At Happy Buddha Retreats, we look to the yogic principle of ahimsa; meaning “compassion” – to guide how we treat ourselves, each other and our planet. This is why we’re all about practising small acts of kindness around the Happy Buddha home that benefit the earth and each other. So we’ve compiled some of our favourite ways to be more eco-friendly at home for you too!
In the kitchen
Retreaters know that out kitchen is always a flurry of activity: laughter, chatting, music and magic making! But behind the scenes, we also do a lot to advocate for the planet from our pantry. If you’re looking for ways to be more eco-friendly at home, your kitchen is the perfect place to start!
1. Buy in Bulk
To reduce packaging, bulk-buy where possible. Our yoga facilitator, Mel, walks us through one way our team have improved this at the retreat.
“Instead of buying canned chickpeas, we are now buying chickpeas in bulk that we let soak before using them for our different dishes, such as hummus and veggie burgers.”
But how can you bulk-buy at home if you’re not feeding a small army (as we often are)? Foods such as rice, dried beans, lentils, oats, shelled nuts, frozen veggies and dried pasta all have a very long shelf-life, so they’re perfect staples to bulk-buy. This will save you trips to the shops, reduce excess packaging and of course – save money!
Oh… and don’t forget your reusable bags at the shops! Or even better, utilise cardboard boxes for your grocery haul.
2. Plant a Garden
This will look different for every home, as we don’t all have the space (or time!) to grow our own fruits and veggies. However, if you have some space on a countertop, balcony, patio or windowsill with ample sunlight, then you have the opportunity for a container garden.
Root plants such as green onion, carrot and ginger, plus leafy greens like lettuce and rocket can thrive on countertops and indoor spaces, along with herbs such as basil, coriander, parsley and mint. If you’re used to buying the thick, plastic containers that most herbs come in from the supermarket, then growing a few staple herbs on your counter could really reduce your plastic trail (and why not take advantage of the Discovery Garden offer at Woolies?)!
Have a little more space to work with? Some of the easiest fruits and veggies to grow in your garden include strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, lettuce, capsicum, zucchini, and pumpkin. In fact, our own pumpkin patch at Happy Buddha has been growing beautifully, feeding our retreaters all throughout winter!
3. Opt for a vegetarian or plant-based diet
One of the best ways to be more eco-friendly at home is to up your veggie intake. A plant-based diet helps us cut down on carbon emissions, as more than half (58%) of all food emissions comes from animal products. Reaching for whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts also naturally cuts down on how much packaging we buy, as processed foods such as chips, biscuits, cheese and convenience foods often come heavily wrapped, whilst fruit and veggies can usually be bought ‘naked’.
There is no need to cut out meat cold turkey (excuse the pun), but broadening your dinner menus with some more legumes and veggies will benefit both your health and our earth. Here are some of our favourite recipes to get you started!
4. Save Your Scraps!
From the UN Climate Report, it is estimated that 25-30% of our food is lost or wasted globally, and this is a statistic we are determined not to contribute to. We spoke to one of our incredible volunteers, Sophie, and she gave us a little peek into what happens to our meals when our retreaters have left the table.
“All the leftovers are consumed!. Either the volunteers, our crew or our chicken friends eat them. We even bake cakes for ourselves with breakfast leftovers of oats, chia and fruits.”
At home, some of the ways you can limit food waste include being mindful not to over-serve food, avoiding clutter in your fridge (so you can actually find your perishables), and recording which items you more commonly throw out – so you can shop smarter. If you are still left with fresh fruits, many can be frozen to be later used in smoothies (or breakfast muffins/cookies)
5. Sort your Scraps!
Our volunteers work together in the kitchen to make sure that all our packaging goes into the right bins. Melanie explains our system:
“We have one green bucket for compost, one for non-recyclable packaging and one for recyclable packaging. At the end of each shift the green (compost) basket is emptied into the compost outside, and the rubbish bins are emptied into bigger recycling and non-recycling bins. However, getting rid of packaging is, according to me, our main mission!”
Make sure everyone in your household knows your system!
What’s the point of knowing all the ways to be more eco-friendly at home, if your family don’t? Recycling is so much more effective if everyone is involved! This is the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about waste, the environment and how they can do their bit. It is so important that our children are connected to their land, and why not make recycling a game at the same time?
DID YOU KNOW
Soft plastics (any plastic that can be scrunched up easily in your fist) can be recycled at REDcycle collection bins, that are usually sitting outside Coles and Woolies supermarkets. Next time you’re at your local – keep an eye out for one of these!
