The Ultimate Sustainability Challenge

If you're reading this and not currently on my subscription list, just send an email to brett@www.lifeinharmony.com.au and I'll be in touch soon. If you're not sure, have a quick look below at the overview and the guidelines. Someone asked me recently "how much does it cost to join the challenge?" The simple answer is that it is FREE!

52 week sustainability challenge

Let's keep this short and sweet, we've got 52 weeks to convert words into action, come on the journey and see how one thing leads to another. Not only will I put myself to the test, I'll engage with willing participants to see what others are capable of. Regardless of how many of the challenges you complete, you will learn more about yourself and your connections with the world around you. By the end of this challenge, I can promise you that you will be in a better position to help others to deal with global warming and climate change. You will be a leader because you have taken action. I have written about this simple correlation between leadership and action many times before and if you time, feel free to Read More or maybe you want to get started right away with the Week 1 Challenge.

ultimate sustainability challenge guidelines

The first part of the challenge is the hardest, agreeing to let someone (me) tell you what to do for a whole year. So, my thanks to you and here are some simple guidelines for the year ahead.

  • Nothing is mandatory, but you owe it to yourself to give each challenge a go. If you get to the point of shying away from a particular challenge I'd appreciate knowing why.
  • You can't fail and there are no marks, no medals and no rewards, everytime you have a go you win.
  • There will be opportunities to extend yourself, particularly if you find that you have already been doing the task set for the current challenge week. What I ask you to do in this situation is to simply do more of it, double or triple up - find another avenue for action in your life.
  • Feedback is essential, so send me a quick note each week to let me know how your going, what you did and what you think.
  • Please go ahead and send me your challenge ideas as I may be able to incorporate them throughout the year.
  • All challenges continue from the day they are issued. What this means is that whatever change you make or challenge you take on, it is not just for a week, it is for the whole challenge year .... and maybe even the rest of your life.

Week 1 - CHANGE YOUR ELECTRICITY RETAILER

12-October-2014 Change to the greenest most environmentally savvy electricity retailer you can find. At the time of writing the best option available was PowerShop. I changed in August 2014. Read More

Week 2 - JOIN AN ENVIRONMENT GROUP

19-October-2014 One of the simplest ways to magnify your voice is to join with others. I'm a member of a range of different community groups and in the last 2 weeks have joined 350.org and Environment Justice Australia. For example, you can join ACF for just $10. If you are already a member of one of these groups then I encourage you to join another one (or more). My Groups

Week 3 - READ YOUR METERS

26-October-2014 Hopefully this another easy week for you as we gather momentum for change, we need to know what our baseline is in terms of Electricity, Gas, Water, Motor Vehicle(s) and Flights. The challenge for this week is to read and record each of your utility meters (gas, electricity and water) along with your car(s) odomoeter(s) and the estimated kilometer distance you took in flights last year (12-Oct-2013 to 11-Oct-2014). Please record the date and time along with the readings and send to me. Use the following link to see Brett's Readings.

Week 4 - REFILL INSTEAD OF RECYCLE

2-November-2014 Find at least one product that you regularly buy that comes in a container or jar and instead of recycling the container, refill it and commit to this practice from now on. I refill most of my containers and was scratching my head with what to to do next and then I discovered Bulk Organic Tamari which is a wheat free soy sauce, but you can Read More for other ideas.

Week 5 - BOYCOTT SOMETHING

9-November-2014 Your challenge this week is to boycott something in your life that isn't quite right. Most of you will be able to quickly identify something you currently buy or some relationship you have with an organisation that is not quite kosher. You may be concerned about the use of palm oil, rainforest desctruction, sweatshop & slave labour, mining, pollution, extinction or a range of other issues that most of our corporations happily participate in. Now is the time to say NO to at least one of them (Note that this cannot be a bank or superannuation fund).There are 2 parts to this challenge, FIRST find an alternative or better product (or even better - just stop buying the product), and SECOND let the company you are boycotting know that what you have done, why you have done it and what it would take on their part for you to return as a customer.

I've boycotted heaps of companies and products over the years for various reasons such as the use of slave labour & sweat shops and trashing the environment. This week I'll let you do your own research and will be interested to know what you come up with, although I've provided a heap of boycott suggestions for you. My own choice for this challenge was to boycott the Red Cross Blood Bank which you might find a bit strange, so feel free to read more about why I think this organisation is part of the wider problem.

Maybe you drink Coca Cola and you didn't know that they were recently ordered by the Indian Government to close a water bottling plant because they were using ALL the water. What did Coca Cola do, they sued the government and won and continued with their profit hungry trash the enviroment ways. "And now, with one-third of the country already without safe drinking water, Coke is pushing to open yet another huge, water-sucking bottling plant in one of the driest parts of the country." Source

You may also not know that Coca Cola sued the Northern Territory government and forced the dismantling of their recycling scheme. Read More And you may not know that they make 100's of USA products and Australian Products. Note that the Australia list is not comprehensive at all, it doesn't include things like Mount Franklin, SPC, Jim Beam, Canadian Club, Galliano, Maker's Mark, IXL, Goulburn Valley, Ardmona, Taylor's, Peat's Ridge, Neverfail, Grinders Coffee, Vitamin Water and more. Source

In fact Coca Cola makes and sells around 3.1% of all beverage servings (other than water) consumed worldwide. That might not sound like much but is actually 1.7 billion beverage servings a day! So, this means we get through 55 billion servings each day. If your mind is not blown by those stats, that equates to each of us (7,273,020,916 9-Nov-2014) having 8 beverage servings per day (other than water). Source

Week 6 - JOIN A SOCIAL MOVEMENT (or 2)

16-November-2014 Your challenge this week is to join 1 or more on-line social movements, sign up and be part of the change. If you're already a member of common ones like Getup and AVAAZ, challenge yourself to find a couple more and join up. On the 21st of September 2013 I noted that AVAAZ had a membership of 25,949,659 and in researching this weeks challenge I found that this had increased to 39,114,049 (18-Oct-2014). This is an increase of 13,164,390 or an additional 33,583 people per day which is amazing. I've joined as many as I can reasonably find, but would love to get more suggestions. So please let me know what you find. You can get some ideas by looking at My List

Week 7 - SWITCH TO GREEN BANKING

23-November-2014 You may be familiar with the term divestment. It basically means to sell an asset for financial or social reasons. In this weeks challenge we won't be selling anything, what we will be doing is reviewing our current bank(s) to see if they are good fossil fuel citizens. If they are bad we will start a process to move our accounts away from them. Don't worry, I have to do this too, I have accounts at Credit Union Australia, Bank MECU and ING and the last one is on the bad list, the first 2 on the good list. Here is how you can Review your bank(s)

Week 8 - STEP AWAY FROM SUPERMARKETS

30-November-2014 You've probably all heard the slogan "live local, shop local". Here are some reasons why this makes sense from the Institute for Local Self Reliance - which is also worth a look if you need some more food for thought. So your challenge this week is to stop shopping at Coles and Woolworths. Do this slowly, product by product, get to know the small merchants in your shopping strip and find out where your food comes from, maybe even meet the grower or maker.

I've been buying a mixed box of fruit and vegetables from CERES fairfood shop every second week to supplement the garden and it is working out well. You may want to try something like this and see how it works for you. A couple of years ago I developed my supermarket guide to help people along the way. There are a whole lot of reasons why I don't support the deadly supermarket duo (Coles & Woolworths).

I never shop at Woolworths and sometimes shop at Coles and you might ask what have I got against these supermarkets. They stand for nothing other than profit and most of the products they sell are bad for the environment and undermine the local community. The are like big drug dealers and are up to their necks in tobacco, alcohol, fossil fuels and gambling. Still not sure? Then have a look at the recent article in The Monthly or the takeover of a Victorian country town and the impact it has on the community. If you have a bit more time, watch "The Price We Pay".

My own challenge will be to completely eliminate Coles from my list of shopping destinations. Here is what I still occaisonally buy at Coles, Organic Pasta, Organic Baked Beans, Organic Coconut Milk, Pappadams, Yeast - and the occaisonal emergency run of fruit for kids lunches - and salami and bacon for Friday night pizzas for the boys. But it's over now, seeya later Coles - I can get all that stuff elsewhere. One good thing about Coles is that they collect and recycle plastic bags, it's sort of the least they can do and I'll continue to use this service.

Week 9 - BUY RECYCLED

7-December-2014 Your mission this week is to switch to buying recycled products at every opportunity. It stands to reason that if we are going to fill our recycle bins with paper, bottles and cans that we should be prepared to buy it back as recycled products to complete that loop. Based on my knowledge and research into Australian recycling, I know that this is a very difficult if not impossible challenge, so I'm going to make it a little easier.

So the gist of this challenge is that whenever a recycled option exists for the product you are purchasing you must buy it. As a stretch goal you should seek out recycled alternatives, that is, do a little bit of research and label reading. The picture below shows 2 local supermarket shelves and their toilet roll product offering. Based on my rudimentary 2 shop survey, I calculated that only 1.2% of shelf space is devoted to recycled toilet paper. This is the canary in the coalmine of recycling, it seems we're happy to chuck all our paper in the recycle bin, but when it comes to wiping our bums it must be freshly minted paper made from freshly logged forests. Odd, isn't it? This type of thing should be against the law!

So, unless you are desperate and busting and stuck in a small country town, today is the day you will begin buying and using 100% post consumer waste toilet paper.

Week 10 - MAKE SOME FOOD

14-December-2014-2014 The challenge for this week and over the upcoming holiday period is to make a food product that you currently buy. The second part of this challenge is to incorporate the making process into your life so that you no longer need to buy the product (or the packaging). Not only will this give you new skills, it will allow you to personally grow, select and buy all ingredients and packaging.

Although I never buy tinned beetroot, I do have a pile of beetroot in my garden and so I decided to pickle it last weekend. My 9 by 500 gram jars are shown in the picture below and you can read my pickled beetroot recipe.

Week 11 - DECLUTTER & DONATE

21-December-2014 Your challenge for this week and the rest of the year is to get by with less stuff. You may not have seen the Story of Stuff movie but check it out and the other new bits and pieces on this website. Essentially, what I'm asking you to do is to live with less, clear out your cupboards, empty your bookcases and get rid of everything you don't need. Maybe start small, with a cupboard or a box from the shed or with that stuff you store in the top cupboard in the laundry, but start. I have found that living in a more minimalist way with less stuff gives me more time to do the things I actually want to do.

