Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Blood, Sweat & TShirts

Watched the above show on ABC last night. It was about a group of fashion loving early 20-somethings from England going to India to see where their clothes are made and in what conditions. It certainly didn't open my eyes in regards to conditions, although I'm sure being in an actual sweatshop in India would be a completely different experience to watching and reading about them.

The thing that got me was the discussions about no matter what the conditions were the people employed in these conditions were just happy to be paid. I'm not sure whether I am just being ignorant but surely providing some of these less than ideal sweat shops with additional income as a result of increased prices in the shops would ensure better working conditions and maintain their employment status? I don't know - is this just being idealistic and not realistic?

I am so ignorant on so many of these social issues. I have my own perspectives, which I consider somewhat enlightened but I think that I am still looking at these issues with a pre-existing idea of what should be done, which isn't always what the people that you're trying to help want. Best intentions, but again need to learn more about this issue. Pin It

My poor veggie patch

Aaarrrrgghhhh! Bloody dogs! I have two wonderful dogs that I love to pieces, but I knew when I created my veggie patch that the two should not mix. I just knew that my dogs would not assist my aspiration of veggie production. Because of this we constructed a chicken wire fence around the accessible boundaries of the veggie patch to ensure the dogs couldn't access the veggie patch. No digging or plant destruction...that was the theory.

Over the course of the existence of my veggie patch, the gate to which I access the garden has slowly become less stable and the fence post has come away from the chicken wire. And today at least one of my dogs got into the veggie patch through my conveniently located access point..the gate. As a result my best producing capsicum plant no longer exists, snapped off at the main stem, a few of the spinach plants are squished and a squash plant destroyed (thankfully this one was only a seedling).

It could have been worst, but I am definitely mourning the loss of the capsicum plant! Boo hoo. Have to get out in the garden and fix that fence otherwise all my hard work will be lost to an inquisitive dog! Pin It

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Washing your veggies

I have recently been thinking about more actively washing my veggies and fruit that I buy from the supermarket. My main aim with undertaking such an activity is to remove nasty chemicals from the surface of these foods and ensure that my family doesn't end up consuming more than our fair share.

Unfortunately the garden isn't at a level of self-sufficiency which means I have to buy commercially grown veggies. Up until now I haven't really taken the effort to wash the veggies that I buy. But now that I have a toddler and thinking more about what goes into our bodies, I wonder what the benefits of washing them under water is.

From my basic research most of the initial websites I have looked at on this topic indicate that washing them under the tap will wash off dirt and bacteria. Nothing that I am particularly worried about. I am more concerned about the pesticides, herbicides and other man-made agents that farmers spray around their farms to make their fruit and veggies more commercially attractive.

There are also adverts on the net for products which you can utilise to assist you with cleaning your fruit and veggies and once again can't seem to determine with any certainty that these products would in fact assist with my aim of removing the toxins.

So does washing in water, with no a lot of elbow grease, in fact remove these nasty chemicals? More research required! Pin It

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nature Deficit Disorder

I listened to a podcast today from the ABC website about Nature Deficit Disorder. It was an interview with the author (Richard Louv) of the book called "Last Child in the Woods".I found this fascinating as a parent of a toddler who wants to be outside all of the time.

The podcast discussed our innate need as children to be outside and what the implications of not learning and playing in the outdoors in an unsupervised manner was. There were discussions about how parents are now frightened to let their children outside for fear of what might happen to them and legislation preventing children from undertaking activities that their parents or grandparents participated in in their childhood, such as building cubby houses in trees, etc. It also discussed our desire as children to have 'secretive' activities and the necessity of this for mental health, etc.

I don't think I have fears of holding my child's development back by preventing her from going outside because I believe that I will be encouraging her to get out and about as she grows older. The one thing that struck a tune with me, was Richard's discussion on how children no longer are allowed to appreciate and learn about nature just as it is. Rather they can be subjected by parents and educators about the doomsday state the planet is in and thus they become concerned about everything in their environment and don't fully appreciate or learn about the intricacies of nature for themselves. This really struck a cord with me, as I was just telling my daughter last night while she was playing in her bath and having the tap running, that she had to turn off the tap because she would drain the world dry of water. She is under 2 and already I am tainting her exploration of nature due to my "doomsday" perspective of the world's resources.

