Asking your Council for a Cloth Nappy and Reusable Sanitary Product Rebate

31 March 2021
Council for a Cloth Nappy and Reusable Sanitary Product Rebate
Photo by Gavin Green & Hardie Grant Books for Waste Not: Make a big difference by throwing away less - buy here


Last year I discovered the UK was considering a Nappies (Environmental Standards) Bill to help promote reusables nappies. The Bill included a rebate to make the switch accessible, along with a push to stop manufactures of disposable (eco or not) from making claims that aren't true. The conversation is ongoing in the UK and you can read about here and here.

I began researching cloth nappy rebates and found there weren't that many available compared tp the UK. They have over 40 programs, while we have 10. After many emails it seemed the best place to prove there was interest in rebates from the community was for more Local Government's (our Councils) to roll out rebate schemes. In the UK local Councils also run the rebate programs. So, I decided to start with mine, Moonee Valley City Council. After sharing my intentions on social media many readers showed enthusiasm to pitch similarly to their own Councils and I promised a blog post on what I have done so far to help you get started. I hope you find it useful.

But first, what is a Cloth Nappy and Reusable Sanitary Product Rebate?

A household can receive up to fifty percent of the purchase back on new and secondhand items with proof of receipt at limit of $150. These reusable items can include:
  • Cloth nappies (all ages)
  • Swim nappies
  • Nappy liners
  • Cloth wipes
  • Wet bags
  • Nursing breast pads
  • Cloth menstrual and incontinence pads
  • Menstrual cups
  • Period underwear
  • Period wet bags

These councils provide rebates in Australia:
  • City of Casey (VIC)
  • Wyndham City Council (VIC)
  • Cardinia Shire (VIC)
  • Mornington Peninsula  Shire (VIC)
  • City of Parramatta (NSW)
  • Brisbane City Council (QLD)
  • Logan City Council (QLD)
  • City of Holdfast Bay (SA)
  • Shire of Augusta Margaret River (WA)
  • City of Cockburn (WA)

Why should our Government provide this? There are a couple of reasons...

A rebate will essentially provide accessibility for those unable to afford reusables, help normalise these products, provide a place for eduction and start conversations, and reward those wanting to reduce their waste.

Australian is one of the highest generators of waste in the world and all levels of government are aware behaviours, process, and products need to change to help reduce what we send to landfill. And it's happening, albeit a little slowly.

Most of our local Councils around Australia, the ones in charge of collecting residential waste and recycling, are focusing on getting organics out the landfill by introducing FOGO collections and tackling food waste. Rightly so, food waste can make up to 40% of our bins a home. As more FOGO rolls out and the system is working (ie, limited contaminates) the landfill bin collections will inevitably be moved to fortnightly.

After food, the next organic waste to land in or bins is the contents inside nappies and sanitary items. When any Council has announced their plan for fortnightly landfill pick up the most common complaint is disposable nappies. You can read what residents said in Golden Plains Shire Council and City of Penrith recently. It's a fair concern for those using disposable and biodegradable nappies.

Disposable nappies (including biodegradable nappies because they are single-use and also go to landfill unless they are collected separately) make up 4% of our landfills in Australia. With a child going through 6,000-7,000 nappies before toilet training, that is a significant amount of waste being picked up each week. Then there is the fact most disposals nappies require resources like oil to make the plastic, old growth forests for the inner lining, chemicals used inside to create that absorbency, plastic packaging, shipping of materials to factories for processing, and of course transport to stores AND the diesel fuelled garbage trucks to take it all away. Oh, and the energy needed to travel to the store to buy the product each time. Now think about all of this then apply it to menstrual and sanitary products.

That's not to say cloth nappies don't have an environmental impact, they do. But compared to disposables it's far less and will outperform when sold on for a second use or in the case of menstrual and sanitary products used for three-five years. The secondhand nappy market in Australia is HUGE, you'll find it mainly on Facebook through specific groups, marketplaces, and Gumtree.

On top of nappies being a huge part of our landfill, they are also in the top three contaminates in our recycling bins. I have heard from those in the recycling industry its getting worse and might be to do with the flashy words like 'Eco-friendly' or 'Recyclable' or “Biodegradable” are put on boxes and the everyday person assumes all eco things go into the recycling bin.

Encouraging the use of reusables, like cloth nappies and sanitary products, will ultimately save Councils money that could go back into health and wellbeing programs

According to Real Nappies for London, nine Local Councils in London collectively saved over £320k in waste costs in four years from the cloth nappy rebates they offered. I don't have data for Councils in Australia as many are looking at ways to track this sufficiently. 

