June 28, 2007

Squirrel Gliders

Last week I came across an article in the paper about a project aimed at saving Victorian Squirrel Gliders from a grizzly death as they try to cross our busy roads.

A rope bridge will be built over a section of the Hume Highway (for those of you not in Australia that is the main road from Melbourne to Sydney). According to the media statement the purpose of this bridge is to decrease fatalities of this endangered species and also to “… encourage movement across roads and among squirrel glider populations so that they can access food, shelter and mates." (Dr van der Ree)

I’ve not seen the rope overpass but I imagine they will look a little like this:

I think they would look nice like this too.

These fury little guys seem to have the will to survive both the busy roads and the loss of vast areas of their woodland habitat which has been cleared over the years. This article reports of them appearing in a district where they were previously not known to exist.

Hope you think this idea is as good as I did. I’ve spent many a moment, since reading about this bridge, thinking merry thoughts about those little squirrel gliders and the glimmer of hope that they now have.

Another thing which may help distribute merry thoughts is my book give away! I've just finished reading "Every Last Drop: The Water Saving Guide" by Amy Carmichael and Craig Madden (the book I reviewed a few posts ago).

I think the best place for this book is in the hands of another reader/water saver. So, if you're in Australia (I don't want to exclude my overseas buddies, however the book is targeted at Australian audiences) and you are interested in a free book full of water saving tips and facts on water politics, management and usage, then just tell me in the comments section.

I was also hoping that if you are the lucky winner then after finishing reading the book you could give it away to a friend or associate... maybe we can pass it around to as many people as possible, spreading the message as such. I'll register the book on bookcrossing so that everyone can keep an eye on its travels.

(Posted simultaneously over on elsewhere...)

Medium: watercolour and pencil on Rising Stonehenge cream 100% cotton 245gsm paper

Dimensions: 9 X 14cm

June 22, 2007

virtual drink - and a footnote

on the way home from work the other day i listened to a story on npr's marketplace concerning the liters of water that go into making one liter of coca-cola -- and what the coca-cola company plans to do about it. (you can read the full transcript here.) needless to say, the fact that over 250 liters of water produces one liter of soda was shocking. there is, or course, the water that is carbonated to produce the soda (2.54 liters), but then too there is the water used to wash the equipment, and the biggest portion, the water used to grow the sugar that goes into the sweet drink (there lies the 250 liters!). now we aren't big soda drinkers in our house, but it got me to thinking, how much water are we really using? only to find that it takes approximately 140 liters of water to produce that morning cup of java i so heavily rely on.

on the World Water Council site, virtual water is defined as "the amount of water that is embedded in food or other products needed for its production". Like "carbon footprint" our bigger "water footprint" is causing a global impact.

so what can be done? you can lobby for companies to take an active role in monitoring and decreasing their water usage. buy from companies you know are making the right choices. and try to move towards a diet of less virtual water. hayley's previous post on the impact of a vegan diet on reducing carbon footprint also applies here. it takes approximately 15500 liters to produce 1 kilogram of beef. you can check out how you are doing by calculating your own "water footprint" here.

food (or should i way water?) for thought

i wanted to add a "footnote" to my previous post on toenail polish. i am currently sporting a lovely pedicure of honeybee gardens polish and i couldn't be happier. it was so easy to apply. (being water-based it doesn't get all ooey-gooey if you try to go over it again.) wears very well. and while not as easy to remove as conventional polish, does come off without those nasty fumes. a more than fair trade-off i think. i took the company's advice and put it on before bed as it takes a while longer to set than the usual stuff. and i gave my toes a good soak before removal. (just popped them in the bath while watching the girls have theirs!) i have used both the peel-off and the non-peel type removed with rubbing alcohol or yes - vodka! - love both. just wanted to put the word out!

June 21, 2007

catching rain

We have a thirsty garden.

beets and lettuce

Growing our own veggies has saved us a lot of money at the grocery store this spring. Between the big bag of goodies from the CSA farm every week, and all the lettuce, carrots, beets, broccoli and mixed greens in our garden, we've hardly bought any fresh produce since March.

