1. Cut down your meat intake: aside from the whole cows-farting-lethal-amounts-of-methane thing, discouraging the breeding of livestock will have a huge impact on the environment for other reasons. To explain it in short, any animal bred for eating consumes a lot more food than it produces at its slaughter. Think about it: if one cow eats two bowls’ worth of feed a day for two years, that is 728 bowls of feed eaten in its lifetime (cows actually eat more than that, however, I thought I’d make a point by using an amount of their food which a human could have eaten instead). A cow will only have around half of its weight’s worth of meat fit for human consumption, which isn’t much in comparison to the amount they’ve consumed. And smaller animals are often even worse! Bad, isn’t it? Luckily, it’s very easily fixed by going vego. If you’re like me and still appreciate a good steak, though, just try to cut down. The more you cut down, the greater impact you’re having. And it is quite an impact, so pat yourself on the back. You’ll probably find you lose weight doing this, too.
2. Buy local/recycled clothes and groceries: this is an inexpensive and effective way to reduce your carbon footprint. The reasons for buying recycled products are obvious, however, some people don’t realise why buying local products is so important. Aside from supporting your own economy and keeping local jobs available, it’s important to buy local because of the impact importing and exporting have. An average plane burns 4 litres of fuel (1 gallon) per second, and one container ship uses as much fuel as about 50 million cars per year. Need I say more?
Help avoid these issues by buying fresh fruit and veg instead of frozen, shopping at op-shops, vintage and hand-craft stores, checking the label of your everyday products to see where they are made and by using networks like Gumtree and Buy, Swap and Sell pages to find local products and businesses. You’ll be surprised at your findings!
3. Avoid palm oil: according to RAN (Rainforest Action Network), palm oil is in around 50% of the average person’s household products.
“That’s interesting,” you say, “Because I have no idea what that is.”
Well, that’s the tricky thing about palm oil: unless it is blatantly obvious (Palmolive, for example), you don’t realise you’re buying it. A lot of it can be accounted for in products containing either “vegetable oil” or “vegetable/plant-derived ingredients”.
Now, while palm oil itself isn’t bad for the environment, the growing of it is devastating. Around 300 football fields’ worth of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for these plantations. I was a bit iffy when I heard this; after all, couldn’t they just re-use the fields already made for cropping? But I learnt that no, they can’t. After 20 to 50 years, these plantations have not only died off completely, but have used all of the nutrients in the soil, meaning it can’t be used to grow any other crops, either.
On top of this, palm oil is almost completely to blame for the near-extinction of orangutans and the Sumatran Tiger, Asian Rhino and Proboscis Monkey, to name a few. Depressing, hey? Luckily, you can avoid this completely by using olive oil or coconut oil for cooking, never using anything with palm oil or anything that looks close to in it (always check the ingredients), using products which advertise their sustainability, and checking out http://understory.ran.org/2011/09/22/palm-oils-dirty-secret-the-many-ingredient-names-for-palm-oil-or-what-ingredients-contain-palm-oil/ for tricky names for palm oil.
4. Make a compost bin: something I think everybody should make a priority is a compost bin. I can’t even explain how easy they are! At my house, we have an old ice-cream container on the bench next to where we cook, so it is actually easier to put scraps in the compost bin than the regular. All we have to do is empty the ice-cream container into the compost bin outside, and voila! we are helping to reduce landfill and make some of the most fertile soil in town. Now, don’t think you have to buy a specific bin for it to be a compost bin; it can truly be anything that is reasonably large (about the same size of a recycle bin) and can hold stuff. Our compost bins are two big ugly boxes next to the vege garden made of old crates from god-knows-what.
You put fruit and vege scraps, nut shells, egg shells, tea bags, coffee grinds and so on in a compost bin, and the idea is that you stir it all around once in a while, let it break down and chuck it on the garden. This in itself is a big help for the environment, as Australians literally spend billions of dollars on chemical fertilizers (which are bad for the environment) a year. However, the part I like most is the separating of useful waste from bad waste, which are otherwise mixed together in landfill and rendered useless together. If you live with others or in an apartment, there should be no reason why you can’t share one big compost bin, and if you don’t have a garden to put the compost on, you need not worry: compost often reduces to nothing much very quickly. Alternatively, take it somewhere that could use it (neighbours, family, friends, local farmers, park keepers, zoo/wildlife centres, etc.) or sell it in old plastic bags on the street.
5. Use the four elements: I made this sound much more exciting than it actually is. However, the small changes you can make to your regular routine which will not only help the environment, but will save you big bucks, is very exciting.
There are some electrical appliances that use way more energy than others do. Out of these, the washing machine, dryer, kettle, air con/heating and heat lamps are a few really, really bad ones. But there are ways to get around all of these things in a lot of cases.
When it comes to washing your clothes, always wash in cold water (warm at best) and never use a dryer. You will be so happy with the results on your electricity bill, I promise you! If you can’t hang your clothes outside, hang them inside. Clothes horses, chairs, fire rails and curtain rods are all very reliable for drying, take my word.
When it comes to the kettle, purchase a steel one that can be placed on the fire (if you have one) or on the gas stove. It takes the same amount of time to heat up, will reduce your carbon footprint and will save you hundreds of dollars a year, if you’re as into tea as I am. Just make sure you keep the head up if you plan on having it constantly on the fire, or else you’ll have a pretty hectic noise level from there on in. Keeping the kettle on the fire helps keep dust away, too!
As for heat lamps: use them as scarcely as possible, as they are a really bad one for sucking up loads of electricity. The same goes for air conditioning and heating: use natural elements (air, sun, shade, insulation) as much as possible; otherwise, keep cooling at 21 (celsius) and heating at around 18/20 (celsius) and, of course, always check the energy rating on your appliances!
As well as these things, some really simple things the regular Joe can do to help save the world includes turning off chargers at the power point (they continue to charge nothing), paying bills and reading statements/newsletters online (don’t worry about security, it’s all legit), recycling, using as little waste/plastic/chemicals as possible, planting trees, keeping water-friendly gardens (bamboo and cactuses are great), letting your hair dry naturally and avoiding long showers.
Want to learn more about the simple things you can do to save the planet?
Check out these articles:
And remember to alter your routines and habits for a safer future. 🙂