This is the year I thought I would attempt a transition to a zero carbon, zero waste life and document my progress.

The start to 2020 was unexpected and in a strange way motivating. Last year Australia experienced the warmest and driest year on record and we continue to experience the most widespread bushfires ever.


New Year’s Eve was spent indoors sheltering from the smoky air, with Canberra then winning the dubious honour of the worst air pollution in the world, just days later.

I knew the impacts of climate change including more extreme weather events and natural disasters were coming but I had no idea they would be this catastrophic, this soon.

However I now realise it is over 10 years since I was reading many of these reports warning of the expected changes to our climate and their impact.

It makes me wonder if this isn’t the time to make significant change to our lifestyles, public policy and behaviour in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and waste, then when is?

The journey begins, the future is now. I hope you will join me.


Botanic Gardens Cranbourne desert garden

Gardening ideas this time for the use of Australian natives found at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Cranbourne, Victoria (around a 1 hour drive from central Melbourne).

Melbourne Botanic Gardens at Cranbourne

Use of plants as sculptural elements

Melbourne Botanic Gardens at Cranbourne

Detail in outdoor furniture – designed to blend with the landscape

Cranbourne Botanic Gardens dry weather gardening

Gardening for dry landscapes – waterwise garden

Man pushing the world
Photo: Arztsamui 

Are environmental sustainability and climate change issues getting a bit tired? Have we stopped listening and increasingly just want to get on with our lives? Are we hoping that the government or someone else will sort it out, or are we beyond caring?

Interestingly, recent research shows that Australians are increasingly apathetic when it comes to environmental issues. Apparently our interest peaked in 2007 and has been on the wane ever since. There have been many discussions that the environmental movement has lost its way and is too focused on preserving pristine wildernesses (of which there are few) and not tying environmental protection to economics.

Ideally structural reform would allow for broad changes, so individuals wouldn’t need to think about making changes, the changes would be made for us. Suddenly it would be easier and preferable to ride a bike or catch a train, because the economic and built form structures would provide greater incentives than disincentives to change our behaviour.

Our government has now re-worded its descriptions on climate change, to refer to dealing with “the inevitable consequences of climate change”. So yes, we are past the point of preventing climate change, but could still slow it down if we cared!

I have to say the air of futility is catching, but fortunately there are still some enthusiasts out there. To help reignite the passion I have joined the locally run Carbon Challenge which asks you to commit to challenges over a 3 month period, aimed at reducing your carbon footprint.

Total Environment Centre Canberra Carbon Challenge

In the international sphere The Climate Reality Project continues to present and talk about the evidence for climate change and will soon be training the next batch of climate reality presenters.

Reigniting interest may require some rebranding, rethinking and a lot of baby steps. Do you know of any exciting environment focused projects out there, that are really making a difference?

Cathy Wilcox cartoon - First extract the conspiracy theory gene...

Another climate change cartoon to add to the collection.

This one was used to illustrate a Sydney Morning Herald article about a proposal from Oxford and New York University philosophers that humans could be genetically modified to be smaller, dislike eating meat, have fewer children  and be more willing to co-operate with social goals. Climate change utopia or human engineering dystopia?

Read more at Final frontier of climate policy – remake humans.

Farm barn with chairs stacked in front

Before Christmas I had a chat to my friend Alison, who had organised her wedding with the explicit purpose of reducing the carbon footprint of her wedding. Here are some of her ideas on making your wedding day not only more environmentally aware and low carbon, but also one that focuses on relationships and community and not just spending money and getting stressed in the process.

Boy with buffalo Oxfam Australia

1)      Try a different approach to gift giving

If you are a couple who already has most of what you need for your life together, why not give people an alternate option for gift giving? Alison and Dan (her husband to be) asked everyone to donate to Oxfam with the aim of purchasing a buffalo, for a community in a developing country. This approach was so successful that ultimately three buffalo’s were purchased through gift donations. The online option of donating also allowed people to write wishes to the wedding couple, either online or by sending a card. The certificate received at the end is now a happy reminder of the big day.

2)      Get everyone to chip in

One way to save money and get people participating is to ask everyone who is coming if they could contribute in some way. Ideally people will be able to volunteer and contribute with things that they are gifted in, or enjoy doing. For example someone who enjoys sewing may be able to hem some tablecloths, your musical friends (or family) can perform and those who like cooking may be able to provide some special dishes.

Man singing while playing guitar

3)      Recycle

Alison and Dan decided that all the crockery and cutlery they used would be purchased from second-hand stores and then re-donated to the stores afterwards. In total this cost them around $100 or less and was probably a cheaper option than hiring tableware and a more environmentally sound option than plastic plates and cups.

People cutting vegetables with cooking pot

4)      Source things locally

Athough Alison and Dan weren’t married in their hometown, they did their best to find food that was grown or made in the region where they were getting married. This included locally made ice cream and fresh food from a local market garden.

Sign and balloons on fence with farm landscape background

5)      Reduce travel or offset

As most guests were travelling to get to the wedding there was an emphasis on car pooling. One wedding guest was kind enough to purchase a green fleet carbon offset for all the travel to the wedding.

6)      Reuse your wedding dress

Alison’s wedding dress was made by a local designer and was deliberately designed to be wearable not just for the wedding, but also future occasions. Each anniversary the couple wear their wedding outfits to remember and celebrate their wedding day.

Man and woman kissing

Overall Dan and Alison found that their wedding was not only a unique and special day for them, but a chance to build community by sharing the preparation and organisation activities for the day with family and friends. Guests were given the option to participate as much or as little as they liked, resulting in a relaxed and informal celebration. Although the emphasis was on everyone chipping in, they do recommend paying for certain jobs to get done, such as washing the dishes, as no-one wants to be left with this job on the day!

Other gift-giving alternatives, for those who want to give something more personal can include “living” gifts, such as a plant or sapling or something home-made. Alternatively chipping in some money for something desperately needed such as a washing-machine can also be of great assistance.

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