On the trail of the plastic not so fantastic

On the trail of the plastic not so fantastic

In case you didn’t know, this month is Plastic Free July.  It’s an initiative which started in WA in 2011, and now has 2 million participants from around the world. Plastic Free July is aims to make us more aware of our plastics use, creating a cleaner world for generations to come.

Reasons to reduce our use of plastic are now crystal clear. Our oceans now have  islands of plastic waste and around 100 million marine animals are killed each year from plastic debris. Plastic pollutes our rivers and waterways and takes Pollution pic 01hundreds of years to degrade.

Pretty good reasons to get involved right?. And yet when I initially considered signing up for this challenge, I had this thought, “But I probably can’t go 100% plastic free, so I won’t do it”.  Then my husband said, “C’mon let’s just give it a go”. Yep, he was right, there was nothing to lose and lots to gain by just playing the game (turns out there are different levels of participation too).

Over the last few years our household has been changing one habit at a time, to reduce the amount of plastic and packaging we use. Bulk buying (ie filling up our own containers),  growing our own vegies, buying package-free fresh produce from the farmer’s market and making a lot of our food from scratch. This has reduced our waste, recycling and use of plastics significantly.

And yet, I knew we were still using a lots of plastic.  Once we turned our attention to plastic, it was easy to see just how all-pervasive plastic is in our everyday lives. The exciting part has been noticing the stuff we buy in plastic, and finding alternatives. Here are some examples of what we found.

  • Savoury yeast flakes – I checked with our local health food store and they sell it loose, so now we fill up our container instead of buying it in plastic
  • Coconut yoghurt – we are now making our own from shredded coconut (this has been on our to-do list for a year!)
  • Corn chips – we’ve decided not to buy them anymore (they are not very healthy anyway!)
  • Crackers – we now make our own and they are very yummy
  • Weet Bix – we were adding this to our porridge and home made muesli, and have decided to not eat it anymore

There are some things we still haven’t sorted out – the plastic wrapping from taco shells and the personal care side of things, like toothpaste, moisturiser and hair products. But that’s ok, we are on our own journey, and taking on one thing at a time. There is no competition!

What I really love about this movement, is that you get to choose what you take on, and for how long (1 day, 1 week, all of July or from now on). You can choose from: Plastic Free July

a) Avoiding single-use plastic packaging

b) Target takeaway items (bags, bottles, straws and coffee cups)

c) Go completely plastic-free

I want to say something about this kind of habit-changing challenge. Attitude is everything! If any of this occurs as a burden, or you feel resentful, it is unlikely to work. Your attitude really is the key to success.

Our family is treating this as a game, and we are noticing some benefits.. These are the top ones for us:

  1. We save money! We’re making more food from scratch, and have stopped buying food we don;t really need and this is saving us serious money.
  2. We are eating better – as we make more of our food from scratch we, have the added bonus of eating healthier (ie we choose the ingredients)
  3. We are getting more creative and having fun as a family

This really is so simple! It’s raising awareness of how much plastic we use and encouraging us to change our habits and find alternatives to plastic.

Where ever you are on your journey through life, consider joining movements like this. It’s a great way to get you thinking about how you can change your every day choices to tread lighter on our planet. Every bit counts.


Innovation and commitment win the day

What happens when people who are passionate about making a difference, take on reducing or eliminating waste?

Amazing things happen.

Let’s look at two fantastic Australian examples.

Whilst Tasmanian wine maker Peter Bignell was at the Rootstock sustainable food and wine festival in Sydney last year, he noticed the huge volume of wine being spat out into buckets, destined to be poured down the drain. Appalled at the idea of such waste, he collected all the spat out wine from the event, all 500-litres of it, and took it to a nearby distillery. He has turned these wine spits into a spirit, aptly called “Kissing a Stranger”. Wine 02

Talk about ingenuity – turning spat out wine into a new, valuable alcohol.

In keeping with the Tasmanian connection, the second example of environmental fabulousness is the Panama Music Festival in Star Valley in North East Tasmania.  Have you ever seen the waste generated and often left on the ground after large sporting events or music festivals? The litter can be horrendous.  The organisers of Panama have a different approach.

The event attracts 1400 adults and 200 children, who camp for 2 nights and 3 days. At the end of this event, a scour of the area found only a few items of waste – a biodegradable cup, some bits of a Pokemon card, a Bunnings receipt, and a few other very small bits of waste. In addition, the event processes recycling and compostables on site and patrons are asked to take any of their hard waste with them.camping 02

As you might imagine, this event has many other sustainable practices that reduce waste and GHG emissions. One such thing is the Great Panama Clothes Swap. Punters bring 2 or 3 quality pieces of unwanted clothing to the swap point in the morning, and come back in the afternoon to hunt for some fabulous ‘pre-loved’ clothing to add to their wardrobe.

How far can we take things? Who knows, we have only begun to scratch the surface. When there is a will to make a positive difference to our environment, amazing things happen.

What can you do in your life? It doesn’t have to be big or difficult. Sometimes all it takes is commitment.

