Archive | April, 2013

Professional practice | Field Trip: Sustainable Van

11 Apr

In many professions, there is only so much one can learn about skills, theories or principles of that profession. Furthermore, there is only so much one can learn from one’s own experiences. That is why it is often immeasurably important to use other people’s experience or knowledge. Whether one listens to amateurs or professionals, there’s a lot that can be gained.

What better way to absorb such experiences or knowledge than a good old-fashioned excursion?

Here is one justification.

I went on one such excursion recently, and had a jolly good time discovering some applications of the skills and knowledge related to the discipline/industry that I ‘belong’ to.

It included such intellectual highlights as:

A visit to the beach

A visit to the beach

Not to mention …

A visit to a sandpit

A visit to a sandpit

Alas, you say, “that looks just like a primary school field trip”. Fair enough. However, I learned a few things of professional relevance.

So, here is my account of a rather fun day out, coupled with some useful things I discovered. Nothing too exciting – you’ll have to do the trip yourself to obtain as much from it as I did.

Site: New Leaf Nursery

What is it?

A nursery that have in stock only plants with some utility value. That is, useful plants.

Why would you visit?

  • To learn about the practicalities of having a chicken farm in one’s backyard
  • To find out about the range of nutritious (and sometimes tasty) plants that can be grown in a garden

For those who care for the details:

The rather passionate individual who operates the nursery commented that while this project/career direction doesn’t necessarily confer him a lot of status nor financial reward, the tales that one hears from others can be a big motivation. He mentioned that [others’] “stories of success [in their sustainability efforts] are what drive me on”. I think that anyone can similarly get that motivation. can apply to anyone, particularly to those who are beginning a new venture such as a startup.

Save the date: May 6 is National Permaculture day.

Site: Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre

What is it?

A fairly revolutionary approach to waste management.

Why would you visit?

  • You’re not sure what my previous statement means.
  • To find out about what eventually happens to items that you place in a red, yellow, green and blue bins.

For those who care for the details:

This site was once the Kimbriki tip – just another landfill site. However, households and businesses produce tonnes of waste – recyclable, compostable and ‘unusable’ – and there are a limited number of sites within the greater Sydney area that are suitable for waste disposal (that is, landfill tips).

The problem: there are large amounts of waste to be disposed of, and limited places to dispose of it.

There has been a shift in the way that waste is managed. There is now a focus on resource recovery. That is something of a shift. In the past, waste was considered useless. Now it is fairly common for waste to be thought of as for reuse or recycling.

Domestic waste collection now has several types, or ‘streams’ of waste – landfill, recycling and green waste.

It takes 6-8 months for their machines to grind through all the (composting) material.

It takes 6-8 months for their machines to grind through all the (composting) material.

Back to the original topic – the Kimbriki facility now accepts and processes many types of waste (green waste, construction materials, recyclable materials and electronic waste, amongst others).

Which isn’t terribly game-changing.

However, after processing those materials, the facility turn them into marketable products. By weight, about 80% of the material that enters Kimbriki is reprocessed and leaves the site (in a different form). Which is quite a beautiful thing: taking something which may very well be considered worthless, and creating a commodity out of them.

One of the products is crushed glass. The notepad and pink pen are optional.

One of the products is crushed glass. The notepad and pink pen are optional.

Another Kimbriki product

Another Kimbriki product

Not a bad use for VW Beetle parts!

Not a bad use for VW Beetle parts!

That’s called resource recovery.

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Kimbriki is also home to an Eco House and Garden.

They have a very passionate workshop facilitator there. We learned about the fundamentals of having a composting system, healthy eating habits and about ecology. Quite useful things to know, whether one is a sustainability professional, an aspiring Captain Planet, or neither of those.

A highlight for our group was the discovery of a plant with apparent healing properties.

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I kid you not, it had leaves which act as an antiseptic. And the fruit or flower functions as an anaesthetic. Upon eating these berries, our entire group – a bunch of twenty- and thirty-something professionals, plus some uber-passionate green people – were turned into children marvelling at how their tongue went numb.

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Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre is owned by a number of councils. It generates a profit for these councils. (Waste management is usually a whirlpool that sucks in money and more money. That’s part of why I find Kimbriki interesting.)

That’s enough of my admiration for Kimbriki. Next!

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Site: A garden in suburban Sydney.

What is it?

“a piece of ground, often near a house, used for growing flowers, fruit or vegetable” nestled among the urban sprawl and chaos that is the Greater Sydney area. It’s a colossal garden that has a lot of food, much of which could satisfy one’s weekly nutritional needs.

That particular garden happens to be part of one household’s quest to live within planet Earth’s ecological means.

Why would you visit?

  • You don’t know about “planet Earth’s ecological means”.
  • You think a lifestyle based on sustainability might be a good thing, and would like to see what it involves.

For those who care for the details:

Private garden landscaping is nothing new. It’s positively unoriginal. Yet, what the owners have done is impressive – by growing food on their property, they know where it comes from.

The growing of food, (or knowing where the food comes from and what it takes for that food to grow and reach your plate) is re-situating oneself as a 21st-Century human being within the world of ecology. It makes one aware of one’s place right there in the abiotic and biotic systems that we are a part of.

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Are you interested in environmental projects such as these? You can join a similar trip. Take a look at the Sustainable Van Facebook page.

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Just for you, kind reader, here is a photo which I hope leaves you slightly upbeat about the sustainability scene, and the future in general.

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Sincerely,

Polluticon