Reduce: Tool Replacement. Grr.

Ok, I’m a bit ticked off.

We have a push mower – my parents gave it to Yankee Elv and I as a Christmas present in 2007. We were really happy to have it. Our yard is quite small, so it was great to have an eco-friendly (no fuel required!) way of keeping it in shape. It’s very achievable to mow it by hand and it’s a good work-out. I prefer it – I’m always paranoid that pebbles will fly from under a regular mower and hit me in the leg.

push mower

Ozito push mower, with blades no-one will sharpen or replace.

Anyway, the blades on the push mower are dull. We have been trying for more than 6 months to find someone to sharpen or replace the blades and no-one will do it. Bunnings used to (that’s where my parents bought it originally), but apparently it’s too cost-prohibitive for them to continue anymore. Everyone else has the same excuse. We’ve called mower places, hardware stores and tool shops. We even reached out on Freecycle and had someone agree to do it for us, but then he backed out. I emailed the mower company and got no reply. I’m very frustrated!

The mower is not usable, and we can’t continue whipper snipping the lawn, small though it may be. The day before yesterday, Yankee Elv went to Bunnings – one of those shops that won’t sharpen my current mower’s blades! – and bought a new mower. The fact that she needed to do that really pisses me off!! We got an electric mower, so at least we can use green power rather than gasoline… but that’s really not the point. The push mower we have is just fine.

It annoys me that people feel it’s not worth keeping up a perfectly good product because of their impact on their bank account. What about the impact on the environment? It’s not like the damned mower is recyclable even.




Update Again

I haven’t posted since the big dust storm, which seems ages ago now. We’ve had a couple more since then, but nothing like that first big one.

I’m sorry I’ve neglected the blog, but it’s just been a bit crazy crazy. Here’s an update on the latest goings-on.

Diva Princess broke two of her toes and has been stuck inside for a month with a bandage on her foot that she insists on trying to rip off. She looks so pathetic with the cone around her head that I try not to make her wear it unless she’s getting really crazy with the bandage pulling. She’s also had an ECG to check on a mild heart murmur we just found out she has.

Diva Princess is highly disgruntled that she is stuck inside with a bandage on her foot.

Diva Princess is highly disgruntled that she is stuck inside with a bandage on her foot.

There are new white Tim Tams. Yankee Elv is obsessed. There have been a lot of Tim Tams in our house. Yankee Elv’s mom is obsessed too, except she lives in America, so it’s hard for her to have lots of Tim Tams in her house. Fortunately for her, they’re staring to sell them in the US soon. There’s lots of excitement about that, on both sides of the Pacific. I feel bad that the Tim Tams come in a plastic tray, in a plastic packet. They need to make eco Tim Tams that come in cardboard and paper. Plastic or not, I still eat them. Bad hippy. Bad.

Dog/cat/turtle-sitting is over. A great time was had by all. We introduced the dogs to a new dog park, which is full of very friendly people and is split into a section for big dogs and another section for little dogs. Loodle was not very sociable with the dogs but wanted everyone to pat him. Everyone loved him. Pseudo-Marley was simultaneously scared of the big dogs and desperate to play tag with them. Everyone loved him too. I like how they supply all the dogs with biodegradable poo pick-up bags.

I got a long-awaited promotion, Mr Teeny-bop has become a Drama-king (lots of school plays) and Yankee Elv has gone back to school.

I walked to the supermarket last weekend (for exercise and to reduce car trips – I took my green shopping bags too). Loodle can’t walk that far with us anymore, but Mr Teeny-bop came on his scooter. It was nice to walk along with him. We’re keeping our eye on a mango tree in a park along the way. In a couple of months we may be able to score some free mangoes. Yum!



Loodle is getting into shaving season. He’s a North American dog all the way and doesn’t handle the heat, so we have to shear him like a sheep (although he ends up looking like a pink piggy when we’re finished). Shaving will occur this weekend. The first shave of the season is always very laborious, but not as bad as the weekly bath. The arthritis in Loodle’s hips is getting so bad he needs to sit down for his bath now. ūüė¶

Yankee Elv and I celebrated (quietly to ourselves) a year of using menstrual cups and cloth pantyliners instead of disposable ‘sanitary products’. Going for reusuable menstrual items is one of the best decisions I ever made and I don’t just not regret it, I¬†celebrate it – every month, every time I walk past tampons in the shop, every time I see an ad about pads and every time some poor girl tiptoes up to me at work and whispers “I don’t suppose you have an extra tampon in your bag, do you?” (I actually do keep a few tampons in case of emergencies so they are always lucky.)

