Monday, December 20, 2010

Dishwasher tablets

I recently purchased one of the 'Green Earth' dishwasher tablets that are suppose to be better for the environment than the traditional leading brand tablets. I was feeling good about my effort, but ran into some trouble in that these tablets were in fact almost leaving my dishes dirtier than I had put them in. This lead to multiple washings and ensuring that the dishwasher had more 'normal' (non-environmentally marketed product) rinse aid. All in turn making me feel that I was in fact creating a larger footprint but using more typical cleaning products, running the dishwasher multiple times or washing the dishes by hand - more water usage and when using the dishwasher again more electricity, etc, etc.

So I thought rather than just keep this to myself I would whinge to the company about it. I thought their speed in response amazing. The reason that I am posting about this is because they have offered an alternative method of loading these tablets into the machine to ensure they dissolve appropriately and clean my plates and I thought it best to share this experience rather than everyone having to either complain to the company or just wear it and not use the 'environmentally friendly' (as marketed) product in their dishwashers).

The tip is to place them directly into the bottom of the dishwasher rather than loading them into the little flip lid compartment which opens during the wash. Apparently this will allow the tablet to dissolve appropriately. I am yet to test this but will let you know if it makes a difference. Pin It

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bike riding

Well we are on the move and hopefully with the move we might be a little less car dependent (at least will have shortened commute times). I am in fact hoping to embrace my bicycle. The location we are moving to is probably considered more undulating in its topography but hopefully the country atmosphere will lead me to the footpaths with my bike and result in a more sustainable choice in regards to my transportation.

I think the biggest inhibiting factor for me will be that most of the surrounding roads are high speed (80km/h) and not particularly wide roads meaning cars will have to go around me on my bike rather than being capable of passing me within their lanes. Also I am likely to be carrying my toddler in a seat on the back of my bike and if collecting anything from the shops my bike trailer as well. All leading to a not so friendly road sharing option, but we will see how we go.

Certainly the areas of Australia that I have experienced which have a mix of rural/residential styles of living don't often provide great options for those not wanting to rely on their cars. Maybe this could be addressed by the local council, State governments, etc in the future. Will writing emails/letters to these people may a difference? Pin It

Friday, October 22, 2010

Red-flowering melaleuca

Have you seen one of these? I have one in my back yard. I'm sure I knew what its scientific name was when I planted it, but it has been a couple of years since it was dropped into the ground, so the label has long since disappeared.

Just thought I would share some of the natives that I currently have in my back yard. I definitely think it is important to add natives to your back yard. They add to the foraging resources for the native animals but also either return or add to the native species (either abundance or diversity) back into your local area. If you can, add native species that previously occupied your area. In this instance, the red-flowered melaleuca doesn't come from my area but it still is beautiful. Pin It

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Loud and proud!

Currently my family and I are in the process of moving from the house that I thought I would die in (sorry). In light of this move we need to locate to a new place to live. So many questions, particularly life questions have raised their head. So many choices can be debilitating!

Some of the questions are:

  • do I buy an existing house; or 
  • do I build a new house that I can build to my specifications? This later option could potentially mean with a smaller environmental footprint than a house in the standard real estate market. 

Anyway, getting to the point of the post. In considering the building the house option I have been looking at land options. There was one particular land release that was of interest, which had a parcel of land that was on a north-facing slope with enough land to have a veggie patch, room for the dogs and space for anything we choose in the future (well within reason). However, the land had a covenant on it. The majority of the covenant was quite reasonable and attractive, individually styled dwellings, neighbour friendly fencing, environmental principles, etc, etc. The two parts that I found interesting were:

  • the need to use new materials; and 
  • the requirement not to have your solar panels on your roof visible from the road. 

The later one was the one that brought me to write this post. I thought this was particularly peculiar for a land development which was trying to encourage diversity and claim to be more environmentally friendly than the next. Surely showing off your solar panels would encourage other residents to take up such technology or consider where some of their lifestyle choices were originating and consider things that are taken for granted in this modern lifestyle in a little more detail.

Overall, I say wear them 'loud and proud'! If you have solar panels you should flaunt them! Pin It

Friday, October 15, 2010

Refugee Tutoring

In Brisbane St Vincent de Paul has developed a special volunteer program where individuals can assist refugees in the Brisbane, Logan and Ipswich areas. The idea is to provide them with educational, social and vocational opportunities within the community with your assistance.

I had learnt about this type of program being run a couple of years back and have been trying to keep my ear out for something similar. So finally I have got around to looking into such a program and found this specific one.

If people want to know more about the program or would like to volunteer then refer to the official website: http://www.refugeetutoring.org/index.php.

Presently this particularly program only caters for those areas mentioned above. Perhaps there are other similar programs available in your area, feel free to add these as a comment to this post. Pin It

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Front versus top loader washing machines

Currently I have a top loading washing machine, fairly typical of most modern residential laundries. However there has been in recent years discussion about the water efficiency of front loaders and some councils/governments have been offering rebates associated with the purchase of these front loading washing machines. I wanted to know more about these front loaders because it may be a decision to be made in the future when my current top loader packs it in.

Apparently the front loading machines are so water efficient because instead of filling the water over the top of the entire load they only fill up a third of the way and then the machines turns the clothes into water. Apparently also the front loader doesn't require a complete new fill of water for the rinse cycle, but rather just sprays additional clean water onto the clothes (some websites indicate that this may lead to a less thorough rinse).

Apparently the front loaders are also 'easier' on the clothes, meaning the clothes will last longer, because there is no centre agitator. Front loading washing machines can also do larger loads because there is more space, again due to the lack of the central agitator (apparently this is just a new thing, as they traditionally actually had a smaller capacity).

Negatives, they are typically more expensive at the initial outlay (purchase price), might be a little tougher on your back because you have to bend over to reach into the washing machine, you can't run back to add an additional sock that you found behind the cushion on the couch as they lock once you start the wash cycle and they require specific washing powder (because of the reduced water level, requires a low-sud detergent) but these are becoming more common.

From this research I expect that I would end up purchasing a front loading washing machine for my next machine if the current one packed it in. Pin It

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Have you ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? If not, here is a little bit of information about it.

Basically it a massive amount of plastic pollution floating around in the Northern Pacific Ocean circulating with the oceanic currents. Apparently it is quite large, between 0.41 & 8.5% of the Pacific Ocean. It is however difficult to gain a true estimation of its size because it isn't visible in satellite imagery as the material is suspended in the upper water column rather than directly on the surface and much of it is plastic particulates rather than entire plastic containers.

Its presence was originally hypothesized in a paper in 1988, but its presence was 'discovered' by a sailor in 1997 who brought its presence to the attention of the scientific community. It is thought that the patch has formed over time through the accumulation of marine (plastic) pollution collected in oceanic currents, with wind-surface currents retaining the pollution within the Pacific region.

If this was a visible feature on our coastlines I'm sure people would have paid attention to the issue more readily before now, but as it is out of sight, I guess it is also a little out of mind. My hope is that the dissemination of such information will bring about changes to people's habits, particularly in relation to consumption of products within plastic containers to start with (as it has to go somewhere once you're finished with the product) or alternatively just dispose of these items more appropriately.  Reduce, reuse, recycle! Pin It

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Keep the fridge door closed!

This is probably one that your Mum and Dad told you when you were little. How often did you hear, "Keep the fridge door closed" or "don't swing off the door" or various other fridge door related naggings from your parents?

As children and even adults we are prone to 'browsing' for what might be in the fridge and then choosing based on what has taken our fancy. Well, this isn't the best option for saving the planet, unfortunately. It is better for the environment if you know what you're going to get out of the fridge before you touch the door and best if you can take multiple items out of the fridge at once rather than going back and forward to get single items each time. 

Why? Every time you open the fridge door a little bit of room temperature air gets into the fridge. However, your fridge is trying to maintain all your food at a particular temperature (usually much cooler than room temperature) and basically the fridge is fighting with you to keep the food cold every time the door is open. So basically each time you open the fridge the air in the fridge gets a little warmer and the motor then turns on to cool the air in the fridge to its pre-set temperature. The motor uses electricity which in turn means emissions, generally use of a non-renewable energy source, etc, etc. 

So next time you're thinking of what you might like from the fridge how about having a mental image of what is in the fridge and deciding whether a big bowl of mousse or a block of chocolate would be the better afternoon treat rather than hanging off the fridge door trying to decide. 


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Monday, October 11, 2010

Pro Choice Petition - Queensland

http://www.getup.org.au/campaign/my_choice_is_no_crime&id=1396&actionTest=true

The above web address links to the Get Up campaign for Pro Choice options here in Queensland. I realise it isn't an environmental thread, but this is my blog and I would like to have such action 'advertised' to as many people as possible.

