Bins Out Sins Out

Forgive me mother, for I have sinned,

Sinned against mother earth.

How long has it been since your last transgression?

One week.

How have you sinned?

With plastic, soft and hard.

With off-cuts, meat and lard.

Why?

I covet my neighbour’s life.

and I take the lord’s game in vain.

I try to keep one day a day without waste,

but fail and fail in a life lived in haste.

I was led to believe the price was a steal,

a price so low it couldn’t be real.

I worshipped money above all others and

I made myself idle

too idle, and bowed down – and stayed down.

I must now put my bins out,

I must now put my sins out.

Image: Shane Rounce

Ban cat breeding in Australia.

It’s time to outlaw the breeding of cats in Australia. It’s time to reduce the number of cats in the country and start protecting native wildlife.

Cats are the single most destructive introduced species in the country and continued breeding will simply add to the number of cats and to the destruction of native animals. Cats that are bred in Australia primarily become pets or show cats and statitics indicate that most pet cats contribute greatly to the destruction of native wildlife.

Cats are estimated to kill about 1.5 billion native animals per annum in Australia. This destruction is the work of domestic cats, stray cats and feral cats. All of these cats are derived from pet cats. Feline species have never been native to Australia.

Breeding cats have the potential to cause great ecological harm because the animals are not de-sexed. While cat breeders may argue that they are responsible animal carers who find a home for all of their litter, the statistics indicate that many baby cats become stray or feral. Furthermore, once a kitten or cat is sold, the breeder has no control over the actions of that cat.

Cat breeding caters to a niche market. The cats are sold to people who desire a particular breed over another because owners believe a certain breed makes a better companion or a better show cat. There are currently 48 recognised cat breeds in the country, as well as various cross breeds. Owners insist on buying a particular breed, and this necessitates cat breeding. But no one needs a particular breed of cat – they can always choose from the remainder of the 48 breeds offered in Australia.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 1994, only 26% of domestic cats were confined both during the day and night. This means 74% of cats where roaming happily, hunting and destroying native wildlife. In the same year, 42,126 cats were dumped on the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Only 3% of the cats were reclaimed and 74% were put down. Allowing the breeding of cats simply adds to the potential number of cats which will be dumped, stray or feral.

Cat breeders would no doubt object to the introduction of this law. They operate a legal business which generates income, but the animals they introduce to the Australian landscape cause unparalleled damage to the country’s wildlife.

What about other animals?

Opponents of such a law would argue that a blanket ban on the breeding of other animals must then also be introduced. If not, this is an unfair imposition on cat breeding businesses and an act of discrimination. However, the simple fact is that other animals do not cause as much damage to Australia’s wildlife.

People will import cats.

If people can’t obtain a cat of a certain breed of cat within Australia, they will simply import one from overseas. Authorities must therefore ban the importation of cats into Australia to support the ban on breeding.

Feral cats threaten at least 124 Australian species which are in danger of extinction, and cats are a major reason that Australia has the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world – not per capita – outright. Attempts to reduce this destruction are ongoing and include feral cat eradication, stray cat control, de-sexing and domestic cat containment. These methods all carry their own complications, but banning cat breeding is a less complicated strategy.

Feral cat eradication

Feral cat eradication programs continue throughout the nation, with limited success. Feral cats occupy an estimated 99.8% of the Australian continent, can weigh up to 9 kilograms and have directly contributed to extinctions of more than 20 Australian mammals. The destruction continues because feline species are excellent hunters and are intelligent and thus hard to trap. They exist in many inaccessible areas and current eradication methods are not working well enough. It is thought there are more than 6 million feral cats roaming the country, and importing more cats into the country potentially adds to this number.

Stray cat control and elimination

Stray cats are no one’s responsibility. They roam urban and rural areas, killing native wildlife. They were all once domestic cats, or the litter of domestic cats.

Domestic cat containment

Most cat owners are responsible.

False.

Statistics disprove this theory.

A small percentage of owners keep their cats inside or provide an enclosed cat run in which their cats can play while outside the house. Many allow their cats outside during the day, where they are still able to kill. Others argue their pets are allowed only as far as their own garden, but even in a private garden, a cat can and will kill native wildlife. Most pet cats are allowed to roam free and kill with impunity, and importing cats into the country creates more pet cats, and more potential killers.

De-sexing

Many cat owners think de-sexing is enough. In many cases, de-sexing simply allows owners to absolve themselves of responsibility for the destruction their pets cause. Even a de-sexed cat will kill many native animals during its lifetime if it is allowed to roam freely.

Banning the breeding of cats in Australia will not solve the cat problem. It will, however, limit the number of cats in the country overall and will support existing efforts to reduce the deadly impact of Australia’s most destructive introduced species.

Image: Jae Park

Ban the importation of cats into Australia.

