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House dust from 35 countries reveals our global toxic contaminant exposure and health risk

<p>Everyone’s home gets dusty, but is yours the same as house dust in China or the US? Researchers around the world have united to capture the <a rel="noopener" href="https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.1c04494" target="_blank">world’s first trans-continental data on household dust.</a></p> <p>People from 35 countries vacuumed their homes and sent their dust to universities in different countries, where it was tested for potentially toxic trace metals. Researchers gathered data on the human and household factors that might affect how much humans are exposed to these contaminants.</p> <p>This is the first effort to collect global data of this type in a single <a rel="noopener" href="https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.1c04494" target="_blank">study</a>. It shed new light on the sources and risks associated with trace metal exposure, which can lead to concerning neurocognitive effects in people of all ages.</p> <p>The <a rel="noopener" href="https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.1c04494" target="_blank">study</a> shows it doesn’t matter whether you live in a high or low income country, are rich or poor – we’re all exposed to contaminants via dust.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/433642/original/file-20211124-19-29ut51.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/433642/original/file-20211124-19-29ut51.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="A man sneezes in a dusty room" /></a> <em><span class="caption">It doesn’t matter whether you live in a high or low income country, we are all exposed to contaminants in dust.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></p> <p><strong>Differences between countries</strong></p> <p>Local environmental factors and contamination histories can make a difference.</p> <p>In <a rel="noopener" href="https://www-sciencedirect-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0269749121011751" target="_blank">New Caledonia</a>, elevated chromium, nickel and manganese were evident, due to local rock, soil and nickel smelters. These may be linked to increased <a rel="noopener" href="https://www-jstor-org.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/stable/45011245" target="_blank">lung</a> and <a rel="noopener" href="https://www-sciencedirect-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/science/article/pii/S1877782117301455" target="_blank">thyroid</a> cancers in New Caledonia.</p> <p>In New Zealand, arsenic concentrations are <a rel="noopener" href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gexplo.2016.05.009" target="_blank">naturally high</a>. One in three New Zealand homes exceeded the acceptable health risk for children under two, set by the US Environmental Protection Agency.</p> <p>Australia has concerning levels of arsenic and lead contamination in house dust. One in six Australian homes exceeded the US Environmental Protection Agency acceptable health risk. Arsenic exposure can increase <a rel="noopener" href="https://www-sciencedirect-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/science/article/pii/S1382668915300946" target="_blank">cancer risk</a> and cause problems to respiratory health and immune function. <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/the-verdicts-in-we-must-better-protect-kids-from-toxic-lead-exposure-41969" target="_blank">Lead</a> can affect children’s brain and nervous system development, causing behavioural and developmental problems.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/439426/original/file-20220104-23-nhnz25.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/439426/original/file-20220104-23-nhnz25.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="A man dusts on top of a shelf." /></a> <em><span class="caption">Frequent vacuuming, mopping and dusting with a damp cloth can reduce your risk.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></p> <p>It’s clear <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749121020443" target="_blank">lead mining</a> and <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/children-continue-to-be-exposed-to-contaminated-air-in-port-pirie-113484" target="_blank">smelting</a> activities cause high lead levels in dust for local communities. But the study shows inner city areas are equally affected, commonly from legacy sources like <a rel="noopener" href="https://www-sciencedirect-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/science/article/pii/S016041201000156X" target="_blank">emissions</a> from the <a rel="noopener" href="https://www-sciencedirect-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0883292717301300" target="_blank">leaded petrol era</a>, or peeling lead paint in homes.</p> <p>Data from Accra, in Ghana showed homes contained elevated lead concentrations, likely due to nearby electronic recycling operations. Old wiring and circuitry are <a rel="noopener" href="https://greatforest.com/sustainability101/best-recycling-videos-story-electronics/" target="_blank">burned to extract metals</a>, causing trace metals such as lead, nickel and copper to fall out as dust across the city.</p> <p>So where do contaminants in house dust come from?</p> <p>One source reflects lead from past leaded petrol emissions and paints. Another reflects the degradation of building materials, rich in copper and zinc. This was more prevalent in older homes, which have seen more wear and tear and have been exposed to traffic emissions longer.</p> <p>The third common source is soil, which gets blown in from outside and <a rel="noopener" href="https://www-sciencedirect-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0160412019320021" target="_blank">walked into homes</a> by people and pets.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/433643/original/file-20211124-17-1tfgi8d.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/433643/original/file-20211124-17-1tfgi8d.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="A woman cleans a vent." /></a> <em><span class="caption">Simple home cleaning practices, like frequently vacuuming, mopping and dusting with a damp cloth can reduce your exposure to contaminants in dust.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></p> <p><strong>What factors affect how risky your dust is?</strong></p> <p>We also gathered global data on building materials, pets, hobbies, habits and home characteristics.</p> <p>What made the most difference to metals in dust were house age, peeling paint, having a garden and smoking.</p> <p>Interestingly, homes with garden access had higher dust concentrations of lead and arsenic.</p> <p>Older homes had higher levels of all metals except chromium, and are likely to have residues from peeling paints, traffic and industrial pollutants, pest treatments and other chemicals.</p> <p>Other factors, such as home type, building material, heating fuel didn’t appear to influence trace metal concentrations in homes.</p> <p>Critically, what’s outside ends up <a rel="noopener" href="https://www-sciencedirect-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0013935120302504" target="_blank">in our homes</a>, where it can be inhaled and <a rel="noopener" href="https://pubs-acs-org.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.1c01097" target="_blank">ingested</a>.</p> <p>While global averages were within accepted thresholds, many individual homes exceeded these, particularly homes in Australia for lead-related risks, New Caledonia and the US for chromium-related risks, and New Zealand for arsenic-related risks.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/433664/original/file-20211124-21-1czyn4.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/433664/original/file-20211124-21-1czyn4.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="A person wipes dust from a shoe area." /></a> <em><span class="caption">Reduce the amount of dust entering your home by taking your shoes off at the door.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></p> <p><strong>How to reduce your exposure to contaminants in dust</strong></p> <p>Frequent vacuuming, mopping and dusting with a damp cloth can reduce your risk. Vacuuming reduces contaminants like <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/were-all-ingesting-microplastics-at-home-and-these-might-be-toxic-for-our-health-here-are-some-tips-to-reduce-your-risk-159537" target="_blank">microplastics</a> in house dust.</p> <p>If you live in an older home, keep the paint in good condition so it’s not flaking off.</p> <p>When painting or renovating, follow safety <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/your-environment/household-building-and-renovation/lead-safety" target="_blank">guidance</a> from your state’s environmental protection authority – or call a <a href="https://painters.edu.au/Training-Resources/CPCCPD3031-Work-safely-with-lead-painted-surfaces-in-the-painting-industry.htm">professional</a>.</p> <p>Hobbies involving lead, like fishing, shooting and metal work, can affect your trace metal exposure. Choosing not to smoke inside will reduce exposures to chromium and manganese.</p> <p>Cover exposed soil in your garden with mulch or grass, use a dual system of outdoor and indoor mats, take shoes off at the door and towel down muddy pets before letting them inside.</p> <p>Considering we spend most of our lives <a rel="noopener" href="https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.jea.7500165" target="_blank">indoors</a>, there is growing <a rel="noopener" href="https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/doi/epdf/10.1111/ina.12722" target="_blank">international interest</a> in setting public health guidelines for chemicals in indoor settled dust.</p> <p>In <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/your-environment/household-building-and-renovation/lead-safety" target="_blank">Australia</a> and the <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.epa.gov/lead/hazard-standards-and-clearance-levels-lead-paint-dust-and-soil-tsca-sections-402-and-403" target="_blank">US</a>, we have guidance for lead dust, but not other contaminants.</p> <p>The best way to know what’s in your house dust is to have it tested by <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.360dustanalysis.com/" target="_blank">DustSafe</a> researchers. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/172499/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/439427/original/file-20220105-25-mvokjp.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/439427/original/file-20220105-25-mvokjp.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="A man vacuums his house." /></a> <span class="caption"><em>Vacuuming reduces contaminants like microplastics in house dust.</em></span><em> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></p> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/cynthia-faye-isley-602937" target="_blank">Cynthia Faye Isley</a>, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Environmental Science, <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174" target="_blank">Macquarie University</a>; <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kara-fry-1274525" target="_blank">Kara Fry</a>, Academic Casual, <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174" target="_blank">Macquarie University</a>, and <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mark-patrick-taylor-11394" target="_blank">Mark Patrick Taylor</a>, Chief Environmental Scientist, EPA Victoria; Honorary Professor, <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174" target="_blank">Macquarie University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/house-dust-from-35-countries-reveals-our-global-toxic-contaminant-exposure-and-health-risk-172499" target="_blank">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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3 surprise benefits of heated towel racks in summer

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During the colder months, nothing beats stepping out of the shower and pulling a freshly warmed towel off the rack.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, heated towel racks are useful beyond chilly winter mornings. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Here are </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.bhg.com.au/heated-towel-rack-summer" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">three reasons</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> they can be just as useful during humid summer months too.</span></p> <p><strong>1. Beat the humidity</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though using a heated towel rack in summer sounds pointless, the racks actually work to dry rather than warm towels - a godsend when high humidity strikes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Drying your towel in humidity can be difficult when it’s still damp from the previous day, that extra bit of drying power can ensure your towel is ready to use when you hit the shower again.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some towel racks also come with temperature control, meaning you can lower the temperature on hot days and still enjoy your freshly dried towels.</span></p> <p><strong>2. Save on your energy bill and water use</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to Bathroom Butler Australia, a producer of heated towel racks, towels dried on a rack don’t require washing as regularly as air-dried towels. As a result, you can both save hours on doing laundry and reduce how much water you use.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Plus, heated towel racks can be used to dry more than just towels and can help you cut down on using the dryer for clothing items such as swimmers and underwear.</span></p> <p><strong>3. Stop mould in its tracks</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hot showers produce a surprising amount of moisture that even bathroom fans can’t quite combat effectively, leading to mould.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Unfortunately, damp fabrics stored in the bathroom - such as towels - aren’t as safe from mould as we might think.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Unless your bathroom is well-ventilated, using a heated towel rack can ensure your towels stay mould-free.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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Up on a roof: why New Zealand’s move towards greater urban density should see a rooftop revolution

