In this episode of The Burn Pod Hannah chats with Sustomi founder Bronwyn about how to reduce waste this Christmas. 

Hannah:

Welcome back to the Burn Pod, everyone. Today’s episode is all about how to create a more sustainable approach to Christmas and today we have a really special guest. Her name is Bronwyn and she’s from SUSTOMi, so welcome, Bronwyn.

Bronwyn:
Hi, hello, Hannah. Thanks for having me.

Hannah:
Thank you for being on. So I guess the first question is what is SUSTOMi? And tell us a little bit about your background and the business.

Bronwyn:
Yeah, sure. SUSTOMi, first question I quite often get asked is what does the word mean? It’s a word I created. It’s a combination of the word sustainable and home, and that really forms the basis of what we’re about. So it’s about helping people go low waste and helping them get their life freshly sorted out, which means making sure you’re organised and you do things in your daily life that lead to a low waste life.

Bronwyn:
So our products are all about replacing single-use plastics and yeah, we’re located down in Hobart, very close to Burn Theory, just around the corner. And yeah, we’re a small team and that’s us in a nutshell.

Hannah:
Perfect. So I know a lot of us are starting to ramp up into Christmas and buying presents, or starting to think about buying presents, and all of the packaging and the waste and everything that sort of comes with it. And I think it’s particularly prevalent now that we’ve gone through COVID that there’s an extra amount of single-use plastics and packaging around. And so it was as a nice idea that if we could dig into that idea of trying to be a little bit more sustainable, having tips and tricks that we can apply into our everyday life generally, but also, being Christmas is usually the craziest time of year for packaging and plastics and leftovers and waste.

Hannah:
So yeah, so that’s why we’ve brought Bron on today. But Bron, give me a little bit of an idea of your health and fitness journey. I know you’ve done a couple of classes with us and I know you are into the space. And I know we’ve also done a podcast where I jumped on your podcast. What’s your health and fitness journey?

Bronwyn:
Yeah, sure. So I’ve always been into health and fitness. When I was younger, all through my teenage years, I think I was about eight, from eight to 16, I was a springboard diver and I was pretty into that, competed at the nationals and so forth. And that really formed the foundation for my love of fitness and just having that ability to control your body and utilise it to its full potential. So that really instilled this mindset in me of being able to persist through things, challenge yourself. So from there, I ended up coaching for a little bit and then I actually studied exercise science at university and didn’t end up working in the space, but it taught me so much about health and fitness and what our bodies are capable of and why we can do the things that we can do and why it’s so important as well.

Hannah:
Well, let’s get into our first key area of focus and that’s about food waste and actually how to utilise leftovers, so they’re not getting chucked out as much. And as we all know, coming into Christmas, the amount of socialising that we do, although they might be slightly pared back this year due to COVID, but the amount of socialising we do, the amount of times that we’re having barbecues and this and that and then the actual Christmas day, or the Christmas meal, there’s so much leftover waste. If your dog can’t eat the chickens, leftover chicken or turkey or ham and then usually it just gets thrown in with beans. So I guess what I wanted to chat to you about is what are some tips and tricks that you have around reducing, I guess, the food waste and whether you have any good recipe ideas for leftovers.

Bronwyn:
Of course. Waste is a massive topic for me. The simple fact that 30% of all our household waste is food just makes me-

Hannah:
Wow.

Bronwyn:
So it’s something that we push a lot at SUSTOMi. And the biggest way that I see, or the most impactful way I see to combat food waste, is to stop buying that waste in the first place. So going to the shops and not really buying what you actually need is a huge way to do it. And I know when you came on my podcast, Hannah, you talked about meal planning and I think meal planning is honestly one of the best ways to overcome it. So for me in everyday life, we’ll get to Christmas in a second, it’s all about pulling out in the kitchen what you’ve already got and looking at what you can make with that food and then planning your meals around that.

Bronwyn:
And the second thing is choosing where you shop wisely. So going to a bulk food shop where they don’t have plastic packaging and you can use your own containers or just use the paper bags that they’ve got at the shops and that cuts back on heap of plastic waste. And that second great thing about bulk shopping is that you can buy the exact amount of the foods that you need. So instead of buying 500 grammes of almonds, when you only need 50 grammes, it saves a heap of waste and that’s relevant for all your other foods that you buy.

