If you’re in lockdown, or even if you’re not, read on for some great environment, climate change and sustainability resources for students.

Outside in

Many of us are combining work from home with teaching at home right now, including Jenni Hagland, ZESN’s schools program leader. She’s found some great resources for students.

Join the Observatory Hill Environmental Education Centre at 1.30pm, Fridays for short (30 min) Zoom lessons on biodiversity and pollinators.

This DPIE Food and Fibre study guide investigates historical Australian Aboriginal agricultural production. It is written for the NSW Stage 5 and 6 Agriculture, however, covers NSW Stage 5 Geography and Science outcomes. For junior students, explore the ABC digibook, Aboriginal Agriculture, Technology and Ingenuity.

The NSW DPIE Saving our Species Program has a great collection of activities, curriculum-linked workbooks, presentations, and citizen science projects to foster our understanding of conservation and our threatened plants and animals.

The 2021 SCINEMA International Science Film Festival explores different STEM topics through the power of film, with supporting classroom activities and teaching resources available.

Learning through Landscapes (UK) have published a series of sustainable learning and play activities for early learning to upper primary home learning. Activities are designed for safe outdoor spaces such as gardens or parks, but can be adapted for indoors.

Inside Out

In the wake of the IPCC report, Jenni has also looked for books and websites that are helping adults and children deal with climate anxiety, dread and helplessness.

All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal With Climate Change is a thoughtful book that will help young readers work through their feelings of anxiety about climate change. Through informative text and activities, the book gives children age-appropriate information about the climate crisis

All We Can Save is an anthology of writings by 60 women at the forefront of the climate movement who are harnessing truth, courage, and solutions to lead humanity forward.

Eco Anxious is a website that serves as a welcoming and calming online realm, aimed at people who feel alone in their climate fears.  It uses the power of stories to relieve that sense of isolation.

Gen Dread is a newsletter that shares nuanced perspectives on the emotional and psychological impacts of the climate crisis.  It regularly explores tools for coping with eco-stress, the intersection of eco-anxiety and grief.

Our Kids Climate: How to Talk to Children About the Climate Crisis gives access to a resource guide and webinar with age appropriate materials.

This blogpost is reproduced from the Zero Emissions Schools program newsletter. If you’d like to read more like this, or explore how Zero Emissions Schools might work with your community, please take a look here or email Jenni at schools@zerosydneynorth.org.

Solar usually makes headlines as a good news story, with 2.8 million rooftop systems now installed in Australia contributing to our clean energy revolution. So what is the hype around the so-called “solar tax” that may be slapped on homeowners? Can we stop the solar tax?

The solar tax is an economic solution to an infrastructure problem: at times of peak solar generation the grid can’t always cope with the influx of solar. The proposed “solar tax” means that energy networks will be allowed to charge solar homeowners for exporting their excess solar to the grid at these times. The solar tax is meant to help fund the upgrade of the grid to accommodate renewables as well as change consumer behaviour.

We don’t support the solar tax. But we want to reassure our community, whether the solar tax goes ahead or not, rooftop solar will remain a good investment – financially and environmentally. 

Read on here for the full story on how the solar tax might work and what it means for consumers.

Take action: two quick and easy things you can do now to help stop the solar tax. (If you’ve only got 15 minutes for the environment this week, this is a good use of your time.)

Let’s do what we can to stop confusion in the renewables market. The IPCC report shows we need to urgently cut emissions this decade. Let’s not muck around with the one good thing we’ve got going.

Continue reading “Taxing the sun”

“There are really only 3 things to do with money,” says Lesley Treleaven. “Spend it, save it or give it away.”

 

“I’ve never been much of a shopper. I’d rather buy necessities, a few beautiful things, shared experiences for us, and quality education. I don’t want to support the production and consumption of widgets we don’t need or “more stuff” often ditched and just thrown away after a use or two. I’ve always been more of a saver.

“Climate change has meant not only divesting but also clarifying my investment priorities to align my values with a sustainable future. So on retirement I wanted to invest in the products and services that made an impact in people’s lives. I wanted to know how I could invest in what has now become known as impact investing.

Ethical investing is focused on avoiding investments that have a negative impact on society or our environment. Impact investing seeks to go a step further. Instead of screening out negative impacts, impact investments are made to organisations, projects or funds which are generating measurable, positive social and environment outcomes, in addition to financial returns.

“On a steep learning curve, I began reading, attending local and international seminars, workshops and joining networks. They connected me with the early impact investors in Sydney and Melbourne. Notably, they were run by young people, sometimes as family foundations, but always willing to listen to answer naive questions like mine, that came from little or no financial knowledge. I positioned myself as a senior who, like many of my friends and colleagues, was retiring and no longer wanted to support the big end of town and its profit-making at the expense of a sustainable and ethical future.

“My city accountant was horrified that I wanted to invest in a windfarm in Victoria but I had carefully done the due diligence so it became one of “Lesley‘s hair-brained schemes”. Of course, we all remember what Joe Hockey thought of windfarms; I thought they were exquisitely beautiful and, besides, there was no evidence to support the alleged problems in rural areas at this small Victorian site.

