Many of us are curious about living more sustainable lives. Why? Between damning findings in the most recent IPCC report and on-the-ground changes in temperature and weather patterns, the time to become sustainable is NOW. Fortunately, thanks to the urgency in which change is needed, sustainable living has never been easier.
Let’s explore what living more sustainably means. We’ll also share some sustainable living ideas that are perfect for anyone—especially beginners.
What is Meant by Living Sustainably?
When it comes to living sustainably, we can understand it as a way in which someone reduces their impact on the planet. It means minimizing use of resources, reducing activities that cause damage, and making changes that have a positive impact on our environment.
In an ideal world, anything that we consume would be returned to the Earth, and our cars and homes would operate in such a way that harnesses renewable energy and doesn’t emit greenhouse gasses. For any portion of our impact that we couldn’t curb, an equal amount would be offset with projects that have a positive impact on our planet. Simply put, this would be “net zero living” or “carbon neutrality.”
While this is far from practical for many of us, we can aspire to at least head in this direction. In fact, we need to.
Why Should We Live More Sustainably?
It should come as no surprise to anyone that we depend on this planet for our survival. A healthy, habitable Earth is necessary to provide us with food, clean water, and building materials. We need a climatic environment that doesn’t put us in danger or undermine our daily activities.
Well, we’re increasingly slipping away from that. We’re contributing to biodiversity losses that will ultimately impact us. Human activities are the reason behind a loss of pollinators, arable soils, and clean water. Wildfires, flooding, and extreme temperatures are causing people to lose their homes—or worse.
And all signs point to a global future that is… problematic, to say the least. Unless drastic measures are taken or we totally change the way in which we live, the middle of the century will bring mass migrations, even deadlier droughts and floods, unlivable temperatures, and turmoil. The best time to live more sustainably was decades ago when scientists and corporations first became aware of our impact on the planet.
The second best time? RIGHT NOW. Let’s dive into how to do just that.
A Beginner’s Guide to Sustainable Living: 8 Things to Consider
We know that it’s necessary, but, just how can you live more sustainably? Here are 8 things to consider.
1. Start small and start now
Does living sustainably mean that you need to sell your house and car and live in a tent? Well, not exactly.
Your entire life doesn’t need a rehaul. But you should make changes immediately.
Don’t be afraid to start small. The word “sustainable” could also be understood as something “that can be maintained at a certain level or rate.” If it’s not sustainable for you to immediately make the switch to a plant-based diet or trade your car for a bike, don’t do it.
Instead, consider small changes that can be built upon over time.
Consider, for example, vowing to have one day every week where you don’t make any purchases. Trade one packaged food item for something you learn to make yourself. Instead of replacing those broken boots with a new pair, take them to get repaired. If you always bring a packed lunch to work, trade single-use sandwich bags for reusable silicone sandwich bags.
Whatever you do, just get started!
2. Know your impact
As another recommended starting point, it’s good to actually take some time to understand your personal environmental impact. How do your eating, driving, purchasing, and entertainment practices impact our planet? Are you aware that your daily to-go coffee really adds up over time? Just how much energy do you use to heat and cool your home?
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to assess your individual impact. There are several ways in which we can go about this, and different things we can measure:
Carbon footprint: Fossil fuels fuel the vast majority of our actions. Driving to work, eating, shopping, and keeping our house at a suitable temperature all release greenhouse gasses into the environment. Use the Carbon Footprint Calculator to see your personal CO2 emissions.
Water footprint: A water footprint refers to the water you drink or wash with directly and all of the “virtual water” that’s used to produce your electricity, gas, food, and purchased products. Check out the Water Calculator to find yours.
Waste footprint: Between food, electronics, old clothes, and general waste, we throw away A LOT. It’s good to take some time to audit your waste. Try collecting a week’s worth of food waste. See if you can squeeze your daily plastic waste in a jar. Count how many trash bags you throw away every month. Having an idea of how much you contribute will help you make improvements.
Environmental footprint: An overarching environmental footprint assessment might help you make the most holistic improvements. WWF has an Environmental Footprint Questionnaire that can help.
