Live Sustainably

Guest Blogger #3: Siobhan Dodds

Guest blogger #3: We've asked artist and thinker Siobhan Dodds to speak about her experience cleaning up Australia on Clean Up Australia Day over the last 20 years. 

By Siobhan Dodds

Growing up on the Mornington Peninsula meant that every Clean Up Australia day was spent at the beach. From as young as 5 years old, I was beginning to understand the importance of human intervention against environmental degradation. In the lead up to Clean Up Australia Day, we would sit around and learn about marine habitats, different species, flora, fauna and their reliance on a healthy ecosystem. Bottles, cans, plastics, sharps and waste became a signpost of an infected habitat.

DSC_1776.jpg

As most people who grew up beside a beach will tell you, this playground is sacred and worth preserving. Not only does it provide endless playtime, but it links us directly to the sea and its marine life. Anyone that has visited over summer knows how important these environments are for leisure and family time. Clean Up Australia Day taught me from a young age that in order to protect the marine life and to protect our beaches, we need to keep it clean.

Since finishing school and moving across different parts of Melbourne, I’ve noticed that a lot of people are still confused when it comes to rubbish disposal, especially recycling. Perhaps they never had a year in year out Clean Up Australia experience like I did. Or perhaps they’re ill educated on cause and effect. This is why I think the alliance built between Clean Up Australia and Sustain Me Group could not be more perfect. People who missed out on learning about conservation and the importance of our environments through the Clean Up Australia day event can now access the app to learn and develop their understanding whenever they want.

Sustain Me brings council specific recycling and waste management education to you in an easy format, an app. For most people, finding information is usually laborious, ineffective and inaccurate. The Sustain Me Team have collated the information and partnered with Clean Up Australia to help increase the amount of recycling on Clean Up Australia Day and beyond. While dedicating one day and participating on Clean Up Australia Day is an important first step, we need to be vigilant of our waste and recycling practices every day and continually act to reduce the impact of our habits.

Despite learning this and participating in over twenty Clean Up Days, I still see rubbish on our beaches. This makes me feel really disappointed, especially because it is a human centric problem. What does encourages me though is that there are organisations out there willing to make our lives easier and in doing so, they commit their time and effort to ensuring change in a big way. All we have to do is learn more, show up, become active and participate.

This year, on March 6th, I will once again sign up, and contribute to Clean Up Australia Day. I will also download the Sustain Me App from the Google Play or App stores for free. I will continue to separate my collected rubbish into recycling and waste streams as I want to continue to live and have access to beautiful environments and leave it in a pristine condition for future generations.

rubbish sandcastles caused by not using sustain me

Guest blog #2: The Rogue Ginger writes about living plastic and waste free

Erin Rhoads, aka the Rogue Ginger, has lived plastic and waste free for over a year. She writes a popular blog about her experiences, offering cool-as tips and techniques to reduce plastic usage and overall waste in our everyday lives. We've asked Erin to shed some light on how she does it. 

By Erin Rhoads

I blog about plastic and waste free living and have been invited to write on the Sustain Me Blog ‘Sustainable Living’ about the consequences of irresponsible plastic use. 

I can hear you ask ‘What is irresponsible plastic use?’ I consider irresponsible plastic use as most of our day to day items, that are not needed. The throwaway stuff.  I am not anti plastic, simply anti the misuse of plastic. Plastic has made vast contributions to medicine, improving the quality of life for many people. Something like a throw away plastic straw, has not made much of a contribution other than continued pollution.  

Recently, there was a story in news of a turtle, with a plastic straw lodged in its nasal cavity. The images were devastating. Stories like this, and many others, are what prompted me to start fighting the misuse of plastic. If we are going to use up a valuable resource like oil, why waste it on a plastic straw?  

Our oceans are filling up with plastic. According to analysis by Project MainStream, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean. The affects will be felt across the world if we don't do something now.  

Living plastic free all began with one step. It can be hard to eliminate plastic all in one go, but here's a couple steps for you to reduce unsustainable plastic use. 

SIP WITHOUT THE PLASTIC 

Saying NO to plastic straws takes practice and if you don't remind the waiter you might end up with a useless plastic stick in your drink. Yuck! Here is a handy tip: when the waiter takes your order ask them to write down your request. Some drinks call for straws so why not invest in a reusable straw. I carry one around with me (including a spoon, fork and knife).

If you enjoy going strawless encourage your local cafe to put the straws under the counter. Then ask the cafe to only give out straws if patrons ask. 

NO MORE PLASTIC BAGS 

Many supermarkets now offer their own reusable bags. If you don't already have some then I suggest purchasing a couple. I also carry a fold up bag in my handbag for moments when I need a bag. Human beings have been living without plastic bags for hundreds of years. Reuse a bag and let's save our rivers and oceans from them. 

SAY NO TO PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES 

If you are serious about lessening the impact of plastic in your life then you will want to invest in a refillable bottle. I have had no trouble asking for cafes and restaurants to fill up my bottle for free when I need it. With a bottle tucked away in your bag you will save money and realise how silly paying for bottled water is.  

