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What is the planet happy to give me to eat today?
Let's flip around the concept of looking in a recipe book for something that we would like to cook,
heading off to the supermarket to buy the required ingredients then coming home to make that for dinner.
20 Mar 2016
Looming health hazards of chemical repellents
As temperatures rise and mosquitoes hatch in swarms,
the danger of toxic chemicals loom in common household repellents.
9 Feb 2017
Glass Containers for safe food storage by Wean Green
Fabulous new larger size glass containers from Wean Green make it even easier to use glass at home for all your food preparation and storage,
as well as for lunch boxes, picnics and outdoor catering.
20 Mar 2016
Tanjung Puting orangutan sanctuary expedition
In September 1996, my mother, father and I shared a truly remarkable journey to "Camp Leakey"
at the heart of Tanjung Puting National Park in the south of Kalimantan, Indonesia.
20 Mar 2016

16 June 2017

Your war on waste

Did you watch ABC’s War On Waste series and feel inspired to make small positive changes to reduce your environmental footprint? Here are some quick and easy ways you can reduce your waste inspired by the topics highlighted in the War On Waste series.

Your war on waste starts here:

1. Reusable coffee cup

Reduce your disposable coffee cup waste by using a reusable coffee cup. We use approximately one billion disposable coffee cups each year, making this single use item one of the largest contributors to waste along with plastic bottles and bags. People forget that it’s not just about the waste at the end, but the precious non-renewable resources that go into making those takeaway items in the first place. Simple changes such as using a reusable coffee cup can reduce a significant amount of waste and pollution, and of course save precious resources.

2. #Banthebag

Australians are the second highest waste producers in the world, producing on average 690 kilograms of waste per person each year. Plastic bags are one of Australia’s largest environmental hazards with over 3.92 billion plastic bags used and disposed each year. Using reusable shopping and produce bags instead of plastic disposable ones will greatly reduce your contribution to landfill. Take part in influencing change to #banthebag - more details here.

3. Start a zero-waste kit

A zero-waste kit makes it easy for you to eat and drink waste-free while out-and-about. You can make up your own kit depending on the items you use most, but generally a zero-waste kits includes a reusable water bottle, cup, container, straw, cutlery and napkin. Take your zero-waste kit everywhere you go and you will never have to use single use disposable items again.

4. Reduce wardrobe waste

Wear what you have in the wardrobe and don’t give in to buying a new item of clothing just because it’s in fashion. Instead, visit your local op-shop or swap clothes with a friend. If you do need to buy brand new, buy ethically made clothing from environmentally friendly materials.

5. Reduce household waste

Australia’s dependence on landfill as a waste management system is greatly affecting the environment with waste increasing at a compound growth rate of 7.8 per cent per annum. When buying food, reduce your food miles as much as possible by purchasing direct from your local farmer. Where possible, avoid purchasing pre-packaged food and opt for buying in bulk from a local wholesaler. Reduce your use of single use plastics by using non-toxic containers to store your purchases. The recycling service offered by most local councils is a great environmentally friendly initiative that makes it easy for every household to reduce their contribution to landfill. Keep a separate bin in your kitchen for recyclables and regularly sort out your general waste from your recycling. When a valuable household item breaks, don’t discard it – fix it. Society has become accustom to throwing away items that can easily be repaired. The next time something breaks, don’t throw it away, head to your local hardware store instead. Reduce, recycle and repair!

6. Compost

Composting your food scraps not only provides you with nutrient rich fertiliser for your garden, it also helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by landfill. Plant matter requires air to decompose properly, therefore when placed in landfill among other chemically produced waste, it doesn’t decay cleanly. The dense layers trap the waste and generate an anaerobic environment which causes the plant matter to produce methane gas as it decays, harming the ozone layer with potent greenhouse gases. Instead of discarding food scraps in the general waste bin opt for a compost bin. The design of compost bins has evolved making it easy for everyone to compost their scraps. From small Bokashi Bins for units to large bins for houses, the new designs prevent smells leaching out and flies getting in making it more desirable to use a compost bin.

Start implementing these small changes into your daily routine and you will discover just how easy it is to reduce your waste.

31 May 2017

How to detox your home

Most of us are focused on living a healthy life whether it be exercising regularly, eating healthy foods or reducing internal toxins, however detoxing the home is an area that is commonly overlooked but can benefit your health and wellbeing greatly.

The average home contains between 500 to 1000 chemicals. From the cleaning products used weekly, to the physical walls and floors of the home, there are many toxic chemicals lurking in our possessions that surround us every day. Detoxing your home can seem overwhelming at first but if you start by making small changes, you are more likely to continue to reduce your chemical exposure over time. Changes can be as simple as swapping to natural alternatives or opening your windows more regularly to let in fresh air.

Chemical free cleaning
Cleaning is a daily household task that can significantly increase your exposure to chemicals. Most commercial cleaning products contain a concoction of harmful chemicals that are known carcinogens, skin irritants and hormone disruptors. To reduce your daily exposure to these chemicals, swap your chemical produced cleaning products to plant-based and palm oil free alternatives, or make your own.

Reducing plastic
Plastic kitchen products contain numerous toxic chemicals and when used, especially heated, can emit toxins and leach chemicals into the food or liquid contained inside. Reduce your use of plastic products in your kitchen, especially ones that contain Bisphenol A (BPA). Instead, use glass or stainless steel containers, and bamboo or wooden cooking and cleaning utensils.

Freshening the air
Reducing odours in your home is usually a top priority for every houseproud person, however commercial home fragrance products are commonly produced using a toxic concoction of synthetic fragrances. The self-regulated fragrance industry selects from over 4000 chemicals to produce their products and due to proprietary knowledge regulations, companies are not legally required to disclose the ingredients used in each product. Most of the chemicals used in this industry have previously never been tested and the ones that have been tested, are assigned a ‘safe dose’ that permits use in low quantities. This ‘safe dose’ is taken in isolation and does not account for a person’s daily exposure to other harmful chemicals. Instead of using synthetic home fragrance products, opt for 100% pure essential oils. They contain no harmful chemicals and will make your home smell fresh and inviting to any unexpected visitors. Another alternative is to regularly open your windows to refresh the air inside your home.

Creating ambiance 
Although they enhance the home’s atmosphere, most commercial scented candles contribute greatly to indoor air pollution. Most chemical produced candles are made from paraffin wax which is derived from petroleum. During the manufacturing process, the petroleum is chemically bleached and deodorised to turn it into wax. When candles containing paraffin wax are lit, they emit hazardous toxins including benzene and toluene which are both known carcinogens and comparative to the toxins in second-hand smoke. If you love the ambiance candles create, try to avoid purchasing candles that are made from chemicals and buy natural bees wax candles instead.

Detoxing your home can greatly benefit your health, the environment and save you money in the long term.

23 May 2017

Zero waste toxin free washing

The laundry is one area in the home that can contain many chemical produced cleaning products. From washing powder to stain remover, most commercial cleaning products used to wash clothes and household linens are usually laden with toxic chemicals including fragrance, surfactants, stabilizers, bleach, dioxane, brighteners and phosphates.