Since nappy and sanitary product waste is big in volume, providing residents a reward has its merits especially when those products, say cloth nappies are passed onto someone else. For someone like me who actively tries to throw nothing into my landfill bin (or recycling!) my efforts are not rewarded and I still have to pay the rates for a service I use rarely.

A rebate is not a demand for all parents to use cloth nappies or people to buy cloth pads

I was a parent that went back to work full time when my child was three months, and I understand how exhausting parenting can be. I would be lying if disposables weren't appealing on some of those days. And truthfully it was my husband that did a lot of it and some of us don't have that extra help.

A parent for example could find out through their Maternal Health meetings (run by Councils) that their local Council provides a rebate...they might not take it up, BUT could end up looking into other ways to reduce their footprint like a Toy Library, shopping secondhand, taking their own produce bags, volunteering for Landcare. It's all connected.

Here are steps to get started on your local campaign:

1. Start a petition

I created my petition for my own Council on change.org - http://chng.it/7YyS2dYc

Most Councils prefer physical petitions as it's easier to track those signing are actually from local residents. But because of Covid I decided to go with an electronic option. The petition was shared in local facebook groups and my own page. You can use parts of my petition to make your own.

**My petition is not one addressed to all Councils. If you want a rebate for your Council, then someone from your area needs to start one. I can't on your behalf since I don't live in your municipality. 

Below are a list of petitions in Australia:


Paula McIntosh, Principal of Melbourne Girls College has also started a petition asking for free reusable sanitary products in schools. Show your support for Paula's campaign by following on Facebook, facebook.com/EcoFriendlyPeriods4VicSchools.

2. Letter to Councillors signed by multiple residents

An option outside of the petition or to run alongside is to create a letter signed by multiple residents to help strengthen the cause. This could be a group of friends or reaching out to likeminded residents in a Facebook group.

3. Start talking to your Council

Now you've started your petition or sent your group letter (or both!) it's time to find a Councillor you believe will help your cause. If you are not familiar with your local Councillors go to their social media, read their bios on the Council website, or ask in a eco Facebook group or parents group who they think would be an ally. If you have one aligned with sustainability it will be easier. Send them an email telling them your plan to start a petition and if they would like to submit the petition for you once its completed. When I did this my local Councillor suggested I give a presentation to all Councillors at a Public Forum.

4. A Public Forum presentation

This is an opportunity to put together a brief powerpoint (or not) and tell them why you believe Council should act on this. It's mainly an opportunity to educate. I only had three-five minutes to talk and shared four slides sharing what is a rebate program, why reusables are better for the environment, what will Council get out of it and what's in it for residents. 

Don't be nervous, Councillors are regular people. If you would like to see my presentation msg me and I'll pass it on.

5. Contact a local paper

Want to know a secret about newspapers? They are always looking for stories. Always. So contact away and tell them about your petition. If this blog post inspires five petitions in Victoria or ten across the Australia I'll pitch to a news outlet on our behalf. Often, stories in local newspapers can end up on the bigger news sites, since they are all connected. The Whitsunday's petition was a local story that went onto the larger ABC site. Don't be nervous about pitching stories. The worst is they say no.


The Councils below would be worth campaigning as they have been actively researching rebate programs and/or are running cloth nappy and menstrual product education seminars recently:
  • Yarra Ranges Shire Council (VIC)
  • Knox City Council (VIC)
  • Greater Dandenong Council (VIC)
  • Frankston City Council (VIC)
  • Hobsons Bay City Council (VIC)
  • Maribrynong City Council (VIC)
  • Boroondara and the Councils (VIC)
  • Mildura Rural City Council (VIC)
  • Shire of Indigo (VIC)
  • Shire of Towong (VIC)
  • City of, Wodonga (VIC)
  • City of Albury (NSW)
  • Greater Hume Shire (NSW)
  • Shire of Federation (NSW)
  • Penrith City Council (NSW)

Campaigns can be a slow game, sometimes. At the moment I'm going to continue sharing my petition in local groups, and then in a couple of months ask a Councillor to present it. Since my Council is more conservative than progressive, they might turn this down. That's the risk of fighting for something you believe in, it can get turned down. I do believe in planting seeds and I know the collective action can work. Councils talk to each other, they are often part of region based groups within their States. If you do start your own petition or contact your Council, let me know via social media (for some reason my comments don't work anymore on my blog??) so I can add it to this blog post and share with others. There is power in numbers. 

While this blog post is directed at Aussies, I'd love to know if anyone from anywhere else has a go too. 

