Now we know what the issues are, and what caused them, and we have an idea of what the overall solution might be – a Resource-Based Economy – so what next? How do we bring about a Resource-Based Economy ourselves? Is it something we can be a part of? What should we do to become the change we wish to see? What should we change in our own lives to become active participants in this transition? All of these questions can be answered – it’s just a matter of taking your own personal transitional journey step by step….
Here are a few things you can get started on:
Move away from money
There is a surprising number of things you can do to minimise your use of money, and once you get used to the alternatives living with less and less money becomes easy. Here are a few starting points:
Community Exchange Systems
Community exchange systems exist all around the world and provide a more equitable means of exchanging resources, time and skills than money does – especially in a world of increasing living costs in tandem with increasing technological unemployment.
LETS is a Local Energy (or Exchange) Trading System that allows people to trade their skills for a number of LETS units they decide upon themselves. Time-Banking is very similar to LETS, although every hour of work exchanged is equal in value with no type of work valued any more highly than any other type of work. Both systems can be accessed via the international community exchange system website.
Skillsharing is a way of life in many parts of the world where skills are passed from generation to generation via teaching within the community. The more skilled a community becomes the more autonomous and sustainable it can be. Try getting a group of friends or neighbours together for a few skillshare workshops and learn some tricks that will save you money and help you connect with your community. You may well find you have a skill that others could really benefit from.
Although not yet popular in Australia tool-banks provide ways for people to share resources such as tools, which would otherwise be too expensive for individuals to own. Communities can set up their own neighbourhood tool-banks that enable sharing of these resources that are, otherwise, underused.
Freeshare services and websites are springing up all over the place allowing people to give and receive pre-loved items, resources, or lessons in a particular skill. Such services and websites even allow people to find ways of sharing space and exchanging labour without monetary transactions. A useful Australian freeshare site is www.friendswiththings.com.au and an international one is www.justfortheloveofit.org or alternatively you can check out Resharing. The Freecycle network also allows people to give and receive pre-loved items and people sometimes even give away their pre-loveds on Gumtree. And, of course, when it comes to hard-rubbish time of year there’s always something worth picking up – particularly in wealthy neighbourhoods! Couchsurfing also offers a great alternative to paying for accommodation when travelling, and it is often much more fun staying with people who can show you around town.
No money days and Freeshare events can be great ways to see what people can achieve without money as well as providing a fun way to re-connect with community.
For more information on freesharing as a concept and as a way of life please check out Spirit of the Times issue #3.
If we must use money, and let’s face it, we generally face the necessity on a fairly regular basis, it can be quite a dilemma knowing that there is so much unethical business practice tied up in what we consume. It used to be difficult to live ethically with such a dearth of access to information about company practices and product life-cycles. This is no longer the case as there are a number of organizations that provide a wealth of information, and more and more ethically-minded businesses are springing up. Here are a few starting points:
The Ethical Consumer Guide is a website run by the Ethical Consumer Group, an Australian non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about ethical lifestyle choices. The website, pocket-sized guides and smart-phone apps provide a wealth of information for the conscientious consumer to understand and navigate the maze of consumption and make well-informed choices. The guide is constantly being updated and expanded to address as many sectors as possible from supermarket food items and dining out to clothing and banking.
As it is well-known that the banking sector is fraught with corruption and unethical investment it is advisable to withdraw support for the system by taking your money out of the bank and putting it in a credit union instead. Although there is no guarantee that a credit union has a blemish-free record there is benefit in being a shareholder and not just a customer, and in knowing that many credit unions do not support banking for large corporations, preferring to support small businesses and invest in community development rather than unethical practices in many cases. A full directory of Australian credit unions may assist in the choice to withdraw support from the big banks and choose a more ethical alternative.
No – we’re not going to encourage investment here – not for the sake of increasing your $$!! However, when it comes to superannuation it is important to understand how yours is being invested on your behalf by your super fund, and investigate ways in which it could be invested more ethically. Although it can be very difficult to navigate the corporate spiel of the investment world there are some starting places, such as EcoDirectory, that can help ensure your superannuation or other investments are as ethical and sustainable as possible.
Reduce your ecological footprint
In a world of ever-increasing destruction each and every one of us has a responsibility to live as harmoniously as possible with the world that sustains our existence. This is not as difficult as it may seem once you learn a few basic skills and connect with some useful sources of information. Here are a few starting points:
Your diet and food production
Going organic in your diet and in your garden – and optimally combining the two – is one way in which to have a large impact on reducing your ecological footprint. Going organic means cutting out the use of pesticides, herbicides, and nitrogen fertilizers, the manufacture of 1 tonne of which produces 7 tonnes of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with global warming potential 196 times greater than carbon dioxide. By going organic you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint and avoid unethical corporate takeover of the food supply by chemical giants such as Monsanto. With the help of an organic food directory it need not be difficult to source healthy organic food if you can’t grow it yourself.
Learning some permaculture skills and tricks to use in your own garden will help you to produce some of your own food as well as ensuring that it is done as sustainably as possible. Groups such as Permaculture Australia are a good starting point for learning more and connecting with like-minded people to share tips and advice with. As permaculture is a way of life, not just gardening, you can rapidly find yourself walking the sustainable talk in many more aspects of your life!
Exploring veganism may seem like a radical step for many people, but it is one of the most effective things an individual can do to reduce their environmental impact, behave with compassion, and ensure equal access to basic needs for all.
