food waste

The quiet before the storm

As a child, I have always had a love for that saying: "the quiet before the storm". There is something about how it draws your attention towards, not the storm, but the storm's contrast. The quiet. This serves to define what the storm is not. The storm is not quiet, it is not still, it is not yet imminent. 

[Tangent: I just spent the last 5 minutes disputing with myself whether imminent was what I wanted to say there. I just looked up the definition of imminent: It means "About to happen" or "overhanging". In either case, the quiet before the storm implies 'the quiet' is happening while 'the storm' is definitely not yet happening. In both cases, imminent refers to the storm as "about to happen" and "overhanging" and in neither case can the quiet be described as that. So that was the wrong word.]

Today, right now, 8am on Saturday morning, is the quiet before the storm. I have to go away for the next 5 days for a course I am taking and while I am away learning things, the Sustain Me app will be released. 

4 days from now. 

It will be a different world when I am back. It will be a world in which you can download this recycling app I've been talking about with earnest for the last 2 years. 

Behind-the-scenes, we've had some interesting turns of late. For those who have never uploaded an app to the Apple store, Apple has a vetting process. So someone who works for Apple will actually play with your app to see if it's something they want on their store. Pretty simple. Problem is, is it takes a period of 5 days for them to do this. So for the app to be released by the 29th, someone at Apple needs to say yes to our app before then. And, actually, you needed to be registered and organised and got going this whole process about 2 weeks ago. Which we have. Well, when I say we, I mean Stephen. (Thanks Stephen). But we're little. There are just 2 of us. Apple is big. Apple might just prioritise all companies beginning with A this week, and we'll have to wait. There would be nothing we can do about it. 

So, while we are in the quiet, the storm is indeed, overhanging.

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. 

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.