Good luck :)

I'd like to thank City of Casey for providing so much help in my own research and understanding for this topic. Thank you!!!

Zero waste sun protection

28 January 2021
Zero waste sun protection

I take sun protection very seriously, all year round. But especially during Summer.

One look at me and you'll know why I do. My skin is fair and covered in freckles. It's prone to burning more than other skin types. I have had many uncomfortable sunburns over my lifetime that can happen within 10-15 minutes.

Once upon a time I relied on sunscreen for 90% of my sun protection. At beaches or pools I would take a rash vest (sun shirt) but would usually leave it off because vanity. I'd wear singlets and tiny dresses when out of the house then forget to reapply my sunscreen. There wasn't a summer without a bad burn somewhere on my body.

It wasn't until I started going plastic free that I changed my sun protection habits. Actually it still took me a while after reducing my plastic to realise clothing can provide most of my sun protection and it was the best zero waste sun protection.

Turns out long sleeve shirts, pants, wide brimmed hats are some of most environmentally friendly and zero waste sun protection steps we can make. And the most obvious too.


Zero waste sun protection

First step - clothing, hat, sunglasses, and seeking shade


During the warmer months when the UV index is high you'll find me covered up in loose but long sleeve clothing and a hat. I find it so much easier than having to reapply sunscreen constantly, which is something I would sometimes forget or keep putting off because it required a bit of effort. These days I only need to reapply to the areas exposed like my face, neck, ears, hands, and feet. I buy all of my clothes and hats from local secondhand shops to help reduce fashion waste.  

At the beach I always wear a long sleeve rashie with matching bather bottoms in the water. When I'm back on the sand I'll slip on a pair of long linen pants (in the photo below), my hat, then sit under the shade of our canvas beach tent to dry off or lay in the sun for a little bit. My whole body is covered and I haven't been burnt in the years doing this.

My current rashie is about five years old and is starting to show signs of wear. This means it's not offering me the best sun protection anymore. Next season i'll be getting a new one. I will look for secondhand but of course be mindful to only purchase if it's in good condition. I know there are many brands selling swimwear and rash shirts made of recycled plastic but as for recycling the rash shirt at the end of its life, well it doesn't seem to be an option yet. I'll have to do a deep dive to find out more.

I discovered Australian made plastic free swimwear and swim shirts made of wool at Swimm and Merino Country as an option. A woollen rashie, another option to look into too!

My sunglasses are made of upcycled wood my husband gifted me buuuuut Op Shops have so many second hand sunnies that you could buy a pair there. Using what we already have is usually the most sustainable and zero waste option. 

Of course shade should be a priority if you are spending a long time outdoors. Find an option that works best for you and your location. Finding shade on a stretch of beach in Australia can be hard so we bring along a secondhand canvas tent. I don't know the name or brand as it was sold without any information. 

Zero waste sun protection
A photo of me post swim with my linen pants pulled over my swimming bathers and rashie shirt on top

Last step - Sunscreen


I don't use much sunscreen. Now before assumptions are made I'm advocating against sunscreen please know I am a big advocate for sunscreen use. Keeping myself covered and staying in the shade helps me reduce sunscreen. I put sunscreen as the last step in my sun protection so I prioritise clothing options first.

I typically apply sunscreen on my face, neck, ears, hands, and feet. These are usually the only exposed areas. 

I have tried the following sunscreens over the past eight years. All have been great with no issues except the zinc getting onto clothes. A bit of a scrub and it does come off.
 

Our kiddo uses one specific for kids. Like his Mum, I keep him in long sleeves and long shorts to minimise sun exposure. Kids are far more covered these days than when I was little, which is great. Although he has inherited his fathers darker Lebanese colouring we are still careful. I find Op Shops have a good selection of long sleeve button shirts for kids that are good for warmer weather to keep the sun out without overheating him. I also find kids rashies in good condition at Op Shops too. My guess is they grow too quickly before they get worn out. 

You would have noticed in my sunscreen list the packaging hasn't always been plastic free. My sunscreen has come in metal, paper and recycled plastic. I advocate for people to choose what works for them regardless of packaging. Sun protection is important. Choose a sunscreen you will use not one that will languish in the back of the cupboard.

We have prioritised reef safe sunscreen but it turns out there is only one verified sunscreen as noted in this article, "Here's what you need to know about your sunscreen and the sea." As the article says, if unsure double check with the brand directly, which is what I will be doing going forward. 

Like most stuff I share on this blog my zero waste sun protection is suited to my own experience and needs. Do your own research, find what works for you and your own beautiful body. 

