Saturday, March 31, 2012

Have you outsourced your environmental impact?

I was daydreaming the other day about my future vegetable patch. Carrying on from this lovely moment, I continued to ponder but this time specifically about the irrigation system that is going to have to support this dream. Then my thoughts strayed to considering how significant a burden a vegetable garden can be on your domestic water bill, your rain water or your dams, depending on your situation. No matter which one of these water sources you have you become keenly aware of how much water it takes to get your vegetables going and producing adequately.

In line with this, when you create a vegetable patch, no matter what style or type, there are a significant number of imposts on your household budget, particularly during the establishment phase, but these do carry on through to the maintenance phase. Anyway, long story, not so short, it made me think! At least I am keenly aware of this 'economic and environmental' impact to produce the lovely vegetables and fruit that I receive. All resulting from hardwork, effort, investment and natural resources.

But how many products and systems does the average householder have that removes them from the direct production process or means that they do not understand how much and many resources (water, soil, nutrient, electricity, timber, minerals, waste, etc, etc) it takes to produce the items in their household? The answer, I'm afraid, is soooooo many! Basically, our households, systems and businesses have allowed us to outsource our environmental impacts and become removed from this production process. This in turn, creates a false sense of one's personal environmental impact. No wonder we have a society which does not value the environment or think the planet is in dire straits.

Many people in our society do not believe that the environment has an intrinsic value and should just be preserved/conserved. Moreover, many of these people are completely devoid of understanding and experiencing natural resources. How can we therefore expect them to care for the planet?

Obviously education is a key component of rectifying this situation! With my thoughts being an important focus on arousing a re-connection to nature and particularly natural resources. Maybe with such information people might start to care about the world and potentially change their lifestyles to recognise the finite nature of many of earth's provisions.

Pin It

Friday, March 30, 2012

Speed Dating a Sustainable Designer

How cool is this concept? The Alternative Technology Association is hosting a series of dating events (advice service) with sustainable architects and designers in various cities around Australia. The event is called "Speed Dating a Sustainable Designer".

The idea is you get 10 minutes with a sustainable designer or architect (or maybe you're extra special and get several dates) to chat about renovations, building ideas relating to your personal sustainable building project. One of the most important things to remember to bring along as many plans, photos, props, etc to help you get the most out of your 10 minutes and to communicate your ideas and aspirations.

There are still upcoming events in Sydney and Brisbane, with Melbourne holding one of these earlier this year. Have a look at the ATA's website for further information about these fabulous events and register your interest.

Pin It

Monday, March 26, 2012

What goes into your rubbish bin?

Over the weekend I felt as though all I threw into our regular kitchen rubbish bin was plastic. All of it was generally, quite flimsy, thin plastic wrapping. There was obviously some recyclables in my garbage spree, but I have a separate bin for these and didn't seem particularly overwhelming or different to usual. I just couldn't get over the massive amount of this thin plastic that was in my house and taken straight from a product and into the bin.

I think from memory, most of this plastic that I threw out originated as food covering. I did some cooking on the weekend and so much of it came from the consumption of the products I was using in the cooking and also the replacement of some of the bulk food items that I tend to purchase.

So apart from my cooking spree, I had to rack my brains as to why this seemingly significant increase in plastic. Then it occurred to me, we have recently changed some of our family arrangements and with this my partner is now doing the grocery shopping. As he knows no better (well I don't think he does), its seems that when he purchases fruit and vegetable he puts it in the plastic bags available throughout the green-grocer section of your local supermarket. I hardly ever use these bags, probably only when buying grapes. As such, this certainly contributed a number of these additional plastic items that went into the bin. Also, as they seem to hold moisture and are quite small they are difficult to re-use around the house.

Instruction to my other half about the fact that we don't need these plastic green-grocer bags and that placing fruit and vegetables straight into the trolley and onto the counter is perfectly acceptable! I don't know whether he will adopt my suggestion, but if he doesn't I will have to come up with a way of re-using these bags. Otherwise I will feel too guilt about the amount of this plastic in the landfill or even worse blowing into the marine environment and potentially being ingested by some of a charismatic sea creatures, such as turtles or eventually find its way into the Great Garbage Patch in the 'middle' of the Pacific Ocean.

Plastic is everywhere, but where you can reduce your household intake of these or re-utilise around the house, it is important to do so. Pin It

Friday, March 23, 2012

Have you calculated your environmental footprint?