“It’s hard to believe that it’s more than 10 years since I sold my blue-chip shares and divested from fossil fuels. At the time I was with Unisuper and they weren’t doing very well. Having met with professionals who were respected experts in financial investment and due diligence, I made two important decisions: first, to leave Unisuper, whose restrictions prevented impact investments, and, second, to set up my own SMSF. Guidance from a financial manager specialising in ethical investment gave me significant freedom to choose sustainable investments. The relationship with Bcorp registered financial adviser Ethinvest has been personally generous and professionally rewarding. There are now many more impact investments that seek funding, though not many pass the due diligence investigations that I am advised about.

“I’ve invested in all forms of renewable energy — water, hydro and waste conversions — although federal government stalling on policy has been a delay for the whole field. I’ve invested in environmental watering of land returned to the Nari Nari people, recovering their young people’s connection to country and healing with traineeships as rangers. I’ve invested in exciting medical innovations such as Professor Fiona Wood’s spray on skin repair, and early stage social enterprises such as formal wear clothing rental and parcel post. Disability housing with government returns are worthwhile for what they can achieve in terms of social justice and, though the organic wheat growing and milling failed as an enterprise, stalwarts like CSL and RedMed have compensated.

When I was introduced to the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Investment Fund, it was an easy decision to invest in wonderful old instruments that would be played and heard throughout the world not only by adults but also in the ACOs education programs.

Which violin did you buy, Lelly?

Maxim Bibeau (principal double bass) and the Australian Chamber Orchestra

“It gives me such joy to support the Instrument Fund. As a subscriber I had a connection. Now, as an investor, I have got to know many of the musicians. I have learnt how they try out the potential of an instrument for fit with the chamber orchestra for up to six months. I know who’s playing it and how they relate to it!

“This is just one of the extra benefits of my relatively small investments. Since I started impact investing I have joined a small group visiting the opening of the windfarm, camped with the traditional custodians of Gayini in the Riverina, spent time with young female scientists researching species survival and reintroduction in the Kimberley after feral eradication, fencing and indigenous burning, and listened to inspiring performances of the ACO at Wharf 2.

“Now my grandchildren are old enough to come with me to concerts and on adventures, play their own instruments and ask, ‘Which violin did you buy, Lelly?’ Not only can they be immersed in the sounds of the musical instruments or see rare Australian birds in the Kimberley, they can learn up close and personal about their inheritance and ways to sustain a diverse cultural and environmental future long after I’ve gone.”

Dr Lesley Treleaven is a retired academic and community activist. She’s a member of the management committee of Zero Emissions Sydney North and established the markets program.

 

 

IMPORTANT: The information in this website is general information only. Nothing in this website should be regarded as investment advice and Zero Emissions Sydney North is not a financial adviser. Before making an investment decision we recommend that you seek professional advice from a financial adviser.

As we take small steps along a long road it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the huge challenges we face in addressing climate change. However, there’s hard science to prove that small cumulative actions are an essential part of driving community change. And, most important, they can make you feel much better!

Remember, small steps, long road… Let’s walk together.

In one minute you can

  • Like, comment or share one of our posts to your own networks – it helps us grow our network and makes us all feel great!
  • Subscribe to our Facebook Group — it feels good to see how many people there are out there who share our concern and our determination
  • Forward our newsletter to someone who might be interested — recommendations from friends and family beat snazzy marketing any day.

In ten minutes you can

  • Take a photo of your morning walk, tell us what you love about it and send it to us for our instagram page. You could become an eco-influencer.
  • Have a chat with your local barista or small business owner to say thanks for using compostible cups, or installing solar, or using recycled paper — feedback really matters.
  • Switch to a renewable energy supplier — it only takes minutes but this is the single biggest thing you can do to lower your emissions.

In an hour you can

And if you have:

2 hours a month – How about joining our market stall volunteer team, helping set up, pack down, talking to visitors?

2 hours a week – We’re hanging out for people to support our program leaders, doing admin, writing, taking photos, making phone calls, editing webpages, designing and research. Every little bit helps.

2 hours a day — Now that’s sounding a bit serious! You’d better call us straightaway. We’d love to hear from you.

market team volunteer
The markets team in action. (Warning: might involve cake.)

growth pioneer clubhouse
Lovely sign at the entrance to the Pioneer Clubhouse veggie garden.

 

A shout out to Manly Food Co-op, who are our special guests at the next Solar My House session on October 27th at 6.30pm. The Co-op is a bit of an inspiration for me. It has survived many challenges. In March 2020, for example, it adapted the entire business to socially-distanced and online shopping on a week’s notice. You can now shop in person, or online, then pick up your goodies from their shop on Wentworth Street. It’s just down the street from Coles, next to one of the pedestrian entrances to the Wentworth Street Municipal carpark.

