Why I don’t want a new phone

The state of my hand-me-down, smashed screen phone is the source of constant mockery from my friends, especially since it’s my second hand-me-down, smashed screen Samsung S3 mini and it’s been the case for so long no one can even remember what I had before that. But I don’t want a new phone, and here’s why.

  1. A beautiful young woman from Vermont recently taught me about conflict minerals in the Congo (also prevalent in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Zimbabwe). These are tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold. They are mostly found in electronic gadgets such as phones, laptops, games consoles, but also your car, pipes, and the tins your baked beans come in. The demand for these minerals results in environmental damage associated with mining, smuggling, illegal taxation, displacement, war, murder, rape, and the mineral trade has part funded these crimes for several decades.
  2. I can’t stand Iphones quite frankly, and Samsung have now been linked with the palm oil travesty. Samsung SDS announced that it will be forming a joint venture with a Korindo, a company responsible for burning and clearing tens of thousands of hectares of pristine rainforest in Indonesia for palm oil and timber production. I’m not boycotting Subways delicious cookies just to reinvest in deforestation through Samsung.
  3. I don’t want my phone buzzing with 10 different communication portals all day and night. If I’m hanging with my man I don’t care about work emails and Facebook posts, when I go to bed at night I want to be able to relax and not have to deal with trivial demands, I don’t feel the need to take a 10,000 pixel photo of my dinner and post it up to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook before I’ve even taken my first bite (at least not always!) and as such, I don’t require a phone that allows all of these activities.
  4. Sure you can get a smartphone pretty cheap these days, but if 1-3 aren’t good enough reasons for you, I’m just the sort of person who wants to spend a couple of hundred bucks on something more enjoyable.

I find it strange that people are so obsessed with my phone choice, but it’s a pretty cool opening to a conversation about some pretty meaningful stuff, so maybe don’t stop teasing me about it after all.

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Almost a Year….

…to the day since my last blog post. Why? I’ve become very disenchanted with the internet as of late, social media in particular. Largely because it frightens me how easy it is for someone to get hold of one piece of cherry-picked or misunderstood (or completely straight up wrong) piece of information and spread it like wildfire. Also because there seems to be a special kind of entitlement that comes with free flowing access to the internet, and that is this crazy idea that not only are we entitled to have, and voice, our opinion, but that everyone must pay attention, and furthermore… agree with us. This leaves us with a false sense of action, in that many people of my generation and younger, actually seem to believe that typing out a well thought out blog and hitting ‘post’ is going to do something. Is going to change something. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But I’m not a writer, it isn’t something that comes naturally or easily to me and therefore my little blog posts aren’t going to be filled with the words of wisdom required to save the world, and they certainly aren’t going to remove plastic from oceans or marine creatures guts. That means I’m relying solely on my actions.

I’m sorry to say that my actions of late have not been big ones full of impact. Those of you who know me personally, or are following the Facebook page, will know that times have been challenging for my family over the last few months and my thoughts have been otherwise occupied. I now feel though, that this is no excuse, and is actually just an opportunity in disguise. An opportunity to prove what I’ve been trying to say all along, that saving the world does not need to be a big hassle and anyone can do a little something if they really care. The point I really want to make is that if all us take small actions, maybe make small sacrifices, then no one single person does need to turn their life upside and make all the sacrifices themselves.


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What Have I been Doing? Part 1

It feels like I’ve been doing a lot because time is just flying by. I didn’t think it had been that long since my last post, but then it also doesn’t feel like Christmas was already nearly 5 months ago. Where does the time go?

So this year so far I have hosted 3 Starting the Change clean ups (Browns Bay, Long Bay, and Rangatira Reserve) – see photos here, and a whole bunch of more.

In January we returned to Browns Bay beach for our first clean up of the year. My grandparents were over from England at the time so I’m proud to say they very eagerly participated, and did the grandparently thing of making sure we all had plenty of water and sunblock!

