Hello 2013!

Somehow January is almost over already, so I guess it’s high time I welcomed in the new year and thought about what 2013 will bring.

2012 was a big year for me. I moved house, I went travelling and I really started to think about how I wanted to live my life and what sustainability meant to me. I made a lot of changes for the better: I moved closer to town and started walking to work, I turned a wild backyard into a productive veggie patch, I changed my shopping habits and became a buyer of local, seasonal produce, supporting local, sustainable farmers and I really started to understand the difference between wants and needs. I ended the year happier in myself and the path I’ve been choosing to walk.

I wasn’t an angel though. For all my car-avoiding, energy-saving, re-using and non-buying I still had a large environmental impact last year because I went travelling. Between work and pleasure I had 6 domestic trips (14 flights) plus the big trip to Chile and Peru, which clocked up around 2.5 tonnes of CO2. Given my annual non-travel CO2 output is around 5 tonnes, that’s adding another half-me’s worth of greenhouse gas! I’d say I’ll do better this year, but truth is I won’t because I’m headed back to Peru again in a couple of months to do Spanish school and spend a bit more time getting to know a country I seem to have fallen in love with. That means another 2.5 tonnes of emissions, though this time I’m going to be doing some voluntary work helping maintain an educational organic garden of native Andean crops, so at least I’m doing something to offset my impacts a little. It’s not really enough though and I have no excuse: I don’t need to go back to Peru, I just really, really want to.

Yes, sometimes I’m a hypocrite. When we really do want something we find a way to justify it.

So, in an effort to counter my air miles I’m going to make a serious effort to further reduce my other environmental impacts. This year plastics are in the firing line: made from oil, not particularly recyclable, designed to be thrown away and with growing concerns about impacts on the environment and human health, plastics are not sustainable materials. I’m figuring out how to de-plastic my existence: from the kitchen[1,2,3] to my wardrobe[4,5], it’s time to figure out how to live with less of these ubiquitous materials.

Of course I’ll continue growing what food I can in my little garden, and I’ll keep supporting my local producers. I’ll keep up all the small changes of buying less and thinking about where what I’m purchasing came from, keeping track of what my purchases are supporting. I’ll keep reading and learning about sustainability and putting that knowledge to work in practical ways. Something else I’d like to do though, is learn how to better share that knowledge and spread the changes. Like a benevolent virus I want to infect others with the drive to live more sustainably, to motivate and empower people to make changes and help to build a better future.

Living “green” is seen as something of an upper / middle-class privilege, and while it’s true that many people can’t afford to shop at the Farmer’s Market or buy quality stuff that’s going to last longer, there are things that everyone can do to lighten their impacts on the planet a little at the same time as lessening the impacts on their bank balance. Sustainability is about making choices that are good for us all, including socially and financially. It doesn’t cost anything to get to know your neighbours, and it saves you money to share tools and car pool with them, and nobody is going to complain about lowering their power bills! I want to figure out how best to demonstrate that to the kinds of people who won’t ever read a blog about sustainability…

So that’s my focus for a sustainable 2013:

  • Remove as much plastic as possible from my life
  • Keep learning about sustainability and sharing what I do
  • Figure out how to make change contagious

As a very simple start I’ve created a facebook community for sharing articles and inspiring stories: please come along and add your voice to the conversation. I’m always interested in collaborators too, so if you’d like to write something for the blog or share an idea, please get in touch!

What lies ahead in 2013 for you?

What came before

Oh Peru…

1. Maffini MV, Rubin BS, Sonnenschein C & Soto AM (2006); Endocrine disruptors and reproductive health: The case of bisphenol-A; Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, Vol 254–255, Pp 179–186.
2. Wikipedia entry on Bisphenol-A
3. Wagner M & Oehlmann J (2009): Endocrine disruptors in bottled mineral water: total estrogenic burden and migration from plastic bottles; Environmental Science & Pollution Research, Vol 16(3), Pp 278-86.
4. Browne MA, Crump P, Niven SJ, Teuten E, Tonkin A, Galloway T & Thompson R (2011); Accumulation of Microplastic on Shorelines Woldwide: Sources and Sinks; Environmental Science & Technology, Vol 45(21), Pp 9175–9179.
5. ABC Australia (2012) “The World Today” story “Plastic pollution from a laundry near you

5 Comments on “Hello 2013!

  1. Good to see you’re up and running again. I posted on the use of plastic bottles a little while ago and urge everyone that has access to water from a tap to drink that rather than buying it in bottles. I’m not sure if it’s true down under but the water from the tap in the UK is as good as if not better than that from a bottle. Odd how we have all converted to bottled water over the last few decades.
    http://winkos.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/refuse-reduce-reuse-recycle/

    • Thanks Eddy, I needed a break and I’m struggling to find the time to write at the moment, so it’s encouraging to know people are reading.

      Tap water in most parts of Australia is perfectly safe and of very high quality. I don’t buy bottled water here except on the rare occasions I’m caught out and really need a drink! I am guilty of re-using plastic containers for re-heating my lunches though, which seems to be a really bad idea. When I head back to Peru, where the tap water is no good for foreign tums (I got pretty sick last time) I’m going to take a steri-pen instead of buying bottled water. Hopefully that will do the trick!

      Thanks for linking to your post too: it’s a truth more people need to know about recycling.

  2. I think the benefits of travelling and opening your mind or being an ethical traveller (as you’re being, with volunteer work and involving yourself in the Peruvian culture) far outweigh any damage. And we have to enjoy our lives as we only get one! It would be so wasteful not to.

    I’m so envious of you! I’ve always wanted to travel to Peru, I can hardly wait to see your photos and hear about all your adventures 🙂 🙂

    • Hi Emma, and happy 2013! I have big plans that begin with this trip back to Peru, which hopefully will negate all of the impacts in the long term. We shall see though, I’m sure the year has plenty of surprises in store.

      What are your major goals for the year?

      • Well mainly relocating interstate hopefully 🙂 Lots of logistics, jobs to think about and money to save. I’d love to go o/s again but can’t manage both at this point.

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