As most of you already know, I’m a firm believer in sustainable living. It’s one of the keys to leading a greener and healthier life. If we were all to lower our consumption, reuse more and recycle everything that we can, our world would be a much safer and cleaner place. However, the all-important first part of this mantra – reduction, is often overshadowed by a focus on recycling. Today, numerous studies, popular media outlets, books, and movies, keep droning on and on about recycling. Recycling this, recycling that, recycle, recycle, recycle.
Do I agree that recycling is important? Yes, I wholeheartedly support the effort and I believe it is crucial to preserve our world. But it is by no means the most important part, especially on the individual level. Check out my other blogs such as, “Cleaning Your Sofa The Right Way“.
By focusing on the last step of the idea, you’re essentially trying to run, before you’ve mastered walking. If you just keep buying more and more things, consuming everything that crosses your path, recycling won’t do you much good. Of course, it will still be better than nothing, but it won’t be nearly as effective as if you followed through with the entire idea.
Environmentally Friendly & Sustainable Living
A note on Zero-Waste living
Before we dive right into the reducing bit, I’d like to mention something about zero-waste living. This blog is mostly focused on self-improvement and on helping you live a happier and more fulfilling life, I feel that this clarification is very necessary.
Self-improvement isn’t something that you do just for yourself. Ultimately, it’s something that you do for the benefit of your family, friends, and the entire world. By being the best that you can be, you are setting an example for others. You’re inspiring them and empowering them to lead better and more fulfilling lives. It’s like throwing a rock in a pond. You are creating ripples that touch the people near you, and their ripples touch those near them, and so on.
Going zero-waste is one of the ultimate goals of sustainable living. This, however, can’t and won’t happen overnight. Achieving it is a process and, therefore, a long-term goal. And as with all long-term goals, you want to approach it carefully, step by step. By going slow, you’re minimizing the chances of burning yourself out and giving up. You’re also lessening the annoyances that these changes will cause to people around you. Remember, just because you’re really excited by the idea doesn’t mean that your friends, family, and significant other are! If you were to immediately change your entire lifestyle overnight, even if you were able to stick to it, chances are that your loved ones won’t be able to adjust to it as smoothly as you. This would ultimately defeat the purpose, as a violent pushback from those near you can make the experience not only much harder, but also quite unpleasant for you.
Okay, we can get back to our Reduce-Reuse-Recycle idea, and focus on the Reduction part with this out of the way.
How to Reduce your consumption?
Reducing your consumption is once again, a long-term goal, which needs to be approached with caution. Not only because of the aforementioned effect that it can have on those around you but also because getting started with it can be quite scary. Before you can really start thinking about how to cut down on the things you use and buy, you need to come to terms with just how much you’re consuming.
Take a step back and have a good hard look at your room. How many of the objects do you make constant use of? How many of the things in your immediate vicinity did you use today? This week? What about this month?
Now, take a quick tour around your home. Peek in closets, open cabinets, go through drawers and try to get a good estimation of just how many items you have that are just sitting there, gathering dust.
Coming to terms with your consumption
At this point, some might say – it’s time to either throw all of these items away or donate them to charity. And while this can significantly help in sustainable living, you don’t necessarily need to get rid of everything. Often, when we buy things, we buy them with a specific idea in mind. We think that they might be useful to us, if not today, then maybe at least in the foreseeable future. Perhaps you’ve got some fitness equipment sitting in the corner that you’ve neglected. Maybe you bought yourself some arts and crafts materials that you gave up on using. Maybe you stacked up way too many books and you haven’t been able to find the time to read them. Try to find a reason for each of the items and if you can’t justify their presence, start planning on getting rid of them.
Simplify your life
By making a conscious effort to remove things that you don’t need, you’re hitting two birds with one stone. You’re both reducing the clutter in your home, and you’re training your mind to look for real value in your belongings. Over time, this will help you resist the urge of buying things that you don’t need.
Think before you buy
Next time you encounter something that you feel like buying, ask yourself – what purpose will this item serve. If you’ve got a good, practical (or emotional) reason to own it – go ahead. But if you won’t really get anything out of your purchase, you should take a step back. If the urge to purchase obviously useless items is too hard to put down, think about how this affects the environment. How did the production of the item impact nature? What consequences will your use of it has on your health and the environment? How difficult will it be to dispose of?
To deal with impulse buying, you could also try the so-called “30-day-rule”. When you get the urge to buy something, instead of going to the check-out, head on home and give yourself some time to think about it, if after some time, say – a month from now, you still believe that you should have it, go ahead and buy it.
Eliminate disposable items from your household
If you want to protect the environment, disposable, single-use items are a big no-no. Not only are you creating heaps of waste for no reason, but disposable products are often made of plastic and other difficult to dissolve materials, which are horrible for nature. Try and replace these items with better alternatives:
- Kitchen wipes – swap your wet kitchen wipes with cloth napkins or bamboo fiber cloths
- Plastic Food Storage boxes – get yourself some mason jars and never rely on plastic storage again!
- Plastic Utensils – there’s no excuse to use throw-away utensils while at home!
- Plastic Bags – cloth bags are not only more durable, but they also come at no added cost for the environment!
- Limit your paper usage – unsubscribe from junk mail, write your notes down in digital format, read newspapers online
Reduce your usage of harmful household products
When you buy household supplies, do a bit of research and try to stick to eco-friendly alternatives
- Purchase bleach-free cleaning solutions (if you aren’t familiar with the adverse effects of bleach, you can read my article here [insert a link to bleach article])
- Limit your usage of harmful cosmetic items – there is a wide range of eco-friendly cosmetic products out there!
- Go for bleach-free toilet paper
- Shop in bulk – avoid items, packaged for single use. Instead, shop in bulk and transfer your purchases to reusable containers.
We all make hundreds of choices every day, and each decision that we make has its consequences. No matter how small and insignificant these everyday choices might seem at first glance, the fate of our world is ultimately up to these choices It’s up to us to choose the right thing – both for our own sake and for the sake of the environment. Use the power of your choices and choose a greener and cleaner future for our planet!
Please remember that this article is based upon my own experiences and research. As always, I’d like to urge all of you to do your own research as well – I’m merely presenting you with a quick rundown of what I know. If you’d like to learn more about the subject, there are mountains of information out there for you!
If you have any questions, if you think that I’ve missed something, or have your own sustainable living tips, tricks, and stories to share, please let me know the comments below!
Recommended books for further reading:
- The Organically Clean Home: 150 Everyday Organic Cleaning Products You Can Make Yourself–The Natural, Chemical-Free Way
- Minimal: How to simplify your life and live sustainably
- The Art of Natural Cleaning: Tips and techniques for a chemical-free, sparkling home
- Natural Living Style: Inspirational ideas for a beautiful and sustainable home
- Sustainable Home: Practical projects, tips, and advice for maintaining a more eco-friendly