<p>New Zealand has historically been a suburban land. Famously <a href="https://teara.govt.nz/en/artwork/1997/the-half-gallon-quarter-acre-pavlova-paradise">characterised</a> as a “quarter-acre pavlova paradise”, the domestic ideal has long been a single dwelling on a full section. But that is changing fast.</p> <p>With soaring house prices and homes in short supply, <a href="https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/300433304/labour-national-announce-sweeping-housing-density-law-threestorey-homes-without-consent">medium-density development</a> is set to fill urban and suburban horizons. Combined with a growing awareness of ecological sustainability, it seems Kiwis may soon be looking up to those green spaces they once looked at through backyard windows.</p> <p>So, why not a rooftop revolution? Humans have made use of roof spaces since the invention of housing. Legend has it the Hanging Gardens of Babylon that greened the ancient city were created on roofs and terraces by those yearning for nature within their urban landscape.</p> <p>These days, rooftop gardens and the “green roofs” movement are trending internationally, both as domestic and commercial spaces. Once useful for solar power and collecting rainwater, roofs are now used for food production, growing mini “forests” to mitigate climate change, “wildlife gardening”, leisure and entertainment.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436848/original/file-20211210-68670-1hdfld1.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436848/original/file-20211210-68670-1hdfld1.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a> <span class="caption">Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s famous roof garden on the restrooms in Kawakawa.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></p> <h2>Rooftops of the world</h2> <p>Examples of rooftop regeneration are everywhere. Thailand’s Thammasat University, for instance, boasts urban farming on its rice terrace-influenced <a href="https://worldlandscapearchitect.com/thammasat-university-the-largest-urban-rooftop-farm-in-asia/">green roof</a>, a multipurpose organic food space, public commons, water management system, energy generator and outdoor classroom.</p> <p>The rooftop of the Paris Exhibition Centre is <a href="https://www.euronews.com/green/2020/06/28/the-world-s-largest-rooftop-garden-has-just-opened-in-paris">now a vegetable garden</a>, aimed at cutting the cost of food miles and feeding locals. With its massive, architectural “supertrees”, Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay invents a lush oasis in the densely populated city-state.</p> <p>Closer to home, the artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s famous roof garden on the <a href="https://teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/7817/kawakawa-public-toilets">restrooms in Kawakawa</a> was a precursor to his remarkable Waldspirale building in Darmstadt, Germany.</p> <p>Typical of his belief in culturally diverse urban forms that co-exist with nature, the apartment complex includes a <a href="https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/waldspirale">forest on its spiral roof</a>. Even more ambitious, Whangārei’s brand-new Hundertwasser Art Centre has a <a href="https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/452692/hundertwasser-art-centre-due-to-open-in-whangarei">forest rooftop</a> that includes more than 4,000 plants.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436849/original/file-20211210-188518-tv3ice.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption">Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></p> <h2>The green roof</h2> <p>Similar ideas inform the the <a href="https://www.greenroofs.com/projects/university-of-auckland-engineering-building/">green roof</a> on the University of Auckland’s engineering building. The project involves six plots containing 3,600 native and succulent plants, chosen for their ability to cope with both drought and flood conditions. Pumice, clay and bark are among the soil substitutes on trial, all part of proving a model for both commercial and domestic buildings.</p> <p>To the west, the <a href="https://greenroofs.co.nz/projects/waitakere-civic-centre/">Waitākere Civic Centre green roof</a> was designed to manage rainwater runoff, increase energy efficiency and promote biodiversity. The flat 500sqm garden contains ten types of native plant, iris and sand dune coprosma. The roof provides food and habitat for native insects and birds.</p> <p>Rooftop development also offers the opportunity to decolonise cities, showcasing local culture and ecology and creating Māori spaces. Part of a renaissance in Māori architecture, Auckland International Airport’s green roof was <a href="https://inhabitat.com/the-cloak-fearon-hay-architects-install-a-maori-inspired-green-roof-at-auckland-international-airport/">influenced by korowai</a> and made from flax fibre with geometric patterning.</p> <p>And to the south, with part of its intention being to absorb noise pollution from the airport, Remarkables Primary School in Queenstown has a green roof that blends into the landscape and can be <a href="https://greenroofs.co.nz/projects/remarkables-primary-school-queenstown-new-zealand/">used as a classroom</a>.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436850/original/file-20211210-188518-1pudl1g.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption">The Press Lounge rooftop bar in New York.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></p> <h2>Drinking in the view</h2> <p>If there’s a pioneer of the sky-high lifestyle it’s probably the rooftop bar and restaurant. Kensington Roof Gardens in London opened in 1938, and from 1981 to 2018 was the site of Richard Branson’s appropriately named Babylon restaurant.</p> <p>But the city rooftop bar is now a staple around the world. <a href="https://www.therooftopguide.com/rooftop-bars-in-auckland.html">Auckland</a> and <a href="https://theculturetrip.com/pacific/new-zealand/articles/the-best-rooftop-bars-in-wellington-new-zealand/">Wellington</a> boast multiple options, and post-earthquake Christchurch defies the loss of so much of the central city with two bars atop restored heritage buildings.</p> <p>For those old enough to remember, these rooftop playgrounds might make them nostalgic for the real versions from their childhoods.</p> <p>Taking their lead from the US, magical department store rooftop playgrounds thrilled generations of Kiwi children while their mothers shopped. On the Farmer’s rooftop in Auckland they could drive model cars, happily caught up in a fairground atmosphere that featured a giant toadstool.</p> <p>On the Hay’s rooftop in Christchurch there were cheap rides on spaceships and fibreglass dinosaurs to slide down. There was even a popular purpose-built crèche on top of the then new Wellington railway station between 1937 and 1941.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436854/original/file-20211210-25-1gja0wa.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption"></span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></p> <h2>Embracing Babylon</h2> <p>All of this suggests we might be ready for the rooftop revolution. The question is, however, is there a political and civic commitment to greening the mass of new medium-density roof spaces now being built?</p> <p>It will likely take a shift in mindset, supportive legislation and perhaps subsidies. In bucolic “God’s Own Country”, where our mental maps are of wide open spaces rather than vertical ones, roofscapes are going to take a bit of getting used to.</p> <p>Might embracing a Kiwi Babylon mitigate our nostalgia for low-density living and let us re-imagine green spaces in exciting new ways? Let’s hope so. History tells us rooftops can combine utility with pleasure and sustainability. We just need to look up.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/172226/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/katie-pickles-547300">Katie Pickles</a>, Professor of History, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canterbury-1004">University of Canterbury</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/up-on-a-roof-why-new-zealands-move-towards-greater-urban-density-should-see-a-rooftop-revolution-172226">original article</a>.</p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

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5 clever uses for Christmas wrapping paper and cards

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">After opening presents and reading cards from our loved ones and friends, we’re often left with piles of wrapping paper that need to be dealt with.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Rather than throwing it straight into the bin, some can be recycled or repurposed into items that have that little bit of sentimental value.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Here are </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://pop.inquirer.net/117417/10-diy-tips-for-recycling-your-christmas-gift-wrappers-and-cards" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">five</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> clever and crafty uses for your wrapping paper and cards this Christmas.</span></p> <p><strong>Confetti</strong></p> <p><strong><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7846531/wrapping-paper1.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/d993d6a78ab74456ac1a7f3e6e5ad702" /></strong></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: One Good Thing by Jillee / onegoodthingbyjillee.com</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">An easy and cost-effective way to recycle wrapping paper, you can make the confetti just in time for any New Year’s parties or events you’ve planned. Just run the paper through a shredder or take to it with scissors and it’s ready to be used.</span></p> <p><strong>Drawer liners</strong></p> <p><strong><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7846530/wrapping-paper2.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/aeb39c63c2ef4199af0cadba93257641" /></strong></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Making Home Base / makinghomebase.com</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you’re someone who meticulously unwraps your gifts or you have some spare paper lying around, this hack could be perfect for you. Simply follow </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.makinghomebase.com/how-to-make-drawer-liners/" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">this tutorial</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to line your drawers with the paper and give them a bright, new look with minimal effort.</span></p> <p><strong>Book wrappers</strong></p> <p><strong><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7846529/wrapping-paper3.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/b2c873ce9d28408aa95a3aef003f5dce" /></strong></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Eighteen25 / eighteen25.com</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In a similar vein to drawer liners, wrapping paper can also be used to brighten up your stationery. Follow this easy </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://eighteen25.com/wrapping-paper-book-covers/" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">tutorial</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to give your planners, notebooks, and journals that extra bit of colour and personality.</span></p> <p><strong>Bookmarks</strong></p> <p><strong><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7846527/wrapping-paper4.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/b064416ccfc045b99b1769b262e9f01d" /></strong></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: The Frugal Girls / thefrugalgirls.com</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With this DIY project, you can turn your Christmas cards and discarded wrapping paper into a bookmark you can gift or keep for yourself. To make them, gather up your cards, a hole punch, and some ribbon, and follow this six-step </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://thefrugalgirls.com/2010/01/how-to-make-homemade-bookmarks-from-cards.html" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">tutorial</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. As for the wrapping paper, you can use it to add some extra decorations to your bookmarks.</span></p> <p><strong>Homemade envelopes</strong></p> <p><strong><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7846528/wrapping-paper5.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/234a72cc71a24fed8cf1701e7abe9b7e" /></strong></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Creative Green Living / creativegreenliving.com</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Wrapping paper can also be repurposed to make envelopes. Whether you want to send friends letters or save them for birthday and Christmas cards, follow this </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.creativegreenliving.com/2012/12/how-to-make-envelopes-from-magazine.html" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">tutorial</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to make envelopes that are even more personalised.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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Why are homes still being built along rivers? Flooded residents disagree on the solution

<p>Like many residents living near Calgary’s rivers, Irene’s house flooded in June 2013 when heavy rainfall melted the snowpack in the Rocky Mountains, inundating much of southern Alberta in what was, at the time, <a href="https://globalnews.ca/news/2810070/top-10-most-costly-disasters-in-canadian-history-for-insurers/">the costliest disaster in Canadian history</a>.</p> <p>Irene watched as her belongings floated down the street. Everything in her basement and the first level of her home had to be discarded into a trash pile in her front yard.</p> <p>Reflecting on this trauma and her home’s devastation, she said: “Developers get away with a lot of shit they shouldn’t get away with.” She recalled arguing years earlier with the developer about how close to the river it planned to build the houses, and wondered if it might have been worse had her home been built as close to the river as initially planned.</p> <p>I was part of a team <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/15356841211046265">studying housing, environmental views and hazards</a> who interviewed residents of Calgary’s flood-affected neighbourhoods. Remarks like Irene’s were common.</p> <p>Calgary and many other cities, including <a href="https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/housing-development-in-ste-marthe-sur-le-lac-was-mainly-in-flood-zone">Montréal</a>, <a href="https://www.mapleridgenews.com/news/maple-ridge-council-proceeds-with-riverfront-subdivision/">Vancouver</a>, <a href="https://www.usnews.com/news/healthiest-communities/articles/2019-10-08/commentary-the-danger-of-development-in-flood-prone-areas">Myrtle Beach</a> and <a href="https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Even-after-Harvey-Houston-keeps-adding-new-homes-13285865.php">Houston</a>, continue to build houses in areas that hydrologists and engineers have designated as being high-risk for flooding.</p> <p>In most jurisdictions, home-builders are not financially liable for flooding for very long. In <a href="https://www.qp.alberta.ca/documents/Acts/n03p2.pdf">Alberta, the window of liability is one year</a>, at which point the risk is transferred to homeowners. Following floods and other disasters, research shows that the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1353/sof.0.0047">development of new housing does not slow</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/sox054">but intensifies</a>, as flooded properties lose value, are bought by developers and, as memory of flooding fades, <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/calgary-home-built-after-alberta-floods-11604521775">become lucrative investments</a>.</p> <h2>The residents’ point of view</h2> <p>The residents I spoke with viewed developers as myopic capitalists who choose profit over safety. Scott told me that while developers are responsible for driving the hazard risk, “You can’t blame the developers, they are … there to make bucks, right? And if the city says you can build there then, bingo!… They make a pile.”</p> <p>Surprisingly, even though their homes had been flooded, residents were not angry at developers for situating the houses close to a hazard. Rather, they were resigned to it.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/434534/original/file-20211129-19-1bqnj0l.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="A man wearing a mask and work gloves throws muddy debris into a pile next to a house." /> <span class="caption">Yahya Abougoush helps clean up his parents’ house in High River, Alta., on July 3, 2013.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh</span></span></p> <p>When asked what they thought should be done to keep people safe from floods, residents had two very different suggestions.</p> <h2>Better regulations</h2> <p>A sizeable group of Calgarians favoured new government regulations limiting development in flood-prone areas to rein in developers.</p> <p>Rachel said, “They can’t build where the city says they can’t…. It has to be government who says it can’t be done.”</p> <p>Gary said he believes Calgary’s municipal government “lacks the balls” to stand up to developers and regulate floodplain development. When asked why that was, he said, “It’s about money” and the political influence that developers wield over city council. Residents viewed the municipal government as weak, ineffectual and unwilling to stand up to developers.</p> <p>Quite often, the same people who argued for better government regulations on floodplain development also insisted that government should provide home buyers with a disclosure of a home’s location in a flood-prone area, a move that the real estate industry has dubbed “idiotic” and one that would “<a href="https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/jeff-goodell/the-water-will-come/9780316260206/">kill the market</a>.”</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/431443/original/file-20211111-27-1w1jkn7.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="A gravel path and some strips of grass separate a row of homes from a river." /> <span class="caption">New homes in Riverstone, with Bow River visible on the left.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">(Timothy Haney)</span>, <span class="license">Author provided</span></span></p> <p>Tasha wished she had been informed of the risk prior to buying her home, and told us, “I have lived here for 42 years and I have never heard of ‘flood fringe’ … maybe realtors should be more upfront about that.”</p> <p>The flood fringe is the area adjacent to the river with measurable flood risk — usually greater than one per cent annual probability of flooding. Angela said any declaration must go beyond a simple disclosure and “explain what it means.” Many preferred this type of new regulation.</p> <h2>Buyer beware</h2> <p>As one might expect in Alberta, a place known for <a href="https://press.ucalgary.ca/books/9781773850252/">right-wing populism</a>, other participants pushed back against new regulations and said individuals must bear responsibility. They deferred to the sanctity of private property rights and their distaste for government overreach. They felt that buyers must beware, often mentioning the need for “common sense.”</p> <p>Caleb said, “I think people can live wherever they want, but I think they have to carry that risk.” Others called it “instinctual.”</p> <p>Sociologists, like me, are often critical of “common sense,” looking at how such taken-for-granted knowledge is a culturally dependent and contextually specific <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/678271">product of socialization</a>. Still, many Calgarians did not see it this way and did not believe that the government should infringe on private property rights.</p> <h2>Precaution over profits</h2> <p>Calgary, like many cities, continues to develop <a href="https://calgary.ctvnews.ca/development-dispute-chaparral-residents-say-proposed-community-would-put-their-homes-at-risk-1.5326215">new housing close to rivers</a>. New neighbourhoods like Riverstone and Quarry Park offer housing marketed for their picturesque living and river access.</p> <p>In other areas, older homes near the river are being <a href="https://calgaryherald.com/life/homes/condos/white-the-evolution-of-calgarys-infill-housing">razed to make room for infills</a> — usually two or more homes on an existing lot. These infill developments increase the density in river-adjacent communities, putting more residents at risk.</p> <p>The lack of consensus among the study participants was also noteworthy. Citizen activism tends to get mixed results in influencing government decision-making on development <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/13604813.2019.1690337">even when</a> there is <a href="https://uwapress.uw.edu/book/9780295748696/pushed-out/">relative consensus</a>. But in the case of restricting development near rivers, there is no such consensus, which may make it difficult for residents to mobilize.</p> <p>My own view is that municipal governments must stand up to moneyed development and home-building interests by restricting growth near rivers, which should instead be preserved as green space.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/434535/original/file-20211129-59784-d6hlez.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="aerial view of a bend in a river with some elongated islands, several bridges and homes and business developments on each bank." /> <span class="caption">After floods in 1993 and 1995, and facing future flooding due to climate change, the Dutch city of Nijmegen gave more room to the Waal River during periods of high water by relocating a dike and dredging a new channel.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">(DaMatriX/Wikimedia)</span>, <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/" class="license">CC BY-SA</a></span></p> <p>This approach is often called “<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/15715124.2020.1723604">room for the river</a>,” and is particularly popular in northern and western Europe. With this approach, areas immediately adjacent to waterways are preserved, providing esthetic and recreational value, and people are moved away via buyouts when necessary. New development is restricted. It has been imported and applied in North American cities such as <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/cities-around-globe-eagerly-importing-dutch-speciality-flood-prevention-180973679/">Norfolk, Va.</a>, though with varying degrees of consistency and success.</p> <p>The more volatile climate we are experiencing as a result of climate change will undoubtedly bring new flood events near rivers and mounting flood losses. Society must work harder to keep people and property away from the water, starting with halting new developments near these hazards. The first step in getting out of a hole, of course, is to stop digging.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/171660/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/timothy-j-haney-1032153">Timothy J. Haney</a>, Professor of Sociology and Board of Governors Research Chair in Resilience &amp; Sustainability, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/mount-royal-university-966">Mount Royal University</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-are-homes-still-being-built-along-rivers-flooded-residents-disagree-on-the-solution-171660">original article</a>.</p> <p><em>Image: <span class="attribution"><span class="source">THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh</span></span></em></p>

