One afternoon, I was looking out on my vegetable garden, watching my chooks (Parmi, Kiev, and Julia, because she's the same colour as Julia Gillard's hair) pick through kitchen scraps while the grey water system drained onto the lawn, and I had an epiphany. I am a closet hippie. Sure, I might not dress like one, indulge in illicit drug use, or listen to Peter, Paul, and Mary, but deep down, the impulse to live economically is closely linked to the hippie lifestyle.
While I'm not planning on moving to Nimbin any time soon, there are a lot of financial benefits that can be reaped from living in an environmentally sustainable way. And you don't have to smoke weed and drive a Kombi Van to get them.
Grow your own
Nobody likes spending extra money at the supermarket. I dislike it so much that my partner and I have a vegetable garden in our backyard. It only takes a few square metres, and gets watered mainly from a rainwater tank, but it produces enough onions, zucchinis, potatoes, capsicums, and silverbeet that frequently we have to give the surplus away.
Growing some of our own vegetables firstly lets us control what pesticides and chemicals are used on our food, and secondly reduces our carbon footprint because those vegetables are not transported from a farm, to a supermarket, to our house. They are grown and consumed at our home, and even after fertiliser and water are accounted for, they are still far cheaper than they would be at our local supermarket.
A vegetable garden isn't a massive enterprise. If you live in a flat, you can still grow vegetables in pots. Silverbeet, tomatoes, and capsicums can all be grown in pots, as can a variety of other vegetables. The outlay is small, and the effort minimal. You'll be doing your bit for the environment, and at the same time, you'll be helping your hip pocket.
More power to you
We all use electricity, and there is no escaping the fact that it is an integral part of modern life. We require it to cook, clean, light our homes, and power our appliances. The more you use, the bigger your carbon footprint, and the bigger your power bill. However, small changes can have a big impact on your power usage. Using Compact Fluorescent Lightglobes will reduce the overall amount of electricity you use, without dramatically altering your lifestyle. They are slightly more expensive than traditional globes, but last much, much longer.
However, a word of warning. Compact Flourescent Lightglobes contain a teeny, tiny little amount of mercury, so be careful of how you dispose of them. While one or two here or there might not be a problem for the environment, if everyone is using them, and chucking them into the garbage, that tiny amount of mercury will accumulate, and leach into the soil and groundwater. So be environmentally responsible.
For more information on disposing of CFLs in your state, check the website for the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage, and the Arts, or contact Planet Ark's Recycling Near You Hotline on 1300 733 712.
Washing clothes in cold water and air drying where possible is far more energy efficient than washing in warm or hot water, and then drying in the dryer. I don't even own a dryer. Simple measures, like switching appliances off at the wall, and turning lights off when you leave a room, can reduce your power bills over the year. And whether your hot water system is electric or gas, taking shorter showers will reduce your energy consumption, and your water usage.
In this case, what's good for the planet is good for your pocket, too. I use a cheap eggtimer to make sure I'm only in there for three minutes, most of the time. Most days, I don't have the time to spend ten minutes in the shower, so three minutes is plenty.
Plan your trip
I'm busy, and when I get off work, I do all the errands on the way home. I park in a central location, and walk to most of the places I need to get to. This saves petrol, and is good exercise. If I have to drive past the Post Office on the way home, it makes sense to stop, pay the bills, and then go home.
It might not seem like much, but over a year, planning errands together will reduce fuel use, and will also reduce wear and tear on your vehicle. I normally do the groceries on the way home from somewhere. It saves me time, and fuel. While it might not always be convenient, if you are organised, it can save you a couple of car trips a week, and that adds up over a year.
Yes, I'm a bit of a hippie. While I'm not a tie-dyed in the wool radical, there is a lot to be said for living in an environmentally sustainable way. So next time you're tempted to leave a light on or use the clothes dryer, give a thought to the environmental consequences. Your pocket, and the planet, might just thank you one day.