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Woman cooking in the kitchen

War on Waste: Alfalfa House meets Caroline Brakewell

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Our Monthly Challenge: Be The Change

There is always more to do as the War on Waste continues.. in our homes, our neighbourhood and our community. The sharing of ideas, identifying and problem solving what’s within our reach, is a great place to start. Find a local campaign and help out. Involve our children, our neighbours, our local business owners and workplaces and begin by asking the simple question, “What can I do to contribute to the War on Waste?”

We spoke to volunteer and Alfalfa House member, Caroline Brakewell to find out how she’s contributing.

Let’s Get To Know…

Woman holding two bunches of carrots at a market

Name: Caroline Brakewell
Everyone knows her as: C
Star sign: Libra. Unbalanced!
What makes you happy? My toddler. World peace.
What do you do for work? Health coach, chef, mamma and Marketing Director at Alfalfa House.
What do you do for fun? Travel. Dip in the ocean and nature. Hang with friends.

How long have you been a member? Around a year

What made you join Alfalfa House?
I was introduced by a friend who’s been a member for years. I love the philosophy of not for profit and waste reduction. Plus the great discount on food from some of Australia’s best suppliers and knowing I’m supporting them.

What’s the main products you buy at Alfalfa?
Everything. I’m addicted to the chocolate coated macadamia nuts and turmeric paste. Knowing I’m feeding my daughter pesticide-free produce is a big pull for me.

What was the catalyst to you becoming an eco warrior?
I’ve been pretty conscious since my 20s but I think stats like plastic particles taking over the number of fish in the ocean was too alarming to ignore, so I tightened up much more.

Name 3 things you recycle?
Hard plastic, cardboard & clothing

Name 2 things you reuse?
Glass and old containers for shopping at farmers’ markets and at Alfalfa House.

Name 1 item you have repurposed?
Clothes. I very rarely buy new ones and give away mine to my Goddaughter in Scotland.

Was it hard to start?
It’s been a gradual process that started many years ago when I was living in London and I’d refuse to use plastic bags. I educated myself and made more changes where I could.

Any tips on organisation skills to reuse or recycle?
Have my bags, jars and containers packed and ready every time I leave home. Use the carriage on my pram to store shopping in.

What is that one piece of waste that irks you?
Plastic wrapped fruit in supermarkets. Supermarkets full stop.

Who in your circle do you admire their war on waste? And why?
All of the speakers and presentations at our recent open day. All doing their bit whilst educating others to create a ripple effect in our communities.

What’s your favourite War on Waste campaign that you’ve heard of?
I think the Alfalfa House Zero Waste philosophy, which has been around since 1981 is in perfect alignment with the War on Waste campaign.

What is your one piece of advice for someone who is thinking about becoming an eco-warrior but doesn’t know where to start?
Start somewhere. Refuse plastic bags. Encourage your family to do the same. Look at what you can reuse. Ask if you really need that new dress when you can buy second hand.

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Bulk orders receive extra 5% discount

Bulk orders now available

Alfalfa House members can reap the benefits of an extra discount if they choose to place bulk orders!

Members of Alfalfa House can order food in bulk (in the minimum weight or quantity the co-op buys the product in) and receive an extra 5% discount on top of any other discount to which they are entitled. If it’s not a regular co-op product, we may still be able to get it in. Chat to our Stock Coordinators or one of the Shop Coordinators (on the till) to find out more.

How to place an order

When placing an order you’ll need to provide

  1. Your name
  2. Membership number
  3. Contact phone number
  4. the name and quantity of the product

These details are then entered in the Bulk Orders book and your order placed next time the co-op orders from the supplier stocking your requested product. How long it takes will depend on how often the co-op orders from that supplier. If it is likely to take longer than 2-3 weeks for your bulk order to be received, we will contact you to let you know when we next expect to place an order with the supplier.