If I can get my hands on this book I plan on reading it to better educate myself about this perspective because I do think being outside is an important thing for people's general and mental health. Pin It

Monday, April 19, 2010

Plastic Bags in Recycling

Don't do it people. I have heard and yet to confirm that the companies that collect and sort the recycling can end up dumping whole truck loads of recyclable material into landfill if there is a portion of the truckload tainted with plastic bags.

There are options to recycle your plastic bags. This can be done through a number of large supermarket chains, but not through the recycling wheelie bin pick up route.

It infuriates me to see plastic bags hanging out of people's recycling bins in my street and suburb because I think of all the time and effort that I go to to sort my recycling items and ensuring that I recycle as much as I can. Then I see my effort potentially being wasted because my neighbour has contaminated the entire recycling load with plastic bags in their recycling bin. End result: my recycling getting chucked out with theirs. Aaarrrghh! Make the effort people, it really doesn't take that much time! Pin It

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Things around Spring Hill

I saw the following things in Spring Hill, Brisbane, which made me think about the environment either in the sense of nature reclaiming land over man-made objects or how man has made old technologies more environmentally friendly. See below.

I thought this was pretty cool - the grass emerging through the pavement in search of light and the opportunity to survive.

This one being an old street lamp shade, which 'modern man' has added the energy smart light bulb to. I think it is a nice touch that Council has retained the old light fittings. This just adds to the area's charm, with many of the old heritage listed homes still standing, albeit some of them renovated to more modern standards. The light bulb is a nice compromise between modern 'necessities' and heritage values. Pin It

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cane toads

This evening I have been out in my backyard catching cane toads to tastefully dispose of them. These creatures are not welcome in my yard. I try and maintain some sort of island home within my backyard for as much native fauna as possible. Cane toads are a definite threat to the viability of many native species and if they don't directly impact on native fauna they outcompete them for resources. As such I choose to collect cane toads from my back yard and dispose of them.

Some of you might ask how exactly I do this. Well it is a matter of me going around with a plastic bag (yes those yucky plastic bags) collecting the cane toads by hand and then placing them into the fridge or directly into the freezer for a hibernating type demise in my electrical appliance. Once these creatures are frozen I then just place them into my garbage bin.

Tonight I collected 4 cane toads with little effort. I'm sure there are probably a few more lurking in the dim corners of my yard, but the batteries in my torch weren't very powerful tonight, so only the obvious ones were collected. Off to the land of nod for these four at least.

If you're wondering, cane toads are an introduced pest to Queensland and Australia. They were purposefully introduced to Queensland as a biological control agent to control pests within cane fields. The problem for Australia was that we apparently offered a smorgasbord of target insects, etc for the cane toad and they rapidly bred and forgot about the insect they were suppose to prey upon in the canefields and now have taken up residence across most of Queensland, into the Northern Territory and parts of New South Wales. The expansion of and the number of cane toads in Australia is likely to see them now as permanent residents, but it doesn't mean that we shouldn't try and do our bit to minimise or stabilise the population of cane toads within our own areas (in my opinion anyway). Pin It

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Pacific and global warming...what will be the impact?

I have started to think about how I might make a difference to the broader global community in terms of the environment. My daydreamings have led me to thinking of climate change refugees and in particular how island communities within the Pacific region (my neck of the woods) will be affected.

I am now further developing my daydream to think about how I can assist communities that are likely to displaced as a result of global warming/climate change. I thought perhaps there is a job through one of the aid agencies or non-government ogranisations that I could fill and thus just step into action. Well, I haven't found it yet. Perhaps I need to create my own job. Passionate people can make all sorts of things happen.

