Not Tree-Hugging Nonsense

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For too long investment in renewable energy, electric cars, sustainable agriculture and a swag of other activities has been seen as the preserve of alternative individuals in our society.  These people are often derogatorily referred to as tree-hugging greenies by those who do not share their values or see the urgency in transitioning our communities to more sustainable practices.

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The Australian government continues to refuse to accept that exponential economic growth at the expense of environmental protection is not the key to our future.

However, I believe the tide is turning.  I have read several articles in the past few days in which the impact of climate change is of concern.  Doctors are identifying health issues, global banks are withdrawing funding for coal mines and an Australian private health fund has announced that it is divesting itself from fossil fuels on the grounds that it cannot reconcile supporting an industry which harms the health and well-being of its members.

This one from APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) is close to home and should be a stark warning to the government that they simply cannot continue on their current trajectory with regard to action on climate change and support of power generation from non-renewable sources such as coal..

As the support for the coal industry wanes and associated funding options begin to evaporate, the government is determined to push on with its agenda of coal at any cost.   The latest idea is to use the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to fund the establishment of more coal-fired power stations using ‘clean coal’ technology.  This is an absolute disgrace and should be stopped.

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Sustainable House Day 2013

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Sustainable House Day 2013 is an opportunity to check out a variety of dwellings in your area with sustainable features.  You can check out the website here.

We have chosen to be involved and are included in this list.  If you are in the area and would like to see ‘The Castle’ in real life please come and say hello.

House

I am looking forward to being able to show people some of the features of our house and garden which reduce our impact on the environment and invariably save us money at the same time.

Reprise

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After reading the latest post from Living Simply Free I was inspired to resurrect the following post which I wrote almost 2 years ago.  There was supposed to be a follow-up post which never happened but I will put my mind to it in the next week or so.  Meanwhile, I hope you will find some value in Part 1.  I look forward to your comments.

The Journey So Far………..

I was reading this older post from Zero Waste Home the other day and it got me to thinking about how and when I came to be on the road to a more sustainable existence.  Unlike Bea, I did not have an overnight epiphany from a consumerist lifestyle to attempting zero waste.

A bit of history is probably the best way to start.  I was born a little over 50 years ago when Brisbane was really not much more than a big country town in many ways.  My parents did not own a car, milk was delivered in glass bottles, the greengrocer, fishmonger and baker called in with their produce for sale and supermarkets were still a relatively new innovation in Australia.  We had a wood stove in our modern home which was a mere 6 miles from the CBD.  We kept chickens and grew some of our own food.

As I grew up things changed.  The wood stove was replaced by an electric one, my mother shopped at the supermarket, my parents bought a car and a television.  Nevertheless, we grew up with an awareness that things were not upgraded just because there was a newer, more expensive model.  We were taught that possessions were not easily replaced and that it was important to take care of what you had.  All types of things were mended, repaired, re-purposed and re-used.  They were only thrown out when they truly reached the end of their useful life.

We had new toys but also appreciated the value of home-made.  I remember the excitement when our father made kites for us – from some timber dowel, brown paper (saved from the packaging of something), glue, string and pieces old old sheeting salvaged from the rag bag to make the ties on the tail of the kite.

I learned to knit and sew when I was quite young, although crocheting is something I have never really mastered.  In my teens I learned how to mix concrete as I helped my father.  No-one set out to teach me these things, they were learned by shared experience with my mother, father and extended family.

I believe that although there have been times when I have tended to consume more resources and be wasteful, the essence of who I am and what I believe in comes from my upbringing.

In the late 1980s, with 2 young daughters, I came to realise that there was no way that we could all continue to exponentially use more and more resources and expect that we and future generations could continue on that path.

We were living in Adelaide at the time and I became aware of a conservation group, Gully Environment Network, which was started by Clive and Gloria Bristow.  Gloria wrote, “Why Conservation” which was published in 1979, well before many people took any interest in conservation and environmental issues.  At the time that I met this amazing couple, they were campaigning against the introduction of wheelie bins (240 litre) in our local council area, arguing that the increased capacity (from the standard 55 litre galvanised bins) would encourage waste rather than reduce it.  It is ancient history that the wheelie bins became a fact of our lives but there is a 120 litre option.  However, the action continues.  The Wynn Vale Community Garden was another brainchild of Clive and Gloria.  Gloria was also instrumental in setting up the ReGen Community Op Shop.  The link will take you to the Facebook page where there are more links to articles from the local paper.   Gloria has consistently advocated and led the way with local and individual action rather than reports and studies.  I am proud to say that she has been my mentor in my path to tread more lightly on this earth and try to make a difference.

If you are still reading this missive, I applaud you.  I will write more on my sustainable journey another day.  Thank you for taking the time to read.

What are you doing to move towards a more sustainable future?  Who or what inspires you?  I would love to hear your stories.

Sharing Sustainability

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2001 marked the inaugural Sustainable House Day.  This is held in September each year and owners of homes or businesses with sustainability features can choose to open their premises to showcase these features.

This event is free and you can go to various locations in your area to gain information and share ideas.

