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Category Archives: Life

Magazine Mania

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Monday Morning

Australians have a love affair with magazines. According to Ibis World Australian magazines employ over 5000 people and generate $2 billion in revenue. I myself love sitting down for some quiet time with a cup of tea and flicking through a glossy magazine. They’re perfect reading material when you don’t have the energy to concentrate on a novel and need some time away from the computer screen. Today I want to highlight some of the best Australian magazines for those pursuing the simple life. Many of these are available in public libraries, alternatively you might like to try gumtree, ebay, freecyle, friends, neighbours, local thrift shops & garage sales for back copies. You might even be able to order backcopies at a reduced rate online.

Grass Roots

Australia’s most popular self-sufficiency magazine

PO Box 117, Seymour, VIC 3661

Ph: 03 5792 4000

Earth Garden

Practical solutions for green living

http://www.earthgarden.com.au

G

Green Living Made Easy

http://www.gmagazine.com.au

Organic Gardener

Your guide to sustainable Living

http://www.organicgardener.com.au

Warm Earth

Warm Earth is Australia’s practical guide to organic gardening. Published since 1993, Warm Earth does not contain paid advertising. Every issue contains 48 information packed pages about growing food in your backyard. Written by organic gardeners, for organic gardeners.

http://www.warmearth.com.au/

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Simple Living in Mainstream Media

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Tonight on A Current Affair, Rhonda Hetzel was interviewed about simple living. She has a column in Women’s Weekly, one of Australia’s most popular women’s magazines. It seems that simple living is becoming more and more popular. What with global economic crises and environmental disasters the idea of becoming less dependent on corporations and more self-reliant seems to be the ‘in-thing’ once again.

Indeed, these days, I can manage to buy any number of gardening and organic life magazines from the newsagents. The local library has plenty of books to help me grow veggies, be self-sufficient, make my own clothes, and even make & use home remedies. In Brisbane, community gardens are scattered throughout the city as are local farmer’s & crafts markets which is encouraging a move away from thoughtless spending. Consumers are becoming more aware of where their produce is from, what’s in it, and the conditions by which it is made. I believe the term is ‘ethical spending.’

While the thrifty do-it-yourself mindset seemed to have been discarded by the baby boomers, their parents skills and way of life is being rediscovered by another generation concerned about their finances and the escalating cost of living. What’s old is new once again.

Breakthrough

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After helping with the flood clean-up efforts the boy says to me “I’m going to become a minimalist!”

This is after months of disinterest while I have been steadily purging my possessions and trying to focus on those things that are most important to me. He said to me only a few weeks ago, “don’t you think you are going too far with this minimalist thing?”

But the floods have changed things. So many people have lost their homes and had to flee with what possessions they had time to grab and space to carry. What was left has been covered in floodwaters and toxic mud. It’s gross, it stinks and it’s full of bacteria and contaminants. The boy came home from the clean-up exhausted, nostrils filled with the stench of decay, his clothes caked in toxic mud.

He has seen firsthand the destructive force of nature and how easily our possessions can be destroyed. He doesn’t want to have to go through that same experience with our stuff.

Perhaps now we’ll be able to embrace minimalism together.

What would you take in a flood?

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Yesterday I watched in horror as flooding inundated south-east Queensland. 10 people have been confirmed dead and 90 people are missing. Homes and cars are being picked up by the flood waters and smashed against anything in their path. Boats, pontoons and debris float down the river preempting the wall of water on its way. All day yesterday residents and businesses in low-lying areas were busy moving their possessions to higher ground. And thousands of people have been misplaced to emergency shelters while their homes are flooded.

We have stocked up on supplies and are waiting for the power to be cut sometime later today. Our suburb is an island surrounded by floodwaters and all we can do is sit and wait for the worst is yet to come.

We are safe where we are.

In light of this situation it’s got me thinking about the 100 things challenge. If I really only owned 100 things it would be very easy to pickup and move to safer ground. As it is we have a 2 bedroom apartment full of stuff.

So if we had to flee what would we take?

  1. Food
  2. Water
  3. Medications
  4. First aid kit
  5. Torch
  6. Spare batteries
  7. Matches
  8. Toilet paper
  9. Battery powered radio
  10. Clothing
  11. Closed in shoes
  12. Hat
  13. Pocket knife
  14. Personal documents
  15. Tent
  16. Sleeping bag
  17. Swag
  18. Blankets
  19. Esky & ice
  20. Gas cooker
  21. Sunscreen
  22. Insect repellent
  23. Toiletries
  24. Jewellery
  25. Mementoes
  26. Mobile phone
  27. Plates
  28. Cups
  29. Bowels
  30. Tin opener
  31. Cutlery
  32. Cooking utensils
  33. Cooking pot
  34. Cash
  35. Deck of cards
  36. Book currently reading
  37. Notebook
  38. Pen
  39. Camera
  40. Laptop

When the power goes out and homes are being evacuated the 100 things challenge takes on a completely different tone. Items become more essential as they are designed for survival rather than frivolity.

