I was fortunate enough to run a workshop for IKEA Australia on 11 June, highlighting Sustainability and I feel compelled to share my findings, thoughts, and reflections with you all.
Over the last five years, it is estimated that Australians have generated more than 60 million tonnes of waste annually (Blue Environment and Randell Environmental Consulting, 2017). Of this amount, a staggering 7 million tonnes, equating to 35% of the total waste, was sent to local landfill sites, taking up a huge proportion of our natural environment. These statistics included waste from household kitchens, bathrooms, gardens, laundries, and building and construction projects. Mind-blowing.
In a bid to minimize the excessive waste produced by the nation, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia have implemented a general “zero waste” strategy. This strategy aims to enforce state-wide targets for waste reduction, resource sustainability, environmental recovery, and littering. However, even with the implementation of these great strategies, there are still plenty of ways for Australian citizens to take charge of creating a more sustainable future and improving our waste disposal habits.
Many of us have heard of the 3 R’s when it comes to waste minimization: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Although… With that said, how many of us have actually tried to implement these principles within our very own households?
Reducing, Reusing and Recycling are by far the most effective ways to sustain natural resources and protect the environment we live in. Want another added bonus? You will also be sure to save some money along the way, too.
As a Professional Organiser, I see first hand the effects that excess can have on one's home. When I work with clients, I strongly encourage them to take a mindful approach when it comes to organizing their homes. This not only means being mindful of the way they organize, store or structure their home, it also means being mindful of what is both coming into, and heading out of their home.
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is simply the basic human ability to be present and aware of our actions – So we must consider this when it comes to the place we spend more time than anywhere else.
While mindfulness is something that we are all capable of possessing, it’s certainly easier to practice when we incorporate it on a daily basis. So, I challenge you. I challenge you to take on a more mindful approach when it comes to organizing and maintaining your home. Not only for your household, your comfort, your family, but also for the environment too.
If we allow ourselves to shift our thinking even just a fraction when it comes to being mindful of the products we are using and consuming, we can work towards making landfills a tragic thing of the past. Once we successfully shift that attitude, our next step is to increase our personal awareness of the ways in which we create waste. Yes, we are ALL responsible, whether we choose to admit it or not. Think of the huge variety of ways that we can Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. After all, nothing is considered to be waste until the moment that we decide to throw it away.
You can reduce the consumption of resources by taking an extra moment or two to think about what you really need. A good starting point is to think to yourself:
“Does this serve a legitimate purpose?"
"Is this adding to my home?"
"Is this something that has more than one use?”
You can also reduce your consumption of resources by buying smart. When I say this, I mean buying quality items that will last. This is the perfect example of “quality over quantity”. Purchasing higher quality items made with higher quality materials, whether it be clothing, toys, household goods or just about anything else, means you will drastically reduce your overall waste as your items will simply last longer. Trust me, I understand the Kmart addiction. It’s real, it’s dangerous and it’s brilliant. But it isn’t sustainable.
The concept of reusing is generally a pretty easy one. Try your best to create multiple purposes for each item in your household! Have you got a bunch of old towels and rags lying around? Great. You’ve just found your new housework buddy. An old towel works just as well as a sponge that will last you a week. Pop it in the washing machine after each clean and you’ll be good to go for months. If you don’t have a spare pile lying around, consider investing in a small supply of towels and washcloths to start the process. Another idea is to invest in cloth napkins, rather than paper. If you have messy children (or husbands) and find yourself going through dozens of napkins a week, you have a super easy solution at hand. The initial cost of these items will quickly disappear as you won’t have a recurring need to purchase disposable substitutes.
Luckily for all of us, recycling doesn’t need to be difficult. We can simply recycle resources that no longer serve a purpose, or have reached the end of their intended use. By making an active effort to recycle, the demand for new materials to be created is hugely minimized, as is the sheer volume of waste going to landfill. Keep an eye out for materials with high recycled content. With more people utilizing these products, the market for recycled resources will be far greater. Think about it this way - The more we can convert our old products into new, useful products, the better. Don’t forget that you can recycle for others, too. I mean DONATE, DONATE, and DONATE! Take a moment to think about whether someone else may benefit from your old items before simply chucking them in the bin. Better still, consider buying second hand.
While it may not feel like it, every individual in the world has the power to make a big difference. On average, each person living in a well-developed country will produce approximately 750kgs of waste each year. Up to 500kgs of waste is able to be recycled in one way or another, which means that every single person living on Earth can save half a tonne of waste every single year, just by making an active effort to recycle.
If these benefits aren’t enough, have a think about these added bonuses when it comes to increasing sustainability and reducing common waste:
Finally, let’s talk about single-use plastics. Convenient? Perhaps. Sustainable? Heck no.
The dreaded plastic bag - where possible, always keeps a number of reusable bags in the boot of your car, the bottom of your pram and next to the door. By simply making the conscious effort to pop one into your handbag the next time you duck up to the shops will make the world of difference. Reusable shopping bags hold more, protect your items more thoroughly and seemingly last forever. These inexpensive cotton net tote bags from Ever Eco are a great start (Cotton Net Tote Bag) not to mention their range of reusable produce bags - perfect to use in place of disposable plastic bags when shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables. (Reusable Produce Bags).
If you don’t need a plastic bag, just say no. The future generation will thank you for it. In fact, the large supermarket chains are about to implement a single-use plastic bag ban – a brilliant step in the right direction.
Did you know that plastic straws are one of the most common items found on beaches all over the world? Plastic straws may be used for only a few minutes, but their negative impact on the environment lasts for lifetimes. Here are a couple of options to invest in reusable straws (Bamboo Straws / Stainless steel straws).
At the end of the day, our global future depends on sustainability. Sustainability is not only crucial to our environment, but to our future as a whole. We only have one Earth, and it’s time to make an active effort to reduce the harmful impacts on our environment. I guarantee you will benefit from this in more than one way, and implementing these little measures will make a positive difference to your home environment. Start small, so long as you start.
What will my first step be? I will be minimizing the use of single-use plastics from our home.
I have these beautifully designed WRAPPA Reusable Food Wraps that are made in Australia and are environmentally friendly.
These wraps will now replace the plastic cling wrap in my home. In my opinion, this small investment for a quality item is worth its weight in gold. These wraps will now be used to store fruit and veggies in the fridge, wrap up the kid’s sandwiches even cover my salad bowls. The possibilities are endless.
For me, this feels like the first step in the right direction. So, what will your first move be?
I’d love to hear from you, leave me a comment below or reach out via email firstname.lastname@example.org