While it may seem like a lofty goal, sustainable living is about making conscious choices to reduce our impact on the environment. Here we explore five ways to walk “softly upon the earth, giving what you can and only taking what you need.”
1. Buy local and grow your own
Research shows that the average meal travels 70,000Km from the supplier to your door*. If you consider this in terms of transport emissions and the impact of production such as the machinery, water, electricity and fuel used to clean, sort and pack your produce, then it stands to reason that buying local is a great first step towards living sustainably.
One of the easiest ways to complement buying locally, reduce your household grocery bill and your impact on the environment, is to start a homegrown veggie garden. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as picking your own, and it comes with a few extra benefits:
- You can use food waste from your kitchen as compost for your veggie patch
- You only need to pick what you need, reducing on wastage
- You won’t need to transport the produce any further than your garden, reducing the need for bags and packaging
- You can pickle, ferment, dry and freeze any food you can’t use, saving it for colder months
- You’ll know exactly what you’re eating and how it’s grown
Sometimes it’s the smallest changes that make the biggest impact. By assessing how much energy you use, you can make a choice to reduce your daily usage. The easiest way to do this is to look back on your previous electricity, water and gas bills.
Make sure you turn lights off when you leave a room and unplug from the wall. Standby power accounts for nearly 6% of Australian household energy usage, meaning you’re using power even when you think you aren’t. For more information on how to reduce your usage, check out our energy efficiency tips.
In the middle months, opt for jumpers and throw blankets rather than turning on gas ducted heating or heaters. Make sure your doors and windows are well sealed to prevent draughts.
It’s also worthwhile getting your hot water system serviced to ensure it’s not leaking as this will impact on gas used to heat your water. You might want to investigate whether your retailer offers Green Gas, which allows you to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gas emissions from your natural gas use through an independently audited Carbon Reduction Scheme.
The wisest way to use water is to run your household on rainwater tanks, but if that’s not possible, the next best thing is to make sure you keep showers to 5 minutes and be water-wise wherever possible.
Make sure you have full loads for both your dishwasher and washing machine before using and try to use tank water for watering your garden.
If you want to go one step further, consider installing solar power for your home, or even just solar hot water systems.
3. Reuse, fix or donate
Look for items that have reduced packaging and can be reused rather than disposed. Simple things can make a big difference, like bringing a coffee cup into work rather than using paper/plastic cups or using reusable lunch containers instead of using plastic wrap.
If you have items that are gathering dust in a closet, think about what you can reuse, fix or donate.
4. Swap your products for Green
If you take a quick inventory of your house and household cleaning products, you might be surprised to find a large number of caustic chemicals that can be detrimental to the health of our waterways. Typical household chemicals such as bleach and ammonia are considered bad for the environment, however, as they are basic products, they tend to break down quite easily. Lesser known items such as microbeads (found in face creams and washes) have the ability to adhere to surfaces and build up, causing issues down the track.
Some other items to keep an eye out for are triclosan (found in antibacterial washes), Permethrin and bifenthrin, found in pesticides (such as insect spray) and herbicides (such as weed killer) as they can build up in the environment and have a detrimental effect on flora and fauna.
By slowly replacing products such as kitchen cleaners, toilet cleaners, soaps, shampoos and conditioners with environmentally friendly products, we can make a small but impactful shift to sustainability. You can also check out how to make your own!
5. Share your ride
The average combined CO2 emissions for a new light vehicle is 188 grams per kilometre. With more people on the road than ever before, it’s a good time to think about carpooling, ditching the car for public transport or if you’re close enough, walking or riding your bike. Even better, try working remotely and save on travel time altogether!