We all have our daily rituals and habits that help us get through the day. Some are a necessity, while others we do for pleasure. But have you ever really thought about how your daily routine may impact the world around you?
We all wonder how to reduce our carbon footprint, and at some point, we all want to change our daily habits to be kinder to the environment but do we really put in a concentrated effort or do we skim over the details and occasionally make a greener choice?
Living green is so much more than just choosing a few environmentally friendly products; it’s more of a lifestyle. It’s about making conscious choices that will reduce your impact on the environment. The good news is that sustainable living will save the environment and save you money as well.
Before you rush out and start buying all the “green” products on the current top lists, look at some realistic and straightforward things you can do that will result in positive changes.
Those traditional light bulbs may be cheap to buy, but they don’t last long. What’s worse is that they consume electricity like crazy. Your first step to green living is one of the easiest ones. All you need to do is switch to energy-efficient light bulbs[i]. These include:
Although the initial cost of these light bulbs may be high compared to traditional light bulbs, they last longer and are much lower energy consumers, so you’ll save money in the long run. Just remember that these energy-saving bulbs will only add up to cash savings if you remember to turn off the lights when you leave a room.
Do you know that little light on your TV and other devices that shines even after you’ve turned it off? That little light is still consuming electricity. If you can, get a multi-socket power board with a switch. At the end of the day, flick the switch so that everything is completely turned off. It’s a good idea to do this when you leave the house to go to work too. It may not seem like much, but every little bit you save adds up when it comes to looking after the environment and your bank account.
We live in a world full of disposable or single-use items. Think of the last time you went on a picnic. Was your picnic basket full of disposable containers, plates, glasses and other odds and ends? These may be handy when it’s time to pack up. All you need to do is bag everything when you’re done and dump it in the nearest bin. Unfortunately, all that plastic ends up in landfills and takes decades to break down.
The same applies to packed lunches for work and school. We either pack them in disposable containers or buy our lunch in these single-use packs. It’s so much better for the environment if you bring a reusable container with your lunch or even take the container to your favourite eatery and have them pack your lunch in that. You can also take this one step further with your water bottle and buy long-lasting and reusable ones. Simply fill it up with water from home and take it with you wherever you go.
If you’re wondering how to be more environmentally friendly, start with changing some of your shopping habits. Your first step to shopping smart is purchasing a bunch of sturdy reusable shopping bags, or ‘bags for life’. Plastic shopping bags are often very flimsy, which makes them unusable once you get them home. They usually end up in the bin and can fly away into waterways and forests.
The next step is to switch from your usual products to environmentally friendly products. You can choose everything from recycled paper products to shampoos, and other hygiene products made ethically from sustainable sources.
Pre-packaged foods may be convenient, but they aren’t good for you or the environment. Fresh is always best, which means your first stop when you shop for groceries should be for whole foods. Whenever possible, buy your fruits and vegetables from local markets. The food you buy here is often fresher, and as it doesn’t need to travel far, you won’t be contributing to exhaust fumes from a petrol guzzling truck to deliver produce to your area. Get your fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat products from sustainable and ethical farms. You’ll be supporting local businesses, reducing fuel emissions, and the food will be so much better for your health.
Whenever possible, avoid pre-packed and processed foods, but look for those with minimal packaging if you must get some of these items.
You don’t need a massive garden to grow a few fruit trees or vegetables. You can grow some essential vegetables in planters or hanging baskets. Strawberries do well in hanging baskets, and they look pretty charming hanging on your balcony or veranda. Many different types of fruit trees also grow beautifully in pots that you can use to decorate even the smallest garden.
When it comes to growing vegetables, the humble tomato is the easiest to grow in a pot. Depending on the size of your pot, you may be able to produce several plants. All they need is a support stick in the middle of the pot for you to tie the plants as they get taller, and remember to water them. Tomatoes have the added benefit of repelling mosquitos. Place your pots of tomato plants around your outdoor areas and enjoy summer evenings without being assaulted by the little stingers. Not only do you get some delicious tomatoes, but you also won’t need those nasty aerosol cans of repellents that are full of chemicals that are bad for you and the environment.
There are many other vegetables and fruits you can grow in pots[ii], and even if you don’t like gardening, a few pots are easy to handle and would make a great project for children.
There is an old saying in some parts of Europe. “I’m not wealthy enough to buy cheap things.” While this may sound confusing, there is some logic to this statement. We’ve all bought those bargain bin clothing items only to have them stretch out of shape or wear out after a few uses. This is not the path to follow on how to be more sustainable. Cheap often means inferior, so you may end up replacing these items sooner than you planned. What’s worse is that many of these cheap items are made from poor quality materials from unreliable sources and use nasty chemical processes to produce the finished product. Look for quality clothing from ethical manufacturers that get their materials from sustainable sources.
Do yourself a favour and avoid plastic-looking furniture with a high sheen. Sure, it looks great in the magazines, but these items are usually high maintenance and are generally manufactured using many nasty chemicals. Wood is always a great option as it is natural, looks beautiful on its own and gives your home a warm feel. You can add wooden furniture inside your home and even a few sustainable teak benches outdoors. These pieces will also last a lot longer.
Whenever possible, buy your groceries in containers that can be reused or recycled. Get what you can in glass jars or bottles. You can reuse the jars yourself to make decorations, or why not try your hand at making jams and other preserves? Glass is a long-lasting product and is perfectly safe as a food and beverage container. If you can’t reuse them, put them in the recycling bin and know they will be transformed into something new.
How many times have you started your car to go around the corner to the shop for a few bits and pieces, or drop the kids off at school? Why not just put on your comfy shoes and walk that short distance? If walking is not an option, think of using public transport or switch to an eco-friendly car like a hybrid or an electric vehicle.
The key to switching to living green is a process so take your time. It can be a little overwhelming if you try to make changes in every aspect of your life, so start with small steps that you can manage. Living green should not be a fad but a lifestyle choice that you can easily live with. You’ll eventually turn these changes into habits. You’ll save the environment and find yourself spending less on unnecessary items, which is excellent for your finances too.
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.