The gist of the petition lies in the heart of a teenage couple currently facing prosecution for having an abortion here in Queensland. This isn't a criminal matter but rather a reproductive choice, a health decision and a personal one made an individual or couple. It certainly isn't something that the State of Queensland or any government or police agency should become involved in!

All assistance is appreciated. Pin It

Thursday, October 7, 2010

BPA in plastics & what does it do

One of the current health issue that many mainstream people have grabbed a hold of lately is the presence of BPAs in many types of plastic and the potential to ingest these chemicals. From my initial analysis of the situation, people are concerned that such ingestion will lead to a variety of diseases, including cancer, overtime. Such media savvy issues and mainstream concerns are of interest to me, one to determine whether I should change my behaviour and two whether the claims from mainstream media and the 'chinese whisper' community sentiment has any validity.

Well firstly what is BPA?

  • Bisphenol A and phthalates are chemicals present in plastic.
  • Used to manufacture hard plastics (such as in plastic water bottles or 'tupperware'-type containers) and flexible plastic (such as in plastic kiddie toys).
  • According to a wikipedia entry BPAs can be contained in plastic products marked with a '3' or a '7' (refer to Recycling Numbers...what do they mean post on 05/07/10....http://green-dreaming.blogspot.com/2010/07/recycling-numberswhat-do-they-mean.html).
  • Choice magazine states BPAs are present in polycarbonate bottles & food packaging and some epoxy resins use to line cans.
  • It is an endocrine disruptor and can mimic the body's natural hormones. 
When do they become an issue?
  • It is thought that they 'mobilise' when the plastic is heated. For example, when you are re-heating your lunch in your plastic container or water bottles are left in direct sunlight or heat up in your car, etc.
  • Some sources also indicate they may also just mobilise with the presence of liquid.
What are BPAs reportedly responsible for, in relation to human health issues?
  • Interference with reproductive development (shown in animals) - ScienceDaily
  • Cardiovascular disease -ScienceDaily
  • Diabetes - ScienceDaily
  • Liver disease
  • Obesity - National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
  • Cancer - National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
  • Behavioural changes - National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, etc.
Is there truly reason to be concerned?

  • Evidence is inconclusive and since this is the 'result', some people are saying lean on the side of caution and reduce or avoid use of this plastics or avoid heating your food or drink in such plastics that you plan on ingesting in the future.
  • The USA Food and Drug Administration has called for additional research into the effects of BPAs on humans.
  • A number of web pages, including Choice Magazine, seem to indicate there is a higher level of concern in relation to BPAs and children and babies.
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand maintain there is no increased risk from BPAs.
  • Tsai, W (2006) in their paper in Journal of Environmental Science and Health states that BPAs are not a carcinogenic risk to humans and excreted in urine. 

So from all of this, I don't know whether to be concerned or not but certainly something to consider and perhaps avoid, where possible.


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    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    Cost of green power

    After posting on the 25th September about my dilemma between the installation of solar panels on my house or just purchasing green power, as a green energy alternative, I have had several discussions with friends of mine.

    Presently, green power is an additional cost on top of the cost of non-renewably sourced electricity and with the cost of residential electricity to continue to rise at least for the short to medium future it is something that needs to be considered.

    Given that I am not a millionaire I am once again leaning towards the upfront purchase of solar panels for my residence. This is a once-off cost (although I am not completely sure on the life span of solar panels at present) which means that I can budget for this within my expenses and determine its affordability. However, with electricity prices to rise I have no idea whether I would be able to continue to afford the premium for green power.

    Electricity in itself is becoming expensive with some decisions about second fridges/freezers to be made (that is, can we afford them if the costs of power continue to rise). Could I therefore continue to pay the additional cost of green power into the future and ensure that my electricity source is 'good' for the environment? At present I am thinking that I wouldn't be able to stretch the budget in this never-ending increase cycle.

    There may come a time in the future where green power is actually cheaper to source from electricity providers. But certainly at present there hasn't been any murmuring of such concepts. So once again leaning towards the selfish green energy solution of solar at my residence. Pin It

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Common Koels have returned for the year

    Just over the last couple of days I have been hearing the distinctive call of the Common Koel around my house and then on Tuesday I was lucky enough to see a female and male in the trees in my back yard.

    These birds are migratory and return to the east coast of Australia between September and October each year and return north in about April. The Birds in Backyards website reports that this species is a parasitic breeder, which means that it doesn't actually raise its young but rather lays its eggs in other bird species nest tricking them into raising the young Koel. Fairly amazing since some of the bird species the koels do this to are quite often significantly smaller, which means that end up raising a baby that is monstrous compared to themselves. Bizarre.

    If you have these birds in your backyard you can record their presence on the the Birds in Backyards survey for this species. The information helps to create a picture of their distribution and presence in Australia. The web address is: http://birdsinbackyards.net/surveys/koel.cfm. This site also has recordings of their calls which will help you identify them by call if you can't physically see them. Pin It

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    BP Gulf of Mexico oil well - de-commissioned

    According to President Obama the BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has finally been sealed, five months after the initial explosion. There is still a significant amount of cleaning up to be finalised and a serious amount of legal wrangling to be completed, but hopefully this means that there won't be any additional direct pollution to this already suffering marine ecosystem. Pin It

    Green Power

    I have recently been thinking of trying to start to convert my house from being on the normal electricity grid (the one where you pay a company for the privilege of them providing you with electricity to your home). The alternative is having your house generate its own power either through solar panels or if you're in the right location wind power from a turbine within your garden. The power is then generated by these energy sources and then you have a bucket load of batteries storing the power and you then access when you need it. To undertake such a move can be expensive (initial investment) and require some replacement of appliances depending on how much electricity you generate.

    However, I heard recently that perhaps it is 'better' just to pay the 'premium' for Green Power through your electricity provider. The reasons as it was explained why this might be better, is because such an investment by yourself through your electricity provider means that your provider has to put this money into renewable energy sources. In turn, you provide direct investment into the renewable energy sector and ensures that there is an overall investment in this technology in Australia, leading to greater resourcing (financial commitment) of this sector and renewable energy becoming cheaper and more accessible to a broader cross-section of people within the community. Overall, this might mean that there will be less investment in non-renewable energy sources and less pollution.

    Definitely food for thought. Currently, I have a 25% investment of the overall value of my electricity bill each quarter directed to Green Power, but certainly haven't made the financial leap to the 100%. Reason being, I haven't considered it a priority in the financial juggling that is undertaken in my household. However, I will certainly be considering the possibility in the future. Pin It

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    PARKing day

    On the 17th of September this year, Brisbane held PARKing day. The principle behind this day is the consideration of how much green space we could have in the city if we didn't drive our cars to work and car parks were converted to lovely green spaces. Brisbane City Council was on board with this initiative (along with other companies and groups) and assisted with converting some of the inner city carparking spaces into lovely temporary green spaces for the day.


    Additional information can be found on the following website: http://www.brisbaneparkingday.com/  and there are links to other pages with photos from this base page. Some of the spots look pretty cool and enticing. The only thing I am disappointed about is to find out about this after the fact and not being able to participate.  Pin It

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Life Cycle Assessment

    What is it and how does one undertake one?

    Tonight I have been looking into this and I found the Australian Life Cycle Assessment Society (http://www.alcas.com.au/). They have a useful page that discusses what a 'life cycle assessment' is and here is their explanation:

    "assesses the environmental aspects and potential impacts of a product, process or service by
    • compiling an inventory of relevant energy and material inputs and environmental releases;
    • evaluating the potential environmental impacts of those inputs and releases
    • interpreting the results to better inform decision-making".
    The ALCA has a basic methodology of how someone would undertake a life cycle assessment, but so far I don't know how you as a general member of the public would actually obtain the information required to be inputted into such an assessment so that any sort of judgement or comparison of products could be undertaken. Will keep you posted.


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    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Food for thought

    Quote from "Green Metropolis" by David Owen that I thought might generate some personal opinion and perhaps even some conversation.

    "In the very long run...life itself is unsustainable, no matter what we human beings do or fail to do, because the sun will eventually burn out."

    This is from the book that is doing my head in but some of the reading today made me a little less prickly and made me think that perhaps bits of the book are a little more insightful than I had given it credit for.
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    Monday, September 20, 2010

    El Nino/La Nina

    It is raining luscious rain here in south-east Queensland. Does this surprise anyone? Some people might say 'no'. But are we all so forgetful to lose sight of the extremely low dam levels we experienced only a couple of years ago where the government forced everyone to become extremely water efficient and the general drought conditions that we experienced here in Australia? No watering the garden, no washing the car, etc, etc.

    In light of the cyclical patterns of these weather events I thought I would try and understand the El Nino/La Nino concept a little better. Having read only a few pages on the net, I can share the following.

