29 to go

It is with joy and happiness that I write to you today. Yes, we have a launch date for the app. We will launch it on the Google Play and the App Store on the 29th of July. We have a launch date for the app…!

What the hell? It has taken such a long time to get to this point, and one thing we’ve definitely learnt is to not mind the odd set back or two. And here we are, 4 weeks out from launch.

Between you, me and the fencepost, I have been so anxious about setting a date. What if, what if! But here it is, the date! The 29th of July. 4 weeks from today. Come good, bad or evil, the app will be here.

So what the hell happened? Well, we’ve been working quite a lot since the start of the year to finalise the production of the app and we have finally got the go-ahead from our app developer, the wonderful Alex Portlock, that the app is about to be ready for release. There’s been a lot of managing and juggling different tasks and deadlines behind the scenes, and so it has been very difficult to put a date on release. Indeed, my family has pointed out more than once that the app has been ‘almost ready for release’ for a little while now. For someone like me – always impatient to just get on with the job – waiting has been a hard process. But I am content with the knowledge that we’ve done what we can to produce the best app we can. 

It’s going to be in your hands so very soon.

29 days. Go.

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.

Recycling in Bangladesh

It has been quiet here for a while. Verrrry quiet. If you lean in, I'll tell you why. ... I went away to Bangladesh. 

The story goes: I met a Bangladeshi friend in one of my first years at university and we become quite close. At one point, she invited me to go to Bangladesh with her and some other friends. Appreciative, but poor, I promised her that I would definitely go one day and so we agreed that I would go to Bangladesh for her wedding. That's right. She is now married. And I went to her wedding. 

I also chucked in a side trip to Thailand and speak to you now as a slightly different person. 

One of the things I learnt about most on my trip was culture. Of course I learnt about the Bangladeshi and Thai cultures, but also about my own culture. How to discern it, how to recognise it; I found it in a few spots I didn't expect. Indeed, I came up with the idea for this blog post in a CNG (compressed natural gas - a name given to small, green taxi-like things that I'd call cars if they were anyway near the size, speed or likeness. Heck, I'd call them cars if they had seatbelts), while in the middle of the WORST traffic I'd even been in, having completely surrendered to it. And that idea was around culture. 

You see, these CNGs, they didn't have windows. They had metal-grate doors that closed, but are a bit like chicken-wire in that you are still exposed to the elements. On one hot, sticky day after we had had a tour of old Dhaka, we bought ice creams and shared them with our CNG driver and tour-guide. We sat, quiet and still, in the "car" while we ate them and upon completion the two locals plopped their wrappers through the metal grate and out onto the ground. Just like that. No questions asked. An immediate disposal. A product of Australia and of my generation, I held my wrapper in my hand. I was not going to litter. The driver, having realised the wrapper in my hand, gestured that I plop my wrapper outside also. Well, needless to say, I didn't. What happened to that wrapper after I put it in the bin in my room that night, I'll never know. But it wouldn't surprise me if my efforts simply delayed the process of it ending up on the ground somewhere. 

Because, the thing is, if there is no rubbish service then there is no where to put your rubbish. If you put it in your bin at home, then it will just keep piling up. If you don't want it in your house, you can put it outside, put it where ever you like. It doesn't matter. Because unless someone collects it, or unless you take it to a tip or transfer station, it won't go anyway. So you might as well just leave it anywhere. You might as well plop it out on the road. 

Picture this image. There is a cosy-looking, run-down shack sitting to the side of a plot of land. Trees and chickens surround. The weatherboards are painted eclectic colours so that an artist would appreciate its aesthetic. And outside, just near the house, presumably somewhere near the kitchen, there is a great big pile. A great big pile of rubbish that falls down the hill. The chickens peck through it. This was a common enough image throughout both Bangladesh and Thailand, and very likely many other parts of the world where there is no comprehensive rubbish collection service. But this particular house, with its trees and weatherboards, is painted here for you from the memory of my visit to the Botanical Gardens in Dhaka. This house was the park ranger's house. 

So when I talk about recycling in Bangladesh, I talk about wastage and rubbish and the absence of infrastructure that could service the needs of the people. I talk about cultures that grow around these services and I talk about how that makes me feel. It makes me reflect at how outrageously effective the Australian Government has been to prevent littering and promote recycling. It makes me appreciate that the services exist for me to be environmentally responsible. 

When I talk about recycling in Bangladesh, I talk about a conversation I had with a Bangladeshi there, in Dhaka. A conversation about recycling in Australia. And it made me realise that if there ever was a bunch of like-minded, well-meaning people who had the capacity to reduce their waste entirely, it was going to be us, Australia. 

