Apr 10, 2024

Wings of Change: The aged care inventor saving the environment

Brian and his butterflies. Image Source [Resthaven Incorporated]

Resthaven Mitcham resident, Mr Brian Measday (85), is many things; an inventor, a retired Chartered Accountant, a butterfly breeder, a life member of TREENET, and one of the most published ‘Letters to the Editor’ writers in South Australia.

Each of these interests (apart from accounting, but more on that later) has its roots in the environment. It’s an area that Brian is passionate about and is keen to share with others.

‘I’ve always been an environmentalist,’ Brian says. ‘For me, being involved in the environment is a consuming interest.’

About the time Brian was retiring as a chartered accountant at age 60, a client of his, David Lawry, co-founded TREENET, Australia’s urban forest and related educational network, and asked Brian to be involved.

‘I came on board as their treasurer,’ Brian says.

Brian was instrumental in helping TREENET to navigate the challenges of legal processes – ultimately helping to ensure TREENET’s long-term, financial independence. Saving our precious water

Around the same time as his retirement plans were in place, Brian and his wife Helen were watering their garden on their sloping block at Torrens Park. As he held the hose, Brian became frustrated that so much of the water that was needed for their newly planted trees and shrubs was simply running off the property.

He had also been similarly frustrated by blackbirds scratching up the mulch that had been carefully placed around the trunks.

Brian thought about these problems and came up with a solution that not only solved them, but also dealt with many other issues associated with the establishment of newly planted trees and shrubs.

Brian’s invention, the Greenwell, is a product that is designed to be placed around the base of newly planted trees and shrubs. It has a patented zip join that ensures the product can be installed and removed easily around the tree while remaining watertight when in use.

It keeps the mulch in place and also guards against damage caused by whipper snippers. The Greenwell prototype was picked up by Bunnings and has been a success ever since.

‘The thing that pleases me the most is the product’s ability to save so much of our precious water,’ Brian says. ‘Councils are now a major customer, and the product is now also sold around the world in New Zealand, Europe, Canada and the United States.’

The product was also a finalist in many awards around the world, including the international Save Water Awards in 2010 and was a winner of a prestigious Green Thumb Award in the United States.

Brian sold his interest in the product in 2018.

‘The Greenwell years were the best years of my life,’ Brian says. ‘It was such fun. I enjoyed it immensely, and particularly as climate change has become a reality, it is wonderful to give everyone the chance to greatly improve the survival rate of newly planted trees in so many countries.’

The butterfly effect

Moving into Resthaven Mitcham in September 2023, Brian brought delight to other residents this year when he released monarch butterflies into the residential care home’s communal gardens.

‘Monarch butterflies are in quite serious trouble,’ Brian says. ‘Their habitat is being removed and human-induced climate change has not been kind to them. They are often killed by cars, affected by pesticides, and European wasps are a major predator. Unless the trend changes, there won’t be many butterflies left in the world.’

Doing his part to reverse this trend, Brian, and his grand-daughter Ruby, 15, assist the butterflies with their lifecycle by protecting the eggs before they hatch, feeding the caterpillars as they grow, and then releasing the butterflies when they emerge from the chrysalis.

‘I took up butterfly breeding as a hobby around eight years ago,’ Brian says. ‘Butterflies are lovely to look at, as well as being important for the pollination of trees etc to help us maintain our biodiversity.’

Each year, he and Ruby release around 200-300 monarch butterflies. They each live for around 12 months, going into hibernation during the cooler months, and then emerging in around September/October when they begin to lay their eggs until about May the following year.

‘This year was a bit later, and we didn’t see them until just before Christmas,’ Brian says. ‘I encourage anyone who wants to help the butterflies to plant milkweed plants in their garden.’

Writing for change Brian is also a part of a climate change group, where he and others send in letters to the editors of a range of newspapers around Australia. He has been doing this for the past six years.

‘I don’t think it has an enormous impact,’ Brian says. ‘But over time it can make a small difference, and it’s all about lobbying for change. I write three letters each week, and these are sent to around 55 newspapers. I have had many thousands published. It’s something I look forward to every day.’

Brian is the first to admit that accountants are not always known for their environmental credentials, but he is certainly one to buck this trend.

‘I enjoyed my career in accounting, but it was a bit of a relief to wake up at 61 and be able to focus on something else,’ Brian says. ‘I always wanted to be involved in the environment, and Greenwell, TREENET and the butterflies have given me the opportunity.’

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