We have never been big consumers of anything, mostly for financial reasons. As we got better informed about climate change it became important to us to reduce emissions for adaptation and mitigation reasons. We started about six years ago and quickly found out everything is interrelated. To reduce waste, you have to alter consumption habits. It became a personal challenge.
The first thing we did was a few audits of our red bin (content to landfill). We made a list of all the items we usually placed in the bin and then we set about eliminating or re-directing these. One of the really early things was plastics. We stopped using glad-wrap and started using plates or bowls to cover food.
We recycle soft plastics at the supermarket. They contaminate usual recycling bins but supermarkets recycle them. To reduce packaging we started shopping at farmers markets and reduced process food. This means we eat more fresh food and make cakes and biscuits at home.
We have not put our red bin out on the kerb for 1.5 years. We have also reduced the content of our recycling/ yellow bin, putting it out for collection four times per year instead of fortnightly – and re-use recyclable materials as much as possible, seeing them as a resource rather than waste.
Most people think they don't have time for these things, but it doesn't actually take a long time. We don't go to the supermarket, so we save the time to drive there and back and unpack. It becomes a way of life. We shop every three months for staples that can be stored. We only buy milk regularly from the shops.
A lot of people think that it also costs more to live more sustainably, but it is actually a lot cheaper. For example our bread costs about $1.50 to make, but sells for about $7. We have run a few little workshops in our kitchen to make bread. It is such a nice way to spend time and you have a different relationship to the product when you know what is in it.
We make our own washing powder, soft drinks, fruit and vegetable preserves, jams, chutneys, bread, yogurt and soft cheeses. We used to freeze a lot, but I just turned the freezer off because we don't really need it any more because we bottle or dry.
We also grow all our herbs, about 80% of all our fruit and vegetables and supplement these with local, seasonal produce from farmer’s markets.
We use a website to track our emissions through car use and waste. We also audited our energy, water, transport to see what we could reduce. This was a good exercise to develop goals, small steps and strategies to change.
We are pretty close now to where we need to be, which shows it can be done. We are not suffering, we are not living a hugely alternative lifestyle. No one would notice to pass on the street. It saves us money and we have a healthier, very meaningful and purposeful way of life.
To make these sorts of changes, we suggest you start with the easiest measures for you and your family and go slowly. Take note of what goes in your bins and put them on a waste-reduction diet. Aim to make small changes, consolidate, keep moving forward and trying new ideas until you reach your goal. If you have a bad week, don’t worry, just start again the following week. Don’t give up.
Apart from reducing waste, our household has also reduced energy, water and overall consumption. Changing old habits is not easy, but it can be done!
Find out more at our Sustainable Holdfast Bay blog.
This Week in Climate Change (formally The Week That Was), a weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm