By Moss Pelvin | Posted: Thursday September 10, 2020
Taking action on climate change is about us taking the leap into the unknown; following Neil Armstrong by taking one small step of our own towards a better world. It is vital we change the way we live, to survive in a world of threatening pollution from carbon dioxide and plastic.
‘But what can we do?’ I hear you ask. Change so often seems like a task more befitting Hercules than us. The move towards less car travel, using less plastic and even (shock-horror!) eating less meat seem like impossible actions to execute. But we don’t need to become vegan and live our lives in the Fiordland bush to be sustainable. There are many simple ways to reduce your personal waste and emissions. Here are a few:
Walk, take the bus, or ride your bike. Logical and easy steps towards personal sustainability. Walking or biking are no-brainers. What’s the point of driving into town day after day, finding parking, and driving home when you can catch a bus that would be travelling anyway? The buses around Dunedin are regular, inexpensive and provide transport to all suburbs. Even with Covid requirements, there is no contact with either the bus driver or other passengers and wearing a mask really isn’t that difficult.
Travel less by plane. Ironically enough, our most convenient modes of transport are the ones we need to get away from. Air travel is a massive polluter, accounting for over 5% of global emissions. This may not seem like much, but I’ll put a number on it: 860,000,000 metric tonnes of carbon a year. That’s a lot. Taking a holiday in England is all well and good, but it costs the environment. When the world comes out of Covid, it’s vital we keep the habits of travel we have developed: save the overseas holidays for another time, and go see Milford Sound or Karamea instead.
Reusable shopping bags. Simple. Multi-use, eco friendly and increasingly necessary in modern shopping.
Out & about kit. These have various names, but all contain similar things; bamboo or metal cutlery and drinking straw, or even a multi-cutlery tool; a Keep-Cup, or equivalent for takeaway coffees or teas; a stainless steel or similar refillable drink bottle, a fabric napkin and a shopping bag.
Compost. Not as difficult as it sounds. Food scraps, coffee grounds, a little dirt and some patience and you’ll have a rich soil suitable for any garden. Compost saves you having to buy potting mixes, provides a good start to gardening and can be a useful disposal for organic waste. Check out this link for good advice on how to make compost: https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/compost/how-to-compost/
Lunch box logic. Beeswax wraps are available from many stores around Dunedin: The Warehouse, Taste Nature, Nood and others. These are a reusable, washable alternative to plastic wrap. It may seem convenient to buy plastic shrink wraps as they are cheap and plentiful, but in the long term every one of those used sheets will end up in a landfill and in our environment.There are instructions of how to make beeswax wraps here: https://www.odt.co.nz/lifestyle/magazine/easy-make-wax-wraps If beeswax wraps can’t be used, it is easy to cut up paper bags from pies or bakery goods to make burnable or biodegradable packaging.
Solid soap bars come in cardboard boxes and are far more sustainable.
Think about what you buy. This is a big one. It’s vital that in this new age of sustainable thinking we consider where our products are coming from. The amount of carbon dioxide given off by overseas freight and transport is enormous, one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Buying local, at the Dunedin Farmers Market at the railway station on Saturday mornings or from local providers is a perfect way of ensuring money stays in our community, supporting us and not overseas groups. Buying your apples from Venezuela may be cheaper for you, but it costs the environment far more. Items labelled with Fair-Trade are certified to be sustainably grown, and for things like coffee, sugar, tea and fruit this is very important.
‘Dispose of your disposables’: When you make a purchase, consider the item’s life expectancy. How long can the item be used? Will it have more than one use? When you’re done with it, will it end up in the trash? Invest in reusable variants for items you most often throw away.
Resell or donate. That old sweater or bookshelf doesn’t need to go to the landfill. Give it to a friend, hold a garage sale, donate it to a school fair, give it to an op-shop. That way you’re giving back to your community as well as getting rid of your waste.
Grow. Not always the easiest, but not only does growing your own plants mean less shopping, it means you can know exactly what has gone into the vegetables or fruit: your loving care and effort. Having a garden is a satisfying way to occupy your time, get some fresh air and entertain your children (getting them off their phones).
All in all, it’s quite easy and simple to make the crucial change towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Many families have already made it, and there is no reason we all can’t. In the short term, it may seem like too much effort to have a more sustainable lifestyle. But in the long term, benefits seriously outweigh any negative impacts.
As hard as it may seem to cut ourselves away from plastic, it’s a step we can’t refuse to take.