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7 Lessons Australia Could Learn From Other Countries

Australia Day is a time to celebrate our beautiful country, but there are inspiring ways we can make it better – here's some ideas to help the planet from other countries around the world.

1. Ban plastic shopping bags

Plastic bags end up in landfill, the ocean (90% of the debris in the ocean is plastic), and in the tummies of marine and other wildlife, causing them to starve, or be strangled by them. Various sources say we use a plastic bag on average for 12 minutes, yet it takes between 400-1000 years to break down in the environment. The average reusable bag has the lifespan of over seven hundred disposable plastic bags.

Bangladesh was the first country to enforce a strict ban on plastic bags in 2002, due to floods caused by littered plastic bags, with Ireland the first to charge for bags in shops to deter use. We are far behind Africa, with countries such as South Africa, Uganda, Somalia, Rwanda, Botswana and Kenya banning the bag. Many states and cities in the US are also joining this trend, with over 20 million U.S citizens now living in an area where plastic bags are banned. According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, many such places just don't have the capacity or finance for waste management so bags aren't recycled or thrown to waste, they're banned. Many countries around the world now charge for bags, encouraging shoppers to carry their own reusable bags.

South Australia, the Northern Territory, ACT & Tasmania have already taken this important step of outlawing single use plastic bags in stores; we just need the other states to get on board!

How to stop using plastic bags
Use reusable shopping bags when you go the shops! Our beautiful LOQI shopping bags are reusable, chemical free and a great alternative to plastic bags. They can carry up to 20kg in weight, so you know you won't leave anything behind. Nourished Life also now carry produce bags, we love these which are an alternative for produce bags in supermarkets. These are are incredible as they're super light, fit into a mini bag that can be attached to your handbag or key ring. They can hold lots of fruit and veg. plus they're made from recycled plastic bottles and can hold up to 2kg.

2. Just say no to microbeads

As of July this year, the United States is banning the use of microbeads in 'rinse off cosmetics'. The concern of microbeads is their presence in the water ecosystem: "after you've scrubbed your face or brushed your teeth, the tiny plastic beads go down the drain. The concern is that microbeads may not be filtered through treatment filtration systems and end up in our lakes and oceans, where they may be mistaken for food by small fish and other wildlife", explains the Microbead-Free Waters Act, US Food & Drug Administration. Australia needs to follow suit to protect our ocean life. But you can stop buying these products now and instead try the face or body scrubs sold at Nourished Life; none of which contain microbeads and instead use natural ingredients like Jojoba beads that are used for a gentle exfoliant.

3. Ditch plastic cups, utensils and plates

France is the first country to have promised a ban on single-use plastic dishes by 2020 and according to the new initiative, all single-use disposable dishes will have to be made from at least 50% biologically sourced, compostable materials by 2020.

The law will apply to those who manufacture and provide such disposables to consumers. This will lead to less landfill and environmental litter and pollution. Follow the chic French and take your cutlery from home on your next picnic, and a reusable coffee cup

4. Reducing the numbers of cars on the road

To reduce their air pollution, Spanish authorities in Madrid have banned cars from driving on the road on certain days. On Thursdays vehicles with a number plate ending in an even number are banned from driving (within the city) and those ending with an odd number are banned from driving on Friday.

5. Sticker-free fruit and veg

Spanish company Laser Foods, has the technology and laser machine to replace the – somewhat ineffective – small stickers on fruit and veg. An article in The Guardian comments that a Dutch and a Swedish food retailer are joining forces to trial 'natural branding' on avocados and sweet potatoes, technology where a strong light laser is used to remove the pigment from the skin of produce, but still give the same information. In the UK, Marks & Spencer use it on coconuts after trialling oranges, but the orange's ability to 'heal' its skin meant it was unsuccessful. Saving ink, paper and glue, plus 220km of 30cm wide plastic, and less than 1% of the carbon emissions needed to produce a stick, it's another no brainer, and at the forefront of clever technology for everyday items.

6. Making Cycling Irresistible

There are very strong environmental reasons to encourage cycling. It causes no noise or air pollution and consumes far less use of resources than any other mode of transport. Just human muscle power is required and that in addition has added health benefits. Bikes take up much less room than even the smallest car, freeing up land usage. It is a very economical way to get around, and is available to almost anyone. The EU and the USA have both recognised the necessity to promote cycling as an alternative to the car. In countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, cycling as a form of transport is made very attractive, and their bike usage is up to 10 times higher than most other nations such as the USA and Australia. The creation of separate cycling paths, increasing cycling safety, bike storage, new traffic regulations, traffic calming, education and cyclist protection legislation have all helped enormously to make this environmentally friendly transport option too good to resist.

7. Swap your coffee and water bottle for new active wear?

Technology available in Vietnam can turn your workout accessories, into your workout clothes. Yes, coffee beans and water bottles are recycled into fibres used to make super soft fabric for leggings and active wear. Helping the plastic waste epidemic, and making use of otherwise organic waste (that's another issue) is super clever, and put to excellent use. When I found Rumi X, I was delighted to be able to offer customers a product that uses recycled materials.

Footnotes: BigFatBags, Sydney Morning Herald, SBS, ScienceAlert, FDA, The Guardian, Ralphbu, The Monthly. Apple image via traveltoeat.com

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