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Sustainable Living is Too Hard & Too Expensive

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Or is it? What changes can we all make to be more environmentally conscious without spending a lot of money?

Sustainable Living can be simple, and cheap, if we all just look to what we already have, and do, at home. Embracing the 6 “R’s” of sustainability can make things a whole lot easier to reduce waste and our eco footprint: Rethink, Refuse, Reuse, Reduce, Repair, Recycle.  Here’s some tips from the Green Dandelion team:

RETHINK – this can be applied to everything from the way we shop, to the way we cook & eat, bathe, and do our laundry:

  • Only buy what you need. Meal planning and sticking to a shopping list for groceries helps to reduce food waste and save dollars.
  • Always ask yourself if you really do need that dress, those shoes, that bag, shirt, or tie. If you do, try preloved from the op shop.
  • Shop at the local Farmers Markets for your fresh produce to reduce food miles and packaging. Better yet, grow your own.
  • Try cooking fresh foods from scratch and eating more plant based meals. Meat production is a killer for carbon emissions and land degradation, plus it’s expensive.
  • Use the whole plant as much as possible, scraps can be frozen and cooked into vegetable broth later, fed to chooks, home composted (even if it’s the neighbours), or donated to community gardens, schools, farms or other local composters.
  • Switch to hard soap bars for shampoo, shaving, body soap, and kitchen and laundry soap. These are so much cheaper than bottles of the same and are usually packaged in recyclable or compostable paper instead of plastic.
  • Make your own washing powder and cleaning products at home. This can be as simple as using cheap ingredients from the pantry – Bicarb of Soda, Vinegar or Lemon Juice, and grated natural soap all work a treat.

REFUSE - What does this mean to you? To us it screams Plastic! And as much other rubbish as you can. Here are some easy ways:

  • Say no to disposable straws, coffee cups, cutlery, food containers, napkins, etc. BYO instead.
  • Buy unpackaged fruit and vegetables. Make your own produce and tote bags to take shopping, or reuse existing bags creatively.
  • BYO your own jars and containers at the bulk foods store.
  • Always keep a couple of reusable bags with you when out and about, guaranteed you’ll use them.
  • Take your own containers to the shops for meat and deli items.
  • Beeswax Wraps are easy to make and are the perfect natural alternative to cling wrap.

REUSE – everything you can. Keeping things out of landfill for as long as possible helps to reduce harmful greenhouse gases. Here’s how:

  • Must have reusables to have on hand when out and about are: water bottle; jar and/or mug for coffees, smoothies, etc; cutlery, chopsticks and straws; food containers/lunch box; beeswax wrap, cloth napkins or wrapping cloth; produce bags; tote bag to carry everything, plus a spare! Old items from home are perfect for takeout and cost nothing.
  • Get creative and learn to make tote bags out of old T-shirts and produce bags out of doilies, pillowcases or tea towels. Cut up old clothes or linen to use as household cloths – you can even run a hem around them or just leave as is.
  • Old calico ham bags also make fabulous produce bags and conference tote bags are great for shopping. Calico bags are also perfect for fresh loaves of bread.
  • Reuse any plastic and paper bags, ziplock bags, cardboard and plastic food containers, boxes, etc that creep into your home anyway you can and as many times as possible before disposing of them. Eg to line rubbish bins; storing food in the freezer; collecting food scraps for composting (paper items); storing pet food; laundry or tool shed storage eg homemade washing powder, nails and screws, buttons, etc; storing children’s toys, pencils, art scraps, ribbons, etc; use cardboard boxes for home storage, sending parcels, or as a weed mat in the garden.
  • Glass jars and bottles are great for all sorts of things – in the pantry, smoothies and take out coffees, storing leftovers, homemade goodies, creative dinner parties, candles, vases, plants, collections, plus bathroom, laundry and tool shed storage.
  • Plastic bottles come in handy in the garden as planters, for mixing homemade fertilisers and pest control, interesting plant irrigation and pest traps, protecting produce, etc.

REDUCE – implementing any of the above “R’s” will help to dramatically reduce household waste and your eco footprint at little or no cost. Some other ways are to –

  • Take up cooking, gardening or a craft – growing and making food and other items at home reduces industrial and transport emissions and creates less waste.
  • Swap homegrown produce and homemade items with neighbours to create your own local circular economy and reduce the need for outsourcing.
  • “Unconsume” anything you don’t need so items can have a second life before reaching landfill. Check out Facebook for local “Unconsumers” groups. Also, if there is a Boomerang Bags group active in your community, they are often looking for preloved fabric donations (https://boomerangbags.org ).

REPAIR – clothing, shoes, toys, and household items can mostly be easily repaired at home rather than thoughtlessly discarded. See what you can learn to fix yourself or ask a handy family member, friend or neighbour if they can help. You can always swap repairs for homegrown veg or baking?

Otherwise, outsource. Repair Cafes (find them on Facebook) are starting to pop up in most towns and there is never any shortage of places where things can be mended. Otherwise, look to makers and crafters and other local small business for more complex repairs.

RECYCLE – what a minefield! Our best tips are –

  • Follow local council guidelines for kerbside recycling.
  • Visit the tip! Most local tips have fantastic waste separation and recycling systems in place, plus, you never know what you might find!
  • Take your “scrunchable” soft plastics to participating Coles and Woolworths supermarkets and pop them in the Redcycle (https://www.redcycle.net.au ) bin. These are sent to REPLAS (https://www.replas.com.au ) who recycle the plastic into outdoor furniture, bollards, fencing, and all sorts of other things.
  • Recycle bottles and tins through the Containers for Change Program (https://www.containersforchange.com.au ).
  • Find a Terracycle (https://www.terracycle.com/en-AU/ ) program to send your difficult to recycle items. Schools, community groups, shops, and businesses participating in this program collect all sorts of things for recycling eg bottle tops, toothbrushes & toothpaste tubes, make up containers, razors, etc.

We would love to hear your simple hacks for living a more sustainable life.

1 comment

  • Marion: March 09, 2021

    Thankyou for share on this Clean Up Australia Weekend.
    I conduct a litter clean up and audit at the school I work at every year to highlight how much plastic is left in our environment. It is always shocking how many tiny pieces of plastic are found.

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