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

Winter Olympic Games to be held in The Middle East.

The International Olympic Committee has made the astounding announcement that the 2030 Winter Olympic Games will be held in the desert, with Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE to co-host the first edition of the games to take place nowhere near a mountain.

When asked to explain the shock decision, the IOC stated bluntly,

“The world will run out of snow.”

“Climate change is warming the globe and melting snow and ice throughout the world, as well as making weather patterns unpredictable. Accurate scientific evidence tells us that there will not be enough deep natural snow on any of the world’s peaks in the near future. As a result, the IOC has been forced to move the prestigious event indoors where athletes will compete on man-made snow.”

The Gulf States were chosen to host the historic sporting event because they already have indoor winter sports facilities such as ice rinks and ski slopes. In addition, their main revenue source, oil, has contributed greatly to the climate crisis which has rendered outdoor competition impossible.

Indoor winter sports venues emulating Ski Dubai will be built throughout the host nations to cater for the vast array of sports which now comprise the Winter Olympic program. Some disciplines, however, look set to be scrapped from the games forever.

The change in venue will not affect sports such as Ice Hockey, Figure Skating, Short Track, Speed Skating and Curling as they already take place indoors, but it will have major implications for the remaining disciplines.

“We have received assurance that Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton will still go ahead,” stated the spokesperson. “The roller coasters that are found in some shopping malls in this part of the world will be reconfigured to hold the sleighs used in these disciplines, allowing spectators to watch the competition from the food court.”

The IOC is also working with the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the host nations to construct suitable indoor venues for disciplines such as Aerial Skiing and Moguls, Ski and Snowboard Cross and Halfpipe, as well as snowboard Parallel Giant Slalom.

“Slopestyle may have to take place on the sand dunes,” conceded the spokesperson, “but at least it offers competitors an entirely new aesthetic for their Instagram posts.”

And what of the future of Big Air?

“Depends how big the airs are.”

Other traditional Winter Olympic disciplines face huge challenges as a result of the climate change induced move to the Middle East. Cross Country Skiing events and biathlon will be carried out on loop courses of 1 kilometre in length, meaning competitors in the 50km Cross Country race will be going round and round and round…

Biathlon competitors, meanwhile, will be forced to complete multiple laps of the 15 metre-long penalty loop every time they miss a target, reminiscent of athletes training during COVID-19 lockdown.

Alpine skiers who excel in the technical forms of the sport, such as Slalom and Giant Slalom, will notice little change to their events, except that they will take place indoors.

Downhill and Super G racers will unfortunately have to look for another sport.

“None of the venues will be tall enough to host a Downhill or Super G race,” stated organisers, “…and you can’t ski down the Burj Khalifa (yet)”

The IOC and FIS had initially considered simply starting downhill races further up mountains to find snow, but this proved unfeasible for many reasons.

“By 2030 snow will be found only on the very, very high mountains and the altitude will harm athletes who are already pushing their bodies to the limit. Also, electronic timing equipment may not work at such heights and the weather is a lot more extreme and unpredictable. Furthermore, chairlifts do not reach these heights, and nobody wants to ride a T Bar for that long. In addition helicopters used in broadcasting and medical emergencies can only fly so high”

As a result, downhill and Super G races will cease to exist in 2030 and beyond.

Critics of the plan argue the organisers should have simply used man-made snow on existing slopes, but organisers reminded them that snowmaking only works when the ground is cold enough.

“Global warming and climate change is heating the ground, so any man-made snow would simply melt, and this event is called the Winter Olympics, not the Muddy Olympics.”

Images: http://www.skimag.com, http://www.gettyimages.com

I Thought You Were A Woman.

Someone I have never met told me they thought I was a woman. I’m not. They made this assumption based on my Instagram account.

The person is a friend of a friend and stumbled upon my Instagram account, as people do within the world of social media. They requested to follow, I accepted, and they perused my photos.

