Living on our beautiful planet is so complicated. Our clever human brains have created so many amazing things, but the consumer-based society we have created, means that our lifestyle (and our greed) is destroying our home. People are starting to wake-up to this though, and we are excitingly seeing the next generation standing up and saying ‘enough now’ – they are demanding more, demanding better. Whether their words make a difference is yet to be seen, but there are changes happening and there is good news amongst the chaos. For example, about four years after the worst mass bleaching event in Hawaii, scientists have reported that the state’s coral reefs are finally stabilizing. Perhaps that is also good news for our Great Barrier Reef, if we can stop the damage soon. Solar farms are not just addressing the need for renewable energy, but also becoming a source for food and habitat for dwindling pollinator populations. The recent ABC programme about bee-keepers gives hope that bees are actually creating amazing populations and honey, within cities. And our beautiful native bees, could be the answer too. From international governments, corporations and individuals like you and I, getting rid of single-use plastics, to the world moving towards renewable energy, 2018 was a year filled with heartening initiatives to save our plant.
There are many steps you can take to live a more gentle life. It is easy to think it is just about your waste, and then become incredibly stressed if you can not become zero-waste. It is easy to think it is just about cars and become incredibly stressed every time you fill up with petrol. It is easy to think it is just about coal and become anxious when you can not afford solar. It is easy to become devastated by the fact that some governments and corporations are not making the changes needed, and forget that there are those who are. The thing is, it is not about doing everything. It is about doing something. And then doing something more. And then doing something more. Be consistent and keep learning, keep changing.
Despite wanting to be, we are not a zero-waste home. We always take our own water bottles and reusable cups. We refuse plastic bags and have produce and shopping bags of our own. We still produce some waste, including the life saving plastics that are part of my insulin pump consumables and blood glucose testing strips. There is no choice for me on those things. There is no bulk store within a reasonable distance from where we live. There are 2 that are about an hour and a half round trip. This is not suitable for me during my busy week. I also have many food restrictions, meaning I have to buy particuar packaged foods. I have other medical conditions that mean package free shampoo is not an option. So, we still buy some packaged foods and other items for our daily lives, but, each week we put out a very minimal amount of rubbish to the landfill bin. Most of our waste goes to either the recycling bin, the RedCycle bins, our own compost bins, or the green waste bin for the council collection. We also keep glass jars and reuse them ourselves for storage needs in the kitchen and bathroom.
I look for glass packaging, or paper/cardboard. I aim to reduce our waste in all of the areas that are possible for us, rather than feeling bad about the ones that we can’t. This helps in lowering your eco-anxiety. We do have solar power and a battery, which we took out a loan to install. We have rain-water plumbed onto the main areas of the house. We grow some fruit and a few herbs and vegetables each season. We refuse to buy overseas foods. The majority of our household items and clothing are vintage or locally made. We do not go shopping at the mall as a family outing. We aim to refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, reinvent, repair and rot, as far as possible. We can’t do it all, but we do as much as we can, at this point in time.
It can help to break it down into areas of your life, consider what is possible right now, prioritise these things, and work on them, one step at a time.
Here are 7 ways you can make a difference to our planet
1)Refuse single use plastics
This is now well-known and becoming easier and easier. For the things you do buy packaged, look for glass and carboard packaging where you can. You can now buy a multitude of reusable bags for your shopping and produce, or make your own. It is easy to take your own water bottle – the options are endless. As are choices for reusable coffee cups, straws, cutlery and so on. I am even now using a reusable glass dental floss bottle with silk floss that can be composted, and there is a vegan option and we have (mostly) compostable toothbrushes. There are so many ways to reduce your reliance on single-use plastic.
2)Buy, accept or find, secondhand and vintage homewares, furniture and clothing; And give your unwanted items back to these places for someone else to use
Using something that already exists and that will head to landfill if you do not make use of it, is an enormous help to our planet. This includes vintage clothing, furniture, homewares, toys, books and more. Visit op-shops and secondhand stores. Scour ebay, gumtree and swap sites on Facebook. Let your friends know you are happy to take their unwanted items, or to swap with them. Do not drive by roadside rubbish – there might be something you can use. Don’t just collect things for the sake of it though, or you will end up with a pile of junk you toss into landfill eventually. Consider the use you have for the item first. We recently stopped a beautiful, rustic 1940’s plant stand, 3 brand new, handwoven storage baskets with lids, and a couple of other cane baskets, from going to landfill. They were in the hard-rubbish along with a perfectly good dining table we sadly did not have a use for, which could have gone to the op-shop.
3)Use earth friendly cleaning products
Look for, or make your own, earth friendly cleaning products for your personal needs and your cleaning at home. There are lots of options in the supermarkets and specialty eco-stores, for earth friendly detergents, cleaning products, dishwashing, soaps and shampoos. There is no need to be using products with palm oil or toxic chemicals. There is no need for a different product for every area of the house. Bi-carb is an amazing cleaner and the eco-friendly pre-made cleaning products do a fine job too.
4)Mend things where possible
I remember my grandparents mending everything. In just a couple of generations we have become a throw-away society. In just 1 generation we can become a mending society again. Buying good quality items to start with is the first step. Poorly made clothing, furniture and homewares, break easily and go to landfill. They also often mean unfair work practices have been used in making the items. If you can afford to buy well-made, locally-made items, then do so. When something is broken you can try to either mend it yourself, or ask someone to do that for you. If it is electrical or otherwise complicated, you will need an expert. There are some repair cafes who will do this for you – we have a couple listed on the Sustainable Directory, or you can do an online search. Often people you know might have the skills to mend many things, or you can learn yourself.
5)Consider and conserve your energy use
This includes your driving habits and use of resources such as water and electricity. If you are able to change to a battery powered or hybrid car, this is a good step. If not, try to rely less on the car and use car-pooling, public transport, walking and bike riding. If you can add solar panels and a battery to your home you will see enormous benefits to your pocket over time, as well as the environment. We have dropped our bills by 70% so it will only be a couple of years until we are making money. Make sure you are careful with your water use and check for drips and leaks. Install a rain-water tank and use water carefully and consciously.
6)Reduce your food waste
Food-waste is an enormous issue. The methane gas produced from green-waste rotting in landfills is even more damaging than co2. Beside that fact that while you toss food into the bin, someone else is starving. OzHarvest say that there is enough food produced in the world to feed everyone. One third of all food produced is lost or wasted –around 1.3 billion tonnes of food –costing the global economy close to $940 billion each year. And one in nine people do not have enough food to eat, that’s 793 million people who are undernourished.
Some tips to reduce your food waste include:
- Shop from a list and plan your meals before you go
- Keep left-overs and freeze them or make a second meal the next day
- Compost your scraps and put them in the council green-bin
- Grow some of your own food
- Go to local fruit and vegetable shops and farmer’s markets
- Eat in season foods
- Learn how to preserve fruits and vegetables, and make your own jams and chutneys, or give your excess produce to other people who might do this for you.
7)Be conscious, be connected and stay informed
If you close your eyes and live a selfish life, one that just considers how you feel at the moment, your needs, and the short-term benefits you can gain from something, then you will most likely be making decisions that damage our planet. Ultimately you are damaging all of our futures and our children’s futures. If you are aware of the ever-changing issues and the solutions available, then you can take the steps that make a difference. You can sleep soundly in the knowledge that you are doing your best under the circumstances. Some things that I have found useful include reading widely (fiction and non-fiction), listening to music, walking in nature, surrounding yourself with like-minded people, doing something for other people, and for the creatures of our world. Look up, look out and see nature, see our planet – see how remarkable she is, how much we have to lose, and, how much we have to gain.