Goodwill Wines – Plonk That Makes You Feel Good!

I have always said that if it was more socially acceptable, I would have wine on my muesli for breakfast. Well… looks like my dreams came true! I would like to shine the spotlight on one of my absolute favourite Australian companies – Goodwill Wine. Wine with a conscience? Fill me up, Buttercup!

The Bittersweet Background Story

Human kindness rises from the ashes.

I am sure the Black Saturday bushfires will replay in the nightmares of many Australians. I think of it as one of the “I remember where I was when” moments. The founders of Goodwill, David Laity and Ali Rees, were two of the many that lost all their worldly goods (home and job) in the fire but – most importantly – escaped with their lives. They credit the unwavering kindness and support they received in these tough times as the reason they were able to make it through and rebuild. Moving forward they vowed to use kindness as way of rebuilding their own future! Using funds donated from the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal (read the touching thank-you section here), Goodwill Wine is paying it forward and sending some seriously good karma out into the world. I love nothing more than those that refuse to become victims and instead choose to make any situation (no matter how Black) bright again!

The Concept

An example of a Goodwill Wine Label (this one supporting CFA)

Goodwill Wine is an online wine store with a massive difference. Firstly they are dedicated to sourcing the best quality boutique wine from independent wineries across Australia. In their own words “We are not about making money from bulk, cheap wine. Our commitment is to quality.” But the major draw is that they are a licensed fundraiser which pledges 50% of the profit (a minimum of $20 per case) to a charity of your choice! You even get a pretty customised label dedicated to your charity.

The Charities They Support

Any registered charity or NFP in Australia!!! Goodwill have a massive list of profiled charities which come with their own customised label (see the list here) or you can choose the generic ‘Goodwill Label’ and select any registered organisation in Australia to receive the profit of your purchase! Most of the charities have a green focus on conservation and animal rights/welfare and if you can think of a charity that would benefit Goodwill implore you to contact them and they will try their darndest to get them involved. Another benefit is you can click on any charity profile and see how much Goodwill has donated to them so far – here is the Animals Australia page to show what I mean or see the image below.

An example of the Edgars Mission charity profile

The Wine

There is a seriously large range of wine to choose from – see them all here. You can buy a minimum of 6 bottles and then the amounts range from 12, 24 (case) and some allow up to 60 bottles of the same wine at a time. For all you vegans out there they even have Vegan Mixed cases without any of those nasty fining agents!

The Environmental Cred

Goodwill Wine not only uses 100% recycled cartons but they also offset all their freighting around the country with Greenfleet (another super company!) planting a variety of native trees in permanent forests that help to reduce soil erosion and provide essential habitat for native wildlife! Are you as in love with this company as I am?

All in all…

I can’t think of more reasons to love and support this company and along with it some truly deserving charities. Coming up to Christmas I am already putting my orders in and can’t wait to tell the receivers of each bottle about the company and spread the good word. If you work in a company that gifts wine bottles to Clients why not suggest using them? This company is checking all the boxes and I am sure now that you know about them you will choose to support them too!

It’s simple: Good Wine, Good Price, Goodwill.

Sustainability and Health – Learning’s from Perth Green Drinks

On Wednesday (24 August) I attended my first Perth Green Drinks event to watch three panellists discuss a topic of great interest and concern: “Sustainability and Health”. The Green Drinks crew lived up to their mantra ‘conversation, education and community’ and the speakers were fabulous and SO informed – so then, why did I walk away feeling so damn frustrated?

On the way home my husband and I realised why: it was because the solutions that the experts provided for opting out of the chemical maze were not quick fixes. It seems I am another victim of the ‘quick convenient trap’. We are smack bang in the middle of a very sticky web and sadly ‘just look for this little symbol’ doesn’t cut it anymore. Sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Like a light switch going off, I felt empowered again.  This is why I want to share the information with you so that if it concerns you as well you can take the necessary steps to leading a toxic free life.

Who, What, Why

The event flyer pointed at the ever increasing links of ‘convenience chemicals’ and the ever declining health of the environment and those that inhabit it. Allotted 10 minutes each the three experts were (drum roll please)…

Jane Bremmer – an environmental health and justice activist. Chair of the Alliance for a Clean Environment and secretary for the National Toxics Network (Australia’s peak toxic and pollution reduction NGO).

