Before beginning your sustainable living journey, the word “sustainable” needs defining. Sustainability is the practice of meeting our needs without compromising the environment and future generation’s ability to meet their own needs or compromise the Earth’s natural resources. For a deeper understanding of what sustainability is, click here to read my blog post on “what is sustainable living?” Sustainable living is a process and it’s not expected that you know everything, fully understand it, or have all you’re learning implemented immediately. It is a learning curve and a journey. You will constantly be learning and figuring out what works best for your lifestyle. It’s perfectly okay if your view and implementation of sustainable living don’t match what others post online or those you know. If you’re trying to live more sustainably the principles and applying them are the most important.
How To Begin Your Sustainable Living Journey:
Calculate your carbon footprint A good place to start on your sustainable journey is to calculate your carbon footprint. The easiest way to do this is by taking a free assessment online. The one linked above (and also here) is a free resource provided by the American government. If you reside outside of the States, search for a similar online tool your government may provide. Google “carbon footprint calculator” and then list your country after. For the most part, I’ve seen independent parties (social enterprises and non-profits) offer the most in-depth carbon footprint report for individuals but these often are not free. As you are beginning your journey, I would prioritize the free resource as they will include the most important points. As you begin to understand and feel comfortable working to minimize the points in the free report and train your mind to shop/live with sustainability in mind, then you can begin to explore carbon footprint options that may cost for the analysis. However, if you are a business or interested in starting one, I recommend opting to use one of the third parties to conduct your plan as businesses have different variables playing into what elevates a carbon footprint versus an individual/household. Take inventory of what you use and regularly buy.
You may already be doing this and not be aware of it. Your grocery list is a fabulous place to start. The next time you write your list, pause before going to the store. Look over your list and see what it is you will rebuy next week and within the next calendar month. Now, which of those items can you buy in bulk? Fruit and vegetables can be purchased and frozen. Grains, products, and household items can also be bought and stored.
1. Use What You Already Have
A misconception about living sustainably is that you need to replace everything you own with more eco-friendly options. No. This isn’t true nor is this practicing sustainable living. When you live sustainably, it means using the items you already own and making smarter decisions about future purchases.
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2. Reduce Household Waste
Minimizing household waste is one of the fastest and most immediate ways of making a positive impact on the environment.
- Do a Room by room inventory Go room by room in your home and take inventory of the things you have. A lot of the times we purchase things we don’t really use or need because we don’t know what it is we already have. By re-familiarizing yourself with what you possess, you will be reminded when you’re shopping. Another great thing about going room by room is you will come across things you don’t want/like/need anymore. Gather those things up and then properly dispose of them.
- Put a recycling bin in each bathroom Having a recycling bin in your bathroom will help you to recycle more items. Be sure you are placing items in the recycling bin that your city/town is able to recycle.
3. Offset your carbon emission
Once you have your carbon footprint results, you can track the exact amount of carbon you/your household is responsible for producing. As you grow in your sustainable living journey and begin to consistently implement sustainable steps, you will begin what is called carbon offsetting. Steps like carpooling, utilizing public transportation, switching to green energy, installing solar panels, planting a vegetable garden, properly recycling, composting, and more all help to reduce the negative impact you are leaving on the Earth. It’s subtracting those negative things helping you get your carbon footprint total to zero or even better into the negatives! When you have a negative carbon footprint this means you are doing more positive things for the environment than harmful.
4. Make small sacrifices for a big difference
- Take shorter showers
Did you know that research has proven a 10-minute shower uses 18-gallons of water? That’s a whole bunch! Cutting down the time it takes you to show can save you gallons of water.
- Only run the dishwasher when it’s full
Dishwashers use six gallons of water peruse. Try to run this only once a day and even less by washing the few dishes you have dirtied, by hand.
- Let the laundry pile up to wash a full load instead of half or less
Washing machines use on average between 15-30 gallons of water per cycle. The exact number depends on your make/model. If you want to know your machine’s exact number, look online or contact the manufacturer. When you’re shopping for a new washing machine, keep in mind how much water and energy the specific model uses and opt for the lowest yet most efficient appliance.
5. Approach life asking “how can I create less waste?”
When you begin to challenge your mindset and shift it, change occurs. When you’re at stores, planning trips, and going about your daily routine asking yourself “how can I create less waste” and walking yourself through the steps/options is a powerful sense of awareness and prioritizes the long term, which is what sustainability is all about. When you’re weighing options like travel, you can use this question prompt when examining transportation options, accommodations, food purchasing, and more. To learn more specific suitable traveling tips, click to read this post.
6. Get to know the brands/companies you’re buying from
- Read and request sustainability guides This is how you can understand and identify if a brand is ethical and sustainable.
- When you’re purchasing new items and replacements research brands that are more sustainable and ethical. Then, purchase from those places.