There is another great aspect to living simply with less stuff - and that my friends, is learning more about generosity. Of course you can sell some of the stuff you don't want or need, but giving it away is pretty cool as well - and is generally easier and less hassle. So in the words of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers "give it away, give it away, give it away, now!" Here are some ideas to get you started. Over the years of doing this, I have found that each year I get better at it and find that I really do need less, so take it easy on yourself, but commit to a periodic review of your stuff.

Week 12 - LOOK AFTER YOUR BODY

28-December-2015 We're all getting reading for 2015 and you have a few days to think about how you will tackle this challenge. The challenge is simply to begin to take better care of your body (and your health for that matter). Healthy people doing healthy things have a reduced impact on the planet simply because of the way they think and act. The cumulative impact of healthy decisions cannot be overstated. This challenge is not about supplements or medicine or doctors or gyms, it's about how you think and then what you do with that thinking.

Depending on your circumstances, you may have one or more things that you'd like to improve health wise - now is the time to make a plan and tomorrow is the day to implement that plan. My advice is keep it simple, be DISCIPLINED about what you eat and include a range of different exercises that protect and nuture your body. When you think like this and act like this there will be nothing you cannot do. Try and connect your body and its nutrition with the world around you, open your eyes and your mind. You already have all the tools you need to tune your own engine, you just need to open the toolbox. You can see Brett's recent challenge and some of his old push up records if you need a couple of ideas.

Week 13 - BE CHEMICAL FREE

4-Jan-2015 The picture below shows my backyard which is now a sea of dandelions - they are really quite beautiful when the buds open up in the sunlight. What you can't see from the wide angle picture is all the bees buzzing around my yard, so I took a few close ups for you. What's this got to do with chemicals, well it's pretty simple really - all the chemicals we use are killing species all over the place (including us). The bee is a standout because of our direct and intimate dependence on their invisible work. Einstein was quoted as saying that "if the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live." I don't reckon we'd last that long, but who knows? If you care about other species like I do you will find the following disturbing, but useful to know. Plants, chemicals and bees.

Accordingly, your challenge this week is to remove everything from your house and shed that has the capacity to kill. This includes all those nasty things in your laundry, your kitchen, your bathroom and your shed. For example, fly spray, ant rid, drain cleaner, furniture polish, snail pellets, nail polish remover etc. My basic rule is if it smells like food, keep it, otherwise get rid of it. Remember whatever kills, kills everything ... a Brett Hedger quote ... what it means is that nothing ever goes away, whatever you use in your house or garden stays on this planet forever - and if it kills, it kills all (eventually). Rachel Carson was a leader in 1962 when she wrote the book Silent Spring about the impact of the widespread use of chemicals on our planet - and it hasn't stopped.

So get rid of all your chemicals now and do so through a council collection service, don't throw them in the bin, they need to be disposed of safely. I got rid of all my chemicals years ago and now don't even use the 2 most often suggested replacements (vinegar and bi-carb soda). Have a go, you might be surprised at how little you need to stay clean and healthy. And if you want a nice field of dandelions like I have, just leave the mower in the shed, they're noisy, polluting and don't really achieve anything worthwhile.

Week 14 - PAUSE AND REFLECT

11-Jan-2015 We are now a little over quarter of the way through a year long challenge. The focus to date has been on taking action that challenges our thinking and creates change in a range of different ways. We have explored various themes from convenience to ethics to broadly introduce the idea of low impact or sustainable living. You may have found that this is having an impact or influence on the people around you. You may be asking questions of yourself and may have found it easier to skip some of the challenges or have not even read all the emails yet. Either way, your challenge for this week is to pause and reflect on why you are participating in this challenge and what you hope to get out of it (along with some broader questions).

If you complete this challenge, you will enter a very small and select group of people on this planet who have actually documented what they (really) think is important and have a rough plan on where they are headed. There is a whole industry devoted to this topic, but for me it boils down to a couple of simple things. STEP 1 Get yourself a pen and some paper - and sit down at a desk where you can be free from distraction for an hour or so.

STEP 2 Now sit and think about what really matters to you, what is important above all else. I want you to keep this to around 6 to 8 items with very brief descriptions. If you're having trouble getting started have a look at Brett's values. Copy them if you like, but put them in your own words, it is important to add your personal touch and take ownership of the words - make them your words, your truth and feel it in your heart.

Almost there! STEP 3 Now write down why you are doing this challenge and what you hope to achieve. While you are at it, you may as well write down your other objectives and what you plan to do with the rest of your life (I did say it would get interesting & challenging - it is a challenge after all). There are lots of ways of doing this - one interesting way of doing this is to write a letter to yourself (or an old friend) 20 years from now (ie imagine it is now 2035) - but write it today, and tell yourself (or your old friend) where you ended up and how you got there. Here is Brett's letter from 2007. That's it for now, thank you for making it this far.

Week 15 - I GOT NO BEEF WITH YOU

18-January-2015 The challenge is to stop eating beef. At this stage of the challenge year, you can make your own mind up about dairy foods. Around 10,000 years ago we started with domesticating 100 cattle and now have around 1.5 billion and they account for around 9% of greenhouse gases as well as numerous other environmental problems and side effects.

Worldwide, demand for meat is growing as lifestyles and economies grow and change. Livestock (cows, pigs, sheep and chickens) currently account for around 18-20% of greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than planes, cars and all other forms of transport put together! Even worse news is that the damage done by this industry is set to double by 2050. Read More

Around 6 years ago I was camping with 2 friends and we decided to start the "I've got no beef with you campaign" which meant that we would no longer eat beef. Initially, I went through a staged withdrawal depending on what level of control I had over a given situation. I suggest you take it slowly and let your friends and family adjust to your changing diet. Have a look at the following benefits from not eating meat if you still need some other reasons to give this a go.

Week 16 - feed yourself for $5 A DAY

25-January-2015 Our next challenge is to buy all our food and drink for 1 week with $35 dollars or less, that's $5 a day. This is another important step in our development, that is, to realise that we are, indeed, very well off. The idea for this challenge came from an Oxfam challenge several years ago that suggested it would be tough for most westerners to feed themselves with $5 a day. Although I thought it would be pretty easy, I never actually tried it at the time. I did have a crack at this in late 2014 and you can use the following link to see what Brett bought with his $35.

The disparity between rich and poor is growing day by day. According to Oxfam (Jan 2015) the 80 richest people on the planet now have more wealth than the poorest 50% of our entire population! Furthermore, there are 500 million people who live on less $1.52 per day for every single thing they buy, NOT JUST FOOD! ....AND.... by next year the top 1% of people will have as much wealth as the bottom 99%. I think this reflects badly on us all and maybe this week's challenge will give you some closer insights into how you might be able to make better use of the resources you already have.

Week 17 - SAY NO TO FLYING

1-February-2015 The last flight I took was in 2009 on a family holiday to the Northern Territory. During this trip we took several flights and I collected all the boarding passes, plastic cups & cutlery, serviettes, salt & pepper sachets, bottles, etc etc. When I got home, I laid it all out and tried to get my head around the scale of the waste. I discovered that just one airline, Qantas, was transporting 38,000,000 people per year (in 2009) and most of these were getting 1 or more of the food trays like those shown in the image below. It was at this point I thought that flying just wasn't for me and it is no longer for you - your challenge today is to give up flying.

A Boeing 747-400 can carry around 500 passengers on a journey over 13,000 km. The maximum takeoff weight is 397 tonnes and it carries 217,000 litres of fuel. That amount of fuel would take my old inefficient car (11L/100km) 2 million kilometres or around 2.5 round trips to the moon. Let's just say that the plane fills up at my local service station at $1.039 cents per litre, then this would cost $225,463 just for fuel or $451 per passenger. This does not take into account all the other costs of staff, catering, airport fees and environmental damage (and makes a bunch of assumptions). Although fuel prices have dropped significantly recently (from $1.50 to $1.05) I suspect airlines somehow get their fuel cheaper than we do.

A friend recently told me that at any one time there are 1 million people flying around the world in aeroplanes. I thought to myself, no way! So I went home and did a bit of research and found this info to very plausible. For example, in just 1 country, the USA, 810 million people fly each year. This equates to 93,000 americans in the air in any given hour of the day and this number is growing rapidly. Worldwide there are 9,000 airports taking care of 93,000 arrivals and departures every day.

Week 18 - SAY NO TO SEAFOOD

8-February-2015 For several years I had a go at eating seafood 'sustainably' and then decided that was all too hard given the lies and ignorance of the industry and retailers. If you want, you can get a sustainable seafood guide at the Australia Marine Conservation Society. I'm a member and a regular donor to this organisation, but (based on years of review and research) the easier option for me was to simply not eat seafood. So for around 4 years now I have not eaten seafood, it's easy, simple and cheap and people don't look at you like a weirdo as much as they do if you don't eat red meat, after all, fish are a bit ... 'fishy!' Your challenge is to stop eating seafood, or at the very least use the sustainable seafood guide from now on for all your seafood purchases.

I guess the middle image above captures how I feel about our consumption of fish, despite some species of Tuna being near extinct in the wild we are still be sold the line that the little tins we buy in the supermarket are 'dolphin friendly'. Those cans of tuna might be dolphin friendly (which I dispute) but they sure as sh*t aren't Tuna friendly. Read about the overfishing of the Southern Bluefin Tuna or have a look at their entry in the ICUN Red list of endangered species.

If you really want to understand how we have devastated the oceans, watch this TED talk by Jeremy Jackson entitled how we wrecked the ocean. If you think this can't happen, or the ocean is too big, then think again. There are over 4 million fishing vessels around the world and they have already caught 90% of all big fish on the planet and are working pretty hard to get the remainging 10%. Have a look at the satellite imagery and stories on Global Fishing Watch for more info.

Week 19 - DIVEST YOUR SUPERANNUATION

15-February-2015 Your challenge this week is to find out where your superannuation is invested and do what you can to align your investments with a healthy climate future. Right now the fossil fuel industry is looking for every last gram of oil, gas and coal on the planet - so that it can dig it up and burn it .... and make a pile of cash. If we allow this scenario to happen our planet will be too hot for most of us (and every other species) to live on - it will be GAME OVER. Have a look at the quick problem & solution overview.