I guess I first have to find out which communities will be affected in the Pacific and see what tasks need to be undertaken either to assist them to adapt to their new conditions, go to task with governments (be that their own or other nations) to assist them further or perhaps relocate them (but where to and is it as easy as that?).

I recall from my memory that there are communities within PNG already starting to be affected by climate change or needing relocation as a result of sea level rise. I know there seems to be more frequent storm events within the Pacific and surely this creates issues for local communities. More research on my behalf is needed before action is warranted. Pin It

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Climate Change Refugees - Tuvalu

Well in the face of climate change there have been a number of news pieces on climate change refugees. This social injustice intrigued me and I wanted to see whether there was anything I could do as an individual to assist such people. After a little research and reading a book on Tuvalu, which is said to be one of the first island nations to be impacted upon as a result of sea level rise and associated climate change events here are some of my thoughts.

I don't think I am any wiser, but perhaps just a little more educated on my ignorance. From reading the book on Tuvalu it seems that this island isn't actually going to become uninhabitable as a result of sea level rise in the first instance, but rather the inundation of their groundwater by sea water and thus their land becoming inappropriate for the agricultural purposes. Storm events with associated large storm surges are also likely to impact on the margins of the island. All leading to the population of this nation needing to move to other locations.

In the face of this certainty, some Tuvaluans are looking to opportunities outside their nation now rather than waiting for significant events to force their departure from their nation. Many are currently looking to New Zealand for employment opportunities, but those that are unskilled or want to remain in their homes, it is likely that forced migration may be the only option.

Other things that I have learnt from my research and may discuss at a later date on this blog, include:

  • some refugee activists, researchers and government bodies do not like the term 'climate change refugee'. Reasons range from the fact that refugee organisations and funding bodies can't cope with the types of refugees that they currently have to deal with without adding more people to this stretched system;
  • forced migration rather than climate change refugees is another term which has been used and perhaps is more appropriate without unduly burdening existing systems;
  • there are a multitude of attitudes from the people that occupy climate change stricken countries to leaving their nations;
  • climate change in regards to sea level rise and associated impacts is likely to affect a significant portion of the world's population, but in majority of cases people that will be impacted upon will be citizens of the third world;
  • contributors to climate change impacts are in most cases from first world countries.
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Saturday, April 10, 2010 my veggie patch

So I think I have about 5 pumpkin plants currently growing in my veggie patch. I planted three of them and two of the grew out of the compost I added to the garden beds in preparation for some other veggies. I can't believe how prolifically they grow. As a result I thought I was going to be inundated with pumpkins and we would be having roast pumpkin salads and pumpkin soup until we couldn't face it any longer. But alas this hasn't been the case.

I have seen what I thought to be mini pumpkins starting to grow at the base of a number of flowers. But since the vines have been overtaking the garden for nearly three months and nothing more than a couple of these miniature pumpkins I thought it was time to do a bit of research!

So findings are:
  • pumpkin plants have separate male and female flowers
  • the flowers with the mini pumpkins below the flower are the female flowers!
  • pollination doesn't always happen naturally and you can assist this process.

Aaahhhh, so now the penny has dropped that I need to help things along!

So every afternoon when I water my veggies I have been examining the pumpkin flowers in the patch. It turns out I have a plethora of male flowers and only the occasional female flower. Also the flowers don't seem to last that long, even though there always seems to be flowers on the vines. I think they are only open for a day or two (at least the female flowers) and they seem to open their petals more in the earlier part of the day. All very interesting!

After spotting a number of lady flowers suitable for pollination (with help from yours truly) I obtained a fine example of the male flower and set about ripping off the petals of the flower to appropriately expose the male reproductive parts of the flowers and then stuck them into the female flower to rub the pollen directly onto the female reproductive parts trying not to damage the female flower, as this is the part of the vine that will end up bearing the pumpkin!

Well, I think I have been successful in at least one of my pollination events, with one mini-pumpkin seemingly growing into a moderately sized fruit at this present point. I also find this encouraging as I believe it has only been about a week since I set upon this task.

