12 May Their future, our hands
Sustainability is arguably 2019’s most important movement, with scientists telling us that we have only approximately 12 years to save the natural world we live in. It’s rather frightening to think about and really quite overwhelming.
Some may think it’s too late, or that it’s too big a problem for their small contribution could make any change. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, every tiny little sustainable act each of us takes individually adds up, and it truly does lead to a massive movement. At Gently Vegan, our ethos is that every action towards a kinder, more ethical and sustainable world creates a positive impact on our planet.
It’s not about one person doing everything 100 per cent of the time. We know that’s not possible. It’s more about doing what you can, when you can, because let’s face it, if even 10 people make small changes 80 per cent of the time, it all adds up! And if a million people make one small change each day, then a massive movement has been created.
While we are grateful to the many governments trying to control climate change, the students around the world who are following in Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg’s footsteps, skipping school to attend climate change marches and the “Godparents of our Planet” Sir David Attenborough and Jane Goodall shining a glaring light on the change that is needed, we just want to quietly remind you that you too can make a huge change by adopting small lifestyle tweaks. You don’t even need to have the same kind of platform these people do.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of things you can do each day that take very little effort but will contribute towards the conservation of the environment that both we humans and the beautiful animals we share the planet with, need to survive.
1. Eat Vegan
If you’re reading this, you’re probably either already there, or you’re vegan-curious and starting your journey. Every time you take meat and dairy off your plate, you are helping to save or improve an animal’s life, as well as protect our planet.
We know for a fact that farming of meat and dairy leads to more carbon emissions than fossil fuels, uses more water than the farming of plants for food and creates more waste that runs into water ways than any other method of producing our meals.
If you’re having trouble making the transition, be safe in the knowledge that there are plenty of websites, like Gently Vegan, that will support you with health and nutrition tips and delicious recipes. There’s also a host of groups on Facebook that you can join to swap ideas, chat to like-minded people and gain great advice and support from those in the same position as you.
2. Eat Organic
Choosing to buy and eat organic sends a very clear message to food manufacturers – that we will not tolerate the destruction and loss of our earth and essential keystone species like bees, from the use of chemical fertilisers and insecticides. Yes, it is slightly more expensive, but what cost do we place on our survival?
3. Recycle Food Packaging
There’s a common gripe we hear all too frequently that organic food comes wrapped in plastic and/or on Styrofoam trays and that this is counterproductive.
We don’t disagree, however according to Rhiannon Christie from Australian Certified Organic (ACO), for a food item to be eligible for organic certification it can’t at any stage from growth to delivery to store and placement on the shelf come into contact with non-organic produce that may have been sprayed with chemicals, hence the wrapping.
“Having the ACO logo means that it is chemical and pesticide free – from the soil to the way it comes to market,” she reveals. “The animals that may be used to plough the fields are treated ethically and everything to do with its production, has been treated with the utmost care and done in a pesticide free-way. ACO farmers are doing their best to keep things as close to nature as possible, as it all supports the health, production and nutrient of the product all round. It’s still not perfect, but it’s a 90 per cent improvement on conventional products and we are working on ways around the wrapping issues, which we hope to have solved soon.
” In the meantime, REDCycle, an innovate recycling group, has teamed up with Coles, Woolworths and some of Australia’s most-loved brands to make it easy for you to keep your plastic bags and soft plastic packaging out of landfill – simply return them to store and place them in the soft recycling bin. Visit www.redcycle.net.au for more info. As for the trays they come, nowadays they can be put in your recycling bin at home.
4. Avoid using soft plastic bags for loose grocery items
Forget the soft plastic bags when you’re buying loose tomatoes, potatoes or any other vegetables. Purchase one of the vast selection of eco-friendly net bags that you can pop in your shopping bag and use again and again instead. They do exactly the same job and you’ll be cutting down on so much plastic use each year. Try Zero Waste Re-useable Produce bags, $29.95 for 12, zero-waste-reusable-produce-bags-12pcs .
5. Embrace Boomerang Bags
Sure, you can buy your re-useable shopping bags from your local market, or you can use Boomerang Bags. This fantastic initiative was launched by two incredible ladies, Jordyn and Tania, who realised that our planet is heaving under the pressure of the one million plastic bags used every minute and the 10.46 million of tonnes of fabric waste created each year. They also recognised a willingness for people to help to something about it.
And so, they launched Boomerang Bags, which encourages people to donate their old fabrics (sheets, doonas, pillow, tea towels, etc.), which are then made by community volunteers into re-useable shopping bags. The movement has gone global, with over 860 communities worldwide.
Available to buy from $7 each at www.boomerangbags.org, the bags are stylish, roomy and easy to carry. Certain IGA and other independent retailers even have a program where you can ‘borrow’ the bag from your shop and return it for someone else to use (to date, this has only been implemented in some stores, so if yours doesn’t do so, speak to the manager about potentially implementing the program).
