How To: Be even more sustainable
There is some pretty generic advice out there, for how to become more eco-friendly. Stuff that I’m sure you already know…. bring reusable cups and don’t use takeaway ones. Avoid single use plastic anything. Don’t drive when you can walk/cycle/public transport. Buy recycled content printing paper and avoid printing in general. Only machine wash on a full load.
But what to do when you think you've done all thats possible, and all the advice that you here is stuff that you've already done or is out of your price range (like installing solar panels onto your roof or moving to a farm in the middle of the mountains).
I've come up with a little list of some things that you may not have thought of (or maybe you have) of ways to be more sustainable that are a little less talked about, but still affordable. Let me know what you think!
1. Understand Expiration dates on food products so you don't chuck things out unnecessarily. ie. completely ignore sell-by dates, as they have nothing to do with the product quality or safety. Use-by dates are just indications of when the product will lose its quality, but a couple of days past for most products isn't going to kill you. Most of all, use your intuition, if it looks/smells/tastes off, then probably best to be safe, but if it seems fine, its probably okay to eat
2. Use a handkerchief, instead of tissues. Yeah, this is hella old school, but tissues are really wasteful, and even though they're soft they can make your nose sore if you use them too often (like when you have a cold). But those soft cotton handkerchiefs, they're reusable and *actually* gentle on your skin. Plus, you can get initialised handkerchiefs which is just adorable and the ultimate life goals. So really there is no reason not to.
3. Ecosia! This one is maybe a little more common, but its pure genius. Its a search engine (like Google, or dare I say it... Bing), that every time you search something, puts money towards planting trees. In the short time that I have had it (only discovered it recently), I have helped plant over 30 trees. So, now your late night searches about the origins of red velvet cake (apparently in the 1920's, NYC Waldorf-Astoria Hotel) and the most infamous murderers (there's too many to count, unfortunately), will actually be helping save the planet!
4. Say no... or maybe yes? to palm oil. Here me out on this one. You probably already no about the terrible deforestation that Palm Oil causes, and may be currently trying to avoid supporting it. But Palm Oil, in of itself, is actually really sustainable, as its easy to grow and very efficient. Thus, its probably better to support products with sustainably accredited palm Oil, than to go, fo lack of better phrase, cold turkey. For more info, check out this.
5. Ask your school and/or workplace to offer vegetarian and vegan options. Not only is this great for those vegetarians and vegans of the world (I personally dream of the day I can have warm food at school), but reducing the amount of meat and dairy consumed will probably assist in limiting your school/workplace's environmental impact.
6. Take up a tree planting hobby. Try and plant a tree once a week. Organise a little brunch party with your friends, where you plant some trees for an hour then go out for coffee. You'll really feel like you've earned that caffeine boost. Better yet, plant native and Indigenous trees like Gums and Bottlebrushes, they usually have a higher rate of survival and its good for the eco system.
7. Check before you chuck. Contact your local coucnil and make sure that you are recycling all that you can - recycling projects tend to rely on large numbers to be successful. Also check what you can't recycle, so you prevent accidentally clogging up the system. Did you know that soft plastics (scrunchable and flexible(, including postal packages can be recycled at most woolies and coles?
8. Make sure to turn your tap off when you aren't using it. This includes when you are brushing your teeth. Water is a precious life giving substance and your tap is a special hydration station, so use carefully and consciously. Also, when you are washing the dishes, if by hand, fill the sink instead of just letting the water run, and if by dishwasher (this maybe be a bit obvi), only wash on a full load.
9. Is organic/free range food too expensive? Start by just buying as local as possible. I'm really lucky, because just down the road there is a farm to consumer market/store open 4 days a week, so search for something like that near you. Otherwise, try and buy state grown products and if thats not possible Australian grown products (and if you're not Australian, just insert your country of residence in there). This not only supports our local farmers, but also helps reduce your food mileage, that can have a substantial impact on carbon emmissions.
10. Op shopping is your new best friend. When trying to do sustainable on a budget, second hand is perfect. Usually you can get high quality stuff at bargain basement prices, without it creating demand for unfair labour conditions and unsustainable business models. My personal favourites are Savers and anything on Brunswick St. in Fitzroy (Melbourne) or King St (Sydney). At Op Shops you can get everything from clothing to gifts to pjs to tables to jewellery. So knock yourself out.
11. Be conscious when you are buying clothes. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, which is just crazy. Try and buy quality so it lasts (Hot Tip: if it costs $5 then it will last 5 minutes, don't even bother), so that you don't have to buy as much. Buy locally made, organic, fair trade and/or vegan to really up the Anti. If you are interested in being more dedicated to this, check out this page.
12. Did you buy too much food and its just sitting in your pantry? See if any of its donate-able, so that it doesn't go to waste (usually stuff still in packaging is alright, particularly if its non-perishable). If its not, check our some freezable recipes (great options include soups and pasta sauces), so that you can use the food, just at a later date.
13. You having takeout but eating at home? Or just don't like certain condiments? Remember to ask for no cutlery and/or no condiments when ordering takeaway, to avoid the unnecessary use of plastic in the form of very blunt plastic knives and sauce containers.
14. Make sure you've switched all your lights to LED. LED bulbs will save you money and are one of the cheapest ways to cut down on energy usage. This is pretty explanatory - check your ceiling lights, your outside lights, your laundry lights, and wherever else you lights in little nooks and crannies.
15. Going out to eat.... Apart from trying to choose a more sustainable restaurant, such as a vegetarian/vegan, organic or locally sourced, remember to bring a container to take home any food you don't eat. In my house, if we don't feel like eating any more of it (and its safe to do so), it becomes a treat for our dogs, or else it becomes tomorrow's easy no hussle meal.
16. Grow a veggie garden garden! A herb garden! A flower garden! An edible flower garden! Not only do the produce varieties give you huge bragging rights, "This is made with my homegrown....", but it really cuts down the carbon mileage of your food. Plus, edible flowers are really fun, there's just something about eating flowers thats just so damn aesthetic. And if you are a terrible gardener, like I am (I am a serial plant killer), join a local community garden, because the people there are so happy to help, and they will make sure your plants don't die a horrible death!
17. Know when you produce is off; the signs of when a food is bad. Often we think that a fruit or vegetable has to be blemish free to be edible but this is really not the case. For example, bananas are usually at their ripest (and yummiest) when they are dotty. So double check that you aren't stereotyping your fruits and veggies, because there is enough of that done to humans, so theres really no need for it to be done the plants as well
And there you have, all the tips and tricks I can think of to help you be more sustainable. Let me know if you have any other suggestions!