5 people wearing hats

9 tips to help our people and planet

Chuck your green bags in the electric car, ‘cause The New Joneses are heading around Australia to talk to some local legends about how we can live lighter, without turning our lives upside down.

On their 2021 road trip, The New Joneses set out with a simple goal: get some familiar faces (think Yael Stone, Nat’s What I Reckon and Stephen Curry) to tell us how we can do better by our people and planet.

And they’re not talking go-off-grid-join-a-commune type stuff, either. They know that old habits die hard (and have been known to rise from the dead) – so they’re talking about changes that are easy to try, and hopefully keep up.

1. Compost your food scraps

Compost your food scraps

Did you know that Stephen Curry loves compost? The man absolutely lives for a little bit of food-waste recycling, and there’s a pretty good reason:

Food waste in landfill gets compacted, which means there’s no oxygen available. No oxygen means anaerobic decomposition – a process that produces methane. And as greenhouse gases go, methane has about 25 times more impact than carbon dioxide.

To minimise some of that impact, The New Joneses recommend composting your food waste, or using a website like Sharewaste to find people nearby who are willing to do it for you. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, either - you can just dig a hole and tip your waste in there, then churn it into the soil with a shovel.

2. Aim for zero waste

Aim for zero waste

Next the team talked to Joost (rhymes with toast) Bakker about eating your way to zero waste.

Joost is responsible for the Greenhouse in Melbourne’s CBD – a completely closed-system house. That means the house produces its own energy and food and makes use of all of its waste.

When it comes to going zero waste, Joost has a few tips for the average home:

  • Avoid any unnecessary packaging (we’re looking at you, plastic-wrapped veggies)
  • Buy in bulk where you can (more packets = more packaging)
  • Plan your meals so you don’t end up with wasted produce
  • Turn any random leftovers into a soup or stew

And… Grow some food! If you’re screaming at your computer trying to tell me that’s not easy, I have two words for you: silver beet. Give it a go. I’ll wait.

3. Eat more veg

Eat more veg

I promise your mum and I haven’t been talking.

Meeting the needs of the world’s average meat-based diet uses more land, water, and energy when compared to the world’s average plant-based diet, as well as creating more greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a big part of the reason more and more people are ditching their pork chops.

Vegetables are pretty cool now anyway. They’ve had a rebrand and – as Alice in Frames puts it in episode 3 of the series – they can be real rock stars.

That makes plenty of good reasons to cut down on meat for a few meals a week. Get on board with meat-free Monday, or challenge yourself with a vegetarian alternative for one of your faves. And if you want a more mindful way to eat meat, keep reading.

4. Plant a tree

Plant a tree

Sam Walker’s a regenerative farmer looking after cattle, lamb, fruit, vegetables, fish, and trees on his farm in Gippsland.

All Sam’s cows are grass-fed – not grain-fed – which he says is the way to go if you want more environmentally friendly meat. That’s because you’re saving the energy-sapping step of growing grain in order to feed cows.

Aside from looking a little closer at your beef, Sam’s advice is to plant a tree. Trees draw pollutants out of the air and help avoid soil erosion (which means more water goes into the earth). So far, Sam’s planted 30,000 on his farm in an effort to revive the land and make sure when he passes it on, it’s better than when he found it. Tree-riffic.

5. Support renewables

Support renewables

We know we can’t keep burning fossil fuels for our energy forever, so the future has to be renewable.

You might not be in a position to put up solar panels or install a home battery, but that doesn’t mean the power’s out of your hands.

James Allston (New Energy Ventures) says you can start by picking a power company that supports the renewable transition. If you’ve been following The New Joneses for a while, you might know that’s why they picked us as their power partner – you can read all about where we fit into the renewable story here.

6. Educate girls

Educate girls

The better educated we are, the more we can do to reduce our impact. When the road trip took a digital journey to join Jane Caro AM on Zoom, she pointed out one big problem: when it comes to education in many places, women get left behind.

One study found that when women rank higher in politics, environmental protection efforts increase. So Jane’s advice? Help women get the education they need to get to positions where they can influence the future of climate change.

A better education means greater climate resilience, too. When people lose their livelihoods as a result of climate activity (like droughts or natural disasters), women are in a better position to find outside work to support their families if they are educated.

7. Cut out fossil fuels

Avoid packaging

Maybe the most immediate connection we have to climate change is the food we eat. Which is why the road trip headed to Broken Hill to speak to Dr. Anika Molesworth.

She says we have to appreciate our dependence on nature and our responsibility to look after it. What we can grow, where we can grow it, and how much of it we can produce all rests on the climate – so it’s in our best interest to look after it.

One way we can do that is by moving away from fossil fuels. And that’s not just about energy either: look into where your bank, superfund and telco invest their money, too, and choose one that’s looking out for the planet.

8. Avoid packaging

Avoid packaging

Instead of aiming to recycle your packaging, this one’s about aiming for zero waste instead.

That’s because packaging isn’t just about plastic going into landfill – it’s the energy involved in sourcing, producing, transporting, and storing it too. That’s a lot of effort for something that might only hold your takeaway for a few minutes. So Tish King says: reduce the amount of packaging you use (even the recyclable stuff), and aim for a zero-waste life.

Here are a few to get you started:

  • Ditch plastic wrap, and put leftovers in Tupperware instead (they stack better in the fridge too).
  • Try getting your veggies without plastic. Even if your supermarket offers plastic bags, there’s no need to use them – just put them straight in your basket and wash them when you get home (and ditch the ones that come pre-wrapped altogether).
  • See if there’s a local bulk food store near you. They’ll let you buy dry pantry goods like flour, grains and nuts by putting them directly in your own containers.
  • For takeaway, plenty of places are happy to put food in your Tupperware too.

9. Heal Country

Heal Country

Wherever you live in Australia, you’re on land that has a rich Indigenous history. (capital I for Indigenous)

In episode 9 of the series, The New Joneses highlight that since colonisation, we’ve been taking more from the land than we need – land that’s part of the identity of our First Nations people.

The theme of NAIDOC week 2021 is Heal Country, and the team went to speak to proud Noongar Man and AFL Melbourne Dee’s defender, Neville Jetta about what that means to him. He says that healing begins with educating yourself: learn who the traditional landowners are where you live. Then, take time to connect with Country – maybe a park or river near you. When we start to appreciate the land this way, Jetta says we can start celebrating it as one.

So, where to start?

All this can be a little overwhelming, so it’s best to try one thing at a time. The New Joneses made a checklist to keep you on track – so give it a download and chuck it on the fridge. Naturally, we’re big fans of #5 – see how we can help with supporting renewables.

Most of all, make sure you celebrate even the tiniest positive change you make. It might look small, but the more people that get on board, the bigger it gets.

See the whole road trip series here.

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