We all want to try a sustainable lifestyle, but how do we start?

Sustainable living is growing in popularity as more and more people become aware of the challenges our planet faces and look at ways of reducing their footprint. There are many ways to do so, from the simpler to some which require more commitment. If you’re looking at getting started on your sustainable lifestyle journey, we’ve gathered some insights and suggestions for you.

Sustainable living is a conscious choice to live in a way that respects the planet by putting thought into decisions big and small. These changes can be done at an individual level or within your household. It's impossible to not have an environmental impact but there are various ways we can reduce our footprint and make choices that are kinder to the planet or even contribute to regeneration.

It's hard to make a lot of changes all at once but if you have one area you feel passionately about then that passion can make it easier for you to get started. This might be immediately obvious for you, for example if there's an environmental cause you are already involved with or have seen the effects of first hand. Or maybe it isn't so clear but you see the news and want to help.

Here are a few examples of causes that many of us care deeply about and have the power to impact:

Climate Change
Weather patterns all over the globe are changing, with most of our planet getting warmer as a result of increased greenhouse gas emissions. This doesn't just affect the overall temperature: the snow in the polar regions and mountains is melting, the oceans are rising, rain patterns are changing and extreme weather events are increasingly frequent. To mitigate climate change we need to drastically reduce carbon emissions.
Marine Life

Every day new pictures emerge of polluted oceans and animals suffering due to the accumulation of plastic and chemicals in their environment. There are many ways to help protect marine life, but reducing use of plastic products and synthetic clothing are two of the most impactful. You can also aim to reduce use of fossil fuels, which cause dramatic destruction when leaked into the ocean.

Destruction of Ancient Forests
Our forests are under threat because of illegal logging, wildfires and other means of habitat destruction. Deforestation happens for many reasons, from people looking to profit from the sale of wood to those who want to create more area for animal grazing or agriculture. The destruction of ancient forests, especially rainforests, is contributing to loss of biodiversity and releasing vast amounts of carbon and methane, whilst changing local weather patterns. As well as signing petitions to halt the destruction of ancient and tropical forests, choose products that are FSC and/or Fairtrade certified, and purchase sustainable clothing from companies working with Canopy Planet.
Rising pollution levels

The composition of the air we breathe has changed massively since the industrial revolution, with rising levels of pollution, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. These changes are dangerous at a planetary level and impact not only human-health but also many animal and plant species. In our case, this is seen with unprecedented incidence of respiratory diseases (such as asthma), allergies and intolerances, among others.

You can have a positive impact in tackling this issue by supporting use of low-emission transport (such as bicycles, trains and electric vehicles), supporting your local economy (by buying from a farmers' market instead of a supermarket for example) and supporting green initiatives in your wider area (such as more tree-cover and rewilding efforts).

When it comes to lessening your impact on the planet the top 3 things one can do are: to have one less child, to adopt a plant-based diet and to reduce one's use of any and all fossil-fuelled methods of transportation (especially cars and airplanes). You might be thinking 'how's that simple?!' but the complicated part is the thinking of it - it can be argued that not having another child, not eating meat and not traveling far away multiple times a year are simpler life choices. These are called The Big 3, because despite how clear the research is on these subjects they are highly emotional topics that not everyone is ready to take action on. Still, they are worth mentioning and thinking about as any changes in these areas will lessen our impact on the planet by a large measure.

If you're looking to start with smaller changes there are plenty of other steps you can take and you don’t need to completely overhaul your whole life from the get-go. Here are 8 changes you can make to live more sustainably:

Tackle energy consumption
Look to use a green electricity provider, which means you'll be supporting renewable energy projects. You can also look to consume less energy, for example by swapping conventional light bulbs out for LED ones, air drying clothes instead of using a dryer, only running the washing machine once full and washing clothing only when needed. You can read more about eco-friendly laundry here.
Contribute to a greener use of resources

Slow down the pace of consumption by purchasing quality items that last a long time and think twice before making a purchase. This applies to almost everything in life, from the small every-day items to the big ticket ones. A good rule of thumb is to think about how many times you'll use the item you are considering purchasing, if the number is less than thirty and you don't have urgent need of it, can you go without? Can you rent or borrow a similar product instead?

Support a healthy planet by making healthy food choices
Processed or more packaged foods are generally-speaking less healthy and have a higher environmental footprint because they are industrially made with lots of different ingredients. By choosing to eat more fresh foods, especially fruits and vegetables, you can make choices healthier for the planet and yourself. Go one step further by not having meat and fish every day (you can start with Meatless Monday), or choosing organic foods that don't use any pesticides or chemicals to grow.
Tackle water use to tackle water inequality

There's a limited amount of fresh water in the planet and it's increasingly polluted. By reducing how much fresh water you use within your household you can help reduce overall consumption and leave this precious resource available for others, namely communities that don't have easy access to fresh water or might not be able to cope with rising water prices. Some easy ways to lower fresh water consumption are to reduce consumption of red meats, shorten your showers by a minute and have less baths, wash your clothes less and on shorter cycles and use rainwater to water plants.

Reduce pollution by reducing use of plastics and synthetics
The last 100 years have seen mankind exponentially grow the amount of polymers used, which has resulted in growing amounts of pollution. It's estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans, with a lorry's worth of plastic entering the sea every minute. Our recycling systems are ill equipped to grow with the amounts of plastic produced and how it's used, so the best way to make a difference is to use less of it. Use reusables instead of disposables (carry a tote bag, use a reusable bottle and coffee cup, carry cutlery for food on the go), pick loose fruit and veg over pre-packaged, buy clothes made of natural materials such as cotton and linen instead of synthetic fibres and use eco-friendly cleaning and laundry products.
Be an Active Citizen

Vote for candidates and parties that have clear environmental goals and plans that are aligned with the preservation of natural resources. You can also influence policy by signing petitions related to causes you care about or writing to your local government to request changes.

Walk and Cycle when the distance allows or use public transport
Having less cars on the road would make a huge difference for carbon emissions and air pollution. If you have a choice, then using a car less often or not owning one at all are great ways to live more sustainably.
Change who you bank or invest with

Our last step to living greener is to use a bank and/or pension provider who invests in Sustainable Development projects. Many banks and investment institutions are still financing coal or fossil fuel related projects, such as new mines and oil digs, or new fossil fuelled energy plants. This is not aligned with plans for a Green transition, so avoiding such institutions is a signal to the market that you don't want your money to support these projects. You can also write an email to let them know why you are moving your money elsewhere.

Ultimately the changes that work best for you can only be determined in time and you may well find that some new steps are easier to stick to than others. The most important thing is to remain aware of what you are doing and to keep trying to take small steps in the right direction. Perhaps receiving regular newsletters that cover environmental topics is a good motivator for you and an easy way to stay informed? A fantastic way to keep things light and fun is to involve friends and family on the journey, as you talk about your struggles but also share your new finds or even share the cost of some products you don't need to own solo.

Let us know what changes you've made so far, what you're planning on changing next and if you have other questions for us!

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