Back to the Beginning

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One of the very earliest posts I wrote for this blog was about folding plastic bags. It was back in 2011 and you can revisit the post here.

As part of my sustainability strategy, I reuse everything as many times as I possibly can. Even though we do not intentionally acquire any new plastic bags they do seem to accumulate. This is due to several factors, including other people giving me things in plastic bags, the longevity of the bags and finally, an enormous number of both new and used bags that have resulted from cleaning out my mother’s possessions.

Plastic bags are not the only ones that I seem to have. There are also paper bags. I know that these can be recycled and/or composted but it is still better to reuse them where possible. I give consideration to the resources that have been used to generate these bags and feel that they deserve to be used as many times as possible.

I seemed to have different types of bags stored in various locations in my home so I recently decided that there needed to be a better and more co-ordinated approach. Hopefully, this will assist in ensuring that what we have can be easily accessed and used as required.

Additionally, the bags I use every day are in the kitchen drawer – ziplock bags and reused bread bags as well as lightweight plastic bags hanging in a dispenser in the laundry cupboard.

I made the new dispenser as the old one had really seen better days. All of the materials were recycled bits retrieved from my stash.

Finally, I created a small pack of bags for the glovebox of each car. A few small ziplock bags, paper bags, lightweight plastic bags and a small foldable carry bag all contained in a medium ziplock bag. The plan is that this will cover all possible unforeseen contingencies when we are out and about.

I am happy with my new arrangements and keen to gradually reduce the quantity of bags in the household through natural attrition rather than wholesale disposal or recycling.

Designed By Me

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Today I made a new peg bag for my laundry trolley. The last one was about 15 years old and worn out. It also also had some serious design flaws – yes, it was another of my creations. At least I was willing to learn from the shortcomings.

This is the old one once I had removed it from the trolley. Once upon a time the fabric was navy and the buttons were red.

I sourced some heavy gauge wire from GMan’s collection along with some wire cutters and pliers to fashion the approximate size and shape of the hanger for the bag.

This piece of heavy cotton fabric was an offcut in my stash and seemed perfect for the purpose.

The hanger shaped and completed.

The next step was to make the bag. Note the mitred corners to create a boxed base. This was an improvement which resulted from my experience of making Boomerang Bags.

Stitched onto the hanger.

Filled with pegs and ready to use.

A closer shot to show the hanger over the handle of the trolley.

I have not specifically mentioned Plastic Free July this year, however, making/upcycling/refashioning things we need is one way that we minimise our use of plastics and other resources all the year round – not just in July.

The Finishing Touch

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A quick post to let you know I am still here.

Today I bought a stainless steel hanger suitable for socks and underwear. This is it here.

It is the final piece of the latest laundry project which you can read about here.

The hanging rail is above the laundry sink as well as the bench so this will be perfect for hanging wet washing and allowing any excess water to drip into the sink.

Yes, I will need to stand on a step to reach but that is not too much of a problem as we have a 2-step ladder in the cupboard on the opposite wall of the laundry.

Taking Responsibility

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We have 3 different types of rubbish collection available to us.

Regular rubbish which is collected weekly goes directly to landfill. We have a small (120 litre) bin for this service and try to minimise the amount we put in it. Sometimes we only take it to the kerbside for collection once a month or less often.

The yellow-lidded 240 litre bin is for mixed recyclables which are sorted at the waste collection facility. Glass, steel, paper, cardboard, aluminium and some plastics are accepted. Collection is fortnightly. Once again, this bin is not usually put out for every collection as we try to limit the amount of packaging which we bring into our home.

Finally, we choose to have the optional ‘green waste’ bin which is suitable for garden prunings, leaves and grass clippings. We are fortunate to have plenty of space for compost heaps but some garden waste is really not suitable for the compost, such as some branches and weeds so these go in the bin.

It is over 12 months since I decided that we could stop putting any paper or cardboard in the recycle bin and that we should take responsibility for this ourselves. I know that this option is not available to or feasible for everyone but this is what we do.

I have a small, previously unused cupboard in the study desk where I keep the shredder and any paper or lightweight cardboard goes in there. About every 3 months I clear it out, sort and shred the paper and cardboard.

The white office quality paper makes excellent material for the nesting boxes for the chickens.

The remainder is shredded and added to the compost. Shredding it means that it will break down faster. The compost is eventually added to the garden and we have dealt with any paper and cardboard completely onsite without the need for energy-intensive recycling processes.

