Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Seal the gaps

If you're thinking of trying to make an environmental difference in your house with some renovations or technical solutions your first action does not necessarily have to be expensive or highly technical. Existing houses generally have major 'gaps' in their structures, walls, windows, etc which let air in and out of your building. If you apply sealant or products that block these drafty locations your building envelope will be more efficient and your energy consumption to maintain a comfortable environment in your house will be reduced. This a cheap, non-technical solution that can make a significant difference to your household budget and your environmental footprint!

How do you know where the air is escaping from your house? I heard someone suggest a fog machine. What a funny, clever idea! The principle is to close your house up, turn the fog machine on inside and then stand outside and watch the house to see the locations where the fog is escaping. Places like under the doors and window frames are obvious locations to look for gaps and easily addressed.

I now just have to get onto a rental company to hire one of these machines or find someone who has one left over from the 90s. Or perhaps just feeling where the cold air comes into the house as a draught in the evenings is an easier, less onerous process but surely not as fun! Pin It

Monday, June 27, 2011

National Food Plan

The Australian Government is requesting submissions on its National Food Plan. The idea behind this plan is to integrate food policy with the examination of the food supply chain, protection of food security in Australia and develop ways to maximise food production opportunities. The government plans to look into all avenues, from production through to consumption.

Minister Joe Ludwig has released an issues paper to inform citizens about the development of the national food plan.  Also as part of the consultation strategy, the government is planning on holding a webcast about the plan, which you can register for now.

Food Connect is supporting this consultation process and encouraging members to participate in the submission process. Food Connect believes that "small, alternative food systems..."should be supported by the government, with the aim of reducing the dominance of the two large supermarket chains. According to Food Connect the government's advisory panel has currently only invited the two dominant supermarket chains and the Grocery Council to participate at present. You would think that the advisory panel would be far more balanced and informed if the government provided a broader representation on the panel with individual representative companies and groups also asked to participate.

I will keep my eye on this in the future, but feel free to take action yourself. Pin It

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ningaloo Reef achieves World Heritage listing

Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia has finally been successful in gaining World Heritage status. The Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities now has the esteemed position of having to administer this listing, as it does with all other World Heritage sites within Australian boundaries.

The new World Heritage area is to be known as the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage area and includes: Ningaloo Marine Park (Commonwealth and State waters), Cape Range National Park, Jurabi and Bundegi coastal parks, Muiron Islands and Murion Islands marine management area and Learmouth Air Weapons Range.

The justification or reasons for the nomination and eventual listing of this area are included on the Commonwealth government website but include aesthetic value, underwater scenery, annual aggregation of whale sharks, aggregations of fish and marine mammals, high marine biodiversity, high diversity of marine turtle species, rare and diverse range of subterranean (underground) creatures and diversity of dryland reptile and plant species.

Congratulations to all those who have pushed for this action. It has been a long-time coming, but well worth the wait! Pin It

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Historic Tasmania forest protection agreement

Recently (22 June 2011) Environment Tasmania and the Australian Conservation Foundation signed an agreement to move towards greater protection for Tasmania's old growth forests. The idea behind the agreement seems to be greater protection for native vegetation forests, in the form of additional areas of Tasmania dedicated into conservation reserves and a transition approach to a sustainable forestry industry.

I believe all environmental movements/protests that directly impact on people's economic well-being have to address these economic and welfare situations in the solution. It certainly appears that these two environment groups are proposing sensible options to provide transition and adjustment for the industries that currently rely on these resources.

The agreement does however rely on the government to provide backing to this agreement and these groups are requesting people indicate their support to the local members of parliament. The GetUp website has an automated message generator indicating people's support for this agreement and provides you either with the name of your local member of parliament if you're in the area or provides a list of relevant members of parliament in the area that you can direct an email to.

Go on, show your support for the Tassie forests and some sensible transition strategies that will in turn support environmental outcomes. Pin It

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Freecycle aims to reduce the amount of usable/re-usable items going into landfill. Groups are locally based, with volunteer moderators. Members use a bulletin board to 'advertise' things that they would otherwise be throwing out and might be of use to other people. Almost anything can be listed, you just need to want to give it away and it can be in any condition. The idea is not to sell these things or seek a fee but to give the items away.

It is amazing what people give away. Recently, I managed to get a lot of garden plants for my friends in Brisbane that were impacted by the floods. Other things that have taken my fancy, but I wasn't successful in getting (first in first served type arrangement generally) have included juicers, pots, water tanks, piano, dolls, toys, puzzles, etc, etc. I have however, managed to get a lot of crafty items for my local day care. Not only have I managed to get some interesting items, I have also managed to get rid of a lot of the clutter around the house without being concerned about whether it will be utilised by the local community group or just chucking things into the bin that someone else might be able to use.

