We’ve always been quite eco-conscious in our household, as owners of a sustainability-focused social enterprise and a small business selling eco-friendly reusable coffee pods.
Over the last few years, we’ve certainly found that our journey to reducing waste has been additionally challenged by the arrival of our (simultaneously headstrong and delightful!) first child. For us, having a young family has created a whole new element of “output”, from the obvious, such as nappies, to the unavoidable flow of “rejected” food.
The developments of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic has also been challenging and difficult on many levels. However, for our family, we’ve tried to think of this time as an opportunity to re-group and be more mindful in the way we consume. Making environmental changes around the house is not only easier than you think – it can also have the added benefit of saving you cash.
From small swaps to larger lifestyle changes, here are some of my favourite tips that could help you reduce your footprint, and save you money.
1. Shop secondhand where possible
Particularly since becoming parents, this one has been an absolute no-brainer for us. Despite store closures during the isolation period, buying secondhand is still fairly accessible, as the likes of platforms like Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace have risen in popularity. And when it comes to fashion, the second-hand clothing industry is absolutely thriving. As restrictions ease and stores begin to re-open, don’t be afraid to have a rummage in your local op-shop – you never know what gem you may stumble across. Opting to purchase pre-loved is not only the greener option, it can have a very substantial impact on your wallet.
My find – Kids Folding Bed Rail
New: $45 at Big W
Pre-loved: $7 via Facebook Marketplace
2. Become part of your local gifting economy
On a similar note, being an active member of your local Good Karma or Buy Nothing Facebook page is not only a great way to save money, it’ll also help you to live a less wasteful lifestyle. This is where local communities essentially form “gift economies”, paying items forward for free – yep, no cash exchanged! Of course, whilst you’ll probably score some great goodies off your local group, it’s important to maintain good karma by paying forward items into the group too. Many of these groups have implemented contactless pick-up guidelines during the pandemic, and it’s an excellent way to declutter, rather than sending goods straight to landfill them. After all, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
My find – Sunbeam Slow Cooker
New: $39 at Harvey Norman
Pre-loved (almost new condition): $0 via Buy Nothing Group
3. Get creative with leftovers and food scraps
Annually, an estimated $3,800 worth of groceries per household ends up as landfill – that’s over 5 million tonnes of food. The Australian Government estimates that food waste costs the Australian economy $20 billion every year, so there’s certainly nothing to lose by becoming a little more conscious in the kitchen. Soft bananas? Make a yummy banana bread! Overripe mangoes? Ideal for simple smoothies. Squishy tomatoes? Perfect for pasta sauce! Not only will thinking this way save you some coin, it should also help you reduce your supermarket trips, which is important if you’re staying home as much as possible during this time of social-distancing.
My find – DIY your cleaning products using citrus peels
Store-bought: $3 for 500ml Ajax Multipurpose Cleaner at Woolworths
Homemade: 30¢ for 500ml of vinegar as a natural ‘all-purpose cleaner’ and a squeeze of citrus
4. Check your caffeine habits
There are over 30 billion coffee pods in the world, creating enough waste to encircle our planet six times. Disposable capsules can actually cost more to brew than good ol’ coffee beans. As a general rule, you pay a lot less per kilo if you brew at home using reusable pods. For example, Grinders ground coffee is around $27/kg. However Grinders Nespresso compatible capsules work out at $120/kg (Coles, 2 June 2020). Switching to refillable pods can save an average household over $350 yearly (excluding initial purchase of a reusable capsule kit, starting at $25.)
My find – switch to refillable pods
Single-use: 60c per shot for non re-usable pods
Reusable: 29c per shot using SealPod Reusable Capsules*
(*Kayla Mossuto is the operator of a small business selling eco-friendly reusable coffee pods, Crema Joe.)
The comparison table below shows some of the Savings Accounts on Canstar’s database for a regular saver in NSW with links to the providers’ websites. The results shown are based on an investment of $100,000 in a personal savings account and are sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest), then provider name (alphabetically). For more information and to confirm whether a particular product will be suitable for you, check upfront with your provider and read the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision.
5. Get growing
Another great way to avoid the busy supermarket aisles, is by dabbling with growing fruit, veggies or herbs at home. Start with something simple: For example after you’ve used the tops from a bunch of spring onions, simply plant the rooted base in a pot for an easy (and cost effective!) snip-and-cook solution. If it turns out you’ve got a green thumb and you find yourself with excess produce, you may even find a local neighbour or group where you can trade your homegrown goodies.
My find – grow your own Kent Pumpkin
Store-bought: $4.90 for 1kg at Woolworths
Homegrown: $0, grown from old seeds (honestly, they practically grow themselves)
6. Meat-free Mondays anyone?
You don’t have to go completely vego to reduce your costs and environmental impact. If it’s achievable in your household, implement a couple of meat-free days. You can even bulk out meals with a non-meat alternative. Try adding a tin of lentils to burrito mince, bulk out a curry with some spuds, or add a bunch of chopped veg to your spag bol – it’s more cost-effective, makes the meal go further, and your fussy eaters probably won’t even spot the difference.
My takeout – try replacing beef with lentils for your favourite ‘meat’ dish
Comparison: Beef Mince: $10.00 for 800g Lean Mince at Coles verses Tinned Lentils: $1.50 for 800g at Coles
7. Sew it, glue it, repurpose it
Why throw it out when you can mend it? Altering and repairing goods is a great skill for those wanting to reduce their carbon footprint. If you’re not the handy type, your local “repair cafe” is also well worth a visit. Repair cafes (which are likely to begin reopening over the next few months) have been growing in popularity over the last couple of years – they’re essentially community-building events where volunteers with repair expertise help others fix their broken belongings. Skilled volunteers at repair cafes can usually assist with everything from electrical appliances, clothing, and bicycles, to jewellery, small furniture and shoes.
My fix – Avent Baby Steamer Blender with broken valve
New: $169 at Baby Bunting
Replacement Part: $14.95 (inc. shipping) online
About Kayla Mossuto
Kayla Mossuto is a mother and small business owner on a mission to help consumers tread more lightly on the planet via her company Crema Joe (eco-friendly reusable coffee pods) and plastic recycling social-enterprise Precious Plastic Melbourne.
Follow her on LinkedIn.