Most of us have investments or associations somewhere which result in us inadvertently supporting industries that cause harm to the things we care about. Even more importantly, once we have a closer look we realise that these unconscious decisions are not in alignment with our values and beliefs. Up until very recently, despite my best efforts, I was still investing in companies like those shown in the image above. This challenge has helped me to refocus my efforts and get my investments right - I want a future for all species, one that protects and nutures the environment. You can read more about Brett's investment decisions.

Based on your notes from the Week14 challenge (Pause & Reflect) you have a starting point to review your investments. I encourage you to think about what our world will look like in 10, 20 or even 100 years from now. Also think about the things that you might be able to do right now that can in some way change our current direction. Your values are your guide, your heart is your compass and your mind and body are your tools for action. Our climate future is important beyond measure and we need to take action now to secure a safe future.

Week 20 - NO MORE GLASS OR ALUMINIUM

22-February-2015 You may or may not know this, but glass is made from sand. The thing in sand that is so important to glass is silica. In modern glass there are more ingredients to create different types of glass for different applications, but the essential process remains the same. Get all the ingredients and put them in raging hot furnace (powered by fossil fuels). I think glass jars and bottles are far too beautiful and useful to be put in the recycle bin. According to wikipedia "Glass recycling is the process of turning waste glass into usable products." My problem with that statement is that the reference to waste is wrong, it is still a useful product even though it's empty!

You can see the basic process in the picture below, beautiful product goes into recycle bin and then is smashed up to form "cullet". The following may be an eye opener for you, but we usually don't make new glass bottles out of old glass bottles - they are used to make 'lesser' products or combined with other existing products as replacement ingredients - for example glass is used in concrete, insulation, bricks and astro-turf.

There is more reading about this challenge below, but I'll cut to the chase - your challenge is to never recycle glass or aluminium again and you will achieve this by never purchasing glass or aluminium that you do not intend to reuse or give to someone else to reuse. Simple as that!

My own realisation about the importance of glass was in my quest toward zero waste where I measured the impact by weight. What I quickly discovered was that the easiest way to reduce the weight of my waste was to stop buying products in glass. Then I thought a little more about glass and how great a material it actually was and also how it seemed like such a waste to use it only once given all the energy that has been put into making it. Similarly with aluminium, I still have the original roll of foil that I inherited from my marraige (and that was years ago now), there is simply no need for it or for single use drink cans.

Over 10% of Australia's electricity is used to make aluminium, in Victoria this is around 20%. We recycle around 2 billion of the aluminium cans we use and chuck a fair proportion of them in landfill. Although they are readily recyclable it takes a gigantic amount of coal, gas and oil to do this. Your use of aluminium (whether in a can or as foil) will cease as of today.

"Aluminium is made from an ore called Bauxite, which is mined from the earth. Bauxite is converted into alumina, a fine white powder. This powder is then smelted at over 700°C, to become aluminium. The process is expensive and uses lots of resources including energy and fuel." Read More The process is so inefficient and so detrimental to our planet that "for every aluminium can you recycle, you save enough energy to power a television set for three hours!"Read More

Interestingly, Brazil has the highest recycling rate in the world - they recycle 96.5% of all cans used in the country and this adds up to 14 billion a year. Why is this rate so high when USA can only manage 52%? Simple, Brazil has a container deposit system and around 200,000 people make their living directly from collecting aluminium. Read More

Week 21 - DIY HOME EFFICIENCY

1-March-2015 Your challenge for this week is to improve the efficiency of your home regardless of whether you own or rent, it makes no difference. I have had the pleasure of helping hundreds of householders to live more efficiently with great results. What I found through this experience is that we all share many of the basic problems with our houses. These problems result in higher utility (gas, water & electricity) bills and ultimately higher C02 emissions. As a result I came up with my top 20 household efficiency suggestions. As part of your challenge this week (and in the weeks ahead) I want you to work through each and every one of the 20 household suggestions. When you are ready to get started, see the TOP 20 household sustainability tips. Take your time and work through each one, even if you do one a day or one a week, but work through them and you will get results. To help you with the first part, use your meter readings from week 3. To compare your results check out my household sustainability ratings.

Week 22 - STOP BUYING NEW STUFF

8-March-2015 A guy called Will Rogers said that "too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like." Regardless of what you think of this quote, the essence is reflective of where our society is at today, we simply buy too much stuff and this is costing us more than we know in terms of our future.

Interestingly, I was sitting with a friend in the city recently and she said she was in town shopping for a dress she 'needed' for a wedding in 3 weeks. My friend really had no need for a new dress and in fact has a cupboard full of beautiful clothes that she would look great in. Maybe Will Rogers does have a point. What if most of our non-food purchases are for things we simply do not need, or could get in other ways?

So, all I'm asking with this challenge is that you consider each of your purchase decisions and take steps to massively reduce your retail consumption. For things that you do actually need (or want), see if ethical, moral and second hand options exist. Try and buy quality items that you could see your grand kids using. Avoid shops like Ikea and the $2 shops that sell poor quality short lived products. Of course there are reasonable exceptions to this like sox 'n' jocks, solar panels and water tanks which you'll probably buy first hand.

If you need some help with this challenge, have a look at the following websites for ideas and stories. A good place to start is the Buy Nothing New How To Guide. If you need more sources of information check out these great links to other websites. I also found a pretty good website which has lots of great information about why this makes sense and how to go about it. Read More

Week 23 - SWITCH TO ORGANIC FOOD

15-March-2015 Once again, take your time with this challenge, but start today. The challenge is to change every food product in your house from conventional to organic or bio-dynamic. I have had a few goes at this over quite a few years and have nearly got there, but not just yet. You'll know you're getting close when you run out of a rarely used spice and look for the organic replacement or simply go without. The picture below shows an up to the minute picture of my pantry, I now have around 50 bottles of preserves, pickles and sauces (around 80% organic in every ingredient).

Why does Brett only say 80%? Well I still have moments where I just need something now, or I baulk at the cost of organics. I have found that organics are not more expensive, particularly if I shop locally and seasonally. A couple of weeks ago I wanted to make some tomato sauce (I'm a fairly spontaneous guy) and rather than order organic tomatoes or go to the market, I went to the local green grocer and picked up 5kg of tomatoes at $1.99 a kg. Thinking about this over the next few days, I checked out the cost of bulk organic tomatoes online - only $2.99 (10kg box).

All of these actions get me thinking and get me closer to my 100% organic goal. The picture below is of another shelf in my pantry which looks like a wholefoods shop, no brands or packaging, just basic food ingredients. Just so you know, the rice bags are not full of rice, they have been used many many times and currently contain white and wholemeal plain flour.

In comparison to many of the things we buy, organic whole foods are actually cheaper. Most of my organic stuff is bought without packaging and costs around $5 - $7 a kilo. Some stuff is cheaper, some more expensive. After rent, food is my biggest expense, but I don't buy things like packaged Burger Rings at $76.20 a kilo or bottled water at $5 a litre (vending machine prices) or any other similar products. When you really start comparing 'apples with apples' and adding in factors such as the environment, personal health as well as clean air, water and soil, organics really do win hands down.

If you still need some convincing, have a look at these reasons to buy organics. And maybe have a squiz at the following for information about organic meat and dairy. Remember, this is about climate change and climate change is about preventing destruction of our environment through keeping our air, water and food clean, LOCAL and sustainable. This is the essence of organic farming, buying, cooking and eating. So, get started today with 1 product, then move to the next and the next and the next. Please always remember that it is ACTION that moves us forward.

Week 24 - Moderate your E-World

22-March-2015 Your challenge this week is to begin the move away from being a passive information receiver and start to become more of an action oriented reflective thinker and leader. In order to do this you need to create space. One really good way of doing this is to moderate what is coming into your world. I'm suggesting that you take charge of the information flow in your life and get back to basics. Your challenge is to turn off every electrical information source that you possibly can, unsubscribe, deactivate, logout, shutdown, disable and say good bye to all that useless noise in your lives.

Just this morning, I was watching the drunken 'fail army' on youtube with my son Tom - both of us felt sorry for all these people being caught on video, many without their consent or knowledge and then being put on display for the world. Then we had a look at the youtube stats and found that 300 hours of video are loaded to youtube every minute. That's right, 300 hours every minute. Now let's just say you wanted to watch all the uploads for just one 24 hour period. That would be 432,000 hours worth of video. If you spent just 12 hours a day watching all this stuff, it would take 100 years, provided you started the day you were born and never ever had a day off.

As you can see from the above image, as of last week I'm no longer 'on' twitter, I am DEACTIVATED! Twitter stats show us that we send 58 million tweets per day, but this goes bananas through re-tweets and every 5 days, 1 billion tweets go out. You probably don't know it, but 260 million users of twitter never actually tweet, they are just passive receivers of other peoples stories and news. You may be detecting a theme in my commentary by now.

Similarly, around 3 weeks ago I also DEACTIVATED my facebook account. Facebook Stats show some alarming figures, over 1.3 billion of us have facebook accounts, around half (48%) of which log on every day and each of these users spends (on average) 18 minutes facebooking! This means that every day we (you choose the option SPEND, USE, WASTE, DEVOTE etc) 8 million 24 hour days worth of time looking at facebook.

Also, late in 2014 I was looking at my inbox and thinking about my emails, I realised that 99% of them weren't from real people, I was just on a lot of lists. So starting in 2015 I have unsubscribed, deleted, turned off and generally got myself 'clean'. I realised that I was spending around 1 hour per day dealing with this noise and I was no longer enjoying it. So what are you waiting for, start getting your life back today, start leading and creating, imagining and dreaming, don't read about other people, live your own life.

Week 25 - Grow your own food

29-March-2015 I'm guessing that after getting stuck into last week's challenge you now have a bit of time to walk out the back and check the sunrise rather than your message bank and email. Here are 2 photos taken from my back step last week, note the gas guzzling monsters in the picture on the right (ie 3 hot air balloons). To quote one of my favourite movies, "there is never nothing happening," you just have to open your eyes. But let's not dwell on last week's achievements, onto the next challenge!

All the pictures below are a sample of the food harvested from my garden in the last week. The shot below shows 389g of eggs, 332g of rhubarb, 2.8kg of pumpkin, 1.43kg of zucchini and 475g of capsicum. We still have some pumpkin and zucchinni, the rest is in our bellies!

