Using permaculture ethics & design principles to transform an old energy guzzling bungalow into a showcase of sustainable design. It's about energy cycling, building community, self-reliance,creatively using & reusing materials... all without spending heaps of money.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

One rubbish and recycle bin used for the whole year

Principle 6: Produce no waste

One year on, and mission of only using one rubbish and one recycle bin achieved. Christmas tree with mostly home made decorations made from recycled paper in background.
Our 'binimum' mission of filling one recycle bin and one rubbish bin in one year has been successfully completed! There was even a little bit of room left for more recycling, but we wanted to hang onto some of our containers because they are so useful.
I was pretty sure that we wouldn't make our rubbish goal with a couple of months to go, but some gentle persuasion (jumping on rubbish) we managed to get all of our household and shed waste into the rubbish bin. Unfortunately it was so well compacted that only half came out when the bin was 'emptied'!
The recycle bin was less of a challenge, though it is twice the size of the rubbish bin. We reused a lot of the containers that we bought, and even asked for more from our neighbours when we were preserving. I'm sure that there is a limit to how many you can hold on to, but I'd still like to get some more of those oil cans to turn into drawers.

Here are some of the things that we did to reduce our waste:
  • Old or underused clothing gets given to friends or sent to the Op-Shop if it's good enough, if not we cut them up and use them for once-off baby wipes which are then composted (not synthetics). Other old clothing material is used as rags before being thown in the bin or composted as appropriate.
  • Underused toys or electronic gadgets are given to friends or sent to the Op-Shop if they are good enough. If not they are disassembled to recover anything useful (like screws) or recycle what we can before the rest is thrown out. I even unsoldered a circuit board from a broken toy organ today and recovered a number of LEDs, a switch, speaker and electronic bits & pieces. I wonder if I'll ever use them?
  • Plastic bags and containers are washed and dried if they are good enough, so we can reuse them. Some are given away with excess produce to friends, most end up recycled or in the bin.
  • Soap nuts were used for washing dishes and clothes. Bi-Carb, vinegar and 'Sard Wonder' soap for other cleaning.
  • Our philosophy is to grow, make and use as much as we can ourselves, which avoids most waste all together. 
  • We try to swap or exchange with local friends who also grow
  • We try to source what we can from local farms, buying in bulk (like wheat and olive oil). 
  • We buy bulk foods using our own containers where possible, and use the supermarket as a last resort (it is really handy at times). 
The experiment of radically reducing waste is not only possible but fun and creative too. We wont continue the challenge in the new year, but will keep track of how many bins we put out. I'm curious to see how much waste we produce over the coming year now that we have become more established in our home and are more aware of how to reduce and even eliminate rubbish altogether.

Many containers reused in the shed.  Three old doors and offcuts used to make the working bench and shelves.
Particularly useful are the old oil tins that have their sides cut out of them, making fantastic drawers. Smaller tins are used to divided them up.
Some tin cans were kept in the shed for use later. I've found the sardine cans useful in the garden as beer traps for slugs and slaters.
An old paint tin used to store small metal scraps that will be recycled when I go to the transfer station next
Some extra beer bottles left over from my 40th that are yet to be cleaned and reused for preserving or brewing
Jars and beer bottles reused for preserving some of our boysenberry harvest. We made cordial, jam, sauces and just plain fruit.
Bottles reused for purchasing liquids in bulk and for storing Kunie's kombucha
Other jars and containers are washed and kept inside for storage or preserving
Paper, boxes and excess produce scraps are fed to the compost. Tasty produce and food scraps fed to chickens and worm farm.
Kai in the tree house serving up a imaginative meal of 'carrot and pumpkin soup with lollies', reusing broken toys, beer caps and old containers.

UPDATE: 31st December 2011
I was contacted by a social worker in India recently with this question:
"We have no government/city waste management available here. We compost our food waste, burn our paper, reuse/recycle our plastic bottles...but we have nothing to do with wrappers (for potato chip bags, candy wrappers, etc.).
We don't have a lot of these items, but we want to know what to do with it. How we can bury it so that it has low impact on the soil."
At the time I responded with:
"One thing that you may want to consider is looking at the properties of the material. The fact that it doesn't break down could be useful. Perhaps they could be twisted together and made into something else that is useful, a basket perhaps? Be creative and think outside the square...

Of course it would be better not to buy them in the first place."

