Meatless meals

“If you eat a little less meat and a little less dairy you’ll drastically reduce the impact of your diet on the environment. Just think, 500g of ground beef uses over 28, 000 cups (or 6, 810 litres) of water to produce – that’s enough to fill 20 bathtubs to the brim, and then some!” – Oxfam’s GROW! Campaign encourages people to eat less meat and less dairy to eat more sustainably for the planet and its people.

My fave meal this week comes from this month’s Delicious magazine – a mushroom vegetarian linguine bolognaise. (We used the mushrooms we grew ourselves in our flat!).

The method is basically use a food processor to finely chop 2 carrots, 1 onion, 2 celery stalks, 1 red capsicum, 150g mushrooms, 2 garlic cloves. Cook in a saucepan with 1/4 cup olive oil for 4 minutes, add 2 tbs chopped herbs (oregano and thyme), 2 tbs sundried tomato pesto (I made my own by whizzing up some sundried tomatoes with a little oil and a few pinenuts), soaked 15g dried porcini mushrooms (we didn’t have any to hand so I just chucked in some extra mushies and some worcestershire sauce). Add 1/2 cup red wine, 1 cup vegie stock and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir through 1/2 cup mascarpone (some cream cheese in my case because I had it in the fridge). Season, serve with cooked linguine, and scatter with grated parmesan.

I particularly liked this because we had the herbs to hand, some sundried tomatoes in the fridge, the mushrooms we had grown, a carrot and some celery in the fridge, and were able to make substitutes with the things I had in the fridge and cupboards. So I bought a capsicum, a carrot and a bottle of red wine by walking down to the local shops – a sustainable meal and yummy too – the full flavour of our mushrooms came to the fore, and it really was like a bolognaise in texture and taste.

We are trying very hard to pre-plan meals, to cook more vegetarian, to use ingredients we can source from shops within walking distance, and to make sure we’re considering the food we have to hand rather than buying every exotic ingredient in a recipe to avoid wastage. Not always easy in practice, but it is much easier on our wallets!


Sustainability Festival

Had a busy week but needed to tell you all about the Sustainability Festival in Melbourne. SustainAlike went to the expo and enjoyed pottering around the stalls – as well as eating some yummy vegetarian/organic food washed down by locally produced craft beer and cider!
It was fantastic to see so many people there, and that there was a festival dedicated to sustainability celebrated in the heart of Melbourne as well as all over regional Victoria. Our only concern was that ‘sustainability’ may have been located in the heart of Melbourne but it is still in some ways a ‘fringe’ event. We need to keep up pressure to make ‘sustainability’ a central concern in everyone’s lives – not just as something seen as an ‘alternative lifestyle’.

We were particularly interested in the following stalls: – an online shopping site with sustainable, organic and ethical products.

GardenBox – using permaculture principles for gardening in small spaces.

Fifteen Trees – reduces your carbon footprint by planting trees on your behalf.

Oxfam GROW campaign – their suggestions for how to help our planet eat more sustainably – so we can tackle global hunger (just a small issue!). We really recommend checking our their tips.


Melbourne: a green city?

There are a number of wonderful initiatives happening in the city of Melbourne. If you are wandering around the city keep your eyes peeled for sustainable actions – big and small.

A Melbourne fact: The now ubiquitous KeepCup was invented in Melbourne! (And a really good example of how thinking green can make you money! Read more at

While in the city keep a lookout for one of the many green buildings or features such as vertical gardens in the city. Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Green buildings
    • Council House 2
    • foyer of 60 Leicestershire Street
    • Pixel Building, 205 Queensberry Rd, Carlton
    • foyer of the EPA Building, Victoria Street
    • ANZ Building, Docklands (note wind turbines on roof)
    • Szencorp Building, 40 Albert Rd South Melbourne
  • the solar panels at Queen Victoria Market
  • vertical garden, Melbourne Central
  • beehives and vertical gardens, Alto Hotel Melbourne
  • Guildford Lane Gallery green wall

Worth reading and quoting

A lovely thing happened once when I was teaching Geography in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs. Picture your typical 15yo surfie kid who doesn’t like school much because he just wants to be outside catching waves or playing footy. We had been studying urbanisation and Melbourne’s urban sprawl, and this kid offered, “Melbourne should grow up, not out“.

I’ve always thought I should it printed on a T-shirt.

Elizabeth Farelly’s article from ‘The Age’ “Food for thought: Carr by name, car by nature” raises some good points about our nation’s “sub-urban obsession”, with our miles and miles of roadways. In particular, “Who’d inhabit the concrete jungle when they could live with birds and trees? It’s so worth the two-hour drive … So wrong. The answer is not to escape cities, but to reclaim and transform them. To make them our luscious oases, dripping in greenery, with vine-shaded streets and rice-paddy clad office blocks. With our help, our cities can become sanctuaries of sumptuous delight.” What a beautiful image!

Read more:–carr-by-name-car-by-nature-in-office-20130116-2ctpb.html#ixzz2Ke0xgNRJ

Green_wall_Paris (Green wall, Paris – creative commons)

Fish for thought

Most of our every day decisions around sustainability come down to the decisions we make in our grocery shopping.