Prevention is better than cure and this adage should apply to the importation of cats into Australia. Cats must be prevented from entering Australia from other countries because they remain the single most destructive introduced species in the country. Continued importation will result in the destruction of more native wildlife.

This article relates to the importation of new cats – cats that have never been to Australia before, and not to cats from Australia returning from overseas with their owners.

Feral cats threaten at least 124 Australian species which are in danger of extinction, and cats are a major reason that Australia has the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world – not per capita – outright. Attempts to reduce this destruction are ongoing and include feral cat eradication, stray cat control, de-sexing and domestic cat containment. These methods all carry their own complications, but banning the importation of cats into the country is surely the least complicated strategy.

It’s simple. Tell every Australian and every international visitor that it is not possible to import a cat into the country. No exceptions. If Australians insist on having a pet cat, they can source one from inside the country.

Cats can currently be imported into Australia from other countries under various conditions. Cats from locations such as New Zealand and Norfolk Island do not even need to serve a period of quarantine, provided they have been approved as healthy in the place of origin.

According to the Department of Agriculture, people can bring cats into Australia without even obtaining a permit, provided the cat is coming from a country such as New Zealand and the exporter signs a Statutory Declaration that:

  • identifies the cat by breed, sex, age and microchip number.
  • verifies that the cat has been continually resident in New Zealand since birth or direct importation from Australia, or for the 90 days immediately before the date of export if the animal has been imported into New Zealand from any other country.
  • verifies that the cat is not derived from a domestic/non-domestic hybrid.
  • verifies that if a female cat, the animal is not more than 40 days pregnant or suckling young at the time of export.

These conditions ensure that the animal does not bring diseases into the country, but ignores the fact that cats have the potential to cause enormous damage to Australian wildlife once they arrive – no matter how healthy they are. In fact, it could be argues that a healthy, active, agile cat is more able to hunt and kill wildlife.

Cats from other countries must spend a minimum of 10 days at an official post-entry quarantine facility and arrive with an official permit.

All of these measures carry associated costs, and bringing a cat into Australia is very expensive. If Australians are determined to spend money on animals, they can adopt a koala or donate to many of the organisations dedicated to the care and protection of Australia’s native wildlife. After so many native animals were lost in the 2019/2020 bushfires, now is a perfect time to contribute to the protection of Aussie animals.

Various strategies are currently employed to protect wildlife from cats.

Feral cat eradication

Feral cat eradication programs continue throughout the nation, with limited success. Feral cats occupy an estimated 99.8% of the Australian continent, can weigh up to 9 kilograms and have directly contributed to extinctions of more than 20 Australian mammals. The destruction continues because feline species are excellent hunters and are intelligent and thus hard to trap. They exist in many inaccessible areas and current eradication methods are not working well enough. It is thought there are more than 6 million feral cats roaming the country, and importing more cats into the country potentially adds to this number.

Stray cat control and elimination

Stray cats are no one’s responsibility. They roam urban and rural areas, killing native wildlife. They were all once domestic cats, or the litter of domestic cats.

Domestic cat containment

Most cat owners are responsible.

False.

Statistics disprove this theory. A small percentage of owners keep their cats inside or provide an enclosed cat run in which their cats can play while outside the house. Many allow their cats outside during the day, where they are still able to kill. Others argue their pets are allowed only as far as their own garden, but even in a private garden, a cat can and will kill native wildlife. Most pet cats are allowed to roam free and kill with impunity, and importing cats into the country creates more pet cats and more potential killers.

De-sexing

Many cat owners think de-sexing is enough. In many cases, de-sexing simply allows owners to absolve themselves of responsibility for the destruction their pets cause. Even a de-sexed cat will kill many native animals during its lifetime if it is allowed to roam freely.

Banning the importation of cats into Australia will not solve the cat problem. It will, however, limit the number of cats in the country overall and will support existing efforts to reduce the deadly impact of Australia’s most destructive introduced species.

Image: Jae Park

Greenfleet offers a Christmas present with a difference.

Not sure what to gift for Christmas? Sick of buying the same presents year after year only to see feigned surprise and excitement on the face of the recipient? Try a present with a difference, which will make a difference.

Make a donation to an organisation such as Greenfleet on behalf of your friend or relative.

Greenfleet is a not-for-profit environmental organisation which protects the world’s climate by restoring forests. You can help them to plant native biodiverse forests which capture carbon emissions and help fight the impacts of climate change. You can contribute to the growth of an entire forest even if you don’t have the time, space or opportunity to plant a tree. Greenfleet will do it on your behalf.

Since its inception, Greenfleet has planted more than 9.4 million trees in more than 500 forests in Australia and New Zealand. The forests generate many benefits for the planet, and for us. They address critical deforestation, absorb carbon emissions to protect our climate, improve water and soil quality, conserve biodiversity, and restore vital habitat for native wildlife.

