Tuesday 22 December 2015

d.i.y. gift idea : coconut lime sugar scrub

I don't know about you, but the holidays are in full swing for me, and I am happily listening to Christmas music and doing final preps for the big day.

I came across this cute gift idea online - Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub - from the delightful Idea Room blog - and just had to whip some up for my girlfriends.

Spoiler alert for my girlfriends I haven't seen yet!

I placed the sugar scrub into some used glass jars I had in my cupboard. We keep almost all glass jars that we buy, they can easily be put to good use as vases, storage containers and, now, sugar scrub jars!

The jars just needed a quick 30-minute soak in some soapy
water and I was able to easily scrape the labels right off.


  • 1/4 Cup Coconut Oil (melted)
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Shredded Coconut
  • 6-8 Drops Lime Essential Oil

I was able to use ingredients all from the Manly Food Co-op, which means that these scrubs are all organic and for the most part packaging-free (the essential oil does not come in bulk).


  1. Melt coconut oil in microwave (if necessary)
  2. Mix completely with the sugar - I used my hands to ensure a good mix
  3. Add the shredded coconut and lime essential oil
  4. Mix thoroughly with your hands
  5. Place into glass jars

This recipe makes about 1 Cup of completed scrub, and is super easy to multiply up to make a big batch.

My scrub is not as white as The Idea Room because I used
organic raw sugar - but it works just the same!

Amy from the Idea Room thoughtfully included a downloadable pdf of the Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub name tags on her blog, which I printed out, pasted onto the back of some old cardboard, and tied around the jar with twine.

A delightful, healthy and safe pampering treat made with your own two hands (which by now feel amazingly soft and hydrated thanks to using your own hands to mix the scrub together). Did you come up with any DIY or otherwise 'green' gifts to give your loved ones this year?

* * * *

As another year comes to a close, I want to thank you for your continued readership and support. I wish you all the warmest of season's greetings, and I'll see you all again in the New Year.

xo Lisa

Now if only this rain would clear out of Sydney so we can have a blue (sky) Christmas . . .

Friday 18 December 2015

a sustainable holiday season

I was recently asked to contribute to a blog post for the Sydney Environment Institute about some tips for a (stylish!) sustainable Christmas - here's what I wrote:

What's your one fashion suggestion for people this Christmas?
With the silly season upon us, there are countless gatherings with co-workers, friends and loved ones, and it can be tempting to buy something new to wear. But whether it’s a gorgeous dress for that special event, or the Santa hat for the family barbie, before you reach for something new, take a pause. Consider what you already have in your wardrobe, what you may be able to borrow from a friend or pick up at an Op Shop. If you’re heading to a really fabulous event, try one of the designer dress rental shops and add the ‘Wow’ factor for a fraction of the price (and a fraction of the eco-footprint!).

What fashion-related environmental issue should people reflect on this Christmas?
Waste is a huge fashion concern, in Australia we send an average of 30kg of textile waste per person to the landfill every year. The increase of ‘fast fashion’ businesses in our country raise many environmental and labour concerns, and waste is at the top of the list. Many of these fast fashion items are designed to last less than 10 wears and end up in the landfill sooner than well-made fashion pieces. So although that $10 singlet or $20 pair of boardies may be looking like a great, affordable gift idea for that hard-to-buy-for nephew of yours, you may want to reconsider.

What's something (fashionably) sustainable you will be doing this Christmas?
I actually have few ‘fashionable’ activities planned this Christmas! My biggest ambitions are to reconnect with nature by camping, bushwalking, paddle boarding and surfing (well, continuing my surf lessons, anyway), and to spend time with my dear friends and family.

What else would you have added to the list?

You can read the entire blog post on the SEI website to gain tips from other sustainability experts. Or check out my post from a few years ago on DIY Christmas decorations and gifts.

Now, let the silly season continue. I'm sure there are some organic Christmas cookies somewhere around here. . .

Season's Greetings!

Monday 30 November 2015

peoples climate movement

This past weekend, in cities all around the globe, hundreds of thousands of people marched for climate action ahead of the United Nations climate summit in Paris.

Looking across the crowd to the stage in the Domain
photo: Stephen Blake

I participated in the People's Climate March in Sydney yesterday - me and 60,000 of my dearest Sydney friends!

Me and Ty on the right, with our friends James (left) and Yatu (to my left)
and Yatu's parents, who have been taking Yatu to marches since she was a
wee little thing. They once dressed her in a shirt that read
"I want to grow up, not blow up"to protest nuclear energy. It was
amazing to be with such dedicated and experienced protestors!