I have never planted or grown any pumpkins, but the harvest keeps getting bigger - all grown out of the food scraps I chuck out for the chooks. You can see around 12kg of pumpkin in the shot below.

The next image shows spring onions which will go in my dinner tonight, radishes for my lunchbox and lettuce for my bread roll earlier today (23-March-2015).

Your challenge is to grow something to eat, regardless of where you live or how you live, plant something in the ground or in a pot, then look after it until it is ready to eat .... and then EAT IT. If you already do a bit of gardening, challenge yourself to grow or do something different, maybe to learn in more depth about some aspect of home food production. If you want to stretch this challenge a little further, save the seeds from your plant and grow them again next year.

Week 26 - A QUICK GLANCE BACK

5-April-2015 It's not often that I ask people to go back into the past, or indeed to the future, but for leaders like us it is important to take heed of the lessons we have learned and the challenges we can forsee ahead. The moments we spend doing this allow us to adjust, re-define, correct and reinforce action to continue our process and our progress toward our goals - despite any barriers and impediments.

Regardless of how many of the previous challenges you have completed, it is really important to complete this one. When I say 'complete' I actually mean 'commence.' Personally, I have not completed any of the challenges, for I am still working on them all. I hope that you have begun to understand that none of these challenges is ever completed in a single week or indeed a single lifetime. Our task is important beyond measure and it continues each and every day, for all of our days.

Your challenge is to write a few short (or long) paragraphs about your involvement in this challenge and then send back to me. Please include a photo of something that reflects your involvement in the challenge. I will publish all these stories on this website free of any names or identification.

As a starter, maybe go back to the 'week 1 challenge' and work your way through all the other challenge weeks and note down what you actually did and what you continue to do. For me, what will be important is hearing about things that have changed or things that you have achieved as a result of being involved in this challenge. Read Brett's reflection here.

Week 27 - LOOK IN YOUR BINS

12-April-2015 The challenge for this week is to do your very own waste audit, what exactly is in your bins? Step 1 is to keep all your rubbish for 7 days without any alteration to your normal behaviour and purchases. The image below shows our waste for 1 week - there are 3 of us in this house. This turned out to be a good week to have a look at because we usually don't have this much stuff. On the left you can see all the waste and on the right the waste has been sorted into categories.

Once sorted into categories, you can then weigh the various piles and create a pie chart or graph showing how much waste you have. I did mine on the back of a weetbix packet, but feel free to be more sophisticated.

Next, sit down and think about what you could change to reduce your waste. As the final part of this challenge I want you to make at least 5 changes that will reduce your waste by a significant percentage. Then put your changes into ACTION ASAP.

I've been trying to 'near zero' my waste for a couple of years now and most weeks end up with a handful or less of stuff. This means we very rarely, if ever, put our bins out. The things we are stuck on OR developing solutions for at the moment are: 1) baked bean tins - we like our beans and have had 1 go so far at making them ourselves, 2) Home made pizzas - the foil packets and other packaging from the dried yeast, the plastic & paper wrapping for the bacon / salami that boys love, we now buy organic mozeralla just in plastic (it used to have 2 layers of packaging) 3) the hard plastic in the picture was given to us, we don't buy this kind of stuff, 4) similar to 3, the foil was also given to us and 5) plastic bags, we operate on a minimum, but they are pretty handy and are everywhere on everything, and 6) the screwdriver packaging was off a gift for Tom's recent birthday .... and we still had less than half a kilo and over 95% was recycled.

Week 28 - INCREASE WATER EFFICIENCY

19-April-2015 We have now been in our house for 424 days and in that time we have used 65,028 litres of water. This works out to be an average of 154 litres per day. Although there are 3 of us, the boys spend about half of each week with their mum and half with me, so it sort of works out at 2.1 FTE (full time equivalents). So our average water usage per person per day is 74 Litres per day (65028/424 = 154, then 154/2.1 = 74L).

I have noted that our usage is increasing (see above), but so is our harvest of vegetables so this is not a bad outcome. My general line in the sand for suburban households is to use a maximum of 50L per person per day, you should easily be able to meet all your needs with this amount of water. This figure applies regardless of how many people you have in your house. With water tanks and other measures it is possible to get this figure 'near zero' or 'off grid' as I have done in another house (ie not this one). The image below shows an easy change I have made at my house to keep water on my property. Note that, if you're going to do this you better complete the Week 13 challenge first (ie to be chemical free).

So grab hold of your water bill, read your meter, check in with your earlier challenge readings from week 3 and see what your numbers reveal about your water usage. Once you know your water status, then it's time to plan and implement some changes. Your challenge is to improve your water efficiency. This can be done through a combination of reduction and recycling techniques which are generally pretty straightfoward, low cost and easy to implement. Click here for a big list of water saving tips. I put these tips together quite a few years ago, but have updated quite a few of them to reflect my thinking now.

Week 29 - NO MORE HARDCOPY

26-April-2015 Your challenge this week is to begin the process or converting all your letterbox communication into email. So from now on, for everything you get in your letterbox you are to find a way to stop getting the hard copy - make it electronic or make it go away. There are 3 parts to this process, 1) get off the mailing list of those companies that you don't want correspondence from, 2) stopping the junk mail and 3) converting all required correspondence to email.

I've been doing this for years now and I can go weeks without getting anything at all in my letterbox. I'm at the point now where I may have converted too much stuff to the electronic world. For example, I used to get the Renew magazine from ATA home delivered. What I found when I converted it to be electronic verson is that I no longer read it. I'm simply not interested in laying on my bed reading the laptop, but I'll happily do this with a magazine. Maybe I'll turn this one back on. You can read about some of my exploits in Tackling Junk Mail and Snail Mail Free.

Week 30 - RENEW YOUR POWER

3-May-2015 Your challenge this week is to get solar panels for your house or unit or wherever you live. If you can't get them directly on your house for whatever reason, ensure that you are buying certified green power - for more information keep reading below.

I've been pretty close to purchasing solar panels for my current rental house but there is one thing holding me back. I don't mind that it's not my house or that I could be kicked out at any time, the big issue is that the switchboard and wiring (in fact all electrics in this house) are completely stuffed. This simply means that the entire house would have to be rewired prior to anyone doing any work on anything. So I'm not ready yet to cough up the cash for someone else's house to be rewired. Just to give you an idea of the state of my place, it's raining right now and I can hear the water dripping from the ceiling in the back room onto the floor. The landlord does not want to fix this or any of the other issues in this house. So I will continue to buy the Green Online Saver product from Powershop. You can see some of the powershop purchase options in the image below, I buy the Green Online Saver.

If you're not yet with Powershop, you can still get 100% certified green power from any other retailer. The Powershop Green Power is "a 100% GreenPower product incorporating Meridian Green which is accredited under the National GreenPower program, and all Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) used in this product are sourced from 100% GreenPower accredited generators." Find out more about Green Power Around 570,000 homes and 32,000 businesses have signed up for GreenPower, maybe it's time for you to join them (& me).

Week 31 - ACTIVATE YOUR ACTIVIST (PART 1)

10-May-2015 In the last year people have accused me (& not in a positive way) of being both a zealot and an activist. I kind of like the definition for zealot, apart from being zealous, it is one who is fanatically committed. I personally think we should all be fanatically committed to eliminating carbon emissions and then restoring the atmospheric balance on this planet.

However, with zealots the fanaticism is regarded as excessive and I guess I can seem like that to some people. The picture above shows the last white male rhinocerous on the planet - and I'm supposed to just sit here and say nothing about this tragedy! An activist is a person who takes an active and often militant part in politics. There are times where I can take a very combative stance and maybe act in an agressive way in the service of this cause. I guess the guns these guys are carrying might seem a little aggressive too - but it's a little late for these big fellas! The message here is simple, if you're going to wheel out your 'big guns', then do it early, don't wait until your back's against the wall.

Your challenge this week is to activate your activist and do something about something. Take some action and don't ask or wait for permission. We simply cannot wait for our politicians to sort this out. The imminent extinction of the white rhino is the result of our weak politics together with our disconnected ego bound lives and convenient transfer of responsibility in a careless and unthinking way to others who lack the capability and integrity. It is time to ACT and you're the one who has to do it - what are you going to do? Read about Brett taking some action.

Week 32 - PLANT SOME TREES

17-May-2015 18 years ago, I travelled up to Nhill in North West Victoria with 2 friends for the weekend to plant trees. This part of Victoria is known as the wimmera mallee and is a wonderful place to visit and is quite different to the South Eastern part of our state. I liked it so much I've been back nearly every year since and have enjoyed it very much. I think we're up to 1.5 million trees in the ground now and it really is a fantastic achievement for a group of volunteers. In the picture below you can see the start of a 4km planting line that our team completed in 2013.

You can use the following link to see some of the many project outcomes over the last 17 years. This year I'll rustle up a small posse of people to head up the bush to do it all again. We're heading to Dimboola on the 15th and 16th of August, leaving Friday arvo as there is an early Saturday start and it's a long trip. Registrations haven't opened yet, but if you're interested, get in fast and add your name to the database. The picture below shows some of the crew making up the tree guards.

I've also been regularly involved in the Grow West project which is a bit closer to Melbourne, a bit past Bacchus Marsh. You can also read about some of the achievements of this project. The planting day is usually in June some time, but not sure of the exact date for 2015 yet. The picture below shows gives a sense of the enormous amount of work required in this part of the our country - I simply love the landscape in this area which is also known as sunset country.

These are just 2 examples of projects you can easily get involved with to plant some trees. So your challenge this week is to find a community tree planting day somewhere near you, sign up and plant some trees.

Week 33 - ACTIVATE YOUR ACTIVIST (PART 2)

24-May-2015 The picture below shows our big and ever expanding capital city of Melbourne at night time taken by satellite. If you're not from Victoria, a quick search online will find your own big city, it's worth a look. The problem with this picture is simply that most of the lights are either not required, left on for longer than they are needed or are old & inefficient (or indeed all of the above).

Over the years I've been advocating for energy efficiency all over the place as well as just asking people to turn things off - or just turning them off myself if I have the access. You can see below a picture of the Toyota Car dealership located on Nepean Highway in East Brighton. They leave all their lights on 24/7 and I thought it was a bit of a waste so I politely asked them to turn them off, leave them on for less time or use more efficient lighting and renewable energy. I was happy enough to get a response from Toyota, but got nothing from Ford, Lexus or Holden which also leave all their lights on 24/7 and are located in the same strip. I go past here twice a day on my way to and from work and it's sort of weird that there is all this activity and waste devoted to oil burning combustion engines!