Hannah:
Yeah, that’s so true. There’s so many times if I haven’t organised what I want to have dinner, or if I don’t have a plan in place, then I’ll turn up to the supermarket and then I just grab what I think I might want at some stage, and then I don’t use it so then it just gets thrown out. So it’s a huge one. And not only does meal planning… Not to like that extreme where it’s eating boiled chicken every night. That’s not what we’re suggesting, unless you want to do that. That’s fine. But not only does it help with reducing excess carbohydrates and fats and calories that you don’t really need to helping with you sustaining that healthy body, but it will also help with food waste as well, so that’s pretty cool. Well, let’s dig into Christmas a little bit then. How are we able to sort of reduce our food waste a little bit more, be a little bit more mindful about it over Christmas?

Bronwyn:
I think it’s about talking to the people who are at your Christmas party. I know everyone does Christmas differently. I personally ended up going to about four or five different parties and I’ve never actually hosted one myself, but I’ve been a part of Christmases where we have really thought about it and over the years have watched or seen my parents and my friends really cater for the paper who are there and not going to excess. So it’s not about having the most elaborate Christmas table. It’s about making sure we’ve got one or two really quality, high quality dishes and a few smaller ones and making sure it’s enough food, but not excessive.

Bronwyn:
And then we always talk to each other and make sure we’re not doubling up on things like one person might be responsible for desserts, one person might do the meat, one person might do salads. And that way we’re not ending up with a barbecue covered in meat that’s not going to get eaten or salads that are just going to go off. So I think it’s about working out who’s going to be there and what their dietary requirements and so forth and then really nutting out the minimum that you need and then adding on a few extra little nice things like pudding and so forth.

Hannah:
Yeah, yeah. No, that’s a good point as well. I mean, one of the key reasons, other than obviously we increase our alcohol intake and probably a little bit more chocolate around Christmas time, overeating is the number one reason why we end up having that excess three to five kilos that we put on over that period of time. And usually it’s because you’re doing the polite socialising thing where you are catering for filling everyone up, but you’ve also asked three other people to bring stuff and they’ve also done the same thing, where their meals will actually feed everyone. And so you end up with this huge amount of food that you overate, but then you also have a hell of a lot of leftovers too, so that’s a good point. Now, a couple of good recipe ideas that you might have. I know that my mum does, she makes up a pasty with the leftover ham and all of the vegetables and stuff. She’ll just chop it all up, mix it up and make a pasty you with it. Do you have any other really good recipe ideas for leftovers?

Bronwyn:
Yeah, I’ve got a couple, but leftover recipes when I was thinking of what to share is quite hard because it really depends what foods you’ve got. There’s a few really simple ones that I like doing with a few staple ingredients. And some of these are the biggest food waste that we have in Australia. So things like milk is a big one. How often do you have milk in the fridge and it just ends up going off because it doesn’t get drunk? So with milk, you can turn it into yoghourt, super easy. All you need is a spoonful of your old yoghourt and put it in the milk.

Hannah:
Really?

Bronwyn:
Yep.

Hannah:
Oh wow.

Bronwyn:
And sit it on a bench for about 24 hours and it lets the bacteria grow and it ferments and 24 to 48 hours later, you’ve got yoghourt and it works with coconut yoghourt as well.

Hannah:
No way.

Bronwyn:
I personally prefer coconut yoghourt. So you just take coconut cream, add a spoonful of your old yoghourt and then you’ve got yoghourt, coconut yoghourt. That’s a critical trick. Yeah, and then of course, there’s things like if you have leftover meat, if it’s meat that might be going a bit off in the fridge or even the legs of your chicken drumsticks that you’ve got left over, making a pot of stock is amazing and that’s a really good one for your Christmas meals as well. If you have meat on the table, a leg of ham or something like that, you can pop all the leftovers of the meat with your vegetables as well and cook it down to make a stock, or you can make it, oh sorry, leave it as just the bones and do a bone broth. So pop them on the stove on a low heat and let it simmer just slightly covered in water for a couple of hours.