But the big savings on the grocery bill are being eaten into by the rather obscene city water bill. It's been a dry, dry spring here in North Carolina (USA). We've only received about half our normal rainfall, and are experiencing "moderate" drought conditions. As a result, we've been watering the garden just about every day.

We've done a lot of things to make the garden water-efficient: it's laid out in small, square blocks rather than rows, so no water or nutrients are wasted in the rows between plants. The soil is loaded with compost, because healthy soil high in organic matter retains more moisture, and we've even mixed in a bag of vermiculite to further stretch the water resources. But all that hasn't been enough in times of drought to keep us from needing to water daily.

Enter the rain barrel. We've known for a while that this would be a good idea, but it was just an abstract idea until we got the last water bill. Ugh! One water bill would easily cover the cost of a rain barrel, so off we went to the garden store.

For those who've never used one of these things, it's quite simple. You just detatch the bottom part of your gutter down-spout and route it into the top of the rain barrel. It then catches the water spilling off your roof in a rainstorm -- rather than running into the storm drains and the local creek, it runs into your rain barrel.


This barrel holds 60 gallons of water, and is made of an old pickle barrel. The screen on top keeps out mosquitoes, flotsam and jetsam, and a spout at the bottom lets you attach a hose or fill up a watering can.

My partner, HWWLLB, installed the barrel and we hopefully looked up into a hot, blue, cloudless sky, wondering when we'd get a chance to use it. Not a drop in sight, but a thirsty garden shimmered in the heat behind us. Later that night, we were awakened by the sound of thunder. HWWLLB ran around the house peering out the windows. It's raining! It's raining!

Normally the little splatter of rain that accompanies a chance thunderstorm does little more for the garden than a quick perk-up. But when we went outside the next morning, the barrel was running over. From our little roof, it took just slightly more than 1/4 inch of rain to fill the 60-gallon barrel. In general, 1 inch of rain on a 1000 sq ft roof yields 625 gallons of water. To calculate the yield of a roof, multiply the square footage of the roof by 625, then divide by 1,000. That's how much water runs off your roof in a rainstorm that generates one inch of rain.

Hm... looking around, we have 5 more downspouts - 3 more on the house and 2 on the shed. I think we need a few more rain barrels! I'm thinking of making the rest of them myself. I did build one once from directions in a back-issue of Mother Earth News (using a trash can), but we had to dismantle it at the request of our nutty former land-lady. If you know of good instructions for making your own rain barrel, please post a link!

And there's good news... a passing thunderstorm in the forecast. My barrel runneth over.

June 19, 2007

Every Last Drop {Saving Water}

Every Last Drop - this is the title of the book I’m reading at the moment (Every Last Drop: The Water Saving Guide by Amy Carmichael and Craig Madden), a book which has just recently been released in Australia through Random House Publishing.

I’m only half way through, but already I’ve picked up a few new water saving tips along the way. The book seeks to inform you on ways to save up to 50,000 litres of water a year. 50,000 litres! According to Every Last Drop, the average Australian uses 100,000 litres per year... a statistic that I find very scary to say the least.

I believe I use 65 odd litres a day, on average. I have days as low as 45 litres, but if I’m honest I know there are days when the usage is much higher than that. This means I use about 23,725 litres a year, a figure which still sounds like an awful lot to me.

If I continue with being honest then I can also admit to my water usage prior to making conservation and sustainability a focus in my life (which has been the case for the past year or two) as being (according to an old water bill) closer to 160 litres a day. That means I was using closer to 57,600 litres of water per year. How shameful is that? All these stats are derived from what is on my home water bill, and from readings on the water meter located in the front garden, hidden partially by clumps of violets. I work from home so I think this gives a pretty comprehensive overview as to my total water usage, though I should add on a few litres here and there for the hours I leave the house. I should, I guess, also calculate all the water that is used to produce the food and products I use on a daily basis. Did you know that it takes 264 litres of water to produce a single glass of milk? (p.18 Every Last Drop)

Anyway, I just wanted to air my water usage, my dirty linen, to show everyone that knowledge really does equate to change. I think Tim Flannery (author of The Weather Makers) said it most eloquently when I saw him recently on TV… unfortunately I can’t remember the quote word for word, but it was something along the lines of… knowledge is an interesting thing, once people are aware of the issues they can’t use ignorance as an excuse for inaction.

