What you consume and how you consume it not only impacts on your household budget and carbon footprint, but also contributes to the overall rate of energy consumption, waste, and ultimately the health of the earth. Instinctively we know this – the message has been sent loud and clear, but in recent years has gone from an all-encompassing roar to an occasional nudge and a whisper.
Green Fatigue has set in, with many who invested early in water tanks, solar panels and ‘green’ options with our energy suppliers, feeling powerless to do more. Politics has played its part, of course, but concern for the future will always be a bi-partisan issue. The good news is that you don’t have to contact your member of parliament or join a political party to support broader action. From little things big things grow, and your home is your domain – even small changes make all the difference.
Being green is all about using less and using smarter. With Earth Hour nearly upon us once again, it’s a great time to reflect on our own habits and introduce a kind of mindfulness to the things we usually take for granted. This includes cutting the amount of packaging you bring home from the supermarket, recycling glass, paper and tin, restricting your water usage, and controlling your electricity consumption. Every time you reduce and reserve, you affect the ongoing quality of the air, the land and our waterways. And if that’s not enough incentive, think of your wallet – smart consumption could save you at least hundreds each year.
Start small and grow from there
You’re in the fresh produce section at your local supermarket. The loose mushrooms are ten dollars a kilo, and the pre-sliced ones are fifteen dollars a kilo, but they come wrapped up in such a neat package. And you won’t even need a knife to prepare them! WOAH. Stop right there. You want to pay fifty percent more for the privilege of taking home a plastic container and its clinging cover in order to save about three minutes of cutting time? Wrong answer, start again. Reject the wastage AND the cost and teach the supermarkets that convenience shouldn’t come at that kind of price. That goes for shopping bags – try avoiding plastic with each visit, and take your own reusable bags.
There are certainly other ways to get your fresh produce as well, and top of the list is right from your own garden. You only need a couple of metres of vacant garden to construct a vegetable patch, and it’s super easy. The big-name hardware stores sell kits these days, like this one, or if you’re handy with a hammer, just a few pieces of wood or corrugated metal will set you up in no time. Start with nutrient-rich soil, a bunch of seasonal seedling, and some good instructions on caring for your darlings. The convenience, the taste, the pride you get from cultivation – you’ll be a convert for life.
Tanks for everything
You might have seen the creative water tank solutions available these days. Unless you’re in a high-rise apartment or perched over a cliff, there is sure to be a tank that can sidle up to your property without screaming its presence to the world. It might seem pointless during a dry run to try and catch the rain that doesn’t want to fall, but when it does – and it always does – you could even end up with a full tank that will see you through a week, a month, or more depending on the size. Even if it’s just hydrating your garden and your toilet, it’s less water you have to pay for and it’s less burdensome on the reservoirs.
Prepare to be thirsty
It’s not just your garden that needs watering. You need it too! Bottled water saw an unprecedented spurt in growth over the last ten years – it’s as though we didn’t learn a thing from the green movement. Think about it: something that occurs naturally almost everywhere on earth and pours freely out of our taps is packaged into small vesicles, labelled, marketed, subsequently bought by a well-meaning but suitably thirsty consumer at a higher cost per litre than milk! Then the plastic container is tossed casually into the trash, never to be thought of again. With the knowledge that you are going to get thirsty throughout the day, set out with your own filled bottle and reuse it until it falls apart. If you don’t like the taste of tap water, invest in a good filtration system. It should cost less than one or two dozen bottles.
It’s easy to think that warm water will clean your dirty washing more efficiently than cold, but is that really the case? Mostly no, according to a New York Times piece that also highlights the fact that 75% of the energy used in running a load of washing is spent heating the water. The key to a better wash is buying a washing product that is designed to be more effective in cold water. Apart from saving money, which is always a bonus, you will avoid the stretching and fading that is associated with washing in heated water. Save the heat only for heavily-soiled clothes and linen.
Ditch the dryer
Once those cold-washed clothes emerge from their cocoon, take a wide berth around the tumble dryer and head straight for the line instead. It’s luxurious to have spun-dried clothing; especially if you want them quickly, but resist the urge. Clothes dryers cost somewhere around the GDP of a small country to operate, but the sun and the wind are completely free. In the cold season, an indoor rack will take longer to dry your clothes, but the ambient temperate will eventually do the trick. It’s a little bit of inconvenience for a great big reward.
What was it your grandmother used to say? Waste not, want not. In other words, if you don’t want it, find another purpose for it. Before you put an unwanted household item in the bin or take it down to the tip, ask yourself the following: can its parts be recycled? Can I repurpose it? Do I really need a new one? Could someone else benefit from it? Is there an organisation that will accept a donation? Clothes, furniture, old tools and decorative items – chances are someone will consider your trash to be their treasure. It might even make you a quick buck!
For more great ideas on how to green your home and your community, there is a great list here. Similarly, if you’re looking for ways to save on your household energy bills, take a look at our handy energy provider comparison to see if you can get a fairer deal.