Want to know how to get me spurting flames at a dinner party? Tell me that the small things we as everyday people do can’t make a difference to the planet. Oh, where do I start? I know: food wastage. It’s the biggest environmental concern today (and a bigger polluter than cars or industry) and the biggest contributors to food wastage are consumers. Us. Not “the government” or “someone else”. Us. Everyday people.
I could go on. But I won’t get myself started. Instead I’m going to hand over the floor to my friends and family who I’ve co-opted to share their funny little ways of doing stuff that saves resources in one way or another and that add up. I’ve kicked things off with a few of my own…
I fix a broken fly with a key ring. I thread a ring from a keyring through the zip tab and then hook it over the button to keep it from falling down. I then button up as normal.
I use half the amount of laundry liquid manufacturers say you should. CSIRO did a study that found using 50 per cent of a scoop is just as effective as using a full one.
I do the same with dishwashing liquid. I use my blender for this. After making a smoothie I place a tiny drop of dish liquid in the carrier with hot water and blitz for a second or two. It produces a turbo foam that I then use to wash a load of dirty dishes.
I dry my ziplock bags on my kitchen window. I get about a dozen wears out of a ziplock bag by washing them and reusing. They’re a bugger to dry, however. But I have a trick: I smack them onto a window. They stick and dry, then drop off when ready to reuse.
I have competitions with myself about how far I can stretch a meat dish. You can check out my post yesterday on this. Sustainable Table‘s co-founder, Cassie Duncan, does the same: “I’ll cook a lamb shoulder, eat it, then make souvlakis with the leftovers and then lamb ragout with any leftovers after that.”
I upcycle encyclopaedias. Lisa Coleman from The Clothing Exchange shares: “I buy old encyclopaedias and picture books like those Life/Science ones for 50c in op shops and use their pages for gift wrapping. This means the birthday boy/girl might also be able to learn about an ancient civilisation or how a microwave works while they unwrap their gift. With encyclopaedias you can try to find the entry that is the closest spelling to the person’s name – pretty cool stuff!”
I put a bucket in the shower. This one comes from my Dad: “I put an old bucket in the base of the shower so that excess water fills it and each evening I pour it on the native garden.”
We only buy furniture from garage sales, eBay and charity shops. My brother Ben and his partner Chrissy have twin boys who are now five. To this day they’ve never once bought new clothing for them. They’re the same with furniture: “Making the most of other people’s cast-offs and hard rubbish is our speciality. Just found some battered director’s chairs on our neighbour’s hard rubbish which I sanded back and Ben made slat seats and backs for. (The neighbour came round and was sitting on one of the chairs and was completely adamant it wasn’t her old chair.)”
We turn off all electrics when we go to bed. Chrissie: “We have all of ours on two plugs so it’s easy. You can get something called Smartplug which you hit when you go to bed and it turns off the whole house.”
I recycle my coffee cup. Maria Hannaford, Sustainable Table‘s content coordinator: “I’m an avid coffee drinker so I carry a reusable cup (KeepCup) in my bag at all times. This way I completely avoid needing to use those single-use coffee cups and I have a spill-proof container at hand in case of emergencies.”
I speak up when I’m not happy. Tim Silverwood, founder of the plastic pollution campaign Take 3: “If an item comes into my house (a gift, a freebie or from my partner) that is over-packaged or un-recyclable I jump straight onto the consumer complaint line and tell the company that I (might) like the product but I won’t be buying it again because of the over packaging or un-recyclability. The company really values complaints like this and it will go a long way to encouraging them to redesign or repackage in the future.”
I save all of my food scraps for my best friend’s chickens. Valentina from The Bravery: “I hoard them in the refrigerator for a week and then run them up to her house on my morning run!”
We create baby chains with our friends. Ben and Chrissie: “Our friends pass on old clothes, toys etc onto us and we pass them on to someone else (we got through five years without buying clothes for two kids. Noah wore a pair of fourth-hand boots for a while that were in good enough nick. Also, you don’t have to worry about the chemical stuff on clothes if you get them second-hand.”
We buy books from second hand shops. Ben and Chrissie: “Not only no new resources, but your kids will be intrigued by the name of the child (often written on the front) who owned it and fascinated by the story of who had it before.”
We recycle birthday and Christmas cards. Ben and Chrissie: “Keep cards, cut the back off and re-use.”
Reuse your bike inner tubes. My bro’ Ben: “We hold on to these and use for all sorts of things. Most recently I’ve cut them into strips for tying tomato plants to stakes (old bits of steel tube from a hard rubbish pile in the street).”
I pump my tires. My brother Simon horrified his partner Bron when he shared this via email: “Before a long distance car trip I pump the tires on the car to at least about 40psi. While making for a slightly precarious ride that feels like you might skid or be bumped off the road at any time, it does reduce rolling resistance that really improves fuel efficiency.”
I hypermill. Again from Simon (although he didn’t realise it was called hypermilling): “Adding to the excitement is when I draft behind semi-trailers or other large vehicles (within 2-3 meters is best) so as to enter the slip stream and be pulled along by the apparent vacuum behind the large moving mass. Again, this really helps with fuel efficiency. Finally, I also tend to turn the engine off when I approach long down hills. This gives the engine a chance to cool down nicely (particularly on hot days) and, again, reduces fuel consumption.” [I do the same – Sarah]
I drive my car like you might ride a bike. Simon: “On a bike you don’t put in any more than you need to. So when a light turns red up ahead back off the gas and coast to the lights like you would on a bike. Similarly, there’s no need to burn off when the lights go green as you will only need to break when you hit traffic ahead. New car manuals promote this type of driving and it makes for a more relaxed and efficient drive!” [Again, I do the same – Sarah]
I only fill my tank when it’s almost empty. My brother Ben shares: “The way I see it is, if you fill up with a tank half full before a long trip, that’s like adding another child to the car in terms of mass. Carting an extra child worth of mass around for 250km for no reason seems a little pointless.”
I find a good cobbler. My sister-in-law Bron: “Buy good quality second hand shoes/boots on ebay (they made them to last in the 70s & 80s) and find a good cobbler to resole, resole, resole.”
I love bicarb! Chrissie: “We use bicarb for everything from oven cleaning, BBQ cleaning, stains on clothes, shoe deodoriser, carpet cleaning and baking carrot cake!”
We make home brew. Most of my family make beer…but Bron says: “We’ve been drinking beer out of the same bottles for three years!”
I reuse “dead” batteries. This one’s from my Dad: “I keep batteries in a little dish in my room when they stop operating in high energy stuff (such as a bike light) and then use them in low energy stuff like the clock or old radios. This works well for TV remotes – I can get another month or so out of them that way.”
Here’s how I waste less.
Here’s what I do with leftover herbs.
And here’s how to eat your scraps.
Do you do any of these? Any more you’d like to add?!