Buy in bulk: how to start living a more sustainable lifestyle

How to start living a more sustainable lifestyle

There is no question that we’re on the brink of an environmental crisis. Scientists have been warning us about the consequences of global warming caused by human activity for decades. In Australia, we now feel the negative impact of global warming on an almost daily basis.

The bushfire crisis has continued for months, and an area of over 10.7 million hectares have been destroyed. Australia is home to over 1800 at-risk plant and animal species, and an estimate of over 1 billion animals have perished.

The world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef has suffered from two major back-to-back coral bleaching events. If water temperatures continue to rise, we might lose large part of the reef forever, destroying a delicate ecosystem and with it the livelihood of thousands of people that depend on it.

At the same time, governments and many multinational companies continue with business as usual. Large scale fossil fuel project such as the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland and a deep water oil drilling project in the Great Australian Bight still forge ahead.

Seeing all these events unfold can lead to a feeling of helplessness. Many of the decisions that have led us to this point can seem out of your control and too complicated to solve as an individual.

But you can make a difference through the choices you make every single day. This article provides you with tips on how to start living a more sustainable lifestyle.

What sustainability means

In very simple terms, sustainability means to meet our own needs without compromising the needs of generations to come.

When you choose to live a sustainable lifestyle, it means that you intentionally avoid things that deplete natural resources, to maintain ecological balance. You leave enough for the environment to replenish itself and avoid products that cause harm to the environment or cannot break down at all.

The 5 R’s of living a more sustainable lifestyle

There are hundreds of small steps you can take to start living a more sustainable lifestyle. The tips below give you some ideas on the habits you can adopt to reduce your personal carbon footprint.

Sustainability tips

Connecting communities to fight food waste

Food waste is a common problem in all industrial societies. According to the Department of Environment and Energy, Australia produced 7.3 million tonnes of food waste in 2016-17. Of this, 34% was created in our homes. At the same time, more than 4 million Australians have experienced food insecurity in the last 12 months.

Queensland impact start-up Spare Harvest is looking to bridge this divide. The app-based community facilitates the swapping, sharing, selling and sourcing of produce, pantry items, gardening equipment, and much more… “We have left the categories and ways in which people interact very open to make it easy for anyone to participate,” explains company founder Helen Andrew.

Over a period of three and a half years – and with very little technical knowledge –  Helen bootstrapped an online marketplace with 3,000 members and around 300 listings.

An idea to fight food waste – grown in the backyard

And it all started with a problem in Helen’s own backyard. When she traded life in the City and her corporate career in favour of a plot of land on the Sunshine Coast and raising her children, she knew one thing for certain: she wanted to be able to grow her own food and provide her kids with an experience similar to her own childhood in suburban Brisbane.

Helen Andrew is fighting food waste
Spare Harvest founder Helen Andrew. Image credit: Spare Harvest

The Sunshine Coast property looked like it would allow her to fulfill that dream. It had many established fruit trees with the potential to add more varieties over time.

Entrepreneurs

This Aussie inventor is making wave energy affordable

In the search for a more sustainable energy mix, solar, wind and nuclear power are clearly dominating the discussion. But there’s another source of renewable energy that has great potential: ocean waves.

“Unfortunately, no wave energy technology has managed to be cost effective until now”, says Oceanographer Tom Denniss. “But we believe that will soon change.”

Wave Swell Energy Founder Tom Denniss
Wave Swell Energy Founder Tom Denniss. Image credit: WSE

Tom and his team at Australian energy technology company Wave Swell Energy (WSE) are about to prove that wave energy has the potential to become a serious player in sustainable power generation. WSE is about to construct and launch a 200 kW wave energy project on King Island, with Hydro Tasmania integrating the electricity from the unit into the local hybrid grid, alongside its existing wind, solar, and diesel generation.

Producing energy through waves at a competitive price

Proving that wave energy can be captured in a cost-competitive way has long been a challenge for the sector. WSE is aiming to demonstrate this capability via the King Island project – and as a result of that to become the first wave energy technology to enter the commercial phase.

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compostable alternative soft plastic

A compostable alternative to soft plastic developed in NZ

As the former owner of three busy restaurants in New Zealand, Ben Grant knows a thing or two about the issue of packaging. “We had about 10,000 people moving through our premises every week. Out of those around 50% were ordering takeaway”, he recalls. “Add to that all the packaging the produce is coming in and you’re dealing with huge piles of rubbish and recycling every day.”

Having always been conscious about the footprint he’s been living, Ben decided to change the packaging industry for the better after he sold his restaurant business in 2018. Together with Josh Kempton he founded Grounded Packaging, a start-up that is aiming to replace soft plastic with compostable packaging from bio-based materials.

“We are focusing on soft plastic because it is the most problematic area in our current waste and recycling system”, says Ben.

Ben Grant is the co-founder of Grounded Packaging offering compostable alternatives to soft plastic.
Ben Grant is the co-founder of Grounded Packaging.