When chemical laundry detergents are used, toxins are released into the air, washed down the drain and absorbed into the fabric of the garments you wear each day. This not only impacts your health but degrades the quality of our oceans and threatens marine biodiversity. To significantly reduce your daily exposure to chemicals and reduce your impact on the environment, simply swap to a natural laundry detergent.

Soapberries are a natural, chemical free and zero waste alternative to conventional laundry detergent. Commonly referred to as ‘soap nuts’, Soapberries are the fruit produced by the Sapindus Mukorossi tree. The shell has high levels of ‘saponin’ which reduces the surface tension of the water to remove dirt and leaves fabrics soft and clean. They are hypo-allergenic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and odourless, making them perfect for people prone to skin sensitivities and allergies.

Soapberries can also be used as a multi-purpose liquid soap. Simply boil a few berries for fifteen minutes. The soapy water can then be used to wash hands, surfaces, hair and dishes.

The most exciting eco-friendly aspect of soapberries, is the berries can be composted or placed in the garden to decompose once you are finished using them. They are completely zero-waste.

Make a small change for your health and the environment and change the way you wash your clothes.

18 May 2017

The state of Australia’s waste

As Australia’s population increases, our war on waste escalates as we battle with a nation that is highly driven by materialism, convenience and cost, opposed to environment, ethics and health. Our nations wasteful actions are moving us towards a dangerous future and if we don’t begin to make changes, we will carry the cost of waste forever, leading to major health, living and environmental issues.

Australia’s population is currently sitting at 24.4 million. We now produce approximately 50 million tonnes of waste annually, which equates to over 2 tonnes of waste per person. During the period of 1996 to 2015, Australia’s population increased by 28% and waste generation increased by 170%, growing at a compound growth rate of 7.8% per year.

Australia’s household consumption continues to rise with the economy. The average household bin contains approximately 60% green waste which is made up of 40% food waste and 20% garden waste. Since 2005, recycling has risen at a faster rate with Australian’s now recycling approximately 58% of all the waste we generate and the rest being disposed in landfill. However, recycling isn’t the main solution to our dramatically increasing waste issue; significantly reducing our daily waste is. 

This dramatic increase in waste generation should be viewed as a window to the future of our planet’s wellbeing. To reduce our waste, we need to start monitoring the things we discard and start asking ourselves - “is there is a waste free solution that can prevent me from producing this waste again?”

You can dramatically reduce kitchen waste by composing food scraps, buying only what you need, buying from wholefood bulk suppliers and markets, using reusable shopping bags, and putting your food in containers instead of using plastic food wrap. When out and about, pack a zero-waste kit so you don't need to rely on single use products.

We can all make a difference by being mindful of the waste we generate and making simple changes to reduce it.


04 May 2017

Natural toxin free deodorant

Sweating is the body’s natural process of expelling toxins. When using an anti-perspirant deodorant you prevent your body from sweating and releasing toxins.

Natural deodorants allow your body to sweat but control the odour causing bacteria that forms when your body expels these toxins. They are formulated to allow your body to perspire but block the bacteria that causes odour as opposed to anti-perspirants that commonly use Aluminium to prevent perspiration. Made from plants and minerals, natural deodorants are free from ingredients commonly found in most anti-perspirant deodorants including petrochemicals, synthetic fragrances and Aluminium Chlorohydrate.

Natural deodorant formulations are actually very simple and are primarily made from coconut oil or shea butter together with bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and essential oils for fragrance. The ingredients should be simple and easily recognisable. Avoid any ingredients that have numbers or complex chemical names.

Natural deodorants are suitable for many, though not all, people with sensitive skin as they are made from plants and minerals and are free from ingredients that commonly irritate sensitive skin.

Even natural ingredients such as certain essential oils and even coconut oil can cause reactions in some people. There is also a reasonable number of people who react negatively to bicarbonate of soda and develop a rash. Such people should look for deodorants where baking soda is further down the list of ingredients.

When you use natural deodorant for the first time, you may experience a detox period through your armpits. This is likely to occur as it’s your body’s natural process of restoring its PH and armpit health. The detox period could last up to two weeks and effects could be odour, redness or rash, but please don’t let this put you off. It’s worth persevering to switch to a non-toxic solution.

Because the ingredients are so simple, making your own deodorant is quite popular. Here is a recipe for homemade natural deodorant.

24 April 2017

Plastic free living

Each year, over 300 million tons of plastic is manufactured worldwide. It is estimated by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish floating in the ocean with over 46,000 pieces polluting every square mile of the sea.

Plastic pollution is nearing crisis point. We have produced more plastic in the first ten years of this century then we have in the whole of the last twentieth century. It is now more important than ever before for all Australians to reduce their plastic use and lead the plastic free movement.

Society’s view and reliance on plastic has lead us down an environmentally destructive path. Rather than seeing plastic as a precious petrochemical resource that contaminates our environment, we see it as a convenient, affordable and disposable product. Plastic never breaks down entirely. Every piece of plastic manufactured still remains in some form and continues to pollute our environment and endanger our wildlife.

Using plastic free products and refusing single use plastics is the easiest way to live a plastic free life. Use alternative plastic free products made from glass, stainless steel, organic cotton, hemp, jute, bamboo and wood, and avoid any excess plastic packaging.

Reducing the use of plastic is not only good for the environment but your health too. Plastic is made from a concoction of chemicals and releases tons of toxic emissions during its production, transportation and disposal. Some chemicals used in plastic production are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors. By living a plastic free life, you are eliminating your exposure to numerous chemicals and reducing your impact on the environment.

Five ways to reduce your use of plastic:

1. Use reusable products
Carry around a reusable pack containing reusable cutlery, a straw, food container, drink bottle, coffee cup and bag to avoid using single use disposable plastics when out and about.

2. Use non-plastic food storage containers
Store your food in glass or stainless steel containers to avoid any toxic chemicals leaching into your food.

3. Buy in bulk
Buy your food in bulk from a wholefoods supplier and use glass or stainless steel storage jars to eliminate plastic food packaging.

4. Use beeswax or vegan food wraps
Plastic food wrap is the worst single use kitchen product. Swap this for reusable beeswax or vegan food wraps.

5. Plastic free shopping
When shopping, use reusable produce bags and shopping bags to avoid using single use plastic bags.

12 April 2017

The environmental impact of plastic straws

Straws are a damaging global environmental hazard increasing by the thousands daily, polluting the environment and waterways and injuring wildlife.

