10 Easy Ways to Green Your Home

Keeping warm without the cost!

Keeping warm without the cost!

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the environmental challenges facing us. After all, things like climate change, global deforestation and the growing toxicity of our environment are daunting challenges. But, as Al Gore so eloquently puts it; ‘despair is another form of denial’. So, instead of despairingly sticking our heads in the sand, here are a few easy ways to make a big environmental difference

  1. Investigate your household energy options. Can you make the switch to renewables personally? Or can you negotiate with your energy provider to source a percentage of your electricity from green sources?
  2. Reduce your energy needs. Turn off the second fridge, make sure all appliances are working efficiently and turn off the dreaded standby!
  3. Change over to LED lightbulbs. Check out my post here on why changing lightbulbs may be one of the biggest things we can do to save the planet.
  4. Cold in winter? Don’t reach for the heater remote. Rug up with a jumper (or ski jacket as the occasion demands), and invite some friends over for dinner. The additional body heat will warm your house and lift your spirits!
  5. Leave shoes at the door. Let’s be clear, your shoes will accumulate toxins as you are out exploring the world. If you don’t want to be bringing nasties onto the carpets that your children crawl on, simply kick your shoes off at the exit.
  6. While on the subject of toxins, take a look at your cleaning regime. If the thought of your toddler accessing your cleaning chemicals fills you with dread, perhaps its time to switch to natural alternatives. Lemon, white vinegar, bi-carb soda and essential oils are sufficient to combat most household mess. Easier on the hip pocket, and it may just save you a few phone calls to the poison information centre! Check out the wonderful Laura over at Sustainababy for advice on how to make your cleaning regime better for your family and the environment.
  7. Hit the footpath. Next time you need to head to the shops, leave the car at home and walk or cycle. You’ll get a rush of endorphins and your car won’t be chewing up non-renewable resources or emitting carbon dioxide.
  8. Take part in an environmental challenge. If you’re in need of a bit more inspiration and motivation, try participating in Plastic Free July, or Buy Nothing New October. If you’re in need of an even bigger challenge, try buying nothing new for a YEAR, like the amazing Fearse Family.
  9. Source fresh produce locally. Visit your local farmers markets or investigate a grocery box scheme. You’ll save money and save the environment through the reduction of food miles.
  10. Checkmate! Instead of snuggling up to watch TV with your partner, why not break out the chessboard or even a deck of cards. You’ll reduce your energy use, not be bombarded with advertising and may even discover a whole new side to each other!

Survive & Thrive with 2 under 2

Yay! It’s great to be back, and I’m so sorry to anyone who has missed me. A new baby, massive computer meltdown and university assessments put the stoppers on blogging for a few weeks!

There are lots of tips out there for new parents, most starting with ‘enlist support’. Great advice, and I’m sure having a supportive network around is wonderful, but what if it’s not an option?

I’m the proud Mumma of two beautiful girls (aged 21months and 5 weeks), living in an isolated area in outback Western Australia. Our nearest family is over 600km away, we have very few friends in the area and my husband works 14hr days, including a week of nights every month. As a result, I’ve learnt a few little lessons in how to not only survive, but thrive with two children under the age of two.

Get Dressed
I’m going to buck with the prevailing theory on this one and argue that it is absolutely vital for you to get out of your pyjamas (and make the bed) each and every morning. Sure, you may have had a rotten sleep, have no plans to leave the house and let’s face it, anyone who judges a new Mum for being in their jarmies is not worthy of your time anyway, but getting dressed is the single best thing you can do to start your day on a positive note. No-one feels great being in their PJs at 1pm!

Take care of you
(Did I just quote Pretty Woman? Shame!)
Unwashed hair? Dodgy toenails? Haven’t shaved your legs in six weeks? I get it, you’re exhausted (as someone who accidently wore their underwear inside out all day today, I understand exhaustion). However, rather than slumping on the couch when you finally get munchkins to bed, try to spend 5-10 minutes taking care of you. Relax in the shower and tidy up those toenails. You’ll feel so much better!

