how do I recycle?

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. 

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.

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.