DITCH TAKEAWAY COFFE CUPS

Does your morning not start until you have had your coffee on the way to work? Like to keep warm with a takeaway chai? Next time the need for a takeaway hot beverage comes knocking ask for no lid or take 10 minutes to sit in to have your coffee in a mug. You can also take your own coffee cup.  

I offer this tip as a way to start you on your journey, today. I don't advocate the use of takeaway, ever. However, saying no to a plastic lid is a good start. 

Plastic lids easily end up on busy streets creating unwanted pollution. If you are a daily take away coffee drinker saying NO to a lid each day could save you up 20 bits of plastic from entering your life and the environment each month.

Remember that paper coffee cups are not recyclable and go into a bin for landfill. 

Saying no to plastic straws, plastic bags, plastic water bottles and unnecessary takeaway, sends a message that these items are not needed. Our consumer power is just as powerful as voting. Our great grandparents thrived and survived without these four items in their day to day lives, and I know we can too.

Guest blogger Liv Gluchowska lives sustainably

Guest blogger Liv Gluchowska is an elite athlete, dual world champion in Brazilian jiujitsu + physiotherapist. We've offered her a new challenge: recycling (correctly). Here's what she came up with.

By Liv Gluchowska

Melbourne is undoubtedly one of the best cities in the world - and if you have ever visited then you will know just how much we love our coffee. There seems to be a new trendy, hipster cafe popping up every week, each better than the last. I have my personal favourites but also go on hunts to try new places and indulge in my coffee snobbery. Most often, I will judge the entire cafe based on the first cup of the delicious dark liquid, and no doubt I’ve been thinking  about it as soon as I wake up. Yes, I am a coffee addict in every possible way.

When I sat down to do my budget a year ago, I realized I spend close to $2,500 on take- away coffees a year. That's almost  2 cups per day. Horrified at how much money I gulp down each day, I decided to invest in a coffee machine in an effort to save some money.

I buy a lot of coffee.

I buy a lot of coffee.

I am time-poor, so I settled for a coffee pod type as it’s easy, convenient and quick. However, the seemingly easy solution to my problem actually became more of a problem. I am not having less take away coffee, but instead I am just having much more coffee. I still buy a take away cuppa each day as I head to work, and another one during lunch-time. And on top of that I am having my usual 1 or 2 at home...

A week after my purchase, I emptied the rocket-fuel maker of its pods. It’s not an exaggeration to say I was shocked at the amount of plastic I was about to bin. I wasn’t sure if the pods were recyclable, so I consulted the Sustain Me app on my phone. To my disappointment, I learnt that in fact I am just contributing to landfill.

Used coffee pods.

Used coffee pods.

I had no idea how rare landfills are in Australia and that we only have secured space for the next 15 years. And that some garbage trucks have to drive hundreds of kilometers outside big cities to reach those landfills. And that by buying coffee pods, as well as take away coffee cups, I am single-handedly contributing to the high demand of materials, which in turn causes high carbon emissions caused by mining, transport, processing and packaging.

My thought was that if I minimize my coffee machine use to one per day, I can at least recycle my take away coffee cups and limit my contribution to polluting the Earth.  Alas, to my horror, as many as 49% of all recyclables in Australia go to landfill each year. So it’s not only my coffee pods and the plastic and card board boxes they come packaged in, but also my many disposable coffee cups I go through per week. I decided I needed to change to be a better human being immediately.

Upon reflection, I was shocked reading about how I am single-handedly contributing to pollution in so many ways.

Had I bothered to make myself more educated about the issue, I would have done more research before buying an expensive coffee pod machine. At this stage only Nescafe offers a recycling service - but you still have to go to recycle in-store (which is inconvenient and time consuming for most people).

Overall awareness about the problems we face with recycling in our community is poor. Until Sustain Me app was released in 2015, I found it confusing and hard to find the right information quickly on the internet. I hate to admit that if I wasn’t sure about what to recycle, I would put it in the garbage bin, often wrongly so. Sustain Me app now does the thinking for me and I can be certain I’m doing my bit to help the environment.

Use reusable coffee cups and live sustainably.

My Recycling Plan:

I have committed to making a change in just a few simple steps:

  1. Limit coffee pod coffee to 1 per day. If desperate for caffeine, I will have a tea.

  2. Take a re-usable coffee cup to work

  3. When time allows, sit down at a cafe for a coffee rather than getting take-away

  4. Re-use coffee trays when buying coffee for my colleagues

  5. Spread awareness about recycling at work by recommending Sustain Me app

  6. Always do research first when buying new appliances

 

Follow Liv on her Website or on social media:

Crowdfunding campaign

Our crowdfunding campaign launch comes at the close of a massive week. Here's a little bit of what we've been doing:

- national release roll out preparation The app is going national. There is a lot involved. Mainly databasing. 

- meetings with new and established clients (depending on how long we've know them, these make for very different meetings) And whenever we do have one of these, we lose half a day. But I often don't mind it - it gives my brain some space.

- crowdfunder planning and development This has largely involved planning out the rewards and researching what is appropriate for an app based crowdfunding campaign. We hope you like what we've got on offer. 

