Liebster Award

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Over the last month or so, I’ve had the pleasure of being followed by a few new blogger and  therefore in return checking out their blogs. One Blogger – Muslima in the World: Reflections on life… has nominated me for a Liebster Award. Thank you very much Muslima!

This award is about promoting other bloggers, particularly those with a low number of followers. So, firstly I’d like to thank Muslima for the nomination and wish you the best in your blogging endeavours!
Now, the questions you asked me and the answers!

  1. Why do you love blogging?

It’s a great way if expressing my thoughts and ideas with others, particularly other like minded people. I also like ‘meeting’ other inspiring people from around the world who are making positive contributions and I like the feeling of connection with other bloggers.

  1. What is your primary job?

I am a sustainability professional and a very busy mother!

  1. Have you gotten the benefits from blogging? If yes, please mention 2 of them!

I use it as a way to double check my own actions to ensure that I am in fact ‘green’ (no greenwash here folks!)

I have learnt a lot in the process and from other bloggers.

  1. What is your country and what do you like about it?

I live in Australia and I love it because it’s a wonderful place to live and raise my children. While I sometimes I bemoan the fact that it is so far away from the rest of the world and that this sometimes leads to an ‘island’ (isolated) mentality, I do also enjoy this fact, as it can feel a little bit detached from some of the world’s problems. It is also a beautiful place to live.

  1. Have you ever heard of Tunisia?

I most certainly have heard of Tunisia and dream of going there one day. In fact I have a great friend who is from Tunisia and she’s a real inspiring eco-warrior too!

  1. What is your favorite past time activity?

I love to garden and go bushwalking (hiking). I do also love to spend time with my children playing under a sprinkler, kicking a ball around or simply pottering around the house.

  1. How do you get the ideas for your blog?

I  get ideas from things that are topical at the time, things going on in my life or they just come to me to be honest. Sometimes I sit, have a think and jot down a lot of ideas. I then work through these  and refer back to the master list from time to time.

  1. Do you like sport? Which sport do you like?

To be frank, I’m not a super sporty person. I like to work out like in a gym, but I never get there. I do however particularly like jogging and yoga. I also find running after 3 kids to be quite a workout!

  1. What place (city in this world) you wish to visit in the future (Insha’Allah)? Why?

Hmmm….so many places …..well Tunisia is one, as is Morocco. I am planning a trip to Italy (Insha’Allah) later this year.  I love Iran, so would always love to go, see my family and some places within it that I’ve never been. I would also love to re-visit some of the other places I’ve already been like Cuba, Costa Rica, Argentina and Chile – well the whole of South America actually.

  1. What language do you speak?

I speak English, Farsi and some Spanish.

  1. What topics are you most interested in?

Sustainability, travel, gardening and cooking.

THE RULES

  1. Thank the person who gave you the Liebster Award nomination and link their blog to your post.
  2. Answer the 11 questions they asked you.
  3. Nominate 5- 11 bloggers for the award.  The bloggers must have 200 followers or fewer.
  4. Now Create 11 questions to ask your nominees.
  5. Make sure to let your nominees know you nominated them once you’ve posted about your Liebster Award.
  6. Add the Liebster Award badge to your blog!

Okay, so my nominees are:

Simply Ilka

Green Living in Dubai

CekCeksi

Yummy Green Mummy

The questions for my nominees are:

  1. Why did you start your blog?
  2. What do you love about blogging?
  3. How would you grow your blog while staying true to your core values?
  4. Where are you based what do you like about it?
  5. What is your favorite past time activity?
  6. How do you get the ideas for your blog?
  7. Do you like sport? Which sport do you like?
  8. What place (city in this world) you wish to visit in the future  and why?
  9. What language do you speak?
  10. What topics are you most interested in?
  11. Who do you find inspiring?

