Small changes can make a big impact

Sometimes the idea of changing our lives in order to cut down on energy and decrease climate change can be fairly daunting and seem expensive.

Some of us, myself included, love the idea of completely running our homes off solar power, installing grey water systems and aquaphonics gardens with the hope of eventually living completely off the grid.

We graze the Internet reading about that guy who made a sustainable mini-house from a recycled shipping container in a forest and never has to rely on electricity again, or the family who have created a complete closed-loop eco system in their old crumbling swimming pool who now only purchase things they absolutely can't grow themselves, not only saving huge amounts of money on groceries but being able to cut down on food waste by only picking what they need.

I read these stories and I get really excited and think 'Yes! This is the way of the future, and the Internet made it look so simple!' and then I realise I need to get up, out of bed, get ready go to university try and figure out if I have time to read the news on the bus running straight to work and trying to squeeze in enough time when I get home to quickly cook something (with enough left over for my lunch the next day) and then finally getting enough sleep in order to power myself through the next day.

Read next: Tiny eco-houses have never been easier to build

It's hard, and then it makes me realise I actually don't have the time or the skills to build myself a sustainable shipping container home in the forest, and absolutly heart breaking realisation, that's when I start to feel a bit down and just keep trudging through thinking maybe I can't actually make much of a difference without the time and money.

Then I changed my attitude. Sure, I don't have a pool to make a closed loop pool farm in my back yard but what I do have is the ability to make minor changes to the way I live in order to build my own understanding of conservation and building those habits and skills are what start us on our journey to a more sustainable future.

By building these skills, perhaps once I'm in a more financially stable situation I could think about the idea of starting my very own larger than life project that people read about on the internet but Rome really wasn't built in a day and by starting the energy saving habits now the dreams and accomplishments will just get bigger as I grow.
Living a more planet friendly energy saving lifestyle is similar to planting seeds. Often times you start off with something really small but the more you plant, the more impressive your garden is
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These tips could be hailed as the lazy woman's guide to an energy saving life style, and they're the small ways that I was able to start being more conscious of my excessive convenience based lifestyle, you're probably aware them, they're not ground breaking but maybe you've got a friend, a daughter or an acquaintance who has shown interest in having less of an environmental impact but perhaps doesn't know where to start, and maybe this is an article you could share with them.

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Coffee is one of those things that I don't think I could live without. Having worked in hospitality for many years I would make myself up to six coffees a day, now I'm not advocating for excessive caffeine intake because it's generally not good for you (and these days I've cut down to two) but for years I would buy coffee whenever I had the chance, and I honestly don't want to think about how many disposable coffee cups I went through.

Enter the Keep Cup, yes we all know about it come 2016 but honestly I think the idea of switching is sometimes a little daunting. When I started and would awkwardly hand it to my barista while keeping my eyes firmly on the ground, these days we have conversations about which ones we prefer (I'm a glass Keep Cup kinda gal). The fact that I have now cut out two throw away cups a day might seem small, but over 365 days a year that's lot of waste I'm not longer responsible for.

The keep cup is your safe, easy introduction into the world of cutting down on waste and they're so common now that no one will blink and eyelid.

Keep reading: Why you should invest in a Keep Cup

Staying warm in winter

When I first started university I was so cold one night I went to an electronics shop and bought the cheapest heater I could because I was cold and poor. I used it for about a week until someone made a comment about watching my electricity bill, after some research I realised not only how much this would cost me in the long run, but also how much energy I was wasting for a heater that gave me dry skin and chapped lips.

I didn't have the money to install something that would satisfy my conscious so I had to get creative next up the humble hot water bottle, these days you can even buy hot water bottles that are made from 80% renewable resources and sugar cane, or you could make your very own DIY rice bag heating pack and if you pop these in your bed while your cooking dinner then by the time you actually jump into bed it's like a tropical oasis of warmth.

Read more: How to insulate your home naturally this winter

Being conscious when out

I'm really social as a human being and I love to eat with friends. Sometimes we'll have "food waste" dinners and other times we'll go out. I'm acutely conscious of waste in the hospitality industry as I worked in it for many years. So now, when I go out I have a couple of little tips that can help my footprint without destroying my night:

- Say you don't want a straw, tell your bartender when you order that your good without one, most of the time they won't ask they'll just put it straight in.

- Try and frequent places with good environmental consciousness, in most big cities there is a plethora of cafes, restaurants and bars who are taking super huge strides to cut down on waste. Do a little research and you'll find plenty around you. My favourite in my city at the moment is a bar that makes all their own sodas & mixers from native ingredients; they reuse all the bottles and basically create absolutely zero waste from alcohol packaging (I can drink to that!)

- Ask to take your leftovers with you, pretty much every time I eat out we don't finish what we ordered, its really hard to tell how big things are and often when you ask the waiter they'll still over feed you due to a fear of anyone every leaving hungry. Pretty much every single restaurant is happy to have you take your leftovers which can turn into an amazing work lunch the next day, I've even taken my own container in my hand bag and asked if they would mind putting the left overs in there and aside from some initial confusion, once I explained why they were more than obliging.

These three actions are really simple and directly relate to my experiences and how I navigate the world. We all have different lifestyles but becoming more conscious of the environment shouldn't have to mean living a completely different lifestyle but more so finding ways to tweak the one you already live. I would love to think that one day I'll build a sustainable shipping container in the forest, live off the grid and never eat out again but my personality tells me I would get very lonely, I enjoy socialising and going out but being conscious of my lifestyle and taking the steps I can to improve it will only lead to bigger and better things in the future for me and my planet.

Read this next: Am I an environmental warrior, or a hypocrite?

Paloma Brierley Newton Former Content Creator Suggest an article Send us an email

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