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The society in which we live thrives on unsustainable living. From our grapes that are grown in California and flown across the world for consumption to the very energy resource which we rely on, we are surrounded by and encouraged to continue this unsustainable way of life. However, through an ongoing conscious shift, and the increased accessibility to information more and more people are deciding to toss away the unsustainable life we have previously followed and embrace a sustainable lifestyle where our actions strengthen the natural world around us, instead of tearing it down. Living Sustainably also gives increased Happiness to the person, as they see the good they are doing to the world around them.
The word sustainable simply means “being able to maintain at a certain level, indefinitely”. Environmental sustainability brings the environment into the equation outlying that any action must have limited or no adverse effects on the surrounding environment. As I am sure many of you are aware, the oil humanity has been burning for the past century has completely transformed the world. Out of convenience we have nearly exhausted our oil reserves, and by doing so we have contaminated the very air we breathe and the water that we drink. Contrary to popular belief, there are environmentally sustainable alternatives which are economically viable and yes they are ready to be used! In my opinion the most obvious alternate energy resource is Solar Power. Did you know that if 1% of the Sahara Desert was converted into solar panels, the resulting energy would power all of Africa and Europe until the day the sun goes out (roughly 4.5 billion years away). New Zealand is in a unique position where we too can embrace solar power. Solar Power is 100% sustainable as well as being cheapest it has ever been for. In-fact the Green Party has announced a ‘Solar-homes’ policy in which the government will offer loans to help New Zealand home owners get their hands on the cheap and clean power that Solar Power offers. In their policy the greens explain that this change not only saves the environment we hope to pass on to our children, but also saves families $100 in power bills each year. Solar power is incredibly versatile as panels themselves can be put on basically any surface that gets adequate sunlight, definitely an easy and accessible way to increase sustainability in your life.
Growing your own vegetables is an easy way for anyone (Literally anyone) to start living a more sustainable life. Buying Vegetables from supermarkets and grocers is risky business as it is nearly impossible to identify the way in which these vegetables have been grown and what pesticides have been used on the plants and their surrounding environment, in some cases poisoning soil to the point where it can no longer support life. More and more people are choosing to grow their own organic vegetable gardens (myself included) and they can be incredibly cheap to make, using recyclable materials such as crates for the base. Having private organic gardens is a great way to ensure the vegetables you are eating are grown without pesticides which could jeopardize the soils ability to sustain life. Vegetable gardens are also a great way to save money. By planting seasonal vegetables, would-be gardeners are saving the marked up price supermarkets charge as well as paying for unsustainable importing fees, which increase your carbon footprint. Having a vegetable garden is also a great way of getting to know the neighbours. If you see a neighbour who also has a vegetable garden, I would advise talking to them and working out a trade of your vegetables for their vegetables, increasing the sustainability of your operation. This is also an awesome idea for friends who are in different flats and want to start a Vege garden. Here are some links to some easy Vege Garden designs;
Another great way of increasing sustainability is too ditch the meat from your diet! Meat has been added to our common diet in the last hundred years, before that Meat was a far more uncommon staple, being eaten only once or twice a week. We are led to believe that a meal is not nutritious or a ‘proper’ meal without meat. This is so far from the truth! Kale alone has far more protein than red meats such as Beef and Lamb. There are so many alternatives to meat, that yield the same nutritional value without harming the environment. A study was done in California in 2009 on the sustainability of meat diets versus non-meat diets, the results were truly remarkable. “They found that a non-vegetarian diet consumed 2.9 times more water, 2.5 times more primary energy, 13 times more fertilizer, and 1.4 times more pesticide than a vegetarian diet.” By cutting meat from your diet, you are not only saving more energy and water, you are choosing not to support an industry that does not respect animal life. It is also incredible to note that a Vegan who drives a car produces less CO2 omissions than a meat eater that rides a bicycle!
Depending on where you live in New Zealand, transport could be an easy way to increase the sustainability of your everyday life. Instead of travelling by car by yourself to Work or School, it is a great idea to invest in other means of transport. This could range from buying a bicycle to utilizing the awesome public transport systems that New Zealand provides. By not using your car every day you are cutting your carbon footprint in half, as well as saving money on the ever increasing oil prices. We are incredibly lucky in New Zealand to have a relatively mild winter as well as gorgeous summers (As I am sure you all know) so Bike Riding throughout the year is a great way of getting to and from Work and school as well as keeping your body fit and your mind sharp. If Bike Riding and public transport are not your thing, then I would highly recommend investing in a “green “car. Electric and hybrid cars are becoming more and more popular every year and through this, are becoming more accessible to the public. Again by using this technology you are severely reducing your carbon footprint and just by driving it you are sending a message to everyone you drive past. In countries such as Norway, 5% of all cars are now electric, with electric cars being the first choice for all new car buyers each year (since 2012), these cars are fuelled from hydro-power making them completely sustainable, definitely a role model for us here in New Zealand.
More and more people are embracing a more sustainable lifestyle, and this is hugely benefiting the environment around us as well as our wallets. New Zealand has slipped from its front-runner position as an eco-friendly country, but we know that most kiwis love the environment and want to sustain our beautiful country for our descendants. By growing your own veges, using solar power, cutting meat from your diet and investing in clean transport, you are hugely reducing your negative impact on the environment, as well as becoming a role model for all of the people you interact with each day. The environment is in trouble, and it desperately needs your help.