3. Learn from the experts
There are a plethora of resources available for anyone looking to lessen their impact and live more sustainably. Check out our sustainable library for low-waste living books.
Podcasts are a great source for expert opinions and sustainability blogs are the place to turn for DIY tips, recipes, and personal insights.
Many local communities and environmental non-profits host local eco-living events and universities are a great place to turn for public lectures on a range of sustainability topics.
4. Beware of greenwashing
Because planet-friendly living has taken the world by storm, sustainability has become trendy—which means that it’s become profitable. Anyone and everyone can stamp “eco-friendly” or “green” on their product. Quite often we just don’t have the time or knowledge to be able to actually know if it’s truly better for our environment or not.
That’s where sustainability certifications come in. Companies that have become Certified B Corps or use ingredients that are USDA-Certified Organic have been vetted by an independent third party. This makes them a more trustworthy source and helps consumers fight off greenwashing claims.
5. Recycle (and recycle properly)
Yes, you may have a bin in your home that’s used to collect bottles and boxes, but are you sure you’re only recycling what can be recycled? Unfortunately, most of us are still in the dark when it comes to how to recycle like a pro.
Thanks to the manipulative marketing around the chasing arrows symbol, many people think that anything with a recycling logo can be successfully recycled. In theory, this is the truth. But in reality, things look a lot different.
Recycling is a market-based system that relies on buyers and sellers. When something like a child’s toy ends up in a recycling facility, it’s simply too time consuming and not at all cost effective to break down the toy into its various components to be recycled.
That said, check with your local council to be sure that you’re only recycling what can actually be recycled. Then, try to cut down your consumption of items that can’t.
6. Consider making sustainable swaps
Speaking of consumption, there are now greener versions for many of our most commonly-used products. These sustainable swaps are often packaged without plastic and designed to last a long time or be easily refilled.
There are an abundance of sustainable living online shops that make it easy to discover sustainable products that are better for you and our planet. However, beware of greenwashing here, too!
At Green Eco Dream, we only work with well-vetted sustainable brands. We ship 100% plastic-free and use compostable, water-activated tape and soy-based inks. We’re also a Certified Carbon Neutral company, a member of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, a member of the Sierra Club, and a Certified Green America Business! We also donate a portion of our profits as a member of 1% for the Planet.
Remember those sustainability certifications? They help us stand out from the crowd and let you—the planet-friendly consumer—shop with peace of mind.
7. Spread the word
We should be talking about sustainability ALL. THE. TIME.
Embrace your newfound eco-journey by sharing sustainable living examples with friends and family. See if they’ll join you in making the switch to zero waste shampoo and conditioner bars. When you join them for brunch or a picnic dinner, bring food to share in reusable plant-based food wraps.
Because here’s the thing, while individual actions are required to support the planet, we can't save our home alone.
The more sustainability issues are spoken about, the more politicians and other changemakers will recognize that these are the platforms people care about. It’s absolutely essential that global leaders take significant steps towards reducing carbon emissions, and having a chat at the dinner table might be just the way to get the ball rolling.
8. Live more
The most important thing when it comes to living more sustainable lives is that it allows us to live more. Being a conscious consumer starts with the awareness that modern consumerism certainly isn’t best for our planet, but it’s not great for us either.
In many cases, we blindly buy things because of sneaky advertising or cultural influences that make us think that we’ll be happier or feel more satisfied with new clothes, a bigger house, or a fancy watch. All of this detracts from the things that can bring us real joy.
Living more sustainably can be supported by taking the time to slow down. Spend more time in nature. Sit in stillness and allow thoughts and feelings to emerge. Embrace the things and people around us that truly bring our lives meaning.
Sustainable living is needed to support our environment, but when it comes down to it, living sustainably can also support our health and wellbeing. There’s no better time to work towards both than right now—and Green Eco Dream will be here to help you get started.
Check out our Snow's Zero Waste Starter Collection below and use code BLOG10 to save 10% on your first order!
If you enjoyed reading this Blog, please share it, and help us get the word out together. Thank you! 😊