Okay, so you kinda like the planet. You wouldn’t mind if it stuck around for just a little bit longer, perhaps even if it was to thrive. So, you’ve decided to live more sustainably. Terrific; this is really great!
Sustainable living means that you make decisions in such a way that you reduce your use of the Earth’s resources, to contribute to maintaining them at a sustainable level. The best way to do this is by making clever choices in your everyday life – like what you use, what you consume and, most importantly, how you think.
But, you still want to LIVE YOUR LIFE and LEAVE YOUR HOUSE! That’s okay, it’s fine – there’s some simple practises you can incorporate to your life, easily.
SO – HOW?
The change that had the biggest impact to my lifestyle was also so simple to assimilate into the daily grind – to really embrace reusables! There’s a non-disposable option for EVERYTHING – really!
DRINK BOTTLE – carrying a drink bottle everywhere is something I have done since I was about 15. I just cannot be without one! Carrying your own water bottle means you not only never have to buy bottled water (bad on so many levels), and finding potable water in developed countries is always possible. A stainless steel water bottle will last a lifetime and there is a range of lids available so you will find one that suits you.
COFFEE CUP – I drink coffee a lot and it is something I am not yet willing to give up! If you buy takeaway coffees often (and even if you don’t!) then a reusable coffee cup is a no-brainer. I have never yet entered a cafe/bakery/corner store that wouldn’t allow me to bring my own cup. There are many options available, in many different sizes and styles. I love my KeepCup and have used it every day for the past couple of years, and it is recyclable at the end of it’s life.
LUNCH PACK – You might feel a bit weird the first few times you take your own containers into a takeaway shop, but that will go away, I swear. Carrying a standard-size container so you can avoid single-use plastics saves more waste than you may realise. You can also make yourself a cutlery pack with a knife, spoon, fork, chopsticks and a steel or bamboo straw – even a fabric napkin if you’re a grot like me! You can also use containers of every size to pack yourself lunch and snacks for while you’re on the move, eliminating plastic snap-bags and plastic wrap. Beeswax wraps are great for this too – use to wrap any snack you wish!
BAGS – Taking your own bag to the market or shops with you is one of the most obvious ways to stop using plastic bags, but can be one of the hardest to actually implement. Y’know, walking the talk and all that. There are reusable bags for everything – large, sturdy bags for general shops, small, lightweight bags for produce, airy but strong bags for trips to the market. You can even carry a basket! So whimsical. I seem to be amazing at getting my bags to the car but then no further, so I solved this by getting a tiny foldable bag with a clip, which I attached to my car keys. You can buy canvas shopping bags at the supermarket checkout – for extra inspiration, listen to Canvas Bags by Tim Minchin.
MENSTRUAL CUP – If you menstruate, then you probably understand that carrying and using disposable pads and tampons is, at best, inconvenient. But if you take into account the amount of products you would throw away over your reproductive lifetime (not to mention purchase!) then that adds a new dimension of negatives. There are many products available that are reusable, easy and hygienic, the most well-known being the menstrual cup. You can also purchase modern cloth pads, too – or make your own!
There are also some smart decisions you can make that will have a big impact:
EAT IN – If you need to eat on the go, eating in is an easy way to reduce the disposables you use. You can also simply REFUSE disposables like plastic straws, and make sure you explain WHY you are doing so – advocating for your choices (politely and calmly) helps to bring these issues to the fore and can gently encourage providers to examine their practice.
WATCH WHERE YOU SHOP – patronising shops owned and operating locally to where you are reduces your overall carbon footprint, as well as stimulates the relative (micro-)economy. You can also choose to support shops with a similar ethos to yours (put your money where your mouth is!). There are also stores that choose to stock food and items in bulk, allowing you to buy products with less packaging – and less cost. You can then package these into useable sizes for when you go out into the wild!
PUBLIC TRANSPORT – If possible, utilising public transport is another great way to reduce your carbon footprint. So is walking, or riding your bike! Or scooter, or skateboard – the list goes on!
PLAN AHEAD + BE PREPARED – The more that you prepare for your outings, the more likely it is that you will be able to implement small and big changes into your lifestyle. Getting into the habit of taking your reusables with you, planning where you are going, and anticipating what you might need in any given situation will limit the surprises you encounter.
BE GENTLE ON YOURSELF – Change can be hard! Don’t give up if you make one lowly ‘mistake’. It can take a little while for new practises to become ingrained habits, so if you find it difficult or revert back to your old ways – don’t just ditch everything at once! Just do what you can – and soon, you will be living sustainably in ways you didn’t even know existed.
By Jes John
For the month of September, the Environment articles will themed around our monthly event: The Sustainable Life: A How-To Series. These articles are intended to offer a guideline- a 101 of sorts- to help people integrate sustainability into their lives.
Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.