Heck, even climate scientists and activists need a beer after a week in the lab or on the street. And when they do, they may well turn to the beers below, thoroughly researched for their sustainability practices by 1 Million Women.
You can’t turn all of your old plastic bags into giant puffer-fish like the one above, so what are you going to do with your ready-to-burst cupboard full of old scrunchables? Sean Dostal of Honest Grub shares his methods for ensuring that those bits of plastic we accumulate don’t end up in a turtle’s stomach.
After Sonya Blan’s thoughtful piece on meat a couple of editions ago, we have news that a meat-free or meat-reduced diet might make you happier, as well as healthier (not to mention kinder on animals and the environment). Naturally, we also have some handy info to help you out.
Gabrielle Chariton peered into our bins and unearthed our landfills to dig up the story of packaging. Why do we use so much of it? And how can we use less?
Ashleigh Stallard is here to dispel the myth that you can’t live according to your ideals without emptying your bank account and spending every waking moment researching supply chains. Ashleigh runs the design blog Shift.
You might question whether Sonya Blan is qualified to write about meat, being vegan and all. But Sonya has a long past with meat-eating, and she wants to share what she found. Whether you’re the kind who likes strips of bacon on your veal sandwich, or you eat an organic, free-range chicken but once a fortnight, if you haven’t already – meet your meat.
Everyone wears clothes – probably even the most diehard nudists, sometimes – so whether you’re an avant-garde fashionista or a committed dag, you should know the ethical dimensions of the fabric we wear. Jess Noble is a veteran Otter writer with fashion-industry experience.
Food waste is a major cause of climate change, because food production pumps out greenhouse gas emissions – gases that are emitted for no reason when food is wasted. The Youth Food Movement have come up with a novel way of fighting food waste: “cook lucks”, dinner parties using ingredients that were destined for the scrapheap. By Zo Zhou of the Youth Food Movement.
By Tony Ryan.
One day when I was in high school, a friend told me, in an urgent, conspiratorial tone, that his parents’ washing machine had broken down the day after the warranty expired, suggesting it had been programmed to do so by the manufacturers.
The makers of that washing machine almost certainly didn’t design it to conk out as soon as they were no longer liable for repairs or replacement. But I discovered years later that there’s a name for the practice of creating products that are designed to quickly fall apart or be superseded by a superior version: planned obsolescence. “That’s a thing,” as we say now. (As we also say, you know something exists when it’s been satirised, and planned obsolescence had the piss taken out of it artfully by The Onion.)
To keep you buying, manufacturers, particularly producers of electronics, often design smartphones, tablets, laptops and the like with the next, better version of their gadgets in mind. But these “better” versions are often not really better at all, as witnessed by countless technology reviews. Companies also build disposability into the physical gadgets themselves, publish software upgrades that don’t work on old handsets, and make their devices next to impossible to open for repairs, all of which are strategies aimed at getting you to shell out for new stuff.
Consumers are relied on to keep our economy going, and retailers and manufacturers are keen to meet their every whim with a saleable product. Problem is, this economic model comes from a time when the resources used to make these products were assumed to be infinite (when they were thought about at all). We now know that the ecosystems on which we depend can’t cope with the amount of garbage and pollution necessitated by the constant production and disposal of products. As George Monbiot recently put it, “Consumer demand and economic growth are the motors of environmental destruction”.
However! We’ve started to wise up to the situation, and consumers are turning to products that aren’t headed so quickly to the tip, easing the load on our environment and on our hip pockets. Governments are beginning to catch on – in France, planned obsolescence is a crime punishable by jail sentences – and there are a number of things you can keep in mind to help number its days.
There’s a growing movement devoted to fixing, rather than ditching, our broken possessions. Australia’s first repair cafe, in Marrickville, opened in 2014, and others followed. (There are now repair cafes in Sydney, Melbourne, Albury-Wodonga and Mullumbimby). Ifixit.com is the Wikipedia of the self-repair community, with nearly 20,000 free repair manuals for over 5,000 devices. And anyone can contribute to it, hence the Wikpedia comparison. They’ve even produced this fixer’s manifesto:
Some of the lightbulbs manufactured around the time Thomas Edison invented them are still in use! Light bulbs are notorious in the literature on planned obsolescence as the first and perhaps the most well-known instance of the practice. From the 1920s to the 1940s, lightbulb manufacturers actually made their products worse, reducing their lifspans from an average of 2,500 hours to 1,000 hours in a bid to drive sales, which is now known as the lightbulb conspiracy. If you haven’t already, install LED lights – they last a lot longer and consume far less energy.
