What is sustainability? I’m glad you asked. In ecological terms sustainability is how biological systems remain diverse and productive. In my terms, it is what a person needs to maintain him or herself and stay functional, without making significant sacrifices in comfort, yet having a much less devastating effect on our environment. We get outraged by industries emptying their waste into our drinking water, poisoning our soil among other things, yet at the same time we tend to forget it’s not only their responsibility to watch out for our planet; we can do our fair share on a much smaller scale.
Have you ever felt the urge to jump up and do something meaningful after reading an inspiring article or watching a shocking video? Felt the need to act without a moment’s wait after a cathartic experience? Wanted to do something that saves lives or changes them for the better? Like bringing medicine to the people in Africa, building houses in war-torn countries, or saving a species from extinction? If so, you will understand how I feel. In reality there is very little chance that I will ever be able to do the above mentioned things. I can show my support, but going there in person seems far fetched and surreal. But this time I’ve found a project that won’t turn my life completely upside down.
There was an article all over the internet a few months ago about a woman who after finishing her environmental studies decided to change her life. Her name is Lauren Singer, she lives in New York, and she not only has been living waste free for the past 2 years, her idea to reduce trash sparked an interesting Kickstarter project, and a successful business further down the line. Her story got me curious, and by association it made me think about how sustainably I live my life.
Let me tell you, the review was disappointing. Not that I don’t try, trust me I do, but there is a big room for improvement. Our household, just like any other I know, produces a lot of waste (mostly from packaging material for stuff we buy), we have a wide range of cosmetics, a lot of clothes we don’t wear, and the list goes on. So if that sounds familiar, I invite you to join me in following these simple steps to reduce waste, and to make your home more sustainable and friendly to the planet. What better time to start than springtime?
- Think locally. Purchasing locally sourced food from small businesses supports the economy in your community. Also the personal connection you have with your suppliers is almost always a guarantee for fresh, good quality products.
- Only buy as much as you need. Simple as that. Make a list before you do your shopping. Supermarkets and shopping centres are designed to encourage impulse buys; sticking to the list saves you money. Plan your menu so less food ends up in the trash. Get creative in your cooking using leftover foods from the day before.
- Eat and cook according to the seasons. By doing so you stay in synch with your body’s natural cycle and save money. If you’re the more outdoorsy type, try foraging. Sign up for a pre-arranged event, but remember to have everything you collect checked for safety! It’s also good fun for the entire family.
- Why buy extra packaging? It will only end up in your bin. Buy fresh instead of individually pre-wrapped items. Carry a reusable bag when you go shopping, skip the plastic bags at the fruit aisle. Fresh produce won’t stay fresh as long as the pre-packaged ones, because they don’t have added preservatives and other agents to increase shelf life.
- Use filtered water instead of buying bottled. This would not only reduce your waste considerably, but it’s also readily available. Check with your local council for water quality in your region.
- Store correctly. Paper bags, cardboard, biodegradable plastic containers are your friends. Choosing the appropriate storage method will keep your food fresh longer.
- Recycle. Make compost and the rinsing water to use it in your garden. Even used coffee grounds have their use. Check with your local council for collection of recyclable materials (glass, cans, paper, etc.), and/or for recycling centres in your area.
- Be kind to yourself and your home. In most cases homemade cosmetics are just as effective as the store-bought variety, but lack harmful chemicals that can be toxic to your body. Soap, body lotion, bath salts, laundry detergent and toothpaste are quite easy to manufacture in your kitchen if you’re willing to put in the little bit of extra time needed. Simple ingredients like baking soda, lemon juice, and tea tree oil go a long way in your household, are less abrasive, environmental friendly, and have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. There are a lot of recipes and how-to videos online to help you get started.
- Don’t be a hoarder. Physical media like CDs, DVDs, video games, magazines are quickly becoming obsolete since almost everything is available in a digital version. Rent or buy movies online, sign up for Netflix, no need to support a supply chain that eradicates the environment and essentially produces non-biodegradable waste.
- Downsize your assets. Probably the most difficult of all. We all hold onto things for their emotional value. You can start by evaluating what you have and than step by step getting rid of the unneeded items. Clothes, home decoration, you name it. Collect your unused or unwanted items and give them to charity. It supports a good cause, and frees up a lot of space in your cupboard. If it’s been sitting there for a year, it’s likely you don’t need it.
If you’re interested in Lauren’s work, I recommend taking a peak at her blog.
If you wanna know more about sustainability, click here.
Do you have more useful ideas that you would like to share with others?
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