I grew up in the '80s. When life was still pretty simple.
Technology was new (and expensive), rollerskates still had four wheels and shoes were mostly made of leather with cotton laces. Everyone seemed to make do with what they had (save a few Atari and Nintendo systems) and you had to get out of your seat to change the TV channel. *insert horror emoji*
Most things you bought from the supermarket came in paper, tin or glass. And you walked to the local milk bar for a sandwich where they made it fresh and wrapped it in paper for you.
Today's sandwich equivalent is a $5 chicken variety you get from the local multi-national convenience store. Made in a factory yesterday, trucked-in overnight and packed onto a shelf next to 20 identical others. All wrapped in plastic-lined cardboard printed with appealing slogans and a cellophane window to help you choose which one has the right ratio of chicken to lettuce to mayo.
Packaging. It may seem like such a small thing. But its impact on our planet has been huge. When you consider 91% of the world's plastic isn't recycled, that decision to buy that chicken sandwich wrapped in plastic and cardboard seems a lot more important.
Today, convenience dominates our choices. We're made to believe we're so time-poor that we'll happily fork-out a few extra dollars to get a few minutes of time back. But the harsh truth is our obsession with convenience is destroying our environment, deteriorating our local communities and businesses and contributes to increasing health problems.
We all know the evidence on how our actions and choices have impacted our planet. The eradication of species, the deterioration of biodiversity, an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and the rise of sea levels. The list goes on and on...
In 2018, some of the worlds biggest retailers pledged to reduce their use of plastic. Yet, in 2019, more plastic than ever was put on shop shelves.
It all seems so overwhelming and endless — but here's the thing. It's easier than you think to make a positive impact.
Here’s a list of 5 little eco-friendly things you can do in 2020 to help lighten your load on the planet.
1 - BUY LESS PACKAGING
Almost everything we buy is packaged to make us want to buy it and then make it easier for us to get home and use. It’s a huge drain of unnecessary resources considering most packaging will stay on the planet for thousands of years after we’ve used what comes inside it.
Following these three simple R's will help lower your impact dramatically - Refuse, Reduce, Repair and Reuse.
- Refuse packaging - Say no to items that are heavily or unnecessarily packaged. Instead, commit to reaching for the items that have the least packaging when you're at the supermarket. Or come to GRAM and go without packaging altogether.
- Reduce what you buy. Go without the newest and latest. If it works, keep it and use it. Give experiences instead of things when gifting. And only buy what you need. It may be cheaper to buy 5kg of rice. But if 2kg of those are going to go unused and end up in landfill, you'll be doing the planet a favour by only buying what you will use. At GRAM, there is no minimum quantity, so you can buy only what you need.
- Repair what can be. Get the sewing kit out and grab the superglue. Call a technician to repair the washing machine. Yes, it's easier and tempting to throw out the old and get the newest, latest and shiniest you've just seen in the catalogue. But that's the kind of exploitation of resources that got us into this mess in the first place.
- Re-use what you already have. Take your reusable shopping bags and containers with you and support businesses that allow you to buy package free. You don’t need fancy stainless steel containers, just re-use any jars or containers you have. It’s all about buying less.
Check out GoingGreenSolutions for more great ideas.
2 - EAT FRESH & LOCAL
Fresh fruit and vegetables come in their own, natural, biodegradable packaging. Eating more fresh produce is not only great for the planet, but your body will love you for it too.
Buying fruit and vegetables that are in season and locally sourced will reduce your carbon footprint by cutting down on transport-associated fossil fuels. Check out what's in season now. Sure, oranges are awesome in Summer but remember, they're a winter fruit. So if you must have them, try to buy Australian grown oranges (but remember, they'll have been refrigerated since last winter - which isn't great either) but steer clear of the imported ones.
Replacing imported products with locally sourced options will also reduce your carbon footprint. Take wine for example; Europeans love our wine and we like theirs. It makes no sense. So save the French wine for the super-special occasions (like a 50th) and support our local (excellent) wine industry instead. And when the waiter asks 'tap or sparkling?' just go the tap! (And maybe speak your mind a little and give them a hard time if they only offer imported bottled water.)
3 - START COMPOSTING
On average, Australian households throw away one tonne or $3.5k worth of organic material every year. Roughly 1/3 of our average household waste. So take it out of the waste stream, put it back into the natural nutrient cycle and stop that extra bulk and wasted nutrients going to landfill.
If you don’t have a yard, grab a small composting bucket to put on your balcony. Or make your own non-plastic version from a container you already have.
4 - CHOOSE REUSABLES
In the kitchen, swap your cling-wrap for reusable bees-wax or silicone food wraps. Keep a set of bamboo or corn starch cutlery with you and say ‘no thanks’ to plastic forks in the food court. Get yourself some reusable produce bags to use for your apples and oranges when you’re at the grocer. (Or reuse bread bags - you'll be surprised at how robust they are.) Dust-off the reusable coffee cup you bought two years ago and start using it again. Or go past the office kitchen to grab a mug when you head for your 10am coffee fix.
Got a handyman job to do? Try to borrow the tools you need instead of buying. Even if what you need to do the job is cheap. If you’re unlikely to re-use it, ask around. The home improvement industry puts a massive strain on the planet. And chances are a friend has exactly what you need sitting in their garage gathering dust.
5 - SWITCH TO GREEN
Coal power is cheap, but it’s not sustainable. By buying green power, your supplier is obligated to invest your extra dollars into green power. As demand for green power increases, so will the supply. And the more supply, the cheaper it will become.
If your supplier doesn't offer green power, change to one that does. And tell your old provider why you're leaving.
Ditch the car too if you can. The planet, your wallet and your health will love you for it.
Transport is Australia’s third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (increasing nearly 60% since 1990, more than any other sector) and cars are responsible for roughly half this. Emitting about the same CO2 as Queensland’s entire electricity supply.
Considering the average car sits unused for more than 90% of the time, carries on average just one and a half people and costs, on average, $10,000 per year to own and run. It's a surprise that most of us think we couldn't possibly live without one.
So leave the car at home and walk or catch public transport. Instead of getting in the car to head to the shopping centre, walk to your local high street and support your local community businesses. Try life without a car and if it works for you, sell it and subscribe to a car-share service instead.