Importantly, the forests are legally protected for up to 100 years through an on title agreement with the landowner. 

A forest guaranteed to grow for the next 100 years is better than the cheap plastic toy which will become landfill as soon as your nephew discovers the next fad. This is practical climate action. 

Greenfleet began in 1997 and planted its first trees in West Gippsland, Victoria. It reached two million trees in 2005 and combined with Scouts to plant their 1,000,000th tree for the Murray Darling Rescue project. The organisation has been a finalist in the World Environment Day awards and gained Greenhouse Friendly™ Approval for forest sink methodology.

In 2013, the organisation’s projects were registered under the Carbon Farming Initiative and it purchased its first property, Avoca, in NSW. Working with private landholders allows Greenfleet to secure guarantees that the trees planted on that land will be protected.

In 2015, Greenfleet expanded its operations to New Zealand and through donations from supporters, managed to purchase ‘Wurneet Laang Laang’ in Victoria in 2016. The latest of many initiatives is an innovative climate-change research project at Nardoo Hills Reserve in Victoria in association with Bush Heritage Australia.

Greenfleet receives Deductible Gift Recipient status and is listed on the Register of Environmental Organisations in Australia. 

Greenfleet draws upon the methodology outlined by Gold Standard for the Global Goals, an internationally recognised standard designed to accelerate progress toward climate security and sustainable development.  This methodology is based on six central principles.

Collaboration – Working closely with landholders and partners, including rangers, native nurseries, tree planting contractors, other not-for-profit organisations, Traditional Owners, local community and government. 

Location – The right place is chosen through a comprehensive assessment of each potential site to determine whether the land can support the growth of a biodiverse carbon forest. 

Species selection – Forests comprise of a mix of native species that would have been present prior to land clearing. The focus is on recreating multi-species ecosystems and not single species plantations. The Australasian Virtual Herbarium, DELWP’s Ecological Vegetation Class benchmark and other state and regional vegetation maps and classifications  are used to establish a list of native species that should be present on the site. 

Efficiency – Projects are delivered as cost-effectively as possible without compromising quality. 

Co-benefits – In addition to delivering nature-based climate solutions, Greenfleet strives to deliver additional social, environmental and economic benefits. 

Long-term thinking – Every project focusses on the lasting success in order to protect the climate, the environment, wildlife, people and the future.

One benefit of donating to an organisation such as Greenfleet is the assurance that the trees you help to plant will be protected. When a Greenfleet forest is planted, the landholder retains ownership of the land and the agreeemnt ensures the forest is secured for up to 100 years. This means the landowner must protect the forest by not damaging or removing trees for the duration of the agreement.  

Where an area of planting has failed, remedial action, like in-fill planting, is carried out.

Donating to Greenfleet is a constructive and practical way to protect the earth’s climate for the sake of the planet and the sake of humanity. A donation as a Christmas present on behalf of friends or family is also an original and long-lasting gift which is so much more beneficial than yet another boring gift from yet another boring store.

Plus, if you give your Dad socks for Christmas, what are you going to give him for his birthday?

Australia develops the E-chidna to replace wild echidnas.

Australian scientists have created the E-chidna to replace echidnas in the wild once the country’s natural environment has been successfully destroyed, in what is being hailed as a world first in the creation of electronic wildlife.

The digitised animal looks exactly the same as a wild echidna, but will exist only in animated form. The first E-chidna is set to be released into the world wide web next week, and a female counterpart will soon follow. It is hoped the pair will breed and populate cyberspace with little baby E-chidnas.

“The E-chidna is a source of pride for all Aussies,” announced Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley. “It epitomises this country’s attitude towards and treatment of the natural environment, and it will replace wild echidnas when they and other native animals become extinct.”

The minister then outlined how successive federal and state environment ministers contributed to the birth of the E-chidna through support of the fossil fuel industry, traditional agricultural practices, land clearing and overdevelopment, as well as a general apathy towards the protection of Australia’s natural environment.

“They are all here with us in spirit,” Ley said of the ministers, “and their actions should not be forgotten today. Every minister could have chosen to spend the E-chidna budget on protecting the natural environment and saving the wild animals, but their dedication to environmental destruction has been vindicated today.”

Ley also boasted that the E-chidna represents a watershed moment in government and private sector cooperation. She explained that much of the research and development was funded by the donations from the fossil fuel industry, the farming lobby, property developers and large scale irrigators, without whom none of this would have been possible.

Observers have compared the E-chidna to the Tamagotchi, a Japanese electronic pet, but highlighted one major difference between the two electronic animals. The Tamagotchi had to be fed and cared for by its owner, or it would die, whereas the E-chidna will simply be neglected, just like its wild cousin.

