21 May 2012

We all make a difference

There have been many claims about how our future will be shaped by the end of cheap fuel and increasing prices that will result from that. Of course, no one knows for sure what will happen in the future but anyone who takes any notice will know that for the past few years, fuel prices have been increasing and along with it the cost of living.This is bad news for those who rely on their cars to get around but as prices rise, fewer kilometres will be driven and it will help reduce the amount of pollutants coming from these emissions. Increasing fuel prices also impacts substantially on the price of food and clothing and almost everything we buy. All those products are delivered via a system that runs on fuel and often use fuel and/or electricity at some point during manufacture as well. 

I'm very sad to report that Australia is the seventh-worst polluter on Earth

We often focus on ways to reduce the cost of our grocery bills but what else can we do to help reduce greenhouse gasses.
  1. Stop buying water in plastic bottles.
  2. Refuse to accept plastic shopping bags. Make cotton tote bags and net fruit and vegetable bags, and use them.
  3. Replace as many of the disposable products you use in the home with alternatives, such as handmade dishcloths.
  4. Stop buying over-packaged products and tell the manager of the shop why you're not buying it. We have to start talking and complaining about this because it won't change unless we do.
  5. Buy in bulk when you can. Ask family and friends if they want to buy with you so you can all save money (and gasses).
  6. Reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible. 
  7. Learn to sew and mend.
  8. Recycle mobile phones, ink cartridges and any of your old computer equipment that can be recycled.
  9. If you have appliances that use batteries, use rechargeable batteries.
  10. Shop at second-hand shops and garage sales.
  11. Use public transport, car pool, ride a bike or walk.
  12. Cook from scratch - buy ingredients that can be used for several meals, not just one. This will cut down on the packaging you bring into your home and you'll know what's in your food.
  13. Stop buying convenience foods and processed foods. 
  14. Buy fruit and vegetables that you prepare at home - not pre-washed salads and pre-cut fruit.
  15. Eat less meat.
  16. If you have land, use it - plant vegetables, nuts and fruit.
  17. Focus on buying seasonally and what is local.
  18. Make compost with your vegetable and yard waste. Start a worm farm or use a bokashi.
  19. Before you turn on the air-conditioner or heater, put on or take off, layers of clothes.
  20. Wash your clothes with cold water. 
  21. Hang your clothes outside to dry. 
  22. Stop buying cleaning products and make your own. Use vinegar, bicarb and soap.
  23. Produce more of what you use at home.

I am firmly convinced that we do make a difference by changing our own behaviour. That ripple effect can be quite powerful. Don't take the easy way out and think it's not worth doing anything because you're only one person. Every "one person" got us to this point, it will take an equal effort from every one person to turn the tide again.

And don't forget, be satisfied with what you can do. If you can't do some of the things on the list above, or your own list, be grateful for the things you can do. Everything you do makes a contribution to the problem. Of course the good news is that if we carry out a focused and prolonged personal campaign in our own homes to do our bit towards reducing green house gasses, we'll also be living a healthier and thriftier life - these things go hand in hand.

The schools in Australia seem to have a good understanding on how to teach children the ins and outs of a healthier planet. The young children I talk to certainly know a lot more about these problems than their parents do, and they know the simple ways we can all work towards a solution. Is that the same in your country as well? If you work for a living, does your workplace have some sort of sustainability policy? What are you doing in your home and backyard?



  1. Hi - I am a firm believer in the ripple effect. In the UK we are lucky to have easy ways for recycling and composting as our council collects it all at the same time as our refuse. There really is no excuse not to recycle here and yet many people still don't.
    As you also said, its important to do what we feel we can. Our family is trying to cut down on eating animals and fish and on using products tested on animals but we don't beat our selves up if we sometimes have a little meat or there is a particular product we just can't yet find an alternative for. If we pressurise ourselves too much then we will fail. It is better to succeed a little at a time. Lily. xxx

  2. Hi Rhonda,
    I wonder if you might be able to talk about the whole idea of "green guilt".

    I try very hard to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle. I garden & compost - I even compost the kitty litter, I don't use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, I drive less than 1000 miles per year, I don't use shampoo, only use TP for "number 2", keep the house cold in the winter and hot in the summer, pay extra to get all my electricity from wind power, use cloth dish towels, napkins and handkerchiefs, rarely buy things - and when I do I opt for used as much as reasonably possible, bring reusable bags to the store, run most errands on my bike or on foot, I don't travel by air (actually - I don't really travel at all), I make the vast majority of my food from scratch, and a whole host of other things.

