Small steps to sustainable living

Some people will not adopt some sustainable practices if they feel they can’t do them perfectly. But progression is everything.

Words Rachel Grunwell. Illustration Janelle Barone, Makers MGMT

Every little action we take matters. Together we can all do our bit to create meaningful change.

I’m not perfect at sustainable living. But I keep adopting new ways to do more.

I grow lots of vegetables, fruits, edible flowers, and herbs in our small suburban garden, and make salad daily from it too. It’s seasonal, fresh, and better for the budget.

We also have a small tank to collect rainwater for the garden. We have solar panels to trap the sun’s energy for electricity. This powers the computer on which I’m writing this column.

Lately, I’ve been more aware of having coffee in a glass in cafés or using a ‘keep cup’. It’s silver and the barista jokes he makes “space coffee” for me in the morning. I’m using reusable bags for groceries. I buy less too. If I do buy something, I pause and think about how much I love it and ask the question ‘how many years it will last’?

I recently met best-selling Australian author Sarah Wilson to chat about sustainability.

She shares lots of tips on this in her new book Simplicious Flow. This is not a usual cookbook, but rather boasts nourishing recipes with zero waste. Read some of her sustainable living tips below and adopt some that resonate with you.

Sarah Wilson’s tips for sustainable living

  1. Use a bike when travelling. “It means you get to see the city, get to meet people. So, you are part of the local system. Sustainability can be about engagement too.”
  2. Scavenge butter. “This one horrifies my friends! You know at cafés, when they bring out the little thing of butter… I collect that.”
  3. Be aware of using single-use containers. Then there’s the straws, the plastic lids and cups…
  4. Ditch takeaways. “Or if you do have them, take your own container and ask for ‘food only’.”
  5. Sit in a café and drink your coffee in a glass – rather than a takeaway cup. “It’s a huge part of our culture to get a takeaway cup even if you are sitting in a café – which just baffles me. People say to me do you use a keep cup? I always allow five minutes or 10 minutes to just sit and drink my coffee out of crockery. I think the whole takeaway culture is dreadfully unsustainable. I mean 70 per cent of coffee cups are non-recyclable and not biodegradable. Everyone thinks you can recycle them but no, they tend to have plastic on the outside to keep the heat in. Coffee cups, plastic bottles and straws are the biggest contributors to ocean pollution. So, cut them out, eat in, use your mouth. I don’t even use keep cups. It’s just another thing to buy. Everyone is craving five minutes to collect their thoughts. Use it while you are having a coffee. I drink a black coffee every day. Or if you do like takeaway coffee, then make your own takeaway coffee cup. Make your own with a glass jar with rubber bands around the outside (to grip). I can stick mine in the dishwasher and it’s all fine.”
  6. Buy in bulk – and take your own jars and containers. Some things are cheaper this way too i.e. broken nuts.
  7. Don’t peel things. “I don’t peel pumpkin. I eat orange peel because I like it. Don’t peel kiwifruit. If you are using strawberries in smoothies then why would you take the hull off them? Why would you take the green stuff off those strawberries when you are only going to add kale. Things like beetroot leaves – whack them in. Eat the whole food.”

Rachel is a writer, coach, yoga and mindfulness teacher. inspiredhealth.co.nz

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