Sunday, August 3, 2014

Fair Share Ethic & Minimalism

There are many aspects of a sustainable system that fulfills permaculture's  ethic of fair share of resources.
Credit unions
Socially responsible investment
Car share schemes

My last post in 2013 was about decluttering. I had stuff taking up space in my bedroom. Boxes piled on boxes, never unpacked after two years moving into the hosue.
My interest in decluttering has evolved into my interest in minimalism.
Minimalism is a natural expression of fair share. At one level, it means making more intentional decisions on what resources you will use. What's a need and what's a nice to have. And if it's a nice to have, but I don't actually use it, then have I gone beyond my fair share of resource use for no outcome?
What got me started in February was The Minimalism Game. It's a game you can play against yourself, or challenge your friends. So I accpepted the challenge from a friend. The rules: let go of one thing on the first of the month, two things on the second, three things on the third. Sounds achievable. Until you realise by day 28 (good thing I chose February to start) I would have to give away over 400 items!
Crazily, I met the challenge. It has been so wonderful to have more space in my life. I also realised how many things weren't adding to my life.
It is more space physically and mentally.
Bench before Minimalism Game: 17 items. After: 4 items

The Minimalism Game can be started at the beginning of any month. Give it a go! In March, my Facebook friends following me in February said we should do it in March. So we did! I let go of over 600 items in two months. Who would have thought I had that much? And there is more to go.
Through focusing on minimalism this year, I have become more mindful, more intentional. And ok with not taking a free item because I "could use it one day". I think many permaculturalists are in danger of being hoarders because we see the value in what others waste. More intentional living helps avoid this. With so many ways to access free or cheap items, when the time comes we really want to use the item, I think we will find it e.g. Freecycle, Streetbank, Ziilch.
I have become inspired by a few people who write on minimalism. Reading their emails blogs and Facebook posts gives me pause to think and encouragement to progress. My first two I recommend are The Minimalists and Becoming Minimalist.
How have you dealt with seeing every item someone is discarding as an opportunity for you to use it one day? What has worked for you in clearing the clutter?


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Declutter for Spring

I seem to have collected a lot of "stuff" over time. So I'm setting myself a challenge: get rid of 10 things each week until Spring (1 September in Australia).  Ten items per week for seven weeks means being free of 70 items that are cluttering my life. I don't even think it will be hard! Anyone want to join my decluttering challenge?
Decluttering Week 1: videos and a vase
I piled up a lot of items months ago, but they continue to sit in my room. So a challenge is needed.
Week 1 I have begun by getting rid of more than 10 things. Includes ten videos and three floppy disks. Beautiful Vietnamese photo albums I've never used, a vase I don't like and a Kenwood Chef attachment that was a unfortunate eBay purchase as it doesn't fit my Kenwood Chef!
All up, Week 1: 20 items.
My rules of decluttering: the items can be gifted, given away to friends/housemates or via Freecycle, sold, recycled or put in the rubbish.
My housemate took a large number of items in Week 1!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Interview on Beyond Zero Emissions

I was interviewed in February for Beyond Zero Emissions on 3CR (Melbourne community radio station) by Beth Shepherd.

I talk about permaculture, Permaculture Melbourne and my time volunteering in Guatemala at IMAP.
Guatemalan Mayan women in the community nursery

Hope you enjoy this podcast.

Have a listen to the other person broadcast the same day: Nicole Foss. She has some very scary, but very interesting thoughts on our economic and environmental system. I enjoyed hearing her perspective at the Australasian Permaculture Conference 11 in New Zealand. The conference program had many speakers on local economies.

APC11 hall

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Permaculture Design: Northcote

After being at my inner north home in Northcote for six months, and the next growing season is looming, now is a great time to start designing the garden.
View of backyard from back door

I invited the Permaculture Inner North members over for a permaculture design exercise. Today we observed the area and I explained how the household uses the space or may use it in the future. We then all have the task of designing two designs: one for if they went wild on their permaculture design, the other meeting the client brief.

The client brief included who in the household had time and interest in the garden, who cooked at home and how frequently and what their food preferences were. It also included that the house was a rental, so the amount of permanent features and money spent on the land would be limited. I am also interested in beekeeping.

Soil sample in water: some sand but mainly suspended clay
Some of the elements we observed: sun path, soil type, weeds, existing infrastructure, human habit paths, human eating habits, existing 25 fruit trees in pots, block and verandah dimensions, hard surfaces and water collection points.

Soil dig: building sand (red) and clay
We will all meet in a few weeks to compare and discuss our designs. Shortly after, I'll implement a permaculture design in time for spring.
Backyard from back gate

Sunday, September 25, 2011

No Impact Week: Day Two - Waste

Day two of my No Impact Week challenge focused on waste: what waste do I create and was it really needed? Day one, on Sunday, was all about trying to reduce consumption, trying to avoid filling your life with unecessary stuff.

On the first day, I had to collect all the waste I created. On the Monday I looked in the bag and categorised things into: items I used for more than ten minutes and items I used for less than ten minutes. A lot of it were wrappers, tissues and food. So really, a lot of it is for less than ten minutes. Oops!

I normally use hankerchiefs (yes, I'm rather old fashioned that way) and this week I have a cold. I tend to change habits when with a cold and go all out and use the Aloe Vera tissues in order to avoid a sore, scratchy nose. Not that I'm proud of it.

To reduce waste, I can proudly say that this is the first month I've used a menstrual cup instead of tampons. The brand I have is Lunette. I'm still getting used to it, but it's ok. The cups last for years, so although a big upfront cost (about $70 I think, although cheaper online) they pay for themselves as tampons are expensive.

