Those who know the Gold Coast well and are into all things environmental action and protection will be very familiar with the work of Gecko, Gold Coast & Hinterland Environment Council (now known as Gecko Environment Council). Gecko this year celebrated 20 years of dedication to the valuable work they do to help preserve the local natural environment.
On November 12th they celebrated this milestone by gathering together once again the movers and shakers in the community who volunteer to make a difference whether from within the organisation itself or to celebrate the work they come into contact with. According to Gecko President Anna Itkonen, ‘as an organisation with the efforts of over 100 volunteers, Gecko hosted five major events in 2016, wrote over 30 submissions, was involved in over 20 campaigns and hosted an extensive environmental education program for local, national and international students.’ She went on to say ‘Over the years, over 800 individuals, groups and organisations have been awarded and acknowledged. In 2016, 42 names were added to that prestigious list.’
This year I was very honoured to receive an award for the work I’ve done since January 2016 as volunteer editor and social media manager for their online quarterly magazine Gecko Hills to Headlands. My son also won an award for the rebranding of Gecko’s image to be revealed in 2017.
Thank you again Gecko, it has been an amazing year and a very rewarding experience. Congratulations to Gecko and all awards recipients for the selfless and tireless work you all do to keep the Gold Coast and Hinterland environment protected.
I’m guessing, based on where you found this article, that you’re already ‘environmentally awake’. You’re one of the choir singing from the same environmental hymn book.
You may have your vegies growing in the back yard or balcony pots; sign petitions; try to reduce the packaging that you bring your goods home in; have reusable shopping bags instead of plastic and say ‘no’ to micro-plastics and palm oil in your products. In fact, you try to shop ethically for a number of reasons where possible; may even belong to a community group that works on bush or beach care; actively lobby your local council when you disagree with losses of habitat and environmental destruction; have solar on the roof and a rainwater tank at the back, and if you can’t, you wish you could. You try to live in harmony with nature and you support renewables. Another thing you do regularly? Is recycle.
I have an affinity with you, and I find that due to my own value systems pretty much all my friends, and some of my family (that are on Facebook at least) show me they have similar values as well. It’s easy to live in this bubble of thinking that everyone agrees with me, and together we’re changing the world through every ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ but let’s face it, we all have those in our circles who don’t, and because of this you probably share a similar frustration.
Do you ever wonder why? I do.
Let’s take recycling for example. A simple thing really. And while recycling can cover a broad range of materials, let’s just look at general household waste.
We have labels on our yellow bin lids telling us what can go into those bins and what can’t and yet, I’m sure (especially if you live in a unit or townhouse block where you need to sometimes ‘share’ these bins as I do), you will come across abuse of these bins nearly every day. The worst is when someone moves out and they run out of room in their normal rubbish bin and then just dump non-recyclable objects of any kind into these bins to over-flowing and just leave it for the rest of us to deal with. The other common mistake I see dumped into these bins are supermarket plastic bags containing items for recycling. Plastic bags in these bins is not acceptable.
So why does this happen?
Do they just not understand or are misinformed? Are they disorganised? Is it ignorance? Do they just not care? Is it laziness? Or a combination of some or all of these things? If you are a responsible recycler and have also witnessed this kind of thing, what did you do about it? Have you ever confronted a person about their recycling habits? Or did you decide to just ‘mind your own business’, because you’re not comfortable with confrontation and hoped someone else would do it?
I started to think about this in the same way those who campaign for anti-bullying or anti-violence do, in that while we may be ‘doing the right thing’ ourselves, we are in effect enabling the problem by not confronting or intervening with those who don’t. Surely, there has to be a non-confrontational safe way to address this with our families, neighbours, workplaces and friends?
During National Recycling Week, I decided to do some research into why people don’t recycle and I came across a great article by Ronnie Citron-Fink of Care2 who looked at the top 5 reasons people don’t recycle. The reasons may or may not surprise you.
Please avail yourself to Ronnie’s article for the full details however, in review the responses were:
Recycling is inconvenient.
