We all know our daily actions have an impact on the environment. Making changes to lessen these can seem daunting, and sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start. Luckily there are so many simple alternatives that can help us live a little cleaner, greener and smarter, and help lessen our footprint on the earth.
We partnered with GOOD magazine this year and invited their readers to share the ways they’re lessening their impact. Hundreds of great ideas were submitted. We thought we’d share these with you as inspiration for you to get started and start making changes today.
See if you can make one or more of these in your everyday lifestyle, and feel good knowing you’re making a difference.
- Food/Food waste
- Reusable products
- Recycling, Re-using & Upcycling
- Reduce/re-use plastic
- Fix - don't replace
- Electricity use in the home
- Shopping habits
- Reducing harmful chemicals
In 2018 transport accounted for 47% of New Zealand’s carbon dioxide emissions – one of four main greenhouse gasses - of which 90.7% came from road vehicle emissions (the rest was domestic aviation).
Here’s how we can help bring this down:
- Reduce your driving and car use
- Reduce the number of cars in your household, or choose to not have a car at all
- Replace your car with a hybrid or fully electric vehicle. Lease or hire an EV - this is a great resource for finding an EV to test drive or lease near you.
- Carpool - there are many ridesharing tools online or see if any of your colleagues live nearby
- Use public transport
- Bike or scooter, ebike or escooter
- Walk more
- Buy local – if you can get it at your local supermarket or mall, why go further afield?
If you are taking a trip with the car, try and get as much done in the trip as possible. Need groceries? Grab them on the way home from work so it’s not an extra trip.
The fashion industry takes a great toll on the environment. From manufacturing to transportation to packaging and then end-of-(fashionable)-life disposal. Just how great an impact it has is still up for debate. What can’t be denied however is, is that fast fashion isn’t good for the environment and that ideally, we’d all be buying fewer, higher quality garments that last longer – and wearing them for longer.
Here’s how to make more positive clothing choices:
- Buy New Zealand made with locally sourced fabrics
- Choose natural fabrics like cotton, over synthetics like nylon or lycra
- Reduce the amount of clothing you buy – can you go for a year without buying new clothes?
- Instead of buying, go to a clothes swap
- Buy second hand – alongside charity shops that sell them cheap, more high-end, high-quality stores that even sell designer brands are opening up across the country
- Hire clothes for special events, rather than buying something you’ll only wear once (Check out Designer Wardrobe, Lend the Label or Oh Rent Me)
- Make your own clothes, and see if you can source second hand/used fabrics
- UPCYCLING TIP: turn old clothes into cleaning cloths or even face masks
New Zealand households throw away 157,389 tonnes of food a year. That’s 271 Jumbo Jets worth of food. And that’s not counting what gets thrown away from supermarkets, cafes or restaurants!
So, how can you reduce the amount of food that goes to waste?
- Only buy as much as you’re able to eat – if needed, buy smaller amounts more often
- Freeze leftovers if you’re not going to eat it the next day
- Freeze that loaf of bread – just defrost or toast as needed
- Get a chicken or two – they're fantastic pets and are great at eating your food scraps
- Get a compost bin, or a Bokashi bin to food scraps don’t go to landfill
- Have extra space? Get a worm farm
And here’s how to have less of an impact with the food you do buy
- Eat more vegetarian or vegan meals, and reduce your overall meat, dairy and poultry consumption
- Visit your local farmers market for fresher, tastier produce
- Buy in-season, New Zealand grown
- Visit bulk food stores, like Bin Inn or GoodFor, and buy only what you need. They’ll even let you bring your own containers to be refilled.
Or why not try growing your own. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as eating food you've grown yourself. It tastes better, saves you money, and is good for the planet.
- Have a go at growing your own herbs or veggies. If you have more space, consider planting your favourite fruit trees, or starting a small veggie garden.
- Plant roses or lavender to attract bees (to help with pollinating) or plant native grasses and plants to attract native birds and bees.