February saw me give a presentation for the St John Youth Division of Takapuna, and the Long Bay clean up as part of Seaweek 2016. The second clean up of the year produced a massive turn out of 57 people – the second biggest number yet 🙂

I was a lucky stallholder at the Kaipatiki Project Family Enviro Fun Day in March where we played a recycling and how long til it’s gone game with other 30 local children. The game helped children to learn not just which bin certain bits of rubbish should be put in, but also how long each item of rubbish takes to break down (if ever) once it is discarded. It was amazing day and the weather was fantastic too. The Kaipatiki Project have several similar events throughout the year so keep an eye out.

April held the Rangatira Rerserve clean up…. wow that was a workout!! Although the team that we did have was a fantastic team I couldn’t help but be a little bit disappointed (although not at all surprised) that we had such a small turn out, and that the beautiful hidden bush had been used as a dumping ground. The reserve, complete with a stream, is definitely a hidden gem so if you’re in the neighbourhood do check it out. Along with car parts and bicycles, we found that most of the rubbish was in fact rubbish bags of household rubbish thrown into the bush rather than put out on the kerbside in the collection bags. Hmmm I wonder if the ridiculous cost of them has anything to do with that?!

Starting the Change isn’t just rubbish though. Also this year my family conducted an extensive clean-up of our home, repurposing whatever could be repurposed and rehoming even more. If you have a look around there are plenty of places keen to receive your old wares, here’s the start of a list. Donating is two-fold, firstly it helps other people and secondly, you avoid the fees associated with rubbish collection and the dump. I was impressed to find an organisation that takes in unused bras, and there are numerous Pay it Forward groups on Facebook where you can donate literally anything, even half used shampoos, conditioners etc. that aren’t working for you. There’s also a collection of Facebook groups where you can rehome leftover food, spare fruit and veggies, and more.

The other thing I’ve been doing is fermenting. It started with kombucha, a cheap, easy, healthy alternative to fizzy drinks. It’s environmental and economic footprint is small and I highly recommend it. Comment for more info or a scoby – I have heaps. Since then I’ve fermented garlic, carrots, and make a couple of batches of “kimchi”. My original intent was to follow the recipe for actual, traditional kimchi but instead I ended up using up a random assortment of veggies that were otherwise destined for the rubbish bin, and that is why I love fermenting. It’s a fantastic and tasty way of using up veggies that have seen better days and no longer fit for the dinner plate. Waste not want not they say.

I’ll be loading the fermenting and preserving recipes that I find to be winners here

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Lazy Person’s Guide to Sourdough Starter

Meet Brenda. brendaBrenda is my sourdough starter. Like most of things I do, it was on a whim that I made some sourdough starter. Wanting to get it right I spent many hours trawling through online recipes and advice and by the end of it I knew less than I did to begin with. It was too late though, Brenda was already bubbling away in a jar on my “fermentation station” so I had to muddle on with it. Turns out it’s not actually as complicated as Aunty Google had me think, so I’ve put together this super simple (i.e. lazy person’s) guide to sourdough starter.

What is sourdough?
In short, it’s a type of bread that you can make using just plain flour and water. Super fantastic if you’re on a really tight budget. You can use just about any type of flour, including gluten-free flours, but word on the internet is that it’s best to start with plain flour. Apparently it’s easier to digest too, which I’m excited about because bread makes my tummy miserable.

Why don’t you need to use yeast?
You are using yeast, wild yeast. It is present in everything, especially flour. The store bought stuff is like a super fast acting version. My only issue with yeast is that recipes only call for a small amount and in my household bread doesn’t get made very often so by the time we go to use it for a second time it’s already beyond being effective.

