Thursday, June 13, 2019

Yes, Australian voters want climate action

Since the Australian election some have been worried that Australian voters seem unconcerned about climate change. However, ABC's Vote Compass shows the opposite.

While not many people changed the party they vote for, they are ready for (and expect) more climate action.

How much should we do?

The proportion of people saying we should do more has reached an all-time high. Also, the number of undecideds has decreased each election.

How many Australians want more action on climate change

Cross-party support

Across the four biggest parties, each party's supporters want more action rather than less. The highest are Greens (99-0) and Labor (96-0) supporters. A bit further back are Coalition supporters (59-13) and One Nation supporters (40-34).

Whilst some parties seem opposed to more action, every party's supporters think we should be doing more.

Which party's supporters want more action climate change? All of them.

What about policies?


Renewable energy is immensely popular with 86% of people saying there should be more of it.

The price on carbon emissions was abandoned by the current government. Yet still 68% of people agree with the Greens policy to bring it back.

Electric cars are also a popular idea with 72% saying that the government should do more to increase the number of electric cars in Australia.

What actions Australians want on climate change.

What does it mean?

Despite the increasing desire for action on climate change, the votes of all the parties remained almost identical to the last election. Perhaps people are sticking with their preferred party, but expecting them to do more.

It's interesting that we seem to be in favour of policies that politicians seems less keen to introduce. Will this be something they notice and begin to act upon? Or could this possible be the effect of political donations by companies that profit from polluting?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Zero waste election day?

Sometimes elections can seem like a high-waste event. Here are some tips to minimise the environmental impact of the day.

Why the flyers?

The info on the flyers is important in a federal election. The Senate is a crucial part of our democracy and for a Senate vote to be valid we need to number at least 6 parties in our order of preference.

Who are these people?

There are so many parties on the Senate ballot paper. Many have ambiguous or strange names, so it's hard to know exactly who you are voting for, or giving your preferences to.

You can do your own research - the ABC has a Senate Guide. Click your state at the top and you'll get a page with links to all the parties that are running in your state. For example, here is the Queensland list. [Edit: Buzzfeed also have this informative (and humourous) guide.]

But with 25-30 parties running in most states, many people find that too hard and opt to follow their favourite party's how-to-vote card.


What can we do

While the papers are important we can still minimise our impact - and the impact of others. Depending on your enthusiasm, here are several levels of waste reduction you can do.

Level 1

Only take flyers from candidates or parties that you are interested in. I see people take flyers from every party. I guess it seems polite but it's just a waste.

Level 2

Put any flyers you take in the recycle bin supplied at the booth, or at home.

Level 3

Take care of the flyer(s) you take so it's in good condition to return it to the volunteers. They can use it again.

Level 4

After voting, casually take a bunch of used flyers out of the recycle bin at the booth and return them to the volunteers for reuse. The more leftovers they have at the end of the day, the more confident they can be in printing fewer copies next time.

Going online

Parties are starting to put this information online. The Greens one is the most user-friendly. Labor also do it, but it seems to require a fair bit of personal information to be entered.

The Liberal party one is semi-functional. It's hard to tell what parties it suggests to preference. The names of other parties are either removed or too small to read (at least on my screen). I'm hoping this is poor design rather than a deliberate attempt to hide the identity of the party they suggest you give your preferences to.

Again the ABC provides a great resource of all the how-to-vote cards for each state. Here's the Queensland list. For other states click your state at the top of the page. It's handy to see them because each party's suggested preferences give you an idea of what they stand for.

Take heart

The sight of all this paper can be disturbing to the eco-minded. Bear in mind that good parties are now printing on recycled material and most of the paper is recycled afterwards.

Whilst they are very visible, federal elections are only once every three years. The stuff that happens every day of the year (and often out-of-sight) adds up to a far bigger impact than election day. Once the election is over let's get back to fixing those issues.

Try to walk or cycle to the polling booth. It avoids parking problems and positive environmental impact is even greater than what you do regarding flyers.

Monday, May 13, 2019

See the "Accelerate" documentary for free

The "Accelerate" documentary is now available to view for free! It's just under an hour, has featured at special screenings around the country and is now online for free.


The Accelerate documentary shows why we need climate action, and how collectively we can work together for a safe climate future.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Powershop - switch and save

We've recently switched our electricity provider to Powershop. I'm highly recommending it. Here are 8 reasons why it's a great choice.