Once I realized how much water was used every time the toilet is flushed (twenty per cent of the water we use in our homes is flushed down the toilet - p.83 Every Last Drop), and the shower is used... or how much power it takes to heat water, and how much energy is wasted when an electrical appliance is left on standby, I started to turn the TV and computer off at the power point, I started to have shorter showers, I started to use less hot water. Something we all can do, and something more people will be doing after they read this book, and others similar. Or even this blog.

So, if you’re in Australia (as the book is targeted at primarily an Australian audience) and you want to know how to start making changes in your life then I’d highly recommend this paperback. It explains why conserving water is so important globally, but most importantly in Australia where our fresh water supplies are under so much strain.

Some of the top tips in this book include...
"Only boil as much water as you need when you make a cup of tea – you don’t have to fill the kettle all the way up.
Wash vegetables in a basin or tub – not under a running tap.
And use grey water from your bathroom to flush your toilet."

There is also practical advice on home plumbing jobs such as how exactly to replace a washer, and handy information in regard to installing rainwater tanks and grey water systems. All things (aside from the washer) that I wish I could do around the home if I only had the $$$.

While I’m on a book recommendation posting I thought I should also mention my all time favourite green book, which is Greeniology by Tanya Ha. If you only ever get to read one book about your personal impact on the environment then this should be the one. I think it is summarized well on the Planet Ark siteGreeniology - How to live well, be green and make a difference shows you how to change your ways without sacrificing your lifestyle. A great practical guide to reducing your impact on the environment.”

So go ahead and be green. Be water wise!

***Post script***
24th June, ‘07
I’m now nearing the end of this little book and the facts and statistics have made it a real page-turner. The chapter on water use in agriculture was particularly interesting, and it was good to read some actual statistics and figures as opposed to generalisations. Cotton, rice, livestock, pasture and grain producers are all, as we know, big water users… you can find out a little more on this here, at savewater.com.au.

And for those in the northern hemisphere, the author suggests reading Diet for a new America by John Robbins. I haven’t read it myself but I thought it may be of interest for those not in the southern hemisphere. If you’ve already read it, do let me know your thoughts on it.

June 12, 2007

Water World! And I'm not talking Kevin Costner...

Hello there Sew Greeners! It is I, your tired, blogging delinquent contributor Amber Clisura here to give you a little knowledge about the behind the scene concept for this month.

So one of the many of the things that we have been doing over here at SG is trying to create a framework around what it is that we are doing. Now this frame will sometimes compliment what is going on inside and sometimes it will just be a little thing that you, the Sew Green reader, should take an extra second to ponder for the month. This month we are starting (albeit it a little late) on the topic of:


It’s everywhere. We need it to survive. We get headaches if we don’t drink enough of it a day. Our food needs it to grow and our planet needs it to be in balance. It is the life force from which all things come. So it’s pretty damn big isn’t it?

We are hoping that this month you can take a second and observe your own water usage. Be conscious of what you’re doing. Maybe you’ll change it, maybe you won’t. We aren’t asking for anything but for you to just be open to consciousness. For our part we are going to bring you some articles that talk about virtual water consumption, perma culture pools and me? I’m going to give you 10 things that if you start them right now, not only will you be more conscious of the water you use, you will save money and water. Two things you can never have enough of in this big bad capitalist world we live within.

10. Carry your own water bottle. There is much talk about the benefits of drinking water. So do it in your own bottle and save money and the environment! Not only that but try to drink out of something that isn’t a Nalgene or a plastic bottles. Though Nalgene bottles are better than most they still off gas like any other plastic – just slower. Try a Sigg or like me, a mason jar with a lid. A little heavier but safe as can be!

9. Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. If your faucet is dripping at the rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste 2,700 gallons per year which will add to the cost of water and sewer utilities, or strain your septic system! It’s simple – check it out here, here or here. Just tightening the faucet isn't helping your problem so take the hour and save your planet!