Ley also boasted that the E-chidna is only the beginning of an exciting scientific journey.

“This country has the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world – which is another source of pride for Aussies, and means we have a backlog of wild animals to replicate in digital form. The Tasmanian E-Tiger is ready for release, and we’re also determined to wipe out species such as the Black-flanked Rock-wallaby, the Eastern Curlew, the Gouldian Finch, the Northern Quoll and the Black-footed Tree Rat. Our tech experts are already working on the E-versions of all of those animals, so they can be released as soon as the animals become extinct. It’s quite exciting.”

The E-chidnas will be visible to anyone searching the internet, anywhere in the world, so people will not have to visit Australia to witness this unique and fascinating creature. This created concern among the tourism sector, which relies heavily on Australia’s natural wonders to generate income.

In response, Ley argued that destroying Australia’s wildlife is further proof that her party is good at managing the economy.

Image: Jacob Dyer

Do you have grandchildren?

Do you have grandchildren?

Do you love your grandchildren?

Would you do anything for your grandchildren, and do you care about the world they will inherit?

Protect the planet which will provide your grandchildren with a long and healthy life.

Make your vote count.

If you live in a democratic country with open elections, the way you vote could determine the planet your grandchildren inherit.

If you are offered a genuine choice between candidates, vote according to which candidate will protect the planet. Many conservative parties claim they are better at managing the economy, but supporting old industries such as fossil fuels is bad economic policy. Renewable energy is the future, and countries which fail to embrace this will be left behind financially.

Remember, your grandchildren cannot vote until they are at least 18, so you are making a decision about the future of the planet on their behalf.

Where is your super?

Superannuation funds are all the same aren’t they? Not quite. Some funds invest in the fossil fuel industry, others don’t. More and more superannuation providers are divesting from fossil fuels and from other unsustainable business, and are offering what is known commonly as ‘ethical super’.

Do some research and find out if your current super fund invests in environmentally destructive businesses. If it does, find another super fund which does not. Destructive businesses cannot operate without financial support from companies such as super funds.

What about my savings?

You worked hard to earn and save your money, and it should work for you in retirement. Ethical super funds offer strong returns, which is why many people are switching.

Energy

Speaking of energy, what powers your home; solar, fossil fuels?

Could you install solar panels? Yes, they’re expensive, but they save money in the long run and they are a much cleaner form of energy. With efficient battery storage, they also work when the sun doesn’t shine. Even if you can’t install solar panels where you live, you can normally choose greener options through your energy provider.

What about water tanks?

If you have space in the garden, install a water tank to catch rain water for use in the garden and inside the house.

Grow your own food.

The water from the water tank can nourish your plants, and reduce your water bill.

Grow a few tomatoes and herbs, or create a large organic garden with enough fruit and vegetables for an entire meal. It’s fresh, it’s healthy and it’s free.

Locally grown food also protects the planet and the health of your grandchildren. It protects the soil and the entire ecosystem which is used to grow food. If the environment is damaged, growing food becomes more difficult. As a consequence, basic food stuffs will become more expensive.

How much do you want your grandkids to pay for food in the future?

Media consumption.

A cup of tea, toast and the morning paper. An age-old tradition, and one that’s easier to enjoy in retirement. The media you consume, including newspaper, radio, television and internet content, determines the way you think about the world.

Most tabloid and conservative newspapers report negatively on environmental issues, and many blatantly deny climate change because this bias appeals to their audience.

If you live in countries such as Australia, The UK and The USA, it’s hard to avoid NewsCorp media, owned by Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch has been described as a cancer on democracy due to the content of his media networks, which run blatant propaganda.

Do you let Rupert Murdoch tell you what to think?

Incidentally, most tabloid newspapers are written at a literacy level of a 9th-grade student. It’s a long time since you were in the 9th grade. Furthermore, a study by the The University of London’s Institute of Education found that people who read tabloid newspapers have smaller vocabularies than people who do not read newspapers

Presents

I want your presence, not your presents.

It’s a great Dad joke, but it’s also a worthy sentiment. Spending time with your grandkids is better than any random toy, and there are other ways to spoil the little ones in a sustainable way.

Consider buying ethical gifts for the next special celebration. Give the children an endangered animal to adopt through a wildlife organisation. Give them a tree or plant for the garden which grows as they grow. Make something for the kids, or even make it with them, instead of buying a random gift from a shop.

Spend money on experiences for your grandchildren. Pay for a healthy, fun holiday activity which gets the kids outdoors and active. The more time they spend in nature, the more likely they are to protect it.

How long before this gift ends up in landfill?

If you buy your children a plastic toy based on the latest fad, you can be sure that toy will be discarded as soon as the next fad arrives.

Kids have too much these days.

