6 simple ways you can start to live a more sustainable lifestyle
I am sooo crazy excited for today’s topic because this is something that’s become extremely important in my life, and I’ve made huge personal strides this year.
Sustainability is a relatively new term to me, as it’s only creeped onto my radar within the last few years. I’ve always been a tree hugger and a recycling nazi, but I didn’t know we could sum all that up into the word ‘sustainability’, or even into the phrase ‘sustainability practices’. If you’re interested in these concepts and what you can do to make a positive impact, keep reading! (This post is “link heavy” but each link should open in a separate tab, so you can come back to it later if you wish.)
So what is sustainability?
Sustainability: ‘Environmental Science. The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance: The committee is developing sustainability standards for products that use energy.‘
Sustainable Practices: ‘The definition of sustainable is something that can be continued or a practice that maintains a condition without harming the environment. An example of sustainable is the practice of reduce, reuse and recycle.’
Why is sustainability important?
I had a million answers to this and couldn’t find a succinct way to express them, so I’ll share this: “Why is Sustainability Important? Simply stated, our global future depends on it. The importance of finding a sustainable future is rooted in three issues that are very much linked to one another: 1) fossil fuel depletion, 2) climate change due to CO2 emissions, and 3) the increasing costs of energy and water.” That sounds horrible right? It is. But you can do something about it! Aside from contacting and/or voting for government officials who support sustainable practices, I made you a list!
6 simple ways to start living a more sustainable lifestyle:
- Recycling. Yep, seriously. This is probably the easiest and most obvious way to reduce waste in your life. Even if your neighborhood trash service doesn’t offer curb side pickup, you can still recycle plastic at your local grocery store. Most grocery stores have a plastic bag recycling area up front near their cash registers, but did you know that they may take back more than just your plastic grocery bags? Well, now you do! For a list of recycling centers (including these grocery stores) and what they accept, check out Earth 911.
- Reduce your use of plastics. You probably already have a nice collection of reusable tote bags and BPA-free reusable water bottles laying around, and it’s time to start using them. Make it a habit to leave your tote bags near the door you use most at home, that way they’re visible and easily accessible on the way to your car. Ditch single use water bottles by leaving a reusable one on your desk that can be refilled throughout the day, or even carry one with you. When traveling, TSA allows you to bring an empty water bottle through security with you and most airports have bottle filling stations near the restrooms that dispense filtered water. Already doing these things? Well, you can step up your game even further by switching out your plastic use at home by ditching baggies, plastic wrap and even plastic food storage containers with more earth-friendly items like beeswrap and stainless steel. While shopping at the grocery store, instead of reaching for that plastic produce bag, let your tomatoes, avocados and apples (or whatever) chill freely in your shopping cart; or get a reusable produce bag. And perhaps one of the most impactful ways you can reduce plastic in your life is to refuse the straw (#stopsucking) when you’re out to eat. You can even bring your own stainless steel version! If you’re looking for a more expert-level zero waste way to eat out, bring your own food containers and flatware with you for leftovers.
- Ditch single-use items in the bathroom & kitchen. This was a big deal for me personally and over time I have almost completely eliminated paper towels and cotton balls in my life. By consciously using real towels in the kitchen, and reusable facial cloths in the bathroom, our cotton waste has drastically been reduced. If you can’t live without paper towels, you can still have a positive impact by switching to recycled versions. I haven’t used an actual cotton ball in months because I started making my own facial pads to remove makeup and apply toner. The easiest way to do this is to start using that pile of wash cloths you have. (You can even cut them down to smaller sizes if that’s more convenient for you, but be warned their edges fray after washing if not re-hemmed.) Not interested in making your own? Support a small business and shop for them on Etsy or Handmade@Amazon. For those of you who menstruate, if you’re not yet ready to move to a more sustainable way to care for your period (click here, here & here to see what I mean), you can at least switch to organic cotton products. Organic cotton is not only better for the environment (because the plants use less water to grow and cannot be covered in toxic pesticides), but they’re actually CHEAPER to produce as well. Say what?! And don’t forget to recycle the cardboard packaging and toilet paper rolls in the bathroom!