Eight Environmental books I read in 2020

4 December 2020
Eight Environmental books I read in 2020


Each year I make a plan to share a list on the blog of all the books I have read. After eight years of blogging I've finally managed to remember. I found the draft blog post from 2019 but forgot to share the books I read then. If you are interested the books related to the environment from my 2019 book haul were:
  • Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta
  • Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
  • Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia Edited by Anita Heiss
  • Hidden in Plain View by Paul Irish
  • The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage
  • A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. Washington
  • Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta Taylor
  • Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States by Carl Zimring
  • Treading Lightly: The Hidden Wisdom of the World’s Oldest People by Karl-Erik Sveiby and Tex Skuthorpe 
  • Welcome to Country by Marcia Langton
I’ll admit the books I read in 2020 with an environmental theme featured no POC authors. I didn’t even realise until after I made the list. I apologise for this and realise now I should have done better. I also didn't read as many books with an environmental focus. This year I enjoyed more fiction and non-fiction too. Let's get into the eight environmental books I read in 2020


How to Save The World by Katie Patrick

Technically I read this in 2019 but it is one book I have come back to a lot this year appropriately titled How To Save The World. This book originally began as a powerpoint presentation I stumbled across one day. Thankfully author Katie Patrick expanded on it and I'm so glad she did. Katie is an environmental engineer and designer with passion to help people change the world using game design and data.

Over the years I have watched environmental campaigns miss the mark while community driven movements like Plastic Free July and Zero Waste continue to shift habits. It wasn't until I read this book that I began to understand how these two became so popular. Both were focused on behaviour narratives lead by everyday people rather than just direct education full of guilt and doom. Katie's book really drives home that education alone is not going to help change the world let alone save it.

The book looks at how data, game design and behaviour psychology can be harnessed to create programs that will actually work to create change. How To Save The World is divide into ten sections with thoroughly researched actionable ideas alongside well considered case studies and examples of success stories and failures. It's technical but written in a way that makes the content accessible and fun.

Food or War by Jullian Cribb

This book was an interesting read. It was a little depressing at the start as Cribb goes through the ways humans have used food to harm, control, manipulate, and spur conflict on. We see it happening today with heartbreaking famines and the rise of food deserts. The power of controlling food has been overlooked as humans become more and more separated from it where it's being grown and by who. I'd like to think this book wasn’t written purely because of the issues at hand. Instead I hope it's because people are wanting to turn the system around fast. According to Cribb if we could grow more of our food in our cities with the help of tech (depending on location and climate) we'd save up to 20% in emissions used to transport food around the world. This along with other fascinating ideas could help provide more peace and stability in the world.

I don't find many of his proposed ideas too far fetched. Reduce military spending to reinvest in regenerative local agriculture, prioritising food education for children (growing, eating, sharing – you know life skills), accessibility to more healthy food, rethink packaging, sharing innovation, accessible tech for all farmers, rewilding lead by Indigenous leaders, giving farmers pay rises, and put more women in charge. I found myself nodding along to most of these and perhaps you will too.

2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration by Damon Gameau

2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration is to accompany the film. Since I saw the movie after reading the book I can safely say you don't need to have watched the film to enjoy this book.

The book begins with the issues we are facing and what inspired Gameau to make the film. From there the book is then broken up into six chapters, with the first four focused on energy, transport, drawdown & sequester, consumption. Like the film each theme is looked at from two angles; where we can scale up and the individual actions people like you and me can make. There are planet friendly recipes prioritising ingredients that are good for the soil or sequester carbon. It's an uplifting book, inspiring, and easy to read. The only thing I didn't like was the plastic debossing and embossing on the front of the book.

The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen by Lindsay Miles

This is a beautifully illustrated and well written guide to reducing waste in the kitchen. Whether you are starting out or are familiar with zero-waste I can guarantee you’ll learn something from Lindsay Mile’s second book. 

It will help answer those niggling questions beyond packaging and bulk food stores like food miles, carbon footprints, that can make decisions fickle and hard at the start. The type of foods you’ll encounter at a bulk food store and what to do with them. Tips for reducing food waste to landfill. Basic recipes and food preservation to get you started in your less waste no fuss kitchen. 

Lindsay’s balanced friendly approach will help you find the right choices for your life, without any goading or preaching. This book is a welcome addition to my kitchen I’ll be reaching for again and again.

