How to live a green, sustainable lifestyle - Part 1: Easy Changes in Your Home
Everyday our newspapers and news feeds, are overflowing with negative information, stories, and reports on the declining state of our environment. In New Zealand, almost all of our fresh waterways are polluted and unswimmable. In China, the air pollution is so thick it is extremely hard to breath when simply going out for a walk around the block. There are extreme wildfires in the United States, and the intensified melting of the sea ice in the Arctic. A result of all of this, is a large concern and worry felt for our environment. These reports can make us feel helpless and scared.
This article stands to inspire you. It’s a guide to small changes and actions that everyone can make and take in their own lives to create a positive difference in the face of all of this environmental destruction. These small changes can have such a meaningful and important impact on the environment and on your community around you.
The following are ways in which you can become more eco-friendly, reducing your carbon footprint, as well as saving money in your own home.
Switch off appliances when not in use
By taking this simple action you will not only save electricity, cutting cut down on costs, but you will also help reduce your carbon footprint. It is a double win! This is because most generation of electricity results in the burning of fossil fuels which release dangerous gases into the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, contributing to the climate crisis of our warming Earth.
Check your appliances health star rating
When buying new appliances and replacing your old, look for products which have the best energy ratings. Although New Zealand has the third highest rate of renewable energy use in the OECD, 60% of our energy still comes from fossil fuels. We use approximately 49 million barrels of crude oil every year.
Defrost your fridge
Implementing this action regularly helps to save energy, and also helps your fridge to last longer — saving the waste of having to get a new one and chuck your old one out into the landfill.
Swap your lightbulbs
If you swap your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents, halogen or LED lights, you will reduce your power consumption. The latter lightbulbs are more energy efficient and although they may cost more to start out with, they will save you money in the long term — also lasting longer than regular, cheap light bulbs. LED light bulbs are 85 percent more energy efficient than the traditional light bulbs — producing more light, using less power, and lasting for up to 20 years.
Heating up our homes counts for 34% of our energy consumption in New Zealand. If your home is not insulated, most of the heat generated through natural sunlight or through conventional heaters, fires, and heat pumps will escape. Installing insulation in your walls and roof, as well as draught-proofing up windows and doors, is an easy way to keep your home warmer, reducing your energy consumption, saving you money and lowering your carbon footprint.
Reduce water use
In New Zealand, the average person uses around 227 liters of water per day. Alongside this large use of water, the condition of our waterways, particularly our rivers, deteriorates further when water extraction increases. Make simple changes in your water use, such as turning off taps when not in use, having quicker showers, reusing bath-water and shower water to water plants, and installing toilets which are water use efficient.
Grow your own food
If you have the backyard space, set up your own veggie garden. The internet is full of helpful resources which can start you off, plus the staff down at your local garden stores will be more than willing to help you out and share advice on what to do and what to buy. Planting more greenery helps with soil conservation, produces cleaner air and the resulting gardening also has a positive effect on you! Getting outside and playing in your garden is proven to help increase your self-esteem and lessen fatigue, depression and anxiety.
Reduce your food waste through composting and planning
Every year, New Zealanders throw away 157,389 tonnes of food. This relates to 271 jumbo sized jet planes of food rotting away in landfills. It could feed the whole population of Dunedin for three years. Some of the key reasons we waste so much food is because we cook too much, don’t eat our leftovers, or store our food incorrectly meaning it goes off and into the rubbish bin. To help avoid this wastage, plan out your shopping lists and meals for the week. Rather than buying massive portions of food to last you over weeks — buy little and often. This way you will reduce food and money wastage, as well as eating fresh produce. We throw away almost 29 million loaves of bread each year, and nearly one-third of the food we waste are vegetables. Both of these are easily composted (or obviously eaten). Google search ‘how to compost’ and begin from there.
A large amount of everyday household items can be recycled. This action is simple and easy. Check out your local council page to figure out what can and can’t be recycled. When chucking out your plastic, glass, and metal containers remember to rinse them clean so they can be processed efficiently.
Don’t flush plastics and wet wipes
If you take this simple action, you can help prevent more microplastics from accumulating in our oceans and waterways, which has been damaging ecosystems, harming marine life, and even entering the human food chain. A large producer of microplastics is wet wipes, nappies, sanitary products and micro-beads, all being flushed down toilets and plug holes. If using these items, place them in the appropriate bins. Otherwise find re-usable alternatives, such as washable nappies and moon cups. Avoid products which contain micro-beads and instead make your own products, using sugar or coffee grains as a skin scrub instead.
Have you implemented any of these changes into your life? What is the hardest action?
Check back later this week to see ‘Part Two’ of our series on ‘How to live a green, sustainable lifestyle.’ We’ll be focusing on easy changes you can make in your community to reduce your carbon footprint, saving money as well as the environment.