Metal pegs? Eco-friendly products? Consumerism?

A few months ago I was approached by Bento Ninja, who are a kiwi company who import all kinds of things that are generally considered “eco-friendly products”. They have all the metal bento boxes, snack tins, metal straws, metal ice cube trays, etc, as well as the samples they sent me – metal pegs and a metal peg rack that is called a sock holder, but really you can hang anything smallish on.

I wasn’t 100% sure about accepting products for free in exchange for reviews at first. [Disclaimer – I did get these for free.] After asking around and seeing how other people who are working on increasing awareness of lower waste alternatives I decided that as long as I was still being honest in my reviews it’d be ok.

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Zero waste on the go

This is my backpack:

It goes pretty much everywhere with me and contains all my essentials for dodging waste like a ninja.

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Reducing kitchen waste on a budget

Your kitchen is where a huge amount of your consumption happens. Most of the time when I go to the shops it’s for food, which is probably why food packaging is one of the biggest components of most of the bins I’ve seen.

If you bring in predominantly unpackaged food and to use up all of the food you bring in you’ll be most of the way there. Keep your kitchen minimalist to avoid all the plastic tools that get used once a year or break often.

plastic free shopping. bread, tomatoes, fruit.
Lunch for a couple of days while I was in Norway – all from a normal supermarket.

Less Waste in 3 Steps

We all know the basics of the zero waste lifestyle – slowly change your personal habits until you create no waste from your day to day life. For some of us who started off creating a huge amount of waste that can be very daunting.

Where do you even start??
Here are the three steps I took to reduce my waste:

1. Do a ‘waste audit’ to figure out what the most common things in your bin are, and write them down.

2. Pick one thing each week that you will stop buying or find an alternative for when it runs out.
– Only replace things as they run out or get worn out, use what you have first. 
– Repeat these two steps and reassess as you go – it won’t happen overnight, and that’s ok! Everyone’s journey will take a different amount of time. 

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New Zealand’s South Island Part 5 – Mt Cook to Able Tasman National Park

Aoraki Mount Cook and its surrounding park is a striking area of Aotearoa. It’s the tallest peak so you won’t be climbing it unless your next stop is Everest, but the views from the bottom are beautiful.

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The glaciers and snow melting off the Southern Alps form white waterfalls and tumultuous rivers rolling away down the valleys.

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We took the day to do the Hooker Valley Track, which is about 3 hours of walking to get there and back and you’ll want to stop a bit for the views.

There are 3 big swing bridges along the way, which I love.

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The whole track is very well laid out and easy going.

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And at the top, you arrive at this stunning glacial lake, with occasional icebergs.

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Rather than staying the night at Aoraki, we drove on to Lake Tekapo, and camped at a gorgeous little campsite just over the hill. It came with its own lake and everything!

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We spent the morning walking around the little church on the banks of Lake Tekapo and wading in the cool water.

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We decided to cut back over to the west coast via Arthur’s Pass, another classic kiwi drive.

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If you stop for nothing else, stop for the kea. They are one of my favourite animals in New Zealand. Curious, destructive, and playful.

We stopped near the Otira Viaduct lookout where there were loads of them, and the view was lovely too.

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Of course, this bridge thing is also pretty cool.

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The pass meanders through chunks of lush green forest and can be quite slow going along the narrow roads.

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As any traveller will tell you, you come across some of the most unexpected things in unexpected places. Who’d have thought we’d find a gourmet doughnut shop in a tiny town called Motueka? Even more surprisingly… it’s disguised as a pub and called The Smoking Barrel.

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We had decided pretty early on that we wanted to get to the bottom of mainland Aotearoa and the top of the South Island. Having done Slope point a few days earlier, we set off for Farewell Spit, an area only accessible by specialised offroad tour buses.

We were initially sceptical, but the guides at Farewell Spit Eco Tours added such amazing knowledge of the local area and animals that it really made a wonderful half day trip. Note that the tours can only run at low tide, so check in advance what times you’d be able to go.

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The spit is phenomenally shallow, becoming almost completely covered during high tide. Just a few centimetres of height in rising water can translates to meters of horizontal distance. Huge muddy beaches are exposed as the water goes out, and everywhere you’ll see birds taking advantage of them.

