Author Archives: Richard Telford

End of Year Get Together at Tahbilk

Please join the BEAM committee, along with Euroa Environment Group and Strathbogie Voices at our annual end of year celebration at Tahbilk Winery, Nagambie.

Come along and bring your friends – it should be a great day out. See details below, and a map to the venue here. Please RSVP to book your spot! email: or call Caro on 5784 1177 or 0400 831 3302016-beam-end-of-year Download the PDF of the flyer here.

Plastic is not so Fantastic

Rivers and Ranges Community Leadership Program (RRCLP) is the newest of Victoria’s many leadership programs. The program covers the municipal areas of Mitchell, Murrindindi, Nillumbik, Whittlesea and Yarra Ranges. The program is based on community capacity and resilience building for the purposes of creating leaders connected to their local regions.   As such, they are well placed to identify local issues and needs and identify solutions. Leaders are a good resource in building resilient, connected and thriving communities.

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The program takes a group of up to 24 diverse participants through a ten-month learning experience and exposes them to leaders at all levels of government. At the completion of the project the participants are expected to participate in community leadership and service.

Each cohort of RRCLP completes an environmental or art project as part of their learning. This year’s cohort split into two teams to complete separate environmental projects.

Team Bravo have chosen to tackle the problem of plastic in the environment. We are working with the Flowerdale Men’s Shed to produce a song about the 5 ‘r’s – refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle. This song will be released via social media and we will attempt to measure the project’s impact via this platform also.

As a complimentary addition to the project, we have printed reusable calico bags which we will distribute at the November Tallarook Farmer’s Market complete with information regarding the dangers of plastic and ways to reduce its use. These bags will also contain either a reusable keep-cup or reusable plastic drink bottle.


Children at the Flowerdale Primary School decorated some of the bags during a session where they learned about the 5 ‘r’s. We have surveyed the children on their use of the 5 ‘r’s and will measure the impact, if any, at the completion of the project via a follow-up survey. We are hoping the final survey will show a decreased use of plastic and a better understanding of the issues. The children were very engaged during their session.

Collaboration with other community groups was another strong element of our project and we will be creating a map to show connections between community groups both before and after the project’s completion. BEAM Mitchell Environment Group was very supportive of our project and have produced a flyer with tips on reducing plastic use for inclusion in the bags. Many other groups offered support along the way.

All involved groups will be acknowledged by use of the bags.

You can follow our progress on our facebook page by the name of Plastic Not So Fantastic.

Linda Kennedy

Ten tips to reduce plastic

  1. Take your own shopping bags (don’t accept single use plastic bags)
  1. Drink from a reusable drink bottle or keep cup
  1. Choose items with less packaging
  1. Shop at the farm gate or at Farmers’ Markets
  1. Buy in bulk
  1. Say no to plastic straws
  1. Take lunch to work or school in a reusable lunch box (without added plastic wrapping)
  1. Grow your own veggies
  1. Don’t line your bin with plastic (easy if you have chooks to eat messy scraps)
  1. Shop second hand or at op shops

And now here’s Charlie Mgee with his song Plastic! from his new album Grow Do It.

Who is Trent McCarthy?

Trent McCarthy will be presenting ‘From Little Things New Jobs Grow‘ at our AGM on the 20th of August. How regional local governments and communities can drive the clean energy economy and create thousands of new jobs.

Trent McCarthyTrent will share his insights and experiences about to create local prosperity and employment through connecting new and old technologies, the sharing economy and grassroots sustainability initiatives, drawing upon successful programs in Australia and overseas. Are we ready to take up the challenges and opportunities?

Trent McCarthy is CEO of Central Ranges Local Learning and Employment Network, a dynamic not-for-profit working to improve the outcomes for young people in the Mitchell, Macedon Ranges and Murrindindi Shires. Trent brings to the role his unique background as a strategic facilitator and educator, specialising in leadership, creativity, entrepreneurship, communication and sustainability. Trent has also worked as a director and comedian, performing in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival since 2005.

In his spare time, Trent serves as a local councillor in Darebin, where he has championed the award-winning Solar $avers program and various community solar initiatives. An Executive member of the Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action, Trent is a former Vice President of the Victorian Local Governance Association. In 2011, Trent was a finalist in the Australian Human Rights Awards as the co-founder of the Whitelion Bail Out, working with over 1,000 business leaders to raise $5 million to support youth at risk. A third generation game show winner, Trent believes we create our own luck.