You can also create or join a Boomerang Bags community, where you meet up for a regular ‘sewing bee’, make some beautiful bags and forge fantastic friendships along the way.
Co-Creator Tania says of the movement, “Boomerang Bags was created and is, in a gentle way, shaking the world.”
Another stylish option is a handmade tote or pouch by renowned South African artist, Carrol Boyes. Each item is made from recycled plastic bottles otherwise destined for landfill and features a signature Carrol Boyes artwork printed on the front.
A total of 7,000 bottles were used for the creation of 2,000 products. The totes and pouches are made by artisans and sewing co-operatives based in and around informal settlements in Cape Town, in an initiative contributes directly to job creation and furthering innovation in the global textile economy, turning potential waste into something positive. For more information: www.carrolboyes.com
6. Get Yourself a Keep Cup
Enjoying take-away coffee or tea is a daily ritual for many of us, but did you know those take-away cups are not recyclable? Enter, Keep Cups, priced from $11, at www.au.keepcup.com.
Gently Vegan’s publisher, Catherine Carr says, “My Keep Cup is my morning go-to. My husband and I have a coffee every morning as we walk our dogs at our local beach. Doing the maths, Pete and I alone would be responsible for 28 cups a week if we didn’t use keep cups (yes, we enjoy at least two coffees a day). Even allowing for holidays that’s more than 1400 cups a year!”
On that note, Catherine suggests that each time you visit the beach, or your local park, make a point of picking up at least three or four pieces of plastic. “My daily habit is to pick up several pieces of plastic from the beach or park and place them in recycling, or the bin, while I wait for our almond milk cappuccinos. The things I find are astounding – everything from straws, forks, the odd kids truck or random solo shoe!”
7. Ditch Extra Wrapping and Tissue Paper
Don’t you hate it when you buy something beautiful from a clothing boutique and it’s wrapped to the hilt in tissue paper? We do here at Gently Vegan. The same goes for when we buy vegan Champagne (https://gentlyvegan.com.au/champagne) and the bottle shop attendant places it in a brown paper bag. To these people, we always say, “please stop”.
That tissue paper and brown bag can’t be re-used and as such immediately goes into recycling, putting a strain on an already overloaded system. We urge you to do the same when you next shop, and of course, take your own bag. On a similar note, do you really need to use paper towels to dry your hands after using a public bathroom? Why not shake your hands until they’re semi-dry and let the air do the rest?
8. Stop Using Single Use Straws
By now, this should pretty much be a no-brainer for everyone. Single use straws are a huge blight on the environment and quite frankly, there is no longer a place for them in this world.
Yes, we absolutely understand that certain aged and/or disabled people rely on straws to drink, but nowadays, the selection of top quality re-usable straws is simply endless, and they quite literally do not cost the earth. Check out this selection form vegan retailer, Flora and Fauna: www.floraandfauna.com.au/straws
9. Seek Out Palm Oil-Free Certification
It’s no secret that the production and use of Palm Oil is one of the single biggest causes of deforestation across the globe, endangering many species and increasing the effects of climate change. With this in mind, always look for the Palm Oil Free Certification logo on the products you buy. Can’t see it? It doesn’t necessarily mean it has unsustainable palm oil in it – it just might not have certification yet.
Download one of the many Palm Oil scanning apps available from the App store. When you shop, you simply use your Smart Phone to scan the bar code of the product and the app will reveal if your potential purchase is Palm-Oil Free, contains sustainable Palm Oil, or has unsustainable Palm Oil.
It’s also worth noting here that if a product claims the Palm Oil contained within is sustainable, it’s wise to bear in mind that the certification process of ‘sustainable palm oil’ is still a bit shaky and it will be a while before it’s refined and perfected. With this in mind, we would suggest going the Palm-Oil Free Certification option, always.
11. Swap to Eco-friendly Cotton Tips
Cosmetics giant Swisspers recently swapped its range of plastic-stemmed cotton tips to sustainably sourced, recyclable, biodegradable wood and paper stems (available from Woolworths for $2.99). If you prefer to support more independent brands, check out this selection from Flora and Fauna: https://www.floraandfauna.com.au/cotton+tips
12. Look for Fast Rinse Formulas
We know we need to keep showers short to save water, but sometimes rinsing shampoo and conditioner from your hair can take forever. Enter, Love, Beauty and Planet, a new purely plant-based range of shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion, by cosmetics giant Unilever. https://www.lovebeautyandplanet.com/us/en/home.html The collection comprises five beautiful blends of shampoo and fast-rinse conditioner, four fragrant body washes and three indulgent body lotions, all made with 100 per cent vegan, responsibly sourced ingredients and ethically sourced essential oils. The unique fast-rinse conditioner technologies mean that you don’t just care for your hair, you save water too, as they rinse away faster than conventional formulas.