Your challenge for this week is to identify 5 local (to your area) businesses that leave lights on unnecessarily. Once you have identified the 5 businesses, contact them and tell them of your concerns about climate change, that they have opportunities for cost savings and lower C02 emissions etc etc. You may even be a customer of theirs, just like me and the McKinnon bakery - where John (the baker) and I have been discussing LED lights for a bunch of years and he is now installing them. This challenge is called Switch Off and you can get more details and examples at Brett's Switch Off Page. By the way, there is no need to stop at 5, once you have a template (or use mine), you can send it to 10, 50 or 100 businesses.

The picture above shows how the power gets from the coal mine to our houses, via transmissions lines, substations and power poles. Of the energy available from a piece of coal, 75% is used at the power station, 10-25% of the remaining 25% of energy available is lost in transmission from the power station to our homes. The number varies depending on where you live, the further your house is from the power station, the greater the transmission losses.

In our homes we waste a further 50% of the available energy on things that could easily be turned off or used for less time and another 25% on inefficient appliances and other electrical issues (which I won't go into here). Most of us could easily get by on a quarter of the energy we are currently using!

Week 34 - CREATE SOME SPACE

31-May-2015 One of the greatest challenges for us all is to make space in our minds, our hearts and our lives for new ideas to enter. I'm sure you won't be surprised to find out that I don't watch TV, don't read newspapers and don't listen to any commercial or talk back radio, I don't barrack for a footy team, don't spend my summers watching the cricket, don't know the scores and don't really care. What I've discovered over the years is that at any moment I can go back in to the 'normal world' and be up to date in minutes - you see, it's all the same, all the time and it really doesn't change. I realised that the only thing I could really change was me and that the only way for this to happen was for me to take some action.

What the internet, newspapers, radio and TV feed us is a strict diet of fear and greed for which the only suggested remedy is to go shopping, go on a holiday, go on a diet, go to war or buy a new car. When I sat back and looked at this I found that most my news sources were a series of corrupted, repetitive complaints & blame shifting together with judgement, bias, racism, homophobia, gossip, xenophobia and stupidity interspersed with advertising - and that just made me mad and not fun to be around.

Quite a few years ago, I just switched off, turned away and started a different kind of journey - one that I believed would make me more connected, calm, aware and in touch with myself and others. The reason that this is important for all of us is simply because the action we need to undertake over the coming decades and centuries will require an army of enlightened people. Enlightenment is what I'm asking you to step closer to this week and in the weeks and months and years ahead.

The truth is, we really don't need anyone or anything to tell us how we should live or what we should do, because we already know. All of us make choices to either listen to this truth or to avoid it. Maybe sit for a moment and think of the choices you make each day. Each of these choices sends you in a particular direction. If you're not going in the direction you want, or it doesn't feel right, maybe it's time to make some different choices. Step by step, there is a better way, a way to create more space in your heart and your head for love, laughter, learning and change.

As always, the path I recommend is through action. Accordingly, your challenge this week is to create some space in your life by doing something differently. As a suggestion to get you started, maybe reduce or completely stop the noise and distraction in your life that comes from the media. Just give it a go for a week or two and see what happens. Try going somewhere without your phone or just turn it off for a few days. Remember that if you continue with the same actions you will get the same results. I believe that action based change is the most powerful tool available to you. You cannot change others, only yourself. You already have the answers you need, they are in your heart and your soul, focus your attention inward.

Week 35 - MAKE FRIENDS WITH A PARK

7-Jun-2015 In order to understand what is going on out there, we're going to have to get our hands dirty and talk to those who have already got a bit of dirt under their fingernails. To understand what I'm talking about, stop what your doing right now and walk to your local creek. Have a look at what shape it is in. You can see my local creek below - a filthy concrete channel that used to be called Elster Creek. Check out Brett's local creek walk.

Your challenge this week is to join a 'Friends Group' - you may want to join one close by or one a bit further away. There are heaps of them and you can find a list at Parks Victoria Friends Group List. If you're not in Victoria, just contact your local parks service for more information. For this challenge, I joined The Friends of Westgate Park who have a friends day every 3rd Sunday 9am to 4pm so will be looking forward to my first day in a couple of weeks.

Week 36 - ACTIVATE YOUR ACTIVIST (PART 3)

14-Jun-2015 Your challenge this week is to write at least 5 letters, they can be as brief or as long as you like, but they must be hand written. The 5 letters are to be sent to 5 different people of varying significance in your life and the guidelines are explained below.

As you can see above, we have 3 levels of government here in Australia. Your first task is to write 1 letter to someone in each level of government. Each of your letters should explain why you think it is important that they do more about climate change, what your concerns are and what you would like them to do. Importantly, you must ask a question from them in order to get a response. Simple as that, write from your heart and let it flow!

When I was a young fella, pretty much the only affordable way to communicate over distance was a hand written letter. Quite frankly, email and every other form of electronic communication still do not come close (for me) to the hand written letter. I think our communication is given depth and beauty through creativity, reflection and time. These are things that the internet and other forms electronic communication have difficulty with.

Letters 4 and 5 are to go in 2 different directions again. Letter 4 is to go to someone who has some global influence, particularly in the lead up to Paris 2015. Letter 5 is even more special, you should write to a friend and tell them what you've done in letters 1-4 and what you hope to achieve out of doing this. Maybe use this last letter as an opportunity to reconnect with someone that you have not spoken to for some time. Everyone loves to receive handwritten letters. I wrote 6 letters and you can see them 'hot off the press' (8-June-2015) above.

Week 37 - i'm a vegetarian

21-Jun-2015 Our carnivorous ways are responsible for not only 20% of the world's C02 emissions but also a massive amount of our weight & health problems, biodiversity loss, forestry loss, chemical use, food & water security, pollution, disease and more! But that all ends today because your challenge is to stop eating ALL meat. Up till now, the only meats included in the challenge were beef and seafood, but leaving the others out is similar to buying offsets (a cop out). Welcome to the world of vegetarianism.

Week 38 - ACTIVATE YOUR ACTIVIST (PART 4)

28-June-2015 I know this one is big, because I have done it before. Your challenge is to start your own mini-campaign. For example, in the late 1990s I wrote a letter to every sitting member of the Victorian parliament asking for them to create a national park for the Box Ironbark area of Victoria. This action alone created quite a stir and the environment minister of the day called me on the phone to have quite a long and detailed discussion. After all these years of working with people for change, I know that anything is possible if heart felt action is the map that guides your path. We ended up with a new National Park in 2002!

The picture below shows the chemistry of the SIMAZINE which is the TRIAZINE class of chemicals. Simazine is a widely used chemical in households and agriculture, predominantly for weed control, both on land and in water. It is easily obtained at any gardening or hardware store and is a known endrocrine disruptor. My little NO SIMAZINE CAMPAIGN was started as a result of reading a small article about it in a Friends of the Earth magazine called Chain Reaction (Issue 123 April 2015). My campaign started on the 24th of May 2015 when I wrote this paragraph. The point I'm trying to make is that ideas can come from anywhere and be about anything. Don't limit yourself in any direction and make it about something you really care about or have been dieing to get fixed.

Ask yourself what you'd like to do, what action you will take and then just do it. Don't wait, just climb out of your chair and walk to the start of your campaign. That is all I have done with my campaign, I have no idea where it will lead or indeed what it will achieve, but I know that I do not want chemicals like SIMAZINE used anywhere on our planet.

Week 39 - Goodbye Plastic

5-July-2015 I was recently meeting someone at their office for the first time, to talk about sustainability, and they offered me tea & coffee (no thanks), water (yeah ok) and then brought out 3 plastic bottles of water which I also declined once I saw the plastic. My decision created a further conversation and maybe my hosts might think a little more about what they buy and offer next time, who knows? My point is that there is plastic everywhere and each and every piece that was ever manufactured is still here on the planet - in our rivers, in our oceans, in our soil and in our bodies. Forget recycling, your challenge this week is to stop buying plastic. Also, just so there is no misunderstanding, the week 20 challenge for no glass and aluminium included aluminium foil and to this we now add plastic wrap. Cross these 'bad boys' off your shopping list forever.

Accordingly, I've reworked this challenge a few times from a couple of angles but the essence is about getting us all closer to zero waste. In researching this challenge I came across some great websites. One of these sites had a list of 85 suggestions for reducing household waste. To get us all started, use the Low Waste Checklist , record your score and make a list of things you could change around your house to reduce your waste. Trust me, this is a good list which provides a great starting point and will save you heaps of time & effort. My results are shown in the table below.

No dispute, plastic is a great product, but if you're going to use it, treat it like gold and take great care of it so it lasts for your lifetime and beyond. If you have any reason to discard it, make sure it gets recycled. And if you're going to recycle plastic then make sure your next plastic purchase is made from recycled plastic. Start connecting the dots!

In writing this challenge, I've assumed that everyone already knows why we need to reduce and eliminate our plastic usage, but if not, here are some sites that will help you get some overview information. Plastic Facts & Figures More Facts & Figures Rubbish Vortex The Truth About Plastic Say No To Plastics

Some interesting blogs: My Plastic Free Year My Plastic Free Life A Life Without Plastic 1 year without buying Plastic 2 years without trash zero waste home

Week 40 - Confront Your Car

12-July-2015 Basically we've got too much stuff, too many cars, too many pets, too many friends, too many emails etc etc. But the thing I really want you to focus on this week is your car(s). It is a very rare treat if you get a ride in my 2001 Holden Commodore - I move it to the street when the boys want to play soccer in the front yard and move it back in the driveway when the boys go to their mum's place. The only regular use it has is for weekend sport if either of the boys has a game that is beyond the reach of a bicycle or effective public transport.

For instance, 3 weeks ago we drove for around an hour to get to Pakenham for an U13 soccer match on Sunday morning at 11:20am. The game only goes for 50 minutes, yet we spent nearly 2 hours in our car. The organisers of junior sport have a lot of carbon emissions to answer for. There is simply no reason for Pakenham, Westernport, Berwick or other similarly located teams to be in the same league as Caulfield. Accordingly, I recently wrote to the Football Federation of Victoria about these matters and their relationship to weekend traffic congestion, fuel usage and greenhouse gas emissions. No reply as yet but I'll keep you posted. We have also tried car pooling but not many of the folks in my area are particularly interested in this transport option.

