live sustainably

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:

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 mentioned in Huffington Post

Just a quick post today. Here are some general updates:

                  1. We are speaking with a cool local business that offers you rewards for recycling.                           More on this later.

                  2. We will be launching with some councils' mayors in November. More on this later.

                  3. I recycled my soft plastics at the supermarket today. 

                  4. The stickers on my kerbside recycling bins are peeling off but that's ok because                            the ink's faded anyway.

                  5. The Sustain Me app is pretty cool and worth downloading. 

                  6. We got a mention on Huffington Post this week. 

Last week a number of people replied to the Action and Inaction post - I wanted to shout out to you to say thanks! It's brilliant getting replies and I really appreciate it. Thank you :) 

Ok, I'll now spend my next few days thinking about something better to write.

I hope you have a nice day!

Keep an eye out for Sustain Me updates.

When people ask me how is the app going, I usually dodge the question and tell them how I am going.

I think that says something about my ridiculous commitment to this project. 

But the truth is I don't know how it is going - I've never done this before. We are the most successful app of this kind that I heard of. So I suppose it is going well. 

I am just ridiculously happy that people are using the app. And between my identity crises, I am so grateful to the people who have helped get it off the ground. 

So, last count there were 500 odd downloads in the first 3.5 weeks of the app being out in the world. You are the innovators, the trendsetters, and by being the first followers of the app you are the leaders of tomorrow*. Usual descriptions of the release of new technologies say that this group of people is made of up the 'inner' circle, close friends and family. That's quite an inner circle :) 

And in terms of a project-management perspective, I'm really happy with this number. It is wide enough that we get excellent feedback on what needs changing, but it's not too wide that our mistakes become our reputation. 

Let me tell you: that last point keeps me awake at night. 

The technology we are using right now allows you to log in to your home council region when you first download the app. This function will increase - quite soon, actually. Maybe even this week. But before this, every time I want to see something new in the app, I would re-download the app. 

And because we've been doing our best to sort out issues and attend to your feedback, we've already made two or three new updates. 

And in the process of all this, I've learnt something new: did you know that when you go to the Play store, and look up an app you've downloaded, if there is an update, you can click update and it installs it for you? 

Yeah, pretty cool, hey?

 

*the people who made this video need to thank me, I've linked to them so many times. Seriously recommend you view this.

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. 

Dear Wonderful Supporter, Thank you

You'll know by now that we had created a form on our website, this website (haha) that allowed people to pre-register for the app if they wanted to. Well, I just emailed everyone who had pre-registered before the release of the app. In the process of writing that email, I realised something. It really was a wonderful realisation. And I just had to tell someone about it. So, naturally, I wrote about it in the pre-registers email, and I'm writing it here for yourself, as well.

Let me tell you a story: I am emailing you from my personal email account and not from Mail Chimp because I think a lot of the emails I've been sending out have been going to the spam box. As a consequence, I had to format each email address (and there a couple of hundred of people I'm sending this email to, including YOU!) What this meant was I had to go through and put a comma next to each email address. At first, I was devastated when I realised how much work was involved. I had to make myself an extra coffee, and put a candle on, just to motivate myself to do it. But then, as I started going through all the emails, I startedreading the email addresses. I realised just how many friends have pre-registered to download the app. I realised just how manysupporters. It was the most beautiful story of friendship and support that was unfurling in front of me. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting me and Stephen to create this recycling app. 

I've recently come back from an inspirational week away, where creative and new ideas around communicating new projects were discussed. Amanda Palmer's Art of Asking TEDTalk offers one such idea: that people want to help, but it's your job to communicate what that help looks like. 

In spirit of this, if you do want to help us further, there are two clear actions you could take. Firstly, tell people about us. You could forward this email to three friends, you could text them the link to Google Play or the App Store, or you could discuss it over dinner tonight. Secondly, we are about to start a crowdfunding campaign and would love to hear your advise on how we should best go about this. If you don't have advise, but you do have a couple of bucks, then get them ready and we'll notify you when it's time. 

For me, the game just changed. We are no longer creating a recycling app; we have created a recycling app. Now it's all about getting it to the people. I'll be blogging about this and what ever randomly goes through my head here

Thank you, thank you, thank you, 

Eleanor and Stephen

Thank you for your support, now's for celebration! 

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.

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?)