Treading into the New Year

Despite having heard a radio interview which suggested that in fact New Years, with all the disruptions that it brings, is the worst time to make resolutions that are likely to be fulfilled I’m still gonna go ahead and do so.

We are now ¼ of the way into our ‘year of treading lightly’ and so far so good. Somebody asked what we are going to do at the end. The truth is that I can’t imagine ditching the majority of the things that we have adopted, if anything I suspect we’ll probably continue to further lighten our planetary impact. With that in mind what are the plans for the next year.

1. Become an Accountant. No not like that! One of the biggest problems in being aware of the impact of our lives is that there is rarely the mechanism for feedback. You water you garden, or install a dripper system but it’s very difficult to quantify how much water you’ve actually used or saved. Equally with power, what is the impact of that new appliance on it’s own, or switching off lights? Generally it’s only when you get your bill 3 months later that you know there has been some change, but if you’re like us most of the change is on ‘service’ fees and it’s almost impossible to determine the cause of any usage change. The old saying that practice makes perfect is in fact totally wrong if you are practicing something that’s not beneficial, only perfect practice makes perfect!

We’re not quite going for perfect but what we will try and do is account, or explore ways of accounting for our consumption to identify our utility usage but also what we buy, waste, grow and just generally build in feedback loops so that we know how for example how much of our food is grown, local and imported.

2. Become an ordinary vegetarian. Along with getting rid of the television this is probably one of the longer held aims that I have had. Whilst it’s almost certainly a little more complicated that this, the logic that less meat consumption is good for sustainability is fairly inescapable. My problem is, apart from my admitted love of bacon and eggs for fry-up breakfasts, we don’t know enough about being vegetarian to be confident that us grown-ups, and more importantly the kids are getting a balanced diet for rapidly growing little people. So step 1 is to reduce our meat intake (which we have already done to some extent) and learn more about vegetarian nutrition. I’m happy to take any guidance or suggestions from people about how to do this so if you’ve got some ideas then let me know.

I did say ordinary vegetarian though and whilst that will probably (at least initially) be true in the wider interpretation, what I mean is that I think that meat will continue to hold a place in our diet for special occasions and celebrations. I don’t know if this is the right way to go as maybe in incorrectly raises that profile of meat over other types of food but I’m hard pressed to think of anything that says family celebration than a roast.

3. Obtain, share and store a yield. This is a continuation rather than anything new but is fairly central to a sustainable lifestyle. This means getting better at seed saving, grafting, succession planting but also harvesting, using and storing what we produce. We’re going to kick this off with a tomato bottling day on Australia day. I figure this both gives us a first step and a deadline and I will be adopting the phrase that is found at the end of almost every chapter of one of my favourite books on self-sufficiency “… this can be hard work so it is best done with friends and a good supply of home brew”.

4. Share our enthusiasm. (Nikki here) One goal is to make more paper, and do so with friends. Each time I have a session – I will invite 2 others to learn and bring their creativity and ideas along for me to learn from. Oh and there will quite likely be champagne and a BBQ afterwards.
A big project with the immediate community in mind is a replanting of nature strips in our street. One side of the road has some pretty dismal nature strips, and I believe ours is up there with the worst of them. We have a fabulous native garden at the front. It suffers a lot in the heat, yet we are able to maintain it with little effort. My NY resolution is to recreate our nature strip within Council guidelines and along with the help of my enthusiastic neighbours – provide others with the opportunity to do so themselves.
Lastly; share some of the knowledge that I gained during my stint volunteering with the Greener Houses – Growing Greener Neighbourhoods program. I took part in a two year project that now has a life of its own ( “Greener Houses Growing Greener Neighbourhoods is all about transforming five Neighbourhood Houses into ecoliving demonstration centres. It is a unique collaboration involving community volunteers, Neighbourhood Houses, five local Governments, tertiary institutions and Charitable Trusts. The project is supported by the Victorian Government Sustainability Fund, managed by Sustainability Victoria.”
I learnt a lot about being part of a large group of volunteers, but mostly I realised that you don’t have to give a lot in order to get a whole lot of love in return.