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What It Means To Minimise Your Environmental Impact

by: Rosie Dalton | 2 years ago | Features

Image: photography by Ryan McGinley. Image source.

On Sunday night, ABC program War on Waste took home the Logie for Outstanding Factual or Documentary Program. Which just goes to show how galvanised the public has become around matters relating to the environment. But, if individuals are doing their bit to minimise planetary impact, then we need to see governments and large corporations doing their part as well. And this is where the waters can become quite muddied.

Unfortunately, many fast fashion brands now hold the cards when it comes to dictating the way we consume. And a lot of those companies are more interested in creating the illusion of minimising environmental impact, than actually taking real steps to meet this end. As sustainability becomes an increasingly popular buzzword, we are seeing more and more fast fashion brands greenwash us.

Just last week, for example, ASOS stole headlines with its latest ‘cruelty free’ commitment. But in banning animal fibres like cashmere and feathers, the UK-based company failed to address its stance on leather. Much less its tendency to over produce in the first place – a practice that causes terrible havoc environmentally and yet remains the driving force behind all fast fashion brands.  

So what does it really mean to minimise your environmental impact, then? To answer this question, we first need to understand that one individual can only achieve so much. But, as War on Waste has shown, small shifts in behaviour can also have a positive cumulative effect over time. The very act of banding together can also help initiate lasting change on a structural level too. So, in the face of such prevalent greenwashing, these are our tips for minimising your planetary impact in actually meaningful ways.

1) Consume less
Consuming less is one of the most important ways that you can help minimise your environmental impact – from your wardrobe to your home. This is fairly straightforward when it comes to the clothing department: buy only the pieces that you really need. In your home, too, consuming less electricity can often be as simple as remembering to switch off the lights and rugging up so as not to overdo it on the heating. In terms of diet, you can also make major changes simply by consuming less red meat – which is the single biggest climate culprit.

2) But buy better
But minimising your environmental impact is not just about consuming less – it is also about buying better. Supporting brands that support Minimal Waste principles, for instance, means that you are already having less of an impact. And when those garments have been well made, you are more likely to be able to hold onto them for longer as well. The same goes for your refrigerator – where buying organic produce can go a long way towards decreasing the amount of dangerous chemicals being used in the world.

3) Reduce your waste
Similarly, reducing your waste applies everywhere from your fridge to your wardrobe. According to the ABC, Victorians wasted 19% of food, while Tasmanians lost only 4% in 2017. Which just goes to show the role that we each personally play in producing waste. So rather than throwing out food unnecessarily, it’s important to repurposing anything that’s left in the fridge – whether that’s through using leftovers to make new meals, or turning bruised fruits into juices or cakes instead. This same principle should also extend through to your clothes, too. With Australians sending $500 million worth of clothing and textiles to landfill each year, we need to commit to wearing our garments for longer and mending them when broken.

4) Say no to single use plastic
Fortunately it is now getting easier to say no to single use plastic – with many supermarkets banning single use plastic bags. But big fast fashion brands like H&M are trying to stop this progress in its tracks, most recently pressuring the Indian government to soften its plastic ban so that the retailer can continue making its single use plastic bags there. While some things are improving, then, it is more important now than ever to be mindful of your plastic waste. By investing in quality reusable tote bags, Kleen Kanteens, Keep Cups and glass Tupperware containers, we can all help to ensure there is a little less plastic waste in the world.

5) Lobby the governments and big companies to take action 
Perhaps the most important thing we can do as individuals, to help minimise our environmental impact is to lobby the governments and big companies to take action as well. Without a doubt, our collective consumption habits can help to force the hands of big brands, but using our wallets isn’t always enough to instigate real change. In addition to this, we can be reaching out to organisations directly, through petitions, or even social media channels and pressuring them to make lasting structural changes. With the amount of power that these companies control, this sort of change really needs to be their responsibility too.


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