Do your body and the planet a favour with these simple sustainable living tips
From the outside, eco-friendly living can seem like a big commitment to make. But the thing to remember is that you don’t have to overhaul your entire lifestyle overnight (or move to an eco-friendly commune, for that matter).
“My favourite thing to say to people is to just get excited about whatever sustainable living change you feel ready to make from today,” advises Alexx Stuart, natural living speaker and blogger at Low Tox Life.
We’ve rounded up 7 easy-to-achieve lifestyle tweaks that will benefit your body and the environment.
1. Shop at your local farmers’ markets
Shopping at your local farmers’ market means you’re buying local produce, which in turn reduces the long (greenhouse-gas creating) distances food has to travel before it reaches your plate.
“For the most part, growers at farmers’ markets are local to that city and they are selling their wares freshly picked from the farm,” says Stuart. Because market produce is fresher, it’s likely to have a higher nutritional value and be more flavoursome too.
Find a market near you at farmersmarkets.org.au
WATCH: Is organic food better?
2. Avoid 'fake' smells
One of the most powerful changes you can make is to avoid ‘fake smells’, or synthetically fragranced products - think air fresheners, scented candles, artificially perfumed body-care products and fabric softener.
“A group of chemicals that are added to synthetic fragrances to make them last longer are phthalates, which disrupt our hormone levels and are not good if you’re in preconception mode,” says Stuart. What’s more, phthalates are considered air and water pollutants.
To avoid them, choose eco-friendly products, or ones that don’t list ‘fragrance’ as an ingredient. If scents are included, they should be essential oils or labelled as ‘no synthetic fragrance’ or ‘phthalate-free’.
3. Ditch the sanitising hand wash
Antibacterial soaps contain triclosan, a chemical which lurks around in the environment, finding its way into lakes and rivers, where it is toxic to aquatic life. It’s also thought to disrupt thyroid function, and it may contribute to the issue of antibiotic resistance.
Stick to regular soap and water –a 2015 study revealed that it’s just as effective at zapping germs as antibacterial hand wash.
4. Pick sustainable seafood
“We don’t want to upset the balance of our marine life more than we already are, so it’s a good idea to switch to smaller oily fish like sardines and anchovies,” advises Stuart.
These fish also have lower mercury levels, which is a win for our health. Other good seafood choices are squid, which is fully grown in just a few weeks, and local, sustainable fish like flathead and whiting.
5. Make coconut oil your beauty staple
Coconut oil is the ultimate beauty multi-tasker - you can use it as a make-up remover, moisturiser, lip balm, hair mask, cuticle softener and anti-frizz serum.
Plus, you’re avoiding the synthetic chemicals and fragrances - and the packaging - that comes with regular beauty products, reducing your overall eco footprint.
Handy tip: because it solidifies in cooler weather, leave your jar of coconut oil inside the shower, so that it melts and is easier to use.
6. Drink local, organic coffee
Quite often, coffee is imported from overseas (racking up greenhouse-gas emissions), and it can also be heavily sprayed with pesticides. That’s why it’s smart to buy a local, ideally carbon-neutral, certified-organic and fair trade brand to use at home (Stuart’s pick is República coffee).
Also, seek out a café that serves organic, fair trade coffee for your morning caffeine fix – and take a reusable coffee cup for extra good eco karma.
7. Green your workspace with a pot plant
Plants act like mini ventilation systems, filtering out indoor-air pollutants including volatile organic compounds, carbon dioxide, fine particulate matter and ozone.
Pop one on your desk at work, and you’ll be breathing in purer air – plus research suggests you’ll be more productive and creative, less stressed, have greater job satisfaction and take fewer sick days.
Go for a leafy plant like a peace lily – the more foliage, the greater a plant’s detox powers.