Compared to the first climate march that I attended in Sydney (which I wrote about in my book, it must have been in 2008 or 2009), yesterday's march was of epic proportions, at least 10 times the size, and representing a much wider diversity of people from all corners of Sydney (and potentially farther afield).

Many Indigenous cultures were represented at the rally, and those wearing red
were representing people already on the frontlines of climate change.
photo: Stephen Blake

Photo: Stephen Blake

The rally began in the Domain and included a number of speeches and performances, including 1 Million Women's new song, "I am the Voice"*, and the always-inspirational Tim Flannery.

We all participated in a minute of silence in honour of those already facing
the impact of climate change, and then march officially began following
the playing of didgeridoo.   Photo: Stephen Blake

As the temperatures creeped higher - and the predicted thunderstorms failed to appear - the march began underneath Sydney sunshine and we benefited from the delicious breeze coming up from Sydney Harbour. Organised by colour - dress for your climate change passion - there was no shortage of music, dancing, chanting, signs and costumes, and there was an overall sense of community amongst our fellow Sydneysiders.

Photo: Stephen Blake
Photo: Stephen Blake
Clover Moore spoke at the start of the rally
Photo: Stephen Blake

Any excuse to wear an animal onesie, right?
Photo: Stephen Blake

Many people participating were protesting other social justice causes, too.
Photo: Stephen Blake

These beautiful girls represented 'Our common home', sporting green
in honour of all the species on planet Earth.
Photo: Stephen Blake

And speaking for myself, I felt enormous gratitude about living in a country that allows peaceful protests like this one, pride in my fellow citizens who turned out in huge numbers, and increased optimism about the future.

Photo: Stephen Blake

I love this not-so-subtle use of parental guilt.
Photo: Stephen Blake

'Stop polluting' - couldn't have said it better myself.
Photo: Stephen Blake

There's still so much work to do, and I hope that the world's political leaders make meaningful and impactful agreements over the next two weeks in Paris. But whatever happens at the Climate Summt, the People of the world have spoken. An increasing number of us are determined to shift towards a future based on clean energy, a fairer economic system and a healthier environment for all the planet's inhabitants. As the rally cry from yesterday's march exclaimed:  

from here on in, we're all in

It's not just for hippies anymore!
Photo: Stephen Blake

But what would a climate rally be without them?
Photo: Stephen Blake

Were you at a People's Climate event this weekend? I'd love to hear about it!

* * * *

A special THANK YOU to Stephen Blake for letting me use his amazing photographs in today's blog post - I only had my phone and was too busy chanting to take photos. He captured the atmosphere perfectly.

*A cleaver re-write of the Australian John Farnham classic "You're the Voice"

Friday 13 November 2015

natural DIY manicure

I love to take a long lunch break on the days I'm working from home, and try and squeeze in a yoga class or walk along the beach. Today, I'm feeling sore from last night's handstand-filled yoga session and the rain came in just in time for lunch, so I decided a DIY manicure was the next best option!

Do you follow me on Instagram? I post more pictures there about
natural beauty products and sustainable fashion pieces that I come across.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Weleda Australia this week and got the inside scoop that the best way to use their deliciously-hydrating Skin Food moisturiser was to warm it in your hands before rubbing into your skin - it helps soften the natural beeswax contained within so that it soaks in evenly. I've used Weleda facial moisturisers and body deodorants in the past as well - I love their commitment to remaining in balance with nature and seeking to go 'beyond organic' and using biodynamic and other methods.

I've also recently been gifted a bottle Sienna Byron Bay nail lacquer - it's completely toxin-free and vegan, and the 'Harmony' colour is the perfect shade of peach to complement my olive skin tone. (I also love how it looks with my turquoise ring!) It's so great to be able to use an Australian-made nail polish that is free from the usual nasties. I can see from the photo I have to tidy up my edges, but I just love this new nail polish colour and texture.

Now . . . back to work for me! Hope you've had an equally delightful lunch break and have a brilliant weekend ahead.


Thursday 5 November 2015

film review : this changes everything

I love celebrating sustainable frocks and examining the pros and cons of fast fashion labels dabbling in environmentalism as much as the next gal, but today I'm compelled to write about my ultimate passion - addressing climate change.

Last night I saw the film This Changes Everything, and was reminded about the power of people and the importance of activism.