I'll give you another example of the central place of cars in our lives. Every night on my way home from work I pass a place called 'Clearwater Car Wash' on Nepean Highway. The car owners sit drinking coffee and checking their phones while a small army of guys wash, wipe and polish sleek looking black and silver cars. I've also observed that these 2 sets of 'guys', the car owners and the car washers, have dramatically different skin colours. Just sayin!!!

My brief research on the internet about this particular car wash resulted in me finding the car owners complaining about the service they'd received despite it only costing $25! The general theme was that they expected the car to be 'completely clean' inside and out, done by hand and completed in under 15 minutes with a free coffee (or bottled water) and a newspaper! What has this got to do with the challenge Brett (I hear you ask)? Well it's an example of how the car is related to societal concepts such as status, power, selfishness, inequality and impatience. The car is a central player in this much bigger problem, these are just some things to think about!

But back to YOUR CHALLENGE which I have broken up into 6 parts, good luck and happy transporting:

PART 1 Eliminate all unnecessary travel in your private vehicle. 469 Reasons Why Cars Stink Although these are all American facts and figures, they apply equally to us here in Australia.

PART 2 When you do drive, drive like you have the last tank of petrol on the planet. 15 Tips To Reduce Car Emissions

PART 3 Make your bike, your feet and public transport your preferred and primary means of transport, adapt your life around these 3 options. 10 Reasons to start walking. AND 10 Reasons to start riding your bike. AND 10 reasons to use public tranport

PART 4 Don't buy a new car unless it is super efficient, electric and you have considered and tried all of the above options, perhaps including moving closer to your work or even getting a new job. Full costs of owning car. Make sure you look up your car on this website - it will blow your mind how bad an investment a new car actually is.

PART 5 Try car share options in your town. Car Share Options These ones are for the City of Melbourne, but there are some great suggestions and a list of websites at the bottom of the page.

PART 6 If you really do have to drive all over the place regularly and can see no other options, invest in an electric car and cover your house in solar panels to charge it (or buy 100% green power). 10 Reasons why your next car might be electric. Things are changing, I'd love it if they came up with a quick Tesla conversion kit for my car!

Week 41 - Health & Discipline

My Dad turns 77 on the same day as challenge number 41 is due out, 19-July-2015. It's now one week until this date and my Dad has been on my mind a fair bit lately as I have been caring for both him and my mother in Geelong. Although this challenge doesn't really have anything to do with caring for others, it does have a lot to do with health. Both my mum and dad have declining health and have (both) recently escaped from hospital.

My Dad's quality of life has been in decline for a long time, his kidneys don't work, he is diabetic, his heart is weak, his circulation is poor, his hearing is not good, his sight is impaired, he recently had a toe amputated, and a while back had half his colon removed. My mum, who is Dad's full time carer, just had her hip replaced, so she is relatively immobile, recovering for a while and they both need a bit of help.

It's easy for us all to forget how lucky we are to be healthy when we are actually 'fit and healthy.' I guess it is the absence of health that increases our longing for it. I know when I get injured these days, it reminds me that I haven't being paying attention to how good it was when I was injury free. But as we get older, and in my Dad's case, our sense of loss and frustration becomes greater when there is no quick recovery, just decline, sometimes steady and at other times rapid, often held in check by medication, medical staff and family. My experience with my father has shown that even this level of support is lacking, particularly when physical health takes priority over emotional, mental and spiritual health.

I'd like to suggest that your own personal health is your best weapon in this fight for our collective future. I also believe that there is more to it than simply not being in hospital. The following defintion gets to 'the heart' of the matter for me. The World Health Organisation define "Health (as) a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." I like this definition, particularly the second bit, where it states that health is 'not merely the absence of disease or infirmity'. It suggests to me that many of us who currently look healthy, may in fact be suffering from one or more of these deficiencies of complete health.

You may remember back in Week 12 I encouraged you to look after your body, basically saying that exercise should be a part of your life, not something you do every time you're feeling a bit 'out of shape'. Essentially, this whole challenge is about health, our health, the health of our water, soil and air, the health of other species and the health of our mental state, both from a personal and community perspective. I believe that once you're connected and working from instinct you'll naturally pay more attention to your health. This is an action oriented approach that is both aligned and complementary to other previous challenge weeks.

Discipline is the key to this and every other challenge. One definition for discipline is as follows, "Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement." Your training is this challenge, and this challenge is your preparation for what lies ahead. In order to get the full benefits of what is being offered you need to apply discipline to your practice in completing this challenge and taking what you have learnt to your next destination.

Ask yourself what you really want, deep in your heart and stop f*cking about - be true and stay true - make choices in your life that support what you really believe in your heart to be true. And then, my friends, be disciplined about going out and making it happen. Until then, your life might just be a side show when it could be a main event.

Your challenge for this week is to make your health your new top priority. You will do this by introducing discipline to your life. You will remember from week 12 that I said that healthy people are more sustainable. The major problem with all of us is the way we think about health. Put more simply, the major problem with all of us is the way we think.

To break this pattern we will now enter a new phase of change where we use positive affirmations to help change our thought patterns. I believe that anybody can change anything, they just have to make choices that are aligned with how they really feel. I quickly typed up the list below to give you an example of how this might look, feel free to use all or part of this list and add your own - or start from scratch. Either way, just keep saying these statements 2 or 3 times a day until you believe them and, more importantly, incorporate them in your life, easy as that!

  • I will be pursue my passion with discipline.
  • I will eat fruit & vegetables only.
  • I will eat food for enjoyment and health.
  • I have only 1 diet, it's what I eat.
  • I will not eat processed food.
  • I don't need low fat anything.
  • I will use basic whole food ingredients.
  • I don't need supplements.
  • I will exercise daily.
  • I will enjoy my life.
  • I will be strong, supple and mindful.
  • I am grateful for all that I have.
  • I will happily talk to complete strangers.
  • I will wear my slippers to the supermarket if I want to.
  • I look good, my beauty is in my heart and my soul.
  • I am student of discipline.
  • I am open to new ideas.
  • I will be myself.
  • I will wear my heart on my sleeve.
  • I will make mistakes, and that's ok.
  • I will be honest.
  • I will love with all my heart.
  • I will accept others as they are.
  • I will nuture and protect my health.
  • I will challenge my beliefs.
  • I will be silent, attentive and thoughtful.
  • I will push myself to consume less.
  • I will meditate.
  • I will trust my instincts.
  • I will slow down but get more done.
  • I will grow and learn.
  • I will step out of the shadows.
  • I will run with bare feet in the rain.
  • I know of no boundaries and no limits.
  • I love saying yes.
  • I will complete this challenge.
  • I will change my electricity retailer.
  • I will join an environment group.
  • I will read my utility meters.
  • I will refill instead of recycle.
  • I will boycott things and make a stand.
  • I will join a social movement (or create my own).
  • I will switch to green banking.
  • I will stop shopping at Coles and Woolies.
  • I will buy recycled.
  • I will make my own food.
  • I will declutter my house and donate what I don't need.
  • I will look after my body.
  • I will not use chemicals.
  • I will take time to reflect and relax.
  • I will eat vegetables (and not beef).
  • I know how to live simply and cheaply.
  • I will find alternatives to flying.
  • I will eat vegetables (and not seafood).
  • I will divest my superannuation.
  • I will find alternatives to glass and aluminium.
  • I will make improvement to my home to save energy.
  • I will stop buying new stuff.
  • I will switch to organic food.
  • I will spend my time wisely (not glued to TV & facebook)
  • I will grow my own food.
  • I will take time to think and plan.
  • I will reduce my waste.
  • I will use less water.
  • I will be free from paper.
  • I will buy solar panels or 100% green power.
  • I will become active in my community.
  • I will activate others.
  • I will demand more of my political leaders.
  • I will plant some trees.
  • I will get others to switch things off.
  • I will make my own news and live my own life.
  • I will help restore what is broken.
  • I will start my own campaign.
  • I will stop eating meat.
  • I will write letters to tell others.
  • I will stop using plastic.
  • I will reduce my car use.
  • I will be disciplined.
  • I will be healthy
  • I can do anything.
  • I can be anything.
  • I will be me.
  • I've thought about this challenge a lot and wondered how it all comes together at the end, but now I'm thinking that there is no end. This challenge is really just a step in our lives that will lead us to other places. Our lives can be anything we want them to be and we can play whatever part we want in our travels. As is always my hope, if just one more person gets the life spark as a result of my work, then this challenge will be a success.

    Life is a path with many trails, most are not marked on any map. You will need to use your heart as your compass, your spirit as your sustenance and your breath as your power. Now is the time to lead yourself from darkness to light and I would love to hear your thoughts and words when you emerge. What are you waiting for?

    Week 42 - Become a lifelong learner

    26-July-2015 The first thing I did to research this week's challenge was to go to Duk Duk Go, not GOOGLE, where I typed in "reasons to keep your brain active." At the top of the list was the following from the Alzheimer's Association. "Research has suggested that combining good nutrition with mental, social and physical activities may have a greater benefit in maintaining or improving brain health than any single activity." Hopefully, this 'open secret' should be embedding itself in your psyche now. That is, good food (fruit and vegetables) combined with regular physical activity are the ones we have talked about before. The new concept I want to introduce is that we must continue to learn and challenge our brains.

    "Mentally challenging activities, such as learning a new skill, adopting a new hobby or engaging in formal education, may have short and long-term benefits for your brain. To keep your mind active, it is important to participate in activities that expose your mind to new topics." Source

    "Challenge yourself to games with strategy or high-level reading material, or determine how to approach a familiar task in a more effective way. Selecting activities you enjoy will increase the likelihood that you will continue to engage in them over time." Source

    "Another way to stay mentally active is to get as much formal education as you can, at any point in life. Formal education is classroom-based learning administered by professionally trained teachers. Engaging in this type of education will help keep your brain healthy and may protect your brain from developing dementia. This could involve taking a class at a local college or community center that teaches a new topic, skill or hobby (e.g., learning a language or how to play an instrument)." Source

    Your challenge for this week is to incorporate as many of the above activities in your life as you can. Learn new things and meet new people, continue to take yourself out of your comfort zone, you will be well rewarded. You can see some of the things I have been doing to meet this challenge just to the right. These include a research project on our universe, solving Rubik's Cube and completing a hard Sudoku. I actually had a much longer list of mental challenges but am now out of space for this week, so happy learning and puzzling!

