In trying to minimise our impact on this earth as much as possible, there are a few things we do:
- We try to re-use EVERYTHING! Cans, bottles, plastic bags/wrap and anything else plastic, old clothes (as rags) etc. etc.
- We try to find building materials which are local or recycled. Tom spent weeks a few years ago pulling down an old building, but he has a lot of good quality, recycled timber out of it. In today’s building environment, people are happy to get buildings pulled down without having to pay for it. Usually the land these older buildings are on is worth more to them without anything on it. It is a matter of being at the right place at the right time, but you can always scout around locally for these opportunities.
Local rock or clay are also great building materials, and can even be found on your own land!
- All paper products are recycled, we have an old paper shredder (bought second hand), which shreds the paper and cardboard down enough so it can be used as mulch. Other (smaller) bits of paper can be put in the centre of banana circles, the bananas love it!
- Opp shops and second hand shops are a great source for clothing, crockery/cutlery and other household items. Instead of buying paper or plastic party products (plates, cups etc) for parties or get togethers, buy some cheap crockery and cutlery that can be used and re-used (it only uses some water for washing up…). Clothing is always best bought from opp shops, at least you know that even though it may have been made in a sweat shop originally, you do not encourage that sort of behaviour by buying it new. Recycled is cheaper for your wallet and the environment; we westerners throw out a lot of clothes, so our opp shops are plenty AND full!
- Grow as much food as you can, in plant and animal form. Milk your cows/sheep/goats and make your own cheese (fetta is very easy and quick to make, even if you are out all day!) and yoghurts. Have some chooks, even in most small backyards you can still have chooks and they love all your food scraps! They give you eggs and manure in return. Try and eat as much from the garden as possible: minimise trips to the supermarket. You can eat simple but still very tasty food.
- Anything you cannot grow, buy wholesale or from a farmers market or local farm. Try produce exchanges. Wholesale products mean you need to store things in bulk (you can get food grade buckets from some second hand stores), it also means the packaging will be minimal, so minimal waste. Nuts, seeds, pulses, grains are all things that are not easy to be able to grow in quantities. Either go without or buy in bulk and store.
- Aim to have only a couple of small shopping bags of waste every week, if not less. Work towards eliminating waste all together. This can be done by not buying any packaged products.
- Ride a bicycle. If you live too far away, or have problems with mobility, research electric bicycles. (They come with solar chargers as well, you may need to search a bit harder for those, but they are available!) Bicycles are the best transport, no emissions, good for your health, no noise and they make you slow down and take in the surroundings. Enjoy your bicycle ride and take your time!
These are only some hints towards the path of minimising your environmental impact. There are a lot more things you can do, that do not cost the earth! All we need to do is to change our mindset. And remember, EVERYTHING you eat, drink, use, wear, build and drive has cost the earth something. The only question is, can that something be easily replaced or does it mean it will be lost forever? Continue questioning every purchase and every action. Awareness is not enough, the time for action is NOW!
©2010 Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast – Hints to minimise impact and increase self reliance