- databasing This never goes away so I'm mentioning it twice. 

- day to day running tasks facebook, instagram, twitter, all the places, emails, calls, 

- re-make of the website (do you like it?) this took so much longer than it should I have I am not even going to talk about it. But, according to Google, I am a webmaster now. 

- photo shoots, video editing, fitting images to stubborn programs we needed to prepare the video for the crowdfunder, so that took some time. 

- training my new kitten her name is Nancy and she always wants to sit in front of the computer. 

 

If you're up for it, could you take a moment to help us out? 

We need you to Donate, Download and Share.

The app should be free. For all. Always. Help us keep this app free by supporting us with our running costs.

Donate to the cause. Shout us a coffee, sponsor a listing, book us in for dinner! Help us reach our financial goal!

Download the app. Start now. If you are in Victoria, you can start managing your impact on the environment.

Share. If you believe in a waste free future and actual action to prevent climate change, share this campaign with your friends and family. The farther our app goes, the greatest impact on the environment our community can create. Join the movement. Help us out.

Check out the product of our efforts https://www.startsomegood.com/sustainme

Why recycle?

Recycling isn't sexy. We've been told for decades now that we should recycle, we've been given countless different instructions, we've been told throughout school to 'Do The Right Thing'. But. These quick slogans lack a tad of depth. We come away knowing we ought to recycle, but not necessarily why.

I first started thinking strongly about recycling because it was a way to reuse your waste, reduce demand on natural resources and - I mean - if we can use what we've already got, then we can reduce our consumption, right? Right.

But that sounds a bit boring.

And I've always found that the most difficult question. Preserving the environment will allow for the preservation of the human race. But that is so abstract and dramatic, that it feels a tad out of place.

We've filmed for our crowdfunding campaign (that's set to be launched really very soon) and in it, I have to give a little spiel about why recycling matters. What does it mean for people in the real world?

Also, having been working in this space for a while now, I've met my share of climate skeptics. I don't want to come across as airy-fairy - I want to make sense and give real examples of why this all matters.

Also, being stared at by the camera is really demanding. It's like: 'Say something good - now! Make it so good so that we can hit our fundraising goal!' So, pressure.

In my head, it was like a thousand thoughts and emotions were popping up at the same time. And out of this, an explosion of my own personal reality. (I won't say what I eventually said on the crowdfunding campaign clip, I won't ruin the surprise.)

The reason I recycle is because:

- I can't sleep at night knowing that I willfully live in a manner that harms the environment.

- I love my friends, family and I want them to have a temperate planet to live on.

- I love trees and plants and am disheartened, heart broken, knowing that climate change is making it difficult for many species to survive.

- I actually do panic every time I hear the amount of extinctions of animals that has happened over my life time.

- Because while I am captivated and mystified by the environment, I am also petrified. Because it is, and always will be, stronger and bigger than me.

 

What do you think? Convincing?

 

All that aside, happy new year and welcome to 2016. A year in which I have already turned another age, got a cat and written at least a blog post. 

 

Peace x

Day 3 of 25 Days of Waste

To celebrate our 3rd day of the 25 Days of Waste, I am thinking about bags. Bags, bags, bags.

The whole reason why this blog post came about is because I Google searched for an open-licensed image comparing calico bags and plastic bags in some way. There weren't any. 

But then I got hooked reading up about all these cool, sustainable options for Christmas shopping. Finding out about new ways to reduce my impact on the earth really does make me feel all warm inside. A bit like Christmas. 

Anyway. So I thought I'd do a post-collage of the fruits of my research. Here it is. 

5 WAYS TO AVOID NEEDING A PLASTIC BAG THIS CHRISTMAS

1. Make yourself a calico-style bag out of your old T-shirt. This no-nonsense clip will show you how.  

2. Put a little bag inside your usual hand-bag, or your car, or your pocket. Make a commitment to yourself not to leave the house without this.

3.  Decide to yourself that you will not take a plastic bag to carry home your shopping for the rest of the year.

4. Do a Kris Kringle and buy fewer gifts so as to reduce your need for a bag. 

5. Ask yourself: "What would work? What would be effective in helping me refuse plastic bags at the shops?" When you have an answer, do that.

And that, my friends, brings home our 3/25 Days of Waste for this festive season. 

Plastic down the sink hole

Our sinks are blocked in our house at the moment. First it was the kitchen sink; but once we bought a plunger we were able to fix it pretty quickly. 

But then the bathroom sink got blocked. 

So I thought: "I know! I'll just go and get the plunger and then it'll be fixed". I was so naive. 

Well, I did get the plunger and I did plunge the bathroom sink and to my actual horror and disgust (I could see my facial expressions get more and more emphatic in the bathroom mirror), murky and dirty water started coming up out of the plug hole. 

This really wasn't supposed to happen. 

My boyfriend's shaved facial hairs were swimming around the oh-so-recently clean sink. 

The plunger is meant to move things around and then it all goes down again. 

Well that didn't happen and this dirty dirty water was sitting in my sink now. 

 

Anyway, I did the only thing a rational-minded person would do: I kept going. 