Appliances help us a lot in our day-to-day lives – making chores like washing the dishes or our clothes a lot quicker and easier. However, they can also use a lot of resources. Luckily, manufacturers are always looking to improve their appliances, making them work more efficiently with less electricity or water. Here’s what to look out for when buying your next appliance:
- Check the energy and water ratings of the appliance – the more stars the better
- Also – compare like for like. If you’re checking out a 480L fridge from one brand, make sure you’re comparing it to a 480L fridge from another, rather than one at a similar price or style
- Check out the GenLess Rightware tool to compare products and find what fits best for your home
- Get a front loader washing machine – they typically use less water than a top-loader (and are gentler on clothes)
Often seen as a necessary evil, packaging can be hard to give up – it’s everywhere. And sometimes, we don’t even really get a choice. Here are a few ways you can reduce your reliance on single-use packaging
- ‘Litterless’ lunches – pack food that doesn’t have, or require, extra packaging. There are great lunchboxes available that allow you to segment foods and are leak proof.
- Choose products with less, or no, packaging – choose your own fruit and veg where possible rather than just grabbing one of the bags
- Bring your own, reusable produce bags with you to the supermarket to pack loose fruit and veg into.
- Bring your own containers for takeaway food and a reusable cup for your takeaway coffee and drinks (some cafes will even give you a small discount for this!)
- Choose products with recyclable or home compostable packaging. Check out Ethique for a great range of New Zealand made, plastic-less skincare and beauty products
- Use refilleries for eco-cleaning products. ecostore is expanding its presence around the country
One of the main reasons that plastics and other items end up in our waterways and oceans is due to litter being disposed of inappropriately. How can we help lessen this?
- First off – dispose of your litter in an appropriate place. No bin? Take it home with you and dispose of it in your own bin.
- Carry a bag with you when you’re out walking and pick up any rubbish you come across (it’s a new exercise called plogging)
- Check the item – can it be recycled? If so, chuck it in the recycling bin instead
We take it for granted that there is an unlimited supply of water available to us anytime from the tap. But water reserves are constantly at threat, and a lot of water is wasted unnecessarily.
Here’s how you can reduce the amount of water you use in your home:
- Make sure you have a full load before turning on the washing machine or dishwasher and use the eco or water-saving setting where possible
- Fill the sink to hand-wash dishes, rather than letting the tap run, and turn off the tap while brushing your teeth
- If you can, install a rainwater tank – you can use this non-potable (non-drinkable) water for your toilet, washing machines etc
- Collect water in a bucket while you’re showering and use this water to clean your car
- Reduce your shower time to 4mins
You don’t have to use clean water to water your garden – here’s how you can re-use water from your home
- Use the collected water from the dehumidifier/dryer to water the garden
- Save water from washing fruit and veggie and use to water the garden
- Have fish? Don’t pour the tank water down the drain – into the garden it goes
As consumer demand for re-usable products rises, companies are coming up with the goods. Literally.
Keep an eye out for these products - available with a quick search online, or in many homeware/department stores throughout the country.
- Silicon baking sheets to replace baking paper
- Reusable sanitary products like period panties, menstrual cups, and reusable cloth pads
- Micro-fibre face cloths and reusable wipes
- Stainless steel straws
- Reusable shopping bags
- Cloth towels instead of paper towels
- Cloth nappies
- Cloth face masks
Not everything can be recycled curbside, so it’s a good idea to check what’s recyclable in your area.
Additional recycling options include
- Soft plastics recycling bins at selected supermarkets and The Warehouse stores
- Packaging recycling programmes like those run by ecostore
- While takeaway coffee cups aren’t recyclable, many are now compostable. If you don’t drink too much coffee you can tear the cup into tiny pieces and pop into your home compost bin and put the lid in the recycling, or find a café with an Innocent Packaging / We Compost bin to dispose of them and they’ll be sent to one of New Zealand’s commercial composting facilities
Some items can even be given new life in your own home - also known as upcycling. Here’s some inspiration to get you started
- Turn clothes you no longer wear into handbags or facemasks
- Old jars – from candles to peanut butter are great to store odds and ends or use to fill up with bulk bin products
- art projects - like turning wine corks into cork-boards
- Unwrap gifts carefully – not only does it lengthen the suspense, but you can then wrap a gift with it for someone else. Same goes for ribbons, gift boxes, bags etc.