Renewable energy makers

Whichever electricity retailer I choose, they're going to make a profit from me. I'd prefer that profit to go to a good company. Powershop is owned by Meridian Energy, which also makes renewable energy. That's the kind of company I like to support.


Greenest electricity provider

The Green Electricity Guide ranks electricity companies on their green credentials. This includes emissions from power stations they own, their policy positions on renewable energy and fossil fuels, their deals for solar consumers, and their promotion of energy efficiency.

Powershop tops the list every year and is one of only two companies with a 5-star rating.


Cheaper Electricity

Electricity costs are made up of two parts - the daily 'supply charge' and the 'usage rate'. Both of these are cheaper than our previous provider. Also, their pay-on-time discount applies to both areas. Other providers generally offer their discount only on the usage charge part of the bill.

To compare to your current provider, check out energymadeeasy.gov.au.

Extra "David-discount"

You won't see much advertising for Powershop. Instead of paying for TV ads, they just give the money to customers. What a great way to do business!

If you sign up with my special link you'll get $75 credit and so will I.


Top-ups

Powershop also does billing better. You can top-up your credit at any time (like a prepaid phone or a public transport card). You get a discount for doing this. For example you can buy $100 credit for just $85.

Smaller bills

Powershop bills monthly rather than quarterly. (Yay!) Apart from making it easier to budget for, it's also less of a shock because each bill is around one-third what you are used to paying. Powershop also lets you know a few days ahead of time, so you have a chance to double-check you have enough credit to cover the bill.

What about my solar panels?

The Energy Made Easy site doesn't really cater for solar households. You might have to compare the rates to your current bill. Generally their solar rates are good (part of their great environment score). Here's the link to check rates for your area.

What do other customers think?

Powershop is big in Victoria (their first state). Amongst its customers there it rates 5-stars in most categories and out-rates the major retailers by quite a margin.


Are there any negatives?

I know of only two possible negatives. The greenpower option is slightly more expensive (at least compared to my previous provider). However, as 100% Greenpower customers we found this small extra cost was offset by Powershop's great base prices. Even with our 100% Greenpower the overall cost was practically identical. The sign-on bonus was waaay more than the tiny difference in cost. We changed mostly to support a renewable energy company with better business practice. If you're not a purchaser of Greenpower, then you should have lower cost, and a sign-on bonus.

The only other thing is that your very first bill may be based on estimated usage. Powershop bills monthly, but physical readings are only done quarterly. So your first bill may seem bit low or high. This will even out once they've done a physical reading. Or you can choose to enter your own DIY meter readings via the website.

In summary

If you're looking for the cheapest deal, Powershop's a great choice.

If you're looking for the greenest electricity company, Powershop's a great choice.

If you'd like more for the solar power you export, Powershop's a great choice.

If you'd like to receive a sign-on bonus, Powershop's a great choice.

Here's my special link to get your $75 bonus credit.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Climate for Change

When the media and politics talk climate change there's we hear a lot about renewable energy versus coal. Fair enough, electricity does account for 34% of our country's emissions.

But what about the rest? ABC's Four Corners program did this documentary about Australia's emissions, where we are compared to the rest of the world, and what can be done to improve.

Here is my quick summary. You can also watch it online, or read the transcript.


Transport

19% of emissions
Transport emissions are growing because our population is growing and our demand for transport is increasing. Our vehicles are improving but not quickly enough to match our increased use.

We currently have no emission standard on vehicles. In the USA and Europe vehicles are more efficient and cheaper to run.

Some countries have already started phasing out petrol and diesel cars in favour of electric vehicles. Norway is the leader with 31% of new cars being electric. In Australia it's 0.2%.

Even in the UK, there are 29 affordable models of electric cars (under 60,000 AUD). Here in Australia we have 4.

Industry

30% of emissions
Australia is the world biggest exporter of natural gas (LNG). If the countries that buy this gas are burning it instead of coal, that's good for world emissions. But Australia's emissions are higher because of the energy used to extract, liquefy and transport it.

The industry's rate of improvement in energy use and carbon intensity is at the bottom of world standards. Why?

Australia has a 'baseline' system where big polluters are each given an emissions cap. If they exceed that cap they are penalised - at least in theory. One-third of big polluters have been allowed increase their cap. Emissions from these polluters is up 12% in the last four years.

