From couture to composting

Sustainable Living

From couture to composting

I recently spoke on a panel about sustainable fashion (SF) and one of the questions I was asked was, how has SF helped you live more sustainably? It really got me reflecting on the everyday things we’ve been doing to minimise harm to the environment, the climate and other species, to the point that I wanted to share my response in a blog.

Firstly, I never thought couture would lead me to composting. That was until I embarked on my own sustainable fashion (SF) adventure. These days, I get my kicks out of growing microgreens rather than growing my shoe collection.

I’m certainly no eco-purest. I’m learning that sustainable living is a continuous process and it takes time. As the saying goes ‘Rome wasn’t built in day’. In my case Rome wasn’t green in a day’.

I’m witnessing lots of little, less newsworthy changes are making a significant difference to my family’s carbon footprint.

In less than 6 months we’ve been able to reduce our carbon footprint from approximately 18.51 tonnes to under the national average 15.37 tonnes. FYI, an individual’s carbon footprint measure includes all activities inside and outside of the home like flying emissions, private and public transport fuel consumption. Since I’ve been sharing my SF journey with the world, I thought I’d share how I’m turning other areas in my home (apart from wardrobe) green!

Starting in the kitchen

Since many recycling systems begin in the kitchen. We’ve concentrated on doing ‘responsible recycling’ i.e washing and sorting recyclable materials, composting and reducing general waste.

I didn’t realise until I started composting that the largest proportion of the waste we create is from food scraps. In fact, the greenhouse gases produced by food waste in Australian landfill each year is equivalent to the emissions of Australia’s steel and iron ore industries combined (watch my waste).

For many years since downsizing to an inner city apartment I was under the impression you couldn’t compost without a garden, until I discovered an Australian company Urban Composter .They produce compost bins and non-toxic fermentation sprays (to accelerate the breakdown of food ) that are ideal for apartment living. I also learnt that my local city council run community composting hubs where you can take your food waste for fertilising public green spaces.

Photo 25-7-19, 10 04 04 am.jpg

By composting we’ve identified exactly how much food waste we produce which is around 5 kgs every fortnight. Over 1 year that’s approx. 130 kgs of organic waste that we’ll prevent going to the tip. We’ve always been pedantic about washing our recycling so that wasn’t a new thing. What’s different is that our recycling now involves a more sophisticated system of sorting materials so they can be recycled through specific schemes such as:

-taking our used coffee pods back to Nespresso for recycling which are turned into all sorts of things including bike frames.

-soft plastics go to Coles for recycling

-our beer bottles, aluminium tins, plastic pet bottle etc. are recycled through the Containers for change . Since starting the scheme in January 2019 we’ve saved about 4 square metres of potential landfill waste and made $150.00 WINNING.


One of the most significant changes we’ve noticed is how much our general waste has reduced. We’ve gone from needing to empty our general waste from every 3-4 days to once a week to now every 2 weeks. Other ways we’ve reduced waste and single use plastics in the kitchen include:

- Using beeswax wraps instead of glad wrap

-Replacing aluminium foil I with a metal lid or cover.

I’ve also noticed that my awareness of plastics has increased. When I’m grocery shopping now I’m not just examining the nutritional index but the product’s container to assess how it can be recycled and to minimise single use plastics. I still get tricked up from time to time, like the other day when I mindlessly bought 1/2 cauliflower from my local fruit shop wrapped in glad wrap - Gotcha! It’s true that we’ve made plastics our automatic pilot transporting us to a destination of convenience.

The Bathroom

This is an area of the house directly connected to our precious rivers and oceans. Therefore I’ve focused on how to minimise toxic chemicals going down the drain, reducing water usage and plastic use. When I surveyed what plastics were in my bathroom/s OMG I was gobsmacked! Too many plastic containers are taking pride of place in our showers and vanity units etc. Even though most of these plastics are recyclable I’m still keen to phase them out one shower at time.

Beauty Products:

I’m currently trialling LUSH’s naked range (no wrapping) shampoo & conditioner balms and body soap. I’m also using their reusable makeup remover wipe to replace disposable ones. One of the biggest changes I’ve made in the self care department is using a menstrual cup. Once repulsed by them, I’m now a shameless fan. I love the fact I’m not generating waste products from my used sanitary items nor using plastic bags to wrap them which was going into our general waste and then to landfill. Biome’s biodegradable bamboo toothbrush is also being put to the test. The only problem is the toothbrush heads, regardless of the brand cannot be recycled. I’m on the hunt to replace the Colgate toothpaste I’ve been using for years, but my dentist is not yet convinced that some of the natural alternatives stack up.