I have pollinated another two female flowers on the vines, so will see how these take as well. Will report back and let you know whether these adventures lead to an edible, home grown pumpkin.

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Power saving?

Well, I thought that I was doing my bit to save electricity and money by turning my telly off at the switch on the screen, turning other appliances off at the power point, switching to energy saving light bulbs, etc. It turns out I should be going even further. Apparently some appliances still use some power even when turned off at the wall. When I heard this I thought this was completely ridiculous! How could it when I have turned it off at the wall?

Apparently our new, modern appliances are not great for the planet (well this is a broad statement, maybe looking into it a bit further I might find some savings, but this post is about electricity and in this respect many modern appliances don't seem to have improved our well-being). They are super electricity consumers when they're on and now I find out even if you turn them off at the wall they still consume some power. From my brief look into this, it seems that because these appliances 'turn on' straight away (because we expect them to) instead of having a warm up period they draw some power constantly to ensure they can turn on when we demand.

Gees, maybe we should just learn to be a little more patient. We don't always need such instant gratification surely. Apparently the solution is to take the power plug out of the wall point. Sounds extreme and since most of my power points for these larger electrical appliances aren't easily accessible this isn't going to be a comfortable exercise. Maybe I should just avoid turning the thing on and leave it permanently unplugged! Well I have threatened to throw the tv out on a number of occasions and discussed how we should learn to appreciate true down time....but that is another story.

Can I achieve anything more than I already do to make my footprint greener in regards to my power point/electricity debacle? I'm not sure. Certainly to achieve this I need to undertake some behavioural change in my life...I need to extend myself... am I prepared to do this for something like a cost saving of $10/month. Probably as electricity gets more expensive, as I become more environmentally aware and sensitive and hopefully as my partner becomes more open to such ideas, such behaviours will come more easily. We will see. I will report back later as to whether I have been successful on this issue or not. Pin It

Friday, April 9, 2010

Plastic Bags

I am sick of the greenwash that supermarkets are using with respect to their plastic bags. The uninformed person is probably starting to feel ok about their acceptance of plastic bags at the end of the supermarket check out queue because of the words emblazioned on their bag "degradable' plastic bag". To me this is such a slap in the face. Of course it is degradable, everything is degradable, some products just take millions of years!

I was interested to know exactly how long it would take one of these 'degradable plastic bags' to degrade. So after a little bit of internet research it seems that it doesn't take as long as I originally suspected, but the length of time and the likely end point (being the local landfill) still leave the opportunity for environmental damage and degradation to occur as a result of these bags.

One plastic bag manufacturer did overseas research to determine the length of time it would take one of these bags to degrade and in the right conditions and exposure to sunlight it would be about a year. They then extrapolated their research and determined that it would probably be 3-4 months with full exposure to Queensland sun for a plastic bag to degrade.

I think what is regarded as 'degraded' as they discuss on the plastic bags is that the end product is not going to significantly impact upon the environment and in the context of this product, its context within landfill and the possible exposure of animals to a product that could cause them harm.

Well, this to me is certainly interesting and an eye opener. I suspected that it would take at least 10 years for a product such as a plastic bag to become environmentally benign. Nevertheless, I will continue to try to avoid the acceptance of plastic bags in the shopping queue. My issue is (after this research) I don't currently have a replacement for the humble plastic bag to store my rubbish prior to its collation into my wheelie bin each week. This obviously means that I am still contributing to the plastic bag issue. Guess I now have to look into some of the more biodegradable products, maybe something like the cornstarch products are more appropriate. More research needed to reduce that footprint I guess. Pin It

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Environmentally aware

I think it is important not only to try and become environmentally responsible within your day to day activities, but also become aware of the environmental issues the rest of the world is facing. In light of this, I will be drawing your attention to some of the environmental issues that cross my radar and post information on this blog.