A simplistic way to determine the environmental "footprint" of your lifestyle and decisions is to use a 'footprint calculator'. WWF has a good one that provides you an indication of the number of planets we would need if everyone made the same decisions you have made, in regards to transportation, food choices, waste generated, energy usage, air travel and size of your house.

Have a go!

WWF footprint calculator

See what impact your lifestyle is having and maybe provide you with some inspirations for ways to change and you reduce your impact. 

Pin It

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Extending the life of your basil

In my last garden, I found that my basil grew fairly quickly, flowered and then became quite bitter. The plants generally still grew and stayed healthy, but obviously the point of having a basil plant is to use in your kitchen and meals and not just take up room in your garden....well that's my reason for having it.

At our new place I have planted about five basil plants thinking this would give me enough leaves across the five little plants to make pesto and then as they grow up and become bitter I won't mind because I would have had enough leaves over all of these plants to make several batches of pesto. And then I would just replace them over time with new plants.

But I have found a sneaky trick that seems to have elongated my crop! The trick you ask...  Well, it is really quite simple! All I do is remove the flower heads every time I notice these on the plants. I just pick these flower heads off and amazingly this seems to have allowed my basil plants to continue to grow, without turning really bitter and allowing them to continue to look amazing.

Wow, so simple and now I have much more basil than I ever need in the kitchen.  I can also let some of them go to flower and seed, which allows new crops for another year and brings in pollinating insects that are needed more broadly in the garden. 

See if this works just as well for you.

Pin It

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

CERES Autumn Festival 2012

If you're in Melbourne here is a outing for you on the 31 March 2012. The CERES Autumn Festival. Oh how I wish I was in the area!

CERES stands for Community Education and Research in Environmental Strategies and amongst the many things that this group of enthusiastic community members do, is run a community garden and environment park and provide a hub where communities of like-minded people can gather and learn. It has a great program of environmental education!

The Autumn Festival has so many wonderful activities and show-cases, including the chance to get up close and personal with farm animals, enter a cake baking competition (theme: CERES 30th make a birthday cake) and a chance to hear from Matthew Evans (of Gourmet Farmer fame). If you're keen enough you can also volunteer on the day to help out around the place and make the event particularly special.

The CERES environment and education centre is located by Merri Creek, East Brunswick in Melbourne. Their website is full of fabulous ideas, education seminars and so much more. Drop into their website or their centre and be exposed to some brilliant ideas and inspirations. Pin It

Monday, March 19, 2012

Garden activities for this afternoon

With all the rain that we have received over the last few weeks, you really have to grab any time you can in the garden. This afternoon was one such break in the weather and I jumped to it!

Watered the worms, as the little brown ants are back and after heading to a Worm Farming seminar the other weekend, I have learnt they are attracted to your farm if it is a little dry. So, to the tap I headed and poured about 3 litres of water through the system. Let's hope that makes a difference.

Another task was to reduce the fruit on the lemon tree. This task for me has been delayed since I learnt that this was something that I needed to do.  The reason for my delay is that I am a bit of a skeptic when it comes to my gardening capabilities and I am forever thinking that more is better because at least it is growing right! Wrong! Thinning fruit on your lemon tree will help the development of the fruit. Also thinning seedlings of some vegetables means that you will get a more productive and appropriately sized reward at the end of the growing season. But I do find it difficult to take this advice.

So, as I said I got to the lemon tree and its fruit reducing task this afternoon. What made me tackle this task, was not the learned gardener advice about this matter, but the fact that I noted some sooty leaves on the tree and thought it best that I remove these "diseased" leaves completely. Once into this task and examining my lemons on the tree I noted those lemons that were touching another lemon where attracting scale insects at the connection point. So, this rapidly bought me to removing the less promising fruit from each of these situations. My tree looks a little less burdened by its fruit load, but hopefully at least I won't lose all my fruit to some disease or insect! Now that would be a trauma! Especially since I want to make my first home made lemon cordial from all the fruit on the tree.

After the initial gardening episode this afternoon, dinner needed to be prepared. Sweet potato was on the menu for dinner tonight and due to my lack of sweet potato using recipes of late, the one that I cooked tonight had started to sprout little roots. Rather than putting these sections of the sweet potato straight into the compost bin or worm farm I thought it might be worth trying to grow these. So, a later afternoon activity saw me burying these sections with their roots attached into a recently cleared out garden bed with a bit of my home-produced worm castings. Let's see how they goes. If they do take, it will be a good crop to loosen the soil and de-compact the bed for future crops. 

