Green Mums want ‘greener’ groceries

When you are filling your trolley with your favourite fruit and vegetables from the supermarket, do you ever wonder exactly how fresh they are and where they come from?

Well, there are a number of Surf Coast women asking these same questions.

Green Mums, a network of environmentally-orientated women are working to establish a “farm gate” fresh food cooperative to encourage healthier and more sustainable living in the Surf Coast region.

Green Mums are striving to create a healthier and more eco-friendly community. (Picture courtesy of Green Mums)

How will the initiative work?

The Green Mums initiative will develop a weekly collection of food from producers in the Surf Coast region which will then be sorted, packed and delivered to designated community pick up points by rostered cooperative members.

They have also applied for a grant from the Surf Coast Shire for additional support of this initiative.

 

How will the cooperative benefit our community?

This cooperative would allow regional farmers to distribute their produce fairly and provide opportunities for the community to buy locally sourced groceries.

Leanne Reinke, a member of the Green Mums group, said this initiative will be beneficial to both our health and the environment.

“This initiative will result in carbon emissions being reduced by people buying food that is not sourced interstate or overseas, families eating healthy, fresh food and community friendships being fostered,” she said.

Ms. Reinke also said the initiative would build a more locally-based and self-reliant food economy within the community.

“We want to pay a fair price for good food and local farmers need support and a fair and consistent return, so this initiative will deliver a sustainable and secure food future.”

 

Are there other regions which support similar initiatives?

Green Mums is drawing on the thriving Melbourne food network Ceres Fair Food, for inspiration.

Ceres Fair Food is a popular organic food delivery service which sources produce from local growers who are paid a fair price for their produce and also practice eco-friendly farming.

For more information, click here to see the Ceres Fair Food website.

Leanne Reinke from Green Mums seeks advice from Jesse Hull at Ceres Fair Food.

On a global scale, trends suggest that consumers are increasingly looking to understand where their food comes from and exactly what goes into it.

“There is a growing international desire to be more sustainable and to live a healthier life, and a realisation that these two objectives complement each other.

“It is possible to have a much more tangible relationship with who is growing our food and changes inevitably ripple outward to our local community and ultimately impact globally,” said Ms. Reinke

How can I help?

Ms Reinke said anyone wanting to make a healthier change now has the ability.

“My advice when shopping would be to think when you shop- where it comes from, how it got here, how much packaging does it have, what was used to produce it, and say ‘no’ to plastic bags”

Those wishing to get involved or learn more about the cooperative can email Green Mums at vicsurf@bigpond.com , visit their blog http://greenmums3228.wordpress.com/ or Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/GreenMums-3228/159130697443346

Think Sustainable Seafood this Easter

You can help to protect the health of our marine ecosystem this Easter simply by selecting sustainable seafood for your holiday feasts.

This week fishmongers will be hard at work to meet the demands of the many Australians who choose to eat seafood in honour of the popular Good Friday tradition.

Marine Campaigns Officer Tooni Mahto from the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) is encouraging consumers to think before they buy when it comes to seafood.

“It is a common myth that Australia has the most sustainable fisheries in the world but in 2008 a study by the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia ranked Australia as number 31 for sustainability out of 53 of the biggest fish-producing nations – an unimpressive result,” she said

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that 80% of the world’s fish stocks are now over-exploited or fished right up to their limit, and we have lost 90% of the world’s big fish from the oceans.

The AMCS is working with consumers, chefs, restaurants, seafood retailers, supermarkets and government to achieve fully sustainable, well-managed Australian fisheries.

“We work to ensure we can exist in equilibrium with our oceans for the future of our marine life and the communities and industries that depend on a healthy marine environment,” said Ms Mahto.

Consumers can assist by making the right choice when purchasing seafood by using ‘Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide’ developed by the AMCS.

“We launched the first consumer guide in 2004 in response to requests from the public for a road-map as to how to navigate the complexities of choosing seafood responsibly,” said Ms Mahto.

Since the initial publication, there have been four updates, passing on the most up to date information possible to consumers.

“In late 2010 we launched the most recent version of the guide which contains analysis of more seafood species and enable us to keep up with current information and is available on our website.” said Ms Mahto.

Sustainable seafood is a resource taken from the sea, or grown in a farm, which is harvested without harming the environment whilst maintaining a healthy population of the target item.

Individuals can make a difference to the health of our local Surf Coast Environment by ensuring they ask their fishmongers how and where the fish they are buying is caught, and choosing the sustainable option.

“Consumer power is massive – what we buy tells those up the seafood chain what values we hold most important,” said Ms Mahto.

“If we choose sustainably caught fish, we are telling them we care about the health of the oceans and healthy fisheries.”

For an accessible introduction into the issues surrounding sustainable seafood, visit the AMCS’s website www.sustainableseafood.org.au. The guide can be purchased on-line for $9.95.

This story was written by the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee and published in the Surf Coast Time’s Going Green Column.

