Retirement Life
21 June 2023

Five tips for living more sustainably


Consumer NZ’s latest quarterly survey of kiwi consumers’ attitudes and spending habits showed a spike in concern about the effects of climate change.


“This year’s severe weather events in Auckland and the upper North Island have sparked a surge in concern for local climate impacts,” Consumer NZ Chief Executive John Duffy said. 


Evidently, it’s older kiwis who worry the most. “Climate change stands out as being a particularly high concern for people aged 50 and over,” he said.


And this is playing out in people’s purchasing habits, with almost 85% of those surveyed expecting to maintain or increase their focus on making environmentally sustainable food and grocery choices over the coming year.


Good intentions meet spiralling living costs

Of course, rapidly rising living costs can test even the best of intentions. As Duffy notes, “Whether you’re 18 or 80, right now the cost of living is highly likely to be your number one worry”.


“More than 8 in 10 people are opting to buy less expensive products to save money, and almost 90% of New Zealanders are becoming more mindful about where they choose to spend their hard-earned dollars,” he said.


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A little effort goes a long way

If you’re one of those worried about both climate change and household price pressures, there are plenty of small changes you can make that needn’t cost the earth; but that just might help it.


Here are five tips for reducing your environmental impact:


  • Carry reusable bags and cups

Most of us are used to taking our own shopping bags to the supermarket these days, after single-use bags were banned in 2019. But it’s also a good idea to take a few smaller, mesh bags for fruit and vegetables – particularly since from 1 July stores will no longer provide plastic produce bags. Keep spare bags in your car or by the front door so you’re not caught short in the shops.


If you enjoy your café coffees (who doesn’t?!), consider investing in your own reusable cup. According to the Sustainable Business Network most types of disposable coffee cups can’t be recycled, so someone buying a takeaway cuppa every week-day creates 14kg of waste a year. Alternatively, take a seat and enjoy your brew from real crockery.


  • Pick up rubbish

Heard of plogging? No, neither. Well, it’s derived from the Swedish ‘plogga’ and basically means to combine jogging with picking up litter. But, you don’t have to run to be a tidy kiwi (phew!). Simply collecting visible rubbish while you’re out for a walk or enjoying the local park or beach can make a big difference to the great outdoors. You could also pitch in with community clean-up efforts, which are often organised by schools or clubs.


  • Become a part-time vegetarian

Don’t worry, there’s no need to give up steak and Sunday roasts entirely. Some might even call that unpatriotic! But if everyone committed to a meat-free day or two a week, it could go a long way to reducing harmful greenhouse gases. As global interest in plant-based eating grows, there’s plenty of recipes and ideas around on how to jazz up a plateful of fruit, vegetables, and legumes. If you’re handy in the kitchen it’s a great chance to unleash your culinary creativity, too.


  • Go paperless

If you’re comfortable with computers and have an email address, one quick and easy way to go easier on the environment is to switch all your statements and bills to digital only. That means they’ll be emailed to you, or you’ll receive a reminder to check your online account, rather than having them land in your letterbox and end up in a teetering paper pile.


If the idea of having only digital access to your affairs makes you a little anxious, that’s OK too. But if you’re keen to upskill and boost your computer confidence, check whether there’s any digital skills training opportunities in your area - Greypower, your local library or the Digital Inclusion Alliance would be good places to start.


  • Recycle right

Did you know you can still recycle a lot of soft plastics (like bread bags, bubble wrap, mail bags, non-foil chip and biscuits packets etc) that aren’t accepted by council kerbside recycling? Many supermarkets have large soft plastic collection bins near the entrance, which couldn’t be handier. Simply collect your soft plastics - making sure they’re empty, clean and dry – and drop them off when you do your shopping. For more information on soft plastic recycling, including what they can’t accept, check out the Packaging Forum’s website


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It's also useful to keep up with your local council’s rules for kerbside recycling, to make sure you’re including the right things in the right way. Otherwise, there’s a risk that more ends up in landfill than needs to be. For instance, many councils now accept meat trays (just make sure everything you recycle is clean!). And do remember to remove all lids and don’t squash tins, cans and bottles – it makes it harder for the machine to sort.


Photo of Vanessa Glennie
Written by:

Vanessa Glennie

Vanessa is Head of Communications at Lifetime Retirement Income. She’s an experienced investment writer, having spent more than a decade writing about financial markets in the global fund management industry.

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