Hope you've found some time amongst all this rain to get out into your garden.....maybe just pulling those weeds.

Pin It

Thursday, March 15, 2012

David Attenborough coming to Australia

Oh my goodness...David Attenborough is coming to Australia! This is so exciting and he is apparently doing some public shows in August 2012.

I don't know how true this rumour is as I can't currently locate a place selling tickets to any of these shows, but according to some news websites and an event management company there are claims that he will be doing four public shows in August, two in Sydney and two in Melbourne!

If it is true, I would love to go along and hear him talk in person. I will have to wait and see if more details are revealed in the near future.

Pin It

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Look for opportunities to reduce waste!

Through friends I came across the Resource Rescue Centre based in Victoria. It looks like a wonderful resource and manages to recycle things that would otherwise go to landfill.

Anything that can be done to reduce landfill and allow other people to use what you consider scrap is a fabulous initiative.

Here in Brisbane we have a similar centre known as Reverse Garbage. I have visited this store several times and always found some treasure that I needed to take home. They also have upcycle products that they create from "rubbish" that they receive and make into gorgeous art, craft and clothes!

What I need is more time to investigate and scrounge through these treasure troves! Keep your eye out for your local recycler and see what amazing things you might find and what you can rescue from landfill! Pin It

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Beyond Zero Emissions

I organised a talk by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) for a local community group on Tuesday night. It was a great night and very informative.

This organisation is promoting the idea that the Australian energy sector could change from non-renewable energy (ie gas and coal-fired power stations) to renewable energy sources in just 10 years. It sounds unbelievable but in this plan the idea is to transition our economy from these existing dirty energy sources to clean energy with currently available ("off-the-shelf") renewable energy technology and therefore can potentially achieve this timeframe!

The best part of the presentation was the presenters' assurance that the plan they put forward may not be the complete solution or the one that ends up being implemented, but it to showcases that such a transition is completely plausible and possible and that such ideas should be examined, supported and in turn allow Australia to lead the world in part of the solution to some of our current environmental predicaments! What a goal!

There are certainly many questions that the presentation raised for me and showcased some of the existing barriers that the plan would have to overcome to be implemented, but the best part of the idea is that they are trying to move forward.

Don't get stuck in the existing model and the doom and gloom that the energy sector puts forward when it comes to alternatives. It is important to examine alternatives on their merit, join in the debate and tell politicians that you would like to see them, their government and big business help Australian citizens achieve their dreams of Australia's renewable future.

Maybe you can get along to one of these talks or organise BZE to talk at your next function or just get involved and ask your politicians to get involved and informed. Pin It

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Clean Up Australia Day

My family and I trundled down to our local park to help out at an organised Clean Up Australia day event. Thankfully the weather was fine this morning and decided it was a great morning to do something a little different. At the park, we registered, got our bags, took out our gardening gloves and set to work cleaning up the site.

There had already been some collectors of rubbish, in the form of cub scouts, in the main park area before we had arrived, but we decided to take a leisurely stroll through the broader surrounds of the park. Not only did we collect a bag full of rubbish, we took our dogs for a walk and involved our toddler in a community volunteer activity.

So what did we collect?

A fair few beer bottles (the area is next to a bowls club), some aluminium cans, a 2L PET bottle, some plastic scraps (including broken down plastic shopping bags), paper from the inside of cigarette boxes, chocolate bar wrappers, newspaper and cardboard, a plank of wood broken off a fence from the local neighbourhood probably and a section of plastic that I think is part of the protective bits from under a car.

At our event, there certainly wasn't millions of people volunteering but by the time we signed up I think the site organiser had registered about 15 people and probably another 10 by the time we left. The site certainly was improved (measurable by amount of observable rubbish) after the efforts of all the volunteers and it is nice to make a little bit of difference to our local community.

Special treat on the way home was purchasing some locally grown, spray free bananas, which are especially sweet.

Looking forward to hearing of all the rubbish that was collected around Australia as part of this event and some of the wacky locations people chose to clean up this year. If you managed to make it out to help Clean up Australia, I look forward to hearing of your experiences.

Pin It