Diva has figured out how to open the screen door and Loodle has figured out how to open the gates. I love having smart pets but this kind of extreme Houdini-style behaviour is a bit much. We’ve had to institute some counter-measures. Now our gates rival Fort Knox and the screen doors are always locked. That doesn’t stop Diva climbing them, and with summer coming we can’t close the wooden door all the time. Any suggestions?

Yankee Elv went blonde (partially). Anyone know what the ecological impact of bleach is?

I keep forgetting to water the herbs and veges regularly, so while they are not dead, they are not flourishing as they should be. The Spanish onions down the side of the house are growing best – they are out in the sunshine (but not too much sunshine) and the rain. I have had a tarp down beside the driveway for a couple of months to kill off the grass and hope to create a proper vege garden over the next couple of weekends. I think between exposure to the rain and my haphazard watering, they should fare better.

I got my empty witch hazel bottle refilled at the local organic shop. The cost was nearly three times what I pay for a whole brand new bottle in the supermarket. I don’t think I can justify spending that money to save buying a recyclable plastic bottle, which makes me really sad.

Yankee Elv has been helping me avoid buying lunch at work by cooking up big batches of food and freezing it. It’s like I have a restaurant inside my freezer that I get to go to every morning. I love that I’m saving money, eating super tasty food and not getting a bunch of disposable containers and cutlery each day.

Many, many grapefruit.

Many, many grapefruit.

We got rid of about 80% of our grapefruits from the fallen branch via Freecycle, which I love! There is no way those hundreds of grapefruits were going anywhere otherwise. There are still hundreds more on the tree – the possums and bats are stocked for the summer. The passionfruits and pawpaws will be out before we know it too (if the morning glory doesn’t choke them), and then they’ll have dietary choice. I hope this choice encourages them not to eat anything out of my vege garden-to-be though. My colleague tells some lovely stories about possums eating her herbs and capsicums and her mad spraying with garlic and chili water (first the plants in an attempt to stave off the eating, and then the possums in retribution).

Cheeky possums eat everything, including bread, grapefruits, passionfruit, pawpaws and people's herb and vegetable gardens. They especially like the flavour of chili and garlic.

Cheeky possums eat everything, including bread, grapefruits, passionfruit, pawpaws and people's herb and vegetable gardens. They especially like the flavour of chili and garlic.

We’re planning another local holiday – south this time, just after Christmas. It should be good! No tents for a change. I need a break from holey air mattresses and tarps. I really hate putting up tarps.

So that’s what’s been going. Life has been interfering with my eco-life, which kinda sucks. Why are there so many things I wanna do, that I can’t do, cos I don’t have time, energy or money? (Mostly the first two.) Has anyone managed to find a balance? I could really use some advice.



Recycle: Polystyrene

I bet you thought you couldn’t recycle polystyrene. I know I thought that!

You can recycle this kind of polystyrene, but not the little 'packing peanuts' or the kind used for food packaging (I think).

You can recycle this kind of polystyrene, but not the little 'packing peanuts' or the kind used for food packaging (I think).

Today in my Freecycle Cafe daily digest email, though, I got the following message:


Just thought I’d let people know that it is apparently possible to recycle¬†polystyrene in Brisbane. The details are at link A and link B but basically you can take polystyrene produce boxes for free¬†recycling at the address listed in Acacia Ridge. They apparently charge for recycling other packaging types of polystyrene and I’m not sure of the¬†details.

As I often see these boxes advertised on freecycle I thought I’d let people¬†know what to do with them if they don’t get any takers. You can also post it¬†to:¬†
PO Box 211
Richmond Vic 3121

if you’re feeling super green that day!

happy recycling!


(Someone also mentioned that you can use the polystyrene boxes to grow herbs and veges in, which my mum already does.)

Super awesome, huh? The Brisbane EPS recycling place is in Acacia Ridge, so that’s definitely local. Thanks Freecycle Cafe lady!



Spotlight: Digital Dumping Grounds

I knew developing countries were, to a degree, the rubbish dumps for electronic waste (e-waste) shipped in from developed nations, but I didn’t know how bad it was. I watched this episode of Frontline World this morning that really made it hit home for me. Here’s the promo:

You can access the full 20 minute segment about Ghana here. Sorry Deafies, there are no captions (which annoys the shit out of me – c’mon PBS!), but underneath the video there is a transcript of the segment (if it’s not exact, it’s pretty close). You can also see some photos with captions here on Jane Hahn‘s site.