8. If it’s yellow… you remember the adage don’t you? It’s valid all the time not just in drought conditions. Is it a little gross? Yeah sure it is… but the amount of water you save is amazing. Tally it for a week. Many old toilets flushing use about 7 gallons of water! Some of the newer toilets (80s and 90s) use 3.5 gallons to flush. If your landlord is super diligent then maybe, just maybe you own a toilet that uses only 1.5 to flush. On the average though a household can go through 147 Gallons of water just in toilet flushing alone! That’s almost 1800 Gallons a year! Don’t have a landlord who wants to replace the toilet? Can’t afford a new one? Easy – drop a brick in the tank and that cuts out about a gallon. Two bricks knock out two! Put the bricks in a ziploc bag or other durable holder. Bricks break down and need to be contained in order to avoid plumbing problems. Look for displacement containers at your local hardware store.

7. Don’t shave your legs/face/arms/whatever while you shower. It took me a LOOOOONG time for this one. If you can only do it while you are in the shower then turn off the water while you do it. Those five minutes of water (about 300 gallons a month) that you saved you can indulge in somewhere else.

6. Take a bath instead of a shower. Fill the tub 1/3 full and then scrub a dub dub! Use the final burst of showerhead time to rinse off. Done and done!

5. Use your gray water on plants! Fill a basin full of water for your dishes instead of keeping the water running. When done, take basin outside and water plants. No plants outside! Hang a planter box off one of your windows and plant bee loving flowers! The bees need the help right now!

4. Water your plants deeply and not frequently. This sort of thing promotes drought tolerance and creates deep roots. Also get a soaker hose for larger yards. This cuts down on over-watering and helps get water quickly to the area that needs it the most.

3. Never pour water down the drain. Ever. Where can you use it? There is another place for it. In your toilet, in your yard, in your houseplants… you get the idea.

2. Wash your hands in a basin. Fill up a small bowl and later your hands in that instead of running water.

1. (And since I’m a fashion diva) Wash your clothes in cold water and hang dry. Yes, even those cashmere sweaters! Turns out they don’t need dry-cleaning at ALL! Nope. Cashmere is just like the hair on your head. Washing it in cold with some Johnson’s baby shampoo and laying flat to dry is the best way to care for your cashmere (or any wool) sweaters. There are hand washing instructions here, here and here (use cold not hot water, color safe bleaches or environmentally safe detergents.)

I hope that this inspires you just a bit to look around your water. If you find that it is all too much – then just tell someone else to read this article. Maybe they will try one of these items out and save just a dash more water than was saved the month before. After all, every drop counts.

June 11, 2007

rock, PAPER, scissors

As I'm sure many artist crafter (and other) folks are, I'm enamored with paper. Big time. Beautiful cards and journals make me drool. Show me a collage and my knees go weak.

But of course the environmentally-concerned citizen/treelover in me sits on my other shoulder and counters my paper-consuming desires (when those desires aren't for recycled/reused/found paper goods - many of the above folks do use recycled/reused/found paper.)

The answer for me is: to fight whenever possible for chlorine-free, recycled paper products and in my own paper consumption (even for notetaking, letterwriting, printing on my home printer), to use found/scrap/recycled/reused papers. There is a LOT of paper floating around out there.

I sometimes go to SCRAP in San Francisco, and they have just about any kind of paper you could want, donated from places that for some reason aren't using the stuff. They have three hole punched paper that is perfect for taking notes in my classes. They have envelopes of ALL shapes and sizes (including padded ones for mailing). Posterboard. Colored paper. Printer paper. Sometimes even watercolor paper and card stock. Oh, and it costs next to nothing at SCRAP. The (sometimes cranky, but generally good egg) old French lady looks in your basket of wares and determines a price (my basket full of paper and other odds and ends is usually 5-12 dollars.)

book1_2 book1_3

I mentioned on my blog this simple journal I made from reused papers (pics above and below). I was inspired by lovelydesign and five and a half. Both make beautiful journals from reused, recycled, found paper. Please see five and a half's excellent tutorial on this. It's super easy and you can make great gifts from old papers for yourself and friends.


