Watering my sunflower patch and watching my grandkids run around my vegie garden, I was filled with joy.
They are my reason to save the earth, I thought.
Six years ago, though, I’d barely given the environment a second thought.
Busy working in family day care, and a mum to three, like most people, I consumed products without hesitation.
Chucking out unwanted vegie scraps, buying brand-new items – often covered in single-use plastic – as well as shopping for fast fashion, were part of my everyday habits.
Then, in January 2016, I stumbled across an article online about palm oil, and it’s devastating effects on our rainforests and wildlife.
Used in biscuits, chips, crackers, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, cosmetics and more, harvesting palm oil is a leading cause of deforestation.
My husband, 54, and I had recently become grandparents for the first time to a beautiful baby boy.
‘We need to do better,’ I told my hubby, who was very supportive.
It’s not going to be easy, but we have to start somewhere, I thought, determined.
I just had to take one step at a time! So while grocery shopping, I meticulously checked every single label to make sure the product was free of palm oil.
I also decided to ditch plastic.
When I was a kid, you’d take your own fabric bag to the shop for your fruit and veg, and groceries were loaded into paper bags.
Now my pantry was stuffed with single-use plastic bags.
The deeper I dug into our habits, the more I felt like Alice in Wonderland, going down the rabbit hole.
So I began questioning every item on my shopping list.
Where has this come from? Where will it go to when I finish with it? How will it be packaged when I buy it? How was it made? Who made it? Were they treated properly?
Swapping simple everyday items, including buying milk in glass bottles, sugar in paper bags, bamboo toothbrushes and shampoo bars, was easy.
The challenge came when something couldn’t be sourced package-free or second hand.
Feeling stressed with the idea of being eco-perfect, I came up with the 80-20 rule to lighten my disappointment when having to purchase something with plastic packaging.
Eighty per cent of the time I can and will choose the plastic-free option, I decided while looking for a new mattress.
I even started my own vegie garden and adopted chooks, which helped me save cash and cut down on packaging from the shops.
In time, our family grew to eight grandies, now aged from nine to nine months.
Soon, I became known as Eco Granny and my hubby Eco Pop!
Now, I’ve got heaps of handy eco-friendly hacks, and always try my hardest to reuse and recycle.
Cutting the plastic bristles – which aren’t recyclable – off my bamboo toothbrushes, I’ll reuse the shaft as a plant name tag to go in my garden.
Basil, I wrote in permanent marker recently, proudly spearing it into the soil next to the seeds I’d just lovingly planted.
If an avocado threatens to go brown, I’ll mash it up, pat it down so there are no air pockets, cover it with water, then store it in the fridge.
When it’s time to eat it, I just pour off the water and it’s still lovely and green.
Same goes for stale bread. Baste it with olive oil and salt and pepper, pop it in the oven and you have crackers to go with your guacamole!
At Christmas, our family wraps pressies in cloth bags, fabric, newspaper and left over wrapping paper from Christmases past.
And I always try to be creative with gifts.
Instead of giving the kids a toy doctor’s kit, I made my own with things such as bandages, a sling and a wheat pack.
Real things last longer, and they actually work!
‘Can I take your temperature Granny?’, one of the grandies asked, excited about her new thermometer.
I have the same philosophy with dress-ups.
Rather than buying an easily-broken plastic toy crown, I found a gorgeous real tiara for five dollars from an op shop.
Real kings and queens need a real crown! I thought.
I love walking through my vegie garden, with my little shadows trailing behind me.
It’s so rewarding to teach my grandkids – my little apprentices – why I do what I do.
And my nine-month-old grandson loves the chooks!
They all love to help collect eggs, fill up the compost with vegie scraps, leaves and cardboard, and pick fruit and vegies to cook.
To share my journey, I’ve started an Instagram page, @eco_granny.
I love connecting with other eco-warriors.
Your post encouraged me to make a change, one lady messaged after I’d posted about the homemade playdough I made for the grandies using flour, lemon juice and vegetable oil.
If I can inspire one person to create change in their life, I have done my part to better the world.
And if I can go green, anyone can!