Friday, December 30, 2011

Resilience

Oh my goodness, I just came across an article on Tree Hugger about resilience and I love it. It is just what I was trying to discuss with my mother (in a round-about type of way) this morning.

Basically the article states that the environment is "up shit creek" and there is little we can do to change this path. However, if we build a future that is resilient, there might be hope for the survival of the human species.

My favourite quote from the article, although a little twisted, is "Environmentalism hasn't failed. It just didn't win yet. But blaming environmentalists for not turning things around is a little like bashing the foster parent for not eradicating child abuse".

The article is fabulous. Have a look at this resilience article by Sami Grover  at http://www.treehugger.com/culture/save-us-ourselves-resilience-key-making-sustainability-mainstream.html.

I think 'resilience' is going to be the new buzz word and hopefully will be adopted into the mainstream as  'sustainability' has over the last decade. Pin It

Gardening Gloves

I have tried out a number of types of gardening gloves since I have become passionate about gardening.  My latest acquisition has been a pair of gardening gloves with a rubberised palm and a knitted back of the hand and fingers section (like the ones in the picture).

(Source: Glory's Garden)

I have been using these for about four months now and have found them fantastic for general weeding and digging around the garden. I particularly love them when I am weeding either early in the morning when there is a bit of dew around or after a sprinkling of rain. These gloves allow you to get out into the garden at these opportune times without getting your hands wet and muddy (as often happens to me with many of the gloves I have previously owned).

Also these gloves are pretty good at resisting prickles, but I wouldn't try and pick up a thorny rose branch without still having a little caution about the thorns. And the stretchy fabric on the back means your hands don't get too hot and sweaty even when working in the heat of the day (although I try to avoid this time of day at the moment).

Bring on the fine weather for more special gardening moments and achievements!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Eco-Pirate: Story of Paul Watson


ABC2 showed Eco-Pirate: the Story of Paul Watson the other night. Certainly an interesting insight into the life and evolution of Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The one thing that particularly struck me was Paul's direct manner in framing his activities that will get most attention by the mainstream media. It makes sense once you think about it, but it almost makes it seem a little manipulative. But hey, that is the world we live in and the Society's actions certainly grab attention and therefore make a difference. 

I read one of Paul Watson's books about eight years ago and I certainly found his methods of activism different and confronting. Paul and the Sea Shepherd Society don't sit back when it comes to the protection of marine wildlife. They are active and sometimes aggressive in their tactics. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society boasts that they have sunk or "retired" a number of whaling boats and have stopped the killing of seal pups in Canada. Paul Watson certainly believes that aggressive tactics are sometimes necessary, given that the activities of many of these commercial operators are very aggressive. Paul also believes the "Greenpeace model" of "bearing witness" to such activities doesn't achieve anything.  

Paul and his organisation are currently very active in the Southern Ocean, where Japan currently undertakes "scientific" whaling. This area in which the Japanese are whaling is recognised by a number of signatory countries as the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, yet this declaration is not recognised by Japan. Thereby, allowing this whaling to continue without signatory countries' action. Furthermore, the Japanese "scientific" whaling is being conducted with "permission" from the International Whaling Commission. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is currently attempting to stop this whaling, with a crew currently in the Southern Ocean on the Steve Irwin

If you get a chance to either see the Eco-Pirate or read one of Paul Watson's books it is a great opportunity to see how some people are making a difference and truly standing up for the wildlife for no other reason that these creatures should be allowed to live on this planet too!


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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy holidays

Wherever you are on the planet, I wish you and your family and friends a safe and happy holiday period! May 2012 bring you peace, love, inspiration and some environmental splendour!

Best wishes,
Green Dreaming Pin It

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ian Lowe's sustainable future

"A sustainable future will involve using resources more efficiently, maintaining natural systems, developing social cohesion, nurturing our cultural traditions and finding durable economic activities".

This a quote from Ian Lowe's Quarterly Essay called Reaction Time: Climate Change and the Nuclear Option. Issue 27, 2007. Pin It

BrisScience now online



What a Christmas present! You can now watch past presentations organised by BrisScience online. These are available at: http://vimeo.com/channels/brisscience. Five presentations from 2011 are now available on this website, with more to come.

Science in your lounge room. How can it get any better? Pin It

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Seed saving....chillies



I acquired a large number of what I know as birds-eye chillies from a friend the other day. As the family aren't huge "hot" food fans, I decided I would see whether I could salvage (or save) the seed from the fresh chillies with the objective of putting them into the ground and growing my own chilli plant.

My initial thoughts were to just chuck the chilli 'pods' (fruits) on to the ground at the location I want these plants to grow. I then decided perhaps I could give them a little more help than the complete lazy gardener. So after a little google investigation, I ended up cutting open the most ripe chillies and scraped out their seed on to some paper towel. I will now leave these seeds to dry for a week or two and then collect and store them in an envelope until I am ready to "plant" them out.



A gardener blog I just came across explains how they went about saving their chilli seed and it has some pretty pics as well. Have a look at the Suburban Tomato's blog post about their process.

What I will do with the chillies if I am successful in growing any chilli plants is another matter, but maybe the family taste buds will have evolved! Fingers crossed. Pin It

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Do you read books?

If you're still in the paper realm of books (which I love) a library is a great source of reading material and overall reduces your environmental footprint!

How you might ask? Well, instead of producing book material only for your personal pleasure, which once you've read it often ends up on your bookshelf, libraries allow many readers to access the same material, thereby reducing the number of times the book or reading material needs to be printed and in turn reducing the amount of raw materials required!

Other ways to improve your environmental footprint whilst still enjoying printed books:

  • purchase books/reading material for your collection but share them with friends;
  • if have books that you don't want anymore, hand on to friends, give to charity bins, hold a book swap, freecycle;
  • buy second hand books, particularly from charity organisations;
  • catch a bus to the library; or
  • car pool to library.
If you're worried that you're local library doesn't have the specific book or type of books that you like, quite often libraries can buy books that you like (if they deem them likely to be attractive to a wider audience) or alternatively they may have an inter-library loan service (this may attract a small fee depending on the location of the material you require). Pin It

Saturday, December 17, 2011

2011...what has been achieved by GetUp! and its members

If you'd like to see what the GetUp! campaigns and the members of this movement have achieved in 2011, have a look at the following short video.

Get Up 2011 summary video

I love this movement, their campaigns and their drive to re-claim the Australian political process!

Bring on the campaigns and success stories in 2012. Pin It

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advertising gone crazy

I heard the funniest McDonalds advertisement the other day. The ad was for one of their new cold drink products, something along the lines of a fruit smoothie. The bit that I found funny was their catch cry which was "and it has real ingredients".

Wow, not real ingredients! I mean how foolish do corporations think we are? I believe the ad prior to this statement had been talking about the fruitiness of the drink and I guess the idea behind the statement and its placement was to confuse the viewer into thinking that real ingredients were somehow indicating that there is real fruit in the drink.

Certainly gave me a chuckle and have a "what the?" moment. Pin It

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Free Mulch

I have just come across Mulch Net.com. This is advertised as connecting tree loppers and vegetation management people with people that want mulch.

I have registered in the hope that I will get some mulch for a revegetation project that I am hoping to commence on my property in the cooler months, but it seems that there aren't any loppers currently registered in my area.

Nevertheless, I think this is a fabulous resource and a great way to connect people and ensure that resources aren't going to go to waste (hee hee hee).

Maybe it might work for you in your area.


