Current Affairs

10 ways to live more lightly

Kiwi environmentalist Jessica Brown, co-founder of Co-Benefits, shows how you can do your bit for climate change on a budget

Scroll the news and gloomy stories about the climate crisis are inescapable. It's no surprise people are buying more eco-friendly products than ever in order to make amends with the planet, but if we're not careful, we can end up polluting more by increasing our carbon footprints, while draining our bank accounts at the same time – a sure-fire way to turn good green intentions into jadedness!
Next time you're hovering over the "buy now" button, remember that purchasing more stuff won't reverse global warming. But here are 10 ways you can ditch any climate-change guilt you're harbouring and put your worries to work in more impactful ways…
We can guess the calories in a KitKat, but we struggle when it comes to gauging the carbon emissions from a takeout coffee. It's hard to take meaningful climate action when we don't know our impact. Luckily, free online carbon calculators do the job – try Future Fit or CoGo. Both tally up the carbon emitted from different parts of your life, taking away the guesswork and making it easier to prioritise lifestyle changes that make a difference.
If you've got your home office set up, it's time to talk to your boss about working remotely more often. As well as saving time and money spent commuting, it's also good for the climate. According to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, if one in five Kiwis opted to work from home once a week, we'd save a staggering 84,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere each year – that's equivalent to taking 35,000 cars off the road!
When was the last time you darned a sock? An easy way to reduce your environmental impact and save some pennies is to beat the buy-break-dispose cycle by fixing what you already have. YouTube is a goldmine for DIY advice, as is IFixit.com. If you need more hands-on help, there are repair shops and tool hire pools all over the country.
A sight we never want to lose
Studies show that a plant-based diet is 20 times less polluting than an animal-based diet and can be up to 40% cheaper. Veganism can be daunting, but there's nothing wrong with taking baby steps in the right direction. Ease into it by adopting meat-free Mondays, meat-free weeks or vegan lunches and build from there. Not only are you helping temper climate change and saving pennies, but you're also looking after your health.
What we buy and what we do makes up a massive chunk of New Zealand's carbon footprint (71%, according to Stats New Zealand). If we all got comfortable living with less, we could positively impact the planet and save ourselves a fortune. Start by getting familiar with what your already own and only surrounding yourself with things you genuinely love. If you're buying something, ask yourself: Do I need it? Does it need to be new? Can I rent it?
Despite the rising costs of car ownership, Kiwis are driving more than ever, emitting 90% more carbon dioxide on the roads than we did in 1990. Electric vehicles (EVs) can do wonders to clean up our air, but even though they cost only 40c/litre to run, prices upwards of $50,000 put them out of reach of many. That's where car-sharing schemes, like Zilch, Mevo and CityHop, come in handy. By paying for an EV only when you need it, you're saving yourself road-user charges, fuel costs and trips to the mechanic while saving the planet.
Invest in people who really need your help
Swapping from single-use products to reusables is an easy way to save money while treading lightly on the Earth. Not only are reusables often better at doing their job, but you'll be creating less waste and using fewer resources. Swap from paper towels to cloths, shampoo bottles to shampoo bars, coffee cups to keep cups, tampons to period underwear, bottled water to drink bottles, plastic pegs to wooden pegs, cling film to beeswax wrap and wrapping paper to old scarves.
We've all wish-cycled – putting things in the recycle bin and hoping for the best – but just one mistake can mean the whole load gets chucked in the landfill. Avoid waste by checking your local council's website. Auckland Council has a free chatbot called Binny. Ask it a question via the app or social media and you'll get an answer before you have time to close the bin lid!
Your KiwiSaver could be funding animal testing, weapons manufacturing or fossil fuel mining. If you care about creating a fairer future, double-check which companies your fund is holding shares in via the MindfulMoney.nz website. It takes just a few minutes to compare funds by their activity in unethical areas and change to a fund that aligns with your values.
Supporting low-carbon projects, like wind farms and sustainable forestry, is an often-overlooked way to have a massive impact. Signing up to Kiwi charity Co-Benefits only takes a minute, but within a year, you can save almost four times the emissions as swapping to an EV for 1/200th of the cost. Plus, by backing projects in at-risk parts of the world, you're helping communities on the frontline of the climate crisis. It's a win-win for people and the planet.

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