The person then messaged me in surprise and told me that she thought I was female.

Why?

Because of the content of my Instagram posts.

Essentially, all of my posts depict nature or books. Once I’ve read a book that I like, I take a photo of the cover and maybe and excerpt from the book and I post it on my account. Actually, I haven’t done this for a while, I think I just forgot.

Otherwise, my Instagram account contains images of nature. When I go hiking, cycling, camping or into nature, I like to take photos of sunsets, beaches, plants, trees, skylines and animals. I’d like to have more photos of animals but they’re hard to capture with a basic smartphone lacking a decent zoom. If I do capture an animal it’s always a bonus.

Almost every one of my posts depicts lakes, rivers, mountains, trees, rocks, sand, sun and surf, because I love nature and try to spend as much time in it as possible. My account contains almost no images of myself.

I don’t like appearing on camera and I’m not vain or beautiful enough to be an Instagram model, so I don’t take many selfies. I do appear in other people’s photos or have friends take photos of me, but I just have no interest in posting them online.

I explained to the woman that I am in fact a man, and we had a good laugh about it. It did make me think, however.

Why would someone think that I was female after seeing photos of books and nature?

Have we been conditioned to think that an interest in or respect for nature is feminine? Can only women appreciate and express an appreciation for nature, and is this linked to a woman’s role as a nurturer and care giver?

If this is the case, does it explain the current state of the world’s climate and the natural environment?

Mother Earth, as we often call it, is in trouble after years and years of human abuse, and this abuse is continuing even though we now know better. We now know that previous practices are harming the planet upon which we rely for our survival but we continue with these practices.

Is this cycle of destruction perpetuated because men still rule the world? Certain organisations, businesses and countries have a woman in the top job, but the system which was created by men is still controlled by men. If a man is not expected to love nature, even via an Instagram account, protecting the environment into the future will be very difficult, because men are still making most of the decisions which determine the state of the planet.

Is it time to give women a turn? Really give them a turn. Not just appoint a few women to the position of national or corporate president, not just vote women onto boards or executive positions, but replace men in large numbers at every level of government, business and other sectors of society. Men had their turn running the world, the planet is in very bad shape, so maybe it’s time they were replaced.

If the men running the world were the starting players on a sporting team, their results suggest it’s time they were taken off and replaced by those who have been waiting their turn on the reserves bench.

Can you love nature and still be a man?

Do we have to change paradigms of masculinity to include respect for nature and pride in publicly expressing a love for the natural world?

Do we need to reach a point at which assumptions cannot be made about someone’s gender because they display images of nature on a social media account?

I DO…care about the planet.

I DO love you, I DO care about you, and I DO care about the planet. For that reason, I want my wedding to be as environmentally sustainable as possible.

Why should I make my special day as sustainable as possible?

It’s all about sharing the love. Embrace the love for your partner and those around you, and share that love with the planet. Plus, your marriage will likely create a family, and it is vital to leave a healthy, liveable planet for your children.

How do I make my wedding as sustainable as possible?

The Ring

The materials which comprise a wedding or engagement ring include precious metals, gemstone and diamonds which are often mined destructively and on such a large scale that it inspired the movie Blood Diamond with Leonardo DiCaprio – and his failed attempt at a South African accent.

Thankfully, ethical wedding jewellers can be found online. They source recycled or conflict-free diamonds and materials, or even lab grown diamonds. Lab grown diamonds are increasing in popularity as they are equal to mined diamonds and have a much smaller environmental and social impact, as well as being less expensive. You’re not only saving the planet, you’re also saving the world from another Hollywood actor butchering a ‘foreign’ accent.

The Venue

Indoor or outdoor

To narrow down the choice of venue, decide whether you and your better half want to wed indoors or outdoors.