Bulk order suppliers

Here’s a list of suppliers and roughly how often Alfalfa House places orders:

  • Austral Herbs (herbs and spices) – once every 4-6 weeks. Order placed Tuesday, delivered a week or so later.
  • Demeter (flours) – fortnightly. Order placed Wednesday morning in week A, delivered Thursday in week B (ie, ordered one week, delivered the next).
  • Eco-farms (various produce) – weekly. Order placed Wednesday, delivered Friday.
  • Green Clover (various produce) – weekly. Order placed Tuesday morning, delivered Thursday.
  • Honest to Goodness (nuts and dried fruit) – weekly. Order placed Tuesday morning, delivered Thursday afternoon.
  • Hunter Valley Organics (various produce) – every two or three weeks. Ordered Tuesday morning, typically delivered on Thursday
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The plastic free challenge

We challenge you to refuse single-use plastic for a whole month. Go on – give it a go! You won’t be alone as thousands of other people from over 70 countries are also giving a plastic free lifestyle a go. The planet will thank you…and so will we.

The Age Of Plastic

Since its invention in the early 1900s, plastic has become such an integral part of the way we live that we hardly realise it’s there – in our phones, cars, clothes, books, kitchen appliances… the list goes on. Its durability and potential to be moulded into any shape imaginable has truly made it the material of our time.

In many cases we are unable to avoid buying it even if we try. However, there is one blindingly obvious way in which we can avoid buying it, and that is to avoid unnecessary plastic packaging.

Why should we avoid using Plastic?

It is estimated that more than 297 million tonnes of plastic was consumed worldwide in 2015 – that’s more than the weight of all people on earth combined!

If we break that down we find that 500 billion single-use plastic bags are made each year (that’s roughly 150 bags for every person on the planet), and more than 100 million plastic bottles are used worldwide every single day. Considering that a plastic bottle can take anywhere between 450 and 1000 years to decompose, this presents a monumental problem.

As you read this blog there are 269,000 tonnes of plastic floating on the surface of our oceans killing our beautiful birds and marine life, and almost the same amount in undetectable microfibres suffocating our sea floors. More locally you can see the garbage floating in our rivers and harbours, and the litter on our streets. Not to mention the offgassing we breathe in or eat through our plastic covered food.

So what can we do when plastic is everywhere?

As consumers we are the most powerful force in making change a reality. There are many ways in which we can reduce our plastic consumption and help fight plastic pollution that are simple, easy and often more affordable.

Here are a few easy tips for saying no to plastic:

  • say no to drinking straws and disposable cutlery. It’s amazing how often we accept these thing without noticing, then just throw them in the bin!
  • if you see plastic on the street, pick it up and put it in the nearest bin – you will look much cooler than the person who dropped it there.
  • Say no to single-use plastic bags as often as you can. If each Australian family used 1 plastic bag less each week that would be 253 million bags less each year!
  • avoid buying pre-bottled water by changing your mental list when you leave the house to: “Keys, wallet, phone, water bottle…”

Take a selfie!

Why not have a little fun while you’re at it by joining us at Alfalfa House in taking a Plastic Free Challenge Water Bottle Selfie!

Simply take a fun photo of you with your reusable water bottle and post it to facebook or instagram with a caption saying: “I’m taking @thePlasticFreeChallenge [be sure it’s a link], how about you?”

Keep your eye out for your friends here at Alfalfa House, we will have our silly selfies proudly up there too!

More information

You can find out more about the Plastic Free Challenge at

For more information about issues surrounding plastic consumption and pollution, try these links:

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Free worm juice for our members!

Alfalfa house has six worm farms that are looked after by our team of volunteers. We compost our all our food waste to produce rich usable worm juice and castings. Liquid gold for your garden!

Free worm juice

We’d like you to know that there’s oodles of worm juice available free of charge to members at Alfalfa House – find it in the glass bottles & jars out in the garden by the back gate.

What is worm juice?

Worm juice (or worm wee) is the liquid run off produced by the worms digesting and transforming organic matter fed to them. Worm juice is rich in good nitrogen fixing bacteria, liquid minerals and trace elements for immediate plant uptake.  A wonderful tonic and rich fertiliser for herbs, veggies, plants, and soil.

