ONE button. A single shard of plastic, that had escaped the wrestling match that is a sewing needle and thread, was all that was missing from Colin Hannigan’s shirt on Saturday. But for Lifeline’s Queensland Business Development Manager, it was the difference between this item of clothing being discarded, and it ending up on Colin’s back. The shirt itself was freshly pressed, Colin’s eyes creased in the corners like someone who has seen it all in his job, but can still crack a smile. Think giving someone the shirt off your back isn’t worthwhile? Think again. In Queensland alone, the clothes you donate result in a staggering $45 million a year in revenue for Lifeline, which uses the money to fund critical services such as its phone support services.
It was an unexpected and delightful development when Hannigan took to the stage at Brisbane’s Eco Expo at the weekend. He was there for Lifeline’s $2 clothing sale where 40,000 items were on sale for the price of a gold coin. But a last-minute cancellation saw him on the stage to speak. I nearly didn’t stay for his talk, so intent was I on hearing the person who no longer could make it. Funny that. How life works out. But I decided to give Hannigan five minutes. And from the moment he started speaking, I was hooked on the power of the clothes we wear, and more importantly, toss away like old relationships. And the ripples those seemingly simple actions have around the world.
Lifeline Queensland has 138 stores from South Tweed north to Mossman and as far west as Mount Isa. There’s nearly 1000 donation bins in the state. The top 10 per cent quality of these donations end up in Queensland stores. The next level, are sent to islands such as Papua New Guinea and the Solomons in the South Pacific. But here’s where it gets even more interesting. Australia has a free trade agreement into Dubai for its second-hand clothing where our donated clothes are combined with those from America and Europe and sent into places like Afghanistan for people such as refugees. At the end of the scale, there’s a commercial ragging business to transform tatty clothes into industrial rags. Only the bottom 10 per cent of donated clothes end up in landfill.
And that $45 million Lifeline Queensland makes? It funds their critical support line 13 11 14 which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to assist people in crisis such as those contemplating suicide. It’s not cheap running a service like this. Each phone call costs the service $39 to answer once training, support and office space is taken into account. Hannigan says they are currently able to answer about 80 per cent of those calls. In an ideal world, they would answer 100 per cent and Hannigan is working on that, thinking of new ways to turn old items into gold.
“All of a sudden we had all of these donations of pillow cases. We sent them into the Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre and the women put straps on them and turned them into goodie bags,” Hannigan says.
“We sell these for $5 and we can’t keep up with demand. They are a really good example of how we are trying to avoid landfill. It is our last resort.
“Our waste bill is huge and if we could get rid of that cost we would be able to fund that 20 per cent gap of phone calls we can’t take.”
Hannigan says another issue is the ease at which Australians discard their clothes, citing the “Instagram generation” as one of the major perpetrators of such waste.
“Once they’ve had their photo taken on Instagram they can’t wear that item again. If we can get everyone under the age of 21 to wear everything twice…learn to accessorise,” he says.
“All of this is impacting on fast fashion. If we can take away this fuel, fast fashion will dissolve.”
Hannigan says the best way to donate is face-to-face in the store, the second is via a collection service and then there’s the Lifeline bins.
“It is fun shopping at Lifeline shops and digging through one of our sales. We see girls coming to our sales and they leave with between $2000 and $3000 worth of clothing with change out of a $100 note. We see refugees come in with an empty doona cover and they leave with it full of clothing for five families.
“We’ve done the research and one item of clothing passes through 38 hands by the time it leaves your hands, goes to the driver, the sorter, the packer and the store. And we employ 70 full-time people.
“Someone giving us a bag of clothing is the same as giving us a $50 bill, we really do appreciate it.”
Hannigan’s words resonate with me on this warm spring day where I’m wearing a light cotton summer frock I’ve bought in Bali from a local designer, hopefully injecting cash directly back into the Indonesian economy. I’m pleased to say I’ve worn it many more times than once. But I’m also becoming more and more aware of my footprint on the planet. Later that day, in a seminar about the burgeoning Tiny House movement at the Eco Expo, I learn that 1 billion people around the world live in slums. That’s 1 in 8 people on this planet. In a world where there are more than enough resources, it makes me want to weep.
