What is sustainable living?
It is hard to imagine any other time in the history of humans, where we have been concerned so much about our environment. Sustainable living or a sustainable lifestyle is one which adopts changes to meet those concerns. So many environmental issues have become evident to scientists, and environmental agencies around the world and the need for change rests with all of us. Even if you're a sceptic of climate change or global warming, sustainable living has become an absolute necessity.
Many environmental issues are facing the next generation that older generations have never encountered.
- Climate Change
- Plastic Pollution
- Ocean Acidity
- Runoff from pesticides
- Diminishing global bee populations
- Extinction of species and ecosystems
- Air pollution
- Freshwater supplies
Of course, there are many more problems, but these are just some of the greatest threats to all species, including humans.
So what is sustainable living? Sustainable living is a change in lifestyle choices that lessen your impact on the earth's resources and the environment. Earths resources are not limitless. You could forgive yourself for thinking like many, "What can I do about it, and will my efforts amount to anything?" Adopting a sustainable lifestyle is not only the answer but is also not as hard as it sounds.
People sometimes refer to a sustainable lifestyle as a green lifestyle. According to Earth Overshoot Day website, we are consuming more earth resources than the planet can replenish in a year. It would now take 1.75 planet earths to supply what we use annually. In reality, we are now borrowing resources from future generations. By adopting small changes every day, our efforts can slow down or even stop the exhaustion of earth resources. This type of change needed requires what is called sustainable living.
Here are some top ways you or your family can adopt sustainable practices into your daily life.
Use less plastic:
In recent times, Australian legislation has changed to ban the use of single-use plastic bags in Supermarkets. Customers have been educated to bring reusable bags instead. Despite initial backlash from customers, we have quickly adapted to life without single-use plastic bags.
An article on National Retailer Association website reported that in the seven months leading up to February 2019, Australia used 80% less single-use plastic bags, equating to 1.5 billion less shopping bags in landfill, or worse in oceans where a single bag can kill numerous marine life, as it takes a very long time to breakdown. This demonstrates just how much of a difference one change can make
Unfortunately, single-use plastics extend beyond plastic bags. Plastic water bottles are another common item that is bought and thrown out with little regard of where it will end up. Despite many water bottles being recyclable, their production and also disposal continue to diminish or harm our Earth's resources. Even worse than drink bottles are takeaway coffee cups, most of which cannot be recycled due to their plastic lining.
A simple change that everyone can make is to choose a quality drink bottle that you can reuse for many years to come. Filling up your drink bottle at home quickly becomes an automatic routine. Also, it saves you a lot of money by the end of the year. As for single-use takeaway coffee cups, a reusable travel mug is the best option. Most coffee shops allow you to bring in a reusable mug, with many even offering a discount as a reward.
Rethink the next time you put your arm out to buy a bottle of cola or sports drink. Reported in Forbes, Coca Cola and its affiliated brands produce over 108 billion plastic bottles per year. They are destined to end up as landfill, recycled or in waterways and oceans. Reusable Aluminium sports bottles are a great way of keeping the environment free from plastic.
Other sneaky single-use plastics you may not think about
Other sneaky single-use plastics that are in our day to day are there because of convenience. At the grocery store, these will come in the form of pre-packaged salad mixes, tomatoes, cucumbers and even bananas. The butcher department is much the same, with all cuts of meat wrapped in plastic. The aisles in between these supermarkets are all full of packaged goods, from chips to biscuits and sauce sachets.
A good indicator that you are using too many single-use sneaky plastics is by monitoring how full your bin is at the end of the week. It is a convenience which can lead us to use too many single-use plastics. Try to work out a way that you can save time in food preparation while still being environmentally aware.
This includes visiting the butcher with a glass container, using mesh bags for fresh groceries and buying foods in bulk instead of individual serves. Not only will you save on waste, but you will also save on your weekly grocery budget.
The reality is that plastic will always be around; it is in more things than you know! However, sustainable living does not mean walking around in hemp clothing and wearing no shoes. It means thinking about how you, as an individual, can make a difference in the overconsumption of plastics. Now is the time for a change. Your contribution to a sustainable lifestyle will make a difference.
You may think all this talk about plastic pollution is alarmist or extremist. Read these articles. They may give a better appreciation of how serious our plastic pollution is getting.
