Way back in March, when the realities of Covid-19 were just starting to wrap their unsettling tentacles around us, I was preparing to move in to a new apartment. With travel and adventure being a strong focus of mine over the last few years, I’ve mostly been lucky enough to live in furnished abodes around the world with enough space for me to settle in with my few worldly possessions. I quickly learnt that these style of furnished living arrangements are not readily available in the areas I was seeking to live in Brisbane. So, I renting a flat would inevitably mean I’d need to fill it with my own furniture and appliances: a daunting prospect for one trying to live an eco-conscious minimalist lifestyle. Over the past few months I’ve henceforth become more of a consumer of material goods than I ever wanted to be, this truth made slightly sweeter by being able to contribute to the local economy during the throes of Covid-19.
To align my home with my eco-conscious values, I followed a few principles which can be readily applied to anyone establishing a new home or seeking to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Here’s a few questions you can ask yourself before you dive into the pool of consumerism.
- What do I really need?
Work out what items are essential and which you could do without. Before moving into my flat I purchased the fundamental eating and sleeping items: a fridge and a bed! I then made a long list of all the other things I thought I needed. It made me realise how much stuff we ‘need’ to live our lives. Rationalising my list, I divided it into necessities and nice-to-haves. For instance, I considered a vacuum cleaner to be crucial, but skimped on buying a microwave.
2. How can I reduce my environmental and social impact?
Everything we buy can have some kind of social and environmental impact. Being aware of some of the possible negative effects of some products during their production, manufacture and transport, as well as the high volumes of waste caused discarding unwanted consumer items, I wanted to minimise my impact wherever possible. Once you’ve worked out what you really need, there are many ways you can minimise or avoid adverse impacts, and even create positive impacts. A few options you might like to consider are:
- Reuse – buy second hand or using items unwanted by family or friends
- Buy things once – opt for durability and quality, reducing the likelihood that they will need to be replaced frequently thereby creating less waste in the long term
- Ethical, sustainable – choose brands with environmental and ethical practices that match your values
3. What will I prioritise now?
Setting up an eco-conscious home can be time consuming, require research, patience and sometimes expense. Buying second hand can be cheaper but take more time to find what you want. Purchasing durable, sustainably made products can be more expensive, in short supply and require time to research. Work out what your key priorities are, your values, how much time and money you have.
I prioritised items that I needed most urgently. As Covid-19 restrictions initially made shopping difficult, I bought some cheap cutlery from the supermarket, while for lower priority items like baking tins I waited until I could locate higher quality products.
4. How can I minimise my ongoing impact?
There are many items you can invest in which can help you to live a more sustainable lifestyle in the long term. It can require a bit of foresight and initial expense but can be cheaper and more environmentally friendly in the long term. I have invested in several products which will help me reduce waste, especially in the kitchen with food storage, the garden and for food shopping. I’ve also considered the energy and water efficiency of appliances.
5. How can I contribute to the local ecosystem and economy?
Supporting local businesses is particularly important during this time as there are many small businesses who are struggling to stay afloat. I identified several local businesses that had products that aligned with my values (#2) and helped me set myself up for the future (#4). I’m also conscious of trying to create a garden which will support the local ecosystem, attracting bees, insects and growing native plants that are suited to the climate.
So far it’s been a joyful journey, but I am getting a little jaded. My next priorities are sourcing a renewable energy provider, a supplier of locally grown veggies and diversifying the garden to try and attract native bees.
Look out for my next blog where I share the details of what I did to set up each room of my home and some of the incredible businesses I supported while doing so.