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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: stemming the tide

by Bruce

Imagine a world where we have learnt to live with less, where nothing goes to waste, and the resources that make up the things we buy are so precious that we recycle them at every opportunity, where polluting our environment and filling up ever-scarcer landfill sites is no longer tolerated, where communities understand and take responsibility for their own actions, and where circular economies are enshrined in our laws and behaviours.

The global environmental crisis can be overwhelming, and recycling’s not always straightforward, but in Australia at least, we still have choices. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that community roots are strengthened in difficult times, and we can live more simply if we have to – we don’t need so much stuff!

As an Enmore local, two places I am very familiar with are our beloved Inner West shining lights Reverse Garbage and The Bower Reuse & Repair Centre, who have walked the Reduce, Reuse & Recycle talk for decades. With Sydney’s lengthy lockdown now ended, they are open again for business at Marrickville’s Addison Road Community Centre.

However, having outgrown their current spaces, and after some difficult recent years there, next year both outfits are moving into new premises, Reverse Garbage to Carrington Road Marrickville, and The Bower to Summer Hill. So, drop by in person to grab a bargain before they move, and visit their websites to find out more about what these environmental champions do – their community and educational work, and the fun skills they can teach you to lessen your environmental footprint.

Visit their websites or drop by in person to find out more about what these environmental champions do – their community and educational work, and the fun skills they can teach you to lessen your environmental footprint.

It’s great that Reverse Garbage and The Bower exist, but outside the Inner West, most of Sydney is not blessed with similar enterprises. Like most recycling charities, both organisations are swamped at times by the sheer volume of well-meaning donations, which indicates lots of people want to ‘do the right thing’, and give their stuff a second life. Reverse Garbage and The Bower are definitely business models that could easily be transferred to many diverse situations, but at present they are only a ‘drop in the ocean’ of what this city could do for resource recovery.

Urge your Council & local MPs to encourage widespread reuse & recycling
Who hasn’t seen discarded large TVs, mattresses, and furniture cluttering their local footpaths and rear lanes. Most of these items are recyclable, and able to be broken down into component parts, and some are reusable. Even if a Council pick-up is arranged, most people do not understand or care what happens ‘down the line’. Out of sight is ‘out of mind’ after garbage trucks crunch everything up in a matter of minutes, then take it all to landfill.

Community education can always be improved: not everyone’s on the same page, and people are forever time poor. Dedicated pick-ups for tricky waste items such as e-waste would be a great idea too, on top of what Councils already do in this area.

It’s a good thing though to see serious investments from government and business starting to happen in our waste and recycling industries. In 2024 when dumping unprocessed waste exports on overseas markets ceases, we will finally have to look after our own. It will be very interesting to see how well we meet that challenge!


There’s money in waste!

You only have to look at the popularity of Facebook groups like Inner West Street Bounty, Pay it Forward Sydney , and more traditional sites like eBay, Gumtree and Freecycle, Garage Sale Trail days, and the almost Australia-wide Container Deposit Schemes, to realise this.

Other great waste & recycling resources

Get angry, get active!

Binge on Series 1 & 2 of War on Wasteon ABC iview

Art from Trash: the ultimate statement?

The Bower’s ART from TRASH exhibition

Cancelled this year due to the lockdown, but promising to be back better than ever in 2022. Enjoy the 2020 entries and winners here.

A DIY ‘Art from Trash’ treat!

‘LOST & FOUND’ or the world’s largest collection of rustic automata by Blair (on Vimeo, 9 minutes)

Kiwi ingenuity at it again! In a remote corner of New Zealand’s South Island, tucked away among the last remaining tracts of native forest, lies a little-known place of wonder. It is the life’s work and extraordinary creation of inventor, artist and self-confessed tinkerer, Blair Somerville.

For over ten years Blair has single-handedly owned, operated and ceaselessly expanded the Lost Gypsy Gallery, his wonderland of homegrown wizardry and a playground for kids and adults alike. Using only recycled materials, Blair takes DIY to artistic extremes. His creations are ingenious, interactive, and often hilariously impractical. They take many shapes and forms and share an uncanny ability to amaze, entertain and inspire!