Great articles on global plastic pollution:
- Great Ocean Garbage Patch
- Microplastics found in the Swiss Alps
- Plastics in Mariana trench
- Microplastics found in over 50% of fish we eat
The rise in ocean acidity:
Even if you are a sceptic of global warming or climate change, there are some things which you cannot intelligently argue. Earth's oceans are increasing in not only temperature but also in acidity. While some are happy to dispute the correlation between carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and global warming, the relationship between the rise in CO2 and the rise in the acidity levels of the world oceans is evident.
The ocean is like a sponge which absorbs an incredible amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. When CO2 reacts which seawater it changes and becomes carbonic acid. Historically, rivers and streams dissolved enough rocks and materials to keep the acidity levels stable. However, as reported by Global SI, as global carbon emissions have soared, the buffering effect of the natural cycle simple can not keep up. The world's oceans have seen an increase of 30% in acidity in the past 150 years alone. The results are the devastation of coral reefs and their ability to grow.
Government environmental agencies predict in the coming years that continued ocean acidification will have long-lasting economic ramifications. Fish, Whales, Shellfish, Oysters, Mussels, Clams and plankton are all feeling the effects of the acidity change in the ocean. The shells of some marine life are already dissolving as a result of increased pH in the seawater.
Simple things you can do to help the oceans:
- Read the bottle - If it doesn't say pH neutral on the packaging, then it shouldn't go down the drain, sink or toilet.
- Reduce your use of chemicals which have high acid content such as hydrochloric acid-based cleaners, concentrated citrus cleaners etc.
- Clean your dishes, drains or sinks with dishwashing detergent. Dishwash liquid soaps are the closest cleaning solution to pH neutral you can use.
- Switch to green energy if you can or try to reduce your daily power consumption. If you lower your electricity consumption, then less coal is burnt, resulting in less CO2 emissions.
- Think about your carbon footprint and ways you can reduce it.
Help the bees:
Bees are the worlds number one pollinators. Already around the world, we see severe declines in bee populations. In some countries, bees have entirely disappeared. This small, humble insect is responsible for the growth of trees, plants and flowers. A wide range of fauna which not only provides habitat to insects and animals but also supports entire eco-systems. The loss of bees would be devastating for Earth, causing a loss of plant diversity, along with animals that rely on those plants to survive. A flow-on effect will then follow to humans, making it difficult to grow food.
The causes of bee population declines are multiple, including modern, large-scale agricultural farming that uses powerful insecticides, genetically modified crops and use of synthetic fertilisers. Deforestation also causes devastating effects to bee numbers.
Deforestation in Australia along with devastating wildfires is the cause of significant disruption and threat to our wild bee colonies and their behaviours. Livestock farming, urban sprawl and agriculture are the reasons for the cutting down of forests and bushlands around the globe.
Outside Australia, deforestation is threatening entire bee species. What was once thickly wooded forests and haven for natural wild honey bee populations, is being turned into vast palm oil plantations or plains for beef farming. Now, bees have to travel further to find pollen food on flowering plants. Deforestation is one direct cause of bee decline.
While thinking that helping the bees sounds like an impossible task, there are things we can do at an individual level to help them significantly.
- Grow your fruit and vegetables or try to purchase organic fruit and vegetables. Organic farming means no pesticides, so the entire practice of organic agriculture helps save the bees from deadly pesticides. The more we all support organic farming practices, the better for the bees.
- Rethink your gardening to include bee-friendly plants. Natives, fruit plants and drought hardy plants like lavenders and rosemary. The more vegetation we plant which is bee-friendly, the less distance they have to travel to find food.
- Use pest repelling plants around your bbq areas instead of toxic sprays and chemicals. In regards to outdoor pest repellents and sprays, generally, the contents are toxic to insects around you. There are plenty of other ways to tell mozzies to keep away without poisoning every living thing in your garden. One great natural, non-toxic product is YaMate outdoor candles.
- Reduce your red meat consumption. As the meat industry is a significant contributor to logging and clearing virgin forests, reducing red meat consumption will help reduce your carbon footprint. Also, red meat farming produces a higher CO2 output compared to poultry and other meat farming. By even cutting back your red meat consumption a little, you will improve your health while helping the planet and the bees.
