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Viv Harris: What is sustainability?

What is sustainability and how do we start to become a sutainable family?

Sustainability is the ability of any system to both supply and replenish any resources it requires to continue functioning in a healthy and continuous manner.

This means, to have a sustainable lifestyle we need to be able to supply all our needs for good food, clean water, clean air as well as replenish these in a never ending cycle.


  • We have more people living now on the planet that have ever been born before and the need for the necessities of life such as clean food, air water are being threatened in an alarming manner.
  • Pollution on a world scale at a serious level and our ability to replenish these crucial resources is being seriously threatened. These natural resources are being supplied but are being used up and polluted very quickly so eventually we will run out of the essentials of life unless we do something about it. NOW!
  • Major changes are usually made at industry and government levels so what can we as individuals do about this critical problem?
  • How can we create important change on a global scale?
  • My idea is to start with ourselves and make changes in the way we think, live and in the choices we make so this influences our families, our neighbors, our communities then cities, so industry and government has to sit up and listen. BUT it all starts with YOU!

 This takes 3 important steps

1. AWARENESS and ATTITUDE - you have to WANT to change and make the commitment required to do this. Awareness of the critical state the world is in is crucial, so then we can do something about it.

2. Responsibility - of your choices, of your thoughts and your actions. i.e. choosing to change your household systems  with sustainable  principles e.g. reduce, reuse recycle, choosing clean unprocessed foods for ourselves and our families, thinking about all family processes and changing to create sustainable outcomes (supply and replenish as much as possible)

3. EDUCATION - learning how to achieve this. This is what we are going to cover this year in this segment - the "how to" to make your life, the lives of your family and ultimately the world a more healthy and sustainable place to live in.

  • Where do we start?
  • Once we have decided to make the change, and create a sustainable lifestyle, we need to set up running systems in our household to allow this to happen.
  • One of the first things we can easily do is set up a recycling system for our household. Reducing, reusing and recycling our household waste is an important part of being sustainable, as we are firstly reducing the amount of waste we bring into the home, then reusing what we can then recycling what is left over. This gives any waste products another chance to go around the cycle before it ends up at the landfill which effectively stops the supply/replenish cycle as that potential resource is dumped and sits there for eternity just filling space. The aim is to keep each resource going around the supply and replenish cycle for as long as possible.
  • Training the whole household to "sort at source" is really important as you don't want to have to go through bins and sort plastics from paper etc.
  • Every room needs to be set up to have the appropriate bins so they are easily emptied into the correct places (i.e. compost, to the chooks, recycling bin, unusable plastics to the tip).
  •  Sit down with the family and discuss the importance of everyone really thinking whenever they put anything in a bin as to where it's going to end up
  • Make sure everyone is on board by getting them interested in the making of the compost and reducing the amount of material put out at the gate (competitions perhaps?!)
  • I believe it's important to let children know about the whole process (i.e. why the food scraps go in a certain bin is because they go to the compost to create soil to grow veges and then they can eat them).
  • Create a compost bin in your backyard (we will be showing you how to build simple bins in later segments); this will reduce your tip waste hugely and reuse valuable resources to enable you to grow your own food. (Safe, clean, healthy food that you know where it comes from with few if any food miles involved).

1. The kitchen.

  • This is where most of the food scraps originate from. Have 3 different containers 
  • One for the compost heap (or, if you have chooks, the food scraps can go to them and the rest into the compost).
                All food scraps
                Tea bags/tea leaves
                Coffee grounds
                paper scraps (to go to the compost heap)
  • One for the recycle bin
                recyclable plastics (with the numbers in the triangles on the bottom of the containers to go out to the gate on rubbish day)
                newspapers and magazines (recycle at the gate or ideally use to mulch the garden over weeds  and put a layer of straw or grass clippings on the top)
  •  One for "can't do anything and goes to the tip" (I use a recycled shopping bag hung over the pantry door knob).
                dirty plastic wrappers and unrecyclable plastics (to go in prepaid bags at the gate on rubbish day)
  • By efficiently sorting at source, the amount of stuff going to the tip is dramatically reduced (we put out one tip bag every 5 weeks or so)

2. Bedrooms and bathrooms

  • Have 2 bins -one for paper and one for plastics (perhaps sort the recyclable shampoo and skincare bottles as they come to light)
  • Usually the waste is not great so they can be sorted as they go into the kitchen bins

3. Office

  • 2 bins - paper and plastic. Remember the plastic in envelope windows doesn't break down in the compost bin, so tear out before putting in the paper bin or be prepared to remove when the compost is made
  • 4. Garden
  • Collect all grass clippings for the compost
  • If you are having branches cut make sure you get them mulched on site and use in the compost or on the garden 
  • If you burn rubbish or branches etc., use the cold ashes in the compost or around trees (they are full of useful nutrients)
  • Use all raked up dead leaves and twigs in the compost
  • Many weeds are fine but not ones like Convolvulus or Wandering Jew or ones with mature seed heads on as they may grow once the composting is done
  • Really focus on keeping as many resources on the property as possible, think before you take something to the tip especially if it's been alive once as it will break down if chopped up enough