how do I recycle

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.

The week in review: Andy Lee's eyes, political commentary and humour.

After a harrowing, anxiety ridden trip to the dentists, I walk myself to my old local cafe. Inside is relief. It's warm, in terms of lighting and heating and friendliness. Welcoming. I get seated almost immediately, despite the line, for today I was a single eater. I'm pointed to a large table, and encouraged to sit at the end, share the table. I walk up to it, pull out the chair, and as I sit down I look straight into the eyes of Andy Lee, comedian and famous person. As in the Andy from Hamish and Andy. Shit. There is literally no where to go. He says hello, testing me. His 6 friends are watching me. No, I didn't wear make up this morning to the dentists. Can I plug my app? No, not appropriate. Can I say something funny and cut the awkward? Nuh. Can I keep face? Yes. I say hello and take my seat. True story.

This is a post I wrote on Facebook this week, and it got a lot of love.

It was incredible that I had walked myself into Andy's personal space. His greeting was more of a "What do you think you're doing?" than anything else. But it was also an opportunity to cut through the awkward and have a good old laugh. The possibility that I'd say something hilarious hung in the air as Andy and his friends waited for my response. I declined the opportunity, in order to save face. This is why I'll never be able to ski: when faced with a threatening though probably exhilarating situation, I'll sit it out and think righteously about the health of my knees. 

The Hamish and Andy story is one that I particularly love. They met at uni and laughed their way through their tutorials. They got a gig and rose to fame. Now they've interviewed Hilary Clinton. Twice. 

Because of this accidental run-in with this attractive radio and TV personality, I've been taking note of the Hamish and Andy paraphernalia more than ever. Billboards, pop-culture comments, even Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales are directing my attention to them, in their Chat 10 Looks 3 Podcast. I am reminded that I went to school with Hamish's cousin twice removed, a fact this person never failed to remind us (though I don't think she'd ever met him). 

It has also made me think about comedy. When I'm nervous, often when I'm about to do public speaking, I use humour to get myself out of the awkward. I'm sure most of us do. For me, this is a really surprising situation and indeed it's taken me years to come to accept that I can be funny. And I'll tell you why. I am a serious person. I studied Politics, researched the migration of the most marginalised people, and I made a recycling app, for goodness' sake! If you ask my friends if I'm funny, they will not truthfully be able to agree. They'll say kind, cute, intelligent - at least I hope! But they wouldn't be able to say funny. I have so many stories of my seriousness reflected back at me: my hairdresser when I was 15 telling me so as he cut my hair, playing Cards Against Humanity and never winning but, when my card is read, having "awwww, so deep, so philosophical!" exclaimed from the crowd. So when I get up to do some public speaking, it is strange that I turn into something almost of a comedian. 

I've been wanting to emulate Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb for a while now, but now I also want to emulate Hamish and Andy. 

My mission, if I choose to accept, is to connect my seriousness and my humour. 

Quick, before it's out: What you want to see in the app?

The app is nearly ready to be released. 

There has been struggles. There has been heartbreak. There has been joy. And soon there will be a Sustain Me recycling app on Google Play and the Apple Store. 

That's right, folks. Snap. 

We have had a very big week, with agreements being formed with two major agencies (to be announced soon). And in celebration, we'd like to reach out and offer something back. 

What do you want to see in the app? Do you really just need to know about plastic bags? Or maybe a couch is a thorn in your side? Have you ever tried to recycle a bike lock? (I have). Well, tell us!

Tell us through:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sustainmerecycling 

Twitter: @SustainMeGroup

Carrier Pigeon:

Carrier Pigeon.

Carrier Pigeon.

Your message could read something like this:

                        Hi Elle, 

                       It's Lucy Sky here, I'd really like to know how to recycle kaleidoscopes, please.

                       Thanks! Peace out. 

You know, just an idea. 

Anyway, let's hear from you now and we'll make sure it is in the app! 

Until then:

(The images in this blog post were sought from Pinterest). Cheers. 

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.

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.

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.