“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.” – Chaos Theory, The Butterfly Effect
At the end of a busy day – caring for little ones, running a household, as well as work, friends, and maybe a tiny slice of ‘me’ time – it’s no surprise that living green can sometimes feel like a task too far. We might all have the best environmental intentions, but the responsibility of saving the planet is another weight on the overflowing To-Do list!
However, even the smallest of actions can have huge impact. Not using a plastic bag can be felt across the globe thousands of miles away when that one piece of plastic doesn’t end up in the waterways. Teaching our children to save energy is establishing a future generation with a lifetime of conscious choices. These small positive steps, no matter how insignificant they seem, are all making a difference.
There are some amazing initiatives out there today for everyone to take part in, mostly founded by everyday people who just wanted to spark change. By uniting communities and combining the tiny actions of many, this butterfly effect might just change the world.
One Million Women
A movement of 600,000+ women, and growing every day, One Million Women is active in both gender and climate change in Australia. Conscious that women make 85 per cent of the consumer decisions that affect a household’s carbon footprint, the organisation is on a quest for a lifestyle revolution, and it starts with us. Those bite-sized changes – to reduce household energy, to buy quality not quantity – if done by a million women, can create huge change. Founder Natalie Issacs said, “I believe a million women will tell a million more and lead a million communities.” You can join the movement, connect with other women about climate change, and be counted at 1millionwomen.com.au. They also have a free app that gives you the tools to cut carbon pollution in the key areas of your life, making it easy to track your actions and see how much carbon pollution you have saved that day.
Food Mile Challenge
Today’s global food market allows everyone to access food from all over the world, in every season. However, the long distances the food travels are detrimental to the environment. Transport over long distances releases more greenhouse gas emissions than buying locally grown foods that have been stored, plus they will be nutritionally inferior too. Get to know seasonal foods and buy locally from farmers’ markets and community gardens. By quickly assessing food miles – the distance that the food has travelled from paddock to plate – and keeping that to a minimum, you can do your bit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and support local growers in the process. Find out more at ecofriendlyfood.org.au.
Take 3 for the Sea
A great initiative for kids to get involved in, the premise is simple – every time you leave the beach, waterway, or, any natural landmark, take three pieces of rubbish with you when you leave. As the movement states, “We believe lots of small individual actions can have a big impact on the planet. The more people who join our tribe and take action, the more we can do for the world’s oceans!” A simple movement that everyone can take part in, find out more at www.take3.org.
Clean Up Australia
An incredible initiative, Clean Up Australia is a simple idea that exploded to become a national event. Founded by an avid sailor who organised a community event to clean up Sydney Harbour in 1989, this first event generated a huge public response of 40,000 people. The next year Clean Up Australia was born, mobilising almost 300,000 volunteers. Over the past 26 years, Australians have devoted more than 31 million hours towards the environment through Clean Up Australia Day and collected more than 331 thousand tonnes of rubbish. Such a simple idea that only takes a few hours every year, the initiative has had massive environmental impact. You can find out more about the next event at www.cleanupaustraliaday.org.au.
QECSN (Queensland Early Childhood Sustainability Network)
QESCN is a network that supports services and educators to participate in everyday practices relating to sustainability and to engage families and communities in this work. Believing that early childhood is a critical phase of life for encouraging sustainable approaches, QESCN sees children as active citizens who are responsible for the present and future sustainability of the world. The network works towards empowering positive change and practical learning about sustainability by providing workshops and professional development opportunities throughout the state for the many individuals, groups and organisations working with young children. Find out more at www.qecsn.org.au.
Reverse Garbage QLD
Reverse Garbage Queensland is a not-for-profit worker-run co-operative that promotes environmental sustainability and resource reuse. They collect high quality industrial discards, diverting them away from landfill and sell them at a low cost to the general public. If you run a business, before you throw the next offcuts away, head to the reverse garbage website and see if it can be reused. And if you are looking for bits and bobs for a craft project, see if there is anything you can use. They also offer workshops and sell upcycled jewellery and homewares, all made from salvaged material… the perfect eco gift! Find out more at www.reversegarbageqld.com.au.
“I wait three days before making purchases now. If I still want it, then I will buy it, but that delay really makes you consider things properly and avoid impulse buying… great for the environment and the wallet!” —Michelle, Sunshine Coast
Other things you can do to help the Butterfly Effect
Remembering those reuseable shopping bags and saying no to bottled water, are both essential steps towards a more sustainable future. A simple change that everyone can make in their day-to-day lives, we can vastly reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in landfill, blocking drains and ending up in creeks and oceans.
“I was so proud last week when we went grocery shopping and my 4-year-old daughter reminded me to take our reuseable shopping bags. She won’t let me shop without them now, as she knows that plastic bags are bad for the sea creatures.” —Lyndsay, Brisbane
Ditch disposable coffee cups
Coffee is an Australian staple. But as the love for coffee soars, so does the number of disposable coffee cups ending up in landfill. Though they look like they are made of paper, coffee cups are coated with a petroleum-based plastic resin that means they don’t break down easily. Today, coffee cups are estimated to be the second-largest contributor to litter waster after plastic bottles. In fact, it is estimated that Australians use 1 billion disposable coffee cups each year (source, www.abc.net.au). Though recyclable cups are being made, many café owners aren’t always using them as they come at a higher cost.
The production and shipment of coffee cups also plays a part in the pollution story, and a great deal of energy is used – the trees harvested, transported to factories, paper rolls made into cups, that cup transported to wholesalers, then that cup transported to retailers.
The solution? Don’t take away. Drink the coffee at the café, or take your own reusable cup. If you don’t need a lid, don’t take one. If you do need a disposable cup, try to purchase coffee from somewhere that uses managed plantation paper board cups lined with a plant-based material. And separate the lid from the cup when disposing of the rubbish.
“I could never stop drinking coffee, but my family got me a reusable coffee cup for Father’s Day and I love it! The coffee definitely tastes better when served in a gift from the kids, and the coffee costs less. Win win!”
—Alastair, Sunshine Coast
Make your own
This sounds harder than it is. But there are several homemade items that will benefit the environment and your wallet.
- This recipe replaces the need for chemical-laden baby wipes that don’t break down in landfill.
- Cut a roll of heavy-duty paper towels in half.
- Place the roll into a plastic container (Tellfresh food storers with a lid work a treat).
- In a bowl, mix some coconut oil, natural body wash and boiling water.
- Pour mixture over the wipes and allow to soak in.
- Take out the cardboard tube and pull the wipes from the middle.
- Put the lid on to keep them fresh.
*Recipe from Joy Ratima, Melbourne, via YouTube.
Eco-friendly multipurpose spray ‘n wipe
As well as saving money on your grocery bill, this basic cleaner is free from chemicals, and comes with all the cleaning prowess you need without washing any toxic ingredients down the drain. Keep a spray bottle in the kitchen and use on benchtops, surfaces and for general day-to-day cleaning.
Half-fill a spray bottle with boiled then cooled water, add ½ cup of white vinegar. Add a few drops of essential oil, whichever scent you prefer. And add 1 tsp of natural liquid soap or eco-friendly dishwashing liquid. Give it a slight shake and spray away!
This cleaner is perfect for removing those bathtub rings and stubborn stains.
Combine ¼ cup bicarb powder, 1 tbsp of eco-friendly dishwashing liquid, a splash of white vinegar, and add warm water until you have a paste. Use to scrub sinks, toilets and baths.