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A new approach finds materials that can turn waste heat into electricity

<p>The need to transition to clean energy is apparent, urgent and inescapable. We must limit Earth’s rising temperature to within 1.5 C to avoid the worst effects of climate change — an especially daunting challenge in the face of the steadily increasing global demand for energy.</p> <p>Part of the answer is using energy more efficiently. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2015.12.192">More than 72 per cent of all energy produced worldwide is lost in the form of heat</a>. For example, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11664-011-1580-6">the engine in a car uses only about 30 per cent of the gasoline it burns to move the car</a>. The remainder is dissipated as heat.</p> <p>Recovering even a tiny fraction of that lost energy would have a tremendous impact on climate change. Thermoelectric materials, which convert wasted heat into useful electricity, can help.</p> <p>Until recently, the identification of these materials had been slow. My colleagues and I have used quantum computations — a computer-based modelling approach to predict materials’ properties — to speed up that process and identify more than 500 thermoelectric materials that could convert excess heat to electricity, and help improve energy efficiency.</p> <h2>Making great strides towards broad applications</h2> <p>The transformation of heat into electrical energy by thermoelectric materials is based on the “Seebeck effect.” In 1826, German physicist <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/andp.18260820302">Thomas Johann Seebeck observed that exposing the ends of joined pieces of dissimilar metals to different temperatures generated a magnetic field</a>, which was later recognized to be caused by an electric current.</p> <p>Shortly after his discovery, <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1049/jste-1.1875.0018">metallic thermoelectric generators were fabricated to convert heat from gas burners into an electric current</a>. But, as it turned out, <a href="https://www.electronics-cooling.com/2006/11/the-seebeck-coefficient/">metals exhibit only a low Seebeck effect</a> — they are not very efficient at converting heat into electricity.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/437873/original/file-20211215-19-1nq0m8v.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/437873/original/file-20211215-19-1nq0m8v.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=237&amp;fit=clip" alt="A black and white photo of a woman turning a dial on a large table top radio, with a lantern hanging above it." /></a> <span class="caption">The kerosene radio was designed for rural areas, and was powered by the kerosene lamp hanging above it. The flame created a temperature difference across metals to generate the electrical current.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">('Popular Science', Issue 6, 1956)</span></span></p> <p>In 1929, the Russian scientist <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/ioffe-abram-fedorovich">Abraham Ioffe</a> revolutionized the field of thermoelectricity. He observed that semiconductors — materials whose ability to conduct electricity falls between that of metals (like copper) and insulators (like glass) — exhibit a significantly higher Seebeck effect than metals, boosting thermoelectric efficiency 40-fold, <a href="https://www.kelk.co.jp/english/useful/netsuden3.html">from 0.1 per cent to four per cent</a>.</p> <p>This discovery led to the development of the first widely used thermoelectric generator, <a href="https://swling.com/blog/2020/05/soviet-era-kerosene-lamp-generator-gives-new-meaning-to-lets-fire-up-the-radio/">the Russian lamp</a> — a kerosene lamp that heated a thermoelectric material to power a radio.</p> <h2>Are we there yet?</h2> <p>Today, thermoelectric applications range from energy generation in <a href="https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/what-radioisotope-power-system">space probes</a> to <a href="https://www.newair.com/blogs/learn/what-is-thermoelectric-cooling-and-is-it-right-for-you">cooling devices in portable refrigerators</a>. For example, space explorations are powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators, <a href="https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/cassini/radioisotope-thermoelectric-generator/">converting the heat from naturally decaying plutonium into electricity</a>. In the movie <em>The Martian,</em> for example, a box of plutonium saved the life of the character played by Matt Damon, by keeping him warm on Mars.</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0CvzBu5sTps?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> <span class="caption">In the 2015 film, <em>The Martian</em>, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) digs up a buried thermoelectric generator to use the power source as a heater.</span></p> <p>Despite this vast diversity of applications, wide-scale commercialization of thermoelectric materials is still limited by their low efficiency.</p> <p>What’s holding them back? Two key factors must be considered: the conductive properties of the materials, and their ability to maintain a temperature difference, which makes it possible to generate electricity.</p> <p>The best thermoelectric material would have the electronic properties of semiconductors and the poor heat conduction of glass. But this unique combination of properties is not found in naturally occurring materials. We have to engineer them.</p> <h2>Searching for a needle in a haystack</h2> <p>In the past decade, new strategies to engineer thermoelectric materials have emerged due to an enhanced understanding of their underlying physics. In a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-021-01064-6">recent study in <em>Nature Materials</em></a>, researchers from Seoul National University, Aachen University and Northwestern University reported they had engineered a material called tin selenide with the highest thermoelectric performance to date, nearly twice that of 20 years ago. But it took them nearly a decade to optimize it.</p> <p>To speed up the discovery process, my colleagues and I have used quantum calculations to search for new thermoelectric candidates with high efficiencies. We searched a database containing thousands of materials to look for those that would have high electronic qualities and low levels of heat conduction, based on their chemical and physical properties. These insights helped us find the best materials to synthesize and test, and calculate their thermoelectric efficiency.</p> <p>We are almost at the point where thermoelectric materials can be widely applied, but first we need to develop much more efficient materials. With so many possibilities and variables, finding the way forward is like searching for a tiny needle in an enormous haystack.</p> <p>Just as a metal detector can zero in on a needle in a haystack, quantum computations can accelerate the discovery of efficient thermoelectric materials. Such calculations can accurately predict electron and heat conduction (including the Seebeck effect) for thousands of materials and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1039/D0MH01112F">unveil the previously hidden and highly complex interactions between those properties</a>, which can influence a material’s efficiency.</p> <p>Large-scale applications will require themoelectric materials that are inexpensive, non-toxic and abundant. Lead and tellurium are found in today’s thermoelectric materials, but their cost and negative environmental impact make them good targets for replacement.</p> <p>Quantum calculations can be applied in a way to search for specific sets of materials using parameters such as scarcity, cost and efficiency. Although those calculations can reveal optimum thermoelectric materials, synthesizing the materials with the desired properties remains a challenge.</p> <p>A multi-institutional effort involving government-run laboratories and universities in the United States, Canada and Europe has revealed more than <a href="https://doi.org/10.1039/C5TC01440A">500 previously unexplored materials</a> with high predicted thermoelectric efficiency. My colleagues and I are currently investigating the thermoelectric performance of those materials in experiments, and have already discovered new sources of high thermoelectric efficiency.</p> <p>Those initial results strongly suggest that further quantum computations can pinpoint the most efficient combinations of materials to make clean energy from wasted heat and the avert the catastrophe that looms over our planet.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/173472/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jan-hendrik-pohls-1289084">Jan-Hendrik Pöhls</a>, McCall MacBain Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/mcmaster-university-930">McMaster University</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-new-approach-finds-materials-that-can-turn-waste-heat-into-electricity-173472">original article</a>.</p> <p><em>Image: (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS), CC BY-NC</em></p>

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Clever tricks to keep bugs off your picnic rug

<p><span>To keep insects from biting, stinging or annoying you – and just as importantly, to keep them away from your food – follow these 13 surefire, all-natural tips.</span></p> <p><strong>Turn your body into a bug repellant</strong></p> <p>By eating certain foods, you can repel many insects. For example, munch on a clove of garlic every day for three days before a picnic.</p> <p>As you sweat out the garlic odour, it repels many insects.</p> <p>You can also take 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar three times a day for three days before the picnic, too.</p> <p><strong>Use the power of produce</strong></p> <p>Rubbing a slice of onion over your skin can be a good way to keep away mosquitoes and other biting insects.</p> <p>Fresh orange or lemon peels also work.</p> <p>And another time-honored approach to keep gnats and mosquitoes at bay is to moisten a cloth or cotton ball with white vinegar and rub it over your exposed skin.</p> <p>All these work on your picnic table as well; wipe it with vinegar or onion, for example, and bugs will stay away.</p> <p><strong>Be vanilla</strong></p> <p><span>Turns out that bugs don’t like the smell of vanilla. Dilute 1 tablespoon vanilla extract with 1 cup water and wipe the mixture on your exposed skin (and if you wish, your picnic tablecloth) to discourage mosquitoes, blackflies, and ticks.</span></p> <p><strong>Spray some natural mint mouthwash</strong></p> <p><span>Insects do not like the smell of mint in any form. Transfer your favorite natural mint mouthwash into a spray container and spray it on yourself and the area around you while outdoors.</span></p> <p><strong>Plant garlic, mint and rosemary</strong></p> <p><span>Naturally ward away bugs from your patio meals by planting these three plants in decorative pots or your outdoor garden. They’ll keep the bugs away, plus you can use them in your cooking.</span></p> <p><strong>Turn on a fan</strong></p> <p><span>Set up a portable fan facing your outdoor food and eating areas, and turn it on to a calm breeze while you serve and entertain. The wind from the fan will make it difficult for bugs to fly in and pester you and your guests.</span></p> <p><strong>Don't wear heavy perfumes or scents</strong></p> <p><span>Stay away from wearing heavily scented shampoos, body sprays, perfumes, or deodorants while outdoors. The fragrances can attract bugs and the stings that follow.</span></p> <p><strong>Leave sticky sweets at home</strong></p> <p><span>Insects are particularly drawn to foods like melon, grapes, peaches, fruit juices and soft drink – to them, they’re like flower nectar. They can easily detect these foods, and will be persistent in their pursuit. While they may be terrific summer foods, avoid them at outdoor meals, or keep in well-sealed containers that you open only when everyone is ready to have some.</span></p> <p><strong>Set up separate food tables for bugs</strong></p> <p><span>One clever bug-battling tactic is to put plates of sweet foods (things like watermelon rinds, overripe peaches, or a large bowl of coloured sugar water) several metres away from your serving and eating areas, so the bugs feast separately from you and your guests. Keep your garbage cans far away as well, as bugs will flock to them for your leftovers.</span></p> <p><strong>Cover all drinks</strong></p> <p><span>Only serve drinks in covered cups or bottles, and drink through a straw. This is particularly important if your drink is sweetened. If you don’t have covered cups, use aluminium foil and poke a hole for a straw.</span></p> <p><strong>Light some candles</strong></p> <p><span>Smoke repels mosquitoes and flies. Tiki torches and citronella candles add ambiance to outdoor entertaining, anyway. Plus, they’re affordable, effective and have a pleasant scent.</span></p> <p><strong>Float your table</strong></p> <p><span>The best way to keep ants off your table is to put the feet in wide containers filled with water. Ants won’t be able to make it across the water to climb up.</span></p> <p><strong>Cover up with a colander</strong></p> <p><span>A simple wire-mesh colander can be used to keep bugs off dinner. If you are setting up a buffet-style meal, an upside-down colander over a plate of food protects it, while keeping the dish on display. You can also buy domed food covers or nylon netting.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/kitchen-tips/13-tricks-keep-bugs-away-picnics" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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10 ways you’re shortening the life of your non-stick cookware