Over 500 million straws are used daily worldwide for an average of 20 minutes before being discarded. They are an item of convenience and essentially useless but people continue to use them despite their effects on the environment.
Plastic straws are one of many types of plastic polluting our earth and harming our wildlife. From production to disposal, plastic straws consume non-renewable resources and take thousands of years to break down. These chemically produced products are non-biodegradable and when disposed photodegrades over time, causing each piece of plastic to break down into small fragments.
Straws are one of the top 10 items collected in ocean clean-ups. The environmental effects of plastics are permanent and widespread with plastic contributing to approximately 90 per cent of the rubbish floating in our oceans. Approximately 46 thousand pieces of plastic contaminate every square mile of the ocean.
To illustrate the extent of global plastic straw pollution, imagine how many straws the world’s most popular fast food chain McDonald’s would hand out daily. McDonald’s operates over 34,000 restaurants in over 118 countries and serves over 50 million people daily. If only one quarter of the 50 million people McDonald’s serves daily purchased a drink with a straw, they would contribute 4.5 billion straws annually to global waste.
To reduce your use of disposable straws, refuse one with your next order or use a reusable straw. It’s these small actions taken by individuals collectively that leads to extensive positive change.
Quick facts about plastic straws:
  1. Over 500 million plastic straws are used daily worldwide.
  2. Straws are made from natural resources including crude oil, natural gas and coal which cannot be replaced once depleted.
  3. 20 minutes is the average time a straw is used before being discarded.
  4. Straws are one of the top 10 items littering our marine environment.
  5. 90 per cent of rubbish floating in the world's oceans is plastic, primarily straws, bottles and caps.
  6. Studies estimate 1 million sea birds, 100,000 mammals and countless fish are killed every year from plastic.
  7. 6,263,319 straws and stirrers have been collects at beach clean-up events over the past 25 years.
  8. Reports indicate there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

07 April 2017

Why it is better to eat seasonally

Seasonal eating is often promoted by heath practitioners for it nutritional benefits. When produce is harvested at the peak of its season, it is full of beneficial nutrients and flavour, however there are additional benefits to seasonal eating that extend beyond the body and tastebuds.

When you eat produce that is grown locally and in season, you not only support local farmers, but reduce your environmental footprint by minimising your food miles. We are fortunate to live in an era and country where we have access to a large array of produce year-round, but what can be deceiving about this is the environmental impact of this offering. Like flowers, fruit and vegetables grow in season. Citrus fruits are at their peak in winter or cooler climates, and tropical fruits ripen in summer or in tropical climates.
When certain produce is out of season, supermarkets import them from other countries with opposing seasons to maintain their offering. The imported produce has usually been harvested earlier to ensure it doesn’t spoil and will be ripe by the time it reaches stores. The produce is placed in a shipping container and shipped to its intended destination, using countless tonnes of fuel and expelling pollution in the meantime.

Instead of eating produce that is available from supermarkets opt for purchasing produce from your local farmer’s markets or green grocer as it would have been grown locally, picked in season and have significantly less impact on the environment.

Below is a guide to help you buy produce in season. This guide may differ slightly depending on your location.


Fruits: avocado, apple, blackberries, banana, cumquat, custard apple, feijoa, fig, grapefruit, grapes, guava, honeydew, kiwi fruit, lemon, lime, mandarin, mango, mangosteen, nashi, orange, papaya, passionfruit, peach, pear, persimmon, plum, pomegranate, prickly pear, quince, rambutan, raspberries, rhubarb, rockmelon, strawberries, tamarillo

Vegetables: artichoke, asian greens, avocado, beans, beetroot, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, cauliflower, celery, choko, corn, cucumber, daikon, eggplant, fennel, leek, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onion, spring onions, parsnip, peas, potato, pumpkin, radish, shallot, silverbeet, spinach, squash, swede, sweet potato, tomato, turnip, watercress, witlof, zucchini


Fruits: Apple, avocado, cumquat, custard apple, Feijoa, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, Lime, mandarin, nashi, orange, lemon, Pear, persimmon, pineapple, quince, Rhubarb, tamarillo, tangelo

Vegetables: asian greens, avocado, beetroot, broccoli, broccolini, broad beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, Chokos, fennel, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, leek, Lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onion, spring onion, parsnip, Peas, snow peas, potato, pumpkin, radish, shallot, Silverbeet, spinach, swede, sweet potato, turnip


Fruits: Apple, asparagus, avocado, banana, blueberries, cantaloupe, Cherry, cumquat, grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi fruit, lemon, Lime, loquat, lychee, mandarin, mango, Mulberries, orange, papaya, pepino, pineapple, Rhubarb, strawberries, tarfruit, tangelo, watermelon

Vegetables: Artichoke, asian greens, avocado, beans, beetroot, broccoli, brussels sprouts, Cabbage, capsicum, carrot, cauliflower, celery, choko, corn, Cucumber, daikon, eggplant, fennel, leek, lettuce, mushrooms, Okra, onion, Spring onion, parsnip, peas, potato, pumpkin, Radish, shallot, silverbeet, spinach, squash, swede, sweet potato, tomato, turnip, watercress, witlof, zucchini


Fruits: Apple, apricot, banana, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, Cantaloupe, cherries, currants, fig, grapefruit, Grapes, honeydew, lemon, loganberries, lychee, Mango, mulberries, nectarine, orange, passionfruit, Peach, pear, plum, pineapple, rambutan, Raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, tamarillo, watermelon

Vegetables: Asparagus, avocado, beans, beetroot, cabbage, Capsicum, carrot, celery, corn, cucumber, Daikon, eggplant, leek, lettuce, okra, Onion, spring onion, peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas, Potato, radish, shallot, silverbeet, squash, Tomato, watercress, zucchini, zucchini flower

30 March 2017

The health imacts of synthetic fragrance

Synthetic fragrance is now infused in the most basic household products used daily, from toothpaste and cosmetics to washing powder and bin liners. Society is suffering with the excessive use of synthetic fragrance and its effects on people with sensitivities are beginning to show. Research completed by Professor Anne Steinemann from the University of Melbourne has revealed one third of Australians experience health problems when exposed to fragrance including migraines, dizziness, nausea, skin irritation, asthma attacks and seizures.

Initially derived from flowers and used sparingly, fragrance is now chemically produced to make it more cost effective than natural versions. Over 4000 chemicals are available for the self-regulated fragrance industry to use in the production of their products, and due to proprietary knowledge regulations, the industry is not legally required to reveal the specific ingredients used in each product. Most of the chemicals used in the fragrance industry have previously never been tested for their health effects and the ones that have been tested are allocated a safe dose due to low usage levels, however this does not account for the thousands of other chemicals a person is exposed to throughout the day.

Due to the health impacts of synthetic fragrance, it is likely in the coming years fragrance in the workplace will follow the same trajectory as smoking. The study found 7.7 per cent of Australians leave work for the day or resign, and 16.7 per cent leave a shop due to illness from fragranced product exposure.

While there aren’t any laws enforcing fragrance-free workplaces in Australia, there are precautions you can take to reduce your daily exposure to these chemicals. Purchasing fragrance-free products will significantly reduce your exposure. If you are affected by fragrance within your workplace, address your concerns with management and discuss options about enforcing a fragrance-free policy within the office. To learn more about the research into the science of scent, read Kate Grenville's book The Case Against Fragrance. This insightful and thought provoking book uncovers the truth about the production of synthetic fragrance and its heath impacts on society.

22 March 2017

Cutting chemicals out of cosmetics

The inexplicable rise of certain health conditions along with research conducted on the health impacts of chemicals raises concerns about the safety of ingredients in chemical produced personal care products. Beauty is one industry where the use of chemicals in the production of personal care products is unsystematically monitored and tested.