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Aside from the wildlife, there are also human footprints on the spit. Through remarkable engineering, a lighthouse was placed on the end of the spit to warn ships off the incredibly shallow waters. There are several buildings around the lighthouse, from the days of lighthouse keepers.

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If you’re lucky enough to have your trip coincide with sunset you might be treated to some of these –

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Another unexpected small town food find was a delightful hippie market in Takaka, selling fresh local produce, yummy baking, and a collection of trinkets.

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If you have time up your sleeve while travelling, be sure to Google maps “attractions” to find a collection of things along your way that have been tagged as such. We found some of our most surprising places this way, including Te Waikoropupu Springs.

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We didn’t know they existed, but the information area is impressively comprehensive so now we know a bit more. The springs are a culturally significant area and are one of the cleanest water springs in the world.

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The water is almost unbelievably clear.

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Our final stop before taking the ferry back to Wellington was the Able Tasman National Park. We just skimmed through it as we were tight on time, and the park is less easy to travel by car than some of the others.

We decided to do the Harwoods Hole walk. Apparently, there are a couple of hazards to be aware of. They primarily boil down to “don’t jump down the giant hole, or any of the smaller holes”.

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Most of the area is limestone, which has been interestingly eroded over time by the water in the area.

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The hole itself is hard to get a good view of without being in a somewhat precarious position, but the surrounding cliffs are striking in their own right.

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There is a little side walk called Gorge Creek lookout where you can scramble up the backside of one of the cliffs. But don’t get your hopes up – you can’t see into the hole from there either, just stunning views of the Takaka Valley. It does, however, have some really cool sharp, wavy limestone rocks at the top.

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From there we grabbed a few last minute supplies for dinner from the Picton supermarket to avoid the packaging and cost of on-ferry food and made our way back to Wellington.

It was a gorgeous trip, and I would absolutely recommend taking the time to see Te Waipounamu, the South Island. If you only have a week or two in New Zealand, spend most of it down there in nature to get your wild space fix.

I think that doing it in less than 10 days barely does it justice, and about 12-14 days is about right to do it properly with some time for exploring and doing longer walking trails.

If you’d like to read more about the rest of the trip make sure to read Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 as well (or just skim them for the gratuitous nature shots).

See you somewhere.

xo cait

Zero Waste and Eco-Friendly Gift Ideas

It’s getting to that time of year where people start thinking about expressing their love through gifts. My family hasn’t really done this since we all started earning money and no longer needed clothes or books bought for us, but occasionally you’ll want to show affection through a thoughtful gift and that’s ok. 

When it comes to actually choosing a gift there are an impressive number of people and organisations who will try and convince you that fun, useless, probably plastic, unethically made trinkets are a good idea for those “little somethings” and “stocking fillers”. DON’T LISTEN TO THEM, YOU ARE BETTER THAN THAT. 😉

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New Zealand’s South Island Part 4 – To the south, to the south!

After the sounds, we had to decide how far south we felt like going. Often people will start going back north from there, towards Dunedin and the central south island; but as we had an extra day up our sleeves we decided to check out Bluff and the Catlin’s (the southernmost point of mainland New Zealand) before heading back up.

On your way out of the sounds, do make sure to stop at the mirror lakes, they are eerily flat and reflective.

mirror lakes

We took the drive to Bluff, the southernmost town in New Zealand, slowly and stopped at a few little parks for walks and exploring.

train tracks south

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You can drive all the way out to the coast at Stirling Point, where this cute sign is surrounded by a constant cluster of people politely waiting their turn to take a photo. There are also tracks you can walk down along the coast through native bush.

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There are some great spots, we especially enjoyed the Bluff Hill lookout. It has a gorgeous view of Stewart Island and the surrounding area.

Rakiura from te waipounamu

The top of the hill has a platform area with interesting tidbits of information, and names of surrounding landmarks. This one was my favourite translation –

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We made our way around the coast towards Waipapa lighthouse on the way to the Catlins. It’s a ridiculously quaint sight.

