Will Somebody Please Get the Lights?!

Welcome back to the second month of ‘Baby Steps to a Greener World ‘! I hope that you enjoyed undertaking the Eco-Stocktake last monthly and hopefully gained a better understanding of your ecological footprint.

This month we will be undertaking the first of our baby steps to reduce our impact on the environment, starting with… lightbulbs!!

‘Since the lighting sector is on the edge of a spectacular revolution based on new technologies, perhaps the quickest, most profitable way to reduce electricity use worldwide is simply to change light bulbs.’

Lester Brown, Plan B4.0: Mobilising to Save Civilisation

Did you know that lighting your home accounts for approximately 12% of your electricity bill? With electricity prices locked in an upward climb, now is the perfect opportunity to investigate options for savings for you and the environment!

The Australian Government undertook a phase out program to increase the energy efficiency of light bulbs in Australian homes as of 2010, so it is highly likely that you have already made the shift without even realising it!

However, if you still happen to have some incandescent bulbs lurking in your home, here are the top reasons why you should consider changing to CFL or LED technologies.

• CFLs use approximately 75% less electricity than old fashioned incandescent bulbs.
• CFLs will reduce your energy bills (by roughly $30 US over the lifetime of each bulb installed)
• CFLs will last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
• LEDs are even more efficient and will last up to 50 times longer than the old incandescent bulbs

If you’ve already made the shift to more efficient lighting technologies in your home and are now looking for other ways to reduce your lighting costs, you could try some of the following;

• Turn lights off if you are not in the room (sounds totally ‘duh’ worthy, but it is amazing how many of us forget to do it!)
• Install sensors or dimmers if you struggle to remember to turn your lights off.
• Opt for natural lighting where possible; open up the curtains or install a skylight and invite natural lighting into your home
• Light paint colours will help to reflect existing light, reducing the amount of artificial light that is needed. As a bonus, lighter paints tend to make rooms appear more spacious and open!
• Participate in Earth Hour as a family and use it as an opportunity to build awareness of just how often you turn on lights unnecessarily
• Encourage your workplace to participate in Earth Hour.
• Talk to your kids about their lighting use – are there areas that the whole family can improve on?

Have fun turning out the lights around your home this month. Next month we’ll be looking at easy and fun ways to drive less, so make sure you check back here for some great ideas!

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The Very Best of Intentions

Climbing the ladder to a more sustainable way of life.

 
Climbing the ladder to a more sustainable way of life.

A few months ago I found myself 900km from home in late winter with 1 pair of jeans, a singlet, 1 pair of undies and a light cardigan, with no foreseeable timeframe for how long I was going to be away. Nor did I have any idea how or when I would be able to leave the hospital for long enough to acquire a change of undies…

Let me explain. My husband was away visiting friends when he suffered a nasty head injury. Upon getting the phone call from the hospital, I rapidly packed a bag, stuffed my 13month old daughter into the car and immediately embarked upon a 1200km journey, first to the ICU of the regional hospital in which he was originally held, then to the neurological ward of one of Perth’s major hospitals.

Despite my good intentions in packing a bag, I realised upon arrival at our hotel (2am may I add) that my beloved daughter had taken it upon herself to unpack the bag, leaving most of our clothes on the bedroom floor. In my haste to get going, I simply hadn’t noticed.

The next day was a blur after getting to the second hospital at 4am in time to meet the Royal Flying Doctor Service flight, shuffling through ED, theatre and finally finding our new home on the neurological ward. By 6pm I still didn’t have a change of undies.

My lovely Mum had driven 300km from her home in regional WA to support us and along the way she had picked up new clothes for both my daughter and I. Upon seeing the fresh clothes, I almost wept with gratitude.

However, it raised a bit of a dilemma for me. Yes, I was incredibly grateful to Mum for her support, and her shopping but our purchasing philosophies are very different. As a result, I now had an assortment of lovely new clothes that were purchased with the best of intentions but had undoubtedly been produced under the type of labour and environmental conditions that I try my best not to support.

What’s a girl to do in this scenario?

For me, the answer was glaringly obvious. One, because I needed the clean undies, but mainly because my Mum had gone to so much effort to care for us in our time of need. It would have been downright horrible and rude to say ‘thanks, but no thanks’.

So now I have a few additional items in my wardrobe that I wouldn’t necessarily have purchased for myself. For a while I felt guilty about it. But I’ve now come to realise that it’s ok.