    • it is a cyclical pattern
    • when the El Nino event is on the Australian side of the Pacific, the east coast of Australia experiences below average rainfall (drought-like conditions, depending how extreme this event is)
    • when a La Nina event is on the Australian side of the Pacific, east coast Australia will likely experience higher than average rainfall (as we currently are experiencing)
    • the concept relates to the oscillation of surface air pressure between the eastern and western sides of the Pacific (hence the 'southern oscillation index' (SOI))
    • The SOI measures the strength of this oscillation and measures the difference of surface air pressure between Tahiti and Darwin
    • If the SOI is positive it indicates a La Nina event (above +8), if it is the negative it is an El Nino (below -8).

    Presently Australia is experiencing a positive SOI, with the Bureau of Meteorology currently reporting (13 September 2010) the 30-day SOI as +25. Thus the east coast of Australia is having conditions that would indicate a La Nina and we can expect to receive above average rainfall. Yeah!

    Don't get complacent with the water saving measures though, despite our current wetter than usual conditions. We will eventually swing back to the El Nino event (on average every five years) and need all the water we have saved during La Ninas and also need to be well-practiced in how to scrimp on water. This is the time to perhaps install a rainwater tank (if you didn't when the government was basically giving them away) to collect water for your garden, hook up irrigation systems in your garden to either your water tank or your grey water system or just undertake some of the maintenance around your house that needs a little extra water now so that you don't cut into the water supply when we don't have much.

    Don't forget water is a precious resource.


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    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Two books about urban design & nature

    I am currently reading two books, one which is infuriating me and one which I find quite reasonable and practical. This isn't surprising that you could have two books that could elicit differing responses, however they are in fact discussing exactly the same thing. Both of them are discussing urban design, particularly in America, and examining the idea that urban sprawl is bad and some of the metropolis's in America have smaller environmental footprints.

    The first book seems to be chanting how great the smaller, more compact metropolis is and how terrible for the environment the 'urban sprawl' model of the suburbs is. I have mixed feelings about this principle to start with. Certainly there are components that are correct in this bare bones argument and certainly applied to the stereotypical urban sprawl model this is accurate, but I find a sense of greenwashing has been applied to this model that the author is trying to shove down your throat. I feel the book has been written very emotively and I find that I am reading it in a similar fashion.

    The second book is discussing the same principle of a lighter environmental footprint in the compact metropolis, but it seems to be doing it in a more enlightened, educated and balanced way. And thus I am not feeling my shackles flaring up reading this one.

    Now that I have had my rant, I will try and dedicate another post to discussing the principles and concepts that support the argument that the model of current suburban lifestyles is so terrible for the environment and the planet as a whole.
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    House orientation

    As the last post indicated the green house design principles are up there on my want to know about list at present. One of the primary principles if you are starting from scratch is orienting your living areas with a northerly aspect and apparently this is true north and not magnetic north.

    What is true north? The north point in this instance is the geographic point of the North Pole, rather than magnetic north that moves over time and doesn't relate to the orientation of the sun, which is what you are aiming at capturing in these living areas.

    A concern people may have about orienting these living areas to the north, particularly in the sub-tropical/tropical regions, is that in summer such orientation could make these areas quite hot. Well, there are a number of things that can help to reduce this heating affect but one of the first ones is to shade these areas. Plant trees outside the living areas, for example.

    Well now I have to get a map out and start searching for the perfect block of land to build a lovely house with green design principles embedded in its design.
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    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    Green House Design Principles

    Well this topic is starting to become a bit of a hot topic for me at the moment. I have a strong urge to learn more about this issue and really it will take some time to come to terms with it because I don't have a mind that automatically can adopt many of the details that underlie the general principles. Nevertheless hopefully I can keep the momentum.

    Today I found a great website that outlines the basic green design principles when considering building, renovating, retrofitting your house along these lines. The web address is: http://gogreendesign.com.au/principles.html. Great page that outlines the overarching principles in fairly layman terms. Hope you find it as intriguing as I do.
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    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Biodegradable Pen

    Today I bought some new ball point pens from a large stationary store/chain here in Australia. I found the most bizarre product and one that I never thought would come with any sort of environmental options, but I found a pen that is being marketed as 'biodegradable'.

    Gimmick or fact? The details are sketchy and whether it is any more degradable than the next pen made out of normal plastic or better for the environment on face value I have no idea but the gimmick factor intrigued me so I purchased a pack of two. Comparatively maybe a little bit more expensive than a middle of the range pack of 2 ball point pens.

    Upon reading the fine print, the main outside pen components are the biodegradable parts, as they are made from corn based material (as the packaging explains) and basically the rest of the pen are your typical of a standard pen. These normal pen components need to go into the normal rubbish process, whilst the corn based material (the outer pen shaft) can go on the other hand can go into your compost or into the soil and it sounds like it will take about a year to break down. Interesting product and process if it truly does work.

    Overall as I said I don't know whether the footprint of the product is truly any better or worse than a standard ball point pen. This is where I need to start looking into life cycle assessments and how to do them accurately enough to make a judgement about the environmental footprint of products and services from my living room or whilst in the shops.
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    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    Health impacts living near roads and railways

    In the near future my family may be moving towns. In light of this I have been searching around the broad region for a place to live. In looking for our current home I was always aware of the proximity of high voltage transmission lines and wanted to live with some sort of setback from major roads due to concerns relating to the potential health impacts of these sorts of infrastructure.

    In the region we will be moving to there is a significant amount of large volume, relatively high speed roads criss-crossing the region and also a railway line that carries freight and commuter trains bordering the hinterland region. In light of the significant amount of transportation infrastructure within the living areas of this region I now would like to know more about the health impacts of these transportation corridors.

    It seems that there is some association with sleep disruption due to noise with railways and health impacts, particularly in regards to learning capabilities for small children. However, I don't know at what distance from the railway infrastructure this association diminishes. I also saw a paper about increased asthma and rail and rail intersection, but again don't know at what distance this decreases. I also don't know what type (voltage) of electricity lines are utilised on the rail lines in the area and thus the potential health impacts of these.

    Need to research this some more but if anyone has any information on this matter I would appreciate hearing about it.
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    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    Glossy Black-Cockatoo survey day in SEQ & Northern NSW

    The 31st October this year sees the return of the annual Glossy Black-Cockatoo survey in South-east Queensland and Northern New South Wales. There have been some changes from last year, with a number of regional coordinators organising local events on this day and a larger geographic area to be surveyed.

    To participate as a survey volunteer you must complete some training before hand, which is again organised by the local coordinators and by the sounds of it doesn't take too long and just helps in identification and survey techniques. Once trained and willing to participate on the day it is my understanding that you will be responsible for surveying a one square kilometre location periodically from dusk to dawn to determine presence of this species. As an incentive to participate, the team has organised a number of prizes for participants (see their website, details below, for additional information).

    Additional information on the survey work, who to contact or just further information on the Glossy Black-Cockatoo it can all be found on the Glossy Black Conservancy website (www.glossyblack.org.au).
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    Monday, September 6, 2010

    Australian company's competition with a twist

    I was recently shopping at my local grocery store for my weekly shop and noted in the biscuit aisle that one of the biscuit companies was holding a competition. We all see these, win $10,000 or a car or a holiday or whatever the prize is to encourage us to divulge our details for their marketing purposes in order to win something that will make our lives 'richer'.

    However, the competition that I noticed in the aisle this time was a little different. It didn't offer to make you richer but rather a local charity or club in the order of $1000. Wow! I looked at this advertisement for the competition and thought "Why would I enter it?" I am not affiliated with any club or charity within my local community (as sad as that is) so I would get no direct reward, etc, etc. I wondered how many people also thought the same thing....cool, competition, but then on reading the details that nothing would be coming back directly to them decided not to enter it. I actually returned to the aisle after mulling on this matter for a little while and decided that it would be a good social practice.

    Now that I have got the competition entry form and the qualifying products I then have to decide on a charity that I would like to see 'win' $1000. This 'task' of choosing the 'right' group is now complete and I have entered on their behalf. I certainly see this as an interesting social experiment, in light of no personal gratification for those entering the competition and wonder how many people will have go online or post entries into a competition when they don't actually 'win' anything compared to their normal 'direct reward' type model.

    I certainly feel good about myself and I think that is enough of a 'win' for me in this instance.
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    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    Health issues from modern society

    I have been reading that many of the incidences of children's asthma in our modern society can be attributed to our polluting lifestyle, in particular air pollution. This is quite often overlooked as something that shows our polluting habits are affecting our health not just the 'environment'.

