Coming from the United States, we like to think we are being good to the planet [and some people and places are]! However, I have come to realize that Australia is WAYYYY ahead of us in this realm for a few reasons.
When I went on my first grocery run to Coles, I bought about twenty items. At the checkout, the clerk then asked me if I wanted a bag. My first reaction was, “No, I’m just going to carry these for a mile with my twelve super-strength arms.” Soz about the sass, but, really, we take bags for granted in America. Normally, when I run to the store for two items, the clerk will instead say, “Paper or plastic?” and we will think we are doing so much good for the society by choosing paper when really, we should all jump on the train of reusable grocery bags–it’s so easy!
My first night in residency, I was invited to attend a roast dinner with other members of my hall. On the announcement, they said, “Hey, Howitt Hall! Come on down to the Long Room for the Roast Dinner and don’t forget to bring your utensils.” Instead of the classic pack of paper plates, plastic forks and red solo cups, we all had to bring our own plate, silverware and glass to the roast dinner. At first, I thought it was quite inconvenient and a little annoying, but after two weeks of orientation activities, I can’t help but think how much unnecessary waste we have saved from ending up in the landfills.
In our residence hall, we have communal bathrooms, much like the ones in dorms in the United States. However, there are signs posted all around ours, informing us of how much water we may be wasting and encouraging us to use less. One poster asks us to turn off the water while brushing our teeth, while another encourages us to take showers less than 4 minutes and to try and save some of that water whilst doing so to water the plants out front.
Among some of the water-efficiency signs are also posters about electricity. We are encouraged to keep the lights off and use the natural sunlight to light our rooms as much as possible. As a matter of fact, I don’t think we have turned the light in our communal hallway on yet at all, where, in the United States, I can’t remember a time those lights were ever turned off.
5. Coffee Cups
When I was walking around the student organization festival, someone handed me a free coffee and asked me to sit down and chat about an initiative they have on campus. I found out that, at Monash, they have a thing called Borrow Cups, where you can use a reusable cup for free when ordering from a cafe, and then drop the empty cup off in one of their bins on campus. These cups then get washed by fairly-paid volunteers and returned to the cafes for more people to use. Some people just bring their own cups which is great, too. This movement is one of my favorites because this problem is bigger than most people think. In Australia, it’s estimated that people use 1 billion disposable cups each year, which means about 2,700,000 cups are tossed into the landfills each day. Yikes.
We all know about the straw problem, but have we acted on it at all? We tried. State Street Brats makes you ask for a straw instead of giving it to you right away, but that’s about as far as it goes. In Australia, most of the restaurants and bars I have been to so far either:
A. Do not give you a straw.
B. Give you a paper straw [that actually managed to not disintegrate in my drink].
C. Give you a metal straw.
It is the small movements such as these that make me SO excited to be working in the retail industry where I can help keep our Earth happy by innovating the way businesses are run. Cheers to hopes of a brighter future with less waste and more trees.