Sustainability: It’s not just about peeling the stickers off fruit

The term “sustainable” and “sustainability” are used a lot these days; without meaning all that much.

There is an awful lot of greenwash out there, which can be hard to interpret. So often, the term is co-opted to simply mean ‘economically sustainable’, with no regard to the social nor ecological impacts of a particular series of actions that an instrumentality or business sees as beneficial to its bottom line.

Every one of us can do something to limit our impact on the planet and restore it to a better state than that in which we found it.

This does not have to mean living off the grid in a hemp and strawbale house, only wearing clothes woven from the wool off your sheep’s back and never eating meat. (but if that’s what you want to do, then you’re helping a lot more than many)

Yes, it is annoying that, for example, the stickers on much of our fruit are not made from biodegradable or compostable material, however, it is not up to us as individuals to change this, but government legislation. Such legislation to reduce single use items that are hard to recycle, compost or reuse must also come with assistance to businesses in order for them to change their business model.

Local government & councils are limited in what they can implement, but do have a role in advocacy and as an example of reducing carbon emissions and other waste to the public and business.

I have been privileged in my role as a councillor in the last 4 years to be appointed by the State Government as Chair of the Loddon Mallee Waste and Resource Recovery Group board. In this role I have learnt from others more experienced than myself about the waste and resource recovery industry: the barriers and drivers to effect change.

I have put forward motions on funding reduction in waste and increase in recycling initiatives for business innovation, as well as improving product labeling, particularly to do with plastics and compostable materials.

I successfully put forward the idea of Council belonging to the national Tyre Stewardship Program.

I have supported Macedon Ranges employing a sustainable design officer, who has worked with Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group to help people learn more about sustainable house designs. Many of the resources are still available on council’s website. This is a prime area where we can reduce our everyday impact on the world, saving energy, staying warm in winter and cool in summer, and saving lots of money, without consuming unnecessary Mj and KWh, and creating localised smog events in the process.

In my first term on Council I was part of the subcommittee overseeing the review of our Natural Environment Strategy, and put forward the motion that it must report annually about how we have progressed, & the report brought to a council meeting.

From this strategy, Council has developed our climate change action plan and biodiversity strategies, and we now have a biodiversity officer on staff.

Through the biodiversity strategy, Council was successfully awarded a Commonwealth Government National Landcare Program grant, to employ a Private Land Conservation Officer to work with private landholders. This helps those that wish to re-vegetate the native species on their land, control weeds, stop erosion and increase fertility, without the major use of fertilisers and pesticides

I have also strongly advocated for increased funding in each budget for roadside pest and weed management, as well as advocating to State and Federal government to provide an increased budget allocation to the reduction and enforcement of weed and pest management on both public and private land,

In my first term on council I successfully put forward the motion to only invest in funds that did not support fossil fuel exploration nor extraction, and have continued to look for ways to improve our procurement policy to ensure that better environmental outcomes are considered in all tenders for works and services.

I am  a strong supporter of reducing single-use plastics and I am proud to say that Council has worked on how to do this internally, and will now progress to investigating phasing out single use plastic at council-sponsored community events.

Loddon Mallee Waste and Resource Recovery Group work is also working on how to reduce waste at public events.

I have supported Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group’s pursuit of a ‘Wash against Waste’ van, which is now kitted out and ready to be used at events once Covid restrictions have eased.

I am a proud member of Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group and Woodend Landcare, and love shopping at our markets and supporting our local food producers and locally owned and run businesses, ahead of larger corporations.

I advocated early on to transfer our streetlights over to LED as this not only reduces carbon emissions but also saves up to 80% on running and replacement costs. It took a few years before it was included in the budget, but this has now successfully occurred in the majority of our streets.

Land use planning of our towns and surrounds is also strongly tied to sustainability. They must be designed to encourage walking and cycling, with services and shops located in appropriate locations. The provision of street trees and use of recycled material in construction are also improvements I support.

Council is a member of CASBE and is part of a trial for more sustainable subdivisions:

I hope that the newly-elected Council will continue to support these and many more environmental initiatives, to assist Council, businesses and the community to lower their carbon emissions and be more environmentally sustainable. It also helps to save money in the long term: as well as the diversity of life on our bit of the earth, and in a very small way, the planet in general.

There are so many great ideas and initiatives out there, and I learn more from attending seminars and listening to the community every day.

I hope to be re-elected to help keep this impetus for sustainability initiatives rolling.

2 thoughts on “Sustainability: It’s not just about peeling the stickers off fruit

  1. Hi Jen, I admire what you are trying to do.
    My only concern is the weedicides and pesticides. Are they killing off our bees and other animals that feed off the plants?

    • Hi, Council too has been concerned and is part of a trial to look at natural products that are not meant to be damaging to the bees and other parts of the environment. I don’t know the ins and outs of it but am fully supportive of these group trials regarding outcomes so there is evidence that even if it may take slightly longer or involve more man power if done correctly is a better outcome for the environment. It may even turn out that it is not that much more expensive. Contact Council if you want more details. I am so proud of being part of a council that looks for opportunities to be involved in innovative work to help protect out environment. Councillors set the targets and goals but it is our amazing staff who look for ways to achieve the goals we have set, that hopefully reflect broad community sentiment. Thanks for the question. Bees are so important to the environment. I learnt a lot about them at the MRSG talk a few years back at the AGM, and though talking to our ever growing group of bee keepers here in the shire and surrounds. Greatest respect for the humble bee.

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