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Living sustainably is easier – and cheaper – than you think. Here are a few simple ways you can decrease waste in your life, and hopefully find some other benefits along the way.
Ditch single use plastic shopping bags.
Plastic. One of humankind’s most useful, versatile and durable inventions. You’ll find it in everything from medical equipment to bicycle helmets and mobile phones. Unfortunately, even a simple plastic shopping bag is so durable that it can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfill. Supermarkets and most retail stores have started to recognise the need to shift away from traditional plastic shopping bags, so keeping a couple of reusable shopping bags handy in your car and in your bag will help you cut down on the need to purchase a heavy-duty plastic shopping bag at checkout. Cloth or net bags are ideal for fresh produce, but if you’re looking for a more economical solution, try using the brown paper mushroom bags to separate your vegetables instead of the lightweight plastic bags available in store!
Buy a reusable coffee cup – and use it!
The lids of traditional takeaway coffee cups are recyclable, the inside of the cup, however, is lined with plastic. This means that even if you put your takeaway coffee cup in the recycling bin, it will end up in landfill and take up to 30 years to break down. Luckily, there are now plenty of alternatives! A glass or hard plastic reusable coffee cup will keep your coffee hotter for longer, will save you money (plenty of cafes will offer you a discount for bringing your own cup), and will decrease the amount of plastic that goes from your hands to landfill. Make sure you keep one in your bag and at your desk – your wallet and the environment will thank you.
‘Green’ your commute.
Transport is Australia’s third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 17% of total emissions in our country. Cars are responsible for almost half of this, so if you can cut down on your time behind the wheel, you’ll save not only on petrol money and parking fees, but on your emissions too. Try catching public transport, riding a bike, or walking if you can. When you arrive at your destination, consider taking the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator – every little bit counts!
Plant an edible garden
There’s nothing better than fresh herbs and veggies. Unfortunately, most supermarket herbs come encased in plastic bags or containers, and can be pricey. Growing your own produce is an easy – and satisfying – way to save both on waste and money. If you’re limited on space, try basil, chillies, mint, or rosemary in individual, well drained pots in a sunny spot in your home. If you have more space to work with, carrots, tomatoes, beans or capsicum will thrive in larger pots or your garden bed. These plants are all low maintenance and beginner-gardener friendly, so don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
Composting has three essential ingredients – oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen, and it doesn’t need to be time consuming, expensive, or smelly. Keep a plastic container with a lid under your sink, and add all raw fruit and vegetable scraps (easy on the citrus and onion) to it. There are plenty of composting options available to suit your garden or apartment, check out this link for a few. The trick is to add a little ‘brown’– carbon – that is, paper, cardboard, newspaper dead leaves, or soil, to your ‘green’ – nitrogen – your fruit and vegetable scraps – to keep the compost balanced. Within a few weeks, you’ll have a nutrient rich fertilizer that your herbs and veggies, if you’re growing them, will love. You’ll also notice a dramatic reduction the amount of rubbish you put out for collection each week, which is fantastic. If you’re not keen to compost in your home, many farmers markets will be happy to accept your organic food scraps for their own compost, just make sure you never mix them with meat or dairy!
Is your hallway table buried under a pile of water, gas, electricity, bank and phone statements? Many providers will offer a monthly discount if you opt to receive your bill electronically. Not only will this sort out the mess, it will make your monthly outgoings that much easier to file and track. If you do want to receive your bills in the post, scan them into your phone or computer once paid and recycle or compost the paper. Your bills won’t be the only paper you can re-think in your household, consider selecting an eco-friendly brand of toilet paper made from 100% recycled post-consumer paper waste, in recycled packaging. There are a variety of budget friendly options available in your supermarket, many brands will even deliver to your home on a regular basis! Recycled toilet paper requires about 50% less energy and 90% less water to make than traditional toilet paper, plus, your sustainable choice will save thousands of trees from being logged each year – good for you!
At the end of the day, living more sustainably doesn’t need to be about grand gestures, it’s about the small, conscious choices you make in your day-to-day life that add up to make a big difference.