Valerie Yules Letters

April 25, 2014

cheap worm farms reduce landfill from rubbish

Filed under: conservation, economic, garden, social innovations, social problems, Waste, waste — Tags: , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:24 am

THIS simple design for a homemade worm farm is rat-proof and fits a small shady space. It suits a family of four, as the worms eat the kitchen scraps so fast!
All you need are two empty plaster or paint cans, often thrown out from building sites, and two cheap plastic garden sieves. Builders and plasterers at a building site will usually be happy to give you the used cans rather than throw them in a rubbish skip.
Place one can in a depression in a shady space on damp ground. Put a sieve on top. Cut the bottom from the second can. Place the can on the sieve. Top it with the second sieve (if there are very clever rats around, weight this sieve with half a brick, so vermin can’t lift it).
The sieves stop rats, mice and blowflies getting in, but allow worms perfect freedom to come and go. A few fruit flies do not matter.
Start off the worm farm with some damp earth with a few worms in it. They will multiply quickly, so there is no need to buy worms.
Then all you do is add your kitchen scraps (except bones) to the top can. Worms don’t like citrus, eggshells or tea leaves much, so put those in your compost bin instead. After a few weeks, you’ll have made rich fertiliser for the garden. Just lift the top can off and take out the fertiliser (full of worms) from the bottom of it. You can also take rich worm tea (from the worm poo) from the bottom can.
Shift the worm farm around the garden if you like, but keep it in a well-shaded spot—a cooked worm farm is a sad and smelly thing.
Apart from the fantastic fertiliser, having a worm farm reduces your waste: only bones and packaging need go out in your rubbish or recycling bins. Your compost bin (or heap) will
a All you need is a couple of old buckets and two garden sieves.
also have less food scraps in it and so will be less likely to attract rats. As an added bonus, the worm farm also stops the used plaster cans from going to landfill; these plastic cans are useful as gardening buckets, too, and for making liquid manure.
It’s amazing how quickly the worms reduce the scraps to earth, so the worm farm is hardly ever full. And with a well-run worm farm there’s no smell.
Friendly neighbours in flats could share a worm farm or you could even keep this farm on a balcony in a flat.
Perhaps councils could promote or sell these very cheap worm farm kits, as well as the more expensive commercial worm farms that many sell already. Everyone could afford one! S


Nature Strips and Climate Change

Filed under: conservation, garden, social innovations, Waste, waste — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:20 am

Nature Strips and Climate Change

Monash Council, Melbourne, is about to allow other planting on nature strips instead of grass. This is a small contribution to reducing emissions through reducing power mowing (since people do not use manual mowing with mowers like my Flymo H33, shops sell only poor quality manual mowers, and CHOICE sees power-mowers as the only choice).

‘Sensible’ planting is of tough ground covers and small shrubs which require minimum care and no watering, and whose seeds do not spread across verges.
Cars can be parked on them; they do not mind.
They can be transplants of tough plants which are already established in your garden.
I have several varieties of gazanias and small daisies. ‘Strawberry creepers’ are also hardy.
Whether Monash will approve my two groups of agapanthus I don’t know yet, since these need trimming to avoid obscuring neighbours’ vision of roads, and their flowers must be cut before they seed.

At present many nature strips are simply dust that is power-mowed. Others bcome mud-patterns when cars and motor-bikes park on them. The tracks of a single car remain for months. People can hold off mowing their strip while all the weeds of the neighborhood flourish on them.

Once people enjoy the savings of time, trouble and petrol of their ‘Nature’ nature strip, they may turn their attention to the rest of their garden, to make it a useful place of beauty, flowers, vegetables, timber, play, relaxation, water-saving, clothes-drying and bird and animal life (except possums!) instead of just another area to keep under control. They can do this too without power-mowers.

Everyone with a pocket-handkerchief of a lawn thinks they need their own several-hundred-dollar noise-making polluting neighbor-annoying petrol-mower. Encourage them to think outside the strip.

Shops full of food

Filed under: conservation, economic, Waste, waste — Tags: , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:15 am

Shops full of food
The food Shops at our shopping centre are full of food. They have far more on display than we can hope to buy. Fresh food must be thrown out; food past its use- by- date must be thrown out.
The shops have to have this display because otherwise we shoppers think the shop has had it, and we will not buy from a shop that does not look full of goods.
But it means we pay more for what we buy, because we must pay for what gets thrown out.
SUGGESTION. Since shoppers will not learn to shop at shops that do not look full of goods, shops could have ‘pretend goods’ apart from what they have a good idea they would sell.
Made of plastic, they will look just like more of the fresh goods that are on sale. They are already on sale by the makers of artificial products for various purposes. They will just make more of them – artificial fruit, vegetables, meats, bread and cake.
When people in the world are starving, we should not insist that our shops carry more than they can sell or even put out for dumpster scavengers.

January 29, 2012

Rapid obsolescence as a form of waste

Filed under: climate, conservation, social problems, Waste, waste — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 1:37 am

Rapid obsolescence as a form of waste

I have a fantasy that Stonehenge is all that remains today of an electronic civilisation.  The rest is lost.

Half of all my life’s work is lost on obsolete technology – three forms of tape recording, Deskmate word processing, Amiga animation, floppies, Betacam, microfiche, old editions of modern programs. . All that remains is what I put on paper.  And today schools are throwing out books and relying on electronic technology!

Today I want to put irreplaceable tape recordings of oral history onto CDs or DVDs, but cannot find the technology to do so.

