As the world becomes increasingly aware of the realities of climate change, more and more people realise the benefits of living a “green life” – benefits that are both environmental and economical. “Green” living is the concept of living life in such a way that appreciates a growing global population, limited natural resources and a decaying natural environment.
By following Sustainable Table’s 10-step guide to green living, you can cut costs within your home as well as significantly reduce the environmental impact your choices determine.
1. Say no to plastic bags
The plastic bag is essentially a long chain of polymers, formed using petroleum. According to Clean Up Australia, 8.7 plastic checkout bags contain enough embodied petroleum energy to drive a car 1 kilometre.1
As a well documented fact, plastic bags are not biodegradable and can last 500 years, often living in our oceans and parkland. In Australia alone, 3.92 billion plastic bags were used in 2011.2 To significantly reduce your impact on the environment, green bags, old plastic bags or any bags you have lying around the house can be taken grocery shopping to avoid the need for new plastic bags.
2. Invest in energy-saving power boards
Appliances in the home that operate on stand-by (like the television, microwave and DVD player) continue to consume energy even when turned off, unless they are turned off at the power point.
Energy consumption from stand-by appliances can account for a large percentage of your energy bill as well as produce a significant amount of emissions.
Turn these appliances off at the power point when you’re not using them, or at the very least invest in energy-saving power boards, as these can safely limit or control the amount of energy flowing into these appliances.
3. Catch public transport, ride or walk
Road transport contributes almost 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Australia and cars contribute more than 50% of this. Buses however, are less than 2%.3 By leaving the car at home and walking, riding or catching public transport instead, not only can you improve your health and reduce the costs associated with running a car, but you can significantly lower your environmental footprint and greenhouse gas contribution.
4. Line dry your clothes
The dryer is one of the biggest energy guzzlers in the average home. In contrast, line drying even half of your clothes can reduce your household carbon emissions by 328 kg yearly.4 It also helps your clothes last longer, because they don’t go through an aggressive heating and spinning process.
5. Reduce bottled beverage consumption
Like plastic bags, plastic bottles are a large environmental issue worldwide. In 2009-10, Australia alone produced 582.9 million litres of bottled water.5
In reality however, it would be much, much more, since these estimates are for bottled water alone and don’t take into account other beverages like fruit juice, iced tea and soft drinks. If we assume all of this water was produced in litre bottles, then that means 582.9 million bottles of water was produced. Statistics show that Australians recycle only 36% of PET plastic drink bottles. Following this assumption, this means that in 2009-10, 373 million plastic bottles ended up in landfill.6
Investing in stainless steel drink bottles or reusing glass bottles will significantly reduce the number of plastic bottles you use yearly, ultimately reducing the number of bottles ending up in landfill.
6. Compost compost compost
Every year Australian’s throw away an estimated 3 million tonnes or $7.8 billion worth of food.7 Whilst some food wastage is unavoidable, compost bins/heaps and worm gardens are a useful way to utilise this waste to create quality soil for your garden at home. Even if you don’t have a garden, composting is an important step in reducing your eco-footprint. Offer your compost to neighbours, local businesses or cafés with gardens.
Composting is important because when food scraps decompose in oxygen-starved environments, such as landfill, they produce dangerous levels of a greenhouse gas called methane. Compost bins help to stop this from occurring.
Methane gas is an odourless, colourless, flammable gas that is emitted not only through the oxygen-starved decomposition of food, but by farting cattle and many other natural processes. Even in small quantities, methane gas has been linked to global warming. After carbon dioxide, methane is the second most important greenhouse gas. Methane's warming effect is 21 times greater than that of carbon dioxide; however, it stays in the atmosphere for a significantly shorter period of time.8
7. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (and sing it!)
Over the last 20 years, Australia has increased its recycling total – we now, as a nation, recycle 60% of our solid waste. However, the amount of landfill has not decreased. This has to do with societies’ consumption levels – we consume too much!9
There are a lot of myths associated with recycling but it’s time to Sort The Fact From The Fiction. Recycling and reusing is an important part of living green. By limiting your consumption, that is, limiting how much new stuff you buy, you ultimately cut costs as well as reducing your contribution to landfill. You may also reach a state of Zen.
