Classy Consumers Cut It

Good for Environment, Good for Me

We all care about our physical and mental health.  We can all recognise the beauty of a healthy environment. Unfortunately, there are a lot of products out there that damage the environment and our health. Consumers put constant pressure on producers to cut costs and use the cheapest materials. Only now are we seeing the true cost of plastics and other non-biodegradable resources (read on to find out how common polyester clothes are the biggest ocean polluter).

The Classy Consumer Demands Better.  This consumer is mindful of their impact. They buy less and demand responsible sourcing, durability, classic style and quality. In fact, some well made products have exceeded the consumers expectations.

citrus_butterflyNothing is Truly ‘At No Extra Cost’

Most consumers demand discount prices, pretty packaging and special extras.  The packaging that comes with our purchases is not actually free. We pay for all that packaging that we simply throw away. The cost of the packaging is in the price of the object. In addition to this hidden payment is the burden on many others to pay to rid it from the oceans.

Plastic-is-ForeverProducts and packaging made with biodegradable materials are increasingly rare. Young people are wondering how we survived before plastics. It would be nice to have a green triple bottom line: fair prices, classy looks and good for the environment. Even when I find a trustworthy company, I need to read the label, question the materials used, estimate the product durability and the capacity of the item to be re-used or re-purposed.

Our Consumption Influences Production

There are ways to avoid being a passive consumer of waste. There are questions we can ask and more choices than ever before.

  1. Plug the everyday losses. Most people have wasted money, time, energy, resources and food-waste. There are abundant weight-loss programs, pills, cosmetics, books, personal energy at the gym instead of walking to work. There are currently more overweight people in the world than starving people. To put this into perspective, more than 17 thousand people die of hunger each year.
  2. Liter of Light is a global open source movement aiming to provide ecologically sustainable and cost-free lighting for simple dwellings with thin roofs.
    plastic bottle light source: Liter of Light is a global open source movement aiming to provide ecologically sustainable and cost-free lighting for simple dwellings with thin roofs.

    Embrace free energy sources (this includes our own physical labour ie. walking, gardening, making things). Most of us enjoy free access to sunshine, wind, gravity, animals, plants, water, rain, microorganisms.

  3. Take pride. We all produce energy, ideas and things. We make heat, noise, movement, kinetic energy, movement, thinking, planning. Take pride in what we produce and check that it adds value to life.
  4. Cut the embodied waste. Many people have surplus money, wasted housing space, storage space. Then there is that pile of surplus possessions like extra bikes, unused boats, old cars, tools, furniture, clothes, shoes, books. There are mountains of gadgets thour award winning business and siteat we hoard, throw out or give as gifts. Start sharing and look to hire instead of buying. Hiring a boat, a caravan, a holiday house, an evening gown, a machine or more enables the item to be well stored, maintained and shared.
  5. Become productive (make stuff, fix things, build relationships, pick food, cook, pickle, make cider, forage, be inventive with your gifts). Do a permaculture course to learn more about cutting your waste and designing your own productive lifestyle.
jacob_magraw-mickelson image
jacob_magraw-mickelson image www.bottlecapjourney

Get Close and Personal

Rather than feeling overwhelmed with the extent of our impact, we can make a start where it counts two ways – less toxins up close and a change for a better environment. These changes include washing powder, shampoos, creams, lotions and cosmetics.

By not buying any plastic-based products we make a difference to what we put on our bodies and what washes out into the environment.

Gentle Footprints Can Wash Away

chinese-pedlar-ming-dynasty-chicago-museum_2We are all consumers. Every minute we are consuming something (energy, space, food, light, warmth).  Our footprint doesn’t have to leave a mess for the next generation to try to clean up.  If we insist on biodegradable products, our footprint can safely wash away. With mindful choices we can turn our consumption into an enriching legacy for future generations.

Am I a Silent Polluter?

lloyd-surprisedMany of us pollute the seas without even knowing. Each time we wash our clothing, micro-fibres wash out past the high-tech filters and into the sea. One of the latest and surprising research findings about plastics in the ocean is that the biggest source of the invasive pollution (worse than micro-beads from cleaning products) is polyester clothing.

It is very hard to purchase all natural fibre clothing (especially undergarments that hold things in the right places) but by buying less and using it for longer, we can make a difference.

Natural clothing fibers include:

ladybird on clover

  • Rayon (made from wood pulp)
  • Cotton
  • Bamboo (processed without heavy chemicals)
  • Linen (made from flax)
  • Hemp
  • Jute (a very coarse fiber used for things like carpets, not clothing)
Natural animal clothing fibers include:

Try to buy direct from humane farmers who care for their animals

  • Silk
  • Wool (fleece from sheep, goats, alpaca, lamas)
  • Angora (collected from Rabbits)
  • Mohair
  • Cashmere
  • leather/suede
natural fibres with natural dyes like beetroot WEA UK
Beautiful hand-printed natural fibers with natural dyes like beetroot on display by WEA students at London IPCUK – designing the world we want


Anxiety and Permaculture? What’s the link?

Anxiety – Not A Merry Culture

sad-elephant-in-the-roomPermaculture (the design for a permanent culture) has the core ethics of care of people and care of the earth.  These two ethics seek to redress social and environmental ills.

Dr Terry Leahy sees clearly the link between anxiety and permaculture. Terry is presenting at our upcoming mini-conference about Permaculture in Society and Development.