If you're interested you sign up to your local network (see if there is a Freecyle group near you) and then choose whether you want to receive individual emails or daily digests. Each group has different members, different interests and different items available.

Another way to reduce your environmental footprint.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy winter solstice

Today is the winter solstice. That means the sun is in its most northerly position in the sky before it will start its migration back towards the equator bringing more sunshine here in the southern hemisphere and perhaps some summery weather. It also means the shortest day of the year.

I know it feels like we have only just entered winter, but this is the astronomical halfway point. Looking forward to celebrating the rest of winter while it lasts here in Queensland. Pin It

EDO requests law reform for Brisbane Trees

Reforms needed to protect Brisbane trees
EDO Qld calls for urgent law reform to allow community input into Brisbane City Council decisions to permit destruction of protected trees.
The Windsor fig tree removal
Environmental Defenders Office Qld provided urgent legal advice to neighbouring residents and concerned community members acting to save the three native fig trees (Ficus benjamina) that are currently being removed at a property at 105 Main Avenue, Windsor.  The trees are at least 60 years old and provide habitat to local wildlife, as well as being an important part of the landscape character of the neighbourhood.  
EDO Qld understands that the trees have been under a vegetation protection order (VPO) for the last 15 years.   Brisbane City Council recently issued a permit under the Natural Assets Local Law 2003  to clear the protected trees. 
EDO Qld understands that the VPO, which protects the three trees, has not been revoked by the Brisbane City Council, and the permit was issued to allow interference with the protected vegetation, as allowed by section 7(2)(a) of the NALL, which requires strict accordance with conditions of the permit.
Brisbane City Council have refused to provide copies of the permit to neighbouring residents, preventing neighbours and concerned community members from ensuring the trees were removed in accordance with the Council imposed conditions.  Brisbane City Council told neighbouring landowners that they had to apply under the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) to obtain copies of the permit, but that process would take weeks.   
Law reforms needed
Mature trees are crucial to Brisbane’s character and amenity, which is why we have VPOs protecting our most significant trees. 
Law reform is needed urgently to give neighbours and concerned community members notification, submission and appeal rights for Brisbane City Council decisions to permit destruction of protected trees. 
In addition, Brisbane City Council has made a commitment to transparency and being clear and open in reporting Council decisions in theircustomer charter.  To accord with this commitment, and in the public interest, Brisbane City Council should provide copies of permits to clear protected trees on Brisbane Planning and Development Online, which already provides public access to development applications.
For more information, contact EDO (Qld) solicitor Ariane Wilkinson: 07 32114466 or
Pin It

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Large supermarkets are soul-less

Weekly grocery shopping today really brought home to me how commercial and soul-less the large supermarket chains have become.

Since moving to our new area, about 6 months ago, I have been shopping at the local independent grocery store and the local farmers' markets. For convenience today I chose to shop at one of the two major supermarket chains here in Queensland. After moving through the fruit and vegetable section and then the meat section without much incident and not many products placed into my gigantic shopping trolley, I moved into the pre-packaged and processed sections.

Oh so soul destroying. The lack of variety in products and brands shocked me. Standard brands that I use to buy from these supermarkets chains have either disappeared from the shelves or are well hidden. The chain branded products are everywhere and the amount of processed foods catering for the rush of modern life are dominant. Local products are difficult to find and I felt that much of the food is choosing the buyer not the buyer choosing the product.

I was just mortified. I don't think despite the moves that these chains are doing in an attempt to improve their reputations by stocking appropriately sourced seafood, having only phosphate free detergents, etc will induce me to shopping in their aisles, except for the oddly unavailable products at my local store.

Some of the reasons I will continue to shop at my local grocery store are:

  • locally owned;
  • some profits being channelled back into my local community and community-oriented initiatives;
  • employment of local people at all levels in the business;
  • support for other local businesses and community members;
  • direct response to requests (eg. direct responses to suggestions by customers for products, ranges or stocking products within a industry - local, organic, etc);
  • broader range of suppliers; and
  • encourage/support and utilisation of local products.
Pin It

Don't sit back, make a difference

An issue with the modern generations is their inactivity in decision-making in either their neighbourhood, the political environment, their workplace, their family or anywhere decisions are required.

In discussion with some friends this morning we were chatting about some infrastructure development in their neighbourhood and the options that have been put forward by the infrastructure provider.  My friends were passionate about the option that was proposed through one of the last remaining patches of bushland/wetland in their area. That is, they don't want it to go through that area.