<p><strong>The benefits of non-stick pans</strong></p> <p>Non-stick pans are a must-have for every home chef. Not only are they easy to use, but they also promote a healthier lifestyle because you don’t need to use as much oil with them. This type of cookware also shortens your clean up time because there should be less stuck-on food.</p> <p>As wonderful as they are, there’s just one problem: non-stick pans often need to be replaced because they lose their efficacy. Regardless of the quality of the pan itself or what you paid for it, all types of non-stick pans – whether they have ceramic, enamel, Teflon, or another type of coating – are sensitive to high heats. They also need to be cleaned in a very specific way. To help your non-stick cookware last as long as possible, avoid making the following mistakes.</p> <p><strong>Not seasoning your pan before first use</strong></p> <p><span>It’s common knowledge that you should season your cast iron skillets with cooking oil before using them for the first time. However, some people assume that this rule doesn’t apply to non-stick pans, which isn’t the case. “As with most fine cookware, always season it before first use with oil or butter to avoid food from sticking,” says Daniel Winer, CEO of HexClad Cookware. “Once you’ve seasoned it during the first use, you don’t need to season your pans every time. This will help your pans to stay in good shape.”</span></p> <p><strong>Cleaning your pans in the dishwasher</strong></p> <p><span>When you’re done cooking a large meal, you may want to take shortcuts and clean your non-stick cookware in the dishwasher, but that’s a mistake. Culinary consultant Clare Langan says that generally speaking, you want to get in the habit of handwashing cookware. “Some cookware, particularly those with wooden handles, can deteriorate in a dishwasher.” You’ll always want to check the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations. A gentle yet effective detergent thoroughly cleans pots and pans.</span></p> <p><strong>Cleaning with an abrasive sponge or tools</strong></p> <p><span>Not only is it important to handwash your non-stick cookware, but you’ll also want to do it the right way. Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t immediately stick your pan in the sink and douse it with water the second you take it off the stove. “To clean non-stick cookware, let it cool first, then use soap and a non-abrasive sponge,” says Langan.</span></p> <p><strong>You use cooking spray</strong></p> <p><span>Using cooking spray might feel like a good idea or even a healthy choice, but according to lifestyle director Lisa Freedman, it can damage non-stick cookware. “A lot of people use cooking spray with non-stick cookware thinking that less is more. But over time, you’ll start to see a build-up of the spray that doesn’t burn off during cooking. It gets sticky and gross,” she says. She recommends using whole fats like oil and butter instead.</span></p> <p><strong>You put non-stick cookware in the oven</strong></p> <p>To be clear, it is safe in some instances to use non-stick cookware in the oven, however, that doesn’t mean you should do so without checking the manufacturer’s instructions. Jeff Malkasian of Viking Culinary explains that most non-stick cookware has a maximum temperature it can safely withstand for oven use, but most of us aren’t checking what it is before we do. “If you are finishing off your dish in the oven, make sure you know what temperature it can handle first,” he says.</p> <p>To prevent any accidental mistakes, it’s best to buy a set of non-stick cookware that can withstand high heat.</p> <p><strong>You use metal cooking tools</strong></p> <p><span>Using a metal spatula with non-stick cookware is a major no-no, says culinary expert Ligia Lugo. “The non-stick coating on your pan, known as Teflon, is not as hard as metal and can get damaged very easily if you use metal tongs, forks, spoons, spatulas, etc. in the cooking process,” she says. “To avoid ruining your expensive cookware, avoid using metal utensils at all costs and swap them out for wooden or high-heat silicone ones.”</span></p> <p><strong>You're storing your pans incorrectly</strong></p> <p><span>When organising your cupboards and drawers avoid placing the pans in one another so that the bottom of one pan is in contact with the non-stick coating of another pan. The metal exterior of a pan can damage the polymer coating and ruin it. A better idea is to hang your pans from a pot rack or hooks, or place a face washer or other small cloth between each pan.</span></p> <p><strong>You cook very acidic foods</strong></p> <p><span>When organising your cupboards and drawers avoid placing the pans in one another so that the bottom of one pan is in contact with the non-stick coating of another pan. The metal exterior of a pan can damage the polymer coating and ruin it. A better idea is to hang your pans from a pot rack or hooks, or place a face washer or other small cloth between each pan.</span></p> <p><strong>You try to brown food in a non-stick pan</strong></p> <p>While you can cook lots of dishes in a non-stick pan, it isn’t ideal for everything. Jake Kalick cautions against searing vegetables or proteins in a non-stick pan. “If you’re looking to sear chicken, steak or get a char on vegetables you’re much better off using a pan with a stainless cooking surface,” he says. “A non-stick coating creates somewhat of a steaming effect which prevents your food from browning.”</p> <p>Purchase a stainless-steel frying pan for searing. You will need to add oil, but you’ll save your non-stick pans.</p> <p><strong>You cook your food at the wrong temperature for your non-stick pan</strong></p> <p><span>Most non-stick pans aren’t meant for high heat cooking. “Extremely high temperatures can lead to warping, blistering of the finish, and shorter life in general,” says Lam. But if you like cooking certain foods at a high temperature, that doesn’t mean you have to forgo non-stick cookware altogether. You just have to choose the right type. Avoid Teflon coated pans, which can be very dangerous to use at high heat or if scratched. Instead, opt for enamel, porcelain or ceramic-coated stainless steel pans, which can be used at temperatures up to 180 degrees Celsius.</span></p> <p><strong>You're using your non-stick pan under the grill</strong></p> <p><span>An oven grill is great for certain dishes like steak, chicken and pork chops. But make sure you aren’t using your non-stick cookware under the grill because it can reach up to 260 degrees Celsius, which is way too hot for even the most oven-friendly non-stick pans.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Written by Amanda Lauren. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/kitchen-tips/10-ways-youre-shortening-the-life-of-your-non-stick-cookware" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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Renovating your kitchen? Help Australia’s tradies avoid silicosis by not choosing artificial stone

<p>In 2012 my wife and I renovated our house — a two-storey extension with a brand new kitchen. Inspired by various renovation-themed TV shows and magazines, we chose a sleek stone island bench as the focal point for the kitchen.</p> <p>I knew the benchtop material was some form of stone. You could choose almost any colour and it cost a lot less than marble. But I didn’t know much else and I didn’t ask any questions. As a respiratory physician who has diagnosed numerous workers with silicosis over the past four years, I regret my ignorance.</p> <p>Like <a rel="noopener" href="https://s23.q4cdn.com/225400014/files/doc_presentations/Investor-presentation-Sept-2018-Final-Version.pdf" target="_blank">many Australians</a> who have renovated or built homes since the early 2000s, the material we chose was artificial stone (also known as engineered or reconstituted stone, or quartz).</p> <p>In 2015, after the first Australian stone benchtop industry worker was reported to have <a rel="noopener" href="https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/46/suppl_59/PA1144" target="_blank">severe silicosis</a>, I was astonished to discover artificial stone contains <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/engineered-stone-benchtops-are-killing-our-tradies-heres-why-a-bans-the-only-answer-126489" target="_blank">up to 95%</a> crystalline silica.</p> <p>Inhalation of crystalline silica dust is one of the best-known causes of lung disease, including silicosis and lung cancer. The adverse health effects of silica exposure <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-silicosis-and-why-is-this-old-lung-disease-making-a-comeback-80465" target="_blank">were established</a> while there was still debate about the harm of cigarettes and asbestos. But Australians’ affinity for artificial stone benchtops has seen silicosis make a major comeback in recent years.</p> <p>New research <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/resources/silica-associated-lung-disease-health-screening-research-phase-one-final-report" target="_blank">in Victoria</a> shows the extent of silicosis among workers in the stone benchtop industry.</p> <p><strong>What is silicosis?</strong></p> <p>Silicosis is <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-silicosis-and-why-is-this-old-lung-disease-making-a-comeback-80465" target="_blank">a preventable disease</a> characterised by scarring on the lungs, called <a rel="noopener" href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31989662/" target="_blank">pulmonary fibrosis</a>.</p> <p>Over time, inhalation of tiny silica dust particles triggers an inflammatory response that causes small growths called nodules to build up on the lungs. These nodules can grow and cluster together, causing the lungs to become stiffer and impeding the transfer of oxygen into the blood.</p> <p>In the early stages of the disease, a person may be well. Symptoms of silicosis can include a cough, breathlessness and tiredness. Generally, the more widespread the disease becomes in the lungs, the more trouble a person will have with breathing.</p> <p>There’s not currently a cure. In severe cases, a lung transplant may be the only option, and the disease <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-13/silicosis-victim-dies-from-disease/10895774" target="_blank">can be fatal</a>.</p> <p>Brisbane researchers, however, recently demonstrated <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/queensland-researchers-develop-world-first-treatment-for-deadly-lung-disease-silicosis-killing-tradies/2f5fc92f-d8a5-46f4-b6d3-2f0a6beb083a" target="_blank">early but promising results</a> from <a rel="noopener" href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33626187/" target="_blank">a trial</a> in which they washed silica out of a small number of silicosis patients’ lungs.</p> <p><strong>The road to reform</strong></p> <p>Tradesmen in the stone benchtop industry cut slabs of stone to size and use hand-held power saws and grinders to form holes for sinks and stove tops. This generates crystalline silica dust from the stone which may be released into the air.</p> <p>Using water in this process can <a rel="noopener" href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25326187/" target="_blank">suppress the generation of dust</a> significantly, but until recently dry processing of artificial stone has been ubiquitous in the industry. Almost <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/resources/silica-associated-lung-disease-health-screening-research-phase-one-final-report" target="_blank">70% of workers</a> with silicosis in Victoria indicated they spent more than half their time at work in an environment where dry processing was occurring.</p> <p>Stone benchtop workers suffering silicosis <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.abc.net.au/7.30/spike-in-silicosis-cases-from-dust-created-when/10361776" target="_blank">have called out</a> poor work conditions over recent years, including being made to perform dry cutting with inadequate protections such as effective ventilation and appropriate respirators.</p> <p>Queensland was the first state to <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/news-and-events/alerts/workplace-health-and-safety-alerts/2018/prevent-exposure-to-silica-for-engineered-stone-benchtop-workers" target="_blank">ban dry cutting</a> in 2018. Victoria followed <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/news/2019-08/uncontrolled-dry-cutting-engineered-stone-banned" target="_blank">in 2019</a>, and <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace/nsw-to-ban-dry-cutting-of-stone-products-to-combat-deadly-silicosis-20200220-p542qr.html" target="_blank">New South Wales</a> in 2020.</p> <p>It’s too early to assess whether these changes have affected the prevalence of silicosis, but hopefully they will make a difference.</p> <p><strong>Our research</strong></p> <p>Around the time the Victorian government introduced the ban, it launched <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/protecting-victorian-workers-deadly-silica-dust" target="_blank">an enforcement blitz</a> in high-risk workplaces, while WorkSafe Victoria implemented a free screening program for the estimated 1,400 workers in the stone benchtop industry across the state.</p> <p>The Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health recently released <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/resources/silica-associated-lung-disease-health-screening-research-phase-one-final-report" target="_blank">a report</a> detailing the findings from the first year of the screening program. Some 18% of initial 324 workers who completed the assessments were diagnosed with silicosis.</p> <p>We’ve seen similar results <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/claims-and-insurance/work-related-injuries/types-of-injury-or-illness/work-related-respiratory-diseases/silicosis" target="_blank">in Queensland</a>, where as of February 2021 the government had screened 1,053 stonemasons exposed to crystalline silica dust from artificial stone. Some 223 (or 21%) were diagnosed with silicosis, including 32 with the most severe form, called progressive massive fibrosis.</p> <p>The Monash report indicates workers in Victoria are diagnosed with silicosis at an average age of just 41. The average time spent working in the stone benchtop industry when diagnosed was 14 years, and the shortest was just three years, reflecting an extremely high level of silica dust exposure.</p> <p>We published some earlier results of this research project in <a rel="noopener" href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33115923/" target="_blank">Occupational and Environmental Medicine</a> late last year. But this latest data hasn’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, meaning it hasn’t been subject to the same level of scrutiny as other published research.</p> <p><strong>A broader problem</strong></p> <p>Failure to protect workers from silica exposure <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/silica-office-admin-worker-joanna-mcneill-contracts-silicosis/d64f8661-8bca-4b6f-b950-a1d64e13e421" target="_blank">goes well beyond</a> the stone benchtop industry.</p> <p>Around <a rel="noopener" href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26888888/" target="_blank">3.7% of Australian workers</a> are estimated to be highly exposed to silica at work, and we see workers in other industries, such as quarry work, with silicosis too.</p> <p>Some <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.britannica.com/science/silica" target="_blank">59% of Earth’s crust</a> is silica, so in certain workplaces such as mines and quarries, eliminating silica is not feasible.</p> <p>In these circumstances, exposure must be identified and tightly controlled with measures to prevent dust generation, isolation of workers from the dust, and effective ventilation. If silica cannot be eliminated from a workplace, constant vigilance and evaluation of control strategies are essential.</p> <p>But when it comes to the choice of material for your kitchen benchtop, it’s hard to argue elimination of high-silica artificial stone isn’t feasible. There are many other materials suitable for benchtops that contain little or no silica, such as wood, laminate, steel or marble.</p> <p>Compared with other countries, Australian consumers have developed a particular fondness for artificial stone, which accounts for <a rel="noopener" href="https://s23.q4cdn.com/225400014/files/doc_presentations/Investor-presentation-Sept-2018-Final-Version.pdf" target="_blank">45% of the benchtop market here</a>, but just 14% in the United States.</p> <p>Workers’ lung health may seem like a strange thing to contemplate when designing a kitchen. But increased awareness of this issue is crucial to drive change.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/156208/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ryan-hoy-1211851" target="_blank">Ryan Hoy</a>, Respiratory Physician. Senior Research Fellow. Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065" target="_blank">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/renovating-your-kitchen-help-australias-tradies-avoid-silicosis-by-not-choosing-artificial-stone-156208" target="_blank">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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Solar curtailment is emerging as a new challenge to overcome as Australia dashes for rooftop solar