Eight Environmental books I read in 2020

Plastic Free: The Inspiring Story of a Global Environmental Movement and Why It Matters by By Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, Joanna Atherfold Finn

Before I begin I will note the author and founder of Plastic Free July is a friend of mine and I must congratulate her on this book. I know she was a nervous about writing it but I think she has done an amazing job alongside her co-author Joanna Atherfold Finn. I really enjoyed learning about Rebecca's early life, where her inspiration and passion for the environment came from. It set a good grounding for the book and how Plastic Free July would eventually come to fruition. While the book does have tips on reducing plastic this is a story about how Plastic Free July begun and its contribution to the plastic free movement, the people it has inspired, change created, and hope for the future. You might see my name inside its pages ;) 

Ninja Bandicoots and Turbo-Charged Wombats: Stories From Behind The Scenes At The Zoo by By Hazel Flynn

Full disclosure this book is for children. I did start to read parts of it with my kiddo (it's for older children 9-12) but ended up liking it myself. The author packs a lot of easy to digest information about the inner-workings of a zoo and animal hospital. If I had read a book like this as a child I probably would have become a vet or zoologist. There are fun facts about Australian native animals throughout that I had no idea about. I enjoyed reading about the real adventures from actual zoo keepers, how they came to their jobs, skills needed, and the fun they have with their roles. There are chapters on different animals, why they might be under threat, their life in a zoo or wildlife sanctuary. The chapters end with actions we can do to help make sure the animals are protected.

The Waste Between Our Ears by Gerry Gillespie

“The only place that waste exists is between our ears, because waste is not a fact — it is a concept.” This sentence from Gerry Gillespie's book is a ringing reminder the habits (in industry and through the individual) around waste have been formed and that there is a breadth of opportunity to change this.

The author of The Waste Between Our Ears is a zero waste campaigner based in Australia known for his interest and advocacy in the collection of properly sorted organic waste to reuse in the agricultural sector for regeneration. Much of his book is about the need for proper source separation as this would help turn materials back into something of value. Gillespie provides plenty of examples on how different materials could be recycled and reused on a local scale rather than picked up and shipped to a large city in fuel guzzling trucks. It's a timely book with the shake up in the Australian recycling industry.

I appreciated the author reminding us that many solutions won't work everywhere. Instead locally designed systems should be sought to fit with regions to address local issues. While much of the book is about resource recovery through recycling the ending focuses on the need to regulate and redesign if we want to advance any type of zero-waste system. Not just the products but also how the waste and recycling industry is structured. Gillepsie believes the more information the public knows, the more they'll want the current systems to change and to help participate in making that happen. The Waste Between Our Ears is helpful book to do just that.

Connecting With Life by Martin Summer

Living in a densely populated city myself made it easy to connect with Martin Summer's book. And with Melbourne, particularly my suburb, going through the longest Covid-19 lockdown this year had me questioning if it was possible to connect with life when I'm surrounded by so much concrete and brick. This is a well researched and nicely written book. 

Summer details the different challenges a city presents then provides solutions and benefits, most of which are accessible in my city and for me. This might not be the case for everyone and making nature more accessible to all residents in our built up urban environments need to be a priority. There are many tips for enjoying nature where we are, the overarching one being to look a little more closely and it will be there.

Next on my to-read list are Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom and This One Wild and Precious Life by Sarah Wilson. I'd love to hear any suggestions you have via email or comment on Facebook. 


#trgcollab: The books Connecting With Life by Martin Summer, The Waste Between Our Ears by Gerry Gillespie, Ninja Bandicoots and Turbo-Charged Wombats: Stories From Behind The Scenes At The Zoo by By Hazel Flynn, 2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration by Damon Gameau, Food or War by Jullian Cribb were gifts by the authors and publisher. I use the hashtag #trgcollab to help readers idenifty items or services that were gifted to me or are a paid post. These items were unpaid gifts and I was not compensated financially to post about them. All views are my own. I only accept gifted items or services I would use personally.

Holiday here this year and don't forget to take along your empty esky

22 October 2020
Holiday here this year

Rural towns in Australia have been hit hard in the past twelve months. They have faced droughts, bush fires, and now COVID-19 keeping visitors away. As restrictions begin to lift and the weather warms up Aussies will be looking to plan their holidays, and with limits on international travel many of us will be looking to domestic trips.

Before Australia experienced the first lockdown earlier in the year my family took a short trip to regional Victoria and NSW, taking along our empty esky after coming across the #emptyesky pledge on social media. 

The Empty Esky pledge is to get people to visit townships and support small businesses affected by the Australian bush fires. Travellers are encouraged to take along their eskys to fill it with local produce and wares. 

I documented our road trip hoping to inspire others to holiday here this year and support towns in need of visitors. 


