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obligation

It was only a little purchase, but a purchase all the same.

For the second time in less than 6 days I bought something new ! So much for Buy Nothing New Month !

On the scale of severity though, pretty low…..two postcards.

This week was Kaurna Language Week in Adelaide and I had a few appointments in the city on this Day 6. With a bit of spare time between meetings I made my way to visit (for the first time) Tandanya  – Adelaide’s Aboriginal-owned arts centre celebrating their 25th anniversary. After being enthralled by stories from elder artist Bluey Roberts supervising his 50 year-long collection and taken by stunning splashes of colour and social commentary in Kunyi McInerney’s acrylics – I wandered into the gift shop.

Silly girl. I didn’t need to buy anything.

But I was distracted by feelings, daydreams and emotions. The purchase came from a sense of obligation & thanks – I had viewed and enjoyed the modern works and was extremely moved by the early watercolours and observations of first European explorers of Adelaide’s Aboriginal family groups.

So some bright classic dot images seemed like the perfect antidote to my mixed feelings.

Never thought it was going to be so difficult to maintain a daily focus ! My initial expectation for this October’s exercise was to genuinely buy NOTHING new for the whole month, but like an extreme diet, I had to admit this wasn’t working. So now I’ve decided to let a drip-feed of teeny consumption go by un-judged, as long as there’s an element of responsibility.

I’ve since found out Tandanya operates under the Indigenous Art Code, a nation wide code of conduct that means with  a purchase a minimum of 60% of the retail price is returned to the artist or art centre. So a bit less of a feeling of failure from the point of this anti-consumption exercise.

In hindsight I should have made a donation to the centre. But it was at least a relatively responsible purchase.

Your thoughts?


willunga

How easy was that ?!

A long weekend Buy Nothing New Month success story.

My husband & I had the long weekend to ourselves in town – our kids were away visiting grandparents. The ONLY purchase made over the entire 3 days was a single bike tyre!

As I said in the first “Adelaide’s Buy Nothing New Month” blog I thought making essential purchases like food, toiletries, medication, etc was a fair exclusion from the exercise  – don’t think they need to count. Perhaps next year the rules might change a little for essentials (depending on this month’s efforts).

We definitely considered the tyre to be essential. It was bought to replace a flat I discovered on my bike (of course found once we were an hour out of the city). It was really satisfying to have that tyre be the only “something new” and better still, that the weekend was spent without deliberate restraint, effort or sense of “doing without”.

For the 3 day weekend, we decided to stay local. After looking at websites of quaint rural tourist towns and places on our love-to-see list we realized accommodation would be hard to find, we’d have to jostle with others who were also looking for “a quiet weekend away” and overall we would be just as relaxed and happy having a “staycation“.

We did take a day trip to McLaren Vale (Photo courtesy of Weekend Notes blog). That’s where the bike tyre was purchased. Thanks local bike shop ! We rode for almost 3 hours along some gently rolling trails, through vineyards, suburbs, sometimes with views of the sea. We didn’t feel any time pressure.

Another day we were fortunate enough to go offshore in a friends boat for a few hours, mostly just bobbing about & talking and for half an hour (on the way home) we were lucky enough to pull in a few squid – which we cooked for dinner!

I want to suggest here that shopping is sometimes a convenience, a habit. That sometimes when some people are just not sure what to do with themselves, they shop. Could this be true?

We found by physically removing ourselves from commercial spaces, by being well immersed in “recreation”, by not feeling time-poor, by hanging out with friends in simple locations with a little something to do to keep us occupied, by not looking actively for “entertainment” we were well entertained and the thought of shopping (for anything!) was the furthest thing from our mind.

Simply lovely.


consumption

The easiest way to fall into the consumption trap is to stop thinking. Lose consciousness. Not be in the present moment.

Here’s an example…….