Before I knew it, stuff started coming out. (hahaha - my first impression was to say "shit" started coming out. Not to refer to faeces, but to refer to rubbish. But upon reflection, the context of this situation would have made that confusing). Like non-liquid stuff. 

I couldn't identify most of it, but then an ear cleaner came out. Like a cotton bud. 

I can't tell you how horrified I was. 

I thought everything was going to go DOWN the sink. 

The actual most disgusting part of this story is that I know for a fact that my boyfriend doesn't use ear cleaners, and I have NEVER in my life put one down the sink hole. 

So that was someone else's ear cleaner. 

PUKE! 

There's just no way to make that story better. Let's move on.

But it does take me to an interesting place. I actually went on a tour of the water treatments plant recently, and this issue of the ear cleaners actually did arise. 

Heaps of people put them down the sink. That and baby wipes. 

I took a photo of the most common plastic stuff people flush down the loo. (hahahaha - I love talking about this. It brings about the most ridiculous sentences. For example, I wrote this sentence in error: "I actually have a picture of the most common stuff people flush down the loo". Woops.)

I actually have a picture of the most common PLASTIC stuff people flush down the loo.

ear cleaners, plastic toys, condoms, plastic key tags, plastic lids, band-aids.

ear cleaners, plastic toys, condoms, plastic key tags, plastic lids, band-aids.

7 tonnes of plastic stuff is sent down the sinks and loos into the sewage each week, from just this particular water treatment plant I visited. 

All of that goes into landfill. 

Some of this stuff - the plastic toy, the plastic key tag, the bottle lid - could otherwise have been recycled. Some of it can't. And I don't even know about ear cleaners, neither does the Sustain Me app. Better research that one. Golly damn it. It is so confusing trying to keep track of what is and isn't recyclable. On our end, we are actively trying to make the app as comprehensive as possible. 

The tour guide did tell us the most convincing reason why we probably should just dispose of this stuff correctly. 

Because it blocks your sinks.

And blocked sinks have a tendency of spewing stuff back at you at the most inconvenient times. 

ba-dum tshh

Sustain Me shortlisted for Banksia Sustainability Awards

Sustain Me Grouphas been shortlisted for the Banksia Sustainability Awards, Smart Technology. 

I am so excited. 

Yesterday, I ran 35km because I am training for a marathon next week. And this is relevant because my legs hurt a whole heap - walking down stairs is a real struggle. Well, I forgot about my hip flexes when I got this news. I jumped up and down like it's nobody's business. (They're beginning to hurt again now). 

What this means is that we have been assessed by a panel of expert judges to determine organisations that show

"...demonstrated leadership and innovation in the development and application of technology, which directly promotes a more sustainable world" Banksia Foundation Press Release 08.10.2015

It is an award that recognises leaders in sustainability efforts, across numerous categories, all over Australia. 

That's right. We are sustainability leaders in Australia. This is a big deal. We're being recognised. 

I am so excited. 

Winners are announced in November.

Action and inaction

I was speaking with a friend this week and explaining how much I was affected by learning about landfill-decomposing times. I told her that I just couldn't believe that I had contributed to soft plastics, glass, metal going to landfill. I had done so in ignorance - I didn't know how much of an issue this was. 

For example, I only just learnt that in Australia we only have landfills secured on average for the next 15 years. After this, garbage trucks will have to travel hundreds of kilometres out of the city to dispose of our waste. And in addition, landfill carbon emissions account for 3% of all of Australia's carbon emissions. 

Yeah. 

So we can make a sizeable difference by reducing what we send to landfill. 

Between my recycling bin, my soft plastics recycling bin and my worm farm, not much goes to landfill. I must look up whether or not carbon emissions are released from worm farms. 

Anyway. 

Back to my friend. I was telling her my worries and she asked me the most brilliant question: "Oh ok, so what have you done then to change your behaviour?" 

Action. Don't just talk about it. Do action. 

And I am doing action. The soft-plastics recycling bin (i.e. a plastic bags of plastic bags, bread bags and other soft plastics that I drop off at the supermarket where they turn them into seats for parks and sea-side walkways) is new. I have also been seriously looking into buying bulk. A friend of mine has a flour maker (i.e. a machine that crushes up wheat and spits out flour). And I've also been thinking about making my own bread, tomato sauce, that kind of thing. I haven't decided which are worth the time and effort from my view yet, I suppose future Eleanor will figure that out. 

I have an action request from you: if you read these emails/ blogs but haven't download the app, or don't use the app - can I ask a question? Why? What is it that keeps you from using the app? Feedback from you is the most important of all. So you're only helping by telling. 

Thanks! :) 

p.s. In other news, we applied for the Banksia Sustainability Awards today. I spent the last week writing the 2,000 word report. Up until last night, it was 3,000 words.

Glass bottles take 1 million years to break down at the tip.

Stephen and I went to school this week to create some inter-generational change. We spoke to 30 odd year ones and twos. At first, I was terrified. Something about their age (being between 5 and 6), and their strength in numbers, rattled me. Children of that age tell you right away if they're dead bored of you. And, like a horse, they can smell your fear. 