You may be starting to see a pattern here between little things we all do and how they have a much more significant impact than you would think. If each one of us made small changes, it would make a difference.
Start living a sustainable lifestyle:
Adopting a sustainable lifestyle means to make conscious choices to live in a way that uses less natural resources. If you use fewer resources, there is less damage to the planet. Better for you, and certainly better for your children's future on the planet.
Living a sustainable lifestyle can be not only rewarding but also educational if you bring the kids in on it.
The blame game:
Media articles abound with blame on the babyboomers and generation X for the problems we face today. But casting blame any direction won't solve the problem. Also, it is a rather pointless exercise. The world was very different back then.
There is a saying. The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.
After WWII, building and manufacturing industry grew substantially. Wealth amassed in many countries, and many people found themself with a good job. It was almost etched in stone you had to go to church on Sundays, have a wife, three or four children, a house and a dog. In the early 1970s, the soft drink man still delivered to your home, the milkman would deliver the milk and your paper would be in the driveway. Shopping remained very local. The fruit and produce shop, the bakery, the hardware store. All within short travelling distance from home.
As the workplace changed and families began having two income streams with both husband and wife working, things changed. There was suddenly more choice on offer, and people wanted more. A bigger home, a bigger tv and let's not forget a microwave and beta max video player. In the 1980's we started to learn about a thing called ozone and a big hole in it. The world rallied to cut back on CFC's, and the ozone holes have slowly repaired. It was the first significant test for humans to fix a big environmental issue they had created and we have.
Yet our thirst for bigger and better continued. Cars became larger and faster, and in the 1990s many people started at looking to owning a caravan and a 4WD to tow it. More people could afford airline travel, once thought of as a luxury. Homes became more opulent, and the modest three-bedroom home turned into a four-bedroom with a study. Recycling started to be introduced by councils to help the overflowing landfill sites, and plastic bottles began to flood the shops. As China grew into a manufacturing giant, the world took advantage of cheap electricals and furniture. This leads us to where we are today, now referred to as the throwaway society.
Today, we can use the internet and buy almost anything and have it delivered to our door. We can even save a dollar and purchase dishwasher tablets from the other side of the country. Much of the merchandise online is cheaply manufactured and will end up in the landfill. Unlike years ago when you would have your VCR repaired, today it is cheaper to throw an item out, and buy a new one.
So the blame game could be cast from both sides. It's time for all generations to take up a simple challenge. What can you do to live more sustainably?
While buying goods online has become an intrinsic part of our daily lives, it has a substantial environmental impact. So if you can buy something locally, you will find many stores are now super competitive. So if you are doing online shopping, it is better for the environment if you:
- Be selective with what you are buying.
- Check if a local store can match the price.
- Purchase in bulk
- Buy only what you need
- Where possible shop local.
Here at Dine A Chook, we not only have an online store but a considerable list of nationwide retailers of the Dine A Chook product range. If you would like to shop locally and can't find a stockist, ask your local pet or produce store to get Dine A Chook in for you.
How to make sustainable food choices
Any home can add a garden. If you have a yard, plan out an area for some vegetable and fruit gardens. If you live in a unit complex, you can do the same in pots. If you have children, get them involved in learning to home grow produce. By educating your children on how food grows, you will instil values of patience, appreciation of how nature works and learn how to be sustainable.
Reduce waste. According to OzHarvest, in Australia, one in five grocery shopping bags ends up as waste. A whopping 35% of our grocery bin is food waste. Instead of buying more, buy quality with an emphasis on organic. Yes, organic produce is more expensive; however, if you are only purchasing the food you need without wastage, you may find you end up ahead in your grocery budget.
Choose Organic. The benefits of organic foods are they are chemical-free, so they are not only good for you but better for the environment by being farmed without pesticides, chemicals and in many cases, fertilisers. Many well known organic farms choose to rotate crops in different fields rather than pumping the ground with fertilisers.
Buy Local. Shopping within your area will not only keep family businesses alive, but it also reduces your carbon footprint. Sure you might be able to save a dollar buying your dishwasher tablets online, but is it worth the carbon expense of delivering a simple purchase across the country when you could purchase them in your suburb?