Do you really have to keep discarding half?
One of my biggest issues was that there seemed to be an awful lot of instructions telling me to discard portions of my starter, which just seems wrong, so I’ve opted to discard that information instead!
My understanding is that the discarding of half of the starter each time you feed it is so that you can maintain the right amount of sourness without getting an overload of starter, and only needs to be done if you’re using it multiple times a week and therefore feeding it multiple times a week to maintain volume. There’s a massive group in the NZ fermentation community who swear they have never thrown any away and there is no need to at all so that’s good enough for me.

What do I need?
A large jar. I made Brenda in one of my smaller kombucha jars, about 3L I think.
A wooden spoon
A measuring cup


Day 1 – Day4

Every day, once a day – Mix 3/4 of a cup + 2 Tablespoons of all purpose/plain flour with 1/2 cup of lukewarm water. Mix together thoroughly and scrap any excess off the sides of the jar. It should be a sticky blob.
Loosely cover with a lid or piece of plastic wrap.

Day 2 or 3 small bubbles should start appearing – yay! If they don’t don’t panic, they will.

Day 5
You’re probably good to get started. Use half your starter, feed the other half as above. If your starter isn’t bubbly or sour enough, keep feeding for a couple more days then use.

You have several options available to you depending on how frequently you’re going to be using your starter.
Several times a day –  leave your starter out on the bench, feeding daily as above
Once every couple of days – leave your starter on the bench and feed daily but only half the amount (56g flour, 1/4 cup water)
Once every week or two – refrigerate 6 out of 7 days. Pour off the dark liquid (hooch) and feed full amount once a week, then leave out of the fridge for a day after feeding ***DO NOT PUT YOUR STARTER IN THE FRIDGE UNTIL IT IS ABOUT A MONTH OLD. It will be near impossible to revive it***
Much, much less often – 1) feed a double portion of flour + 1/2 cup water to make a super thick batter then leave it in the fridge, or 2) smear it into a thin layer on a hard flat surface. Let it dry completely then break it into flakes. this can be stored in an airtight container for several months.
To start using it again –
dissolve 1/4 cup of flakes into 3/4 of a cup + 2 Tablespoons of all purpose/plain flour with 1/2 cup of lukewarm water and follow day 1-5 instructions.


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“Only boring people get bored”

This is something I heard a lot from one of the people in my classes during my first year of uni and I feel it’s time to put the theory to the test.

Often I trudge to work, glum about my day ahead and already feeling bored. It’s almost like I can feel the life being sucked from me, the sparkle being replaced with the road dirt of life, and that is no way to live. It’s not even a lack of stuff to do, because the feeling of boredom is mixed with a sheer panic over the millions of things on my multiple to-do lists. I think it’s mostly the fact that I’m not really a 9 to 5 office job kind of person and that’s mostly what mine is… but the bills need to be paid and everything is an opportunity – if you look at it right. It’s time I start looking at things right.

I’m not a boring person so I am not going to be bored.

I have decided to start looking at every day as an opportunity and I want to be able to go home feeling as though I honestly made the most of it. I’m not going to have time to be bored, and I’m not going to need to panic about all the things to do, because I’m going to challenge myself to do as much as I can every day. I’m going to make as much out of every opportunity as I can, no matter how small it may seem. Every email I receive, every person I meet, and every phone call I take may hold a hidden opportunity and I don’t want to miss it because I was too busy being boring.

glittering eyes

Of course sometimes it isn’t a case of changing your mindset, sometimes you really do need to change your job coz it actually is a dead end, but make sure your try this technique first before you quit… or worse… lose your soul to the grindstone!

Step 1 – Make everything a challenge. How many things can you tick off the to-do list today, how quickly can you get the cleaning done, can you prepare the next days meals the night before? It might sound dull but it’s shit you have to do at some point so you may as well make a game out of it and the quicker you get it all done the more time there is for the fun stuff.

Step 2 – Look at everything and consider whether it could play a part in completing your big picture. If it can’t, consider whether or not it could be a fun ride anyway. If it doesn’t tick any of those boxes, do with it what you need to do and don’t waste any more energy on it, especially if it’s got a negative vibe.

