31 May 2011

Save rainwater

With winter approaching, now is the time to think about installing a rainwater tank to reduce your home's reliance on Perth's precious scheme water.

According to Andrew Waudby, of Waterplex, a rainwater tank is a great one-off investment to make a difference to the environment and reduce your annual household water costs.

"The average rainfall for Perth is approximately 800mm per annum. 1mm of rain on 1sqm of roof gives one litre of stored water, so 1sqm of roof gives 800 litres per year. So a 100sqm roof gives 80,000 litres."

He said Perth homeowners had the ability to make a great difference to the local water supply simply by installing a tank.

A 2500-litre tank would provide sufficient water storage for the average household during winter.

"People think they need a big tank to get them through the summer but that's not the case," Mr Holmes said. "During the winter time, you are catching water from your roof and if it's operating your toilets and laundry with savings of up to 46,000 litres of water a year".
Read article

I was stunned to learn that the average household in Perth uses 734 liters of water per day!

Don't forget to turn of your reticulation, as from 1 June there is a sprinkler ban.

Higher tax call for McMansion dwellers

PEOPLE who want to build energy-guzzling McMansion-style homes should pay more taxes.
And taxes should also be used to make owning multiple plasma TVs prohibitive, says Melbourne University construction expert Dr Robert Crawford.

Rapidly increasing suburban house sizes, more reliance on cars and a rise in demand for consumer goods had wiped out many of the benefits of building energy-efficient homes, he said yesterday.

"The most dominant characteristic of the new houses in these estates is their size ... new residences are well over 200sq m, more than double the average of the 1950s," he said.
Read article

World's carbon emissions hit record rise

Carbon emissions in the earth's atmosphere have reached a record high, according to the International Energy Agency.

Scientists warn that climate change will lead to unprecedented catastrophic consequences, if global leaders do not take decisive action to reduce the harmful emissions soon.
And all they do here in Australia is talking about how Cate Blanchett should or shouldn't be in the picture for this... sad...

What does it take to change a habit?

Life Earth

30 May 2011

Smugglers sneaking e-waste out of Australia

Australia has been accused of breaking its international obligations by not doing more to stop electronic waste being smuggled out of the country.

The ABC has learned that four shipments of illegal e-waste - including discarded computers, mobile phones, televisions and other devices which contain deadly chemicals - have been intercepted so far this year.

But details about the seizures are sketchy.

Australia is starting to groan under the weight of a growing mountain of electronic waste. The discarded devices often end up in landfill with all the environmental concerns that generates.

Enforcing legislation
So far calls to several government agencies, including Customs, have failed to answer any detailed questions about the seizures and whether or not anyone was charged for smuggling.

The responsible parliamentary secretary, Don Farrell, has also been unavailable for comment.

Mr Walker says much of the rest ends up in landfill.

"I think the current figure is about 40 million computers have gone into landfill here in Australia alone," he said.

"But around 60 per cent say of the computers that are collected through recycling schemes end up going overseas".
Read article

27 May 2011

5 June - National Day of Climate Action

From the GetUp team:

So far, 3,440 people have RSVP'd to family climate rallies across Australia next weekend. But I just finished reading the Australian Climate Commission's new climate science report - and frankly, I'm scared. The risks have never been more clear and the case for action has never been more urgent. Scientists know this, you and I know this, but the rest of Australia still needs to hear it.

The Government and Independents on the committee are under extraordinary pressure to give up on climate action. Climate deniers held a rally against the carbon price last week in the electorate of Independent MP Rob Oakeshott. The Daily Telegraph reported that over 3,000 people attended - even though the official police estimate was under 800. Right now, politicians and the media are gauging support for climate action by which side has the bigger rallies.

Some say putting a price on pollution will send our economy back to the Stone Age. They say they represent the majority of mainstream Australia. We know it's rubbish - but unless we put our faces and voices in front of the TV cameras too, we know exactly what will happen next: an exasperating onslaught of one-sided media coverage against climate action, which will send politicians running scared.

If Australia's climate policy were decided by science and reason, we would have put a price on pollution long ago.

Please join the urgent climate rallies happening across Australia on Sunday week, June 5, and don't forget to bring a friend, or ten!

Where: Perth Cultural Centre (James Street Mall)
When: 11am Sunday June 5
Please RSVP by clicking here.

Gotta Share!

Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence

Against obsolescence from Vitsœ on Vimeo.

Check out the interview with great architect/designer Dieter Rams at Fast Company

26 May 2011

Turanor PlanetSolar mega-yacht to visit Australia

When in Brisbane this weekend go have a look at this huge solar panelled ship!

THE world's largest solar boat, costing $16.7 million to build, will make a stopover in Australia this weekend.
The Turanor PlanetSolar mega-yacht will dock at the Riverside Centre Pontoon in Brisbane on Sunday as part of its quest to become the first fully solar-powered vessel to circumnavigate around the world.
Read article

WA dams set to dry up by summer's end, expert warns

Perth's drinking water supplies from dams will run out by the end of next summer even with decent rainfall, according to predictions by the Centre for Water Research.

By then, Perth and the South-West would become solely reliant on water supplied from the already stressed Gnangara Mound aquifer and the Kwinana desalination plant, director Jorg Imberger said.

Even using an optimistic calculation that 35 gigalitres (35 billion litres) of rainwater would flow into the city's dams - far greater than the 13 gigalitres last year - the dams would run dry.

"(Even) given recycled water, less water use, pumping the surface aquifer at Gnangara Mound a little bit more and hoping for rain, we'll basically have no water left at the end of summer 2012," Professor Imberger said.
Read article

Update 30 May: No need to be squeamish
There has been predictable squeamishness about the news that the Water Corporation has been asked to fast-track its Groundwater Replenishment Trial, ramping it up far beyond the current rate of 5 million litres treated and injected into the ground each day.

Since it launched last November, the trial has pumped 544.5 million litres of treated water into the Gnangara Mound, which provides 90 per cent of Perth's groundwater, via an injection well at the corporation's Beenyup water treatment site.

Ask a Londoner about water recycling and they'll tell you it's a simple fact of life, even though they will probably complain about the rain in their next breath.

The fact is that Perth and the South West are in trouble, despite the impressive response to the Water Corporation's challenge to Perth households to save 60 litres per day over the past few months.

Currently, Perth dumps 300 million litres of wastewater a day into the Indian Ocean - much of it after extensive treatment. Instead of throwing that water away, groundwater replenishment would see large amounts of that water rescued, treated to a higher standard and then used to preserve our aquifers.

GetUp action for Australia

Fund Solutions Not Pollution

25 May 2011

Solidworks Green Design Contest

The Challenge
Imagine that wealthy entrepreneur "Sir Richard Doylson" has decided to launch a new airline powered solely by algae-derived biofuels, called Greenair. Your firm, SWUGN Enterprises, has been charged with designing new “green” airport terminals for Greenair, and (of course), terminals need chairs. It’s up to you to design a chair worthy of the Greenair name, and Sir Richard’s execs will be judging your work.

Good constraints lead to inspired design, and as Earth Day reminds us, our planet provides the ultimate constraints—it can only support so much resource consumption and waste emissions. We invite you to design a new chair that’s both aesthetically appealing and fully functional, while maintaining a small environmental footprint. To do this, you can either download the starter model – a rather plain-looking, industrial affair – and modify it, or design a completely new chair yourself.
More info here

24 May 2011

Ride to Work Day - on 12 October

Come join Australia's biggest celebration of commuter riding - Ride to Work Day - on 12 October.

Whether you ride regularly or haven't been in the saddle for a little while, there has never been a better time to get involved. Aside from realising all the benefits riding to work can provide, your registration will help us improve bike facilities for everyone and also enter you in the draw for a range of fantastic prizes.

Register for free now and be a part of something big!

The Ride to Work Program is designed to get people started and keep them riding to work. The Program is run by the Bicycle Network in conjunction with state and territory cycling organisations across Australia.

20 May 2011

Design A Chair

Saturday In Design has teamed up with How We Create to offer a fantastic design opportunity.

Join the likes of Gehry, Le Corbusier, Foster and Neutra and turn your chair sketch into a real-life product!

The winning design will be made live using rotational moulding at a special event hosted by How We Create on +Friday, the night of festivities for industry VIPs that precedes Saturday In Design.

Create a concept, sketch it up and submit your design here by 17 June.

Your chair might be taking pride of place in a showroom at next year's Saturday In Design!

18 May 2011

Two Hands Project

The Two Hands Project is a new and collaborative approach to cleaning up your world.