I do not have enough space in my home to recycle.
If they paid me, I’d recycle.
Recycling doesn’t make a difference. So why do it?
It is just too hard to do.
Ronnie obviously also gives the 5 counter arguments for why people ‘should’ recycle, which may be useful if you want to raise the subject (in a non-confrontational way) with those who don’t being:
Recycling saves energy.
Recycling reduces landfills.
Recycling preserves our resources and protects wildlife.
Recycling is good for the economy.
Recycling helps our climate problems.
That said. Perhaps a simple answer to help ‘avoid’ confrontation in the first instance, would be for all bins to not only have a label on them saying what ‘can’ go into the bins, but perhaps alongside those labels another which incentivises stating those 5 reasons?
It should at least appeal to those who say ‘if they paid me I’d recycle.’
Shame we have to give a financial incentive though isn’t it? Especially when the alternative to voluntary participation means the whole planet, including the humans that rely on it, will ultimately pay in the long run.
According to PlanetArk: “Australia is currently ranked in 13th place on the OECD Recycling Ranking. That’s behind countries such as Germany, South Korea and Britain, yet ahead of countries such as France, the USA and Canada.”
Fellow Aussie recyclers, we can do better than that! It’s time to get our friends on board as well. To help get them started, why not share this PlanetArk video with your friends, then follow this PlanetArk link to find events on how you can get involved in National Recycling Week, 7 – 13 November, 2016?
During the week of 17th – 25th September all across Australia is National Organic Week (NOW).
The theme for this year’s event is “Taste the Difference, Feel the Difference, Make a Difference” and organisers are hoping to raise awareness of the benefits of organic products and farming production systems to help propel these initiatives further in the Australian community and the environment via local activities.
The event has the support of State and Local Governments and has kicked off some great new incentives and actions. One of these actions is to work towards implementing a new logo or seal for all organic products certified in Australia. While this is the case in other countries such as the USA and Canada, Australia instead has six individual certification bodies to certify organic food and products, each with their own logo. While all are accredited by the Australian Government having six certification standards makes it very confusing for the consumer. Those authorised bodies being:
To continue to not have one easily recognisable seal can create a negative perception amongst consumers trying desperately to ascertain real organic products, especially when some products claiming to be ‘certified organic Australian’ products can be misleadingly labelled imports and others labelled as ‘Free Range,’ ‘Natural,’ or ‘Quality,’ are not necessarily certified organic.
As Ambassador of National Organic Week, Costa Georgiadis says – “As consumers, you want food you can recognise and trust. Buying organic products supports food safety, health, good nutrition and the environment. Products that carry the logo of an accredited organic certification body are guaranteed to be genuine organic.”
But isn’t buying organic more expensive?
Well, yes it is, but prices have been coming down dramatically. One of the reasons for this is due to main supermarket players stocking organic more and more.
According to the Australian Organic Food Directory, food prices correlate to the costs of growing, harvesting, transportation, storage, processing and packaging. The reason why organic food is more expensive is due to production being more labour and management intensive due to it happening on a smaller scale (smaller farms). In comparison however, if we look at the indirect costs of conventional food production, the costs associated with eroded soil replacement; polluted water cleanup; and the costs of health care for farmers, farm workers, consumers and environment due to artificial pesticide production and disposal – then organic food works out to be much cheaper.
What about yield, doesn’t that also push up the price?
True, smaller farms cannot compete with the bigger ones, but this doesn’t always affect yield. Organic farming just means that the production yields are more often not lower. This is due to organic food not needing the use of artificial fertilisers, pesticides and other technological aids to keep it ‘fresher longer’ which is why we need to change the trend in Australia. In other countries where organic production is of a higher proportion to standard farming practices, the price of organic food is coming down. Depending on where you live in Australia can also affect the purchase price of organic fruit and vegetables, so best to shop as locally as possible, farm to table.