Step 3 – Challenge yourself to make a difference, small or big. Maybe it’s as simple as making a stressed out co-worker a cup of coffee or buying the lunch. Maybe it’s as big as adopting an elephant!!

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Healthy Seas, Healthy People.


Finding a whole cluster of these plastic polymers known as nurdle at Long Bay Beach today really got me thinking about this year’s theme for Sea Week, “Toiora te Moana – Toiora te Tangata – Healthy Seas, Healthy People”.

A huge part of New Zealand identity, specifically Maori culture, stems from our oceans and the seafood they produce. Sustainable fishing is vital in keeping that culture and identity alive (i.e. not catching too many fish, or fish of the wrong age/size) but it’s also important that we look after our sea and coastline if we want our  kaimoana to be plentiful and healthy.

All of the rubbish we dump onto our streets ends up at our beaches via storm water drains, and all of that rubbish plus the rubbish we dump at the beaches pollutes our water. Not only is this no good for us, but it’s no good for our fish, oysters, mussels, crayfish, and all the other delicious goodies we get from our coasts.

When rubbish gets affected by the sun, wind, and rain, it releases toxic chemicals that poison living creatures. Some of those chemicals, the phthalates, are considered “gender-bender” chemicals as they have been shown to alter the gender in some species, particularly fish. Sometimes they affect fish by literally making them change gender, in other species they alter the populations, meaning that more of one gender are born than the other, and that’s not good for ensuring plentiful fish supplies! {A lot of these chemicals such as BPA, Vinyl Chloride, Dioxin, Styrene, and Talc, have been linked with cancer}.
Most often fish mistakenly think that bits of plastic etc are food, and they eat them, and that makes them sick too.
Things like pipis, mussels, and oysters, are filter feeders. They have special siphons that bring surrounding water into their (very basic) digestive system and they filter out all the yummy particles which should be bits of algae and phytoplankton. Unfortunately though more often then not they are getting clogged up with little pieces of plastic instead.

By the 1990’s it was fairly common knowledge that mercury levels accumulate in seafood, particularly fish, and the higher up you were on the food chain the more mercury there was in your food. This is because there is naturally mercury in fish, which then get eaten by bigger fish (now we have two loads of mercury) and then sometimes a bigger fish and then an even bigger fish etc. until it ends up on your dinner plate with several times the normal level of mercury.

Well the same principle of bio-accumulation can be applied to the toxic chemicals and gases produced by plastic. One tiny fish eats a couple bits of plastic, the plastic meets the digestive enzymes and degradation occurs producing chemicals/gases that more than likely kill the fish. They fish gets eaten by another larger fish who also gobbles up a few nurdles before becoming a bigger fish’s dinner along with some more nurdles. So on and so forth until this plastic filled fish finds it’s way into your local supermarket or fish mongers. Sure you’re not eating the stomach contents and you’ll never even see the plastic, but whatever toxic gases and chemicals have been hanging out in your fish’s stomach have leached out into the rest of your fish. In a society were we’re worrying more than ever about GMO’s and pesticides, surely this is something we should be considering too?

For more information about Sea Week go to http://seaweek.org.nz/ 



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St John Youth Division of Takapuna speech

Okay so why the obsession with rubbish?

The waste we produce has a vast number of knock-on effects and hidden costs that people normally don’t even consider. For example, food. When people throw away food they will sometimes think about how much that particular item cost them, but they don’t think about the overall cost throughout the year. A recent survey released by the Ministry for the Environment showed that the average NZ household throws away over $500 of food a year, which adds up to $872 million across NZ, every year. On top of that, disposing of the waste is producing a 325,975 tonne carbon footprint – which is the same as that of 118, 107 cars in a year, and would require 130, 390 trees to remove that much CO2 from our atmosphere.
And that is just food, which makes up about 40% of what households throw away.

