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7 tiny changes you can make today to have the biggest impact on the environment.

Toyota Australia
Thanks to our brand partner, Toyota Australia

This is our home, and it’s the only one we’ve got. So we need to treat it better than we are.

Some of it we can see, like oceans full of plastic, and some of it we can’t, like rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Luckily, there are solutions. They start with little things we can do in and around our own homes and communities, chipping in on a very local level for a global benefit.

Here are seven of them:

1. BYO wherever you can.

We have to consider the whole life cycle of disposable serviceware, like plastic cutlery and takeaway coffee cups. Not just the waste itself, but the energy and logistics required to move it all around.

Carrying your own water bottle, your own coffee cup, a straw if you need one, even your own cutlery, is a great way to take responsibility for our footprint.

Some restaurants let you bring in your own containers for them to fill up (Trashless Takeaway has a list of BYO container restaurants, which is setting a great example for other restaurants to follow),

Using a reusable coffee cup gets you a discount at a network of Responsible Cafes. Their website even has a bunch of resources for how you as a consumer can encourage your local café to be more sustainable.

We can also choose not to buy stuff with excessive packaging. This is more powerful than it seems, because these companies respond to market pressure. If they know you’ll buy stuff with less packaging, that’s what they’ll sell, and those are the changes we need.

2. Get involved in community tree-planting initiatives.

We need trees desperately. They clean the air, they store carbon, they’re homes for animals, they prevent erosion, they enrich the soil, they’re great for climbing, and they’re very pretty.

We’ve cut down half of them, so we need as many as we can get. It’s a good thing we have initiatives like National Tree Day, being held this year on Friday, July 26 for Schools Tree Day, and National Tree Day on Sunday, July 28.

Launched in 1996 by Planet Ark and Olivia Newton-John, National Tree Day has brought friends, families, schools, businesses and communities together to roll up their sleeves and plant more than 25 million trees.

This year also marks Toyota’s 20th anniversary as the partner for National Tree Day, showing how larger businesses can also play a role in making our environments better on a community level.

Planet Ark’s Deputy CEO, Rebecca Gilling, adds that “National Tree Day wouldn’t be Australia’s biggest tree-planting and nature care event without Toyota and their dealers’ support, as well as the hard work of volunteers around the country.”

Environmental responsibility is not just a one-day thing, though. Toyota Australia’s Chief Marketing Officer, Wayne Gabriel, adds that “Toyota Australia’s long-standing involvement in National Tree Day demonstrates our commitment to achieving zero environmental impact by the year 2050, and Toyota’s support for the long-term sustainability of our natural environment.”

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National Tree Day is a great way to remind ourselves to connect with the great outdoors for not only our own physical and mental health, but for the good of generations to come.

Find out how you can get involved at treeday.planetark.org

National Tree Day
Get your hands dirty for National Tree Day 2019. Image: Supplied.

3. Recycle your soft plastics.

Separating our recyclables has become second nature. Our paper, glass, cans, plastic have gone into  their own bins for decades. But there are a lot of materials which aren’t on that very short list, and haven’t been absorbed into our habits yet. Like soft plastics – the stuff you can scrunch up.

This is a valuable material, and it can be recycled, but if it goes in the big yellow bin with everything else, it gets all dirty and ends up in landfill. Companies like Redcycle offer a collection service at most supermarkets, so get a soft plastics bin going at home, and just drop it off when it’s full. No big deal.

Food waste is another one. Some councils offer a residential kerbside compost collection, which is great, but everyone else is left to their own devices. So use a compost bin or a worm farm. If you don’t have one yourself, you can find a place to take it to with through ShareWaste, and if you do have one yourself then list it on there so your neighbours can chip in too.

For anything else, take it to a community recycling centre. It’s a small effort, but it’s worth it.

4. Pick up three pieces of rubbish whenever you leave an outside space.

These issues can sometimes seem so overwhelming that it’s hard to know what to do. It’s easy to feel helpless, but initiatives like Take 3 For The Sea are really empowering.

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So next time you’re out and about and you see some rubbish, pick a few bits up, take a photo, tag #take3forthesea, and put them in a bin. It makes more of a difference than it looks.

This initiative alone has removed 10 million bits of rubbish annually, across 139 countries, and inspired a whole generation of kids to keep the ocean clean.

Picking up rubbish when you see it in the wild not only makes that part of the earth cleaner, it makes you feel like you actually can make a difference.

5. Reduce your meat consumption.

It takes a hell of a lot of food and water to produce a kilo of beef. And their digestive systems fart and burp more than your dodgy uncle. Cutting it out saves a disproportionately high number of percentage points off our total impact.

Meat-free Mondays is a start. Try not ordering it at restaurants. It’s nice eating things that no animals had to die for. But if you do like meat, use kangaroo. They’re just hopping around the countryside getting culled anyway. So chuck it in a Bolognese - it tastes great, and it’s even better for you.

6. Use a clothes line instead of a dryer or heater.

This is really about energy use. When you look at a chart of where our greenhouse gases are coming from, about half are from generating electricity. And the biggest chunk of our electricity goes towards heating our air, water and clothes. If you've got a hills hoist, use it! Let the sun and the wind work their magic.

As for the rest of your home: block your drafts, put on a jumper and socks, and cover your pots while you bring them to boil. Think of the all the work required to get that electricity – from the mine to the socket. The Australian Government has plenty of handy guides for easy things you can do to save energy at home, so have a look at energymadeeasy.gov.au for inspiration.

7. Get out and really enjoy nature.

“The Environment” isn’t just an abstract idea - it’s a real living breathing thing we can go and enjoy. And when we enjoy something, we want to protect it. That’s a vital step.

Australia is blessed with hundreds of incredible national parks. Buy an annual pass, support their maintenance, and go have some fun. Or have a look at Planet Ark's top five recommendations for "green time" apps like All Trails, which provides curated trail maps for hikers and campers.

If you've got kids like I do, give them some green time, not screen time, so that they have a chance to develop a relationship with it, and see it’s worth looking after.

Because this is our home. It’s beautiful. And it’s the only one we’ve got.

What are some little things you're doing to help save the environment on a local level?

This article is brought to you with thanks to our brand partner, Toyota Australia.

Toyota Australia

Schools Tree Day and National Tree Day are Australia's largest annual tree-planting and nature care events and this year, will take place on Friday 26 July and Sunday 28 July.
This is an initiative organised by Planet Ark in partnership with Toyota Australia and its Dealer Network which provides on-the-ground support at tree planting sites across Australia.
To find out more or to take part, visit  treeday.planetark.org , call the National Tree Day Hotline on 1300 88 5000 or visit your local participating Toyota Australia Dealership.

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