    But even with all that, there are plenty of ways that I know I could do so much more. And constantly feeling like I "should" be so much "better", sends me into a terrible cycle of guilt for not doing more, and anger at those who do nothing - neither of which is very productive.

    Anyhow, I just wonder if you might have some suggestions on this topic.

    Thanks so much,
    Cat from Colorado

  3. Cat, I'll have a think about it and write something later in the week. In the meantime, I commend your passion.

  4. I guess I'm a bit like Cat. The more I do the more I tend to focus on what more I could be doing and on what others aren't doing. Shows my lack of tolerance and my self righteousness I know! Because deep down I know that we are all on our own journey and that all I need to be really concerned with is how I'm impacting on this planet, and that I can be a model if anyone wants to see.

  5. I've incorporated a most of your list into our daily lives here (I'm listening to my washing machine do a cold water wash at the moment, using the laundry liquid recipe from your blog/book, and it will be line-dried).
    Living 10kms from town, with no public transport to speak of, I rely on our car to do anything really. That's not surprising given where we live, but millions of Australians live in metropolitan areas with poor public transport links, and similarly rely on their cars. Check out the M5 in Sydney at 6.00am - it's a carpark, a total waste of time and fuel. My dream is for better public transport for those areas, to cut emissions and make them more liveable.

  6. Rhonda, Amen to those words. People always look sideways at me when I talk about 'when we may not be able to get this item anymore (or a huge cost)'. I think well we're doing our bit at least - eventually the penny will drop with others.

  7. Hi Rhonda,
    I am sorry if this comment isn't on your topic for today (which is yet another fab one!) but I thought that you would like to know.
    I have been using "Eco Store"s "safer and healthier" dishwashing liquid. For the first time in my life I was able to wash my own dishes, and was well impressed.
    But last night, armed with my new bottle, I did my dishes like normal. But I did not know that they had changed one ingredient. This ingredient promptly started eating through my hand. They have put in a synthetic chemical that can be "naturally found".
    Very un impressed, and thought you should know this, as I know your values and you went through a lot to find a good dishwashing liquid for us.
    If you wish to contact me privately, I do have more info. karynlynettelee@gmail.com . Thanks for a wonderful blog, it has truely changed my life.

  8. I do almost all the things you mentioned. I do wash in hot water sometimes, though. It feels really good implement these changes and make them habits. I believe we do really make a difference. Energy is a powerful thing. When you change your actions, you change your aura. It's wonderful what a positive influence your blog, book, and life with Hanno has had on the world. I love your new page, by the way. I'm not so sad about the old one being gone anymore. Your photo is just beautiful. It shows your sensitivity and kind spirit!


  9. May I add that when you do have extras you no longer need try to find someone who can and give it to them. This may help not only their budget but the earth as they will not be buying a new product and using gas to get it. I always ask around and also keep an ear out for things others seem to have on their wish list.
    I do have a question. Is it healthy to compost cat litter? I thought cat and dog waste and or litter was not healthy to compost. Also what is the litter itself made of? Does it have chemicals in it? Sarah

  10. Sarah, cat litter is mainly natural materials. I found this for you: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-2/Cat-Litter.html#b

    It is okay to compost cat and dog faeces but you should not use that compost on your food garden. So if you intend composting your pet waste, you should make a separate compost heap for it and then use the compost on the ornamental garden, not the vegetable garden.

    Thanks kllee, I'll contact them to ask what has changed.

  11. Hi All!

    Rhonda you really make some great points - I'm happy to tell everyone that while I drive to work every day, my office is a great one. We have compost bins in every kitchen and I am the lucky one who gets to take all the goodies home twice a week. What the chooks don't eat goes in the compost bins to improve my vegie patch soils. It's a really great way of supplementing the chookies diet and using waste that would otherwise go to the rubbish tip. It's really easy to pop a bucket with a lid or little bin in the office kitchen too.....

  12. Do you wash your whites in cold water? I go back and forth on it. I'm always concerned the cold water won't kill the germs. Any suggestions?