So obviously there’s not just a monetary cost associated with the production of literally everything, but also an energy cost. Every single thing we produce costs us in energy and it costs us again when we recycle it (if it’s recyclable), plus there is the waste energy that is given off as heat, contributing to our weird weather and global warming. A good example is plastic water bottles, or the plastic bags you get from the supermarket. There are wars going on around the world, and have been for decades, people fighting for oil because it is so valuable. The more of it we use and the less we have left the more valuable it becomes, and yet we’re using it for single-use items like bottles and plastic bags. It just doesn’t make sense, financially or environmentally.

Another aspect there’s rarely considered is the impact that landfills have on the environment and even the economy. In New Zealand we send about 3 million tonnes of rubbish to the landfill each year. That’s staggering. I can’t even begin to picture what that looks like. What I do know is that the rubbish sits in a big pit and it festers, not for a few years.. longer. Decades. Hundreds of years. And while it sits there it releases chemicals into the soil, the ground water, and the air. Among these chemicals are methane, CO2, ammonia, and nitrogen. These gases can be toxic and make people very sick, but there they are leaching into our environment. So of course this renders the land not just useless for any other purpose.

This is just touching on the ginormous issue that is waste and rubbish, but it’s also only about rubbish that has been disposed of correctly. What about the rubbish that gets dumped on the footpath, out of car windows, left on the beach, escapes from your rubbish bag before the rubbish man can get it. There’s a number of reasons why rubbish comes to be at large in our environment, and a number of reasons why Starting the Change is not just trying to encourage waste reduction, but also why we go out once a month and pick up as much rubbish as we can find.

Firstly, rubbish is ugly and smelly. Who wants to go for a walk in a park and have to look at other people’s rubbish?
When rubbish is left out on the streets or beaches and stuff, it still releases all those chemicals we talked about earlier, so it can still make people sick. Although it smells bad to us, it can smell really good to pests like rats and possums, and we don’t really want those hanging around.

Rubbish can also be dangerous to you, your pests, and wildlife.

Marine litter is a big concern in NZ because of our beautiful beaches and oceans full of creatures.
The Maui dolphin is only found in NZ and there are about 55 left. The Hectors dolphin, also found only in NZ has only about 7,200 left. We need to protect these dolphins from our rubbish because around 100,000 sea mammals, like our Maui and Hector’s dolphins, are killed every year after becoming tangled up in rubbish. Between 700,000 and 1 million sea birds die every day because of rubbish floating around in the sea. Often they mistake it for food, like these poor guys here. There are hundreds of photos like these on the internet. This turtle was found dead, with 224 pieces of plastic in its stomach. Plastic bags floating around in the ocean look just like jellyfish, so birds and mammals eat them and then get sick and die.

Starting the Change currently focuses on beaches, but I’m looking at doing some street clean ups this year because a recent study found that approximately 28,000 pieces of litter find their way into our harbour from storm water drains in Auckland suburbs. What we do is not scientific, we’ve tried keeping records of what we collect in terms of plastic, metal, wire etc. but with our resources we were just wasting too much time trying to collect data and we felt we could spend that time better by just collecting as much as we can as quickly as we can. Each beach does have differences in what we find so we do collect anecdotal information, but I hope that eventually we will have enough people coming along that we can effectively collect rubbish and data. At the moment Auckland Council supply us with rubbish bags and disposable gloves, but we encourage people to bring their gardening gloves from home, they offer more protection and they are more environmentally friendly. Starting the Change has a bunch of buckets and rubbish grabbers and we’re slowly building up our assets over time. We pick up everything and anything that we can, but it’s it is too bulky for us to get then we just let the Council know and they see to it for us. They also pick up our rubbish at the end of our clean-ups.  So far we’ve done about 20 clean-ups since March 2014.

At this point some pictures were shown, we had questions from the audience, and guessed how long it takes certain items to decompose.