Globally, farm animal production accounts for nearly 20% of human-generated GHG emissions. This is more than the entire transport sector. Livestock production is also a major contributor to land degradation, air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water pollution, and is the main reason for 60-80% of deforestation.
The dairy industry is extremely water-intensive. While a vegan diet requires only 1,140 litres of water per day, an animal-based diet requires more than 16,000.
Almost 50% of all grain produced worldwide goes toward cattle feed – enough food to feed 8.7 billion people. Presently 1.02 billion people – one 6th of humanity – are undernourished.
On the scale of exploitation farmed animals fare far worse than humans, living an artificially shortened life-span (chickens, 11 million every year in Australia, and dairy cows are slaughtered when no longer productive due to profit motive) and in miserable conditions throughout. There is no opt-out for these animals.
For further information on how exploring veganism can help reduce your ecological footprint please check out Spirit of the Times issue #2.
Reduce your water consumption and increase your water efficiency
In our efforts to use less water it is necessary to both reduce consumption and increase efficiency. We can all use less water by following a simple code of behaviour such as using water-efficient shower-heads, not running the tap while brushing your teeth, or watering the garden at cooler times of day when less of the water used will evaporate. You can even get your plumbing connected in a way that reuses grey water on the garden instead of flushing it out after a single use (remember that the earth is a natural filtration system so long as you’re not using toxic chemicals in your water).
Harvesting rainwater is also a simple way to consume clean, safe water, reduce waste water, and make the most of natural rainfall. With a little information on storage, collection and irrigation it is relatively easy to use water more wisely – an issue of particular importance in Australia.
Household water usage, however only accounts for 5% of all water consumption, with the other 95% of your water footprint hidden in the food you eat, energy you use, products you buy, and services you rely on. Reducing your water footprint by careful consumption of foods and beverages is an effective way to have a larger impact in your own life and on industry. The water footprint of an animal-based diet is many times greater than the water footprint of a plant-based diet, and careful choices within a range of items can help us to limit our footprint as well as eat healthily and enjoyably. In addition, the consumption of alcoholic beverages, particularly wine, is extremely water intensive, suggesting more reasons that just our health to cut down on the consumption of alcohol.
Industrial water usage, alongside agricultural usage, makes up the highest proportion of overall water consumption. Although it is difficult to directly influence industrial usage a knowledge of which industries are the most water-intensive helps one to make water-savvy choices as consumers.
For a greater understanding of our water footprint and what we can do to reduce it please visit www.waterfootprint.org.
Reduce vehicle emissions
Reducing vehicle emissions is easy if you are willing and able to reduce your private vehicle use. If public transport options such as buses and trams are easily accessible in your area consider saving yourself the petrol money and parking fee and taking public transport a few times a week. If your workplace or other places you frequent are close enough consider cycling, walking, or even skateboarding – we can help out our own health alongside the health of our planet. With world car-free day in September you can register to join the critical mass of people going car free for a day all around the world.
Car-pooling is also a more responsible use of private vehicles. It just takes a little time and consideration to find out if someone else you know is going in the same direction at the same time and share transport with them. If you are the one without a vehicle you certainly shouldn’t feel guilty about asking someone to reduce your collective carbon footprint by giving you a lift somewhere instead of you having to take taxis!
Get off the grid
Getting off the grid may seem daunting and expensive, but with a wealth of information and a wide range of companies you just need to know where to look to find out what you need to know. It does not need to be hugely expensive to use renewable energy sources and get off the grid – but it may take some lateral thinking that is best supported by some solid facts.
For those with more ambitious ideals it may be possible to retrofit your home with Earthship Biotecture and increase your level of sustainable autonomy.
Reduce your waste
There are many ways in which we create waste without even thinking about it, inadvertently contributing to the cycle of consumption and destruction. However, there is a wealth of information out there that outlines some very simple ways in which we can all reduce our consumption and waste patterns from composting to using refill options where they exist to even decreasing your overall energy consumption.
With knowledge of how harmful our use of chemicals is to the environment it is necessary to reduce or eliminate chemical usage wherever possible. It may seem difficult or impossible to have an impact on industrial usage but we can all make sensitive choices regarding our own households and our consumer choices do have an overall impact on industry when more people add themselves to a critical mass. Simple advice on chemical-free living can assist in reducing our use of chemicals in cleaning products, cosmetic and personal care products and food and ensure we are not inadvertently adding to the toxicity of our water, soil and air.
Where do I start?
Good question! Start wherever is easiest for you. You might want to treat the above as a sustainability oriented to-do list and set yourself some reasonable goals, month by month, with a reasonable time-frame for reaching each goal. Be realistic with how quickly you can adjust your lifestyle and make sure you are having fun in the process. The more you are able to fit sustainable practices into your lifestyle the more you will be able to reach other people with your message without daunting them. Perhaps you could even try to involve friends, family and colleagues in your journey by holding some awareness events or freeshare events. See our get involved section for further details on hosting events with the support of the Zeitgeist Movement Australia.
What if I’ve already done all of the above?
Then that’s awesome! You’re probably ready to take it all a step further and help raise awareness and help your community at large achieve some serious sustainability goals. If you are interested in getting further involved in the drive for sustainability check out our volunteering section, or plan a local event with our support. You might even want to join your local chapter or start your own chapter. There is so much we can do, and together we will make the journey one others will not want to miss out on!