Amidst all this election campaign carbon tax chest thumping, the Sydney Morning Herald released this disturbing article. A remote monitoring site in Tasmania has reported that the carbon dioxide readings in the atmosphere have increased steadily over the last 40 years, and we’re about to hit what is apparently a tipping point. Even if you TL;DR, it has some pretty graphs which are quite convincing.
So while we’re quietly shitting ourselves over here on the mainland, let’s start taking our environment seriously. Everyone’s been banging on about it for decades but change really does start with the consumer, and who says we can’t be frugal, lazy and environmentally-conscious at the same time?
Let’s start with some ways to reduce the waste we produce and send to landfill. Yes, it requires a bit more effort than the lifestyle of convenience we’ve become used to, but it’s minimal strain for the payoff and you’ll probably save some money too. And then you can give yourself a pat on the back for being an earth-friendly citizen, and reward yourself with a whole pizza.
1. Say no to (or reuse) plastic bags
This is a like recycling A-B-C for toddlers. Australians throw away about 7,150 plastic bags a minute. I won’t fill up this post with facts and details, so click here to read a fact sheet about why this is terrible.
You can take your own enviro-bags to do your grocery shopping, or even use a cute tote, like this one from Abel and Game:
If you don’t want to fork out for an enviro-bag or tote, just reuse any of the dozens of plastic bags you have lying around at home. I always forget to bring them with me, so I keep a bag of them in the boot of my car so they’re ready whenever I need them. And if you’re only human and still forget to bring them, feel less bad about it and…
2. Recycle your plastic bags
Did you know you can actually recycle soft plastics, including plastic bags? Take them to a special recycling bin at Coles or Woolies when you do your next grocery shop.
Use the scrunch rule – if you can scrunch it up in your hand it can go to soft plastics recycling. If it doesn’t, it goes into your regular council plastics recycling. So now you can recycle all that stuff you previously thought you couldn’t, like bread bags and glad wrap.
3. Use a cup
We’ve already written about the benefits of using a menstrual cup, so I’ll just repeat the fact that you’ll save money from not having to buy tampons or pads, and you’ll also help to reduce the 120kg of sanitary waste you’d normally send to landfill over your lifetime.
4. Get a reusable water bottle
You can ignore the bullshit about purified bottled water from a hidden spring blessed by the ancient Aztecs. Tap water is just as good, and it’s free! We all know that free stuff tastes better. Pick yourself up a cute BPA-free water bottle and enjoy that sweet frugal hydration. I have a Camelbak, but I’ve also heard good things about Contigo. You can also usually find some cute options at Typo, Kikki K or Kmart.
5. Use glass food storage containers
I used to be a huge advocate of takeaway containers for convenience (you’d often see me buying packs of 100 from the Asian supermarket to take my lunches to work in), but all that plastic isn’t that great for the environment. The leached chemicals probably aren’t doing much for you either. It’s worth investing in some good quality glass food storage containers with proper sealed leak-proof lids from Glasslock, Lock & Lock, or even Kmart’s pretty decent el cheapo version. Not only can you reuse them for yonks, you won’t need to worry about sauce leaking from under the container lid into your handbag.
6. Go to your local bulk food store/farmers market
Ideally, everyone would have access to a farmers market stocking fresh local produce at cheap prices. Some of us do, but for the rest of us plebs, there are bulk food stores. Stock up on all your pantry essentials here without the extra plastic packaging. My local, Scoop Wholefoods, lets me refill empty olive oil bottles with their South Australian blend. Some of the prices are astronomically expensive (who really needs organic rainfed wild black rice?) but other prices are more reasonable – still higher than homebrand, so it’s up to you whether it’s a worthy ethical price.
And if you don’t have a farmers market or bulk food store near you, don’t feel left out! You can avoid buying packaged fruit and vegies, and using those plastic produce bags. Nothing bad will happen to your apples if you put them straight into your basket and let them touch the cold hard plastic. Also, buying pre-packaged quantities of vegies like mushrooms and green beans cost twice as much as buying them loose.
Free shit for days! Freecycle is full of useful and not so useful things being offloaded by your local community. It’s a great source for essentials like furniture. I got all my moving boxes from there. Probably best to stay away from it if you have hoarding tendencies though.
Gumtree and local buy/sell/swap facebook groups are also great for cheaper second hand things (often in as-new condition).
8. Avoid packaging
This assumes that bulk food stores haven’t really caught on in your area yet, or the price point is too high so you’d prefer to keep doing your shopping at Woolies. If you have the space, an easy way to avoid packaging is to buy in bulk. Buy a 10kg bag of rice and store it, instead of individual 1kg bags every fortnight. Just make sure to store any pantry objects properly so they don’t get invaded by weevils, which would defeat the whole purpose! Make a conscious effort to avoid needlessly individually wrapped items as well.