Earlier this month a bulk carrier (large boat) carrying coal grounded on a section of the Great Barrier Reef off the central Queensland coast. The relevant authorities are now looking into the incident to determine its cause as well as addressing the issue of an extremely large boat being stuck on a piece of coral reef! According to the latest press release the captain of the ship states there is no oil leak, although in the popular media news report I watched this evening they reported of oil slicks in the vicinity of the boat. (I don't personally trust much of what the media reports but contrasting information always makes life more difficult). Reading some of the other media statements however indicate there may have been some oil lost to the ocean but perhaps the latest is that there isn't oil leaking any more. Attempts will be made in the near future to refloat the boat, hopefully with little or no additional damage to the reef.

Such events vary from moderate to catastrophic impacts on these delicate environments and I find it difficult to understand when shipping goes wrong in these areas. People should be aware of the environmental sensitivity of areas within which they travel, including captains of extremely large ocean going vessels and they should take appropriate care and risk management approaches when in such areas. People's blazay nature astonishes me. Pin It

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Biodiversity debate - Australian Museum

I came across an advertisement on the Australian Museum's website for a Biodiversity Dinner debate. I am so intrigued by the topic they are going to be debating and wish I could go along. The topic is "If we humans disappeared overnight, the world would probably be better off." - David Attenborough.

It is being held in Sydney on the 14 May 2010. Unfortunately I live in a different state and I'm not sure I would fork out the entrance fee ($160), but I would love to go to hear the arguments and just be involved. I am hoping they are going to record it either via video or a podcast type arrangement so I can experience it without being there.

If anyone does end up going to this I would be excited to hear about it. Pin It

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Worm Farm constructed & in action

What to do on a long weekend? Implement something that you have thought about for a while....for me construct a worm farm. I had done the background research...I knew what I needed to do, the equipment required, the motivation to do it and finally a place to put the end product (the veggie patch).

I had purchased:

1 box of 500 worm farm worms
1 hessian bag

I had obtained from hand-me downs and things around the house:

3 styrofoam boxes
1 flyscreen
1 local newspaper
1 roll of plastic masking tape
some food scraps (fruit & veggie)
1 bucket of potting mix

With all the right ingredients I started work. I patched up the holes in one of the styrofoam boxes with the plastic masking tape. Hope this is enough to ensure that the worm juices don't get lost out of the bottom of the box. The other two boxes I lay a piece of flyscreen on the bottom keeping the holes exposed. The flyscreen ensures the worms don't fall through the bottom of the box but their fantastic worm juice can pass through to the collection box. I then placed damp shredded newspaper in the bottom of one of the boxes, added the potting mix, then the worms and finally some yummy worm food (ie the food scraps).

If you're wondering what the second box with flyscreen in the bottom is for. Well, it is a back up location for the worms. Once they have created enough poo and sludge in the bottom of their current abode I can place them into the second flyscreen lined box with some potting mix and damp newspaper again and then clean out their old digs.

Once the worm farm components were complete, I put the 'spare' house/styrofoam box on the bottom, the plastic taped box in the middle and then the worms' box on the top level of my styrofoam box stack. Over the top I placed a damp hessian bag ensuring the worms have a nice, dark, damp place to hang out in. All this now lives under a hedge in my front yard, near my veggie patch, close to the kitchen and in the shade.

Let's see how we go. Now get to work little munchie worms! Pin It

Tyre pressure & the environment

Did you know that having the right car tyre pressure can make your car more fuel efficient?

Therefore if you have the right tyre pressure you will be doing something 'good' for the environment in our 'car-dependent' society. Even if you aren't thinking about the environment it has got to make sense because it means that you will be buying less fuel and spending less money! Apparently it also extends the life of your tyres again leading to better environmental outcomes (less landfill with old tyres) and more money in the hip pocket.

The nitty-gritty:

  • apparently tyre pressure isn't standard and you will need to check your car's specifications....I think these are generally located on the frame of your door or the engine bay;
  • check them when they are cold or near cold;
  • check it regularly, as it changes over time (RACQ website suggests weekly).

