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Living Lightly in a New Country

By Lizette Salmon, member of WATCH (Wodonga & Albury Towards Climate Health)

I have a confession to make. I haven’t been eating my root vegetables. Here I am in Fiji – the land of the long, fat root vegetable – trying to live as lightly as possible yet not more than two serves of the grey cardboard they call taro has passed my lips. I have yet to even sample cassava, but I promise I will because it has low food miles.

Moving to a new home, town or country means inevitable changes to your environmental footprint. There are a number of eco-behaviours we can simply transfer from one life to another, including, in our case, using cloth shopping bags, making waste-wise school lunches, composting and switching appliances off standby, but here in Fiji we’ve discovered a range of new opportunities and barriers to an eco-friendly life.

One opportunity has been moving from a two car family to a no car family. I do all our grocery shopping by bus and find it strangely exhilarating travelling on these window-less vehicles with their throbbing reggae music. We’re also living without a vacuum cleaner. Have broom, will sweep, less black balloons.

Possibly our biggest electricity-saving is that we don’t have an air-conditioner. Our fans use a fraction of the electricity of refrigerated forms of cooling so they’ll keep our household energy use right down.

Now to the barriers. In Australia we had instant gas hot water with a thermostat set to a low temperature, but our Fijian home has an electrical unit without a thermostat.  So I’m manually switching the hot water unit on for just an hour a day and hoping the landlady will consider installing a timer. Another barrier to lighter living is our external ‘sunset lights’ that automatically switch on between dusk and dawn as a burglar deterrent. They cannot be switched off so they gobble up needless electricity.

Sadly there is no recycling in Fiji. All our paper, glass and plastics are thrown in with general rubbish.  Nor is it possible to buy recycled toilet paper. I could join the millions of people around the globe who perform their ablutions with water or perhaps I should adopt the antics of an Albury eco-champion who recently made flannelette wipes from an old sheet and began using these for her ‘number ones’.  I shall keep you posted (not), but in the mean time, wherever you may live, may you strive to do so lightly.