Shark Cull – Western Australia

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It has been a while since my last post. In that time I have had a baby (a girl!) so have been very busy, but I am now beginning to return to my grumbles. At least this grumble keeps my mind off my other daily grumbles about sleep deprivation!
Many many years ago, I visited some family in Oklahoma. During that visit I stayed with my mother’s cousin. Her son was terrified of the water and would not go near it, even in a swimming pool. The reason was that at the age of three he was shown the movie ‘Jaws’. Now forgetting whether that was the most appropriate thing to show a 3 year old, what this demonstrates is the fear humans have generally of sharks. I mean they are pretty scary looking with their sharp teeth, fins and sharp noses. I know I would certainly not want to come face to face with one.
Australia is a nation of beach goers and surfers. Inevitably there is likely to be some contact between the two. I am not making light of the fact that many lives have been lost to shark attacks (an estimated 217 deaths since records began in 1791) (http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/science-environment/2014/01/shark-attacks-in-australia-a-timeline/). I feel terribly for any family impacted negatively by sharks and this blog piece is not in any way belittling the pain and suffering that these families have felt.
I am not much of a beachgoer myself, but whenever I do go to the beach for a swim, I know to swim between the yellow and red flags and not to wear jewellery. Here is an article with more tips on avoiding sharks when out in the ocean: http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2011/10/how-to-avoid-a-shark-attack/
In the last 6 months, there is one state in Australia which has decided to take matters into their own hands by culling sharks. The reason for this action has been as a result of a number of shark attacks near popular Perth beaches. This action has resulted in a total of 172 sharks being caught. ‘Of those, 50 tiger sharks larger than three metres were destroyed, with the biggest shark caught at Floreat Beach measuring at 4.5 metres.’ (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-07/shark-catch-and-kill-data-released/5435682). This policy has also resulted in other animals such as stingrays being caught.
Through all of this the WA government is claiming that the program has been successful without actually demonstrating through any scientific research whether this is so. Needless to say, the shark cull has been controversial and ignited protests around the country with the WA Environmental Protection Authority receiving more than 23,000 submissions against the policy. The response however has been to seek permission to extend the program for another 3 years.
This policy is unethical and expensive. Sharks play an important part within the ocean ecosystem. There are many studies that show that sharks in fact don’t like to eat humans, but get confused and mistake humans for other yummier food. So there is no conspiracy like there is in the movie Jaws.
So what to do? There are a number of organizations that are actively opposed to the shark cull and while it has stopped for the year, let’s work to make sure it doesn’t return. Please check out these organizations for ways to get more involved:
Greenpeace: https://www.greenpeace.org.au/action/?cid=60
Australian Marine Conservation Society: http://www.marineconservation.org.au/petitions.php/9/save-wa-sharks-stop-the-cull
Conservation Council of Western Australia: http://ccwa.org.au/action/no-shark-cull-wa
Shark

Great news to share

Some weeks back, I wrote a piece about my grumbles with the Australian government trying to de-list a part of Tasmania’s World Heritage Forests from being listed as World Heritage.
Overnight the World Heritage Committee decided that upon consideration of this, that they reject the request.
So it’s not every day that we get to celebrate something, but this is certainly something to smile about. Finally some sense in this world!

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-24/unesco-rejects-bid-to-delist-world-heritage-forest/5538946

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/unesco-rejects-feeble-abbott-government-bid-to-wind-back-protection-of-tasmanian-forests-20140624-zsjhz.html

Summertime!