Outdoors

Outdoor venues tend to be more sustainable as they require less lighting and air conditioning. Locations such as vineyards, botanical gardens, lakes, refurbished farm properties and eco-lodges are beautiful locations with stunning backdrops. In the right season, they can be simply blissful. Modern outdoor venues also provide modern conveniences, so you can celebrate in comfort.

What about a barefoot wedding on the beach?

Indoors

Indoor venues can also be green. Choose a venue which catches natural light, and book the right venue in the right season. Search for reception venues which recycle and use energy efficient appliances, solar and biodegradable products.

Hold the ceremony and the reception at the same place, or next door. If you plan to marry in a religious ceremony, host the reception nearby, and if you plan to exchange vows in a civil ceremony, organise both events at the same place.

Transport and Accommodation

Holding the reception and ceremony at the same place can reduce emissions. You could also arrange accommodation at the same place. Destinations such as vineyards are not only spectacular places to tie the knot, but often provide a location for the ceremony plus the reception and accommodation, all at the one site.

Of course, vineyards are expensive and while you may be prepared to bear the cost, some of your guests may not. How about DIY? Host the celebration in a more humble location and do the decoration yourself. Don’t underestimate the power of your imagination and ingenuity.

Ask your guests to car pool. This not only saves on emissions, but allows friends, workmates, relatives and former classmates to mingle on the way to the reception, so that by the time they arrive, everyone is ready to party.

You can also recommend accommodation providers near the venue which have proven environmental credentials.

Flying

Many families and guests fly to weddings, and air travel is the most environmentally destructive form of transport. If you must fly, encourage your guests to offset their carbon emissions. For a few extra dollars, the airline will contribute to a project which benefits the planet, such as tree planting, and neutralise the emissions of the flight.

Catering

Support local

Eating local reduces the carbon footprint of a meal. Look for caterers who source their food from local suppliers. Also ask caterers whether the food waste will be composted after the wedding. You can also plan a menu which uses ingredients that are in season. What’s more, the Farm-to-Table movement has made fresh, locally-sourced ingredients more commonplace, and many of them are organic, which is even more sustainable.

What about the cake?

It is a centrepiece of the reception. How was it made? Can you find a cake made with locally-sourced eggs and diary products?

Why not replace conventional table décor with herb plants in terra cotta pots? Guests can then add basil or cilantro straight to their meals.

Avoid plastic plates and utensils

Disposable plastic plates and utensils are easy, especially if you’re planning a casual, low-budget DIY wedding. They are harmful though. Plastic cutlery and dishes end up in landfill. Instead, use compostable or reusable dishware. Try to avoid plastic straws, as the next time you see them could be in the belly of a turtle.

If you’re hiring a catering company, ask if they can avoid using plastic, disposable items. You could go even further by giving each guest their own glass or cup for the reception, which cuts down on washing and the use of water and detergent. You could also customise the receptacle and they can take it home with them.

Put on a keg

Skip the individual cans and bottles at the bar and serve drinks in a keg, and favour bottles of wine over cute rose cans. This will help to reduce packaging and waste.

Gifts

Traditional Bridal registries were created for a certain time. A time when newlyweds would move into the marital home and thus required new household items. These days, many couples are already living together and have accumulated homewares. This means you can be more creative with your registry.

Request non-tangible gifts.

Register for items such as gift cards or vouchers for experiences, or ask your guests to contribute to the cost of the honeymoon flights, transport, accommodation or restaurants, as these require less harmful packaging.

Fortunately, almost every item you might like to list on your register has an eco-friendly alternative. Search for the origin and materials of the items, and consider alternatives such as organic bedding, cloth shopping bags, reusable bamboo plates and natural kitchen and bath products.

Donate

Do away with tradition, and encourage guests to donate to a charity as their gift to you, and send this money to an environmental organisation.

Flowers

Flowers are synonymous with weddings, but what happens to them after they’ve decorated the venue?

