Resource-smart schools and the revelation of composting

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The 71st Sustainable Hour on 6 May 2015 marks the International Composting Awareness Week and the International Permaculture Day.

In previous weeks we have talked with primary and high school students, Cool Australia and Kids Teaching Kids. Today, we are happy to introduce you to Anthony Mangelsdorf from ResourceSmart Schools who is a central person in the Geelong and South Barwon regions within the field of sustainability and education.


Listen to The Sustainable Hour no. 71:

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Guest in the studio:
Anthony Mangelsdorf, Project Manager, Barwon South West ResourceSmart Schools and Barwon Heads Sustainability Group

Pre-recorded interview:
Søren Dahlgaard, artist and curator of the The Maldives Exodus Caravan Show at Federation Square in Melbourne (more info below)

Elon Musk, Tesla Energy – three-minute excerpt from Youtube video

James Hansen, retired NASA climate scientist – two-minute excerpt from ABC Radio National


Excerpts from the hour


The Stored Sunlight revolution

“This is something we must do. It is something we CAN do, and we WILL do”.
Elon Musk

The Stored Sunlight revolution has finally arrived. While the rest of the world seems unable to wake up from its coal-gas-oil rush, Elon Musk is showing the way. The new battery system he launched this week can power homes, businesses, and the world.

Elon Musk’s launch video had over 1.5 million views on Youtube during its first three days, and shortly after he was able to announce that 38,000 Powerwall units had already been pre-ordered.

“Just about any Victorian home using gas for space heating and hot water, or any half-decent home in one of Australia’s many sub-tropical-tropical climates, can now be off grid for not much more than $15,000 with 5kW solar and 14kWh of storage. (…)
If this is what Tesla energy has on the market in 2015, do we dare imagine what is possible in 2020?”
Tosh Szatow, Energy for the People


“At a cost of $500-$1000kWh fully installed today Tesla’s Powerwall is cheap enough to create the first major wave of early adopters – tech enthusiasts, survivalists, farmers – which will kick-off a mass market that will ultimately drive costs down to utility-killing levels.”
Matthew Wright, Climate Spectator

» The Guardian – 7 May 2015:
Elon Musk hails ‘crazy’ response to Tesla battery launch

» Business Spectator – 4 May 2015:
Elon Musk’s wonderwall – a utility killer

» RenewEconomy – 4 May 2015:
Tesla just put a bomb under business model of the grid

» Energy for the People – 3 May 2015:
The Powerwall Changes Everything

» The Verge – 1 May 2015:
Tesla Energy is Elon Musk’s battery system that can power homes, businesses, and the world





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The Maldives Exodus Caravan Show

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The people of Maldives could become the first entire population to become climate refugees. But where do you go when your island home is gone? An exhibition in Melbourne by Søren Dahlgaard is asking this question.

The Maldives Exodus Caravan Show has been exhibited in Venice, Berlin and New York, and now it is in Melbourne as part of ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2015.

The caravan and inflatable island represent movement in all its aspects – both physical and mental – to focus on the current political unrest in the Maldives and the imprisonment of the democratically elected president of the nation. It resonates with the plight of low-lying Pacific island states such as Vanuatu, which is also confronted with the devastating climate change impacts.

‘The Maldives Exodus Caravan Show’ is curated by Danish artist Søren Dahlgaard with deputy curators Elena Gilbert and Microclima. This international group exhibition promotes themes of environmental awareness and climate change with videos, performance, music, and games.

» See the exhibition at Federation Square, Flinders Street in Melbourne
(located between Melbourne Visitor Centre and ACMI) from 27 April to 17 May 2015. Entrance: free. More info on www.artclimatechange.org

» Listen to The Sustainable Hour’s ten-minute interview with Søren Dahlgaard
(we played a three-minute excerpt from this interview in The Sustainable Hour)



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UN’s 2°C degrees target: a prescription for disaster

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“Its crazy to think that 2°C degrees is a safe limit.”
James Hansen, American scientist

 

“2°C degrees global warming is a prescription for disaster,” the American scientist James Hansen told ABC Radio National Breakfast show in a phone interview. He is convinced that this is an issue of intergenerational injustice. It is a moral issue

“2°C degrees is actually a prescription for disaster. That’s well understood by the scientific community,” the former NASA climate scientist James Hansen told ABC’s Radio National.