Very true. So don’t add to this clutter by buying disposable presents. Instead, choose a more sustainable gift.

Travel

Travel is one of the great advantages of retirement. Even if you’re still working, it’s a great way to get away from work and enjoy life. If you fly, offset your flight when you buy the ticket. Most airlines offer carbon offsets. Think also about the method of transport you use to reach your holiday destination, and find ways to make all of your holidays more environmentally sustainable.

A healthy, clean planet, with fresh air and clean water, with lush forests and abundant wildlife is better for your health as well. The longer you stay healthy, the longer you can enjoy quality time with your grandkids.

Image: Katrina Knapp, Baby qb

The Environment Movement Needs Baby Boomers.

How can baby boomers be enticed into environmental activism?

They are an untapped resource for the environment movement and could be transformed from a barrier to change into a force for change.

For anyone who hasn’t heard the term, a baby boomer is a person aged 70 or older who was born during the post World War II baby boom. Most of them have reached the age of retirement, and in many countries they comprise a large percentage of the population.

Why should baby boomers be encouraged to act on behalf of the environment?

Because they’re bored.

So many baby boomers are bored. Once they’ve played golf, trimmed the roses and babysat their grandkids, they’re bored. You’ve seen them, sitting in cafes on weekdays, gazing at the ocean or scrolling lovingly through photos of their grandkids. You’ve seen them streaming up and down the highways in their caravans on seemingly endless holidays.

Of course, some of them fill their days with fun, constructive and meaningful activities before enjoying the spare time they have earned. Many of them, however, are searching for ways to occupy their time after leaving the workforce.

Why?

Because they are capable. Before retiring they raised families, ran businesses, managed organisations and worked in occupations as diverse as teaching, medicine, engineering, trades, travel…They still possess the skills and attributes which are required to perform those roles, and they offer so much to the environment movement.

They have time.

One great advantage of baby boomers is that they have spare time to devote to activism. Younger activists often have to make the choice between paying the rent and fighting for the environment – there are only so many hours in a day. Baby boomers have a lot of time.

Why?

They have grandchildren. Those grandchildren will inherit the planet that we are creating. Grand parents would do anything for their grandchildren and the environment movement would do well to link the daily actions of retirees to the state of the planet when their grand children grow up.

Why?

From hindrance to help.

Baby Boomers collectively stifle environmental activism. They generally vote for conservative parties which commonly reject sustainable practices and support destructive policies. If baby boomers become more involved in the environment movement, they might change the way they vote, and convince their peers to do the same. Baby boomers also consume conservative, mainstream media which often denies the climate crisis and supports destructive practices such as the use of fossil fuels.

They remember…

Retirees remember life before environmental destruction. They remember swimming in local ponds or rivers near their house, which are now too polluted for swimming.

They remember breathing clean air in major cities before modern machines choked these cities with smog.

They remember eating fruit from trees which grew naturally in their backyard. They remember a diet with far less processed food.

This is a reality from the recent past, and baby boomers lived it. They can also remind us of this reality and the fact that we can return many natural areas to their natural state.

Ironically, retirees might reject sustainability but they are the original conservationists. Baby Boomers are frugal. Frugality is akin to conservation because it embraces the philosophy of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Baby Boomers have always found multiple uses for items and repaired them again and again before, if ever, throwing them out. They reject the meaningless consumption which drives environmental destruction and they already live the principles of conservation.

Perhaps the environment movement needs to adjust or target its narrative to demonstrate to baby boomers that some of their daily habits and their upbringing are already helping to protect the earth.

Similarly, the environment movement may need to debunk stereotypes of environmental activism in order to win over baby boomers. Many retirees associate the term environmental activist with a long haired, dreadlocked hippy chaining themselves to a bulldozer. However, activism can take many forms.

Existing activists.

Some retirees are already activists. They march in protests, sign petitions, contact local politicians and organise actions. Famous activists include the Knitting Nannas in Australia and indigenous activists throughout the world.

The Knitting Nannas call themselves “…an international disorganisation where people come together to ensure that our land, air and water are preserved for our children and grandchildren. We sit, knit, plot, have a yarn and a cuppa, and bear witness to the war against the greedy, short-sighted corporations that are trying to rape our land and divide our communities.”

That’s right. They’re a group of women who sit in a certain place (outside a politicians’ office) and knit…

Indigenous activist groups are traditionally led by elders. They hold the knowledge of the land and culture that is threatened by environmental destruction, and they hold the respect of the youth in their communities, who look to them for leadership.

How?

Baby boomers could be engaged in so many ways.

Letter writers.

Is there anything more powerful than a baby boomer with an email account?

They could be tasked with sending emails to politicians or local businesses to encourage positive action for the environment. They could compile and manage databases or develop educational resources. They could manage and coordinate local groups or hold small-scale events in their local community – or they could inspire national or international action which forces genuine and lasting change. They can do this because they employed similar skills during their working lives and they haven’t lost these skills.