Yes, it'll be hard to recycle more and reduce our waste. But it's not going to be that hard. 

Join the movement. Deny the concept of waste. 

23.02.2015

Eleanor's Plastic Free Day

I trialed the Plastic Free Day campaign ahead of Saturday's official #plasticfreeday, hosted by the Foundation for Young Australians. The idea around the campaign is to encourage people to think about how much plastic we consume. The suggestion isn't that we should all give up plastic entirely (though I have heard of people who get metal containers and refill their hair shampoo into these containers from source). The suggestion is that we consume a lot of plastic for single use. It's surprising how much. Here's my story. 

My self-imposed restriction on plastic was really apparent as I was grooming myself in the morning. I couldn't use my shampoo, my bodywash, my toothbrush, my deodorant. My sunglasses had to be left at home. Luckily my perfume bottle was not made of plastic, so I was able to leave the house smelling reasonably ok. 

Beyond the potential for BO, the worst was my phone. I have a Samsung Galaxy, and parts of the casing are made from plastic. I couldn't use my mobile phone....!

Having left the house, I knew I couldn't drive my car given the amount of plastic used in that thing. Instead, I took my bike and rode to the train. Because I rode my bike that day, I also took a backpack, instead of the usual handbag. 

The day's events were slightly unusual and given this, I had not choice but to use plastic. You see, I was signing a house lease that day and I had forgotten to acquire a metal pen. I had to use a plastic pen to sign on the dotted line. 

But other than that, once I had left my house it was pretty easy to avoid plastic. I ate sit-in Japanese for lunch, and was not required to use plastic to eat it, (but of course the ingredients that went into that sushi would have at one stage been packaged in plastic). I ensured I had a sit-in coffee. I rued being without my phone. 

But, you see, I failed.

Even as I was trying to actively avoid plastic, it surrounded my every activity. I mentioned I took public transport - my myki is made of plastic. I mentioned I purchased lunch - with plastic-coated money. In celebration of signing our new lease, my partner and I went to have a coffee.

ha. Woops.

ha. Woops.

We got take-away. (When I realised, as I walked away from the cafe, that I had just willingly accepted a plastic, single use, take-away coffee cup, I cussed. Loudly.) 

I also mentioned above that I took my bike, and backpack, both of which I later realised were in part made of plastic. My helmet was also made of plastic. I was switched on enough to brush my teeth without my toothbrush (awkward, make-do finger brushing was poorly attempted). But I was completely oblivious to the fact that the toothpaste tube is made of, you got it, plastic! 

Damn. That plastic stuff. It is a very versatile product. It's everywhere. It even coats the Fredo Frogs that I am currently eating. It comes in so many different forms and sizes, how might we know just how to dispose of this all sustainably?

Pre-register for the Sustain Me app, and find out. 

17.12.2014

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.

Photo-shoot.

This morning I was late to a meeting because I was straightening my hair. Where was I going that required my hair being straightened? We were having a a photo-shoot. That'll be a first for Sustain Me. 

In truth, we sat in the newspaper's Board Room and tried to look seriously at our phones while being photographed, but photo-shoot it still was. 

This is just such a fantastic and gratifying experience. The first thing the journalist said as we sat down was that it's a great story. Our app really is an example where everyone wins: we recycle more, we make less mistakes and so we contaminate our recycling less, councils have more they can recycle, we reduce Melbourne's carbon footprint. Everyone wins. But on top of that, getting to print media is a fantastic opportunity for us to get more awareness in the community, more people will register to download the app early, which for the app to be successful, we need. It just feels so incredible for this project to grow legs like this. 

And, in case you were wondering, a post of said photo from photo shoot will be a-making an appearance on this page. he he! 

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. 

Business cards.

So. We are getting our next round of business cards. 

Sounds pretty straight forward, huh? You got me. You can tell where this is going. It's not straight forward at all. Not only do you have to think about what goes on it, logos, branding, etc, you gotta think about how you'll print them. Cheap and nasty? What self-respecting environmentally-focused social enterprise will do that? No, we'll have environmentally friendly business cards thank-you-very-much.

But da-amn. Environmentally-friendly, Australian companies who print environmentally-friendly business cards with vegetable ink on recycled paper. They cost. 

Our alternative? Stamp it. That's right: we have purchased a savvy, recylced-rubber stamp, and will be stamping what ever recycled cardboard I can get my hands on. Including the weat-bix box. 

Ha.

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.