Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Six ways to save the planet

When faced with the whole idea of living the green way, it all seems too hard. But If you want to do more or you want to make a start in living a more sustainable life but worry that it may be too time consuming, difficult or expensive, take the time to read on and see how simple - and enjoyable, going green can really be.

Tip 1: Use toxin-free everything, from shampoos to home cleansers, cosmetics to mouthwash. Here's a scary thought - did you know that many mouthwashes contain the chemicals formaldehyde, sodium lauryl sulphate, polysorbate, cetylpyridinium chloride and benzalkonium chloride?

All these can be highly toxic to aquatic life. So when you're spitting in the bathroom sink and washing it down the drain, you're adding to the toxic soup our waterways are becoming.

There's also a possibility that if you use the same chemical mouthwash again and again, your oral environment could become resistant, creating a mouthful of superbugs. The easiest and most effective mouthwash is good old salt and water. Add as much salt as possible to a glass of warm water and stir until dissolved then gargle with it. It also works for mouth infections.

For cleaning the home, you can't go past baking soda and vinegar. Try putting your baking soda in a talcum powder- like container and your vinegar in a pump spray bottle. Simply sprinkle the baking soda over the area needing to be cleaned and spray on the vinegar. Rub with a damp cloth and wash off with water. Not only will this do the job, it is also extremely cost effective because you can buy in bulk.

Tip 2: Reduce, reuse, recycle - everything possible.

To make this easy, set up a cupboard for recycling, complete with bins or boxes for plastics, paper and cardboard, bottles and jars. Before throwing out paper and jars, think creatively.

Paper can be used as weed matting for the garden, to wrap up Christmas presents or to feed the critters in your worm farm. You can also use unwanted pages to make your own paper, which can be turned into hand-made cards and other artsy offerings.

Old jars are perfect for holding just about everything. You can boil them clean and use them for home-made jams, chutneys, pickles and preserves, or for seeds, nuts and rice. If you can't find a use for them, take them to your local hospice shop, where they will surely be found re-useful!

When you head to the supermarket, make sure you've got a whole bunch of shopping bags with you. Make the effort and cut right down on those harmful plastic bags.

If you've got sick of some clothes or they don't fit any more, think creatively about what you can do with them.

Hand them down to a friend or get together with your creative crew and see what you can do with old clothes - take them in, jazz them up with lace, ribbons or buttons to radically remodel them. Add panels if they're too tight, and try hand-painting dull shirts or skirts. For those that you just don't see being worn by yourself again, remember there are salvation army branches popping up everywhere ready and willing to take on anything you can contribute from your closet.

Tip 3: Ditch the car and get active. If you've got two cars, carefully work out if you could co-operate to live with one. Or you could decide to have carless days or even choose to get on your bike for any journey within a five-kilometre radius of your home or catch the bus.

Walking is another great way to get around, but make certain you've got good shoes and opt for a backpack. Make a car-free travel plan. Not only do you save money on petrol and parking bills, you get to cut down your carbon footprint and exercise at the same time.

Supporting public transport also means fewer cars on the road and more chance of the service surviving. One day, the oil will run out, so get ready for it by imagining it's already happened. Work out how you'd get the groceries, visit the library or go out for dinner with no car available. Treat it as an adventure.

Tip 4: Focus on vegetables. Do your best to eat in season and local and have a go at growing your own produce without chemicals If you're a beginning gardener, start small. Try growing tomatoes or lettuces in a tub or pot. When planning a bigger garden, do your research first. It all begins with choosing a site that gets sun most of the day - facing northeast is ideal. You need to prepare the soil (best to do in winter), and get planting.

Head to your local farmers' market, car-boot sale or garden centre to buy seeds and seedlings and ask for advice on what you should be planting now and how to tend your vegetables.

Plan for the future by planting a fruit tree or two. When you pick your first ripe apple or plum you'll be delighted. Build a raised garden or make a circular bed, both of which should be easy to weed.

Also add more meat-free meals to your repertoire and try to include "super foods" that are great for your body and brain. They include apples, apricots, avocados, blueberries, broccoli, brown rice, carrots, garlic and onions, grapes and raisins, seaweed,mushrooms, nuts, oats, spirulina, sprouts, wheatgerm and yoghurt.

Best of all, feast on the best of the season until you're sick of cherries or grapes until next year, when you start all over again.

Tip 5: Make your own compost bin or worm farm. You don't need to buy anything flash - you can build your own from basic materials. For a worm farm, an old bath raised up on short poles will do the trick. Add your worms, your food scraps and cover with old carpet. The worm juice can be drained out of the bath for feeding plants and the castings added to the garden.

For an effective compost bin, simply build a two-bin wooden structure in the corner of your garden and fill up one side at a time. When one side is full, leave it to break down and fill up the other side. This is a wonderful way to use lawn clippings and food scraps. But, if you have a dog or cats, you will have to cover up to prevent them from snacking on things like corn cobs and egg shells.

You can use corrugated iron or old carpet for this job, but just make sure the compost doesn't get too hot or dry.

Tip 6: Unplug, switch off and power down.

This comes down to vigilance and will not only cut down energy usage (imagine if everyone did this!), it could slash your power bills. First step is to turn off lights when leaving rooms.

Unplug cellphone chargers when not in use and don't leave appliances on save mode - turn off at the wall. Some classic culprits are computers, laptops, stereos and TVs. When replacing home appliances, opt for those with Energy Star ratings and then use them well.

Your dishwasher will have an eco mode, so press those buttons. Wash clothes in cold water where possible and use your drier only in an emergency. Put up an indoor washing line in the garage or put a clothes horse in your sunroom.

Once a week, try having a technology-free day. If that's too much, try once a month.

That means no TV, computers, cellphones, PlayStation, X-box or MP3 players.

Imagine sitting around playing cards and board games or heading off for a day at the beach without anybody contacting you? Twenty years ago that was the norm for all, so show your kids what the good old days were like.

If you're thinking all this may be a bit much to begin with, move forward into going green with baby steps; try it one thing at a time and it's guaranteed that once you experience how good it feels to be doing your part, you'll been encouraged to keep making a difference.

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