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:

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. 

Pin It

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pro Choice Petition - Queensland

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....
  • 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.

    Pin It

    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: 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