Earth Day 2020

Earth Day is on April 22 and this year is the 50th anniversary. The theme for Earth Day for 2020 is climate action. This is an enormous challenge and also provides an opportunities to be a part of Earth Challenge 2020, the world’s largest citizen science effort.


Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.

Earth Day Live

The world’s largest civic event is going digital for the first time in its history. We’ll demand that leaders take science seriously, listen to their people and push for action at every level of society to stop the rising tide of climate change.

We can make a better world for everyone. Pass it on, tell everyone you know about April 22 and join in at Help flood the world with messages of hope, optimism and, above all — action.

What can you do to help?

Join in with Earth Day events if you can. There are always some time zone issues but plenty of options available. You can also look in your own backyard about how you can take action.

Fight today for a better tomorrow

Find out how you can take action in your own backyard

Uncropped AEE logo with dragonfly icon

My Journey to Sustainability

I started 2020 with the claim that this year is going to be My Year of Sustainability. Since then Sydney has experienced continued bushfires, droughts, heatwaves through to record rains and floods all in the last 2 months. So as Summer comes to an end what have I done on My Journey to Sustainability?

Illustration of a Sustainable House with Solar and Vegetable Garden copyright @ BNP Design Studio

My Journey to Sustainability started with water. My husband and I went to find a water pump. We live in an older house with the shower over the bath. This made it easier for us to start collecting shower water to use on the garden. After a few weeks the 3 flights of stairs became a challenge. We brought a pump from Bunnings, ran a hose out the window down onto the carport roof so the water would flow into the rainwater tank. We have another pump and hose off the rainwater tank so we can water the garden and fill up the watering cans.

This change enabled us to save over a 100L of water a day that we can store and use in the garden. We fixed the leaking cistern in the toilet, that was wasting a staggering 360L of water a day. If you want to find out some simpler ways of being Water Wise check out these tips.

Water was also a big issue for local wildlife. Many animals were being impacted by the heat and lack of available water. These Magpies were trying to get drops out of the bubbler and tap.

I made sure there were suitable water dishes available in the park and at home.

In the Garden

I’ve really enjoyed being able to spend extra time in the garden. I have planted more natives especially flowering shrubs and grasses to provide food and shelter for smaller birds. The pond is providing water for animals and a habitat for frogs. there are some small fish that keep the numbers of mosquito down. 

I’ve pruned, weeded and planted in the vege garden. I’m growing some of the herbs I love to use in the kitchen like Lemon Thyme, Basil, Shallots and Chives. Continental Parsley and Tomatoes have sprouted everywhere from last seasons seeds. I’m growing mint from my Mums garden and my Strawberries have come back to life. I’ve picked over a dozen Limes with plenty more fruit growing on both the Lime and Lemon trees. I’m trying to grow Eggplants again and so far have been having more success. I’m growing Brussels Sprouts for the first time so fingers crossed the caterpillars don’t get them.

I have been weeding and controlling pest by hand at the moment and will see how that goes. The advantage is that I can spend more time on garden maintenance at the moment so I’m hoping the attention now will pay off later.

Do you enjoy gardening, but don’t have the space to build you own garden? Would you like to eating produce that you have helped grow, but don’t have enough time? How about joining your local Community Garden.

Community gardening can give you the opportunity to grow and harvest your own produce. Creating more green patches of vegetables, plants and flowers across urban environments. Community Gardens also:

  • help reduce household waste through composting.
  • offer the chance to get your hands dirty in a communal plot of land.
  • create opportunities where people can learn about gardening methods.
  • help save and protect diverse plants and seeds.
  • bring people together.

Find a Community Garden near you

All wrapped up

Over the last year I have brought Bees Wax wraps, silicon lids and recently silicone ziplock bags. These products have been great and I like having the variety to suit different needs. This year I have started using the Hercules® Sustain ™ Compostable Paper food bags for dry lunch box items. I’m buying larger products size for the kids and portioning into small reusable containers or compostable bags. 

With these products I have been able to reduce our amount of waste at home and school.  The kids have noticed and doing a great job remembering to bring their containers home for reuse.

The main difference is being mindful when I am doing the shopping and making sustainable choices. Reducing my waste by ensuring I don’t buy products with unnecessary packaging.