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WWF Earth Hour Awards 2012 now open

The WWF Earth Hour Awards nominations and applications call out is now open. The idea is to nominate grassroots activities that are going "beyond the hour" for the planet. Further details can be found at http://www.wwf.org.au/earthhour/wwf_earthhour_awards/?utm_source=Email&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Futuremakers.

Award categories are:

  • Education Award
  • Young Panda Award
  • Sustainable Small Business Award
  • EcoBlogger Award
  • Creative Arts Award
  • Futuremakers Award

Go ahead and nominate someone that you think is making a difference. Pin It

Growing Change

I have just found an interesting documentary trailer showcasing the Venezuelan food production revolution. The trailer can be viewed at www.growingchange.com.au. You can buy the full documentary for $15 and organise showings, if you like the principles expressed in the documentary or have a group that would be interested. 


I believe the principles behind what is being done in Venezuela is what many people believe should be happening around the world. That is, removing the dominance of multinational companies from our food chain and providing a food production system which is fair and appropriate to the people producing the food and those buying the food. 


Another interesting article of linked relevance can be found at: http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6060. This article shows how how food production and importation can be affected by government policy and how innovative government policy can provide protection for local industry whilst still providing its people with the relevant and "required" resources. 



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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Greenwash article....big brands "using" the environment

I just read an interesting marketing article defending "greenwash". Have a look and see what you think. See whether you think we should be offended by the idea of big brands using the environment to encourage you to buy their products or not.


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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Another useful blog...development watch

I came across an interesting blog today which is providing residents of the Redland Shire Council area (in Brisbane city, Queensland) information on development occurring within their shire and giving them a useful and easy reference point to link in with the development process. The blog is called "Development Watch - Redlands" and is located at: http://devwatchredlands.wordpress.com/.

I think this is a fantastic idea, allowing the average Jo to access relevant information about developments in their area and also provides useful links to things that can affect or impact development and development applications in their early planning and approval stages.

My philosophy has always been to get connected and make a difference in this process. This is certainly a useful tool that could be applied anywhere. Maybe you might be interested in creating something like this for your local area. Pin It

Friday, December 2, 2011

Worm farm maintenance

As the warmer weather is upon us, my worm farm seems to need some tender loving care. I currently have two "stacked" active worm digesting layers, with the worm juice collecting tray below these.

The "first" worm containing layer (the bottom of the two) has mostly worm castings, but I still seem to have quite a few worms wiggling about and I am hesitant to start harvesting the castings for fear of losing some of my precious worm population into the garden, where they currently won't be much use to me. And I am certainly not desperate for this enriched soil in my garden at present (despite my previous post about poor soils).

The "second" worm containing layer is still to build up in significant worm numbers, but nonetheless is churning along. However, it appears I have an extra (unwelcome) visitor in this layer, which appears to me to look something like maggots. After some research, it turns out that these white pupae looking things are in fact entrachyadids. They aren't harmful to my worms or my worm farming, but they do indicate that my worm farm's conditions may be a little acidic at present.

Another thing I have noticed recently is a trail of small brown ants entering over the lip of the "first" worm containing layer. I figure these little creatures certainly have the potential to prey on my worms and so they have to go.

So, what am I planning in the way of maintenance. Firstly, I am going to add a handful of lime to my worm farm once a week in order to neutralise the acidic conditions. Secondly, I am going to add some small "trays" (bought some small terracotta pot trays) under the legs of my worm farm and place a small amount of water in them to discourage the ants. Thirdly, I will move the worm farm a little to try and trick the ants (whoops I lost a worm farm). And lastly, I have read that placing a piece of wet white bread in the middle of the layer will act as an attractant to the entrachyadids, which then allows you to easily remove them. So this will be done in due course.

Will keep you posted to see whether any of my tricks work.



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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Transition Town documentary - SBS

Friday night (7:30pm) on SBS, "Town with Nicholas Crane" visits Totnes in the United Kingdom. This is a community which has significantly adapted their town to follow "environmentally sustainable" principles that are sometimes grouped under the banner of "Transition Towns".

What is a Transition Town?

Basically, a community group or town determines they will work together to build resilience in their economy and general community in light of the peak oil, climate change, reduced happiness and economic instability.

A lot of it relates to people re-connecting with other members and skills within their community, bringing their economy back to the local or regional scale (by supporting businesses within this geographic area) and attempting to reduce their reliance on oil. Some websites also link this concept in with permaculture.

Anyway, back to the subject of the documentary. Totnes has undertakes numerous activities under the banner of Transition Towns, including co-housing, cycling, eco-construction, gardening, skill shares, seed saving and a solar thermal challenge just to name a few. It also has its own Transition Town website, which can be found at: http://www.transitiontowntotnes.org/.

Further information on Transition Towns generally can be found at: http://www.transitionnetwork.org/. This webpage also includes useful resources for people and communities starting out!


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Monday, November 28, 2011

Skeletal Australian soils: fertility & moisture


Australia has what are described as very old soils, with little fertility being added to them in any recent history. I am discovering the extremity of this at present with my new garden and the biggest challenge I am facing is keeping the moisture in. Without this essential ingredient I can't plant or plan any new plantings, as there won't be enough water to allow the plants to grow and take up the necessary nutrients that might be lurking in the soil.

I have planted one hybrid, showy eucalypt at the front gate and have found this plant is almost daily suffering from water stress despite now having been in the ground for nearly five weeks. The main stem isn't coping without support, the leaves have once started to die off and approximately three-quarters of the flower buds that I bought it with are starting to shrivel and die. Boo hoo hoo!

I have never had to deal with such poor soils. And it seems not only is it likely that my soils are particularly clayey but also they are extremely thin. In the future I will have to ensure that all dirt is mulched thoroughly to ensure they don't wash down the hill to the neighbour's yard and just leave me with rock, only open dirt up when I intend to plant things and ensure plants are well watered for a longer period than I am use to (potentially an irrigation system will need to be constructed to cope with water demands). And given that we are on rain water only this is a little daunting.

In regards to nutrients, I fear that my soils are particularly lacking and I will have to invest in some supplements. For the short term, a healthy dose of native plant fertiliser when establishing plants may do the trick, but I will have to look into a long-term solution. I also have to figure out if the soils you can build for things such as veggie patches are useful or toxic to native plants (which is what I plan on planting mostly).

So many more questions raised and certainly not enough answered! But the journey continues


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Friday, November 25, 2011

Guide to ethical supermarket shopping

I picked up this guide today from a local shop for $6. It is devised by the Ethical Consumer Group Inc (www.ethical.org.au). They advertise the guide as a way to have an impact "with every dollar you spend".

The guide is larger than you are probably likely to carry around if you're just going to be popping into your store to get a litre of milk, but if you're doing your regular shopping and you're carrying a handbag it certainly wouldn't be a struggle to fit it in. You could then use it as a easy reference guide to compare products and make some informed choices whilst in the store. I think they also have a iPhone App.

All products listed in the guide have their production location listed (ie Australia or overseas), as well as providing a rating of the product based on things such as "areas of environmental and social impact, treatment of animals and accountable business practice." The guide also lists all the products in relevant categories, provides their names and their parent company's name.

I'll let you know if I find it useful once I try it out whilst shopping. Pin It

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Energy Conservation Communities

Energex and the Queensland government have a new strategy to reduce peak energy usage by the general residential community. The initiative is known by the name "Energy Conservation Communities". The concept behind it is to encourage heavy electricity usage to utilise their appliances in the non-peak times (outside 4pm to 8pm) or utilise the appliances in a manner that reduces the demand on the electricity grid during peak times.