It’s not just Ghana either – Vietnam, Pakistan, Malaysia, China and lots of other third-world nations are being taken advantage of. In fact, the segment discussed how the average computer-owner (and dumper) is also being taken advantage of, by companies who say they’re dumping responsibly, but who ship out unusable computers for reuse. Clearly, since they’re unusuable, they’re only going to become scrap, but labelling them ‘for reuse’ enables their export courtesy of a legal loophole.

I have a bunch of e-waste here at my place that I was looking to dispose of responsibly, but now I’m unsure how I can do that if I can’t even trust the recycling companies. Plus, I want to make sure no-one has access to my data (that image of the FBI guy smashing the hard drive with the hammer also make an impression on me). Is it really best for the environment for me to be smashing stuff up, regardless of how cathartic that may be? However, is it best for me to not smash it? Ghana is one of the world’s leading areas of cyber crime, after all – there’s has to be link between that and the dumping of e-waste, it’s too convenient a co-incidence.

The one ‘positive’ thing to come out of the whole thing isn’t even very good. I wrote a while ago about the impact of metal mining on the environment (here and here). Trawling through the e-waste for scraps of copper and other precious metals does at least eliminate the need for so much mining… but at what cost? The toxic fumes produced by the burning needed to scavenge this metal is detrimental to both the environment and the unsuspecting people who participate, not to mention every man and his dog who lives nearby.

Aside from making pretty earrings, and giving away old items on Freecycle, what can we do with this stuff? Does anyone know of a recycler who actually recycles stuff responsibly without exporting it?



Reuse: Books

I like to read. I don’t get much time to do it these days what with work bending me over, but I miss it, and I read when I can. I usually have a couple of books on the go – one non-fiction, at least one fiction, and an old favourite that I can read in bed and put down easily (if my book is too interesting, I’ll get insomnia). I also usually have a fanfic on the go and read blogs like a crazy lady. Yeah, I like to read, ok?

Read green!

Read green!

Keeping up with the reading habit sustainably isn’t that much of a challenge either. Yes, books are made of paper – which means deforestation. But I’ve been getting around buying new books for years (mostly cos I couldn’t afford them, but lately the environment has been factoring into my avoidance of new books too). Here’s how.

Go to the library. There’s more books than you could ever want or fit in your house, and you can ‘try before you buy’, so to speak. If you hate it, that’s ok – it’s going back in two weeks anyway. If you live in a city, like me, you’re extra lucky, because often the council will run all the libraries in all the suburbs under one umbrella. If your local library doesn’t have the book you want, you can order it in from another library – usually free or for a nominal fee. Look out for the late fees though!

Go to the second-hand bookshop. This is especially useful when buying text books that you’re not planning on reading again after semester is over. You pay for what you get – the better the condition of the book, the more expensive. They’re usually cheaper than new, and just think – you’ve not chopped down another tree just to read! Book fairs are also good – think Lifeline Bookfest. Tonnes of cheap, pre-used books!

Swap and share books. We always have books at our place that don’t belong to us, and some of our books are always out with our friends and family. Again, this originally was a financial consideration for me – if my best mate already had the book, why would I go out and buy it when I could read her copy? It ends up being as good for the environment as it is for my pocket.

Get free books from Freecycle. There are always people giving books away. Sometimes friends, family and other folks are giving books away too. Pick them up where you can.

Buy second-hand books online – you can get local books from ebay, and Amazon if you’re in one of the local countries (which is not Australia). You can also buy books from eco-friendly book vendors, like Better World Books.

Read ebooks. I haven’t done much of this, but I do have Adobe Digital Editions on my work computer to read the ‘inspirational’ ebook the company gave us as a Christmas present. (They only started with the environmentally friendly book giving last year – before that it was mass hardcover book buying. I bet the authors who wrote the books ¬†chosen as the present book each year had a massive boost in sales and probably hate us all now). If you really want that paper look (rather than the backlit monitor look), try a Kindle. Apparently they’re good. Personally I’d go a Netbook, but I’m not bothered by the backlight.