The reason for telling you this? (Trust me, I don’t normally talk about my undies on the internet)

Sometimes we may fall off the wagon in our efforts to live more sustainable lifestyles. Yes, it sucks and yes, you may be temporarily disheartened. However, unless you channel your inner Thoreau and make for the woods, it’s likely that from time to time, you will make purchasing decisions or receive gifts that you won’t be entirely happy with. Don’t waste time fretting over it.

Remember that everyday offers you an opportunity to act in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. Remember that even the process of being unhappy with a purchasing decision is a POSITIVE and will help you to grow as an ethical and responsible consumer. Learn from the experience and move on.

Have you purchased something and later realised that it didn’t fit with your values?

Three Awesome Ways to use Home Grown Beetroot

Confession alert – I’m a fairly useless gardener. I try very hard, spend hours tilling the soil and dreaming bold dreams of harvesting bountiful vegetables from my raised garden beds (made from 100% recycled materials) but the reality is that I’m really more of a ‘brown thumb’ than a green one. In the past 12 months I’ve tried (and failed) to grow potatoes, onions, carrots, watermelon and a multitude of other crops that are apparently bomb proof. My fennel failed to develop bulbs, my chillies wither on the bush and even the invincible basil has given up…

I’ve added various manures, regularly mixed in organic fertilisers and religiously watered in seaweed solution. Sadly, it’s all been to no avail.

So given the Killing Fields* that make up my veggie garden, you can imagine my delight when my beetroot plants actually grew to an edible size! Admittedly, they weren’t quite the bountiful harvest of baby beets that I was hoping for, but at least it made it to the table!

For something a little different this Meat Free Monday, why not try some of the below ways of using fresh beetroot?

Fresh Beetroot Leaves in a Salad
Use in the same way as spinach or lettuce. Just wash and dry thoroughly before using as the base of a salad. I like to throw in some cucumber, tomatoes, feta, and capsicum before dressing with some homemade salad dressing (lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, wholegrain mustard and honey).

Beetroot Stems in a Stir fry / Risotto or Satay
Last night we tried something different and added all the beetroot stems (cut to 2.5cm lengths) into a chicken satay. Not only did it reduce our waste and taste delicious, as an added bonus it turned our satay into a very delicate pink! Bonus!

Grated Baby Beets
Baby beets (the bulb part) are absolutely delicious and can be used raw in so many fabulous ways. My personal favourite is to grate finely and toss through a fresh salad, but they can also be used in frittatas, muffins, rice paper rolls and sandwiches!

So instead of reaching for tinned beetroot, why not have a shot at growing some? If I can do it, anyone can!

I’d love to hear some of your gardening disasters or recipes for fresh beetroot. Please share in the comments.

*I’m very sad to report that despite daily watering, shade protection and generous insulation even my worms have succumbed to the relentless heat, leaving me without an accelerated composting process. As a result, it’s been even more important for us to reduce our fruit and veggie waste.

Why Bother?

So, yesterday I had one of those ‘why do I bother’ moments. It was 43 degrees (Celsius), there was a scorching wind blowing off the desert and the flies were excessively friendly. Yet there I was, dutifully leaving the car in the garage once more and walking down to the local swimming pool, pushing the pram and cursing the flies.

On the way, I was passed by 3 vehicles all owned by people that live considerably closer to the pool than I do, yet they had opted to drive, subsequently arriving for their swim beautifully refreshed from the car air conditioning. Me? Well, I arrived sweaty in a swarm of flies! Possibly not my most glamorous moment…

The thought crossed my mind of why the hell do I bother? At 7 months pregnant and with a young toddler in tow, why am I the one that’s walking in the heat while others enjoy their air conditioning? Why do I continually go to so much effort when no-one else around me does?

As we eased our way into the deliciously refreshing cool water and a little of my positivity reasserted itself, the answers came to me. I opt for walking partly because I like to remain fit, but mainly because if I don’t do it, who will?

Remember Gandhi?

‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’.

Right now, I can’t talk to members of the United Nations about the urgent action needed on climate change and global resource depletion. Nor can I physically shake our beloved Prime Minister until he begins to see sense. (Well, not without getting arrested).

But, what I can do is be the change that I wish to see.