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Our final stop before the Catlins was Slope point – the actual furthest south you can get on mainland New Zealand. You get to it by walking through farmland, which was pretty hilarious, though the cows didn’t see the funny side.

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this way to the south pole

Onwards, to Curio bay! If you’re into Jurassic aged trees then this is definitely a cool sight – it’s a fossilised forest that’s now mostly rock pools.

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You can still see the knots in the trees, even though they are thousands of years old.

fossilised tree at curio bay

The Catlin’s Forest Park is beautiful. There are oodles of waterfalls and walks that are easily accessible from the road. the most popular of these is the McLean Falls.

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Tunnel Hill, another walk in the Catlin’s –

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Nugget Point lighthouse –

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The ‘Nuggets’ – possibly one of the more picturesque parts of the coastline, or possibly I just love the word nugget.

nugget islands at nugget point

Roaring bay penguin and seal observatory, looking out over one of the only nesting points of the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguin. We actually saw one too! It was tiny and very far away… It might even be in this picture.

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Of course, we had to keep feeding ourselves and managed to find a load of awesome places to stock up with zero waste, package-free food – like New World’s deli counter.

zero waste lunch

No visit to the South Island of New Zealand is complete without a trip to the Moeraki Boulders on the beach. Top tip – if you go through the cafe area you’ll need to pay to use the stairs, but if you go just down the road there is a Department of Conservation access point that’s free and has info about the area.

moeraki boulders

moeraki boulders

inside the boulder

Oamaru was apparently once one of the largest towns in Aotearoa and was a hub of business and shipping. You can see that in the boom of Victorian architecture, all built very quickly.

oamaru old streets

A delish, local package-free treat!

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The “steampunk capital” of New Zealand, the Victorian shops are full of a wide range of art and quirky antiques.

a strange shop in oamaru

For the truly inspired, there’s also a Steampunk experience.

the steampunk museum

We weren’t that inspired and instead opted for a cheese tasting. Whitestone Cheese Co also do tours of the factory, but we were there on the wrong day.

cheese tasting

The area around Oamaru has been populated for an impressively long time, and nearby, at Takiroa, near Duntroon you’ll find some brilliant examples of ancient Maori rock art.

ancient maori rock art

rock art by maori

We started the drive inland from there, along the Waitaki river. The Waitaki is one of the most significant waterways in our hydroelectricity generation here, and the dams and generation houses make a nice place to stop along the way towards Mount Cook.

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See you there!

xo cait

Natural, zero waste cleaning

Recently, I tried a laundry experiment involving English Ivy. I read on the internet that it could be used to clean clothes, so I gave it a go. As far as I can tell there didn’t seem to be much difference between my clothes just rinsed and my clothes washed in the washing machine with a bag of torn up ivy. My clothes don’t really get dirty (I work an office job and have no dogs or kids around me), but the general armpit whiff is always a thing on my clothes (regardless of what deodorant I use, though the Dirty Hippie deodorant seems the best so far) even when I used to use store bought synthetic thingies.

So, I’ll try another couple of methods, but at the moment that one’s a bust. It did get me thinking though, about what “clean” is. It’s definitely not about killing 99.9% of germs, because heaps of those are actually useful, but some level of hygiene is still important.

90% of my household cleaning uses just vinegar, which I buy in 5l lots, and baking soda, which I buy package-free or in 5kg bags. Occasionally I will get fancy with some lemons or essential oils, but mostly I keep things really simple (and cheap!).

Without further ado – here’s my cleaning routine: Continue reading

Zero waste pastry and a Harry Potter themed party

It was my birthday last weekend, so I decided to make all my snacks for my party – waste free! Seeing as I was turning 26, I threw the birthday party 13-year-old me would have loved – but twice as awesome. A Harry Potter themed movie pyjama party in a tent fort and eating fancy hamburgers 4 times in 1 day.

Naturally, there had to be party snacks for in between the burger lunch and the burger dinner. I made pumpkin pie spiced popcorn, lemon sorting muffins, cockroach clusters, and both sweet and savoury pumpkin pasties. There were also bulk pretzels and lollies, bought package free. I was darn proud of myself.

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