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Waterside picnic spots – Inner West style

Sydney public parks are feeling the love.

We are getting out and exploring our city like never before, and with some great Spring weather this is just the outdoor tonic we have been craving. Fancy a water view but want to hang local? We have got you covered. You don’t have to go to the beach to get some waterside picnic action!

Callan Point (Lilyfield, Inner West LGA)

Callan Point Picnic Area sits within local favourite, Callan Park, a huge area with an absolute maze of historic grounds (great for exploring) and miles of waterfront, secret beaches, and plenty of shady options for those wanting to throw down a blanket. It also forms part of the famed Bay run loop. Callan Point is good starting point, if scouting for a waterfront picnic spot. For the super organised (and earlybird types) there is even a set of tables available on the point itself.

Find a full map of Callan Park (including access points and toilets) HERE

Photos above by Wendy Wood

Glebe Foreshore Parks (spread across Inner West & City of Sydney LGAs)

This huge area of parklands comprises Jubilee Park, Bicentennial Park and Federal Park, and forms a broad waterfront green strip along the Glebe foreshore. There is a lot of room to play here. And it comes with two sets of public toilets and several playgrounds. There is a whimsical, well-designed playground for the under 10’s in Jubilee Park, and a seriously cool new adventure playground and skate park for older kids in the Federal Park section. Parking is in good supply, and the nearby Tramsheds offer a delicious range of takeaway food and drink options. Perfect for families who really want to let off some steam.

Jubilee Park Playground. Photo courtesy

The Cooks River Foreshore (Marrickville, Inner West LGA)

There is lots to discover along the Cooks River, but if you are new to this patch it can be hard to know where to start! For the grownups the shady strip along the riverfront next to HJ Mahoney Park , just off Illawarra Road, is chilled out, shady and relatively peaceful. Meanwhile, on the other side of Illawarra Road, families will probably already know about one of Sydney’s best waterplay parks, Steel Park which has got it all for families wanting a great, fun day out – and the water is on now for summer! There is a great review here.

Plenty of parking near Illawarra Road and toilet facilities are available near both locations.




Steel Park. Photo courtesy

Please note:

Most of the featured picnic spots are within the Inner West LGA, however one or two sit just outside. Check the current health advice if you are planning to picnic outside your LGA.

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Creative Womyn Down Under reducing food waste

Meet Alfalfa's unofficial community outreach worker, Georgina Abrahams.


by Caroline

Georgina is a social worker who set up Creative Womyn Down Under in 2006 after noticing an increasing number of women experiencing homelessness in the Inner West.

When COVID restrictions were introduced in March 2020, and local food sheds and support services such as Newtown Neighbourhood Centre and Lentil as Anything were forced to shut up shop, Georgina took to making hot meals at her home, almost every day, for these vulnerable women.

Georgina explains: "The majority have experienced domestic violence, which has tripled during COVID, and flee for their lives, often with children. Many suffer from severe PTSD, so being placed into 'mixed-gender' refuges is not an option for them. Government funding for women-only refuges was cut around five years ago, so many resort to living in their cars. The 24 women that I'm currently feeding are from all ages and backgrounds and some are having to home school as well.

As a long-term member, I reached out to Alfalfa House for support at the height of COVID, and was delighted when they donated leftover produce every week. I quickly got to work, making hot vegetarian meals, such as lentil soup and rice every day of the week for these homeless women.

One of the women collects the meals from my home and delivers them to a quiet park in the inner city where the others come for their daily feed, ensuring they have full bellies and are kept warm and nourished.

Pre-COVID, every Monday for many years, we’d meet for lunch, creative activities and discussion. I also held regular fundraisers to help raise money for accommodation, and items such as mobile phones and waterproof swags that become backpacks. I look forward to returning to this, but for now I'm focusing on the very basics of getting these women fed.