Dr. George Crisp – a GP who is WA’s chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia, a voluntary group interested in the relationship between human health and environmental damage.

Dianne Caine –On her crusade to help her daughter survive an inoperable brain tumour, Dianne was alarmed at the level of harmful chemicals in popular products that we use every day. She consequently went on to create her own very successful product range Always Purer.

After they spoke there was a short Q&A session which bubbled over into drinks and nibbles (not very vegetarian/vegan friendly I am afraid). It was a fantastic event and I only have one major gripe: the speakers were all given a plastic bottle of water! Not only is this one of the easiest steps one can take towards being a bit greener but when we are discussing chemicals in products (including BPA in plastic bottles) I found it a very bizarre choice. This being said that is a nitpick (i just found it odd). If you have a chance to get to one of these events make sure you go. The information I have learnt is invaluable (see their Facebook page here).

Here Is What I Learnt…

Where/When Are We Exposed To These Chemicals?

  • Food –pesticides used in agriculture, chemical additives used in production
  • Personal Care products
  • Consumer Goods
  • Environmental exposure (there is no legal requirement to put any signage in a public urban area that is being sprayed with potentially dangerous agricultural chemicals)
  • Medicine

An Overview of Chemical ‘Regulation’ in Australia

The chemical regulation in Australia is complex and fragmented and – let’s face it – a bit of a joke! In fact, chemical regulation in Australia and New Zealand is considered amongst the worst in the world. We have a host of government bodies dedicated to the regulation of them yet when we look at the AICS – the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances – we see that there are a whopping 38,000 chemicals that have not been assessed.

A huge amount of chemicals that we are readily using in Australia are completely banned elsewhere. One example is Dimethyl Fumarate, a mould prevention chemical (fungicide) commonly found in shoes, jackets and furniture. Banned in EU, Used unhesitatingly in Australia.

Who Regulates Chemicals in Australia

The (self-regulated) government bodies that are responsible for the assessment and registration of chemicals within Australia and NZ are as follows;

  • NICNAS (National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme).
  • APVMA (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority) – The rightly infamous Monsanto lists them under their ‘Who Are We’ section… just sayin.
  • TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration)
  • FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand)

Luckily, those organisations (ACE and NTN) that Jane is involved in are working towards better accountability, public knowledge and regulation for Australia.

Stockholm Convention and POPs

My completely unscientific interpretation of a POP (Persistent Organic Pollutants) is this: a chemical that once created does not ever leave the planet, once ingested never leaves the body. It is rarely naturally occurring more commonly a huge by-product of industry: a Frankenstein. Because these POPs do not breakdown they accumulate in our environment and bodies and are major area of concern in terms of global warming and health. The Stockholm Convention  is a global treaty that aims to protect human health and the environment from them.

 3 chemicals you need to get out of your life RIGHT NOW!

Triclosan – is an antibacterial and antifungal chemical that was originally developed for medical settings. It is now used extensively in hand washes and other personal care products and its overuse has exploded since Swine Flu came about. In Australia we currently have no limitations on its use whereas it is completely banned in Canada and EU and limited in USA.

Triclosan is an endocrine disrupter – which basically means it messes with your hormones in a very scary way. A major area of Global Concern is its link to worldwide trends of antibiotic resistance.  It has also been linked to impairing muscle functions (see the study here) at our current level of exposure.

If Triclosan is affecting humans in this way you can only imagine what happens when it hits the aquatic environment which inevitably all products do! It damages ecosystems and the organisms within them, bioaccumulates and then ends up back in the food chain.

Bisphenol A (BPA) – this is the guy that you hear about the most. He is found in plastic containers, water bottles, canned food and drinks and (alarmingly) baby products. Bisphenol A is another endocrine disruptor: it mimics oestrogen and may fool the body by stimulating reactions that are unnecessary and potentially harmful.  In 2010 all the aforementioned government bodies (in conjunction with ACCC) collectively considered the possible risks of BPA and they remain convinced that BPA is safe for the whole population at the very low levels of current exposure. Canada, Japan and parts of Europe and USA obviously disagree and have banned it in all infant products.

Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs or PBDEs) – Jane feels that this is the biggest con of our time. These chemicals apparently contribute to public safety by reducing flammability of products like computers, furnishings and mattresses.  Same issues – hormone disruption, environmental damage, stuck record. Following strong evidence of increasing contamination of the environment, wildlife, and people this POP is soon to be phased out under the Stockholm Convention (see it here with the 8 other chemicals added to the annexes).

Before learning about this I had never seriously thought about how important organic materials and mattresses were. I thought you would invest in them as an environmental decision only -which of course is important too – but it is now very clear that there are strong causes for concern regarding our health. We sleep inhaling the chemicals released from these mattresses as well as wrapping our bare skin within then. I am expecting a baby in November and this has hugely affected my decision towards mattress selection.

What can we do?

The resounding pieces of advice from the panel were;

  • Use chemicals as little as possible
  • Read the label

This is the hard bit…

  • Investigate the companies

Apparently even certified organic ingredients can be manufactured in a way that can damage the ingredient and lead to some sort of chemical contamination. What? So even making all the right choices, supporting all the right companies I am not doing enough? I was getting mad. I make all my own beauty products (like this deodorant) and cleaning products from natural ingredients like Bicarb, vinegar and coconut oils. Surely this is okay? Well this is better but we still need to take a serious look into the companies and processes used in the production of products. For example, in terms of Bicarb soda, truly natural products are mined from the ground and are presented as untreated, pure sodium bicarbonate… the way the earth made it. Others however are heated, treated and processed and are therefore not as great.

I calmed myself down and reasoned with myself. I have figured that it goes back to the primary principle of awareness – educate and investigate. But now there is an added dimension. We all need to read our information as critically as possible and try to avoid green-washing (see here). It frustrates me unbelievably that we need to look this damn hard to verify that natural products are what they say. Why is it that we need to prove that big companies are doing the wrong thing? Surely the big companies should have to prove to us that they are doing the right thing? Oh well.

Sum Up

I am sorry if that was incredibly long, wordy and dry. I try to steer away from articles like that but the information I learnt was so shocking and important that I really felt I needed to share it. I hope it helped!  Would love to hear from you in the comments as always. In the meantime I love the way Annie Leonard explains things.. it is light and bright and always provides solutions. Here is here take on the chemicals in cosmetics…

Nicole Foss – How To Prepare For The Upcoming Financial Crisis

Fremantle Town Hall

So, last Friday night at around 7:46pm my brain exploded. It happened without warning and hurt quite a lot. When I decided to attend a seminar starring world renowned Peak Oil and Finance Analyst Nicole Foss I, somewhat stupidly,  thought I was going to be delivered with a bit of hope! Instead I was handed the dirty, stinking truth. We are in big economic, social and environmental trouble – at both an individual and global scale.

The crowd... about to get their minds blown

I intended for this post to provide a really succinct summary of the presentation in my own voice. Unfortunately, due to the size of the issue it could not be whittled down any more than Nicole already did – it is incredible that she managed to explain such a gigantic problem and possible solutions within an hour! Either way – I have employed her skills again and embedded youtube videos of her explaining. They are somewhat lengthy but really are worth watching. I just wanted to explain that it wasn’t laziness… just inability.

Who Is Nicole Foss?

Sweet looking... but don't be fooled. She will give you nightmares.

Nicole (who also goes by the moniker Stoneleigh) is virtually a giant brain with legs. She has degrees in biology, neuroscience, psychology, international law and air & water pollution. Like I said… GIANT BRAIN. She was also the Editor of The Oil Drum Canada where she wrote about peak oil and finance and now spends her days as co-editor of The Automatic Earth. I hate to say it but with all those achievements under her belt I expected to be fronted with the stereotypical academic -pompous, stuffy and possibly a little bit detached. Nicole shattered any expectations. Despite her formidable intelligence Nicole managed to communicate complex problems in a fairly easy to understand way.

What Is The Problem?

