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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 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

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.

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.

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.

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! 

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.