Despite these fear-exciting qualities, they were a bit cute; plus, their teacher was sitting behind them. So they had to be good. 

Stephen created an excellent teaching plan and in the process taught me a thing or two. One of the activities included getting the students to guess how long it takes for an every day house hold item to break down in landfill

So for a banana peel, it was between 3-4 weeks. 

For a paper book, it's 3-4 months. 

For tin cans it's 200 odd years. 

For plastic bags, it's 1000 years. 

For glass bottles, it's 1 million years. 

Ok, fine, so according to this article, due to varying conditions within landfills, results can range ridiculously. So it depends. 

But the take home message here is that we don't have enough space on earth to put our waste in big holes. This is not sustainable. 

Think about it - plastic beverage holders (six pack rings) take 400 years to break down. It lives 4 times as long as you could, and we all will use countless six pack holders throughout our lives. Actually, if you drink too much beer, the six pack rings might live 5 times as long as you do. 

This is a first, but I am cut and copying the following from Charissa Struble's article on Be Healthy Relax's webpage because of how striking the details are. This is how long it takes your junk to decompose. 

Take a look. 

  • Train Tickets: 2 weeks
  • Paper Towel: 2-4 weeks
  • Orange Peel: 2-5 weeks
  • Newspaper: 6 weeks
  • Apple Core: 2 months
  • Cotton Shirt: 2-5 months
  • Cotton Gloves: 3 months
  • Waxed Milk Cartons: 3 months
  • Thread: 3-4 months
  • Ropes: 3-14 months
  • Canvas Products: 1 year
  • Plywood: 1-3 years
  • Wool Clothing: 1-5 years
  • Non-Waxed Milk Cartons: 5 years
  • Cigarette Butts: 10-12 years
  • Lumber: 10-15 years
  • Painted Board: 13 years
  • Plastic Film Container: 20-30 years
  • Leather Shoes: 25-40 years
  • Nylon Fabric: 30-40 years
  • Foamed Plastic Cups: 50 years
  • Rubber Tires: 50-80 years
  • Rubber Boot Soles: 50-80 years
  • Foamed Plastic Buoys: 80 years
  • Batteries: 100 years
  • Hairspray Bottle: 200-500 years
  • Plastic Beverage Holders (Six Pack Rings): 400 years
  • Plastic Beverage Bottles: 450 years
  • Engine Blocks: 500 years
  • Sanitary Pads: 500-800 years
  • Monofilament Fishing Line: 600 years
  • Polyurethane Seat Cushions: 1,000 years
  • Automobile Windshield: One million years or longer
  • Tinfoil: It does not biodegrade.

Let's deny the concept of waste. Never waste an opportunity to recycle. I know: it can annoying and boring and you often don't have the time. But you have an app for that now, so it's easier.

I have schooled myself.

Arggh. Since going to the primary school last week, I can't stop thinking about how single-use plastics will sit in landfill for 1000 years.

I can't stop noticing people on the street using plastic bottles, plastic bags, tin cans. I look at coffee cups in the bins in Flinders St Station, and I'm like, "Well, according to some estimates, that coffee cup will never decompose". I wonder if I'm the only one who has noticed that the 'recycling bins' in Flinders St Station are actually just plastic bags, custom made to look good. And we know that if you put a plastic bag full of recyclables in for recycling, that it gets chucked into landfill...

This worry is giving everything I might eat out of the house a sour taste. Everything I might do.

And, you see, I'm already a bit of a recycling vigilante; you've no doubt picked that up by now. I'm only going to get worse. And that worries me. 

I'm worried because if I'm a vigilante, if I'm the only one thinking about these things, then what are we going to do? What will come of us if concepts such as single-use plastics remain the norm? While most of us do recycle, we also put a lot of our stuff into landfill, too. 

For example, I am horrified at myself for one particular bad habit. I'll name and shame it here, and never do it again. When Laurence and I have jam or pesto in the fridge that goes mouldy, I'd chuck it out. That is, I put it in the waste bin instead of cleaning it out and putting it in the recycling bin. These glass jars that I've thrown out have no doubt ended up in landfill and will remain there for 1 million years. Horrifying, hey? 

And this was simply because I hadn't processed the thought that I could recycle the glass jar, despite the mould. 

Crazy. 

You might be sitting here hoping I have an answer to these concerns. I do, well - an answer of sorts. I'm going to keep advocating for us to recycle more, I'm going to keep promoting the Sustain Me app as a convenient way for people to recycle, whether they're at home or not. And I will continue to advocate that we deny the concept of waste. 

Hopefully you will too.

We fight over plastic bags.

My boyfriend, Laurence, and I agree on a great many things sustainable. We agree on all the good reasons we should take the train to work; we agree on the problems with eating meat, with buying from supermarkets, and so on. We aren't ideologically opposed. It's just one of us - I won't say who - is a little more, let's say, pro-active about sustainability than the other. 

Imagine supermarket check-outs, imagine shiny floors and packaged goods. Imagine the odd loose lemon: everything piled high in our supermarket basket. It all begins with a question:

"Should we get a plastic bag?"

