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Living Simply: 7 ways to embrace life with less in the city (that I am trying out)

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little” E. Burke

Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave, you must be well aware of a myriad of green, sustainable movements sweeping the nations across the world. Anything from downshifting and de-cluttering to being-more-with-less and minimalism as well as the life changing magic of tidying up are sprouting like fresh grass after the summer rain.

While I think the spread of awareness about living a sustainable life that supports our own health and the health of our planet is absolutely necessary and admirable, it might just leave some of us a bit overwhelmed, especially if we see people showing off all of their waste for one whole year stuffed in a little 500ml jar. Don’t get me wrong, I commend everyone who aspires to live a conscious lifestyle with less stuff (and actually walks the talk), but more often than not, I have a lot of guilt and constantly feel like I am not doing enough to support the planet, even if I am not using plastic bags or straws anymore.

So, this year, after having read lots of blogs and a couple of books on zero waste and plastic free, and again feeling like the mountain of sustainability is just too high for me to climb, I decided to write down all the things that I have already been doing and come up with a few extras that I would like to try with a view of simplifying my life rather than just adding to the endless list of things to do or feel guilty about. I then narrowed it down to 7 little things that are realistic for me to implement and stick to. I hope it encourages you to take one little step in the right direction - I think it all counts!

1. Buying less food more frequently.

I know that farmers markets are great, but realistically for us, going to the market once a week where we stocked up on heaps of fresh, organic produce didn’t work well, simply because we ended up throwing a lot of that organic (and not so fresh after 4 or 5 days) food into the compost. A few times I tried to pre-cook for the week ahead, but for whatever reason I just could not sustain it for longer than a few weeks.

When we moved, I found a small local veggie/fruit shop that stocked mostly conventional and some organic produce. After getting to know the owners they were more than happy to source more organic veggies for us (and other customers) when we needed them. And we found that not only did it reduce our food waste but also our food bill as well.

2. Creating a simple no-waste to-go kit that I can bring with me everywhere I go. While I don’t use plastic bags and take my keep cup everywhere I go, because I am out and about quite a bit, I will often buy something to eat as well. And that’s where the tricky part comes in. And by tricky I mean the plastic container the food comes in, the plastic cutlery that it comes with and some paper napkins to boot. And if I want to get a freshly squeezed juice (usually in a plastic cup with a plastic straw) then I can just hear the ‘greenies’ behind me (aka the voice in my head) giving me the death sentence.

So, I've made my own plastic-free to-go kit. This was probably the easiest thing I have ever put together. And now you can buy all of these individual items (together in one go) online through stores like Biome on Eco at Home.

Next little (big) step on my 'simplifying-my-life' journey will be creating a zero-waste bathroom essentials kit.

What's in my no-waste to-go kit: Reusable stainless steel straw and straw brush cleaner, reusable glass KeepCup, reusable glass water bottle, reusable cloth bag and napkin, reusable bamboo utensils and a small size beeswax wrap.

3. Going on a spending detox.

Last year I made a conscious decision to go 1 day every week without buying anything at all (not even a takeaway coffee). It felt great, and really I didn't even notice it. I then did a little audit of what I spent every week on takeaway coffees and other knick knacks, and it turned out that I could save at least $20 dollars a week if I avoided compulsive

buying every time I was in a hurry or a little tired.

I then decided to challenge myself and go for 3 days without spending. It was just a little harder than 1 day but still manageable. I found that if I stopped and asked myself: "Do I really need it and will it improve the quality of my life?" every time I wanted to quickly run into the shop and get something, most of the times it was just a habit of convenience, not a necessity that fuelled my impulse, and those few seconds of pause were enough to shift my attention and subside my impulse. It is my intent to stick to this practice and make a 3-day-spending detox part of my every week.

4. Having a dump drawer.

Now this is something I've been trying for a while now and it works a 100%. Every couple of months or so I go through my wardrobe, drawers and sometimes kitchen cupboards and book shelves, and pick out a few items that I have used less than 5 times during that period. I then put those items in a drawer/ shelf /box and leave them be. Often I forget about the stash until the next dump drawer re-fill day at which point I take it to my local St Vincent De Paul or lend it to my friends/ family (and never get it back).

I know that this might sound quite wasteful to some of you, but to be honest, I prefer to do it this way rather than throwing out bags and boxes of unused stuff once every couple of years.

5. Growing my own herbs.

I am not a green thumb at all. In the long history of the endless attempts to grow my own veggie garden I successfully neglected or killed most of them. But herbs are different. I swear, the herb-pot-garden that I have and hardly ever do anything for (except for watering and putting some compost in every now and then) is thriving on its own. I even have occasional Basil sprouting up in random spots around the garden. Herbs (at least the ones I have) are the easiest bunch to grow and are so very good for your health too!

6. Making my own home cleaning product(s).

I must admit, that despite encouraging people in all of my Healthy Home Assessment reports to make their own home cleaning products, this one actually took a while for me to do myself. Mostly because it’s just easier to grab them in the local health food store or online as well as the need to have it on-demand.

Most cleaning products, even the 'healthier' ones still come in plastic containers. So the best thing I figured I could do to avoid that is to buy raw ingredients in bulk-and-refill shops like Source Bulk Foods or Scoop Wholefoods and then make my own home cleaning products in smaller quantities (but more frequently) with no more than 3 ingredients in each product. This is my simple 3-ingredient laundry powder:

  • 1 cup of baking soda

  • 1 cup of washing soda

  • 1/3 cup of grated castile bar soap

  • Optional: 10 drops of essential oil of your choice for a nice scent.


7. Collaborative Consumption.

The term ‘collaborative consumption' refers to people sharing access to products or services, rather than having individual ownership. It's good for the environment, the wallet and for society. The energy and resources that go into the production of ‘stuff' is shared, as are the costs.

Now, this is something that has been on my radar for a while but honestly I haven't tried it yet. We do share things amongst fiends and family, but I just haven't ventured out to do the same in the community. From cars and bicycles to community garden networks and clothes and house swapping, there are some great options out there. Here are just a few that I found and am keen to try in the next couple of months:

The 7 ways of reducing the footprint described in this article are my own practices and/or resolutions that I know are realistic for me to embrace in my life. They might sound too simple or too hard for you. But wherever you are on your journey of living a more sustainable life, remember that every little step counts and is more than ENOUGH!

Healthier life one step at a time!

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