<p>Almost <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/australia-reaches-3-million-households-with-rooftop-solar-20211108-p59721.html">a third</a> of Australia’s estimated <a href="https://www.ibisworld.com/au/bed/number-of-households/31/">ten million households</a> now have solar on the roof. But as the nation moving fastest to produce energy on our homes, we are also encountering teething problems, such as “curtailment” of output.</p> <p>This issue will be one we have to overcome as ever more Australians install solar. Our grids were designed primarily for large fossil fuel power stations transmitting electricity in one direction, while solar households both consume and export power.</p> <p>That means in some conditions, household solar may contribute to spikes in voltage levels outside of the acceptable range, especially as voltage levels are typically already high.</p> <p>To counter this, your solar system can stop exporting to the grid or even shut down temporarily if voltage levels are too high. This is called “curtailment”.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436513/original/file-20211209-21-qfm0ve.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436513/original/file-20211209-21-qfm0ve.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="Solar technicians installing panels" /></a> <span class="caption">The rush for solar shows no signs of slowing – but curtailment could be a stumbling block.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></p> <h2>So what’s the issue?</h2> <p>The average solar household lose less than 1% of its power production to curtailment – and even less for those with home batteries. While that sounds minor, an unlucky few households are losing as much as 20%.</p> <p>Why the drastic difference? It depends on factors like the house’s location, the local electricity network equipment, home wiring, the number of solar systems in the area, and the size of a solar system and inverter settings, which can vary depending on the date of installation.</p> <p>These findings are from <a href="https://www.racefor2030.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/CANVAS-Succinct-Final-Report_11.11.21.pdf">our scoping study</a> in South Australia, conducted in partnership with AGL, SA Power Networks and Solar Analytics as part of the <a href="https://www.racefor2030.com.au/">RACE for 2030</a> research centre.</p> <p>We analysed two out of three modes of automatic curtailment, with further research underway to assess the third mode, which may account for greater overall curtailment.</p> <p>This issue is set to get bigger, as more and more solar systems are installed and export to the grid at the same time.</p> <p>Given the different ways solar households experience curtailment, this research also raises issues of fairness.</p> <p>Our research interviewed and ran focus groups with South Australians who have solar. We found most participants didn’t know about curtailment and hadn’t experienced it or noticed it.</p> <p>But when we described curtailment, most people found it off-putting and questioned whether rooftop solar owners should be made to absorb any losses, given the contribution of rooftop solar to the renewable energy transition.</p> <p>Not only that, our participants told us they believed the issue could slow down the adoption of solar and potentially undermine faith in the system.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436514/original/file-20211209-19-azcfvo.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436514/original/file-20211209-19-azcfvo.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="Power pylons" /></a> <span class="caption">Australia’s rapid renewable transition means challenges to overcome for the grid.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></p> <h2>Is this a problem for solar uptake?</h2> <p>The issue of curtailment means people may not get everything they expect out of their solar system. But this may not be a deal breaker, given <a href="https://ecss.energyconsumersaustralia.com.au/behaviour-survey-oct-2021/purchase-intentions/">earlier research</a> and our study both show that people hope to benefit in many different ways from installing a solar system.</p> <p>For instance, some want to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and contribute to a cleaner grid. Others want to be less reliant on electricity providers and enjoy producing and using their own energy. And some just want cheaper electricity, and don’t mind whether they get these savings through selling their power or just buying less of what they need from the grid.</p> <p>The good news is that as the solar sector matures, new ways are emerging of maximising value from our solar, including:</p> <ul> <li>home energy management systems letting us time the use of appliances such as <a href="https://www.pv-magazine-australia.com/2021/09/06/unsw-study-channelling-rooftop-pv-into-water-heating-is-a-residential-super-saver/">hot water tanks</a> for daytime periods, when solar generates most power</li> <li>batteries letting us store power for use in the home when it is needed, such as in the evening</li> <li><a href="https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2017/09/virtual-power-plant/">virtual power plants</a> enabling households to be paid for allowing their solar and battery systems to help stabilise the electricity grid.</li> </ul> <p>While attractive in their own right, these options can also reduce how much your solar system is curtailed, and have the potential to help tackle challenges at a grid scale.</p> <p>Other changes to electricity and grid access and pricing could also help us better manage curtailment.</p> <p><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-15/sa-power-networks-to-control-solar-exports-in-adelaide-trial/100070068">Flexible export limits</a> being trialled in South Australia and elsewhere would mean households could export electricity to the grid when it is needed, while occasionally being prevented from doing so when the network does not have capacity.</p> <p>Flexible export limits also mean households can install larger solar systems regardless of their location within the network. They could stop curtailment affecting solar households in unexpected and uneven ways.</p> <p>Other responses include <a href="https://discover.agl.com.au/solar/helping-to-maximise-your-solar-savings/">programs to reward households</a> for having their export curtailed, recognising it as a service to the market and the network.</p> <p>There is no single solution to the issue of curtailment. But the different solutions described above may contribute to the successful integration of more rooftop solar energy and pave the way for a more renewable grid.</p> <p>Now is the time to talk about the future of solar in Australia, and the ways we can value it, use it and manage it when abundant.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/172152/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sophie-adams-1203744">Sophie Adams</a>, Research Fellow, School of Humanities and Languages, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-1414">UNSW</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/baran-yildiz-1259582">Baran Yildiz</a>, Senior Research Associate, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-1414">UNSW</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/naomi-stringer-1296976">Naomi Stringer</a>, Research Associate, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-1414">UNSW</a></em>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/shanil-samarakoon-1295900">Shanil Samarakoon</a>, Lecturer, Centre for Social Impact, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-1414">UNSW</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/solar-curtailment-is-emerging-as-a-new-challenge-to-overcome-as-australia-dashes-for-rooftop-solar-172152">original article</a>.</p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

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Christmas wonderland created using thrifty crafting

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A Sydney mum has taken her Christmas decorating to another level, using a clever Kmart hack.</span></p> <p><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/toni.getscreative/?hl=en" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Toni Mackie</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> began a collection of miniature Christmas trees in 2016, which soon grew into an extensive pair of villages covering two kitchen benchtops.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She estimates that 90 percent of the villages - originally brightly coloured with red roofs and glitter - came from Kmart. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Toni then spent three nights transforming them into pale pink and white homes dusted with pearl glitter (also sourced from Kmart).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Five years later, Toni is still creating her Christmas villages and has expanded to above her fireplace, as well as Christmas elves donned in a variety of pastel colours.</span></p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/tv/CXOHBQ_JNZr/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/tv/CXOHBQ_JNZr/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Toni Mackie (@toni.getscreative)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Toni also sells the elves - which are pinkified Elf on the Shelf dolls - dressed in pastel pinks and blues, reds, emerald green, and sapphire blue, complete with lacy collars and pendants.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The buildings and characters in her villages now include figurines found in op-shops and incense waterfalls, “pinkified” as per usual.</span></p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CHjzXBJH5om/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CHjzXBJH5om/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Toni Mackie (@toni.getscreative)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As for the mini trees, they have been either bleached or painted white and surrounded by white feather boas used to replicate snow.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Toni has also shared her top tips for people looking to replicate her Christmas wonderland without spending a fortune.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Always remember if the shape [of the house] is good, and the price is right, just get it,” she told </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.bhg.com.au/christmas-village-kmart-hack?category=decorating" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Better Homes and Gardens</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“You can always paint it to make it fit your colour scheme.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The wire lights are what brings it all together and give it that warm soft glow, especially at night. It is really magical.”</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: @toni.getscreative (Instagram)</span></em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

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13 genius ways to use cooking spray that go way beyond the kitchen

<p><span>Bet you didn’t have a clue cooking spray was so versatile.</span></p> <p><strong>Grating cheese</strong></p> <p><span>Put less elbow grease into grating cheese by using a non-stick cooking spray on your cheese grater for smoother grating. The spray also makes for easier and faster clean-up.</span></p> <p><strong>Prevent tomato sauce stains</strong></p> <p><span>Sick of those hard-to-clean tomato sauce stains on your plastic containers? To prevent them, apply a light coating of non-stick cooking spray on the inside of the container before you pour in the tomato sauce.</span></p> <p><strong>Keep car wheels clean</strong></p> <p><span>You know that fine black stuff that collects on the wheels of your car and is so hard to clean off? That’s brake dust – it’s produced every time you apply your brakes and the pads wear against the brake disks or cylinders. The next time you invest the elbow grease to get your wheels shiny, give them a light coating of cooking spray. The brake dust will wipe right off.</span></p> <p><strong>Lubricate your bicycle chain</strong></p> <p><span>Bike chain a bit creaky and you don’t have any lubricating oil handy? Give it a shot of non-stick cooking spray instead. Don’t use too much – the chain shouldn’t look wet. Wipe off the excess with a clean rag.</span></p> <p><strong>Cure door squeaks</strong></p> <p><span>Heard that door squeak just one time too many? Hit the hinge with some non-stick cooking spray. Have paper towels handy to wipe up the drips.</span></p> <p><strong>Remove paint and grease</strong></p> <p><span>Forget smelly solvents to remove paint and grease from your hands. Instead, use cooking spray to do the job. Work it in well and rinse. Wash again with soap and water.</span></p> <p><strong>Dry nail polish</strong></p> <p><span>Need your nail polish to dry in a hurry? Spray it with a coat of cooking spray and let dry. The spray is also a great moisturiser for your hands.</span></p> <p><strong>Quick casting</strong></p> <p><span>Pack a can of cooking spray when you go fishing. Spray it on your fishing line and the line will cast easier and further.</span></p> <p><strong>Prevent grass sticking</strong></p> <p><span>Mowing the lawn should be easy, but cleaning cut grass from the mower is tedious. Prevent grass from sticking on mower blades and the underside of the housing by spraying them with cooking oil before you begin mowing.</span></p> <p><strong>Lubricate your locks</strong></p> <p><span>Tired of jiggling your keys in your locks? If you deal with a tough lock interior or sticky keys, try using a few sprays of cooking oil. The oil will help slide your key in and get you through the door much easier.</span></p> <p><strong>Say bye to soap scum</strong></p> <p><span>Spray your shower door with cooking oil and stubborn soap scum will come right off when you wipe it with a towel. Oil breaks down lime deposits so that’s why it removes easily. After a few swipes with a towel, clean the surface to maximise the cleanliness.</span></p> <p><strong>Coat measuring cups</strong></p> <p><span>The next time a recipe calls for a sticky ingredient such as honey, coat your measuring cups with oil so your quantity is exact and will slide right out when pouring it into your mixture.</span></p> <p><strong>Remove gum from your hair</strong></p> <p><span>Having gum in your hair is a nightmare. Before you start freaking out or think you need scissors to chop it out, try spraying the gum with cooking spray. It should loosen it up enough to the point where it will slide right out.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Written by Christina Farah. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/diy-tips/13-genius-ways-to-use-cooking-spray-that-go-way-beyond-the-kitchen" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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Is your neighbourhood underinsured? Search our map to find out