"No, we don't need one". Comes the reply.

"Really? There's too much here to carry"

"It's fine, look: I've picked up everything now anyway. Can you grab the milk?; and we're done". 

 

I lost the argument the other day when we had gone shopping right before I was getting on the train to the city. 

"We're going to need a plastic bag". 

"You know what I think about single-use plastics," I say jokingly, not really thinking about it. "Look, it's fine." I flexed my dexterous fingers. "I got this". 

"How am I going to get it all up the stairs?"

"I'll help - ..." My eyes shot to the left, like they do when I've just realised something. "Oh."

Laurence picks up the plastic bag, triumphant. "Thank-you-very-much". Never before has a plastic bag been so cherished. 

That is, until we used it as a bin liner. (Couldn't resist, sorry Sweetheart).

 

I read a blog a little while ago that said "Break Ups on the Rise: Over Tissues". Apparently, according to this blog, people are reporting breaking up over trivial sustainability measures, such as whether or not to recycle tissues. Looking at Laurence's and my supermarket routine, I can see how the regular, everyday-demands of living sustainably in a non-sustainable culture can be heavy demands indeed. Especially if one partner is really pushing it more than the other. This is a source of tension among families, I'm sure, and among friends. The relationship space is not immune. 

In my view it is the good old not-seeing-the-forest-for-the-trees syndrome; people can get caught up over trivialities like recycling tissues and the odd single use plastic bag without recognising that, as a society, we live in a unsustainable way. We are raised to consume heaps, buy more, buy bigger. We are guilty about the rotting food in the fridge, but too busy to do anything about it. Broadly speaking there are large changes we need to make in our lives to help us be more sustainable. In Laurence's and my own situation above, we've actually tried to not shop at the supermarket at all, and have a CERES food box delivered to our house. This forgoes the need for plastic bags (it's delivered in a cardboard box that we recycle in our kerbside recycling bin); and the food is locally sourced. Going even broader, it would be great if Victoria went plastic bag free like SA, NT, NSW and Tassie. (According to this blog, Queensland is committed to being the next). So, government leadership would be great. Right about now.... :/ 

Failing that, there are some useful sustainability initiatives popping out of the ground like daisies in spring time. Take One Step, run through Greensteps at Monash University, encourages people to think up one thing they can do that lessens their impact on the earth, and the program then encourages people to then act out these steps. Similarly, Climate For Change seeks to create a climate for change in Australia's politics-scape; they (also) help you identify and then act on achievable actions that help us unite to create a social mandate our leaders can't ignore and thereby bring about good action on climate change. 

Here are a few ideas about how we can avoid the matrimonial warnings not worth ignoring about plastic bags and all things sustainability. 

 

EDIT: Laurence has just googled whether or not you can recycle tissues. Answer: yes if unsoiled. Compost it (or worm farm) if it is soiled.

In search of Ruby

When I was growing up, I had a dog called Ruby. She was the best and most loyal dog one could ask for. And she was mine. Unfortunately, dogs sometimes understand loyalty in view of protection. And sometimes they are very sensitive to their need to protect you. So Ruby would bite people a lot. Mainly men; sorry guys, I think she had daddy issues. Well, as I am sure those with a nippy puppy can relate, it caused a little anxiety. But that was fine because it meant that I could just keep her all to myself.

She really was the coolest dog. And I have so much love for her.

Well, anyway. At one point, my mum moved from our hobby farm and had to find a new home for Ruby. Mum did this after I had left for university, and so I missed my chance to say goodbye to her.

I have ever since been in this strange place in my mind: should I seek her out? Should I depart upon a journey in search of Ruby? Part of me feels that I should; she was, after all, my dog. She loves me just as much as I loved her. We were buds. She probably misses me a lot and feels sad all the time.

But then I also know that her new family really rather love her (not sure if she bites them too, but I don't think she does). And if I go and see her again, maybe she'll get all confused and feel a little lost in the world.

The other thing is that I think I'd have to travel a long way to find her. And I don't have an address. So, as most mystical and romantic adventures go, it really would be a journey. I'm thinking road trip movies (like Thelma and Louise) where the main characters end up different (and often better) people at the end of it. But petrol, guys. That stuff's expensive.

Anyway, that all came to an end this morning. As all good stories go, there is a plot twist. And it's about to hit you. It occurred to me as I walked to work, that Ruby is probably dead. She was my childhood dog. She'd be way into, and beyond, her arthritic years. And she died before I got to say goodbye.

Now you're probably thinking: this blog is a blog of a website that tries to tackle climate change through increasing the amount people recycle. How is she going to turn this story around and make it relevant to its cause?

Well, I'm not. You just did.

Let's save the world before it's too late.

I shall never embark upon my journey in search of Ruby, because that ship has sailed.

We need 4 earths to sustain me.

I don’t own a car. I eat very little meat and even less fish. I recycle everything I can. I ride my bike or pt it everywhere. I carry my takeaway coffee cup – for which I am guilty about accepting – with me until I find a recycling bin. I buy carbon neutral hair shampoo and have a worm farm to recycle my food scraps. I source my household electricity through renewable energy. I founded a social enterprise that helps people recycle more. And, according to the WWF Footprint Calculator, we need 4 earths to sustain me.