Please feel free to contact me for information about the “How long till it’s gone” game.

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Things I’m surprised aren’t Vegan

Part of my quest to Leave No Trace means living as cruelty-free as possible. I don’t consider causing suffering to other living beings to be leaving no trace or a sustainable practice so more and more I’m finding that vegan products are ticking the boxes. Here is an ongoing list of things that I’ve been baffled to learn are not (or may not be) vegan:
{please comment with any that have caught you off guard and I’ll add them :-)}

  1. Alcohol. Who knew the processes alcohol goes through often involve substances such as casein and bone char?
  2. Sugar. Same deal, bone char is pretty commonly used here. Not in NZ though, but if you look into it you’ll find a lot of NZ sugar companies actually only carry out 1 of the 4 stages of processing, so be careful. I’m 99% sure Chelsea is all good, just make sure you get the stuff in the recyclable paper bags rather than crappy soft plastic.
  3. Vitamin D. Not the kind from the sun, the kind in foods. D2 is good, D3 is made from lanolin from sheeps wool. Watch out for Vitasoy’s Calci-Plus in the purple box.
  4. Pretty much anything with flour in it may contain random numbers derived from animals. Definitely watch out for 920 and 921 in pies and bread –  it’s hair and feathers.
  5. White vinegar. Probably shouldn’t be surprised about this one given 1 and 2 and yet I was!
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Being Cruelty-Free on a Budget

It’s hard to live cruelty-free when the main brands that are out there and in our faces are all about testing on animals. It gets harder still when you learn that even The Body Shop is owned by L’Oreal, and even though none of The Body Shop products are tested on animals, L’Oreal still stands to benefit financially from our cruelty-free purchases. Then there’s the budget to think about. You’ve searched high and low for a cruelty-free eye liner in the right shade and a cruelty-free lipstick that doesn’t completely removed itself from your lips and smear itself all over your mug within seconds, only to find the price tag is twice that of your usual Almay or M.A.C product. It doesn’t exactly make it easy or appealing for us, because believe me I know just how much louder than the conscience the bank balance can shout.

As well as being a cruelty-free consumer, I am a big fan of buying locally made goods and avoiding the carbon footprint associated with import and export so I was pleased to learn that New Zealand manufacturers of cosmetics do not use testing on animals, nor do any of our testing facilities carry out animal testing for overseas companies. However, I did have a few questions about what the exporting of NZ manufactured goods means for their cruelty-free status, so I got in touch with the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society.

To start things off, NZAVS clarified that New Zealand cosmetic companies, by law, cannot test on animals within NZ, but can have animal testing conducted overseas. NZAVS then confirmed that if any company wants to export to a country that requires animal testing of imported cosmetics (e.g. China) it is the cosmetic company who finances it. However, they confirmed that to their knowledge, and to the knowledge of the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association of New Zealand, there are no NZ companies paying for overseas testing agencies to conduct animal testing on their products, for any reason. This basically means that no matter where you are in the world, if you purchase an NZ produced cosmetic, you are making a cruelty-free purchase.

Unfortunately shopping cruelty-free is pretty difficult when there are so many loopholes, and of course no product is advertised as being tested on animals. Most companies are, however, pretty quick to let us know that there ARE cruelty-free though by emblazing logos on their packing. There’s also a range of apps that you can download to help with your cruelty-free shopping, including SAFEshopper, and the PETA Bunny Free app, as well as a whole bunch of lists of companies that do and don’t test on animals. As good as these tools are, they don’t really allow for the student budget issue so here’s a guide that I’ve compiled from my own experience as a cruelty-free shopping student.

Make Up

Australis– Cruelty-Free and a massive range of vegan products too. Available online and in Farmers

E.L.F Cosmetics– cute name, vegan and cruelty-free. Available online and now at Kmart.

