Tiny Changes You Can Make To Be Kinder To The Planet
Being an environmentalist doesn’t mean exclusively wearing hemp or spending your weekends planting trees. Caring about the environment is something we all do by enjoying the world around us. Environmentalism is a practice we can all contribute to. But in saying that, we all get busy, so here are three small steps that will take less than five minutes out of your day (if that) that the environment will thank you for later when humankind is not relocating to Mars. As an added bonus, all of these options will save you major bucks along the way.
The stats show that the average Australian’s rubbish bin is 60% organic material (40% food and 20% garden waste). If we put this into the general waste bin this goes into landfill. One of the grosser sides of landfill is that it is so squished and tightly packed that oxygen cannot get to the food scraps. They can’t break down and instead give off a gas that actually harms environment.
So that nasty gas? It is a mix of odorous gas and methane, which harms the climate around 25 times greater than carbon dioxide. Organics living in landfill also creates leachate, which literally does what it says: leaches into the earth and can pollute groundwater.
Composting is amazing for the earth and easier to do than ever before. Like, really you don’t need to put any extra effort into this one. Sure, you can go the extra mile and get a worm bin to chew up your kitchen scraps and turn them into food for your plants (yay free fertilizer). This is a cute option if you have a free afternoon or some small children to stare in wonder at the worms coiling themselves through a rotting zucchini.
But if you want big results for tiny effort, you can put all of your kitchen organics (egg shells, vegetable cuttings, tea bags) in a biodegradable bag and put it in your green bin. If you don’t have a biodegradable bag – your local might have these and a kitchen caddy away for a small price or free – just put it in like, the nearest bucket or reuse an old empty plastic bag. It doesn’t matter as long as only organics enter the green bin and make their way to the municipal compost.
Go with the Flo
Periods. Who needs them? Not only are they a strain on ovaries, they hurt the environment too. Pads and tampons have a massive toll on the environment as they contain materials that do not degrade, like polyethylene and general plastics. These plastics even have potential health concerns, and at the very least can cause some women ‘diaper rash’ or general discomfort (I speak from experience – it ain’t nice).
In the average period-filled lifetime, it’s estimated you produce 30,000 kilograms of used pads or tampons that go into the landfill. Not only that, but The Huffington Post estimated in 2015 that it costs a woman $2,000 on hygiene products in their lifetime. Basically, we’re stuck with something that is expensive, terrible for the environment and gives us diaper rash. Plus the Australian government insists on taxing pads and tampons under the GST.
Menstrual cups to the rescue! The menstrual cup aka. Best Superhero Ever is a medical grade silicon cup that you can insert to catch the blood. Women leave it in for up to 12 hours and unlike a tampon, it doesn’t come with the warning of Toxic Shock Syndrome OR suck all of the moisture out of you (sorry but it had to be said). A menstrual cup costs around AU $50 depending on which brand and retailer you go for and if you look after it, will last you 10 years. The cup is essentially zero waste; it can be recycled at the end of its life.
And if you’re feeling squeamish about sticking silicon inside you, another zero waste alternative that is easy on the wallet are period panties. Australian brand Modibodi makes their panties out of sustainable bamboo and donates a percentage of their profits to the Share the Dignity campaign, a campaign that helps women who are homeless and women who are victims of male violence living in shelters access hygiene products they otherwise could not afford. That ticks so many feel good (and budgeting) boxes, it almost eases the pain of a period. Almost.
95% of the toilet paper we use is ‘virgin’, meaning the wood is plucked from plantation or native forests. That means we are literally flushing our native forests down the toilet. Not only this, but the creation of toilet paper from virgin wood uses up a decent amount of water.
Globally, 27,000 trees are flushed down the toilet or dumped in landfills from toilet paper. Toilet paper accounts for 10 percent of our global usage of paper. Putting two and two together, the current market is just not sustainable.
Have you heard about Who Gives a Crap? They are a pretty fantastic company based in Adelaide who ship recycled toilet paper, paper towels and tissues straight to your door. If you cringe at the thought of recycled toilet paper (remember it’s recycled from paper not toilet paper), they also stock bamboo toilet paper. It’s sustainable as bamboo is fast growing and not, you know, a native tree. Who Gives a Crap donates 50% of their profits (at the moment that has totaled $478,500) to developing countries to improve sanitation.
Not only do they present an environmental solution, they’re pretty cost effective too with 48 double rolls costing $48, which comes in at 25 cents per 100 sheets (if you count that kind of stuff). Plus, for the lazy people out there you no longer have to lug huge packets of loo paper home. And for the even lazier people, the rolls are wrapped in coloured paper which are a perfect substitute for wrapping paper in a pinch.
So there you go, Kermit was wrong all those years ago. Apparently, it is easy being green.
Katerina Bryant is a writer and editor based in Adelaide. Her work has appeared in the Griffith Review, Going Down Swinging and the Meanjin Blog, amongst others. She tweets at @katerina_bry.