Holidays calling

xmas-treeWith the end of the year fast approaching, we would like to thank all the organisations and staff we have worked with this year. Thank you for allowing us to make a difference, for listening, and for your partnership. We are passionate about making a difference, and reducing our impacts on the environment, and we can’t do it without you!

There are so many ways you can reduce your impact on the environment, whilst at the same time, having fun and saving money. This is especially relevant at this time of the year when consumption can tend to get a bit out of control!

Here’s a few to get you thinking:

Don’t over cater your food during the holidays. Think back to last year – did you have way too much food left over that went to waste?  How about saving money and valuable resources by not over catering?

Buy less, make more. Nothing means more to someone than the effort you have gone to making something simple than buying something that may end up only being used once.

Don’t buy gifts at all and focus on spending special time together with the people that really matter in your life because we don’t get enough of that throughout the year.

Buy Christmas presents that are experiences instead of things. Create memories, not waste!

We wish you a peaceful and safe holiday season, and a fantastic 2017.

From the team at Great Forest Australia.


A is for attitude


It took me many years to fully appreciate what my secondary school Principal had meant when he said, “There are three important things in life: attitude, attitude, attitude”.

I think this rings true for everything in life. Without being aware of it, we all have filters, which are like attitudes, shaping our beliefs, our mood, our actions and the conversations we have with others. For example, some people get really annoyed or angry when they see someone else doing the ‘wrong thing’ when it comes to recycling. They say, “What’s the point in me doing my bit and recycling when there are so many others who are not”. Fair point really, but this attitude can not only be disheartening, but completely dis-empowering.

Bring this out to a a bigger picture; climate change.  Depending on which way you look at it, I could be completely overwhelmed by the negative statistics and direction in which we are headed, or choose to look at how I can be part of the movement to reduce our impacts on the environment.

This may be a bit simplistic, but my point is that we are pretty much unaware of how our attitudes are playing out in our lives. And I have some extra good news about this! Once we uncover these attitudes, particularly the attitudes that cause us to be unhappy, stressed, resigned or disillusioned, we can do something about it! Transform it, chuck it away, or create an empowering attitude. After all, an attitude is not the truth, it does not have to stay. It can be moulded, changed or replaced. It really is a choice.

This may lead you to start considering changing what you read or watch. You might like to seek good news stories, or join your community group and start taking actions. Surround yourself with people who are making a difference in what ever field they are passionate about.

The options are endless!


Job Vacancy: Senior Consultant

We are recruiting! We are seeking a passionate Senior Consultant to join our dynamic team, based in South Melbourne.

Details and job description are below and can downloaded as a pdf. Email applications to recycle@greatforest.com.au by 30 March. Applications need to include your CV and a covering letter which addresses the Qualifications and Skills/Experience sections of the PD below.


The key purpose of the Senior Consultant role is to:

  • Design, implement and manage waste and environmental sustainability programs for new and existing clients both locally and nationally
  • Review and manage complex contractor data and reports to ensure compliance and performance levels are being achieved
  • Review and analyse audit data and produce comprehensive reports
  • Manage and maintain effective relationships with key stakeholders through regular engagement
  • Develop proposals for new work including project scope, methodology, timeline, staffing and costing
  • Recruit and train new consultants
  • Promote GFA services and programs to existing clients
  • Develop, maintain and update organisational reports and procedure documents

Key Accountabilities

Project design, implementation and management

  • Develop project plans for new projects including time lines, staffing, and budgets
  • Conduct initial client meetings and site visits for new projects
  • Plan the project’s 12 months projections and targets
  • Coordinate and manage the project from beginning to completion

Auditing & Assessment

  • Organise and coordinate waste and recycling audits, including equipment, access, staffing and budgets
  • Perform physical audits of clients’ waste streams
  • Provide data on and assessments of client and cleaning staff procedures with regard to management of waste and recycling

General Service / Project delivery

  • Write a report detailing current and planned procedures, equipment, and costs and benefits of recommended improvements
  • Work with building management, tenants, cleaning companies, and waste and recycling contractors to achieve effective implementation of recommended improvements
  • Improve the processes and policies in support of the organisation’s mission – specifically, support better reporting, and organisational planning
  • Set service standards to ensure that quality outcomes are delivered
  • Use extensive experience and sound judgment to manage multiple tasks
  • Articulate and focus on balancing key priorities including quality outcomes, staff workloads and financial parameters
  • Create and update organisation’s knowledge database (i.e. market prices, industry developments and technology)

Analysis & Reporting

  • Deliver reporting that summarises asset and contractor performance
  • Conduct regular reviews for major clients of their waste contractor’s monthly reports for accuracy, variances and ensuring validation of data e.g. bin weigh-offs, density

Leadership / Relationship Building

  • Regular stakeholder meetings
  • Supervise and coach other consultants and auditors
  • Manage recruitment processes, interview and employment
  • Develop and maintain good relationships with all clients

Position Requirements


  • Bachelor of Environmental Science or equivalent

Skills / Experience

  • Passion for the environment and for making a difference
  • Communication skills. Experience in leading teams, speaking and presenting to groups and inspiring others through direct, engaging communication. Proven track record in proposal and report writing.
  • Problem solving skills and a practical ‘can do’ approach
  • Attention to detail. This position requires the ability to work through complex data and also to see the bigger picture
  • Management of many competing projects, tasks and deadlines. This position requires a level head and excellent project management skills


  • No. of Direct Reports: 1 Analyst
  • No. of Indirect Reports: 6 Auditors

Key Stakeholders

  • External Stakeholders: Asset Management Teams, Cleaning Contractors, Waste Contractors, Sustainability Managers.