There are a number of options the infrastructure provider has put forward for comment and many others that have not been raised to the public. At present, placing the infrastructure through the environmental reserve is the easiest option and therefore one the project manager would definitely prefer. You may ask, why is the environmental reserve option the easiest option? Well, without any public outcry, the infrastructure provider would only have to deal with the local government, as the current custodian of this land, and this does not pose much restraint when community infrastructure is seeking an easement or land. It is certainly much easier to deal with than a commercial entity who is looking at lost profit and therefore potentially significant compensation or a number of home-owners who feel passionately about their home that they have lived in for the last X number of years. All the infrastructure developer would need to do is come up with a suitable compensatory package and certainly in my experience and many project managers' experience this is much cheaper and more politically stable option than dealing with the other landholders and economic interests.

I know that many people have concerns for the retention of environmental spaces and parks within their local neighbourhoods, but without communication of this concern to the decision makers and project managers these intact, environmental area will always end up having the conflicting landuse placed in them or being sacrificed to. They don't have a voice, they don't have traditional economic value and they certainly don't have anyone putting up significant or costly barriers to their resumption and/or development. There isn't anyone else but the general public and caring souls to defend these areas. Commercial activities/industries, schools, churches, recreation facilities all have significant groups of interested people attached to them and thus will always have a voice and someone defending their interests till the last battle. This doesn't seem to be the case for most environmental areas.

It is important to realise we are the voice of the environmental reserves, national parks, conservation reserves, wildlife, threatened plants and animals, marine parks, remote locations, environmental water allocations, groundwater quality, etc, etc. If we don't stand up and put our voice forward and express our concerns about particular developments within these area, the developments will also win and the environment will continue to lose. Economic interests will always prevail and our land will end up being over-developed, over-utilised, degraded, without recognition of the public's concerns for these areas and values.

Speak up! If there is a chance to put your view forward it is important to do so. And if there isn't an invited comment period take the first step and engage in the process. You can contact your local politicians, the infrastructure developers, the general land developer or the agent of land use change. Stand up and be heard! Take action now or it will be too late! Pin It

Saturday, June 18, 2011

You got to water your worms!

I knew that you had to keep your worms moist, I just didn't know how 'moist'. As you are aware I tried to construct a worm farm at my last residence (see Worm Farm Construction), but didn't seem to be making any head way with the worms and I certainly wasn't drowning in worm juice as some of my friends were. Well I recently bought a commercial worm farm and according to the "instruction" for this kit you are suppose to pour about 5 litres of water over your worm farm each week. Obviously this creates a lot of worm tea and you use this as a fertiliser on your garden. At this rate I will definitely be selling the stuff!

A friend of mine has since told me she doesn't use this method (drowning worms in water weekly) but still manages to get an adequate amount of worm juice. Well, now I am completely confused and don't know what to do. Any tips, advice is welcome. Will have to look at that worm website that I posted a couple of posts ago (see Worm Farming) and see whether the worm master has any advice.

Anyway, I do know that I have too much green waste to put into my worm farm and will have to continue to throw some of this away until we are set up in our new residence later this year. Pin It

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to shape your neighbourhood?

If you plan on making a difference in your local neighbourhood, it is important to participate in local, State (or Territory) or Federal government development assessment processes. The are many stages set up during these planning and approval phases that allow for public comment and your comments can in fact create or stop developments.

Local governments, for example, will have sections of their websites indicating what development applications and planning processes they currently have 'on their books' and which ones you can provide comments on. Also here in Queensland you may notice large noticeboards (public notice) on the side of the road adjacent to open land, old houses, etc. These signs indicate an applicant is interested in either changing the type or intensity of development allowed on that land. This public notice is basically an advertisement seeking public comment on the development application and this is an opportune time to participate.

To make a difference in this process it is important to know how to make your comments really count. There isn't much point in just saying that you don't want the development, but rather have a look at the planning scheme, regional documents and other relevant information and providing justifications against these documents why the development should or should not be approved.

As I said there are numerous development approval processes where public comment are sought and to make a difference you should be engaged in all of these. Some sources where you may find public comment opportunities include:
  • The Commonwealth government's referral process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999;
  • local government development processes under Queensland's Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (likely to be advertised on your local government's website);
  • State government planning policy documents (often distributed across a number of government agencies, but inclusive of the Queensland Department of Infrastructure and Planning and the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management); 
  • Infrastructure providers' websites, such as Energex, Powerlink, Queensland Rail, Ergon, Origin, as they will be required to have their environmental impact assessments available for comment; 
  • large scale development agents' websites, for example Stocklands; and
  • local environment and legal groups, such as Environmental Defender's Office. 
So don't complain about what is happening to your neighbourhood but rather participate in the process. Don't wait till someone is building something you don't like because you will have no leg to stand on and the process will continue no matter how much you complain. Give yourself and your views a fighting chance and participate early. Pin It

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Saved a fence!