Hear Peter Lockyer and Trent McCarthy on Earthchat

EarthChat with recycler designer Jan Flook

Listen to the EarthChat interview with local recycling innovator Jan Flook with your host, Irene Telford. Friday 22nd July at 10:30am on Seymour FM – 103.9

Glass Chandelier by Jan FlookJan Flook is an inspiring designer with a fascination for light, beauty, symmetry and fun. He has dedicated his life to the pursuit of beauty within the mundane, functional objects that surround us, transforming the everyday into practical works of art. Contemporary chandelier and furniture designer, passionate recycler and advocate of modern materials, Jan believes that “It is the hidden shapes that catch us by surprise and on closer inspection reveal their humble beginnings.”

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Sustainable Seymour – Structure Plan workshop

Mitchell Shire Council is moving to the next stage with an emerging ideas paper for the Seymour Structure Plan.  As we have said before, this is a great opportunity to create the Seymour we want. It includes some activities you can participate in.  We encourage you to read the information, attend a session and make a submission – even if you are travelling overseas during June.  Note the 3 July deadline.

You can provide feedback by completing the Key Theme Surveys. (You will need to register on their site or sign in to take the surveys).

We are planning a workshop to stimulate ideas that can be developed into submissions from the group and from individuals.  The workshop will be at Chittick Place in Seymour at 12:30 for a 1:00 start. Phil Bourne will be convening the discussion.  The discussion will be based on the Emerging Ideas paper at  so it would be useful for your input if you have read or at least browsed through the paper.  We are designing the workshop around obtaining your ideas and developing submissions from you and from the group.  We will end the afternoon with afternoon tea and update on other Sustainable Seymour projects.

Everyone is welcome but please give us an indication that you intend to come so we can structure the workshop to hear and accommodate everyone’s ideas.  We will also have an update and discussion on other Sustainable Seymour initiatives.  And of course afternoon tea – please bring a plate as well as your ideas to share.

Peter Mitchell,
for the Sustainable Seymour Network
0468 795 954

2016 Permaculture Day Tours

Front garden at Abdallah HouseIt’s been six years since Richard and his family moved into their owner built home, just 1km from central Seymour. ‘Abdallah House’, is an urban rebuild and permaculture demonstration site on a small 580m2 block (1/7th of an acre). The house was constructed with a mix of reclaimed and new materials using passive solar design principles under the direction of builder architect Peter Lockyer.

The households uses less than a fifth of the energy of a typical home, thanks mainly to solar and wood heating of the house and hot water system. A 1.5kW solar system provides more than enough energy to run their home, with excess sold back to the grid.

Fruit trees and grape vines are now well established, and along with the vegetable gardens and chooks, provide for most of their fresh food needs. Solar drying, ferments and Valcola pasteurising help preserve the the harvest and a freezer converted into a super efficient fridge, cool cupboard, and cellar are used for food storage.

Meet Richard and Peter at Abdallah House on Permaculture Day, Sunday the 1st of May, for tours at 2, 3 & 4 o’clock at 1a Abdallah Road Seymour. Cost is $5, which includes a Permaculture Calendar. Under 16 free. Booking not required, for more info visit

See our events page for directions

Environmental issues in India – Part 2

Local architect and builder, and president of BEAM Peter Lockyer has taken on a project in the Punjab of India with some challenges, the construction of a “sustainable house” over the next 3 years, at 4 months each year. This straw bale house is in a rural village and comes at the invitation of a former Seymour resident Ravish Sran. See part 1 of this article here.

Some early observations in India’s north-west

Delhi is officially the most polluted city on our planet. Source:

Air Pollution

Those beautiful sunsets in Australia with smoke in the air…the crimson sun…that is everyday India. Delhi is officially the most polluted city on our planet (and when we were there late January, there was a garbage strike to further challenge the scenery) and they have introduced an odds/evens number plate system to remove half of the private cars from the road traffic. Indians, like in China, want motor cars as they can afford it (and why shouldn’t they) but there are some serious air quality downsides. As well as congestion.

Potters in Delhi must be exempt- they still fire up there wood kilns with whatever wood material they can buy (often glue-laden laminates). It’s an incredible sight, but filthy air results. Their very livelihood is under a challenge.

In the past 10 years India has seen that auto rickshaws (the famous three wheeler taxi) in the city and buses alike all run on gas. In Agra there are a few electric auto rickshaws, but my friend with a gas old-style three-wheeler says they are under-powered and recharging is an issue. Still, their numbers have grown in 3 years, and with market demand we can expect technology improvement.

