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Sustainable Dating: green romance for eco-conscious lovebirds

sustainable dating

How do you combine sustainability with dating? Daile Kelleher isn’t going to suggest recycling lovers (it’s always a terrible idea), and she hasn’t quite figured out how to upcycle  past partners for future use. But she does have some sustainable dating ideas – being green has never been more romantic. Visit her blog at The Confused But Conscious Customer.

sustainable dating

Geocaching

Perfect for lovebirds with a sense of adventure and a fondness for the great outdoors. Set aside a day with your date, wear comfortable shoes, download the Geocache app on your GPS-enabled smartphone and you have yourself a romantic treasure hunt.

What’s the deal?

A geocache is a container of varied size that has been hidden in a specific location and tagged with GPS coordinates, ready to be discovered in an online-enabled scavenger hunt. Once you reach the marked area and find the specially marked geocache you can sign the logbook, celebrate your discovery via social media and take a memento from the container, as well as leaving one in its place to mark your achievement. No need for vehicles or cash money – you couldn’t ask for a more eco and pocket friendly date.

Why is this a great date idea?

With few outside distractions you’ll have an opportunity to connect with your date, and geocache hunting is a great chance to talk. This type of activity is also reminiscent of childhood – treasure hunting, orienteering at school camps or your summer with the local scout troop – which can lead to intimate conversations laced with nostalgia. This grown-up Easter Egg expedition has to involve teamwork, so when you find the geocache you’ve achieved something together. Awww!

sustainable date ideas

Fish & chips at the beach

Every beach has a local takeaway where you can get a serve of chunky chips, battered sav, potato scallop and a piece of crumbed fish to enjoy while watching the waves. While some areas may have slightly more upmarket versions of the humble fish and chipper, there is nothing better than an oil soaked paper wrapped parcel shared with someone cute.

What’s the deal?

If you live near the beach, walking or catching public transport means you cut down on emissions. But what about the fish? We all know about overfishing and species extinction, so it’s crucial to choose your fish wisely – which is often easier at the fishmonger than it is at a fish & chip shop. This is where the Sustainable Seafood Guide comes to the rescue. An online tool as well as an app, it’s as simple as searching for the type of fish you want to eat and checking the rank.

Make sure you check yours and your date’s seafood choices so you can enjoy your parcel of freshly deep fried food knowing you have made a more sustainable decision.

Why is this a great date idea?

Sunshine, sand and water – whether you go swimming or not, the beach is a fantastic outdoors date. You get a bit of vitamin D and honestly, who doesn’t feel a bit more romantic bathed in sunshine with the sea breeze tossing your hair about? As for the fish, every time I use the Sustainable Seafood Guide app around friends they are intrigued and want to know more. It’s a wonderful little educator on the types of fish we should be eating more of and ones we should avoid altogether.

Sustainable dating isn’t all about being outdoors, so here’s one last option for committed homebodies who prefer their dates cosy and low-key rather than rugged and sandy.

sustainable date ideas

Board games by candlelight

Prove two people can have hours of fun with their clothes on by having a board game night with your date. Grab your favourite game, light some candles and chill a cask of Australian wine (much more sustainable than a bottle) for a romantic night in.

What’s the deal?

No matter what your interests, there will be a board game suitable for you and your date. Try Eurogames like Agricola, a card game like the aptly named Love Letter or even an old faithful like Scrabble. A fun way to match your wits, intellect and ability to strategize, board games are a bit of competitive fun and an excellent way to stave off fear of awkward silences.

Why is this a great date idea?

It’s private, you don’t have to leave home and the candles are not only  romance-inducing but also a great power saver. Any extra sparks you create definitely won’t contribute to your carbon footprint. Board games are a lifelong investment and can be played for years to come – imagine the flashbacks when you sit down with your grandkids to play Ticket to Ride, reminiscing about the evening you spent flirting over train routes.

Considering sustainability while dating isn’t that difficult and there are plenty of activities that are fun, flirty and suitable for two with as little impact on the environment as possible. Other ideas include pretending to be a tourist and exploring your own city, spending a day volunteering at an event together, a visit to your local organic farmers market to grab ingredients for a homemade lunch, or even a simple picnic in the park with plenty of opportunities for canoodling. Failing that, by far the most sustainable activity you can engage in is best done with the lights off…  all in the name of energy efficiency of course.

Photo Credit
Loving on the edge, Collin Key (CC)
Geocaching, Sean Carney (CC)
Fish and Chips, Travis (CC)
Disco Ticket to Ride, Kevin Cheng (CC)
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Op shopping tips for the skeptical newbie

op shopping

Eleanor Robertson

Op shops are fantastic, there’s no two ways about it. They’re a great way to avoid purchasing new and prevent perfectly good cast-offs from going into landfill, plus you’re supporting charity at the same time.  Some of my earliest memories are of cruising op shops with my dad on Saturday afternoons; his poison was vintage sci-fi novels and comics, whereas I was more interested in toys and dress-ups.

