plastic free

Guest Blogger #3: Siobhan Dodds

Guest blogger #3: We've asked artist and thinker Siobhan Dodds to speak about her experience cleaning up Australia on Clean Up Australia Day over the last 20 years. 

By Siobhan Dodds

Growing up on the Mornington Peninsula meant that every Clean Up Australia day was spent at the beach. From as young as 5 years old, I was beginning to understand the importance of human intervention against environmental degradation. In the lead up to Clean Up Australia Day, we would sit around and learn about marine habitats, different species, flora, fauna and their reliance on a healthy ecosystem. Bottles, cans, plastics, sharps and waste became a signpost of an infected habitat.

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As most people who grew up beside a beach will tell you, this playground is sacred and worth preserving. Not only does it provide endless playtime, but it links us directly to the sea and its marine life. Anyone that has visited over summer knows how important these environments are for leisure and family time. Clean Up Australia Day taught me from a young age that in order to protect the marine life and to protect our beaches, we need to keep it clean.

Since finishing school and moving across different parts of Melbourne, I’ve noticed that a lot of people are still confused when it comes to rubbish disposal, especially recycling. Perhaps they never had a year in year out Clean Up Australia experience like I did. Or perhaps they’re ill educated on cause and effect. This is why I think the alliance built between Clean Up Australia and Sustain Me Group could not be more perfect. People who missed out on learning about conservation and the importance of our environments through the Clean Up Australia day event can now access the app to learn and develop their understanding whenever they want.

Sustain Me brings council specific recycling and waste management education to you in an easy format, an app. For most people, finding information is usually laborious, ineffective and inaccurate. The Sustain Me Team have collated the information and partnered with Clean Up Australia to help increase the amount of recycling on Clean Up Australia Day and beyond. While dedicating one day and participating on Clean Up Australia Day is an important first step, we need to be vigilant of our waste and recycling practices every day and continually act to reduce the impact of our habits.

Despite learning this and participating in over twenty Clean Up Days, I still see rubbish on our beaches. This makes me feel really disappointed, especially because it is a human centric problem. What does encourages me though is that there are organisations out there willing to make our lives easier and in doing so, they commit their time and effort to ensuring change in a big way. All we have to do is learn more, show up, become active and participate.

This year, on March 6th, I will once again sign up, and contribute to Clean Up Australia Day. I will also download the Sustain Me App from the Google Play or App stores for free. I will continue to separate my collected rubbish into recycling and waste streams as I want to continue to live and have access to beautiful environments and leave it in a pristine condition for future generations.

rubbish sandcastles caused by not using sustain me

Guest blog #2: The Rogue Ginger writes about living plastic and waste free

Erin Rhoads, aka the Rogue Ginger, has lived plastic and waste free for over a year. She writes a popular blog about her experiences, offering cool-as tips and techniques to reduce plastic usage and overall waste in our everyday lives. We've asked Erin to shed some light on how she does it. 

By Erin Rhoads

I blog about plastic and waste free living and have been invited to write on the Sustain Me Blog ‘Sustainable Living’ about the consequences of irresponsible plastic use. 

I can hear you ask ‘What is irresponsible plastic use?’ I consider irresponsible plastic use as most of our day to day items, that are not needed. The throwaway stuff.  I am not anti plastic, simply anti the misuse of plastic. Plastic has made vast contributions to medicine, improving the quality of life for many people. Something like a throw away plastic straw, has not made much of a contribution other than continued pollution.  

Recently, there was a story in news of a turtle, with a plastic straw lodged in its nasal cavity. The images were devastating. Stories like this, and many others, are what prompted me to start fighting the misuse of plastic. If we are going to use up a valuable resource like oil, why waste it on a plastic straw?  

Our oceans are filling up with plastic. According to analysis by Project MainStream, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean. The affects will be felt across the world if we don't do something now.  

Living plastic free all began with one step. It can be hard to eliminate plastic all in one go, but here's a couple steps for you to reduce unsustainable plastic use. 

SIP WITHOUT THE PLASTIC 

Saying NO to plastic straws takes practice and if you don't remind the waiter you might end up with a useless plastic stick in your drink. Yuck! Here is a handy tip: when the waiter takes your order ask them to write down your request. Some drinks call for straws so why not invest in a reusable straw. I carry one around with me (including a spoon, fork and knife).

If you enjoy going strawless encourage your local cafe to put the straws under the counter. Then ask the cafe to only give out straws if patrons ask. 

NO MORE PLASTIC BAGS 

Many supermarkets now offer their own reusable bags. If you don't already have some then I suggest purchasing a couple. I also carry a fold up bag in my handbag for moments when I need a bag. Human beings have been living without plastic bags for hundreds of years. Reuse a bag and let's save our rivers and oceans from them. 

SAY NO TO PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES 

If you are serious about lessening the impact of plastic in your life then you will want to invest in a refillable bottle. I have had no trouble asking for cafes and restaurants to fill up my bottle for free when I need it. With a bottle tucked away in your bag you will save money and realise how silly paying for bottled water is.  

DITCH TAKEAWAY COFFE CUPS

Does your morning not start until you have had your coffee on the way to work? Like to keep warm with a takeaway chai? Next time the need for a takeaway hot beverage comes knocking ask for no lid or take 10 minutes to sit in to have your coffee in a mug. You can also take your own coffee cup.  

I offer this tip as a way to start you on your journey, today. I don't advocate the use of takeaway, ever. However, saying no to a plastic lid is a good start. 

Plastic lids easily end up on busy streets creating unwanted pollution. If you are a daily take away coffee drinker saying NO to a lid each day could save you up 20 bits of plastic from entering your life and the environment each month.

Remember that paper coffee cups are not recyclable and go into a bin for landfill. 

Saying no to plastic straws, plastic bags, plastic water bottles and unnecessary takeaway, sends a message that these items are not needed. Our consumer power is just as powerful as voting. Our great grandparents thrived and survived without these four items in their day to day lives, and I know we can too.

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:

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.

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.

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.

Why am I making a recycling app again?

Why are we doing this? Why a recycling app? Well, there are two tightly-connected reasons. The first is because I want choice in how I consume: in 2013, when this project began, there was no utensil I had access to that would help me search how to recycle my waste items, and as a conscientious participant of consumer culture, that annoyed me. I can't but help but consume: I buy supermarket bought clothes, I leave the house and emit carbon to travel to work, I drink coffee shipped from overseas. If I am to continue doing this, then I want the option of reducing the consequential carbon emissions through recycling. 

The second reason is a little more serious. Everyone in our society, in those societies around the world positioned to effect change, has to collectively work together to reduce our carbon emissions to combat climate change. In order to do this, in Australia, we need the tools to do so. I didn't know anything about recycling before I began working on Sustain Me, I had no real reason to be an expert on it. But I didn't want to wait for someone else to make it. Anyway, it seemed pretty straight forward - get recycling information, make app. Done! Ha ha. Well, maybe not that easy, but thems the breaks.

It'll be worth it. 

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