HOW TO BE MORE SUSTAINABLE  

Having a sustainable lifestyle is not black or white...

You are not sustainable or unsustainable. Rather, the more effort you make the more you reduce your impact on the planet’s resources and natural (and built) environments. Sustainability is a lifelong journey that can provide incredible satisfaction through the learning of skills, bonding with others and getting touch with more a more natural way of life.

Before we start, a general rule we like to fall back on is that having things as simple as possible is generally the most sustainable.

We have categorised our daily lives into 7 areas where we can improve our sustainability. These can be resorted or grouped differently if you prefer but it’s a good start!

  1. Consuming water

  2. Consuming power

  3. Consuming food

  4. Consuming other goods and services

  5. Transport

  6. Home building, renovating or maintenance

  7. Reducing Waste 

 
Consuming water

With increased populations and seemingly more drought affected areas for drier and longer periods, water, the first necessity of life, is becoming less abundant. We have been supplied water at very low prices and used it excessively. From drinking and cooking to showering and toilets, gardening, washing dishes, clothes and cars, our daily home lives rely on water. The key here is to make a commitment to reducing water use at each opportunity (reducing your water bill at the same time). Reduce rinsing, shorter showers with well designed economical showerheads, water wise gardens with mulch. But also be mindful of products you are buying that require high water volumes for production. Cotton and rice requiring irrigations as an example.

Consuming power

Electricity and heat accounts for around one third of all man made CO2 emissions. There are several options available now to most households to improve the sustainability of our energy use. These include renewable energy electricity plans, solar panels or other renewable energy generation at your home, heaters and appliances with more efficient design and of course, just using less! Turn off switches, reduce heating and cooling extremes and get creative with your home lifestyle to reduce your large power consumption items. Get washing on the line on a sunny morning to avoid the need for the dryer. Try a fan instead of air con for cooling air flow. Look at how you can reduce energy use for heating (the biggest energy user). 

Consuming food

A large portion of our daily consumption is food. And plenty of potential for sustainability improvements. Buy local, buy seasonal, buy foods that use less water for production. Select items with less processing involved. Avoid items that have excess packaging. Grow food for a double win by reducing packaging and eating super nutritious fruit, vegies and whatever else you can produce. Some would even say we should eat less, which reduces resource demand overall.

Consuming other goods and services

All of the other items we purchase make a major dent in our planet’s available resources. With swings towards Chinese made goods we can approach consumption in a 3 step way by avoiding anything we don’t really need, choosing items and services we need that are sustainably produced and then using those items fully. This could mean sharing tools with neighbours and friends, having one of something to service the house rather than several, buying, maintaining and keeping goods for a long lifespan, and then making goods no longer needed available for others for 2nd hand use. Textiles as an example can be taken to charity shops or used as rags. The trick is to be aware of your choice whenever you consume. And the benefit is that any way you can be more sustainable will probably be financially cheaper in the long run.

Transport

I did an environmental footprint test on Earth Overshoot Day and found that our household of 3 people, with off the grid solar and only 15 minutes from town and workplaces was averaging about 5 times the resource use of the daily average required for global sustainability. Ouch! In the western world especially we have large transport footprints which can be reduced through choice of vehicle, use of public transport, combining trips and being mindful of how our choices require truck, rail, ship and plane cargo transport to get goods to our doors.

Home building, renovating or maintenance

Most of us are involved in the designing and building or renovating of our home at numerous times through our life. Timbers, metals, paints, adhesives, glass, plastics and an increasing range of composite materials are used, with an estimated 10% ending up as waste. Design too plays a large part in our sustainability. Reducing size, planning for lower energy use, using natural or sustainable material choices and incorporating gardens and areas to enable lower impact activities are a great way to improve the living environment also. Weigh up the impact and associated costs of all new materials with recycled materials and second hand options, sometimes brought back to life with some craft work and TLC. Second hand quality materials and goods can bring more character to a home.

Reducing Waste

Of course the finished product we see (or often don’t) from our consumption of all resources is waste. Simply put, we should look to reduce the waste that we produce, reuse it if we can and recycle what we want to dispose of. Excess packaging should be avoided, often difficult to recycle, plastics can be replaced with paper/cardboard, timber, glass or metal. Our waste can be reused in many ways, either by ourselves or someone else. Waste food can be reused as garden compost or chook food. In regards to recycling, that particular industry has been questioned in recent years with Chinese import bans however the same products are still generally being recycled and to use a old favourite, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Think of how you can avoid putting waste items in the landfill/garbage bin.

Our general introduction above is perfectly supplemented by the list produced by Global Stewards at the following link:

 http://www.globalstewards.org/ecotips.htm

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