Stop putting off changing your habits
OK so helping the planet can be a bit daunting – we get it. But according to Lottie Dalziel from Banish, an online store and education platform dedicated to helping Australians live more sustainably, you can start in a small way. “Gradually make changes,” she suggests. “Don't flip your life in a day as it won't be sustainable but when you finish something, look for a more sustainable option. The first place I like to start is your toothbrush! Every plastic toothbrush you and I have ever used exists somewhere on this planet and will outlive us! Switch to a bamboo toothbrush and once you're finished the handle can go in your compost bin.”
Make an effort to stop using packaged foods
This one can be tricky – after all, everything we buy seems to come wrapped in plastic these days, right? Lottie agrees. ‘Grocery shopping can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to packaged produce,’ she says, suggesting we take our time when shopping. “Compare not only price but packaging and where that product is made. It could be as simple as buying loose carrots or using a reusable produce bag instead of a plastic packet in the vegetable section or buying a box of pasta over a plastic packet. These small changes not only help reduce your plastic waste but as consumers, we have the power to show supermarkets what want more of (less packaging on food!).’
Oh, and please try to stop wasting that food
Australians waste around 20 per cent of food they purchase, according to Foodwise, and on average, $1036 worth of food is binned each year per household. To avoid all that, there are a few things you can do right now. Like open the fridge and have a look at what you have before you go and buy more, check your use by dates and plan your meals. ‘Write a list before you head to the shops,” says Lottie, ‘This will stop impulse buys and mean you won’t shop to excess and eat through your pantry. It will help you save money and also stop waste.’ Make sure you save – and eat – leftovers, too. And if you do have to get rid of any food, please try to compost it. When food waste rots in landfill, say Foodwise, it creates methane, the greenhouse gas that is 25 per cent more potent that carbon pollution from car exhausts.
You really have to stop chucking everything out
Australians generate 67 million tonnes of waste every year. Sound a bit scary? It is. But you can become more low-waste pretty easily. Many low-waste households adhere to a set of ‘R’s – refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle. Refuse plastic bags, advertising materials and junk mail, packaging and single use plastics, for example; reduce how much electricity you use at home and how much you actually buy; reuse plastic bags and glass jars and give unwanted larger items – like furniture or appliances -- away or to charity, rather than taking them to the tip. Recycle plastics, aluminium foil, paper, cans and bottles, take soft plastics (rice and pasta bags, biscuit wrappers, bubble wrap etc) to your local supermarket for drop off, and check with your council about other recyclables you may have before you bin them.
And yes, sorry – you have to stop buying so many new clothes
‘The average Australian woman buys 27kg of clothing each year and throws away 23kg, it doesn't make sense!’ says Lottie. ‘Not only is clothing going to landfill bad for the planet but the fashion industry as a whole is extremely resource-intensive. For example, it takes a whopping 2,7000L of water to create one T-shirt.’
Before you buy something new, Lottie suggests you think about how much wear are you going to get out of it. ‘Do you already have something similar? Do you need an extra pair of jeans? And where will it eventually end up?’ she says. ‘If it is made of natural fibres it will breakdown but if it made from polyesters and other synthetic fibres it will be left on this Earth long after you've gone!’
If, after all that, you are going to buy something new, globally recognised standards labels like GOTS can show you if a brand can be certified organic, and Ethical Clothing Australia has lists of brands that that will make you feel good about how they pay and treat their workers.