Cleaning products:

To clean tile grout, surfaces, glass shower screens and mirrors, floors, I’ve been using the following recipe from

Glass Cleaner Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of water (distilled or filtered is best so it doesn’t leave residue)

  • 2 tablespoons vinegar

  • 10 drops essential oil of choice- I use lemon (optional- but it helps cut the vinegar smell).

Water Use:

According to Urban Utilities sticking to showers under 4 minutes with a shower head flow of 12 litres water per minute can save 36 litres a day. If anything could incentivise me to give up those heavenly long showers it’s music. Hence it was music to my ears when I heard Urban Utilities have created ‘bathroom beats a playlist’ that consists of 4 minute tunes available through Spotify.

Giving up those 7 min + showers has never been so easy and enjoyable. While I’m singing away to Blondie’s The Tide is High, I’m reminding myself that by using less water, I’m not just helping to lower our energy costs and conserve water, but I’m helping to keep that water in the environment for natural geological and ecological cycles.

Sustainable Styling urban utilities

The Laundry

The laundry is another crucial space to save water and keep our oceans clean. It’s a WIP but I’m slowly retraining my washing obsessed hubby NOT to wash everyday and do more spot and hand washing of clothes.

This year I was approached by Happi Earth a Queensland based eco-friendly laundry detergent brand to test their product. The results have been impressive. Not only do my clothes feel, smell and look great after being washed in Happi Earth, I also have greater satisfaction knowing that every purchase reduces 13 plastic bottles on average from our environment, per household every year! By washing your clothes with Happi Earth you can help eliminate plastic waste in a big way. Just one 1L (34 fl oz) refill pouch lasts 400 washes! For the month of August they are planting 5 mangrove trees per Happi purchase instead of 1 to create crucial blue carbon zones.

Sustainable Styling happi earth

Did you know that every time you wash synthetics, countless plastic fibers are making their way from washing machines into rivers and oceans? Being keen exercisers we wear a lot of Lycra so buying a Guppy Friend Bag was a no brainer.

Sustainable Styling Guppy Bag

The Deck:

In February this year I had the privilege of meeting Costa Georgiadis at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne. His number one piece of advice to me was grow your own food. After a bumpy start with some hungry little caterpillars we have edibles that we use every day in some form or another. How did we safely eradicate those bright coloured hairy guys? With a homemade coffee bug spray courtesy of Gardening Australia

Expresso Bug spray


  • 1 cup of strong espresso

  • A fine sieve

  • A spray bottle

  • A funnel

  • 3 cups of water

What to do:

  1. Sieve the espresso into the spray bottle using the funnel and dilute it with the water.

  2. Spray the mix onto seedlings to deter slugs and snails.

If you’re interested in exploring the climate impact of your diet check out climate change food calculator . By far beef and lamb produce the most damaging effect on the environment.

Consequently over the last 6 months we’ve reduced our meat intake by 50%. Rather than eating meat 3-5 times a week it’s more like 1-2 times a week and I’ve phased out lamb altogether.

Our Pet’s Carbon Footprint

Finally, even the family cat Blackie is getting in on the green action. Even though we’ve been using Max’s CopRice eco-friendly cat litter for over 10 years, since living in an apartment it’s been tricky disposing of the Blackie’s used litter sustainably. Finding out that community compost hubs do accept biodegradable used cat litter (his poop goes down the toilet) has meant we have reduced even more of our general waste.


From couture to composting, practicing sustainability hasn’t been a drag at all. It’s been an amazing ride that’s awakened my creativity and blue sky thinking. I wasn’t expecting this blog to be this long. But I’m glad it is because it’s proof we are doing lots to lead a more conscious life. Sustainable living is not about being perfect nor point scoring (go away those people) but being more aware of how everyday choices (good and bad) are connected to the environment. I’d love to hear what you’re doing in this space too? Please share them in the comments below. Maybe my next blog will be how I’m living a more sustainable life outside the home. Until then lovelies happy composting.



Karen UhlmannComment