The WWF Footprint Calculator tells me that because I buy packaged goods, often from major supermarkets, often when they are out of season or not easily grown in Australia (and so are shipped in from Asia and trucked long distances), I am living unsustainably. While I don’t eat much of it, I still eat meat. I drive my partner’s car. I fly. I drink coffee, milk and all. I live a considerable distance from where I purchase food, where I work, where I meet friends. I consume.

But what is all this about carbon emissions? Which bit about my life style causes carbon to be released?

Each of these behaviours burn fossil fuels.  Driving obviously does. The food shipped from Asia is fossil fuel fuelled. The animals I eat require huge amounts of resources to sustain them, so that they sustain me. When we burn fossil fuels to power our lifestyles, waste products such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are released into the atmosphere. To get science-y on you, these gases absorb energy from radiation from the sun, which cause the gases to “move” more. When they “move” more, they become warmer. This process is known as the greenhouse effect and is a natural, normal thing that warms the earth’s surfaces and oceans.

However, too much carbon emissions means too much heat is created. What happens is that these gases absorb more energy from the sun’s radiation (as would make sense) and now there are just heaps of these gases building and building and building in the atmosphere.This level of greenhouse gases has caused an increase in the average global temperature and is often referred to as climate change (Climate Council, 2013; IPCC, 2013; Sturman and Tapper, 2006).  Since the pre-industrial era, there has been an increase in carbon dioxide of 40% in the atmosphere. There are exciting and new methods and technologies being created that may release carbon emissions into space, but to my knowledge, this is not an available option yet. (Ideas, thoughts on this, welcome).

So we want to put less carbon emissions into the atmosphere so that less heat is trapped and climate change is less severe.

How?

The Sustain Me app. The Sustain Me app was created out of frustration; we try to recycle our stuff but it’s either too hard (like batteries) or we do it wrong and it goes to landfill anyway (like plastic bags). Once you’ve consumed something, like a coffee cup or water bottle, there’s no going back. Those greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. But you can use that product as an opportunity to avoid creating more demand. If you recycle something, then you reduce demand for that item to be created again.

The Sustain Me app will count how many tonnes of carbon emissions you’ve saved by recycling that item. It tracks what you’ve saved and rewards you. Well, you reward yourself by reducing the amount of heat in the atmosphere, but the app tracks the good you are doing thanks you for it.

You might think that this is futile. Climate change can hardly be saved if just one person starts recycling more. You’re right. If just one person starts recycling more, then we’re screwed.

No, it’s going to take for you to recycle more.

 

*Much of the information regarding the greenhouse effect and global warming were sourced from Sturman and Tapper, 2006 and Meyer, 2014. Credit and thanks goes to Ananta Neelim, Sarah McElholum and Mitch Jeffrey for perfecting the science-y bits.

When you take recycling and food out of your rubbish bin, what do you have left?

I, like many young people my age, rent. In the last 8 years, I've lived in 7 different places. These ranged in a variety of ways: I lived for two years in uni college, I have rented my fair share of rental houses, I have rented apartments, and one house. Next January I'll be moving again. Why? Being from country Victoria, I think it is my expensive and inconvenient way of seeing and knowing Melbourne. I get to know Melbourne living in one street at a time. But because I move a lot, I can't have or grow a garden. It's very sad. But what I do have is a very fun pot-plant veggie garden.

It was mainly Jamie Oliver who got me into it. To continue the theme in form of analogy, Jamie Oliver planted the seed in my mind to want to have a pot-plant veggie garden in my early teens. Well, in particular, I wanted to live in an artsy London flat that overlooks a neat side walk, with a window that you heave open, framed by a quaint little box of parsley, coriander, mint, rosemary, thyme.... I never knew what he grew. I just wanted me some. 

Instead of the London gig, I live in Melbourne. And instead of a window box of herbs, I have a few pots. As Jamie would say, this is a cheap and sustainable alternative to buying bunches of herbs and veggies in the supermarket that we then throw in the bin, wasted. 

But what does my veggie patch eat!? Well, these wonderful plants need to be fed. And to feed them, I have a worm farm. That's right, I am the proud owner of 1,200 wriggly worms. I had to get over my aversion to them, quick smart. But now I pick them up with my fingers and everything. 

It was a bit tricky at first - they didn't seem to eat very much. They don't like citrus, and don't even think about putting an onion in there. We also had some visitors, little white wriggly worms, which turned out to be the spawn of some devil bug. But I got rid of them. They were numerous, but I was powerful. I had also underestimated the importance of somethings; for example, I didn't consider things like acidity, or how wormies eat (they eat dirt and then sieve the good stuff out, cool, hey?). But I got the hang of it. And now I use what they digest to feed my pot-plant veggie garden. 

Given that I am building a recycling app, I am also very conscious of what we throw out. Everything that could possibly be recycled, is. As we don't put food scraps in the bin either, very little goes to landfill via our garbage bin.  