Holiday here this year

Our destination was the Southern Highlands to visit my parents and attend a wedding in Kangaroo Valley. To break up the journey we visited Mansfield and Adelong in country Victoria and New South Wales, two communities impacted by the bush fires. 

On day one, our lunch stop was in the small town of Yea. We stretched our legs with a walk along the main street and visited the Y Water Discovery Centre and Wetlands. My three year old enjoyed the interpretive displays and we learned more about the area too. There is an information centre on site, tables and BBQ outside the building. There were some antique stores I would have loved to check out but a tired toddler derailed this idea. We made a note to return here in the future for explorations of the region.

Holiday here this year
Inside the Y Water Discovery Centre and Wetlands

We spent our first night at Delatite Hotel, Mansfield. Arriving late to the town meant we didn't get to see much. After dinner we walked along the main street and played at the Mansfield Botanic Park with our toddler. Mansfield does offer many activities and is a great jumping off point for exploring Victoria's High Country. Coincidently I ran into a friend from high school at the pub bistro running Hidden Trails a local horseback adventure tour company and got to hear first hand how the fires hurt the regions tourism over summer. 

The next morning we woke early, collecting breakfast from the local bakery. We usually sit down and eat in, keeping our reusables for collecting snacks. 

As we moved past the town of Holbrook there were hints of burnt landscape here and there along the Hume Hwy. Turning onto the Snowy Mountains Hwy the evidence of the catastrophic fires is everywhere. We saw homes and sheds destroyed, the country turned black. It was heartbreaking to see. 

I chose Adelong specifically because this part of the snowy region was one of the worst affected by bush fires. It's an area known for apple and pear farms, most being destroyed during the natural disasters. Blaze Aid are still on the ground lending a hand between the south coast and snowy region. 

My husband, The Builder, has not traveled around this part of Australia. The snowy region is one of my favourite parts of Australia and I like to drive through on the way to Batemans Bay to see my grandparents. 

Adelong is a village with less than 1000 people nestled in a valley next to Adelong Creek. The main attraction is remnants of the gold rush at Adelong Creek Falls Gold Ruins. The town consist of two pubs, a hotel, local supermarket, RSL with a Chinese restaurant, Op Shop, antique store, Post Office, real estate, community bank, local wares shop...pretty much the usual operations a small town offer. Most rural towns will boast an Op Shop as their only clothing retails store. I really like that about Australia.

We visited the Adelong Creek Falls Gold Ruins. When we arrived we kicked ourselves because we forgot the hiking carrier for our son back in Melbourne. We got as far as the water but couldn't go further down the track. Which was a shame as the creek walk looked beautiful from what we could see. 

Adelong


Our accommodation was very cute. An old house brought back to life. It could easily fit a larger family or two small families inside. 

Adelong

We enjoyed a delicious dinner at the local Chinese restaurant inside the RSL. We weren't the only ones that liked it, with many locals popping in to pick up takeaway throughout the evening. 

The following morning was the final drive to Moss Vale to see my parents. Before leaving we ventured to the main street to visit some of the local stores. First stop was the Op Shop (thrift store).

Adelong



A cute top that I had to take home with me. I rarely buy new to me clothes, mainly because I'm nervous my son will spill something on it. But I couldn't resist this one.

We walked down the street to Rustic Creations and walked out with arms full of locally made soap and jams. 



We filled our empty esky at a farm gate before leaving Adelong. Raspberries, pumpkins, more jams and chutneys went in, to be shared with my parents. We got to chat with the owners of the road side stall about the fires and how they have hurt business, including hers. She hadn't heard of the #emptyeksy initiative but liked the idea of people visiting gems like Adelong on their adventures. 

#EmptyEsky

#EmptyEsky

Having grown up in a country town I know visitors are important for sustaining local business and adding to the wellbeing of a small community. I'm excited to see where everyone will holiday here this year and fill up their empty eskys with locally grown and made food.

It might sounds weird for an eco blog to encourage a road trip. Aren't cars bad for the road? Yes, they are. We all know that. Unfortunately the most eco friendly options are not the easiest for all. Getting to many of these small towns by public transport requires two-three days of travel and sometimes costs more than a flight or road trip. It's not impossible and is part of a growing movement called slow travel. We have travelled by train many times between Sydney and Melbourne, and highly recommend the trip.