Terry Leahy writes: How can it be good that one in four Australians experiences serious attacks of anxiety at one time or another in their lives? In any twelve month period 14 per cent will get anxiety attacks.

What is there to be Anxious about?

What is there to be anxious about when we live in the lucky country, surrounded by mod cons and ever-increasing wealth? The environmental catastrophe that everyone knows we are in for but nobody talks about too often. Work and economic survival in the neo-liberal economy.

have a giving spirit

Once upon a time jobs were for life if you wanted that, and there was full employment. House prices were low and government supplemented the housing market by building low-cost rental accommodation. Now a huge proportion of the population in work are doing casual jobs rather than having permanent positions. Those who are in permanent work are scared that it cannot last. House prices are crazy and there is no security in renting. Unemployment seems minor at six per cent but most people who cannot get a job do not register as unemployed, it is so hard to stay on welfare.

Add to all that the sense that the recession of 2008 has never gone away and the realization that the Australian economy still hangs on a knife-edge. People are made constantly aware that their life security depends on constantly jumping through hoops and being ready for anything.

We need an economy where people’s daily well-being does not depend on the vagaries of the global market, where the environment has priority and where you can really expect your grandchildren to live as well as you have.”

Self-Reliance versus Self-Sufficiency


Self-Sufficiency is rare. It has the goal of complete independence from society. In the self-sufficient culture, the sick or elderly are often left to die. Self-Reliance is different. Self reliance is a way of thinking and living that enables others to be part of the responsibility of providing for our needs by trading and sharing. The ‘Self-Reliance’ economy would involve care for the weak. Permaculture promotes self-reliance.

Keeping the Power of Feelingswe-can-do-it

When we are faced with anxieties it is hard to maintain optimism. Yet “optimism has more power than fear” (Bob Brown). Optimism is patient, organised and forgiving. Whereas, Fear is reactive, quick and often unplanned, leading to panic and regret .

Where To From Here?

Listen to your heart, your ethics and consult members of your community.  If you live our bio-region, join us in an upcoming mini-conference and workshops
Permaculture in Society and Development – Mini Conference 30th April 2016 or start do a permaculture course, build your own think thank community and enjoy a better future!

Re-educating Our Palette

Imagine a culture that sets sail for a new home. It takes with it just some basic food supplies (bread, cheese, ham, butter and marmalade) and some seeds. Who would imagine that 500 years later this outpost would become a spirited, independent country but still dependent on those simple few foods? The colony that Spain once founded half way around the world in Cuba, is still consuming mostly bread, cheese and ham yet it cannot grow wheat, has few diary cows and is economically restricted due to the USA embargo.

April and (left) Vilda Figueroa (right)

Cuba’s ‘dietary dislocation’ is typical of most nations of the western world. Most of us are eating food that is not indigenous or able to be grown easily in our bio-region.  Re-education of the palette is the single biggest hurdle for permaculture.

We can all grow a vast array of foods, every home can have abundance of fruits and vegetables yet still we have a world population of hungry people who find it difficult to try new foods. In addition to this we have an epidemic of western families who have lost much of their cooking skills in just a few generations. The recent cooking-skills loss follows the loss of gardening skills and other crafts from our heritage.

Vilda Figueroa (a qualified bio-chemist) and Jose Lama (an engineer) founded the Proyecto Communitario Conservacion de Alimentos in the 1990s. is an organisation that strives to show people through their television and radio programs and hands-on workshops that they can easily grow and process native foods such as Cassava/Yucca. We were lucky to have a private meeting with this amazing couple during our visit to Cuba for the International Permaculture Conference.

The main processing technique is simple and inexpensive: wash, peel and thinly slice the cassava (and do the same for many other foods), put it in a solar igloo covered with fly netting for just 3 days to let it dry out. Put it in a blender to turn it into flour.

They also teach about ferments and fermentstress the importance of nutrition in permaculture teaching. There is wealth of information in a project such as theirs.  The success of their project is that they have trained  many others and are generous and kind. They have trained farmers to value-add to their products, families who enjoy the better foods and children in schools who have been inspired to try new foods and rediscover ancient foods.

My main mission was to learn what they are doing in their project, how their project became so successful with so little funding and to get some practical answers to old nagging questions that I had. Primarily, I have always wanted to know how do we grow more carbs in an intensive urban permaculture garden? Bill Mollison talks about never needing carbohydrates in our diet. He argued that “carbs are just to fill us up” but I am not happy to give up on carbs, I think permaculture needs to meet the mainstream diet at least part of the way and integrate carbs in the food forest.

In Cuba I found an answer to my quest on how to grow more carbohydrates. We can simply grow more root crops and starchy fruits such as plantain (savory bananas).  Vilda and Jose showed me how we can easily dry them as chips with a solar dryer and then put it in a blender or crush it to make flour.  This also suits gluten-free diets. Vilda has developed the secret of using whisked egg white to help cakes rise.
I also had another question about Cassava/Yucca. I had heard that it was lower in nutritional value than wheat, but, as Vilda pointed out, Cassava is very easily digested and so the nutrients become available easily. At the permaculture convergence I saw farmers showing slides of their crop with tubers bigger than a man’s thigh! that is an impressive amount of food per plant. Cassava has a far greater food potential than Cubans may realise and I hope they develop a taste for their native food before fast food chains claw their way into the country and demand potato and wheat.