It was only Day 2 of Buy Nothing New Month. I was feeling a sense of scarcity. It’s almost 2 years since we left Canada, and still we have not yet bought a house in Adelaide and it’s starting to frustrate our family. My mind was wandering around, mentally predicting the future, what our new home might be like, how the kids would get to school…….and that’s when it happened.

Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a complete fail. I didn’t BUY anything.

But I consumed. I fell for pure promotion. Walking mindlessly past an real estate agency I snapped up a FREE glossy catalogue of “for sale” houses – a fat book of shiny counter tops and gleaming swimming pools.

I didn’t need this item. It’s life span was a mere 15 minutes. It didn’t give us a house lead, there were only a page of Adelaide houses anyway.

End result – recycled in disgust, and a new vow to try & keep my head out of my thoughts and in the here & now.

Stay tuned !


emptycart

In the following 30 days of posts we’ll see how much I can try and avoid buying. And what are some of the traps and remedies………

I’m new to Buy Nothing Month, and think it might be an Aussie reincarnation of an idea from North America.

So, here’s a bit of history.

* Buy Nothing Day began its life as a day in Canada in the 1990’s as a protest against consumerism.

* In 1997 it was moved from October to November and the day after the American Thanksgiving. This day, otherwise known as “Black Friday” became known to be a day of major traffic jams and huge chain store discounts.

* In recent times some major US chains began opening their stores at midnight (!) in an effort to stimulate more hype and more sales.

* In 2008 a woman died in a Wal-Mart store due to a customer stampede at opening time. Other disturbing incidents have occurred since then.

The idea behind Australia’s BNM is to encourage us all to move from a consumption-driven society to a community-driven one. What a noble goal.

A 2005 paper from the Australia Institute by Clive Hamilton Richard Denniss and David Baker tells us  “Aussies have admitted to spending over $10 billion every year on goods we do not use: clothes and shoes we never wear, CDs we never listen to, DVDs we never watch and food we never eat and each year in Australia nearly 20 million tonnes of waste goes to landfill. By way of comparison, this amount exceeds spending by Australian governments on universities and roads.”

So, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

I will eat, I will purchase essential medication, deodorant, etc. I might buy experiences. I’ll try really hard NOT to buy THINGS (especially new ones). And I will work through how to still enjoy myself, live well and fully without being a miserable scrooge.

The first day presented itself easily. Lots of work to do, phone calls, distractions. Exercised in the lunch-hour which is a great way NOT to be lured into shopping. First day – easy. No purchases.

But I did order a book from a newsagent about collage and they called that afternoon to say it’d arrived.

Hmmmn….what to do, what to do. Well, firstly, I didn’t call them back. The book sold out the first time it was in, so I doubt it will sit on the shelves and cost them. They are a vibrant, local store. Someone else will buy it and I can go in and apologize later.

I’m a bit nuts about collage  so immediately I knew I could set aside some time researching collage artists on the net. I could print out favourites if desperate (still paper I know, but it would only be a small selection, like I would only like a small selection from the book). I’ve found that the book is for sale second-hand on Amazon, or I could trawl through the library and see if they have a copy.

So first challenge ! Easily accommodated by deferral of gratification and by simply thinking about possible alternative choices. And the choices sound really quite satisfying ! I’ve not joined my local library, so there’s an immediate “to-do”.

Day one. Easy-peasy.

 


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In 2004, my 5 year old stopped and yelled back to me from his scooter. On seeing his new school in our adopted home of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada he cried “it looks like a gaol”!

It was the first stomach sink for this earnestly biophilic (nature-loving) Mum. The initial view took in blank brick walls, asphalt, fences, barred windows and a grassy field.

So concerned was I that my normally rural, barefoot, tree climbing, tadpole torturing, Aussie outdoor rascals might be restricted by the long winter weather, influenced by sense of cultural appropriateness away from outdoors – I resorted to sneaking in huge limbs from fallen trees into the school yard on weekends…..