The appliances this program are targeting are:

  • swimming pool pumps;
  • hot water systems; and
  • air-conditioners.

The Energy Conservation Communities website has additional information about the incentives and packages that you may be eligible for. Incentives include $600 in rewards relating to the management of your appliances aimed at reducing the energy usage during peak periods.

Have a look and see what benefits you might receive. Alternatively, do as I have done and register your interest in future programs that may be rolled out. Pin It

Monday, November 21, 2011

Do you know where your food comes from?

I have been reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Wow, what a wake up call! This book has definitely opened my eyes to many issues within the current industrialised food system that I was not aware of.

The book is written based on the current American food system and I wonder how transferable the examples are to Australia, but definitely food for thought and still worth the read. It seems that much of the American food system is based on cheap corn, for example, and I don't know how much corn we produce here in Australia and whether it is as heavily subsidised as in America. Certainly products and ingredients that come from America and sold here in Australia will reflect the systems described in the book, but I don't know about our meat production and how heavily it relies on corn on its "raw" material or alternatively whether there is some other "raw" material (perhaps wheat) here in Australia that is just as heavily relied upon and subsidised as corn is described in the book.

One part of the book that left me gob-smacked, was Michael description of "organic beef". Due to marketing and my own pre-conceived ideas, my understanding was organic beef came from cattle roaming freely on green grassy pastures and spending an idyllic life as a cow should, until slaughtered and ending up on my plate, but Michael describes in the book that there is some organic beef (in America) that is now is produced in exactly the same way as traditional meat, being initially grass fed and then off to feedlot. The only difference being that the organic meat gets fed organic corn based food within the same feedlot situation and the cattle is not fed "enhanced" food that has antibiotics. The later, in fact, potentially results in less healthy animals, because of the likelihood of disease that results from being within a feedlot situation and being given food that isn't necessarily great for them. This completely did my head in! Have to check out how my local organic meat is produced now!

If you're not into reading, you catch watch the Food Inc dvd, it covers the topics described in Michael Pollan's book and shows Joel Salatin's farm, as an example of a non-industrialised food system working in America. 

Great read and fascinating watch! A definite read to peel back the layers of anonymity in our food systems.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Don't turn on the fan!

Now that it is warming up, our fans around the house have been regularly on attempting to cool us and the house. I heard something on a Doctor Karl Kruszelnicki podcast the other day that I thought was a useful tip to share with you all in relation to fans.

Basically, don't turn the fan on unless you're in the room. According to Dr Karl the fan doesn't cool the room whilst you're not in it. The function of the fan is to circulate the air across your skin, which in a hot environment where you have sweat or moisture on your skin, the breeze from the fan then cools you directly, thereby replicating the natural body cooling process (wind and sweat). 

So as an environmental measure, don't turn a fan on, unless you're in the room. This will mean that you will be cool and overall reduce your energy consumption and your electricity bill by not using an appliance in an inefficient and ineffective manner! 
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Keelbacks and cane toads

I have had a number of keelback snakes in my garden over the last few weeks as spring has warmed up. They are certainly on the move around my place!

(Source: snakecatcher.com)

Since identifying these snakes at my place as keelbacks (Tropidonopgis mairii), I have been interested to learn that this Australian, native snake species is in fact capable of eating cane toads, despite the toad's known toxicity to many Australian species. I believe this species' capacity to ingest cane toads is probably the reason they are calling my garden home! I certainly have a prevalence of cane toads.

According to a paper published by researchers from James Cook University, the keelbacks ability to tolerate moderate levels of the cane toad's toxin is a result of genetic history rather than a behavioural or physiological adaptation to cane toads since their arrival in Australia (Source). And it is likely still that keelbacks can be affected or overcome (die) as a result of ingesting too much toxin, potentially as a result of a particularly large, tasty cane toad. A case of eyes too big for their stomach, but with more fatal consequences.

If you're interested to know more about the keelback, DERM's website, as well as the Queensland Musuem's, provide some more overview information and interesting facts about this northern Australian snake species.


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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Clean energy future?

The Australian Senate yesterday passed the package of Clean Energy legislation to allow Australia move into a new phase of its history! This legislation is aimed at driving the production of non-renewable energy down and increase the amount of renewables or clean energy available to Australia in the future. The legislation will also attempt to cut emissions that Australia would have otherwise generated by 2020. And the biggest and most publicised component, is that there will be a price on carbon from the 1 July 2012. This will commence at $23 a tonne for the top 500 polluters in Australia.

I was recently interested to know that Brisbane City Council is one of these top 500, but from the information that I recently heard from their Mayor, they are well on their way to looking at alternative sources of energy and ways to improve their activities and how to reduce their "bill" as you might say.

What an environmental step forward our country made yesterday and I am pleased that the government stood up to big business. Pin It

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Do you want to breathe easy?

Well the simple answer! To improve your indoor air quality all you need to do is open the windows! Fresh air circulated through the house flushes out the toxins that accumulate from building materials and furnishings that are consistently locked up in your house and "off-gassing" into the confined building envelope.

Circulating fresh air through your home will improve your mood and your health! Amazing and so simple! Pin It

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Do you deserve a green star?

A number of projects, particularly commercial construction, have been rated in Australia, using a 'green star' rating system. This sounds good when someone tells you their project has rated six green stars, but what does it really mean?

The Green Star system is a system developed by the Green Building Council of Australia. It aims to rate environmental design and construction of buildings in Australia and is done in a voluntary, national and "comprehensive" manner. Within the Green Star rating tool there are nine categories. These are:

  • management
  • indoor environment quality
  • energy
  • transport
  • water
  • materials
  • land use and ecology
  • emissions
  • innovations
Each of these categories are then divided into credits and a project assessed against the objectives of the categories and awarded credits within each category. These credits are then assessed as a percentage score, with a Green Star weighting factor then applied to then determine the building's overall rating, being four, five or six Green Stars. Six Green Stars indicates that the building project is considered as demonstrating 'world leadership' in environmentally sustainable design and/or construction.

Further information about the Green Star rating system is available on the Green Building Council's website.

How useful this is is potentially questionable, but at least there are some questions being raised about the efficiencies that can be undertaken both during design and construction within a commercial building development and hopefully this then transfers through to the building occupants and they continue to "capitalise" on the green savings the building can generate for them! Pin It

Monday, October 31, 2011

Vegetation management

Here in Queensland there are numerous layers of legislation that affect what you can and can't do with vegetation on your property. This is particularly relevant for people with native vegetation (that hasn't been planted) or a large amount of land.

The Federal or Commonwealth government regulates vegetation through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. On the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website there is a search tool called the "protected matters search tool". This allows you to determine what protected ecosystems or vegetation communities do or might occur on your property. If you are going to have a significant impact on the vegetation community on your property, through its removal or by a particular activity, you need to "refer" your activity to this department for their consideration and potential conditioning or control of your activity.

The State government, in this instance Queensland, has several pieces of legislation protecting vegetation that occurs naturally on your block of land. This includes:

  • Vegetation Management Act 1999
  • Coastal Protection and Management Act 1995
  • Fisheries Act 1994
  • Water Act 2000
  • Nature Conservation Act 1992
  • Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002 
  • Wild Rivers Act 2005
  • Wet Tropics World Heritage Protection and Management Act 1993

Each of these pieces of State legislation are either managed by the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) or the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. Their websites have useful information about permits, approvals and exemptions which are relevant to all of these pieces of legislation. And in the case of DERM you can seek mapping from their website for regulated vegetation (remnant and regulated regrowth) on your property.


