Updated: Sep 13, 2019
10 simple ways to become a little more sustainable without changing your life
This is a common misconception.
I asked on Instagram a while back why some people might not take steps towards becoming more sustainable and this was a popular answer among my friends and their friends as well.
I can see how it is true, especially when first diving into the zero waste movement (which is one reason I don't love the term). From the outside, it is extremely intimidating to see someone collect all of their trash from four years in a mason jar or use reusable toilet paper or some other extreme. While those people are truly doing as much as they can to help the Earth, the Earth needs all the help she can get even if that just means you carpool to work and use your own water bottle.
I am not perfect and no one else I know personally in the low waste movement is perfect. We all forget our water bottle or grocery bags some times. You will always find at least one piece of plastic in my grocery cart. I don't carpool or ride my bike to work. Heck, I live on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific, everything I could ever need has to be shipped hundreds of miles to me. I am not perfect and no one else is either.
What matters most is that I (and you are) am aware of my actions. I avoid animals products when possible. I buy local when possible. I chose sustainable companies when possible. Did you catch the trend? When possible. While I love the Earth and do my best to care for her, I do not make my life inconvenient. If I were trying to live a perfectly zero waste life where I am in my life right now (physically and figuratively), it would take me an hour to get to work and I would probably starve or be very unsatisfied with what I eat.
But, I am aware of my discrepancies. I know where I can improve and what I need to change and I will get there eventually. Zero waste (just like any other major goal in life) does not happen over night. I would love to eventually own a garden and an electric car or work from home. I would love to have more farmers markets (more on this in another post) and a bulk store near me. But it is just not possible for me right now.
So, long story short, you don't have to change your whole life and you you're not alone.
Here some very basic tips that do not require you to change your life:
1. Change your water habits:
Invest in a good water bottle (stainless steel) and water filter that will last. Even if it is a little pricey, think about how much money you will save by not buying a case of water every week! This first step really does pay off in the long run, especially in big families.
2. Use your own grocery bags:
Now there is a lot of controversy about whether or not reusable bags actually produce more emissions so I recommend making your own, reusing what you already have, or find some second hand. If this isn't an option, I personally believe that buying a few reusable bags is much better than continuing to use plastic disposable bags.
3. Get a reusable coffee cup:
It doesn't even have to be fancy. It can be a thermos or a mason jar you already have! Or you can buy one new or second hand. I bought mine new and it functions only as my travel coffee cup. If buying new is what you have to do to keep hundreds of cups out of the landfill, then so be it.
4. Ditch the single-use cutlery:
Get a travel set of silver ware (my favorite are made of bamboo) or use some from home. Keep them in your purse, backpack, or car. (These first four are often called the big four, click here to read more.)
5. Turn off the lights:
Electricity is still powered by fossil fuels in most countries. An easy way to reduce your carbon footprint here is by turning off your lights whenever possible to save on coal being burnt. This will also save money on your electric bill. Plus, it just feels so much better on your skin and eyes to have natural versus artificial light.
6. More electricity:
Unplug gadgets and appliances when not in use. Is your phone done charging? Unplug it. Is your toast done? Unplug it.
7. Save your water too:
The same goes for water, shut it off while you brush your teeth, shave, and scrub your dishes. This will also save you money. Use water at room temperature when possible to save energy being spent on heating and cooling (like in your dishwasher, washing machine, and doing other things with water).
Carpool or take public transportation when possible. Since this list is supposed to be ways that do not require you to change your life, this may not be possible for everyone. But, say you find out a co-worker lives in your building; offer to take turns driving to work! Ride a bike or take the bus if you have that option. And of course, fly as little as possible.
This is probably one of the easiest things you can do when you're starting out reducing your waste. Refuse unwanted and unnecessary items. When you are out to dinner, refuse straws. If you only get one item at the store, refuse the bag. It is that simple!
10. Use what you have first:
Don't dive right into this lifestyle thinking plastic is the enemy and you must rid your entire life of it. This is a common misconception about the zero waste movement as well. You see a lot of zero wasters with their glass and stainless steel. While these materials are much better for the Earth, how horrible is it to throw away perfectly good items just because they are made out of plastic? If anything, use what you have first until you can no longer use it and then buy a better quality, more sustainable option.
That's it! Some very simple beginner tips on how to live more sustainably.
Did you notice that a lot of these tips will actually save you money? Who knew saving the Earth could also save you some dough!
It doesn't have to be challenging. It can actually be so easy and can become muscle memory with little effort.
Now that you've got your beginner tips taken care of, move on to some intermediate tips (click here).
Thank you so much for reading. And until next time, remember:
"The smallest changes make the biggest impact when multiplied"