    Week 43 - Activate Your Activist (Part 5)

    2-August-2015 This challenge involves doing something sustainable in your street, with your neighbours. This is a stretch for even me, my next door neighbour doesn't speak to me at all - we had a few 'words' about the boys kicking the soccer ball over the fence into his property. Suffice to say I still wave and say the odd hello, but that's about it. My neighbours on the other side moved out and didn't even say goodbye. They lived in the front of a split block and one day about 3 months ago, the bloke at the back knocked on my door in a bit of a panic and told me I had asbestos in my shed roof. In 18 months of living in this street, this was the only conversation I have had with this man.

    It is even worse with the 3 or 4 houses across the road, many is the time I've been about to wave and say hi and they do not even look up. It all strikes me as a bit strange, but I'm going to give this a crack anyway, let's see how I go. When I first moved here 535 days ago, I aimed to meet as many people as I could, and this went well for awhile, but then my favourite street character died. I met Vern when he was walking backwards doing laps of the street, an interesting man with some very interesting ideas. Maybe Vern's passing was just a sign that things were about to change and that I really didn't belong in middle class, double storey, double car, high consumption McKinnon. Then again, variety is the spice of life and maybe this is the place where I can do my best work! Let's find out!

    My street has about 40 houses and I intend to make an offer to each and every one of them to help them with living more sustainably. It will indeed be an interesting challenge, and if they all take me up on my offer I will be a very busy man! Your challenge should you choose to accept it, (why would you even hesitate at this great opportunity?) is to do something with everyone in your street or neighbourhood that promotes both understanding and action in relation to living more sustainably. Wish me luck and vice versa! Read about Brett's street.

    Week 44 - Commit to Something Big

    People often comment to me that "they would not want to live like me", that it is too hard and that they like the comforts that they have. They say that I must live like a monk and have no fun at all. Common questions to me are, "Brett, do you drink beer or drive a car?" There are actually many answers to these types of questions, but maybe the best answer is to simply tell you what I've been doing today.

    Okay so I did get up a little late for a monk, waking at 4:20am and getting out of bed about 30 minutes later. I got stuck straight into peeling 15kg of fruit to preserve. I mucked around with my 2 sons for awhile when they woke up around 7:45am then got back to work. All up, I think I filled up 35, or so jars and I also have a big container of fruit in the fridge. I actually ran out of preserving jars!!!!! My son and I had our usual breakfast with freshly cooked warm organic pears on our cereal.

    Around midday, an award winning brewer showed up at my door with 14 of my bottles filled with a mixture of wheat beer, indian pale ale and dry stout. In addition to the beer delivery, he also dropped off a wheelbarrow full of grain (used in the brewing process) that the chooks just love. And at the end of the day, I get to have a nice cold beer which is made just down the road. Trust me, if you tasted these beers you would never drink any commercial mainstream beers again!

    During the visit, I was showing the brewer my pantry and I offered him one of my home grown pumpkins. Of course, he took a big one, and reckoned that I should store them on their sides rather than flat to prevent premature rotting. Then we got to talking about home preserving and the brewer told me that he had around 50 fowlers vacola bottles doing nothing in his shed at home. I said that I would come around and collect them and pay him a fair price. And then I did a bit of work in the vegetable patch, planted potatoes and a few other things as well as pulling out heaps of weeds. And then ....

    Okay, you probably don't want to know everything that I did today, so I'll tell you about the challenge now. Almost 3 years ago I committed myself to complete every walk in a book called "150 Walks In Victoria" within 3 years. To add a bit of spice to this challenge, I also wanted to do most of them by bike & public transport as well as carrying all my own food and water. The only money that I would spend would be on public transport fares.

    You may have wondered where I get all the scenic photos for this webpage? They have all been taken during my 3 year challenge and they serve as great reminders of where I have been and what I have experienced. One of my favourite memories was at Wyperfeld National Park in NW Victoria (shown above). It had started raining and hundreds and hundreds of kangaroos came to road to get a drink. The picture shows just one of the many mobs that flocked to the roads. Of the 150 walks I set myself to do, I have just 1 remaining, the longest one, which is a 122km walk from Daylesford to Bendigo which I will do later this month. Read about all Brett's 150 walks. Maybe this will give you some ideas for your own challenge.

    Similarly, your challenge is to do something big. Challenge yourself to commit to something beyond your current thinking, something that will take a lot of your time and a lot of your energy. Trust me, you will be rewarded and you will see your future in an entirely different way. Imagine, if this is the answer you have been looking for, remember, action is the magic that opens the door to life. I am now giving you the permission to follow your dream (as long as it is local and sustainable and complies with all the previous challenge week requirements).

    Week 45 - Expand Your Culture

    16-August-2015 This week I'm challenging you to learn more about our indigenous culture here in Australia. Around 20 years ago, I did an assignment on Aboriginal languages and was really quite alarmed at the massive loss of language, culture and people. Then I got on to reading about our history, I particularly wanted to learn about the Aboriginal perspectives. What has happened here in Australia is a massive tradegy and continues to this day, largely through ignorance, greed and fear. This same trio of characteristics plays out time and time again in many of our daily actions and is well supported through our media, political, social and business infrastructure. This is a fairly open challenge and I'll let you discover it in your own way. However if you need some ideas see below. Also in the side panel to the right you can read about what I've done so far for this challenge.

    The damage that we have (collectively) done to this land and these people is quite simply incalculable. I think now the best that we can do is work as hard as we can to restore, redress, repatriate, rebuild, reconcile and retain that which now remains. You may find some of the following information and the results of your own research very disturbing. The issues (and their consequences) you will read about continue to this day. You can help make a difference through your actions in this challenge week and in the years ahead.

  • National Sorry Day
  • "The first National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998 – one year after the tabling of the report Bringing them Home, May 1997."
  • Kevin Rudd Sorry Speech
  • A 3 minute version of what is a pretty good speech, but really, sometimes sorry simply isn't enough, it must be followed by action that matches the words and lead to decisive and lasting change.
  • Aboriginal Language Map
  • "Aboriginal people were able to speak up to 5 languages fluently, but now many languages are critically endangered. Aboriginal language is yet to be formally included is schools despite students being “hungry” to learn them." Source
  • Aboriginal Languages
  • Only 145 of the 250 Aboriginal languages remain. Of the 145, 110 are critically endangered and yet we still practice French and German in our high schools! There is some great information on the above website about the language problems.
  • NAIDOC
  • NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920′s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians. NAIDOC Week is held in the first full week of July. It is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society.
  • Australian Aboriginal Events and Festivals
  • Australia’s Indigenous people celebrate and share their culture at many colourful traditional and contemporary festivals throughout the year.
  • List of massacres of Indigenous Australians
  • "In total at least 20,000 indigenous Australians died from conflict and massacre with white Australians whilst between 2,000 and 2,500 white Australians died. In 1838 white settlers murdered 28 Aboriginal men, women and children near Myall Creek Station. For the first time in history some killers were tried and hanged. The massacre is a harrowing reminder of Australia’s colonial violence."Read More
  • 1967 Referendum
  • Ninety percent of voters voted yes, and the overwhelming support gave the Federal Government a clear mandate to implement policies to benefit Aboriginal people. The referendum had two main outcomes. The first was to alter the legal boundaries within which the Federal Government could act. The other key outcome of the referendum was to provide Aboriginal people with a symbol of their political and moral rights.

    Week 46 - Stay True

    23-August-2015 In a round about manner we have now arrived at what I consider the heart of the matter - staying true. Your challenge this week is to both discover your truth and to begin the process of movement toward it. You might be asking yourself 'what does this have to do with sustainability?' This is a great question and one that I'd like you to give a good deal of thought to. In the same way that healthy people are more sustainable than unhealthy people, the same can be said for people who pursue life with purpose. I ask you to go beyond the basic definition of sustainability and ask yourself what is your foundation, what is your purpose and what will be your legacy when you are no longer here?

    Just like staying true is not about being selfish, love is not about falling in love. For me, the essence of sustainability is love. But love is not enough, I think we need to add a healthy dose of gratitude to get the recipe right. Love and gratitude are the twin pillars of true sustainability. Pure love, allows us to be connected to all things, which in turn allows us to feel connected, which in turn allows us to feel deep and real gratitude.

    For example, one of the first things I do every morning is to have a glass of water. I am deeply grateful for the purity of the glass container and as I let the water run through my body I feel it enter my empty stomach. I associate this feeling with the source of life and renew my feelings of gratitude for this beautiful liquid each and every day. Our life depends upon water, soil and air. The ultimate goal of sustainability is to keep these 3 things clean and free from harm. Every challenge on this website is based on this simple concept.

    To give your full attention and understanding to this very simple notion might require you to give up some long held beliefs. What I'm asking of you to do goes way beyond not eating meat or reducing your energy usage. I want you to wake up to your purpose for being alive. Once you discover this purpose, I want you to pursue it with vigour!

    In the panel to the right I've included some websites that might help get you started - or give you a bit of a refresh. Maybe, just take a walk down to your library and borrow a book. Maybe even talk to others about this, find out for yourself what it really means to stay true and feel love and alignment in your heart. Write some notes about what you really believe and how you really feel. Why don't you just do it now. What have you got to lose? Trust your heart and how it feels. Your life force is love and it is derived from being true to yourself. If you really want to live a sustainable life, it is critically important that you do this now.

    Week 47 - Get Rich

    30-August-2015 This one is simple, get rich - look after your money, spend wisely, invest carefully, be patient and move through your life with clear financial goals. Your challenge this week is to begin to put together a financial plan that allows you to multiply the things you do for the environment. Have you ever thought that you could actually solve some of the world's environmental problems if you had a billion dollars. I spend some of my time day dreaming and as a consequence have a small arsenal of interesting ideas to sort the mess out. Many of the ideas revolve around ways to eliminate existing problems by turning the (economic) system on itself. Put simply, if all the environmentalists are rich, we get a bigger say in what goes on. Wouldn't that be cool? What if we were the decision makers?

    Let's face it, if you've got the arse hanging out or your pants, you're hungry and struggling to find a safe place to sleep, then chances are that you're less likely to have environmental issues at the top of your 'to do list'. In fact, the problem is deeper and more entrenched than this, it turns out that the majority of rich people have 'to do lists' and the majority or poor people don't have 'to do lists'! Have you ever wondered why this is the case and what other key differences there might be between rich and poor people?

    And don't get me wrong on this one, I'm guessing that if you're reading this you're already rich by world standards, but there's no harm in making yourself a bit richer so that you can do more. Thomas Corley's 2010 book, "Rich Habits - The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals" makes for interesting reading. Corley's findings have been repeated all over the internet, but that doesn't mean you've seen them yet, so here goes. Here are the key rich habits and how they relate to this challenge:

  • Rich people have goals and keep them in sight - Refer to Challenge 14
  • Rich people have 'to do lists' - Refer to Challenge 26
  • Rich people don't watch TV - Refer to Challenge 34
  • Rich people read to learn - Refer to Challenge 42
  • Rich people use time wisely - Refer to Challenge 34
  • Rich people don't gamble - Refer to Challenge 5
  • Rich people value their health - Refer to Challenge 12
  • Rich people clean their teeth - Refer to Challenge 41
  • Rich people dare to dream big - Refer to Challenge 44
  • You might find this comparison between rich and poor thinking useful to get a handle on where you are on the scale. Remember this whole challenge is about changing the way we think and linking this directly to the action we take, then learning from that and repeating the cycle - all the time knowing that are purpose is clear, that we are responsible and that are dreams can be achieved!

  • Rich people dare to dream big, poor people think small.
  • Rich people believe that they create their lives while poor people believe that life happens to them.
  • Rich people play the money game to win but poor people play the money game just not to lose money.
  • Rich people think and focus on opportunities while poor people focus on obstacles.
  • Rich people are committed to their dreams, poor people are just dreaming about their dreams.
  • Rich people associate with rich and successful people. Poor people will associate with poor people.
  • Rich people are good learners while poor people think that they have learned everything in the world.
  • Week 48 - What do you choose?

    6-September-2015 The picture above shows one of my favourite Australian birds - the Grey Currawong. I have found that they are actually very hard to photograph because they move quickly and (usually) always in large groups. I was so grateful for this one sitting still just outside of Hepburn Springs earlier this week. Their many calls are striking and you will know when they have spotted you simply because of their movements and the calls they make to each other. Within minutes a flock of 20 or 30 birds can quickly blend into the bush canopy and seemingly disappear. There are 3 species of Currawong, the pied, the black and the grey. Just don't mistake them for crows, they're Currawongs!

    I went bushwalking again last weekend, quite a long walk, 122km over 3 days with a heavy pack - and yes I know this is pushing things a bit hard - but it's a choice that I've made and one that you might not. You can see me in the image above with a pack that is easily twice the size of my upper body. The load on my back was a constant reminder of my choices, particularly annoying when I watched my bush friends, the Currawongs or Kangaroos jump and fly about with no loads, just simple, free and easy.

    The animals and birds I watched last week seemed to have no concern for anything other than what they were doing in that moment, no past to bother them, no future to worry about and no pile of belongings to insure against loss. The flow on problem with insurance is that you need money, which means you need some form of income generation, which, again, in turn means many more things for our complicated little lives.

    My friends, these are all choices, the Currawong is an example of what your life could be like if you wanted it to be. Regardless of whether you want to be a bird or just a person, it is the same, the choices you make each and every day determine your fate. If you want things to continue as they are, then simply make the same choices that you currently make. If, on the other hand, like me, you want things to be different, then you need to make different choices. It really is that simple!

    To add a bit of spice into the mix, try and imagine how many choices a Currawong makes each day? What about the average adult? Based on my brief research it's somewhere between 5,000 and 35,000 every day. For rich adult people like us, we have to decide stuff like what flavour muffin to have with our coffee and which colour shoes to wear. But what if you've got no shoes and no money to buy a muffin with? What then is the effect on the number of decisions you make each day?

    Similarly, what if you're a kid and don't even care what colour shoes you have on? Are you seeing where this is going - maybe stop and think about this for a moment. Ask yourself whether or not you have simply categorised yourself as "Busy Mom" (USA spelling on purpose) or a "Career Dad" and that your choices simply flow from this choice. "So Brett, let me get this straight, you're now telling me that one choice leads to another choice and that it's all connected?" Yes, it's all connected and you are the choice maker in your life!

    This week, your challenge is to simply answer a question I recently put to both of my sons - if given the choice between freedom and happiness, what would you choose and why? Feel free to follow your instincts, sit and think for awhile or even do some research. I encourage you to write this down or send it through to me or discuss with a friend. The choice is yours.

    Week 49 - Where do you stand?

    13-September-2015 This week I want you to do some thinking and research. I want you to ask yourself how important human life actually is? In fact I want you to ask yourself how important your own life is? Are you ready to die or is death something that you fear? Are you religious and have you confronted your religious beliefs? Why might you or anyone else think that they are more important than any other person? Similarly, why might you or anyone else consider that your species is more important than all the others on the planet. The essence of this challenge is for you to prepare to understand your own death (and indeed the death of others - it happens every day) and also to think about realistic population control - what does it actually mean?

    We've talked about recycling and turning your lights off, but to date I've made no mention of 'the elephant in the room' - which is us, our growing numbers and our susceptibility to consume until we explode. Quite frankly, there are too many of us and we are breeding too rapidly. Our species, whilst killing off just about every other species on the planet, is in plague proportions and out of control. Even if everyone recycled we'd still have problems beyond our control because things like recycling are shallow responses to deep problems.

    Many years ago I read a book called "This Tired Brown Land" that referred to the long term carrying capacity of Australia to be 12 million people. As I type this in 2015 we are double that and on track to go further. It simply doesn't have to be this way, but it is because we regard some issues as 'untouchable'. We have either passed or are rapidly approaching all sensible limits on this planet, both natural and man made, and we need to act.

    Population Control - First Steps & Critical Factors.

    The following 4 factors have been found to decrease the number of babies per woman on the planet:

  • 1. When children survive - ie low infant mortality rate.
  • 2. When children are not needed for work.
  • 3. When women are educated and join the labour force.
  • 4. When family planning is accessible.
  • I encourage you to read these factors again and maybe even a third time. Now sit with these thoughts for a moment, if you're from big city Australia, like me, you may not have ever had to experience any of these issues.

    Other Thoughts

    Have you ever come across a book called "The Most Good You Can Do" which was written by Peter Singer. The gist of the idea is to do the most good with whatever amount of money you have to spare. For example if you gave $50 to an Australian charity it probably wouldn't go too far, but what if you knew that this $50 given to another charity could allow 2 more women to attend school for a year? Use the charity impact calculator to really see what a difference you can make. Remember the 4 factors above, if you impact any of these, you will make a difference.

    Like me, you may also want to join Sustainable Population Australia which is a non-profit volunteer environment group. "Unlike most others, we focus on the importance of population growth - the human impact on our natural, rural and urban environments." This is an easy way to support others who have given up many things to fight for what they believe is right.

    Your Challenge

    Find something somewhere that has a impact on population growth, by addressing one or more of the 4 factors shown above. There are so many different ways of having an impact on this issue. Is there some way that you can help women in other parts of the world get more education and more access to family planning? Are there ways you can support women's business ventures in foriegn countries? Can you join and support causes that try to stop children working in factories? Can you be extra careful about the products you buy to ensure that they either come from women's business ventures or are free from child labour?

    Week 50 - Don't Stop & Never Give Up

    20-September-2015 What exactly was this challenge really about? For me it was really just the beginning. Essentially what I was asking you for was an open mind. An ability to turn away from things that you have thought you knew. I wanted you to embrace a new way of thinking and acting. Moreover, I wanted you to get a taste of what it was like to be connected to all that life has to offer, to feel connected to life, to feel part of something bigger, to serve yourself and your community, to be truthful, but most of all to be your best.

    I did contemplate sending you a survey to find out how many of the challenges you undertook and maybe even find out how well you did them. But this is really deeper than that, it's about you and your life and your desire for a sustainable world that is based on love. As I have said many times on these pages, action is the magic that opens the door to life. What I secretly hope has happened as a result of doing this is that some transition has started to occur within some of you. I always say just one spark will start a fire and you might be that little spark. When the global warming war hits with full force you will be needed - along with your own little army - so you will need to be prepared.

    As we progress rapidly through the years ahead, you will be challenged and change will be thrown at you from all directions. Will you be ready? Will you be able? I also want you to remember that this challenge wasn't started for fun or to read stories about Brett, it was a direct response to global warming. Global warming is not a fun story, but we created it and we have to deal with it. In order to do this we need people who are more resourceful, have more skills, but most importantly are connected to the earth through love and that this love is the source of their inspiration to act.

    All of the things I have tried to prepare you for might seem like a huge leap of faith, but it is in fact a small step away from where we are now. The changes we all need to make are in fact subtle but so very powerful. Of course you know what I will type next - this is just the beginning, the basics course, if you're interested in getting your masters or PHD in this stuff let me know, until then good luck and thanks for all your efforts.

    Just one last challenge for you - this week I want you to let as many people as you can know that you taken part in this sustainability challenge. If you enjoyed it I would like you to recommend that they also have a crack at it.

    Week 51 - Slow Down

    27-September-2015 A couple of weeks ago I stuck a sign on the bottom of my computer, it said, "Slow down and it's okay to say no." I have realised that I have been doing too much for too many people and I simply cannot keep up. So my own life and work practices are not sustainable - yelp!!! - ahhhh!!!! I have found that I never actually do nothing! So the only challenge for you this week is to have a (slow) think about what you're doing in your own life. Check out the slow movement if you need some inspiration or ideas.

    Maybe go outside, lay on the grass and just stare at the sky. The following picture is of the sky at Vaughan Springs - which also has very tasty and restorative mineral water.

    The following picture is also at Vaughan Springs, taken from exactly the same laying place as the one above - I may have turned a little but I didn't move off my little warm grassy patch - although I may have fetched another cup of restorative mineral water.

    What do you see in the following image - also at Vaughan Springs, now on my 3rd cup of restorative mineral water.

    Week 52 - Thank You

    4-October Your final challenge is to simply take a week off, you've earned it! Thank you for taking part in this challenge, no matter how little or how much you have done over the last year, I am eternally grateful for you being involved in this year long project. If you want to know more or go further, feel free to contact me for more information. Much love to you all, take care and stay true, from Brett.