After that, there were failed attempts at bringing in “stepping stone” logs into the playground (too dangerous). The veggie garden I laboured in with the Grade 3’s was wipper-snipped completely to the ground one summer by School Board contractors. No murals could be painted on any walls (a union matter), no snowball throwing in winter (eye injuries).

Finally, the mood shifted and I felt a sense of vindication as Richard Louv launched the Children and Nature Network in 2006 following the incredible success of “Last Child in the Woods”. So at last I wasn’t alone. He toured the continent and I furiously scribbled notes. The 2008 US Leave No Child Inside Act was passed, the American NFF came up with “Green Hour“. In the media at least it appeared that the shift was occurring.

But the greatest shift in my family came from a simple concept. Trust. We couldn’t manipulate the thinking of educators at that time, in that place, but we could trust that our family values of outdoors, nature and freedom would endure. It didn’t have to come from a campaign, from education materials, the media or any other external source.

It came from within. Most of all (through yoga, reflection and mindful practice) somehow we learnt to trust that our kids could find genuine wild spaces to occupy and arrange their own company with similarly-interested friends. And as soon as that happened – voila, a local creek emerged and transformed to magical kingdom status.

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Without us they met friends, assembled fishing gear and found fish. They discovered (and were smart enough to avoid!) a coyote den. It was our youngest (then just 8) who dragged us down to share a newly beaver-chewed maple grove. We seemed to imperceptibly adopt the creek from then on – I skated on ice sheeted ponds along the water way edges through the grey February “blahs”, they geocached like mad and our dog hauled himself through snow banks twice as deep as he was high. It became “our place”.

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So this Nature Play week, the best reflection/learning we’ve picked up in now a decade of fighting our own “nature-deficit” disorder has been not to.

Not to fight.

Not to be overly earnest in our neediness to get them back into the bush. Sure we’ve looked at the “51 Things to do before you’re 12″  but none of us can recall the few things that haven’t been completed. I’m sure they’ll be part of our kids lives in times to come.

We have made conscious choices not to be driven by fear nor lament what might be being lost as their childhood years go by. They are but a product of their times. If we conjure up too-strong a sense of neediness or scarcity, this plays right into our modern anxiety-riddled, helicopter-parent psyche. It might directly contribute to holding us back.

I get a sense we shouldn’t make our loss too explicit, though it is very real. I want instead to teach our kids about forgiving what is now and visualizing a preferred future.

So trust. Sit a minute with a child. I guarantee you if you sit for long enough even in the most built-up of city conditions your child can still recognize and delight in the sound of a bird calling. It’s still there, it will always be there. But it’s sound can only be heard if it is truly what YOU value and what you’re willing to do (or not do!) in order to hear its song.


adelaidegreengreats

I want to know who’s who.

Where are the best eco-products? Who has the greenest stays? Where do I source a socially-responsible financial advisor? What is the leading sustainable school doing?

So, in an effort to find out I’m setting a goal – a weekly round-up, an ABC of Adelaide sustainability. Maybe I’ll get one a week, so the alphabet twice over?

Luckily, this week is Velo-City Adelaide, THE international conference of cycling. So there’s “B is for Bikes” covered. As well, I think starting out with a welcome from country would be appropriate, so the A list has to begin with the most sustainable of all, our first people. As for the rest, I am looking for input. Do you have any favourite Adelaide A’s of sustainability?

So far this is what I have :

A – Aboriginal (a leader, someone who can relay aboriginal culture in the context of modern sustainability)

A – Accommodation (the Hilton say they are the ones, or is it more Amber’s Organical Retreat?)

A – Apps – Is it called “Ripe Near Me”? (Will have to look that up)

A – Architecture (a toss up between perhaps Troppo or Christies’ Walk, I have no idea….)

