Friday, June 19, 2009

Plastic - Evil Or Just Misunderstood?

Did anyone watch Addicted to Plastic on the ABC last night? It was a documentary on the problem of waste plastic and what people are doing to solve the problem.

One person interviewed said that the plastics industry isn't evil and planned to swamp the earth with toxic plastic waste, but rather we all got caught up in post war consumerism. Plastic was marketed as the great time saver. Mum's could have more time to themselves because they wouldn't have to wash up. (More time? Yeah right.) And coming from the frugality of the war time, you can understand the desire to have a life that was very different from the reminders of war.

Since then, our desire to accumulate more stuff has grown exponentially. We want our lives to be 'simpler' and require less work so we look for disposable items, pre-packaged foods and other convenience items which means heaps and heaps of plastic being thrown out each day. Even the idea of a plastic bag that is used once then thrown out (or put in a cupboard to multiply) sounds ridiculous when you consider the alternative of a re-usable fabric or canvas bag that can be washed over and over again if needed.

Throughout the documentary, I kept thinking that the problems we have with plastic is not because of the plastic but rather because of our behaviour and attitude towards plastic. If everything that was plastic was made out of say linen, (imagine for a minute that this linen is rigid and is just like plastic - only linen) our attitude to packaging would be very different. Imagine using a tea towel once then throwing it away.

I think plastic has it's place and can be useful (think of tupperware - mmmm tupperware) but we need to let go of the idea of plastic as a disposable substance. Every time you throw out a piece of plastic remember that plastic will always remain plastic - and it has to go somewhere, forever. Now that doesn't sound very disposable.

So, what can we do about it?

I understand that changing the way you think as well as unconscious habits can be extremely difficult, but with some effort on our part there are things we can do.

  • Stop excessive buying. Plastic is in everything so the first step is to reduce spending. If you buy less new stuff and repair what you have or search out second hand items, then less plastic will be thrown out and some of the plastic that is out there will remain out of land fill for longer.

  • If you do buy something new, choose products that have minimal plastic packaging. The most obvious items would have to be fruit and vegetables that are in a plastic tray and then wrapped in plastic. What's with that? Other things to consider are individual serves of snacks and biscuits. Try to avoid other purchases such as clothing that is wrapped in plastic sleeves.

  • When you buy a plastic product that will be thrown out, choose a product that is made from a recyclable plastic. All councils have different plastics they will take for recycling but you can usually check what they are from your local council website (most plastics have a little number on them - that's how you can tell what's what).

Are you getting a theme from the above points? Yep it's Reduce, Reuse, Recylce. A simple but very effective way to solve a lot of our waste issues, not just for plastic.

So why not start reducing the amount of plastic you use today. Say no to a plastic bag. Better yet, keep a plastic bag from home in your handbag or car. That way you will always have a bag with you and you will be keeping one more plastic bag from being tossed away.

If you missed Addicted to Plastic you can check it out on ABC's iView.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good News. We Have Bought a House!

The contracts were signed last night and it is now official. In six weeks we will have the keys to our house.

Ok, so this is not our new (or old) house. I found it on flikr by *Susie* and thought it was so cute. I'd buy it.

Searching for the right house has taken us a while and it was disappointing when we missed out on the last house. But, as we all know, the right house will come along and this one ticks a lot more boxes than any of the others.

It is beautifully old and still has a lot of the original features. It has had a renovation at the back so it has an internal laundry (yeah!) and the toilets are inside (even more yeah!). It is very livable so we won't be living in squalor and we will be able to cope with it as it is for a few years without any problems. But it has been a rental for a while so there is a lot of cosmetic work needed - which is great. We can put our own personal eco-stamp on the house and garden. The garden is basically non existent except for a super large old frangipani (how nice is the backyard going to smell?) and last night I dreamt of garden designs and the things we will need to do to improve the soil as well as all the fruit trees I will plant.

I am also a little bit shocked that it has actually happened and I don't think I will really believe it until we get the keys. After all, anything can happen in six weeks for this to fall through (the main one being the bank failing to get it's but into gear - they are still taking a huge amount of time to get anything done).

So, now I have to start thinking about packing. Actually no, I am going to ignore that for a week and just enjoy dreaming of what my new garden is going to look like.

And, if it ever stops raining I am sure we will have many, many walks. This house is just around the corner from where we live now.

I have just noticed that this is post number 95. Perhaps I should work on a giveaway for my 100th post? I will think about what I can put together. Giveaways are so much fun.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Permaculture St George

After months of searching, I finally found the details for a local permaculture group (turns out I had the wrong name, duh).

So tonight I went to my first meeting. I had a great time and went home with lots of food for though as well as an aloe vera cutting and some cos lettuce seeds. They meet each month and membership seems to also include some other bonuses such as LETS membership.