Ready for the compost.

The only paper or cardboard that does not get shredded is large or heavy packaging and the occasional local newspaper. These are stored downstairs until required and used for weed control layers under mulch in the garden.

Shopping and Sad

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We live in a semi-rural area which is about 30 minutes drive to the Sunshine Coast.

Today we braved the retail chaos which is becoming more pronounced as each year goes by. Early January is a particularly crazy time as we combine post-Christmas sales, back-to-school preparations and the inevitable holidaymakers. I think this year is worse than usual as more people are around as they are not travelling further afield.

This was our shopping list:

Roll of chicken wire – to fence a dog run for our puppy
Screws for attaching metal sheeting – to complete one side of the dog run
Galvanised pipe and connections – to make a hanging rail for the laundry
Small saddle brackets – to attach gate for dog run
9V battery – replacement for smoke alarm
Prescription medications – essential
Toaster – a replacement as the previous one has ceased to operate
Pet medication – essential

The list was thought out, planned and could hardly be described as frivolous. Since it is a 70km round trip we try to make sure that we make the journey worthwhile. We did not spend any longer than necessary and were home in under 3 hours despite the busy carparking areas and heavy traffic in every direction.

This is the hanging rail assembled. It needs to be painted and then installed.

So, why am I sad?

I think it was witnessing the overwhelming amount of stock in every shop we passed and the hordes of shoppers buying more and more stuff. Is it to replace an item, as with our toaster? Perhaps but I am more than mildly sceptical of that reason for more than a very small percentage of purchases.

The passion for decluttering in recent years and resultant overflowing charity shops leads me to think that many of today’s purchases or the goods they are replacing will be charity shop stock in a matter of months.

Many items, including clothes, electronics and household goods can be purchased cheaply and we do not value or care for them but almost regard them as disposable. When they break, are superseded by a new model or are simply no longer the ‘flavour of the month’ we toss them aside. Many of these discarded consumer items end up in landfill but to salve our consciousness we drop them at the charity shop. Unfortunately, a significant proportion still ends up in landfill and takes up time, effort and resources of those who volunteers to assist the various charities.

Everywhere you turn there are empty shops and businesses. Online shopping continues to gather pace. Are we buying more stuff because it is so easy to click a few buttons and it turns up on our doorstep in a matter of days? Is the lack of effort or consideration required making us shop more?

There is plenty of discussion amongst marketers on how to make sure that people continue to buy more and more stuff so that retailers and businesses can continue to increase their profits. At what cost?

We are drowning in our stuff and killing the planet in our quest to have more and more. I feel like something has to change and soon.

My personal action is to try not to waste anything, use what we have, source items secondhand where possible and be mindful that we have ‘enough’.

I wrote this post just over 6 years ago. There is a link to an interesting short video which is worth watching.

Growing Green

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A few weeks ago I wrote this post about our plans to develop and use the space under our house.

We have made some progress by planting out the Devil’s Ivy in the hanging baskets.

Here is a closer view of one of the pots.

We hope that it grows as rampantly as it does in the shaded area in the garden from where we collected these cuttings. They all appear to be healthy and sending out new growth already.

I can already envisage our green wall.

In other news, we cleaned most of the exterior walls of the house the other day. Naturally, this entailed moving various items from the verandah and encouraged me to rethink why some of them were in their current locations.

The BBQ and terracotta chimney were both on the western verandah near the clostheline, yet in reality, this is not the spot where they are likely to be used.

They are now both downstairs and in a much better position to be utilised.

We have had a bit of hot weather with more predicted over the coming days and out hanging chairs are definitely a winner in the cool area under the house.

Emergency Preparation

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In the wake of the unprecedented bushfires which ravaged most states of Australia last summer and the forecast of La Nina this summer, it would be very foolish to ignore the risks of natural disasters.

Last night GMan and I attended a Disaster Preparedness Seminar in our local town. It was presented by our regional Council and included some excellent information regarding the local resources that are available.

We regard ourselves as relatively well-prepared but there was plenty of new and enhanced information that has encouraged us to fine-tune our arrangements.

Here are a few points to remember:

Very few of us can think logically and quickly in an emergency situation. Therefore, It is important to have considered and planned your response to various scenarios.

A couple of resources to assist in planning.

You need to have both an evacuation kit (if you need to leave in a hurry) and an emergency kit (to be self-reliant for at least 3-7 days in your home) as emergency services and other resources may not be immediately available in the case of a major disaster.