Whether to improve the health of our oceans, or to simply clean up unsightly trash in one of your favorite parks, Two Hands is easy…

Two hands takes the spirit of huge national and international cleanup days, bringing it back to the individual, allowing you to care for the place most important to you, anytime you want.

Two Hands talks solutions.. ways to stop the plastic tide. To find out more, view the “How To Participate” page.

Thirty minutes, Two Hands. Clean up your world.
Or join them on Facebook to see what other two hands did.

eTool - analysis software for sustainable design

RSVP before this Thursday 19th May 2011 to make sure you get a spot on 25 May! Email info@etool.net.au or call 6364 3805

More info on eTool here

Thong Nation: Throwaway Footwear Now Taking on a Greener ‘Sole’

Flip-flops, usually made of polyurethane, are the focus of both recycling and upcycling efforts this spring.

The moment our old friend Mr. Sunshine makes his presence known, socks and lace-up shoes are typically pushed aside in favor of those perennially toe-baring delights known as flip-flops, and boy, what a relief they are. Bestowing the wearer with an instant form of eco-friendly air conditioning during seasonal heat waves — often for as little as one solitary dollar per pair — the rubber-soled wonders seem innocuous enough, but Mother Nature would likely disagree.

Here’s the first problem. Today’s models are commonly made with crude oil-based polyurethane (aka #7 plastic) rather than sustainably produced natural latex rubber, and are almost always excluded from municipal recycling programs.

They are also so impossibly affordable and manufactured in a rainbow of alluring colors and patterns that consumers can easily justify owning a dozen or more pairs, which ends up fueling hyper-consumerism. Rather than spending the time to repair or even creatively upcycle a flip that has met its final flop, we typically chuck and replace what is no longer up to snuff since there’s always an infinite, budget-worthy supply at our fingertips.
Read article

Axe falls on heritage centre, school

FOR 16 years, Dwellingup has been associated with beautiful woodwork from the Dwellingup Forest Heritage Centre and Australian School of Fine Wood – and many residents are angry about the abrupt closure of the centre last week.

Senior lecturer Malcolm Harris said although he had heard about financial issues a few months ago, there was no warning last Monday when “the axe fell”.

“We had just started class when members of the board and Peel Development Commission informed us the centre was closing as of that moment,” he said.

Mr Harris said most of the eight students and four staff members were in shock.
Read article
Although I've taught here for a semester in 2008 and my experience was that I was teaching in a soap opera, I was shocked by this news. The school had so much potential...

Inventor creates unique amphibious vehicle

Inventor John Hinton, has created a unique amphibious vehicle. The 76-year-old used his lawnmower and his boat to create a lawnmower boat.

I think there might be some guys in WA with a boat who would like this idea ;)

12 May 2011

Great Sustainable Home Challenge: Part 2

WA has some of the worst soils in the world. Sandy, dry, devoid of nutrients - it's a wonder we can grow anything at all.

But living in a virtual desert shouldn't stop you boosting your home's sustainability by growing your own food. All you need is to give your garden a bit of TLC, and your veggies will be ready for harvest before you know it.

"Contrary to what you may think, it's actually really easy to produce a productive, healthy and sustainable garden, using a lot less water," said green guru Chris Ferreira.

As part of his Great Sustainable Home Challenge, in which he will transform his 1950s Hamilton Hill house into a bastion of green living, Chris enlisted the help of horticulturalist Peter Coppin to sort out the soil.
Read article

Guru turns 50s home into 'green' model

To green-living guru Chris Ferreira, the phrase "hot property" is far from a compliment.

Many modern homes are failing one of the basic requirements of WA architecture - to keep out the West Australian summer heat.

The unshaded walls and dark-coloured roofs typical of many new homes mean that brickwork and tiles can hit 80C in the full sun - meaning bad news for energy bills.

He has challenged West Australians to improve the sustainability of their homes - and save themselves money in the process.
Read article
More info and free workshops at Great Gardens here

Marsupial brings hope to withering wheatbelt

IT wasn't long ago that many third-generation farmers on the West Australian wheatbelt had never heard of the brush-tailed bettong, more commonly known as a woylie.

Today, they are hoping this critically endangered, wallaby-like marsupial may hold the key to getting passing tourists to stop overnight and put much-needed revenue back into withering rural towns.