You just never know where you will find something useful in life! Wandering through my local township I  did a double take when a pile of fencing caught my eye. There just lying next to a shed was a large pile of dismantled white picket fence. This had been taken down from a courtyard area behind a shop in the main street. There were some landscapers working on what was clearly a new fence and I thought "opportunity"!

Quick conversations between myself and the landscapers and it was established the fence was going straight to the tip. Can I have it, was my obvious next question? Clear it with the boss and its yours. Fabulous. After an early morning trip back to the location, this time with a ute, I am now the proud owner of a pile of old picket fence segments and now slowly dismantling them into single palings and supporting beams.

Why some of you might ask? Well in the near future I will be moving house and I plan on acquiring some chickens. I thought the palings would make a good edge for my chicken run or at least allow the chickens to have an outdoors fenced area separate from my two dogs.

Felt proud of myself for salvaging this fence and re-using something that would have otherwise ended up at the tip, potentially as compost. It certainly would have had a much shorter life-cycle than it was capable of having! All sorts of things can make a difference to the planet and this is just one of them. Reduce, reuse, recycle! Pin It

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Carbon tax

In recent months the Australian Federal Government (the Labor party) has announced they will pursue the introduction of a carbon tax. For those that know nothing about this, this announcement will introduce a price (a tax) for each tonne of carbon pollution emitted. The idea behind this is that such pollution becomes an economic dis-incentive and hopefully those polluting will consider reducing their emissions because it hurts their back pocket (so to speak). The level that the carbon tax is set at will determine how much of a dis-incentive such pollution turns out to be (the higher the price the greater the incentive not to pollute).

Such taxes target large organisations but there will also be some impact on the average household as in this modern day we all have carbon emissions. However, given the government will be raising money through the introduction of such a tax such impacts on households hopefully can be evened out with the government promising to assist families through the transition and provide some buffers. Thus again, expressing the idea that the introduction is about reducing the incentive for big polluters/big business rather than impacting upon your average family.

The idea of a carbon tax shouldn't be a scary thing for the average Australian. Yes, there will be economic implications, but big business is smart. Obviously, if they can continue doing what they have always done it is the path of least resistance but if forced they will come up with alternatives and solutions to work around this issue and remain profitable. They always do. The large companies that are going to impacted upon potentially significantly are also usually highly diverse businesses.  Their economic strategies will allow them to pursue alternative business models and business streams that previously may not have been heavily invested in and hopefully are better for the environment (with such incentives) and those that are most heavily taxed because they are significant contributors to carbon pollution will be reduced.

The world can't persist on its current path forever. The world will shut down without such drastic steps (both environment and economies). You have probably all heard the statement "there will be no economy, if there is no environment". This is certainly true and the government is starting to appreciate this. The introduction of the carbon tax is truly about providing our country with a future, one that we all want to be a part of. Subsidies for cleaner energy solutions, incentives for big businesses to involve and buffering families will hopefully all be part of the broader picture and assist us all through this transition period. Pin It

Friday, June 10, 2011

Community Gardens

If you don't have enough room in your backyard to dedicate to your own veggie patch, you need to supplement your veggie patch or you just don't want a veggie patch in your yard, a community garden might suit you. They also provide great opportunities to link with like-minded people in your community.

A useful website listing some of the locations of Community Gardens here in Australia is the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens website. If you'd like to know where some of the Queensland community gardens are, just visit this link. Pin It

Climate Scientist Rap

Real Climate Scientists doing a rap song from the ABC Show Hungry Beasts. Funniest thing. Explores the major themes and shows that climate scientists are real people. Now available on You Tube. Pin It

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Coles makes positive steps for sustainable fisheries

WWF has partnered with Coles Supermarkets to make Coles' choices in fish products more sustainable and make sustainably-fished seafood available to the masses! This is a fantastic step. Certainly makes me believe both consumer passion and hard-working non-government organisations can really make a difference. Coles has placed their commitment on their website.

Commitments include:

  • changes in the sources of tuna for their canned products;
  • sustainability fished salmon; and
  • removal of orange roughy (no longer available). 

Fabulous! Well done to Coles. Pin It


I am going to try and grow my own pineapple!