I know this doesn't sound like doing something grand to save the environment, but I am currently looking for little things I can do to make my current footprint a little smaller and a little greener. Maybe once I have conquered these little things, bigger and better will be easy! Pin It

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Becoming green

I am overwhelmed with the ideas of becoming greener in my life. The thoughts flood in most of the day, am I using too much dishwashing power, is the powder I choose to purchase just a green branded product or is it really better for the environment than some of the leading brands that dominate the supermarket shelf, should I turn the light on, how long is too long to have the fridge door open, is my economical car truly the most economical and most efficient for the amount of money I can outlay, blah blah, blah, blah. The thoughts just keep coming.

Then when I get two minutes to myself of an evening (after the toddler is in bed) I don't seem to be motivated enough to research any of this stuff that takes up the back of my mind most of the day.

Maybe the day will come when I can provide some insight, but presently it takes all of my energy just to jot down what I am doing or trying to do. I'll get there, but will it be in time?

Look forward to hearing of other people's experiences and efforts. Pin It

Friday, April 2, 2010

My veggie patch

I love gardening, although I am fairly lazy! The idea of having my own veggie patch is something that I have desired for a long time. Last summer my partner and a mate were instructed to rip up the front lawn and construct me a veggie patch. After some long weekends, I ended up with a three bed veggie patch. It isn't in the best location regarding sunlight, particularly during the cooler months, but it is doing well.

Food fresh from your own veggie patch is satisfying on both a personal satisfaction level (producing your own products) and for its fantastic taste! Who could therefore complain about this relaxing past time.

Currently I have pumpkins, eggplants, carrots, capsicums, watermelon, cucumber, snow peas, cherry tomatoes and basil in my veggie patch.

I am really just fumbling through the learning process and think that I probably have my first bug issue - leaf suckers on my eggplants. But it has been an entertaining, relaxing, educating and productive exercise. Pin It


What is is and why is it important?

I know I have read a lot of short articles on the internet and in gardening magazines about compost. Prior to vegetable gardening I did have a compost bin, but what was I ever going to do with the small amount of compost I was creating, there certainly wasn't really any need to put the type and quantity of compost I was generating into my native garden. But now the vegetable garden is going I don't have enough my keep things going.

My compost bin is just a black plastic type bought from Bunnings. Basically just a tube with a lid. I put all my vegetable and fruit scraps (not citrus or onions....worms don't like these) from my kitchen into this. The one problem with only including these waste items from your kitchen I have found is the compost becomes too wet and a magnet for cockroaches! It is very important to put dry materials into your compost as well. The articles I have read recommend old leaves, etc from around your garden. Unfortunately I don't have a lot of trees that lose their leaves and the ones that do they just all go into the garden as mulch. So the substitute I have found is the weekly local newspaper that gets delivered in your mailbox. Just shred it and put it in. Also put paper towel every time I put something in from the kitchen. Another tip, turn the material in your compost over as often as you can. Weekly is probably best to ensure enough air is getting through the material and all the good bugs can access the new stuff you're pouring into the bin each time.

Still not generating enough compost in my garden...think this is due to heat availability. Another thing that I would change would be to buy a compost bin that had some sort of easy access type contraption at the bottom so I didn't have to basically disrupt the entire bin each time I needed to access the compost at the bottom.

Will keep learning though. Pin It

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Green cleaning

I am not much of a house cleaner, except for putting stuff away and the occasional dishwashing adventure, but I know that I do use some nasty chemicals around the house when it comes time to undertake some of the cleaning chores.

There are green products on the market, some of which I have bought but I don't know whether they are just greenwash or just a combined product of numerous things I might already have around the house or a combination of more expensive ingredients I could buy from the supermarket and produce my own 'green' cleaning products.

So what are some good, clean, cheap alternatives to the commonly used nasty cleaning products around the house? Isn't vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda or bicarb some of the ingredients you can use? I think this is something I need to look into. Pin It