The more we consume, the less we care about the living planet. | Damn the Matrix

The more we consume, the less we care about the living planet. | Damn the Matrix.

Are you supporting fossil fuel industries without knowing about it?

It has recently come to my attention that our superannuation companies/retirement fund companies often reinvest our money into fossil fuel industries. I mean, after all there is big money where oil and coal is concerned, but as someone who is actively trying to reduce my reliance upon and use of fossil fuels, Supporting those that invest in them is not a comforting thought. Continue reading

Climate change and changing to suit the climate

Climate change.

Controvertial, no?

Is it real or is it just a hoax?

If it IS a hoax, what is the reason behind the hoax and who does it benefit?

If it is real, how do we sort the truth from the lies? How serious is it? Is it too late?

I only wish I knew the answers but I believe climate change, brought about by man, is real. If it is a hoax it benefits no-one that I can think of bar a few comparatively small companies producing environmentally friendly goods. If we believe it is a hoax however, I can think of a few industries that will reap the rewards (think of mining and drilling).

When I think back to what started my green journey I find it really hard to pin point any particular thing. I remember hassling my mum once about buying bleach and she ended up buying vinegar instead. I remember in grade 6 I think it was, doing an in class assignment where you answered multiple choice questions and it predicted a future scenario for you. Even then I preferred a large house in a small country town with an eco lifestyle. Ok, so I no longer want a large house (cleaning the house never entered my 12 yo mind šŸ˜‰ ) but the rest of the scenario has pretty much played out to be true. I’ve also had that dream of living on a small acreage in the country for as long as I can remember, interspersed with eco dreams too. For as long as I can remember there has always been some level of environmental sustainability or homesteading about my dreams.

So what kicked it all into high gear then? I’ve already mentioned some of my journey of how it’s not easy to be green but it was probably the film The Day after Tomorrow that really prompted me to start making changes. Now, do I think that there will be 3 big storms to plunge the world into a new ice age? No. Do I think that the film is very over-dramatised? Yes. Do I think that the film makes a good point though? Yes. It got me thinking long and hard about climate change and our precious planet. It got me thinking about the impact that my choices and decisions have upon the planet and although it doesn’t touch on even half of the issues out there (deforestation of our jungles, over fishing, landfill, fossil fuel usage and so on) but at least for me it got me thinking. It got me processing. It made me realise that there is a LOT more to the world than just my little piece of it.

Now as I sit here today it’s a predicted high of 38C degrees (about 29 inside at the moment). It’s still November! The average maximum temperatures for Melbourne in November is 22C although the highest on record is 40.9 on November 27 1894 (info found here). It’s a total fire ban in both the Mallee and Wimera regions of Victoria too – the far north and west of the state where it’s already at severe fire danger (info found here). This is unusual for November in Victoria in my memory at least and I suspect that the odd rumours I’ve heard of a long hot summer may well turn out to be true. And after what Ballan locals have said was a long cold winter… Well it just seems to me, in my very unscientific opinion, that things are changing.

I believe things are reaching some pretty critical levels as far as climate change goes. I mean, from a cursory glance at my dear friend Dr Google, it seems the average temperature of the earth has risen less than a degree C which sounds negligible… But is it? I know the last few years here in Melbourne we’ve had some stinking hot days. I remember the new years we waved farewell to 2007 and hello to 2008 it was still a balmy 35C or 95F at midnight. Just over 13 months later on February 7th 2009 and we saw our hottest day on record, now known as Black Saturday because of the horrific bushfires that raged across our state. It changed our hottest ever recorded Victorian temperature to a whopping 48.8C (that’s 120F) recorded at Hopetown (stats taken from here). Melbourne reached 46.4C Ā or 115.5F (stats taken from here). Even without counting the fires in, it was a pretty rotten day here. Including the devastating fires, it was horrendous.

What melting polar ice?