However! For people who aren’t lifelong op shoppers, secondhand wonderlands can be confusing and intimidating. Plus there’s that weird op shop smell, like a cross between a primary school and a retirement home. But fear not, because to celebrate National Op Shop Week we’ve put together the ultimate guide to pre-loved purchasing  — and don’t worry, the op shop smell disappears completely after a thorough cycle in the washing machine.

  1. Know the lay of the land.

Choosing which op shops to hit up is crucial. If someone close to you is a regular at Vinnies and the Salvos, get them to take you to their favourite spots. Op shops vary hugely in size, price point, stock, store arrangement and many other factors. For the seasoned enthusiast this is all part of the fun, but if you’re more used to doing a casual swing through Target then the number and variety of op shops can be overwhelming. To find your closest op shops, check out Op Shop Listing, which has hundreds of op shops around the country.

As well as proximity, here are some general tips when deciding which stores to hit up:

  • The further you are from a major urban centre, the cheaper the items and the larger the variety. Regional op shops, and those in outer suburbs, are often enormous treasure troves of clothing, books and homewares priced significantly lower than those in trendier postcodes.
  • Check out church or parish op shops, which are tiny in size but frequently contain more than their fair share of unexpected finds.
  • Most op shops take delivery of new stock on specific days of the week, so it’s often worth it to phone ahead to your op shop of choice and ask them when they’ll get a new shipment in.

op shopping

  1. Be prepared.

Ideally, you want to set aside at least a whole morning or afternoon to go on an op shopping adventure. There are some basic preparations you’ll want to make to ensure you get the best out of the experience:

  • Bring reusable shopping bags for carrying your finds so that you don’t have to use disposable plastic bags.
  • Make sure you’ve got a reasonable wad of cash, because some op shops don’t have EFTPOS.
  • Go through your wardrobe or your kitchen cupboard and make a rough list of what you’re looking for so that you don’t end up wandering around aimlessly (can be a real problem in op shops.)
  • Bring a bottle of water. Op shopping is thirsty work.

op shopping

  1. When you’re inside

Because op shops are organised so differently to normal retail spaces, the techniques you need to navigate them are different too. Stock is often displayed in a way that would be considered cramped in other shops, and this means there are a lot more items per square inch than your shopping eyes are probably used to. This is a recipe for glazed-over wandering – don’t let the Op Shop Dawdle happen to you.

  • Manage your FOMO (fear of missing out). Only check each area once, and be strict. If you find yourself fingering through the same rack of jumpers three or four times, you might have to implement a time limit by setting an alarm on your phone.
  • When going through clothing, be picky. Is your item made of nice fabric? Is it a colour that will go with other things in your wardrobe? Does it fit properly? Are there any defects? Only take the plunge if it’s something you’ll actually wear!
  • Don’t get too caught up in gender-specific sections. Browse the men’s section if you’re a woman, and if you’re a man don’t reject that nice wintery coat just because the tag says it’s made by the Ladies’ Clothing Emporium for Women.

op shopping

Pro tips

  • Don’t buy something if it’s chipped, ripped, stained, too short, too long, or ‘for a friend’. If you’ve never sewn before you’re probably not going to start now, and that beautiful but too-long skirt will sit at the bottom of your wardrobe causing you guilt until you give it back to a different op shop six months later. Better to leave it for someone else to find.
  • Know what clothing in style this season. Fashion goes through cycles, and often by the time something ends up in an op shop it can be on the verge of a comeback.
  • Avoid single-use appliances unless you’re 100% sure you’ll use them. There are stacks of popcorn makers, doughnut irons, fairy floss machines, chocolate fountains and the like in op shops, which can seem exciting because they’re expensive at retail. But there’s a reason they end up here – most people don’t use them!
  • If you’re shopping for furniture, bring a tape measure, and the dimensions of the space you need to fill. There’s nothing worse than lashing a bargain vintage bed frame to the roof of your car and dragging it home, only to find it doesn’t fit in your bedroom.
  • Be very picky about accessories. Op shops are full of scarves, belts, hats, sunglasses and costume jewellery, and you can afford to put something back if you’re not completely in love with it.
 Photo credit
 Emily Orpin, A day in Hongdae (CC)
Eddy Milfort, 10 11 2013 (CC)
Ashton, Vintage Haight-Ashbury (CC)
Tracy B, Royal Albert Summer Solitude (CC)

 

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Otter’s Green Grog Guide

sustainable alcohol

When it comes to responsible drinking, we’re given an avalanche of advice about the health benefits of red wine, the dangers of binge drinking, and why alcopops will bring about the downfall of civilised society. But putting aside liver health and tipsy teens for a moment, what’s that case of white wine doing to the planet? Are some brews better than others? And what’s the surprising Australian innovation that could slash booze-related eco damage? Otter has answered all these questions and more in our first Green Grog Guide to sustainable alcohol!

sustainable alcohol

Beer

Ah, beer. Once a way to consume water without risking exposure to pathogens, Australians take in around 41% of their total alcohol as beer. There is enormous variation in the water and energy intensity of different beers, and how they’re packaged is also an important contributor.

