The video above is a 16min presentation I prepared for Zero Waste Victoria’s Zero Waste Festival, but I wanted to share it here too as it’s a great summary of many of the things I have been doing and thinking about for the past few months. I will also provide the transcript below for those who prefer to scan the content. There are some photos in the presentation that are not in the content below.
Hello, my name is Tammy Logan and I’ve been writing the zero waste blog, Gippsland Unwrapped for 5 years now, it’s where I share my experiences trying to reduce waste as much as possible in a rural setting.
I chose the name Gippsland Unwrapped because local living and community are very important for environmental, social and health reasons. Gippsland is my place. I’m connected to the people and environment here and so my blog name represents the importance of living local to live sustainably. And the ‘Unwrapped’ part refers to avoiding packaging but also to revealing sustainable solutions.
However, recent circumstances have really prompted me to reflect on and marvel at how staying at home has opened my eyes even further to what is around me and how I can make use of resources I already had. By doing that I reduce the impacts of my consumption and how much waste I produce.
In addition, many people have asked recently “is Corona Virus the end of the Zero Waste movement?”, and without hesitation I say “no, it is not”.
In fact, I feel that the zero waste movement can thrive under challenging conditions like this because I believe the zero waste movement makes us more resilient and self-reliant and therefore highly adaptable to change.
Zero Waste has always meant more than reusable cups, bags, straws and containers. It’s about how we can best maximise resources and minimise waste. And there are endless ways to do this when we use our imagination and pay attention to our surroundings. So I hope my story today, is proof of this.
Initially, the Stay At Home Restrictions and cancellations of our activities over the past 3 months created the time and mental space I needed to accomplish things on my to-do list. I was finally able to repair a blanket and board game that I’d actually been putting off for more than a decade!
I was also able to expand my knowledge and experience in new projects like home brew apple cider.
I think many people can relate to my experience of having more time to focus on passion projects, repair projects, or trying something new.
But as the weeks went on and I was crossing things off my to-do list I began to notice how the extra time and mental space was allowing me to get to know my place in more depth.
Getting to know my place was not on the to-do list, it was just a consequence of slowing down and having the mental space to pay attention to my surroundings.
Even though I consider myself a resourceful person, I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve been able to accomplish at my home without leaving it, so I think my experience really validates the benefits of the slow living and frugal living movements and home-based lifestyles.
Now before I share some of the ways that getting to know my place has allowed me to reduce waste, I should give you a bit of background about my place (see some pictures in the presentation).
I live in rural Gippsland, Victoria. We moved to our current residence 18 months ago which is a rental property with a house on one and quarter acres with established gardens and the remnants of an old orchard (mostly apple trees, hence the cider making adventure). The house is 50 years old and prior to that another house had existed on the land. Our landlord owns and runs the farm land surrounding us. And I’d like to acknowledge that The Traditional Owners of the land are the Bunurong People.
So what did I discover?
It all really started with deciding to make more vegetable garden beds, I only had a small one I set up quickly after we first moved in. I’d actually been grieving the loss of my garden at the last place we lived in, but under these circumstances I was motivated to start producing more food again. This motivation cascaded into working in and learning more about the existing ornamental gardens and orchard. And so I just began discovering things on the property.
I discovered lots of useful plants that I hadn’t even noticed prior to our lockdown. These plants included:
– a pot full of aloe vera plants hidden behind bushes
– another plant that looks a lot like dragon fruit, which is very unlikely where I live but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll be able to eat this fruit later in the year
– different types of edible mushrooms, which then progressed into me learning how to clone them with simple equipment I already had.
– Hawthorn trees which are a weed but the haws and leaves are edible and make a great tea. The wood is also meant to be good for carving projects.
– I realised I was surrounded by other edible weeds (which I’m still learning about) but Cats Ear and Dandelion where prolific in April so I focused on learning about those and harvesting their roots to make Dandelion Coffee! It tastes great.