Donate

Various online organisations arrange for flowers to be donated to places such as health care facilities. Encourage guests to take flowers home if possible, or arrange for the flowers to be composted. Plants can be more easily composted if they are sustainably sourced in the first place, so do some research before ordering the flowers.

For decorative flowers which do not end up in landfill, also consider potted plants and succulents. Plants in pots can serve as favours as well as décor. These types of plants will last longer and can provide a reminder of the special day for years to come.

Invitations

When considering invitations, you have a number of choices:

– Eco-conscious stationery

Many brands are now producing beautiful paper products with minimal impact on the environment.

– Plantable paper

This is paper made without harm to trees. It is made with post-consumer materials, and it is embedded with seeds. When planted, the paper composts and the seeds grow.

– Electronic invitations

Embrace the electronic age and send out digital invitations which require no paper. Let’s face it, most guests will text you their confirmation and will use their GPS to find the venue anyway, so go paperless.

The dress

It’s all about the dress, and why not. It’s your day, and you want to shine. So how do you protect the planet while choosing your wedding dress?

Research sustainable wedding attire designers (for the bride and the groom – or both brides and grooms). Maybe ask your maid of honour or groomsman to help do some of the leg work in finding an outfit sourced and created ethically.  Many eco-friendly options exist, using materials such as organic cotton, silk, hemp or even pineapple leaves.

Secondhand or pre-loved dresses are more sustainable. Secondhand conjures up images of poor-quality items sold at charity stores, but this is not the case with wedding dresses. Remember, a wedding dress has only been worn once (hopefully) and most are kept in great condition. Online stores and organisations sell pre-loved dresses, often much cheaper than a new dress, and some donate part of the profits to charities. A friend claims she filled half her wardrobe with clothes from charity stores in wealthy suburbs – it’s amazing what rich people throw away.

Vintage dresses can also be found online, so you can celebrate with a unique look.

Of course, you could always wear your mum’s dress, and this is a popular tradition. Get out the bobby pins and the sewing machine if you have to, and watch your mum beam with immense pride as you walk down the aisle.

Also be sure to check vintage clothing shops and consignment boutiques. Try renting the gown, or fit out the entire wedding party in their own clothes. With a bit of planning (over a glass of wine) you can all put together a great ensemble for the day.

Don’t forget to encourage the groom to get on board with an eco-friendly outfit as well.

Some more handy hints

Reuse

Reuse décor elements throughout the day, as this will save the planet and save money. For example, a ceremony backdrop can become a photo booth backdrop and bouquets can become décor for food stations, the bar or the cake table. The décor can also come home with you. Place locally-grown flowers in glass bottles and use them to decorate your home.

Get rid of balloons, floating lanterns and sparklers. They look pretty, but balloons are very harmful for the land as they are not biodegradable, and they can be consumed by animals.

Sparklers end up in landfill, and while floating lanterns look beautiful, they can be a fire hazard at the wedding itself and as they float away, they could spark a bush fire.

A grand exit.

How will you leave the ceremony? In style of course.

Remember that sparklers, glow sticks and confetti are harmful to the environment, so consider biodegradable confetti or an alternative element for your grand departure.

Favours

You’d love to thank all of your friends and relatives who made your day special. Do so without the footprint. Offer favours such as small plants or seed packets, which can start a small garden. Give them consumable favours, such as coffee beans, chocolate, jams or preserves in reusable jars, or send the guests home with some of the flowers from the wedding day.

Bride or groom?

Are you the bride or the groom? How many people who read this article will be men? In heterosexual relationships, it is a long-standing tradition that women take on more of the planning of a wedding. It is important to involve the groom in creating a sustainable wedding because he makes up one half of the equation, and because his friends and family also need to enter into the spirit of the wedding to make sure it is a special day for both of you.

Be Cheeky

You know that relative you don’t like? The one you’re obliged to invite because they’re a blood relative. You could prevent them from coming. A cheeky friend of mine hosted an outdoor and largely sustainable wedding but cheekily exaggerated some of the eco-friendly elements of the wedding weekend on the invite, hoping that it would deter certain people from attending. It worked. The unpleasant relative was invited so awkward family conflict was averted, and the ‘conservative’ relative declined the invitation.