Soft plastic cannot go into kerbside recycling system because it gets caught in the machinery (side note: soft plastic can get recycled through RedCycle). At the same time, soft plastic – like most plastics – is made from petrochemicals. Therefore, it’s harming the environment in more than one way.

Why we still need packaging

Yet, while the movement against single-use plastic is gathering momentum in some regions, it’s difficult to imagine a modern world without packaging.

“Packaging material fulfils an important role in life – and especially in the food industry”, says Ben. For instance, packaging increases the shelf life of fresh produce which in turn helps to reduce food waste.

Entrepreneurs
Sustainable cities start with communities

Why sustainable urban development requires major philosophical shifts

Bustling streets, tons of creative energy and the promise of new opportunities. Large cities have always drawn people like magnets. The world’s modern metropolises still lure with the promise of excitement and possibility. Yet, mega cities also represent one of the biggest challenges for sustainable urban development.

According to projections by the United Nations, 68% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. While cities only take up 2% of the world’s surface, they consume 78% of the world’s energy. What’s more, they produce 60% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why any serious attempts to reverse climate change will need to include a framework for sustainable urban development.

Gregor Mews is an urban planner and the founder of the Urban Synergies Group. After having studied urban planning and design in Berlin, he travelled the world to learn more about human life at different stages of urban development.

Now based in Australia, Gregor is working with local governments, NGOs, businesses and UN Habitat to create healthier, more connected and sustainable urban communities. In short, if you want to have a philosophical discussion about what the future of the city should look like, Gregor is your man!

Gregor Mews talks about the role of cities for a more sustainable future. Image: Urban Synergies Group.

 “We’re at a historical moment in time”, says Gregor about the urgency of the problem. “We have three years to turn the trend in global warming around until we enter the adaptation phase.“ However, to tackle this problem, it would require more than just installing solar panels on rooftops.

It’s in this context that Gregor identifies 3 fundamental shifts required in our thinking that will ultimately lead to sustainable urban development.

1. Putting human needs at the heart of sustainable urban development

Most people will have heard about the Mercer Global Liveability Index that ranks cities based on the quality of life they offer to their citizens.

“The issue with this ranking system is that it’s basically designed for rich minorities. It caters toward highly educated people with a high socio-economic status. However, these rankings tell us very little about what ordinary life looks like for the majority”, says Gregor.  “For example, Sydney has often been ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world. But I doubt that most people in Western Sydney would agree with this assessment.”

Scientists Thinkers

Goodments: An ethical investment app for the Netflix era

Shun the plastic bag. Eat less meat. Ride your bike instead of driving. Changing the default in our everyday choices is among the most common advice given to anyone looking to lessen their impact on the planet. And while each of these decisions does reduce our personal carbon footprint a little bit, many people are unknowingly undermining their own efforts to lead a more sustainable life through their investments.

Goodments founders Tom Culver and Emily Taylor
Goodments founder team Emily Taylor and Tom Culver

“It’s all well and good to take your KeepCup to the coffee shop, but if you are still investing in companies that depend on fossil fuels there’s a massive misalignment between your values and how you’re going about securing your future in economic terms”, says Tom Culver. To help bridge this gap, the former wealth and investment manager took a leap of faith at the beginning of 2017 and left his stable career to launch the ethical investment start-up Goodments together with his wife Emily Taylor.

Democratising ethical investing

The idea behind Goodments is simple: make it as easy as possible for anyone to invest in recognisable brands that are aligned with their values. The Sydney-based FinTech company is achieving this through a combination of different strategies.

  1. Ditching the finance jargon

“The world of finance is full of unnecessary complexity and language that is completely meaningless to the majority of people”, explains Tom. “That’s why we decided to move away from talking purely about financial returns to emphasising the impact instead.”

Entrepreneurs

An ethical investment app for the Netflix era

Shun the plastic bag. Eat less meat. Ride your bike instead of driving. Changing the default in our everyday choices is among the most common advice given to anyone looking to lessen their impact on the planet. And while each of these decisions does reduce our personal carbon footprint a little bit, many people are unknowingly undermining their own efforts to lead a more sustainable life through their investments.

Goodments founders Tom Culver and Emily Taylor
Goodments founder team Emily Taylor and Tom Culver

“It’s all well and good to take your KeepCup to the coffee shop, but if you are still investing in companies that depend on fossil fuels there’s a massive misalignment between your values and how you’re going about securing your future in economic terms”, says Tom Culver. To help bridge this gap, the former wealth and investment manager took a leap of faith at the beginning of 2017 and left his stable career to launch the ethical investment start-up Goodments together with his wife Emily Taylor.

Democratising ethical investment

The idea behind Goodments is simple: make it as easy as possible for anyone to invest in recognisable brands that are aligned with their values. The Sydney-based FinTech company is achieving this through a combination of different strategies.

  1. Ditching the finance jargon

“The world of finance is full of unnecessary complexity and language that is completely meaningless to the majority of people”, explains Tom. “That’s why we decided to move away from talking purely about financial returns to emphasising the impact instead.”

Entrepreneurs