Friday, 7 December 2018

5 changes that are making my life kinder to the environment

The amount of information about climate change, plastics in our oceans and landfill can easily fill me with despair about our future.  I live in a small home with a small carbon footprint and ride a bike and am vegetarian but it seems never enough.  My mum says when it is overwhelming to clean a room to just do five things.  Break a big job down into manageable parts.  So while I can't solve the planet's problems, I can share 5 changes I have consciously made during this year to make my life kinder to the planet.

Sewing
I don't like sewing.  I have a small sewing box I have had since I was a kid and that it it.  I mostly sew to save.  So lately I have made an effort to a bit more sewing and sew some patches onto jeans and sheets that have holes.  It has extended their life.  I don't have a sewing machine but handstitching can be quite zen.  When I mentioned to friends that I had used curtains to patch my jeans I realised I was a bit Scarlett O'Hara.  But she didn't get inundated with plastics in the 19th Century like we do.  Nor did Maria in The Sound of Music who also liked clothes made of curtains.  Oh, I also realised my friends thought I had curtains with huge holes in them but the curtains I meant were the offcuts.

Reducing plastic bags
We have had reusable bags to take to the supermarkets for years.  Since the major supermarkets stopped giving away single use plastic bags for free earlier midyear, we have made extra efforts to take our own bags.  More recently I am trying to take the smaller vegie bags to the shops instead of taking away plastic ones.  However I am still grappling with lots of plastics.  Our "single use" bags from supermarkets were never single use.  We used them to line the bin, and take wet bathers home from the pool, and to collect rubbish at a picnic.  And then there are all the foods we buy from the supermarket that come wrapped in plastic.  I have a long way to go to reduce my plastic intake but am slowly trying to make change.

Worm farm
I grew up with chickens in the backyard and so many food scraps went their way that we needed gumboots to go in the chookhouse and collect eggs.  I don't think I will ever have chooks as an adult but I am living in search of ways to use food scraps in a home with a small concrete backyard.  I tried a compost bin but it didn't work with concrete.  Then I found a local community garden needing compost donations.  They closed the scheme after a while.  My latest venture is a worm farm which I think is a pretty good option.  I have had some vinegar fly infestation but mostly got through it (I cut my food scraps pretty small now).  The worm juice is great for the pots and I love the occasional bit of extra soil from the worms to keep our pots healthy or to re-pot some new plants.  It reduces some of the food waste but we still have food waste going in the bin.

Straws
Sylvia is a lover of straws.  We went from plastic straws to paper straws but they came in thick plastic packaging, which seemed like one step forward and two steps back.  There have been quite a few anti straw campaigns lately (such as Straw No More featured on War on Waste on the telly). More recently we have bought metal straws.  Both places I have seen them for sale (The Source and Aunt Maggies) also have those thin straw cleaning brushes which I think are essential.  Disposable straws sometimes make their ways into the house but we have reduced them considerably.

Food wraps
I have been aware of how using disposable wrapping such as clingfilm is one habit that doesn't do the environment any favours.  This year I have been experimenting with different wraps.  (You can see some of these in the top photo as well as above.)  I bought some vegan wraps and was using them to wrap sandwiches to take to work but am finding they have got too sticky and seem to leave a trail of wax behind.  So I have been using beeswax which works better.  For bread making I don't use cling wrap most of the time but either cover with a large sheet of beeswax wrapped around the dough on a baking tray (so I can wrap it underneath - see below photo) or I put rolls in my baking tins with the lid on.  I am also using cat patterned bowl caps (like shower caps) for covering bread dough rather than cling wrap.  However I have become very dependent on baking paper for baking bread and bikkies.  I have bought some brown baking paper but perhaps will be able to reduce my use of this.

I went to a workshop where we talked about how to make a new habit.  I found one piece of advice interesting.  New habits are hard because we don't like change.  One way to overcome this is to visualise what you want to do for 1 minute a day.  I think I actually do this, which is helped get me as far as I have got with these changes.  I also think reading what other bloggers such as Celia and Joey are doing is quite inspirational (check them out and let me know if you have great links and reflections of your own).

If you are here for inspiration (or even if you aren't), here are 5 links to articles I found recently that make me feel more positive about the future for our fragile environment:

Australianwide bag ban leads to 15 billion fewer plastic bags in the environment - news.com.au
Going green: are fake Christmas trees more eco friendly than the real thing - Pursuit
What should I do with my broken kettle (design for disassembly) - BBC News
Printable solar panels - research from Monash University - YouTube
Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles - The Guardian

And for more reflections on how my lifestyle is kind to the environment, see this post.