The beauty industry selects from a palette of approximately 12,500 chemical ingredients to produce a range of products with the average chemical produced beauty product containing between 15 to 50 ingredients. Each product formulation varies slightly, however, most cosmetics contain a concoction of ingredients including water, fragrances, emulsifiers, emollients, colouring agents, preservatives, thickening agents, and pH stabilisers. Most of the chemicals used in beauty products have previously never been tested for their health effects and the ones that have been tested are allocated a safe dose due to low usage levels, however this does not account for the thousands of other chemicals a person is exposed to throughout the day.  

The main chemicals of concern used in the production of cosmetics include Phthalates, Parabens, Talcum powder, Nanoparticles, Formaldehyde and formaldehyde donors, Lead acetate, Coal tar, UV filters, Triclosan, Resorcinol, Toluene and Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) due to their links to cancer and hormone disruption. Furthermore, the production and disposal of these chemicals affect our environment with most beauty waste being washed down the drains, threatening marine biodiversity and the quality of our oceans and waterways.   

Research has uncovered women use around 9 and 15 beauty products daily, applying approximately 515 chemicals to their skin through the use of cosmetics, beauty products and perfumes. Making your own natural beauty products at home is an easy and affordable way to significantly reduce your daily exposure to chemicals. Using a small selection of natural ingredients, you can make your own chemical free deodorant, mascara, face mask, body scrub, toothpaste and more. Switching to a natural alternative is better for your health and the environment.

16 March 2017

Because native bees matter

Bees play a significant role in our food chain. They are responsible for one third of the world’s produce, however millions of beehives have unknowingly disappeared worldwide. Up to one fourth of all colonies have been destroyed, with losses reaching up to 80% on some farms.

Australian native bees play an important role in the ongoing development of our native ecosystem. There are over 1500 varieties of native bees which are more fragile than the introduced European honeybees and have suffered greatly from urban deforestation. Over the years, they have co-evolved with Australia’s native flora resulting in many species relying solely on native bees for cross pollination.

Honeybees are important for the earth’s bionetwork, however they pose a threat to Australia’s native fauna and flora as they rival other animals for tree hollows and floral resources. The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species of Conservation Act have highlighted the species at risk of being displaced from hollows by rivalry honeybees which include the Brush-tailed Phascogale, Squirrel Glider, Yellow-bellied Glider, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, Regent Parrot, Brushtail Possum, Greater Glider and Sugar Glider. Other native animal’s honeybees threaten include honey eaters and native bees due to their ability to remove more than 80 per cent of the floral resources produced from their frequent visits. Certain plant species are also vulnerable to honeybees as their process of pollen removal affects their seed set preventing correct crosspollination.

We can protect Australia’s future bionetwork by providing a safe place for native bees to live and by planting specific plants to attract them to our gardens. Most native bees are solitary and rise their young in hollows and tiny nooks. Bee Houses provide a perfect place for native bees to nest and be protected from the harsh elements or predators.

Anyone can create a bee friendly garden regardless of the size or location of your backyard. Planting a variety of flowering plants will help to attract many species of bees to your garden. The list below is not extensive but offers a variety of bee friendly plants to get you started in creating a haven for bees in your garden. For more information, read A Bee Friendly Garden. It provides a thorough guide to encouraging bees and other good bugs to your green space.

Bee friendly plants

Herbs: Basil, Corriander, Rosemary, Borage, Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, Fennel, Sage, Rocket, Lavender, Chives, Mint and Rocket.

Fruit and vegies: Lemons, Limes, Mandarins, Passionfruit, Strawberries, Cucumbers, Squash, Raspberries, Apples, Avocado, Watermelons, Pumpkins and Peppers.

Flowers and trees: Alyssum, Cornflower, Lilly Pilly, Cosmos, Poppies, Echinacea, Eucalyptus, Echium, Forget-me-not, Foxglove, Callistemon (Bottlebrushes), Geranium, Marigold, Roses, Sunflowers, Zinnia, Banksia and Grevilleas.

13 March 2017

Top environmental documentaries to watch

Under the Dome (2013)

Theme: Air Pollution

About: This documentary which uncovers the state of China’s air pollution and its long-term effects became a viral sensation when released clocking up over 200 million views in its first weekend before it was removed from all major Chinese websites. Renowned investigative journalist Chai Jing uncovers the leading contributors to the country's toxic smog and criticises the government’s actions in preventing this issue from getting worse.

A Plastic Ocean (2016)

Theme: Plastic and ocean pollution

About: This feature-length adventure documentary reveals the full extent of our global disposable lifestyle uncovering the shocking truth about the state of our oceans. Brought together by an international team of adventures, researchers and ocean ambassadors, this documentary captures never-before-seen footage of the damaging extent of plastic pollution on our oceans and marine life.

How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change (2016)

Theme: Climate Change

About: Oscar Nominated director Josh Fox sheds light on climate change by traveling to 12 countries on 6 continents to understand our future and explore the human qualities that global warming can't destroy.

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014)

Theme: Animal agriculture

About: Until Cowspiracy was released, the environmental impacts of the animal agriculture industry were almost entirely unchallenged. Animal agriculture is the primary contributor to many environmentally damaging processes including deforestation, water consumption and pollution, mass greenhouse gas production, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion and ocean dead zones. This ground-breaking feature-length documentary revels the destructive nature of this industry and investigates the reasons environmental organisations are fearful to challenge this industry.

More Than Honey (2013)

Theme: Colony collapse disorder

About: Bees play a significant role in our food chain. They are responsible for one third of the world’s produce, however millions of beehives have unknowingly disappeared worldwide. Up to one fourth of all colonies have been destroyed, with losses reaching up to 80% on some farms. Oscar-nominated director Markus Imhoof investigates the sudden demise of the world’s bee population, also known as colony collapse disorder.

The Human Experiment (2013)

Theme: Chemical exposure

About: This full-length feature documentary analyses our exposure to untested chemicals in products we use daily including toothpaste and cleaning products, and examines links to the rise of many diseases. It follows the stories of people personally affected by chemicals and exposes the corrupt system the powerful and profitable chemical industry tries to hide from consumers.

06 March 2017

Battling Australia’s bottled water crisis

Bottled water provides no benefit, it only enables a narrow-minded vision for the future of our society and environment. Now is the time to boycott this bad habit and work together to reverse our environmentally destructive actions.

Australian’s consume over 726 million litres of bottled water every year. This single use consumption that has escalated into one of the world’s most environmentally damaging consumer habits is now affecting our health and posing a major threat to the future of our environment.

In 2015 Australians spent approximately $500 million on bottled water. Over 5.3 million Aussies drank bottled water in any given seven days with Mount Franklin being Australia’s favourite bottled water brand to consume (40 per cent) followed closely by Coles Natural Spring Water (14 per cent). Boycotting bottled water does not only mean you support the future of our environment but it also removes your dollars from contributing to the billions in profits that multinational corporations receive from producing this environmentally destructive product.