Conscious Consuming

Tips for Conscious Consuming this Christmas

It is only couple of weeks away now until Christmas day so the frenzy of shopping for the big day is in full swing. This Christmas, taking time to be conscious about your consuming can help reduce the amount of waste that will end up in landfill after the festive season.

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Sustainability targets 2016

Aim to Sustain in 2016

We are almost to the end of 2015 which is incredible as it just seems like yesterday when the year began. So before the year disappears on us completely, it is a great opportunity to set your sustainability targets for 2016, setting us up for success at reducing our environmental footprint….lets ‘aim to sustain’ in the new year!

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National Recycling Week 9 – 15 November 2015

Here is a great opportunity for businesses to either re-invigorate existing recycling programs or to introduce new programs with National Recycling Week happening from 9 – 15 November 2015.

National Recycling Week was introduced by PlanetArk in 1996 to bring national focus to the environmental benefits of recycling. Now more than ever, this needs to be a focus as our landfills continue to fill to capacity.

National Recycling Week 2015

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We Take It For Granted

When I was living in Melbourne and working at Great Forest, stressing the importance of good waste practices was priority no. 1. Since returning from the UK and moving to my family farm outside of Melbourne, I’ve learned just how easily waste is taken for granted.

When living or working in the city it’s easy to not think about waste. While waste is associated with almost everything we consume, our home or workplace has a system in place to sort and remove it for us. It never becomes a problem for us, so we always take it for granted. We really should know about waste, to neglect it is expensive and it damages our environment.

The community I belong to, the towns of postcode 3551, are without this luxury and instead live in the world of transfer stations and tip runs. When I moved here there was a waste system in place, but it’s a crude one managed by my Dad and now, me. We have six 240 litre bins, which we’ve accumulated through attending clearing sales. We also have a couple of trailers for hard rubbish and metal waste.

However, our bins aren’t labelled or even colour coded and some don’t even have wheels – a real nuisance for a 240 litre bin when it’s  filled with glass (as it regularly is). Only recently have we had a ute capable of holding all six bins at one time – I’m puzzled to think how Dad was dealing with them all before that. Or more likely, he wasn’t, certainly not well or with any great efficiency. Even with the ute, it’s a pain but it’s manageable, with 2 people and a bit of hard work.

Our local council is currently rethinking and changing the way the postcode of 3551 deals with waste. This has been met with some resistance. Our local transfer stations are now being staffed and as a result, the opening hours have shortened and there is a cost for disposing landfill waste. This cost, we’re told, is covered because we don’t pay for kerbside collection in our rates, which is true but unlike kerbside collection, a bin run for us is quite a bit of work.

Because of my experience and my values, I had already attempted to set-up good waste systems and practices on the farm. Unfortunately the tip has not been  set up quite as well resulting in contamination and the dumping of rubbish. Not all has been lost as this has forced the Council to act, resulting in the new fees and rules to support good waste management practices. So now, when personally faced with a cost for landfill waste and no charge for recycling, our farm and the rest of the community need good waste practices operating today.

So with this, my learning and experience at Great Forest comes back into play and in the coming weeks we will be vastly improving our waste management systems. Both my shack and the house are well organised to sort recycling and landfill. All organic waste goes straight to the chooks so there’s no issue there.

Our focus is to avoid contamination of bins in public areas, mainly our cellar door and working areas. This, like any home or workplace, requires an effective bin system, with signage and education for contractors (who are the current contaminators). On top of that, especially now that it’s getting warmer, we have to organise and commit to a schedule that stops the farm smelling like the transfer station we take our waste to.

Without being close to and paying to remove waste yourself, it’s hard to understand and design a waste system. I’ve learnt this when I started at Great Forest and I’m learning it again now. This is definitely part of the reason that our public bins are the most contaminated. Education about waste, recognising the costs and developing good systems are what’s needed to bridge the gap between what we take for granted and what we should do. Thankfully for me and our clients, it’s something that we at Great Forest do really well.

Food Waste

Love Food Hate Waste

Love Food Hate Waste is just one of the many campaigns running in Victoria to address the significant issue we face regarding food and its associated packaging waste.

According to the Sustainable Table, Australians waste over $8 billion worth of food and throw away enough packaging to fill the MCG 9 times over in one year! Food and packaging waste can easily be avoided and when we do have food leftovers there are benefits in recycling this waste instead of throwing it into landfill where it causes all sorts of problems.

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