How to use Worm Juice

Dilute to the color of weak tea & then water your garden beds and pot plants. Apply it to the soil and leaves.

Why is the worm juice sometime different colours?

If it’s rained then the worm juice will be diluted via the rain, hence the different shades of brown.

What do we feed our worms?

  • Organic vegetable & fruit scraps.
  • Some coffee grounds mixed in with the food scraps.
  • Tea leaves (without the tea bag).
  • Small cut-up vegetable and fruit scraps.  Cutting them up allows the food to break down more easily, and the worms then feed on the broken down food.
  • A little bit of moistened shredded paper, cardboard, and/or straw.

What don’t we feed our worms?

  • We don’t give worms any forms of grains, dairy, oils, and animal products. These foods also attract cockroaches & rodents.
  • Worms also don’t do well with onions, garlic, chili  & other spices, pineapple & citrus.
  • Eggs shells are a little harsh for them unless they are crushed into a powder.
  • Leave your tea bags out of the worm farms. The tea leaves are good but the bags are mostly made with plastic.

Tips for a healthy worm farm

  • Follow the guidelines for what to feed & not feed them.
  • Keep your worm farm moist. When collecting worm juice you can pour it over the worm farm first & then collect it when it drains through.
  • Keep your worm farm on a slight forward tilt so the worm juice always runs to the bucket. Best to keep the tap always open to avoid worms drowning in juice.
  • Keep your worm farm is a shady spot.
  • Worm farms should smell sweet and earthy. If it smells off then more carbon is needed. Add damp shredded paper, cardboard, and/or straw.

Bugs in the worm farm!

Bugs are part of the worm farms’ ecosystem.

  • Cockroaches indicate there is unwanted matter in your worm farm. They will be attracted by grains, meats, & dairy. Removing these foods and keeping your worm farm environment healthy & smelling earthy will help. Inner city living unfortunately means cockroaches are not too far away.
  • Ants indicate your worm farm is too dry or has sweet food. Keep sugar and honey etc out of your worm farm.
  • Slaters, mites, black soldier flies and such, are all beneficial.

What are worm castings?

Worm castings are the worms’ poops. They are also called vermicast. We harvest them about every 6 months and add them to Alfalfa’s garden beds. Balanced castings smell neutral or sweet and earthy. They can be diluted in water for a stronger worm juice. You can also mix with compost to grow seedlings. Or add a little bit directly to your soil to add microbes and other nutrients. Adding castings to the soil also aerates and improves its overall structure.

More information

If you’d like to start your own worm farm, or read more about them, here are some great links:

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Grab a fresh veggie box

Veggie boxes are temporarily on hold. Apologies for any inconvenience whilst we review this service.
All of your favourite seasonal fruit and veggies are still available in store if you’d like to bring a box along and load up.

Another perk of being a member of Alfalfa House, besides being a part owner, is that you can pre-order a fresh veggie box. The boxes are packed with the highest quality of organic and farmer direct seasonal fruit and vegetables that we can get our hands on.

Fresh Food Boxes are set at the affordable price of $25 for members. In the box you will find a leafy green, handful of seasonal fruit along with an array of everyday staples such as onions, potatoes and carrots. To add some excitement to your week, we often throw in a farmer direct surprise – usually from our wonderful NSW farmer, Colin.

Buying a Food box is a convenient and affordable way to ensure that you have fresh organic produce at your fingertips. If you cook most meals at home and have multiple mouths to feed and you can order a double boxes. You also have the option to add on a fresh sourdough from the Bread and Butter Project.  Please be aware though that we cannot make substitutions, or take out specific vegetables or fruit.

Order your veggie box!

Boxes are available on Wednesday or Sunday and can be picked up anytime during the co-op opening hours. All orders for Wednesday boxes need to be in by Monday midnight. To order the fruit and veggie boxes for Sunday orders must reach us by midnight on Thursday.

To order a fresh food box, visit our online shop.