<p>Underinsurance is more common than <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/everyday/insurance-how-to-prepare-for-floods-fires-and-other-disasters/100581978">many</a> realise. And if you live in an area where most people don’t have enough home and/or contents insurance, the financial and social catastrophe that follows a disaster can be community-wide.</p> <p>Even if you’re well covered, your neighbourhood may struggle long after the dust has settled, as houses lie derelict, people struggle to bounce back and social cohesion frays.</p> <p>So, do you live in one of these “pockets of underinsurance”?</p> <p>Search <a href="https://theconversation.com/is-your-neighbourhood-underinsured-search-our-map-to-find-out-168836">our interactive map</a> by <strong>suburb name</strong> or by <strong>postcode</strong> to find out.</p> <p>The map is based on data reported in our <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0308518X19879165">study</a> published in the journal <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/home/epn">Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space</a>.</p> <p>Suburb-by-suburb data on actual rates of underinsurance doesn’t exist (yet). But we combined data from the 2015 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes (AuSSA) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics to map predicted rates of underinsurance for each suburb in Australia.</p> <p>In other words, the map shows whether you live in an area where underinsurance is likely to be more prevalent.</p> <p>The darker the red, the more likely it is many in your neighbourhood do not have enough house and/or contents insurance.</p> <p>Underinsurance can compound disadvantage. This dynamic is expected to worsen as home ownership drives more people into long-term renting and climate change makes disasters and extreme weather events more frequent – and more severe.</p> <h2>Renters often don’t have contents insurance</h2> <p>The data show that a poorer suburb with a high rate of rental properties will likely be the most underinsured. But, perhaps counter-intuitively, some wealthier suburbs are showing up as likely having high rates of underinsurance.</p> <p>That’s because it is housing tenure (whether someone owns or rents) that contributes most significantly to the patterns seen in the map.</p> <p>Areas with <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0308518X19879165">high levels of renting</a> are more likely to be a “pocket of underinsurance” because while a landlord may buy home insurance, renters often don’t have contents insurance. In fact, around 40% of renting households <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016718519302155">don’t have insurance</a>.</p> <p>Many suburbs mapped as having higher rates of underinsurance have a high proportion of rental properties. This includes wealthier suburbs.</p> <p>In fact, poorer suburbs with high rates of home ownership are more likely to appear as adequately insured.</p> <p>For example, zooming in on the municipalities of Hobart and Glenorchy in Tasmania, reveals the more well-heeled Hobart area contains significant areas of underinsurance, similar to that in the more disadvantaged Glenorchy.</p> <p>The take home message is that while income remains a significant indicator of underinsurance risk, renters (both poor or rich) are much more likely to be underinsured than home owners due to a lack of contents insurance.</p> <h2>What’s driving these trends?</h2> <p>As property values have climbed, many Australians have been priced out of home ownership and driven into <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/home-ownership-and-housing-tenure#:%7E:text=32%25%20(2.6%20million%20households)%20were%20renters%3B%20where%20landlord,state%20or%20territory%20housing%20authorities">long-term renting</a>. And as rents go up, more of the household budget is spent on rental payments. When households are under financial stress, they are <a href="https://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/publications/research-insights/search/result?paper=3769030">more likely to drop insurance</a>.</p> <p>The end result is a lot of renters don’t have contents insurance.</p> <p>Climate-exacerbated disasters are also driving changes in the affordability and availability of house and/or contents insurance.</p> <p>Together, these trends in housing, renting, climate change and insurance could potentially create new pockets of entrenched disadvantage.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/433342/original/file-20211123-23-vbpspz.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/433342/original/file-20211123-23-vbpspz.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="A city is flooded" /></a> <span class="caption">A lot of renters don’t have contents insurance.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></p> <h2>I’m well insured, so how does this affect me?</h2> <p>Without sufficient home and/or contents insurance, both renters and homeowners can struggle to recover from a disaster.</p> <p>Repairs or rebuilds may be delayed (or too expensive) for homeowners and landlords. Renters may be unable to replace their stuff, or face eviction from a damaged property, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/insurance-is-unaffordable-for-some-but-its-middle-australia-that-is-underinsured-105662">possible homelessness</a>.</p> <p>In a disaster like a massive bushfire, demand for emergency housing skyrockets. So even if a household can afford insurance and alternative accommodation, demand for housing may outpace supply.</p> <p>An area dominated by damaged and uninhabitable properties can lose a sense of community. Those who are well insured may find rebuilding in an otherwise derelict area can be tough.</p> <p>In contributing to homelessness and a loss of community, underinsurance can lead to loss of social connections and cohesion. It can fragment the collective responses so important for recovery.</p> <p>In other words, people <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0042098017736257">struggle to bounce back</a>. Some may never get back on their feet.</p> <h2>What needs to be done?</h2> <p>There are many different types of insurance aimed at building individual and collective capacity to recover after disaster.</p> <p>Some of these, like Flood Re in the United Kingdom and the National Flood Insurance Program in the United States, use the market to set premium prices and <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03085147.2018.1547494">manage risk</a>. The idea is if insurance prices are set according to a particular area’s level of risk, this will encourage people to take action to reduce their risk.</p> <p>Others, for example in Europe, focus on enabling the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212096314000072">collective good</a> through insurance affordability and availability. These approaches, which aim to make insurance an option for everyone, better reflect the collective predicament underinsurance represents.</p> <p>If Australia is to build resilience, then our dependence of individual insurance policies must end. Governments must shift their efforts to equitable, social insurance schemes.<!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kate-isabel-booth-201344">Kate Isabel Booth</a>, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography and Planning, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-tasmania-888">University of Tasmania</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/is-your-neighbourhood-underinsured-search-our-map-to-find-out-168836">original article</a>.</p> <p><em>Image: <span>Mapbox/The Conversation</span></em></p>

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We identified who’s most at risk of homelessness and where they are. Now we must act, before it’s too late

<p>Homelessness is traumatic. It affects not just housing arrangements but whether or not someone can get enough food, feel safe and maintain relationships with friends and family. The physical and mental health effects often persist long after people are rehoused, and the community and government costs are high.</p> <p>Much of the current response to homelessness is focused on supporting people after they become homeless or just before they do so.</p> <p>However, to really reduce homelessness we need to prevent those at risk from ever becoming homeless in the first place. It’s akin to turning off a tap at the source to prevent a flood downstream.</p> <p>Our <a href="https://www.ahuri.edu.au/research/final-reports/370">recent research</a>, published by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, gives critical insights into how we can do that.</p> <h2>Who is at risk of homelessness?</h2> <p>In our study, people were considered at risk of homelessness if they lived in rental housing and were experiencing at least two of the following:</p> <ul> <li> <p>low income</p> </li> <li> <p>vulnerability to discrimination in the housing or job markets</p> </li> <li> <p>low social resources and supports</p> </li> <li> <p>needing support to access or maintain a living situation due to significant ill health, disability, mental health issues or problematic alcohol and/or drug use</p> </li> <li> <p>rental stress (when lower-income households put more than 30% of income towards housing costs).</p> </li> </ul> <p>From here, it often doesn’t take much to tip those at risk into actual homelessness.</p> <p>To estimate the number, profile and geography of the Australian population at risk of homelessness we combined data from two sources: the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey and the 2016 Census. We estimated the size of the population at risk at the national and also small area (SA2/suburb) level.</p> <p>We found between 8.5% and 11.7% of the total population aged 15 years and over were at risk of homelessness. This equates to between 1.5 and 2 million people.</p> <p>These numbers are large but shouldn’t be surprising. In the nine years between July 2011 and July 2020, some 1.3 million people received assistance from <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/hou/322/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report/contents/clients-services-and-outcomes">specialist homelessness ervices</a> (agencies that provide support to people experiencing homelessness).</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/433855/original/file-20211125-15-11q1b9c.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/433855/original/file-20211125-15-11q1b9c.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=237&amp;fit=clip" alt="A woman and her child ponder some bills." /></a></p> <p><span class="caption">It often doesn’t take much to tip those at risk into actual homelessness.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></p> <h2>Who’s at risk of homelessness?</h2> <p>Compared to the national population, those at risk of homelessness are more likely to be:</p> <ul> <li> <p>female</p> </li> <li> <p>Indigenous</p> </li> <li> <p>living in a lone-person or lone-parent household</p> </li> <li> <p>low income</p> </li> <li> <p>unemployed or outside the labour force</p> </li> <li> <p>in receipt of income support payments.</p> </li> </ul> <p>They are more likely to identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, and report fair or poor health.</p> <p>Those at risk have lower levels of education and are more likely to report difficulty paying bills and rent on time.</p> <p>They are also more likely to experience rental stress and forms of material deprivation such as skipping meals and being unable to heat their home.</p> <p>A third have children in their care.</p> <h2>Where are they?</h2> <p>The highest rates (per head of population) of homelessness risk are typically found in remote areas and small pockets of capital cities.</p> <p>However, the greatest numbers of people at risk of homelessness are located in capital cities on the eastern coast of Australia. These high numbers extend well beyond inner city areas and into the suburbs.</p> <p>In several states (Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia), high rates of homelessness risk are spread across greater capital cities and regional areas.</p> <p>In Victoria, however, risk is concentrated in Greater Melbourne.</p> <p>And in the Northern Territory, risk is highly concentrated in remote areas.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/433804/original/file-20211124-13-1fx0pyo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption">Risk of homelessness (rate per 10,000 people), unit-level SA3 estimates.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Batterham et al, 2021</span></span></p> <h2>Preventing homelessness in Australia</h2> <p>Our findings suggest Australia urgently needs more rental housing specifically targeted to those on low incomes and at risk of homelessness.</p> <p>Our fine-grain data on homelessness risk can help state and territory governments, as well as local governments, decide where this housing will be most effective to reduce homelessness risk.</p> <p>Australia also needs more <a href="https://www.launchhousing.org.au/housingsupport/private-rental-support">private rental access programs</a>, which provide ongoing subsidies and financial help with rent arrears to people at risk of homelessness. They also provide advocacy help in negotiations with landlords.</p> <p>Given Indigenous Australians are over represented in the at-risk and homeless populations, especially in remote areas, we need targeted support developed in consultation with Indigenous communities.</p> <p>Those living with a disability or reporting fair or poor health are particularly vulnerable. There is a clear role for state and territory governments in ensuring access to health and disability supports, especially for those on low incomes.</p> <p>Key priorities for the federal government and agencies include:</p> <ul> <li> <p>increasing the levels of income support payments and <a href="https://www.dss.gov.au/housing-support/programmes-services/commonwealth-rent-assistance">Commonwealth Rent Assistance</a></p> </li> <li> <p>increasing the wages for the lowest paid workers;</p> </li> <li> <p>increasing funding for the construction of social and affordable housing, and;</p> </li> <li> <p>playing a coordinating role in primary prevention policy through a national housing and homelessness strategy.</p> </li> </ul> <p>The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted homelessness can be closer than many think – especially after sudden loss of employment or a health crisis.</p> <p>Now we know who is at risk of homelessness and where they are, it’s time for governments to act.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/172501/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/deb-batterham-426113">Deb Batterham</a>, Post doctoral research fellow, Launch Housing and Centre for Urban Transitions, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christian-a-nygaard-897633">Christian A. Nygaard</a>, Associate Professor in Social Economics, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jacqueline-de-vries-1293856">Jacqueline De Vries</a>, Project Manager and Data Analyst, Institute for Social Change, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-tasmania-888">University of Tasmania</a></em>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/margaret-reynolds-324336">Margaret Reynolds</a>, Researcher, Centre for Urban Transitions, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-identified-whos-most-at-risk-of-homelessness-and-where-they-are-now-we-must-act-before-its-too-late-172501">original article</a>.</p> <p><em>Image: Shuttershock</em></p>

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The $2 pool noodle hack everyone’s trying this Christmas

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With the festive holiday quickly approaching, you can fight the urge to splurge on Christmas decorations by trying your hand at this ridiculously cheap table centrepiece.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">All you need is a pool noodle - costing $2 from Kmart - as well as a hot glue gun and some Christmas baubles.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When one woman shared the hack on Facebook, her post received almost 3000 likes and sparked a flood of recreations.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7845956/pool-noodle-xmas.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/918725e646524f32822e0d3f13a30bc4" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Image: Angelica Marotta Vine (Facebook)</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“First time hack pretty pleased with the result!” she captioned the photo of her table runner, which was mostly sourced from Kmart, Big W and Target.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The DIY decoration has been frequently appearing in Facebook groups including </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/1188470091287226" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kmart Inspired Homes</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/330596703984165" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kmart Home Decor &amp; Hacks Australia</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> with some classy results.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 201.171875px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7845958/259786511_4483985271669638_4094311627553942329_n.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/73ac2e2e37db4fd2abe8d6da0ed7fbc4" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Heather Kyler (Facebook)</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To make it, </span><a href="https://www.bhg.com.au/pool-noodle-christmas-wreath-hack?category=diy"><span style="font-weight: 400;">follow</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> these five steps:</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Step 1. To keep the pool noodle straight, feed a thin metal rod through the centre of it.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Step 2. Start attaching baubles with the hot glue gun and work your way along the noodle.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 333.3333333333333px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7845957/pool-noodle-xmas2.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/71372b34fa114037a5d50c9edfa4f35e" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Angelica Marotta Vine (Facebook)</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Step 3. Once the baubles are attached, fill in any gaps with flowers, branches and other Christmas decorations. To get extra coverage, pull apart a Christmas wreath and fill the gaps on the noodle with the leaves.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Step 5. Once decorated, spray the piece with fake snow.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Haydn Fellows (Facebook)</span></em></p>

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How to make roads with recycled waste, and pave the way to a circular economy

