If you’re new to the world of sustainable living, you’re not alone. We’re living through a revival of “the old ways”- of homegrown tomatoes, of seasonal produce, and of living a more simple and sustainable lifestyle. How do we live today so that both our current and future generations can thrive? We make small changes to our habits that keep sustainability at the top of our priority list and consumption and replacement at an equilibrium. These six simple actions can help you live a more satisfying and sustainable lifestyle.
Public Image by: John Englart
Six Steps to Living Sustainably:
1. Limit your food waste: If you’re anything like me, you go to the grocery store on a whim and return home having bought two or three of the same thing you already had in your pantry. Make it a habit to take a quick inventory of what you already have in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry before you go food shopping to prevent accidentally overbuying. Creating a weekly meal plan helps prevent buying too much food because you know what foods and ingredients you’ll need. Of course, then you must stick to the list at the store. Coordinate those meals during the week so you reuse ingredients for multiple dishes and not buy odd items that may go to waste. (mayo clinic health system.org)
2. Have one plant-based day per week: Cutting animal products and by-products from your diet one day a week or even just one meal a week can benefit your health, and it can help off-set greenhouse gasses emitted by large dairy and meat industries. Plant-based food includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrains, seeds, nuts, and beans. Plant-based food and dining options are becoming more in-demand, so finding a delicious recipe or plant-based dish while dining out is easier than ever. This is a simple and tasty sustainability swap. (sigearth.com)
Caption: Eating one plant-based meal a week is healthy and sustainable
3. Compost kitchen scraps: Backyard composting is an easy and inexpensive way to nourish your garden instead of throwing away kitchen scraps, but food scraps alone will not produce compost. You need a mixture of “brown” materials that have high carbon content with “green” materials that are high in nitrogen. For “green” materials, add fruits, vegetables, flour-based products like noodles and bread, and cooked grains like rice to your compost caddy. As a general rule of thumb, if it’s vegetable-based, it’s usually safe to compost. For “brown” materials that contain carbon, add things like straw, hay, saw dust, and dead leaves to the compost pile. You can also use shredded paper or cardboard. If you live in an apartment, a stacked-worm composting kit (available on Amazon) is a great space-saver. If you have a yard, you can simply bury your compost materials or invest in a compost tumbler or a compost bin. I prefer to use a compost bucket that sits just outside my front door. Just make sure to mix the compost materials in your bucket once or twice a week to aerate the mixture.
Note that dairy products, animal products, and oils should not be composted. (helpmecompost.com)
4. Use less plastic or use plastic alternatives: Single-use plastic is the antithesis of sustainability. I love modern conveniences, but single-use plastics like candy bar wrappers and grocery bags have long-lasting and devastating effects on our oceans, environment, and wildlife. Plastic like this never actually breaks down. It just breaks up into microplastic, and it’s everywhere. Make simple changes to help reduce the overall single-use plastic you consume by keeping a few reusable bags handy in your car. Try to buy items in bulk and avoid buying individually wrapped foods and snacks. Invest in a set of multi-purpose reusable containers and cutlery. Voice your opinions, concerns, and desire for change to local governments, businesses, and corporations. Vote with your wallet, and spend your money on sustainably packaged items. (nrdc.org)
Caption: Single-Use plastics increase the amount of microplastics in the ocean.
5. Make your own green cleaning products: Quit using harsh chemicals in your house and on your skin. You can easily and affordably make your own eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner that’s effective at removing dirt and germs from your home. To make a mild cleaner that won’t strip your skin off, mix ½ cup vinegar, ¼ cups baking soda, and 4 to 8 cups of hot water in a spray bottle. You can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oils for a fragrant spritz. (WebMd.com)
Caption: Store bought cleaners often contain harmful chemicals6. Consider a swamp cooler: Constantly using an AC unit is an expensive and energy-intensive process. Also, chemical refrigerants contribute to the harm of the ozone and atmosphere. Instead of running your air conditioning unit all the time, consider buying a swamp cooler: a simple, natural, evaporation-based cooling system. You can buy or even build one for your home. It’s just a fan that recirculates a room’s air, blowing it across a cool, wet pad that’s called a “wick.” Swamp coolers work best in dry climates as they naturally increase the humidity. (NYT.com)
Western culture promotes individualism, prioritizing individual’s needs over group needs. But we should reframe our thinking to consider that we are all connected, and this matters. Even little things you do, choices you make, and habits you start to incorporate into your daily life matter and do make a difference in your home, community, and world.
Your sustainability habits are important.