It’s summertime in Sydney and one of the best things about summertime is my veggie patch! Nothing gives me more pleasure than strolling around my backyard and checking my vegetables – their progress… Do my plants look happy or not? Ooohhh…look at that! etc
This is year two of the wonders of summer vegetables. Last year my veggie patch yielded many summer delights and interestingly my successes last year are my failures this year and vice versa.
As I have 1.2m x 1.2 planter boxes, I have been trying to practice the idea of crop rotation and companion planting. Last year this worked overall and I tried to incorporate these principles this year also. These principles state that you should not plant the same things in the same spot every year. This is to maintain the health of your soil and vegetation. I have been interested in practicing this for my vegetables from the Cucurbita family (Zucchinis, cucumbers, squash and pumpkin). The reason for this was to ensure the second season of Zucchinis for example did not get any diseases from the first season. Last year towards the end of summer all my Cucurbita family vegetables ended up dying – having suffered a bad case of a fungal disease (white fluffy spots all over the leaves). I wanted to avoid that this year.
This sounds great in theory, however, one of the lessons I learnt last year is that Zucchinis grow and spread – so this year I tried to spread out my Cucurbita seeds between the different planter boxes. So all my planter boxes have something from the Cucurbita family growing in them . Essentially, what this means is that I was not able to totally practice crop rotation for zucchinis this year.
If you want to know more about this concept, please check out this fact sheet: http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s972741.htm
So what grew this year? Pretty much everything that didn’t grow so well last year:
• Lebanese cucumbers – I am very excited about this. I cannot believe the amount of cucumbers I have harvested – daily! I eat them straight off the vine. LOOOVE cucumbers! And this is the first time I have ever succeeded in growing them.
• Tomatoes – they went gangbusters last year and this year actually. This year, they self seede, so I didn’t even plant them. They just grew from the tomatoes that feel into the planter box last year;
• After my failure to grow eggplant from seed, I bought some seedling and to my complete and utter delight, I had some lovely shiny purple eggplants to savour this year. I am so excited about this development also – first time ever I have managed to grow eggplant;
• Then what do you know – another success? My capsicum! Last year I planted them and they didn’t grow. I forgot about them and went to the garden one day to find a beautiful shiny and big capsicum staring at me. I was like a child in a candy store. Running and telling my husband to ‘quick – run – look! A capsicum!’
• Okra – I do love Okra and they have provided me with a bountiful harvest this year. Yum-o!
• My herbs actually have grown well. Last year I was really struggling, but this year it is so lovely to go out and pick fresh basil, thyme, sage….
• My Zucchinis have grown okay – but nowhere near as good as last year when I could not eat them fast enough;
• Squash have been okay too, but the plants are definitely infested with that fungal disease;
• Beans; and
• My Butternut squash is slow going, but when I look at those beauties growing slowly in the sun, I am very excited by all the delightful dishes I can make out of them.
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The main challenge I am facing in my garden however is the fungal disease of the cucumber and zucchini plants. I found this recipe in my organic gardening magazine which I used to good effect a few times, but I think you have to keep applying, which I will HAVE to do this weekend as my cucumbers look like they are suffering a little:
• Add one drop of vegetable oil and one drop of detergent to two litres of cool water. Add four level teaspoons of bicarb soda and mix thoroughly. With a sprayer apply to both sides of the affected leaves and all over the plant. The idea is to inhibit the growth of the fungus by making the foliage of the plant alkaline.
I feel there is much for me to learn and I look forward to my crop next year where I hope to build on my successes and learn from my failures of the last two summers.

Can Collaborative Consumption Save the World?

Since moving back to Sydney, there have been some terms that I was not used to hearing when I lived in the UAE, like the GFC (Global Financial Crisis). It’s not that people didn’t talk about it – it’s just that it wasn’t called the GFC (Australian’s love to shorten words!).

Another term that I have come to hear, particularly since returning to work has been ‘collaborative consumption’.  What is collaborative consumption? Well in simple terms, it is the notion of ‘sharing is caring…’ and ‘one person’s waste is another’s treasure’ – you know what you tell your kids constantly as they grab toys from each other and fight over things.

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In the context of the adult world, ‘sharing is caring’ is being facilitated by technology and internet based groups like ‘Freecycle’ , ‘Airbnb’ and ‘Swaptree’.  These sites help connect the people that have something to give with those that want that item/good/service. 

