Nature used to appear boundless but at the rate the human population is growing and the resources we are using up we are heading towards a point where human harvesting of the earth is going to exceed its capacity to regenerate. Scary stuff huh! Add to that the effects of climate change, whether you believe it or not doesn’t really matter, overall it is just better for you and better for your environment around you to make the effort to live sustainably. With the solution being to have a protective attitude towards our environment and to focus on sustainable living, I decided that saving the planet is not a spectator sport and that I want to be involved. It may only be a small effort but imagine if we all made a small effort towards sustainable living.
Now that we know that sustainable living is the goal, we need to think about how we can actually put that into practice in our everyday lives. Today I am sharing some of the small things that I am doing to try and tread lightly and leave no footprints.
I could get all technical and down to the nitty gritty and say that less rubbish means less plastic bin liners, less garbage trucks, less land fill … but it all seems fairly obvious. Target your efforts on zero waste by following the popular adage of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Here is a shocking statistic, the average Australian family produces about 900kg of waste a year and this is increasing! About 40% of this is food and garden waste that you could be composting and mulching yourself and putting back into your own garden. We have our own compost bin and have bought a Green Waste bin from our local council so that any garden waste that we cannot compost gets reused elsewhere around the city. This home compost is so great for the garden, meaning our plants are healthier and as a bonus we save money on buying expensive fancy compost. If you really don’t like the idea of compost maybe one of your neighbours do and will happily accept your scraps.
In addition to this you should try to limit your food wastage by buying less, meal planning and I have long advocated using a dehydrator for all your ‘leftover’ produce at the end of the week. Australians are throwing away about $1000 a year in food wastage. I can think of better things to be spending that money on, can’t you?
You can also cut back on single use and disposable products and choose alternatives. Simple examples of this include making sure the kids (and you!) have a plastic free lunch box, use refillable water bottles, don’t use plastic bags at the supermarket, take your own coffee cup, the list is endless, can you add to it?
As we settle in to our new house we are finding that we are making an effort to fix things instead of replacing them. When we do need something or have a new project we are trying to focus on up-cycling whenever we can. So we are trying to avoid shopping and instead opt for swapping, borrowing and recycling used goods.
We were lucky enough to raid my grandfathers shed for a few things; we found a local recycled building materials site; we have been collecting pallets for free (try the back of Masters and Bunnings for a regular source) and heading to op-shops for some things. Call it hipster vintage and it all seems so cool and very ‘on trend’. There is a huge environmental saving in doing this but more than that there is a money saving too!
Try to not only take, but give back too. Donate your unwanted things to charity or friends, you can join a free-cycle community or just leave it on the footpath for passers by to snatch up. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure as they say and it all helps create a sustainable living pattern.
This is an easy one and I would be surprised if you aren’t doing it already to some extent. In our house recycling is often the long way around via the reuse point I made above – either up-cycling or re-purposing the rubbish and more often than not it all goes via inspection of my girls so they can assess the craft possibilities. I’m talking tissue box carriages, toilet roll dolls and cereal box castles here. Recycling is probably one of the easiest things to do and can start off as simply drawing on both sides of the paper, and using scraps like envelopes from your mail to write grocery lists (unless of course you have opted for emails to save on paper) before popping it all in the recycling bin. Extend the life of your waste and squeeze every last little bit of practicality out of it before you recycle it. The important thing with recycling is to do it right or it simply doesn’t count.
You can also try and buy recycled products as much as possible. The availability and widespread use of these are making it much easier to make smart choices.
We are aiming towards renewable energy and have plans to install solar panels on our roof, in the meantime while we save for this project, we are being as energy efficient as practically possible. In the age of technology this can be difficult but we try to make sure that appliances and gadgets are switched off when not in use and that they are used on energy saving mode when possible. When you buy new gadgets, especially white goods make sure you get something with a high energy efficiency rating.
Heating and cooling your house to a comfortable level uses a lot of energy but there are plenty of things you can do to heat and cool your home in an energy efficient way. We made sure we have no drafts, all of the windows have coverings inside and out, the house is insulated (our last rental wasn’t and it made a HUGE difference!), we wear jumpers and blankets if it is a little cold instead of automatically putting the heater on, similarly we will cool off with an ice block before the air con is turned on; you can even adjust your landscaping around your house to provide protection and shade when and where it is needed with a little careful planning on what you plant.