Bronwyn:
Some people do it for a whole day and it’s got a really nicely condensed down bone broth or stock. So there are really great ways to use it up, for those things that you can’t feed to your dog. Obviously dogs can’t eat the chicken bars and things. And then we’ve got things like your veggie peels. Composting is a great way of doing that, if you can’t eat them. So most of most veggie peels, you can actually put into a stock. And if you can’t do that or you don’t feel comfortable doing that, then you compost it or worm farm it, something that’s going to return it to the soil. And then with your stock, you can also freeze it. This is a really good hack. If you don’t have anything to do with it immediately, you can put it into ice cube trays, and then put them in the freezer and then all you do is pull out a little ice cube when you’re making a soup or a curry or whatever you’re putting your stock into and it’s super easy.

Bronwyn:
Another thing that might be leftover, this could be one for Christmas day if you’re doing a barbecue with bread, you’ve got lots of bread going a bit hard, or it’s getting to the use by date, bread and butter pudding is a really delicious one. I can’t quite quote the recipe for that. I don’t know the specifics.

Hannah:
Yeah, yeah.

Bronwyn:
I know it’s a delicious way of using it up and then croutons is a great way of using up bread as well, so simply chopping it into some small cubes and then you can put it in the oven on a really low heat just until it starts to brown and then that’ll stay fresh in an airtight container for a couple of days.

Bronwyn:
You can use them in year soups. And then you’ve got leafy greens. If you’ve got a side dish on your Christmas table, then you can always put spinach leaves, kale. Most of your leafy greens you can use in smoothies and it’s a super healthy way of using those up as well. And then my last point is simply freezing things. I think the freezer is a much forgotten best friend in the world of low-waste living. And most of the foods that I personally cook, if I do a Curry or some kind of main meal, I can always freeze it and then it’s there for later, if we don’t end up eating it straight away. So there’s a few ideas with some of the things that end up in the top 10 wastes of foods in Australia.

Hannah:
That’s some really cool ideas there. Well, let’s move on to the next key area of waste that I can see and I know of around Christmas, which is the packaging.

Bronwyn:
Oh my gosh.

Hannah:
It’s presents time and it’s not just the wrapping paper that goes around the presents, it’s literally the box and the plastic in the box and everything that, all the packaging crap that comes with Christmas. Also wrapping paper, you got your plastic bags, you got your Glad Wrap that people put over food, plastic containers, single use plastic. And a lot of us think, “Oh, I’ll save myself the time on Christmas day for cleaning by going and getting plastic plates and cutlery.” And then literally that’s one use and it gets thrown into a plastic bag.

Bronwyn:
Oh, I hate to hear that.

Hannah:
Is there other… What are the alternatives to sort of, and it can be tough, I totally get that, but what are the alternatives to try and reduce this packaging issue that we have?

Bronwyn:
Yeah, good question. I mean, it’s a tough one to answer because it really depends on what people have. I think if people take on the point that I made earlier about just reducing what you have, reducing what you made on the Christmas table, in terms of foods, can go a long way to saving food waste and also plastic waste. There’s options of reusables and so storing food, there’s reusable containers. And if you let everyone know ahead of time that you are trying to reduce waste, I think that can go a long way too. There’s nothing worse than having a barbecue and people bring over the single use plates and go, “Oh no, we’ll save you the washing up.” It just hurts. I’ve had that happen to me. Not nice. So yeah, making everyone aware of what your goals are, if you do have a goal of a low-waste Christmas. I think is really important because once you share that, then people are totally happy to wash up usually or help stack the dishwasher, which most people have these days.

Hannah:
I mean even paper plates would be better than your plastic crap that you can get and you can get some really good solid paper plates.

Bronwyn:
You can, and they’re compostable. I think that should be a last resort. I think it’s not that hard.

Hannah:
They’re made for a purpose. Let’s use them.

