Sustainability has in recent years, become a word that is firmly established in the everyday lexicon of much of the world. It’s certainly seen as a good thing. Cities, countries and companies are all striving to embrace it.
It’s a movement that has, dare I say it, become cool – a particularly interesting transition in the face of climate change, which is decidedly making things hotter.
I for one, am both ecstatic and relieved about this. It’s been awhile since I’ve written about sustainability directly on this blog (apart from in the form of backyard travel in Australia), but it remains my passion.
In the three years since I began making serious efforts to make my life more environmentally friendly (I’ve been interested in environmental issues since I watched my first episode of the TV show ‘Captain Planet and the Planeteers’ at age five), it’s become the cornerstone of everything I do.
I’m always looking for ways I can travel more sustainably (try go to plastic-free, embrace backyard travel), eat more sustainably (cook at home, think seriously about food waste and how to, well waste less of food), live more sustainably (invest in items that will last, eschew fast fashion, use eco-friendly products).
It’s pretty much an unconscious act by now.
I’ve read it takes 30 days for a habit to take hold, so this is the effect of three years of trying to make these habits stick. It’s changed my way of thinking, completely.
Yet, this brings me to the most important point about this topic.
Read more: How to Cope With Eco-Anxiety
Sustainable living doesn’t happen overnight
I learnt this the hard way when I woke up on the 1st of January 2016, vowing to give up plastic as a resolution for that year. I was seriously let down the first time I went food shopping for the year, thinking I’d failed in the most simple of things.
It wasn’t simple. I was going against not only the ingrained habits of others, but of my own too.
I couldn’t start living sustainably until I fundamentally changed my own habits and way of thinking
I had to learn to be a bit kinder to myself, to be forgiving of my own mistakes. To realise and acknowledge there were going to be moments in my life where I was stressed, tired, overworked and busy, because it’s part of the human experience.
It’s better to change a little bit at a time, to organise one facet of life, before moving onto the next.#SustainableLiving doesn’t happen overnight. Here are some tips to get you started. Click To Tweet
I learnt more about sustainable fashion and started a worm farm. I realised that sustainable living can save you money – using methods that were embraced by generations before us, living lives with less emphasis on convenience (which is what has got the world into the mess that it’s currently in).
What does a sustainable lifestyle look like?
From personal experience, you’ll have more success with sustainability if you embrace change within yourself to begin with.
I’m trying to write this without sounding like a hippy, which is a bit hard when it’s a bit of a hippy movement to start with.
I’ve noticed that I’ve had more success with achieving a sustainable lifestyle, since I started making fundamental changes in how I did things.
Spending time alone, concentrating on getting a good night’s sleep, working on being organised and less busy in general have all helped me in my quest.
In 2016 I was working twelve hour days, travelling to what ended up being 21 countries, sleeping badly and had no permanent home.
Now that I’m back in Australia, travelling to maximum three countries in a year and making Melbourne a home base, I’m having much more luck in attaining the type of lifestyle that I want and in some ways, need as well.
Sustainable living tips
Having said my bit, here are some tips to get you started on living a more sustainable life.
Make small, daily goals
The devil’s in the details, so keep it small to begin with. You won’t see much success from broad, sweeping gestures, like waking up one morning and deciding to give up plastic entirely.
Rather, think “I want to give up plastic and this week I’ll work on food. I’ll plan my meals, write a shopping list, go to the local farmers market with my own bags and spend Sunday evening cooking.” Boom. Game plan and changer right there.
Find one facet of sustainable living and concentrate on that
Find a cause and stick with it. Maybe you’re concerned about the impact of fast fashion and so you start researching sustainable fashion and changing your wardrobe and shopping habits accordingly.
Or, you’re sick of all the rubbish in your area and start hosting your own clean ups, pairing them with an afternoon walk to get some fresh air.
Maybe you fancy yourself to have a bit of a green thumb and are encouraged to start growing your own veggies and get passionately involved with home composting.
The possibilities are endless. Trust me on this. And focusing in on one aspect will prevent you from getting overwhelmed and giving up.
Read books and blogs on the topic
Starting to live a more sustainable lifestyle can feel a bit like re-inventing the wheel. However, there are plenty who have walked this path before you and written extensively about the hurdles they’ve overcome. I thoroughly recommend learning from both them and their mistakes!
Here are some resources to get you started.
Okay, a bit of self promotion here – my blog has a whole section on sustainable travel, mostly featuring advice on avoiding plastic.
Erin Rhodes’s new-ish book [easyazon_link identifier=”B07BDPRYZ5″ locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]Waste Not[/easyazon_link] is a wonderful resource and I’ve always found good tips in Australia’s Peppermint Magazine.
And of course Bea Johnson’s [easyazon_link identifier=”1451697686″ locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]Zero Waste Home[/easyazon_link] book and blog are a great place to begin.
I’ve got a few more book suggestions for wannabe green bookworms that I’ll be publishing later on this month. I do have this list of memoirs about walking for you to peruse in the meantime!
Get creative with your endeavours
What I love most about sustainability is how it encourages you to think outside of the box.
Consider the “5 R’s” of the zero waste movement – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Re-purpose, Recycle. Reuse and re-purpose in particular – there’s a lot of room for crafting, right there.
An example is the many ways you can reuse a plastic water bottle (I quite want to have a go at making planters!). Speaking of which, I love this idea of using old shoes to house succulents.
Not to mention the many ways in which you can reuse food off-cuts – to make chutneys, stocks, chuck into salads, dig into your garden and add to compost, just to name a few.
Don’t beat yourself up when things go wrong
This is the most important aspect of any eco-journey. Be kind to yourself.
Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes you’ll forget to order your drink without a straw and one will inevitably show up in your glass. Or you’ll get home tired, your fridge empty and take away will be your only option.
Don’t see it as a setback, rather a learning curve for next time. Every little step you take is one in the right direction.
Do you have any tips for living more sustainably? I’d love to hear them in the comments.
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