Bottled water uses over 50 million barrels of crude oil during the production, transportation and refrigeration processes, and uses over three times the water to produce as to fill the bottles. It contributes the most predominant form of ocean pollution with over 46 thousand pieces of plastic contaminating every square mile of the ocean, including the ocean floor.

Plastic disposable water bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic. Although completely recyclable, they are non-biodegradable and when disposed photodegrade, causing them to break down into small fragments called microplastics. The microplastics then absorb toxins and pollute our waterways and soil, harm our wildlife and pose potential future health hazards to humans.

Single use plastic water bottles contain Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Bisphenol A (BPA), a combination of man-made chemicals that have been linked to health issues including reproductive problems and various types of cancer. When bottles produced with these chemicals are exposed to direct sunlight and heat or become old and brittle, it causes the chemicals to leach from the bottle and contaminate any liquid contained within it.

Giving up bottled water means you a taking one giant step forward to not only reducing your impact on the environment but immediately cutting your support for the production of bottled water. The more profit large corporations make from bottled water, the more they will continue to produce it. Boycott bottled water and choose to reuse. It is better for your health, the environment and will save you money in the long-term.

02 March 2017

What toxic chemicals are in your toothpaste?

Toothpaste developed by multinational corporations is commonly formulated using a combination of toxic ingredients recognised, to a certain degree, for their health risks. Ingredients such a Triclosan, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Artificial Sweeteners and Fluoride are used in most commercial brands. The mouth’s oral mucosa is one of the most absorbent areas of the body, therefore anything placed inside the mouth has a high chance of being absorbed and transferred into the bloodstream. This is concerning when chemically produced toothpaste is used widely everyday by both children and adults.

One widely promoted and used toothpaste, particularly in Australia is Colgate Total. Its claims promise 12-hour complete oral care protection against plaque and gingivitis. The chemical used in its formulations of this toothpaste is Triclosan, an antibacterial compound linked to various health concerns.

Toothpaste is one of the most potent delivery vehicles for Triclosan. Although the chemical can prevent gingivitis, it has also been linked to numerous health concerns including antibiotic resistance, endocrine disruption and breast cancer progression. Endocrine disrupting chemicals can be the cause for several adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects. Triclosan also has close links with dioxin, a highly carcinogenic chemical that can weaken the immune system, decrease fertility, cause miscarriages, birth defects and cancer.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a chemical used in most toothpastes to promote the foaming action of the paste. This chemical is used in thousands of beauty products and industrial cleaners as a surfactant, detergent and emulsifier. Although SLS naturally occurs in coconuts, the chemical form is usually combined with various chemicals to produce desired results including dioxin, a carcinogenic by-product that has been linked to cancer.

When SLS is used in toothpaste, it affects your taste buds by breaking up the phospholipids on your tongue. This chemical is responsible for changing the taste of food and drinks after brushing as it enhances bitter tastes. SLS is not only bad for our health but for our environment as well. The manufacturing process of this chemical releases carcinogenic volatile organic compounds into the environment.

Made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine, Aspartame is a common chemical in most artificial sweeteners added to commercial toothpastes to enhance the flavour. The chemical Phenylalanine has been adapted to contain a methyl group which is known as a phenylalanine methyl bond called methyl ester. This bond is frail which can easily detach the methyl group from the phenylalanine causing it to form methanol. Although methanol is found in fruit and vegetables, it is firmly bonded to pectin which allows it to be safely passed through your digestive tract.

Methanol created by aspartame is not bonded to anything which causes the body to process it rather then let it pass through the body. When processed by the body, the methyl alcohol travels through your bloodstream and penetrates sensitive areas including your brain which is then converted to formaldehyde, damaging tissue and causing other serious health concerns. Symptoms from methanol poisoning can include headaches, ear buzzing, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, weakness, vertigo, chills, memory lapses, numbness, and shooting pains in the extremities, behavioural disturbances, and neuritis.

Fluoride is thought to be the best ingredient for preventing tooth decay, however recent studies indicate it may not be as effective as once thought. The study discovered the layer of fluorapatite build up on your teeth from fluoride is only six nanometres thick. The thickness can be comparable to 10,000 of these layers measuring the same width as a strand of hair. This is causing scientists to question the strength and protective abilities of this ultra-thin layer.

Fluoride is a toxic chemical that builds up in your body over time and causes various health problems. It is particularly concerning for children using fluoride toothpaste as studies have found fluoride to be the single biggest source of intake for young children due to them swallowing a large amount during brushing. This can cause several health issues including disfiguring dental fluorosis, a symptom of fluoride poisoning. Research has recognised that children can swallow more fluoride from toothpaste alone than their recommended daily intake.

Organic and natural toothpastes are effective in providing complete oral care without the toxic chemicals. Most natural toothpastes used ingredients including bentonite clay, coconut oil, baking soda, salt, peppermint oil and water. You can make your own natural toothpaste at home. It’s easy, affordable and most importantly, toxin free.

17 February 2017

The true environmental costs of disposable coffee cups

Society’s increasing addiction to coffee has become a major cause for concern for environmental groups and conscious consumers worldwide. With Australians using over 1 billion disposable coffee cups each year and Americans using 58 billion alone, it’s no surprise this single use product is now the second largest contributor to landfill waste after water bottles.

Environmental awareness around disposable coffee cups is usually centred on its end of life impacts however, the social costs and negative production externalities is deeply concerning and an issue that needs to be discussed more often. When considering the impacts of disposable coffee cups, its negative production externalities far exceed the convenience they offer with the average disposable cup being used for approximately 15 minutes before being discarded.

What are the true costs?

 Each year over 20 million trees are cut down and 12 billion gallons of water is used to manufacture disposable coffee cups. Along with this, tonnes of crude oil is used during the production and transportation process. This results in significant loss of natural resources, ecosystem degradation, reduced carbon absorption and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The most common misconception about paper cups is they are recyclable. Most paper coffee cups are coated with a plastic resin (polyethylene) which prevents them from being recycled. Some waste collection centres can recycle disposable coffee cups by extracting the plastic from the paper however, this can be very costly and time consuming. This also raises a valid health concern about carcinogenic chemicals leeching from the cups and being ingested.

The plastic lining of paper-based cups. Image by Choice.

After use, disposable coffee cups are discarded in landfill where they are left to degrade. During this process, they release countless CO2 emissions and the plastic breaks down into smaller fragments polluting the soil and waterways, potentially harming wildlife. 

How can we make a difference?

Sitting in the coffee shop and drinking from a ceramic cup is the best way to avoid using a disposable coffee cup but this does require time – a luxury not all of us have. A realistic alternative for our time conscious society is to use a reusable ‘on-the-go’ coffee cup such as a KeepCup. It only takes 15 uses for one KeepCup to break even, every use thereafter benefits the planet.

If we can all begin to reduce our reliance on ‘convenient’ disposable products by simply being prepared with our own reusable products, we will significantly reduce the pre and post production environmental impacts of these products. It’s time for consumers to stand up and start leading change themselves rather than waiting for it to happen. The more we use single use disposable products, the longer businesses will continue to offer it to us.

