From the sounds of things, the
Andy and I recently bought a worm farm. We haven’t had it long enough to get much more than a feel for it, but judging on first impressions alone I think it’s just great. Since most of our waste is food waste (and all plant-based and therefore compostable), we have seriously cut down on the amount of stuff that goes out to the bin. It doesn’t smell, and it’s quick: I’ve already taken a few scoops of dirt out of it. Plus, each week when we change the water in the fish tank we dump the bucket through the whole system. This has two effects—it keeps the worm farm moist, and it provides us with rich liquid fertiliser for all of our plants. I highly recommend a worm farm to everyone, regardless of whether you have a back yard or not. We’ve got a tiny patio, and it would work on balconies, fire escapes, or even laundry rooms.
The majority of my wardrobe is second-hand (thanks especially to the amazing op shops in PNG). Everything except our mattress and Andy’s desk is second-hand, a combination of op shops, freecycle, garage sales, and side of the road finds. We also try to reuse food packaging whenever we can. Empty jars become containers for pressure-cooked beans or veggie stock. Plastic bags full of produce are reused as sandwich bags for lunches. Aside from reducing the amount of waste, and the amount of new stuff that needs to be made, reusing has the added bonus of monetary savings—or at least, it keeps money more local (i.e., garage sales) rather than supporting transnational corporations.
As I said before, and as The Little One eloquently summed up on actual earth day, reducing is the most important of the three Rs. There are a number of ways we can reduce…
Energy usage—Andy and I only realised how much energy is wasted in the form of phantom load after visiting the Sustainability Expo in January where we saw a meter plugged into a stereo that was switched off. Since then we’ve been reminding each other to turn things off at the power point. (Australian outlets are greener than their American counterparts because of one simple addition: a switch. Instead of unplugging everything, we just need to flip the switch to cut off the power supply that constantly flows, even to appliances that seem to be turned off.) An added bonus is the semi-naughty jokes we get to make when we forget: “When I woke up this morning, the kettle was blowing its phantom load all over the kitchen.”
Waste—This one is a no-brainer. Buy in bulk as much as you can. Use green bags for groceries and anything else you buy. Reuse whatever you can—turn old sheets into rags for cleaning. Fix things when they break. Learn a bit of sewing so you can patch clothing and furniture. Make things from scratch. Freeze leftovers, bread and tofu to avoid throwing away food. And when you do need to buy something, spend the extra money to buy something of a higher quality—it will last longer and thus cost less in the long-run. The other thing that has cut down considerably on the amount of rubbish we have is a ‘No Junk Mail’ sign. This probably won’t apply for Americans, but in
Consumption—When I was preparing to move to
When I do need to buy new stuff, I practice what I’ve come to think of as ‘considered consumption’. That is, I think before I buy. I don’t think I’m hardcore enough to identify as an ecotarian, but I try to choose items that are high quality, come from companies that are local and/or with good labour and social practices, and especially from small-scale operations. For instance, I prefer to buy dried beans from the Asian grocery rather than the big corporate supermarkets. If I do need to buy something from far away, I try to support vegan, anarchist, or small-scale businesses like AK Press, the Cruelty Free Shop, or The Purist Company.
Luckily, the greenest options are the cheapest—a very important consideration for a student surviving on a scholarship. But they require a bit of lifestyle changes; in short, we need to simplify. Because the world simply can’t support the lifestyle of the global north. Obviously we’re not all perfect, but everyone can make changes to reduce their impact on the planet.
Now for my earth day resolutions: to reduce our household water consumption (we take a lot of long showers), and to further lessen my reliance on plastic bags.