What Exactly is Sustainable Living?
Sustainable living is a lifestyle that focuses on eliminating or changing as many daily practices as possible that can be harmful to the environment. It’s essentially reducing the number of natural resources you use daily to help give the environment a break by placing fewer demands on it. The great thing about sustainable living is that it can be very easy to implement. By making just a few changes here and there, you can be well on your way to reducing your carbon footprint, improving air quality, and bettering the planet’s overall state. As Marcus likes to say, you are: “100% in charge,” your actions can make a significant impact, and when it comes to sustainable living, every little step counts.
So How Can You Dive Into the World of Sustainable Living? Let's Get You Started
Here are a few ways to begin giving the environment a break and start living more consciously.
1. Be a Minimalist
Simply put, this means sticking to essentials only. In a world where you can get anything you can dream of by clicking and waiting a couple of days or even just a few hours, disposable things are abundant. While this quick gratification can make your life easier, it’s incredibly harmful to the planet in more ways than one. It creates waste, produces harmful emissions, and much more. So, stick to only what you need. When you’re about to purchase something, think to yourself: “Do I really need this? Can I get it in a different way that might not harm the environment as much? Can I make it with the materials I have at home already? Is this essential for me right now?
So, stick to only what you need. When you’re about to purchase something, think to yourself: “Do I really need this? Can I get it in a different way that might not harm the environment as much? Can I make it with the materials I have at home already? Is this essential for me right now? Does someone I know have something similar that I can borrow?” Chances are you may not truly need it, and not getting it won’t hurt you, but in some cases, getting it can harm the environment. The first step into living a minimalist life is to really ask yourself these questions before any purchase.
Does someone I know have something similar that I can borrow?” Chances are you don’t need it, and not getting it won’t hurt you, but getting it can harm the environment. The first step into living a minimalist life is to really ask yourself these questions before any purchase.
Another big rule for minimalists is one you’ve heard plenty of times before: Reduce, reuse, recycle. Most of the things you have at home can be used in multiple ways, and there are tons of websites to help you repurpose just about anything, including old clothing, jars, containers, magazines, you name it.
2. Shop Local
Believe it or not, another way to reduce your carbon footprint is to shop local; the shorter the trajectory of the goods you’re getting, the smaller the emissions produced to get it to you. You can shop local for just about anything, from clothing to small goods to furniture, and even food products (which tend to be extra fresh when local). Plus, shopping at small local businesses is great for your community and its economy.
3. Limit Waste
This is a big one when it comes to living a sustainable lifestyle. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to achieve if you focus on reducing the amount of non-biodegradable things you use to prevent it all from ending up in landfills.
- Buy silicone snack and sandwich bags, so you don't use plastic ones.
- Carry your own water bottle around, so you can limit the usage of plastic bottles.
- Bring your own coffee mug to your favorite coffee place and ask them to fill your order there, so you don't use single-serve cups.
- Find a local place where you can refill your old soap and detergent bottles instead of getting brand new ones.
- Carry a silicone or stainless-steel straw with you when you go out.
- Whenever possible, avoid purchasing plastic cutlery or paper plates.
- When getting things shipped to you, ask for minimum packaging.
- Take your own reusable bags to the grocery store.
- Avoid purchasing "fast fashion" items that you buy for cheap, use a few times, and then dispose of. Instead, invest in good quality pieces that will last you a long time (bonus points if you get them from environmentally friendly brands!)
4. Conserve Energy and Water
Small changes to your daily routine can go a long way when it comes to conserving water and energy, and the best part is that these small changes can translate into savings for you on your electric and water bills.
- Take short showers. A great rule to go by is to take showers that last as long as your favorite song. Make them quick and efficient.
- While you wait for your shower to produce hot water, collect the cold water in a bucket and use it to water your plants.
- When washing dishes, brushing your teeth, washing your hands, and washing your face, make sure you turn off the water when not using it. An incredible amount of water is wasted when you leave it running.
- Make sure to use your washing machine and your dishwasher only when they are at capacity. These machines use a lot of water and should be full to maximize efficiency.
- Turn off the lights when you leave the room. If no one is there, no one needs them!
- Use daylight as much as possible. Don't turn on lights unless absolutely necessary.
- Change your light bulbs to CFL or LED bulbs when possible, as these conserve more energy and last longer.
- Unplug appliances and devices when they're not in use, since they are still using energy when connected.
5. Stay Away From Toxic Chemicals
Many of the products we use in our day-to-day lives contain chemicals that can be pretty toxic, so it’s always a good idea to read labels before buying anything. Some of the things to look out for are sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan, parabens, oxybenzone, chlorine bleach, and formaldehyde. The alternative is to take your time to research natural cleaners. There are plenty of environmentally friendly brands that fit your every need, and even more DIY recipes to make your own products if you feel like getting creative. The point is to reduce the number of chemicals you are exposed to in your daily activities, because they are both bad for you and bad for the planet.
6. Be Responsible When Traveling
It’s easy to get lost in the excitement of a vacation or the logistics of a work trip, but it’s extremely important not to let your guard down when traveling. Don’t forget to bring your reusable items with you, pack snacks in your silicon bags, bring your water bottle and coffee mug, and avoid buying things on impulse. Another great tip is to refuse the daily towel change, and no matter how cute the hotel mini lotions and shampoos are, leave them alone! They use a lot of unnecessary plastic that will just end up in landfills.
If you’re traveling for pleasure, try going off the beaten path a bit. There are many breathtaking eco-friendly travel ideas, resorts, and destinations that will make for incredible experiences and memories that will last a lifetime while avoiding waste that might last even longer.
A Few Other Tips That Will Help You Live a More Sustainable Life:
Have Meatless Mondays (Or Any Day of the Week)
You don’t have to be vegetarian or vegan to show you care about the environment but reducing the amount of meat you eat is better for the planet overall. Producing meat uses a lot of water, machinery, and equipment that create waste and emissions as well as a large number of greenhouse gases.
Give the Earth a Break
A day, half a day, or even an hour a week of no shopping, no using electric equipment of any kind, and no technology can give the planet a huge break.
Borrow, Borrow, Borrow.
If you want to read a book your friend raved about, wear a new dress for an upcoming wedding, try a new board game, ride a bike somewhere or get ready for a ski trip coming up, don’t run to the store to get what you need… borrow! It is easy to do, and it is very environmentally friendly. The best part is that you can help others live a more sustainable life by offering to let them borrow whatever they need instead of buying it.
Sustainable living might seem a bit daunting at the beginning. Still, when you tackle it one little bit at a time, you realize just how easy it is to implement these small changes that actually make a tremendous impact in your environment. It’s just a matter of living more consciously and avoiding things we know can be harmful to the planet. When you choose to live a more sustainable lifestyle, you become more conscious about your surroundings, what you buy, what you eat, and all of the possible waste you create, making you much more empathetic to your planet and more aware of ways you can help it.
Baker, L. (n.d.). 10 home items you can reuse over and over again. Retrieved from https://www.onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/home-items-you-can-reuse-over-and-over-again/
Rinkesh. (n.d.). What is sustainable living? Retrieved from https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/15-ideas-for-sustainable-living.php