Loving the revolutionary graphics
on the movie poster

Naomi Klein opens her film with a confession - that she sort of hates environmentalist movies, and is tired of seeing polar bears struggling to find a bit of ice, like this:

image credit:

Klein has been a longtime role model of mine and I was delighted to hear that she and I feel the same way about these polar bears.

Of course I love polar bears, and am devastated about what is happening to their natural habitat, and yet - as Klein highlights in the film - their world could not be more different from the world I live in, and the time has come to change the story about how we talk about, and deal with, climate change.

This film is directed by Avi Lewis, is inspired by Klein's book of the same title*, and is meant to move away from scaring people or making us feel guilty, and instead to help us feel empowered. As far as I'm concerned - job well done.

Klein on the ground in New York
copyright Ed Kashi

Throughout the film we meet a number of activists from around the world fighting industry and government to take back the land.

March in Sompeta, India

I'm not sure which story I found most inspiring - the people in Andhra Pradesh, India, who engaged in dangerous action against a proposed coal mine in their wetlands, Crystal from the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation in Canada trying to gain access to ancestral lands, the passion of the Greek protestors, or the determination of so many people marching and protesting around the globe for justice on a range of environmental issues.

Protestors in Halkidiki, Greece

Ultimately the film suggests that we do have the power to change the story - we can either let outdated thinking and a broken economic model drive us toward an uninhabitable planet, or we can take charge and design a world that is cleaner and more just for all.

Will there be push back?

Oh yeah.

Just take a look at what happens at the climate conference hosted by the short-sighted, ultra-conservative Heartland Institute and you'll see the levels of greed and denial that we are up against (I'm still wondering how filmmakers got access and approval to release the footage!).

Nevertheless, the time to act couldn't be more pressing.

I'm starting by joining the People's Climate March taking place in Australia 27-29 November. Taking place just before world leaders meet in Paris for the annual United Nations climate summit, marches will occur in major cities around the world to demand a transition to renewable energy, secure job creation, clear air and a healthy environment.

It's been far too long since I pounded the pavement and raised my voice for my cause. I walked away from the film screening last night with an ache in my heart for not being more present on the ground over the past couple of years. My activist-soul cannot wait for the 29th of November, when I hope I'll see you Sydneysiders at our march in the Domain. If not there, find a march near you, and we can send a united message to world leaders that the time for action is now.


*Confession time for me - I haven't read it yet! It's somewhere on my long-list of 'must read for PhD' books. I promise I'll get to it.

Monday 19 October 2015

Undressed in Sydney

No, I wasn't walking around Sydney in the nude this weekend . . . I attended the lovely Undress Runways, the first year this sustainable fashion event has been held in Sydney.

Pure Pod

I was so happy to finally attend this important event, and thrilled to know that sustainable fashion is growing to the extent that Undress were able to bring the shows to Sydney and Melbourne, in addition to Brisbane where it originated, in just a few short years.

Fabled & True

I had received my tickets as my crowdfunding 'reward' for supporting the forthcoming Good On You fashion rating app (how great are crowdfunding rewards?!), and was thrilled to be sitting in the front row with my friend (and research supervisor!) Natalya alongside the hardworking Good On You Sydney team. I'd also 'commuted' to the Double Bay event with my dear pal, Yatu, from All For Good, and sat near Mel from Fashion Revolution Day Aus/NZ. It's always so great to be able to celebrate Australia's sustainable fashion scene and catch up with fellow sustainable fashion champions.

Pure Pod

My photos from the night did not turn out well, so I've taken these images from the Brisbane show. These are just some of my favourite looks from the night. For me, the standouts were Pure Pod, Alice Nightingale and Fabled & True, and some beautiful swimwear by Koru, but it was great to see such a range of styles, and a few options for the men, too.

Cash Berry

Fabled & True


Cameron & James

Alice Nightingale

Alice Nightingale

Pure Pod

It was wonderful to see such diversity celebrated on the catwalk (though there was one model in Sydney that raised a number of concerned eyebrows in the crowd due to her extreme thinness), and during the final show of the night - a special collection by Prophetik by Jeff Garner out of the US - there was a gorgeous folk singer who was wearing a Prophetik dress that had been worn by Taylor Swift during the RED tour. Sustainable fashion, pop culture and folk music all in one? Delightful!

I sure wish I caught her name! It's Bridget something . . .
gorgeous voice, delightful personality, and a brilliant
way to wrap up Undress Sydney.

All in all a wonderful night out seeing some gorgeous fashion and connecting with good friends - can't really ask for more of a Saturday night, if you ask me.