12 comments:

  1. The topic of this post is close to my heart! I love everything you're doing here, especially the food wraps. I read somewhere that the two biggest ways to impact plastic waste is to (a) use reusable water bottles and (b) reusable shopping bags. My family is totally habituated now to taking our own water bottles everywhere and grocery bags (including mesh produce bags that I bought from Etsy many years ago that I love, and have given as gifts too). We have a big yard so we have a compost bin. My sister gave us steel straws although my kids don't really use straws much. We use cloth napkins and cloth kitchen towels although I do keep paper towel rolls on hand for the worst kid and pet messes. We use boxes and not plastic zip-top bags for carrying snacks and lunch to work/school. For clothing, we do a lot of consignment shopping (for gently used clothing) and always give and get hand-me-downs very happily. Same with books. I agree with you that small changes are possible and indeed they help you save money and live a simpler and more mindful life.

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    1. Thanks Nupur - you sounds like you have thought through reducing your carbon footprint. I think taking your bottle rather than buying bottled water is important - it is great to see more water fountains about in the city and at markets etc so it is easier to fill a water bottle. Straws is something that Sylvia and E love so that is why we have been looking at options other than plastic straws. Your comments on cloth napkins remind me of the ones we have in the cupboard that rarely get used - I should get them out instead of the paper ones. I am a bit sad that there are less secondhand bookshops about these days - we used to love taking a stack and then buying more with the money we made. All these online secondhand items just take more packaging. One of the hopeful aspects of zero footprints is that it is returning to the frugal lifestyle of our ancestors - though there is the convenience factor too - sigh! But I was pleased to see an article yesterday saying that a study found that renewable energy will bring down power bills!!! We need these messages to get out there.

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  2. I think that all these small things will contribute a lot, especially if everyone would be doing it! I can't stand the amount of plastic and consumerism around me these days. I also try to avoid taking plastic bags, or reusing them several times, recycling, but it can be hard when products in the supermarket have several wrappings around them.

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    1. Thanks Veghog - yes I get so amazed when the supermarkets sell say a bamboo toothbrush but in a plastic wrapping. It is also quite confusing - for example a cafe near my place sells takeaway food in biodegradable containers but then I saw a discussion online about most people not being aware of the best way to dispose of them and so they don't have the impact that was intended.

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  3. I am trying hard to reduce my waste too. But I often feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of the problem and our government's intractability in the face of climate change. Treading my own path is a good blog to check out. It is based in Perth so the posts are always relevant to Australia. Good luck with your efforts and thank you for your blog.

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    1. Thanks Judy - have had a look at the treading my own path blog - good luck with your waste reduction too - it does feel like a big task.

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  4. You are doing some wonderful things to reduce plastics. I am still using single use plastic bags I had collected as multiple use bags, but they have a limited life due to tearing.

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    1. Thanks Cakelaw - we still have some plastic bags about but as there are less we are relying on them less, and I don't miss all the ones that got torn before we could even get the groceries inside.

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  5. I'm a big fan of doing whatever you can, whenever you can. I think when you look at the scale of the problem, you can feel totally overwhelmed and wonder whether there's any point in trying to make an impact. But whenever I start thinking 'what can one person do?' I try to think that one million people doing something are still one million versions of one person. One person really makes a difference, even if they don't always feel like they do. I'm always on the look out for new things I can do to try and reduce my environmental impact. I try and add in one new thing every so often. It's a journey, not a destination, I suppose!

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    1. Thanks Joey - I actually believe that systematic change is more powerful and I hope our governments listen to the evidence of what will make change - but our Australian government is not really into sustainable change - in fact quite a few prime ministers have lost their jobs while trying to sort out the problem. So my feeling is that we need to show our governments that we want this change. For me, I like the idea too that I can visualise how I want my life to look and start to make little changes towards that. It is indeed a journey.

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  6. We do some of the same things except for the sewing and worm farm. We also use reusable dish cloths which are much better than a Chux. Have you tried them? I think you'd like them.

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  7. good on you for trying to reduce plastic. me too but it takes time and effort, doesn't it? i guess if we all try ... funny how our parents and grandparents lived like that anyway. cheers sherry

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