October’s Solar My House session is still on Covid-safe Zoom, but inspiration for my BYO drinks and nibbles comes from the yummy selection of locally-produced, organic, plastic-free produce stocked at the Co-op.

Sophisticated attendees could try Pickled cucumbers with seaweed and sesameOr chocoholics (er, guilty as charged) might go straight for Chocolate popcornThe great thing about all the Co-op recipes is that all ingredients are available in the shop. They’re packaging free and mostly organic, locally-sourced and competitively priced. For example, their certified organic milk is only $1.95 a litre. Although you do need to bring your own bottle or jug!

Non-MFC-members are welcome to join us for Solar My House on October 27 but places are limited, so book your spot. Or, even better, join MFC (it’s only $5 and you’ll get that back in your 10% discount) and grab some good things to eat while you find out about renewable energy, rooftop solar, rebates, batteries and more.

 

 

I have discovered a secret weapon in my quest to persuade people to make the switch to renewable energy. It’s called GADGETS!

We’ve had solar panels for nearly ten years now. 18 months ago we bought a Tesla 2 battery for $11,500 (which, as I now realise, was quite a bargain since prices have gone up this year). The installer, who did a great job, showed me how the app tells you exactly how much electricity you are consuming at any moment, and where that electricity is coming from. 

I didn’t realise at the time how powerful that insight could be. Three pictures


A sunny day in North Balgowlah
  1. A sunny day in November 2019

The big yellow mountain is solar energy, collected from our rooftop panels. The jagged line is our household energy consumption. (You can see that I made a cup of tea just before 8 a.m., and I ran the dishwasher and the washing machine in the morning.) Below the horizontal axis shows how the battery works: when the sun comes up excess solar energy feeds into the battery. It’s full by noon, so the grey area is excess energy flowing back to the grid (and earning a feed-in tariff). And you can see that, on this day, the battery powered the house right through till sunrise, so we were 100% self-powered.  ☺


Solar Offset
  1. Of course, the sun doesn’t always shine

But this screen shot shows that across 2019 we offset our usage — 8166 kWh — with 5473 kWh solar power from our roof. So a 67% reduction in our electricity bill and a 67% reduction in our carbon emissions. The retail price in NSW per kWh is 33c. So *furrows brow, doing sums* that’s $1806.09 in savings in 2019. Nice.

  1. What’s happening here?

This is a screenshot from March 2020 showing where our power is coming from. We’re in the middle of a powercut. The Tesla battery automatically takes over, so that the house can be independent of the grid, using power from the solar panels and, if needed, from the battery. WFH with no grid? No problem. 

We love checking on the app to see how much we are saving. But above all, this funky little app, with its visual representation of real time household electricity usage, is an amazing communications tool. Household power bills aren’t sexy but gadgets totally are. Therefore, my husband, even though he is not involved in environmental campaigning, gets a real kick out of showing his friends how we are helping ourselves to free energy (and helping the environment at the same time).

Do you have a battery? Do you have a story to tell about your journey towards zero emissions? Let us know by [best way to connect]

The Australian Energy Foundation ran a great webinar this week on “Energy Efficiency”. Guess what the top two energy vampires are in the average Aussie home?

  • Heating & cooling your house (40% of electricity usage)
  • Water heating (23%)
  • Home appliances such as TV and computers (14%). 

The good news is that a few simple behavioural changes can already save you money and reduce your emissions. And won’t cost you a cent. 

Top tips:

  1. In winter, set your heating to a maximum of 18-20 degrees. Every degree more increases your energy usage by 10%. Fun Fact: As it gets colder going from summer into winter, our blood thickens and we can better tolerate the cold. So maybe start with 21 degrees and work your way down to 18 degrees by August. 
  2. Heat the person, not the house. Think double layers, warm socks, boots (ugg boots working from home!). And you may even want to invest in some low-cost electric blankets or heat pads. 
  3. Use less hot water by limiting your showers to 4 minutes. Yes, eventually you will convince your teenagers that this is important. Or at least install water-efficient showerheads that reduce the flow of water from 12-15 litres/minute to 6-9 litres.
  4. Use the cold-setting on your washing machine. Modern machines will do a great job.
  5. Switch off all your appliances at the powerpoint when not in use. Too time-consuming? Invest in power strips (plug in several appliances) and a remote control to switch them all off at once when you call it a night. 
  6. Make sure your fridge and freezer are running at the optimal temperature: 3 to 4 degrees and -15 to -18 respectively.
  7. Use smaller appliances in the kitchen. For example, heat up food in the microwave rather than turning on the energy-hungry oven.  

These are the lowest hanging fruit in the energy efficiency world. If you want to bring out the big guns to reduce your energy consumption, the Australian Energy Foundation website has info about best practice for heating & cooling (split air con) and hot water (heat pump).  Both require an initial investment and are best considered when you have to replace an existing system or are renovating or building from scratch.  

You can view a recording of the AEF webinar or check out the presentation. Both are available online until 30 June.

This is a space for telling stories and sharing information about our zero emissions journey. To get the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to our blog here.