You might be inclined to recycle paper you've used that has scribbles/notes on it. But I think it's fun to intersperse blank pages in these journals with pages with your marks on them. One thing I love about lovelydesign journals is that Sharilyn puts old stamps and things in the envelopes in her journals. They are little gifts/surprises and they make the journal more personal and interesting. (And they remind me of Griffin and Sabine.)

If you don't have a place like SCRAP near you, you can probably find unwanted paper at big printers (I visited one that recycles TONS of paper), schools, any office (perhaps even the one you work at), and I bet at lots of other places as well. And see Gwen's recent post where she mentioned several great places to find used paper/collaging materials.

Happy green journal-creating and collaging to you!

June 6, 2007

a handmade weekend

Out and about with little planned? Why, here are a few things, somewhat hastily pulled together on my behalf, that you might like to consider supporting. Some just in time for the long weekend too.

** Hope Street Markets ** (Sydney)
[young designers collaborative markets]
The Hope Street Markets makes its long weekend debut.

{Hope Street Markets flyer, please, click to enlarge.}

“The Hope Street Markets are a creatively supported environment for young talented designers to promote and expose their talents through different mediums.

Hope Street Markets is a collaboration of young designers in:
+ clothing
+ accessories
+ jewellery
+ object design
+ art

Adopting the concept of your local community markets, the Hope Street Markets are to support more art based product than general “bric'a'brac”. The markets are based in Surry Hills in the heart of Sydney, and they will continue to commence at the start of every fresh season and run over 2 days.”

Glean a little more here.

** The Rose St. Artists’ Market ** (Melbourne)
[Open every Saturday, from 11-5pm]

Expect to find Betty and Hamish toys by Kate Brereton Designs & Rebound Books (second-hand novels are spruced up, reinvented and given new life, filled with 100% recycled tree-free denim paper).

"Now in its fourth year, The Rose St. Artists' Market is Melbourne's foremost open-air market with the prime objective of showcasing contemporary art to the wider community and engaging its audience to the abundance of talent within Melbourne and Australia.

The Rose St. Artists' Market is not only a platform for emerging talent, but is also designed to assist artists and designers to sell and showcase their works without high retail/gallery commissions.

The Rose St. Artists' Market… utilises a disused yard in the back streets of Fitzroy, showcasing up to 50 artists and designers each week, some emerging and some more established.

All stall holders are supplied with exhibiting units, so there is no need to bring trestle tables for exhibiting goods. As well as all genres of art practices, the Rose St. Artists' Market also has live entertainment throughout the day as well as a gourmet cafe. The Rose St. Artists Market is always on the look out for new stall holders, working with a wide range of materials and in mediums including fashion design, product design, furniture design, jewellery, painting, sculpture, photography, ceramics, leather work, glass blowing and performing arts."

Straight from the horses mouth.

** Mercado ** (Melbourne)
A “bimonthly Art Market, featuring a rotating crew of local makers hawking their zines, books, comix, prints, apples, toys, muffins, t-shirts, jewellery, sculptures, badges, posters, stickers, vegan cakes and curries, music, video, postcards and…” so on and so forth.

The next market will be happening on Saturday the 23rd of June.

{Mercado made.}

Dig a little further here.

And finally, don't feel like heading out into the woods today, skip across to...
** madeit **
[the independent australian designers directory]
& lay claim to a few more local treats. From Chip Chop to Wild Garden and back around the block to Secret Squirrel Clothing.

Why not ferret around here and see what you can find.

Here's hoping you discover many a handmade gem should you take to market. Or perhaps you are spurred on to participate yourself, hawking your handmade pride and joy at a market stall with fellow marketeers. Either way, have fun and keep it handmade.

June 5, 2007

World Environment Day

||Two polar bears with lights to mark out the safe parts ice.||

||Two polar bears with floatation devices.||

||Humpback whales repairing the ice sheet.||

Happy world environment day, everyone! I thought it only fitting to post a few of my polar bear and humpback whale drawings on this important annual day.

This years topic is ‘Melting Ice – a Hot Topic?’ with a "focus on the effects that climate change is having on polar ecosystems and communities, on other ice and snow covered areas of the world, and the resulting global impacts." (as taken from wikipedia)

You can discover a little more here and here.