  13. A great list there Rhonda...i try to do many but the are still more i can do of course...i fear i suffer a little from the green guilt too although i hope that cloth nappying twins is making up for some of the things i am unable to do right now! I guess if we all just take a few steps then at least there are many taking a few small steps which lead to larger steps...i am going to print your list out though to provide some inspiration!
    I too would be interested about the dishwashing liquid as i began using it after your recommendation and was really pleased with it but the last bottle started giving me dermetitis on my fingers so i have had to stop using it unfortunately.x
    Living on Less Money...just thought i would comment that i always use a cold water wash for our clothes and my girls nappies...never had a problem, the sun is a great sanitiser and stain remover too. The twins terry nappies are still white (I'm actually doing a post on washing nappies soon as i get many comments about needing to use hot water!). I really don't see any advantage to using hot water...your clothes will be just as clean with cold soapy water (i just use Rhonda's detergent recipe too)...hope that helps x

  14. Good morning Rhonda. As a comedian once said that when he rinses his glass bottles for recycling then he looks at other consumer nations he feels like he has arrived at an earthquake site with a dustpan and handbroom! So I guess it's easy for us all to be overwhelmed with the amount of wastage and consumerism around us. I think however we need to concentrate on our own space and those on our sphere of influence. This is where we can allow our lives to make the most impact. I do almost all of what you list but it has been a 4 yr process and there is still lots too master. Slow and steady working towards a goal.

  15. I empathise with Cat and Lily's comments. It's hard not to pressure yourself into paralysis. The more I do (similar list to Cat's) the more I think I should be doing.

    I was very surprised by the nations on the list of highest polluters. No China or India? Denmark and Belgium in the top five and the Netherlands in the top ten? I'd have guessed that list completely wrong.

    I was talking about how many planet earths we would need last night whilst watching a BBC programme about countries around the Indian Ocean with 13 year old DD and DH. DH is a rather reluctant environmentalist, to say the least, and they both thought we had a lifestyle with a much lower impact than I did.

    I found a quiz (I had to pretend to be Swiss instead of British) and I had over estimated at 3 and they had underestimated by a lot. Our result was 2.1 against a Swiss average of 2.4. And back to Must Try Harder...

  16. Hi Rhonda,

    Great post today. I'm so pleased to see so many responses. I would like to add one more suggestion to the list.
    24) Turn off that TV and get the children playing outside in the yard.
    The adds only promote consumerism and it's better for them to be outside and active. So many children come home from school and head straight for the TV. Try and start a vegie garden with them. They will get a kick out of picking their own produce. There are so many things they could be doing rather than TV.
    Sorry if I've ranted, but this is something I'm passionate about.

    Blessings Gail

  17. Hi Rhonda ....I was given your book for Mothers Day and it has quite literally changed me ...I read it in a day and couldnt sleep with all the thoughts swimming in my head ...I have always been conscious of living this way but now even more so ...Thankyou

    Wendy M

  18. I was also very surprised with the list of most polluting nations - I really hoped my country wouldn't be in there.
    If I had to guess why the Netherlands is in there:
    - very high population density througout the country (not a lot of nature or waste land). This propably influences the result, because there is not a lot of forest to 'compensate' the score with.
    - factory farming. The Netherlands exports huge amounts of meat and veg. We are third in the top-5 of exporting agricultural countries (after US and France)! Remember, this is a country smaller than the state of Texas.

    There is excellent public transport here and recycling is normal. Lately the government has had various stimulation schemes for improving insulation on houses.
    In the end, I think that a change in consumer's mind is needed and important, but there need to be big changes in industry and farming too.


  19. Hi Rhonda, I was flipping through the June/July issue of G Magazine : Green living made easy and I saw your book being advertised. Just thought you might like to know!

  20. Really enjoyed reading this post. I have been a firm believer in recycling, reusing and growing/doing your own for many years. Many years ago it was a belief that was frowned upon but thankfully it has become acceptable and many more people are becoming more aware. There are still many obstacles for many people but over time these obstacles can be overcome!!!

  21. francesmoniqueMay 21, 2012 7:38 pm

    There was an interesting article in the paper on the weekend about collaborative consumption. For example instead of everyone owning a drill, which is used for about 15 minutes in its whole lifetime, people could share one. It really made me think.

  22. Hi All! I have been, as long as I can remember, recycling. The concept is not new to me. I have always been gardening as my parents before me, been making compost and although I do not keep chickens (my parents did until the local municipality processed by-laws concerning chickens in backyards), but would love to. Personally I feel that industries are the biggest culprits polluting, but cannot stop producing as people are also dependent on their salaries to live on and so the cycle continues. People could do their bit by starting to plant enough trees to try and counter the excess gasses because as everyone should now, carbon dioxide produces oxygen for all living things. Don't feel guilty if you are already doing your bit; the industrial revolution was supposed to make life easier for people, but as I see it, we are slowly going backwards to using donkeys to cart our wares, using candles for light and lighting fires to cook. All very romantic until you need to collect wood for a fire in the winter cold. Enjoy what you have, do what you can to save and be thankful for the little luxuries that you can afford. Love your blog, you are a lot like me!

