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:
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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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