Local Action

Local Action.

 Having spent last weekend with thousands of other people at the Hulbert Street Sustainability Fiesta I thought it would be a good time to look at local action, because the guys in Hulbert Street have it down to a fine art.

Local actions are embracing concepts more familiar to older Australians including waste reduction and frugality, both valuable tools in the sustainability toolbox. Such tools ,far from threatening our enviable lifestyles can enhance them by freeing up money and time for other things.

Waste reduction is a no-brainer, yet still carries a stigma in some quarters of Australian society where conspicuous consumption continues to be seen as a virtue.  The interesting thing about reducing waste is, as well as saving money, it creates growth in discretionary spending.  Money not spent on waste can be used for life improving goods and services; this generates growth without increases  in consumption, a holy grail in sustainable accounting.

Examples of unproductive waste are;

  • leaving hot water systems turned on while away on holiday, consequently using power ($$$) to heat water no one will use while shortening the life of the heater
  • filling our oversized 240 litre rubbish bins every week with things we’ve bought but do not need or want.  I am thinking here about the large quantity of food we Australians buy ($$$) and discard, just in case we need it.

Avoiding this waste is often just a matter of thinking ahead; throwing a switch or asking the question ‘do I need this and will it improve my life’ before buying something destined for the rubbish bin!

Frugality is the next step, where we make changes in the way we do things to reduce our consumption and again the good news is this should enhance all our lifestyles.  For frugality to thrive we need a change in our mindset to place efficient use of physical resources foremost in our day to day decision-making.  If you have 4 tasks to do that require driving try combining them in one trip, this may require changing the timing on a task or using a different supplier or shop, the good news is you free up time spent driving for more desirable pursuits.  Around the home we can plan ahead to save power ($$$) in all sorts of ways, drying clothes on a line instead of using a dryer just requires a bit of thinking ahead.

Frugality is now the new design ethic.  Rationalising the capabilities of equipment to not have redundant capacity is becoming popular.  Whether that’s the Indian designed ECG machine (heart monitor) that costs a  fraction of the price of conventional machines, the reduced complexity allows it to be portable, or an Australian family choosing a vehicle that meets their transport needs rather than buying a 4X4 that never leaves the tarmac because of some subconscious dream planted by advertisers.

So back home to Hulbert Street, what makes the community there so special?  Many things, but in this context the whole street living as a family enhances frugality and reduces waste.  Things not needed by one household are taken up by another releasing the full lifecycle capabilities of products.  Street cooperation means for instance, only one vehicle goes to Bunnings on a Saturday morning rather than four.  Also, a positive vision for the future results in issues being considered opportunities rather than problems. Without such a mindset initiatives like FreoFarm would not have developed. www.freofarm.wordpress.com

With waste reduction and frugality Australians can embark on a path of sustainability with an enhanced lifestyle.  Now that’s a positive thought for the future.

Published in Fremantle Herald 2-10-2010

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