    I'm sure very few of you have really considered that our modern, polluting lifestyle can directly kill people. One of the case studies that I read about was in America, where a little girl died after having an asthma attack on a day when the public had been warned to stay indoors because of poor air quality. The little girl and her friend were playing outside and due to the particulates in the air her respiratory system closed over (an asthma attack) and ended up in hospital where they couldn't save her because her asthma attack was too advanced.

    I certainly am interested to know what distance from major roads that direct particulate air pollution can affect people and also whether our general air quality here in south-east Queensland is as bad as some of the 'polluted' cities in America that we see on the news and has the potential to significantly affect our health.


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    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    Cling Wrap

    Until recently I had used what I consider to be copious amounts of cling wrap (clear plastic film) to keep my sandwiches intact when going to work, covering fruit & veggies that were half consumed for storage in the fridge, covering up packets of ham that I had opened and then don't seal again, etc.

    Having thought about the amount of cling/plastic wrap that I was going through I was convinced there had got to be alternatives to using all of this thin plastic. I was concerned because of:
    1. the amount of plastic I was using and throwing away after a single use
    2. the potential for this plastic to be blown from the landfill locations (or on the way there) and entering the waterways and marine environments, in turn potentially being consumed by all sorts of aquatic life forms; and
    3. just generally adding to landfill.

    What did I do? I invested in some more plastic (this doesn't sound very good) but I purchased a few long-wearing plastic rectangular containers to store left over foods, a sandwich-specific storage box to contain my sandwiches and a spherical container that will store tomatoes and onions.

    As a result of this I use hardly any plastic/cling wrap and generally feel a little better about the footprint. I'm sure the plastic containers that I am still utilising in the kitchen domain are not the perfect environmental solutions but I consider it a start and something that I could easily adopt into my lifestyle.

    Hope this helps others.
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    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Climate Smart Home Inspection...energy efficient light bulbs

    Well after my little rant on Green Dreaming about the extreme delay in my energy saving light globe in my hallway that was provided by the Climate Smart home service I got some customer service.

    Initially the service responded to my blog and asked me to contact them. I did this and they said that they could replace the light bulbs by posting them to me. I thought this was excellent service because not only did I not have to wait around my house for a person to come between x and x, but also had the convenience of it just arriving after I let them know the attachment type (bayonet or screw in). (They did offer to send both at the time but I thought since I enrolled the help of their service in the first place as a environmental footprint reduction type measure it was best I call back with the exact specifications).

    My light bulb arrived in the mail...surprisingly intact. As for functionality, it has certainly improved since the last version, but there is still some delay (really quite minor). Another reason that could cause a delay apparently is how far the electricity has to travel around the circuitry in your house before it gets to the particular appliance. Nevertheless I have adjusted (can't expect that everything will be the same when making environmental decisions in one's life, sometimes we have to change our behaviour and expectations as well).

    So, thanks Mr/Mrs Climate Smart service, appreciate the swift and personable customer service.


    Pin It

    Sea level rise

    Given that we are a country where the vast majority of the population lives within the coastal zone of the continent, I am fascinating with the areas within this coastal zone that will be significantly affected by sea level rise in the future. Where should you live if you're concerned about the possibility of sea level rise?

    I just found a website, which can provide you with a mapped indication of the likely extent of flooding with an increase of incremental measurements (one metre increments) of sea level rise. This allows you to calculate, based on your information, where the water will extend to within the coastal zone of any continent throughout the world. The website is: http://flood.firetree.net/. Think that it must be based on a google maps and then provides an overlay of the flooding extent. This allows easy searching and enables you to pin-point exact properties. Cool!

    I can hear people saying "I don't believe that the sea is going to rise" or "it isn't going to rise up to my property", etc. But I think the thing that people will feel first in regards to sea level rise and climate change within the coastal zone of Australia will be an increase in their insurance premiums or the inability to get insurance for their houses. Remember, insurance is based on risk and if the insurance companies perceive a higher risk then premiums will reflect this. Maybe this will make people consider where they choose to live within the coastal zone or elsewhere on our gorgeous planet and also make governments invest in infrastructure in appropriate locations!
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    Saturday, August 28, 2010

    No Impact Man

    Just watched a 'documentary' on a family's journey to live with no environmental impact in New York, USA for a year. What an amazing journey, particularly for the wife who is just coming along for the ride (at least to start with) and works in the high flying world of an international business magazine that doesn't usually follow the environmentally sustainable footpath.

    The insights into family life, struggles with some of the challenges and the desires to lead a normal consumptive existence is very interesting. It was also revealing for the critics, where Colin addresses (or at least acknowledged) some of the 'backlash' from people considering them extreme greens to others who considered them to be superficial.

    Colin Beavan, the lead instigator of this 'experiment', is still seemingly treading some of the modifications that they made during their year long voyage and he maintains his blog: http://noimpactman.typepad.com/blog/. I look forward to reading some more of their adventures and seeing whether any of Colin's suggestions can be incorporated into our lives.

    I also, by the way, appreciate Colin's commentary on the fact that much of the consumptive behaviours in modern society results from the lack of community. I am only really just starting to explore this but I think it is completely true and even I, the ever introvert, is looking to connect with some form of community.
    Pin It

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    Removal of pesticides from fruit & veggies

    In an ongoing examination of pesticides/chemicals that occur on our commercially produced fruit and vegetables, I have found an interesting article that discusses the effectiveness of rinsing these products in water on the web.


    This research indicates that the mechanical washing of fruit and vegetables, that is the physical action of washing in water, can cause a reduction in the amount and types of chemicals that are typically found on commercially available produce (at least in the States). This was fascinating to me. The article does go on to say that such washing has to occur for 30 seconds, which to me seems like a significant amount of time and something that most people wouldn't undertake on a regular basis.

    The research also examined the use of some of the commercially available (again in the USA) products that market themselves at reducing the chemical load on your produce. The findings were that these products didn't reduce the chemical load any more than simply washing with water.

    Well it is off to scrubbing my fruit and veggies (from the shops) under the water for what will seem like an eternity for me.
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    Detroit, USA

    Detroit was once a thriving, bustling city. But now it seems that nature is returning to the suburbs. I was listening to a podcast the other day about how the central city area of Detroit was previously a place considered undesirable to settle down with your family and the urban sprawl began with people seeking the security of the suburbs and bringing their thoughts of owning their own home in a 'nice' neighbourhood.

    This typical system was all running well and then through various factors, many of the industries and commercial activities left town and unemployment rose. This led to people leaving town and now it turns out that the nature that was once over-run by a large sprawling city is now returning to the area and in some cases not waiting for the bulldozer to clear a path but just adapt to the 'new' environment that has been left for it. The city is in 'ruin' and nature is taking advantage.

    A blog post discussing this reclamation by nature over Detroit can be found at: http://www.detroitblog.org/?p=287. It has some photos showing how nature is taking over the city.

    Not a process that you often hear about. I wonder how many towns in our modern world will end at this point for a whole variety of reasons.

    Pin It

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    Hang your washing in the sun!

    Another tip for a smaller environmental footprint that I really didn't consciously consider as a way that I make a difference, but after reading it in a book I thought this was definitely a way that I make a difference.

    What am I talking about? Well, instead of putting your washing straight from the washing machine into a dryer in your laundry, why not hang it on the washing line in the back yard? There are so many benefits for doing this.

    1. You get outside and this is always a positive
    2. If you hang it out in the middle of the day you'll probably also get your required dose of vitamin D
    3. You don't have to pay for the electricity that would have been used to power your dryer
    4. You won't contribute to additional electricity usage to power your dryer
    5. Whites will be whiter, without using any nasty chemicals. The sun actually whitens whites and can remove some of those stubborn stains from your clothes/sheets/towels, etc
    6. Even if it rains during the 'drying process' it will wash some of those nasty chemicals that some of us wash with out of your clothes and then will dry your clothes once the sun comes back out.

    I think another reason that this wasn't something that I consider as something good for the environment is because I have always done it and my mother has always done it. This I find interesting because we can accept behaviours/activities into our life and make them an everyday activity and not consciously recognise that we are making a positive difference.

    So, whatever you choose to do to reduce your environmental footprint, it might be difficult or annoying to start with but over time it will become part of your normal routine and you'll be making a difference without considering it a burden on your lifestyle. Just start small and do things that are manageable for you and your family.
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    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    Latest veggie garden produce

    Here is the latest veggie patch haul! Woo hoo. Potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli and eggplant!

    I was a little disappointed with the potato crop this season. I bought organic seed potatoes from the local produce store and I don't think all of the potatoes I planted ended up producing. Peculiar! Maybe go back to the store bought ones next season or order some online. Don't get me wrong, the produce from the seed potatoes was still fantastic, very crisp! Yummo! Great side to a meat dish on Sunday night and tonight it was Shepherd's Pie. Great end of winter dinners.
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    Less is More

    Another book review for those looking to read something that may potentially change your life. I think I found this latest book through the David Suzuki book club!

    I am currently reading Less is More edited by Cecile Andrews and Wanda Urbanska. It is a great book introducing many different authors' ideas on the concept of simplicity and bringing it into your life. It is kind of the equivalent of down-sizing your life and making it simpler so that you have more time to spend with family and friends and doing things that you will really appreciate.

    I have borrowed this book from my local library but am definitely thinking I will invest in a copy. It has some great 'ah-ha' moments and I think owning a copy will allow me to refer back to the things that I consider are important because it is really easy to forget these principles when you get caught up in 'normal' life.
    Pin It

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Glorious worms

    Digging in my veggie patch on the weekend, I found some glorious worms calling my veggie patch home. It was a welcome site. These critters help aerate the soil and leave behind lovely nutrients that enhance the growth of the vegetables I am getting out of our patch. The ones that I came across were quite close to the size of my little finger, both in thickness and length. Very joyful!

    I look forward to bumping into these creatures more often as I dig around the soil.


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    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Sustainable House Day

    On the 12th of September 2010, Sustainable House Day is on again. This is a showcase of sustainable houses in Australia where the public can visit and learn ways to improve the sustainability of your home.

    You can find out the locations of homes in your area that will be open houses on their website: http://www.sustainablehouseday.com/. (Addresses aren't available until the 30 August 2010). You can also volunteer your house, as an open home, on the website to share the wonderful things you have done to create your house as a more environmentally viable housing option.

    Great initiative and a great place to learn more ways to improve your lifestyle. Apparently a number of the houses will also have architects on hand to provide advice about your situation and what you can do to become a more sustainable household.
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    Sunday, August 15, 2010

    Dreams of building a green house

    Well I dream of building my perfect home that is self-sufficient for its power needs, has the right aspect which means heating and cooling artificially is not necessary, grows our own vegetables in the garden, uses water from showers, washing, etc for use on the garden, composting toilet and other things that I can't even think of off the top of my head but will mean that overall the impact of a stand alone house for our living purpose isn't that great a burden on the resources of this planet.

    Whether such a house could be created in the local government areas within south-east Queensland (that is, whether councils are willing to build such an atypical house within their district) or whether they consider it to atypical and too difficult to wrap their heads around is an unknown and something I will have to look into. Would it be better to adapt a 'traditional' house with measures that make it more environmentally sustainable?

    Looking forward to researching this matter to see whether the dream is possible and in my case affordable.
    Pin It

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Walk against Warming...Brisbane 15 August 2010

    The Walk against Warming community action is up and running again. It is being held in King George Square from 11am on the 15/08/10.

    There are going to be stalls, speakers and obviously the walk through the streets. Bring your comfy shoes, hats and a lot of environmental spirit.
    Pin It

    Your local Climate Action Group

    Climate Movement has a website that allows you to find other people/groups in your communities that are also interested in climate change. Their current list of these groups is available at: www.climatemovement.org.au/groups.

    There doesn't seem to be any in my particular area but there are certainly a number and the page allows you to find these groups, make contact with them and just generally find out more information about them if you're interested. Maybe you can create your own group if there isn't one in your area. Pin It

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    What makes your place your home?

    What features do you love about your house? What makes it your home rather than just a building in which you occupy? Is it the garden, the environmental features, the kitchen where you create masterpieces for your family and friends?

    I love my garden (perhaps fairly obvious from a number of my other posts) it has my veggie patch but it also has a great big shady tree, a lot of natives which I have planted over the last few years, a couple of cages for the wildlife that I use to look after when I was a wildlife carer and now the garden supports a lot of children's paraphernalia. It is a great space that we share with the dogs and I love just hanging out there.

    I think the part that I dislike about the house is the fact that it doesn't support more features that make it more environmentally friendly or community oriented. I would love to be off the electricity grid. I also would like it if the kitchen was more a central feature of the house where people could hang out when I was cooking, presently it is too small and feels overcrowded if anyone but my toddler hangs out in it with me. And the last but not least would be to place it in a more community feeling suburb. We hardly know our neighbours apart from waving hello at them when they come into their driveways. I think this is a sad indication of the state of our suburbs.

    Anyway, what do you like/dislike about your house/home & why? Pin It

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    Short showers

    Why is important not to stand under the shower for extended periods of time?

    • limited availability of freshwater - obviously this varies according to the weather and the overall continental climate,
    • the use of resources to get the water from the water source to your shower (pipes, water treatment, electricity, etc),
    • the use of resources taken to heat the water.

    The extreme version of a short shower is the 'navy shower'. This is where you turn the water on get wet, turn the water off then lather up, then turn the shower back on just to rinse off. Bit extreme and at present here in South-east Queensland we aren't at a level of water in our dams that would require this. However, if you're really into making a change, this perhaps is something that you might consider.

    I think the current recommended length for a shower, that isn't consider too excessive or resource hungry, is 5 minutes. Certainly if you're not washing your hair or shaving your legs every day this is achievable. And if you're thinking the first 30 seconds or minute is when the water is heating up, perhaps the use of a bucket in your shower to catch some of this water and either use it to flush your toilet or use it on your garden.

    Pin It

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Smoky vehicles

    Do you know that you can report 'smoky vehicles' in Queensland to the Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR)? I find this fascinating.

    http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/Community-and-environment/Environmental-management/How-you-can-make-a-difference/Report-a-smoky-vehicle.aspx

    Basically the premise is that smoky cars are a pollution source. DTMR states on their website that if you see a car smoking for more than 10 seconds continuously you can report the car (make, model and other details as described on the above webpage are required) to the Department. Apparently the owner of the car is then sent a letter explaining ways to fix the car and if the car is reported again within a fairly short period of time they will be required to present their car to an inspector to be checked for defects.

    Now I will have to look into what the pollutants that a vehicle that is smoking may be contributing to the air and the significance of such pollution. Pin It

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    David Suzuki lecture

    Yippeee. A friend of mine has just organised for us to go to the David Suzuki lecture during the Brisbane Writer's festival. It is my understanding that he has a new book and hence the association with the writer's festival, but it certainly will be an interesting seminar to listen to since I have grown up being surrounded by David's books and my mother thinking that I should work for him when I suggested in my late high school years that I was going to do environmental science at uni.

    Hope it is a great night out.

    More information on this seminar can be found on the Brisbane Writer's festival home page (http://www.brisbanewritersfestival.com.au/) and the Powerhouse's home page (http://www.brisbanepowerhouse.org/). Pin It

    Saturday, July 24, 2010

    Revised BP logo competition




    Just came across a Greenpeace campaign to have people re-design the BP logo. Some of the logos that people have come up with are very effective, whilst others are amusing.

    Pin It

    Get up - community action

    I have been a 'member' or interested public participant in the Get Up ogranisation for a little while now. Mostly just get their emails, see what their up to and vote on actions I support when something comes up. Great place for information that seems to support my morals and life direction. Great place to start your action without a lot of effort.


    You can get more information about them and their campaigns on their website, which is http://www.getup.org.au/. From there you will see whether it suits you and whether you'd also like to sign up for their emails and maybe participate in their program of action.

    Some of the campaigns that they are interested in:
    • easier access to enrolment for voting
    • refugees
    • climate change
    • native forests
    • internet censorship
    • paid maternity leave
    • mental illness, etc
    Pin It

    Friday, July 23, 2010

    Found a cool book club

    I was just looking at the David Suzuki Foundation website (http://www.davidsuzuki.org/) and found that they have a book club (http://bookclub.davidsuzuki.org/home). The exciting part about this is that it isn't just any book club. It is a book club that reads books that I think I would actually be interested in. For example,

    • Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming
    • Less is More: embracing simplicity for a healthy planet, a caring economy and lasting happiness.

    Cool titles and something that will help me learn about myself, the planet and how I can improve my bond with the world. I have signed up as a member and let you know when the next book is nominated.
    Pin It

    Desertification

    What is desertification? I have heard the term but really don't know what it means. From my reading it is where dryland used for agriculture and other purposes loses its economic and biological productivity and usually results from climatic variability (change) or unsustainable human practices.

    Some of you might now be wondering...'what are drylands'? Well, these are lands that can be productive with limited input from irrigation or natural precipitation. This does not however mean that they are resilient and can remain productive with no or limited rain, it means that they are adapted to a particular level of natural precipitation or human intervention and when this changes they are no longer productive.

    I have heard this term mostly associated with Africa and I would like to learn more about the causes of this situation both in Africa and in other locations. Pin It

    Wednesday, July 21, 2010

    Opportunities missed?

    I have been dealing with a number of issues in my professional life lately and feel that opportunities I might have usually taken or would have been given to me previously are passing me by. But overall I believe that I am comfortable in the decisions that I am making. Decisions in recent instances have been for both selfish reasons, but also reasons that I think will ensure my child is a better person as a result of these decisions.