The water footprint of a glass of beer is around 75 litres, and a lot of that is used during the growth of grains, which are the usual source of carbohydrates fermented to produce beer’s ethanol content. But the water stats we can use to make better beer choices are the ones that come out of different breweries. This report from 2010 estimates that beer production in large breweries uses about 4 litres of water for every litre of beer produced, whereas small breweries tend to use more like 6 or 7.  As always, it’s worth checking to see if your favourite brand has a water and energy use policy. For instance, Sab Miller, which makes Pure Blonde, Victoria Bitter and Peroni, says it is committed to reducing its water usage to 3 litres per litre of beer produced by 2020. It claims to be an industry leader.

Australia has a pretty good recycling record, with about 64% of our post-consumer waste being in some way re-used. But there’s always room for improvement, and if your state has a Container Deposit Scheme you can even make some money back.

In terms of carbon footprint, you can make a big difference by switching brands and packaging, and being careful about how you store your bezzas. This article estimates a local brew at the pub has one-third the impact of the same amount drunk from an imported bottle. That is, it’s much better, from an emissions perspective, to drink a non-imported schooner pulled from a keg than it is to buy a carton of bottles from America or Germany. And make sure you’re practising efficient tinnie refrigeration! Only fridge the amount of beer you’re going to need, and don’t run a separate beer fridge.

The upshot of all this is: going to the pub is better for the environment. Whose round is it?

sustainable alcohol

Wine

Wine, generally, is on the ups in Australia, with the hard-earned thirst being replaced by a relaxed glass of red or white. Wine represents 37% of the alcohol we consume annually, and Australia is now the world’s fourth largest wine exporter.

The water footprint of a glass of wine is around 120 litres, considerably more than beer. But Australians drinking Australian wine can put our minds (relatively) at ease when it comes to sustainable alcohol. Food miles are an important consideration because wine bottles are heavy and bulky to transport, meaning the closer your wine, the better. This paper suggests that Australian wine may suffer PR impacts on the export market because it’s so far away from its main importers. But for locals, this means it’s a correspondingly better choice than drinking wine that’s been shipped here from overseas.

Speaking of packaging, what’s the most environmentally advantageous way to buy wine? Why, the humble sack of goon, naturally. Referred to as ‘Bag In Box’ in industry circles, it was invented by Australian winemaker Thomas Angove in 1965, and has become synonymous with low-quality wine fit to be consumed only by alcoholics and university students.

But cask wine has many advantages over the bottle. (Not even counting the option of highly inadvisable and quintessentially Australian drinking game goon of fortune.) A single bag and cardboard box usually contains 2-4 litres of wine, which represents far less packaging than glass bottles. One report found cask wine generate a 55% lower carbon footprint and 85% less landfill waste than traditional glass bottles. Plus, the wine lasts longer: BIB packaging doesn’t expose the liquid to air, ensuring a much slower rate of oxidisation.

So reducing the environmental impact of your wine? It’s in the bag! The bag in the box, that is. Australian-grown cask wine is probably the best choice, and these days there are some perfectly respectable tipples sold Chateau Cardboard-style. And if you want to keep a decoy bottle and a funnel handy to maintain your reputation? Well, we won’t judge you, and after a few glasses neither will your dinner party guests.

sustainable alcohol

Spirits

Spirits – your vodkas, whiskeys and gins – are high-alcohol liquors produced by distilling the product of fermentation to achieve a more heavy-hitting end result. They’re also heavy hitters in terms of resource use, with distilleries using between 9 and 63 litres of water for every litre of spirits they produce.

However, comparing this figure to the same measure for beer and wine can produce misleading results because of spirits’ high alcohol content. A litre of vodka contains 33 standard drinks, whereas a litre of regular strength beer only has 3 or 4. That’s a lot less packaging, and depending on the distillery might even be less water and energy usage per unit of alcohol.

Different kinds of spirits have their own unique issues. Rum and tequila, for instance, both produce a startling amount of waste – up to 90% of the raw material ends up outside the finished bottle. For tequila, it’s dire: every litre of finished tequila generates 10 litres of vinazas, acidic wastewater byproduct. Since tequila is only legally allowed to be named tequila if it is manufactured in the area surrounding Tequila, a city in the Mexican state of Jalisco, the environmental impact of this waste is highly concentrated. In 2008, over 2.5 billion litres of vinazas was unaccounted for, and reports suggest it is shaping up as a disastrous pollution issue in the region. Some small batch tequilas are more responsible, but the vast majority are unsustainable.

Because spirits is such a diverse category, it’s harder to give general advice than it is about other kinds of sustainable alcohol. It’s worth researching brands that make specific sustainability commitments to avoid any nastiness.

 

Image credit
Alcohol, Kimery Davis (CC)
Beer, courtesy Dan Nolan (<3)
Wine, Dorte (CC)
Whiskey, Eelco (CC)
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