 

Green Power

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Green

Some rights reserved by Flabber DeGasky

After calculating my carbon footprint the other day I was reminded of green energy. The energy company that we use have green power options so that you can choose to have 25, 50 or 100% of your power derived from renewable energies like solar and wind. There is an added cost for the options but it is rather small considering the feel good element involved and the implications for the planet.

Given 12 months energy usage at 4830.1 kWh (our current usage based on the last four bills) this is the added cost per year for each of the options:

  • 25% – $52
  • 50% – $132.82
  • 100% – 265.66

I’ve managed to convince my husband to convert to the 25% option, small steps remember, and hopefully will be able to increase this in the future. When we rang we also got a 5% discount on our bills for the next year as some promotion so hubby is happy because the discount will cover the added cost of the green power. Win-win!

Calculating my Environmental Footprint

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Before I start to try and reduce our family’s environmental footprint (and the associated costs) I think it’s about time I actually looked at where we are and take a snap shot, if you will. With some help from One Earth to Live who has posted some Carbon Footprint Calculators on her site I’m sitting down to work out where we stand currently and where we can possibly improve.

Travel

We have two four-cylinder cars. One is four years old and the other is five years. Each car is filled between once a fortnight and once a month, depending on how often we are driving. My husband’s car is usually only used for work which is a 15-30 minute drive but an hour by train. Personally, I’d prefer my husband home for that extra hour each day. My car is used for general errands and for weekend trips. There are often days where I don’t go anywhere though.

My car current mileage: 55588 km
Approximate 12 months mileage: 5672 km

Husband’s car current mileage: 38793 km
Approximate 12 months mileage: 6740 km

Home

We live in a two-bedroom apartment. It has a south facing balcony which, in the southern hemisphere, means we don’t get much direct sun. It means growing fruit and vegetables on the balcony could be a challenge, especially because we have resident possums who have managed to destroy almost everything I’ve tried to grow so far. Lucky for us our climate means that we don’t need heating or cooling for most of the year.

Electricity

Here’s our last 12 months of electricity usage per quarter:

  • Oct 2009: 1302.5 kWh
  • Jan 2010: 1333 kWh
  • Jul 2010: 1082 kWh
  • Oct 2010: 1112.6 kWh
  • Average:  1207.5 kWh

Given that we had a baby in September I would like to at least keep this stable and possibly reduce it. Between the first and last bill there was a 15% decrease.

Water

Here’s our last 12 months water usage per quarter:

  • Feb 2010: 27 kL
  • May 2010: 29 kL
  • Aug 2010: 27 kL
  • Nov 2010: 25 kL
  • Average: 27 kL

Given that we had a baby in September and are using cloth nappies, which need washing I would be surprised if we can keep this at the same level. Between the first and last bill there was a 7% decrease. Note: the water is actually averaged out between all the units in the complex so our bill is also reliant on the water usage of our neighbours.

Food

We are meat eaters. I try and shop once a fortnight and organise mean plans to reduce wastage. We buy fresh fruit and vegetables from the local markets each week. At the moment we don’t buy organic and we still shop at the supermarket which is walking distance from home.

Goods

We try to limit the amount of consumer goods we buy. My husband buys computer games and downloads them online rather than buying the physical copy at the games shop. I have eliminated my book-buying and go to the local library instead, which is also in walking distance. In fact lately we have been getting rid of far more goods than we have replaced. Freecycle and eBay are our tools of choice.

Waste

We throw out about the equivalent of one shopping bag a day, a lot of this is compostable waste but living in an apartment I hadn’t found a suitable solution to this until I stumbled Bokashi. I am considering buying a unit to trial. It would be really great if I could find a second-hand one but might have to resort to purchasing new. We also throw out about the same in recycling each day.

The Results
Carbon Footprint calculated our household output as: 10.54 metric tons of CO2

Carbon Footprint

Live Clean calculated it at: 6.95 metric tons of CO2

WWF calculated that it would take 2.3 planets to sustain our lifestyle if everyone lived as we do.
WWF Footprint results
By the looks of it we aren’t doing too badly compared to other households in similar countries but we are still using far more resources than the earth can sustain. In the future I’ll be exploring ways we can further reduce our usage. But for now I would be really interested in what other people use in terms of water, electricity and car mileage.

The Perfect Day

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If you had the chance to live your ideal life for 24 hours what would you do? If you could live anywhere, do anything and have anything, what would you wish for? How would you spend your time on a perfect day?

A perfect day for me would include: spending time with my husband and daughter, coffee at a neat little cafe with friends, time to write, a session of yoga and perhaps an afternoon stroll, preparing a wholesome and delicious dinner in the evening with a glass of white wine, a phone call to family & time to read.

It would not include: TV, the movies, junk food, computer games, aimless internet surfing, window shopping, sitting at a computer in a tiny cubicle on someone else’s time or housework.