Taking it to the Streets

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Blog posts have been pretty thin on the ground over the past couple of months.  There has been plenty going on here which would generally be perfect material for posts, however, I have written about most of it before, and in some instances, several times.

I know that there is no reason not to revisit a topic but I have been grappling with a broader issue and want to discuss that here today.  I am looking for other people’s views and would really appreciate your input.

It is good to be doing what you can within your own home and personal decisions with regard to reducing your carbon footprint but should we be doing more?  To really make a difference it is vital that we work to influence change on a bigger scale.  This can be overwhelming and make you wonder whether it is even worth trying but we need to remember that change does not happen overnight nor is it likely to be easy.

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In the past few weeks we have been busy.  We attended a local screening of ‘Before the Flood’ and associated audience discussion. This is a 2016 documentary on climate change features Leonardo DiCaprio.  Like anything on this topic it left me torn between optimism that we can all make a difference and despair that any action will really be a matter of ‘too little, too late’.  However, my final decision is a renewed enthusiasm to really make a difference as soon as possible.

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On a more local note, I went to an information evening about recycling in the Sunshine Coast Council area which was presented by Barung Landcare with a speaker, Sandie Johnston from Envirocom, an environmental consultancy who provide education and training for Sunshine Coast Council.  Waste minimisation and recycling have been at the forefront of my actions for over 25 years and this was an eye-opening presentation.  Some things have changed with regard to recycling so it is great to have up-to-date information that I know is accurate for our local council area.  I am looking forward to sharing this information in the hope that it can be disseminated more broadly which should lead to a greater compliance with recycling ‘rules’.

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I also attended one of the five consultation evenings regarding the ongoing management of the Maroochy River estuary as preservation of our natural environment is critical and the issue of coastal management is paramount if we are to protect low-lying areas such as Cotton Tree from inundation.  Whilst the issue of replacing the geotextile bag groynes with rocks may only have come to the notice of some people recently, there has been a small but dedicated band of people working to preserve the natural river mouth for at least 40 years.  This is a perfect example of long-term activism.  If you live in the Sunshine Coast Council area or visit the Maroochy River estuary (Cotton Tree) please consider completing the council survey here.

Just like charity, activism begins at home, or at least in your local area so here are a few ideas that have caught my interest.

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I have begun looking into the idea of Boomerang Bags with a view to getting this idea up and running in Maleny.

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A couple of months ago I joined Spare Harvest, an online platform dedicated to sharing garden produce and resources.

I have been active in a couple of different Zero Waste/War on Waste Facebook groups and am pleased to have discovered a local Sunshine Coast group.  These really seem to have gained momentum since the ‘War on Waste’ television program here in Australia.  I am hoping to be able to connect with more local people to see what difference we can make as a group.

I will continue to write about the small things I do each and every day to live more sustainably  but I am looking forward to trying to extend this to more people in the community and I hope to share more of that with you, too.

 

10 Days

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Yes, it is 10 days since my last blog post.  There is no good reason – I just took a break.

I think the biggest news (in Australia) in the past couple of weeks has been the announcement by Woolworths that they will stop using single-use plastic bags.  This was closely followed by Coles announcing that they would do the same.  Here is a news report.  I have not commented on this announcement so now is probably as good a time as any.

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“What a great initiative” was my my immediate thought, especially in the midst of Plastic Free July.  Perhaps the movement was really starting to gain some traction with mainstream consumers?

My optimism was short-lived as I began to hear and read various responses.  In fact, despair would have been a more accurate description of my mood over the following days.

Here is a round-up of the sort of comments that came to my notice:

  • It is only so they (supermarkets) can sell more heavy-duty plastic carrier bags.
  • Green bags are made from a plastic-based fabric – you have to use them 347 times to make the impact less than the single-use plastic bags.
  • What will I use to collect dog poo when out walking?
  • Research shows that the sale of bin liner bags has increased in those states that have completely banned single-use plastic bags.
  • What will I use to line my bins?

Seriously??

It is evident that many, many people have long way to go before they understand the impact of the millions of plastic bags which are produced every year and used only once.  They also do not appear to be prepared to adjust their lifestyle even slightly.

So, how do you counter these and a million other ill-informed comments?

The first and simplest thing is to consider investing in some strong fabric bags that do not contain plastics.  I can assure you that these will last for many, many years and can be repaired as necessary.

