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Sustainability: will we wait until the tipping point?

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For sustainability to work, it must be practiced beyond industry and corporates and be made truly accessible to everyone, writes global sustainability ambassador Emine Mehmet.

Last year, I travelled to the UK and South Africa to promote The Big Shift Sustainable Design Competition. On this trip, I met with exhibitors, design industry associations and sponsors to lay foundations for the competition. Along the way, I developed new understandings of the world, people and sustainability.

I found that fundamentally, we are all the same. We all want the same things; to feel secure, to have a home, food, an education, to have opportunities and a future. We are all patriots and love our country.  We look to our government for leadership, courage and vision and to create and influence positive change for generations to come, not just for their time in office.

I believe that it is within our power as people to develop sustainability internationally. This is the vision I have for my work; to promote the use of sustainably made materials, sustainable ideas and ways of living by making it more accessible, more desirable and better understood.

I met a young woman from Zimbabwe who moved to South Africa to find work and support her family. She supported them not by sending money, but by sending food.  Scarcity of food is not something we see much of in Australia – it’s a far away concept.

But the sustainability of food supplies is a very real worldwide concern not discussed often enough. Food shortages in Zimbabwe and other parts of the world are very real and are happening now.

To have a future anywhere in the world, we need to embrace sustainability and stop navel gazing at only our personal realities.  In Australia, we act like we invented sustainability and it would seem we’re leading the world.

But in other parts of the world, it is ingrained in their way of life. Europe in particular does it well, where light timers and sensors and water control in public spaces is the norm; the brown paper bags and ‘bring your own shopping bag’ concept is widespread.

It is easy to be drawn into ‘the lucky country – young and resource rich’ state of mind – consideration of the future wasn’t always our first priority. Lack of public ownership of sustainable issues and reliance on our government to fix things are a clear demonstration of how disjointed the Australian public are from the issue of sustainability.

Likewise, in the UK the sustainable movement is strong, but there is still a disjoint between the practice of sustainability by industry and by the public. The message is not filtering down to the general population.

This is a problem I have observed worldwide: the experts get it, but the population doesn’t have enough access to easy information on readily available and desirable resources – like furniture, homewares, everyday household items, food and general goods, building materials, alternative energy – to attempt to live more sustainably.

Beyond governments and advocates, designers have the power to influence consumer behaviour. Sustainability won’t work unless it is practiced by everyone, not just corporates and industry. We need to talk about it on a level everyone can understand. Sustainability isn’t hard to interact with, and maintaining the environment should be desirable, even sexy.

Aspects like sustainable furniture and homewares can be incredibly beautiful. If they were given more airtime, this would be a reality for everyone.

It should be easy too! Imagine not having to think about whether something is sustainable or not.  Imagine all things from a toothbrush to your lounge had to come with information about its sustainability. Where it came from, how it was made, what it was made of, who made it and what to do with it when its life is over. Wouldn’t that make things so much easier?

In South Africa, they are crying out for a sustainable solution to their electricity supply problems, something we are lucky enough not to have experienced in Australia. Many South Africans want to be sustainable, to use organic food and low toxic products, but these have been priced out of reach of most of the population.

It’s fair to say that governments are not always solution providers. They are often cash poor and hindered by laws and policies. I believe governments need to engage more heavily with large corporations and industry to make sustainable solutions accessible and affordable. The people need to take more responsibility and action when it comes to creating a sustainable future. Sustainability is about community and collaboration, this means we all share and contribute.

Emine Mehmet is a global sustainability ambassador, an ambassador of The Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife and a fellow of the Design Institute of Australia. For more information, see her website

Further reading:

UN Global Compact unveils principles for sustainable food

Food waste used to boost Commonwealth Games sustainability credentials

Poll: UK homeowners want sustainable energy upgrades for ‘mouldy, cold and damp’ homes

63% of UK investors want to be offered sustainable investment options

Sustainable design should change our behaviour for good

Environment

How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018

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Shutterstock / By KENG MERRY Paper Art | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/kengmerrymikeymelody

Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.

Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:

1. Energy – produce it, save it

If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.

It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.

While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.

energy efficient

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By My Life Graphic

Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!

2. Don’t be just another tourist

Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.

3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly

eco-friendly

Shutterstock / By Khakimullin Aleksandr

We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t  mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.

To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.

It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.

4. Know thy recycling

People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.

People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.

5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool

Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.

All in all

The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.

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Energy

Top 5 Changes You can Make in Your Life to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

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Saving money and reducing your carbon footprint? What isn’t to love? - Image from Shutterstock - https://www.shutterstock.com/g/thodonal88

In a world, where war rages and global warming threatens our very existence, the inhabitants of earth need to be extra vigilant in their efforts to go green. This includes reducing your carbon footprint on the earth and leading a more sustainable life.

Many homeowners feel perplexed by all of the options available to reduce their carbon footprint. They may even feel (falsely) that making their household more green will fail to make that much of a difference in the fight to save our planet.

Even a single home going green has a massive impact on the environment. We can win this battle on home at a time. If you’re interested in accepting the challenge of making your household a green home, read on below for a few of the top changes you can make in your life to reduce your carbon footprint. We all stand to benefit from making the earth safer for future generations – and your wallet won’t complain when you start to see the savings in annual energy costs.

Switch From Dirty Energy to Clean Solar

The ION Solar reviews tell it all–solar is the best way to go. Whether your goal is to slash your energy bills, or to reduce your carbon footprint, the sun is a fantastic source of renewable energy.

It’s important to get past the hype from solar installers. Instead, listen to the plethora of impartial customer reviews that mention everything from a $20 energy bill, to the incredible feeling of knowing that you are doing your part by going green and minimizing harmful emissions in to our atmosphere.

The average investment is $15,000 to $30,000 for installation and purchase of solar panels. Optional battery power packs can help provide consistent power during both night and day. And many government agencies provide federal, state or local grants to help offset upfront investments in clean energy.

Depending on which installed you choose, your household may qualify for low-interest or zero interest loans to cover the up-front cost of your installation. And the loan payments are usually less than your current monthly power bill.

It really is a win-win, as home buyers are looking for homes that feature this technology – meaning solar power installation improves the resale value of your property.

Home Modifications

And there are a number of additional home modifications that can help improve the energy efficiency of your home. A programmable thermostat can better manage energy consumption from home cooling and heating systems while you’re away from home. And weather stripping your doors can help keep cool air in during the summer, and warm air in during the winter.

Of course, energy conservation starts at home. And this includes setting a powerful example for your kids. Teach your children how to close windows, strategically keep doors open or closed based on airflow, and encourage them to leave the thermostat alone – opting for adding or removing layers of clothing instead.

Unplug Appliances and Shut Off Electronics

Unplugging your appliances when they aren’t in use, such as the toaster and the coffee maker, has more of an impact than you might think. Set your TVs and stereos on sleep timers, instead of letting them run around the clock. The cumulative impact of wasteful electronic device usage is horrible for our environment – putting unnecessary strain on our electrical grid.

Recycle

One of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by recycling. You are already throwing this stuff away anyway, right? It doesn’t take much more effort to just put recyclables in a separate container to be recycled, now does it?

Oh, and did I mention that you can earn money for recycling? Yes! Many cities and towns have recycling centers that will purchase your clean plastic and glass bottles for reuse.

Minimize Your Water Usage

Water is one of the easiest things to forget about when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint. Preserve water by turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth. Shorten your shower by a few minutes and turn down the heat on that water heater. You’ll be surprised at how much lower your water bill and your energy bill will be.

Saving money and reducing your carbon footprint? What isn’t to love?

These are just a few of the top ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint and start living a greener lifestyle. And we aren’t factoring in all of the advantages that we’ll reap from public investments in a smarter energy grid.

From decreasing your water usage, to switching to solar for your home’s energy needs, you will feel good at the end of the day knowing you are doing your part to save the future of this planet for generations to come!

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