The point is, the climate is changing and we are going to have to change along with it.Ā I read a wonderful comment this morning on Narf77’s blogĀ The Road to SerendipityĀ about adaption. “I LOVE the positivity of permacultureā€¦no sitting around whinging about how we wonā€™t have citrus trees soon and isnā€™t it terribleā€¦just straight away looking at the possibilities and adapting. Thatā€™s what I prizeā€¦adaptation and the ability to look on the bright side. Thatā€™s what is noble about the human raceā€¦” and it struck a chord. Even if we stopped burning each and every fossil fuel today and set everything right in one fell swoop I don’t believe the climate trend will change overnight. Things have gone too far for that. Arctic ice melting is a prime example. From what I’ve read it works like this. When there is a large amount of arctic ice it reflects back the heat of the sun a lot more, being white it’s reflective, notĀ absorptive. However, when it gets hotter the polar ice melts and then there is less white reflective ice and more absorptive dark coloured ocean to contain the heat from the sun. This in turn melts more of the ice, which in its turn provides more dark ocean to absorb more heat and so on. I’m not sure how that is supposed to stop to be honest because it’s self perpetuating. The melting of the polar ice brings with it warmer temperatures, more water (the melting water surely has to go somewhere although I can’t seem to find anything but arguments about rising sea levels on Dr Google).

Tagasaste or tree lucerne

We MUST take more responsibility for the environment and try to stop the global warming trend but in correlation with this we need to adapt. I for one am glad we will be raising our elevation from about 17m above sea level to much closer to 500m… Just in case. I also plan to try to grow some plants that are not considered suitable for the Ballan climate – Tagasaste (Chamaecytisus palmensis) or tree lucerne is one such tree. It’s a dry climate plant initially from the Canary islands and doesn’t like waterlogged soil but I am hoping by growing it in a raised bed in the chook pen that it will thrive and help provide food for the chickens. I am also going to try growing sweet potatoes next year. They’re not good in cold climates and not so great in temperate climates either (I tried to grow them a few years back) but I reckon it’s worth giving them a crack inside the greenhouse. I’ll probably also try ginger and turmeric too. The Tropical Hippy, a friend in both the blogosphere and real world who lives in tropical climes is giving sweet potatoes a go now if you’re keen to try them.

For me that adaption is to try and grow things locally so that I can reduce our food carbon miles. If I can’t grow it locally (bananas, mangoes, pineapples and other tropical fruits for starters) I need to weigh up the value of having access to these foods (bananas would be a big loss to my kids) versus their mileage. With many of our tropical fruits coming from Queensland they’re not as bad as they could be, but dates (which we use in cooking and as snacks – a huge loss to me) may well come from Iran or other local countries so their mileage is huge. I guess for me if I can localise as much as possible then buying some things with carbon miles isn’t so bad. I hope that the miles our tomatoes will travel will be about 20 metres from the veggie garden to the kitchen via shanks pony. šŸ™‚ They will then be bottled which will use some gas or electricity in the processing but it’s much less than buying a can of imported tomatoes.

Anyway, this is becoming a bit of an incoherent ramble which I’m going to blame on the heat frying my brain (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it šŸ˜‰ ) so it’s time to sign off. We’re having a tv day here in the interests of keeping the kids calm whilst being locked inside away from the sun (not my favourite kind of day but needs must).

Carpet

The more I try to do the right thing by the environment the more I realise how hard it can be sometimes to do the right thing all the way. I know I sound like aĀ conspiracy theory crazy personĀ but it really does seem that many things are green-washed or just very careful about hiding the less natural aspects of something. And sometimes there really does seem to be no other option.

I am currently researching carpets for the new house and trying to make a choice that is as environmentally friendly as possible.