One way to reduce your impact is to offset your trip through an offset program or by personally owning your carbon through volunteering to restore habitats in your local area as suggested by Zero Waste Dork

Holiday here this year


How local government can help communities go zero-waste and plastic-free

8 October 2020
How local government can help communities go zero-waste and plastic-free

Our local government Councils provide hundreds of services we use day to day in our communities and they are most likely the first level of government we interact with. I wasn't always aware of this and often wondered what Councils do beyond charging rates and collecting our bins.

It wasn't until I was hired by Councils as a zero waste speaker that I realised how much our Councils do and the tools they can provide in helping make successful zero-waste and plastic-free communities through education, guidance, grants and community collaboration.

Some of us might know our local Councillors. They are the people we vote in every four years to represent the community. Compared to State and Federal elections the Council elections don't seem as important but this is probably because the role is considered part-time. Plus the larger media outlets pay little attention to them. But the roles are important and learning how these elected officials can help create positive environmental change is valuable.

Alert! In Victoria local government elections are happening right now. Every Victorian will be receiving a ballot pack this week to be returned by 23 October. Engage with candidates and find out if reducing waste, tackling plastics and addressing climate change is part of their plan. Because Candidates are unable to door knock starting conversations with them on social media, by phone and email will help. I saw one candidate in a neighbouring ward stat they wanted to just keep collecting rubbish. Over the years I have engaged with Councillors passionate about reducing waste and plastics and this is who we want elected.

Behind the Councillors are Council staff, hired by a CEO to work on projects and maintain the liveability of our communities by making sure services run smoothly. If we want something added to our communities we can approach Councillors that will then work with the teams at Council to make it happen. For example I could approach a Councillor about a cloth nappy rebate or creating a seed library for residents. They would pass a motion at a Council meeting to look into setting one up or liaise with the Council team to see if it could happen.

Each Council has a sustainability team with dedicated waste education officers in some. The role is to create, deliver and promote the services on a range of sustainability projects, like waste and recycling.

Councils can also work with a body like a Metropolitan Waste and Recovery Group or the regional equivalent . They'll also work with the State government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, agencies such as Sustainability Victoria, the EPA (Environment Protection Authority ). Then there are environmental and sustainability consultants that come in to advise or run projects too. Council is kind of an extensions of State government.

Individuals, business and government are becoming more aware of the impact of waste and the need to make changes. While many of us look to our Federal and State governments to create legislation that would see change move quickly the role of Council and its ability to enact change and even help create new systems local to us is overlooked. In this blog post I will list the different avenues Councils can provide assistance to growing and and helping facilitate behaviour change and even system change for reducing waste and plastic, and creating local solutions for fighting climate change.

Education

Our Councils organise free community events across various topics. The events with a focus on waste and plastics usually fall under the genre of Green Living or Sustainability and these are spread throughout the year. The events can range from talks, hands on workshops, and larger events like a festival. Topics might include composting, looking at energy efficiency, how to organise solar or draft proof your home, starting a garden, preserving, cloth nappies, DIY eco beauty and cleaning, keeping chickens, understanding greenwashing, reducing food waste, general guides to starting a zero-waste life, plastic-free living tips, how to recycle right, how to start a wildflower garden, keeping beehives. Some Councils collaborate with organisations to run a six week sustainable living program that residents can sign up for and commit to as well.

When I first started giving talks for Councils on zero-waste living I was so shocked to discover 99% of events were free to the public. FREE! Okay so they are not technically free, some of our rates go towards this which I think is great. Reinvesting money for free education, yes please.

Community education is great at helping build behaviour change. After all each person learns differently. Absorbing information on the internet or through a book is not for everyone. Some of us (like me!) find it empowering being in a room full of people that want to make changes, just like them. When one person is educated on the topic they can then take what is learned back to their homes or to school or workplaces, and share. So that's why I believe in providing education through different mediums.

These Events also provide a space for likeminded people to connect. I've seen attendees exchange numbers after Council run events and strangers quickly becoming friends plotting to reduce waste in local primary schools their children attend. Many local community groups have formed after events as locals discover their power in numbers.

The education programs Councils run are not only for adults. They also cater to early childhood, primary school and high schools. The Council sustainably teams can help organise excursions and incursions too.

Sustainability officers at Council work VERY hard to provide this free education and I always encourage people to engage and attend a session. Even if it's not on waste or plastic or climate change! See what your council offers and enjoy. Councils want to put on free events the community are interested in. So speak up and ask for topics you'd like to learn about.

Right now some Councils are running their regular events online. Like many people I'm looking forward to safe face to face events starting up again.