So, how do we get baby boomers involved in environmental activism?

Reusing Maps at Tourist Sites.

Could tourist maps be reused?

You know the paper maps you receive at sites such as The Forbidden City, Teotihuacan, Disneyland or mountain bike trails? The maps you pour over when traversing London or Paris, or when trying to extricate yourself from a Medina in Morocco.

Actually, a map won’t help you escape the labyrinth of a Medina in Morocco – I tried. A savvy local boy is a more reliable guide, as long as he is sufficiently compensated upon exit.

In what condition is the map when you leave?

It is crumpled and covered in scribbles, circles and arrows? Is the map torn, just as your children are torn between the Vomitron roller coaster or the Whiplash dodgem cars?

Was it soaked by the playful dolphins at Seaworld, or sweat stained by the tropical heat in Chichen Itza?

If so, it will simply have to be thrown out.

Or, is it still in good condition? Is it unmarked, unstained and legible? Did you even manage to refold the map to its original folded state? If so, well done.

A map in good condition could be reused, and a reuse system could be introduced at tourist sites to allow and encourage visitors to leave their maps for a future visitor.

Tourists could leave their map in a box when exiting the complex. They can keep the map as a souvenir or place the map in the box. Once the map becomes unusable, it could be thrown into the recycling bin.

The maps could also be left in deposit boxes at hotels and accommodation providers, or at major transport terminals, before being returned to specific sites or visitor information centres.

Does this already exist?

I have never seen this system applied at any popular tourist site I have visited. I love to travel, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit 43 countries, but I’ve never seen a tourist map recycling system in place. My internet search indicated that it does not happen anywhere in the world. Did I miss something, does anyone know if it exists, or has anyone tried to implement the system?

The closest system I have seen is the very informal exchange of maps, along with travel information, at backpacker hostels. Maps were either passed directly from traveller to traveller, or left lying around the common room for anyone to use. Does this still happen, or have flashpacking and online travel resources killed the impromptu conversations that were an integral part of backpacking?

Why?

Reuse is one of the central tenets of sustainability. Reusing tourist maps would reduce the number that are produced and the number of trees that are cut down. The system would also keep maps out of landfill.

In addition, does a map have to be in pristine condition? After all, they are normally referred to briefly before being placed back in a bag or a pocket. They’re not a university degree, a legal document or a certificate of achievement, and they can function perfectly if not in perfect condition.

How many maps end up in landfill?

I don’t know the number, but it must be a lot. Think about the number of tourists (pre-COVID-19) who visit popular sites every year, and the number of maps that are taken and which simply end up in the bin. I’ve done it myself – because I’ve never seen a formal option of reusing my maps.

Why not?

COVID-19

A major impediment to this plan is COIVD-19 and the post-COVID travel reality. Many service providers and health authorities are likely to be reluctant to allow such an exchange of physical objects between many random people, for fear of spreading disease. This is reasonable. However, if it is safe enough to travel, it will be safe enough to exchange tourist maps.

Paperless guides

Paperless guides were growing in popularity even before COVID-19. Many upper-range hotels throughout the world were actually giving their guests a phone upon check-in which is programmed with a host of local information as well as a local SIM card and limited credit. This was driven by customer service, convenience and marketing as much as environmental sustainability, but it is just one indication of a move towards paperless tourism.

Apps

Conversely, many tourist providers and tourist sites have developed apps which contain the same information that is provided on paper maps, and this may reduce the production of paper maps. That said, many smaller or more remote sites, especially in developing countries, lack the requisite technology to transition to an app.

Other forms of recycling

Social media is awash with artworks featuring recycled tourist maps, and many of them look fantastic. Creativity and sustainability have long complemented each other. However, the focus of the article is the reuse of maps at the site at which they are used.

Easy does it

If this system were implanted and if it were to succeed, it would have to be simple. Modern humans expect everything to be simple – some people can’t do anything without an app. Furthermore, people on holiday are taking a break from thinking, planning and working and don’t want to have to make an extra effort just to recycle a map. Providers would have to make the system visible, multi-lingual, accessible and user-friendly.

I don’t see why it can’t happen.

Ban disposable coffee cups for customers who dine in.

Disposable coffee cups should be banned for customers who chose to dine in at cafes and other food outlets. Disposable coffee cups are destroying the natural environment and are completely unnecessary for customers who dine in, and should be reserved only for takeaway beverages.

Why?

They’re not necessary. An alternative exists, and that alternative is superior. Furthermore, banning disposable cups for customers who dine in is a small, practical, reasonable and achievable initiative which could make a real difference to the amount of waste sent to landfill.