Bronwyn:
Yeah. So even if you don’t have enough plates, I know that’s sometimes an excuse to pull out the single use. Maybe it’s a matter of saying BYOPlates on your invites to your Christmas party. But then there’s also, in terms of storing food, there’s also things like beeswax wraps that you can use to cover your dishes weird instead of pulling out the Glad Wrap and sometimes, even just something as simple as a cloth, or a tea towel, over the top of your dishes will keep the moisture off, it keeps the flies off, stops the sun from drying it out. If you’ve got a table outside and you’re fortunate enough to have a sunny day, that’s what we do. We usually just grab a tea towel and pop it over the platters if we were to go for a walk or step away for a minute.

Hannah:
Is there any other options for… Because people like to wrap their presents up and I know there’s things like newspaper and stuff, if you’ve got an old newspaper, and I know that a lot of us, it’s so pretty to have them they’re all wrapped up perfectly. But let’s be honest, the kids would rip it off within 10 seconds. They don’t care what it looks like and they end up having probably more fun with the packaging around it than they do the actual present. Are there other options that you know of for packaging up your presence?

Bronwyn:
Definitely, yes. So the first question I’d ask around that is do we need to give physical gifts to everyone? I can dig into that if you want me to later. And then the second question is how can you wrap it more sustainably? So that might be something that is repurposed, something that’s biodegradable or something that you can reuse. So for something that is repurposed, it might be a bag that you got last Christmas that you still got lying around, maybe a paper bag that you can put a nice ribbon around the top of and no one will ever know that it was repurposed or might be some old wrapping paper that you have or it might be a newspaper, as you mentioned, that’s been repurposed.

Bronwyn:
And then you’ve also got something that might be biodegradable. So if you do want to go out and buy paper or some kind of wrapping material, look for things that are maybe it’s supporting local or it is a hundred percent biodegradable or it’s recycled in an ethical, sustainable way that might even be made out of a cool fibre. You can get really cool fibre paper these days. You can get hemp fibre, cotton fibre, linen paper, heaps of cool materials, but it’s about looking at where it came from, how it was manufactured and how you can dispose of it as well.

Bronwyn:
The next thing is something that the receiver of the gift is going to be able to reuse. So this is my favourite one, personally. So thinking can you give someone a scarf and put their gift in there? Or is it something as simple as a furoshiki wrap, which is a Japanese style of wrapping up gifts? So essentially for those of you who don’t know, you take a piece of material, it’s usually a thin lightweight material like cotton, and it’s a square or rectangle and they use it to wrap up the item and they do it in a really cool way. You think, beautiful Japanese origami, but this is gifting, so it’s bigger items.

Bronwyn:
Yeah. And they make them into really cool little shapes. They can make little bags out of them, put handles on it and I love those and they’re super cool. You can use them as bandanas or scarves or make your own little mini furoshiki bag, wrap your lunch up in it and take it to work and it’s totally repurposed in that way, which is awesome.

Hannah:
That’s cool. So, I mean, there are definitely ways that we can reduce… It comes down to just being a little bit more mindful, really isn’t it? And if you are just that little bit more organised, you can go and find those beeswax wrappers and SUSTOMi, they have an online store guys, but I think you’ve also got a face-to-face for those that like to walk in don’t you?

Bronwyn:
Well, we’ve got a little bit of a showroom. Our office is in the city, but we’re technically not open to the public. So we do love people dropping in with a phone call first, for sure.

Hannah:
Yeah. So SUSTOMi have a whole range of amazing sustainable products, so like your beeswax wrappers, I’ve got a few of those, and I just way prefer to use them because one, they’re actually just a hell of a lot easier than that sticky, horrible, Glad Wrap that gets stuck everywhere. And I just pop it over and it sticks back exactly the position that I put it back on and it’s just a quick rinse off on the dryer or put it in the dishwasher and it’s fine, it’s great. So it’s just about finding some other ways around it. If you have old boxes and things, think about maybe putting the presents, if you’ve got a number of them and they’re small, maybe you can put four or five of them in a bigger box and then you could just pull them out of the box and hand them to the kids.

Hannah:
I mean, they don’t really care if the packaging is on there or not. And I mean, it’s even for the adults. I know I’m trying to push for our whole family, none of us have any young kids yet, but I’m just trying to push for us to just have one present per person, so we just have a secret Santa. But that doesn’t even necessarily need to be wrapped, so to speak. It can be in the carry bag that you’re given.

