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It's easy being green: tips for building a more sustainable life
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It's easy being green: tips for building a more sustainable life
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
It's easy being green: tips for building a more sustainable life
Pass it on
Pass it on
21 October 2015

It's easy being green: tips for building a more sustainable life

Because you don’t have to live off-grid to start doing the right thing.

Written by Cassie Duncan

This blog post is sponsored by Bank Australia.

What does this mean?

Look at all that food not going to waste.

This blog post is sponsored by Bank Australia.

What does this mean?

How many times have you wistfully daydreamed about slowing down, even (heaven forbid) stopping every once in a while? My dream involves a country property where I cook all my meals from scratch, grow my own fruit and veggies and raise my own animals for meat. My weekends would be filled with heady dinner parties, hosting all our friends from the city and watching them admire our abundant veggie garden. All my clothing would be second-hand or ethically made, I’d never step foot inside a supermarket and wouldn’t dream of buying anything wrapped in plastic.

But the truth is, life isn’t perfect and nor am I. What I have been able to do over the past six years since starting Sustainable Table is find a happy compromise between living off-grid and living in an inner-city abode with a tiny backyard.

Here are my top tips for reducing our impact on the planet whilst still achieving the thousand-and-one things we set out to do each week.

Shop at farmers’ markets—and make it a family affair

Up to 60 percent of our personal eco-footprint is determined by the food we buy. Purchasing food that is seasonal, local, free range and low in chemicals is fair to the farmer, fair to the animals and better for the environment.

Instead of treating shopping as a low priority that gets done at 6pm on a Sunday night under the fluorescent buzz of the supermarket aisles, I have made it part of my family bonding time—it’s a non-negotiable, like picking up your kids from school or ringing your mum on her birthday. Although our shopping trip can take a couple of hours (because I like to talk and learn about food), it is now so much a part of us it’s like visiting family, and leaves us feeling all warm and fuzzy.

Say no to single-use packaging

“Like diamonds, plastics are forever”—this phrase has been burnt into my brain. The idea that every single piece of plastic that I have ever mindlessly consumed is still on the planet today is gobsmacking.

Granted, completely removing single-use packing from your life takes serious commitment (see Trash is for Tossers), but removing it from 80 percent of your life takes just a little bit of planning:

  • Carry a reusable coffee cup and if you do forget it and really want a coffee, take 10 minutes out of your day to order in. Most paper coffee cups are lined with plastic (and so can’t be recycled) and come with plastic lids.
  • Take your own drink bottle or fill your reusable cup.
  • Say no to straws.
  • Carry your own cutlery. There are many lightweight options available or you can just pop a set you already have in a pencil case or satchel.
  • Keep a reusable shopping bag in your handbag /satchel.
  • Don’t line your bin with a plastic bag. Instead, go nude and rinse it when it gets dirty, or line the bottom with newspaper.
  • Take your own bowl or plate when ordering takeaway (yep, you’ll get a few looks but they’ll get over it and you might give someone else the courage to start doing the same).
  • Take your own containers to the butcher or deli.
  • Use beeswax food wraps to replace cling film.
  • Find your nearest bulk food store using Sustainable Table’s Directory so you can buy all your staples without the packaging.

Plan your meals to avoid food waste

Australians throw out a whopping $8 billion worth of edible food each year. It’s not only a waste of money, it’s also a waste of the labour and resources that went into growing and transporting the food.

Here are some handy tips I have collected along the way to reduce food waste:

  • I’ve stopped being lured into 2-for-1 deals or bulk bargains and only buy what I know I will use
  • If you don’t have time to make a stock, freeze your scraps to use at a later date
  • I keep fat drippings in a cup by the stove and use these to cook with. If you’re a meat-eater and are trying to cut back a little, it’s a cheeky way to add some meaty flavour to your veggie meal
  • If a recipe calls for chicken breast or thigh, opt for a whole chook instead and use every part of the animal, not just the popular parts. It helps to stretch the meal further and the carcass makes a killer stock for your next risotto or soup. The same goes for fish—cooking a whole fish can be a little daunting at first, but it holds its texture and flavour really well
  • Chop up celery leaves and add them to what you’re cooking. The same goes for carrot tops and beetroot leaves, which can be lightly steamed, stir-fried or added to a salad. Carrot tops can also be turned into a mean pesto
  • If you peel broccoli stems, the insides are delicious and can be added to your dish
  • Freeze herbs in ice cube trays with olive oil for use throughout the year
  • If the fruit in my bowl is about to go bad I will stew it up and freeze it in portions to be added to smoothies or yoghurt for a hit of goodness
  • I normally take a look at the state of the veggies in my crisper on a Sunday morning and cook up anything that is looking tired or wilted, then freeze it into portions for the family.

Grow your own and compost

I’m a self-proclaimed compost convert. I couldn’t get over how much this simple act reduced the amount of rubbish I sent to landfill. We have a small courtyard and only need to empty our compost bin onto the garden once or twice a year, so I guarantee there will be a solution for you.

Importantly, be kind to yourself—we all slip up, however a lot of small actions do add up very quickly when it comes to preserving the planet.

Cassie Duncan

Cassie Duncan is the co-founder of Sustainable Table, which has recently released The Clever Cook eBook, your complete guide to reducing waste, saving money and eating well.

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