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11 of the Easiest Ways to Be Less of a Dick to the Environment This Summer

We really tried to be a bit less obvious than switching to reusable bags.

by Zoe Madden-Smith
21 December 2018, 12:03am

In summer, everyone gravitates towards doing things the easiest (or laziest) way possible. So we get that it's probably not the best time to try convert you to a completely waste-free lifestyle—when all you want is to inhale the closest packet of chips. But in saying all this, we do need to get our shit together and start making choices that don’t hurt the world even more. So here is a list of ten practically effortless things you can do to be a decent human. We want your hardest task this summer to still be putting on sunblock, uh the effort.

Disclosure: You should definitely be doing more than just these things though guys, c’mon pick up the slack.

1. What Booze to Choose? Beer, Wine or Spirits?

Beer is far from eco-ambassador, but it is better than its classier counterpart, wine. It takes 296 litres of water to produce just one litre of beer, but for wine, it’s a staggering 872 litres. And even when we acknowledge that we tend to chug more glasses of beer than wine on a night out, beer is still your best bet, with roughly 28 litres going into a standard serving of beer compared to 34 litres going into a standard serving of wine.

On the other hand, your average spirits like rum, vodka and gin are more resource and energy intensive and often leave behind a heap more waste and chemicals. This means that you are better off switching your mixes and RTDs with cider and beer, or even wine is better.

These beverages are all super water intensive, but keep in mind that in countries like New Zealand, where there is a decent amount of rainfall each year, this is less of a concern. But for countries like Mexico, home to crowd favourites Corona and Sol, there is already a severe water shortage. Breweries are taking so much water, there is not enough for everyday human consumption. So it’s worth checking where the drink has come from and what the water supply is like there before stocking up the chilly bin.

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2. Chose Local Every Time

Whatever you decide to drink, choose something local over imported. The shorter the journey the beverage has taken to get to you, the smaller the carbon footprint it is. Luckily in New Zealand, we are pretty spoilt for choice.

3. Cut Up Plastic Bottle Holder Rings

You know those six-pack bottle holders or rings around the top of milk bottles? Take a second to cut them up before you biff them and you might just save a life. Sounds dramatic, but marine animals mistake the plastic rings as food all the time and sometimes wind up strangled by them.

4. Sign the Thumbs Up New Zealand Petition

This is probably the easiest one of all. Kiwi filmmaker Niamh Peren is calling on the Government to introduce compulsory labelling on all food and drink packaging that indicates how recyclable it is. ‘Two Green Thumbs Up’ means the packaging is 100 percent recyclable in New Zealand and made from 100 percent recycled materials. ‘One Horizontal Yellow Thumb' means it’s 100 percent recyclable in New Zealand, but not made from recycled materials, and ‘Two Red Thumbs Down’ means it’s not recyclable in New Zealand.

This scheme will make it way easier for New Zealanders to know what products are going to clog up offshore landfills. Absolutely anyone from anywhere can sign this NZ parliament petition, and if you are over 16-years-old you can sign this one as well.

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Image by Niamh Peren

5. Stop Buying Sunblock With Oxybenzone and Octinoxate

Before you run off on your beach excursion, check if your sunblock has oxybenzone and octinoxate. While the duo does a pretty sound job at preventing skin cancer, they are actually deemed a bigger threat to coral reefs than climate change. Crap. It’s estimated that up to 14,000 tons of the stuff leak into the ocean every year, causing viral infections, coral bleaching and stunted growth.

So do the world a favour and lather on "reef safe" sunscreen that doesn’t have these harmful UV-filtering chemicals. There are plenty of alternatives out there already and they protect your skin just as well.

6. Buy A Set Of Cutlery To Keep In Your Bag

This way you are always ready to tuck in, but you can stop loathing yourself when you have to say yes to yet another plastic fork.

7. Ditch Disposable Plastic Razors and be Sustainably Smooth

Summer is a time where a lot of us want to momentarily part with our furry layer. If that’s you and you’re an avid shaver, try converting to waxing or even sugaring this time around. By washing and reusing hair removal strips, you can really cut down on pesky plastic waste.

But for those of us who just can’t resist a hard and fast shave, this trick will at least make those disposable blades last longer. After shaving, dry your razor and get hold of some old jeans. Hold one leg up and quickly glide the razor along the entire length of the jeans 10-20 times in one direction, then do the same in the opposite direction. This will remove any hairs and other crap that clogs everything up while also sharpening the blade. Those blades you used to chew through could now last you closer to six months.

Also: When shaving remember to leave a small bucket or cup in the shower, use it to rinse out the blade instead of keeping the shower running.

8. Love Ditching Your Tent? Then Get a KarTent

It appears we have a disposable attitude when it comes to camping. Apparently, one in four festival goers ditch their tent on various campsites around the world. It doesn’t take a genius to realise this accumulates to a hell of a lot of waste. The obvious solution to this would be just to stop. But for people who have their hearts set of abandoning their little nest, or go too hard the night before and can’t bear the thought of packing down, well a KarTent is for you.

The tent is made entirely from recyclable cardboard and is (surprisingly) guaranteed to stay waterproof for three days of constant rain. Which is a better performance than most shotty nylon tents these days anyway.

Heading to Rhythm and Alps? For $137 you and a friend can rock up and it will be all set up, ready and waiting. Say goodbye to the days where you had to lug the heavy tent bag around, put it up in the sweltering heat and then back it down again all damp and smelly.

9. Carpool Always

It also doesn’t take a genius to notice how ridiculously expensive gas is getting, but also how ridiculously terrible it is for the world. But instead of wingeing about it each day, try doing something more productive: invite a couple of mates to share the trip. There’s never been a better time to disguise being a tight-ass with just being an eco-warrior. Sexy.

Some festivals like Northern Bass and Splore even offer bus services, so you can completely hand over driving responsibilities and dodge that dreaded hungover drive home.

10. Cover Yourself in Biodegradable Glitter Instead

Whether it's in the name of the silly season or festival festivities, some people really like to stick tiny pieces of shiny stuff everywhere. Although it may make you feel party-ready, the ocean is the one taking the brunt. Micro-plastics, measuring less than 5mm in diameter, are one of the biggest culprits for marine pollution. Their size means they are virtually impossible to collect and often end up in the stomachs of unsuspecting creatures.

Biodegradable glitter is the ideal compromise, made from plant cellulose they won’t piss off mother earth and they actually don’t cost an arm and a leg either.

11. Swap The Oven For The BBQ

Take advantage of the warm evenings and get cooking on the barby, instead of the oven. Not only is it more energy efficient, it’ll also mean you won’t unnecessarily heat up the house. Also, less dishes. Enough said.

Bonus: Instant Cold Drink Trick

This is isn’t so much an eco-friendly trick, more just a summer hack you’ll be glad you learned this year and not next. Have you ever gotten home from a long day and all you want is a cold beer—but the only ones you have are warm? Yes, relatable content over here.

Waiting for it to cool in the fridge or even the freezer just takes too long. So what you should do is get a large bowl, bucket or even your kitchen sink and load in some ice and cold water - then add a decent spoon or two of salt and mix it around. Salt lowers the freezing point of water significantly, which will mean your ice will melt and cool the beer faster. Using this handy trick, that well deserved (or not so deserved) room-temp beer will be chilled in two or three minutes. You’re welcome.