Buying sustainable fish is certainly something I want to do all the time.  I avoid tuna and flake (shark), and prioritise quick-growing species such as octopus, squid and mussels.

Then I purchased the Australian Marine Conservation Society Sustainable Seafood Guide app on my phone.

There are a number of problems we face with current fishing practices. Obviously over-fishing or eating threatened species are huge concerns, but other issues include bycatch – what else is caught and killed in the fishing nets; fishing methods that destroy the ocean habitat; aquaculture methods that pollute the water; eating species which are crucial to the balance of the ecosystem; or fishing slow-growing fish quicker than the rate they can reproduce.

All this means that there are now many more considerations I need to weigh up when I’m at the fishmongers. If you go to the supermarket or market and see a woman hanging around the back of the queue reading signs and then frantically typing into her mobile phone – that’s me. The one growing increasingly disgruntled and muttering under her voice, “they’re all bad, they’re all bad”.

I decided to ask the fishmonger which was the most sustainable fish. He pointed me to the (farmed, Atlantic) salmon (CODE RED AMCS, CODE RED Greenpeace) and the (farmed Ocean) trout (CODE RED AMCS, CODE RED Greenpeace). I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t point out that he may as well have told me to eat the bluefin tuna with a side of shark fin, just took some ling (CODE ORANGE AMCS) and slunk off.

But I’m determined about this. Eating sustainable fish should be an easy lifestyle choice, like choosing free-range eggs. Supermarkets should use a ‘sustainable choice’ colour coding for their fish. (Although each rating system seems to have different priorities, and they don’t necessarily agree with each other.) With enough pressure shops will stop stocking the usual fish varieties and will start to consider stocking other more sustainable varieties.

If you are interested in this, the website Good Fish Bad Fish not only helps you weigh up the various rating systems and suggest alternatives for non-sustainable fish – it also tells you how best to cook the fish.

And they offer the simplest of advice for when your head is spinning – buy fresh, buy local and buy different types of fish.

When can we accept climate change as fact?

bushfire tree‘Extreme weather events’ seem to be becoming the norm.

Brisbane is under water again – a once-in-100 year event that has happened twice in three years. Meanwhile the Australian bushfire threats seem to be worse than the worst only 3 years ago.

The news seems worse when put into a global context of global ice melting at frightening rates (‘Antarctic melt rate up and rising‘, 2012 and ‘Staggering Arctic ice loss smashes melt records‘, 2012), the worst droughts on record in USA (New York Times 2012) and Amazon droughts – 2 once-in-a-hundred-years events in 5 years (‘Alarming Amazon droughts may have global fallout’).

The question is of course – when will we stop listening to ‘climate change sceptics’ and start accepting that the vast bulk of evidence is pointing to unprecedented climate change correlating with unprecedented levels of greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity?

Unfortunately perhaps the only time people will accept climate change is a reality will be when the devastation it has wrought will be incontrovertible, limitless, unescapable and – worst – unstoppable.

Meanwhile as Australia faces ‘worst-ever’ droughts, bushfires and floods every summer, climate change scepticism seems to be muted in Australian political debate.

Tony Abbott has promised again to repeal the carbon tax – but his earlier denials of climate change haven’t been heard in the first few hours of the marathon that will be the run-up to the next election.

To see Tony Abbott deny climate change and yet advocate a carbon tax watch this interview from 2009:

The historical vacillations of Abbott on the carbon tax make interesting reading, but perhaps are a good indication of the popular climate change around climate change, especially when ‘severe weather events’ happen.

More proof perhaps that humans are all Doubting Thomases – we only believe when we can see and feel the results for ourselves. It’s just that we can’t afford to wait to see and feel the results of climate change!

(Image courtesy of Alexis /

Grow Your Own

An interesting story about growing your own food: “Pushing the boundaries of self-sustenance” in The Age yesterday.

Ricky Somerville converted his back garden using aquaponics to produce an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Chooks eat the vegie scraps, bees produce honey in the front garden and he even raises trout and silver perch in the water tanks.

There is something particularly mouth-watering about eating fresh food – and we can’t think of anything fresher about eating vegies and fish harvested from your back garden.

What raised discussions for us was the idea that growing your own wasn’t particularly easy or economical, what with the cost of setting up the complicated aquaponics system.

Often with sustainability we often emphasise the economical advantages of solutions such as energy saving solutions saving the consumer money too. However there are other benefits of making sustainable lifestyle choices – how many can you think of?

Perhaps we should stop thinking about sustainability in terms of how we can save a few dollars, and start thinking about how we can save the earth in a few easy steps!

You can also watch Ricky on his youtube channel

aquaponics copy Image from The Age

What’s the ‘S’ word?


When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ~John Muir


Sustainability is glibly muttered by corporate PR suits; derided by conservatives as hippie nonsense; rendered nose-bleedingly boring by many teachers in schools; bigger than Ben-Hur and as flexible as Blu-Tack… and utterly essential for humanity’s ongoing survival.

In this blog we hope to unpack what ‘sustainability’ means – particularly for those living in cities, particularly for students and their teachers.