7 Simple Ways to Live Sustainably Every Day
Sustainability has become a sort of buzz word in recent years. Companies far and wide use it to generate followers and brand loyalty, and millennials often speak of it while clutching reusable straws. Yet, empty promises of eco-friendly practices and misleading terminology have still left many consumers confused about what sustainability really is or how to live the word in everyday life.
Essentially, this complex concept entails fulfilling human needs without compromising future generations’ ability to survive. Ultimately, sustainable living will require defending the planet with simple, daily lifestyle changes.
1. Grow Your Food
Growing your own food is easier than it sounds. Instead of diving in head-first and turning your backyard into a garden, begin by growing a single plant indoors. Herbs like cilantro, basil parsley and chives are a good place to start.
Once you’ve stretched your green thumb, you can expand your garden outdoors. Relying on your garden for food will teach you to eat locally and seasonally so that your eating habits have little effect on the environment.
When you consider simple, sustainable living solutions, composting is probably the last thing that comes to mind. Yet, this stewardship practice is just as easy as gardening — if not more so. Currently, only 4.1% of food ever goes through the composting process, so there’s obviously room for improvement.
Do your part in minimizing waste by tossing your food scraps in a small countertop container. Then, transfer the decomposing remains to your garden to promote healthy fruits and vegetables.
3. Shop Local
If you don’t have the time or space to compost and garden, make an effort to shop locally and organically. Doing so will help reduce food miles and emissions involved in food production and transportation. Plus, when you buy organic, your shopping dollars will support small-scale farmers.
These non-industrial operations use sustainable practices that minimize pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, and use less energy. Visit the farmer’s market, explore community food cooperatives or purchase products directly from farmers to shop local year-round.
4. Buy Vintage
Fast fashion is wasteful and unsustainable, especially if you’re constantly updating your wardrobe. Luckily, you can cut down on textile waste by being an eco-conscious consumer. Buy second-hand or vintage pieces instead of purchasing brand new clothing.
You might even rent items you only plan to wear once. When you do buy new products, invest in sustainable, ethical brands that recycle, reuse, and give back to the earth.
5. Recycle Properly
Waste facilities only recycle or compost 35% of all municipal solid waste. The rest of it ends up in landfills and natural habitats. Often, this unnecessary waste occurs when consumers contaminate single-stream recycling operations with materials that are non-recyclable.
Therefore, it’s crucial that you and your community understand how to recycle properly. Often, batteries, plastics, glass, and paper products will have to go in seperate bins so different facilities can recycle them. Pay attention to recycling instructions on packaging to make sure you recycle each item correctly and remember to compost or toss materials you can’t recycle.
6. Invest In Reusable Items
You can only recycle a material so many times before having to throw it away. Although plastic producers like to push recycling, their products can only go through the process once or twice. Meanwhile, you can recycle paper five to seven times and glass and metal indefinitely. Therefore, it’s best to invest in reusable items.
Trade your plastic water bottle for a steel one and use cloth napkins instead of paper. Making a few simple changes will help you defend the planet and save money in the long run.
7. Reduce Energy Consumption
Residential energy consumption accounts for about 20% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. As GHG emissions accumulate in the atmosphere, temperatures increase, climate change worsens, and more wildlife disappears. However, you can make a difference by reducing your personal energy consumption.
When you leave a room, turn off lights and power strips. Upgrade to LED light bulbs and energy-efficient appliances. Adjust your thermostat a few degrees and avoid overusing your HVAC system. While these changes may seem small and insignificant, they’ll add up quickly and greatly reduce your total carbon footprint.
One Step at a Time
As you learn more about the climate crisis and how your actions affect the planet, you may develop an overwhelming desire to change your entire lifestyle. However, overhauling your life and daily routine in the name of sustainability simply isn’t feasible. Rather, you should focus on taking one small step at a time on this long and winding road to sustainability.
As time and money allow, begin to invest in reusable items. Learn how to recycle responsibly and grow your own food. Eventually, these changes will become your new way of life and you’ll wonder how you ever went without fabric grocery bags and metal straws.
About the author
Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. She covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, renewable energy and more.