Here is the web site if you are interested and live in the southern Sydney area:

On the weather front - it is freezing. Who would have thought the beginning of winter could be so cold. Was it like this last winter? Each summer I believe it will never again be cold and each winter I believe it will never again be hot.

On the way home tonight the car registered the outside temperature as 9oC and this morning Miss Berry's room was 13oC. I think I might make more of a note of the temperature in this blog so I can look back next year and compare the temps. It has also been pretty windy. We haven't had any rain for a week or so and the wind has really dried everything out - I must water this weekend.

Thankfully we don't get frosts in this area. Although the veggies have slowed down I can still plant throughout the winter without worrying about frost damage.

Friday, June 5, 2009

What Is Simple Living?

"Living simply isn't about self-imposed poverty; it's about consciously deciding what is important in life and reducing our needs to those of greatest importance."

- Linda Cockburn, Living the Good Life

I am reading Linda's book Living the Good Life at the moment and am finding it very motivating. I would recommend it to anyone interested in living sustainably. You can also check out her blog here.

There are a some ideas from Linda's book I wanted to mention today about living simply. I must admit the term 'simple living' is not something I usually say out loud. I find it has a certain cringe factor about it. A lot of people seem to have no idea what it means and end up giving me a sympathetic poor you attitude that assumes we are living simply because we can not do otherwise. I find people fail to realise the environmental impact of living a high consumerism lifestyle, as well as the health impact of fast, convenience foods. Even as I try to explain to them why we have made these decisions, they have already turned off - I can tell they do not understand.

I no longer try to explain our lifestyle choices to people. Friends can read about it here (and some do - hi Diana) and other friends are happy to remain oblivious and label us as hippies. That's ok, our choice to live simply was not made so we can broadcast to the world how great we are. There is no need for us to tell everyone about it, but for those that are interested I have always struggled to describe our way of life in a few sentences.

To me, simple living encompasses so many aspects - the environment, our health, saving money, reducing consumerism (and waste), the family and the list goes on. It is empowering because we are not being caught up in the flow of today's society that demands that happiness must come with excess packaging and a huge credit card debt.

But going against society's norm is challenging. It is hard to stick to your guns when advertising is screaming at you wherever you turn. When socialising with friends generally comes with a price tag. There are days when I really do feel like I am swimming against the tide - perhaps one of those really strong rips you avoid when you go to the beach. That no matter how hard we try, advertising will suck us under and back into the evil underworld of shiny plastic things. So why do we keep struggling?

Linda says "living simply or sustainably, whatever term you use, may mean that from the outside looking in, you may be labelled poor. This is a construct of our society, which builds its successful-person model on income, what products they choose to spend it on, how they 'wear' it, what house they live in and what they drive."

And yet, those of us that embrace simple living know that whilst it is the opposite of what society deems successful, it is far from poor. And that is what I sometimes have a hard time conveying to others. There is absolutely no need to feel sorry for people living simply. In fact I sometimes feel sorry for those who don't. But after reading Linda's book, I think I have found how to describe what we do and why we do it to people.

Linda describes simple living as "not about giving things up, forsaking them, frugality, denial, stinginess, deprivation or lack. It's about taking things up: self-determination, freedom, autonomy and abundant living."

What do you think best describes simple living? I'd love to hear your ideas on how or if you describe living simply to others and what responses you get.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

An End to the Mouse Saga

I told you about our little mouse here.

By Saturday we still hadn't caught the bugger. He was still eating the bait off the traps without setting them off so we headed down to the new and super big Bunnings store to get more traps.

We bought three different types.

The three traps at the top are the new ones. The plastic grey one on the bottom was the original one we used - it didn't work.

So, we set them all with peanut butter that night (he seemed to like peanut butter the most). And went to bed with our fingers crossed.

Sunday morning we woke to find our little friend had been caught in the nice humane keep-him-alive trap.

He was such a tiny little thing and whilst we were happy for him the be caught and killed in one of the other traps, now that he was caught alive we couldn't bring ourselves to kill him.

So Mr Berry bundled Miss Berry and the mouse (not together - the mouse was in a bucket. Miss Berry wouldn't fit in the bucket so we put her in her car seat) in the car and set off for Oatley Park. A nice large recreational park with lots of bushland. He and Miss Berry let the mouse go on the edge of the bush and they were happily watching the little thing scamper away.

All of a sudden the mouse changed direction and headed out onto the grassed area of the park and before you could say 'oh look at that little mouse' a bird swooped down and took him.

Mr Berry was speechless.

Miss Berry said 'Where did the mouse go?'

I don't think I need to say any more.
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