It is already March and I haven’t shared my areas of focus for our family footprint project in 2020. Let me do something about that!
Looking back at 2019
Last year my major focus was minimising our waste to landfill and to eliminate all organic waste from our landfill bin. We significantly reduced our waste to landfill and all but achieved our goal of diverting all organic waste from our rubbish bin. We added the last element, a dog poo composter, just last month so a little bit overdue but good to have that ticked off none-the-less.
Of course we did other things last year as well, such as reducing plastic packaging waste by shopping more from bulk, making easy swaps such as shampoo and conditioner bars, looking for secondhand first, and beginning again to grow our own vegetables. The overarching principle, though, was to reduce waste to landfill.
This year I have chosen two main areas of focus and a couple of other interests I’d like to pursue.
Fuel & energy consumption
First of all, is to reduce our energy and fuel consumption and to ‘green up’ our choices in this area.
To start with, we are in the process of moving over to self-generated solar electricity and converting our heating to electric. We’ve had a goal for many years of installing solar power for our home. We’ve been held back by the size of the initial outlay. It is a significant investment but one I’m excited to finally be making.
Up to this point, we have had solar hot water and subscribe to ‘green power’ with our energy supplier. Recently, it became apparent that it is time to replace our expensive and ageing ducted gas heating. In working through the options and feeling a growing need also for a cooling option beyond ceiling fans, we decided that reverse cycle air conditioning powered by a solar array is the way to go.
This is no cheap exercise but we are now fortunate to have some savings in order to do it and the initial outlay will obviously be offset by saving money on natural gas (which will be disconnected as nothing else runs on it), generating our own power and, hopefully, feeding back into the grid.
That said, we still need to manage our home energy use in order to minimise the amount we need to draw from the grid (and maximise what we can feed in). So this is an area of focus for this year.
Things we will do include changing our habits to use electricity more during the day, such as running the dishwasher and washing machine in daylight hours rather than overnight. We also need to address the electricity we use via stand-by power, forgetting to turn off lights and fans when leaving a room, and encouraging activities that are not power dependent. There are lots of steps we can take and I’ll be working through those through the year.
As far as reducing fuel consumption goes, that comes down mostly to how we transport ourselves although reducing food miles is a consideration too. We have recently become a one car family as a result of the Canberra hail storm so this has really accelerated my planning on this front. We plan to replace the second car with an electric bike. My husband will generally commute to work on this or use public transport.
To complicate matters, we now also have three drivers in the family with another one to get his Ls later this year so the single car will be in extra demand but I am encouraging the use of public transport and bicycles as well. I want to set an example on this and do as many short trips as I can by my own steam. Most of what I do day-to-day happens within a 5km radius from our home so this is feasible, more so if I also have an electric bike. This will take some considerable habit changing but this is another of my goals for 2020.
Reduce soft plastics
The other focus for this year is reducing our consumption of soft plastics. I consider this waste stream the next on my hit list after waste to landfill. Although we recycle soft plastics through RedCycle at our local supermarket, soft plastics generally get recycled only once more into products that will be landfill at the end of their life. This is what is referred to as ‘downcycling’. The better option is to avoid consumption of them to begin with. We produce, in my opinion, an unacceptably large volume of soft plastics each week, mainly through food packaging. We have begun to reduce this by buying from bulk and making more things from scratch but there is still a lot coming in. My plan is to do a mini bin audit of just the soft plastic waste and make a plan for how to reduce and ultimately eliminate it. This is a bit of a tough one as a lot is snack food packaging brought into the house by my three teenagers so some ‘reeducation’ and habit changing is definitely required. There is much work to do on this this year.
So these are my major priorities for 2020. Of course there will be other things to do too. I want to ramp up our food production and we hope to introduce chickens to our family in the near future. We will continue striving to consume consciously and to shop secondhand where possible. I’ll keep scrutinising what goes into our bins and introduce further strategies to reduce our waste. I also feel a need, following the summer we have just had, to do more to be an ‘activist for change’. I’m not sure exactly what format that will take at this point but feel the need to do more.
Slow and steady changes
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.Confucius
I admire people such as Lauren and Oberon Carter who converted to waste-free living in a matter of weeks. However, bringing about change in my own household is more achievable in a step-wise fashion. I have a tendency to get overwhelmed (and maybe a little perfectionist!) so have to be careful to look after my mental health and go about our family footprint project in a sustainable way, adding new initiatives gradually. Having core areas of focus for the year is a helpful way for me to do this. Energy, fuel and soft plastics are my core areas of focus in 2020. What are yours?