An Underwater World In Decline

Imagine you are in a forest and life is teeming around you.  The forest canopy stretches metres above and as you look up into the filtered sunlight a myriad of lifeforms can be seen living in their sheltered forest home.

No, it’s not a tropical rainforest; it’s an underwater world of Giant Kelps (Macrocystis).

The exceptional biodiversity of these Giant Kelp beds was first noted by Charles Darwin who visited Australia in 1983 and proclaimed, “The number of living creatures of all orders, whose existence intimately depends on the kelp, is wonderful”.

These large, brown algae are attached to the seafloor and are an important feature of many temperate reefs.  Buoyed by large, air filled bladders, they stand up in the water, and create a forest like environment, providing shelter and food for hundreds of species.

Macrocystis is limited to specific areas due to its preference for cool water and their need for rocky reefs to anchor themselves to.  In Australia, Macrocystis is confined to the southeastern parts of the mainland and Tasmania.

Global Distribution of Giant Kelp:

Climate change and the decline of Macrocystis:

Evidence suggests Giant Kelps are in decline.  The problem has been associated with the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate pattern, and contributing factors include changes in ocean acidity, increasing sea surface temperatures, more frequent storm surge events, and erosion of the coast.

Scientists believe the increasingly frequent ENSO phenomenon is driving warm tropical currents further south down the east coast of Australia where higher than normal water temperatures in partnership with lower nutrient availability, has seen a crash in Kelp populations, particularly in Tasmania.

Impacts on marine life are already apparent. Distributions of fish and other animals are shifting polewards and the timing of Antarctic seabird breeding and migration is changing, while some fish species previously only seen in Sydney are now being found in Port Phillip Bay.

How you can help

Everyone who cares about the health of our oceans can get involved by reducing their carbon footprint and working together to seek lasting global solutions to climate change.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee is currently undertaking a project on climate change and adaption strategies along the Surf Coast which commenced in April 2010.  You can investigate ways make a difference, and find further information at http://www.gorcc.com.au .

To get hands on in the battle against climate change, contact Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE), a local community group that conducts environmental activities in the Bells Beach Reserve, on the 2nd Sunday of each month starting at 10:00am. Contact Graeme Stockton on 0425 752 648 or go to SANE’s website at www.sanesurfers.org.au.

This article was published in the Surf Coast Times as part of the publications fortnightly “Going Green Column”.

Emerging thoughts on tackling climate change

The recent Shell EcoVolunteers Geelong Climate Change Forum run by Conservation Volunteers Australia opened with a message for us all.   David Tournier of the Wathaurong Community welcomed the attendees with the words “I have been involved in land care since birth” – a sobering thought for a group of people meeting to discuss environmental challenges created through a lack of protection for the very land he was referring to.

The forum aimed to articulate important actions to be taken locally in response to the effects of climate change on biodiversity, and gave participants a greater understanding of what others were doing to tackle climate change.

Forum Speakers
EcoVolunteers Geelong Climate Change Forum Speakers

Speakers from various facets of the community described how they were making a difference within their businesses, careers and communities.  Some of the speakers sharing their stories included:

  • Mark Schubert, General Manager of the Shell Refinery: Mark spoke about climate proofing our communities.  This included information on “integrating economic, environmental and social considerations into business decision-making”, and how Shell was tackling the issue on both a local and global stage.  Mark’s presentation can be found here.
  • Patrick O’Callahan, Director of Conservation Enterprises and the Conservation Volunteers Australia Wild Futures Program: Patrick raised the point that it is not necessarily about trying to save the world, but thinking about actions we can initiate right now, so that plans come to life and become ‘living documents’, and spoke about the animals being targeted by the Wild Futures program, including the Australian Flat Back Turtle and the Southern Bell Frog.  Patrick’s presentation can be found here.
  • Assoc. Professor Peter Waterman, Environmental Planner and Associate Professor, Environmental Science at the University of Sunshine Coast: Peter clarified ambiguities surrounding definitions of and phrases relating to climate change, and spoke about ‘climate proofing’ and how to adapt to change. Peter’s presentation can be found here.
  • Katie Gillett, President of the Geelong West Community Garden, Chair of the Geelong Organic Gardeners: Katie spoke about community gardens as a tool for tackling climate change and their ability to improve health, look after our environment, create a sense of community and increase food security.   Katie’s presentation can be found here.
  • Mark Sanders, Managing Director of Third Ecology – Third Ecology is a multi disciplinary firm focusing on sustainability in architecture, construction management and sustainability advice and ratings.  Mark focussed on tackling climate change through architecture and his presentation can be found here.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee’s Website also has information on what the organisation and others are doing to maintain the coast’s health and resilience in light of climate change impacts such as sea level rise and other threats and what you can do to help.

Below is a video clip available from The Committee’s website about climate change along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road Coast and how you can help us to look after the coast by reducing your carbon footprint.