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You could say that as a result of the GFC, that Collaborative Consumption has grown significantly. Once you hit a point where you look back at the rapid consumerism that typified life before the GFC, you start to think ‘goodness – did I need all that stuff’? ‘who convinced me that I needed all that stuff?’ ‘now that I have all this stuff that I don’t use, what do I do with it?’

I don’t think the idea of collaborative consumption in itself is anything new. I mean surely people gave away their unwanted baby clothes and toys before? And surely people let each other borrow things? And what about libraries and video stores?

What I do think is that now, through the internet your network can be expanded significantly beyond  your friends and neighbour and the types of goods swapped or traded can vary a lot more from an old bike to office space or your knowledge. It is a great way of connecting with other like minded people and helps create a sense of community, even if it is in cyber spaces.

Now the question is: can collaborative consumption save the world? While I don’t think it can fully save the world, I believe that it is an exciting time to be looking and re-defining our notion of ownership – hey it might even free up a lot of room in your house and also save you money. I think it also helps to elongate the life of products, which is so important in reducing wastage and managing resources more efficiently.

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While I have signed up to ‘Freecycle’, I have not actively used it, but I can give some examples from my life more recently and really, it has just been about talking to friends, neighbours and colleagues:

–          I recently went camping and rather than go and buy all the camping stuff, I borrowed most things from a close friend’s family for this trip. I hope to continue to do this, rather than go and buy all camping gear that will inevitably sit in my garage gathering dust for the 98% of the time I don’t use it;

–          All the clothes and shoes that my sister has given to me that my daughter now gets to enjoy. It has saved me a lot of money and she has great fashion sense, so I never have to worry about my daughter not having a nice dress or something warm to roll around in;

–          The Thomas the Tank Engine set borrowed from my sister in law. It has made my son one very happy chappy and has saved me a lot of money in buying all the Thomas figurines, bridges, cranes etc for this phase in his life (who knows he is particularly obsessed with trains and it may last….);

–          Going over to our neighbour’s house to cut some wood using their power saw, saved my husband a lot of energy;

–          Having my family close means that we can often share food. When I haven’t cooked, or can’t be bothered cooking to have a healthy home cooked meal from my mum is so great. I try to return the favour also!

–          Sharing gardening tips and seeds with colleagues and friends. After all sharing is caring!

So how do you start to do this?

Check out some of these websites:

–          https://www.freecycle.org/ whole lotta things people want to give away or swap

–          http://www.jayride.com.au/ helps you get to your destination without your own car

–          https://www.airbnb.com.au/ have a holiday cheaply!

–          http://www.swapstyle.com/ stay fashionable through this clothes swapping website

–          http://www.meetup.com/ meet people that share your ideas and passions

These site are only a start. I’m sure there are many many more.  You might even want to start your own group.

Do you have any ‘sharing is caring’ examples to share with other ‘Eco-mummy’ readers?

Further reading:

http://www.ted.com/talks/rachel_botsman_the_case_for_collaborative_consumption.html

http://www.collaborativeconsumption.com/

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Giving Thanks

Earlier this year, I wanted to take direct action in helping those less fortunate. After some research, I decided to participate in a Build with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity is a charity that works with volunteers to build homes for those without one.

The Mekong Big Build starts next week (Please check out my earlier Blog to find out more about this: https://ecomummy.com/2013/08/10/building-a-sustainable-future/)  and I wanted to highlight some of the people and companies that have contributed towards this wonderful initiative.

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When I first sent out the call out to find donors – the first person that responded IMMEDIATELY was Jourdan Younis of Alpin Limited Masdar City (http://www.alpinme.com/).  I was touched by the generosity of Alpin and wanted to share with you a little about this company and its founder.

Alpin Limited are a provider of sustainable green building consultancy services headquartered in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi (http://masdarcity.ae/en/). They’ve worked on a number of impressive projects in the UAE and the US with rating tools such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and the Pearl Rating System for Estidama.