Thursday 27 August 2015

closed loop fast fashion

Yesterday two stories in the Guardian caught my eye about H&M that seem to convey the mixed feelings of the sustainable fashion community regarding the fast fashion retailer (giant!).

The first: Fashion chain H&M offers $1million recycling prize for reusable clothing

And the second: H&M's $1million recycling prize is clever but no solution to fast fashion

The prize is meant to help discover new technologies to more efficiently and effectively recycle fabrics. Fabric recycling is possible today, though there are quality concerns and mixed-material fabrics - like a cotton-poly blend, popular among fast fashion brands - cannot yet be recycled.

H&M in Melbourne's GPO

On the one hand, no one can accuse H&M of not thinking about the sustainability impacts of fashion. H&M have included a range of clothing made with sustainable fibres through their Conscious Collection for a number of years, they are the largest buyer of organic cotton in the world, and they collect worn clothing to be recycled and donate money to charity for each piece collected.

I finally found a piece of the Conscious Collection!
Not always so easy to locate in the shop.

And this week they did not just announce the competition to find new techniques to recycle clothing,  H&M also launched a line of denim containing recycled cotton.
Photo: H&M

As reported by The Guardian, H&M Chief Executive Karl-Johan Persson stated: “No company, fast-fashion or not, can continue exactly like today. The [prize’s] largest potential lies with finding new technology that means we can recycle the fibres with unchanged quality.”

But does 'closing the loop' on textile production detract from the bigger picture of fashion's sustainability concerns? The fast fashion business model is structured upon increased consumption, which leads to a number of environmental and social sustainability concerns beyond merely the fabric.

The Guardian's sustainable fashion expert, and author of To Die For: Is fashion wearing out the world?, Lucy Siegle says that while the award is clever and exciting, it ultimately focuses on just one concern of fast fashion - natural resources - while sidestepping other issues pertaining to labour rights and injustices in the supply chain. “Over consumption of natural resources is a root problem, but not the only one.”

And what of the constant churn of fashion in and out of H&M's doors? This brand is not slowing production, and revenues have doubled since 2006. Aside from the resources used in fabric production, there are significant energy, water and chemical requirements of producing and selling fashion. And the rising amount of textiles in our landfills has been directly linked to the rise of fast fashion brands like H&M. For example, in the UK, household textile waste grew by 400% in just four years from 2004-2008, by which time it was nearly a third of household waste*.

Beyond that, what about the overwhelming woozy feeling I get when I walk into an H&M, and its multiple floors of overflowing clothing racks? My gut instinct is typically to get out as fast as I can, even as my eyes wander toward that fabulous dress at a reasonable price**.

H&M are not solely responsible for this particular business model of fashion, of course. In fact, they open themselves up for criticism simply by making announcements such as these, but they are doing more than any other fast fashion label out there. And just as the two headlines suggest, there are mixed feelings by many in the sustainable fashion community about whether we should celebrate or criticise H&M's actions. The general consensus seems be:

"Yes, it's good news, but . . ."

My own opinion?  It definitely rests in that "but..." area.

I want the technology, I want greater awareness of sustainable fashion that can be delivered by the likes of H&M, but I also want to slow things down and bring back what I think is truly beautiful fashion. Clothing that's been made mindfully, carefully and designed to last in terms of both style and durability. I think it's exciting that we're on the way, and that we have the support of major brands like H&M, but we're not quite there yet, and we won't be until we slow the system to a more manageable pace.

What do you think? Does this make you want to shop at H&M to support their sustainability initiatives? Will it make sustainable fashion more widely available? Or should the focus be on slowing production and encouraging a different way of buying clothing?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

*Morgan, Louise R., and Grete Birtwistle. "An Investigation of Young Fashion Consumers' Disposal Habits." International Journal of Consumer Studies 33.2 (2009): 190-98.

** I have never made an H&M purchase, though I do keep my eye on the Conscious Collection just in case anything strikes my fancy. 

Thursday 13 August 2015

Sydney Ideas : Beauty without Harm

Last night I was thrilled to participate in a Sydney Ideas / Sydney Environment Institute event on fashion and sustainability titled 'Beauty without Harm'.

The Q&A Panel discussion

Over the past few years I've attended so many Sydney Ideas and SEI events, and it was an honour to be asked to participate as a speaker. I'm only midway through my doctoral studies, and not yet able to share any 'conclusions'. So instead I shared some of the general stats about fashion's impact on the environment, some of the advancements being made in sustainable fashion, and some trends I've documented in Australia's sustainable fashion movement.

It was a full house! Industry, academics and students were all present.

