June 1, 2011

Our 'Living Smarties'

If enthusiasm is catching then all of those who arttended the first three sessions of Randwick City Council's Living Smart course are well and truly infected.

Living Smart is a five week, twenty hour course in sustainable living that is offered several times a year on Saturdays. The course was devised by Murdoch University's School of Behavioural Psychology and adopted by the City of Fremantle. Randwick Council's sustainability Education Officer is localising it for use in Sydney's eastern suburbs. Already, there is interest by education staff from other councils in being trained to offer the course. 

The first 3 sessions...

The first session introduced systems thinking concepts like turning our linear take>make>waste production stream into a circular borrow>use>return loop. First, though, the group got to know each other. Spending a little time doing this pays off because barriers to communication are quickly broken down and people feel at ease with one another.  

The second of the two sessions developed an understanding about the waste stream and how participants can reduce household waste. Facilitated by Randwick Council's waste education officer, a bag full of materials - plastics, metal containers, paper and so on - was tipped out on the floor and participants sorted them into recyclabes and non-recyclables. This is always a revealing exercise as it shows how much confusion there is around what can and cannot be recycled. After all these years of recycling, there remains much confusion.

Session three brought a guest appearance by water expert, John Caley. John knows just about all that there is to know about greywater, blackwater and drinking water. The session started with a tour of the community centre's water tanks. These have been installed to flush the toilets and to irrigate the adjacent Permaculture Interpretive Garden (PIG). They are in multiple sizes and materials such as plastic and galvanised iron. John explained that, for people who want to avoid plastics, stainless steel is the only way to go as even galvanised iron tanks have a plastic lining.Then it was out to the PIG to see live demonstrations of different irrigation systems such as microspray, leaky hose and drip irrigation. These have been installed on racks that can be plugged into the water supply and that fit exactly over the raised gardens so as to demonstrate different ways of delivering water to plants.

What was notable was the enthusiasm of course participants. There is a clear desire to learn and Living Smart taps into this desire with its goal setting and by making links to where participants can learn more and find rebates for the installation of water and energy saving technologies in their homes. 


The Multiplier effect...

People talk, and Living Smart participants are no different. Many of those attracted to the course become sustainability multipliers when they talk to neighbours, workmates and relatives. This makes use of the 'multiplier effect' that is known to advertisers and business - you devise a good idea or product that fills a personal or social need and people adopt and spread word of it. The result is a viral-like contagion of ideas via word of mouth transmission. This, of course, was taken into account by those at Murdoch's School of Behavioural Psychology who devised the course.

...written by Russ Grayson

Photos captions:

TOP - Water expert John Caley examines a microspray sprinkler while Fiona explains how the irrigation system works.

LOWER: Randwick Council's sustainability Education Officer, Fiona Campbell (left, red hat), discusses garden irrigation with Living Smart participants.

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