    I was just reading another blog about doormats (people being doormats that is) or more precisely 'how to be a nice person without coming last'. The blog was quite uplifting for me in my current situation and spoke about if you close the door on a particular instance, be that professional or personal, more opportunities are likely to come your way as closing the door gives you more room in your life to open other doors or have them opened for you.

    Well, I am looking forward to new opportunities. Bring on the peace and happiness in myself and my life.

    Sorry the details are scant...but didn't want to truly bore you with the detail. Just felt like purging and why not do that on an open forum such as this blog. :) Pin It

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    What is coal seam gas?

    Well I have heard a lot about coal seam gas in the news lately and around the rural traps but don't actually know anything about it.

    After a little bit of research, here is what I have found:

    What is coal seam gas? - it is a methane that is associated with coal. The gas is released from the coal seam when the pressure is reduced, usually through the extraction of the water associated with these coal seams.

    Why is it important? - it is an energy source, similar to natural gas (only difference is where gas is stored naturally, apparently natural gas is associated with sandstone or similar rock).

    Some of the reported potential environmental impact? - water with undesirable concentrations of dissolved substances (not sure what the substances are though), depression of aquifers. Pin It

    Sunday, July 18, 2010

    Broccoli


    I currently have some broccoli growing in my veggie patch. It is going really well. We have significantly trimmed the hedge that shelters the veggie patch during this time of year and before I put the latest round of seedlings in I pumped quite a lot of chicken manure into the ground as slow-release fertiliser.

    The reason though for my post is because I have been fascinated at the water repellent qualities of broccoli leaves. When watering the veggies most of the veggies I have in my garden retain water droplets on their leaves after finishing watering, but not broccoli. Broccoli leaves immediately bead water and then it rolls off the leaves.

    It is fascinating (well at least to me) and it certainly has made me wonder why broccoli has evolved this ability. The silver-grey leaves and water droplets are beautiful in the winter afternoon sun. Keeps me entertained.

    Anyway, let's hope the broccoli manages to produce a good crop. Keep you informed. Pin It

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Ship found at Ground Zero (New York)

    I just came across a news piece saying that construction workers in the Ground Zero reconstruction works in New York have just discovered part of a 18th century sailing ship. How cool!

    Apparently it was purposefully placed there as part of extension works on the shore of Manhattan Island, basically landfill to allow them to build New York. Currently archaeologists are undertaking examinations of the ship to gain more information, but by the sound of things this will be all that happens with the ship and the construction process will continue.
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    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Death of the founder of Greenpeace

    Jim Bohlen died aged 84 in early July this year.

    Jim apparently was the one of the initiators of the original Green peace movement. The movement evolved from Jim and a number of supporters/like minded people planning to sail to the Aleutian Islands to directly protest against the use of nuclear weapons in the 1960s. Apparently this wasn't 'mission' wasn't successful, but led to numerous other campaigns protesting against other incidents of nuclear weapons testing, Icelandic whaling in Atlantic and the construction of the base camp in Antarctica.

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    Monday, July 12, 2010

    NZ Whaling Activist

    The NZ Whaling activist, Peter Bethune, that was arrested during the last Sea Shepherd season in the southern Ocean has been deported from Japan after being given a suspended suspense for illegally boarding a Japanese whaling boat (as reported by ABC website).

    An interesting outcome. I actually suspected that he would get the 'book thrown at him'. Really more like it was swept under the carpet. In the end he only served a total of 4 months in a Japanese prison. Pin It

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    Final product....pumpkins

    Well despite the overload of vines that I had in my veggie patch and felt like a weight on my shoulders. The finished product, that is the pumpkins, were tasty and looked pretty damn fantastic too (if I do say so myself).

    Here is one of said pumpkins....



    My remaining vines have three fruit still ripening. The vines themselves are looking a little scrappy, so I suspect I will be having some form of pumpkin for dinner in the next few weeks. Yum yum! Pin It

    Friday, July 9, 2010

    Climate Smart Home Inspection...energy efficient light bulbs

    Just thought I would post that I am not too impressed with the couple of energy efficient light bulbs that my Climate Smart Home inspector put into the few light bulb fittings in my house that weren't already this format. The one in the hallway that he put in seems to take 'forever' to illuminate. So much so that I actually generally double take back to the light switch because I don't think I have actually turned it on. However, the light starts to glow just as I re-reach for the light switch and reminds me that it wasn't me it was just the light bulb taking forever to glow.

    Not sure whether this is the brand/type etc of energy efficient light bulb that they have put in, but none of my other ones in my house have this delay. It is just bugging me a bit. Pin It

    Is investing in residential solar power worth it?

    Presently we have a gas hot water system and because this isn't an electricity consuming appliance I haven't really entered into the whole debate as to whether it would be better (both financially and/or environmentally) to invest in solar power/hot water. However, today a plumber informed me that my gas hot water system is soon to crumble and die, so I thought now is the time to start to think about it.

    My primary concern is that if I invest what to me is a significant amount of money into this residential solar technology, will I still have to 'pay' for electricity. I understand that I would still get an electricity bill because my solar panels will just in effect be feeding into the grid and not actually providing me the electricity directly. However will the amount of energy I pump into the grid offset the amount that I take from the grid, given the loading times and different tariffs for those times. That is, I will be generating most power during the day and taking most power during the mornings and evenings, so my generated solar power would in effect have to be greater than the amount I take from the grid to negate the difference in tariff rate.

    Anyone, know whether it is financially appropriate to think solar for the investment you have to make or am I better off investing in a new on-demand gas hot water system?

    I guess my thoughts are I have happy to some degree to make a significant outlay to purchase a solar electricity system but don't also want to still be slugged with a significant electricity bill each quarter. Pin It

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Animals in your backyard

    Do you know what native animals visit your back yard? I have a small to medium sized block in the northern suburbs of Brisbane and I am amazed at the number of species that do frequent my backyard throughout the year.

    Here is an initial list of species that I know have visited my backyard over the last five years:
    • Australian magpie
    • Southern boobook
    • Little wattlebird
    • Silvereyes
    • Brown honeyeater
    • Scaly-breasted lorikeet
    • Rainbow lorikeet
    • Green tree frog
    • Laughing kookaburra
    • Torresian crow (a lot of them)
    • Australian white ibis
    • Azure kingfisher
    • Black-faced cuckoo-shrike
    • Blue-faced honeyeater
    • Crested pigeon
    • Figbird
    • Magpie-lark
    • Noisy miner
    • Pied butcherbird
    • Spangled drongo
    • Sulphur-crested cockatoo
    • Pheasant coucal
    • White-faced heron
    • Eastern reef egret
    • Willie wagtail
    • Blue-tongued lizard
    Nasty pest species that come and visit my backyard all too often:
    • Common myna
    • Cane toad
    • Feral pigeon (or rock dove)
    • Spotted dove

    Pin It

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    Recycling numbers...what do they mean?


    Many of the plastics and products that we all have in our kitchen and around the house have the chasing arrow recyclable symbols with numbers on them. But what do they mean?

    Well, I have looked into it and here is an explanation:

    1 (PETE) -Poly(ethylene terephthalate) - soft drink bottles, etc
    2 (HDPE) - High-density Polyethylene - containers for milk, laundry powders, softeners, etc
    3 (V) - Poly(vinyl cloride) - pipes, shower curtains, baby bottle nipples, etc
    4 (LDPE)- Low-density Polyethylene - plastic wrap, plastic bags, etc
    5 (PP)- Polypropylene - nappies, plastic containers
    6 (PS) - Polystyrene - disposable cutlery, cups, meat trays, etc.
    7 (Other) - other - who know what this is?

    What can you truly recycle in your weekly recycling bin picked up by your local Council?

    Apparently according to Choice magazine, most Council accepts products marked as either 1 or 2. Choice also indicates that quite often all the rest of the recyclable plastics (3-7) are bundled together and reproceesed overseas.

    What can't be recycled:
    The following are some unacceptable recyclables, even though they’re made of recyclable plastic.

    • A high-density polyethylene (HDPE) container if it has carried a hazardous substance.
    • Plastic shopping bags, low density polyethylene (LDPE) packaging film, small bits of polystyrene packaging. This lightweight packaging is likely to get blown out and contaminate the paper stream in the MRF, unless the facility is fully automated and uses optical laser sorting technology.
    • Plastic bottle lids. They’re generally made of different plastic from the container and may fall through the holes in the sorting cylinder (trommel), or create air pressure in a closed polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle when it’s compressed, so that when the bottles pop open, the bales can fall apart. However, because they’re a valuable source of recyclable plastic, some MRF operators now advise recycling plastic lids, as optical sorters can deal with the different plastics issue – so follow your council’s advice.
    http://www.choice.com.au/Life-Stage/Green-living/Recycle%20and%20re-use/Plastic-recycling/Page/Which%20plastics%20can%20be%20recycled.aspx
    More information about your local Council's situation can be found at:

    Pin It

    Don't tie up your garbage bags!