Sometimes this may mean a sweaty and undignified arrival at the local pool. Sometimes, it may mean braving the public ridicule for not having the absolute latest in material consumer goods. Occasionally, it may even mean initiating an uncomfortable conversation about our environmental impact. Maybe, just maybe, I might even inspire just one person to do the same.

So, guess what? This afternoon, I’ll strap the toddler back into the pram, soak her fly veil in cold water and don my enormous hat before once again walking to the local pool. I’ll guarantee that our swim will be even more rewarding as a result of the effort put into getting there!

Do you have those ‘why bother’ moments? How do you stay on track with your commitment to a more eco-friendly lifestyle?

Assessing Your Ecological Footprint

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So, one of your New Year’s resolutions is to become more environmentally conscious? Fantastic, good for you!

The problem is that transitioning to a more eco-friendly lifestyle can be challenging, particularly in the early stages. Where on earth do you begin? How do you change a lifetime worth of habits? How can you possibly afford to change?

The answer is, begin with baby steps.

This series is designed to help you through the early stages of a transition to a greener, more eco-friendly lifestyle. While installing solar panels, growing all your own food and dedicating your career to the environment may be possible for some, it’s simply not the reality for most of us. It’s easy to imagine that your small changes may not make much of a difference on a global level, but every little bit adds up to positive movement!

So, let’s get started!

Doing your own eco-stocktake
The first step towards a greener world is to identify where we are right now and select areas for improvement. (Actually, the first step is to make the decision to become more environmentally conscious, but I’m guessing you’ve already done that bit!)

There are some brilliant calculators available on the internet, so if you are pressed for time check out the World Wildlife Fund’s Ecological Footprint calculator to very quickly identify areas that you could make a change.

If the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is your primary area of interest, try the Victorian Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas emission calculator.

If using online calculators is not really your thing, doing a manual eco-stocktake of your lifestyle can be very revealing. **Some of your answers may be a bit confronting and you may be embarrassed. That’s ok! The most important thing is that right here, right now, you are preparing to make a change.

Download a printable copy of ‘The Happy Rebel – Eco-Stocktake’ The Eco-Stocktake here.

For further reading on this topic, one of my favourite blogs, Down to Earth Mother just published a great post on conducting a green audit. Check it out here.

Coming up in 2014

2014 is almost upon us and I am so excited to be able to share it with you! It will be a big year for The Happy Rebel and a big year for our family with a cross country move planned and our second baby due in April.

The Happy Rebel will be becoming slightly more structured throughout 2014, with a couple of really exciting series planned. Check out the sneak peeks below…

12 Months to a Happiness Rebellion

The 12 Months to a Happiness Rebellion series will be published on the first Wednesday of every calendar month and will feature tips, tricks and challenges to help you to reclaim and sustain your happiness throughout the year.

Baby Steps to a Greener World

Baby Steps to a Greener World is your beginners guide for taking simple steps to reduce your environmental impact and adopt a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. Baby Steps to a Greener World will be published on the second Wednesday of every calendar month and will have some great tips and tricks!

The Lost Art of Self Sufficiency

Do you rely on a mechanic to check the oil in your car, a tailor to take up your jeans and the bakery for special treats? If so, The Lost Art of Self Sufficiency series is for you!

The Lost Art of Self Sufficiency will be published on the third Wednesday of every calendar month and is the essential guide to basic self-sufficiency. Easy step by step guides on everything from automotive maintenance to baking cookies will help you recover skills that are fast being forgotten.

Make Your Own

The Make Your Own series will be published on the fourth Wednesday of every calendar month and will feature stacks of fun and easy home projects that will help save you money and amaze others with your ingenuity. Learn how to build your own raised garden bed from recycled materials, entertain your toddlers with easy home-made play dough and even create your own Advent Calendars. If you are completely non creative like me, you will love these easy step by step guides!

Meat Free Monday

I’m on a mission to reduce my meat consumption and improve my repertoire of vegetarian recipes and I’d love to share this journey with you! Every Monday, a delicious new vegetarian recipe will be posted after being thoroughly tried and tested by our meat loving household. If you regularly cook vegan or vegetarian meals, please feel free to point me in the direction of winning recipes…

So, as you can see, we have a really exciting year ahead with heaps of great strategies to make 2014 your greenest, happiest year ever.  Make sure that you add The Happy Rebel to your favourites and join us on Facebook to ensure that you don’t miss a moment!

Have a great 2014…