I am trying to impress an environmentalist!
Life in Australia is as wonderful as ever. It is quite chilly now so sweatshirts, blankets, and the works are being pulled out and put to good use! Classes are continuing as usual but the end is in sight now (which is weird and unbelievable.) Lots of fun events have been happening with International House. Two weeks ago I taught volunteers from IHouse the basics of Argentine Tango. Everyone enjoyed themselves and requested a repeat lesson! This past weekend we went to a rugby game and our favorite team won! The other day there were soccer matches between IHouse and Weerona, Campus East, Koolabong, and Marketview, the other residence halls. (IHouse won one of the two games played). We also had a performance night filled with talented IHouse residents!
One thing I have been looking into throughout my time here is how Australia views sustainability and the environment. It is awesome, Australia in general is very conscious of its impact on the planet. I took pictures to prove it but first I am going to break this down into different sections.
Water Usage- conserving water
When I first arrived at International House, my Residence Assistant/Mentor informed everyone that we should only be taking 5 minute showers because Australia is prone to droughts. We had an image of the Outback desert hanging in the bathroom for the first few weeks to remind us! Naturally not everyone followed this, or even remembers at this point, but it is always good to make an effort to conserve water and respect the place where you are staying.
One of the most noticeable ways Australia reduces water usage is flushing a toilet. You have two options: to fill the entire toilet bowl or to fill half of the bowl. This way you can select how much is enough water to get the job done but is not using more than required. Australians poke fun at the automatic flush toilets in America; they believe the toilets do not conserve water well because they flush more frequently than necessary (such as when a stall door closes.) They do have a point!
Reducing waste- reusing materials
Water re-fill stations can be found on campus and around cites (such as the mall area in Brisbane). This increases the convenience of reusable water bottles and makes disposable water bottles unnecessary. In addition, a few stores require its customers to pay a few extra cents for plastic bags to carry their items. Go reusable bags! Also, recycling bins are almost as common as rubbish bins here which promotes recycling.
Transportation- reducing fossil fuel consumption
Wollongong makes public transportation for International House students very accessible. Free shuttle buses run from the university, loop around the city, and return to the university. If you ever have to go somewhere, chances are it is within walking distance or the bus can drop you off close to it. Also, the North Wollongong train station is a five minute walk from International House. In addition, in the city of Brisbane, there is a rent a bike service with different pick up and drop off racks throughout the city. This provides a healthy alternate to driving. I particularly enjoyed the sign found on the bikes:
Environmentalism was prominent in Cairns, Australia. The first tour I went on promoted environmental consciousness and protection of the beautiful tropical areas we were exploring. When snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, we were made aware of coral bleaching due to increasing ocean temperatures and acidity.
At IHouse, you have the option to dry your clothes outdoors which saves energy and reusable cups are used in the dining hall. Also, the mini fridges in some of the rooms come with stickers denoting the energy efficiency of the fridge.
It is awesome having environmentalism ingrained into everyday life. It is not asking for extraordinary measures to be taken, rather, small gestures.
Australia is environmentally aware since it is heavily impacted by the nature. However, an exception to this is one of the primary industries in Australia is coal mining. This industry is environmentally degrading and fossil fuel intensive. Yet a country needs to support itself, the mining industry is powerful, and affluent. The Prime Minister Julia Gillard passed a carbon tax to try to fix the amount of greenhouse gases industries produce. It was passed, many parties were angered by this, and it is unclear how long it will be in place due to its unpopularity and opposition from the mining companies. Australia is trying to be even more environmentally friendly but still has some battles to win.