The rules around changing the cap we changed last month. Bizarrely, they make increasing the pollution cap even easier.

Agriculture

15% of emissions
Agricultural emissions is usually a hard area to find reductions. There are a lot of methane emissions from livestock. However, Australia's science agency CSIRO has discovered a natural feed-additive that reduces livestock emissions to almost zero.

Electricity

34% of emissions
Electricity emissions are trending down as renewables replace coal and gas. Transgrid, the network operator in NSW say the last time they connected a coal power station to the grid was 1992. Wind and solar are very affordable now.

French company Neoen started in Australia in 2012, and now have built half their global capacity here. They say a long term goal is needed and that such a goal is not a burden but a certainty for investors.

At the moment 2/3 of Australia's power still comes from coal. These power stations are old and due to close. We need to start soon and do so in an orderly fashion, so that they don't all close at once.

Current Policies

The current government buys carbon reductions by giving money to projects that reduce emissions. Sounds good in theory, but there are two issues.

As discussed earlier, companies are being allowed increase their pollution so this "emissions reduction fund" is not reducing emissions, just trying to make up for industry's increase.

Secondly, some projects would still occur without the government funding. So we're spending money on projects that would happen anyway.

In short we're spending money we don't have to spend and emissions aren't reducing.

International commitments

So how will we meet our Paris target of a 26% reduction in emissions? The current government is looking to use "credits" from a previous time period where we met our targets.

One of the experts on the documentary said it's like failing your year 12 exams and trying to increase your mark because you got excellent results in year 8.

Also the Paris meeting was held in 2015. Next year all the nations gather again and are expected to improve their targets. The way we're going we can hardly reach the weak targets we currently have.

Conclusion

Despite Australia doing so poorly at the moment, there is much hope when we see what is possible. One of the experts has the opinion that "when the debate is over, the economy and people will move forward and take a lot of advantage". I'm looking forward to that.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Improve the world from your toilet

An obvious everyday action we can take is to recycle - and to buy products made from recycled material. A great example is the company Who Gives A Crap.

This company makes recycled toilet paper, gives free delivery (in metro Australia) and gives 50% of profits to build toilets in developing countries where people are literally dying from diarrhea etc as a result of poor sanitation.

If you haven't yet bought from Who Gives A Crap, here's a special $10-off offer (for a limited time).


It has no inks, dyes or scents and the packaging is zero-plastic; all cardboard and paper (easy to recycle). The rolls are also double-length rolls so you get a lot more use between roll changes.

Note that this is a special offer for new customers. Existing customers, you already know how good this is - you don't need extra enticement.

PS. In full disclosure, I also get $10 off my next purchase if you take up this offer. So it's a win for everyone - you, me, the environment and African kiddies. :)

Friday, March 15, 2019

Australia's hottest summer ever

We've had other hot summers but this one was at least 50% hotter than the previous record.


And it's obvious where the trend is going.

The Climate Council summarised this Angriest Summer with an infographic.


In my home state, Cloncurry had 43 consecutive days over 40°C (104F). That's a state record. In South Australia, Adelaide recorded 46.6°C (116F) - it's hottest ever temperature. Port Augusta took the title for the hottest temperature of the summer, with 49.5°C (121F).

I thought Autumn might bring some cool relief but even this week there's been two days of 36°C or more (97F). In Autumn.

Scientists are predicting a warm autumn too - and that's certainly been true so far.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Australians deserve the truth

The Australian government repeatedly tries to assure the public that we will meet our greenhouse target. But many are becoming very sceptical. Let's look at why.

What is our target

The target we set for ourselves, and committed to, is a 26% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 (compared to 2005 emissions). Yes it is a fairly weak target - taking a quarter of a century to do a quarter of the job - but that's a discussion for another day.

Today's question is whether we're doing anywhere near enough to get anywhere near it. Here are the government's own figures on emissions:


The start of the line is 2005 - the year we are comparing with. To reach our target, we have to get back to that level - and then another 26% below it. In just 10 years.

It's been 15 years so far and the only meaningful decrease was in the carbon price period. We'd need to do at least as well as that for the next decade to even get close.

So what are we doing?

The section marked "Emission Reduction Fund" seems to have no reductions at all and this is the policy the government wants to stick with (although with less annual funding).

It's no wonder that dozens of the country’s leading climate and energy experts have signed a joint statement stressing that without further action Australia will not meet its 2030 pollution reduction target.