13. Remember that ‘Less’ is the new ‘More’
As Marie Kondo mania sweeps the planet, increasing numbers of people are decluttering. But how about not buying so much in the first place?
Vegan cosmetics house, Arbonne has initiated a fantastic nationwide campaign, #DrawerDetox, to clean-up the beauty drawers of Australia. The aim is to encourage consumers to make conscious decisions about what’s in the products they use, and how many products they really need. It also hopes to improve daily skincare routines, organise bathroom drawers and, most of all, take important steps towards protecting the planet.
Simply clear away products that contain harmful ingredients, products that are expired and products containing unethically sourced ingredients. Any products that haven’t expired that you know you’re not going to use? Why not gift to family or friends and donate unopened products to Share the Dignity’s It’s in the Bag Christmas Charity.
Also remember that while Arbonne products are all recyclable, others may not be. Drop off unrecyclable beauty products to a TerraCycle drop-off point.
Here at Gently Vegan, we adore Arbonne for so many reasons, all of equal importance. The product quality is on par, or better, than any of the big global brands, and when it comes to skincare and makeup, Arbonne has a strict criterion to follow when determining whether an ingredient abides by the Pure, Safe, Beneficial mantra. Arbonne also takes sustainability seriously with its carbon neutral policy in addition to being cruelty free and vegan. For more information visit: https://www.arbonne.com/discoverau/promise/not-allowed.shtml
14. Give A Crap
Who Gives A Crap is the brainchild of three young men, Simon, Jehan and Danny, who when they learnt that 2.3 billion people across the world don’t have access to a toilet, decided to take action, creating a range of toilet paper, facial tissues and forest-friendly paper towels, created from bamboo or 100 per cent recycled toilet paper.
Aside from saving trees, they had another extremely wonderful reason for kick starting their company – not having access to a toilet means that’s roughly 40 per cent of the global population – and means that around 289,000 children under five – die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That’s almost 800 children per day, or one child every two minutes.
Fifty per cent of the profits from Who Gives a Crap are donated to help build toilets and improve sanitation in th developing world. To date they’ve donated over $1.8 million dollars to charity and saved a heck of a lot of trees, water and energy. For more information visit au.whogivesacrap.org
15. Start A Worm Farm
For city dwellers rolling their eyes right now, please believe us when we say this is possible! Instead of throwing away food scraps, which accounts for a great deal of landfill, a small, portable worm farm can be created for your kitchen or a small balcony on an inner-city apartment. And those who live in houses with courtyards or back gardens can create even larger farms.
According to a February 2019 ABC article (https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2019-02-24/food-scrap-and-composting-solutions-for-apartments/10817702) up to 80 per cent of people living in apartments would like to do something about food waste.
Dr. Jenni Downes of the Institute of Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney commented in the article: “You can get worm farms that are designed to be in kitchens, they’re designed to look okay and to be fairly well contained so your little guests don’t come out and visit the rest of your house.”
Avoid putting items like garlic, citrus, meat or dairy in there (even if you’re vegan, you may have a meat-eating pet that leaves left overs), as they tend to be odorous as they break down and meat will attract maggots. Instead, feed any meat scraps from your pet’s leftovers to local magpies. It’s a common thought in scientific circles now that this will make treat you as part of their ‘flock’ and prevent them swooping you in springtime, so that’s a win all round!
For some fantastic worm farms and compost bins, check out your local Bunnings, Home Hardware or for an online solution, we love: https://www.directcompostsolutions.com .
16. Support Large Companies Actively Changing Their Ways
We know it’s easy to demonise companies like Unilever, Nestle and Sheridan et al, for the environmental sins of the past and yes, we know they certainly remain far from perfect. However, take a look at the changes many of them are making and you will see that they are listening to the consumer and actively changing their ways.
Firstly, let’s look at Unilever who just in the past year has announced that its company DOVE is now free from animal testing and PETA approved, another brand it owns, Dermalogica, is transitioning its entire range to fully vegan as soon as possible and it has also offered up vegan versions of Magnum and Cornetto ice creams. The company also owns Ben & Jerry’s ice cream which not only offers vegan versions, but practices Fair Trade suppliance in its supply chain. On top of that, Unilever has poured millions into the launch of the aforementioned sustainable and vegan Love, Beauty and Planet body and bath range.
Next up, there’s Nestle, who acted swiftly when the world shouted loudly about its Nespresso Pods being non-recyclable and introduced a Coffee Pod Recycling Program. With over 19, 000 collection points in Australia, you simply drop your pods off and the company will give them a second life.
And then there’s Sheridan, who’s inviting you to return any brand of old sheets, quilt covers, towels and pillow cases Sheridan Boutique and Studio stores, where they will be recycled into products that will then be sold in the Sheridan stores later in the year. In return for your drop off, the Sheridan is offering 10 per cent off your next purchase when you spend $100 or more.
Lifestyle and Beauty editor Shonagh Walker