Over the years we have saved and worked towards becoming more environmentally friendly, with varying success. I thought this would be a good time to review our progress over the last two years, given the recent Global Strike for Climate action. The world seems to be asking what the leaders of our nations are willing to do to reduce the effects we are having on our planet, and while I want our governments to take this risk seriously too, I am more focused on small local and accumulative actions. I believe that the general population does not change in response to governmental decree; instead I believe that the governmental decree is a response to changing attitudes and practices in the general public. In other words; change is bottom up not top down. So… in keeping with this philosophy, these are the things we have achieved in the last two years towards being more sustainable (and the things that make us less sustainable).
Larger solar system;
We put in a new and larger solar system in the last two years so we could run an electric fridge and turn the fan on whenever we liked. This has been a game changer for us as we now buy almost no LPG gas (the previous fridge was gas fueled), we only run the generator about once a month as we do the washing using solar power and we have been able to put in a solar friendly freezer. Our life has become a LOT easier and more efficient because we have these things. We have reduced our use of fossil fuels significantly and increased our food storage potential (and reduced our food wastage too). This is a definite win in my books.
Two car family;
This is definitely a fail. When I began teaching we were forced to buy another car, and I was forced to get a driver’s license. I don’t enjoy driving at all, but I do need to get to work before the school bus (which is how I got to work before becoming a teacher), so the car was a necessary evil.
The average car emits 153.0g/km of carbon (according to Lightfoot) and we have doubled our emissions in this area.
Swap to low waste alternatives;
shampoo; recently I started to use a hair product called Beauty Kubes. These little grey cubes are great for washing your hair without having shampoo and conditioner bottles to clutter up the shower and eventually find their way to the bin. Beauty Kubes come in a little cardboard box and you simply take a cube to the shower with you when you want to wash your hair. They smell great and lather up well, my hair feels soft and clean for ages after a wash and the little box takes up no space at all in the cupboard. This is definitely a win for me. I am still trying to figure out how they are made so I can make a DIY version, but so far no luck.
deodorant; I have only made one batch of natural deodorant so far and I am still using the original batch. The containers I chose were not the greatest decision ever; the liquid mixture flowed out the bottom and bunged up the winders. Instead of struggling with the containers I just dig out a small glob of mixture and rub it into my arm pits every day. It works well. I think next batch I will add more bees wax and make a cake of deodorant that I can scrape a bit off every morning.
toothpaste; I have been making my own toothpaste for quite a while and find it economical, low waste and easy to make and use. Recently I have been thinking about trying to make a tooth powder (just because I like to try new things) and that will probably be an upcoming post. There is almost no waste involved with making your own toothpaste; no packaging except what the ingredients come in (they last a long time) and I reuse the same jar over and over to store the paste. This is definitely a win for us and the environment. I am trying to find an alternative to tooth brushes now, although I have swapped over to bamboo, natural bristle brushes until I can find an alternative.
soap; I have been making soap for our family for more than a decade. This year I swapped to making our soap from cooking oil that had been cleaned from the deep fryer. This is a win for us as the oil we buy is used twice (which cuts the total dollar cost in half) and it keeps the used oil from the compost bin.
silicon reusable ziplock bags system; we didn’t use a lot of single use plastic bags prior to buying the Kappi silicon bags, but we did use some. By swapping to Kappi bags we have been able to mostly stop using single use plastic in the freezer and have also cut down on buying plastic lunch boxes and containers. The real saving these bags have given me is in space; the Kappi bags all fit neatly in an old ice-cream container in the cupboard among the plates, while the lunch boxes and other plastic containers used to take up an entire cupboard by themselves. I love reducing the stuff I have (except wool and yarn of course) so this has been a big win for me.
soap nuts for laundry; I began using soap nuts for clothes washing this year, they reduce the amount of chemicals I am using in the house as well as cutting our water use in half. I count this as a huge win for our budget and for the environment around our humpy. I also now use soap nuts to wash wool for spinning and have been considering swapping to soap nuts for washing dishes too. My only problem is that I have to buy the soap nuts and I am looking for an Australian native alternative that I can grow in the garden.
biogas toilet unit;
Buying the biogas unit was a MAJOR purchase (and you know how I hate to spend money), but it has turned out to be a big win for our environmental footprint. The unit is still operating on the bucket of horse manure I collect from beside the road every day on the way home from work, but will eventually be attached to a toilet. It produces gas for cooking from the manure and has minimal inputs beyond our waste products (also very little maintenance required). The down side we have found so far is that the gas bladder takes a few days to refill after we use the gas, possibly because we are only feeding it horse manure at a rate of about 2 kg per day; higher value food will equal more gas.
The trial aquaponics system has been a success and A*****e the fish is happy living in his five star solitary confinement. I have plans to build a much bigger system soon, which will be attached to a grey water filter system. This new system will hopefully grow a much larger amount of food for us and the animals. The greens we grow in the trial system have been useful and tasted great, I want more now that the theory has been proven.
We continue to try to be more sustainable, more autonomous and more environmentally friendly; sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. This blog is a diary of sorts for me, and reviewing our progress over the last few years to write this post has made me realise the huge difference we have made to our lives, the lives of the animals in our area and , hopefully, to the world at large, I feel proud of our efforts.