What I have since found out about Jourdan is that he has been involved with Habitat for Humanity for the past 10 years as a volunteer himself travelling across North America building homes for the disadvantaged. Therefore for Alpin, they have a personal connection to this Build.

Alpin believes not just in sustainability consultancy, but also in giving directly back to the global community either through  financial donations or by encouraging its employees to offer their technical skills as a gift to those in need. We wish Elham all the best on her charitable adventure and commend her for truly being a role model for the rest of the team.

I say a BIG thank you to Jourdan and the team at Alpin.

Some of the others that I must thank are:

Holley Chant: Holley is an award winning sustainability professional and close personal friend. She is an Executive Director at KEO International Consultants, one of the leading sustainability professional service providers in the Middle East.

Thank you also to Treffyn Koreshoff, Fakhereh Veshkini, Michelle Frey and my husband Tim Brothers!

To find out what the Mekong Big Build is about, check out this clip and all the volunteers and the lives they change:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PEk3HmWKBE

What to do with over ripe pears?

Some pears looking to be saved from the worm farm!
Some pears looking to be saved from the worm farm!

What to do with overripe pears? My sister works for Batlow apples, so I am always well supplied with apples and when my son surprised me one day by declaring his love to pears, I inherited a lot of pears. We have slowely been making our way through the pears, but yesterday I noticed a few were looking particularly sad and had been placed in the sink, ready for their journey to the worm farm. But, rather than give these to my worms, much to my children’s chagrin (looking at the worms in my worm farm is like the highlight of their day. They stand there squealing with delight at all the wriggling, squirmy and squishy action!), I decided to ask some friends for ideas on what to do with them. I mean I had no idea for recipes really. Some suggestions that came in were:
– Banana and Pear Loaf;
– Danish; and
– Muffins.

So I decided on a Banana and Pear loaf which my niece and daughter delighted in helping me back. This is the recipe that I followed:

I followed this recipe overall except that I used 2 bananas, used more pear (about 2) by grating them into the ‘wet’ mixture and lastly, I did not add walnuts because my niece is allergic to nuts.
Thank you Alchemy Kitchen (http://www.alchemyinthekitchen.ie/2012/05/banana-pear-and-coconut-loaf-reason-to.html)
Banana, Pear and Coconut Loaf
250g very ripe bananas, mashed (that’s about 3 medium bananas)
100g sunflower oil (or other flavourless cooking oil)
100g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
250g plain flour
50g dessicated shredded coconut (unsweetened)
10g baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 soft sweet ripe pear, such as Rocha, chopped into small pieces
a little butter to grease the loaf tin
1. First, lightly butter and base line a 2 lb loaf tin.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas roughly using a fork or a potato masher. Add the oil and caster sugar and stir together until just combined. Next add the beaten eggs, again stirring until just combined.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, coconut, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt and fold these dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just incorporated and no dry mix remains. (To fold, add dry ingredients to wet and taking a spatula or a metal spoon, cut through the centre of the batter. Move the spatula or spoon across the bottom of the bowl, and back up the side and across the top bringing some of the cake mixture from bottom to top. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat. Keep folding the mixture and turning the bowl until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the batter. Folding avoids overworking the batter, giving a tender crumb in the finished loaf.) Finally, mix in the chopped pear, making sure it is well-distributed throughout the mixture.
4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf tin and place in the preheated oven. Bake for about 50 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. A cocktail stick inserted in the centre should come out clean. If there is batter clinging to it, pop the loaf back in the oven for a further 10 minutes then test again. Leave to cool in the tin. While you can eat it straight away, this cake is best wrapped in cling film and left for 24 hours before eating. A wonderful alchemy takes place and it becomes more banana-y, pear-y and utterly delicious.

In the oven
In the oven
Yummo!We did not wait 24 hours to enjoy this treat!
Yummo!We did not wait 24 hours to enjoy this treat!