Over the past 12 months, there has been quite the shake up in society. With bushfires, politics and of course the pandemic occupying the news. Although we are all in a similar boat with these external influences, it’s not all doom and gloom, especially when it comes to our environment.
We have seen smoggy skies clearing up in major cities, wildlife returning to clean waterways and far less trash in the streets. These examples highlight the impact we have on the world around us.
Sustainability and making eco-friendly lifestyle choices is not only very important for the planet, but it can also save us money on our everyday household bills. Some of these tips may seem like a no brainer, yet we thought a friendly reminder is exactly what we need when it comes to doing our part for the planet.
Save your leftovers
We can reduce our grocery bills by finding out how to avoid food waste. This is one of our favourites! So many meals taste much better the next day anyway.
The average Australian household throws out approximately $2,000 worth of food each year. Food thrown into your garbage bin ends up in landfill and breaks down in a way that creates those nasty greenhouse gasses, not to mention the resources consumed creating the food in the first place.
We can cut down on this waste by not buying our fruit, veg, dairy and meat in bulk. Too many times we have lost old bananas and tomatoes to the dingy depths of the crisper. But, if we buy these items sparingly, we are far less likely to lose these nutritious treats to food waste.
Other food waste tips include planning your meals before you go grocery shopping, storing food appropriately, keeping a clutter free fridge so you can see what you’ve got on offer , eating the skin on vegetables (sweet potato for example!) and making homemade stocks with any vegetable offcuts.
Invest in reusable coffee cups and drink bottles
The rise in the use of plastics over the last 50 years has created many ecological problems, in the form of plastic waste collecting in our rivers and oceans, and leaking toxins into the water we consume.
Aside from environmental benefits, reusable water bottles have many other advantages over disposable ones. For example, using a reusable water bottle is cheaper than constantly buying water bottles. Beverages are very expensive to buy when you’re out, but if you’ve brought your own, that’s more money in your pocket!
Now let’s talk about our daily hot cup of brown. It’s reported that Australians consume more than 50,000 cups of coffee every half hour, and an estimated 3 billion takeaway hot drink cups every year.
These cups, which are made from virgin materials rather than recycled paper, cannot be put in your kerbside or workplace recycling bins. It’s an easy switch when you invest in your very own keep cup. Even some forward thinking local cafés offer a discount when you bring your own along. As we know lots of cafes aren’t accepting keep cups at the moment for the hygiene risks. So why not have your next coffee at the café instead and save a throwaway cup.
Switch imported for Australian made
We all know that buying home-grown produce is great for our local economy, but is also great for the environment too.
Although most of us true blue Aussies are patriots and identify with buying Australian made products, this sentiment doesn’t translate in sales at the store. Especially with manufacturers and supermarkets not making it any easier for consumers to find Australian made products in the first place.
When we buy imported goods, more of the pollution causing climate change is produced because of the distance those goods need to travel. Buying Australian made where possible, means fewer miles travelled by the food, so less climate harming pollution.
Change your energy use
Buying energy-saving appliances and changing to LED lighting are important steps towards reducing your household emissions. But there are also a couple of simple things you can do with your existing appliances.
No-one wants to be too hot or cold at home, but would you notice if the temperature setting on your air conditioner was changed by just one degree?
Probably not, but that one-degree difference cuts your air conditioner’s energy use by about 10 per cent. So dial it up a degree in summer, down a degree in winter.
Based on the figures for an average air conditioner in Australia, being used for six hours a day for 180 days a year, you could save over 200kg of CO2 a year. And if all households in Australia made the same change it would be equivalent to a 5 per cent reduction in household electricity emissions.
Another easy win around the house is turning off a second fridge, as they’re often older models that aren’t as energy efficient as today’s fridges. A typical 15-year-old fridge releases about 400kg of CO2 per year — and that’s what you could save if you got rid of it, or switched if off when not in use.
Bring your own Bags
This is an awesome trend we’ve seen take off in Australia over the last few years. Most of us always keep a few reusable bags in the boot, yet there is still more we can do to reduce the harmful effects of plastic.
Australians use around 10 million plastic bags every day, contributing to an estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic dumped into the ocean every year. We are bringing our reusable bags, yet still buying fruit and veg in plastic wrappings and using plastic bags at all other shops.
All of this plastic fills our landfill, harms our wildlife, and can take lifetimes to break down. Aside of the disastrous ecological effects of these plastics, it also requires around 220 litres of water to produce 1000 plastic bags, and 3800 litres of water to produce the same number of paper bags.
So bringing your own bags not only helps keeping trash out of our ecosystem, but also reserves that much needed H2O.
Explore your own backyard
For your next trip – choose local and domestic travel. This is an easy tip to practice considering current restrictions, because it will probably be a while until we can travel internationally anyway.
By traveling domestically you cut down the co2 created by the international tourism industry. We are much more likely to go camping when we are in the comfort of our own country, which cuts down loads of electricity use. We also consume less imported products as we are more familiar with our nations merchandises.
When we are a tourist in our own backyard, we challenge ourselves to see our homeland from a different perspective. You may be surprised at how many hidden gems and beautiful places exist. You may come back with a newfound appreciation for home.
There is no pressure to make all of these changes at once. Remember nobody is perfect and it’s all the little steps we make as a collective that add up to positive impacts on the environment. If you make any steps towards helping the environment, no matter how big or small, you’re good in our books.