A – Automotive, hmmmmm……. a thorny one

Going through a Yellow Pages-like list of sustainable Adelaide is fascinating. It is an exercise in thinking about the many diverse organizations, products and services as a single sector, which is not quite ideal. What is ideal is if those people can support one another and promote their good work and by being identified as leaders inspire others.

Thankfully there are those who have already grounded me & said “but how will you measure it”?

I agree, it is pretty subjective, but I am not sure a measured and strict framework would help. I’m looking for conversations, I’m looking for debate about option A vs. option B, since that is real, that is how sustainability is for almost everyone – that’s both the beauty and the beast.

Any suggestions are most welcome.

 

 


purslane

I’m a big fan of purslane.

Pulled it out of veggie gardens thousands of times as a kid, but it wasn’t until a wise Canadian friend pointed out its benefits that I came to appreciate this inconsequential weed and it’s contribution to food foraging. Enter Eating Niagara, and Tiffany Mayer – a local food writer & advocate from my old home town – everything you could want to know about purslane can be found on her blog. Nutritional content outline and some lovely simple recipe combinations.

And more locally, Tricia from “little eco footprints” in NSW chimes in with some information about the value of purslane as an indigenous foodstuff. I had no idea. It has an extraordinary amount of Omega-3’s (more than any plant stuff apparently), anti-inflammatory properties and was used historically by sailors to protect against scurvy.

I just like the idea of propaganda gardening, that is how any little patch of dirt in the public realm can be turned into a space to grow food. How well suited this little plant would be. Purslane grows abundantly once the hot weather eases and is a perfect autumn salad foodstuff. For example I found my tonne of greens just sprouting on a gravelly  verge in the rather comfortable suburb of Malvern in Adelaide – where most folks wouldn’t be caught dead taking someone else’s weeds home to eat. But that’s kinda why I like the idea. Love to challenge the status quo.

Hence “Purse Lane”. I’d like to name a lane way somewhere here with a moniker that hints of wholesome-retro goodness. And subtly reminds us that sometimes our wealth can be found right under our noses, in our back yards and streets. It would grow bunches of the stuff, and anyone could come and collect it. We could “eat the street”. A bit like Todmorden, where “open source food” grows all around town.

There are plenty of near-deserted back alleys and lanes. Looking into the Greening Alleyway movement that started in Chicago in 2006 and knowing how much effort has gone into the revitalization of back alleys and lanes in the urban centre of Adelaide in recent years I think it’s possible. We even tried it in Niagara a few years back with “Chive Walk”.

That’s about it.

Just a wish and an idea based on a few little flat leaves and a vision for improved local food security and reinvigoration of those dusty pieces of land that are forgotten at the end of suburban backyards……….


squidimage

Crow-eaters – what an incredible array of local seafood you have in this state !

From my newish-to-Adelaide perspective – it seems like this fabulous produce is  a little under underappreciated. We need to ditch the feathers in exchange for fins.

After all, you have Storm Boy at the Coorong, Tunarama at Port Lincoln and the most wildly-named Coffin Bay oysters all at your disposal. Deep, cold, unpolluted waters bring in world-class tuna, sardines and crustaceans. I think in recent years Australia’s National Dish has been announced as salt-n-pepper squid, which arguably South Australia owns. Now I’m not suggesting you take up corny tourism titles like “Australian’s Seafood Capital City” but it’s a world-class resource to both steward and appreciate.

Historically, the earliest human settlements in coastal areas were invariably based on clusters of rich sea life. Seafood is a major source of protein in the world – providing around 15% of human population requirements. There are so many healthy reasons to eat more seafood and I won’t go into detail here – but some include;

* Fish contains high levels of cholesterol-lowering Omega-3’s – so a high fish consumption diet provides healthy heart outcomes

* Oily fish consumption has been linked to healthy brain functions and lower dementia rates and may alleviate ADHD symptoms

* Seafood contains high levels of anti-oxidant minerals like zinc and selenium & Vitamin A

The big HOWEVER is – our fisheries are under great threat. 