Your relevant local Council may also have information within their planning schemes outlining areas of vegetation protection, as well as local laws either protecting significant individual trees or all native vegetation. Information on these matters are best sought directly from your Council, as these vary widely across the State. Pin It

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Greywater...what is it & where can you use it?

Greywater is an overarching term that describes water directed from your bathroom basins, laundry (both washing machine and basins), showers and baths. It is not from toilets and kitchen sinks.

Greywater has traditionally in Australia directed straight into the water treatment process (sewage system) and not utilised within the home.  However, now that Australia has been and in some parts still going through a drought, there is obviously a consciousness about water and how we could be re-using it for a variety of purposes.

Greywater diversion is the easiest and most convenient way to re-capture some of the water in our households. The best re-use of greywater is to divert the water from the sewerage system and utilise it for watering plants or lawn around your garden. Some people even use it for washing their car, other vehicles or even their house. This in turn, reduces your requirement to use potable (or drinking) water on your garden, leading to more efficient use of potable water. And it will also result in a cost saving for you, as you won't need the water from the water mains that you use to use on your garden and you therefore won't be charged for this water.

It is important to note, that diverting greywater for immediate re-use is considered non-treated greywater. There are systems which you can install into your house for greywater treatment, which allow you to store treated greywater water and utilise for a broad range of applications. As an example, treated greywater can be used for toilet flushing and washing your clothes (ie in the laundry). It important to note, if you don't have a treatment system for your greywater, you should not store it, as it will quickly turn septic.

Simple measures to divert your greywater for uses around your house, such as on your garden, include:

  • collecting it with a bucket, for example, when you're showering; or
  • connecting a flexible hose to your washing machine outlet pipe.
One important thing is to ensure that whatever you put into any of these input areas (eg laundry, bathroom) is appropriate to go onto your garden. Attempt to utilise products that have low nitrogen and phosphorous and salt levels. Inputs with either high levels of these or accumulation due to "over-use", can lead to issues in your garden, particularly if you have native plants.

So, let's all give it a go.

My initial problem, is that I will need to invest in a very long hose to be able to utilise my washing machine's water in my garden. But it will save me using my precious captured rainwater (see previous post) for garden purposes.

If you would like some more basic information on dos and don'ts of greywater and how to use it in your home, have a look at the Department of Environment and Resource Management's information page.




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Friday, October 28, 2011

Tomato....aaarrgghhh!

In my transition between houses, I have been growing six tomato plants in a styrofoam box. I decided to grow them in this type of "bed" so that I could transporting them between houses, because I knew they wouldn't be ready to harvest before we left the last place. 

It was really just an experiment to see whether I could grow normal sized tomatoes, as I have never had any success. Always insect-bitten by the time the tomatoes were ripe. :( In this experiment I decided to attempt some heirloom varieties, which I just bought as seedlings at Bunnings. All has gone fairly well with the plants coping well in the positions that I have had them in and they have even managed to stay upright, with the assistance of some stakes and eventually flowered and fruited! Woo hoo. 

I have been watching the fruit for what has seemed like an eternity. They have been growing and growing and then stabilising in size but not changing colour. Green, green and more green. No orange glow, not a hint until last week. Yipppeee! 

I then had to go away at the beginning of the week with my partner charged with watering. (Not that I think this happened). As I drove out of the drive-way, my thoughts immediately jumped to my nearly ripe largest tomato and dread crossed my mind with the thought that it would be rotten on the vine by the time I returned home. 



Long story short. Tomato gone!  That's right, gone! 

Quizzed my partner. Didn't realise it wasn't there. All that was left was a small amount of flesh and the attachment point to the plant. Aaarrrrhhhh! I just hope whatever creature ended up consuming my tomato was well-satisfied with my excellent heirloom tomato. 

Oh well, better luck next year! Hopefully by then I will be able to plant so many tomato plants that there will be enough produce for both me and the creatures of my garden. 
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

1200 Building Initiative

The 1200 Buildings program is a building retrofit program in the City of Melbourne. It was generated out of a council idea to support commercial building owners to retrofit their buildings with measures that will increase a building's water and energy efficiency and reduce waste. It is also supports the Council's goal  for the entire Council area to become "carbon neutral by 2020". What an idea, particularly since the City of Melbourne doesn't own and cannot dictate these changes to these privately owned buildings. In reality, this goal will only be achieved through support, education and changes made by building owners.

How to achieve this? My goodness I can't even imagine. However, Melbourne city has come up with some very exciting ideas to achieve this, which include some new financial lending models. One of the imaginative models means that finance institutions can forward funding to commercial building owners for activities to achieve the goals set by the Melbourne City Council and then these funds are re-couped to the bank by having a charge in your Council rates to fund these "loans".

I don't know the precise details of how this finance model works, but it certainly seems like an innovative one and one that will break some of the dis-incentives for owners of properties, to undertake sustainability measures, when these buildings are rented out, and it is the tenant that in fact receives the cost-breaks through energy and water cost savings!

If you want to know more about the program have a look at the 1200 Buildings website.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reclaim your rights!

In a previous post, "Don't sit back", I discuss the requirement about the requirement for people to participate in public comment periods and become involved in shaping their communities. I just attended a conference which not only confirmed this thought pattern but took it one step further and discussed the requirement that people within the community need to start to participate as citizens.

What does this mean? Surely, by just occupying space within a community you are considered a citizen. I'm afraid not. We need people to start to participate in the political process to re-engage the politicians with their constituents and actually act on their (our) behalf rather than the large corporations that are currently hijacking the political process and our rights.

Stand up and be counted!

What can you do?

  • Contact your local political representative, at all levels of government (local, state and federal), and discuss your interests and express that as your elected representative (no matter what their party lines are) they should be representing you and your community! Bring your ideals, values and beliefs to the front and allow them to be counted and considered.  
  • Another thing to do is join up with some of the internet groups that represent your values (perhaps groups like GetUp, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Avaaz, etc) and sign their petitions. Politicians are beginning to take notice of these group actions and make decisions based on these groups'/peoples' interests. 
  • Engage with people in your community and make them aware of your concerns/beliefs. Your beliefs may seem a little different to many that you share them with, but eventually you will link up with like-minded people and all these individual voices together will add up and be heard. 
  • Stand up for your convictions. Don't be scared to rebut other people's opinions and create useful debate. With such dialogue, learnings can be made and challenges can be explored.  
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Story of Stuff

I just went to a lecture by Annie Leonard, author of the "Story of Stuff". What an amazing and awesome public speaker with a strong message as well. The Story of Stuff is a short animation that examines how things are produced and our patterns of consumption.

Have a look at their website: http://www.storyofstuff.com/ and if you have 20 mins have a look at the actual animation explaining where things come from.

Very inspiring and brings some reality to our western consumptive and obsessive behaviour! Pin It

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wisteria...a nightmare!

At our new home we have a wisteria vine that has been planted to block out the view of the rainwater tanks. I have never really come across this vine and at the time we bought and moved into the house it was in winter "hibernation". 

Since then, entering into the spring time, the wisteria has gone crazy. It has not only recovered its leaves on the "main bush", but sent out new trailing arms. These are attempting to latch on to nearby trees and vegetation. It has also got little "plants" coming up from the area surrounding the main plant and unlike normal new growth of many plants this new growth has established woody stems. This makes it almost impossible to pull them out by hand and a real likelihood of re-occurrence if you just chop off the top.

Having looked on the net to see what I can do to control this nuisance plant, it seems they are quite hardy and treatment (for removal) really means use of a chemical treatment (which I am trying to avoid). Trimming and significant pruning is apparently essential to maintain your plant within the confines of the location you plant it and complete removal can be tricky.