“Actually what the science tells us is we have an emergency, this is actually a global crisis and the science for that is crystal clear. It’s not obvious to the public because the climate system responds slowly, the ocean is four kilometres deep, these ice sheets are three kilometres thick. They only respond over timescales of decades to centuries, but once the processes are started it’s going to be extremely difficult if not impossible to stop them.

So what the science actually tells us is that we should reduce emissions as fast as practical, bearing in mind the economic consequences, but in fact the actions that are necessary are not economically harmful. You just have to make the prices of fossil fuels honest.” [Instead of subsidising them].

James Hansen touched on the UN climate panel IPCC’s reticence on sea level rises:

“The paleoclimate evidence indicates the ice sheets are much more sensitive than the glaciologist, the modellers of ice sheets have indicated and furthermore we now have satellite data over the last 12 years that confirms that ice sheet disintegration is a non-linear process that should not have been surprising, and I have been saying that for 10 years, but now this satellite data confirms that. The ice sheets are losing mass faster and faster with a doubling the of about 10 years. If that continues, we would get sea-level rises of several metres within 40 to 50 years.

The consequences are almost unthinkable. It would mean that all coastal cities would become dysfunctional, some parts of the cities would still be sticking above the water but they would not be habitable, so the economic implications are incalculable. We really cannot go down that path, this is an issue of intergenerational injustice, it’s a moral issue.”

David Spratt has delivered these notes from the ABC radio interview.

» Listen to the full radio interview here: www.abc.net.au

» This was also reported by www.smh.com.au



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More information

About the the topics we talked about in this Sustainable Hour


Compost and climate

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“Two handfuls of healthy soil contain more living organisms than there 
are people on the earth. What these beings are and what they can be doing
is difficult to even begin to comprehend, but it helps to realise that
even though they are many, they work as one.”

 

The International Composting Awareness Week wants to get you into composting. It is an easy way to recycle food and garden waste into soil that can enrich your garden. But did you also know that it reduces your carbon footprint?

Making your own garden compost is a lot easier than you may think. You can recycle most of your organic household and garden waste. This is an excellent way to help the environment and save money.

Almost half of the rubbish bin in the average household consists of kitchen and garden organic materials. Three percen of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from organic material rotting anearobically in landfills producing methane gas (which has 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide). Most of this material can be composted. Direct sequestration of this organic material greatly increases carbon in the soil reducing the effects of climate change.

Turning food scraps and organic garden waste into compost can:
• Improve soil quality and garden vitality by releasing rich nutrients into the soil
• Suppress plant diseases and pests, helping to reduce or eliminates the need for chemical fertilisers and manures
• Reduce the amount of organic waste going to landfill therefore preventing greenhouse gas emissions
• Help soils retain moisture
• Help absorb and filter runoff, protecting streams from erosion and pollution

So, benefits of composting include (but are not limited to)
• Preventing greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging the breakdown of organic material and reducing the amount of garden and kitchen waste going to landfill.
• Improving soil quality and garden vitality by releasing the rich nutrients in the compost into the soil of your garden.

Five easy steps to get started

1. Choosing the right bin
How much waste will you be able to place in your compost bin? If you have a medium or large lawn and intend to put the grass clippings in, you may need a bigger bin. Kitchen waste will generally require a smaller bin. If you need help choosing your compost bin, Sustainable Gardening Australia have put together this guide in order to help choose the best option for you.

