Earth Hour 2022: a guide for going beyond “switching off”.
It’s nearly March 26. Earth Hour. The day we huddle around our switch boxes, and at 8:30pm voluntarily plunge ourselves into darkness. Last year, 1 in 3 Australians switched off their power in a show of solidarity, and called for stronger action in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss.
But what can we do once the lights come back on? How can we continue our commitment and make lasting change?
We’ve pulled together a list of simple things you can do to go beyond ‘switching off’ for Earth Hour and make a difference every day. Read on for all the tips.
Manage your devices thoughtfully.
Skip standby mode.
Put your devices on timers, screens to sleep, ditch the screensaver and set your laptop to hibernate or shutdown – each and every day. Don’t wait for Earth Hour – look around your house and kill things that are sucking power on standby. Individually, they mightn’t use a lot of power but collectively, they can have a big impact.
Stretch your purchases.
The average person turns over their mobile phone every 30 months in Australia. So using your device for a bit longer helps to slow the replacement cycle – and if everyone did it, it would reduce consumer demand, the speed of manufacture, and by extension, waste and the disposal of old, but still usable equipment.
Consider this – if 25 million Australians decided to push out our average mobile phone purchase by six months (i.e. purchase a new phone every 3 instead of every 2.5 years), over our lifetimes, we’d eliminate the need for 200 million phones. Considering our handsets are full of precious elements and valuable materials like gold, silver and copper, this would make an enormous impact on the planet.
When it is indeed time to upgrade, look at the power and efficiency ratings of your devices. Basic star guides and product comparison sites can assist with this. Another great thing to look for is if the retailer or manufacturer has a device buy-back or recycling program.
Go portable on your next computer purchase. A laptop consumes 5 times less energy than the typical desktop computer. So you’ll get the benefits of work on the move, along with a lighter carbon footprint.
When you’ve shelled out for an expensive phone, tablet or laptop, don’t forget a case. It’ll help you extend your device’s life and if you buy a 100% home compostable case, you can just chuck it in your compost or FOGO at the end of its life. Lots of local companies like our neighbours, Bellroy, also create beautiful and environmentally sustainable cases and tech products (and they’re also B Corp Certified).
Repair and reuse, then repurpose or recycle.
When it’s time to dispose of your devices take a moment to consider – can they be repaired? Can they be wiped and reused by someone else? Can they be repurposed? And if not, how can they be properly recycled?
Australia offers some terrific e-waste reuse, recapture and recycling solutions if you know where to look. Hop to our handy list for more.
Make your home smarter and more efficient.
Switch to LED.
Ditch the old halogens and consider swapping your home over to LED lighting – there are many companies that will do this at little to no cost to you through various government incentives.
Install smart features in your home.
You can also consider installing smart features in your home like room lighting sensors in high-traffic areas or shut-off timers on things like bathroom fans. So, even if you forget to turn them off, they’ll be smart enough to remember for you.
Buy high efficiency.
Just like comparing price, when choosing new appliances, you should make a habit of checking the star ratings for water and energy consumption. These will give you a good idea of how efficient your options are and let you compare model-to-model.
Appliances like heat-pump clothes dryers and home heaters can cost a chunk of change, but their super efficiency can save you a ton on your energy bill.
Layer up (or down).
In the summer, turn up your cooling by a degree or two. In the winter, slap on your sweats and turn down your heat by a degree or two. You’ll barely notice the difference – but the planet will thank you.
Deal with your waste responsibly.
Use less, recycle, reuse, share.
In simple terms – be thoughtful. If it ain’t broke, don’t throw it out. And, if it is, consider opportunities to exercise your right to repair (a movement that’s seriously lagging here in Australia, due in part to our weak legislation) or your ability to modify and redeploy, or donate it to someone who can.
Seek out alternative recycling, reuse and repurpose options.
Just because your council won’t collect your item for recycling curb-side, doesn’t mean it can’t be recycled.
Lots of councils offer free drop off for residents and Sustainability Vic’s Household Detox program allows you to responsibly dispose of common toxic household items that shouldn’t be put in your bin.
Programs like TerraCycle offer amazing private (household) and community drop-off programs for hard-to-recycle items as well.
PlanetArk is a fabulous resource for how to dispose of items sensitively and safely.
Many businesses and retailers also offer in-house recycling programs for their products, in an attempt to recover usable materials and capture consumers who are conscious about end-of-life on the products they purchase. Patagonia is one of the best examples of this. The company offers ironclad repair and return policies that allow customers to extend the life of their products, and through their Worn Wear program, trade in pre-loved clothing for store credit.
Difficult to recycle items.
Did you know there are ways to deal with difficult to recycle items? It just takes some creativity and a good resource. If you know where to turn, you’ll be able to easily recycle things like:
- Ripped and damaged clothing and textiles unsuitable for donation
- Broken toys or items unsuitable for donation
- Wet suits
- Inflatable toys and pool floats
- Plastic toys
- Soft plastics
- Blister packs for medication
- Mobile phones
- Printer cartridges
- Aerosol cans
- Pens, pencils, textas, writing utensils
- Dental hygiene products, toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes, electric toothbrushes
- Cosmetics and makeup products
- Household cleaning products
- Coffee capsules
Visit our Do-Gooder’s Recycling & Donation Guide for more.
Recycling is only half the battle. There’s no use working to find ways to recycle your goods if you don’t, in turn, buy recycled items back.
Whenever possible, look for recycled content of your clothing, footwear, household items and paper products like toilet paper and paper towelling.
If you can’t buy 100% recycled paper goods, check for FSC Certification. When you see this label, it means that the timber that was used to produce the item was grown and harvested more sustainably.
