Although our state governments are now starting to ease some of the current stay-at-home rules, it appears things are not going to return to the pre-Covid 19 ‘normal’ quickly. Canceled events and reduced social gatherings have meant (and will mean, for the foreseeable future), that some of us may find ourselves with a little more time on our hands around the home than usual.
You could spend this extra time watching Tiger King on Netflix (we won’t deny it, that program is entertaining enough to make you momentarily forget about this global pandemic). But why not put aside a bit of time each week to create new habits in your household that make your home a bit kinder on the environment in the long run? Little changes in routine can make a difference, and now is a great time to start.
1. Use what’s already in your pantry before buying new items from the supermarket.
Remember when you had guests over a year ago and made rice paper rolls? (They were delicious!) Have the leftover sheets of rice paper greeted you every day that you’ve opened the pantry since then, as if to say, “Is today the day??”
Make a habit of getting creative with the items you already have on hand before you buy something new! This will avoid the inevitable throwing away of staples that have been in your pantry or fridge well past their use-by dates.
Here is a great source of inspiration for using up pantry staples; and here are some ideas for transforming leftovers into new meals.
2. Doing a house cleanout? Repair or give away broken items instead of throwing them away.
If there’s one thing that closed shops and home confinement has taught us, it’s to appreciate what we already have just a little bit more. It is so easy to throw away an item of clothing and buy something new to replace it. When you learn that Australians send six tonnes of clothing to landfill every ten minutes, the extra time spent getting your clothing fixed will feel worth it.
Learning to do simple sewing repairs doesn’t take much time at all – YouTube is awash with tutorials on the topic. If you’re not able to mend things yourself, there are Facebook groups where you’ll find people in your community willing to fix things for a small fee (or even free!) If you’re in Victoria, check out the Good Karma Network in your suburb, where you can connect with friendly neighbours that can help out.
You may have furniture or clothing that you no longer need, can’t fix up yourself or are beyond repair. If it’s made out of quality materials, consider listing it for free as a porch collection on Facebook Marketplace. You’d be surprised what other people can make use of: many people are handy at restoring things themselves or transforming materials into other useful things. This way you won’t need to (sheepishly) leave unwanted items on your nature strip or wait for hard rubbish collection!
3. Compost your food scraps (even if you can’t compost them yourself).
If like us, you’ve been doing more cooking at home due to the closure of restaurants and cafes, you may have an abundance of fruit and veggie scraps that might have been destined for the bin. Food scraps sitting in landfill produce methane (which is a greenhouse gas that’s 20 times worse for global warming than carbon dioxide!)
Already composting at home? Fantastic! However, if you live in a unit or apartment, composting can be tricky or impossible. Thankfully, there is an app for that: Sharewaste allows you to find households in your area that can accept and use your food scraps for their own composting, diverting your organic waste from landfill.
4. Make your own toiletries and cleaning products.
The toiletries and cleaning products in our homes almost always come in plastic containers and packaging. We may all think that we’re doing the right thing when we place those empty containers in the recycling bin. However, the truth is that only about one third of plastics actually end up getting recycled in Australia, with the rest being burned, buried, or, until about eighteen months ago, sent overseas for other countries to process.
Until governments and industries are able to untangle our complex plastic waste problems, there are things you can do to reduce the amount of plastic being manufactured in the first place (besides becoming a member of Noa and Parker, of course!).
With a few common household items, you can actually make your own toothpaste, face cleansers, deodorants, spray cleaners, washing machine and dishwasher powders… (the list is endless!), continually reusing their containers. You’ll probably end up saving quite a bit of money in the process as well.
A fantastic resource on making your own products for the home is a book called Waste Not, by Erin Rhoads
5. Grow your own veggies.
OK, this one may take a little more love and dedication than the points above, but there are a handful of vegetables that are surprisingly easy to grow in Melbourne and Sydney (lettuces, beans, zucchini, tomatoes…). And if you’re sick of seeing all of the pointless plastic packaging that fruit and vegetables still come in at your local supermarket, this change will be a satisfying one to make!
If you have kids, involving them in the process of growing vegetables is a great way to not only demonstrate the effort that goes into making their food, but research shows that kids are more likely to eat the greens on their plate if they helped grow them!
Even if you’re shorter on time than before (juggling home-schooling with work… we hear you!) – here’s how we look at it: if you can put aside a little time to make just one of these five changes in your home, you can ultimately help contribute to a better future for your kids.
Image credits: Unsplash.com