Sustainable urban living: What you can do in the city
25 June 2020
We’re big believers in sustainability. We believe that everybody can do their part to live lifestyles that leave a limited ecological impact while preserving natural resources.
We’ve broken down our sustainable strategies for urban living into three categories: energy, food and rubbish.
Urban residents across Australia have lots of options for living more sustainably.
According to the government, the average Aussie regularly travels 16.5 kilometres to and from work, and 79% of commuters across the country make that journey in a private vehicle. The vast majority drive alone.
Urban residents have more options for greener commuting than people who live elsewhere. In Sydney, 27% of commuters use public transport.
Buses and trains limit the amount of energy required per person while lowering overall emissions. If the weather’s nice, consider cycling to work for some extra exercise and a zero-emission, human-powered commute.
In addition to reining in our unruly commutes, urban residents can control how much energy we consume by making some simple fixes around the home. If you can control how much electricity and gas you use at home, you’ll limit the overall strain on our country’s natural resources.
First, make sure to purchase energy-efficient lighting, electronics and appliances. Outdated machinery can operate inefficiently, leading you to waste a lot of excess electricity.
Second, make sure your home is well-insulated. Heating and cooling that escapes through your windows and walls will lead you to use an inordinate amount of energy just to regulate the temperature in your home.
Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to bring some greenery into your living space? Then this first tip is right up your alley.
Start growing some of your own food.
At first, it might seem like a stretch for city-dwellers, but raising some simple crops is definitely within reach. Start out slow by using window planters to grow a few choice herbs. If you have access to any green space around your building, you could talk with your property manager or neighbours about simple additions, like a tomato plant or two.
Urban rooftop farms and community gardens could be great options for you, too. Find out what’s in your area and find out how you can help build up the urban gardening and farming infrastructure in your community.
You probably won’t be able to grow all of your own food, especially if you’re a novice who’s just figuring out how to nurture sprouts into healthy fruits and veggies. So make careful choices about your diet that keep you focussed on sustainability.
Buy fresh organic and sustainably farmed produce from local vendors at your community farmer’s market. You should also consider limiting the amount of animal products you eat. Mass-produced meat and dairy products tend to have a larger carbon footprint than plant-based foods.
Cutting down on your food waste starts with careful cooking and meal preparation. Plan out what you’ll make and when you’ll cook it with an eye toward using all your fresh produce before it spoils. Freeze or can what you’re unable to use immediately.
Use stem-to-root recipes, too. There are a lot of creative ways to use the edible parts of plants that would otherwise wind up being chucked in the bin. Divert whatever you can, because a report from the Minister of the Environment found that Australians trashed 3.2 million tonnes of food in one year alone.
Lastly, compost the food waste that you can’t use. You might think that you need a large plot of land on which to keep your stinky compost bin, but that’s not true. Freeze your food scraps until you’re ready to dispose of them. Then, see if a community garden in your area will accept the refuse. If not, you may be able to sign up for a curbside pickup service.
Cutting down on food waste by composting and adapting your cooking habits is a good way to limit the amount of rubbish you generate overall.
Apple cores and potato peels can seem like a trifle compared to the amount of nonbiodegradable waste we generate from consumer goods every day, especially when it comes to single-use plastics.
The zero-waste movement is fertile territory for sustainably-minded urbanites. You don’t have to do everything at once, though. If you haven’t already done so, start carrying around reusable totes, straws and beverage containers to eliminate some common disposables from your life.
Then, prioritise items that have no packaging, or at least those that have packaging that’s biodegradable, compostable or recyclable.
Mend and repair older items
When something breaks, is your first instinct to throw it away and buy a new one? That creates two environmental problems: more material in landfills and the ecological impact of manufacturing, packaging and shipping the new item.
Make it your new hobby to acquire the skills you need to repair busted appliances or stitch popped seams back together. Dense urban environments are conducive to skill-sharing opportunities. Look for skill-swaps and workshops in your area where you can put your do-it-yourself work ethic to the test.
Give used goods a second life
If you do need to buy something new, first try to find something that’s ‘new to you’. Secondhand stores can be great sources of everyday clothes and other household items. Thrifting operates on the same principle as ‘reusing’ old objects, but it’s adapted to a wider scale.
You might not always be able to buy used, so when you need to buy new, make an effort to purchase durable goods that will last you a long time. Cheap furniture and so-called fast fashion certainly have their appeal for budget-conscious consumers, but shoddy craftsmanship means you’ll be replacing this junk in no time. So how is that even a bargain?
Beyond your individual purchasing habits, you can make a big impact by ensuring that your financial assets are invested in sustainable enterprises. Learn more about LGS’ responsible investment approach and corporate sustainability program.
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