Take care of you (part two)
Return to gentle exercise as soon as you are physically able. Now is not the time to start training for a marathon, but a gentle yoga workout or a walk with the pram will do wonders for your mental and physical health. *Always check with your doctor before returning to exercise after childbirth.

Reset to zero
Each and every night, reset your house to zero. Toys away, dishes away, sinks and benches wiped, clean washing away and (if you have the energy) floors swept. It’s not always easy, particularly when one child is refusing to go to sleep and the other is experiencing the dreaded witching hour, but it’s SO worth it in the morning.

Embrace the Nanna Nap
Hopefully you mastered the art of a good Nanna Nap when your first child was born. If not, now is the time to start. If your eldest still has an afternoon nap, forget the housework and put those feet up.

Invest in a sling
A good quality, comfortable sling is an absolute godsend when your hands are full with a toddler. Your baby can snuggle in comfort (and even breastfeed if you’re really clever), while you play outside, go for a walk or even do housework.

Have less
It’s a really simple equation. The less stuff that you own, the less time you have to spend taking care of it, leaving you with more time to enjoy your cheeky toddler and beautiful new bundle of joy.

Enjoy
Your children will not always be this small. Take the time to cherish your toddler’s quirks and just sit and marvel at your baby.

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!

Teetering on the Precipice of iPhone Addiction

Yesterday, I removed the email account from my iPhone, allowed the battery to run completely flat and shoved it on top of the bookshelf out of sight.

The blessed relief was overwhelming.

I never thought that I would fall into the iPhone trap and certainly wasn’t an early adopter. Nor was my addiction ever particularly severe. I was very happy to leave the phone at home and go camping, rarely used it on public transport and always left it on silent to avoid being interrupted.

BUT…

I was still using my phone too much. Sure, I may not be as addicted as some, but in my own way I was still allowing my phone to interrupt my time, space and mental energy.

A while ago, my little girl and I were catching the train back to our accommodation with 10 other people in the compartment. Every single one of them was engrossed in a screen, so engrossed that not one had a spare moment to return the enormous cheesy grins that were beaming out from our pram. My daughter’s expression went from joyful, to confused and ended at devastated as not one person spared a second to connect with her.

Upon watching this unfold, I at first congratulated myself on not being as obsessed as others. But then I realised that my little one knows how to activate Siri and make the picture on the screen come up, but is yet to learn her ABC’s. Her interest in the phone has been created through my interest in it and she regularly has to compete with an inanimate object for attention as I check the weather, read new emails and delight in blog posts.

I’m certainly not Robinson Crusoe here. A 2012 survey by Harvard Business School showed that more than 70% of people check their smart phones within an hour of getting up, 51% check continuously during vacations and 44% said that they would experience a ‘great deal of anxiety’ if they lost their phone.

Compare this to the very small percentage of people that engage in mindful behaviours such as yoga or meditation within an hour of getting up and it becomes apparent that smart phone use has infiltrated our lives far more than any other habit.

The next time that you go to check your phone, stop and ask yourself; what messages are you missing as you gaze at the screen? Is updating your Facebook status ‘bored, on train’ more important than a moment of connection with a stranger that may alleviate that boredom?

Unplugging, even temporarily, provides us with a reprieve from the exhaustion of hyper-connectivity.

Breaking the Addiction
If you are sick of feeling shackled to your smart phone, try some of the following;
• Leave the phone at home while you go for a walk.
• Remove your email account from your phone (let’s face it, the world probably won’t end if you don’t respond within 5 minutes)
• Have a phone free weekend – let the battery die on Friday, put the phone in the top of a cupboard and don’t recharge until Sunday night.
• Smile at a stranger, gaze out the window, focus on your breathing and meditate, or (if you’re really bold) strike up a conversation the next time you are on public transport
• Banish all phones from the dinner table (really, does this even need to be said?)
• Get an alarm clock and banish the phone from your bedroom. Watching Youtube, updating Facebook and Tweeting are not conducive to a restful sleep.

I’d love to know if smart phone addiction is a problem for you. What strategies can you suggest?