Waste services beyond the kerb

Councils are beginning to offer ways to recycle tricky items beyond our recycling bins. Items like CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, X-rays, electronics, soft plastics, mattresses, clothing. These collection points are being set up at Libraries, Council buildings, or added to Transfer Stations/Resource Recovery/Tip Centres. Some Councils will have dedicated Tip Shops or Resource Recovery Shops selling items meant for landfill but salvaged to sell on.

Grants

Individuals, community groups, not for profits, and businesses wanting to help reduce waste and plastics can apply for Environmental Grants through their Council. These grants range from $500 to $10,000+ depending on the Council and project tiers.

Grant applications can be confusing with many criteria's needing to be met. Luckily Council run grant application education sessions. These are helpful for the current application and any you might do in the future with external grant bodies.

I have seen a large scope of local ideas come to fruition thanks to grants from Council; toy libraries, tool libraries, kitchen sharing schemes, waste reduction education services for businesses, community gardens, mobile wash against waste trailers, reusable party kits. If your idea doesn't meet the criteria for their environmental grant you can ask if they know of other options to get grants or funding.

How local government can help communities go zero-waste and plastic-free

Working with businesses

Councils can also work with business to help them reduce their waste and plastic. Glen Eira City Council in Melbourne's East worked with 18 business to reduce and replace the common used single-use plastic items with reusable or compostable alternatives. Another Council The City of Yarra has a Proudly Plastic Free program working alongside businesses to cut back on plastics. A Council staff member is usually assigned to this role. They research and collate resources that would be applicable to business in the local area. Reducing plastic as a business does take time (something a small business might not have spare of) and with the extra assistance working towards a solution together is beneficial for everyone.

Last year the City of Yarra Council created a zero-waste map. This is an an online directory for residents in the City of Yarra municipality to find businesses and community initiatives promoting waste reduction through their products, services or business practices. I'd love every Council to have this!

Plastic Wise Policy and Zero Waste to Landfill plans

Councils don't have the power to enact bans on items like single-use plastics. But they can set up something called a Plastic Wise Policy for events run within the municipality. The Surf Coast Council has created a Plastic Wise Policy for event organisers to work with their stallholders, sponsors, contractors, volunteers, participants and patrons to use alternatives to single use and disposable plastic bags, packaging and promotional materials.

These policies can be extended to include all buildings run by Council like community buildings, council offices, and clubs.

Many Councils have zero-waste to landfill plans. For these plans to work they require change that is outside the control of Councils but that's not to say these plans are not worth implementing. Councils representative groups around Australia would like to have more uniform bans and legislation on materials like plastic and they can use their collective power to advocate this to Federal and State governments.

The zero-waste to landfill plans include building on behaviour change, creating new local systems, encouraging residents to seek alternatives. State governments collect a substantial waste levy that often sits around propping up budgets that could be released and provide more local grants to help small businesses or schools set up programs or integrate changes. I am wary of zero-waste to landfill plans because waste to energy is seen as a solution to keeping waste out of landfill. But it's not. It doesn't address consumption. Doesn't encourage repairing or choosing secondhand. Community will have to help make sure this does not become a "solution". 

Connecting with community and programs for developing projects

Having been involved in many plastic-free and zero-waste community groups I know how important they are for creating change on different levels. Some Councils will publish a list of committed community groups on their website for people to find and connect with. If yours does not have this ask a Councillor to put forward the idea to include it. Having the list published publicly is a great way to let people know they exist.

I'm seeing a rise in Sustainability, Eco or Enviro Champion programs run by Councils. This is a course to help develop a community project that will help the environment. Participants learn a range of skills needed to create their project alongside environmental problems. You don't need an idea before doing these courses either, it might come during the program and you might end up working with someone you meet in the program to bring their project to life. In my area a repair cafe, children eco incursion business, online bulk buy service, and wildlife garden programs was created through this type of program.

Link up with your Council

The best way for community members to direct change, see policies and programs developed requires more than just making comments on social media. You and I need to engage through phone calls, emails, attending events.

Sign up for their newsletters or find other ways to stay up to date with projects requiring community feedback, join any advisory committees if available, attend a Council meeting so you know how it runs. Local government is the most accessible level government to us. Let's make the most it.

System change is important and something that needs to happen if we want a zero waste society to flourish. These system changes can be built today, by you and me, using the tools I mentioned above. It's possible to build resilient regenerative solutions accessible for all right here in our neighbourhoods. In fact we must if we want to move away from the harm of global capitalism. I could write another ten paragraphs about building local systems but not today. Instead I'm going to learn about the candidates plans for the area I live in and make sure I vote for those wanting to create zero waste and plastic free communities, like me.

Photos in this blog post are by Stonnington Council
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