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Work towards generating less waste so that you have a reduced need for bin liners.  Purchasing larger packs, from bulk bins, unwrapped, using your own produce bags will all assist in reducing the amount of packaging waste.

Take more care with grocery shopping and buy only what you will actually use.  Remember, first world countries such as Australia, the USA and UK discard around 25% of all food produced.  Make sure you are not part of this dreadful statistic.

Consider composting food scraps to reduce the amount which you currently send to landfill.  Even if you do not have access to a backyard there are numerous systems available which can be used by people living in apartments.  Additionally, there are opportunities to connect with people who may be happy to take your scraps for their compost system or search for a community garden in your area.  Online connections are invaluable in the 21st century for developing relationships which are mutually beneficial.  One such example is Spare Harvest which is building a sharing community for excess produce, plants and garden resources.

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Small bins that do not contain wet food scraps can be lined with newspaper.  So, the naysayers point out that not everyone gets the newspaper anymore!

The real point of this post is to encourage everyone to take a positive, solution-based approach to change.  We need to be looking for innovative ways to reduce our environmental footprint rather than railing against any change which may happen to impact our wasteful lifestyle.

I live in a semi-rural area and our local town has a Woolworths and IGA supermarkets as well as a selection of independent retailers.  Almost all of these businesses routinely provide plastic bags for purchases.  I believe that the impending phasing out of plastic bags by the retail giants can taken up by all retailers and set a precedent by making Maleny plastic bag free.

I intend to promote this idea and encourage others to become involved.  My first strategy will be to contact the IGA supermarket and ask them to match the Woolworths ban on plastic bags.  I am also looking into the Boomerang Bags project which would be a perfect way to introduce people to the options available to fill the void left by the removal of plastic bags.

 

Garden Expo

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Tonight I am taking a break from the Plastic Free July posts and want to share our day that we spent at the Garden Expo in Nambour.  This 3 day event is held each year in July and attracts over 35,000 visitors.

Although we do not go every year this was our third visit and we spent several hours looking at exhibits, buying plants and listening to some of the many presentations.

Here is a selection of the goodies we bought.  They include a finger lime, 4 hibiscus, 3 kangaroo paw, 6 lomandra and 4 punnets of flower seedlings as well as a new pair of secateurs and a bottle of organic herbicide.

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There was a reason for everything we bought.  I have always wanted a finger lime (native citrus) and was excited to see them available at the show.  The hibiscus will join the existing ones which are planted in front of the verandah.  We already have a yellow kangaroo pay so am hoping to have success with the new ones – dark red, orange-red and pink.  The lomandra  will be planted on the steep escarpment at the back of our block.  We will be using the organic herbicide to reduce some of the nasty weeds beforehand and hope that the lomandra will help to suppress the regrowth of weeds while the previously planted trees become more established.  The secateurs will replace 2 pairs that have well and truly seen better days.

Aside from our purchases, we saw several exhibits offering items which are of interest to us including solar exterior lighting  and gabion walls.  Thanks to the internet we will look into these in more detail at our leisure.

There were many booths and exhibits promoting a huge range of products and services relating to gardening, home and leisure.  One which was a standout for me was promoting an online platform called Spare Harvest.  This has been set up right here on the Sunshine Coast by Helen Andrew, however, it is designed to be able to be accessed by people all over the world.  I am reminded of the phrase, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow”.  This great new example of the power of the sharing economy is in its early stages but with your participation and promotion could grow to become a global phenonomen.  If you are interested in buying, selling, sharing or swapping garden produce, plants or resources please take a look and get involved.

We were excited to attend presentations by Jerry Coleby-Williams and Sophie Thompson from ‘Gardening Australia’.  Jerry’s topic was ‘Sustainable gardening in context’ and he made some very interesting points.  The talk included many examples from his personal experience and having had the opportunity to visit his garden some years ago we were able to visualise exactly what her was talking about.  The first talk we saw was Sophie Thompson’s presentation on ‘Gardening for health and wellbeing’.  Sophie is a passionate speaker and knowledgeable about her subject.  Many of the statistics she quoted from well-regarded studies bore out what many gardeners have known for years.  Sophie’s other talk was titled ‘Saving the world with gardening’ and while the title may have been slightly tongue-in-cheek, she clearly showed how this can be done but we have to start with ‘saving’ ourselves, our families, our neighbourhoods and communities.  The point was that we really can make a difference.

I have come home inspired to do more – gardening, growing and sharing.