Sustainable living is important for one very simple reason: to maintain our quality of life as human beings. You may think as an individual your impact may not count or your contribution won’t save the planet, so what’s the point? Wrong! Every little bit counts and the root of change lies in the understanding and striving towards sustainability. Here’s three simple ways that you can be better to our planet in your everyday life.
Harvest your own
How about growing your very own veggie patch? Or if you’re after something a bit more basic, why not a herb garden?
Not only do you get the joy out of growing your own produce, you can also relish the fact you won’t have to spend $4 on a tiny bit of parsley at the supermarket (winning).
If you’re interested but unsure of how to go about harvesting your own food, check out the University of Newcastle’s very own Community Garden. Located at Callaghan campus behind Oval 4 (near the Wollotuka Institute), you get the chance to harvest produce such as strawberries, tomatoes, capsicums, zucchinis and herbs.
UON hosts a total of six Community Garden events every few weeks throughout the semester.
I spoke with Student Engagement Team Leader, Fiona Mundie, to find out more about what is involved with these Community Garden events. She believes that many students enjoy gardening and are interested in sustainability issues – which is exactly why these events have been created.
“It is a great way for students to meet new, likeminded people within a quiet and relaxing atmosphere,” Fiona said.
At these events students will help with weeding, planting/harvesting as well as digging and clearing. This will not only give you the chance to learn about how to harvest your own produce, but also benefit your physical and mental health. Fiona says that the community garden, “is great for stress relief as it can be used as a break from your study, a tranquil space to sit and read, eat your lunch or to even take a nap”.
Generally, at each event students are able to take the fresh produce home with them, and at the mid-winter event they make fresh soup from the produce in the garden!
Why not check out an upcoming Community Garden event by joining their Facebook page for all information about these events.
Do away with disposable cups and cutlery
As a fellow student I am aware that coffee is the giver of life and because of this I also know that you buy at least one a coffee per week minimum. Now I’m not asking you to give it up on coffee (I would never), but perhaps next time you go to buy that cup of liquid gold – bring your own mug.
Bringing your own cup for a coffee is a simple way to reduce the amount of plastics out there. Think Coffee and Juice Co. at Callaghan campus sells KeepCups which are reusable coffee cups which replicate disposable cup sizes. These cups come in a variety of colours and are made from glass or durable plastic. Why should you use these cups you ask? Well let’s say you have two coffees a day. That’s 14 cups a week, which is 728 disposable cups within a year – just goes to show that your little contribution of bringing your own mug will definitely help the earth.
Most coffee shops at UON use bio cups, but if you bring your own mug you can even get a discount! The Coffee Cart (on the Shortland side at Callaghan) gives a 30c discount for bringing your own mug. The cafes at Ourimbah also offer a similar discount.
And also, who needs a straw? Go traditional by sipping directly from the cup. It’s all about reducing the amount of unnecessary plastics in your life. Like rather than using disposable cutlery every day, why not pack your own?
Get rid of bottled water
If you ask me, whoever invented the concept of bottled water is one of the craftiest people to walk the Earth. Charging people for something they can get out of the tap for free? Genius!
Save yourself money and the planet by re-using your water bottle. There are water refill stations scattered all across the University of Newcastle campuses, such as the one outside The Great Hall.
If room temperate water isn’t really your thing, you can also find instant cold/hot water at any of the survival stations as well.
If you are going to use disposable cups, then make sure to always recycle wherever possible.
When you recycle those used materials are made into new products, which is reducing the need to consume natural recourses. Yes that’s right, something does actually happen after you separate your paper from plastic. But wait there’s more, you also saved energy that would have been used to harvest those raw materials.
Knowing what you can and can’t recycle can sometimes be confusing. For example, if things are overly contaminated (e.g. a pizza box), they can’t always be recycled. But the thing to remember when it comes to coffee cups – the lid goes in the recycling; the cup goes in the bin. Simple.
If you’re looking for some financial incentive to recycle, the state-wide Return and Earn Container Deposit Scheme gives 10c back for each approved container. Now take a moment to think about how many cups, cans and bottles you drink from each week. At 10c a pop it only takes 10 containers to equal one mighty dollar. The closest return and earn point to Callaghan campus is only at Jesmond, that’s an 8-minute drive so why not take the detour on your way to class? There’s also one located at Mayfield. If you’re not in this area don’t fret – there are 500 collection points across NSW.
We’ve reached a point where we know how bad driving is for the environment. It’s not just some theory, it’s a fact. We continue to pollute our environment with greenhouse gas emissions, and then wonder why we have days reaching 34° in mid-April.
So why do we continue to do it?
UON’s Newcastle City Precinct has storage for 215 bikes, as well as showers and lockers so you always rock up to class feeling fresh. There are also two bike hubs located at Callaghan campus.
If you live locally to campus, why not consider walking? Personally, I think there’s nothing more relaxing than a nice walk (and you avoid the stress of finding park).