Looks like this plant will bring a significant burden to the garden, in terms of maintenance and the likelihood of me ever being free of this plant without chemical input seems unlikely. First step, hit the plant with a massive prune! Now, just have to wait for the rain to stop!


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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nature refuges - Queensland, Australia

Here in Queensland a solution to the limited funding available to government for conservation has been the establishment of the nature refuge program. This recognises the important environmental values that private lands hold and reduces the necessity for the State to own and manage these properties.

The Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) is the agency that administers this program and has useful and interesting information about this program available on their website.

The overall concept relies on a voluntary agreement between the landholder and the State government that "acknowledges a commitment to manage and preserve land with significant conservation values while allowing compatible and sustainable land uses to continue". This arrangement is recognised on the title of the land and is carried across to new owners if the land changes ownership, thereby protecting the environmental values and management ethos in perpetuity.

According to the DERM website, there is assistance to the landholder for management activities through the NatureAssist program. This program currently attracts some funding through the Blueprint for the Bush Initiative and is given out through "rounds" where property owners have expressed an interest in receiving funding for specified projects. How much money from these program actually travels through to the landholders I am not sure, although some of the projects that have seemingly attracted funding include:

  • control of stock; 
  • establishment of of-stream watering points;
  • identification and management of cultural heritage;
  • fencing;
  • revegetation or regeneration techniques aimed at improving water quality;
  • ecological surveys aimed at guiding management requirements;
  • weed control;
  • development of sustainable management plans; and
  • improvements to agricultural practices that will result in the improvement of conservation values on the property. 



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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Organic weed control

When you next come across a patch of nasty weeds in your garden, instead of reaching for the nasty chemicals, organic controls or your hand tools, maybe you could try good ol' boiling water. Yep, that's right! Boiling water works a treat on weeds, but be careful not to get it on vegetation that you want to keep, as it is likely to kill that as well. Basically, it just cooks the weed in the ground.


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Water conservation tip...recycling

Some of you may have heard that rinsing your recyclable containers is a nice thing to do. This means that the containers that you recycle are therefore not so stinky and gross when they go to being sorted.

Instead of wasting clean, drinking water to rinse these out, collect up your containers that require rinsing each day and use the end of your washing up water to rinse them out.


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Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Happy" World Food Day

The 16th October 2011 is World Food Day (celebrated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations).  This year's theme being "Food Prices - from crisis to stability". This theme reflects the precarious nature of food availability and how fluctuations in the price can significantly people in third world countries.

The objectives of this day are to:

  • encourage attention to agricultural food production and to simulate national, bilateral, multilaterial and non-governmental efforts to this end; 
  • encourage economic and technical cooperation among developing countries;
  • encourage the participation of rural people, particularly women and the least privileged categories, in decisions and activities influencing their living conditions;
  • heighten public awareness of the problem of hunger in the world; 
  • promote the transfer of technologies to the developing world; and
  • strength international and national solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty and draw attention to achievements in food and agricultural development.


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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

The idea behind Occupy Wall Street is to bring the 99% of the population together to protest against greed and consumption of the wealthiest people in the US (those that make up only 1% of the population). There are also going to be supportive protests here in Australia: Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane today. 

Some people are questioning whether it is relevant here because the American/Canadian movement commenced out of the impacts they felt as a result of the Global Financial Crisis. I personally think it is still relevant here in Australia, as most people here would probably be interested in supporting their fellow global citizens and also saying 'no' to the way the world seems to progressing. That is, the dominance of corporations and wealthy people and their influence over government process. 

I think there is definitely a ground-swell or movement where people are expressing that they are sick of this influence and would like the government once again to be an elected representative of the people rather than large corporations, wealthy people or their political party. 

I think this is a great conversation starter and allows you to introduce new ideas to people and also meet people of like-minded experience.

A "blog" that expresses the opinions and views of some of the 99% (American focus) can be found at: http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/. Maybe you could subscribe and add your story. Cool community spirit!

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Australian Carbon Tax legislation

Yesterday afternoon the Australian Federal government's lower house passed the carbon tax legislation. What a milestone! The vote was 74 to 72, with a number of independent and green members of parliament supporting the labour government to get the bill passed.

The legislation now goes on to the Senate. It is expected to pass through the upper house with little controversy, given the Green party holds the balance of power and they support the legislation.

What a historic day!


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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Grounded Rena off coast of New Zealand

On the 5th of October, a large (236m) cargo ship called the Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe reef, near the township of Tauranga. Tauranga is located on the "northern" coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The captain and the second officer of the vessel have now both been charged under New Zealand maritime transportation legislation for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk.

From what I can ascertain there is certainly some level of oil pollution into the ocean and surrounding shore area and some impacts on the local wildlife, particularly marine bird life. Also as a result of the accident, approximately 70 containers from the ship have fallen into the water and from the photos of the ship at this moment, there is likely to be a lot more in the near future. Some of these containers apparently carry chemicals and potential pollutants.

Maritime New Zealand has ongoing updates about the progress of the "clean-up", the salvage and the consequences for those involved on their website.


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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Radiative forcing

I am reading a paper on links between native forest and climate in Australia and the first sentence states "There is very high confidence that the global average net impact of anthropogenic activities since the 1750s has contributed to an average radiative forcing of +0.6 to +2.4 Wm-2." I obviously understood the beginning of the sentence, but really had no idea about the end, particularly the concept of radiative forcing.

After a quick review of wikipedia I now understand radiative forcing as the net difference between incoming and outgoing radiation energy across sections of our atmosphere (particularly the troposphere and stratosphere) and measured in watts per square metre. The wiki page then goes on to explain that if the radiative forcing is positive, it means that the climate will warm.

Today has not been wasted. Pin It

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Things in the garden



I came across this "bug" when we first moved into our new home. I had no idea what it was, but it was quite large, approximately 3-4cms in length and distinctively white and furry with an orange "body".

A fabulous website for identification of creepy crawlers in south-east Queensland, is the Brisbane Insects website. From this website I managed to identify my critter as a Large Mealybug and likely to be a lady (due to her size and lack of wings). It also describes them as sap suckers, similar to aphids.

Fascinating! Next time you're in the garden see what insects you have in your garden and maybe you can identify some of them and what role they play. Pin It

Pineapple update


In early June I wrote about my quest to grow my own pineapple from a top of a pineapple I purchased on the side of the road. 

At the time of the post, I hadn't planted the pineapple top yet, but was letting it cure, as recommended by Gardening Australia. After the week of rest I planted the pineapple top into a styrofoam box (for ease of transportation) with some potting mix and sugar cane mulch and maintained as with any new seedling/plant, with a nearly daily watering regime. The tips of the leaves did brown off during the early stages, which concerned me a little and just prior to our move I thought it was going to give up. But I am pleased to announce there is new life in my pineapple top, in the form of new central sprouts since arriving at our new place. 


Now I just have to continue my maintenance program, worm wee every now and watering every few days and maybe in a couple of years I can tell you how succulent my pineapple is. Here's hoping! Pin It

Saturday, October 8, 2011

7 billion people

The planet Earth will be home to 7 billion people at the end of this month, according to UN projections. What an amazing and overwhelming number!

There are so many implications for the planet as we approach this number, including social, economic and environmental impacts associated with having a population of this magnitude.

The article that inspired me to write this post is available in Nature Climate Change and discusses the consequences of the locality of this population and the projected impacts of climate change. As you're aware, people are not equally spread across the globe and neither will the consequences of climate change and this article explores some of the research that will analysis such information. You can view the article I reference in this post at http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v1/n7/full/nclimate1235.html?WT.ec_id=NCLIMATE-201110.

