The barnstorming success of progressive independent candidates in the May election underlined Australians’ mass scale disillusionment with two party politics. Very importantly, it also shone 10,000 watt arc lights on the huge power of local action to make political change. Labor and the LNP will be scrambling to tap into that power or will see their voters drop even further.
No issue energized this election as much as climate change and the environment. The huge rise in the Greens vote as well as the teal independents all giving it centre stage are obvious signs. Many accounts of the growth of armies of volunteers blanketing suburbs with door knocking conversations, local business engagement and packed out meetings full of people hungry to help with change were inspiring.
To try and harness this sort of energy, I plan to soon set up a Sydney inner west local action for the environment page to encourage government policy and practice change at all levels and to promote local initiatives. I hope these will proliferate across the country.
All we are learning about the vital importance of increasing social interaction in people’s lives in reducing isolation, promoting mental and physical health and delaying and minimizing the onset of dementia (the more physical, social and cognitive activity, the better) make increasing local community interaction a no-brainer.
Here’s a start to an alphabetical list of the many things that local action might be aimed at when it comes to the environment. If you can suggest others, PLEASE do.
Abating food waste and building food security
- Explore ways to have more local food businesses donate unwanted stock to food security pantries like Marrickville and Camperdown’s Addi Road for distribution to those in need
- Organise and promote local monthly residents’ food donation days
Coffee keep-cups and plastic lids
- Encourage expansion of the list of banned single-use plastics to include coffee cup lids. And in the meantime …
- Develop and promote “no plastic lid” requests to coffee outlet
- Survey all local coffee outlets on willingness to fill customers’ keep-cups (some refuse saying they are “unhygienic” to staff)
- Publicise those outlets which actively encourage keep-cup use
- Request council (or coffee wholesalers) to supply “coffee keep cups welcome” signs and stickers. It’s all about normalizing their use.
- Encourage rapid reporting to council of dumped rubbish
Front fence book libraries
- Help others make these proliferate by sharing construction, decoration and mounting tips and moving your unwanted books to them
- Identify more large carpark sites for EV charging stations (eg: in the Inner West Leichhardt Market Town, Norton Street shopping centre) and lobby management to install them
- Petition shoppers to sign appeals to shopping centre management about charger installation
- Survey local interest in potential EV purchasing and identifying lack of local charging as a possible barrier
- Prepare and share templates for assisting strata building residents to make the case for unit block charging points
- Investigate challenges and potential solutions for community street charging in areas where many dwellings have no garages or other off-street parking
- Lobby local and state government council for pilot community street charging
- Build purchasing pools of local residents to lever EV retailers to offer discount for bulk EV purchasing
- Promote local litter abatement by having each block’s residents “own” their block’s litter
- Promote and normalize litter removal as a routine part of local walking
- Ask council to supply or subsidise litter pick up tools
Native bird nesting houses
- Encourage and assist residents to install bird nesting houses (eg: help with construction and installation)
- Note any businesses still using single-use plastic bags
- Gentle reminders to these about the new law
- Reporting any shops continuing to supply them
- Build volunteers to conduct sample surveys of yellow bins to determine the extent of and the most common examples of unacceptable content that ruin recycling collections
- Circulate (letterbox, local social media) survey results highlighting common problems
- Encourage council to introduce rejection notices on yellow bins containing unacceptable (contaminating) material
- Encourage councils to expand acceptable green bin content to include the many things shown here
Solar energy capture
- Encourage reform of local government planning regulations to maximise incorporation of solar and battery installation in new building construction and relevant renovation
Street lights left on in daylight
- Encourage reporting of faulty street lights which remain on during daylight (these are easily rectified)
Stormwater drains and mulch
- Build networks of local residents to “adopt a drain” which clogs with leaves and soil after rain. These can be notified to council or easily cleared by local adoptees, with cleared matter making great mulch
- Identify suitable locations for locally depositing mulchable material (gutter leaves, lawn clippings)
Tool and labour sharing
- Set up local tool and labour sharing networks on social media. There are millions of rarely used tools sitting in sheds and cupboards out there. Let’s share them around. Need a neighbour to help you with a small lifting, fixing, clearing or IT job? A pool of community reciprocity would do wonders for community building
- Promote local government tree planting by assisting councils to identify houses and public spaces wanting extra trees