It’s a lot of work…

Planning an environmentally sustainable wedding may seem like a lot of work – but planning any wedding is a major undertaking. Do your planning and preparation well in advance, involve your bridal party and groomsmen in the organisation of the wedding, then enjoy a wonderful day devoted to a celebration of love.

Image: Adrianna Van Groningren

Save Centennial Glen

Centennial Glen is under threat. The parcel of natural bush land to the west of Blackheath in NSW could be turned into a scenic highway if authorities choose this option for the expansion of the Great Western Highway through the Blue Mountains.

The construction of the highway would destroy the local ecology and rid the residents of a popular local hiking trail, as well as adversely affecting many other groups such as rock climbers, school students and teachers, and local businesses.

Part of a whole

The proposed highway expansion is part of a larger project to expand the Great Western Highway all the way from Katoomba to Lithgow. Many residents between Katoomba and Lithgow are not in agreement with the project, as they believe it will be destructive in so many ways. They are also not convinced by a project which the government itself says will save only 10 minutes on the journey from Katoomba to Lithgow. 

Economic mistake

The official document from the NSW government claims the entire Great Western Highway Upgrade;

“Supports regional economic growth”

I would argue that the proposed scenic highway could harm the economy of Blackheath.

The proposed scenic highway could reduce the amount of money injected into the local community. The scenic highway would essentially act like a bypass of Blackheath. According to Transport NSW, which is responsible for the highway project, the scenic highway option would require the building of an outer bypass with bridges crossing over Shipley Road, Centennial Pass, Porters Pass Track, and over the rail line at the north.

Shipley Road is a suburban road at the southern end of Blackheath, before the main shopping area. Centennial Pass is a section of the bush land that includes part of the popular hiking trail, and Porters Pass is another section the hiking trail that winds its way through the bush.

Motorists would not pass through Blackheath. They would enter the scenic road before the town centre, and they would exit after the town centre. The road itself may become an attraction for some visitors looking to enjoy the view, but it won’t bring more money into the local economy.

Common sense tells us that motorists will not drive past the entry to the scenic road and into Blackheath for a coffee and cake, before backtracking out of Blackheath to join the proposed road. They will also not backtrack into town after exiting the scenic road. There is even less incentive to enter Blackheath, and spend money in its businesses, when perfectly acceptable coffee and cake is offered at many other towns in the Blue Mountains, including at the famous Hydro Majestic in Medlow Bath, which is just a few minutes drive away.

This is a region that has already suffered from the drop in tourists numbers due to the bush fires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rock Climbing

Walls Ledge and nearby rock faces are enormously popular with rock climbers, from near and far. The new highway would ruin one of the most popular rock climbing sites in Australia. Rock climbers not only climb in Blackheath, they also eat, drink and relax in Blackheath, and this income would be lost to the community if they went elsewhere to climb.

School

Mountains Christian College sits atop the ridge of Centennial Glen, with fantastic views and an amazing playground. The scenic highway proposal would be built very close to the school’s facilities and the construction work, and the highway itself, would cause endless noise disruption for students and teachers.

Why build a scenic highway?

Official justification for the scenic highway is that even though “…. There are likely impacts on the existing environment through the valley…” There is “…the potential to create a scenic route for locals and visitors.”

The scenic route already exists, in the form of a hiking trail. If locals and visitors want to enjoy the beautiful views over bush land and farms, they can do so on foot. You don’t need a highway or a car to admire the scenery of Centennial Glen, just a pair of sturdy walking shoes.