Nicole started by explaining that we need to focus on the financial aspect of this global problem not because it was the most important aspect of the crisis but instead because it has the shortest timeframe to work with. In other words – the financial ‘bubble’ is going to burst very soon. She spoke a lot about ‘bubbles’ and it was the part of her talk that resonated with me the most – perhaps because it was the simplest concept to grasp. (*ten minutes passes). Maybe it is still not simple enough for me to explain but when Nicole says it, it at least sounds simple. So here she is to do exactly that…

How do we prepare ourselves?

Well, she didn’t mince words. I kept checking myself because I couldn’t believe this little lady in the flowy sleeves with the sweet Canadian accent was saying all these mean things. She broke the news that the only ‘solution’ to this problem was adequate preparation of our homes, our communities and ourselves. She asked everyone to consider how they fulfil the big needs of their lives i.e. how do you get your heat, power, water, transport and nutrition? For example do you have a water filter? Nicole said that she wasn’t saying that water was about to run out but that the quality may degrade – it takes a lot of systems all running smoothly to produce potable water! Do you have practical skills? It left me looking at my home and thinking “Wow! If I didn’t have a car, power supply or communication… I would really be stuffed”. Below Nicole explains what she has done to prepare and what she suggests that you could do also. Well worth a watch.

If You Want To See Her…

Even though I have painted the whole thing as a negative experience it really wasn’t. It was eye-opening that is for sure but you need to have the information (no matter how scary) to pick yourself up and get ready for action. Nicole will be presenting on Sunday, March 11th 10am – 4pm at an All Day Ecoburbia Conference and the Fremantle Town Hall. It will cost $20 and is well worth it.

If you would like to see Nicole Foss please RSVP to Shani Graham on stay@thepaintedfish.com.au or 0417 941 991

Shani rallying the crowd

Loved all the sustainable transport outside the Town Hall!

The Fight For Our Lives – Gas vs. Water

This video needs to be seen. Yes, it is a little bit dramatic and yes it is also slightly reminiscent of the opening word crawl in Star Wars but, all that aside, the drama is justified. The world and everything on it needs water. Fresh, uncontaminated water. Yet mining companies – with exploration licences in hand – are threatening local, national and international water sources with unsustainable and downright dangerous methods.

Check out what is happening as we speak in Australia…

What is Coal Seam Gas?

Coal Seam Gas (CSG) is methane that is trapped in coal seams. It is trapped by water (in pores and cleats) and are found in coal deposits that are too deep to mine.

Image originally from Action On Coal and Gas

Why is mining it a problem?

Groundwater

For me this is the scariest risk. In a country where drought is one of our major concerns the thought of ‘fracking’ is just insane. To extract the CSG water must be removed which can then affect the water levels in aquifers and alluvial systems. Mining companies cause micro-seismic (tiny earthquakes) to create pathways for the gas to move through. This is called Hydraulic Fracturing AKA Fracking. If these fractures hit the wrong places (say a fault or fissure) then hey presto! we have contaminated groundwater.

The First Law of Ecology: Everything Is Connected To Everything Else

-Barry Commoner, The Closing Circle, 1971

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

This entire industry is dirty. Coal Seam Gas is a fossil fuel – a non-renewable resource. Not only does the burning of the gas produce carbon emissions, but there are often methane leaks (which is not stringently monitored by the industry). Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, 72 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a period of 20 years, or 25 times more effective over 100 years.

Calculating how much carbon is absorbed by which forests and farms is a tricky task, especially when politicians do it.
– Donella Meadows

Conservation

A CSG well has a footprint of one hectare – which doesn’t sound all that bad. Except there over 40,000 wells in Australia as well as all the infrastructure and roads created to facilitate them. That leads to the removal of a huge amount of unique and valuable habitats.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”

Mohandas K. Gandhi quoted in EF Schumacher, Small is Beautiful.

Threats to Health

Gas wells release dangerous dust into the atmosphere which have been linked to respitory issues and cancer and affect the nervous and immune systems of humans and animals.  Gases which are release include BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polycyclic-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Of these gases – 25% are carcinogenic; 37% affect the endocrine system; 52% affect the nervous system and 40% affect the immune system.