Choice has done a great review ‘Reducing waste at home with reusable food covers’ 

Reusing and Recycling clothing

What to do with unwanted clothes especially with growing kids is always a challenge. These are a few of the strategies I have used.

  • Embrace the hand me downs: I get a constant stream of clothes and shoes from my sisters neighbour. They are usually great quality and as they are older kids the sizes are right for the next year. Most of my sons clothes go to his cousin if they are still in a good condition. 
  • If you want to help those in need with your donations make sure you choose your Charity Bin wisely. The National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations (NACRO) ensures that all the collected goods and proceeds are used exclusively for their welfare programs. The Recycle Near You website has a list of NACRO charities
  • Some retailers, including H&M and Zara offer textile recycling bins in their stores where people can deposit any textiles, not just clothing from that brand, to be sent for recycling offshore.
  • If it can’t be handed down to family and friends or donated to charity cut them up for cleaning rags.
  • Contact you local animal hospitals and shelters to see if they need old sheets and towels. 
Image result for recycled clothing

Now that I’m not working in the city I went through my wardrobe to find clothes and outfits for Dressed for Success.  They are a registered charity that improves the employability of women in need in NSW. They provide professional clothing, support network and the career development tools to help women achieve self-sufficiency.

I just found this initiative recycling socks. Starts With Socks is taking your old socks and gives them new life. Any pairs that can be up-cycled will be donated to people in need. Socks that can’t be saved will be recycled and turned into new textiles, saving them from landfill.

The Simple Things

There are also plenty of things that we continued to do at home like:

  • Taking Shorter Showers
  • Turning of lights when not in the room
  • Setting the air conditioner on 23’C
  • Composting
  • Recycling
    • Batteries
    • E-waste
    • Soft plastics

Discover more about becoming sustainable and how you can make a difference.

Urban Heat Island effect

What you need to know about the Urban Heat Island effect? Cities create their own micro climates by affecting the surrounding atmosphere and interacting with climate processes. The result is that urban areas are becoming significantly warmer than the surrounding areas. Especially when there is less green cover and more hard surfaces which absorb, store and radiate heat.

Urban Heat Island Effect graphic © Alexandre Affonso

The impacts of the Urban Heat Island effect include:

  • Increased daytime temperatures
  • Reduced night time cooling
  • Higher air pollution levels

These impacts affect human health by causing:

  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Heat cramps
  • Exhaustion
  • Heat stroke
  • Heat-related mortality

The 2017 Cooling Western Sydney report shows the most effective urban heat mitigation technologies incorporate a combination of urban greening, water-based technologies and cool materials. Increased green spaces with water features and fountains, combined with cool material technologies including cool roofs and pavements are all ways to reduce temperatures across Sydney making a more liveable and climate resilient city.

With the increase in urbanisation across Sydney incorporating theses strategies in urban design will become even more important.

What can you do?

  • Increase shade around your home: planting trees and other vegetation lowers surface and air temperatures by providing shade and cooling through evapotranspiration. Trees and vegetation can also reduce stormwater runoff and protect against erosion. 
  • Install Green Roofs: growing plants, shrubs, grasses and trees on a rooftop reduces temperatures of the roof surface and the surrounding air and improves stormwater management. Also called “rooftop gardens” or “eco-roofs,” green roofs achieve these benefits by providing shade and removing heat from the air through evapotranspiration.
INFOGRAPHIC: In addition to reducing stormwater runoff, experts say green roofs have psychological benefits. © Urban Water/City of Melbourne
  • Install Cool Roofs: a cool roof is made of materials or coatings that significantly reflect sunlight and heat away from a building. This reduces roof temperatures, increases the comfort and lowers energy demand. 
  • Install Cool Pavements: Using paving materials on sidewalks, parking lots, and streets that remain cooler than conventional pavements by reflecting solar energy and enhancing water evaporation. This cools the pavement surface and surrounding air and can also reduce stormwater runoff and improve night time visibility. 

Find out more:

Welcome to 2020

It is great to jump into the the new year with a goal and a plan. I like to think about what I can realistically achieve, what I can do differently to make a better future. 2020 is going to be My Year of Sustainability. I want to step up and do more and show my children that we can all make a difference.

As we begin a new decade it is important to reflect on the year that has pasted. Australia has experienced heatwaves, bushfire, droughts and floods. According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record.