We first became aware of this event through the Alternative Technology Association and have seen several properties in previous years.

This year we have registered to participate by opening our home as part of Sustainable House Day.

2012-08-05 02It is still a few months away so there is plenty of time to register if you feel you have a suitable property or get involved by attending an open house in your area.

Here is the website.  There will be more information closer to the time.  It is a great opportunity to find more about sustainable living in your area.

My Choices

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This afternoon I left work early (3pm) and did the shopping on the way home.  Simply Good where I buy most of my dry goods (flour, seeds, nuts and dried fruit) is only open until 5 pm on weekdays and 9am – 12md on Saturday.  I am happy to support these traditional opening hours that allow retail staff to spend time with their families, however, I do have to be organised as it is about 40km away from where we live.  Since it is on my way to work I decided to drive my car to the railway station nearest to the shop and then do my shopping on the return journey.

I stocked up on all of my usual supplies as well as a couple of extras for some Christmas cooking and I am hoping that I will not need to go again until the New Year.  Aldi supermarket was my next stop and I was particularly to find that the cat food (fish varieties) was back in stock.  Finally, a few things from the fruit and vegetable stall and I was home.  By this time it was almost 6pm but still daylight for another 40 minutes.

When I arrived home I checked for mail, collected the rubbish and recycling bins that had been emptied.  Next it was down to the backyard where I let the chickens out for a run, watered the vegetable gardens and weeded the small bed where the lettuce seedlings are becoming established.  I picked lettuces, collected eggs and organised fresh feed and water for the chickens.

Collect the washing from the line, turn the plastic bags which were drying on the airer, unpack the groceries and decant the loose nuts, seeds etc into their relevant jars.

Then it was time to cut up the chicken and vegetables for the stir-fry and make the sauce.

While I was doing all this it occurred to me that most of these chores exist because of choices I have made, but I would not have it any other way.

I could throw out the plastic bags, put the wet washing in a tumble drier, buy my eggs and all vegetables from the supermarket, buy ready-made prepared meals and convenience foods but I choose not and I am very happy with my choices.

Back to Basics

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A new year is a good time to remind myself of my aim.  It is to live simply while adhering to the principles of organisation and sustainability.

Today I have done something that ticks both boxes.  It may seem like a small, or almost insignificant action, but I see it as worthwhile.

After doing a trial last year, our council have decided to offer the option of receiving rates notices by email.  When I saw this mentioned in a promotional booklet before Christmas, I sent an request for this option.  I have now registered our details, and while I am not exactly looking forward to our next rates notice, it is good to know that I can receive this notification electronically.  This means that there is no paper used (sustainable), the council saves money on postage and I do not have to handle and file the paperwork as it lands directly in my inbox (organised).

We receive as much correspondence as possible electronically.  This includes statements, phone and internet bills.  There are probably others that I cannot think of right at the moment.  Automatic payments and direct debits also help to streamline and simplify the business of running a household.  By automating as much as possible this leaves more time for doing productive and fun things.

Speaking of productive activities, yesterday The Duke and I planted out 23 rockmelon (cantaloupe) seedlings.  If they all thrive and produce fruit I will be able to run a market stall!  Some were planted in the rather desolate area nicknamed ‘the snakepit’.  It is a barren patch near the low part of the garden and seems to be filled with rubble.  Some months ago I managed to plant a couple of pumpkin seedlings which i had rescued from the compost heap and they are doing well.  I counted at least 10 tiny pumpkins growing on the vine yesterday.

Do you receive mail electronically or have automatic payments set up in order to streamline the business of running your household?  What other strategies do you use?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

5,000……….and counting

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Today the inverter for our solar panels recorded that we have now generated over 5,000kWh since the system was installed 12 months ago.  Ours is a 3.7kW system made up of 20 panels.  The upfront cost was substantial and the calculations were that, based on our usage, we would wipe out our electricity bills and receive a credit of around $2,000 per year.

Our savings are difficult to calculate due to the continuing tardiness of Origin – we have yet to receive our statement from the meter reading at the end of August!!  I have given up stressing about that because I am secure in the knowledge that we are in credit.  I do not think our credit will be much more than $1,500 this year due to the very wet and cloudy summer at the beginning of the year.

While I was doing some paperwork today, I had occasion to write the byline for this blog – “An organised, sustainable life”.  I started thinking about what this means and how the two facets are inextricably linked.  Once you start looking critically at your organisation and how you are living sustainably there are many, many examples.  I will discuss more of these in future posts but for tonight let us consider the electricity.

During the day the generated power goes firstly to our usage and then the excess is exported to the grid.  The tariff we are paid for this is 50c/kWh but what we draw from the grid at night is charged at 19.4c/kWh.  Therefore, there is a 30c/kWh benefit if we use the power at night.  This has necessitated some changes but being organised means that I have been able to change and do the washing, vacuuming and most of the ironing in evenings rather than on the weekend.  This saves us money and exports the maximum amount of power to the grid.

What examples do you have of being organised contributing to a sustainable lifestyle?