Sustainable Living - Advanced Tips
Updated: Apr 8
Why do we live sustainably? To become more self-sufficient and lessen our impact on the environment. We can do so much to lessen our dependence on external systems that continue to let us down and make us complicit in destroying the planet. Our daily lives are filled with so much activity that impacts the planet that even the most seemingly insignificant change can make a difference. But if you’re looking to make bigger and more advanced changes, there is more to be done beyond ditching straws and shopping with reusable bags.
Sell Your Car
It’s no secret that cars create pollution, spewing greenhouse gases into the air and contributing to anthropogenic climate change – not to mention the massive carbon footprint automotive production leaves on the planet. But have you ever stopped to think how bad cars are for you? It’s not only the planet choking on those exhaust fumes. While cars make our lives more convenient, that convenience comes with a huge price. Cars are expensive, not only to purchase and fill up with fuel but to maintain. Owning a car comes with the inevitable need to wash, fix, and service it. There’s also the constant need to renew (and pay for) your license and registration. Bad driving adds to your stress, as it may lead to road rage, accidents, and worst of all, fatalities. Sitting in traffic adds to your stress, wastes time you’ll never get back, negatively impacts your health, and increases pollution. If it’s feasible, sell your car and rather walk, use public transport, or carpool. You’ll not only be doing the planet a lot of good but yourself too.
Less is Less: Become a Minimalist
In today’s connected age, it’s not easy to live without cellphones and computers. Unless you are living a lifestyle where you have no need to be connected, you’ll probably need these items. But you can still live more sustainably and play your part for the planet by using them for their whole lifespan. Do not upgrade or replace your phone until your current one no longer functions. The same goes for TVs, gaming consoles, tablets, and the like. Electronic gadgets create electronic waste. Your first port of call? Fix it. If that’s not possible or too expensive (which is usually the case, so that you’re forced to buy a replacement), find an e-recycling facility or get creative and think of a way to upcycle your gadget. But before you buy a replacement, ask yourself a critical question: do I need it?
When it comes to phones and computers, the answer will probably be yes. But there is a lot more you can say no to. Do you really need three portable speakers, two salad spinners, a lemon squeezer, an avocado slicer, and an electric blanket? Of course, if you have these, use them. Getting rid of things just because you’re changing your lifestyle, doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of what you already have – and you don’t want to create waste unnecessarily. If you are trying to scale down and minimize clutter, gift or donate items you can live without. It’s not so much about letting go as it is about scaling back. Sustainability starts with reduction.
When it comes to other items that fill our homes – clothes, makeup, magazines, accessories, and décor – ask yourself the same question before shopping for your eighth vase, the third shade of red nail polish, or brand new Christmas decorations every year: do I need it? To create less waste, you need to buy less.
Zero Plastic, Zero Waste
Why do we need to buy less? Because manufacturing and delivering products uses energy and creates waste and harmful emissions. Once you go shopping and make a purchase – whether in-store or online – the wastefulness doesn’t stop. Whether you’re buying peaches, pens, or PCs, you can bet there will be plastic involved. Our lives are inundated with plastic. However, it’s important to remember that not all plastic is bad – think of that Tupperware that you’ve been using for years, even if it’s no longer wearing its original lid. Single-use items are the real enemy, and there’s more you can do to banish these from your life.
Shopping sustainably is about more than just heading to the shops with a reusable bag. There’s a lot you can do while you’re shopping and with what you’re buying. Purchase loose fruit and vegetables instead of those sitting on Styrofoam and encased in plastic. Need ketchup, mayo, and mustard? Buy options in glass jars and reuse the jars for storage purposes or even as a vase for plants and flowers. Better yet, make your own condiments.
Back home (and at work too), there are many more ways to eliminate waste. Stop eating takeout and ditch ready-made meals. Rather pack homemade lunches and place them in reusable containers – or work from home so you don’t need to pack lunch or be tempted to buy takeout. Banish plastic wrap and use beeswax wraps instead, as these can be washed and reused.
In the kitchen and bathroom, you can also work your way towards a zero-plastic lifestyle. Make your own cleaning products so you don’t have to buy those encased in plastic bottles and swimming in nasty chemicals. Buy bar soap not liquid soap or, again, make your own.
All these ways of reducing plastic mean you’re reducing waste. But waste goes beyond plastic – and even paper and glass and tins. Food waste is a huge problem, so start a compost pile, grow a garden, and plant a tree. The more you can source from your own garden and throw back into it, the less waste you’ll create. Soon you’ll have potatoes, tomatoes, and lemons, digging out and picking only what you need instead of buying a whole (plastic) bag and watching woefully as half of it rots and goes to waste. The more you live off the land, the less need you’ll have to head to the shops.
Live with the Land
Living off the land is a phrase that comes with visions of hunting and gathering your own food. While this definition still applies, we should be using the preposition “with” instead of “off”. Living off the land implies we are taking without giving, but sustainability is about reciprocity and maintaining cycles of life. Advance your sustainability practices by foraging for food, but never take more than you need and never take the first of what you see.
Protect the land by building a pond and planting trees, creating carbon sinks as well as a habitat for wildlife. Trees also provide shade to cool your home. When it comes to heating up, learn how to make a fire and heat your home with a fireplace or wood burner.
Advance your sustainable lifestyle by expanding your house into a home and your home into a homestead. Grow fruit, vegetables, and herbs, but also raise chickens and goats for eggs, milk, and cheese. Become a beekeeper so that you can make your own honey and send more pollinators into the environment. You’ll then be able to make your own beeswax wraps!
Barter for food and other goods with neighbors and the surrounding community. Understand the medicinal value of plants and you’ll find remedies and cures within plucking distance. Get off the grid by powering your home with renewable energy and installing water tanks. If you can learn to live with the land, the land will live with you. Know its nooks and crannies, learn its secrets, appreciate its gifts, and you’ll not only survive but thrive.
A Blog Post by Baileigh Higgins