Our packaging war on waste

Sheep looking down at camera

Like many of you, after the ABC's #waronwaste campaign and TV show we were horrified. We thought we knew something about responsible disposal of rubbish, but the problems that rubbish is causing were far worse than we imagined. And so we started thinking...

We've already told you about our partnership with The Hills School to compost all our veggie scraps from the kitchen. But we got to thinking about all our other processes. Next up: our packaging.

It's true that styrofoam boxes can be recycled. But making more and more styrofoam is not good for the environment. We were delivering in styrofoam boxes and we figured that had to change.

Enter Woolcool. Woolcool is an environmentally responsible insulation. It can insulate a cardboard box. A cardboard box that can be easily recycled. A cardboard box that can hold all your dinners. AND it outperforms styrofoam for keeping your dinners cold.

Woolcool is, somewhat unsurprisingly, made of sheep's wool. Wool is a sustainable and highly effective insulator (just think of all those sheep in the paddocks in the middle of summer... they're fine!)

We were ecstatic to find an environmentally friendly way of keeping your dinners cold on their way to you. Many of you will have already received your dinners in our new boxes, but for the uninitiated, here's how it works:

  • Your dinners will arrive in a cardboard box, lined with Woolcool liners and icepacks.
  • The cardboard box can be flattened and recycled. You may also choose to make a billy-cart out of it.
  • The plastic coverings on the woollen liners can be removed and placed in the plastic bag recycling bins at your local supermarket.
  • The woollen liners themselves can be put in your compost bin. They also make excellent pet bedding... but not for your goldfish.
  • The plastic pouches and bags that your dinners are sealed in can be washed and dried and also placed in supermarket plastic recycling bins. Arguments about which of your junior recipe testers is going to put the plastic bags into the bin this time may be adjudicated at your own discretion.
  • The icepacks are excellent for picnic-ing and keeping things cold. When you don't want to use them anymore, pierce the plastic bag and squeeze the non-toxic gel down the sink. The bag goes into the supermarket bag recycling. This has the added benefit of facilitating another argument in front of the bag bin.
Woolcool insulationWe're working hard to expand our social impact from our support of people with disabilities to our environmental footprint. Do get in touch and let us know what you think!

Other articles:

'Tis the season to be jolly... busy and harassed

Trumpeter statue

'Tis the season to be jolly. But mostly, jolly busy. And harassed.

We seem to have presentation days and Christmas concerts coming out our ears. Occasionally they proceed from other parts of us too. Last week was the all important band performance evening. Our very first one.

As luck would have it (and it usually does), the concert was on the same night as swimming lessons. This was entirely predictable, but added another layer of complication to the logistics of getting everyone in the right place at the right time. But because we have shelled out the national debt so the juniors can learn to swim, heaven and earth is regularly rearranged so we don't miss a lesson.

Mobilising three junior recipe testers to an event and coming home again has its challenges. None of these challenges are ever mentioned in antenatal classes. But leaving home for multiple events before returning to the nest often requires the diplomacy and skill to make the UN weep. This was the state of play just to get us out the door:

Because there would be no time for the eating of a meal at a table, dinner boxes suitable for consumption in the back seat of a car, in a car seat, with a fork, had to be constructed and packed. Check.

One junior required full band uniform. Check.

Two juniors required swimming gear. Check.

The band uniform was too hot to wear in the tropical environment of the swimming centre. That junior required an alternate set of clothes. Check.

The band uniform then had to come off the body and go in a bag. Check.

The swimming gear was completely inappropriate for a band soiree. Those juniors required an alternate set of clothes. Check.

These alternate outfits had to go into a bag. Check.

One outfit per bag - the juniors can no longer share a change room at swimming. Check.

Including undies. Check.

Both types. Check.

The band junior's shoes were a wreck and had to be polished. The owner of said disgraceful shoes was sent outside to polish them. Check.

Shoes shined and equipment put away. Check.

Black blobs discovered on kitchen floor. Large lump of shoe polish discovered on the sole of the newly shined shoe. Request for shoes to be taken off immediately, if not sooner, issued. Check.

Remain calm, don't get shrill. Check.

Boot polish cleaned off kitchen floor. Check.

Carpet inspected for more boot polish. Check.

Junior, with shoes now in his hand, sent out to the front lawn to wipe his shoes on the grass. Check.

Race out the door on heels of that junior to ensure he didn't wipe his shoes in the cat vomit on said front lawn. Check.

We don't have a cat. Check.

Mental note to self that when I find the offending animal who threw up on our front lawn and waltzed off, I will commit grievous bodily... Check.

Remain calm. Don't get shrill. Check.

Frog march three juniors to the car. Check.

Seat belts on. Check.