    A friend of mine has currently been spending a lot of time at the refuse transfer stations around Brisbane for reasons that remain a little foggy. But despite his new odour (just kidding) he has some insight into what happens to our 'normal' rubbish after it is collected by the rubbish truck each week.

    Upon taking our rubbish from our wheelie bins it goes to a transfer station where our rubbish is sorted. Seriously! I just didn't think that would ever happen. All the stuff that goes into our bins I thought that it would all be taken immediately to a large hole in the ground, compacted and then covered over. But no! It is sorted into products that can be reclaimed, recycled, composted, etc. I find this amazing!

    The moral of the story is thus, don't tie up the plastic bags you put your household waste before you place them into your wheelie bins! Why you ask? This is because if your garbage bag is tied, then the products in the plastic bag are generally less likely to be sorted into their appropriate waste streams (recycling, reclaiming, composting or landfill) and just end up going straight to that landfill stream. So if you leave your bags untied the contents can escape and be appropriately sorted. Pin It

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010

    Car Tyres

    I bought my first set of 'environmentally conscious' tyres for my car the other day! I don't know if it is greenwash, but I have looked into 'environmentally appropriate' car tyres and found that tyres with a silica compound content are more environmentally 'sustainable' tyres.

    The tyres are apparently more appropriate because they result in a better fuel consumption and thus less emissions and less resource required. They do this somehow through lower rolling resistance (not a car type person really but these are the words they use). These tyres do however still need to be maintained (right tyre pressure, etc) to ensure that you reap these rewards.

    The brand of tyre I bought cost no more than a medium-expensive brand tyre, but apparently if you do chose a more renown brand of tyre the cost difference will be re-paid over the life of the tyre.

    Let's see how they go....so far so good.
    Pin It

    Indigenous Weather Knowledge

    I have just come across a website linked to the Bureau of Meteorology's webpage called "Indigenous Weather Knowledge". It sounded very intriguing. The link is: http://www.bom.gov.au/iwk/

    It appears only to have information for the Northern Territory at the moment. I don't know whether there will be additional information posted for the rest of the country at a future time, but certainly something to look into, as I haven't really even thought about this previously...well, not under the title of "weather knowledge". Pin It

    Australia v Japan

    Apparently the Australian government will be taking Japan to the International Courts to 'discuss' the legalities of the Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Ocean. I think it is on the premise that they are in fact taking too making whales than can be justified for scientific purpose and they are undertaking a commercial activity.

    At present can't find a lot of information on the case and don't know whether the proceedings have actually started.

    Keep you posted. Pin It

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Climate Smart Home Inspection

    Well I have finally had my climate smart house inspection. For my $50 investment I had a very friendly elderly gentleman come and visit my house and install a wireless energy meter and a couple of energy saving light bulbs. Certainly the wireless energy meter is the reason that I requested the inspection. It has certainly provided some indication of the appliances that chew up the energy...anything with a heating element...the kettle, the electric heaters, etc.

    I am surprised at the small amount of energy that the reverse cycle air-conditioner in my toddler's room uses, as well as the again small amount of electricity the additional fridge & chest freezer in the garage use. These three appliances were the ones that I felt would be definitely would be shovelling money into a deep chasm never to pay for their existence. And in turn convince my other half that they needed to go (well at least the fridge/freezers in the garage). The Climate Smart inspector informed me that the second fridge/freezers usually don't consume a significant amount of electricity because they aren't opened as often as the fridge in your kitchen and thus just maintain themselves rather what your kitchen fridge does which is forever replacing the warm air that you let in when you open and close it and thus use more electricity. Your kettle and electric heaters on the other hand, seem to be the appliances to get rid of in terms of their kwh usage.

    Well, I am now certainly more aware of the energy footprint that we have....let's see what we can do to adjust it. Pin It

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    Pumpkins continue


    Well, the pumpkin patch continues. I have over the last few weeks felt a little taken over by my pumpkin vines. They have been occupying one and half of my three vegetable patches. Both areas were being productive since I have undertaken the flower fertilisation myself but I was wanting to plant different veggies and the actual pumpkins seem to be taking forever to mature.

    After a little bit of research, I have discovered that pumpkins take about 3-4 months to mature on the vine. They are ready once the connecting vine starts to die away. Unfortunately I don't have the patience and decided to cull the majority of the vines. I decided to pull out the vines with the most 'mature' pumpkins and see whether they are ok and then utilise the space to plant some of the veggie seeds I had pre-grown.


    Aaaaahhhhhh, a weight has been lifted and with the new veggies I am looking forward to feeling a little more vigour for the veggie patch and the work it can take. Pin It

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Public transport

    I got out and about in town today and decided to use some of Brisbane's public transport options. Public transport is a great way to reduce your environmental footprint. Sitting in a never ending traffic jam pumping emissions into the atmosphere as you go nowhere is not the best for the environment and neither is travelling alone in your car, no matter what kind of car you have.

    Public transport does still have an environmental footprint but because you share this experience with others it works out to be less. You are also likely to save some money as well...less wear and tear on the car, less servicing, less petrol, maybe even reduced parking costs. Depending where you live you may have better public transport options than others. Convenience certainly comes into the decision making process, but this shouldn't be the only factor.

    So next time you're heading into town or just down to your local shops have a look into your public transport options. You might be pleasantly surprised and once you're on the train/bus/tram, etc you may feel a little better about the choices you have made and the fact that you're making a difference to your local environment. Pin It

    Sunday, June 6, 2010

    Recycling...what can you include in your wheelie bin?

    What can you truly include in your recycling bin that the Council collects every week or maybe ever second week? To me it is becoming more and more confusing. There are the obvious things that you can recycle like paper, cardboard and plastic bottles. But there are a number of items that people are putting into their recycling bin that they shouldn't, for example, plastic shopping bags.

    Other items not to include in your recycling bin:

    • lids for all containers, including plastic bottles....remove these before you put them into the recycling bin
    • light bulbs
    • food scraps
    • ceramics
    • ovenware


    But what you can recycle really depends on what your local Council will accept. Have a look at your local government's website for more information about what is acceptable for collection. Pin It

    Saturday, June 5, 2010

    Flying-fox relocation - Sydney

    Currently there is a colony of flying-foxes currently calling the Sydney Botanic Gardens home. According to the news tonight the botanic gardens is planning on relocating these flying-foxes. They are currently tagging them and then plan on booming out large amounts of industrial noise when they leave the roost for their night-time foraging. This noise aimed at disturbing the bats enough that they won't want to return to the botanic gardens and get them to seek out 'more appropriate' digs. Certainly will be interesting to see whether this approach will have any success.

    It is important to remember that there is little suitable habitat left for them to roost in in many urban areas and apparently there is also a shortage of food around at the moment. Surely this has got to mean that the bats are less likely to move on from a place that has reliable and suitable food and a place to hang out during the day, but hey I'm no expert. Pin It

    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    Tornado in Lennox Heads

    Can you believe there was a tornado in Lennox Heads, Northern NSW today? This to me is amazing, it isn't even typical cyclone season. Apparently it only last for about a minute but caused a lot of devastation.

    What is the cause???? Climate change comes to mind, but whether this is actually the cause I don't know. Pin It

    Removal of pesticides from food

    Following on from one of my previous posts, my basic research indicated that just rinsing your fruit and vegetables is not enough to remove some of the more harmful 'toxins' (pesticides/herbicides). One page that I have just come across suggests a combination of water, white vinegar, baking soda and grapefruit seed extract combined and then sprayed onto the fruit and vegetable and left for an hour or two prior to rinsing.

    Sounds like a major effort, which I guess is expected, but I wouldn't have a clue where to get grapefruit seed extract. Let's see if I can find a more practical solution.

    Aaaahhh....here is a more basic approach that I have since found combine 1 lemon, 2 tbsp of distilled white vinegar and 1 cup of water. Spray this onto your fruit & veggies and then rinse off, apparently this is a more basic recipe but is likely to remove pesticides from fruit/vegetables for household consumption. I wonder if it will change the taste of the products. Have to give it a go. Pin It

    Solar rights

    I have just been reading an old volume of the ABC's Organic Gardening magazine. The editorial was discussing rights to access solar energy. I really hadn't thought about this prior to reading this. It is however something that perhaps we all need to consider.