Community sanctuaries in which native animal populations can recover behind feral-animal-proof fences are a growing trend in conservation and helping to pull some of Australia's most endangered species back from the brink of extinction.
Read article

Design : Made : Trade

When you are in Melbourne check out State of Design Festival and also Design Made Trade during Furnitex, the International Furniture Exhibition.

Design:Made:Trade is a diverse and inspiring trade exhibition space, including some of Australia’s leading furniture, fashion and industrial design brands.

Design:Made:Trade returns for its fourth year and will be accompanied by a huge number of programs including workshops, talks, exhibitions and displays. This historic site comes alive with activity during the first week of the Festival.
Thursday 21 - Sunday 24 July 2011

Down-Under Hypocrites Bet All on China’s Boom

That’s essentially the message Treasurer Wayne Swan is sending about Australia’s odds-defying bet on Chinese growth. The government’s latest budget pledges to deliver the quickest improvement in the nation’s finances on record -- without specifics about how that will happen.

The absence of such detail is telling and can be boiled down to one thing: an even bigger gamble on China’s 10 percent growth and its voracious appetite for Australia’s resources. It’s risky to so fully hitch the hopes of 23 million people to a single nation that’s still developing.

Of course, if a critical mass of Australians has reservations about something, lawmakers must listen. And listen, they did. Yet arguments for quashing the takeover -- deterring investment into Australia, for example -- were tenuous. Everyone knows Australia’s resource sectors are booming and those who want a piece of it won’t care who runs ASX.

The real colonization is arguably taking place on the ground -- or, more to the point, beneath it -- in Western Australia. China’s voracious appetite for raw materials to fuel its rise is at record levels and set to continue rising. It’s leading to bubbles in the 13th biggest economy.

Press reports are full of tales of 24-year-old miners with no college degree making more than the Federal Reserve chairman’s annual $199,700 salary.

Australia is flirting with “Dutch disease,” whereby financial benefits of a resource boom lead to a hollowing out of other sectors. The worry is that Australia becomes all too happy to be a mining site for China and takes its focus off a more diverse economic future.
Read article

Update: Australia's Dutch Disease diagnosis
The term was coined in 1977 by The Economist to describe the decline of the Netherland’s manufacturing sector after the discovery of a large natural gas field in 1959. But our version of the 'Dutch Disease' is even more serious because it may have infected the banking system.

Karratha emerges as 'Saudi Arabia' of algal fuel

The boss of what will be the world's biggest algal biofuel operation has described Karratha as the "Saudi Arabia of algal fuels" as he unveiled the project in the Pilbara.

Aurora Algae chief executive Greg Bafalis said the company had searched the globe to find the best site and stumbled across Karratha after a chance meeting with Austrade.
"We started with meteorological data, we came in (to Karratha) and thought it was perfect - it had everything we needed," the California-based executive said.

"It was the highest solar radiation on the planet, a great CO{-2} source from the natural gas business that's here and great land for us to expand on."
The 8ha demonstration site, built with up to $2 million in government grants, has six half-hectare production ponds already producing more than 15 tonnes a month of algal biomass.

"We produce roughly 30 tonnes a year out of each acre of algae - so you go could grow up to 10 tonnes of fuel a year out of each acre," Mr Bafalis said.
Read article

Debate over Kojonup wind farm plan

The Wheatbelt town of Kojonup is set to become the latest flashpoint in the debate over wind farms amid plans to build WA's second biggest wind energy project nearby.

A group of local business people, through the company Moonies Hill Energy, wants permission to construct 74 wind turbines at a site called Flat Rocks, 30km south-east of Kojonup. The project would cost almost $500 million, have a generating capacity of 150MW - enough electricity to power 90,000 homes - and "save" about 730,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

But local residents say the wind farm pre-empts the findings of a Senate inquiry into the health impacts of wind turbines.
Read article

One-third of world's food wasted: UN study

Talking about the need of GM to feed this ever growing population…
A new study from the United Nations has found that around one-third of all food produced in the world every year is either wasted or lost.

It says the surprise is that the problem of food waste affects both industrialised and developing countries in almost equal measure.

However, the study says food waste is more of a problem in industrialised countries, where both retailers and consumers throw mountains of perfectly edible food staves into trash bins.

In poorer countries, food losses during harvest and in storage mean lower incomes for small farmers and higher prices for consumers.

The study says this squandering of resources could be reduced by improving harvesting techniques.

Against the grain

IS GM food safe? And does a fatty diet cause obesity? The consensus view says yes to both. But these people dare to think differently.

