What does it mean to live a sustainable lifestyle? Whoa, what a question huh?! Many of us are wanting to lead a more sustainable lifestyle but don’t quite understand exactly what is meant by “sustainable lifestyle” let alone where to start this practice. When thinking of sustainability, I believe most people’s go-to response is “saving the environment”. Yes, this is totally part of it (maybe not saving, more like reducing our impact as much as humanly 😉 possible). But how? When? Where? … What does sustainable even mean?!?
Sustainable means, “… a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” Thank you Merriam-Webster.com!
To lead a sustainable lifestyle means to preserve our natural resources while reducing our waste to the best of our ability. Now that we have a basic understanding of what sustainable means and what is meant by a ‘sustainable lifestyle’, how do we go about actually living a sustainable lifestyle? Read on 🙂
How to Buy Sustainably
Buy Fair Trade Certified Goods
When possible, try and buy Fair Trade Certified goods. There will be a logo somewhere on the packaging indicating it is Fair Trade certified. This certification means that the product was made or produced using socioeconomic and environmentally sustainable practices. These practices include fair pay and training for local farmers to improve agricultural practices that are better for the environment.
Go check out your local thrift store and see if they have what you are looking for instead of buying new first. Buying secondhand first means reducing unnecessary production and for some thrift stores (Goodwill or Salvation Army), you are helping support their community outreach programs by spending your money there.
Instead of buying altogether, try borrowing from a friend or renting the item you need. If you only need the item for a short while, this is a great alternative that still reduces unnecessary production and waste.
Vote With Your Wallet
Before buying from your favorite brand, do a little looking around on their website or ‘About Me’ page to see if they implement sustainable practices. If you can’t find anything, try sending them a polite, constructive e-mail asking for more information. We vote with our wallet, so try and support brands that are trying to reduce their impact and encourage those who are not quite there yet.
Avoid Single-Use Products
Instead of using a plastic straw or water bottle, coffee-to-go cups, or other products that can only be used once and then need to be thrown away, try using reusable products. For example, use a steel straw instead of plastic, a reusable water bottle, and cloth shopping bags instead of plastic. There are so many alternatives to single-use products out there! Go and find them (p.s. I have a list here )😊. Even if the single-use product you are using says it is recyclable, try and go for a reusable option instead as only a small portion of our ‘recyclables’ are in fact recycled.
When possible, try and buy clothing and other products made out of sustainable textiles such as recycled polyester, organic cotton, linen, humane wool, hemp, bamboo, and silk. Other textiles can require a lot of energy and resources to produce, use harmful chemicals or pesticides, and cannot be broken down and release microplastics into our environment.
Choose Quality Over Quantity
Invest in quality pieces to add to your home or wardrobe. There have been several occurrences where I have bought a cute top for super cheap at a big chain store and after having worn it a couple of times, I find a hole in the fabric somewhere. Avoid cheaply made products that have a short lifespan, and only purchase items that you really love and that you will be able to enjoy for years to come.
How to Maintain a Sustainable Lifestyle
Pick Up Your Clothes
We are all guilty of it, trying on an outfit, changing our mind, and leaving the discarded option on the floor or somewhere that when we go to pick it up later, we decide it is now dirty and chuck it into the hamper. Or maybe we didn’t actually exercise in those yoga pants, but just wore them for a few hours to run errand or lounge at the house. If it is not dirty, hang it or fold it back up. This practice has a lot of benefits. Not only does it reduce our energy and water usage, but it also prolongs the life of our clothes and saves us some money on laundry detergent!
Energy Efficient Home
There are a ton of ways we can reduce our energy usage at home. If possible, purchase energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs. Turn the lights off when not using them and try not to leave appliances plugged in 24/7. Maybe not all of your appliances (I don’t even know exactly where the plug-in is for the oven), but unplug curling/flat irons, maybe the toaster, or lamps that aren’t frequently used.
Adjust the thermostat to run less often when no one is home during the day. If the weather is nice, shut the unit off altogether and open up some windows and enjoy the breeze!
Run Forest, Run!
Running to work is a great way to be more sustainable with your daily commute!… Just kidding! I mean you could totally run or bike to work if you wanted to, buuuut I would die and not just because I have a 45 min driving commute. Okay, okay maybe dying is a bit dramatic, but I would definitely be huffing and puffing around minute… 5, walk back home, and then call in sick.
My inability to run long distances aside, walking when possible instead of driving helps reduce emissions and gas usage. When driving is the only option, try carpooling and don’t forget to karaoke along the way.
Take care of our possessions. Treat them with respect, keep them clean (but not overwashed 🙂 ), properly maintained, and put them back in their proper place when not in use. Your possessions will last longer when you take care of them, it will save you money from having to repurchase, and bonus, your home will feel clean and organized.
How to Dispose of Sustainably
Resell or Donate
When you are ready to let go of an item but it still has function and value, sell the item or donate it to your local thrift store.
Instead of immediately chucking stuff into the garbage, research and see if there is some type of program that will take it off your hands. Project Beauty Share is an organization that you can donate your gently used beauty and hygiene products. They distribute these donations to homeless shelters and women in need.
Get creative and find another purpose for the item that no longer fits the original function. Turn old clothes into cleaning cloths. Repurpose jars into vases or used again for meal prep or food storage containers.
When there is no other option available for the item you no longer need, then recycle, recycle, recycle. Not all cities have recycling programs, mine being one of them (come on guys it’s 2020), but where there’s a will there’s a way. Here comes that “r” word again, research! Research and find a program or facility to take your recycling to.
Living a Sustainable Lifestyle
The most important tip for how to live a sustainable lifestyle is to start out slow. Nobody can implement all of these practices (emphasis on practice) into their life overnight. So take your time and don’t get overwhelmed. Begin by implementing one or two of these practices at a time. Give it time to become a habit in your life and then start to incorporate another.
Remember nobody is perfect. As I am writing this, I am at Starbucks drinking out of my single-use coffee cup because I was in a rush and forgot to bring my own from home. We don’t have to be perfect or get it right all of the time. The important part is that we are trying and together we will make a positive impact by living a sustainable lifestyle.