2. Collecting kitchen waste
Collect organic waste from your kitchen in a container. After watching my grandma do this for years, I learnt that keeping an empty ice cream container next to your bin is an excellent way to do this. Another handy tip from my wise grandma to anyone that owns chickens – organic wastes from fruit and vege or other food scraps can be thrown back in the chicken pen for their all-organic dinner! Make sure there is no cooked food, meat or fish. Eggshells are fine

3. Filling the bin
Carry on with step 2 and keep emptying into your compost bin. All organic waste from the garden can be added to your bin as well including grass and flower clippings. It’s good to get the mixture of green and brown waste about the same to ensure your compost heap is effective and does not smell.

4. Leave it to mature
Making compost can take as little as a couple of months or as long as a year. The timeframe depends on factors such as your mixture, volume of waste, weather, frequency of turning and other factors. You can cut down the waste to as small as possible (like with a wood chipper), ensure the mixture is not too wet or dry and turn it regularly.

5. Putting your compost to use
The hatch at the bottom of the bin can be used to empty the bin contents. Seeing it was put in first, it has been in there the longest!

For a turning bin there are several options depending on your preference and the style of bin. You can place a bucket/tarp and open the door and turn the drum around for the compost to fall out. You can also scoop it out while rotated to the side. Compost can be mixed into the soil or placed above the existing soil.


How the compost process works
You add the ingredients layer by layer, mixing as you can.

1. Brown material (leaves, hay, dry matter) – this cellulose material is the carbohydrate or “energy” food for the compost micro-organisms, who digest it to get the energy for their work.

2. Green material (grass, vegetable waste, manure, fertiliser) – which contains nitrogen compounds that are important in the growth of the micro-organisms. Layer the ingredients and mix with your fork to avoid odors.

3. Soil or old compost – is full of micro-organisms that kick off the process! Although composting will work without the addition of soil or old compost it helps speed up the process.

4. Ensure adequate moisture inside the compost pile. Water and stir the pile as you build it. Bear in mind that piles can get too wet – you might need to cover the compost during rainy periods.

5. Oxygen is required for the “slow fire” called composting. Without air, any biological activity will be severely limited and a shift to unhealthy bacteria may occur.

Mix all these ingredients and turn as you can. If the pile is cool but hasn’t turned to humus yet, it needs to be turned. A well built compost pile can get quite hot, killing weed seeds and pathogens in manure.

What to add in your compost bin:

Vegetable and fruit scraps, vegetable oil, prunings and lawn clippings, tea bags and coffee, grounds, vacuum dust, shredded paper and cardboard, used potting mix, egg shells, flowers.

What not to add in your compost bin:

Meat and bones, dairy products, diseased plants, fat, magazines, large branches, weeds that have seeds or underground stems, sawdust from treated timber, pet droppings, synthetic chemicals.

Many councils around Australia offer a collection service for garden materials. This material is professionally processed into compost-based products such as soil conditioners, mulches, garden soils, top dressing soils and potting mixes.

Now go get started – and good luck!

» www.compostweek.com.au

» www.greenpeace.org.au

» For more detail, have a look at Composting Home Australia website: www.compostinghome.com.au



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Study: Australia risking ‘systemic economic crisis’

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Australia risks a ‘systemic economic crisis’ as the rest of the world is decarbonising, says the new study ‘Carbon Crisis’ from Beyond Zero Emissions

Without changing the Australian investment focus towards cleaner energy, the country is on course for “systemic economic decline” which means high unemployment, high debt, and deep recession, the ‘Carbon Crisis’ report says.

The research by Beyond Zero Emissions shows that Australia has a 50 percent chance of systemic economic crisis, caused by ignoring the global shift to clean energy.

BZE director of research Gerard Drew said that intensity was a growing economic liability as the international community strengthens its efforts to limit climate change.

“There are a number of risks facing the Australian economy. Being unprepared and wrong footed by the global transition to a clean economy is a major risk that can be avoided by our domestic actions. Transitioning to a clean energy economy will take time. The longer the government delays, the greater the risk to the economy, and the greater the cost all Australians will have to bear,” he said.


