sustain me

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.

DSC_1776.jpg

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:

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.

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 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.

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. 

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.

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?)