Sisal – Sisal is made from the fibres of the agave plant (Agave sisalana)Ā as opposed to the AgaveĀ (Agave tequilana)Ā whichĀ is used to make tequila (it would make choosing carpet a lot more fun. šŸ˜‰ ) Sisal has been traditionally used to make twine and rope. The environmental impacts are the waste product resulting from the breaking up of the plant into fibres which can cause pollution if allowed into waterways but the plant needs no chemical fertilisers and needs few or no herbicides which is a huge point in its favour. I’ve not actually handled any sisal carpet though so I don’t know about its softness etc.
Wool – Wool can come from several animals, sheep being the first we think of but also goats, muskoxen, vicuƱa, alpaca, camel and even rabbits – thanks Wiki šŸ™‚ Most wool carpets I believe though are made from sheep wool. Wool carpets wear well, they dye well and they are naturally flame retardant, stain resistant and natural too, even though they may be treated with bleaches in order to strip natural colours before dyeing, insect repelling agents and other such chemicals. They are also comparatively expensive and from what I’ve seen they are still marketed as an item of luxury on tv. Wool to me seems one of the best choices available, but as one of my readers pointed out, there may very well be animal rights issues. šŸ˜¦ Blending wool with fibres such as nylon makes it stronger and more durable and it’s often an 80/20 blend favouring wool. I can understand the appeal of blending.

Polyester – polyethylene terephthalateĀ (PET) the recyclable plastic used for drink bottles. It’s sometimes made from LPG, a fossil fuel and since fossil fuels are non-renewable resources, it seems a waste for me to make carpet out of them when there are so many other alternatives for carpet. Old PET bottles can also be recycled, either into new PET bottles or into PET carpets, which in turn can be recycled again. This does add to its green credentials at least, but not enough for me.

Nylon – Yes, this is the same stuff as nylon stockings are made from. I’ve read and reread the wiki information on nylon and to me, all I can gather is that it’s made of chemicals and it’s a polymer – poly meaning many so I guess its made from many chemicals. I am no chemist but if I need to start sounding out the syllables in order to have half a go at pronouncing names, it’s usually not for me. However, in its favour it does print, dye and wear well as a carpet but does stain easily.

Polypropylene – This is the stuff that many kitchen plastics, green shopping bags Ā and Australian bank notes are also made from polypropylene. It seems to be a very versatile plastic but again it’s not natural and so it’s not for me. It is also difficult to dye and doesn’t wear as well as other synthetics, but it is cheap. It’s also sometimes known as olefin in the carpet industry.

Corn – yes I am referring to sweetcorn. The corn is changed into cornstarch then into a polymer. It’s a different form of plastic (bio-plastic) but it’s still a pretty synthetic even if it has come from a natural plant. Also, with all the GMO products around and with the GMO corn taking over the market I wonder how safe it is. Not to mention using food for things like carpets and fuels seems decadent to me when so many people around the world are starving.

As recommended by one of my readersĀ missusmoonshineĀ I checked outĀ http://www.velieris.comĀ who make alpaca and wool carpets. Thank you. šŸ™‚ Initially I was disappointed as, although they use the natural colours of the wool which means no bleaching or dyeing, they were still partly synthetic blends. I have since come back to them and found that they do have 2 of their alpaca carpets that are a 70/30 blend in favour of alpaca wool. They have a limited colour range, 6 to be exact, ranging from white to charcoal but they have neutrals and browns which will complement our house. I have received information from them that “the only real option currently available is using a polypropylene backing” which makes me very sad but this may well be one of those compromises we have to make. šŸ˜¦ However, as their wool isĀ not dyed or chemically treated with insecticides, stain-blocks, repellents or flame retardant treatments this may be one of the better choices. I have a store location so will be checking it out.

The next part of this equation is the underlay. Seriously, if my brain wasn’t already badly fried by carpet research and 3 small children today! From an incredibly quick glance at a few pages, underlay appears to be often made using recycled fibres from the carpet, garment and plastics industries and recycled clothing. Yay for finding good news! I also found another underlay made from rubber My initial thought was petroleum based, followed by recycled tyres and off-gassing toxins but again, underlay seems to be a bit of a knight in green armour. This rubber underlay is made from natural rubber which is sourced by milking the rubber tree rather than cutting it down. šŸ˜€ Another underlay I found is polyurethane which sounds un-eco but it is made from 90% post consumer recycled product so it does have some green claim at least. My initial response is either the natural rubber or recycled clothing but it’s great to know that there is some environmentally friendly aspect to underlay.

Looks like I still have many hours of research to go but I do feel like I’ve at least narrowed the playing field somewhat. Do you have any knowledge on carpet purchasing? Or something else that you have researched the pants off?