Tips for sustainable living
Western Australians love a month-long challenge right (don’t forget the global movement Plastic Free July started here!)? So who’s up for embracing the next call to action – Sustainable September – with us?
What is sustainability?
Let’s get back to basics – the Oxford Dictionary describes sustainability as the:
“avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.”
How can I be more sustainable?
At the most simple level, to be more sustainable you will need to be more considered about everyday decisions – what you do, what you eat, what you buy (or don’t buy) and more widely, how you choose to live.
What is Sustainable September?
We like the idea of using September as a time to pause, and reset attitudes and actions towards the environment and society. It’s also a great excuse to celebrate those who are already kicking goals in these areas.
40 ways to live more sustainably
Settle in – here are 40 sustainable living ideas that you can embed into your daily routine. Many of them are easier than you think.
Hectic lives often mean we will choose convenience over what’s best. We buy what we’ve always bought, we don’t do the things we know we should because it might take 30 seconds longer… Slowing down is one of the easiest way to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle because it opens up time to think rather than just ‘do’.
Think before buying
Switch off the/your autopilot when you are at the shops. Shop smarter by asking yourself if and why you need something in the first place. Making a checklist can be a simple way to start better shopping practices, know what you need and only buy that.
Invest in better quality items as they will likely last longer (and you also may be inclined to take better care of them). To up the sustainability ante, prioritise provenance – look for items that are made using sustainable practices, or by organisations that support sustainable initiatives. The Fairtrade logo1 can be a good one to look out for.
Think before throwing things away
When you put things in a general waste bin it goes to landfill, end of story. Ask yourself first, can it be repaired, recycled, re-gifted, repurposed or composted. If the answer is yes, do that instead.
Recycle everything you can
Keeping items out of landfill and giving them a second life is so important. This often means we need to take the extra step to head to drop-off points to recycle items that can’t go in your kerbside recycling bin such as soft plastics, hazardous household waste, takeaway containers and clothing.
Eat less meat
It’s estimated that up to 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions2 are produced by livestock. More people choosing to go meat-free more often (even just one day a week) can make a big difference. Supermarket-purchased meat often comes with more plastic packaging than other foods, so you’ll also lower your waste at the same time!
Put up a ‘No Junk Mail’ sign
This has the potential to prevent thousands of pieces of paper being shoved in your letterbox each year (plus it takes away the temptation to purchase things you might not really need).
Turn off lights and appliances
Around 91% of Australia’s electricity is produced using fossil fuels3. Turning off items that aren’t in use is good for the planet because it reduces your electricity consumption (as well as your power bill).
Put on an extra layer of clothing before you turn the heater on
The same rationale applies as above – using less energy in your home or car is always a good thing.
Open a window or door
Before turning on the air con, first check if a bit of fresh air circulating does the trick. Sure it won’t work on a hot WA summer’s day, but it can be the perfect antidote during milder weather.
Look for plastic-free options
Using less plastic could be considered Sustainability 101 (you can find plenty of reasons in this article). Bring your own bags and seek out plastic-free alternatives when you shop. There are lots of simple swaps you might like to make and if you haven’t tried shopping at a bulk food store yet here’s everything you need to know.
Choosing to buy items made from recycled materials supports the circular economy4, making it one of the most sustainable choices available.
Choose organic fertilisers for your garden
The chemicals you use in your garden have the potential to end up in the water system at some point. Organic is always your best choice for this reason.
Refuse to buy bottled water
Ditch the single-use plastic and the emissions created through the production and transportation process and just turn on the tap! We have perfectly good tap water here in WA, and an increasing number of refill points in our community.
If you don’t need a straw, don’t take or accept one. Both plastic and paper straws are difficult to recycle due to their size so the most sustainable choice is to go without.
Smart phones and emails have made so many paper items redundant. Make the switch to e-billing for your utilities and services, ask your bank to send statements electronically and choose to receive concert tickets electronically instead.
Take shorter showers
Living in Australia we know that water is precious. Around 22% of household water is used in the shower5. Four minutes is considered the ideal shower time. If you want to go one step further, switch to a water efficient showerhead, which can save around 7,000 litres of water each year.
Use compostable bags to pick up pet waste
Dog poo is organic, so it will naturally decompose relatively quickly. Wrapping it in plastic that will take hundreds of years to break down just doesn’t make sense.
Share lifts, use public transport or walk more often
Leaving the car at home means you’re creating fewer greenhouse gas emissions and reducing reliance on fossil fuels. It’s a win-win!
Pre-loved is the new black, and a very sustainable choice at that. Not sure where to start? We can help!
