Sometimes sustainability is hard work, as mentioned in my last post. These days I put more effort into living sustainably by riding my bike rather than driving, preparing more meals from scratch, attempting to grow my own vegetables, composting etc., etc. And I know that these lifestyle measures don’t suit everyone. Our child-free lifestyle and the fact that I currently work part time means that it is easy for me to soak dried beans overnight, and then monitor them for a few hours while I write a blog post or clean the house, rather than just opening a tin of refried beans (mmm, bean burritos/quesadillas/nachos). I’m also lucky in that I enjoy chopping vegetables, so doing things the longer way, with a knife, means that we don’t need to clutter up the kitchen with fancy appliances. The modern conveniences do help in our often-too busy lives but it’s more STUFF, and usually using electricity too. So it often seems that it’s a question of convenience vs. sustainability.
It’s not always though. A while back we pruned some branches in the garden, then we left them gathered in a pile in our driveway. We could have taken the whole lot to the mulch supplier, who takes your discarded green waste and turns it into mulch, but we were lazy instead and left the pile where it was for a few weeks. Seeing as it doesn’t rain often in Canberra the leaves on the branches quickly turned dry and brittle and fell from the branches and twigs. This was fantastic. We collect vegetable waste from a few friends to add to our compost bin and sometimes I need to go hunting for dry materials to add to the sloppy wet vegetable waste for the correct mixture. This time we just lifted the larger branches out of our discard pile and then scooped and swept up the valuable leaves. Something that was a large volume of waste material that had to be disposed of had ‘magically’ transformed into half waste, half valuable feedstock material and all because we were too lazy to haul the waste away.
It made me think of other lazy sustainable measures that I use:
- installing solar panels (not personally, there were professionals involved). These of course involve some effort to earn the money for the initial outlay but the best part is that they eventually pay themselves off (certainly in this quite sunny part of the world). These also contribute to guilt-free use of our big appliances. We now only run the dishwasher/clothes washing machine when the sun is shining.
- Water wise plants in the garden. Our garden came already planted with plants that grow on little water. I’ve added some native plants that require little input, maybe just a little pruning to encourage flowering.
- I don’t dry dishes. If the dishwasher hasn’t dried things adequately (plastic lunch boxes!) or if I’ve hand washed a bunch of stuff, it remains in the dish rack till dry enough to put away. Why bother using a tea (dish) towel just for it to get that damp smell and then need washing?
- More and more these days I don’t wear bras. I’ve always hated bra shopping (I’m an A cup, and therefore lucky that I don’t really need bras except for sport), so wearing them less often means buying less, and less washing. Oh and it’s a million times more comfortable.
- When I need some basil from the garden I pick a whole stalk, strip the large leaves from the bottom and then store any remaining in a glass of water. Result: an easy way to start a new plant that just needs to be poked back into the soil once strong roots have been produced. At the end of summer now, my veggie beds are full of little basil plants. I’m looking forward to pesto.
There are probably plenty of other little actions that I don’t do, out of pure laziness that come with a sustainability bonus (like washing the car very infrequently).
One thing that I put some mental energy into at least, is noticing all of the single serve items that are used in food service these days. I think I noticed it especially when I was living in the U.S.A., where for instance, you will be handed a serviette/paper napkin with just about any food or drink purchase (um no, I don’t need some paper to hold my can of drink thanks). It’s supposed to signify good service or something but there are often times when you are given a whole wad of disposable paper in a bag of takeout (or ‘takeaway’ in English). Last weekend here in Canberra we came across a stall operated by one of the major supermarket chains, handing out free chocolate samples. So I asked for a piece, less than a square and was handed it with yet another disposable serviette. This ‘fancy’ marketing trick, aiming to make a cheap piece of chocolate seem like some delicacy did not work on me. Instead the chocolate went straight into my mouth, barely touching the serviette, which therefore remained clean enough to be pocketed. I’ll use it later when I’m feeling lazy and need to clean up a spill.
And straws! Back when I was in my twenties and spending too much time in bars it was the feminist in me that would be bugged by straws. Why is it that men are given mixed drinks without a plastic straw but it is assumed that a woman will want to demurely sip through a bit of disposable plastic? Not me, and luckily I’m not the only one. Check out the great work that The Last Straw are up to. Hopefully everyone can start being a bit more lazy with this kind of stuff and stop automatically handing out serviettes, straws, disposable cutlery etc. I’ll start putting some effort into refusing them!