Bronwyn:
Yeah, just the simple idea of not needing to gift a bazillion separate games to everybody, it’s crazy. And reflecting back on things that I’ve been given personally over Christmases past, sometimes I just get a heap of junk that I don’t actually want or ever use and it just sits in the corner until you get so fed up with all the junk you’ve got lying around that it ends up going online and being sold off to the op shops. So one thing that I love trying to get into people’s brains is the idea that you don’t actually need to gift physical gifts. There’s other ways of gifting without needing to or feeling like you need to fill a Christmas stocking full of little knicky-knack things, just so your kids feel like they are looked after because they’ve got all these little gifts.

Bronwyn:
Sometimes it’s the kids it’s quite often, “Oh, I got more presence than my friends, so I had a better Christmas.” But it’s just not true and I think it’s the same versus adults. There’s heaps of things you can do to gift things that aren’t physical. So you can gift experiences, that’s quite a good one. So gift a voucher, maybe it’s to go do a few laps around the go-karts or might be something like an escape room, or even an evening out for a nice meal with the family. And another great way to do it is to give the voucher of your time. So you can gift a couple of hours in the garden, if someone needs gardening help, or if someone’s renovating, you could help there if you’re brave. And yeah, then the other thing to ask is what people actually want for a gift and what they need. I think a lot of people mindlessly purchase gifts. They’ll say something like, “Oh, a nice candle. That person really would love that.” But then at the end of the day, they don’t really love candles.

Hannah:
[crosstalk 00:22:45] It’s gotten placed back in [inaudible 00:22:49] and forgotten about.

Bronwyn:
Yeah.

Hannah:
There’s plenty ways around it and it’s looking at getting presents from local businesses that seems to be more sustainable and it helps the local business as well. Gifting presets that encourage a bit of a longterm focus, such as gardening tools, or even a worm farm or a composting kit. I bought mum an air dryer, so she could make her own dried fruit instead of having to buy packaged dry fruit, things like that, that just create that little bit of a longer term focus. And that can be really thoughtful gifts as well. And yeah, people seem to really like them. So there’s some thoughts there guys to help with the old Christmas gifts. And another one, a friend of mine did with her kids, was she didn’t necessarily have stockings filled with all those crappy, wrapped chocolates and sweets and stuff.

Hannah:
She actually had this beautiful little dashboard laid out when they jumped out of bed and they ran into the living room. There was this board and had little… I mean, she had a little bit more time on her hands, mind you, little individual cakes and she had some sweets and chocolates that she’d bought from local places that weren’t necessarily wrapped. So the kids got to have a-

Bronwyn:
Oh, delicious.

Hannah:
Little mini smorgasbord and then they got that little special treat, but it wasn’t necessarily just stuff in a stocking just because that’s what you’re meant to do.

Bronwyn:
Yeah. Hand-making stuff’s really special as well and some of the best gifts I’ve got have been handmade. So it feels good as well.

Hannah:
Well, just to sort of wrap up, how can listeners get in touch with SUSTOMi and how can they check out your sustainable products? And do you have any other websites that people could look at as well that you know of?

Bronwyn:
Yeah. Well, SUSTOMi is online. We’re on our website, sustomi.com.au You can find us on Instagram/SUSTOMi and Facebook as well. Just for those who don’t know, SUSTOMi is spelled S-U-S-T-O-M-I, and as I mentioned before, a great way to remember it is it’s the combination of the word sustainable and home. Yeah. That’s where we are. You can send us an email or if you want to get in touch with me. I check most of them, so yeah, you should be I’d get in touch and say hi.

Hannah:
And if you completely forget, guys, just get in contact with us and we can shoot you the link to SUSTOMi and get you in contact with Bronwyn. Guys, I hope that gives you a little bit of a few tips and tricks to even just to think about reducing our waste over Christmas, just being a little bit more mindful about that wastage, and which will, as we talked about, probably help with the bank account, probably helped with the growing waistline as well, between Christmas and New Years. And just generally it gives you a good feels, good vibes. So thank you so much, Bronwyn, for coming on.

Bronwyn:
Thanks for having me, Hannah.

Hannah:
Awesome guys. I will catch you all at the next podcast. Have a wonderful rest of your week ahead.

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