Sustainable living 101: 10 tips to get started
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Sustainable living 101: 10 tips to get started

Discover the small steps you can take to offset climate change, reduce environmental damage and lower your carbon footprint.

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Published by Tracy McBeth, Journalist

6 mins read

Key Benefits

  • Learn what sustainable living really means
  • Discover 10 easy eco-friendly choices you can make

Every year Aussies are getting greener and adopting new ways to reduce the impact on the planet. But while sustainability is a hot topic globally, in our busy modern lives, it can be hard to know where to start to make a meaningful difference. When a problem is so big, small changes can feel like a drop in the well.

So how do you make sustainable changes well, sustainable? Safe to say going off grid overnight is unlikely to last in the long term but taking small steps in areas your most passionate about is a good place to start. And once mastered a few green habits, it’s easier to embrace more.

What is sustainable living?

For purists, the aim of sustainable living is to achieve environmental equilibrium, or net zero living. Making conscious choices to reduce our individual and collective environmental impact. It’s about adopting positive lifestyle changes to offset climate change, reduce environmental damage and lower your carbon footprint.

The ultimate goal is to preserve the planet for future generations to enjoy. But sustainable living is a multifaceted philosophy, underpinned by 3 key pillars:

  1. Social equity: the societal systems that actively support current and future generation’s ability to live healthily and comfortably
  2. Economic sustainability: business’s ability to make a profit without creating societal or environmental issues
  3. Environmental sustainability: minimising the environmental impact of all systems, processes and activities.

And while that’s the perfect world definition, taking steps toward a sustainable lifestyle does not have to be an all or nothing approach. Small changes can make a big difference not just to the planet – but your lifestyle.

Sustainable living benefits include:

  • Improved health by following a cleaner diet
  • A reduced environmental impact
  • A reduction in your greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution
  • Cost savings when you consume less
  • Less waste
  • Supporting fair trade and encouraging the distribution of wealth

Simple sustainable switches

Here are 10 easy ways to make more eco-friendly choices on the daily. 

1. Say no to single use

You’re likely mastered the art of bringing your own bags to the supermarket by now, but other single use items like drink bottles, coffee cups, straws and plastic cutlery are still creating a huge amount of waste. These plastics take hundreds of years to break down and release harmful microplastics to our waterways.

One easy way to reduce your waste is by investing in reusable items. Get into the habit of popping a reusable coffee cup into your bag, say no to plastic cutlery and straws and invest in a nice drink bottle you can refill – for free!

Not only is it good for the environment, but many shops are now charging for bags or offering discounts for reusable coffee cups!

2. Use water wisely

If you’re lucky enough to be living in a drought free area your water supply is literally on tap. But it’s important to remember our water supply, isn’t unlimited. Reducing your water use also reduces your carbon footprint – because you’re reducing the energy used to treat, heat and pump water to your home.

 There are plenty of ways you can save water:

  • Turn off the tap when you’re not using it
  • Fix any leaks immediately
  • Be mindful of how often you wash your clothes
  • Spend less time in the shower[AM2](aim to get down to 4 mins)
  • Catch water that would usually end up down the sink with a bucket and use it to water the garden
  • Park your car onto the grass when you’re washing it, so it’s absorbed into the ground and not lost down the drains

3. Save your scraps!

Don’t throw your food scraps in the bin - there’s plenty of things you can do with them.

Save your veggie offcuts and even your bones if you’re a meat eater and simmer them down into a delicious homemade stock. Check out our Be Low Tox course filled with simple sustainable hacks.

What you don’t use in the stock can go into the garden. Composting your scraps is also a great way to reduce your food waste – and feed your veggie garden! If you’ve got a garden or can afford the space, invest in a compost bin or worm farm so you’re not dumping your food scraps into landfill.

If you don’t have a garden, jump online and look for a local community composting facility. You’d be surprised at just how many community gardens there are scattered around your neighbourhood that will happily take your scraps!

4. Make conscious choices

We’ve probably all done it at some point, bought somethings on sale and realised it wasn’t quite right when you got home. So, it sits there unworn until it (hopefully) ends up at the charity shop. When it comes to shopping sustainably, the aim is to buy less – that way you can invest in quality pieces you’ll wear more.

Making conscious choices every time we enter a shop can make a big difference. We recommend:

  • Looking for ethically produced, sustainable items or better still, buy second-hand pieces from an op shop – rather than fast fashion.
  • Is your wardrobe full of old clothes that you don’t wear anymore? Donate them to your local op-shop so someone else can get some use out of them
  • Where you can, buy good quality clothes - they’ll last longer!
  • Plan your meals for the week, write a shopping list and buy only what you need (don’t be tempted by those multi-buy offers!)

When you buy something off the rack or shelf, you’re paying for more than just the product itself. Just think about everything that goes on behind the scenes like the packaging, shipping, manufacturing and even the staff wellbeing during the actual production process.

It’s an easy decision to shop ethically once you know the story behind the product you’re buying.

5. Recycle and re-home

It’s easy to forget that everything you chuck in the bin ends up in landfill at the end of the day. Do your part to reduce your waste by recycling products - anything and everything you can. From recycling food packaging to re-homing and donating clothes, there’s plenty you can do to reduce your waste.

Confused about what’s recyclable and what isn’t? Check out your local council’s website to see what you can recycle and if there are any other programs available in your local community to help reduce waste.

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6. Swap for eco-friendly substitutes

Try swapping your usual, everyday items for more eco-friendly options. You name it, cleaning products, toothbrushes, toilet paper, hair care, tampons and more, there are SO MANY reusable and eco-friendly alternatives out there. Most of the time you’ll find them sitting on the very same shelf, so all you have to do is make the switch. It might cost an extra few dollars, but the investment is worth it.

7. Track your energy

Just like water, electricity and gas all rely on finite resources, so it’s important try to keep your usage down. Sometimes it’s as simple as switching off a light in a room when you’re not using it to conserve energy.

If you’re keen to take it to the next level, there’s heaps of energy saving devices that you can plant around your home to help you keep an eye on your usage. From smart power boards to electricity usage monitors and smart lights, there’s plenty of gadgets that can help you to reduce your energy usage and save cash on your utility bills.

8. Start a veggie patch

You don’t need a green thumb or a huge yard to grow herbs and veggies. Growing your own food by starting your own little patch can be super rewarding, plus, it’s a great way to cut down on your consumption and save you money on food!

The best way to start out is to plant herbs and veg based on the season and local growing conditions. You don’t have to miss out if you live in a unit or apartment! Lots of herbs and veggies thrive in small pots and window boxes if you’re strapped for space.

9. Buy locally and in season

Not everyone has the time or patience to grow their own fruit and veg. If you fall into this category, buying locally grown fresh produce is a great way to cut out the extra resources needed to transport and store food.

Hit up your local farmers market for top quality produce. More often than not local farmers will plant seasonal crops that thrive in the region, so there’s no need for things like pesticides and greenhouses. Just think of the food miles you’re saving!

10. Jump on public transport

In our busy lives many of us rely on cars for our daily commute or to run multiple errands.

Vehicles are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Wherever possible look for public transport, walk, ride your bike or carpool with a friend.

Anything we can do to reduce the number of cars on the road is a good thing not just for the planet – but no one likes being stuck in traffic.

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Living sustainably doesn’t have to be onerous or expensive, and there’s no one size fits all approach.

It’s about making conscious decisions and changes you can sustain in the long run. And while there can be clear benefits to your health and wallet – investing in a healthier planet benefits us all.