Plastic Free July

This July, over two million people around the world are choosing to be part of ‘Plastic Free July Challenge’, reducing their consumption of single-use plastics in July and beyond.

Starting as a small, local campaign for individuals to raise awareness and change behavior, the campaign has grown to include businesses, community groups, schools and industry inviting them to be part of the solution to the growing environmental issue of plastic waste.

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Coffee an unsustainable choice?

It has travelled a long way to get to your cup. The further it has travelled, the further away the farmer is. The further away the farmer is, the less understanding you have about how it is grown, harvested and treated. It really is an unsustainable drink especially if you live in a cold climate in Australia.

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How often do we stop and think about where our paper comes from?

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis refers specifically to our use of paper, citing it as an example of a problem linked to our “throwaway culture”. He writes, “Most of the paper we produce is thrown away and not recycled … We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them” (Laudato Si’ #22).

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What to do with your coffee grinds?

Coffee – what to do with the grinds.

After you have had a cup of coffee, what do you do with the coffee grinds?

After a quick survey around the office, most of us put our grinds in the compost bin. It is a great soil conditioner, it has a wonderful amount of nitrogen to give back to your garden! It is the perfect place for coffee grinds. There are some people who say that grinds are too acidic for the compost. There is some truth in this argument. The acidity, however is soluble and disappears quite quickly, so if you have a healthy compost system this really shouldn’t be a problem. Make sure that there are many other types of organic matter in the compost too!

Worms absolutely love coffee grinds. You could have a worm farm entirely made for coffee grinds – just make sure to add some lime every now and then to keep the worms happy.

The other gardening option with grinds is to put them as a mulch around your small seedlings that would otherwise be eaten by slugs and snails. The slugs and snails will not go anywhere near the coffee grinds, the soil will love the covering and it will help to create a lovely textured medium for growing. Just remember to top up your slug and snail barrier after rain.

There are many other uses for dried coffee grinds – just a quick search online will help you find a cleaner of sinks, pots and pans, hair, face, a deodoriser for shoes, fridges and wardrobes, an indoor plant tonic, a dye for taking scratches out of furniture and an ingredient for candles. Just to name a few.

How do you use your coffee grinds?

Meat and Fish Free Day

The long-held Lenten tradition of prayer and fasting often means a meat-free Friday and a fish dinner in Christian households. But in our times of greater awareness of the impact of what we eat, there are many good ethical reasons to extend this tradition of fasting to include fish as well.

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Make do and mend

Working in the 1870s Logan Brae is a tremendous privilege, but caring for a 130+ year old house comes with its challenges ... For example, when things break it is sometimes not possible to find the right replacement parts. Shane, our creative maintenance man, does a wonderful job of improvising when this happens. Most recently he used the "wing" of a butterfly clip to replace a broken spring in an old door handle.

 This photo shows the inside of the door handle/lock mechanism, with the wing of the butterfly clip in place (visible on the right side of the mechanism). The butterfly clip from which the wing was taken, and the door handle, which will be reinserted when the mechanism is reassembled on the door, are shown at the bottom and right of the photo.

This photo shows the inside of the door handle/lock mechanism, with the wing of the butterfly clip in place (visible on the right side of the mechanism). The butterfly clip from which the wing was taken, and the door handle, which will be reinserted when the mechanism is reassembled on the door, are shown at the bottom and right of the photo.

Mercy International Association: supporting human rights in the face of fracking

In October 2015, a man called George Bender committed suicide in the town of Chinchilla, Queensland, Australia.

His death was particularly significant as he had been fighting for ten years to keep coal seam gas (CSG) mining companies from entering his land. At the time of his death, his bores, which then-Senator Glenn Lazarus noted “provided much needed water for his family and farm, had dried up as a result of CSG mining activity taking place in the nearby area. They then wanted to come on to his land and install a number of CSG wells which would have further disrupted his farming business and caused additional pain, suffering and financial hardship for George and his family."

Mr Bender’s death and the events which led up to it are an example of the impact which CSG mining can have on vulnerable people.

Sisters from Mercy International Association subsequently visited Chinchilla to gain a local perspective on this global issue, and have since been sponsoring submissions to the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Session on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change, which will be taking place from 14 to 18 May 2018.

Want to know more? Learn about:

  • coal seam gas here
  • the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Session on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change here
  • the work of Mercy International Association here.
 George Bender.