<p>It cost <a href="https://www.buildingfortomorrow.wa.gov.au/projects/russell-road-to-roe-highway/">A$49 million</a> to add 12.5 kilometres of extra lanes to Western Australia’s Kwinana Highway, south of Perth’s CBD. That’s not unusual. On average, building a single lane of road costs about about <a href="https://www.bitre.gov.au/sites/default/files/rr148.pdf">A$5 million per kilometre</a>.</p> <p>What is unusual about this stretch of extra freeway is not the money but the materials beneath the bitumen: two stabilising layers comprised of <a href="https://www.wasteauthority.wa.gov.au/images/resources/files/2021/06/RtR_Pilot_Report.pdf.pdf">25,000 tonnes of crushed recycled concrete</a>, about 90% of which came from the demolition of Subiaco Oval (once Perth’s premier football ground).</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jiFwKw3NTkk?wmode=transparent&amp;start=75" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>Recycling building and construction materials remains the exception to the rule in Australia. The<a href="https://www.awe.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/national-waste-policy-action-plan-2019.pdf"> National Waste Policy</a> agreed to by federal, state and territory governments has a target of 80% resource recovery by 2030. It’s currently <a href="https://www.awe.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/sustainable-procurement-guide.pdf">about 40%</a>.</p> <p>Of the 74 million tonnes of waste <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/pages/5a160ae2-d3a9-480e-9344-4eac42ef9001/files/national-waste-report-2020.pdf">generated in Australia in 2020</a>, masonry materials comprised about 22.9 million tonnes. Plastics, by comparison, comprised about 2.5 million tonnes. Of the 61.5 million tonnes of “core waste” managed by the waste and resource recovery sector, 44% (27 million tonnes) came from the construction and demolition sector, compared with 20% (12.6 million tonnes) from households and local government activities.</p> <p>Most of this waste – concrete, brick, steel, timber, asphalt and plasterboard or cement sheeting – could be reused or recycled. It ends up in landfill due to simple economics. It’s cheaper to buy new materials and throw them away rather than reuse and recycle.</p> <p>Changing this equation and moving to a circular economy, in which materials are reused and recycled rather than discarded in landfill, is a key goal to reduce the impact of building and construction on the environment, including its contribution to climate change.</p> <h2>The economics of ‘externalities’</h2> <p>The fact it is more “economic” to throw materials away than reuse them is what economists call a market failure, driven by the problem of “externalities”. That is, the social and environmental costs of producing, consuming and throwing away materials is not reflected in the prices charged. Those costs are instead externalised – borne by others.</p> <p>In such cases there is a legitimate – and necessary – role for governments to intervene and correct the market failure. For an externality such as carbon emissions (imposing costs on future generations) the market-based solution favoured by most economists is a carbon price.</p> <p>For construction material waste, governments have a few more policy levers to help create a viable market for more recycling.</p> <h2>Using procurement policies</h2> <p>One way to make recycling more attractive to businesses would be to increase the cost of sending waste materials to landfill. But this would likely have unintended consequences, such as illegal dumping.</p> <p>The more obvious and effective approach is to help create more demand for recycled materials through government procurement, adopting policies that require suppliers to, for example, use a minimum amount of recycled materials.</p> <p>With enough demand, recyclers will invest in further waste recovery, reducing the costs. Lower costs in turn create the possibility of greater demand, creating a virtuous circle that leads to a circular economy.</p> <hr /> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/432794/original/file-20211119-17-19fvngo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/432794/original/file-20211119-17-19fvngo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="Diagram of the circular economy" /></a> <span class="caption"></span> <span class="attribution"><a href="https://www.awe.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/sustainable-procurement-guide.pdf" class="source">Australian Government, Sustainable Procurement Guide: A practical guide for Commonwealth entities, 2021</a></span></p> <p>Australia’s federal, state and territory governments all have sustainable procurement policies. The federal <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/856a1de0-4856-4408-a863-6ad5f6942887/files/sustainable-procurement-guide.pdf">Sustainable Procurement Guide</a> states the Australian government “is committed to transforming Australia’s waste into a resource, where most goods and services can be continually used, reused, recycled and reprocessed as part of a circular economy”.</p> <p>But these policies lack some basic elements.</p> <h2>Three key market-making reforms</h2> <p>Our research suggests three important reforms could make a big difference to waste market operations. This is based on interviewing 27 stakeholders from the private sector and government about how to improve sustainable procurement.</p> <p>First, government waste policies that set aspirational goals are not supported by procurement policies setting mandatory minimum recycled content targets. All contractors on government-funded construction projects should be required to use a percentage of recycled waste materials.</p> <p>Second, the nature of salvaging construction materials means quality can vary significantly. Cement recycled from a demolition site, for example, could contain contaminants that reduce its durability.</p> <p>Governments can help the market through regularly auditing the quality of recycler’s processes, to increase buyer confidence and motivate suppliers to invest in production technologies.</p> <p>Third, in some states (such as Western Australia) the testing regimes for recycled construction products are more complex than that what applies to raw materials. More reasonable specifications would reduce compliance costs and thereby the cost of using recycled materials.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/164997/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/salman-shooshtarian-693412">Salman Shooshtarian</a>, Research Fellow, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/savindi-caldera-1187623">Savindi Caldera</a>, Research Fellow and Project Development Manager, Cities Research Institute, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tayyab-maqsood-711277">Tayyab Maqsood</a>, Associate Dean and Head of of Project Management, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tim-ryley-1253269">Tim Ryley</a>, Professor and Head of Griffith Aviation, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-make-roads-with-recycled-waste-and-pave-the-way-to-a-circular-economy-164997">original article</a>.</p> <p><em>Image: Main Roads Western Australia</em></p>

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If you took to growing veggies in the coronavirus pandemic, then keep it up when lockdown ends

<p>The COVID-19 pandemic produced a run on the things people need to produce their own food at home, including <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-24/coronavirus-panic-buying-of-edible-plants-at-nurseries/12082988">vegetable seedlings, seeds</a> and <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/national/scramble-for-backyard-chooks-follows-egg-panic-buying-20200401-p54g28.html">chooks</a>.</p> <p>This turn to self-provisioning was prompted in part by the high price rises for produce – including <a href="https://www.perthnow.com.au/news/coronavirus/cauliflower-and-broccoli-among-healthy-vegetables-whose-prices-have-skyrocketed-during-coronavirus-pandemic-ng-b881501930z">A$10 cauliflowers and broccoli for A$13 a kilo</a> – and empty <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/mar/27/ive-never-seen-it-like-this-why-vegetables-are-so-expensive-in-australia-at-the-moment">veggie shelves in some supermarkets</a>.</p> <p>As well as <a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/bunnings-diy-garden-shopping-frenzy-as-virus-lockdown-takes-hold/news-story/413857a8c40b44af21eb90a1f88a594f">hitting the garden centres</a> people looked online for information on growing food. Google searches for “<a href="https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&amp;q=how%20to%20grow%20vegetables">how to grow vegetables</a>” hit an all-time worldwide high in April. Hobart outfit Good Life Permaculture’s video on <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUqkZLSOdm0">Crisis Gardening - Fresh Food Fast</a> racked up over 80,000 views in a month. Facebook kitchen garden groups, such as <a href="https://www.facebook.com/SAKGF/videos/vb.107400965969813/2830266200384624/?type=3&amp;theater">Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation</a>, sought to share information and inspiration.</p> <h2>The good life</h2> <p>Given the many benefits of productive gardening, this interest in increased self-sufficiency was an intelligent response to the pandemic situation.</p> <p>Experienced gardeners can produce enough fruit and vegetables year-round to supply two people from <a href="https://www.katlavers.com/the-plummery/">a small suburban backyard</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335516301401" title="Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis">Productive gardening improves health</a> by providing contact with nature, physical activity and a healthier diet. Contact with <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6780873/" title="Does Soil Contribute to the Human Gut Microbiome?">good soil bacteria</a> also has positive health effects.</p> <p>While Australians have traditionally valued the feeling of independence imparted by a degree of self-sufficiency, psychological benefits arise from the <a href="https://uwap.uwa.edu.au/products/reclaiming-the-urban-commons">social connectedness encouraged by many forms of productive gardening</a>.</p> <p>Amid COVID-19, gardeners gathered online and community gardens around the world brought people together through gardening and food. In some areas, community gardens were <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/ontario-community-gardens-essential-1.5545115">declared essential because of their contribution to food security</a>. Although Australian community gardens paused their public programs, most remained open for gardening adhering to social distancing regulations.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/329929/original/file-20200423-47826-1iul3x5.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption">Community gardens have an important role to play in food resilience.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Andrea Gaynor</span></span></p> <h2>We always dig deep in a crisis</h2> <p>Vegetable gardening and poultry-keeping often surge in popularity during times of social or economic insecurity, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>These responses are built on an established Australian tradition of home food production, something I have <a href="http://www.environmentandsociety.org/sites/default/files/key_docs/harvest_of_the_suburbs__andrea_gaynor_with_title_and_content.pdf">researched in depth</a>.</p> <p>Yet history tells us it’s not easy to rapidly increase self-provisioning in times of crisis – especially for those in greatest need, such as unemployed people.</p> <p>This is another reason why you should plant a vegetable garden (or keep your current one going) even after the lockdown ends, <a href="https://www.sustain.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Urban-Agriculture-Manifesto-2020-1.pdf">as part of a broader suite of reforms</a> needed to make our food systems more fair and resilient.</p> <p>In the second world war, for example, Australian food and agricultural supply chains were disrupted. In 1942-3, as the theatres of war expanded and shortages loomed, the YWCA organised women into “<a href="https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/homefront/victory_gardens">garden armies</a>” to grow vegetables and the federal government launched campaigns encouraging home food production.</p> <p>Community-based food production expanded, but it was not possible for everyone, and obstacles emerged. In Australia, there were disruptions in the supply of seeds, fertiliser and even rubber for garden hoses. In London, resourceful gardeners scraped pigeon droppings from buildings to feed their victory gardens.</p> <p>Another problem was the lack of gardening and poultry-keeping skills and knowledge. The Australian government’s efforts to provide good gardening advice were thwarted by local shortages and weather conditions. Their advertisements encouraging experienced gardeners to help neighbours may have been more effective.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/334896/original/file-20200514-167768-brf3j3.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/334896/original/file-20200514-167768-brf3j3.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a> <span class="caption">Australian government ‘Grow Your Own’ campaign advertising, 1943.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">National Archives of Australia</span>, <span class="license">Author provided</span></span></p> <p>Home food production has also increased during times of economic distress. During the <a href="https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/great-depression">Great Depression</a> in the 1920s and 1930s, a health inspector in the inner suburbs of Melbourne reported, with satisfaction, that horse manure was no longer accumulating:</p> <blockquote> <p>… being very much in demand by the many unemployed who now grow their own vegetables.</p> </blockquote> <p>The high inflation and unemployment of the 1970s – as well as the oil shocks that saw steep increases in fuel prices – saw more people take up productive gardening as a low-cost recreation and buffer against high food prices.</p> <p>The urge to grow your own in a crisis is a strong one, but better preparation is needed for it to be an equitable and effective response.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/329926/original/file-20200423-47804-pldop7.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/329926/original/file-20200423-47804-pldop7.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a> <span class="caption">How to grow your own vegetables… as long as you like endive.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Andrea Gaynor</span></span></p> <h2>Beyond the pandemic</h2> <p>The <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-home-gardening-explosion-fruits-vegetables-lockdown/3cf0476b-9fe0-432e-b5c9-d37b9390a12f">empty shelves at nurseries and seed suppliers</a> seen earlier this year tell us we were again insufficiently prepared to rapidly scale up productive home gardening.</p> <p>We need to develop more robust local food systems, including opportunities for people to develop and share food production skills.</p> <p>These could build on established programs, such as western Melbourne’s <a href="https://mysmartgarden.org.au/">My Smart Garden</a>. Particularly in built-up urban areas, provision of safe, accessible, free or low-cost gardening spaces would enable everyone to participate.</p> <p>More city farms with livestock, large-scale composting and seed saving, can increase local supplies of garden inputs and buffer against external disruption.</p> <p>Like other crises before it, COVID-19 has exposed vulnerabilities in the systems that supply most Australians with our basic needs. While we can’t grow toilet paper or hand sanitiser, there is a role for productive gardens and small-scale animal-keeping in making food systems resilient, sustainable and equitable.</p> <p>Self-provisioning doesn’t replace the need for social welfare and wider food system reform. But it can provide a bit of insurance against crises, as well as many everyday benefits.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/135359/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andrea-gaynor-285129">Andrea Gaynor</a>, Associate Professor of History, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-western-australia-1067">The University of Western Australia</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/if-you-took-to-growing-veggies-in-the-coronavirus-pandemic-then-keep-it-up-when-lockdown-ends-135359">original article</a>.</p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

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5 things plumbers never do in their own homes