The hike to the viewpoints is not even particularly long or hard. From various entry points, visitors can walk along relatively flat paths across the top of the ridge, and within a few minutes enjoy the views. A longer and more strenuous hike exists down below the cliffs, and this does require walking up and down steep and slippery steps, crossing over some boulders and trudging through mud, but the famous views are accessible on top of the ridge, just a few minutes from Blackheath.

The paradox

Who spends money in Blackheath?

Who would use the scenic road?

Probably the same people.

Tourists spend a lot of money in Blackheath and throughout the Blue Mountains, but tourists are most likely to drive on the scenic road. Locals would probably drive it once or twice out of curiosity, but why would they if they’ve already seen the view on foot?

Thus, the scenic road, which is supposed to attract more visitors to the region, would prevent those same people from visiting Blackheath.

Truck drivers won’t use the scenic road. They have a set schedule and need to arrive at their destination on time in order to keep their job and their income.

Locals won’t use the scenic road. If they use the highway regularly they do so to go to work, school the shops or an appointment, and they want to arrive at that destination on time. The scenic road would only add time to their journey.

How is it possible?

Centennial Glen is a possible site for highway expansion because it is not national park. The land is council land, managed by Blue Mountains City Council. The other side of the existing highway is part of the Blue Mountains National Park, including sites such as Govett’s Leap, and this area can not be built on.

Short-term thinking

Like many government-endorsed infrastructure projects, three of the four options for the highway expansion will deliver only short-term benefit. The project is apparently designed to cater for:

“Increased transport capacity to meet future growth.”

This means more traffic. The government boasts that the highway expansion will reduce congestion and traffic jams. It will in the short term, but experts tell us that building or expanding roads does not reduce congestion in the long term. Eventually, new roads fill up with cars and traffic jams return.

Alternative transport

Like many government-endorsed infrastructure projects, it could be replaced, or at least supported, by alternative transport.

Improvements to the train service between Central (Sydney) and Lithgow (then to Bathurst) could take many cars off the road. New trains running on a modern timetable could encourage people, especially weekend tourists from Sydney, to take the train instead of driving. New trains which allow for passengers to bring luggage (for a weekend away) strollers, bicycles or other large items would cater for the large number of people who would prefer not to drive to and through the mountains, but are put off by Sydney’s outdated and insufficient public transport network.

Once on the train at Central, the trip is not that much slower than driving from Central Station/CBD to Blackheath. The train trip to Katoomba is even quicker if passengers can get the express train which continues to Bathurst.

Locals are continually advocating to save Centennial Glen. They are following accepted channels and communicating with local and state government to try to save this beautiful section of bush land. Their efforts, and updates, can be see at http://www.savecentennialglen.org 

Ripe Near Me

IMG_20160322_093511

Ripe Near Me is a web-based app which shows people the location of fresh, home grown or naturally growing food. The website highlights the location of fruit, vegetables or herbs which are growing in a local area and allows everyday people to sell, swap or give away their homegrown produce.

Why?

Ripe Near Me was established to encourage and enable people to source food from their local area. It taps into the tradition of growing food or foraging for food close to home, and is designed to reduce the carbon footprint created by the storage, refrigeration and transportation of food in the modern era.

The site also aims to increase the amount of food that is grown sustainably, and to utilise more public and private space, even the humble balcony, for growing fresh food. Members can also source a greater variety of food, and expand their palette, and eat food that is in season.

Eating food grown at home or in the immediate local area was commonplace until not so long ago. Ripe Near Me plans to revive that tradition for the good of the planet. Micro farms are also provided with a platform to make their operations profitable while improving the health of people around them.

Is it free?

Membership yes, food…sometimes.

Registration for the website is free, and once registered members can find food and give it away, sell it or swap it.

Each member chooses whether they give away, swap or sell their food. Members will often give away excess food. They swap this for an item that a neighbour has in excess and thus save food from rotting or ending up in the bin. Sure, you can put excess food in your worm farm or compost, but it’s always better to eat it – after all that’s why food is grown. If you can’t eat it, the next best option is to give it to someone who can.