– I found roses hidden in random parts of the garden and some had rosehips. I don’t know much about roses so I had to look them up and make sure they were rosehips and then I looked up what sorts of uses they had. I made another tea from mine but you can make syrups, jellies and other thigs from them. They are projects for future years.
– My new found knowledge of different edible mushrooms led me to keep an eye out for pine trees around the property and on our walks to see if I could find the famous pine mushroom and slippery jack. But because I was now tuning into my surroundings, I noticed for the first time in 18 months that there were pine trees 10metres from the top of our driveway on the main road. I never noticed because I was always going passed in the car with the goal of getting from A to B and probably C whilst thinking about what to do for dinner. And I’d never walked down the main road until social distancing measures were in place because I thought it was too dangerous. I didn’t find any mushrooms there but I suddenly realised I had an amazing resource available for mulching my raspberries. Raspberries like the slight acidic environment provided by pine needles. So I grabbed the wheelbarrow and started hefting it to my raspberry patch. Prior to this I had been thinking about what I needed to buy.
– On another occasion my kids came back from a walk and said they’d found a chestnut tree by our landlord’s shed. I thought “wonderful, another source of food to forage!” and went to collect some. I noticed they were a bit different to my mother in law’s chestnuts and I vaguely knew of poisonous horse chestnuts so I did some research which confirmed the kids had found horse chestnuts, also known as conkers. Around the same time I had noticed another chestnut look-a-like in the garden and eventually established that it was a buckeye tree. All my research about these plants led me to discover that they are in the same plant family as the laundry agent, Soap Nuts, and also contain saponins which is the soap like chemical in soap nuts. I’ve since been experimenting with using horse chestnuts and buckeye nuts to create washing liquid and it works quite well. If you love soap nuts you can imagine how exciting it is to be self-sufficient in them.
I also found resources in the garden that weren’t just plants. I found:
– Lots of wire fencing and old tree guards under dense trees. I’ve repurposed some of it as garden trellis and reused some of it to fix up the fencing in the orchard which will allow us to keep a sheep or two in there.
– An old post which I have repurposed into a garden sculpture and I’ve also found some rusty metal sheeting which I want to attempt to make into something arty.
– One of the most surprising finds for me was finding a little tank full of soft drink bottles from the 70s as well as a sauce bottle from the 50s hidden behind a thicket of holly. I’ve been able to clean all the bottles for reuse and after winching the tank out from its hiding area we have decided to use that as a fire pit in the backyard.
– Whilst on the topic of bottles, I also found some Fowlers Vacola 1 pint juice bottles which were made between 1915 and 1960 tucked out of view in a corner of a cupboard in the house when I was looking for potential apple storage areas. I’ve restored the seals on these for reuse as well.
– I found enough scattered, mostly buried garden rocks to put together to make new garden borders.
– Similarly, with bricks
– And there was plenty of fallen timber to cut up and repurpose into garden borders. I have saved heaps of money in making the gardens look nice in this way, as well as reducing consumption of resources and generating waste.
– Finally, there was an old bathtub in the paddock just next to the backyard so I used that to build a worm farm, along with bricks, wood, and wire found on the property. I finished it off with a few extra items I salvaged from my local community.
Now to finish off, I’ll share some examples of the things I discovered in my local community that I have been able to use because our local community makes up part of our ‘place’ and might be more important for some people whose place doesn’t include as much land as mine.
Through my local community I have been able to obtain:
– free fence pailings for the worm farm and other little DIYs
– a free timber box which we turned into a wicking bed
– about 100 free plants from someone re-doing their garden
– a free garden shed frame a roof which we are turning into a cubby house
– and lots of free glass windows and glass panes that we are using to create a glass hot house.
Now I know many people will be thinking, “this isn’t possible for me where I live, I don’t have access to this sort of stuff” but my point is, how do you know that?
I didn’t know any of this stuff was available to me until I had the time and motivation to explore, learn and have a go.
Have you really taken the time to really get to know your place and the ways it can help you maximise resources and minimise waste?
Additional Waste Savers
Since producing the presentation there have been a few extra ways I have saved waste from using things I already have at home. Check them out below: