Letters To My Mother
Letters To My Mother Podcast
Tips and Tricks for your Sustainable Home

Tips and Tricks for your Sustainable Home

All of us want to do stuff better right? Including managing our own spaces in a sustainable way. Because - after all - this is what we are all about, yeah? Looking after our corner of the planet.

I was talking to a couple of my grandchildren the other day and I was saying that they are ‘Adults in Training.’ Our job as their grown ups is to make sure that they are launched out into the world with all the essential skills to succeed personally and succeed at looking after their corner of the planet. And we will be right in their corner if they need help. But the idea is that they will be powerful independent individuals.

Oh, that is not for a long time, said the 12 year old.

Not as long as you would think, I said to her.

What would these essential skills be, I asked. What should we be teaching you.

How to cook. Yup. How to read. Yes. How to get a job. Yes - you will need money. How to make money. Same thing ,right? Yes, Get a job. How to budget? I asked them. What’s that, they said. Well, if you have twenty dollars you only get to spend twenty dollars. Oh. Can’t we just Dad for more? No, not if you are a grown up. They were not quite as excited about that.

Learn how to run a house, I asked them? What does that mean, they said. Keep stuff clean, pay the electricity bills, feed yourself, take a bath, get the trash out on time, clean the windows, get to work on time, stuff like that. Oh, they said. How about keeping the planet healthy, I asked them. Oh, they knew all about that. Less plastic. No polystyrene. Unplug the chargers. Filter your own water. Read labels. They said. As they drunk half the water from a plastic single use bottle then ran off to ask Dad for take-out from the deep fried place on the other side of the city. Can’t they deliver, I heard them shout. I just sighed. Lots to do.

For me and maybe you too the idea of living simpler and wasting less and getting closer to where my food comes from is something to aspire to. Reducing ones carbon footprint is a struggle. So I plant trees and compost. It is human nature to work to improve our lot. Do you agree?

How do we make sure to pass all these messages onto the children.

By example? Are they even watching? Or staring at a screen. Through discussion at meal times. Meal times are magic. Chatting on the way to school?

So, let’s ask ourselves. What can I PERSONALLY do to lighten my load on the earth that supports me. What changes can I personally make. As an example to these children and to actually enable a strong planet to carry them along.

Here are my most critical points:


You have all heard me talk about this before but we need to return to this again and again. When we are buying, when we have our consumer hat on, ask yourself what happens to that item after we use it.

And Then What. What is waste and where does it go. If it is going to end up in any one of your bins we need to think carefully about whether we need it.

Do you feel brave enough to do an inventory of your trash? How much of that is packaging. How much is single use paper and singel use plastic. How much is un-recyclable plastic. How much is food? Very little of our present day plastic is actually recyclable, you know. Most just ends up in the landfill anyway. Though there are number of scientists working on this but for the moment - I don’t buy it.

Tissues are a wonderful example. We pull out a tissue wipe our noses And Then What - we throw the tissue away. Same with the box. This is an easy fix. Stop buying tissues and buy a pack of handkerchiefs instead, that will last years. Use cotton handkerchiefs. Use them and wash them. To be honest my American grandchildren are horrified by the concept of handkerchiefs. They have been taught that this is dirty. Hmm.

They will get over it though as singe use paper is NOT sustainable.

(Story about the fairgrounds-keepers).

What can we use instead of paper towels or tissues or plastic dish cloths.

If we work hard to not to even bring that shit into the house - we are pre-cycling.

And PRE-CYCLING is very cool.

Handkerchiefs bring up to the power of the rag.


if you have old clothing or old towels, or old linen sheets - don’t throw them away; get out your pinking shears and cut them into rags. Chop. Chop. Cut them into big squares, fold them up and stack them under the bench. Choose the rag first. In fact when I buy clothing (obviously second hand) I only buy what would make a great rag. In the future. I can Apply And Then What. Do you know what I mean?


Compost is a huge discussion. Grab one of those little rolly compost bins and pop it out in the yard or on your balcony. Chuck all your vege scraps and coffee grinds in there. This makes the BEST potting mix for your greens.


Turn your heater down two degrees, (or God forbid just heat the rooms you use). Dry your clothes on a rack or clothes line using solar power, how about your car stays parked for 24 hours once a week. I know people who would never be able to do this. My husband for instance - he never ever goes a day without driving out somewhere. And he is retired - he absolutely believes that he does not need to think about the future of fuel. He is going to look after himself and to hell with the next generation. He won’t mind me telling you this because he is wholly unapologetic about this stance.

At this point let me say that Life is Not Instagram!

(Story about car free days in NZ).


Eat the Fridge. Become the king of left overs. Once you apply And Then What you will find that left overs are placed in containers in the freezer or made into another meal the next day. So food does not end up in the tip. Fried rice and soups and casseroles are the best for left overs. Or. Buy just what you need. Cook only what you will eat. Maybe avoid trips to costco for food. Over buying is easily fixed. How many carrots do you really want to eat this week. I hate cooked carrots so I only ever buy a couple to eat raw.


Think about it. Think about it now. What will make you happy. That you don’t have to buy. Choose a couple of things that will enable you to make a difference. What are the good and true things that you need to survive and flourish that strengthens your planet. Flourishing is important, it brings us back to that initial decision to do better. Cutting down on my consumption really does make me happy. And I do flourish with less stuff. Less to carry. Less to clean. Less to pack.

Be tidy. This absolutely helps the planet. Do not pursue debt. And do everything you can to stay healthy.


This is a tough one because it feels a little bit selfish but when designing your own sustainable lifestyle be wary of trying to take on too much that does not belong to you. Some things do not need to sit on your shoulders. They are a problem you cannot solve. We actually do need to selfishly clean up our own act because it is not our job to clean up anyone else’s. This is your home. Child. You are going to design your own home. What will it look like. We cannot change the world you and I. We cannot stop wars, which in my opinion are the most environmentally destructive force ever. We cannot stop pandemics (it has been reported that 10 million face masks that cannot be recyled were released monthly into our environment during the recent pandemic). We cannot even stop our neighbours from leaving their cars running at the grocery store so the car stays air-conditioned for their return. We personally have no way to change coffee shops and airlines from pouring their coffee into plastic lined paper cups. So people get to drink those micro plastics from the lining and those cups do not degrade. But we can take our own ceramic cup. Ourselves. This we can control. And that makes me happy.

Leading by example. That’s how we teach our kids and that’s how we clean up our environments. Just do it. Nike was right.

We will do what we can do.

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I said to a fellow the other day who has been going to Starbucks daily for the last thirty odd years. Why does he not care about the rubbish he is creating. Using a rough calculation, let's assume one cup of coffee per day, just one, 365 days a year, for 30 years. That would be 1 cup/day×365 days over 30 years = is 10,950 plastic lined paper cups going to the landfill. For one person. Not to mention the heated micro plastic molecules he has been ingesting for the last 30 years. And yes he is bowed over and worn down.

I said, you could take your own cup you know - Starbucks are all into that now - but he said, reaching for his phone, I can’t order ahead online if I take my own cup.

I had no words.

But you know what? He is not my monkey.


But you are! You and me. Bring your monkey on, child. I am in your corner.


Letters To My Mother
Letters To My Mother Podcast
Cecilia from The Kitchens Garden reads about growing up in a Simpler Time.