Use a mug, don’t be a mug…

Coffee mugs were designed specifically to hold coffee or tea. Ceramic mugs can be reused time and time again, and dine in customers enjoyed their tea and coffee long before the advent of disposable cups.

Disposable cups are single use items. Just like single use plastic bags, they are contributing massively to landfill and to the destruction of the environment throughout the world.  There is an alternative to single use plastic bags, just as there is an alternative to disposable coffee cups for customers who know they will consume their beverage at the café.

Single use plastic bags have been banned in many parts of the world. Disposable coffee cups for dine in customers can be banned too.

But cups are biodegradable

Not all of them. Technology has improved but many still contain plastic to make them watertight. In some parts of the world takeaway coffee is always served in cups that are not biodegradable – they don’t even try to be sustainable. Furthermore, one biodegradable coffee cup in landfill is still worse than no disposable cup in landfill.

Brazil is famous for coffee. Anecdotal evidence suggests this habit is very uncommon in Brazil. Apparently, it is also forbidden in some larger Brazilian cities to serve coffee in a disposable cup to customers who are dining in. Why can’t this law be introduced throughout the world?

What about enforcement?

Of course, any rule is only valid if it is enforced. Is it enforced in Brazil, at every café or outlet? I don’t know. I haven’t been to Brazil since 2001. The enforcement of the rule would place the onus on the staff at the café to refuse to provide the disposable cup even if it was requested. Authorities could conduct checks to monitor the application of the rule, just as inspectors conduct health and hygiene checks on food outlets.

Get used to it

Customers would have to break their habits and this would lead to the inevitable tension that accompanies every new rule change in society. I believe, however, that people would eventually get used to the rule and accept it. In Australia, people complained when single use plastic bags were phased out at major supermarkets, but they eventually got used to it. They also complained when a Goods and Services Tax (GST) added a cost to products at point of sale, but now everyone is used to it.

Exceptions

There are exceptions to every rule, and there may need to be exceptions to this rule. High traffic areas such as airports and food courts may be able to justify using disposable cups for all customers because of the possibility of breakage to glasses or ceramic mugs. It could also be argued that at food courts customers don’t technically dine in.

Why do people request disposable cups?

Some customers claim it keeps their beverage warm for longer. Others say they like the feel of drinking their beverage out of a disposable cup. In addition, some people apparently demand a disposable cup because they don’t know if they will finish their coffee at the café or on the run.

Make up your mind – it’s not that hard.

If we peel back the veneer of flimsy justifications, we know that people act out of laziness, selfishness and apathy. Most people throughout the world, and especially in wealthy countries which produce most of the planet’s waste, know that disposable cups harm the environment, but they just don’t care.

It’s time to make them care.

Images: Artem Labunsky, Van Thanh

Coffee doesn’t have to cost the earth.

What is a fair price to pay for coffee? Would you content yourself with a quick and easy $1 coffee from a convenience store, or can you justify spending $US80 for Kopi Luwak that has been digested by an Indonesian civet?

The price you pay for your coffee is entirely up to you and your taste buds, but what about the price to the planet? The cultivation, consumption and disposal of coffee all impact on the natural environment, and the choices individuals make on a daily basis can have a positive or negative impact on the planet.

Coffee Cups

You’ve probably witnessed the following scene:

“Morning Jay”

“Morning Tim”

“The usual?”

“Yes, please,” replies Jay, trying in vain to suppress a yawn.

“One skim latte, one sugar,” calls Tim to his fellow bearded barista, who frantically scribbles Jay’s initials and the order code on the lid of a disposable cup.

“Long night?” asks Tim

“Oh, yeah, final pitch for a big client this morning, so not much sleep”

“Well, this’ll help,” promises Tim, handing Jay the skim latte.

“You’re a lifesaver,” replies Jay, taking a desperate sip before hurrying to the office. “See you tomorrow!”

Jay is like so many people in urban areas of developed countries who collect their caffeinated elixir on the way to the office five days a week in a disposable coffee cup.

Five cups a week.

40 – 50 weeks a year.

200 – 250 cups per year in landfill.

For one person.

But cups are biodegradable

Not all of them. Thankfully technology has improved sufficiently to make some disposable cups more biodegradable, but many are not and still contain plastic to make them watertight. In some parts of the world takeaway coffee is always served in cups that are not biodegradable – they don’t even try to be sustainable. Furthermore, one biodegradable coffee cup in landfill is still worse than no disposable cup in landfill.

Get a reusable coffee cup.

Get yourself a reusable coffee cup. Maybe get two in case you forget to wash one before heading out. If you can afford regular take away coffee, you can afford one or two reusable cups.

What about COVID-19?

Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented cafes and vendors from accepting reusable cups over concerns for hygiene – understandably. However, in regions which are lifting restrictions some vendors are now accepting reusable cups again.