Gift experiences, not things
Being sustainable doesn’t mean you can’t be generous too. It just means being thoughtful about what you are gifting. Most people don’t need more ‘stuff’. Vouchers (electronic if you can) for experiences – movie, theatre or concert tickets, restaurant vouchers, zoo passes, babysitting IOUs – are great alternatives.
Repurpose glass jars
Glass jars (the type that once housed your peanut butter, pasta sauce or jam) make for an ideal container – sturdy, food-safe, dishwasher-safe, freezer-friendly and free. Most of the glass recycled by WA households is crushed and used to make other items (including roads), but by keeping your jars in use for longer you’ll reduce the need to buy other containers. Use them for leftovers, for bulk food shopping, as a vessel for work lunches (they are particularly good for salads, but remember the dressing goes at the bottom, then work upwards, from heavy to light ingredients) or to store your herbs in (they’ll last 2+ times as long this way).
Repair items if you can
Repairing items keeps them out of landfill for longer! If you’re not particularly handy yourself that’s OK – why not take it to your local repair café?
Use newspaper instead of a bin-liner
Give your compostable newspaper a second-life by using it to replace plastic bin liners.
Use more ‘multi-purpose’ products
If you haven’t already grasped the general concept that less stuff is the more sustainable choice, this one is for you! Multi-purpose means you’ll be using less packaging and that’s a good thing. It can be applied anywhere, but especially when it comes to cleaning and beauty products (hello vinegar and coconut oil!) While you’re at it, see if you can avoid toxic chemicals too as these can end up in our waterways, undermining water quality and harming animals.
Plant a tree
Trees are the lungs of the earth, more of them is always a good thing!
Take responsibility for your own food waste by embracing composting. We’ve put together a guide to help you work out what approach is best for your household, or why not try making your own worm farm?
Recycle your old phones and computers
Mobiles and computers are packed full of valuable resources, most of which are recyclable. Clean out your drawers and cupboards and get these resources back into use ASAP. And when you’re next upgrading your appliances, consider making simple switches like cloud computing instead of physical hard drives, servers and USBs.
Borrow rather than buy
Embracing a sharing culture can be fun as well as sustainable. Head to the library to borrow the latest blockbuster, join a toy library to keep the kids entertained, or get involved in your local men’s shed if you like to tinker but don’t have all the tools you need.
Stop accepting things you don’t need
Be mindful about the single-use items that are handed to you. It’s easier than you think to say no to disposable cutlery, coffee cup lids, napkins and straws.
Replace your light bulbs with LED ones
LEDs use about 75% less energy than halogen light bulbs and last 5-10 times longer6, greatly reducing the number of replacements you’ll need and the energy you’ll use.
Look for cruelty-free, palm oil-free and microbead-free beauty items
With so many options to choose from, let sustainability guide your purchasing decisions when it comes to bathroom and beauty products. Cruelty-free means it hasn’t been tested on animals, palm-oil is a cheap but controversial ingredient which has negative environmental impacts7, and microbeads are small manufactured plastic particles that don’t degrade or dissolve in water and can have a damaging effect on marine life, the environment and human health8.
Pick up litter
Keeping litter off our beaches and out of our rivers and oceans is everyone’s responsibility. Help to make it safer for marine life, sea birds and wildlife and ‘take 3 for the sea’ each time you’re out and about.
Stop using wipes
Most wipes contain plastic so although they are only used them for seconds they take hundreds of years to break down. They are also contributing to what are known as fatbergs9. A reusable cloth is a much better choice – for washing your face, cleaning, or wiping a baby’s bottom (different cloths for each purpose…obviously!).
Grow your own veggies
Is there anything more satisfying than eating food from your own garden? We think not. And there’s no supermarket packaging or food miles to worry about either.
Choose Australian-made or, even better, WA-made first
Sustainability isn’t just about the environment, it’s also about building robust economies. Buying items from local, independent traders helps to support an economy that’s much closer to home. It also often means less intensive production and transportation, so fewer carbon emissions too.
Switch to rechargeable batteries
Yes, they may be a bit more expensive at the start, but one rechargeable battery has the potential to replace 1000+ single-use ones in its lifetime.
Cook from scratch
Homemade meals use what you already have in the fridge (so long food waste), don’t require packaging (no need to deal with takeaway packaging) and no delivery means no additional greenhouse emissions.
Motivate a friend
They say a problem shared is a problem halved. In this case it might not be halved, but more people motivated to make sustainable choices is certainly a good thing. Why not share this article, or one of our Facebook or Instagram posts to start the conversation or start swapping tips with others in your network.
And, how about one more sustainable living tip for good luck? If you are inspired to get started and need a little help why not try the Own Your Impact 21-day detox challenge?
If you have more sustainability tips send us an email or tag us in your social feeds.