    The article was discussing the significant increase in the number of households that were installing solar panels. I too have considered getting some, with my parents actually investing in a small number of solar panels that's cost were fairly well covered through the governments' current rebate programs. But the point the article was making was that your rights to access solar energy is no guaranteed under any planning law in Australia at present. That is, if your neighbour decides to construct a structure or building that ends up shading your solar panels and you can no longer generate solar power, there are currently no laws to support your rights to the previously available solar energy. So potentially all your financial investment becomes worthless and you may potentially need to re-invest in less sustainable energy options.

    I thought this was unbelievable. I am hoping this is just a matter of legislation catching up with reality. Once governments, particularly local governments, becoming aware of this issue, particularly with the increasing presence of these panels in the suburbs, hopefully they have the balls to amend their planning legislation/policy to support the proactive person in the attempt to become more environmentally sustainable rather than some of the typically short-sighted decisions that are made in this development forum.

    Something to consider if you're considering installing solar panels or perhaps encourage you to campaign your local government to protect your solar rights. Pin It

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    World Environment Day

    World Environment Day is on the 5th June. This year's theme is: Many Species, One Planet, One Future. The United Nations Environment Program website has additional information about activities people are holding, suggestions of how you can celebrate the day, how to register your World Environment Day activities and a number of relevant factsheets. Their website is: http://www.unep.org/wed/2010/english/ . I thought one of the interesting things you can do on the website is the 'name a baby gorilla' voting section under the 'celebrate WED' header. There are four names from which you can choose and basically your vote will help decide names for two baby gorillas in Rwanda. Too cute!

    I know that Logan City Council is holding the Logan Eco Action Festival, here in the Greater Brisbane area. This will have all sorts of speakers, activities for keen gardeners and children and yummy food.

    Hope you enjoy your World Environment Day. Love to hear what you get up to to celebrate this annual event. Pin It

    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    Sea Shepherd trial in Japan

    It starts today. It is the trial of Captain Pete Bethune from New Zealand, who at the time was a volunteer for the Sea Shepherd organisation 'fighting' the Japanese over the continued scientific whaling activities in the Southern Ocean. This trial is being held in Japan, where Pete has remained in custody since 'boarding' a Japanese whaling boat in the Southern Ocean in February this year. He is being defended by a local Japanese legal team supported by the legal firm which assists the Sea Shepherd organisation generally.

    Apparently Pete boarded the Japanese whaling vessel to deliver an invoice for the damage the Japanese whaling fleet did to one of the other Sea Shepherd boats earlier in the whaling season. I await to see how this one plays out in the courts, particularly as this is in being held in the Japanese courts...this could result in an interesting diplomatic power play. Pin It

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Cats......do my head in!

    Today I was outside with my toddler and I heard something a bit out of the ordinary outside from front gates. It was a bird making a strange noise. My brain finally kicked into geared, opened the gate, just to see the next-door neighbour's cat with a figbird in its mouth! Arrrrrgggghhh!

    I ran out of the gate and told the cat to drop it. The cat just looked disdainfully at me and jumped over the neighbour's fence into their backyard. No doubting the cat certainly had a tasty meal!

    Cats whether they are loved pets or ferals running the neighbourhood are often responsible for the death of much of our native wildlife, particularly in the suburbs. If you have a cat:

    • make sure it is kept inside at night;
    • has a bell around its neck;
    • if you can afford it invest in a cat run, so your friendly moggy is keep completely separate from the native wildlife that makes our suburbs a little more friendly.
    Pin It

    Rocket

    No I'm not going to start discussing astro-physics or whether man has truly reached the moon, rather another episode in the life of my veggie patch.

    I have managed to grow a fair amount of rocket in my garden over the last few months. I grew these rocket plants from seed, with them planted in well sunlight location. The rocket grew quite well without much intervention, apart from the daily water.

    The thing I did notice about my rocket was the flavour. What a zing! Much more spicy than shop bought rocket. I don't know if this is a result of the type of rocket I bought and grew or the length of time that I left it in the ground, but if you're in for some truly tasty salad try some home-grown rocket! Pin It

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Books versus Ebook readers

    I have a personal passion for books and love to read, but even more than that I just love looking through book stores. The onset of e-readers may see the end of my strollings in these wonderful commercial entities. There is however debate as to whether the e-readers are truly more environmentally friendly than our lovely paperbacks!

    I read an article in the latest G Magazine today which compared the environmental footprint of our traditional paper books and the e-readers. The first portion of this article made me feel that there certainly must be an overriding detrimental impact from the e-reader, however, the conclusion of the article in fact was the total opposite (based on a number of assumptions). The e-reader despite needing to be powered by electricity and requiring new batteries on occasion has less environmental impact than our normal book, even when the book is sourced from local publishers and printed with vegetable dye on recycled paper. Ho hum!

    Despite all this, I think I will probably continue to purchase the lovely paperback on occasion, but certainly will be utilising my library as much as possible and forward on to other people books that I have purchased and loved. I also love attending the annual Lifeline bookfest, a great place to purchase pre-loved books and help out a worthy charity organisation. Pin It

    Sunday, May 16, 2010

    Pumpkins continue

    Well I have self-fertilised a number of female pumpkin flowers in my veggie patch. It has been working fairly well, with most of these resulting in the beginnings of pumpkins. I have one pumpkin that should be ready to harvest in the next few weeks. From my research once the stem to which they are attached to the main plant rots away they are ready to harvest! Come on come on! Three other pumpkins seem to be growing, but the process of growing pumpkins takes much longer than I ever imagined.

    Currently also harvesting rocket (really quite spicy), eggplants and capsicum. I have just planted seeds of beetroot, broccoli, climbing peas and some asian greens into seed trays getting ready to move them into the veggie patch once I get some space. Pin It

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    Bird nest relocation - Sunshine Coast

    I was forwarded an article about an osprey nest being relocated from its original location to a new place to make way for development. Am I for or against this...hmmmm....not sure

    http://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/story/2010/05/05/new-home-makes-the-cut-for-ospreys-stockland/ Pin It

    Albatross - I love them!

    I love albatross! They are so majestic and the idea of wandering the oceans, soaring over the waves and just scooting around the planet is just so appealing.

    These birds are however, highly threatened. Mainly through longline and trawler fishing, but they are also threatened at their nesting habitats. There are many difficulties in trying to conserve these oceanic species. One of difficulties being that many of these species occur across a number of nation's national boundaries. In such situations there will always be differences in government opinion towards conservation and albatross specifically; the amount of financial support for research and conservation and general public interest in conservation.

    Here in Australia we do support albatross conservation (broadly) and the government has a number of policies in an attempt to boost albatross numbers. The fishing industry also seems to be doing its part, but whether it is doing all it can I'm not sure.

    Just thought I would bring your attention to this issue, as these creatures are probably my favourite in the world! Pin It

    Ecofund - acknowledgement

    Well today I finally received an acknowledgement from Ecofund regarding my financial contribution to offsetting my car's emissions. Now have to find the time to clean the car so that I can 'advertise' my effort with their dodgy looking sticker!

    Despite the additional resource that the sticker advertising my effort and Ecofund takes to produce, I think that if I place it on my car and it makes one person think and act about their environmental footprint. Maybe it is worth it! Pin It

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    World Turtle Day activities

    Build a sand turtle to save our flatbacks!

    Sunday 23rd May 2010 is World Turtle Day and we would like you to join us to build a sand turtle! All around the beaches of northern Australia, groups and individuals will be building flatback turtles from sand to send to Environment Minister Peter Garrett the message 'Save Our Flatbacks'.

    What: Create a Flatback turtle out of sand on your local beach to save our flatbacks!
    When: Sunday, May 23rd (World Turtle Day) at 3pm
    Where:

    DARWIN - Mindil Beach (casino side) Click here for a map, 3pm
    Perth - South Cottesloe dog beach, 10 am
    Broome - Cable beach, 10am
    Cairns - T.B.A

    Who: Australian Marine Conservation Society and Environment Centre NT (Darwin), The Wilderness Society (Perth & Cairns), Environs Kimberley (Broome), The Turtle Restoration Network (based in the USA).

    Darwin Prizes: Awesome prizes will be awarded to the best turtle designs. Prizes include a trip for two to Bare Sand Island to watch turtles ley their eggs and see the hatchlings. This prize is kindly donated by Sea Darwin. Over $1000 in prizes to be won.

    Don't live near any of the above locations? No worries - make your own flatback sand turtle on your local beach and email a photo of it (smaller than 100kb in jpeg format) to: sealife@amcs.org.au (please include your names and location.)

    This outdoor event will coincide with an online petition that will send a message to our Environment Minister Peter Garrett to "Save Our Flatbacks!", by creating a large network of marine sanctuaries across their home in Northern Australia.

    For more information email pruebarnard@amcs.org.au or visit www.sealife.org.au Pin It