Reverse out of the driveway. Don't forget to close the garage door. Check.

Make it to the end of the street. Check.

Listen patiently when a junior mentions he has forgotten his trumpet. Check.

Point out that it will be quite challenging to play in a band without an instrument. Check.

Pull the car over to the side of the road. Check.

Remain calm. Don't get shrill...

I am a professional...

Blueberry bagels in the foreground with a child's hand stealing blueberries off the plate

I generally consider myself to be a professional. It's true, that reasonably often this means I need to take a junior recipe tester assistant with me to business meetings. But I always try to maintain a professional, um... air. I brush my hair and my teeth. I dress appropriately.

I don't go to meetings in my pyjamas.

Well, hardly ever.

A few weeks ago I had a meeting with an app developer. We use this app to help us find your house to deliver your dinners. It's fabulous. It has changed my life and saves me loads of time. It means we're running our delivery truck greener too, because we find the most efficient way to do the delivery run, driving as few kilometres as possible.

The developers live in Canada. I do not. When they are eating their dinner, I am eating my breakfast. This causes some difficulty with scheduling a meeting. We did, however, find a time and set the meeting for 5.45AM.

When it comes to tech, I am not the sharpest tool in the shed. But I do know what a phone is. And, what's more, I know how to use one. A phone call was the means by which this meeting was to take place, and so on the appointed morning, I got up early.

I made a cup of tea and sat by my phone. My computer was also open and sat on the table nearby. I waited.

Somewhat shockingly, my computer screen suddenly sprang to life. There, in appropriate professional attire, was the app developer, complete with groovy Canadian accent. I was in appropriate bedtime attire, complete with wild hair and puffy eyes.

In a fit of panic I redirected the computer screen to obscure his view of my pyjamas. It worked. Instead, he had a bird's eye right up my nose.

Yes. I am a professional. Who clearly does not understand the meaning of the words, "phone call".

The over-sharing and the ridiculous...

Legs of a woman in a white skirt, holding a basket of flowers

I assume it's not just me, others too, find themselves in this situation. But there are times in life when you are forced into the most ridiculous conversations. Living with one or more  junior recipe testers under the age of five will mean this is a daily occurrence. But it is made even more problematic when you are forced to have a ridiculous conversation in a very public place.

Now, I realise, I am at high risk of over-sharing here. So if you are prone to embarrassment, please do avert your eyes.

I recently had need to visit the GP. I had no major health outbreak of any description, but I did require a prescription. The prescription was not so unusual, or special. But, without wishing to be too indelicate, it was designed specifically for someone with a female, um, apparatus. It would be of no more use to someone of the opposite gender than a flyscreen on a submarine. And so, with prescription in hand, I dutifully went to the chemist.

The chemist I selected was, most unfortunately, one of those steroidal varieties which make you feel over-stimulated and exhausted as soon as you walk through the doors. The ones with no natural light and soul sapping fluorescent lighting that is only heightened by the fluoro pink and yellow price tickets that scream at you as you walk down over-stuffed aisles.

In every one of these prisms of despair, the prescription counter is right at the back. There is no choice but to squeeze down the narrow aisles and try to remain calm. By the time I reached the counter, my claustrophobic tendencies were in full flight, as I could no longer see the door or the exit. I should say, that I get anxious putting a tight jumper over my head; being unable to find the exit in a veritable Tardis has a similar effect.

I soothed myself with the knowledge that I would be out of there shortly, and handed over my prescription and my medicare card. Turning around, I noted a number of people occupying chairs placed near the pharmacy counter. They looked exceedingly bored. I suspected they had been there for quite some time. I consoled myself that even if I was not going to get out of there as quickly as I hoped, I would manage just fine.

I waited.

Presently, an officious looking person in a pharmacy style coat called my name. Feeling rather smug, I glanced at the poor souls starting to nod off in their chairs and rushed to the counter.

Now, I should clarify: the senior recipe tester and I share a surname. We also share a first initial. His name is distinctly masculine, and would make an unbecoming term for a woman. My name would likewise be ridiculous on a man. I looked at the pharmacist. She was pointing at my medicare card, where mine and the senior recipe testers names were listed. "It says R Golding on the script. Who is this for?"

Surprised at the question, I looked at her blankly.

"Is it for you or Richard?"

For a split second, I was sure she was trying to make the afternoon a little more light-hearted.

She wasn't.

"Um... it's for me."

"It's not for Richard?"

I glanced behind me. Every eye that had been drooping closed was now fully alert, in that, "I'm listening, but trying to look like I'm not listening" kind of way.

I weighed the options. At the risk of becoming even more indelicate, and now with an audience growing both in size and interest, I considered explaining that the senior recipe tester would derive some benefit from the prescription, insofar as it would maintain some rein over the number of junior recipe testers who live in our house...