Ripe Near Me also alerts people to food that is growing naturally in public spaces. Remember the old choko tree that most Aussies used to have, or still have, growing in their backyard? The tree that sprouts from nowhere, in unsuitable soil, with no care or attention, and produces consistent fruit…that’s one example of a naturally growing food that might be posted on the site. And before you deride the humble choko, try adding it to a dish. Sure it has no taste, but it’s filling, and if you prepare a tasty sauce you can negate the choko’s inherent blandness.

20180227_140055

Why not just go to the supermarket?

Supermarket shopping is convenient. You can buy everything you need at once, and the shopping is done. However, shopping for fruit and vegetables at major supermarkets, and even some local fruit shops, is problematic.

Chemicals

Fruit and vegetables sold at major supermarkets are almost never organic. Heavy chemicals are used to grow and preserve the food. It won’t kill you, but it’s not as healthy- for you or the planet.

Waste

Major supermarkets create enormous amounts of waste. They still demand that the majority of their produce conforms to standards of size, shape and colour, and this forces farmers to throw out perfectly good food just because it doesn’t look nice. This creates waste, because the enormous quantity of food that is rejected makes it near impossible to compost. It also creates financial strain for the farmers, because they earn nothing for the ‘ugly’ fruit.

Some supermarkets are selling a small amount of ‘ugly’ fruit, but still insist on putting ‘pretty’ fruit on the shelves. Ugly or pretty, it all tastes the same.

Furthermore, major supermarkets source their food out of season and from many different locations, and are forced to store, refrigerate and transport all produce, at great cost to the planet.

Is it safe?

Yes. Members post reviews of people who are giving away, swapping or selling food, and you can browse these reviews before obtaining the food. Also, the system normally allows you to meet the grower in person and see their garden. You can ask them about their farming techniques and ascertain whether the food is healthy or organic, as well as exchanging ideas. You see more of the growing process through Ripe Near Me than you do when shopping at a supermarket. After all, at a supermarket you know the apples come from Batlow, but from which orchard? How are they grown and harvested? Plus, do you know what happened to the fruit from the time it was picked to the time it ended up on the shelf?

How does it work?

Everyone’s produce is posted on the website’s map. You type in your local area and are shown what is available in your neighbourhood or region. It’s basically online foraging.

Growing or Ripe?

Red and green symbols next to the food explain whether it is ripe or still growing. Members can subscribe to any produce listing by clicking on a button, and collect the item if it’s ripe. If it’s still growing, they’ll be sent a notification when it’s ready.

Does size matter?

No. Any food item can be listed. From one tomato to a garden bed full of silverbeet, it can all be listed on the site, even that tiny amount of herbs you have growing on your window sill.

Is it like a food swap?

Yes. It is an online service which helps to set up a food swap. It is different because it allows people to swap food at any time, rather than waiting for the designated time and day of the local food swap. It is advantageous in the current reality, where the pandemic has restricted the number of social gatherings that can take place. It also allows people to swap their food before it goes off. Food swaps share a similar philosophy to Ripe Near Me, and stop food from becoming waste.

If you do go to a food swap, avoid the mistake that I once made. I arrived at the food swap on the designated day, only to find one other person there. It was the final weekend of school holidays so locals were either on holidays or getting their kids ready for the new school term. The other attendee had seeds which I didn’t need, and I was offering silverbeet – a tonne of silverbeet. She didn’t want my silverbeet, so I walked around town on a Sunday afternoon trying to give away a massive bouquet of silverbeet wrapped in a towel. I felt like a wedding planner or a blushing bride.

The founders of Ripe Near Me, Alistair and Helena Martin from Adelaide, South Australia, envisage an urban landscape overflowing with food for all. They aim to incentivise people to grow food sustainably and to distribute that food locally, as well as encouraging people to pick food off a plant, not a shelf.

For more information or to sign up, go to http://www.ripenear.me