Be sure to only trust credible certifications. A lot of companies greenwash their products by inventing certifications and accreditations that have little rigour or scientific backing.
Choose more sustainable options.
Bamboo, hemp, cork, natural rubber, silicone, wool… If you’re having trouble finding fully-recycled versions of a product you need, consider whether you can get it in other, more sustainable materials that might give it a lower carbon footprint.
A tool like the 2030 Calculator can help you dive into the data and get a sense of what those new cotton undies actually cost you and the planet, vs the bamboo fibre ones.
Eat and drink thoughtfully.
Packaging, packaging, packaging.
Let’s all say this one more time with feeling: just don’t buy foods with excessive packaging. Eventually, producers will get the hint if we just stop buying their goods.
So, if your oranges come in a netted bag, just don’t buy them. Skip pre-sliced or pre-measured food – often in a plastic bag or a container, wrapped in cling wrap – and instead, buy things loose where possible so you can control how they’re transported home.
On that note – practice chucking your fruit and veg in your basket loose… for the most part you don’t really need a produce bag at all. When you do, opt for a reusable or paper bag.
If you can’t avoid packaging, choose an item in the most easily recyclable packaging possible. The Australian Recycling Labels clearly indicate how packaging should be disposed. And, once at home – swap your cling wrap and plastics for beeswax food wraps and glass containers.
Reuse and compost.
Did you know you can save your food scraps and use them to easily make a hearty and healthy soup stock? Just wash your veggies well and pop your stems, seeds, peels and scraps in the freezer until you have enough (or run out of room!). Find a recipe you like and get bubbling some homemade stock.
Anything that’s mouldy or truly ‘off’ can be composted if you have a home compost or council FOGO bin. Even if you’re in a small space without a yard, worm farms, bokashi bins and countertop food composters give you the option to deal with food waste responsibly.
Plan your meals with an eye for leftovers. For example, put your salad on the table undressed so leftovers don’t go soggy in the fridge overnight and can become lunch the next day.
And on that note – pack your lunch. Not only will this help reduce your food miles and carbon footprint from waste, it’ll save you money.
If you do buy your lunch, look for cafes who offer reusable takeaway containers like those who are part of Returnr’s cafe network. If that’s unavailable to you, a restaurant or cafe who uses fully compostable takeaway options like BioPac’s cups and containers is a good second bet.
In our caffeinated city, you’re never more than a stone’s throw from a good cuppa. So don’t forget to pack your reusable coffee cup when you head out the door. Set yourself a rule that ‘if you forget, you forgo’ and it’ll be a habit in no time (trust us!).
Whatever you do – don’t forget to pack your utensils. They’re so small and super easy to carry, there’s no reason to use a plastic fork again.
Get your greens.
This one’s simple. Eat more veggies.
You don’t have to go entirely vegetarian or vegan to make a big difference. Just reducing your consumption of non-human animal food products can go a long way.
And wondering if oat, almond or soy milk is better for the world? We recommend taking some time to learn more about the carbon footprint of your food choices.
Change the way you travel.
In Australia, transport makes up about 40% of our greenhouse gas emissions. So here’s a space where we can all make a big difference.
Choose to walk, bike, take public transport or carpool where possible. Look into an e-bike or scooter if your work and travel is a bit further afield.
If you have to hire a vehicle, opt for the smallest class of car you can, and a hybrid one where possible.
If you must fly, try taking non-stop or direct flights as much of a plane’s carbon emissions are generated during take-off and landing.
Put your money where your mouth is.
If you’re working in Australia, your employer will be popping 10% (10.5% as of July!) of your earnings into your nominated super account. You may also have some funds invested separately.
But where is all this money going? What’s it supporting and is it doing good in the world?
Ask your adviser how ethical your portfolio is.
This is not a nothing question – don’t be brushed off by your financial adviser or super fund. The truth is, most advisers just don’t know the answer to this because it’s pretty complicated.
The market for ethical investments has exploded over recent years. But to be frank – just calling a fund ‘ethical’ or ‘green’ does not make it either of those things.
Marketers are acutely aware that now, more than ever, Australians are voting with our feet (in fact, nearly 80% of us are willing to switch our super or investments if we feel our fund doesn’t align with our values. This number climbs to 88% when we look at Australians aged 18-34). So, ‘green-washing’ abounds and you really need to dig into your portfolio’s fine print to understand its values.
Do you feel super passionate about green energy? Did you know a fund can be accredited by the RIAA as ‘excluding fossil fuels’ whilst still earning up to 20% of its revenue from them?
This means it’s important to take your time, do your research and ask the hard questions. Look beyond fund names and product labels. Get your adviser to dig deeper and really address your concerns. And, if they can’t… perhaps it’s time to make the switch to one who is able to assist you and align your investments with your values.
Ethical investments that won’t cost our future.
If you’re looking to make the switch, Ethos Managed Portfolios might just be the one for you.
“At Kearney Group, we’ve long believed that good investment is responsible investment,” says CEO, Paul Kearney. “Short-term gains that come at the expense of our community and planet, aren’t really ‘good returns’.”
So, the firm has “designed a suite of portfolios that explicitly and systematically consider environmental, social and governance (‘ESG’) factors in our fund manager selection and investment decision-making process,” Paul explains.
Ethos offers a suite of ‘ESG’-first portfolios that are both getting great results and helping people make values-driven investment decisions.
Make the switch to a portfolio with Ethos this Earth Hour.
Keep your Earth Hour efforts going by taking a stand with your money. Making sure our super and investments are doing good (and at least, no further harm) is perhaps the biggest impact any of us can have as individuals.
If you’re ready for a truly ethical investment portfolio, it’s time to make the switch to Ethos.
Contact us to learn how.