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Sustainable Futures: Sustainability Tips on the Home & Business Fronts

12 Aug 2021

We’ve amassed our reusable coffee cups and grocery bags but as noble as these things are, they’re small, incremental changes in the scheme of environmental conservation. But there are a few changes - low hanging fruits if you wish - that you can make in your daily life or business to drastically reduce your environmental impact at an individual level.

Mindful Travel

In 2019, pre-COVID-19, Greta Thunberg’s advocacy led to the coining of the term ‘flight shaming’. This in turn led to a decrease in Swedish air travel by 4% as Swedes modified their travel behaviour. A mass grounding of flights during the peak of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic saw CO2 emissions from aviation reduce by up to 60%. About 2.4% of global carbon emissions come from air travel. Recently in Australia it’s been easy to avoid international flights. But it’s something to keep in mind as the world starts to open up. There are ways to reduce your impact, like flying on newer aircraft, avoiding layovers and reducing the weight of your luggage, but the best thing you can do is reduce your flying overall. That might mean replacing every second international holiday with a domestic get away instead, or only travelling overseas to see family.

Businesses have already replaced international meetings and conferences with video calls and virtual / hybrid conference technologies (Riverside.FM, Zoom, Teams, vMix et al) and that’s likely to remain even when international flights start again (see behind the scenes in our virtual broadcasting studio below). But less obvious ideas, like allowing staff to add holiday time to business travel mean businesses can encourage less flying too.

Global Futurist Anders Sörman-Nilsson's Virtual Studio for Hybrid and Virtual Conferences

International travel won’t stop completely — as a global speaker (who has been carbon offsetting for years) I know the real value in being in the same room with others. But we can be more mindful about how, when and why we fly. 

Keep your kilometres down

It’s no surprise that cars are one of the most environmentally detrimental things we use in our daily lives. Many legacy vehicles need non-renewable energy, they emit carbon dioxide and our roads and highways have meant the destruction of natural habitats. But while some people live in inner-city areas without needing to drive, a car is a necessity for many others. 

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The solution is going to look different for every household. Some families might find their second car can be replaced by a car share scheme inspired by the Circular Economy instead (eg. Zipcar, GoGet, BMW’s DriveNow). Looking at (COVID-safe) car pooling opportunities is another strategy. And you can always get on your bike and get some exercise while you commute. Most people end up enjoying it rather than resenting it. Or if you can, like so many of us have done recently, scrap the commute all together and work remotely from the home office. 

Or when you do hit the road, just being conscious of the way you drive can make a difference. Being organised means you can group errands with your trip to the supermarket or the post office, rather than doing multiple trips. 

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Businesses can also encourage less car use by offering public transport allowances, providing bike racks and showers, or moving to hybrid working models that reduce commuting time. For more driving intensive businesses, telematic software can encourage more efficient driving and optimise routes.

Of course, the more obvious option is to buy an electric or hybrid vehicle, but it could be wasteful to buy a new car if you really don’t need one. Living sustainably should start with what you already have and consuming consciously (as 25% of total life cycle car carbon emissions come from the manufacturing process of a new car).

Think about the children

It’s unfortunate, but true: the most resource intensive thing we can do is bring another human being into the world. Lund University suggests that having one child less than planned can save 58.6 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, the equivalent of 700 teenagers recycling as much as possible for the rest of their entire lives. We can’t expect that people will stop having kids, but people should be completely aware of what their choices entail. It can inspire us to pick up more sustainable habits as a family. Or it might mean some families choose to have just one less child. 

Dabble in veganism or vegetarianism 

Vegan diets use less water, less environmental damage and less carbon. But realistically, most people won’t go vegan or vegetarian. It’s a big commitment to change the way you eat. Trying a vegan challenge (or eating plant-based / lab-grown meat) for a week or month can be eye-opening, showing you how many creative ways there are to substitute for meat. But a more long-term commitment might be to do meat-free Mondays, or even limit meat to only dinners during the week. And while you’re getting into your vegetables, just note that in-season produce can have an even lower impact on the environment, especially if it’s grown locally (maybe even in your backyard).

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Switch to renewable energy

At a production level, renewables are now cheaper than the cheapest coal in producing energy. This makes perfect sense since renewables minimise the labour, infrastructure and raw materials needed to continuously create energy. At a consumer level this is only beginning to hit critical mass and late last year Mozo found that the cheapest renewable plans could beat the average household electricity bill by anywhere from $32 to $257 depending on location. By switching over, you help create the market that makes renewables more achievable and commonplace for everyone.

Eliminate food waste

Organic waste turns landfills into greenhouse gas producing factories, yet they’re the easiest thing to avoid throwing in the bin. Meal plans mean less wastage, cooking more fresh produce means less packaging, and a compost bin or bokashi bin for smaller homes can turn waste into productive materials. You can always look into local community gardens or ShareWaste (like a free Airbnb for compost bins) if composting isn’t an option.

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There’s no reason for composting to be confined to the home either. Businesses can also take on similar initiatives or organise an organic waste collection through major waste disposal companies.

Think like your grandparents

It’s not that long ago that reusing and repairing were simply the norm. No matter where they lived, for our grandparents’ generation it was normal to do things like take their own bags to the grocer, to not rely on takeaway and its packaging, and to save items for another use and to repair clothing. We’ve been seduced by convenience and disposable consumerism, but there’s no reason we can’t take inspiration from our ancestors. Before you buy anything, question how much value and use you’ll really get out of it. 

Use YouTube and google to find out how to repair broken things (and find out more about the Right to Repair Movement), or if you’re lucky enough to have a local Bower Re-use and Repair Centre you can get direct help bringing household items back from the brink.

Get political

The biggest difference you can make is to push for sustainable measures that incentivise households and businesses to adopt sustainable strategies. Your voice is worth far more than always remembering to bring your own cup to the cafe. For effective, long-term solutions, get in touch with your local representative and voice your ideas. It might be at a local council level or it might be at a federal and policy level - either shows that you’re serious about meaningful environmental change.

Change is hard. But that’s what makes it rewarding. As you grapple with what it means to be sustainable just know that some change is better than no change. Start preparing for the future today because it is where you, your children (and their children) will live for the rest of your lives. 

What sustainable changes are you already making in your life / business and were they harder / easier than you had first imagined?

 
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