6 Reasons to give Organic a Go!
Know what’s in your food
Reduce your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals
Know what you put on your skin
Humane treatment of animals
Help combat climate change
Help protect our wildlife
All great incentives to make the change! For the nitty gritty get the low down from the National Organic Week website here.
How you can benefit or participate in National Organic Week
Firstly, if you’re wanting to purchase organic and don’t know where to start, your best bet is the Australasian Organic & Natural Directory. Where everything is listed by State, then by item, and the categories may surprise you. Not only do they cover food, but they also have listings for everything from needs for babies and children, to house, garden, pets, clothing, therapies and more.
If you don’t have a backyard, or your green thumb could do with some assistance, why not join a local community gardening group? Check out your local council website for details. Local groups can be found via the Gold Coast City Council website.
Eat Your Backyard Event – Saturday October 22nd: 9.30am – 3.00pm
While not part of Organic Week, coming up in October, Gecko proudly presents their own free community event “Eat Your Backyard” and invites you and your family and friends to join us at the beautiful Country Paradise Parklands in Nerang.
As part of the event Gecko are delighted to have Jerry Coleby-Williams of ABC Gardening Australia and Prof Catherine Pickering from Griffith University to deliver engaging talks on creating sustainable urban gardens whilst providing food for ourselves as well as our native wildlife.
During the day there will be information and demonstrations on growing edible produce and native plants in any space while promoting urban food resilience.
Fun activities for the kids including an Eat Your Hat parade.
Displays and demonstrations on:
– Urban bee keeping and native bees
– Worm farms
Award winning revegetation examples by Nerang River Keepers.
Tours of the Nerang Community Gardens.
Stall holders, delicious food and more!
So mark your calendars and come along for a fun day and stay for a picnic in the park. We look forward to seeing you there!
There are three days on the environmental calendar each year that like to remind us about how we get around.
They remind us about distance. And while many of us would like to be able to have the convenience of having everything within walking distance, the truth is we often can’t live near to where we work or learn, close to those we love, places we enjoy or where our food and water sources are. Those three days also serve to make us think about how often we find ourselves sitting in order to get from A to B, and how this affects our fitness levels. In short, these three days are mostly there to focus our attention on how much we rely on modes of transport to help us get to where we need to go, and to address our habits and alternatives.
The three days each year I’m referring to are World Car Free Day held on September 22nd, Ride to Work (or school) Day on October 12th and National Walk to Work (or School) Day on November 11th, and while the immediate health benefits of walking, cycling or skateboarding to where we need to go are important, those two days are there to highlight another bigger issue that many try to ignore or others who do care may either feel powerless to control, or due to circumstances, are unable to do much about which affects our health in other ways. That big issue is climate change.
Australia being the big country that it is, with a constant urban sprawl growing to house an ever increasing population, relies on all sorts of wheels to keep it and us moving every single day. The consequence of this is that our transportation is a leading contributor to climate change. In fact, Australia produces almost 46 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per annum. The average family’s transport is estimated to generate about six tonnes of greenhouse gas each year, mostly due to car usage. On a global scale that equates to 16% of emissions from transportation alone (more than any other sector) in Australia, contributing to the world’s greenhouse gases, and it’s increasing.
So how can we improve this? Most would say, ‘Simple! We need to remove cars and rely on cleaner ways to get us to where we need to go.’ Well that’s easier said than done, but it’s only part of the solution. There are actually quite a few ideas out there coming at this from different angles.
Firstly, the obvious one and the one we hear most about is the provision of more efficient and cleaner public transport, whereby we leave our cars at home and commute en-masse, however public transport largely relies on demand based destinations and often we’ll find public transport won’t get us to where we want to go. Another solution is to make our cars greener in terms of fuel emissions, however, costs of these vehicles can still often be prohibitive and even if we could all afford more eco-friendly cars, while this may address emissions, it still doesn’t remove vehicles from the road. The real answer lies in the changing of habits, lifestyles and attitudes.