‘Carbon Crisis’ key points
1. Projections of Australia’s energy production expect our footprint to grow from 3% to 16% of the global carbon budget by 2050.

2. Global economic risks cannot be controlled by domestic actions and policies. Carbon related risks can be directly reduced by domestic actions and policies.

3. Reduced demand for Australia’s emissions intensive exports represents a 50% chance of causing a systemic crisis.

4. Penalties on emissions in excess of Australia’s fair share* represents a 50% chance of causing a systemic crisis.

5. The time delay for investments to convert to real emission reductions requires forward planning. The earlier actions are taken, the lower the risk of crisis.

Beyond Zero Emissions has also recently published the report Our Fossil Economy which shows that reliance on emissions-intensive exports, such as coal, gas and iron ore, could lead to a $100 billion shortfall annually by 2030. Contrary to the International Energy Agency’s projections, and ignoring the international phase-out of emissions-intensive imports, the Australian government assumes that the Australian coal exports will increase in both volume and value.

» Read more on www.bze.org.au/fossileconomy

» Download the ‘Carbon Crisis’ report (PDF)

» Download the Fossil Economy’ report (PDF, 1.9MB)

» Business Spectator – 5 May 2015:
Australia risking ‘systemic economic crisis’ in decarbonising world: study



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CoonooerBridgeWindfarm

New wind turbines in Victoria

The Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas has announced a 19.8 MW order for the Coonooer Bridge Wind Farm in Victoria, Australia. Construction on this $50 million wind farm will begin in July 2015.

The project is one of only three successful projects under the Australian Capital Territory Government wind auction process awarded earlier this year, and the first to achieve financial close. The wind farm is expected to generate about 80,000 megawatt hours of electricity each year. (For comparison: a typical Australian residential solar system generates between 3-5 megawatt hours of electricity each year).

“This project is further proof that when technology advancements combine with effective government policy the cost of renewable energy will continue to decline”, said Gerard Carew, Vestas’ Vice President of Sales in the Asia Pacific region.

» Continue reading: www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au


Powering 14,000 Canberra homes
The six turbine project was given the green light after securing funding from a major Japanese investor on Monday.
The wind farm will supply power to about 14,000 Canberra homes as part of the ACT’s plan to source 90 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.

Under the agreement, Eurus Energy Holdings will own 80 per cent of the development, with the remainder owned by Australian renewables company Windlab and about 30 Coonooer Bridge residents.

Construction is expected to be complete by early 2016. The construction phase will provide jobs for about 70 people.

Windlab chief executive officer Roger Price said this project demonstrated the “enormous opportunity and benefit” provided by renewable energy. Mr Price said the site south of Charlton was chosen for its strong and consistent winds.

“This is a win-win for the local community which wholeheartedly supports this development, for our company, for the residents of the ACT and all who support renewable energy,” he said.

Eurus president Masami Shimizu said Coonooer Bridge was one of the best sites in Australia for a wind farm project.

“By taking advantage of this natural occurrence we can provide low cost energy to thousands of Australian homes,” he said.

» www.coonooerbridgewindfarm.com.au



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BZE-future-emissions

Would Australians like to be “good global citizens”?

Reductions should be even higher at 60 percent by 2030 in order to regain credibility among other countries, a new report from the Australian Climate Change Authority states

Australia should aim to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2025, compared with 2000 levels, in order to catch up to other countries’ efforts and prove it is a “good global citizen”, according to a Climate Change Authority review.
» Download the report Australia’s future emissions reduction targets (PDF)

» The Guardian – 22 April 2015:
Australia should cut emissions by 30% by 2025 to catch up, review says

» The Age – 22 April 2015:
Australia should ‘get off sidelines’

» The Age – 22 April 2015:
Climate Change Authority presents a compelling case for deeper Australian emissions cuts



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