Pragmatism took over. I was rapidly losing confidence that, as it was seemingly apparent the pharmacist hadn't actually read the script, I would in fact be given the thing I came in for.

"Can you see what is being prescribed?"

 If your week is moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, may I suggest this week's menu?

Carers and the cared-for

A profile of carers in Australia taken from the ABS website

It's true that some carers don't identify themselves as such. They just happen to provide assistance to someone who needs additional help. Overwhelmingly this care is provided for a family member. 

In 2015 the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted a survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, and a summary of findings was released recently.

2.7 million Australians provide informal care. Over two-thirds of carers are women.

Caring has a significant (usually positive!) impact on the person who is cared for. It often means they can remain in their own home, participate in and contribute to their community, and enjoy quality of life.

Caring also has a significant impact on government spending. Deloitte Access Economics, recently estimated that carers save government over $1 BILLION every single week. That is to say, if government had to replace the care that informal carers currently undertake unpaid, it would cost $60.3 billion each year.

But caring can have negative impacts on carers. Primary carers have significantly lower workforce participation rates. And subsequently their income is almost half that of their non-caring peers.

Caring is valuable to individuals, to households and to communities. But it comes at a cost. This is why every time you purchase your dinner from Dinner on the Table, we use some of your money to gift dinner to a family living with disability.

We're convinced that having a good dinner, done for you, changes your daily life. And when the challenges are great, and the resources are stretched thin, this might be of even greater benefit.

We all need the support of those closest to us - usually our families, whomever that includes (and however much they might get on our nerves!) At Dinner on the Table, we're committed to the needs of whole households. Together, we can care for the carers and the cared-for.

After all, we all have to eat.

School holidays and climbing the roof (but not the walls!)

A red and a blue door of adjacent terrace housesSchool holidays are, for me, a break in routine and a chance just to hang out. They're also a time to climb on the roof. I should point out that I didn't include that on my original school holiday plan.

The work-life juggle can become ever more acute when junior recipe testers are not at their regular places of educational attainment. Last week I fielded a call from my brother who needed assistance with his three junior recipe testers as he and my sister-in-law had a work roster crisis. Their juniors are not of educational institutional age... and all of their usual babysitting stand-ins were out.

Depositing one of my juniors at a friend's house, I packed up the other two and headed to the fabulous inner west to spend a relaxing day in a beautiful, petite, attached house. With five junior recipe testers. All boys.

The day, somewhat miraculously, proceeded without incident. That is, apart from the bleeding lip after a nasty collision with a broom handle, but we won't mention that. My sister-in-law arrived home and all was relatively calm. The youngest junior there present was tucked up soundly for his afternoon sleep, and the lip had mercifully stopped bleeding.

We packed our things, said our goodbyes, and all sneaked past the sleeping baby's room: some of us to hop in the car and go home, others of us to wave those departing. As six of us stood on the front doorstep, a powerful gust of wind blew. The front door slammed shut.

My sister-in-law's eyes bulged. "Oh," she said. "Um...," I helpfully added. All was not lost, however. "The back door is open," I said. "I'll go round."

"Except that the only way to the back door from here is over the roof."

"Oh. What about down the side of the house?"

At my house, the sides are about 3 feet from the fence. And you can walk down them. Easily. But this was the fabulous inner west. The sides of the house are either attached to another house, or approximately half an inch from the fence. Even on my thinnest days, there was just no way.

We dragged a wheelie bin as close to the roof as we could and, leaving my sister-in-law with four juniors to monitor, I climbed up. Perching atop the paling fence I managed to hoist myself onto the roof. Walking across the roof, away from the edge was relatively easy. It was the getting down again that caused a few problems.

In the courtyard at the back of the house, a retaining wall stood alongside the fence. When my brother has found need to complete this task (yes, apparently I'm not Robinson Crusoe) he simply lowered himself off the roof onto the retaining wall. "It's not that far to drop" assured my sister-in-law.

How far something is, or how high something is, is entirely a matter of opinion. I sat on the edge with my legs dangling over. I talked calmly to myself. I breathed deeply. I conjured every feline instinct I could muster (cats always land on their feet... even on the skinniest of ledges), but the fence, nor the top of the retaining wall got thicker or less far away. I panicked. In the distance I could hear a baby starting to cry.

I walked back across the roof. My eldest junior looked up, "Mum," he helpfully suggested, "You have to go the other way!"


"I can't jump down. It's too high."

There was another way. It involved walking the paling fence, holding (lightly) on to the gutters of the two houses who shared the fence. As I cruised past the neighbour's kitchen window I observed their dishes, clean, and sitting on the draining board.

I was grateful they had not chosen that moment to start the washing up.