explainer

8 simple changes you can make in your life right now to help our global crisis.

If you’ve tuned into the news cycle this month then you might have heard about the seriously dire predictions about our planet’s future.

We’re talking coral reefs dying, fish species extinction, rising sea levels and a “tipping point” of no return.

According to the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leaders need to be doing far more than they currently are if we want to cap global warming at the still-harmful jump of 1.5 degrees.

That report – along with the somewhat terrifying headlines that accompany it – have many of us feeling overwhelmed and essentially helpless to stop the planet burning down around us.

And while we should remind ourselves we at least have the power to vote for a government that promises climate action – we should also remember that actually there are changes we can make in our own lives to make a small but significant difference.

PlanetArk senior recycling campaigns coordinator Claire Bell tells Mamamia that the best way to make an impact without feeling incredibly overwhelmed is to start small.

If you can make just one of these eight behaviour changes this week, you’re already doing your part:

Think like your grandma

People in our grandparents’ generation typically made do with what they had, borrowed what they could and only bought new if they couldn’t possibly avoid it.

Claire says it’s a great idea to tap into that way of thinking and ask: “Do I really need to buy this?” “Can I make do with what I’ve got?” “Can I get this repaired rather than buying new?”

This doesn’t need to be a fun-killing experience, says Claire. Instead, she recommends setting challenges with your family or friends to buy as little new as possible. October was ‘Buy Nothing New Month’ – but you could hold a similar competition any time.

The best bit is, you’ll also save money that you can put towards something fun.

Recycle and avoid plastics

The supermarket bag ban has gone a long way to reducing our plastic waste, but there’s still an awful lot of plastic packaging available that isn’t suitable for a home recycling bin.

However, many supermarkets have special recycling bins where you can drop of your plastic bags and other soft plastics, says Claire. You can also take a moment to check the label on packets to see if and how they’re recyclable.

“The next step is trying to avoid a lot of that packaging in the first place,” Claire says.

You can do this by taking containers to wholefood stores to fill up with things like flour, rice and sugar. But even just popping single pieces of fruit into the trolley instead of in a bag is a good start, says Claire.

This short clip on waste is eye-opening. Post continues.

Plan your supermarket shops

Speaking of the supermarket, this is where you can make the biggest change to your food waste.

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It’s pretty simple, but admittedly hard to nail: plan your meals and shop ahead of time so you only buy what you need that week. That way you won’t end up throwing that mouldy feta or sad-looking carrots away.

If you’re already on top of this, Claire says a step up would be starting a compost heap for your food scraps or, by using the app ShareWaste, donating them to someone nearby who has their own worm farm.

Plant some trees and help the bees

Not all of us have backyards with room for plants, but if you do, Claire suggests considering planting some natives.

“Bees are really endangered and we need to support our bees,” she says.

A quick Google search will come up with dozens of plants that attract the flying honey-makers, but they include the very pretty flowering gums and tea trees, or leptospermum.

Reuse your coffee cup and water bottle

Pretty simple. Buy a reusable coffee cup, plonk it on your desk or in your car and remember to take it to the cafe.

Same goes for taking a metal or BPA-free water bottle with you wherever you go – just remember to wash it occasionally.

Support eco-friendly brands and call out those who aren’t

“Recycling is only really good if you buy back things that contain recycled content in it rather than virgin content,” Claire says.

With that in mind, you can check out Planet Ark’s list of truly environmentally-friendly products which include 100 per cent recycled kitchen towels and toilet paper. Claire says the online store Biome also has a huge range of waste-free products.

Claire also recommends doing your own research into brands you regularly buy and switching if you don’t like their practices.

“If your local cafe has non-recyclable coffee cups you could maybe write a Facebook post asking them to change.”

Drive less often

In a perfect world, we’d all live a five-minute walk from everywhere we need to go in our day and never use the car. Claire knows this isn’t realistic, which is why she encourages us to start small.

“Maybe you could cycle to work one day a week. Or carpool, especially when you’re dropping off kids at sport,” she says.

“I can catch the bus to the train station, but it’s only a 20-minute walk, so I usually walk it.”

Again, there’s an added bonus to this of saving money on fuel, and if taking turns in carpooling kids, time as well.

Reduce your Christmas-related waste

Christmas seems to inevitably be a time of great excess – but you can do your best to change that by thinking about ways to reduce your Xmas-related waste, says Claire.

“That might be reducing the amount of stuff you buy for people. You could start thinking about giving experiences rather than gifts,” she says.

“Or even think about how reusable your decorations are or focus on your food table – not overbuying food and thinking about your leftovers.”

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