Eat less meat. No, we are not getting into the meat debate; however, you cannot deny that somehow it has become common to have a meat product in every main meal. Breakfast may include bacon, lunch a deli ham and dinner mince beef. By eating less meat, you will help to diversify your diet and also reduce the hazardous effects of cattle farming on the environment.
Sustainable Energy Use:
Thanks to the growth in LED lights, it has become so much more efficient to run an average home lighting and use less electricity. There are, however, simple things you can do to cut back further on electricity usage without living in the dark.
- Turn off electrical devices at the wall instead of leaving them on standby
- Insulate your home
- Use the air conditioner to cool the air at around 24 - 25 degrees, one degree of cooling chews an enormous amount of power.
- Turn off lights when not in a room
- Taking four-minute showers reduces both water consumption as well as the power needed to heat the water.
- Avoid using the dishwasher or washing machine for small loads.
- Turn off outdoor lights when not in use.
- Make use of the sun to power your home with solar panels.
- Use energy-efficient appliances
- Air-dry your clothing, use the dryer less
- Look at how much energy you use to heat your home. Choose curtains, floor covering and warmer clothes first before switching on a radiant heater
Recycle and repurpose:
Where possible repurpose and recycle as much as you can. It wasn't that long ago where this practice was second nature. Remember, people didn't throw out broken things; they repaired them or gave it away. It can become this way once again.
Before throwing out plastics, check to see if it can be recycled. At the bottom of bottles and containers, you may notice a triangle recycling symbol with a number. Each number will describe what it is made from and how to recycle. Read below to learn:
- 1. PETE - Commonly found on drink bottles, PETE is easy to recycle. Place into your recycling bin
- 2. HDPE - Milk bottles and shampoo bottles, rubbish bags. Place all into your recycling bin except rubbish bags
- 3. PVC - Plumbing Pipes, cordial bottles and even vinyl flooring. Place only rigid plastics such as pipes and bottles into recycling bins
- 4. LDPE - Generally lightweight plastic such as rubbish bags. Do not place these light-weight soft plastics into your home recycle bin
- 5. PP - Rigid containers such as ice cream containers and plastic takeaway containers. You can recycle these items in your household recycle bin
- 6. PS Foam cups and foam packaging, including meat trays. Polystyrene cannot be recycled in your home recycling bin however many council sites take it for free. Rid PS plastics can be recycled.
- 7. Other - Nylon, Baby milk bottles, DVDs. Only some of these can be recycled.
Recycle your kitchen food waste into compost for your new garden. Also, many council tips have a recycling centre. Many of these offer free drop off for the recycling of oils, paints, polystyrene, cardboard, glass, steel and more. Visit your local council website for more information. This reduces your family landfill contribution. Remember, all landfill damages the environment.
Another great way of ridding yourself of unwanted furniture, old chairs, desks, bed frames and even wall paintings is Gumtree. Many people now use this to give away things for free rather than taking it to the tip. By repurposing household items to someone who wants or can use them, you reduce landfill and help the environment. Also, instead of buying new, consider buying second-hand. You may be surprised what you will find on your local Buy, Sell and Swap Facebook group including near-new lounges or children toys and gaming consoles.
Use less water:
Using less water, even when water is plentiful teaches children how to appreciate this vital resource. In Australia, there will be years of drought, so it is crucial everyone has an understanding of how water can be saved, repurposed and its overall usage reduced.
Place two watering tubes 100-150mmL x 60mmW PVC tubing into the ground near the base of established plants. Rather than turning on the sprinkler and flooding a large area, use a watering can and fill the tubing. If you are watering with a sprinkler, water in the evening to minimise evaporation. Also, watch how long you let the sprinkler run. Set a timer to ensure you don't forget your tap is turned on and move the sprinkler every 6 minutes to a new location. By adding plenty of compost or mulch to your garden beds, you minimise evaporation from the soil. Another tip is to invest in some self-watering pots; they help reduce evaporation.
Some people in drought-affected areas will also recycle shower/bath water to their gardens or even connect a hose to their washing machine and let the water flow out onto their lawn.
If you use a dishwasher, make sure it is full before operating it. In the sink, rather than washing dishes with the tap running, use the plug to reduce wasted water. In our office, we use a bucket system for washing up with all leftover washing water going straight out onto the plants outside.