The Sustainable Seafood (Australia) organization states 80% of the world’s fish stocks are either overexploited or exhausted. Poor management, overfishing, by-catch (where other species like dolphins, birds, turtles and coral are caught up in fishing gear and then discarded) have profoundly depleted this important food source. Several models point to complete depletion of wild stocks in only a few decades time.

Fortunately for us here at least, sustainable seafood can be easily sourced and we are one of very few fishery areas that are able to be classified as sustainable globally. Another positive is that consumer demand for sustainable seafood is growing rapidly.

Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide helps you take the first steps on the journey of discovering sustainable seafood. So wish I had’ve come up with this title for the blog  – Good Fish Bad Fish (or some other Suess-like phrase). Anyway, look them up – they write an excellent column on sustainable seafood.

In summary this is what to look for. In Part 2 I’ll talk about specifics for you to look out for…….

Eat lower, faster, smaller

This means eat smaller fish. They are usually faster breeding and thus able to bounce back more easily from over-fishing pressures. Garfish, sardines, whiting, prawns – rather than lobsters, snapper and tuna.

And the corollary – don’t eat larger fish with long lives

You wouldn’t eat a great-grandmother cow if you knew she was one, would you? Save the big old flathead, the large shark (“flake”) and the ancient sting rays (otherwise known as “skate”) – keep the aged and wise in the sea. Remember who was the wise teacher from Finding Nemo? Mr. Ray.

Ask where, who, how, etc

Many fish are fraudulently intentionally mis-named. I could write for days about this issue. With 1/3 of our spend going on purchasing fish species that are incorrectly and/or deliberately mis-identified, that’s an almost $1 billion annual fraud – we are losing out on knowing what we are eating, and thus seafood stocks can’t be correctly managed.

When shopping, ask about origin, fishing technique or aquaculture method.

Ask suppliers to identify species by its Standardised Fish Name.

Be Informed

Stop by the seafood counter more often. You can help save fish obviously by not eating fish at all, but you can make a big difference by actively engaging in educating yourself and others.

How often do you eat seafood? What kind? Would love your feedback.


naturesprovidore

There’s a saying you can only ever have 2 out of 3 when you are looking for a contractor; you can have good, cheap, or quick, but never all three.

At Nature’s Providore – while the criteria is totally different, I think you get 4 out of 3 every time. I contest it’s what you should be looking for every time you make any purchase, every time you cast a vote with your wallet….…….

As a sustainability practitioner, I have a problem with the above saying. While good is not negotiable, for me there is no such thing as cheap. What cheap means is that somewhere someone or something is being screwed by my choice – whether that’s exploited garment workers in Bangladesh not making the margins they deserve to provide for their family – or (more likely) something is being destroyed in our natural environment, too far away in distance and time for us to care.

And since this is a write-up about my favourite-ever cafe, quick isn’t relevant either – I know the people at the former Doof Doof cafe are genuine, hard working and always have customers best interests in mind. I am not looking for the same turnaround time as a drive-through. In today’s harried world, a wee minute’s delay in my order is a rare gift. A complaint about a wait (to me) equals an over-active entitlement gland………..

At Nature’s Providore it’s all about the GOOD. My health, my happiness. 

Firstly the physical things. It’s in a local neighbourhood and by the looks has been a storefront since the lot was built on (which in Adelaide means many, many decades ago). The 70+ year old (?) barely renovated rooms are simple, calming. All that is necessary, only that which is useful. There is a sense, a feeling of integrity as the well-worn door handles and bench seats attest – it’s a place people meet and spend decent amounts of time together in relative quiet, compared to many other cafes in this city. That in itself while not terribly rare, sets the stage for more.