I have many personal opinions on the planet supporting this number of people. Whether my opinions are factual or not I have yet to determine, but thought it important to share this amazing and important demographic fact with you all.




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Friday, October 7, 2011

Want to know the truth?

As Doctor Karl Kruszelnicki says the Internet is "...as reliable as a drunk guy in a pub...". So where can you go on the Internet to get reliable information. The answer is Google Scholar.

Google Scholar allows you to search peer-reviewed literature, journals, legal information and patent. This will allow you to find a significant amount of information only available in the scientific journals, which are reputable and only contain information that follows scientific protocols. This ensures you only review information that you can have some certainty in.

Because much of the information that is on Google Scholar is only available through commercially available journals, it is quite often necessary to contact the authors of the paper directly to obtain a full copy. Their email addresses usually form part of the abstract. Just email them requesting a copy of their paper. I have never not received one from the author.

Another benefit of Google Scholar is there is no marketing or sales pitches attached to the information, as no one is selling anything and it is based on factual information. Give it a go and see what good comes from it.   Pin It

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What is greenwash?

There are numerous products on the market that claim to have some sort of environmental credentials. It appears that many of these companies and products are just trying to increase their market stakes by "cashing in" on the new trend of environmental consciousness by the consumer. This does however mean that many products labelled as "environmentally friendly" or "eco" are in fact no better for the environment than the traditional product or might even be worse in some cases. This green labelling of these products incorrectly or falsely is called greenwashing.

I saw an interesting take on what should be considered an appropriately environmentally friendly product. This angle considered that the entire life cycle of the product needed to be environmentally friendly. Now, what does this mean? The idea is that every step in its production and demise are appropriate for the environment or sustainable. The concept of cradle to grave is introduced.

Now actually finding a product that is sustainable and environmentally friendly may be difficult and lack of information also plays a part in the misinformation of the consumer. Best of luck. Pin It

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Food Matters

There is currently a Internet movie available free called Food Matters. It is only available until the 8 October 2011.

It is available at: www.FoodMatters.tv/ScreeningEventCinema.

I have started to watch it and it certainly provides an alternate position about nutrients in your food and our food chain. The supposed experts tell you how the food that is commercially available is not all it is cut out to be, in that it doesn't contain the nutrients your body requires.

Also in the bit I have watched so far it mentions that our body isn't truly able to cope with cooked food and "raw" (uncooked) food is better for you. The figure mentioned in the movie is that 55% of every meal you eat should be raw. My understanding is the less cooked your food is the more nutrients available to you. This sounds reasonable to me, but I certainly don't practice this.

Watch for yourself and see what you think. Pin It

Monday, October 3, 2011

Solar hot water...things you need to consider

I have now had three commercial companies come and provide me with quotes for a solar hot water system for my house and I feel that it would be easy to get caught up in the sales pitch that these "environmentally-friendly" companies give you. So, here are a few things that I learnt about solar hot water systems and some of the greenwash or sales pitches I have heard.

Things you need to consider:

  • Size of hot water storage tank (this will depend on the number of people using hot water in your household)
  • Whether you want a split system or not (this is whether you want the storage tank on your roof or not)
  • Where you can and/or want to accommodate the solar system on your roof
  • What type of boosting system (gas or electricity) you want for your system
  • What orientation your roof has (use a compass to find out) and whether it will appropriately accommodate a solar hot water system (see previous post on Solar Hot Water).
  • How large your house is in area and where the areas that use hot water are (this will help you position your storage tanks and/or solar collection "panels" on the roof and whether a solar hot water system will efficiently deliver hot water to those areas)
  • How much money you have to purchase a system
  • What rebates are available to you from the government (if this an important factor)
  • What your climate is like and whether is it appropriate to a solar hot system
  • Is there enough open solar access for a solar hot water system to be effective and efficient at your location
  • The amount of structural capability your roof has and whether it can accommodate a roof-mounted hot water storage tank
  • Whether you want to show the world you have a solar hot water system (this will determine whether you are happy to mount the collector panels to achieve best orientation, if needed, or have a flat panel system on your roof)
Now here are some things I have learnt about:

  • for maximum efficiency and to increase the likelihood that I can get hot water all year round, I should be positioning my solar hot water collector panels to the north. This is particularly important for those winter months when I want to catch as much of the sun's energy as possible, when the sun is positioned further into the northern hemisphere
  • on my house this means mounting the panels on a frame, these are constructed to position my panels in a northerly direction, my problem with my position is that these potentially collector panels will still be shaded in some parts of the year and thus, boosting from either mains electricity or a gas system will be required
  • insulation of pipes between the collector panels on the roof and the storage tank below (if you're opting for a split system) will ensure maximum hot water is collected in your tank and therefore you don't loose heat through the transfer process
  • the storage tank is either boosted (from electricity or gas) or water re-circulated into the "panels" when the water is lower than sixty degrees Celsius
  • in a split system the water is pumped onto the roof with a small motor in the storage tank
  • you may require more than two "panels" on your roof if you have a particularly large family or have a significant hot water use
  • most of the storage tanks seem to have what is called a sacrificial anode, which corrodes overtime and requires maintenance approximately every five years (depending on the quality of your water)
Here are some things that I am a little unsure about and either smell of greenwash or just outright competition between businesses (there may be legislative requirements but can't seem to figure it out yet):

  • one company offers a titanium based panel which means that you can orient them outside of the optimum orientation (north) and not loose efficiency....apparently the titanium has the capability of heating hotter than the standard components and therefore can orient outside the optimum north facing 
  • consideration of winds if you are mounting your system on racks. Obviously this is important in some locations, but the amount of winds and strength that we have at my place i think is unlikely to impact on the system, but you should definitely get this checked out
  • the size of your storage tank needs to be the next size up from your current storage tank. Apparently, this is because solar hot water can only be generated during the day and not consistently and therefore for continuously available hot water, whenever you want you need a larger storage capacity. To me you just need to train your family to use hot water when available and not demand hot water anytime. 
  • If you are mains electricity boosting your hot water storage tank, you're not suppose to have this on Tariff 33 (the overnight/off-peak tariff). I am unsure about this and will have to contact my energy provider to see if this is true. The company that told me this said it was legislation. If this is the case and you only use this for hot water, again this company told me that I should have the meter for this tariff disconnected because the energy company would still charge me a service fee for this meter even if I wasn't using it for hot water heating any more.
  • the life span of these systems seem to be about 10 years, but no one will put a firm number on it and there is often the statement that the technology has improved so they are likely to last longer than this magic number. Also from the information I received from the companies it seems as if it is the storage tank that will need replacing first and this is just as you would with a traditional hot water storage tank.

A useful Australian government publication is the "Your Home: Technical Manual", which has a section on hot water systems and provides a lot of facts that you need to consider when deciding what hot water system is appropriate for you and has great tips and facts associated with solar hot water.

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Hark.....a bird!


Sitting here on my couch in semi-rural Queensland, I can hear a bird calling from the bushland adjoining my block. It has a distinctive call and certainly not an owl or one that I would generally associate with night-time activities. But nevertheless it is calling across the countryside and I wonder what type of bird it is. Turns out it is a Common Koel. 




This species migrates between Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Australia, returning to Queensland and New South Wales for their breeding season. And this is the time they appear on our doorsteps, letting me enjoy enjoy their lovely calls in my backyard. 