Sustainability isn’t just about reducing emissions, it’s also about the impact of lifestyle in the bigger picture. Travel also impacts our mental health and relationships. It also affects the health of the planet in other ways too. For example, the need to grow food on large areas of agricultural land outside of cities impacts the planet when that food needs to be transported to the cities. Car production and manufacture also has an impact on the planet from the burning of fossil fuels to power the manufacturing plants that either create or assemble auto components; then there is the mining of metals required, toxic wastes produced and the list goes on. The best solution I’ve come across is to ‘design cities around people and not cars’ as per urbanist Jeff Speck during this great TED Talk about The Walkable City. Perhaps if what Jeff says inspires you, you’ll do more than just have a car free day or walk to work, and instead put your better foot forward and become an Actioneer with Gecko’s Climate Change for Good, who need and can support people like you, who want to bethe change you want to see.
In the meantime, go ahead and put your best foot forward and ‘walk!’(ride, scooter or skateboard) it will do yourself and the planet good!
For more resources, events, incentives and information check out these links:
References: Greenhouse.gov.au  Woodward, A, Hales,S and Hill, SE. Protecting the Planet – The motor car and public health: are we exhausting the environment. Medical Journal of Australia 2002; 177 (11/12):592-593
Images: Feet ascending concrete stairs: Jake Hills via unsplash.com CC0 City traffic jam:Nabeel Syed via unsplash.com CC0 One Way sign: gratisography via pexels.com CC0 Bicycle with ‘work’ sign in window: Javier Calvo via unsplash.com CC0 Man walking past ‘Good’ graffiti on wall: Volkan Olmez via unsplash.com CC0
* This article also features on Hills to Headlands for Gecko – Gold Coast & Hinterland Environment Council. Link to original article on Hills to Headlands.
All around Australia on Friday July 29th, children in kindies, pre-schools, primary and high schools will again be getting their hands dirty and discovering their green thumbs for . . .
National Schools Tree Day!
This is a fun and literally hands-on experience to help establish a long-term environmental program which not only further develops children’s scientific knowledge but can also help develop other key learning areas such maths and creative arts, while also transforming school grounds into gardens with trees and other sustainable garden beds.
While learning to care for seedlings as they germinate and grow, children learn to understand the life-cycle of plants and also appreciate the length of time it takes to re-grow a forest and understand better why they need to be preserved and protected. In years to come these students will hopefully be able to re-visit these seedlings as fully grown trees.
Once a school is registered they can access many resources both on and offline including:
An Organiser’s Toolkit containing all sorts of posters, flyers, banners, planting resources, certificates, and much more;
Seed Sticks for the class to help them label their seedlings;
and be in the running to win a $7500 schoolyard makeover!
At Tree Day Planet Ark you will find other resources, support and of course ‘trees!’ and Planet Ark’s full report titled ‘Adding Trees – A Prescription for Health, Happiness and Fulfilment’ which shares research to support that, when people spend more time connecting with trees and nature and less time with devices and screen time, this results in happier, healthier, brighter and calmer people who are better able to connect with each other. On the website there is also a link to a video by Justin Bogardus of Nature RX called ‘Grow More – Just Add Nature with National Tree Day 2016‘, which is a satire exploring this theme with innovative storytelling and a strong ‘call-to-action’ to get outside and embrace nature’s good medicine.
You can also connect with others celebrating National Tree Day via their Facebook page, where you can discover other great videos and resources on how to become involved and share your experiences.
Kids can also get involved outside of school by taking part in free, fun activities being held at Bunnings DIY-nature craft workshops on the weekend of Tree Day in stores all across Australia except for South Australia. To find out more details about what is happening at your local Bunnings log in here and put in your post code.
To find out more or to join one of Gecko’s Bushcare groups to help restore vegetation within each site back to its natural vegetation type and improve the habitat for native wildlife there. Visit the Gecko Bushcare page and check Gecko’s Bushcare group calendar for an area close to you, along with contact details and times.
Gold Coast residents, body corporates and schools can also pick up trees from the City of Gold Coast (City) nursery. For details, visit the City of Gold Coast website.