<p>Plumbing is something we often take for granted, but without it we wouldn’t have warm showers, toilets that flush or the means to pressure wash the driveway. Not only that, a working plumbing system is key to sanitation – in your home and your community.</p> <p>“It is a known motto in the plumbing community that the plumber protects the health of the nation,” says licensed plumber Aaron Mulder. “As soon as you don’t have working plumbing systems in a country, things start to deteriorate.”</p> <p>That’s why, Mulder says, homeowners need to pay attention to the plumbing in their homes. This involves things like fixing leaks in a timely manner, replacing broken parts before they completely fail and regularly checking water pressure.</p> <p>Perhaps even more importantly, it’s avoiding common behaviours that wreak havoc on a home’s plumbing system. What are those behaviours? We went straight to the plumbers themselves to find out.</p> <p>Here are five things professional plumbers would never do in their own homes.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don't flush baby wipes down the toilet</strong></p> <p>The box may say the wipes are flushable, but the truth is there are only two things that should be ever be flushed – toilet paper and human waste, says Mulder. Everything else, from feminine hygiene products to paper towels and beyond, will undoubtedly clog your pipes – if not right away, eventually.</p> <p>These items can also clog up the entire sewer system. Over time, this can create a big expensive mess at your city’s sewage treatment plant, not to mention a threat to public health. Instead, do what plumbers do and toss disposable baby wipes in the garbage bin.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don't use harsh chemicals in drains</strong></p> <p>If you routinely pour a store-bought drain cleaner down the sink to do away with clogs, stop immediately. These cleaners are not just ineffective, they are caustic, says plumber Terry O’Shea, who warns chemical drain cleaners can burn your pipes and your skin, if you touch them.</p> <p>And the claims that these cleaners dissolve hair? Nope.</p> <p>“It (might) burn away some of the hair and gunk … but at the end of the day it is not going to stop that buildup from reoccurring,” Mulder says. “It is just (pushing) down to where the chemical didn’t reach.”</p> <p>What should you do about clogs? Plumber-recommended enzymatic drain cleaners are usually safe, or you can try a drain auger (sometimes called a plumbing snake), O’Shea says. Don’t give in to the temptation to use a hanger for the job though, says Mulder. Anything rigid can damage the pipe and cause a whole slew of issues, like leaks, broken seals, bad smells and bug infestations (yuck!).</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don't pour grease down the drain</strong></p> <p>You just cooked some bacon and need to get rid of the grease. You have a few options, but pouring it down the kitchen sink is not one of them, says Mulder.</p> <p>Initially, the grease will stick to the walls of your pipes and start clogging your drain. Eventually, some of that grease will make it to the sewer, where it mixes with all the other raw sewage (along with those baby wipes that shouldn’t be there). The result? A disgusting sewer-damaging blob called a fatberg. Last year, waste treatment officials in England discovered a fatberg that was more than 60 metres long.</p> <p>We know you don’t want to contribute to such a monstrosity. Instead, Mulder advises scraping congealed grease into the garbage bin, or pouring warm grease into a can or jar to throw away later. Some people even save grease for further use in the kitchen.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don't put off preventative maintenance</strong></p> <p>Like cars, plumbing systems need regular maintenance even when nothing is amiss. Plumbers know the importance of keeping up on said maintenance in their homes, so they can minimise the possibility of something major going wrong, like a leak, corrosion or a septic tank issue.</p> <p>Mulder says it is particularly important to do an annual pressure check to make sure your water pressure is in a safe range. To meet Australian Standards, the standard maximum is 45-55 PSI (pounds per square inch). The PSI requirements differ from country to country. You can buy a water pressure gauge at your local hardware store.</p> <p>Other preventive maintenance activities include checking for leaks and clogs, and making sure you don’t have any broken internal parts in your toilets, sinks or tubs/showers. He also recommends checking your supply lines – a.k.a. the hoses that allow water to travel from the main water line to individual fixtures – to make sure they are still in good shape. Many homeowners, he says, are surprised to find out supply lines are typically only rated for three to five years of use.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don't prolong the investigation of the problem</strong></p> <p>Nobody ever wants to scrap their weekend plans at the last minute to deal with a plumbing problem. But if you wake up one morning and find a pool of water under your washing machine, it’s wise to deal with it right away, says Mulder.</p> <p>“If you think you have a water leak … you definitely want to get it looked at before it becomes a bigger issue,” he says, adding that plumbing problems are not the type that correct themselves over time.</p> <p><em><span>Written by Dawn Weinberger. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/diy-tips/6-things-plumbers-never-do-in-their-own-homes" target="_blank"><span>Reader’s Digest</span></a><span>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span>here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span>Image: Getty Images</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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We need to design housing for Indigenous communities that can withstand the impacts of climate change

<p><a href="https://library.sprep.org/sites/default/files/5_23.pdf">Remote Indigenous communities</a> in Australia will experience the impacts of climate change disproportionately to the rest of the country.</p> <p>Take the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in northwest South Australia, where maximum temperatures are increasing. The summer periods of sustained high temperatures are starting earlier and lasting longer.</p> <p>A rapidly warming planet provides a significant challenge to design, deliver, and maintain habitable housing across Australia. Yet, few analyses consider Indigenous housing and climate change together.</p> <p>A new report, <a href="https://www.ahuri.edu.au/research/final-reports/368">Sustainable Indigenous Housing in Regional and Remote Australia</a>, fills this gap.</p> <h2>Exploring sustainable housing for First Nations communities</h2> <p>This new report examines the role of housing in remote and regional communities, given the increasing pressures of climate change. It shows existing and new housing can and should be better maintained for these communities. We found that Indigenous-run tenancy management is part of the solution.</p> <p>In Gunnedah, we partnered with <a href="https://www.gunidagunyah.com.au/">Gunida Gunyah Aboriginal Corporation</a>, an Aboriginal community housing provider in New South Wales. The houses that Gunida Gunyah manage vary in age and quality, which all housing organisations must negotiate as they assume responsibility for ongoing maintenance.</p> <p>Unfortunately the legacies of inadequate construction in housing do not belong to the past. What is built or refurbished today could haunt residents for decades. So, will attempts to revive old housing using existing national construction guidelines be enough to ensure future habitability?</p> <p>We used simulation software to understand the impact of climate change, especially of increasing heat, on Indigenous housing. This software considered the effectiveness of strategies for refurbishing existing housing to improve thermal performance and energy efficiency. This simulation was modelled for Australia’s tropical, dry, and hot/mild climate zones.</p> <p>After 366 simulations, our results showed modifying or refurbishing existing housing and even building new homes to meet recommended standards are not adequate measures for current or future climate changes. Even if existing housing was improved or new housing was built to current national construction code standards, at best, benefits will be short term.</p> <p>Further, whether houses are old or new, crowding is a critical limitation for “thermal comfort” - the technical term for not too hot, not too cold. So, even if housing was greatly improved on the design front, crowding would cancel out the benefits.</p> <p>The solution is a combination of better design and construction standards, increased housing and restorative work on existing housing, with well-funded repair and maintenance programs to ensure ongoing function.</p> <h2>Basic housing needs are not being met</h2> <p>As <a href="https://www.healthabitat.com/">Healthabitat</a> has long demonstrated, basic needs for householders, such as the ability to wash themselves, wash clothes and bedding, and store and prepare food, requires things to work inside and outside the house.</p> <p><a href="https://www.healthabitat.com/review-closing-the-gap-10-and-20-year-review-of-housing-for-health-data/">Decades of data</a> shows the impact of restoring function to health hardware (washing facilities, safe food storage systems, and so on) and reveals the key reasons for housing dysfunction are poor original construction and inadequate repairs and maintenance.</p> <p><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-23/nt-government-amends-countersuit-public-housing-santa-teresa/10550350">Some governments</a> respond to evidence of poor maintenance by claiming that the rent they can collect is not enough to cover the expenses involved, or that the record-keeping systems for showing what needs to be repaired are at fault, especially in remote areas.</p> <p>However, our case material from the APY Lands shows the holy grail of proactive and planned maintenance of housing is perfectly doable and can generate savings.</p> <p>A preventive maintenance program is economical. It minimises major hardware failures, bundles work orders (so more is fixed in less time) and reduces travel costs.</p> <p>By spending three-quarters of its maintenance budget for APY Lands housing on planned works, and working closely with the Indigenous community-controlled <a href="https://www.nganampahealth.com.au/">Nganampa Health Council</a>, Housing SA keeps repair and maintenance travel expenses for APY Lands housing to <a href="https://www.ahuri.edu.au/sites/default/files/documents/2021-11/PES-368-Sustainable%20Indigenous%20housing%20in%20regional%20and%20remote%20Australia.pdf">under 11%</a>.</p> <p>This contrasts with <a href="https://parliament.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/706683/TP-5-1.pdf">national research</a> revealing travel costs consume up to 96% of per-unit costs for emergency repairs in Indigenous housing, leaving only 11% to 37% of budgets for planned repairs and maintenance.</p> <p>Greater national funding is needed for better housing designs, related construction and ongoing maintenance work to provide year-round seasonal comfort and protection, and to alleviate crowding in residences.</p> <p>Australia could lead the way in meeting these needs, but first the policy challenge to meet housing, health, heat, and climate change together must be openly acknowledged.</p> <p>This is the path to achieve climate mitigation rather than forced migrations. Housing, health, maintenance, and climate must be thought about together, to enable people to stay on or near their Country and sites of connection now and into the future.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/171203/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tess-lea-445805">Tess Lea</a>, Professor, Anthropology and Cultural Studies, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/arianna-brambilla-1287711">Arianna Brambilla</a>, Lecturer in Architecture, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/john-singer-1287708">John Singer</a>, CEO of Nganampa Health Council, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/indigenous-knowledge-4846">Indigenous Knowledge</a></em>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/liam-grealy-391597">Liam Grealy</a>, Research fellow, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-need-to-design-housing-for-indigenous-communities-that-can-withstand-the-impacts-of-climate-change-171203">original article</a>.</p>

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“Worst fan ever” among Shonky award winners

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">An electric composter, sugary snacks for toddlers, and a bladeless fan have one surprising thing in common: they made the list for this year’s Shonky Awards.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">CHOICE, Australia’s top consumer advocacy group, has been naming and shaming the country’s worst products and services - and this year’s contenders are just as dodgy.</span></p> <p><strong>A fan with no wind power</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One product that made the winning list was Kogan’s SmarterHome Bladeless Fan. Retailing at $150, the fan scored only 44 percent in CHOICE’s testing and was beaten by fans costing less than a third of the price.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It has been sold through various retailers, including Catch.com.au, Kogan, Big W, and Harvey Norman.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“This fan is imitating more effective bladeless fans on the market without the power or puff,” CHOICE expert tester Adrian Lini </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.choice.com.au/about-us/media-releases/2021/november/the-worst-fan-ever-choice-shonkys" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The product fails for its knock-off shonkiness and it’s shoddy performance.”</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7845589/shonky1.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/e9850e8978e3414482c008dab500c10b" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Expert tester Adrian Lini with the Shonky Award-winning fans. Image: CHOICE</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The advocacy group also found that a range of fans using the same or similar designs were being sold under the brands Fenici, Dimplex, and Zhibai.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The volume of air pushed out by this fan was so low that it looked like an error in measurement,” Mr Lini said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“For the entirety of the test, it could barely reach 0.04 cubic metres per second.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It pretty much has no output whatsoever, and that’s why the score is so terrible.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Most fans tested against it reached 0.3 cubic metres per second - making them seven times more powerful in terms of wind power.</span></p> <p><strong>A $2000 composter</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another “winner” of this year’s award was Breville’s FoodCycler, marketed as an easy way to turn household scraps into odourless, nutrient-rich “eco-chips”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, when CHOICE home economist Fiona Mair put the device to the test she found it was a wasteful, expensive, and complicated appliance.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Why would you want to spend money on an appliance to reduce your food waste going into landfill when you can already buy something that virtually costs nothing to do the same thing?” Ms Mair </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/home/interiors/choice-reveals-16th-shonky-awards-winners-booming-bnpl-sector-cops-lashing/news-story/1c62632fe42b49e8cff6d5300a628d28" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">After calculating the running costs of the FoodCycler over five years, CHOICE estimated that a consumer would drop $2,000 across the device’s lifetime. On top of the $499 purchase price, there would also be energy costs ($86 a year) and replacement filters costing $233 a year.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We think Breville are taking advantage of people who are wanting to look after the environment,” Ms Mair concluded.</span></p> <p><strong>A “sugar bomb” for toddlers</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another dud product was Kiddylicious Strawberry Fruit Wriggles, which contain more sugar than Allen’s Snakes and cost $150 a kilo - despite being marketed as a healthy snack for toddlers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Toddlers are being targeted with a shonky sugar bomb and parents deserve better,” CHOICE audience editor Pru Engel said. </span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7845590/shonky2.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/84f2d6cf990e4c22a52051bf3ef1bd77" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">CHOICE editor and mum-of-two Pru Engel with her son, and a bag of Fruit Wriggles compared against an equivalent amount of Allen’s snakes and sugar. Image: CHOICE</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Other recipients included the Airline Customer Advocate, a free “service” that essentially forwards customer complaints back to airlines, and buy-now-pay-later provider Humm, which made the cut for its “dubious checks and balances”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“These are our 16th annual Shonky Awards and it amazes me that we have to keep giving them out,” CHOICE’s chief executive, Alan Kirland, said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It’s easy to avoid getting a Shonky Award. Don’t promise things you can’t deliver, don’t rip your customers off and don’t sell unsafe products.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Sadly, we keep finding businesses that fail these basic tests.”</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: CHOICE</span></em></p>

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