“I do care a great deal about the environment but my real work and my greatest challenge is trying to overcome deceits that end up jeopardising oublic healthy and safety”

– Erin Brockovich

What can you do?

Money talks. When up against a mining company that has more money than god it is a hard fight to win. The Lock The Gate Alliance  is a fantastic not-for-profit organisation which suggests – as the video also does – that people need to make some noise. Their website is a fantastic resource if you want to get involved. It has information about rallies, groups, contact details for letters, petitions and a whole lot more. Take a gander and get inspired.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead (1901-1978) quoted in John M. RIchardson, ed. Making it Happen, 1982

If you’re interested?

If you want to see examples of fracking (and all that comes with it) then I recommend watching the Sundance Festival award winner Gasland by Josh Fox. It left me flabbergasted. Here is the trailer – check out the guy lighting his tap water on fire.. YIKES.

Do You Know What Your Carbon Footprint Is?

If everyone on the planet lived your lifestyle how many worlds would we need?

So many companies are using “green” as an advertising strategy that really useful eco tools and terms are being drowned in the green-wash. One such tool (and term) is your Carbon Footprint. We hear about it daily, but how many people really know their carbon shoe size or even what a carbon footprint is?

DID YOU KNOW…? Australians currently emit more than 550 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year. About a fifth of this is generated through every day activities. – 1degree

What is a carbon footprint?

Individuals, countries, products and industries all have carbon footprints. In fact, every single thing that involves human activity has a carbon footprint. Human activities demand natural resources and produce waste and the measure of these impacts on the environment is known as an ‘ecological footprint’ (or carbon footprint). The impact that these activities have on the environment has, in recent times anyway, been measured in terms of climate change.

Here is a really clever and simple way of looking at how little things can have large and environmentally damaging footprints…

Thanks to WWF for providing that amazing little video – doesn’t it put things in perspective?

Something to also consider is that we also have two different types of footprints;

 Primary Footprint:

A measure of our direct emissions of CO2 from burning of fossil fuels such as domestic energy consumption (our household gas, electricity etc) and transport (car, plane, whatever you use to get from A to B)

Secondary Footprint:

A measure of our indirect emissions of CO2 looking at the entire lifecycle of products from their manufacture to their breakdown. It is a simple equation… the more new things buy, the more emissions you cause.

Here is a fantastic graph thanks to Carbon Footprint which breaks down all our basic needs and modern luxuries and codes whether they Primary (Green) or Secondary (Yellow).

Green = Primary Footprint ; Yellow = Secondary Footprint

So what is your Carbon Footprint?

So are you ready to know? There are a million calculators around and they go from being extremely comprehensive (wanting to know how many kWh you use, litres of heating oil) to just getting an approximate summary of your habits and uses (travel distances, modes of transport, dietary choices). Below I have put a link to my favourite calculators – one basic, one thorough, a kiddies calculator and my fave of all.

The end result (represent by worlds) will show you how many planet earths we would need if everyone (all 7 billion of us) lived the lifestyle that you live. A lot of them also give you a detailed synopsis of what you use and where your problem areas are (i.e. travel, home energy, food) like the picture below;

An example of a typical synopsis after calculating your carbon footprint (from WWF ‘Fun Calculator’ link below)

To use these calculators you need to have some idea on the systems that your home uses and general energy consumption – to a varying degree depending on which calculator you use. It takes about ten minutes and will also ask about your diet, household and travel. If you don’t feel confident doing it by yourself then sit down with your partner or family to do it – it also has the added benefit of starting a conversation about sustainability. It is very interesting and really shows the areas that you need to make changes to (and areas that you can pat yourself on the back!).

Tip from Blonde Olive – Having your bills at the ready can make this easier but you can guesstimate without as well.

Basic Calculator

Advanced Calculator

My Favourite Calculator (This calculator is fantastic as it gives you options on whether your answer is detailed or vague. You also get a cute little avatar that walks around a little street which eventually – through your answers – builds itself into a virtual representation of your eco-habits – check out the picture below)

My little olive avatar roaming around Emville!