I bought one from the side of the road the other day and thought perhaps I should try to grow my own. I have read recently that growing pineapples isn't that difficult. All you need is the top of an old pineapple and basically stick it in the ground and watch it grow! Hence, the inspiration, recent knowledge and pineapple = hairbrain ideas that I might be able to do it myself!

So what I have done is:

  • Buy the pineapple
  • Eat the pineapple
  • Cut all the fruit off the spiky top of the pineapple
  • Take some of the smaller leaves off the base of the pineapple top
  • I dipped the base in some agricultural sulpur (as suggested by Gardening Australia); and
  • Now drying/curing the pineapple top for approximately a week
When I return home at the end of the week, apparently my pineapple top will be ready to plant. According to the above webpage all I need to do is plant it into some good potting mix, with enough space for a 1.5m high by 1m wide plant. They can also apparently be grown in pots, with the recommendation being a terracotta pot because they breath and drain well.

Let's see how I go. Pin It

The power of women

In the podcast conversation with Naomi Oreseke that I listened to recently (see Anger with climate change deniers)...she discussed the reduction and eventually banning of CFCs in relation to the hole in the ozone layer. In the podcast Naomi said this action was as a result of a direction action by 'people power' rather than government regulation. She went on to say that it was essentially women, as consumers, that decided to steer away from products using CFCs. At this point in time, women were using large amounts of hairspray containing CFCs and by choosing not to use these products and others women managed to create positive action to rectify an issue that they saw as important.

Women are generally known to be the ones more concerned about the environment and the impact they are having on the environment. Thus it stands to reason that women if given a chance could address many of the current threats to the environment. I think one of the difficulties when it comes to addresses issues that are contributing to human-induced climate change is that the industries producing most of the pollutants are generally run by males and/or their services are primarily aimed at males or "powering" male interests. Is this a generalisation? Yes, of course. But it is an interesting parallel to be drawn.

There is a movement called 'One Million Women' aimed at getting women to take responsibility for their actions in relation to climate change impacts. It also just brings awareness to women that they can personally make a change when it comes to addressing these issues relating to climate change. Pin It

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Do you need a new dishwasher?

We have a rule in our house (one that I imposed) that whoever cooks doesn't have to clean. The issue with this arrangement in my household is that I do the cooking and my lovely other half doesn't believe in doing regular, after every meal type hand-washing. I can't stand to see the dirty dishes in the kitchen and also the dishes being unavailable because they are waiting to be cleaned. So the fall-back, sanity arrangement is a dishwasher. We have had one in our houses for the last three years and it certainly has created extra time for all in the house.

We are about to move to a new house and one of my dilemmas is there is no dishwasher. I am completely daunted by this and have started my investigation into the type that I will purchase once we move in. I have just come across a couple of websites that can assist people in investigating the energy and water efficiency of dishwashers currently available on the market.

The Energy Rating website specifically discusses the amount of energy that each dishwasher model uses and the Water Efficiency website discusses water usage. Both of these websites have various options so you can either narrow or broaden the criteria and features that you would like in your dishwasher.

Happy researching! Pin It

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What's in season?

In my never-ending quest to reduce my footprint on this planet I decided early on that it was important to only eat food that was in season in the region I live. This is important as it means whatever you're eating isn't being transported extravagant distances to get to your grocery store before it reaches your plate. Basically the premise is that your food has less 'food miles' (less pollution, greenhouse gases, etc).

Also if the food you eat comes from your region you're more likely to be able to track down the producer or at least understand the way in which your food is produced because you become more interested in learning about this and more connected with the people that produce your food. In turn, you might even care how it is produced and ensure people have appropriate working conditions and produce food in a manner that in itself might be a lighter footprint (for example, organic practices, etc).

What I really need is a guide to what is in season that I can carry around me when I am buying my produce and then a recipe book that can give me recipes for the relevant season. I have come across a few these cook books in my local library, mostly with organic cooking or something along those lines in their title. If you are borrowing such books, make sure they are published in Australia (or the country you are in), as it isn't relevant to be looking at an English book. Their growing climate is different, soils are different and therefore the produce that is available to the English in the various seasons are likely to be different to what is available in your region.

The what is in season, as a store guide, has eluded me though. Well a quick and easy reference type one for my region. The best I can come up with at present is something along the lines of the Vegie Guide on the ABC Gardening Show's website. This shows you what to plant in your region according to the season. The only issue is this guide is for planting of produce not for eating. Thus, there is some calculation required because obviously what is ready for planting isn't ready for eating....a lag time some might say.

I will one day get off my butt and find something appropriate or develop it myself. Pin It