A useful website that can help you identify the bird calls you may encounter, particularly in your backyard, is the Birds in Backyards top 40 bird song website. 

Enjoy your night-time antics and perhaps it might include a little bird call identification or spotlighting for native animals with the kids!
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Queensland State Library - Positive Futures series

The State Library of Queensland is running a series of lectures/sessions exploring "the kind of positive futures we can make for our children".

There are still three sessions to come:

  • Seriously, renewable?
  • The Great Debate, Are we still the Smart State?
  • Save your Energy!

If you're interested, more information is available on the State Library's Positive Steps Information website. Pin It

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rebates available for you

The Federal government has a website called Living Greener which has a vast array of information about living more sustainably, but I found a particularly useful part of the website today: The rebates and assistance section. This is located at: http://www.livinggreener.gov.au/rebates-assistance.

When you visit the site you enter in your postcode and your interests (in terms of sustainable living strategies) and the website then tells you what rebates and assistance various governments and organisations can provide to you for these goods and services.

I thought this provided a good overview for the ever-changing government rebates and programs available across the country.


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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Low VOC paints

I have been researching availabilities and brands of low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints as part of a renovation process for our new home. When I started this investigation I found it quite frustrating. There didn't seem to be many companies advertising the VOC levels in their paints and I also had concerns about the level of greenwashing associated with these products.

I used the ecospecifier database to assist me and found a locally producing company, Rockcote, produced a number of low VOC paints. I was particularly excited about this because they were local. Then the next thing I discovered was the supplier of this paint was geographically further from me than the producer, which I found quite funny.

The next hurdle I discovered is that many of the low VOC paints producers are creating only very neutral colours or just white. What happens if I want a flare of colour? Finally I found the Dulux Wash and Wear paint is actually low VOC and available in a numerous colours and finishes. Wow!

Excellent, now that I have a choice of products, colours and suppliers I just have to get out and purchase some! Then the hard work will really start. Pin It

Monday, September 26, 2011

Solar Hot Water Systems

Today has not been wasted!

I learnt that it is in fact best or most efficient to install your solar hot water system's collector panels facing north.

I knew this was necessary for photovoltaic systems (or solar electricity systems), but thought that because there isn't the requirement to transform sunlight into electricity but rather just heat the water it isn't necessary for solar hot water. But it is! According to the information I have read if the panels don't face north, the efficiencies drop off in solar water heating just as much as in the solar electric systems.

So moral of the story, if you are thinking about either of these systems, orient all your panels as close to true north as possible.

If you have any experiences or comments on solar hot water systems feel free to post your comments below. Pin It

The journey has begun....

As you have seen from some of my previous posts, we moved into a new home recently, with the idea we would become a little more self-sufficient and enjoy the Queensland outdoor lifestyle a little more.

We have now started the transformation of our house from a typical suburban/semi-rural house into my "dream" home.  So, what have we done in the three weeks we've been here?

  • installed a black cold compost bin;
  • started to clean out the gutters on the house to ensure we collect maximum amounts of rain that hits the roof (as we are on tank water);
  • checked out the water tanks and determined they require some maintenance works;
  • got a water filter for our drinking water;
  • started getting quotes for solar hot water systems; 
  • enquired about grey water;
  • put in some herbs and lettuces in small areas in the garden; 
  • investigated heat-retardant blinds for the western facing rooms; and 
  • started planning where other permanent garden features/beds will go. 

All of these have all been done in spare time around work, other commitments and this week around colds (guess it all caught up with us). But it has been fabulous being outdoors, having each morning greet us with visits from the local native birds and a lovely sunset view in the evenings.

No matter whether you've been in your space for a long or short time, view the natural world with new eyes and see what can be done around your place.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Flying foxes and Hendra virus

Hendra virus has been in the news a lot in recent months. This virus is carried by flying-foxes here in Australia, which in some instances can be transferred to horses, leading to illness and in some cases the horse's death. Why is this of broad interest to the community? In some very rare cases there can be transmission between an infected horse and their human carers or veterinary professionals.

I am concerned because some sources have raised inappropriate concerns in the broader community about flying-foxes living in close proximity to Queensland communities, as a result of Hendra virus "risks". This unnecessary concerned has led some ignorant people to harming flying-foxes and/or attempting to move flying-fox camps away from residential locations.

It is important to be educated on this matter and not bring hysteria and misconception into the equation. The Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation has some useful information on their website. The important messages that I got out of the information provided is:

  • the virus cannot be transmitted directly from flying-foxes to humans;
  • people that have been infected with the virus, did so from extremely close contact with horses;
  • infection from horses to people requires contact with respiratory secretions (eg mucus) and/or blood from the horse;
  • despite exposure to infected horses, numerous people have shown no signs of infection.

Queensland Health also have relevant information on their website, which is useful to consult to understand symptoms in humans of infection.

As background, flying-foxes play an important role in the environment. They are pollinators and seed dispersers for many native plant species. A single flying-fox is reported to potentially be able to disperse 60,000 seeds in a single night (source). They might be noisy, a little smelly in some instances, but they are likely to be in your backyard for a very short period of time.  Overall, they are vital to keep many species within our environment. Let's look after them and become educated about their role and the likely impact they may have on you, your family and your environment, which in the case of Hendra virus is minimal.     Pin It

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lemon peel missing...update

Here is a photo of the mysterious missing peel lemon that still remains otherwise intact on the tree.


I still haven't discovered the animal that is causing this and I haven't come across anymore lemons missing their peel.


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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Carbon tax impact on Queensland Economy

The Queensland Treasury has recently released a report that outlines the expected future impact on the Queensland economy as a result of the introduction of the carbon tax. The introduction of this report states the overall short to medium term impact the carbon tax will be minimal to minor on the overall Queensland economy.

The figures stated in the report indicate the Queensland gross state product is estimated to be only 0.4% lower by 2019-2020 and 3.5% lower by 2049-2050 after the introduction of the carbon tax. The report goes on to say that the Queensland economy is still expected to be strong, with an annual real growth of 3.5% by 2019-2020.

The important take home message from this analysis is that the information in the report is based on a Business as Usual model and doesn't calculate or estimate the potential impact on the economy if markets, industry and the government modify and adapt to a post-carbon tax environment. If the modification scenario does eventuate, the economy could move towards a growth situation based on new industries and products and move its reliance away from situations that rely heavily on carbon polluting inputs.

The full report can be found on the Queensland Treasury website at: http://www.treasury.qld.gov.au/knowledge/docs/carbon-price-impact-assessment/carbon-price-impacts-queensland.pdf.

Note: The above analysis is based on a particular set of assumptions and an analysis is done with alternate sets of assumptions there will obviously be different conclusions drawn. So it is important to understand the premise upon which an analysis is done before a comparison is done between reports and conclusions. Pin It

Green Building Week

This week, 19-23 September, is a "World Green Building Week". It is aimed at bringing awareness to healthier, more sustainable buildings and communities and is supported by Green Building Councils around the world.

There are a number of events across the world supporting this awareness week and they can be found at the World Green Building Council website.


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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Top 10 green building trends

I just found a press release from the Earth Advantage Institute posted on the Green Architecture and Building Report website outlining the "top ten green building trends in 2011". It was an interesting read and certainly shows that there is so much to learn about and to consider. New vocabulary alone will take me a little while to remember and grasp.