The question has stayed with me and I mentioned it to my builder mate Pete who suggested that the material might make good insulation. Crumpled up and stuffed into bags it could be used in the roof space or wall cavities. Then I realised that a lot of the chip and lolly wrappers these days have foil inside and I wondered about finding a way to stick the wrappers down onto a sheet of something flat (even sew them on some material) and use them like building foil to reflect heat.
They could also potentially be used to replace foil in conjunction with other waste plastic to replace the paper (for insulation) in the making of solar cookers like the tyre cooker from the video below.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Town branding rejected - with some help

Principle 4: Apply self regulation and accept feedback

After seeing the new Seymour branding designs at the local market I was inspired to write an article in the local paper offering an alternative to a military theme for the town, that being the railway. It seems that there was quite a bit of support for my suggestion, and others who supported the inclusion of the Goulburn River / Historic Bridge along with the Military and Railway. In fact nobody that I spoke to supported a Military theme on it's own.
Unfortunately the recommendations made to council did not reflect this and figures supplied in the recommendations still suggested that 90% of people supported the military theme.
I wrote this letter to the councillors just before their meeting:
I write to inform you of my objection to the branding of Seymour with a Military theme and the process employed.

The options provided to the public were all military based and did not actually provide any real option at all.

At Chris Guthrie's presentation at the Seymour market he did not present an option to object to the concept, but asked which of the logos was preferred. In my feedback at the time I selected one of the designs (best of a bad bunch), but asked the question why Seymour was not being branded as a railway town. Chris dismissed the idea and included my feedback as support for the design that I indicated. I later provided extensive negative feedback to council via email.

It seems that feedback made by passers by at displays is valued in the same was as extensive and well documented feedback presented to council.

I later wrote an article in the 'Seymour Telegraph' proposing branding Seymour as a Railway Town and asked locals what they thought about the idea. Everyone that I spoke to thought that it was better than a Military theme and offered more business opportunities for the town. This suggests that the "90% support for a military theme", as Mr Guthrie suggests is not accurate at all.

I have also been told that staff at the shire have had only negative feedback to the military image, and that "something is really wrong with Chris's calculations".

I request that you reject Mr Guthrie's recommendations and look at real options for the branding of Seymour. That being the River, Rail and Military - even in combination.


Richard Telford
Graphic Designer for the branding of Violet Town
and Seymour resident
I wasn't the only one to object to the original branding concept, I had support from other locals. Together we put pressure on council to reconsider, and they did. The result has given me some faith that I can make an impact on the wider world and that hidden agendas will need to face scruitiny and feedback from people like myself.

Article from page 3 of the 'Seymour Telegraph' Dec 14th 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Something smells fishy around here

Principle 6: Produce no waste
Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal

Snapper fish stock in the making
A phone call from my mate Brian produced an unexpected frenzy of activity at our house recently. In preparation for a wedding reception at my old home of Commonground, three and a half large (20 litre) buckets of filleted Snapper fish frames (and one whole one) were made available to us. There were probably 30 - 40 of them, all caught in Port Phillip bay the day before. Rather than just compost these we decided to value add them, as Kunie was very excited by the idea of producing fish stock.
We weren't really set up for dealing with such an abundant harvest, but got to task as soon as I came home with them. I chopped up the frames into more manageable pieces using a tomahawk and we filled up a large pot which was topped up with water and put on the gas - about five times. Once brought to the boil the frames were removed and fish meat carefully separated.
Meanwhile... I raced off and went shopping for a freezer, as we had no way storing that quantity of  meat, along with one whole fish. Being 4:35 on a Friday afternoon I didn't have much time. Fortunately I'd done a fair bit of research on freezers in the past, and had a good idea of what I was after and what was a good price. I wanted a small chest freezer, these easily be converted to a super efficient fridge with the addition of a control box that uses a temperature sensor to turn off power.
I managed to buy one and find a mate to pick it up for me within the hour.
We were up till 1:30am separating the meat and packing it in the freezer, collecting about 7kg in all. The next day we used the stock from the initial cooking to boil up the bones again, to extract even more flavour. We decided to light a fire in the backyard to do the job, cleaning up scrappy bits of wood to do the job. We ended up having three pots on the boil for most of the day, making about 10 litres or so of very strong stock and quite a smell too boot. We bought 10 ice cube trays and froze some in this way, with the rest in small zip-lock bags.
While I was keen for the chickens to pick over the scraps, they weren't interested. The bones ended up in the compost bin covered with a layer of soil. The smell has lingered longer than expected, but the little insects are having a ball and should get through it in no time, producing fantastic compost for our vegies.
I couldn't bring myself to eat fish soup for a few days after, but yesterday we had a noodle soup with some fish stock, and a risotto that used the stock and fish. Both were delicious!
The new freezer has got us thinking about a mission for next year, a year without a fridge... more on that later.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tree House evolution

Principle 5: Use and value renewable resources and services

Kunie collecting vegetables for dumplings while Nana, Sen and Kai watch from the tree house
Over the past four months the stark box in a tree has transformed into a treetop wonderland. As the canopy regrows after the heavy pruning it provides a ever changing shaded play space that overlooks the gardens and activities below.
Pruning continues ad hoc as the internal area of the tree house is used in imaginary games (fishing, cooking etc). It's envisaged that the larger surviving branches will be tied together to create an espailered dome after the leaf drop, further enhancing this creative space that continues to evolve.

Kai in the tree house

Kai preparing a meal of 'bacon and eggs' for Nana in the tree house

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