What do you get if you combine a worm farm display, a battery recycling bin and a community garden? You have the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability, and this was our location for a discussion lead by Maria Vaskova (Masha) followed by a communal trade of clothes and cosmetics.
The Centre for Sustainability is an easy walk from the Waverton train station, and is situated amongst heritage buildings and leafy gardens with a fantastic view out to Balls Head Bay. Inside you’ll find displays on recycling, re-using, and reducing your environmental footprint. There are many pamphlets on sustainability which you can help yourself to, as well as a community garden with a variety of vegetables and flowers to attract insects and encourage pollination.
Sitting outside, we enjoyed the stunning backdrop while Masha showed us the re-usable items she always carries in her material backpack. Some of these were a plastic container for leftover food, a metal flask for hot or cold liquid, a tin container for fruit or vegetables purchased, an egg carton for… well, eggs, a cotton bag with metal and wooden eating utensils, and a material pouch for restaurant serviettes to be saved and re-used as tissues. Even better, make one serviette go further by using only half and saving the other half!
Masha is passionate about eco-habits, and when living in Germany she found the general culture to be very environmentally conscious when compared to that of Australia. Having said that, Masha had so many suggestions for local apps, websites, depots and eco aware behaviours that if I listed them this article could take a couple of hours to read! So instead, here are some highlights:
- Takeaway coffee cups are not recyclable, as the inside has a wax coating. Most cafes accept re-usable coffee cups, or you can enjoy your drink out of a washable cup on site.
- Soft plastics can be recycled at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets.
- Lightbulbs and batteries can be disposed of at IKEA, and Aldi also accepts batteries. Officeworks can dispose of electronics, mobile phones, and printer cartridges as well. Terracycle is based in Alexandria and offers a search engine on their website to identify objects that can be dropped off for recycling.
- Sharewaste is a free app connecting people who would like to recycle their organic waste but lack access to the necessary space and facilities, with neighbours who are composting, worm farming or keeping chickens. Similarly, Compost Exchange has a Facebook group for peer-to-peer composting.
- Where to eat? The OzHarvest market in Waterloo has the model of “take what you need, give if you can”. Lentil as Anything is a restaurant in Newtown with a changing daily menu based on seasonal produce. Vegan friendly, meal prices are suggested but there is the option to pay what you can afford. On Glebe Point Rd you’ll find Green Mushroom which is Australia’s first Indian vegan restaurant. Their hand-picked organic vegetables are sourced from local neighbourhood vendors.
- Fresh food can be purchased from Farmers Markets, and Bulk Food Stores. Often organically grown, it isn’t necessarily more expensive to shop here than in supermarkets.
- The Palm Oil Investigations app (POI) enables you to scan product barcodes to identify if they contain palm oil. Why does that matter? Because the clearing of rainforest to make way for palm tree planting is destroying habitat which is home to orangutans and other endangered species.
- A close-up exotic encounter with a wild animal may initially sound like a lot of fun, but animals such as dolphins, orcas, elephants, tigers, and cheetahs are forced to live in disgusting captive conditions and sometimes beaten and drugged, just for the sake of a tourist photo. Consider if you want to be part of the cruelty, as these staged experiences can’t exist if there is no demand for them.
- Going camping? Check out WikiCamps Australia to access Australia’s largest database of free campgrounds, dump stations, water taps, toilets, showers and more. iOverlander is an international not for profit project with a free app designed to help overlanders on the road find their next destination and add reviews. Finally, CamperMate is a free app for Australia and New Zealand helping you to book accommodation, find resources, and rent campervans and RVs.
As you can imagine these suggestions sparked a lot of enthusiastic discussion, and it was great to be sharing ideas with like-minded women who genuinely care about their impact on the environment.
Next was the clothes and cosmetics swap, and who doesn’t love something that’s free? A well-made piece of clothing can last for years, and if traded or donated to an op-shop it can continue its value as a pre-loved item. There were a variety of quality clothes and cosmetics on offer by the group and everyone came away with at least one piece of ‘treasure’.
Our fun and informative day continued at Botanica Garden Café where we had a very reasonably priced lunch seated in a garden courtyard surrounded by art and other objects of interest. Between mouthfuls of delicious fresh food the sustainability discussions continued, and more ideas were shared via cards which Masha had thoughtfully provided. Afterwards, we made our way to a nearby park (only one wrong turn, right ladies?) where we took some group photos on the grass under a stunning purple jacaranda. Having been fed by nature and surrounded by nature, it was a perfect way to celebrate our newfound connections with the environment and each other.
Written by Penelope Smith
Key Into Australia, 9 November 2020