Responsible Cafes connects thoughtful cafes with conscious consumers by offering incentives to customers that bring in their reusable cups. Find your closest responsible cafe here

Refuse or reuse!

10 February 2017

What is in your sunscreen?

Choosing a sunscreen can be hard. There are numerous options on the market that offer various levels of protection and contain countless ingredients both of which can be good and bad for your health and the environment.

When purchasing sunscreen, our main aim is to protect ourselves from the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays. Our relentless quest for sun protection can sometimes lead us to believe the chemical produced sunscreen products developed and marketed by multinational corporations offer the best protection, but the question remains - how are these products affecting our health and the environment?

Luckily, the earth produces a natural sunblock that is just as effective at protecting your skin from the sun without the potentially harmful synthetic ingredients. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two natural ingredients that protect your skin from sun damage. They form a topical layer that physically blocks the sun’s rays from penetrating the skin.

Titanium dioxide comes from titanium which has a natural white chalky appearance that is highly reflective. Zinc oxide comes from mineral zinc and is manufactured into a substance that is a highly effective sunblock. Similar to titanium dioxide, zinc oxide makes your skin look white when applied and feels slightly heavy on the skin.

Both substances are effective at protecting your skin from the sun however, zinc oxide provides the most protection due to its ability to block out various types of rays. UVA (UV-aging) and UVB (UV-burning) are separate rays that affect the skin differently. Titanium dioxide protects the skin from UVB and short UVA rays, whereas zinc oxide blocks long UVA rays providing further protection against various rays. To offer broad spectrum protection, zinc oxide is often combined with additional UVB blockers.

Conventional sun protection products are commonly made with a concoction of synthetic ingredients that pose a threat to your health and the environment. The ingredients listed below are commonly included in most chemically produced sunscreen products and ones you should avoid using.

1. Oxybenzone is a penetration enhancer that helps the skin absorb additional chemicals. When this substance is exposed to UV rays it experiences a chemical reaction which can irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions. This chemical has also been recognised to disrupt hormones.

2. Octinoxate is a chemical used in most commercial sunscreens that contain SPF. Our skin absorbs this substance easily and promotes the absorption of other ingredients. Octinoxate isn’t known for causing allergic reactions, however the substance has been linked to effecting hormones and endangering wildlife if leaked into waterways.

3. Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate) helps to improve the anti-aging properties of sunscreens. Retinyl Palmitate is a combination of Vitamin A and palmitic acid. Studies have linked this substance to numerous health concerns including the ability to increase the development of malignant cells and skin tumours. When retinyl is exposed to UV rays, it breaks down and releases toxic free radicals that can damage cells, DNA and promote cancer growth.

4. Homosalate is a substance that helps sunscreen penetrate your skin and absorb UV rays. The chemical is easily absorbed through our skin and accumulates in our bodies at a rate much faster than our body can process it. As this chemical accumulates in our body, it becomes toxic and can disrupts hormones.

5. Octocrylene is a UV ray absorbing chemical that produces oxygen radicals when exposed to UV light which can cause further damage to cells and cause mutations. This substance also has the ability to accumulate in your body. This substance can be toxic when released into the environment.

6. Paraben Preservatives have been known to cause allergic reactions when applied. Studies have also revealed the substance can disrupt hormones, and cause developmental and reproductive toxicity.

Although sunscreen is an important product to use to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, the best form of protection it to cover up and stay out of the sun as much as possible.

09 February 2017

Looming health hazards of synthetic chemical repellents

As temperatures rise and mosquitoes hatch in swarms, the danger of toxic chemicals loom in common household repellents. 

Chemically produced mosquito repellents pose a threat to user’s health and the environment.

N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET) is a chemical used in most commercial repellents and can reside in the form of liquid, lotion, spray and permeated material. DEET is listed as an insecticide and is part of the toluene chemical group, a chemical used in glues and paint strippers. Rather than killing insects, DEET works by making it difficult for them to sense humans. The most common application for DEET repellents is to apply them directly to the skin which pose a threat to user’s health.

Our skin is the largest organ of our body, therefore almost anything applied to it has a significant chance of being absorbed and carried through the bloodstream. Research completed by The Medical Sciences Bulletin uncovered up to 56 per cent of DEET is capable of penetrating the skin when topically applied with up to 17 per cent being absorbed into the bloodstream.

It is not only topical repellents that are dangerous, mosquito coils are equally toxic. Mosquito coils contain a combination of chemicals including various pyrethroids and when burnt release numerous known human carcinogens including aldehyde, formaldehyde, small particles and several benzene derivatives. Some coils can contain Octachlorodipropylether (S-2) which expose humans to bis-chloromethyl ether (BCME), an extremely intoxicating lung carcinogen.

Studies have revealed one active mosquito coil produces the equivalent particulate matter as burning approximately 75 to 137 cigarettes with the percentage of formaldehyde emissions equal to burning 51 cigarettes. Chest Research Foundation has revealed the lung damage caused by one mosquito coil is equivalent to inhaling 100 cigarettes.

There are effective natural alternatives that pose no threat to user’s health. Essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus, geranium, soybean, citronella, fennel, thyme, clove oil, celery extract, neem oil and picaridin are effective at repelling mosquitoes and are available in various application forms. Sandalwood is also an effective natural repellent and provides a safe alternative to mosquito coils.

Although mosquitoes can be irritating, it is important to protect yourself and your family’s health by reducing the number of toxic chemicals they are exposed to.

19 January 2017

Why is BPA the only concern?

The humble rubber duck made from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) receives less recognition as a harmful product but places equal health concerns to Bisphenol A (BPA).

The term ‘BPA-free’ is well-known due to the Australian Government’s regulated actions in 2010 to declare a voluntary phase out of Bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles. Research has found BPA to cause numerous health concerns due to its ability to percolate food and beverages, however the chemical Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) used in many everyday products places equal health concerns but is significantly less recognised.

Similar to BPA, PVC contains phthalates to make the plastic soft and malleable and is used in various consumer products including raincoats, shoes and rubber duck bath toys. PVC is currently one of the most common plastics produced and is made using numerous toxic chemicals that are harmful to both humans and the environment including lead, cadmium, organotins, colourants, fire-retardants, anti-oxidants and phthalates. Approximately 95 per cent of phthalates made in the world are produced specifically for the production of flexible PVC attributing it to the world highest environmental pollutant.

The use of BPA and PVC in certain consumer products is banned or restricted in many countries around the world including Europe and the United States of America. Australia is very slow to prohibit the use of certain chemicals that other countries have ruled out and I feel that as consumers we shouldn’t leave it up to the regulators. Consumers are choosing products that are being put before them by companies that are purely profit-driven.

As a society, we need to make a different choice that has no questions around its safety. There are many products on the market that offer a natural alternative to chemical produced plastics. Natural rubber is nontoxic to humans and biodegradable as opposed to chemical produced plastics that can take over 450 years to decompose. So why do we continuing to produce toxic plastic when we have safe and natural alternative?