So, when you take recycling and food out of your rubbish bin, what do you have left? Very little. 

Join the movement, deny the concept of waste. 

Cringe.

This image makes me cringe.

But it is an image that shows a lot about what we think about waste. It shows that we disregard it, that we no longer consider ourselves responsible once we've put it into the general area of the bin. My brother and I were walking past this, and he goes "At least they gave it a good shot". And we laughed, Stephen snapped a shot of it, and we walked on. What is funny about this, and what this shows, is that the attempt to dispose of their waste ends with the bin. It's funny here because they couldn't get it in the bin. It's also sad because that was still where the effort ended. 

Challenge and perseverance.

The last blog intended to give you a sense of our beginnings. But when we began and where we are now are such different places along the path. So different, in fact, that I am not going to try to recount all that has happened. Before you think that silly, be relieved to know that most of it was boring anyway. 

But I will tell you this: we are learning a lot. Let me give you some context. At the start of this year, I walked 100km for charity over 35 hours. It was long and it was hard. I knew this beforehand, so I asked my friend to meet me at different points along the path and give me a cheer. I told her, to her disbelief: "you'll probably need to book a hotel". "Why?!" she protested. At which point it was necessary for me to remind her that I'll be walking for most of two days and the entirety of one night, that while I wasn't stopping for sleep that night, it might be nice for her to get some sleep somewhere. Of course it seems obvious in hind's sight, but sometimes certain stories aren't recountable unless you experience it. Let me help you experience our learning. 

A little while ago, Stephen and I were thinking about tasks we had to do. Stephen was saying something like "So, we probably should get a website, Squarespace will do the trick; have you spoken with Alex lately?; I have sent out letters to about 15 different councils, we'll have to wait for their reply; I think that's all, yeah - great - what's on for the weekend?" Me: "Nothing mu-" Stephen "Oh no, there is something else, we have to market the app. Know anything about marketing?" Every new stage of this app's development brings with it the need to learn a new discipline. 

If we can't do it ourselves, we find someone who can. Talented, intelligent, generous people sit in a cafe and give us brilliant advice and direction which would otherwise take us months to work out on our lonesome. In some instances, they join us in work and help the Sustain Me app get another step closer to being finished - whatever that will look like. We have looked long and hard for wonderful help from brilliant professionals, and we've been lucky enough to receive it. And as the project grows, so do these relationships; they are becoming our friends. 

But as the project matures, so does the margin for success and error. The closer we come to the end of this path, the more we come to be aware of what we could lose.

However, I am an eternal optimist.. If you want to tackle something big, you have got to be willing to get a few blisters along the way. Signing up for my 100km walk of charity (read: hell) was way easier than motivating myself at 4am, in the rain, 60km down the muddy path, with 40km to go. But if what helps us get through is the shared enthusiasm for an idea, a bit of stamina and a few cheers from friends, then we'll get there and we'll learn a heap about ourselves, the world and the path less traveled along the way. 

Thanks for reading and keep it real. 

(On that note, if there are any generous marketers out there who'd help us, email me at eleanor@sustainme.com.au?)

And so, this is how the story began

So. A blog, hey? Well, we realised the other day that, as well as an app, we are making a story as we go and it struck us that we could tell it to you.

Imagine this scene. Stephen and I are sitting in a meeting room, in a council building somewhere, talking about our app to council people. Stephen has just explained about bottom lines, and recyclable items going to landfill, wasted recycling opportunities, and so on; at one point, someone asks us why are we doing this. 

Stephen then turns to me and says, 'Elle, you're on'. And I say:

'Well, the reason we are doing this is because we entered a competition in middle of 2013 called the Oxfam-Monash Innovators. The ideas of this competition was to get students to innovate good ideas that address a social issue, and we picked recycling and sustainable living, and we picked a mobile app as the platform. And, well, we won! We won money and support and looked at each other and realised the need to define ourselves. We had to actually do this now. It felt like responsibility. And anyway, did you know that if you put recyclable items in a plastic bag and that bag in your recycling bin, that stuff is not actually recycled. They throw that out.' As council people who work in recycling, funnily enough they did know that. 'But people still do that because they don't know their efforts are wasted.' Pun intended. So, that's why we are doing this. 

But for us the story is also about a project that has blown our expectations. I remember when I heard about the original Oxfam-Monash competition we signed up for. I was sitting at my desk, working on my Masters thesis, and my friend said 'Hey, you should sign up'. And I thought that I didn't want to, but my friend's cool and she was doing it, and it would look good on my resume. Plus I wasn't going to win; it was unlikely and I didn't want to because I had to finish my Masters, and I wasn't sure I had the time. In the end, my friend didn't do it and I won and I still had to do my thesis. So, safe to say my expectations were very quickly blown. 

But the other day, Stephen and I were planning some thing we were planning, and I looked down onto my notes and realised that I had written three names next to questions we had. These contacts would give us the answers we needed. 6 months ago, we didn't know those people. 12 months ago we didn't know anyone. At some point along the line, we became, like, the real-deal. Legit. Da-amn. 

And so, this is how the story began.