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Everything that people do to survive has an impact on the environment. While for the most part we cannot change the world, we can help our little corner of it. We have seen the impacts of agriculture and industry, of city and suburban living and its often total destruction of the previous ecosystem. Your yard is your chance to turn this around in a small way. By starting to think about the environment in your yard, you and your family will gradually develop a greater awareness of the environment as a whole.

Don’t underestimate the power of your yard and home. For young children, the chance to see nature, to smell the earth, to get dirty and to see that food both comes from and returns to the earth is important. At any stage of life, the growing of something of beauty is an act of creation that can give great joy. We are often told to use mindfulness to reduce stress, and the simple act of slowing down to admire a leaf or watch a bee in a flower is a moment of peace that is free for everyone to enjoy.

The sustainability mantra of ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ is probably a familiar one. For people that lived through the Great Depression the expression ‘use it up, make it do or go without’ was also a way of making sure that they squeezed every bit of use out of an object before it was cast aside. Today we live – at least in the developed nations – in a land of plenty, where many items are so cheap it is not worth the price or impossible to repair them. In times of high incomes and busy lives, the act of consumption can be a leisure activity, filling our lives with endless piles of things that clutter the house and add to stress rather than relieving it.

With an excellent waste pickup service in Australia, we are both lucky and unfortunate. Lucky because we live in a clean, safe environment without piles of debris, and wealthy enough that no one has to scavenge through landfill or live in one to make a living. There are many countries where waste pickup and disposal is haphazard. Unfortunate, because we don’t see the results of our consumption, the rubbish is out of sight and then out of mind. Sure, we recycle, but landfill space is at a premium, particularly when no one really wants to live near one.

Landfills are today, in Australia, managed well, with legislation to ensure this keeps happening. However we face a long legacy of poorly planned landfills that will continue to contaminate groundwater for generations, and produce methane gas for decades. A finished landfill can be landscaped to parklands and are often almost unrecognised for their history. Yet under the rolling grass is a pile of material which has to be managed to reduce or prevent air and groundwater contamination. Somewhere, buried and nearly forgotten, is your waste.

“Between 1996-97 and 2006-07, the volume of waste produced per person in Australia grew at an average annual rate of 5.4%. In 1996-97, Australians generated approximately 1,200kg of waste per person. By 2006-07, this had increased to 2,100kg per person.

International evidence suggests that economic growth contributes to growth in waste generated per person (Productivity Commission 2006). Australia's economic prosperity over the past couple of decades has contributed to the growing generation of waste. Australians are among the highest users of new technology, and waste from obsolete electronic goods (e-waste) is one of the fastest growing types of waste (ABS 2006).”(Australian Bureau of Statistics)

More things, more possessions will not increase you and your family’s happiness. Spare a thought for the less fortunate, in our country and others, and try and lesson your personal impact on our crowded planet.

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