I believe it is up to us as a society to decide what is good for ourselves, our families and the environment and we can influence change through our purchasing power. So why choose a PVC synthetic rubber duckie when you can choose a truly from nature rubber duckie?

Make a change by signing our petition to ban Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) in products for children under 12 years of age in Australia!

08 October 2014

Alexx Stuart 30 day low tox life e course

So peaceful and clean.  Image source:

Lighten your toxin load to end the year on a healthy high with Alexx Stuart's 30 days to a low tox life e course. starting 15 October 2014.

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  • avoid hormone altering chemicals in your personal household care
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Alexx has a lot of expertise to share and the e course is her way of sharing that knowledge with a whole bunch of people as time effectively as possible.  The 30 days to your low tox life e course is a simple, guilt free approach to lowering your toxic load. Your journey to ditching the weirdo, harmful chemicals all around us will be fun and empowering, NOT filled with fear, guilt or difficulty.

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We love that it is all about positivity, encouragement, empowering you with the knowledge and motivation to make small but significant changes.

Among the course inclusions are a private Facebook group, expert interview sessions, an email a day, e course book and product guide, giveaways to the participants, access to Alexx to answer all your questions & more ...

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About Alexx Stuart

Alexx is an avid researcher and recipe creator and shares her findings, recipes, endeavours and experiences on her blog and through her Facebook community. Her food philosophy: Keep it real. Keep it unrefined. Try for organic as much as possible.  With thyroid issues and PCOS, Alexx tends to stay away from most grains and sugars. She is also interested in traditional foods & food as medicine, how big business affects the food we eat and the products we use today. 

Alexx's Real Food Manifesto image is popular on Pinterest!

05 September 2014

About Vinegar, Imitation Vinegar, Acetic Acid, and E260.

Beauty and the Bees Tasmania

Following our last blog post questioning whether all vinegar was 'eco' and may have been made from petrochemicals, Australian Vinegar CEO, Ian Henderson (whose Australian made distilled vinegar we referenced in the article) received a lot of emails from people eager for more information.  We are thrilled that so many people are interested in questioning how products are made, what from, and where.  We love being part of a an engaged community of conscious consumers who want change for the better.

Ian was also pleased about the interest in vinegar, but has clarified that my hunch about home brand bulk vinegars being made from petrochemical derived acetic acid was not correct.  I was so delighted to receive a phone call from Ian and his help by preparing this blog post.  Please check out their Australian Vinegar family company.

In his post below, Ian explains that Australian Food Standards dictate that when pure acetic acid that has been made from petrochemicals is mixed with water and sold as food, it must be labelled “Imitation Vinegar”.   Ian says that if we buy a product made in Australia that is labelled as vinegar, it will be made from ethanol that is either grain based or sugar based. 

Everything you ever wanted to know about Vinegar, Imitation Vinegar, Acetic Acid and E260.  By Ian Henderson, CEO and principal Vinegar Maker at Australian Vinegar. 

Vinegar is a great cleaning tool. It’s a good weedkiller and a great preservative of food. It has so many uses. We thoroughly recommend its use in cleaning.

However, there is miss-information around Vinegar, Imitation vinegar, acetic acid and E260 that I would like to address so everyone can make their own educated decisions.

Q: What is Synthetic Acetic Acid
A: There is no such thing. There is only acetic acid, which can be made a number of ways. But regardless of how it is made it is still just acetic acid made of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen molecules. C2H4O2 There is several ways to make acetic acid, and some confuse the method with the term Synthetic.

Vinegar always contains Acetic Acid. Plus maybe flavour, sweetness, or malliard Sugars (they make Balsamic black, but that’s another story)

Q: How can Acetic Acid be made?
A: There are 3 methods:
1.       By oxidation under high temperature of Ethyl Acetate (from oil usually, but not always)
2.       By fermentation of Ethanol by a bacteria called Aceterbacter.
3.       By Fermentation of sugar by a bacteria called Gluconobacter.

Method 3 is very rare, slow and difficult.  Almost all vinegars are made using method 2 from ethanol derived from yeast fermentation of grain or sugar.  Vinegar fermentation is simply a part of the carbon cycle, returning carbon back to the soil from fruit that hasn’t been eaten and fallen form the tree.

Q: So what is the difference between the three products produced above?
A: Method 1 produces pure acetic acid, that if mixed with water can be sold as food under the label “Imitation Vinegar” and not the term “Vinegar”.

Methods 2 and 3 can be sold as vinegar provided the amount of acetic acid is greater than 4%. This is for food safety as this is the level required to stop moulds growing in vinegar.

Imitation vinegar is pure acetic acid (yes, petrochemical derived) and water.  Whereas fermented vinegar is pure ethanol (usually from grain or sugar) fermented into pure acetic acid and then mixed with water.  We have done the trials ourselves, even under mass spectrometry analysis the two vinegars are essentially chemically identical. 

Acetic acid vinegars must be declared as “Imitation Vinegar”.  If it is fermented it can be declared as just “vinegar”. The law surrounding this is governed by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (Called FSANZ).   The FSANZ law on this is very clear (see the extract below).

If you start with wine, instead of pure ethanol you get wine vinegar, is you ferment apple cider you get apple cider vinegar. The source of the alcohol defines the end product.

Q: What is food additive 260?
This is pure acetic acid. It may or may not come from fermentation. But it probably does not come from fermentation, so it is best to assume is the pure acetic acid form (method 1 above).

Q: What is Distilled Vinegar? Why is it different to just “Vinegar”?
Sometimes, because the ethanol used to make white vinegar is fermented to a low concentration it needs to be “distilled” to remove excess water and concentrate the ethanol.  Sometimes you will see “Distilled Vinegar” on the label. Distilled Vinegar and just plain vinegar are the same product. Its just a bit of marketing.   Rest assured, if it had added acetic acid from oil it would not say “Vinegar” or it would have to have food additive 260 on the label.

Q: So what does my cheap white vinegar at the supermarket contain?
The plain white vinegar you can buy at the supermarket, if labelled “Vinegar” is fermented. If it is not from grain or sugar it will declare “Imitation Vinegar” or food acid 260.
Its actually rare to see imitation vinegar in retail. Its used a lot in industry, and a lot of preserved foods are declared with food acid 260.  I have never seen it for sale at a grocery store, only real “Vinegar”.

Q Cleaning vs cooking vinegar?
You can cook with white vinegar, but don’t.  Its flavourless.  Use a nice wine vinegar or apple vinegar. You get the acid that will make the dish lift, plus you get some extra flavours.  Choose cooking vinegars with lots of colour, lots of flavour and ideally with no sulphites or added colours. Know your producer, know how they make it and where they source the alcohol from.

Vinegar also has health and digestion benefits. But not all vinegars do. That’s a whole other topic for next time.

About Australian Vinegar and Ian Henderson

Ian has two science degrees and a diploma in vinegar making from Austria where he studied and worked in 2006. Ian was awarded a Churchill fellowship to study vinegar making in Europe. Ian is the CEO and principal Vinegar Maker at Australian Vinegar. Australian Vinegar is Australia’s leading vinegar maker.  LiraH is the retail brand of Australian Vinegar and makes a range of caramelised balsamics, wine vinegars, apple vinegars and Verjus.