8. If you have to use the car…
Keeping a close eye on tire pressure can minimize the number of pollutants cars emit into our atmosphere. Tires that are not properly filled are “less round” and require more energy to move - this can use 10% more petrol than tires that are pumped and “round”. The ill-proper inflation of tires accounts for millions of litres of wasted petrol and avoidable emissions.10 Optimal tire pressure depends on the size of your car and the type of tire. Contact your mechanic to find out what is suitable for you.
9. Review your heating and cooling
Heating appliances are the household’s largest consumer of energy. Chewing through huge amounts of power and creating grossly high emissions - heating was responsible for 58% of Victoria’s household energy use in 2007.11 The following recommendations from Origin Energy 12 will help to reduce household energy bills as well as reduce the emissions produced through heating.
- * Keep the home well insulated – limiting airflow will help keep the home at a stable, consistent temperature, meaning heating is not needed. The two more important areas to insulate are the ceiling and flooring.
- * Dress appropriately and use blankets before firing up the heater.
- * Close curtains or cover large glass areas (you can lose up to 16% of heat transfer through glass).
- * Keep thermostat temperatures moderate (manufacturers recommend settings of 24°C in summer and 20°C in winter).
10. Choose to receive online bills rather than paper-based
One very simple way of reducing your environmental footprint is by choosing to receive bills online. This will drastically save paper whilst allowing you to keep a safe, online database of your expenses.
See, it’s the little things that count!
Simple, daily changes to your lifestyle can drastically improve your environmental impact as well as save your pocket. Utilising what you already have, maintaining household appliances and switching to a ‘green’ way of life will help you save the natural environment for future generations. You may also find yourself feeling lighter, healthier, happier and calmer.
1.& 2.Clean Up Australia (2011), What is the problem? Plastic Bags!, http://www.cleanup.org.au/au/Campaigns/plastic-bag-facts.html
2.Clean Up Australia (2011), What is the problem? Plastic Bags!, http://www.cleanup.org.au/au/Campaigns/plastic-bag-facts.html
3.BIC (2011), The Role of Public Transport in a Clean Energy Future, http://www.climatechange.gov.au/government/submissions/clean-energy-legislative-package/~/media/government/submissions/cel/public/CEL-Submission-BusIndustryConfederation-20110822-PDF.pdf
4. DOW (2011), The ECO IQ Challenge, http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:Og5UBGZN4nQJ:www.dow.com/iyc/pdfs/eco-iq/eco-iq-english-emea.pdf+&hl=en&gl=au&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEEShlU0y5GCDv5Za2NSvk4a0dTeSrYGeMOZOub4NEVsYS3SLEGDXfDlK67wNOQtWvB5TQFPdPKpPGcwp3XprgeuSc2nRABA1U2LK_3_4iLrg_6rUX-G5uRQMI-OASiVG1LXPgLNvz&sig=AHIEtbQAVORktPbFAJNXeau7cwSnFdfmPw
5. & 6. Ocean Crusaders, Plastic Statistics – Plastic Ain’t so Fantastic, http://oceancrusaders.org/plastic-crusades/plastic-statistics/
7. Planet Ark, Reducing Food Waste and Recycling Food Scraps, http://recyclingweek.planetark.org/documents/doc-464-food-scraps-factsheet-2012.pdf
8. eHOW (2012), Environmental Effects of Methane, http://www.ehow.com/info_8504462_environmental-effects-methane.html
9. Environment Victoria, Recycling and Landfill, http://environmentvictoria.org.au/content/recycling-and-landfill
Planet Ark, Sort the fact from the fiction, http://recyclingweek.planetark.org/documents/doc-78-nrw-recyclingmythsreport.pdf
10. West, L.(2012), Keeping tires inflated could help save the planet, and your life, Environmental Issues, http://environment.about.com/od/greenlivingdesign/a/tire_pressure.htm
11. Environment Victoria, The Energy you use at home, http://environmentvictoria.org.au/content/energy-home
12. Origin Energy (2012), Heating and Cooling, http://www.originenergy.com.au/2673/Heating-and-cooling