8 Easy life hacks to live sustainably when out and about

Climate change won’t slow down without our initiative to make a difference — whether big or small. Here are 8 easy things to do to live more sustainably, and make a change.

Say goodbye to one-time plastic bags

Single-use plastic bags are an environmental nightmare. The majority are non-biodegradable, which means they can’t be broken down by biological processes. This can cause air, water, and soil pollution.

The best way to manage this is to say goodbye to single-use plastic bags. Cotton bags can be used over and over and are biodegradable, but bear in mind that cotton bags are energy-intensive to produce. It’s estimated that to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gases through the use of cotton bags, a cotton bag must be reused 130 times. Therefore instead of buying new cotton bags every few months, try making your own bags using recycled fabric.


BYO coffee cups

Australians consume more than 50,000 cups of coffee every 30 minutes. If you lined up all the coffee cups used each year in Australia, they would stretch around the world twice.

Coffee cups are a major burden on the country’s waste management system and the environment and landfills are filling up fast with the things. Unfortunately, standard coffee cups are rarely recycled as most cups are a mix of both plastic and paper.

Luckily, you can bring your own cup when getting takeaway coffee. Take your coffee cup with you wherever you go or stock up on some funky cups for the office. If you don’t have your “keepcup” with you when getting coffee, don’t take your coffee to go. Stop, sit, people watch and take a break. Your cup can then be washed and used again.


Ban the plastic straw

Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May declared a ban on the sale of plastic straws and other single-use items. It was a bold move that follows the momentum of the Last Plastic Straw movement.

In the United States, more than 500,000,000 plastic straws are used each day. These short-lived tools are usually dropped in a garbage bin with little or no further thought, becoming an instant source of plastic pollution.

Next time you order a drink, tell the barman you don’t want a straw. Encourage your local eatery or school to get rid of them too. Sign the pledge or Instagram your support for the movement with the hashtag #NoPlasticStraws.


Choose organic

Organic farming practices focus on biodiversity protection and land regeneration. Certified organic prohibits the use of synthetic agricultural chemicals, reducing the impact that conventional farming has on the environment.

Organic agriculture reduces non-renewable energy use by decreasing agrochemical needs. This mitigates the greenhouse effect and global warming and reduces climatic stress. It therefore makes sense to choose organic food whenever possible, be it at home or out and about.


Use e-tickets instead of printing

Paper is a huge commodity and is consumed at exorbitant rates. In Australia alone, the average person uses 230kg of paper every year.

Green initiatives have created better paper options than were previously available, but a paperless society or one that only uses recycled paper is the only real way to reduce the effect our love of paper has on the world.

It takes 24 trees to produce one tonne of virgin printer paper, so limiting your use, even just a little, can make a big difference. Change your bills to paperless, save online receipts in a file on your computer rather than print them, and next time you go to a concert or take a domestic flight, use an e-ticket instead of printing your ticket.


Ditch disposable cutlery

Most plastic cutlery is made from a type of plastic known as polystyrene 1. More commonly referred to as Styrofoam, it’s very difficult to recycle. As a result, most plastic cutlery ends up in landfill.

Next time you grab a bite at your local market and you’re given plastic cutlery, ask for compostable utensils instead. You could also ask them to explore edible cutlery, such as the cutlery supplied by Bakey’s.

Even better, if you know you’re planning to grab a bite out, pack a knife and fork in your bag. If you’re off for a picnic, take your reusable stuff. Yes it might take time to wash everything and put it away once you get home, but think of the waste your saving.


Give plastic water bottles the flick

Bottled water has increasingly become a supermarket staple, with the average Australian getting 10% of their water through a bottled source. The environmental effects of this is extensive.

While most water bottles can be reused and recycled, many end up as landfill or in the environment. On Clean Up Australia Day, plastic water bottles are among the most commonly picked up items. Once in the environment, they take 450 years to biodegrade.

The energy, fossil fuels and water used to keep up with water bottle demand is astounding. Do you know that it takes more than 6 litres of additional water to cool 1.5 litres of bottled water before consumption? Additionally, spring water in Australia is sourced from underground aquifers, impacting farmers and lowering the water table. The preferred option should always be to use your own durable bottle for water when out and about.

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