George Bender.

The Ant Problem

Lately with the warmer weather, ants have been marching into the Rahamim kitchen in full force and we all know how the story ends for those fellow earth-sharers when they stubbornly refuse to understand our polite requests to leave the premises.

Here are some tips from the staff at Rahamim for dealing with ants:

-        If the dishwasher isn’t on hand wash your dishes after use and avoid leaving uncontained food lying around.

-        White vinegar poured around where ants are entering and leaving disrupts their scent trails and makes it harder for ants to find their way to sources of food. Or use 1 part white vinegar to 1 part water and use a cloth with the mixture to wipe down surfaces.

-        Distract them. Find a spot away from your house, near their home if possible. Place a small paper plate with a mix of honey and water. Once they find the sweet mixture they will happily go for this rather than battling their way into your home.

-        Ants don’t like strong smells. They mess up their scent trails and communication, not to mention it covers their bodies. If you use a spray bottle to spray a mix of 20 drops of peppermint essential oil and fresh water, around any entrances to the house. This will deter ants. Repeat when you deem it necessary (Usually when the scent starts to fade.) You can also substitute peppermint essential oil for Tea Tree Oil or Lemon Juice.


The Elm Leaf Beetle problem....

Here at Rahamim, there is a problem with Elm Leaf Beetle. This beetle has come to this area in the last few years. Common treatments include poisoning with an insecticide (imdacloprid). What does this insecticide do to the environment? How does this insecticide target just the Elm Leaf Beetle? Does it have an effect on other insects that are beneficial to our environment? How do bees respond to this insecticide? What does this insecticide do to the soil that supports the tree?

The best way to deal with any problem insect is to find the weakest point in its life-cycle and find the best way to control it at that point. The life cycle of the elm leaf beetle starting at the adult stage, an adult bug it eats the young leaves from the tree in Spring. The females then lay eggs on the underside of the leaf. Eggs hatch in 7 – 10 days. The larvae increase in size to about 12mm, then they migrate down the tree trunk around December/January. They then find a nice spot in the crevices of the trunk, or in the soil and pupate and 1 – 2 weeks later emerge as a beetle. 

The weakest point of the lifecycle of the beetle would be when they are eggs on the underside of the leaf, or when they are in the pupating stage. At both points these bugs are stationary. Let us assume that we cannot find the eggs – as they are scattered through the leaves. Leave those for the birds to control. We can access the beetle when they are coming down the trunk of the tree to pupate.

The most common and natural way to deal with the beetle at this stage is to wrap sticky tape around the base of the tree (sticky side out), about 20cm wide for the bugs to get caught in. This is what we are doing here at Rahamim. There are even more measures we could take - add some animals to do the work. Ideally we would also add either chickens, ducks or guinea fowl to devour the bugs as they descend down the tree. We are looking into measures of how to keep the chickens safe (from Mr Fox!) and contained around the tree as they do their work to help us control the beetle and to maintain these beautiful trees.

Do you know of any other measure we could take? What has your experience been with the control of this beetle?

Keeping cool through summer...without air conditioning!

We’re coming up to another warm week here in Bathurst, and while the historic building which houses Rahamim is beautiful, it doesn’t have any air-conditioning and tends to start feeling like a brick kiln after a hot day or two! Here are some of the ways we try to keep the temperature down at work:

  • Staff are welcome to move to cooler parts of the house or grounds to work on hot days, or even to go home for a siesta during the afternoon before coming back to work in the evening when it’s a little cooler

  • Using old-fashioned air-conditioning by putting damp cloths over pedestal fans, which use much less energy than air-conditioners

  • Closing blinds on those sides of the house which face the sun

  • Closing windows during the heat of the day and opening them as wide as possible over night to allow cool air to circulate

Some other hints are:

  • Investing in thick block-out curtains or blinds to reduce heat from windows

  • Focus on the temperature in your body, not the building - sip iced drinks and apply a cold cloth or ice to strong-pulsed areas like your neck and wrists, cooling yourself from the inside

  • Fill a water bottle, and put it in the freezer before placing it at the foot of your bed

  • Set your ceiling fans to rotate counter-clockwise

  • Don't use the oven or stove top for meals. Try salads, cold soups or using the BBQ outside! Ovens heat your house like...well an oven!

How do you keep your home or workplace cool during hot weather?