As a follow-up to the blog post I wrote about what you shouldn’t do when beginning your sustainability journey, I thought it would be helpful to share more tips—this time about 7 things you should do when beginning your sustainability journey. Don’t let climate doom get the upper hand. Instead, use this guide to help.

Here are my top tips on 7 things you should do when beginning your sustainability journey.

1. Learn More About Why These Values And This Lifestyle Matter To You

Understanding why you want to make a lifestyle change is important to ensure that this change is more than a trend but a new and manageable routine. Identify the values that align with a sustainable lifestyle and understand what that means in your life. For example, if you are driven to this change because of “kind”, “simple”, “clutter-free” values, this will be a navigator as to what areas of sustainable living you gravitate towards and may be a great start to building the rest of your changes around, over time.

2. Choose One Aspect Of Sustainability To Focus On While Learning More About Environmentalism

I mentioned this is part 1 of this series. It’s important to have clarity and focus on certain aspects of environmentalism, so the whole thing doesn’t feel out of control which may lead to eco-anxiety and climate doom. If you’d like some ideas, I wrote a blog post with five ideas for what you can focus on—click here to read it. Otherwise, an area of focus could be:

  • Your personal or home’s sustainability
  • Local waste policy
  • The city’s environmental strategy and 5-year plan
  • Food waste
  • Plastic packaging
  • Littering
  • Park/beach/nature clean-up
  • Local re-wilding initiatives

3. Find Out When The Next Local Elections Are And Register To Vote

I wrote this post as an overview of the importance of why and how being politically engaged impacts your desired environmental priority at a local, state, and federal level. Essentially, one of the major ways to implement large-scale sustainability practices, lifestyles, and systems is by using the power that comes along with voting. That being said, it’s a good idea to understand the local election—from the HOA to presidential elections and those in between. If you aren’t already, register to vote! Rock the vote is an organization that helps compile USA voting information and provides an overview of the process for first-time voters or those looking for a refresh.

Photo: Rui Silvestre

4. Do A Trash Audit

Before you toss the trash out, have a look through the bin. I know that sounds kinda gross, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t need to go dumpster diving or be knee-deep in waste. A trash audit is for you to be aware of what you’re using and throwing away. For example, when you’re emptying the bathroom garbage can, see what’s in the bag. Are you noticing cotton rounds/balls? Do you have a lot of cardboard, plastic, or other materials? What do you mostly throw away? Then, compare that with the materials your town allows to be recycled and composted. See if any of those items in your garbage are able to be disposed of in another more responsible way.

5. Ask About Your Home’s Energy Source

Understanding if your home’s energy is dependent on fossil fuels or renewable energy is important to help determine your personal and overall home’s impact. While some apartment complexes, dorms, HOAs, or towns may have deals and be locked in with energy providers, it’s still useful to understand where your energy alliance is and what your money supports. If you have the capabilities of choosing your own energy provider, look into renewable energy sources and see which companies have a strategy and priority that aligns with your environmental beliefs.

6. Read Your Town/City’s Environmental Policy And Current Plan

Many towns and cities offer an environmental breakdown on their website. This section is a place where outlines for key milestones, priorities, and goals are listed. This spot is where reports and data could also be found—such as energy information, rewilding initiatives, pollution, water system and health, and more. If your town doesn’t provide this information or make it easily accessible, get in touch with your mayor’s office or the local town/government building to help you understand where this information may be or alternatively, the steps that need to be taken in order to collect and publish these resources. If your town officials aren’t active within the environmental department, this would be useful information to use to express concern in upcoming town meetings, elections, surveys, and other feedback-based events or opportunities. Your elected officials are a representative of the community—they work to ensure you and the others within the area are taken care of, have themselves reflected, and have the needs of the residents met. If you feel this is not reflective of the current elected officials, vote them out and look at the candidates environmental policy and proposed plans when campaigning. How do they propose things are handled if they’re elected? How do their ideas for policy, goals, initiatives, etc. align with the budget, social-emotional-and overall wellbeing of residents? How do they see the future of the town? What are they interested in developing or putting forward? What do those candidates want the priority of sustainability to look like in your area—and how is your town or city working on achieving that?

Ultimately: Understand that living sustainably doesn’t mean living perfectly. You may make unintentional choices that aren’t great for the environment while trying to be “good for the planet”. What matters is consistency and continued learning

7. Use Your Purchasing Power

Believing in and using your purchasing power is one of the most valuable points from this list of 7 things you should do when beginning your sustainability journey. Why is using your purchasing power important? This is a way to vote for the things you want and have them reflected in the economy with the values you are striving to prioritize. Additionally, this is a way to vote—to use your power—no matter the election season or who is in charge. These are ways to fund local economies and boost small businesses, minimize environmental impact, and say no to mass consumerism and supply chain or un-ethical productions. If more people choose to say “no” to purchasing from brands that pay unethically, less than the living wage, exploit employees with unsafe or intimidating working conditions, abuse natural resources, and produce mass amounts of items that contribute to landfills, then the companies may be forced to reassess their supply chain and organization’s priorities in order to meet the consumer’s needs and demands for better.

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