Give someone the shirt off your back, it may just save a life.
To make clothing and furniture donations in Brisbane, you can call Lifeline on 36 32 10 10. Lifeline is opening a new retro clothing store in Stones Corner in two weeks.
If you need help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
The Global Goddess funded her own ticket to the Brisbane Eco Expo and went with her fellow eco warrior No Impact Girl pictured below.
FOR one week every year, one magical week between Christmas and New Year, in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland behind the tiny township of Woodford, exists the People’s Republic of Woodford. The Woodford Festival. If you’re looking for an antidote to a frenetic year, a chance to recharge your batteries, to find a destination that for one week only represents the way the world should be, head to “Woodfordia” where reality is suspended, if only for the briefest of times.
On this beautiful 200 hectare environmental parkland, which has withstood the scourge of floods and scorching summers, people are nicer to each other, they dance, laugh and sing. Talk to complete strangers. Engage in debates about the universe, global warming, coal seam gas, fracking, and euthanasia. Dance under huge tents, play the bongos, dine on exotic cuisine, strum guitars, learn how to paint, draw and craft things. They hug trees, hug each other. Trek to the top of the hill and honour the last sunset of the year and the first sunrise of the next. Sit under the Southern Cross and in a huge bush ampitheatre indulge in that unmistakable Australian sound emanating from new bands. Discover foreign groups. Honour the Indigenous custodians of the land in Jinibara Country on which they sit. Chat around the campsite.
If the Woodford Folk Festival isn’t Utopia, then it’s about as close to Nirvana as you will find. What other place on the planet do you line up to fill your recycled bottle with rainwater to discover the person in front has already paid for it? This is a destination where paying it forward looms large. Egos are suspended. Bonhomie reigns. The Global Goddess has been attending Woodford for about a decade, at first apprehensive that it was a bit of a hippie festival with which she would have no connection. Back in the early days I didn’t camp but drove home to Brisbane every night to the comfort of a warm shower and a soft bed. As the years wore on, I started out in a basic tent pitched in the campsite of my friends. I slept like the dead, to the sounds of distant beating drums. I awoke each morning to the cacophony of the Aussie bush.
These days, we’ve upgraded, our site becoming more sophisticated as we sleep in a campervan, our friends in a Kombi, a tarp strung between the two, mapping out our home for the week. There’s Moet in the esky and aged cheese and strawberries in the fridge. We eat fancy pancakes for breakfast. Brew real coffee. And sit down and pour over the program and plan the day ahead. This year’s program, just released late last week, promises to be a corker. Highlights of this year’s festival include singers Beth Orton, Tim Finn and Clare Bowditch; Environmentalist Professor Ian Lowe; former politician Bob Hawke and, yet-to-be-confirmed Malcolm Turnbull; comedian Denise Scott; writer Blanch D’Alpuget.
And there’s some acts always worth revisiting among the diverse performance venues on the site. The Global Goddess likes to spend her time in the Blue Lotus tent listening to talks on spirituality. Sometimes I sit on the hill and watch stunning Spaniards introduce me to fast and frenetic music with a tinge of Hawaii Five’O. Other days, it’s in Bills Bar you’ll find me, people watching as much as music listening, having a cold beer before heading down the hill to the Blues Tent. A couple of belly laughs in the Comedy Tent is also a nice way to end the evening and as I stumble back to camp to the glow of paper lanterns, I’m likely to stop several times, for a tea and a carob ball in the Chai Tent, a cold drink in the Pineapple Lounge, a bit of jazz, a circus act, some Indian or Tibetan music along the way.