And there is even a calculator for school kiddies! (It is American so you may need to pick a random school but it is recommended on a load of Australian sites, including state governments)

Reduce your footprint…

If you are not happy with how many earths you are eating up with your habits then commit to making a difference. When I first calculated mine a couple of years ago it came as quite a shock. I was eco conscious but it was very clear that even with my good habits the world was going to fly way beyond its carrying capacity. The great thing was I could see exactly where I was going wrong and change it. For example, my husband and I were not using enough public transport and we lived too far away from work, uni, friends and family. Solution? We moved closer and we carpool to work everyday (halfway at least and then I walk the rest). As well as some other lifestyle tweaks we have more than halved our households footprint!

If you are stuck for ideas check out my list of Eco Resolutions or my post about how to save water around the house. You could even reduce the impact that your diet has on the planet. Carbon Footprint also made a really helpful list of quick tips.

Personally my favorite way to cut emissions is one of the most logical too – cut out pointless single-use items such as plastic bags, bottles or cutlery. Actually, get rid of plastics altogether. If you want my 5 Steps to Cut Out Plastic then click here.

My favourite of their suggested solutions are listed below;

Tackle your Primary Footprint

  • Turn it off when not in use (lights, television, DVD player, Hi Fi, computer etc) Click here to find out which electrical items in your household are contribute the most to your Carbon Footprint
  • Turn down the water heating setting (just 2 degrees will make a significant saving)
  • Fill your dish washer and washing machine with a full load – this will save you water, electricity, and washing powder
  • Fill the kettle with only as much water as you need
  • Do your weekly shopping in a single trip
  • Hang out the washing to dry rather than tumble drying it
  • Use energy saving light bulbs
  • Use the bus or a train rather than your car
  • For short journeys either walk or cycle
  • Try to reduce the number of flights you take

Reduce your Secondary Footprint

(this is the easiest one because it all depends on your buying habits, your choices!)

  • Don’t buy bottled water refill from the tap. If you are concerned about the quality – buy a water filter. Why not give Plastic Free July a go (see the information here).
  • Buy local fruit and vegetables, or even try growing your own
  • Buy foods that are in season locally
  • Reduce your consumption of meat
  • Buy organic produce
  • Don’t buy over packaged products
  • Recycle as much as possible
  • For the full list please click here.

Good luck and let me know how you go!

A Calendar With A Cause

Well, we are at the beginning of the year. It is time to get organised and plan our dreams or maybe just dream about our plans. But before rushing out and just grabbing whatever glossy calendar grabs your attention first you should know about the People and Planet Calendar. Not only does this calendar have some of the most beautiful images I have seen it but it is also working towards a socially just and sustainable world.

"The Golden Fibre" - Bangladesh - by Jashim Salam

The People and Planet project was formed by a very forward-thinking Australian by the name of Michael Cebon (who also happens to be the brains behind Ethical Jobs). He knew that gorgeous calendars are great for fund-raising however it was a financially prohibitive idea for him to foot alone. So he formed a cooperative with a group of 25 Australian charities. 7 years on and 49 charities later and Michael still has stars in his eyes – and so he should.

(If you would like to see a list of all the charities involved please click here . I was happy to see a few of my favourites in there such as Australian Marine Conservation Society, Animal Rights Advocates inc., Oxfam Shop and Environs Kimberley).

The 49 Australian not-for-profits involved

The photographs (all selected through the People & Planet International Photo Competition) are heart-warming, funny and absolutely beautiful. For example the cover shot is of Arafat, a little Bangladeshi boy that lives in a slum and works in a cigarette factory. He is clutching his beloved cricket bat and smiling broadly and it is explained in the blurb that he dreams of winning the Cricket World Cup as part of the Bangladesh National Team.

"All Rounder" - Bangladesh - by Kazi Riasat Alve

The calendars are printed on Monza Satin recycled paper which is 55% recycled and 45% FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified. It is also 100% Carbon Offset.

Please help Michael reach his goal of raising $70,000 this year and treat yourself to some gorgeous images that give the hope of a better world.

To buy online click here – they also have diaries available! (Or just pop into an Oxfam store like I did).

There is also a great interview with Michael on one of my favourite blogs about boho vintage ramblings and sustainable adventurings –  Hunchy Piper.

"Catch 22" - Malaysia - By Kim Chong Keat