washing per day. Babies, particularly at bub's age, are sticky, grubby creatures so there's always washing to be done anyway! Most of the MCN's available don't need any soaking, so you can just put them straight in the wash.
Disposables recommend (in the fine print) that you flush any solids down the toilet [makes sense huh?] so with MCN's you aren't actually handling any more poo then you would with disposables. 

3) The landfill issue... There are dozens of websites out there which tell you about the world's landfill waste problems, so I wont bother spelling it all out here. 
At our 20 week scan, some kind person had left a balled-up used disposable in the carpark. Nice! What got me is just how big that balled-up plastic nappy was. I started wondering how many a baby would go through in their lifetime and it horrified me- along with making me feel a little sick at someone disposing of what is effectively raw sewage in the carpark...
We can and will re-use the MCN's on our next bub too (whenever that happens)  

4) Toilet Training-  I have heard anecdotal evidence that a bub in cloth nappies is likely to be easier to toilet train as they can tell when they are wet- unlike with many brands of disposables which wick away the moisture. As to whether this is really true, it'll be a wee while before we are able to put this theory to the test! 

5) A colourful cloth nappied bum is cuter! 
A and his cloth covered bum
If you have a bub and haven't tried the way of the cloth, I'd just love to encourage you to do so. :)


Monday, May 2, 2011

iPad plant rules 'inhumane' - NZ Herald News

iPad plant rules 'inhumane' - Technology - NZ Herald News: "An investigation into the conditions of Chinese workers has revealed the human cost of producing Apple iPhones and iPads.

The research has revealed allegations of excessive working hours at two Apple plants in southern China."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ingredients lists

We'd be fools to not start with the list on the back of the products... which we nearly didn't do!

As mentioned in the previous post, the Auckland Zoo website has a great 'shopping guide' to help you find non palm oil products. At the very end of the list they have a section designed to help you look at ingredients lists on products to find what is palm oil by a different name:
"Palm oil kernel, anything containing the words “Palmitate” or “Palmate”, Elaeis gunieensis (taxonomic name for palm oil), Hydrated Palm Gylcerides, Hexadecanoic or Palmitic Acid."

 They also list ingredients which might be palm oil:

"Vegetable oil, Anything containing the words “stearate, stearyl”, Anything containing the words “cetyl, cetearyl”, Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulphate, Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS), Sodium or Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate, Steareth -2 and Steareth -20, Emulsifier 422, 430-36, 465-67, 470-8, 481-483, 493-5, 570"

To be honest, its a little scary reading the back of these products. They seem more like a chemistry textbook than something you'd put in your hair (Pantene), wash your clothes with (Dynamo) or even scarier, wipe your babies bum with (Huggies). We realise that these are mostly just fancy names for some pretty standard ingredients, but still!

Pantene: Ammonium laureth sulfate can be derived from coconut oil or palm oil, so we will be writing to the manufacturer to clarify which one.

Huggies wipes: It looks like Huggies wipes are palm oil free, Potassium Laureth Phosphate could be a problem but to be sure we will email the company.

Dynamo: New Zealand's labelling laws mean that if a product isn't used on the body or consumed, a company does not legally need to list the ingredients on the bottle. We did find this online though, thanks to the website listed on the bottle itself! Here is the link for your reference: nothing seems to contain palm oil, but we will write to the manufacturer to be sure. Good on Colgate-Palmolive PTY LTD. for providing more information than legally required to.

We will email these three companies and let you all know how we get on. If there are any products which anyone wants us to look into, please let us know and we'll do our very best!