Beauty and the Bin by Joanne O’Connell

Publishing June 2020 by Macmillan

Laurie, Fern and their parents live in a house which is also hydroponic growing farm. Intent on spending little to no money, bin diving for wasted supermarket food and growing as much food as possible are the aims of this family. They are eco-warriors and protectors of the planet. Laurie subscribes to most of their day to day living, but she is also in seventh grade and is trying to find a balance between being cool and accepted, and diving in the bins for their weekly shop.

Ultimate cool girl Charley notices Laurie at the most inopportune moment possible…fresh from a bin dive accident involving pasta sauce. Laurie and Fern fill Charley in on their Beauty in the Kitchen videos and recipes. The sisters create beauty treatments using only natural ingredients and that which is sometimes found in the bins. Charley, naturally is horrified and Laurie worries about the ramifications.

When the school announces an entrepreneurial fair and opportunity, Laurie is even more surprised when Charley wants to partner with Laurie, bringing Beauty in the Kitchen to the population of the school. Winners are given amazing prizes, the profits of their enterprise and a chance to be CEO for the day in a linked field.

Laurie and Charley begin their business but of course it is not all smooth sailing. Pressure on the quality of beauty products is mounting, competition between groups gets heated and Laurie seems to be working harder than Charley. However, there is no telling Charley anything and Laurie has to carry on if she wants to win!

Striking the balance between Beauty and the Kitchen, school and family expectations is taking it toll on the family dynamic at times. Laurie must still find time for sister Fern, plans for the upcoming March4Climate protest as well as ensuring her final beauty product is a best seller. Not to mention that she is neglecting her best friends and is feeling on the outside.

There is so much to celebrate with this debut book. Raising awareness of supermarket waste, home beauty product recipes and a young girl learning to honour her principles and be true to herself. It is within the pages of this book that I realised just how much a supermarket potentially throws away. When Laurie pulls out enough food to feed a market and later finds a crate of chocolate spread still within date, the family celebrate while the reader cringes at the waste.

I love the idea of Laurie and Fern creating beauty treatments, lip gloss, and bath fizzes all from natural and home grown ingredients. Adding these recipes to the back pages is ingenious and I have already checked for several of them to see what I could make.

The relevance of this book is to be admired with many people looking for more natural plant based products and new ways to grow their own, make their own and ensure there is little waste. We could learn a lot from this family.

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