Georgina continues: "I feel blessed that I have a warm bed each night. This all began when I was walking through Camperdown Park and a bunch of women were having a chat and I sat down with them and they began to tell me their stories. Many were in their 60s or 70s and had lost their trust in institutions. One had an epileptic fit in the 1950s and because of lack of understanding she was put into a mental institution, which was clearly not the place for her. She stopped taking the drugs that had been prescribed to her, and left after 20 years. She got on the nearest bus and the driver took her into the city where she found other homeless people who were living outside of the system. She had no support. I found a place for her and five other homeless women joined her. They now live happily in their own safe space and each has a pension and Medicare card.

It's thanks to the support of places like Alfalfa House that I've been able to help women find a sense of peace in their lives."

How you can help:

We have a box in store that customers can donate food to, so the next time you're buying things like apples or bananas, we'd love you to drop one or two in the box by the shop entrance.

You can also donate $5 to help provide mobile phone credit, petrol and other necessities for the women. Please call Georgina directly to arrange this on 0406 372 142.

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Podcast, book review

Podcast, book review

by Bruce

'Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures', by Merlin Sheldrake, Penguin Books Australia, 2020, also available as an e-Book and Audio Book

I recently stumbled across this wonderful, and award-winning book via ABC Radio National’s ‘Conversations’ podcast and a fascinating interview with the author (52 minutes listen).

PODCAST LINK HERE: Fascinating fungi - the intelligent kingdom

(from the Publisher) There is a life-form so strange and wondrous that it forces us to rethink how life works ... Neither plant nor animal, it is found throughout the earth, the air and our bodies. It can be microscopic, yet also accounts for the largest organisms ever recorded, living for millennia and weighing tens of thousands of tonnes. Its ability to digest rock enabled the first life on land, it can survive unprotected in space and it thrives amidst nuclear radiation.

In this captivating adventure, Merlin Sheldrake explores the spectacular and neglected world of fungi: endlessly surprising organisms that sustain nearly all living systems. They can solve problems without a brain, stretching traditional definitions of ‘intelligence’, and can manipulate animal behaviour with devastating precision.

In giving us bread, alcohol and life-saving medicines, fungi have shaped human history, and their psychedelic properties, which have influenced societies since antiquity, have recently been shown to alleviate a number of mental illnesses. The ability of fungi to digest plastic, explosives, pesticides and crude oil is being harnessed in break-through technologies, and the discovery that they connect plants in underground networks, the ‘Wood Wide Web’, is transforming the way we understand ecosystems. Yet they live their lives largely out of sight, and more than 90 percent of their species remain undocumented.

Entangled Life is a mind-altering journey into this hidden kingdom of life and shows that fungi are key to understanding the planet on which we live and the ways we think, feel and behave. The more we learn about fungi, the less makes sense without them.

Watch Merlin Sheldrake eat the oyster mushrooms that ate his book! 

Some of the glowing reviews


“Entangled Life is a dazzling, vibrant, vision-changing book. Sentence after sentence stopped me short. I ended it wonderstruck at the fungal world and the earth-shaking, hierarchy-breaking implications of Sheldrake's argument. This is a remarkable work by a remarkable writer, which succeeds in springing life into strangeness again.”

— Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland

“Few books blew my mind like Entangled Life. The research, passion, writing, insights... Not sure if I've ever learned so much from ONE book. Here is to another scientist who celebrates imagination. Essential reading. Go and get swept up in a new world.”

Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt

“Entangled Life is a revelation. It is a radical, hopeful and important book and I couldn’t put it down. With elegance, wit and clarity Sheldrake engages us in the hidden world of fungi, a miraculous web of connections, interactions and communication that changes the way we need to look at life, the planet and ourselves.”

Isabella Tree, author of Wilding

“Unbelievably amazing”

For further insights into Entangled Life, read The Understory by fellow writer Robert Macfarlane, in which Merlin & Robert go for a walk in the Epping Forest near London.

For more reviews of Entangled Life, go here.

Find out how to get a copy here.

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