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.

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