- Buy in bulk or from the bulk section. This is another obvious one, but has been a personal struggle for me since moving to GA; mainly because stores like Sprouts are not a dime a dozen here. Anyway, when shopping for seeds, nuts, grains, coffee, etc., check out the bulk section of your local grocery store. If your store doesn’t have a section like this, you could: talk to a manager about getting one in, or shop somewhere that does (if you have the means, like I said, our closest Sprouts is 45 minutes away, not exactly convenient). When in season, the farmer’s market is an amazing place to find package free produce. (It’s amazing to me that we wrap our carrots and lettuce in plastic.) Actually, that’s a nice transition to point #5…
- Support sustainable businesses. Like the Package Free Shop or Life Without Plastic. When shopping online, pay attention to sellers who use recyclable materials in their packaging (pro tip: recycle those plastic bags full of air from Amazon at the grocery store!). I haven’t even touched on the textile market yet, but buying from clothing sites that promote sustainable manufacturing practices is not only saving the environment, but also people’s lives (sweat shops are still a thing!). Check out this article from Forbes on why “fast fashion is a disaster for women and the environment” and you’ll be disgusted at what you read.
- Buy used. Although also obvious, this concept is sometimes more simple in theory than actual practice, but I can’t write an entire blog post about sustainability and leave this option out. When shopping for clothing, furniture or household items, used is better! I know this isn’t always easy to do, especially when you’re looking for something extremely specific; but even if you visit thrift stores, consignment shops, or the flea market at least once in 5 times when you’re out shopping, you’ll start to make an impact. Let’s not forget about all the websites & apps out there too that help us with this concept, like: let go and Craig’s list.
That wraps up my 6 simple ways to begin living a more sustainable lifestyle. I hope you found some valuable reminders or even learned something new today. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this, first, take a deep breath… and second, take some time to marinate on the concepts and try adopting just one. I started 2017 with the intent not to buy water. And although I didn’t completely succeed in that intention, I significantly reduced how much I did buy compared to previous years. (In fact, the first bottle of water I purchased was in May.)
I’d love to hear your feedback on this topic! How are you working towards a sustainable lifestyle? What practices have you adopted over the years? Let me know!
Sending you all the love!
Great tips! I love these practices and do them often. Sometimes my family of 5 can escape a week with only 1 bag of trash. Sadly our recycling is only collected every other week, which is incredibly difficult. Needless to say, our recycling is easy 3-4x as much as our trash. We could improve on that as well (2L v. 12 oz cans?).
One thing I recently adopted that I noticed you forgot goes in the single serve category. Think laundry and dishes. those plastic wrappings don’t always break down, and however small, dryer sheets still create waste. Much to the dismay of my 13 yo, I’m no longer buying dryer sheets. Instead we’re using wool dryer balls (Amazon!!). Also, what about coffee? I think some larger establishments will fill your travel mug instead of using theirs. Win win cuz it saves them money (think increased profit due to decreased inventory cost but consistent sales)!
Oh yeah! Another favorite of mine is reusing! I threatened to not wrap any gifts this year, and instead use the box it came in. I didn’t do that, but fabric wrap and ribbons are one of my favorite things to use! Reusing gift bags is wick
Holy shit Christine! You got this down!! When we lived in a place where they collected our recycling for us, we would fill our recycle bin and have 1 bag of trash, too.
As for your question on buying 2 liters vs. aluminum cans – I vote cans just because plastic is so terrible.
I just heard about those wool balls when I was in MA in Oct… do you put essential oils in yours? I’ve also seen people clean used tin foil, make a ball out of a few sheets and use those in their dryer. Seems to also do the trick. But did you know that dryer sheets are compostable? I try not to go to Starbucks much any more, even with my reusable cup because I noticed they make my drink in their cup, then pour it into mine. What’s the effing point of that?! I’m sure other coffee shops are better about that, but I’ll just make my own for the most part. (Another side effect of being fun-employed is no more coffee $$ lol)
Dude! I also didn’t wrap pressies this year, well, for the most part. When I did, I used newspaper. Holla!