Try to time limit showers. And don't let the tap run when you are brushing your teeth or shaving. Again, you can take a bucket into the shower and let it fill on the floor next to you like your shower. Use this captured water for pot plants.
If you have children, let them share the bathwater.
Use the washing machine when you have a full load. Small loads waste too much water. Also, look for a washing liquid which has lower phosphates and is more balanced in pH. There are a few out there with excellent reviews such as EcoStore Liquid Washing Liquid as well as Omo Delicates Laundry Wash. They are also safe to use if you have a septic tank or use greywater.
You can also fit a hose to your washing machine to allow it to drain outside onto your lawn
Washing the car:
If you are cleaning the car, try to do it on the grass, so water soaks into the soil rather than down the driveway into the drain.
Get a tank.
Rainwater tanks are popular in Australia, utilising your house's guttering, they can fill up quickly when we have a good couple of days worth of rain. This water is excellent for your veggie garden and keeping your flowering natives looking lush. Rain water is full of positive ions.
As the population of Australia grows, water is becoming one of the biggest challenges we as a society have. This year, 2019, has seen some of the lowest dam records around Australian in living records. It also has been one of the harshest droughts in Australias recorded history. It is reported in the news how many towns and even cities have only weeks or months left of dam water. With less rainfall comes responsibility at the individual level. In Australia, we all need to be more mindful of how we use our freshwater and continually look for ways in how to repurpose every drop
Just as it is vital to reduce freshwater usage, remember what you put in the drains, sink and toilet will end up in the ocean. Try to think about what you use for cleaning, personal hygiene and washing so that you use something better for you as well as the environment.
Sustainable living and backyard chickens
Another phrase commonly found in Sustainable circles is self-sufficient. Being truly self-sufficient requires a great deal of change, requiring you to live "off the grid" by generating your power, harvesting your water supply and even growing your food supply. But you don't have to go off the grid to take on sustainable choices at home. Keeping backyard chickens is a great way to start with sustainable living. The benefits are more than just eggs.
If your local council allows you to keep chickens, this is a great thing to supplement your sustainable lifestyle changes. It's no secret that many commercial-scale chicken farms have very poor animal welfare report cards. By having a chicken run, you can give some lucky chickens a healthy, enjoyable life. You can feed chickens select kitchen scraps as treats from time to time. So if you're not putting scraps in the compost bin, the chooks will love them. Remember, though; you should only use scraps as treats and not a complete diet. Ensure your chickens have a supply of Quality chicken feed such as a complete pellet feed, layer or mash feed. Seed mixes are not recommended as they encourage selective feeding behaviour and chooks miss out on the nutrients and protein they need to lay eggs.
Without question any die-hard self-sufficient person will tell you having a flock of chooks is a must.
The reasons chickens play an essential role in a sustainable lifestyle are:
- You use less carbon footprint by collecting your fresh eggs rather than going to the store to buy commercially farmed eggs.
- Fresh backyard eggs are more nutritious than battery farm eggs. They contain less cholesterol and more Omega-3 fatty acids!
- Chickens are great at pest control. They love to forage for insects and larvae. Also, they love eating flies.
- Farming organic eggs at home is far cheaper than the store and better for the environment.
- Repurpose chicken poo. Use it in your new vegetable patch together with your homemade compost for the ultimate natural fertiliser.
Concentrated chicken farming is terrible for the environment. Large scale chicken farms produce tons of manure every year. They are a significant source of water pollution as well as air pollution.
You can move away from supporting commercial chicken farming by being eco-conscious by owning backyard chickens. Repurpose kitchen food scraps to your hens and use to make compost. Use the chicken manure to supplement your compost for gardening. This is a sensible, environmentally friendly and sustainable move away from commercialised farming.
Things you should do before buying chickens:
- Consult your council to check the laws and regulations in your area.
- Check if you have enough room for a chicken run and chicken coop.
- If you get a green light, build a predator safe chicken coop and run.
- Invest in a Quality Chicken feeder and drinker
- Get ready to have some fun with your new pets.
We'd love your feedback on this article. Leave a comment below and tell us what sustainable practices you use at home.