Something needs to change. Big time. Otherwise we'll be far closer to 26% more emissions rather than 26% less.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

How to cancel the phone book

This weekend phone books arrived on our doorstep. Nearly 800 pages of info we'll never use nor need. Thumbs down for pointless waste.

Thumbs down to phone books. Here's how to cancel your phone book delivery.

To add a little more pain they wrapped all the books for our apartment building in shrink wrap. Aaagh!

You can avoid this happening to you, and eliminate waste at the same time. Go to Directory Select.

Enter your street address to see the phone books you are currently set to receive. Highlight the ones you wish to cancel, tick the box and click to cancel. It's really as easy as that.

PS. I was amused that the cover shot shows that computers exist (and that therefore phone books don't need to). It could only be be more ironic if the screen showed the Google homepage. ;)

Friday, December 07, 2018

Schoolkids Strike: my favourite photos

Last Friday schoolkids around Australia had a half-day strike to protest the lack of climate action by the federal government.

It drew a predictable response (not a listening one) from some government politicians - well summed up in this cartoon by Kathy Wilcox.

Some signs pointed out the irony of the reaction. For example, "If you were smart we'd be in class".

Others pointed out the value of activism:


Or asked why bother going to school if knowledge is rejected by government:


While others tried to appeal the better nature of politicians and think of those who will be left to deal with climate change long after today's politicians have all gone.


In the background a smaller girl is holding a well-coloured-in sign "Don't Burn Our Future. No New Coal"

But this one's my pick for the cutest.


This Saturday it's everybody's turn. If you're in Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney, join in the "March for our Future". It's not just the kids whose futures are at stake.

PS. Just found another great one:

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

How to recycle your clothes

What to do with old clothes? Some are technically wearable - but waay out of fashion, or getting a bit old. Some are beyond wearing. What can I do that isn't adding to landfill?

Now there's a recycle option. One that comes with rewards.

How to recycl your clothes

Drop-off at H&M stores

Fashion store H&M has a zero waste goal for the clothes (and other textiles) that you drop off in their recycle stations. So far they've taken in the equivalent of 89 million T-shirts for their Rewear, Reuse, Recycle process.

Rewear

Clothing that can be reworn is sent overseas for second-hand use.

Reuse

Textiles no longer suitable to wear are converted into product such as cleaning cloths.

Recycle

Textiles that can't be reused are recycled into textile fibres or used to manufacture products such as insulation materials.

Reward

For each bag of used textiles they'll give you a discount voucher. Mine was 15% off your next item. It may vary for different places or countries. If you don't need it, why not pass it on. It's a chance to brighten the day of a random shopper.

What to do

Up the back of the shop, look for a recycle station like this one.

H&M clothes recycle station

To get your voucher, talk to a staff member first. For more information see H&M Recycle your clothes or their partner Ico-spirit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Renewable Energy: Who's winning and how?

Here in Australia, states are stepping up to embrace the future of renewable energy. So who's doing the best?

Which states are doing best at renewable energy? This graphic shows Tasmania, the ACT and South Australia leading the way.

In 2018 Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia are judged to be the leaders. Let's look at why:

Tasmania

Leading the nation with 87% renewable energy in 2017, Tasmania is an obvious front-runner.

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT has a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2020 - just two years from now - and look to be on track to get there. Their government is also providing battery grants to households to help store solar energy for later use.

South Australia

Already at 43% renewable energy, South Australia has the largest energy battery in the country and is planning more. The forecast is that they'll have about 73% within 2 years.

The sunshine state?

My home state of Queensland is listed as "catching up" with a 50% renewable energy target (for 2030). We have the nation's highest percentage of homes with solar, though this is more because of the great weather rather than any government action.

Other snippets

69 wind and solar plants are under construction in Australia right now - creating almost 10,000 jobs.

These projects will add seven times the capacity of the now-closed Hazelwood coal power station.

Of the 69 renewable energy projects, Queensland has the most with 20. (Vic 19, NSW 18)

There are now 26 suburbs where the majority of homes have solar. 19 of these suburbs are in Queensland.

Queensland and Victoria are home to 65% of renewable energy jobs

What's happening globally?

Last year more solar PV capacity was added than coal, natural gas and nuclear combined.

Almost three-quarters of new energy generation capacity is renewable.