Then it is simple things like choosing the right light globes and switching off lights when you don’t need them, use the economy cycle on your dishwasher and washing machine, check your fridge temperature settings, use a clothesline instead of a dryer, again the list goes on, what can you add to it?
Not only is it a big tick for sustainable living but you watch how your electricity bill goes down when you make a conscious effort to be energy efficient.
Green Living Space
Most people have heard of Permaculture by now but what I didn’t know was that it was actually coined by a couple of Aussie blokes!! For the uninitiated, the principle behind it is to establish a stable, long-lived artificial eco-system containing a diversity of useful plants and animals. Each component contributes to the well being of others resulting in a self sustaining system with low maintenance. It is also referred to as Urban Agriculture, where we are encouraged to ruralise the suburban landscape by adding a veggie patch to your backyard and maybe even some chickens. I think this is an awesome idea, it is fun, you learn something new, you get outside, you grow something edible, it’s cheaper than buying it and it’s better for the environment. There really isn’t any downside to it. So we have built a veggie patch and have a few other pots and spots around the yard that are growing produce. We also have some chooks on the way to our house and we are in the process of setting up their home (yay! So excited about this!).
You can start small with this and just have a couple of pots or go big with a full garden but my tip is to make it a feature and put it somewhere prominent so that you are more likely to look after it, have easy access to it and keep it up rather than set and forget.
Reduce Water Usage
On my wish list is to install a water tank for rainwater collection because a huge percentage of household water use is in the garden. We are trying to ensure that the plants we have in our garden are self sufficient and can survive on rainfall but sometimes they need a boost, especially the produce and also while the plants are establishing themselves. In addition to this it is about being smart with your water use in the house, such as having shorter showers, using water efficient fittings, fixing leaks, and using a bucket to wash the car.
I’m going to sneak a little extra point in here about food sustainability. There is a significant impact on the environment in the production of food, the transport, the storage and such so if you want to make a positive difference just by what you eat, this is how you can do it. Try to be a locavore, the best way to do this is to shop at your local farmers markets instead of the supermarket for your fruit and veg. You can even buy your eggs and bread here too. As mentioned above you can grow your own food. A simple one is to simply eat less, a lot of people actually eat far too much. If this is too hard, try to at least limit your processed food. Buy from companies that are open about their production and are actively trying to reduce their environmental impact, and are fairtrade. After all that, compost the waste that you can.
Part of green living is keeping your direct environment, well, green. I try to use eco-friendly cleaners where I can around the home. I have a great natural probiotic cleaner, a couple of homemade ones, use microfibre cloths and good old elbow grease! I do occasionally use chemicals but not too often.
What will you do?
So that is my take on sustainable living and how we can make a collective difference by creating less waste through reduce, reuse, recycle; being energy efficient and creating a green living space through permaculture, reducing water usage, thinking about food sustainability and using eco-friendly cleaners.
This is something that I have become passionate about. I’m not an eco-warrior, a hippy or unrealistic about my expectations of how far I can take this. But I do think that it is important to try and be sustainable, to tread lightly, to give back as much as we take and to teach our children from an early age that they shouldn’t take things for granted and that they should be kind and gentle on the environment. In my journey to becoming more eco-friendly I have found that it is often the cheaper option and that you can save a lot of money by making sustainable choices and in my book that is always a good thing. All in all, doing these things makes me happy in so many different ways. So, in light of my new passion you can be sure that you will be seeing more posts on this site about sustainable living. As a sneak peak I have a few things coming up soon on reducing food wastage, how to recycle properly, everything on our Veggie Patch and maybe even how you can do some easy eco-friendly cleaning. Is there anything you might like to know more about in relation to sustainable living that I can share with you?
I want to encourage you to do something small, to make a change in your day to day life that will help create a sustainable difference. You are probably already doing some of this but we could all most likely do something more. Make yourself accountable and tell us, what will your change be?Love it. Follow me. . .