Simple ways to stop destroying the environment

Instead of growing out of my teenage angst, I seem to instead have discovered the delights of millennial angst and can see all the ways in which the world will end, the state of the environment being one particular area that gives me a constant feeling of low-level worry. While I can’t stop big businesses from doing what they’re doing, I can control my own little footprint and reduce it as much as possible. These are some things you can do to try and be a better person for our one-and-only earth:

  • The basics. Walk or use public transport instead of your car, carpool when you can’t, recycle your recyclables, buy local produce, don’t buy a new cellphone every six months, turn the lights off when you leave the room, limit the amount you use the dryer, shut the curtains when it’s cold, etc etc etc. The really obvious ones that everyone already knows.
  • Use a KeepCup. If you live in a city like Wellington where every second person is clutching a takeaway coffee, it’s easy to see just how much waste this causes. KeepCups are usually around $20 and most places will give you a free coffee with purchase. I’ve saved roughly 40 disposable coffee cups since I started using my KeepCup in May (please don’t calculate how much that means I’ve spent on coffee). Plus some places give you a discount for using your own cup, so you’re also saving money too! Again, please don’t compare that to how much I actually spend on coffee.
  • Bring your reusable items when you go out. Along a similar line to the KeepCup, reusable shopping bags are a super easy way to reduce your impact. In NZ our major supermarkets are phasing out single-use plastic bags, so you might as well get used to it now. Another tip is to buy metal straws and bring those with you when you go out, because plastic straws aren’t helping anyone be more sustainable and they really don’t add much to the experience of drinking something.
  • Recycle everything. You already know to recycle your tins, papers and glass bottles. But there is so much more you can recycle outside of your weekly pickup. That broken mug is now a pen-holder. Instead of leaving your old cellphone in a drawer somewhere, find a free drop-off zone so your eWaste can be repurposed safely instead of slowly poisoning the earth around it (Wellington people can find them here). Charity clothing bins sell clothes that are too ripped and stained to companies that turn them into rags, so you don’t need to biff out your sad old jeans into the regular rubbish. Most supermarkets now also have bins where you can recycle your soft plastics (full list of recyclables here) so if you do use a plastic bag at the supermarket, you can assuage your guilt! Yay!
  • Be smart with your clothes. Fast-fashion is bad for your wallet and the environment. If you can, invest in good-quality pieces that haven’t been made by people earning 10c an hour. If you can’t, op-shopping is a good way to get new clothes on the cheap, and if you’re super motivated, you could host a clothing swap like one of my lovely friends did a few months ago. To combat boredom with what you’ve already got, TFD has a cool idea where you challenge yourself to wear outfit combinations you never have before, something I’m definitely planning on doing.
  • Eat less meat. I’ve mentioned several times that I’m now a vegetarian and loving my meat-free lifestyle. I’m not telling you to stop eating meat, but even introducing one meat free day a week, like by doing Meat-Free Mondays, your carbon footprint is reduced a lot. Plus a vege-diet is so cheap, and you know by now that I love saving money.
  • Buy reusable menstrual products. If you have a uterus, there is absolutely no reason why you need to go through a pack of pads or tampons every period. DivaCups (and similar menstrual cups) last for several years, you can leave them in all day without worrying about getting toxic shock syndrome or feeling gross, and you’re drastically reducing the amount of waste you produce. If menstrual cups aren’t your jam, reusable cloth pads are relatively cheap and work just like disposable pads, except you’re not filling up a landfill every period. Again, this saves you money in the long run, so win-win!

If you’re curious about your carbon footprint, this is a pretty simple quiz to give you a rough estimate of how you’re doing. And if you have any tips that I’ve missed, let me know!

Saving the world through shopping

I want the world to be a better place but I also want to sleep in. That’s why I love doing things that let me feel like I’m making a difference without exerting myself.

I have a very beautiful friend who also wants the world to be a better place and actually puts in the effort to do so. She’s a great person to know because she finds out which organisations are worthy and then plans events so lazier people like myself can join her in saving the world. This month, she organised a clothing-swap fundraiser that resulted in everyone getting new outfits while also raising money to support peace in Syria (the organisation that received our donations is “Preemptive Love Coalition“, if you’re curious).

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After having everyone clear out their wardrobes, she collected and organised the unwanted clothes and had everyone round to her house for a Pop-Up Op-Shop. We left a donation and then found new outfits from other people’s no-longer-favourites, so I got to spend an afternoon basically shopping and left feeling like I’d made a difference in the world. All the unclaimed clothing was donated to refugee families so I got to feel doubly warm inside.

We live in a beautiful world (yeah we do, yeah we do) but also there is a lot wrong with it that needs fixing. I also know that it’s a lot easier to take part in worthwhile causes when someone else actually does the bulk of the work for you. I hope you all have a friend like mine (if you are that friend, bless you), because people like her allow the multitudinous sleepy people like me to make a difference.

Am I a good person or am I just lazy?

While catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen since before I left for Canada, I mentioned that I was now a vegetarian. When she asked me why, I explained that my flat in Vancouver didn’t have any decent appliances to cook meat so it felt like an unnecessary expense. Eventually, I found I didn’t miss it so fully embraced the vegetarian lifestyle.

It made me realise that a lot of the decisions I’m proud of and that I associate with my identity are not necessarily because I’m a good person or intent on breaking societal expectations – they’re mostly due to laziness.

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I’m a vegetarian – because animals are cute, but mainly because I hate the way raw meat feels and cooking it is a lot more effort than cooking veges. You won’t get sick if you undercook a carrot, but that pink chicken on the other hand…

I don’t shave my legs – partly because I think the societal expectation that women need to shave their legs is ridiculous, but also because I really hate shaving. One time I shaved my legs after 6 months of not doing so, and it took me half an hour to achieve dolphin-level smoothness. I’m now going on a year and a half of leg-hair growth and I really don’t have the time to spend forty five minutes removing it (not to mention 5 minutes every week keeping it at bay).

I use a Diva Cup – because it’s better for the environment, but really its major upside is you don’t need to change it multiple times a day. Put it in in the morning and take it out 10 hours later – that’s it. Plus one menstrual cup lasts several years and you better believe I’m too lazy to buy pads and tampons on the regular.

It extends past those examples. I often catch the bus because then I don’t need to spend time finding a carpark. I don’t wear a bra much because putting one on adds about 30 seconds to my morning routine. I prefer hanging washing on the line because I don’t really know how to use the dryer. I go barefaced 90% of the time because I hate taking makeup off in the evening when I’m sleepy and want to go straight to bed. I’ve had the same phone for close to 4 years because the effort involved in getting a new phone feels like a little too much.

I love knowing that my choices are good for the environment and I love feeling that I’m not subscribing to all the beauty rules women are tacitly told to follow. And while I’m proud of these little decisions I make in my life, I’d be lying if I said it took a lot of effort. When it comes to school or work, I put in all the effort, but in my everyday life I crave laziness and downtime. Sure, I’m motivated by the thought that my choices make a difference in the world, but I think I’m equally motivated by knowing those choices are actually easier for me than the alternative.

Here’s to living a sustainable, defiant lifestyle with minimal effort – and if you have suggestions for more ways I can be both lazy and efficient, let me know!