In 2019 my family made 2 big road trips crossing 5 states. I saw first hand the impact of the droughts across regional New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. In July we saw the receding floodwaters in Queensland where the town of Birdsville was recovering after being cut off by floods twice. The devastation of the bushfires on the NSW South Coast was incredible as we drove down the Princes Highway in late December. Even more so because the worst was yet to come. We stayed at Lakes Entrance and drove through East Gippsland as the fire crisis was beginning. I’ve had an overwhelming sense of doom after being engulfed by bushfire smoke for so long and watching these natural disasters.

Receding floodwater Birdsville Qld and the surrounding area July 2019 © Karen Player

Everything I have seen throughout 2019 has motivated me to make 2020 My Year of Sustainability. So where will I start?

What can I do to make a difference?

I am going to start with the things I can control. I’m avoiding single use items and making sure I always have a spare reusable bag with me. Sydney tap water is some of the best in the world, so we should all say no to buying water in plastic bottles. Just refill your own water bottle, save the environment and save money too.

I will spend more time in the garden; build a haven for local wildlife, grow more fresh food and create a space to enjoy and relax. I miss my chickens and will fix up their hutch and get a couple of hens. Chickens are great for fresh eggs, reduce your amount of waste and keep the garden healthy. I’m also keen to get a native bee hive this year.

Native bee house

I will avoid using chemical in the garden to control pests and try some of these ideas:

  • Apply soapy water directly Bugs (sap sucking insects).
  • Place a saucers of beer in the garden to discourage snails or sprinkle sawdust some near the base of plants.
  • Sprinkle half eggshells throughout your veggie garden to deter cabbage moths.
  • Pour boiling water directly onto weeds to kill them.
  • Spray milk directly onto affected leaves to get rid of powdery mildew or mix 4 litres of water, 4 teaspoons of baking soda and half a cup of white oil as a spray.

The drought is continuing and we all need to be Waterwise. In 2019 we installed a pump to use the grey water from our showers and baths in the garden, we fixed our leaking toilet and got a pump and hose for our rainwater tank.

We can all reduce our water footprint with the following tips:

  • Take shorter showers.
  • Check for dripping taps and leaking
  • Only run the dishwasher and washing machine went it is full
  • Don’t put rubbish or chemicals down the drain.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean paths and driveways

I will continue to reduce, reuse and recycle and go beyond

Reduce Reuse Recycle Infographic
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle © WWF

Think about what changes you can make to the way you live and work to become more sustainable? What changes are we prepared to make as a community and nation that will help us achieve this goal?

I came across these World Wildlife Fund infographics on Sustainable Shopping and Food Waste that I wanted to share. They both provide simple and tangible actions that I can achieve.

Sustainable Shopping Infographic
Sustainable Shopping WWF
How Much Food Do We Waste? Probably More Than You Think! © WWF

Find out more

Outdoor Classroom Day

Today is Outdoor Classroom Day and is a great opportunity to look at ways to take your students outside to explore. Outdoor Classroom Day is a global campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play. Thousands of schools around the world take lessons outdoors and prioritise playtime using nature based and hands on learning practices. Last year over 3.5 million children worldwide took part with over 300,000  in Australia. 

Insect investigation

Research has shown that outdoor learning improves children’s health, engages them with learning and leads to a greater connection with nature. Play not only teaches critical life skills such as resilience, teamwork and creativity, but is central to children’s enjoyment of childhood. 

The Australian Curriculum section on Outdoor learning states it can be instrumental in:

  • the teaching and learning of self-reliance, interdependence and leadership
  • the development of an adventurous spirit
  • managing personal risks
  • experiencing safe journeys in nature
  • learning the value of lifelong outdoor recreation for enjoyment, health and wellbeing
  • understanding nature through direct experience; and the development of deeper human–nature relationships.