The No Impact Week challenged me with two questions: what went into my special waste bag? Why was it hard or easy to make waste? During the challenge week, I've carried around a plastic bag and collected my waste wherever I go: at work, in public, at restaurants. I opted to eat lunch at the cafe rather than take away, as it cuts down packaging waste. I noticed most restaurants only provide paper serviettes. A pity. I collect very few plastic shopping bags and don't use plastic bags for vegetables: I buy them nude. I've started washing the plastic bags for reuse (as they do in Cuba) and set aside ripped bags that I'll take back to the supermarket for recycling (I've never done this).

My Fregie collection: for when buying nude vegetables
I'm big on recycling: I try and recycle the maximum including items often forgotten in the bathroom. So my challenge is reducing waste. This week was the first time I ordered fruit toast from the local cafe and got them to put it into my plastic container. No paper bag needed! I always go there with my own mug, and get a discount for my environmental efforts. One of the shops at the Camberwell Fresh Food Market sells nuts, grains and dried fuit in bulk, so this week I bought red lentils in my plastic container. Not so hard after all! Buying a whole set of Decor plastic containers is high on my agenda so that I can buy food free of packaging. I can probably buy it cheaper that way, too, as bulk goods are normally discounted. I'll end up with higher nutrition from unprocessed foods plus lower packaging waste. Yay! I've always thought I should take my own container to cafes, but this week is what pushed me to finally do it.

Container for lentils: no bag!
The amount of food waste I put in the garbage disturbs me: I'm used to a worm farm or compost bin for all the scraps and peelings. I don't have one at the moment, which means I don't get to use the wonderful nutrients on my plants. I'm in two minds whether I should fix this, as I move house in three months. At least by using the peelings for making stock I reuse waste, although I can't recycle it. By making more meals from scatch, this will help reduce my packaging waste, too. I already cook my own meals rather than buy prepared meals. I could go back to basics even more e.g. pastry and stock (I nearly used up last weeks stock with a lovely potato and leek soup). Both I can keep frozen.
Betty: my shopping companion of 9 years
The No Impact Week challenge on waste has definitely made me consider all the wrapping I throw out. I think I will be able to use my own containers at more shops and cafes in the future.

Monday, September 19, 2011

No Impact Week: Day One - Consumption

The first challenge dished up to participants in the world wide No Impact Week was Consumption. Essentially, we buy a lot of stuff, and although it may take a lot of resources to get to you, an amazing amount of what we buy is discarded within six months.

If you want to take a roller-coaster of how our society consumes, watch The Story of Stuff.

So my challenge for the week is to try and not buy new stuff, except for food. The hope is that instead of using shopping as an activity, I can spend time with friends and family and socialising or giving back to my community. I wouldn't say I consider shopping a pleasurable experience, a "hobby". However, I do occassionally shop so it still applies to me.

The task I was given: write all the items I am planning on buying this week, apart from food. Then I was asked to cross off whatever I could live without for the week. Third, I had to creatively think how else I could get these items without buying new. This might be borrowing, buying second hand, swapping or making second hand. Here are my potential items and what I can do instead of buying new (keep in mind I'm organising a permaculture conference):
  • texters - swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • Blu-tac - borrow
  • butchers paper - swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • Decor plastic containers - buy 2nd hand on eBay, swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • a top - can live without for a week
  • casual shoes - can live without for a week
  • eucalyptus oil - swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • garden stakes - swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • dish cloth - buy 2nd hand facewasher at the Salvos or Vinnies
  • scourer - can't think of another option but new. Could wait
I need garden stakes because I potted up my fruit trees. I thought I had 12. I have 16. And an obsession with buying fruit trees. An investment in the future, I say!

Heritage apple, persimmon, cherry, peach, almond...

Monday's focus is Waste, so I had to collect all my garbage and recycling from Sunday. The food waste will be a bit high, as because I am trying to reduce over-processed foods, I decided to make chicken stock to freeze. Only $2 for a bag of bones, and I get a stock that is only real ingredients, no numbers (you know, the number codes on ingredient lists) and no salt.
Stock pot and finished chicken stock
I made pumpkin chutney so added pumpkin skin, pith and seeds. Hence it has a slightly orange tinge.
Pumpkin chutney
The pumpkin is homegrown!

I'll let you know how I went with Day Two-Waste.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

No Impact Week: 18-25 Sept

Tomorrow is the first day of No Impact Week. I've signed up for an eight day "carbon cleanse".

My life is pretty busy right now, organising the 2011 South East Australian Bioregional Permaculture Conference which is only two weeks away (starts with a party on Friday 30 September). After I watched the documentary, No Impact Man, I felt compelled to check out their website. I discovered I was right in time for the third annual No Impact Week: open to participants all over the world (want to join me?).

I was both interested in challenging myself to go one step more, as well as doubted I had the time or energy to participate. Then I thought, if not now, when? Enough excuses, just do it! What's the worst that can happen? I participate partly rather than fully? That's still a good outcome: at least I will have partly challenged myself and my way of living on this earth and in this society.

So I am signed up and ready to go. Each day has a theme. Sunday 18 September is Consumption. I hope to share some of my experiences with you.

I already know what I'm doing part of Sunday: finishing making chicken stock and pumpkin chutney. This is my second batch of making chicken stock instead of buying stock powder (in my attempt not to eat ingredients of "numbers" and varying levels of salt, plus using the waste of a carcass as a resource). It really is just boiling up a $2 bag of chicken bones for hours, I discovered while reading Arabella Forge's Frugavore. Why make chutney? Because it is yummy! This time, I even grew the pumpkin myself!

I didn't finish making the stock and chutney on Saturday as I also have a social life: dinner down at the pub with friends was calling me. A lovely night it was, too!