Sunday, 17 February 2008
What I learned from the Sustainable Living Festival
Written by Gavin Webber
Yesterday, Amy and I travelled to Federation Square in the heart of Melbourne to spend the day at the Sustainable Living Festival. To get into the spirit of the event, we decided to make as little impact as we could from when we left home until we returned. We started off by walking and took public transport for the remainder of the journey.
We first of all sat in on a presentation by Associate Professor Geoff Wescott called "Seachange and Sustainability. I personally learned to not to live near the coast in the near future because of climate change induced sea level rises and of the increased chance of storm surge events. Also that the human coastal infrastructure is incapable of handing the growing influx of part time Seachangers and tourists and that State Governments need increase funding and action in these areas. As over 83% of Australians live near the coast, you would expect that this issue would be high on politicians agendas. Unfortunately it is not, and water security seams to be the number one priority.
The second presentation was very interesting and dear to my heart. It was called "Green as Green does" and presented by Greg Donoghue. It was essentially about green waste management and he explained how plants grow, and then decompose, and what are the best ways of mimicking this process at home with food waste. Three examples were given, Composting, worm farming and bokashi bins. Greg described the efficiencies of each method, with composting being 70% effective at trapping the carbon in the processed material, worm farming being 90% effective and a bokashi bin being 99% effective. Unfortunately, only really kitchen waste can be processed in a bokashi bin, so I will still continue with my work with the other two methods of waste management. The other problem with a bokashi bin is that you have to continue to purchase microbes to add to it, which increases the ongoing cost of processing waste. At least with a worm farm the worms multiply by themselves and self regulate their population, dependant on the amount of food available. And the only cost for a compost bin is the construction of it. I did a bit of research on Greg's business (eco organics) and what do you think he sells? Well you guessed it, Bokashi Bins! All in all a good presentation but a bit bias, I believe.
We then had lunch, and we both opted for a vegetarian meal prepared by the nice gents at the Hari Krishna food stall. A wonderful chickpea curry with rice, with some nice ball things in a tomato sauce and a semolina pudding on the side, all for $9. A great feed and all washed down with fresh Melbourne tap water as provided by Yarra water. The great thing about lunch was that the cutlery and plates were placed in baskets when you completed your meal and collected by the Wash against Waste staff. The plates were then washed on-site with solar hot water! It really impressed me, as did the four type of bins available for recycling and waste collection. This should really be the norm at all events in this day and age.
After lunch it was time for a little lay down on some cool grass under the shade of a beautiful elm tree. My back was a little sore at this time from sitting at two presentations and lunch so we rested for about 15 minutes. We then visited nearly every single stall and had a chat about what service they provided and what part of sustainable living did their product or service impact. I also caught up with the nice guys from Energy Matters, who installed my Photovoltaic system last September. I discovered that I could install another 6 panels on my system if I wanted to. I also put my name down to be contacted by one of the sustainable auditing companies, as I am interested in this type of career.
Then came the highlight of my day. A presentation by eco chick Tanya Ha, the author of "Greeniology", a book that helped kick start the second phase of my eco transformation (which I will continue to document in subsequent blogs). She presented two talks, one about the theme of the festival which was "Being sustainable like an elite athlete" and how to reach your personal best, and the other was "The Story of Stuff: What makes a product truly green". Both were well presented with lots of audience participation and humour. She makes understanding the impact of climate change easy, and believes that one person can make a difference by their choices. For instance, we have the choice to save power by turning off the beer fridge in the shed, we can switch to Green Power, or insulate our homes. These all make a difference to your ecological footprint. She argued that the many products claiming to be organic, or green, or "environmentally friendly" are on the increase, but are simply green washing. Consumers should be aware to looks for further evidence of a green products credibility before they spend their hard earned cash on it. To top it off, I managed to get Tanya to sign my copy of Greeniology, and I even got to have a chat and shook her hand. I won't wash it for a week! She is a great ambassador for the green movement, and is attempting to make it mainstream. Kudos to you Tanya! I hope my work helps as well.
After my excitement died down, Amy and I decided to call it a day and head back to Southern Cross station. We just missed our train, had to wait for an hour for the next, so Amy insisted that we go to Direct Factory Outlet. What an extreme contrast to the festival. The people at the festival were all there to learn and understand how we can save our society and assist the planet in healing itself back from the abyss. It truly gave me hope to see so many like-minded people all in one place and learning about possible actions they could take to avert catastrophic climate change. DFO on the other extreme, was full of people consuming useless stuff that was made in sweat shops by low paid workers in China and elsewhere, that will be thrown away when they find it does not make them any happier, then not recycled and be dumped into landfill. A bit over the top, but that was how I felt. The time of endless consumerism is over, wake up! It looks like the Al Gore effect has not affected everyone! I will now get off my soapbox.
Both Amy and I agreed that the day was educational, entertaining and enjoyable. I can't wait for next year's event. Well done on a great festival, Sustainable Living Foundation.