You probably don’t realise, but every decision you make has an impact on the environment. From what you choose to eat for dinner to how you commute to work, everything we do will affect the earth in one way or another. For some, focusing on sustainability is second nature, but for others, it’s an area that needs some work. At the end of the day, we all want to be friends of the earth, but how do we actually go about it?
Sustainable living can seem really daunting, but it’s actually much easier than you think. It can be as little as turning off the tap while you brush your teeth or as complex as a full composting system — it’s all about finding what works for you.
These sustainability tips don’t require a major lifestyle overhaul and are as simple as a few minor tweaks here and there.
1. Embrace eco-friendly fashion
If you’re interested in slow fashion and ethical consumerism, you might’ve heard of the 30 Wears Test. Before you make any fashion purchase, it gets you to ask yourself if you’ll wear the item of clothing at least 30 times. If the answer is no, you shouldn’t be buying it. The campaign was started by Livia Firth (Colin Firth’s wife) and is on a mission to change the way we think about buying clothes. It’s possible to reduce the amount of clothing that ends up in landfill and help reduce our carbon footprint if we think about our clothes as an investment rather than something disposable.
If you are going to buy clothes, try and support companies who are working on sustainability by being transparent with their business practices and creating their products with the environment in mind. Big brands like THE ICONIC have product pages dedicated solely to products that have been made with sustainable materials. You can shop things like this linen shirt from AERE and these sneakers from Veja with the knowledge that they’ve been made sustainably and ethically.
2. Rethink your food storage
As we all know, the kitchen is one of the biggest places we generate waste — and usually in the most unlikely of places.
Cling wrap is one of those things we use all the time without ever considering the impact it has on the environment. By definition, it’s a single-use plastic that we use to cover food and throw away. On the flip side, beeswax covers have been quietly growing in popularity as an alternative to single-use plastics.
They can last up to 6-12 months and can cover almost anything that cling wrap can. They’re usually made with organic ingredients and come in a range of beautiful patterns as well (so they’re a lot nicer to look at than the leftover stir fry you’re covering). This 6-pack is just $19.99 and promise to keep your food fresh without harming the planet.
Alternatively, you could give Sugar Wrap a try. Made from sugarcane, this eco-friendly covering claims to have the same functional durability as pretro-based plastics without environmental compromise. More details on that one here.
Making the switch from plastic to glass Tupperware is another easy swap. With 80% of plastic products ending up in landfill, storing your food in glass is far more environmentally friendly. You can grab a pack of 9 in assorted sizes for just $69.99 at Amazon right now. Swapping over to sustainable cutlery is also another easy option that won’t break the bank.
Finally, grab yourself a Keep Cup and stop buying single-use cups every morning before work. You can grab a decent-sized cup with a cork band under $35, like this one.
If you haven’t already made the switch to these products, it’s one of the easiest sustainability swaps that’ll have you playing your part.
3. Try a menstrual cup over tampons
While we can’t help the fact that our period comes once a month, there are things we can be doing to make our period practices more sustainable. According to national geographic, a single menstruator will use between 5-15,000 pads and tampons in their life — the majority of which end up in landfill as plastic waste. While periods are part of life, there are things we can do to minimise the impact they’re having on the world.
Menstrual cups are a great alternative to tampons (and they’ll likely make your life easier, too). They can last up to four times longer than the average tampon by giving you 12 hours of protection, they’re reusable and often recyclable as well. They tick every box. Plus, a lifespan of a menstrual cup can save more than 2,500 reusable products — so if you don’t think one person can really make a difference, think again. This cup from Tom has been made with organic materials so it’s better for the environment and you.
You could also consider investing in period-proof underwear for your lighter days as an alternative to pads. Brands like Modibodi and now even Bonds are making it easier than ever to make the switch, along with destigmatising the entire thing, how good is that?
