Sustainability – what is it, why we should do it and how to get started. An introduction by the Macquarie University Sustainability Society (“MUSS”)
You may have seen the sudden rise in labels like “eco-friendly”, or Insta influencers promoting a “sustainable lifestyle” and you’re a bit suspicious of this being just another marketing technique. So, what does it mean to be “sustainable”?
Sustainable: practices that cause little to no damage to the environment and are therefore able to continue for a long period of time.
Now you’re probably asking, what’s wrong with what I do now? What changes can I make to be more sustainable?
Being sustainable is largely about reducing your waste. An area usually not considered is the clothes we wear. In Australia, every 10 minutes, 15 tonnes of clothing and material waste is dumped. That is equivalent to 31 kilograms of clothing per person per year. The fast fashion industry is responsible for 10 per cent of CO2 emissions making it one of the highest polluting industries and Australians are the second largest consumers of textiles. It seems that we have the habit of buying cheap new clothes, wearing them for a season or two and then throwing them away rather than repurposing the material.
Ways we can change these habits:
It’s a great way to stop funding cheap manufacturing and you can find some great vintage fashion, not to mention that it's much kinder on a student budget.
Hand-me-downs and borrowing
Whilst donating to Vinnies may relieve the guilt of passing on perfectly fine clothes, only 15% of donated clothes actually see shop shelves again. Instead, pass on your clothes to siblings, cousins and friends and vice versa borrow and adopt clothes from those you know.
Mending and Rags
If the garment has a tear, try to mend it, if it’s too far gone, add it to the rag basket. Rather than contributing to landfill, you can extend the life of your clothes and then use them as rags around the house instead. This way we properly use up the full capability of the material.
Stay calm, don’t freak out! I’m not about to tell you to go vegan. We’re all about baby steps here.
Food consumption has two elements to it – the food we choose to consume and the food we don’t consume which turns into unnecessary waste.
The food we consume
Knowing what we put into our bodies isn’t always a front of mind consideration when we’re craving something to sate our hunger. However, I would encourage you to consider where your food is coming from and how that industry impacts upon our beautiful planet.
Most people get their fruit and veg from their local supermarket because it’s convenient. However, the fresh produce on their shelves is only that which is pretty enough to meet display standards and results in the rest going to landfill. Instead, try to shop at local fruit and veg markets where the beauty standard is less strict, and you can buy in-season produce.
One of the UN’s sustainable development goals is to halve food wastage globally. Food waste is responsible for 8-10 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and, globally, one third of food produce is wasted. Australia comes in as the 10th most wasteful country – throwing out on average 7.5 tonnes of waste a year, worth about $2000-$3800 a year. That’s a lot of money thrown in the bin.
Instead of following your cravings and shopping for more food, use up what you have at home first. To help with this, make a weekly dinner/meal plan, that way you are only buying what you know you will cook. This helps with budgeting too, so it’s a win-win.
Compost your leftovers. Starting and making your own compost may not be for everyone but that doesn’t mean your scraps have to go to waste. Apps like ‘Share Waste’ help you find local composters in your area so you can help each other out. There are also apps like ‘Olio’ and ‘YWaste’ which you can use to find cafes trying to get rid of their end of day leftovers at lower prices.
These are just some of the small changes we can make in our day-to-day life. If you would like to learn about more issues in the sustainability space and seek more handy tips, check out Macquarie University Sustainability Society (MUSS). We’re on Instagram (@muss.mq) and Facebook (/muss.mq).