Kit Willow also spoke passionately about her commitment to the environment and the work she and her team have done to create the new label, KitX, with sustainable values underpinning the business. (as an aside, I just bought my first, of what is certain to be many, pieces from the KitX collection - excitement!) And Jaana Quaintance-James, David Jones' Ethical Sourcing Manager, shared the 5 year strategy that is guiding her work to develop ethical and sustainable supply chains at Australia's major retailer.

There were so many smart questions from the audience, ranging from queries about materials, to business practices, and whether we think government should play a role in improving the sustainability outcomes of fashion (a resounding YES from all three of us). And this was another of many moments when I felt absolutely thrilled to be pursuing my PhD studies here at the University of Sydney with the incredible support of my department (Gender & Cultural Studies) and the broader SEI network. I'm looking forward to continuing these great conversations.

Reminiscing about the Clean Cut show at MBFWA 2014

If these events sound like your cuppa tea, this event was the first of a 'Small Changes' series hosted by Sydney Ideas and SEI - the next events are covering environmental issues with dairy, husbandry and fracking - all hosted by the charming Dr Frances Flanagan. You'll be certain to find me in the audience.


Tuesday 21 July 2015

great barrier reef

When I was a young teenager I dreamed of becoming a marine biologist. My room had posters of whales and ocean sunsets, and a certificate of the dolphin I'd 'adopted'. Growing up amidst the mountains and desert, I was in awe of the ocean and the amount of life it supported, and the mysteries it held.

As so often happens, that dream never came to fruition, but the oceans remain immense sources of wonder and inspiration to me. When I moved to Australia and saw my first dolphins in the wild (near Seal Rocks, NSW), I actually cried. And since living here I've had the privilege of exploring the ocean in all different ways - swimming, snorkeling, diving, surfing, sailing -  I don't think I can ever live apart from it.

Last week my husband and I took a lovely holiday Queensland, to escape Sydney's 'polar vortex' and enjoy some warmth. We stayed just off Cairns on delightful Fitzroy Island, and took a day trip to the outer Great Barrier Reef. This was not my first trip to the reef (and I doubt it's my last!), but, as with the other visits, I feel my soul completely refreshed following our trip. I feel so lucky to live near this significant site, a Wonder of the Natural World.

The reef is actually the largest living organism on the planet, consisting of 350 different types of hard and soft coral formations, and home to over 1800 species of fish, 125 types of shark, over 4000 species of molluscs and more than 10,000 of sponges types (read more about the reef here).

Despite this abundance of life, and its ranking as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the reef is under threat from a number of sources, including rising temperature and human activity such as dredging, oil spills, over fishing and industrial development, including coal ports.

There was a recent campaign to UNESCO to declare the Great Barrier Reef as 'in danger', but last month it decided against that declaration, instead saying they will continue to monitor it over the next four years. This result was due in part to the Australian government's Reef 2050 plan, a framework to protect the reef over the long term, which was developed in response to some UNESCO recommendations. The plan, some of which has already been implemented, includes a $40 million Reef Trust to go towards innovations in water quality, banning disposal of dredge material into the Great Barrier Reef marine park, and prohibiting future dredging from specified sites. This is a complex plan, and there are multiple views of support and dissent, and is well worth researching more if this is of interest to you.

Importantly, and out of the hands of the Reef 2050 plan, is the threat to the Great Barrier Reef due to our changing climate. Coral bleaching occurs when water temperatures rise. The 'bleaching' is the death of the colourful algae in the coral, and the death of the algae has implications for the sea life who feed upon the algae, and therefore the broader ecosystem. Currently bleaching is largely attributed to the El Nino effect, but the predicted 2-3 degree temperature rise due to climate change, will out 97% of the reef in the danger zone of coral bleaching. In addition, ocean acidification is another significant impact as the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide, resulting in chemical changes in the water, which have serious consequences for marine life.

These little lovebirds would not be separated!

I've just skimmed the issues pertaining to the Reef here, though it is clear that this incredible landmark, and life-giving ecosystem, remains under threat and it's up to us all to continue to protect it. I've committed to be an ambassador for the Reef with WWF, and you can to, by following this link.

So in addition to a beautiful, relaxing holiday, I've had another reminder of the importance of stabilising our climate and putting in stronger regulations about how we treat the natural world around us. 

This guy was keeping us safe, just like we need to keep the Reef safe!
Have you been to the Great Barrier Reef? Do you have anything else to add or other suggested actions we can take? I'd love to hear from you.