Here are 10 lifestyle changes that will make you align with the environment.
1. Get rid of the clutter
Most people do not think of clutter as waste but everything that you have in your home that you are not using is going to waste because someone somewhere else could be making better use of it. While it is sitting in your home unused, it may be deteriorating or becoming obsolete. If you haven’t used an item in six months sell it or give it away.
I cleared the clutter out of my garage and my spare room and now I rent out my garage for storage and my spare room to students. Not only do I make money from these activities, I also make the best use of the space available and help to create less need for new hotels and storage units to be built.
2. Swap disposables for reusable items
Buying disposable goods is a massive waste of money and is bad for the environment too. It is easy to make a few simple changes to reduce your dependence on disposable objects. Here are some alterations I made and you can do them too. I swapped:
- Reusable boxes or cloth bags for disposable bags
- Washable cloths or rags for paper kitchen
- Non-stick natural cookware e.g. glass, stoneware or cast iron for foil and baking paper. If food needs to be covered in the oven use an ovenproof dish with a lid
- Damp cloths or damp newspaper/ other waste paper for wet wipes
- Reusable refillable bottles for plastic bottles
- Unpackaged food [or bulk buy] for packaged food and I bring it home in reusable bags. Even meat, cheese and fish can be transported home in reusable containers
- Lastly, I put food items in a box with a lid instead of wrapping them with clingfilm.
3. Don’t waste food
A lot of time, energy and resources go into producing and transporting the food we eat, yet many of us throw leftovers away, not an Eco-friendly practice. Food in landfill gives off methane—a greenhouse gas, and it seems terrible to throw food away when there are people going hungry in the world.
- Only buy the food you need—don’t be tempted by special offers
- Weigh or count out portions of rice, pasta, vegetables and so on, so that you only make what you will eat in that day
- Freeze leftover cooked fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, bread and dairy products to consume at a later date. Only freeze cooked food once, do not refreeze again or the food will spoil
- Instead of throwing out fruits and vegetables that might be nearing their expiry date or just a few days past their best, cook them and turn into soups, smoothies, cakes, ice cream, sorbets, sauces or juices
- Give away any excess food you can’t or won’t use to friends, family, neighbours or those in need.
4. Make use of your waste
Try to avoid bringing stuff into your home that will soon end up in the bin; if you do find it unavoidable occasionally, try to make use of it by up-cycling it.
- Before throwing something in the bin, try to mend it first
- Glass jars make attractive plant pots—line the bottom with stones or you can even use pieces of cracked pots for drainage. Glass jars are also handy for storage
- Envelopes can be reused or turned into notepads. Cut them up into rectangles, punch holes through the top and thread through some string to bind the pieces together
- Brown paper packaging makes great wrapping paper
- With old clothes, sheets and other fabrics you could:
- Cut the sheets and towels into squares and use as cleaning cloths
- Tear towels into strips and make into foot-rugs
- Use as fabric for new projects—e.g. make a reusable shopping bag, cut jeans into shorts
- Or you could even wrap gifts with them.
5. Recycle whatever is left
Have a set of recycling bins and sort your rubbish into them e.g. glass, cans, paper, metal, fabric and plastics. We often stop thinking about our trash once we are done separating it but make an effort to find out what is being done with your waste. What is the use of separating your garbage if it is going into a dump? If you find that your garbage is not being recycled by the agency that collects it, take it to a different area where there is a recycling facility. There are paper marts or scrap dealers that pay you for used paper and plastic.
6. Invest in some compost bins
Station small compost bins in both your kitchen and your bathroom. If you have a food waste collection then follow the instructions given on what type of foods you can put in it. If you have a garden, then invest in a compost bin where you can put all types of foods in.
In your bathroom compost bin you can collect hair, nail cuttings, tissues, toilet paper rolls, cotton wool and wooden toothpicks.
7. Ditch the toxic antibacterial cleaning products
It is important to keep your home clean, but antibacterial products kill all bacteria, good and bad, plus many contain toxic chemicals. We need the good bacteria to be healthy. There is usually no need to use antibacterial products on surfaces unless you have been chopping raw meat on your kitchen counter or someone in your household has an infectious disease. If you do cook meat at home, use a wooden chopping board that you can wash rather than disinfecting the whole area. For the occasions when you do want an antibacterial cleaner, switch to natural substances like bicarbonate of soda, lemon juice or vinegar.
8. Switch it off!
We all know that if your lights or electrical appliances are not in use, then switch them off. But my suggestion to make things easier is to plug a number of items into a multi plug extension lead e.g. a TV, DVD player and cable box, which you can switch off all together when you are done.
If you have solar panels or access to another form of renewable energy, use appliances at the right time e.g. when the sun is shining or when the wind is blowing.
Consider using intelligent systems that can work out exactly when to turn lights, heating, air conditioning and watering systems on or off, based on your whereabouts or on the temperature or humidity that day for example and which can be controlled remotely.
9. Turn off the tap
Keep water usage to a minimum by doing the following, if possible:
- Collect rainwater in water butts to water plants
- It is preferable to fill a bucket with your bath water so that you use a limited amount of water
- When running a tap or shower put a bucket underneath to collect any spare water and use the waste water to flush the toilet or water plants
- When cleaning your teeth, put a small amount of water in a cup and use only that water to clean your teeth
- See if you can wear clothes [like pants or night clothes] a few times before washing them
- Before you start to cook, measure the water needed to cook and wash the food into the kettle and only use what you need
- Fill a reusable container with your daily amount of drinking water, this will give you an idea of how much you consume.
10. Grow your own
We don’t realise the carbon footprint that buying food creates. If you grow food yourself, it doesn’t have to travel long distances and can be grown without pesticides and fertilisers. Herbs and spices, fruit and flowers are an easy place to start and most come up year after year with little effort on your part. If space is a constraint, try and walk to the market instead of going by vehicle. This reduces the carbon footprint and every little bit helps.
- You can gift homemade flower displays from flowers you have grown—even weeds can make pretty displays!
- Herbs and spices have many uses—they make great herbal teas, herbal baths, have medicinal uses and add flavour to meals.
This was first published in the May 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.