Fran Murrell, 49, GM campaigner, estimates she spends at least six hours every day reading about genetic modification (GM) issues. She’s the co-founder of MADGE (Mothers Are Demystifying Genetic Engineering), a volunteer grassroots organisation formed in 2007 in protest at the Victorian Government’s lifting of the ban on the growing of GM canola. Murrell travels regularly in Australia and overseas speaking at conferences and questioning the science and safety of GM foods.
Read full interview

More info on MADGE Australia

Forest Forum on Saturday 11 June 4pm at Notre Dame in Fremantle with MC Ben Elton.

Click to enlarge

3:45 - 4:15 pm: Registration and Welcome

4:20 pm: MC Ben Elton introduction

4:30 pm: Keynote speaker Professor Brendan Mackey

5:00 pm: Questions to BM

5:10 pm: Speaker on Biomass (to be confirmed)

5:20 pm: Clair Medhurst (residents for responsible mining) - BRL

5:30 pm: Glenn Dewhurst (black cockatoo preservation society) - Cockatoos

5:40 pm: Jess Beckerling (WAFA) - the ongoing campaign

5:50 - 6:15 pm: Questions and Discussion convened by MC Ben Elton

More info here

11 May 2011

Milk in plastic bags

Many Canadians buy their milk in plastic bags (see Is Drinking Milk From Bags Weird?); next to returnable and refillable bottles, it is probably the greenest way package the stuff. In past posts, some have argued that cardboard cartons are probably better as they are recycled, although plastic bags are as well.
But this past weekend I noticed a number of milk bags drying on a line over the sink at a friend's house in Dorset, Ontario. I asked my host Elizabeth what she did with them; she said many things, because they are so strong.

She ran through an lengthy list of uses:
•lunch bags
•freezing and storing vegetables
•freezing and storing soup
•storage of oily rags while finishing furniture
•storage of paint brushes
Basically, any use that one might use plastic bags for, but because they have to hold and protect milk, the bags are far thicker than a baggie, they are stronger and last forever.
by Lloyd Alter, Toronto

6 May 2011

Top 10: Bicycle-Friendly Cities

We need a few of these bicycle lifts in Perth

1. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
3. Bogota, Colom
4. Curitiba, Brazil
5. Montreal, Canada
6. Portland, Oregon USA
7. Basel, Switzerland
8. Barcelona, Spain
9. Beijng, China
10. Trondheim, Norway (see video)
Check them out here

5 May 2011

Hillarys haul of shame

MORE than four tonnes of rubbish was removed from Hillarys Boat Harbour as part of a major underwater clean-up on Saturday.

Chris Dodd and Kim Sue, of Diving Frontiers Balcatta, headed the event, part of a Project Aware initiative raising awareness of how human lifestyle affects the marine eco-system.

“The event was to make people aware of how much rubbish gets dumped into our waterways,” Mr Dodd said.

Starting at 4am and finishing about 8pm, Mr Dodd said more than 150 volunteers and 60 divers pulled two truckloads of rubbish out of the harbour, a major recreational attraction for locals and tourists.

“There were chairs, toilets, suitcases, wheelie bins, shopping trolleys – you name it, it was in there.
Read article

3 May 2011

Australian Innovation Festival - “From Concept to Sales and Everything In-Between”

Click to enlarge
I am speaker number 5 on this interesting event during the Australian Innovation Festival this Thursday 5 May from 4.30-9pm

If you like to come along please rsvp by sending Cameron an email: cameron@openii.com.au

The Grove's Waterwise Community Planting Open Day, Saturday 21 May‏

When: Saturday 21 May 2011
Time: 9am – 4pm
Where: The Grove: Leading, Learning, Living (1 Leake Street, Peppermint Grove WA 6011)
Important information:
· RSVP by 16/05/11 - email community@joshbyrne.com.au or visit our website · Gloves and planting utensils will be provided.
· Closed in shoes must be worn.

2 May 2011

Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream - Symposium 5 May Murdoch University

Calling all citizens of Planet Earth! Solving the current environmental, social, and spiritual crises requires the voice and action of us all, as active citizens not passive consumers. The good news is each of us is waking up, you wouldn’t be reading this Newsletter if you weren’t, and millions of people are stepping into action together. Even better news, we are not alone.
More info here
(click to enlarge)