The food and the juices are offered…….Not simply cooked or prepared. Glowing poached egg yolks are an almost weekly highlight of ours. I am thrilled to say my kids have come to love avocado & roast pumpkin seeds as a result of frequenting here (I could have never achieved that at home). Embarrassingly, I have whiled away many an hour there (writing job applications) and the nutty bliss balls and accompanying smiling characters have kept me upbeat! So statistically, if ever someone could have a bad experience it ought to be the regulars, but I’ve never heard a complaint from any of them.

The range of organic produce always comes with a back story about a farmer close by, a character who I’m more than happy to support. This week the 3 kinds of potatoes, the fiesta of capsicums, the striped eggplant and newly plucked  blackberries (yesterday) were brimming with goodness. I fill most of my weekly staples here – biodynamic milk with blobs of cream on top, local sourdough, Kangaroo Island eggs, Simon Bryant pulses. I have been healed by the Byron Bay superkraut. I don’t profess to know all of the brands and suppliers, but they have been researched, approved and  guaranteed as the healthiest, most sustainable options by the ever-knowledgable Kate.

I only know them by first name, but the proprietors are incredibly welcoming, should that be something you care for. And why wouldn’t you ? That’s a sustainable table. One where everyone is welcome and everyone is equally contributing along the supply chain.

Nature’s Providore is all about putting yourself, your health and your eating pleasure first, but at the same time granting equal privilege and status to those who got the food to your plate. A place to be is one one thing, a lovely community within a bonus and seriously healthy offerings to consume begets even more joy.

But the fourth piece, the crux for me? The patronage of what is worthy and the delivery of a desire for everyone to experience optimal health and optimal happiness. That includes the people at the start of the chain, the farmer, producer, baker, blender. It comes very naturally to this cafe. It underpins everything that they do.

So grateful to these providers of natural goodness.


So it’s difficult, complex, confusing and there is no correct answer.

Welcome to sustainability land.

You are overwhelmed? Yep. You are disillusioned? Sometimes. You want to chuck it all in? NOPE. Not an option.

When I get like this I consider NOT how to find the “right answer”. Basically cos’ there isn’t one (that alone takes some getting used to as a concept in our rationally-minded modern world).

So instead I choose aspects of a product/criteria I am NOT willing to accept. Holding goods and services up to MY standards, rather than wading through thinking “oh, I don’t know, what is the right choice”?

Here’s an example from my bathroom. See Amarjit Sahota’s book about how the cosmetics industry is greening up and improving their product integrity.

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I haven’t the sweet foggiest what a sustainable shampoo really is. And I’m not really ready for egg-only shampoo – despite Deb Stewarts valiant efforts (on her “Sustainable Living Wise” blog).

But am thrilled not to have unnecessary synthetic fragrances & as yet-to-be-proven-safe paraben preservatives running down my torso a few times a week for the next few decades. (Btw parabens may be associated with breast cancer). And am pretty happy to use products with less foam, less water, recycled plastic bottles, etc too.

And the same goes for food. When I see a reverse-products list, that is, what’s NOT included, that’s 99% likely to be a more sustainable choice.

Look at this lovely chocolate.

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They are called treats after all – so don’t treat yourself with fillers, palm oil, and conventionally grown cocoa which is one of the highest pesticide-using crops out there. Look for what is left out. Consider the “what is left out” approach as a criteria for things that are special, your best treats ! Or the things you routinely consume or live with.

Same for your rare shop-bought drink, a big green no-no typically (in our house water in a carry bottle is the norm) but this is a-just-this-once and there was not a public tap to drink water from in sight…….

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It’s produced locally – in over 30 small-scale Australian locations – so fewer greenhouse gases used for transportation. I won’t do glass shipped miles and miles over the oceans & trundled over our roads in B-doubles. So the 10c refund logo always is a little extra benefit – kudos to South Australia for its healthy container return scheme that has operated continually since 1977.

So, apply these rules to everything – to your food, your clothes, your furniture. What don’t you want?

It’s pretty simple really. Just Don’t Do it.

That’s sustainability. No destination, just a journey……..