Disposable cups for dine in

I still don’t understand why people order coffee in a disposable cup when they know they’ll consume it at the cafe. They sit there happily sipping away on their coffee dissecting last night’s episode of their favourite reality TV show, when they could have taken their coffee in a coffee mug.

The owner of a cafe once told me that people prefer disposbale cups because they think they keep the coffee warm for longer, or because they just like the feel of the disposable cup.

Do they like the feel of climate change?

Surely it’s better to consume coffee in a mug that was designed specifically for the consumption of coffee. Also, do European cafes, especially in France or Italy, serve coffee in disposable cups for customers dining in?

What about Brazil?

Brazil is as famous for coffee as it is for football. Anecdotal evidence suggests this habit is very uncommon in Brazil. Apparently, it is also forbidden in some larger Brazilian cities to serve coffee in a disposable cup to customers who are dining in.

Why can’t this rule be introduced in other parts of the world?

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are the most visible by-product of coffee consumption. They can either make their way into landfill or into a garden. They can even become furniture.

Coffee grounds at home

Coffee grounds can be put into worms farms or compost bins. This is easy for households using these sustainable waste management systems. Just throw them in with your food scraps and other biodegradable material. I’ve always wondered, does caffeine have the same effect on worms as it does on humans? Does it make them more productive or more hungry? I wonder if the worms tell their companions;

“Don’t come near me until I’ve had some caffeine”

Some backyard gardeners will put their coffee grounds straight into their gardens, mixed in with the soil. There are different ways to do this based on the soil type, climate, season, region and type of plants. Some cafes will even give away used coffee grounds to customers for this purpose. Before adding grounds to your garden, do some research and seek advice from experts, because adding them incorrectly can harm some plants.

Organic

It’s even more beneficial to the earth if the coffee grounds themselves are organic. This means that the coffee has been grown with only natural chemicals which protect the soil and the waterways which are used to grow the crops. It’s also healthier for your body and for the soil which will be created in the compost system and later transferred to your garden.

It has also been found that treating coffee in a certain way can help to capture greenhouse gases.

Coffee grounds at cafes

As well as offering used grounds to customers for gardening, many cafes are now recycling their grounds in other ways. Organisations throughout the world collect grounds from cafes in urban areas and take them to places where they can be added to compost or transformed into other products.

Warm, soothing coffee

In the UK, coffee keeps people warm and toasty even after it has been consumed. A company called bio-bean acquires grounds from universities, businesses and train stations throughout the country and converts them into coffee logs for use in fireplaces.

The logs apparently burn 20% hotter and longer than kiln-dried wood. Plus, the logs are said to generate 80% fewer emissions than sending coffee grounds to landfill.

On a larger scale, coffee grounds are being turned into biofuels and even cleaning products. Research has found that grounds are rich in natural oils, potassium and nitrogen, and have an abrasive texture that makes them suitable as cleaning products.

So, next time your house mate leaves coffee stains throughout the house, remember that they’re actually cleaning…

Some people even use caffeine to clean their hair, as they claim that it loosens and removes residue left behind by styling products.

Endless benefits

The uses of coffee grounds are almost endless. People have found ways to use them for everything from ‘gardeners soap’ to insect repellent, as well as repairing furniture, tenderising or marinating meat and protecting pets from fleas or keeping them away from your plants.

It doesn’t end there.

Printing

The RITI Printer converts grounds into printer ink, and is labelled the coffee printer. What’s more, the device itself uses much less electricity than standard printers, and the vessel that holds the used coffee grounds (or old tea leaves) can be refilled.

Furniture

Re-worked, a non-profit design company, combines coffee grounds with with recycled waste plastics to form a composite material which is durable and waterproof, and can be used to make home furnishings including chairs, bar stools, and…coffee tables.

Coffee in coffee

It had to be done.

It was just a matter of time.

A coffee cup made from coffee grounds.

A young German chap by the name of Julian Lechner created Kaffeeform, which produces espresso cups and saucers made out of coffee grounds combined with sustainably sourced wood and natural glues.

That smell…

Everyone loves the smell of coffee. No one loves the smell of body odour. A Taiwanese company called S. Cafe produces sports clothing with coffee grounds woven into yarn which helps remove the body odour from the clothing.

These clothes should be given to every teenage boy on the planet – deodorant can only cover so much…

The company also boasts that its clothes are fast-drying and protect wearers from UV rays.

Yes, you can wear your coffee on your sleeve.

Coffee is a daily ritual for so many people throughout the world. The cultivation, consumption and disposal of elements involved in the production of a cup of coffee can harm the environment, or can protect the planet if enough intelligent, considerate people take small steps to make sure coffee doesn’t cost the earth.

Images: Nathan Dumlao, Noora AlHammadi, Van Thanh