Some useful items. Waterproof, hi-vis raincoat, a waterproof document pouch, USB drive for copies of documents, resources and information.

Services will be co-ordinated by local councils as well as possibly involving state and federal governments.

Your family, neighbours and local community will be integral to supporting each other in the first instance. Make sure your cultivate these networks.

Know your risks. Our local council has identified (in no particular order) the top 4 risks for our region as:

Bush/grass fires
Flooding
Heatwaves
Storms/cyclones

Yours may be different but the principle is the same – be prepared.

Mending to Save the Planet

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The current television series, ‘Fight for Planet A’, has opened some vigorous debate in some forums.  Some people believe that promoting the use of renewable sources of energy is reckless as this is simply perpetuating the problem that is the ‘growth economy’. Unless we actually participate in degrowth the planet is doomed.

I am not totally of this mind, however, I do believe that much of our future depends on a serious change of mindset and questioning what stuff we actually need.

A really good place to start is to think twice about replacing broken or damaged items. I want to give you an example which confronted me this morning.

We have a laundry hamper in our bedroom and one of the handles snapped when I picked it up to take it to the laundry this morning.

I decided to mend the handle and found some strong navy fabric in my collection. It happened to match nicely, however, I would have used any colour or pattern if required.

I applied a small strip of double-sided interfacing to the wrong side.

The job was a bit tricky with the handle still attached to the hamper. I basted the 2 ends of the handle together and then pressed the interfacing to the handles.

The remainder of the fabric was folded over and around the existing handle. Here it is pinned and ready to stitch.

I stitched all around the patched handle and reinforced the ends and this is the result.

My repair effort is far from perfect but it is functional. I even managed to put a twist in the handle, despite my best efforts not to. However, this does not detract from the usefulness of the handle.

There is no right or wrong way to approach a repair so this is simply an example of what can be done.

The repaired hamper will hopefully last for many more years.

This is degrowth in action. Do not buy things that you do not need. Think laterally and repair or reuse what you already have. If you are not able to do you own repairs, check out your local repair cafe or ask a friend, neighbour or relative. We all have skills and we need to support each other in whatever ways we can.

Fight For Planet A

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I apologise in advance to my international readers but tonight’s post is about a new television program which was launched in Australia on Tuesday evening.  While it focuses on Australia, the necessity for every one of us to reduce our carbon footprint is real, regardless of where we live.

The 3-part series, ‘Fight for Planet A’ tackles the issue of carbon emissions.

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The same team produced ‘War on Waste’, the first series of which aired a little over 3 years ago and spawned numerous ‘War on Waste’ Facebook groups.  Many of these groups continue to be active and attract people who are keen to reduce their waste.  This ranges from single-use plastics such as straws and bottled water to food waste and non-recyclable packaging.

However, you can’t see carbon emissions piling up on the beach, littering the side of the road or evident in huge landfills or stockpiles of recyclables collected but not recycled.

So, how will viewers respond to this new program?

This precise question is eloquently put in the following quote from a report in the Australian edition of ‘The Guardian’ on Tuesday.

“Over three episodes, the team that made the ABC’s highly successful War on Waste delve into the more abstract but urgent issue of carbon emissions, and with it a vital question: how do you convince Australians that something they cannot see represents their greatest existential threat?”

The full article is available here.

There is no single answer to reducing carbon emissions.  It must be a joint effort of government, business and individual actions.  There is no point in everyone trying to pin the blame on another group, person or sector.  It is time for each of us to stop and consider how even the smallest actions can collectively make a difference.

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If you want to watch (or rewatch) the first episode it is available on iView here.

An effort to reduce our personal carbon footprint underpins many of the everyday decisions I make.

Please share your own experiences and challenges in the comments.

 

 

Ready for Refill

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It is August already and I barely mentioned Plastic Free July in the past month.  While this is a great initiative to encourage people to rethink their reliance on single-use plastics, I try to make every month as free from plastic as possible.

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Today I loaded up my basket with these plastic bottles to return to Felix from Kin Kin Naturals.  These bottles will be reused.  He has a stall at the Kin Kin markets which is about 80km from our place.  We usually go about once a year to stock up on products we use – laundry liquid, laundry pre-soak, dishwashing liquid and dishwasher powder.

It is great to support a local, family-owned business and by buying direct we can save money and plastic.