Electricity generation from coal and gas fell for the fifth year in a row.

17 countries generated more than 90% of their electricity with renewable energy.

Find out more

You can see the Climate Council's full scorecard and report to get all and details.

Monday, November 05, 2018

New store new (recycled) frames

Dresden's new store opens in Brisbane tomorrow, 6 November. I've been in touch with them and here's a sneak preview of the new (recycled) frames they will launch when the Brisbane store opens.



And of course, they are also available as prescription sunglasses.


I'm told they're made out of recycled wood fibre. Not 100% sure what that means, but I'm sure there'll be more details when they're officially launched.

Where can I get them?

The Brisbane store will be at 4/173 Boundary Street, West End. Their number is 3846 5958.

What else do they have?

They also have a limited-edition range of frames "made of money". Yes, they're literally made from recycled off-cuts and waste from the polymer banknotes.

Any normal glasses?

There's also the standard range of frames made from coloured recyclable plastic. These ones have interchangeable arms so you can mix and match your colours. It's like lego for your face ;)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Containers for Change - everything you need to know

Queensland's Container refund scheme starts 1 November. It's great for the planet, for people and for community groups. Here's why.

Quick stats

3 billion containers are used in Queensland each year. They make up 23% of our waste. Even with kerbside recycling, the majority end up as litter or in landfill.

We recycle only about 30% of our containers. In South Australia (who've had a container deposit scheme for years) the rate is 80%.

Clearly a cash-for-containers scheme is a good idea. Queensland's will be called Containers for Change.


What's the deal?

From 1 November there will be 250 refund points (see the map) where you can receive 10 cents for every eligible container - including aluminium cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles and some drink cartons.



Reverse vending machines

Some refund points will be reverse vending machines - like the demo one I showed earlier (see the video). These are literally what they sound like - you give a container and get money. Each container has its barcode scanned. If the barcode matches an eligible container you get paid.

Depots and drop off points

There will also be places you can take containers to and drop them off. The advantage of these (other than not having to feeding all your containers into a machine) is that even if the aluminium cans are squashed, and the barcode isn't readable, they are still accepted.

How does it work for community groups?

After litter reduction and more recycling, the third aim of the scheme is to help community groups. People can donate their containers to the local sports club, scouts, church or school - and that organisation can receive the refund.

This can be done by physically donating the container or by a virtual donation. Either way, the first step for a community group is to register and get an ID number (this is how you get paid).

Virtual donations

Publicise your ID number through your community group. When your members return their containers they can quote the community group's ID number and the refund is paid to the community group's bank account.

Physical donations

In this case people donate the actual containers at your scout hall, soccer club or church hall. Somebody from the group can return them in bulk to a refund point. Again, they quote the community group's ID number and the refund goes to the group's bank account.

At my local school they've got small wheelie-bins bins ready to go. (You can get the logos and everything when you join).


The logistics of this depend on how big your operation will be. Many refund points will be able to give you a large bag for collecting your containers, and a tag with your group's ID. If you're thinking bigger than that you may want to get a lockable cage where people can drop off containers any time of the day.

If your group is having a big event, it may be a good idea to contact your local refund point in advance and they may be able to help.

So what are the next steps?

Once you community group decides to do this, go online and register and promote you group's ID to your members.

Then, if you want to do physical collection, get in touch with you local refund point.

Any questions, just pop them in the comments below.

Happy recycling and happy fundraising.

PS. This information is based on the seminar by ContainerExchange - the organisation running the scheme. For further details go to Containers for Change or to ContainerExchange.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Do bad governments hide bad news?

If there's anything worse than a government failing to cut pollution, it's a government covering up the failure.

how the Australian governmnet hides emissions data

People in the media have noticed a pattern in the way Australia's government releases the national emissions data.

It's very slow and it seems to be released at a time when it will get little attention. Mostly it's late on a Friday afternoon - too late for the news bulletin. Or just before the biggest sports weekend of the year.

One year they even did it on Christmas Eve.

Why is it so?

Paul Barry reckons it's deliberate. To avoid the government getting awkward questions about why emissions increasing when urgent reductions are needed. Questions like how on Earth Australia can even reach our (rather weak) goal of 26% less pollution by 2030 while pollution is rising.

The government says that ministers "considers briefs for a period of time". But for those periods of time to always end late friday - or on Christmas Eve is a staggering coincidence.

Or maybe not.

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