It is likely you are, like me, dismayed at the current bushfire crisis we are experiencing in Australia. An estimated 1 billion animals have perished, people have died and thousands are having to rebuild their lives. With a lack of words to describe the situation, it is just so sooo sad.
A lot of people are blaming the government for their lack of environmental interventions. I share their frustrations however, instead of waiting and expending energy being angry at the government, we need to ensure we are doing our best in reducing our own environmental impact and lead by example.
In basically every home that I visit I see simple opportunites for reduction of energy, water and waste. Below I have listed some really, very, simple things that can be instilled TODAY, at no cost, to improve every homes environmental footprint, some you will be aware of, some you may not.
Reduce your energy consumption:
Switch off appliances at the wall when not in use - even in stand-by mode appliances are drawing energy from your supply. If you are someone who forgets to switch them off you could consider purchasing timers which switch off appliances at the mains whilst you are at work and sleeping and on again each evening and morning. Suitable timers can be purchased from hardware and home electronics stores for very minimal investment.
Ensure your appliances and air conditioner/s are in good working order, replace seals on refrigerators if needed. Clean and service them regularly.
Seal air leaks in windows and doors to prevent draughts and hot air creeping indoors.
Before turning on the aircon, turn on a fan, take advantage of natural breezes and cross ventilation.
In the bathroom:
Take shorter showers. Water saving shower heads utilise 6L of water per minute however most standard shower heads use 9 - 12L per minute. If you are currently having 10 minute showers thats 60 -120L of water per shower (at least a months drinking water).... Can you halve it?
Keep your basin mixer turned to cold. Most standard basin mixers (flickmixer style with one handle) have a central, warm position. If you are turning it on each time from the central position you are drawing water from your hot water system, activating energy usage. Turning the handle on from the cold position only draws out cold water, having no effect on your hot water. There are mixers available with a 'cool start' function which are engineered with the cold point in the centre, keep a look out for these if you are renovating or replacing taps!
Fix any dripping taps and leaky toilets
Replace disposable nappies with washable ones
For women - replace your tampons with menstrual cups and your pads/liners with reuseable ones. These really aren't as ick as they initially seem, simply wash them out in the sink or shower and then, for pads and liners, put in with your usual washing. I've been using a menstrual cup for my period for the last 18 years and it is so much easier and saves so much waste (and money)!
Employ low or no toxic cleaning agents:
Don't purchase any new toxic cleaning products and start cleaning with natural alternatives
Use a squeegee to wipe down shower screens and tiles to prevent mildue and build-up after each shower (seriously it takes about 30 seconds and saves time spent scrubbing shower screens).
Manage your household waste:
We are a household of 3 + 1 cat though we often host guests. Most of the time we have just 1 or 2 small bags in our general waste bin each fortnight. One is the cat litter and the other contains bits and pieces that aren't recyclable and the odd broken, to-the-point-of-dangerous, plastic toy. We are still working on reducing our waste and one day soon, we will have no use for the general waste. I realise it is harder for larger families but certainly not beyond improvement and not impossible.
Recycle recyclables (contact your local council for a list of what can be recycled in your area). LMCC list of recyclables can be found here.
Collect soft plastics and return them to the soft plastics recycling facilities nearest you (coles and woollies usually have them, ask at your local store). I tie a used plastic bag or plastic bread bag to one of my kitchen cupboards each week and fill it with soft plastic which I then take with me when I go out.
Compost or utilise a worm farm for your food waste. Worm farms are compact in size so even if you only have a small outdoor area they are practical - you can use the worm juice on your lawn or garden or collect it in your old bottles and give it away or sell it - plenty of gardeners are buying worm juice!
Where your council collects food waste - separate your food waste and take part!
Become familiar with the concepts of embodied energy and embodied water
Consider a products entire lifecycle, 'cradle to grave'.
Buy locally made and owned
Buy second hand
Buy in bulk
Say "no" to plastic
Repair rather than replace when there is the option to
Don't buy because something is 'good enough for now', save up for items that truly fit your needs
Use your car less:
Walk, cycle or use public transport where practical
Clean up your mealtimes:
Eat less meat - it may or may not be common knowledge now, that the meat industry is one of, if not the, biggest detriments to our environment and while, going vegan is one option, simply reducing the amount your eat will make a big difference. Another thing that may, or may not be common knowledge, is that most people eat far too much meat anyway.
Grow your own - as much as possible.
Eat fresh - avoid heavily packaged foods.
And some longer term initatives to plan:
Insulate your home. Insulation works by slowing down the transfer of temperatures between the outdoors and the indoors. This means that your home takes longer to heat up when it's hot outside (and visa versa)
Install ceiling fans
Consider installing solar panels
Replace light globes with LED alternatives
Install a greywater system
Collect rainwater for watering gardens
Plant stuff - I had lunch for my birthday this week in the Hunter Valley and it struck me how many dry, dusty, desolate paddocks and yards there were. These should be planted out with drought-tolerant natives. In addition to preventing ground water run off and protecting the soil biology, plants absorb carbon from the atmosphere, encourage wildlife and generate humidity (and water!!!).
The most important thing is to do our best as individuals, families and communities to show the government that we are not waiting for them and they'd better catch up! Be a revolution, dont wait for one!