The article outlines both personal and commercial trends for this building industry sector.  The top ten trends for 2011 as outlined by the Earth Advantage Institute are:

  1. Affordable green
  2. Sharing and comparing home energy use
  3. Outcome-based energy codes
  4. Community purchasing power
  5. "Grid-aware" appliances fuel convergences of smart grid and smart homes
  6. Accessory dwelling units
  7. Rethinking of residential heating and cooling
  8. Residential grey water use
  9. Small commercial certification
  10. Lifecycle Analysis

Have a look at the original post and full analysis at: http://www.gabreport.com/2011/01/top-ten-green-building-trends-for-2011. This is an American website, so it is important to note that we here in Australia might be a little behind the times. I did notice the term and concept "right-size" housing, in their analysis, as one that seems to have been covered in a previous year's trends. This is one concept that I think we here in Australia are only just starting to grasp but despite being a little out of step is one that we should all still consider.


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Monday, September 19, 2011

Are you letting the cold air out?

My main fridge is about nine years old and starting to look a little daggy. Don't get me wrong I think it still does a marvellous job and wouldn't dream of replacing it, but I was a little concerned that I might be paying a higher price to run it.

Why you might ask? Basically over time the seals around the doors start to deteriorate. This means that your fridge can't keep the cold air in and has to continuously replace this cold air by running the motor which then costs your money in energy usage.

But how do you know if your seals need replacing? I had somewhere in the back of my mind that you place a piece of paper between the door and the fridge, close the fridge door and then try and remove the paper. I did this, but I could easily remove it from multiple locations around the door frame for both the fridge and the freezer. Either my seals were completely dead (which I didn't think was the case) or there was something wrong with my method.

After a quick internet search, another method suggested was to place a torch in the fridge at night, turn off all your lights in the vicinity of the fridge and see if you can see the light coming out of the fridge. If you can see any light you need a new seal. I tried this method last night and couldn't see any light, so currently I am assuming that my seals are ok. See if I can come up with any other methods to test my fridge and freezer seals.

Maybe worth a try at your place.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Where is my lemon peel?

My new house has a luxurious lemon tree near its back steps. Another fantastic thing is that this fruit tree isn't currently infested with the sooty mould that quite often affects citrus trees and has seen me running scared from venturing into these fruit crops previously.

My tree is currently supporting about 10 lemons that are ready for picking and then there are about three lemons which are completely intact, except they are missing their peel. These three fruit are completely intact, still hanging perfectly on the tree, but missing every inch of their peel. What is this all about?

I assume there is some very pedantic animal scurrying around the bush and up towards my house to neatly   remove every bit of peel from lemon. I would love to catch this little animal in the act and see what is munching so delicately on my lemons and over time figure out whether I can sacrifice a few lemons to this critter or whether I need to come up with some clever contraception to protect my fruit from them.

Nature is so peculiar. Will post some photos soon. Pin It

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Moving Planet Day.....24 September 2011



On the 24 September this year, there will be numerous events around the world attempting to highlight the  current climate crisis we face and demand action by people and politicians. If you're interested in showing your support you might like to attend one of organised events. You can find more information at: http://www.moving-planet.org/.

Here in Australia, the group 350.org is organising a rally at Bondi Beach, New South Wales (8-9am). This event would like to get 500 people to fly white kites to indicate their support on a price on carbon. I live in Queensland and there are a number of events, including an ocean walk, a general activity and another kite flying event, organised. Alternatively, if there isn't an event which suits you or none in your town, you could start your own. If you then register your event at the above website you might end up attracting other like-minded people to join you in your public statement on the climate crisis or your particular angle or issue.

Enjoy the lovely spring weather on 24 September and take some time out to show your support for this action day.
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Endangered frog stops roadworks

Just came across an article from a North Queensland newspaper explaining that a colony of endangered frogs has just stopped a roadworks project in Far North Queensland. A local conservationist discovered two frog species, the common mist frog (which isn't so common) and the Australian lacelid frog, within the footprint of the construction works resulting in a stop works situation.

The Council now has to undertake a re-design and submit their proposal to the Commonwealth government's environment department for assessment and approval. This is expected to delay the project by at least six months, with local residents expecting that such a delay will result in their isolation again during another wet season. Interesting scenario. Let's see what designs the council can come up with to protect these species.

Original article available from the Cairns Post. Pin It

Forest Stewardship Council timber

Some of you may have heard of FSC timber, otherwise known as timber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The Council is an independent, not-for-profit organisation which provides standards for responsible forest management and has a mission of promoting environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of forests. What does this mean?

According to the FSC (international website: http://www.fsc.org/) timber and timber products must meet 10 principles and criteria as a minimum for their operation and management. These are:

Principle 1: Compliance with all applicable laws and international treaties
Principle 2: Demonstrated and uncontested, clearly defined, long-term land tenure and use rights
Principle 3: Recognition and respect of indigenous peoples' rights
Principle 4: Maintenance or enhancement of long-term social and economic well-being of forest workers and local communities and respect of worker's rights in compliance with International Labour Organisation conventions
Principle 5: Equitable use and sharing of benefits derived from the forest
Principle 6: Reduction of environmental impact of logging activities and maintenance of the ecological functions and integrity of the forest
Principle 7: Appropriate and continuously updated management plan
Principle 8: Appropriate monitoring and assessment activities to assess the condition of the forest, management activities and their social and environmental impacts
Principle 9: Maintenance of High Conservation Value Forests defined as environmental and social values that are considered to be of outstanding significance or critical importance
Principle 10: In addition to compliance with all of the above, plantations must contribute to reduce the pressures on and promote the restoration and conservation of natural forests (as sourced from the http://www.fsc.org/ website).

It is interesting to note, that Australian and international products that display the FSC timber come from a broad range of markets and don't just include unprocessed timber, but also timber furniture and  paper products. The Australian branch of the FSC has a webpage allowing you to find a FSC certified products.

Now my quest to find a couple of timber tables (one indoor and one outdoor) that are FSC certified begins. Pin It

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bring new equipment to the Australian Wildlife Hospital

SunSuper is running a competition where someone's dream will be granted. You can submit your own, but there are some already worthy "dreams" available to vote for. The idea is the dream with the highest vote wins their dream.

The Australian Wildlife Hospital at Australia Zoo, here on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, has been entered to win $5000 worth of orthopaedic equipment. This provision of this vital surgical equipment would mean that many more injured Australian wildlife patients admitted to the Australian Wildlife Hospital could be treated and eventually returned to the wild.

To vote for this worthy cause just click on the following link: http://sunsuperdreams.com.au/dream/view/help-give-our-native-wildlife-a-fighting-chance. You can only vote once for one dream and apparently voting from multiple email addresses is against the terms of conditions, so don't ruin their chances! But remember, be active and help out this good cause. Pin It

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Carbon tax legislation introduced to Parliament

Today was a historic day for Australia, with our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, introducing the carbon price legislation to Parliament. This legislation will see the top 500 most polluting companies pay $23 per tonne of carbon emissions they emit during their operations.

The coming weeks will certainly be an interesting period of debate in the Australian Parliament.  The public should be ready for the smear campaigns that will be had instead of addressing the real questions and debate that could be had to bring awareness and understanding of the issues, complexities and ramifications of this legislation for our country.

Other posts that I have previously written on the carbon tax are: A short summary on the Australian carbon tax and Carbon tax - how will it cost you.

Happy Parliament watching! Pin It

Monday, September 12, 2011

Save the Cassowary Campaign

Save the Cassowary campaign website is requesting people sign their letter to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities requesting federal government action to save the cassowary in northern Queensland.

If you're happy to share you details and put your name towards this campaign, you can add your name at: http://www.savethecassowary.org.au/take-action.php.

More information about the campaign and the cause can be found at the Save the Cassowary website. Pin It