Read online. It doesn’t have to be stuff written by well-known authors, there’s plenty of good amateur fiction and non-fiction out there. You’re reading some now – a blog. There are millions of them. Fanfic is a another big winner, in just about any fandom you choose, and often branching off into original stories. Besides, reading online opens up the doors to what you can find to read. It might be hard to find a good lesbian crime novel in your local second-hand bookshop (who am I kidding, lesbian crime novels are a dime a dozen – maybe it’d be hard to find a good lesbian historical fic that isn’t Mills & Boon-esque), but online, it’s not that hard, and you can narrow it down even further based on the kinds of characters you’d like to read about. Heck, you can even write it. Don’t forget other kinds of reading too – news sites and websites with articles discussing niche areas you’re interested in, which often become less niche the more popular online reading becomes. (Think Afterellen.com, folks!)

So seriously… reading. It’s a pretty awesome thing. Your kids see you doing it and they’re more likely to do it. It keeps your brain active. It’s escapist, and sometimes, trust me, you need to get your brain out of your head and into a story.¬†Don’t stop reading, don’t reduce it. Don’t think that reading sustainably is going to curtail your habit. If anything, it will broaden your literacy horizons. So remember, next time you’re looking for a book – read green!



Reuse: Freecycle

The whole point of reusing things is to prevent wasting unnecessary energy on recycling or to prevent things from entering landfill and becoming waste for all eternity… yeah, more like a couple of generations, but let’s not be picky. There’ll be toxic soup left for a long time, so you get my point. But seriously, landfill is nasty. Even biodegradable stuff doesn’t degrade in the anaerobic environment that is landfill. And what a way to use our earth – as a dump!

That’s why I’m like a broken record about reusing anything and everything.

So to further this end, Freecycle was invented, going on six years ago. The Freecycle slogan is ‘Changing the world one gift at a time’, and essentially, that’s just what Freecycle does. Freecycle is a place to offer up stuff you no longer want, even items you may consider junk, for other people to come and take away for free. You can also place posts asking if people have certain items that you may be looking for. You might not use the stuff for it’s original purpose (for example, Yankee Elv has plans to make jewellery out of old computer chips), but who cares, as long as it’s being used again and again, right? (See my previous argument about the festy landfill).

Freecycle Logo

Freecycle Logo

This communal re-use has several positive effects:

  • Items that are no longer wanted don’t end up in landfill
  • Unwanted objects go to new homes where these things will continue to be used
  • Recipients save money as they don’t have to buy new stuff
  • Givers save time and money as they don’t have to get rid of their unwanted stuff (which is especially cool when the items that are being given away are bulky and require a trailer or truck to move, like a bed, or a car – and yes, I’ve seen both of these items on my local group).

There are rules, too, but not many:

  • You can’t sell anything, you can only give it away for free
  • You can’t give away people or inappropriate materials
  • You can’t post a Wanted post until you’ve posted an Offer post
  • You can’t blither on in your posts – you have to stay severely on topic.

Freecyclers connect using Yahoo! Groups. As of today, there are 4,629 communities (Yahoo! Groups) serving as contact points for 6,098,000 Freecyclers worldwide. That’s a lot of re-use right there!

Basically, all you do is go to the Freecycle website, find your local community, sign up (make sure you go for daily digest format in your emails or your inbox will be inundated), and start Freecycling!

We have gotten rid of lots of excess stuff we didn’t want (mostly books and electrical items), and we’ve received quite a few useful things too:

  • TV stand
  • Spice rack (quite sizable)
  • Old coffee jars we use to store our tea
  • Books coming out the wazoo – so many!
  • Candles
  • Craft materials
  • Plates
  • Clothes and cloth
  • Toys
  • DVDs (including a favourite, What the Bleep Do We Know?, which we found at a Freecycle Giveaway, like a free garage sale. It is true that I mostly watch this movie/doco for Marlee Matlin, ūüėÄ but it also discusses some interesting points).

Freecycle has some drawbacks though. I am still disappointed that the above ground pool we saw listed was too big for our courtyard.

Don’t think Freecycle are the only ones getting in on the re-use act though. There are alternatives to Freecycle. A good example is Freebootr, a pirate-themed site which aims to improve upon Freecycle by not depending on Yahoo! Groups (which is nice cos I’m a bit over Yahoo!) and having just the one site for everyone, rather than separate local groups. I haven’t tried them yet as they are only new and don’t have a community in Australia so far. I like them cos they seem more personable than Freecycle – I follow them on Twitter and they have a blog.

But did I mention they’re pirate-themed? They claim they “practically invented The Three Arrrs.”