This planet is our home, and it’s sad to see what we humans have done to it. While we’ve made great advances in civilization, unfortunately we’ve forsaken the environment in the process and continue to pollute it in countless ways.
Small or big, we all make an impact on this planet and while most of the grievances against the environment can be attributed to the industrial complex, as a whole, we consumers can spark great change with small actions.
I say this because a lot of people make small daily choices that negatively impact the environment and then argue that those choices don’t matter because they’re just one person. This argument is made against every single cause out there and is just an easy way of not accepting any personal responsibility.
Yes, you’re just one person, but if you keep making better choices and then spread awareness to your friends and family and people all around the world do the same, suddenly it’s not just one person – it’s ten people, then a hundred, then a thousand, then a million, and eventually it’s a big movement and you’re a part of some big changes!
We can’t always control what others do, but we can always control our own actions. So, today, I want to talk about 6 small and simple ways that you can live more sustainably and hopefully these tips will serve as encouragement and inspiration on your own sustainability journey!
Switch Over to Reusable Shopping Bags
One of the easiest switches you can make immediately is simply switching over to reusable shopping bags instead of single-use plastic and paper bags. 8 million metric tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year. The rate at which we go through plastic on a daily basis is truly alarming, but by simply cutting out plastic from your shopping experience, you can contribute towards a more plastic-free environment.When it comes to materials, it’s better to opt for organic cotton, hemp, or jute reusable bags as opposed to other materials since these materials are strong and also biodegradable.
I’ve gotten into the habit of always keeping my car stocked with a bunch of reusable bags and remembering to grab them when I go inside the grocery store. I also always have a backup in my purse. It took a few weeks for the habit to solidify but now it’s second nature. For my produce, I use reusable produce bags that I purchased which work really well for me but you can also make your own with some thin cotton and an hour or two with a sewing machine.
Buy in Bulk
Sticking with the theme of shopping, the next tip is to buy everything that you can, in bulk. Not only is this way better for the environment since it allows you to avoid a lot of single-use packaging, but it’s also a wonderful way of saving money. Things in bulk are usually a lot cheaper and they also give you the added bonus of having to shop less often.
This works great for food items such as grains, lentils, beans, nuts & seeds. It can also work for spices and oils if you can find a store near you that sells those items in bulk. Otherwise, you can opt to buy the biggest size available for things like laundry detergent and hand soap.
Opt to Walk or Bike More Often
After I got my license at 16, I went from being a person that biked around every single day to a person who didn’t even touch their bicycle for at least a year or two. I know I’m not the only one who became extremely reliant on my car for even short five-minute trips once I started driving. Driving is easier and it’s understandable why many of us have a hard time choosing other modes of transportation. The average American household apparently owns 2.28 cars. But, the question is, do we really need to travel by car for everything?
If you live in a place with extreme weather or in a very rural area, that may very well be your best option. However, if you live in an urban setting where most of the stores you frequent for groceries and shopping are within a five to ten mile radius, you’ll be surprised by how much fun it can be to walk, bike, or even take the bus!
Walking, biking, and taking public transportation are a few modes of transportation that are better for the environment and even better for your health. The next time you’re heading out somewhere nearby, try reaching for your bicycle helmet instead of your car keys.
Bring Your Own Containers With You
A huge offender of creating plastic waste are disposable containers – water bottles, take-out containers, disposable eating utensils, and more. The solution is easy and only requires a few extra minutes of your time every day – all you have to do is bring your own containers with you when you go out.For example, if you know you’re going to be eating out, just bring your own container with you to the restaurant so you can pop your leftovers in there instead of the plastic containers the restaurant will give you.
Another big offender is disposable water bottles. Back when I wasn’t very conscious about my plastic usage, I would waste a lot of money on buying water when I was out and the end result would be tons and tons of empty water bottles on my car floor. This was an incredibly wasteful habit both financially and environmentally, because all I had to do was bring my own bottle of water with me when I went out.
If you have a coffee habit, you can bring you own coffee mug to Starbucks and they even give you a discount for that.
If you find yourself reaching for plastic spoons and forks, bring your own set of utensils with you. You can just grab a set from your kitchen drawer or if you’d rather have something designated for going out, you can of course buy a separate flatware set.
The basic idea is to plan a bit in advance and take those few extra seconds to grab whatever container(s) you’ll need for the day.
Conscious Consumerism + Thrifting
We live in a time where people place so much emphasis on owning things and shopping simply for the sake of it. It’s considered the norm to go out to buy one necessary item and come back with bags full of needless junk. Youtube is filled with all sorts of “haul” videos that have millions and millions of views.This consumerist culture is really destroying our planet. We need to be more conscious about what we buy and where we buy it, not only because it’s not sustainable, but also because this consumerism culture is unhealthy for our mental health and long-term happiness.
The first step is to start shopping more consciously and really thinking about whether each item you’re buying is a necessity, a want that will bring you continued joy for a long-period of time, or whether it’s just an object that’s bringing you some temporary pleasure in the moment but will fizzle out by the time you get home. This concept of joy is the backbone of minimalism which can really help you realize whether or not the things you own are actually adding value to your life. If you want to learn more about the benefits of minimalism, check out my blog post on the topic here.
Another huge aspect of conscious consumerism is realizing that you don’t have to buy everything brand-spanking-new. It’s perfectly okay to buy used, second-hand items. In fact, if you really enjoy having brand new things, you can still achieve that by shopping second-hand and save yourself some money in the process. This is especially true for electronics. People often sell brand-new, unopened phones, tablets, and laptops at a discounted price because they either received it as a gift and don’t want it, or they simply changed their mind after buying it. Sometimes, people will buy a new item, use it for a week, change their mind, and then sell the item for half the price.
Personally, I almost exclusively shop for expensive items such as electronics and furniture second-hand. I even like to shop for things like clothes second-hand at thrift stores. Just 2 months ago, I found a brand new designer shirt worth $385 with the tag still on it for….$3. Yep, I paid $3 for a shirt worth $385. That’s the fun and thrill of thrifting!
Conscious consumerism and buying second-hand are two amazing ways we can live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Switch to a More Plant-Based Diet
It turns out Americans are eating more meat than ever before in history. The United States is one of the top countries in the world when it comes to red meat and poultry consumption and it’s not a coincidence that we’re also one of the unhealthiest countries.Often, we can have an all-or-nothing attitude towards diet changes. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to make huge diet changes overnight if you don’t want to. Simply switching out one or two products to more plant-based ones can have a huge impact on our health and the environment.
You can make very small changes to your diet like swapping out a dairy beverage for a non-dairy one, or having one meat-free meal a day where you incorporate more whole foods like beans and vegetables into your meal. You can switch over to plant-based snacks like nut and seed bars or veggies with hummus.
When it comes to diet, the possibilities are endless, and switching over to a more plant-based diet can be simpler and easier than you might imagine!
These are just a few simple ways you can live more sustainably. These may feel weird at first but eventually you’ll realize how much fun all of these tips can be! A little bit of effort goes a long way and the health of our environment is definitely worth a little bit of effort on each of our parts. You have the power to impact great change in this world if only you believe in yourself.