- Wash and keep any plastic takeaway containers – they’re great for lunches, storing leftovers, or any odds and ends that rattle loose in your drawers
- They can also make great temporary homes for seedlings to help get your home veggie garden going
- Join a free-cycle community, or donate unwanted goods to charities. The SPCA is always looking for towels, blankets and other things to keep their critters warm (especially in winter) and just because you don’t want to wear those clothes anymore, doesn’t mean someone else won’t benefit from them
Plastic can seem very hard to avoid. Luckily more options are becoming available every day.
- Re-usable silicon or metal straws, have a set of cutlery (incl. chopsticks) with you when you’re out in-case you get takeaway
- Choose paper bags at the supermarket over plastic (when you forget your own)
- Hooked on fizzy? Get a soda-stream for home. Also great if you’re a fan of sparkling water
- Get a stainless steel water bottle and keep it filled and with you so you’re not tempted to buy bottled
- #giveupthebottle – Ethique have just released a range of concentrates alongside their existing range of solid bars
- Use beeswax wraps (or these vegan-friendly ones) instead of plastic wrap
- Need new pegs? Choose wood or stainless-steel versions
- Buy wooden dish-brushes, bamboo toothbrushes, cotton buds rather than their plastic counterparts
In today’s throw-away society it often seems easier to replace, rather than repair. For many items, however, a repair job is possible, and likely cheaper than buying a new one. It also helps prevent these items from ending up in a landfill prematurely.
- Smashed screen on your phone? It probably still works and costs a lot less to fix than replace
- Buy a refurbished phone or computer – they’re often cheaper than new, and if they had any bugs, they’ve been fixed
- Learn how to sew a button or fix a hem - often all it takes is a needle and thread
- Visit your local cobbler (shoe repair shop) to bring new life to your favourite shoes
While residential electricity use may seem inconsequential in the greater scheme of things – every little bit helps. Some small changes in your house can help you save money and lessen the load on the grid – which is good for everyone.
- Switch to solarZero and run your home with cleaner, smarter energy.
- Check the temperature of your hot water cylinder – optimum temp is 60 degrees celsius
- Hang your clothes to dry outside if you can, instead of using your dryer
- Turn off lights when you’re not using them, and consider switching bulbs to LEDs
- Open the curtains to let in natural light
- Turn appliances you’re not using off at the wall (even on standby many appliances will still draw a small amount of energy)
- Use your curtains to regulate heating in your home – open them in the morning to let in the sun, and close them before sunset to retain the warmth
- Turn your taps to cold so that when you turn them on – even for just a few seconds – you’re not drawing water from the hot water cylinder
We all buy a lot – and unless you have the self-restraint of a saint, we sometimes buy things we later come to regret. Here’s how to curb those post-purchase blues, save money, and put less stress on the planet.
- Don’t impulse buy: write a list – and stick to it. Or have a budget to keep to. Click and collect supermarket shopping is also super handy as it stops impulse buying items you see that you don't necessarily need
- Choose ethical and sustainable brands – the CoGo app is a great tool that can help you find businesses in your area that will help you live a more sustainable lifestyle
- Buy second hand
- Do you need to buy? Hire, borrow from your neighbours, or check out Flack an online peer-to-peer marketplace where you can hire almost anything you need from within your community
- Don’t get caught up in the excitement of sales and buy ‘just because it’s on special’
Everything is made up of chemicals. However, while most of them are safe for us and the environment, others not so much.
So, when looking for cleaning products, it’s better for you and the environment if you choose less harmful ones. Here’s how:
- Choose eco-friendly cleaning products – like ecostore or Earthwise
- Make your own cleaners using products you probably already have in the cupboard, like baking soda or vinegar
- Choose fragrance-free (great for sensitive skin and noses)
- Make your own deodorant
- Choose eco-friendly self-care products
The good news is that you also don’t have to go to speciality stores or shop online to find enviro-friendly products. Many of these are now available on supermarket shelves. Just watch out for greenwashing – has some handy hints.
Now, this isn’t an exhaustive list of swaps and steps you can take to live a little lighter. However, we hope it’s given you some ideas of where you can start and what to be aware of in your day-to-day.
If you think we missed something, let us know and we’ll add it to the list!