Every fortnight, our contributing writer Elise Catterall tackles a new everyday environmental issue in her column 'Everyday Enviro with Elise'. She is Planet Ark's answer to Carrie Bradshaw and has explored everything from travel and packaging to low-waste pet ownership for us this year.
We can't thank Elise enough for taking the time to investigate the impacts of our daily habits, answer our burning environmental questions and provide us with simple tips and tools to reduce our impact. So without further ado, we'd like to present: the 'Everyday Enviro' highlights reel for 2020.
1. Making change with home-compostable packaging
Many Australian households have embraced home and community composting (for example Sharewaste, or community gardens) for the many environmental benefits it offers.
As a quick recap, these benefits include diverting organic waste from landfill, which in turn prevents methane emissions (significantly more detrimental to climate change than carbon dioxide emissions) and prevents leachate that can pollute ground water and our waterways; suppressing plant disease and pest infestations, reducing the need for chemical aids; and enriching soil quality and moisture level, which in turn facilities sequestration of carbon, reduces our need to water and encourages new growth, among others.
2. Zero footprint travel
During our Covid-19 isolation, I have been actively seeking silver linings to this challenging situation we all find ourselves in. One way I have found to lift my spirits is through travel. Now we all know that international travel – especially flights and cruises – takes a heavy toll on the environment, but I have found the perfect, environmentally friendly – and Covid-19 – friendly alternative: virtual travel.
3. Reducing one's 'monthly' environmental impact
My choice for this week’s piece seems particularly timely in light of the panic buying of essentials we are seeing in response to COVID-19. On a recent visit to a local supermarket I saw that not only were toilet paper and tissue items completely cleaned out but also feminine hygiene products. I don’t know about you, but as a woman, if I was in need of either, I would rather go without toilet paper than these items.
So I want to talk now about alternatives — not just for the Covid-19 outbreak, but also longer term — because when you appreciate the impact of single use feminine hygiene products on the environment and the sheer number of girls and women using them every month for decades, then it is worth exploring alternatives.
4. The benefits of shopping small
A few years ago when I was studying for my Master of Public Health, we looked at the role that supermarkets play in diet and health of the Australian population. We found that they played a significant role then and they still do - partly due to the sheer numbers of Australians who shop at the three major supermarkets and partly due to extent of the private label foods (own brands) that these supermarkets increasingly stock. The fact that their policies on social responsibility in regards to nutrition are unlikely to be adequate.
Now, I understand that you are not here to read about public health nutrition, and that this is an environmental column, but when it comes to the major supermarkets and the increasing number of supermarket own brand foods (SOBFs) carried by them, there are environment effects. Not effects related to fresh food packaging (which is significant), not effects related to importing and selling of non-seasonal fresh food (also significant). Instead it’s about the own brand foods themselves.
5. 20 actions for an eco-friendly summer
With the devastating bushfires happening in Australia right now, with the terrifying spectre of many more to come during our hottest, driest season of the year, and with the strong consensus that these abnormal fires are driven by climate change, my eco-anxiety is off the charts right now.
It is well known, and I have certainly learned that it is true over the course of my ‘eco-journey’, that when fear or anxiety builds, the best way to deal with it is through action. So, with summer now upon us, I am making a list of actions will hopefully make a difference and divert eco-anxiety into something positive. Of course, it goes without saying that even if you don’t have eco-anxiety, these tips for summer are worth adopting for the sake of the planet.
6. Low-waste living for dog owners
One of the upsides of being in lockdown is getting to spend so much time with our dog. And he is so important to us right now; he is our reason for getting out into the sunshine every day, he is company for our newly socially isolated kids, he is a constant source of affection and companionship, and the one family member who wants less space, rather than more.
But, he is a major consumer. Being a big, active dog, we can go through food, beds, toys, poo bags - you name it – at an alarming rate. So addressing these things was an important part of our effort to reduce waste as a household. As many of us are dog owners, I thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve learned and adopted to help us reduce our footprint – or paw print, as the case may be.
Thank you for following 'Everyday Enviro with Elise' this year — stay tuned for more simple sustainability tips coming your way in 2021!