Rovie Mineral Cosmetics– can be purchased online and are very reasonably priced for vegan, chemical-free and cruelty-free products

Doll Face Mineral Cosmetics– Depending on what you’re used to paying, you might find this one suitable. NZ made so worth a look either way.

Washing you and your stuff

While most body care products state whether or not they are tested on animals, finding the same information for cleaning products is a little bit harder. Various combinations of baking soda and vinegar can tackle most situations, but for those that need something a little bit stronger, we recommend the Ecostore and Earthwise. Both are cruelty-free accredited which means they weren’t squirted in a poor bunny’s eye to see what the reactions is (#EndTheDraize).
Look out for them in your local supermarkets weekly specials. Sometimes they are more expensive than the other brands, sometimes they aren’t.
Organic Care– their shampoo, conditioner, and body wash is about as cruelty-free and sustainable as it gets, especially at their sweet prices. Available from most supermarkets and The Warehouse.

If you’re still about the baking soda/vinegar combo, check out Bin Inns homemade cleaning product recipes. Available on their website.


(So you can shop like a hippy without smelling like one)
There’s quite a lot out there, but the price tag is much higher than the standard supermarket bought product. I have come across a few that are the good though.

Innoxa- twice the price but twice the volume

Sukin- this one is about twice the price but is 125ml rather than 50ml

Natures Gate– twice the price but almost twice the volume

Crystal– similarly priced to the regular stuff if you buy from iherb.com


This one is easy.
No-AD Suncare is where it’s at for sun protection. Cruelty-free, vegan and super affordable. Available online and in most pharmacies.
It’s worth noting that there are several companies that do not carry out any animal testing on their products and advocate against it, but are not deemed cruelty-free because their products may be subjected to animal testing for export purposes. Such companies include Nivea and Revlon. Technically they aren’t taking a full stand against animal testing, but the company itself isn’t conducting the testing (just paying for it instead). Sometimes, like when you’re trying to live on a student allowance, this is a compromise you have to make. L’Oreal have been funding research into methods that will replace animal testing since the 80’s, but still export to China.

It’s also worth noting that cruelty doesn’t just happen to animals, even in this day and age. Fair Trade are great anti-human cruelty products, so if you want to make sure your tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, and bananas are coming from workers who are being paid fairly and are not the victim of slave labour, look for the Fair Trade symbol.

As much as I would love it to be, this article is in no way a comprehensive list of cruelty-free shopping, so check out these websites for extra tips, and my grimoire for easy homemade products








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All you need to know about Animal Testing

animal testingOn March 31st 2015, the NZ government passed a ban on the animal testing of cosmetics. That sounds like a pretty big win for our furry friends, but when I looked a little closer I realised that it wasn’t quite as great as it sounded. This ban is part of the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill, which passed its final reading on May 5th this year.

The ban covers “finished cosmetics” and the ingredients that are exclusively for cosmetic use- which only covers about 10% of the ingredients. The other 90% are considered “dual-use” and can still be tested on animals.

The ban also only applies to cosmetics produced in New Zealand, not those that are imported into NZ, and it means that cosmetics testing stations within NZ cannot do animal testing for overseas companies. Which is a little bit redundant since no NZ manufacturer of cosmetics uses animal testing, and none of the testing stations here conduct animal testing.

In the meantime, New Zealand is still receiving goods from overseas companies such as Estee Lauder (parent company of M.A.C. cosmetics), L’oreal (and therefore Maybelline and Garnier), Revlon (parent company of Almay), and Avon. While not all of these companies directly conduct animal testing themselves, they are exporting their products and paying for them to be subjected to animal testing where overseas laws require it.

So all of a sudden, it’s not seeming like such a great win after all. Especially when, in contrast, the European Union banned the sale and import of animal tested products in 2013.