4. Plant a herb garden
Herb gardens are such a simple way to reduce food and plastic waste while enjoying delicious food at the same time. Sounds like a win-win, right? Herbs probably aren’t something we think about a lot and it’s usually not until you’re cooking a curry that calls for fresh coriander that you’re forced to go to the supermarket and buy a small pack for $5. Not only are these herbs packaged in plastic but it’s rare that you’ll use all the herbs as well, which is just contributing to food waste. Imagine if you could walk out to your fresh herb garden instead and pick the exact amount of herbs you need without having to waste any? That’s food sustainability in action.
If you live in an apartment, you don’t have to splurge on a full-blown garden. You can grab a cheap wall planter like this one and grow your herbs in there! Or even use one pot to grow your favourite herb if you love some fresh rosemary on your Sunday roast, whatever works for you.
5. Take a sustainable bathroom break
Just like the kitchen, your bathroom is another place that could probably incorporate a few more sustainable products.
If you remove your makeup at the end of the night with makeup wipes or disposable cotton rounds — we have a better alternative. Grab a pack of these sustainable bamboo makeup removal pads ($16.55) that are suitable for all skin types and are just as effective as any other method. Not only is it better for the environment and your face, but it’ll help your wallet as well given they can be washed and used again.
Subbing out your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one is another easy swap that’ll reduce the amount of plastic heading to landfill. This plant-based bamboo brush ($6.95) is the world’s first bio-based toothbrush and can even be composted. Clever, right?
Even things like your plastic claw clips can be swapped out for something that’s been made with the environment in mind. These sustainable spider clips ($16.31) have been made from corn starch and earth-friendly plastics, so even your hair accessories can jump on the sustainability train.
Finally, pay attention to what you’re using when cleaning your bathroom, too. Reusable cleaning bottles and eco-friendly ingredients can help reduce plastic waste and your use of harmful chemicals. Options like Koh, Eco Turtles, and Zero Co are all good starting points.
Zero Co is also currently working on adding single-use-plastic free shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and body wash to its collection of products, which would be a world first.
6. Shop smart
You know when you go to the supermarket and buy fruit and veg. How many of you throw them in a plastic bag before taking them to the checkout? Probably most of us.
A great alternative is to invest in some reusable mesh produce bags like these ones and pop all your fresh produce in here instead. Once that plastic bag goes home it’s going right in the bin and then straight onto landfill so it’s an unnecessary waste you really don’t know.
If you’re not incorporating at least one of these sustainability tips into your life by now, it’s time to give it a crack. Most of these things are done without thinking twice so it shouldn’t be too tricky to make the swap. We promise you won’t look back, in fact, you’ll probably wonder why you haven’t been doing it sooner.
7. Check your cart
You can make a difference to your environmental footprint just by addressing your choices when shopping for food. Now, the best practices here would be increasing your plant intake and eating less meat. But other options like choosing locally sourced food products and those that are credited as sustainable are also helpful.
Options like sustainably sourced coffee (Nespresso is an example) and Palm Oil free items — like Darrell Lea’s latest chocolate range — are easy to spot and can help you contribute to positive environmental practices.
While we’re here, it’s worth noting that recyclable coffee pods are going to make a huge difference to the amount of plastic you’re tossing out. You may be familiar with the Nespresso recycling program where customers are encouraged to use a satchel (or recycling box in office spaces) to collect used pods. By holding onto the pods and giving them back to Nespresso — by dropping them off at a store or collection point — you avoid them building up in landfill.
8. Take a peek at the sustainability of your finances
You may not realise it, but the businesses you leave your money with can have a huge impact on the environment. In the example of superannuation, there are ethical options around that work to invest your super into more sustainable spaces. Simon Sheikh, CEO and founder of Future Super, explained that this has the power to change a whole lot.
“Most people don’t understand the link between fossil fuels and superannuation, but the money sitting in our nation’s super totals over $3 trillion and is enough to fund Australia’s transition to 100% clean energy ten times over. It’s hard to comprehend such a large amount of money, but if invested in the right places, it can create a future free from climate change and inequality.”
You may also find your bank’s practices doesn’t align with your views. Resources like Responsible Returns can help you find out which options match your eco and ethical values best.
Are there any sustainability swaps you’ve adopted recently that you’re enjoying? Let us know in the comments below.
This article on sustainability swaps has been updated since its original publish date.