a change in time

musings on behavioural change – the small stuff and the big stuff.


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checks and balances; where change lives

I thought it was about time I looked back over the last three years, from the time when I started the Graduate Certificate in Sustainability, to see what changes we have made and what still lies in the ‘too hard basket’. The ‘We’ to whom I refer is my husband Peter, and myself. I am lucky that Peter has supported me from day one in my attempts at behaviour change. Such support is not a given.

The change I am most pleased about is our reduction in food waste, or more precisely, wasted food. While we have made attempts over the years to ‘divert food waste from landfill’, it hasn’t always been a top priority, funny about that. We’ve had a compost for years but that has become a place to stack all unwanted green waste. I have had some success with worm farms, however I have twice been defeated by a string of hot days. Then one of the students in the course suggested I try the bokashi bucket. It suits our lifestyle perfectly, something not to be underestimated, so now all scraps and any leftovers go into the soil in our backyard.

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Chopping up food scraps is a meditative practice for me – I enjoy the process and the result.

Another area where our awareness has been raised is, just how embedded ‘single use plastic’ has become in the western lifestyle. I am constantly reminded, at the monthly creek sweeping of Darebin Creek, of the amount of plastic being thrown away. We stopped using plastic bags, for the most part, some time ago. We still have a way to go when it comes to kicking the habit of buying prepackaged goods from the supermarket. Some people seem able to go cold turkey – once they realise the damage a product is causing to the environment, they no longer buy it – still working on this one.

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I was pretty shocked at how far down the layers of plastic go. There was no way I could remove all of it so I stuck with the most recent items that could end up in the waterways.

But let’s not get too depressed. There is fun to be had in this crazy old world in which we live. Our efforts at ‘re-using, re-cycling’ etc still provide a lot of pleasure and pride. Take for example, when our washing machine recently stopped working and was beyond repair.

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Peter made it into a brazier! Okay, the plastic might melt from the heat, but we’re going to give it a go. Suki is not so sure.

One unexpected outcome was my new career as a rapper. (ha ha!) As  part of our graduation from the Community Leaders in Sustainability program, we were required to make a short video of what we would take away from the course. Inspired by our son, Louis, who kindly allowed me to use his beat, I decided to try writing a rap. Peter took on the role of camera operator and editor and , voila, instant fame!

And last, but not least, I finally ditched the big toilet paper company and changed over to a company that has a strong ethical basis – my logic being that we should support companies that are committed to making a difference.

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The name is a bit off-putting, but it isn’t a bad question for us to be asking ourselves. (Couldn’t resist a free plug for Bill Gammage’s book!) 

The main thing I have learnt on this comparatively newly chosen path is that it is worth making these small changes, even though there are those who think we are way past being able to make a difference with the little things. It is our continued desire to consume way beyond what we actually need that is contributing to the current swathe of problems linked to environmental degradation. If we stop buying stuff, the companies producing it will have to change their ways.

For our children, and our children’s children.


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Plastic is the hard evidence

When you have one of those nice little chats about ‘the fate of the planet’, you most likely focus on the fossil fuels vs. alternative energy debate. You might even discuss the high percentage of methane in the atmosphere caused by livestock and landfill. Today I’d like to have a go at investigating the role that plastic plays in such discussions.

While Peter and I have managed to break a few plastic habits over the years – forgoing plastic shopping bags and water in plastic bottles – there is still a way to go. (Please contact the author personally if you want to know the ugly details.)

My plastic awareness metre went off the scale just a few weeks ago when I joined a local group in picking up litter from the banks of Darebin Creek.

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This packaging has escaped from the yard of a business that backs onto the creek. Guess where it is heading.

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned how the sustainability class I attended at Swinburne University was introduced to the fact that when we throw something ‘away’, it actually goes somewhere, and while this sounds annoyingly obvious, it is a concept that has only wired into my brain since having to pick up stuff that has been thrown away.

Other than plastic bottles and syringes, the third most common item I found while creek sweeping was plastic straws, a seemingly innocent item that Peter and I have been using in our morning smoothies for some time now.

With this new found awareness of straws, I went searching on the internet to see what other people are saying. I soon discovered that I am not the only one acknowledging our over reliance on single-use plastic items. Celebrities like Adrian Grenier  and Jeff Bridges have recently added their voices to the call for us to refuse single-use plastic items.

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It seems that Americans use 500 million straws per day, this “could fill over 127 school buses each day, or more than 46,400 school buses every year!http://www.ecocycle.org/bestrawfree/faqs 

 

You don’t need to join a group, celebrity-led or not, as this refusal to use single-use plastic items is something we can do on our own accord. If you need some inspiration however, you could check out The Last Straw, a group based in Perth that ask us to ‘Sip. Don’t suck’.

Besides, sometimes groups with good intentions end up creating a whole lot more ‘rubbish’ that we don’t really need.

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Sorry to focus on SIDS fund-raising, but they are a perfect example. 

 

Finally, I’d like to tell you about a little girl who had high hopes for the future. That little girl was me. I remember as a child thinking that, while children could be unkind and thoughtless, adults were wise; they knew what to do when a problem arose.

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Here I am sitting in Auntie Myra’s backyard in Bendigo. I’m wondering if mum was taking a photo of the garden and then decided my red jumper would bring out the red in the flowers in the background. 

It didn’t take too many years for me to discover that grown-ups can be just as unkind and thoughtless as children. As an adult, I feel a responsibility to do what I can to tread lightly on the earth so that those who come after us know that we did what we could.