  23. Lately we've been eating the salad leaves from our suburban garden. The feeling I got!!! We replaced our polytunnel and are growing some beans, tomatoes,m peppers and aubergines in it. I'm delighted!!! Here is a link to my post about Resilience:


    I only cook from scratch and am now organizing my son's 5th birthday on an Angry Birds Theme. He was very interested in helping with the invitation cards, the whole preparation of the goodie bags and such... I'll be cooking my butt off, and we'll spend a wonderful afternoon together. We've been to many birthdays so far, and they often happen in closed play areas where the children have slides, ball pools and such. The whole thing seems like a factory process, one kid in, one kid out, cut the cake, get the goodie bag, go home. It's disgraceful that we won't even take the time anymore to prepare a cake for our own children's birthdays... I am making everything myself every year and I love it... When even a child's birthday comes as a pre-packed, assembly like-like product, you realize humanity IS doomed... And I often think all I do is for nothing... But then I look in my son's eyes and see them lit up when he talks about his plants in the garden, and his crazy love for slugs, worms and centipedes and I see hope and that not all I do is for nothing, all I do is actually for him. :)

  24. Hi Rhonda and everyone else!

    As a 52 year old woman, I can honestly say that we have been living this way (frugal & conservation minded) all my life... and my mom and dad weren't even hippies! That may not seem unusual until you realize that my home town is part of the sprawling metropolis that is Los Angeles, Disneyland and San Diego. We had compost piles, back yard gardens, line-dryed clothes, sewed, mended, reused everything possible (grocery bags, produce bags, bread bags, jars, jugs, etc.), repurposed and recycled way before it became fashionable and 'necessary' for our environment (we knew it was good but we didn't know how important to our world).

    My parents were raised in families of little means but vast wisdom and experience. After WWII, my grand parents and parents didn't abandon the "can do" ethic that was so prevalent then. They realized that the food we grew ourselves was better than store-bought, money saved by accepting and wearing hand-me-down would keep mom at home instead of the work place, it's a shame to fill dumps with glass and paper that can be recycled.

    I could go on and on. My point is that I am so glad you are beating the drum, calling these generation to the practical side of it all... it isn't just about the environment. If you can't bring yourself to care enough about water quality, if you believe the green house gas thing to be slanted and flawed, if you make enough money to pay for excesses, there is still a mountain of reasons to live a thoughtful, frugal, conservative life -- it will pay dividends in personal health and well-being for you and your family.

  25. I agree totally about every person's actions being valuable...absolutely!

    But I was astonished to read that Australia is the "7th worst polluter" so I followed the link. It looks to me (and I admit it's hard for me to read things like that on a computer screen) that the WWF "Ecological Footprint" analysis is not about pollution. I think it's about a good-faith effort to take very complex factors into consideration for each country for which complete data are available (a key point, that!), and then assign "relative values" to each country's data before doing an analysis to come up with a global picture of biocapacities and demands. A massive endeavor, and hopefully it will be influential in terms of supporting environmentally important legislation. But I guess I'm trying to say is, I don't think you need to feel that Australia is the world's 7th worst polluter :)

  26. Corrine WhiteheadMay 22, 2012 4:13 pm

    My 7 year old daughter came home the other day and told me that her classroom had run out of hand soap (parents provide a bottle each at the beginning of the year if able). This has inspired me to run a session next Monday for her class on how to make your own hand soap and make enough to last them for ages for very little money. A little effort and knowledge will save big $ and a lot of packaging and hopefully inspire 25+ students to try home made :)

  27. Thanks for the great list Rhonda, and I 'm pleased to say that I do 20 out of the 23 . Another thing I save on is water. We have instant gas hot water thus cutting out the constant themostat cutting in and out to keep the tank hot. There is about 3 litres of cold water comes through before the water gets hot so I save this in jugs and use it through the day for drinking, cuppa's etc.I have a filter jug to take any chemicals out too.We miostly save all the dirty dishes and wash them after dinner in a basin thus saving on water again.
    At the moment we are only getting 1 egg a day as 2 of the chooks are moulting and 2 are broody ,still I'm sure we will be back to 5 or 6 eggs a day shortly.

  28. Thank you Rhonda for answering my question about composting kitty litter. I had never read this information before and I am very glad to now know it. Sarah

  29. Points number 6 and 7 ring true for my blog this month. Just stumbbled apon your blog for the first time (being new to the blog world) and I love it, nice ideas and great links



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