I’m going to celebrate by writing a letter to my local member of parliament, asking them to establish national laws to cut greenhouse pollution, tax greenhouse pollution and reward energy saving and renewable energy, ensure 20 per cent of Australian electricity comes from renewables by 2020, to stop flirting with nuclear power and ratify the Kyoto Protocol… as suggested by the ACF.

How about you?

I’d love to hear about how are you going to spend the day, or how you did spend the day (depending on the time zone you are in right now)?

June 2, 2007

Links for your green fingers

Mount Iwakiyama was hard to say but the American badger knew he'd adjust. Collage on postcard, Gracia Haby, 2007.

A little over a month ago now, as I read the weekend papers several days after said weekend (are you perhaps sensing a pattern here?), I came across a reference to Sew Green in an article by Andrew Stephens and John Bailey, Back to the future (M, The Sunday Age, April 22, 2007). An article all about becoming a little more green. A three page spread on making your life a little simpler, and in short, a little more like your Nanna. All hail a return to the days when a "commitment to thrift, conserving resources and canny housekeeping" was the norm. Small ways in which you can make a difference today, from buying products with less packaging, making your own all purpose cleaning products, relying upon the virtues of vinegar and bi-carb soda in place of a chemical nasties, a different chemical concoction for each room and surface in the house. Vegetable patches, string bags, walking, and generally using less, yes, that's something we all can do. And should your green thumb have deserted you, leaving you with turnips and radishes fit only for a mouse, why there are always plenty of other green alternatives to living a cleaner, greener, simpler life.

He travelled for some time without incident. Collage on postcard, Gracia Haby, 2007.

So, here are some of the green links found in that article for you all to discover at your leisure -

Fresh Green Clean
Safer, healthier and cleaner indoor living spaces
"Learn how to clean effectively and efficiently with methods that don't cause harm to people or the planet".

Plump Organic Grocery (in Yarraville, Victoria)
"We stock quality organic and bio-dynamic produce including fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products, wine, beer, bulk grains & cereals, soy products, meat, bread, eggs, juices, and much more."

Green Living Australia
All about living a "Green" life, starting in our homes.

Estring bags
Don't cost the earth.
(I've just ordered three long handled string bags in Ocean Blue, Pink Cherry Blossom and Fresh Green, and can't wait for them to arrive via snail mail.)

Sustainability Victoria
Find tips for the home and brush up on your facts while you're at it (Wind energy - myths and facts).

And what of Sew Green? Why, we're mentioned here: "Younger people tired of throwing away their money on poorly made mass-produced clothing and fabric products are discovering the rewards of handicrafts and clicking on to sites such as sew green.blogspot.com and Bee Green to learn how to make soft toys, darn socks and whip up a new blouse to wear to work".

We thought we knew a great deal, but really we knew nothing. Collage on postcard, Gracia Haby, 2007.

Now I'm off to get my hands on a copy of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by chemist and process engineer Michael Braungart and architect William McDonough, to read about the big things that can be done, to discover how buildings can be built like trees, like nature...

"Imagine a world where human industry operates exactly like a blossoming cherry tree: Every factory, every building and every product is as giving as a cherry tree with its flowers.

Imagine a world where our buildings are like trees: They cover their energy needs by harvesting solar power, produce food and oxygen, create habitat for other species and change with the seasons.

Imagine a world without pollution and waste: Products are made from materials that are beneficial for humans and their surroundings."

Believing that it is not simply enough for our actions to be 'less bad', to be 'less harmful', to the environment, Braungart and McDonough advocate, and practice, that there should be no waste whatsoever... that all waste should equal food. That all waste should give back to the biosphere. Just like trees (There's room for a book review on that one, and indeed many books currently on the market. Any takers? Care to pen a little book review on a green text you are currently perusing, Shari, Louise, anyone?). Oh, dear. Must dash, I fear I've bitten off more than I can chew with this one! I'll leave you to dig around further here and here.

Coins in every fountain. Collage on postcard, Gracia Haby, 2007.

In lieu of any green photos, I have littered this post with several of my recent collages... collages of animals seeking new homes in a changing environment. I hope you like them.

They are discussing environmental policies. Collage on postcard, Gracia Haby, 2007.