6. Compost your scraps!
Organic produce that can’t feed you can still feed the earth. A small compost bin in your kitchen that collects your veggie scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, teabags and banana peels can be later spread over your veggie patch to help your veggies grow. We spread our compost over our veggies and herbs, and we even have some chickens wandering the grounds who love them too! Don’t let your scraps go to landfill where they will rot – keep the circle of life going by feeding your plants.
Many commercial cleaning products on our supermarket shelves are sold to us as a quick fix. Their bright, cheerful packages and heavy aromas distract us from their cocktail of harsh chemicals that are toxic to our lungs, skin, waterways and air.
At the retreat we believe that less is more, and where possible, we will always opt for white vinegar and essential oils, such as eucalyptus and tea tree.
Distilled white Vinegar:
You can’t write a list of ways to be more eco-friendly at home without it: vinegar is our eco hero! It’s biodegradable, non-toxic, multi-purpose and cost effective – just an all round overachiever (and of course, it cleans very well)!
In your kitchen it can….
Surface clean your fridge: wipe up spills with a 50-50 vinegar/water mix.
Remove build up from your drains: pour vinegar on a brush small brush to get inside the drain and sprinkle it with baking soda.
Disinfect cutting boards: a quick wipe with pure vinegar will ward off harmful bugs such as Salmonella, E.coli and Staphylococcus.
Clean your microwave: mix 50/50 water and vinegar in a glass bowl and microwave for 3 minutes. Let it steam for a couple more minutes and you’ll be able to wipe away food build up! Neat, huh? Clean countertops: spray onto your countertops and simply wipe away with a wet, warm cloth. If you have a marble, polished wood or granite surface however, avoid vinegar!
In your bathroom it will…
Disinfect your toilet: pour a cup of vinegar in and leave it overnight. Then, sprinkle over baking soda before scrubbing and your toilet will be squeaky clean!
Clean surfaces: want to get rid of bacteria on surfaces? Straight or diluted vinegar and a warm, wet cloth to the rescue!
Clean Bathtub: Fill tub with water and pour in half a cup and let it sit for a few hours. Drain, then scrub build-up.
Remove build up from shower: spray vinegar after showering whilst the walls are still damp, then wipe away with a cloth and use a brush to scrub crevices (a sprinkle of bi-carb will help too).
Clean shower head: pour some into a plastic bag, tie it around the shower head so the bottom part is submerged and leave overnight. Voila!
In your bedroom it is the perfect…
Mattress disinfectant: Mix vinegar, a little alcohol and some tea tree oil in a spray bottle. Lightly spray mattress to reduce general odour, dust mites and mildew.
Fabric softener: want to soften some sheets or clothes? Combine two cups with 10 drops of lavender oil in a jar and add two teaspoons to your washing. This is a simple, eco and cheap hack!
But what about the acidic smell?
This is where our oils come in! At Happy Buddha, our favourites are eucalyptus and tea tree (we’re mountain people, so we can’t get enough of those mountain smells!), but you can also use clove, lavender, or any oil of your choosing. A couple of drops in your vinegar will transform the scent and leave your home smelling lovely, natural and chemical free.
Brands we LOVE
When we don’t use vinegar, we are a huge fan of Greenaction cleaning products. They are free from ammonia, phosphates and chlorine, which means that their plant-derived ingredients are non-toxic for the earth, and don’t irritate our eyes and lungs. They are also packaged in recyclable materials and are cost-efficient, which makes them accessible for all families to use as a greener option. Brands like this we can really get behind!
Who Gives a Crap toilet paper
We love it when our ways to be more eco-friendly at home also double as ways to be more socially philanthropic, and Who Gives A Crap toilet paper really ticks all the boxes here, so we have stocked up in every room at Happy Buddha.
50% of all profits go towards building toilets for those in need: this is an incredible contribution, as 40% of the world’s population don’t have access to a toilet. A staggering statistic! Diseases caused by poor water and sanitation kill 800 children per day (or one child every two minutes), so purchasing a WGAC loo roll really helps many communities.
All loo rolls are made without trees: their products are all made from a combination of bamboo, sugar cane and recycled paper. This has saved an enormous number of trees and energy – not to mention that all products are packaged in paper, not plastic.
We know we sound like we’re advertising for them at this point – but their social and eco integrity is such a beautiful act of ahimsa… that we just can’t help ourselves!
And there we have it! Our top ways to be more eco-friendly at home – that benefit your wallet, your health and our earth! We are constantly learning and looking for new ways to follow our ahimsa philosophy (and our hearts) to become better eco-warriors, so we are sure our efforts won’t end here.
Individually, we are a drop in the ocean but together – we are the ocean!
Yvie Wolfenden is a freelance writer based in Sydney. She is at her happiest when she is spending time in nature, creating art, exploring the world and is drawn to storytelling in all it’s forms.