Today, many producers are more conscious of the community and the environment than the lighbulb barons of yore. For example, Buy Me Once is an online store that sells products that are made to last (and they have a wonderful tagline: “Because throwaway stuff is rubbish”).
Also, look for lifetime warranties and products with replaceable parts.
This one’s kind of a joke, but seriously, that’s how fast-fashion chains like Topshop and Zara work. They belt out new styles so quickly for a reason, earning them the description “planned obsolescence in action”. When it comes to fashion, you could do what I do: wear flares until the cycle of fashion inevitably swings around and they’re in vogue once again. It’ll happen.
Or you could make your clothes last.
But before any of the above comes into play, that’s the question: can I go without this? Buy Nothing Day, which was initiated by Adbusters magazine, has become an emblem of anti-consumerism, and has sparked Buy Nothing Christmas, Buy Nothing New Month and the Buy Nothing Project. Despite the “Buy Nothing” motif here, anti-consumerism is a broad church, and most of its adherents acknowledge that buying nothing at all in the long term is hardly feasible (though some people give it a shot for a good length of time). It does, however, encourage a thoughtful approach to consumption that considers the true costs of buying.
By Gavin Webber.
We all have tight spaces around our yards. You know the ones. It’s the little nook or cranny that gets some sunlight during the day that is lying dormant, overgrown with weeds. Others may just have a little space that has been allocated for an outdoor living area.
Believe it or not, these areas are perfect for growing a large range of food, mostly in containers, or in existing landscaped garden beds.
Not all vegetables need full sunlight; in fact, some actually suffer or bolt to seed when they get too much. Lettuce varieties are a good example. They love partial sun and a couple of hours are all they need.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Here are three ways to start growing in small spaces.
Just about anything that can hold soil can be used to grow food as long as you can ensure adequate drainage. You can reuse some of the most unlikely items such as old buckets, laundry tubs, bathtubs, or make your own portable planter boxes. Of course, you can buy large pots as well, but sometimes cost is an issue. I tend to stay away from plastic pots because they don’t biodegrade, and exposure to UV light makes them brittle and break. I have many glazed clay pots of various sizes, the larger the better. The larger the pot, the less likely the soil will go dry in between watering.
While we are talking about soil, the nutrients in potting mix tend to become exhausted after each season, so before replanting, I refresh it with a couple of handfuls of homemade compost and a handful of blood and bone or pelletised chicken manure then dampen with water. I ensure that it is well-mixed and rested for a week before planting seeds or seedlings. By using this method we have healthy potted herbs or vegetables every year.
Wicking beds are becoming increasingly necessary in our hot, dry climate. With little spring rain, we have to use methods that preserve and minimise water usage, all the while keeping crop yield steady. Portable wicking beds are very simple to make, and prevent your soil medium from drying out.
A wicking bed can be as simple as getting a plastic tub or large wooden planter and lining it with pond liner or builders’ plastic sheeting, then laying in a watering pipe and overflow pipe, half filling with scoria or gravel or even sand, adding a non-degradable textile layer, then filling with compost or good potting mix. I’ve even seen polystyrene boxes used as mini wicking beds, though I haven’t used these myself as they’re not recyclable.
You can see an example of in this post titled “Building a Wicking Bed on Concrete“. Just scale it down to container size and you get the general idea. It works really well and is shaded for half the day, so salad greens thrive in this bed because there is a continuous supply of water. Veggies planted in this bed tend to be slow when bolting to seed so you get longer cropping.
Using wooden shipping pallets is a great way to upcycle and grow some food. I’ve seen excellent examples in small gardens of these being used for planting out herbs and salad greens.
These pallets just need to be stood vertically, have a bottom placed across each section of board and have a few drainage holes drilled, and it’s ready to plant out with good potting mix or compost.
Here are some fantastic step-by-step instructions for a Pallet Garden from a TV show, Growing a Greener World, that I follow via the web. Definitely a great idea for those who are pressed for space around their garden.
I’ve also seen wooden pallets laid down on the ground, filled with soil, and used as a raised garden bed. Just make sure that the pallet is not made of treated pine (CCA) or otherwise you risk copper and arsenic leaching into your soil.
So, there are three methods of growing vegetables in tight spaces that are cheap to implement and easy to maintain. The only thing I have to add is that you need to ensure that the soil is kept moist, otherwise your plants will struggle to draw up nutrients. Oh, and keep them close by so that you will remember to pick your produce often. Think of this type of gardening as Zone 0 in your suburban permaculture garden!
This post was originally published on The Greening of Gavin.
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