Last year’s festival saw 2,200 artists and musicians perform across 25 venues to an audience of 113,000 people over that wonderful week. A steady program of tree planting over the years, in which attendees can “adopt” a tree, has resulted in the 101,000th tree planted in Woodfordia soil this year. Some years there’s dust. Others, it rains and there’s mud. Bring your gum boots. Embrace nature and creativity. Random acts of music. Robust acts of kindness. That’s my idea of Utopia. What’s yours?
For more information on the Woodford Festival please visit http://www.woodfordfolkfestival.com
INSPIRED by a friend and fellow travel writer’s blog – No Impact Girl – in which Lou Southerden is trying to reduce her impact on the planet, I’ve decided to devote a blog to environmentally friendly ways to find men.
Here are my Top 10 suggestions:
1. Hide in the recycling bin and wait until Tuesday morning, around 5am, when the garbo comes around. While waiting, and if you’ve been sorting through your rubbish properly, you’ll have plenty of newspapers to read to keep you company and very few cabbage leaves attached to your head. When your hear the roar of the truck, jump up like a jack-in-the-box and say “surprise”. Don’t forget to accept the compliment when the garbo points out you are not trash.
2. Go to an airport. But don’t fly. Anywhere. Flying = bad carbon pollution. Sitting on one’s bum = moderate visual pollution. Spend the entire day in the departure lounge with your recycled water and banana (the skin will later become compost) and strike up conversations with handsome strangers looking like they are going somewhere interesting. Try not to look disappointed when he says he has to rush to catch the red eye to Bangkok. You know there is no red eye to Bangkok.
3. Visit your local library. Among all those recycled books which have been read by hundreds before you, you’re bound to find someone lurking between the shelves. So what if he’s 90 and thumbing through the 1970s Playboy collection? At least he can read. Unless he’s 90 and hanging around the children’s books. Move on. Fast. And call the police.
4. A nudist/eco retreat. What could go wrong? There can be no lies, no subterfuge, just let your body do the talking. If he’s a hard-core Greenie, you don’t even have to wax! There will be no surprises when you get your man home, you already know how his extremities cope with cold water.
5. The beach. Take a frisbee (made out of bamboo, rather than plastic) and start throwing it. Men seem to love playing frisbee at the beach. Once they realise you have no one to throw it back to you, they’re bound to join you. Unless a mangy dog gets there first in which case try to act cool and pretend the dog is yours.
6. Walk. Everywhere. Doesn’t matter how far you have to walk, just keep walking. Afterall, you’re not going to meet anyone sitting inside the confines of your air-con car singing Celine Dion now, are you? If you can’t walk, cycling is also a great option, however I fear whizzing past someone at speed is not conducive to snappy pick-up lines. Go back to walking.
7. Funerals. Not your own. Not even someone you know. Complete strangers. What could be more environmentally friendly than watching someone go back from whence they came? Don’t pick a cremation. All that smoke ash cannot be good for the environment. Because you are not emotionally involved with the deceased, you’ll be in a much better position than any other single woman at the funeral to make your move on any vulnerable men. And who on earth is going to question your attendance at a funeral?
8. An environmental rally. Nothing screams sexy more than angry protestors. Imagine the testosterone. You may have to wait for your knight in shining hemp to be released on bail should he be arrested, but he’ll be worth the wait. He loves the planet and all her foibles. Imagine how much he will love you.
9. The Great Southern Ocean. If you can hang in there with the whales, eventually a group of hunky eco warriors will come down and save you all from the evil spear guns of the Japanese whalers. Don’t, whatever you do, wear a black wet suit. It might, however, get a little chilly. Take a cardigan.
10. Not on the computer. Who ever met someone on the computer? How many trees and brain cells are we killing sitting on these things for hours on end? Get out there. Hug a tree. You never know who might be hugging the other side. OK, so he’s a deranged escaped mental health patient. Go to the next tree.
While The Global Goddess may have her tongue planted firmly in her cheek about environmentally-friendly ways to find a fella, she takes the issue of the planet, and what we’re doing to it, seriously. We need to learn to love Mother Earth. Check out No Impact Girl at www.noimpactgirl.blogspot.com for some serious ways to do your bit.