Other topics on the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee site include:

  • A healthier future for our coast
    Why climate change is important and its likely impacts on our beautiful coastal environment.
  • Climate change snapshot
    An overview of potential climate change effects and their impacts on coastal communities.
  • Learn more
    Useful documents and links to more information about climate change and our coast.
  • Make a difference
    Simple things you can do to reduce your own carbon footprint and contribute to reducing climate change impacts on our coast.

Let’s work together to protect coastal biodiversity

The United Nations International Day for Biological Diversity this Saturday, 22 May, aims to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues across the globe.

On a more local level, GORCC, local coastal volunteer groups and many others have for some time been working hard to raise awareness of the need for everyone to do their bit to protect and care for our coast’s precious biodiversity.

The coastal environment along the Great Ocean Road includes sandy beaches, dune systems, shore platforms, reefs, estuaries and lowland forests – all of which provide important habitat for many indigenous flora and fauna species.

While much of the coastal vegetation is in excellent condition, ongoing degradation is severely compromising and destroying biodiversity values. Here are 10 major threats to coastal biodiversity.

  • Environmental weeds – several native species are outside their natural range, which is causing damage to our indigenous species. Coast Tea Tree and Coast Wattle are the two main offenders.
  • Other weeds – Pittosporum, Mirror Bush, Agapanthus, African Boneseed, Sweet Hakea, Cotoneaster, Bridal Creeper, African Boxthorn, Cape Ivy and Myrtle-leaf Milkwort. Need we go on? Most of these are common in residential gardens along the coast. Time to replace them with more appropriate indigenous species.
  • Litter – brings nutrients, which encourages weed species, and is harmful to wildlife.
  • Erosion – damages native vegetation and encourages weeds species to colonise.
  • Pest animals – rabbits, foxes, feral cats, noisy miner birds and the like.
  • Access – creation of informal tracks, clearance of vegetation, damage to vegetation, soil disturbance, access to sensitive areas.
  • Climate change – some species will adapt better than others to climate change. Indigenous species may cope worse than pest plants and animals.
  • Fire – some of our landscapes need cool, safe burns to encourage regeneration of indigenous species and remove weed species (which are often fire intolerant). Bushfires, on the other hand, burn fast and hot, which threatens biodiversity.
  • Development – development on or near the coast often involves degradation or removal of native vegetation. Whilst efforts are made to protect, rehabilitate and regenerate areas, the cumulative impacts of development are significant.
  • Dog poo – nutrient-rich dog poo washes off walking tracks into sensitive bushland areas where indigenous species are intolerant to the high nutrient levels.

You can find out more about these and other threats, and the work we are doing with local volunteers and others to protect coastal biodiversity, by downloading our latest webclip Protecting the Great Ocean Road Coast’s biodiversity. Tell us what you think by posting a comment on this blog.

We need to change the climate to help our coast

We love the coast. It looms large in our collective psyche as a place where we live, work and play. As another summer nears the half-way mark, hundreds of thousands of Victorians have already made their way to the coast to enjoy swimming, fishing, surfing, camping and other coastal-related activities. More are expected in the coming weeks before summer draws to an end.

Also looming large is the risk of climate change significantly impacting on our coast. The Victorian Coastal Strategy, released in late 2008, states that we must plan for sea level rises of not less than 0.8 metres by 2100.

At first glance, this may not sound like much or appear to be too far ahead in the future to worry about. However, sea level rises of the magnitude predicted, along with associated storm surges, will impact substantially on beaches and infrastructure along the coast. And we will start to see these impacts sooner rather than later.

Climate change therefore does represent a major risk to all the things we love about our coast – its natural environment, its cultural heritage, a place to enjoy and relax.

While we ponder this, let’s not also forget the coast’s significant economic value.

Coastal industries and tourism contribute more than $2.8 billion each year to the Victorian economy. Visitors to our own Great Ocean Road region – with its spectacular coastline and adjoining hinterland – spend more than $1 billion annually, underpinning not just local and regional economies but also a large chunk of the Victorian and Australian tourism experience.

Consequently, we must recognise that the coast’s value to us – on both an individual and a broader economic level – is contingent on the value of the coast itself. That is, a healthy coast equals healthy communities – and a healthy economy.

There is a high risk that climate change will noticeably diminish the health of our coast. Given this risk and the coast’s importance in our lives, it is essential that new and ongoing investment focuses on protecting the coast.

We need to protect high quality areas of native vegetation, cultural sites and estuaries. We also need to undertake beach protection works, as well as providing car parks, walking tracks, lookouts, signage and other facilities to support our use of the coast.

And importantly, we all need to do our bit to reduce the risk of climate change.

In just the same way as our greenhouse gas emissions are warming the climate and contributing to sea level rise, which in turn threatens the coast, our actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will help lessen the impacts of climate change and therefore help to protect the coast.

In other words, we all need to become climate changers – for the benefit of our beautiful coast.

Posted by David Clarke, CEO