Expert tips for being sustainable at home
As we continue to spend more time at home during COVID-19 lockdown, now is a good opportunity to adopt more sustainability practices, as our experts share.
- There are many things we can do at home to be more sustainable and reduce our impact on the environment
- Swinburne experts share their tips on how we can be more green at home
With spring upon us it’s a great time to think about what you can do at home to live in a more green and sustainable way.
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, our experts have you covered. Here they share their top tips to help you reduce your impact on the environment from home.
Turn your waste into valuable organic matter
Composting is a great way to convert your waste products into organic matter for your garden.
‘It’s all about balance with your compost – you need to have a balance of green and brown materials,’ says Swinburne horticulture teacher Kate O’Grady.
‘Green materials include fresh grass clippings, food scraps and coffee grounds, while your brown materials are things like dry leaves/grass, dead plant clippings, newspaper and cardboard.’
To get started, Ms O’Grady recommends investing in a compost bin that you can rotate, or one where you can easily get in to turn over the contents.
‘You will also need a compost bucket for your kitchen bench, as well as a gardening fork or aerator tool. Turn your contents regularly (aim for once a week) to help them compost faster,’ she adds.
Composting not only reduces waste going to landfills, but turns them into valuable organic materials for your garden.
‘Remember, the smaller the materials, the quicker they will break down, so make sure anything you add to your compost bin is cut up into small pieces,’ says Ms O’Grady.
Make the switch from single-use plastics
Did you know that single-use plastic will be banned in Victoria by February 2023? Consider making some changes now to more sustainable products.
‘Many plastic products are designed to be discarded after one use. Given the resources used to produce them this is very wasteful, especially when you consider that these products take a long time to break down,’ says Swinburne’s Sustainability manager Nadine Ponomarenko.
Instead of using single-use plastics, consider these options:
- keep a reusable water bottle rather than purchasing bottled water
- use a reusable cup for your favourite takeaway coffee
- use paper straws
- take your own reusable bag to the shops.
Did you know that electronic waste – or e-waste – is banned from landfill in Victoria? This means we need to dispose of these potentially hazardous materials safely.
Search for your local e-waste drop-off points. For example, your local council may have a schedule for e-waste or end-of-life electronic collection or disposal. Officeworks also accepts some e-waste products.
Professor of Extractive Metallurgy and Metals Recycling Akbar Rhamdhani shares some advice for disposing of your e-waste:
- Group similar items together, such as laptops.
- When recycling a laptop, make sure the battery is removed.
- Place household and laptop batteries into a separate pile from other electronics. If possible, separate the different type of batteries, for example, alkaline and lithium ion batteries, or rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries.
- Keep mobile phones separate from general electronics.
- Lightbulbs, fluorescence lamps and compact fluorescence lamps can also be recycled. In fact, compact fluorescence lamps contain rare, valuable earth elements and phosphorus, so it’s important to recycle them.
- Don’t wait until you have a big pile of e-waste before taking it to your nearest drop-off points. It’s dangerous to stockpile batteries, especially those still with charge as they can catch fire.
Be more thoughtful with your purchases
Ethical purchasing is the practice of considering the potential negative consequences of your consumption on people, animals and the environment.
‘It’s important to be more thoughtful about our consumption practices, as we all have a responsibility to avoid negative impacts on the environment and the people involved along the supply chain. We may feel that our contribution is too small to make a difference, but everyone acting together to change our purchasing practices can influence change on a grander scale,’ says Swinburne’s Director of Sustainability and Procurement, Rhiannon Jones.
How can we be more conscious about how and what we purchase? There are many things we can do, Ms Jones explains:
- consider reusing before buying new, or buy products farmed or produced locally
- look for certified products, such as Fairtrade or B Corporation
- do your research to identify products with high energy and water efficiency ratings
- use reusable bags for your fruit and veggies instead of pre-wrapped packs
- don’t buy products from brands that exploit animals
- demand that your favourite brands demonstrate how they are avoiding slavery across their supply chains
- think about whether you are contributing to demand across a supply chain that is negatively impacting our environment or people.
‘There’s a lot to consider and it can sometimes feel too hard, so start with just one or two priorities, and build from there,’ Ms Jones advises.
Conserve water and electricity
There are several ways we can reduce our water footprint, as expert in sustainable water use Associate Professor Monzur Imteaz shares.
‘Compare your water usage with the standard amount for sustainable water use, which is 155 litres per person per day,’ says Associate Professor Imteaz.
If you’re using more than the recommended amount of water, consider the following tips:
- Try to reduce at least one minute from your total shower time.
- Adjust your gardening watering schedule based on rainfall forecast.
- Avoid hosing down your driveway, use a broom or air-blower instead.
- Wipe your dishes with a paper towel before rinsing them.
When it comes to conserving electricity, there are multiple things you can do. Swinburne’s Sustainability Manager Nadine Ponomarenko suggests looking for energy saving opportunities; for example, switching off the lights and appliances when not in use.
‘PowerPal is a great, free tool that helps increase awareness of your electricity use. It's connected to your electricity metre and paired with an app to give you real-time insight into your energy use,’ says Ms Ponomarenko.
What’s more, as part of the Victorian Energy Upgrades program, Victorians are eligible to have their existing light bulbs switched over to energy efficient LED lights for free.
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