Putting everything into paper archives is unsatisfactory unless we have a means of finding material.  There is much dross.

We need the equivalent of a Rosetta stone for modern knowledge and culture.

Planned obsolescence in electronic technology makes the situation worse. What is good is thrown out as well as what is passe.

Planned Obsolescence and Climate Change


Too many products these days are created and bought with the expectation that they’ll soon be replaced. The consequences are serious.

‘Sometime very soon, we need to start talking about an economy that improves quality of life while reducing the quantity of material resources it devours and excretes,’ That time is now.

My lovely daughter gave me an expensive Olympus digital camera in 2003. I enjoyed using it occasionally. Now, less than four years later, it must be thrown away plus its box of bits and brochures because the camera’s memory card is obsolete. So says the Olympus shop, charging $60 for cleaning the camera before telling us the card cannot be replaced: ‘Try ringing around shops or eBay.’

We live in an era of planned obsolescence.

Planned obsolescence is a decision on the part of a manufacturer to design products to become unusable quickly. This stimulates marketplace demand because customers must buy again, sooner than they would if the product lasted longer. It happens with cars, light bulbs, software, clothing and buildings.

Our GDP figures prove that this works. There is growth in the economy when people are forced to keep buying replacements. But it is false growth in view of its environmental consequences, and it is false economics because it diverts customer buying power from more sustainable ways of improving our quality of life.

Planned obsolescence increases pollution and environmentally damaging emissions through the production of goods that would not otherwise need to be created. It exacerbates the problems of landfill and waste disposal, because most obsolescing products are not designed to be recyclable. It also wastes materials and workers’ lives that could be spent more profitably and more usefully.

It is difficult if not impossible to find replacement parts for electronic goods even a few years old. Cheap printers may evolve rapidly as technology improves, but cartridge availability for older models is liable to disappear. ‘No more parts made. You’ll have to buy a new printer,’ they say.

And it’s not just the hardware that becomes obsolete. Microsoft’s new Vista operating system, for example, is rumoured to force users to abandon old software and computers and buy new ones, even more than already happens.

This is not to say that continued advances in products aren’t essential despite improvements in technology, we still do not have ideal refrigerators, cars, houses, or almost anything. We still need new inventions and breakthroughs to make lives better.

But customers deserve some idea of how long a product is expected to be repairable or parts available.

A number of factors make this difficult. Companies that guarantee availability and long-term repairability may be located overseas; they may go out of business, or evade responsibility by metamorphosing into another business name. Liability may discourage companies from making too many promises although many products do have guarantees over 10 years, with repair and replacement warranties.

It would be good if products with planned or inbuilt obsolescence could be taxed or otherwise penalised, but this may be too invidious to be possible.

Customer power and public boycotting is probably the strongest and simplest weapon. More customer information about durability, mendability, updateability and availability of parts should be available and sufficiently publicised. (Note that I use the word ‘customers’ and not ‘consumers’ horrible word with destructive implications.)

At present, advertising goes for what is proven to work which is emotional and aesthetic appeal and minimum practical information about a product. Educators today boast that they train students in ‘multiliteracy.’ A major literacy needed by students is purchasing-savvy.

Goods on sale now bear stars for their expected energy and water efficiency, use-by-dates, and logos indicating whether they were made in Australia or by an Australian-owned company. Dangerous products bear warnings.

Perhaps optional logos could carry information about expected durability, mendability, updateability and availability of parts. A bright little rectangle with a time estimate inside it say, ’10 years.’ How long should a new house last before it needs to be pulled down? Fifteen years, one builder told me. Fifty years might be fairer, even if we expect vast changes in the way houses are built over the next few years. A hundred years for large, solid, public buildings seems fair.

If anyone jibs that without planned obsolescence jobs will disappear and capitalism won’t work properly, let us remember that our present economic system is not divinely ordained or necessarily static. We created it. We can improve it to prosper without planned waste.

About half of all production is wasted at some stage or another. Cutting the production of almost-instant waste is a faster and more efficient way of reducing carbon emissions than carbon trading, which assumes emissions can continue as before so long as we plant trees (while other forests are felled).

Far too many jobs are invested in producing waste. The alternative approach is that if everything that needed to be done was being done, there would be no unemployment.

We have to start to take this seriously, because planned obsolescence helps to promote the unplanned obsolescence of us and our planet.


See also Planned obsolescence and climate change New Matilda. 143. 23 May. 2007

May 7, 2011

Community Housing

Filed under: conservation, social problems, Uncategorized, waste — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:37 am

Housing in the new developments

Housing on the outer fringes of towns is developing without consideration of future factors, and is the same as usual – separate house on separate blocks, with the same problems of facilities and waste space, and no public transport.

Yet now is the chance of trying out housing as communities.

For example:

A housing block of a square of terrace houses, with four or six houses per side. Those on the south side are two-or three storied, so the inner side of the square, which is the houses’ gardens and an inner play area safe from traffic, is not shaded except by trees.

There is a shop, next to a road to the inner space. Each pair of houses has a garage/workshop and shares appliances such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners, clothes lines, and has an alternative-technology version of these as well – carpet sweepers, a twin-tub, a manual lawn-mower, and so on. One house of each pair is designed for up to six inhabitants, the other is small, e.g. for a granny flat or new-married. Windows in the roof keep the inner rooms light.

There is no waste space as there is in separate houses. There is variety of housing. Public transport can be close.  The shop is handy.

The houses are built with every form of ecological benefit – unlike the present building of conservation-unfriendly houses

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