I saw a good image online recently in response to how animal testing and killing animals for food are legal practises:

And it’s true. Think back to the things we now think of as inconceivable; lobotomies, sending homosexuals to mental institutions, giving our babies whiskey to settle them, arsenic in wallpaper, and insecticide “so safe you can eat it”. One day, those who don’t already, will look back on animal testing with horror and embarrassment. I’m willing to bet no-one would put their own bunny, puppy, or even a random monkey up to be a test subject so why would you support the industries that do, they can only continue doing it for as long as we let them. It may be out of our sight and out of our mind but what about those living, breathing, FEELING, creatures who are living it every single day? The same Bill declared all animals to be sentient beings, that means we acknowledge that as well as being able to feel pain, they are conscious and aware of their experiences.

I was shocked to learn that M.A.C Cosmetics had started testing on animals because they’ve often been touted as being cruelty free, but it turns out that (like many big companies including L’Oreal) Estee Lauder gave in to animal testing in order to export products to China. Until June 30th 2014 China required animal testing for both imported cosmetics (which includes toiletries, sunscreens, oral hygiene, and other personal care products) and cosmetics manufactured in China, now it’s only a requirement for imported products. It’s a small step, but still a step in the right direction.

Animal testing is known as a form of vivisection. The word vivisection is derived from the latin words vivus, meaning “alive”, and sectio, meaning “cutting”, but is used to refer to any kind of experimentation on a live animal. Human vivisection is deemed completely unethical, and has been used in history as a form of torture. Yet we consider it to be okay to do to other sentient beings.

The medical industry plays a huge part in the use of vivisection, with the Food and Drug Administration requiring animal testing of pharmaceuticals. Despite this, animal tested prescription drugs kill over 100,000 people every year. It is hardly surprising that animal testing failed to predict these deaths since the majority of side effects include things like headaches, dizziness, nausea, and depression, which are often the initial warning signs of deeper complications, and are symptoms animals cannot communicate. The fact that we are unable to routinely use animals for blood transfusions or organ donations, and animals and humans have different medications, shampoos, and foods, should highlight exactly how biologically different we are from each other, and that perhaps our furry friends are not the best indicators of how humans will react to a product. #EndTheDraize has been filling my timeline lately. The Draize is a compulsory skin or eye irritation test required for human-use pharmaceuticals. A substance (like eye drops or even household products) is applied to a rabbit’s eye or skin and then observed to see how a human will respond to the chemicals. Rabbits are used the most because they produce a very low amount of tears and so the product does not get washed out. Sound’s awful, eh? The test is over 70 years old and despite there being several physiological reasons why a rabbits response to a chemical will differ to a humans (including, different pH and buffering capacity of the aqueous humour, a rabbit having a third eyelid and being unable to produce the same amount of tears as a human, and the cornea of a rabbits eye being 4 times larger than that of a human), this outdated and horrific test is still used even in NZ.

Although not strictly “vivisection” if we go by the literal translation, dissection of creatures for education also falls under the vivisection umbrella. I did this while working towards my Bachelor of Science. There were grasshoppers, squid, mussels, and kina, among other things, and boy did I feel rotten. I had no idea what I was looking at because there were no labels, and everything was all the same mushy brown-red colour. I do feel that it was completely unnecessary, and in no way more beneficial than looking at a well-developed (labelled) illustration or Youtube video. Let’s be honest, it’s been done a hundred times over and there is enough visual documentation out there that we don’t need to waste a bunch more lives in the name of science.

If any of these practices were carried out on a human, those doing it would be charged with abuse and torture at the very least. If an owner were to treat their pet cat or dog this way the SPCA would have them charged with animal abuse and they would likely never be able to own an animal again. You wouldn’t use your shampoo on your dog or vice versa, and you certainly wouldn’t give your cat a Paracetomol for a sore paw, or take some of Rovers pain meds for your headache, so how does any of this make any sense? Think twice next time you purchase animal tested goods and safe the fluffy bunnies, and yourself, from what is at worst, outright cruelty, and at best, incredibly poor science.

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