Any learning experience that can be undertaken in the outdoors or in a natural setting can contribute positively to a range of learning areas. The unique and specific benefits that outdoor learning can contribute to a student’s education include:

  • providing direct personal contact with nature (the outdoors) in ways that promote enjoyment of outdoor activity and the natural world. Such enjoyment can be the basis for ongoing outdoor recreation and nature experiences, supporting personal health and wellbeing and providing the foundations for ecological literacy.
  • enabling perspectives on contemporary living and human-to-nature relationships. Through the provision of outdoor experiences, students have opportunities to reflect on healthy alternatives for everyday living and lay vital foundations for sustainability and stewardship into the future.
  • developing competence and safety management in the Australian outdoors. This includes how outdoor learning can teach students to assess risk and make judgements about their management of it.
  • enhancing wellbeing through guided reflection on involvement in group and individual activities that are challenging and adventurous.
  • developing essential personal and social capabilities such as communication, resilience, self-confidence, leadership, teamwork, goal setting, personal autonomy and initiative.

Read more on the Australian Curriculum website:

Outdoor Education in your classroom

Hear are some simple ways you can integrate outdoor education with your class

Uncropped AEE logo with dragonfly icon

World Jellyfish Day

Jellyfish are in the phylum Cnidarians an ancient group of animals with a history of more than 650 million years. The word Cnidarian comes from the Ancient Greek: knide = nettle, named after a type of plant with stinging hairs. They have soft, hollow bodies, live in water and generally have tentacles.

Fun Fact: Moon Jelly can age backwards! They can revert back into polyp stage and then regrow into an adult again. Moon Jellies can also regenerate lost body parts.

Jellyfish: snack food of the sea

Jellyfish were once thought to be at the end of the food chain because they are have low nutritional content. New research shows that many species rely on Jellyfish as part of their diet including penguins, albatross, tuna, turtles, crabs and benthic microbes. Some animals even time their oceanic migrations to coincide with expansive jellyfish blooms like the Leatherback Turtle.

Concerns have been raised about the explosive growth of Jellyfish populations due to climate change, overfishing, nutrient runoff, and habitat modification. However this could be a positive in areas where fish and krill are in decline, as the importance of Jellyfish as a food source for marine animals will increase.

Find out more about these amazing animals

Did you know: the Bluebottle, Physalia utriculus is not a single animal but a colony? It is a colony of four kinds of zooids that are dependent on one another for survival.

  1. The float pneumatophore is a single individual and supports the rest of the colony.
  2. The tentacles dactylozooids are polyps concerned with the detection and capture of food and convey their prey to the digestive polyps.
  3. The digestive polyps gastrozooids breaks down the food
  4. The reproduction polyps gonozooids

Happy World Jellyfish Day

Uncropped AEE logo with dragonfly icon

Beachcombing – exploring our shores

Beachcombing is a great way to explore our shores and learn more about the animals that live along our rocky shores, sandy beaches and mangroves. There are so many amazing things to look out for including shells, shark eggs, crabs, cuttlefish bone, seaweed, sponges, along with interesting rocks, sea glass and driftwood. You never know what you will find?

Beachcombing survey Bermagui

Here are a few ideas to help get you started.

  • Wear comfortable shoes, hat and sunscreen
  • Check the tides, the best time to explore is when the tide is going out
  • A great time to explore is after a big storm
    • Use caution and common sense as waves can still be big.
  • Bring a camera to record your discoveries
    • Use a scale to help identify the animals later
  • Check local restrictions on collecting shells and driftwood.
    • It is illegal to remove living animals or plants from the foreshore and rocky reefs in Marine Parks and National Parks
    • Remember hermit crabs are always needing to upgrade their shells
  • Bring a bag to collect rubbish to help keep our marine environment clean.

Below are some of the animals I found on a recent walk near Anna Bay in New South Wales, Australia. There were lots of shells, bits of driftwood and I was very lucky to photograph these crabs before they disappeared beneath the sand.

If you find something interesting or that you haven’t seen before, do some research. Using a Google image search is a great place to start. You can also contact the Australian Museum for species identifications. Make sure your image has a scale to help with identification

The Pumice Raft is coming

Keep an eye out along the east coast of Australia for the arrival of the Pumice Raft between March and June 2020. Queensland University of Technology geologist Scott Bryan said pieces of pumice from the eruption of an underwater volcano near Tonga in early August 2019 would wash up on Australian shores in 7- 12 months. “When it gets here, the pumice raft will be covered in a whole range of organisms of algae and barnacles and corals and crabs and snails and worms,” he said. “We’re going to have millions of individual corals and lots of other organisms all coming in together with the potential of finding new homes along our coastline.”

You can record what animals you see along our shores at the Atlas of Living Australia