Public transport

Public transport in India is big. India has, I would suggest, the biggest rail network in the world. It can appear slow and the trains are old, but it is safe and a source of Indian pride. Trains are very popular albeit the train punctuality in the country is….variable. First-class is rudimentary by Australian standards, and cattle class is…chockers. Its affordable .

The Delhi Metro was built for the Commonwealth games. This runs like clockwork, Singapore quality and VERY popular with the young and upwardly mobile. Village people don’t use it much: they stay local with their businesses. However the Metro has become too popular. Peak hour has trains every 10 minutes, but every one of them is very, very packed. In old Delhi last week we saw the cue from the underground run through the station, up the very long stairs and along the street for a good hundred metres! Gobsmacking as they saw. The Metro is still being extended, out to the new suburbs that appear like China 1950s. Somehow I like the old city better- dirty but exciting and full of character. Accommodation towers of uninsulated concrete may provide more accommodation, but they have no personality, no identity in my eyes, and very little local business. These are the epitome of the modern western planning system where you don’t work where you live. Its not a recipe for a sustainable society in my view.

Auto Rickshaw in India.  Source:

The three wheeler auto rickshaws are a feature in every town. In big cities some are electric, most are on LPG and in the country towns, there is a dirty diesel machine looking like an inspiration from Mad Max (slow but well patronised)!


India produces electricity from nuclear power and coal. Blackouts are common place. Street wiring is a sight to behold (spaghetti in the sky).

I have noticed an uptake in rooftop solar in the past 3 years, but its slow. The extensive rooftop PV was observed on a Metro Station, covered in dust. This is some employment opportunity: a need to clean dust off this technology if you want its maximum power potential. India is very dusty.

India has 300million people living in extreme poverty. Many small rural villages have no power whatsoever, so encouraging children to study by oil lamp or torchlight is not so attractive (but they do it). India came back from Paris and the Climate Agreement declaring it would ramp up its power system to provide power to the poor. Admirable, but they have openly stated this will be by coal-fired power, and poles and wires. I doubt this is achievable (India has struggled to meet ambitious development targets since 1947) but the pollution outcomes and global warming from this strategy, if implemented in full could scuttle global emissions efforts. It is a reckless policy.

Recently on Renew Economy I read about a recent Indian auction for large scale power, and solar was cheaper than coal. This is despite the depressed coal price (which is a boon for keep India’s Adani out of the Galilee Basin in Queensland). Ironically the very rich Mr Adani has just announced India’s biggest solar farm. Same man, its just a smart investment.

Renewable energy is India’s potential to solve its power problems for rural villages WITHOUT poles and wires. Get on board PM Modi!

Here in the Punjab, there is an impressive push for rooftop solar with hefty subsidies by the State. Whilst still not as cheap as unsubsidised rooftop PV in Australia, with market penetration the prices will come down. Its the Rudd Government circa 2013, and it worked for Australia. The pity is the subsidies exclude commercial and industrial applications.

Environmental issues in India – Part 1

Local architect and builder, and president of BEAM Peter Lockyer has taken on a project in the Punjab of India with some challenges, the construction of a “sustainable house” over the next 3 years, at 4 months each year. This straw bale house is in a rural village and comes at the invitation of a former Seymour resident Ravish Sran.

Some early observations in India’s north-west


If we think of global issues of climate change and survival on our planet without wiping out half of the remaining bio-diversity by 2050, then population is right up there. Speaking with friends here (who have 2 children) they have real concerns at what India will look like with 1.5billion mouths in 2050 (currently 1.2billion). 2050 looks like 10billion mouths worldwide. These are educated Indians with choices saying this. Most Indians have fewer choices- its hand to mouth in a daily grind within a rigid cultural dynamic.

Man sorting plastic bottles. Photo copyright Enrico Fabian.

Man sorting plastic bottles. Photo copyright Enrico Fabian. Source link.

Waste is a serious issue

Plastic has been a massive problem around the world, but few places more so than India. It blows around the streets, it builds up with other waste along road edges and in scrubland, and it chokes river systems. Cows roaming the streets eat rubbish, plastic and all (a problem for stomachs…just like fish ). Recent moves in Delhi and Agra have added strength to anti-plastic legislation (which has been in place for a few years with no obvious effect) with a 2,000 rupee fine (about $40) if caught using plastic bags. It’s a big fine for roadside stalls (where a daily income of just $5 is common)! However, police enforcement is absent in so many areas in India (a paper tiger?). Still, I bought fruit in both Delhi and Agra and given hand-made paper bags (ex-maths book pages…nice touch). That’s impressive. Beyond those 2 cities, its plastic as usual. Nothing as progressive in Punjab, but I am optimistic.

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