An interesting tidbit: Ian started with a vinegar 'mother' from his wife's family of third generation winemakers, and after much trial and error  launched his first commercial product under the LiraH brand-Oak Aged Shiraz vinegar.

Excerpt from the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act

FSANZ  Standard 2.10.1      Vinegar and related products
       Note 1  This instrument is a standard under the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 (Cth). The standards together make up the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. See also section 1.1.1—3.
       Note 2  The provisions of the Code that apply in New Zealand are incorporated by reference into a food standard under the Food Act 1981 (NZ). See also section 1.1.1—3.
2.10.1—1           Name
                This Standard is Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code — Standard 2.10.1 — Vinegar and related products.
2.10.1—2           Definitions
          Note  In this Code (see section 1.1.2—3):
                                      imitation vinegar means a food that:
                                            (a)     is prepared by mixing water and acetic acid; and
                                            (b)     contains no less than 40 g/kg of acetic acid.
                                      vinegar means a food that:
                                            (a)     consists of the sour liquid prepared by acetous fermentation, with or without alcoholic fermentation, of any suitable foodstuff, and including blends and mixtures of such liquids; and
                                           (b)     contains no less than 40 g/kg of acetic acid.

29 August 2014

How does vinegar kill germs? And is vinegar eco friendly?

Australian Vinegar makes distilled traditional vinegar in South East Queensland.
 Answering a quick question is not so simple in some matters eco-friendly!

Because we are often suggesting vinegar as an eco friendly household cleaner and disinfectant, I wanted to understand how vinegar does kill germs.

It is the acetic acid in vinegar that kills bacteria and viruses by denaturing (chemically changing) the proteins and fats that make-up these nasties (source: Professor Peter Collignon, see below).  Most general purpose white vinegars contain about 5% acetic acid.

The stronger the acetic acid content the more effective the vinegar will be at disinfecting. 

Unfortunately, due to the lack of transparency in food labelling by mass food producers, it is hard to find a vinegar that states the acetic acid percentage or even what it is made from.  Generally the ingredients just say "Vinegar".  You may find some boutique brands of cooking vinegar that do give the percentage. 

Some "vinegar" is made from petrochemicals (but will be labelled "Imitation vinegar")

What we are presented with as vinegar today is not necessarily the vinegar "that our grandmothers used to clean with".  As with many products in our modern world, cheap petrochemical processes are corrupting how nature intended things to be done.

All vinegar contains acetic acid.  Acetic acid is the chemical name for the naturally occurring substance that is created from distilling or fermenting a grain or plant.  However, it is also the name given to acetic acid that is made from petrochemical derivatives such as butane.

Companies such as Monsanto and BP manufacture acetic acid on large scale that involves using carbon monoxide and methanol to create a chemical reaction, or heating butane in the presence of metal ions such as manganese, cobalt and chromium, which decomposes to produce acetic acid.

This is the pure acetic acid often used in foods as an acidity regulator and is labelled E260

Given the lack of any information on the packaging, I had a hunch that "home brand" bulk white vinegar most likely contained acetic acid not made from fermented grains, rather petrochemical-derived ethanol. However, Australian Vinegar CEO, Ian Henderson, has explained that Australian Food Standards dictate that when pure acetic acid that has been made by oxidation under high temperature of Ethyl Acetate (including from oil) is mixed with water and sold as food, it must be labelled “Imitation Vinegar”.  This appears to be different to the Food Standards in the USA.

Ian is adamant that if we buy a product made in Australia that is labelled as vinegar, it will be made from ethanol that is either grain based or sugar based. 

The home brand vinegar I looked at says on the label "product of Australia".  And according to the ACCC, 'Product of' means that each significant ingredient or part of the product originated in the country claimed and almost all of the production processes occurred in that country.

However, Ian does say that E260 pure acetic acid may or may not come from fermentation, but probably does not (instead coming from petrochemicals), so it is best to assume it does not.  Thus it appears worthwhile to avoid E260 in foods.

We were pleased to find an Australian vinegar maker based in south east Queensland making vinegar from distillation.  See here a post Ian has written for us to clarify any miss-information around Vinegar, Imitation vinegar, synthetic acid, acetic acid and E260.

Australian Vinegar specialises in technically challenging 'Clean Labelled' vinegar which is free from allergens, sulphites, artificial colours and flavours and all 'E' numbers.  LiraH is the retail brand of Australian vinegar and makes caramelised balsamics, wine vinegars, apple vinegars and Verjus.

Thank you to TheEcoMum blog for your detailed article on the topic of petrochemical derived acetic acid.  Please read that article if you are interested in delving further, although the information about Australian Food Standards is not correct according to Ian.

Vinegar to kill germs

Back to using vinegar to kill germs.  According to Ian Henderson, whether acetic acid is made from petrochemicals or distillation, the end product is the exact same chemical structure (the magic of chemistry).  That said, if you are wishing to reduce the use of petrochemicals in our world, the source of the ingredients is important.  For others, using any white vinegar to clean is still a far preferable solution than toxic bleaches and ammonia.

Professor Peter Collignon recommends that when cleaning at home we should keep it simple.
Rather than concentrating on disinfecting or killing the bugs, we should focus on cleaning with hot soapy water and good old-fashioned elbow grease to physically scrub away organic material.
"You've got to clean the surface first and that's usually enough. Then you have to ask yourself whether you need to disinfect at all," he says.
"For the kitchen sink, for example, you probably don't need anything except cleaning."
However, that dirty chopping board might warrant disinfecting – but only after you've given it a good scrub with hot, soapy water.
It's only the act of rubbing and scrubbing a dirty chopping board that can break down the slimy matrix around certain types of salmonella, allowing the disinfectant to then get to work.
As for commercial cleaners, Collignon says we don't always need the level of disinfection in the home that these products provide.
"We over-use chemicals," he says. "Instead of using one unit, we use 1000 units, and the benefits are marginal."
"All of us would like to use a magic potion so that we don't have to use the elbow grease. But that's a false premise."
If you do need to disinfect, clean first, then disinfect with the least toxic, most biodegradable product that does the job.  Vinegar is at the least toxic and most biodegradable end of the scale when it comes to disinfectants.

I have yet to find in Australia any "cleaning vinegar" labelled with a stronger concentration of acetic acid such as you can find in the United States.  Nor have I found any vinegars promoting that they are made from "non petrochemical sources" as is also happening in the States.  Perhaps due to the fact in Australia it would need to be labelled Imitation Vinegar.

With your consumer purchasing power and questioning of the companies selling "vinegar" on Australian shelves we can achieve greater transparency in labelling.

Ian Henderson has two science degrees and a diploma in vinegar making from Austria. Ian was awarded a Churchill fellowship to study vinegar making in Europe. Ian is the CEO and principal Vinegar Maker at Australian Vinegar. 
Professor Peter Collignon, infectious disease physician at the Australian National University's Medical School, who was interviewed for and ABC article

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