Have you ever heard of a concept known as “sustainable living?” Well, it’s about adopting daily practices that keep both planet and ourselves healthy. Granted, the world is facing pressing environmental challenges that have made adopting sustainable living lifestyles extremely important. You’ll see them everywhere in some countries; plastic bottles and other biodegradable materials are littered all over the beaches, affecting the marine ecosystem and compromising climate change.
It’s critical to be mindful of how our choices for sustainable living impact the environment. And it’s the little things we do that add up to the best environmental practices. Adopting a sustainability mindset involves making conscious choices that minimize our negative impact on the planet, ensuring a harmonious balance between human needs and the Earth’s resources. Four pillars that guide us toward a greener future are at the core of sustainable living. These are environmental responsibility, economic viability, social equity, and personal well-being. Let’s dive in for practical tips on incorporating these critical pillars into our lifestyles.
The first pillar of sustainable living is environmental responsibility. It entails understanding the impact of our actions on the environment and taking steps to reduce our ecological footprint by consciously making the right choices for sustainable living. Here are some ways to embrace environmental responsibility:
a) Conserving Resources: Conserve energy by using energy-efficient appliances, turning off lights when not in use, getting a roofing contractor to help you switch to a solar service, and embracing natural lighting. Conserve water by fixing leaks, using low-flow fixtures, not chopping trees down for flimsy reasons, letting indigenous trees grow and propagate, and practicing responsible water usage. If you asked an arborist, they’d also tell you not to fell the big old tree in your backyard only to replace it with a chemically maintained lawn; tree health plays an essential role in climate change and overall sustainability.
b) Waste Reduction: Minimize waste by practicing the 3Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Avoid single-use items, opt for reusable alternatives, and properly sort and recycle waste materials. Actively make use of your neighborhood’s curbside recycling services. Composting organic waste can also reduce waste and make a great alternative to chemical fertilizers. Don’t litter or buy things you don’t need, and often declutter. Also, give away what’s lying unused in your home before buying new stuff.
c) Sustainable Consumption: Make informed choices when purchasing products for personal or household use; always read the labels to ascertain minimal harmful substances. This can be one of the more beneficial actions among the choices you make daily for sustainable living. Support eco-friendly and ethical brands that prioritize sustainable practices. Sensitize your friends and family to do the same. Always consider the lifecycle and environmental impact of all manufactured products before purchasing.
The second pillar of sustainable living is social equity. It emphasizes creating an inclusive society that promotes justice, equality, and well-being for all demographics of people worldwide. Here are some ways you can begin to embrace social equity to make choices for sustainable living:
a) Fair Trade and Ethical Practices: Predominantly support and advocate for businesses prioritizing fair trade and ethical practices. Look for certifications like Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance on the packaging when purchasing products like coffee, chocolate, and clothing. By purchasing their products, you’re helping them stay in business to continue to provide products while furthering climate change and sustainable living causes.
b) Community Engagement: Get involved in community initiatives that promote social equity and environmental justice. Many people are not making choices for sustainable living because they still need to be sensitized or empowered to do so. Share helpful information with those around you as a form of civic education and support local organizations and initiatives that address social and environmental issues in your community. There’ll be an extensive impact if whole communities adopt sustainable lifestyles instead of a few individuals within different communities.
c) Access to Basic Needs: According to the world bank, 3.4 billion people struggle daily to meet their basic needs. Your part in helping the situation involves intentionally using your voice, influence, and time to advocate for universal access to clean water, food, education, healthcare, and shelter. Try to support initiatives that address poverty and inequality, both locally and globally. You can do this as an individual, a family, an organization, or a community. We need all hands on deck!
The third pillar of sustainable living is economic viability. It focuses on promoting global economic systems that are environmentally responsible, socially just, and economically sound. Sounds super ideal, right? Yet, there are many practical ways we can all engage this pillar. Here are some ways to consider:
a) Sustainable Business Practices: Many businesses are conscious of the world’s current climate crisis and are innovatively coming up with solutions and ideas that enhance the impact of their choices for sustainable living and operations. If you run a business, no matter the size, prioritize sustainability in your operations, such as minimizing waste, using renewable energy sources, ditching the use of generators that emit toxins harmful to flora and fauna around your business premises, and promoting ethical labor practices. You could get a septic service instead of a traditional sewerage system depending on your favorable location. Septics are much better for the environment; they help to eliminate water and replenish natural water tables that give life to many plants and animals.
b) Green Jobs and Innovation: UNEP defines a green economy as “low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.” The growth of green industries and job opportunities has been on the rise, but we need more of them. In a green economy, increased public and private investment facilitates the growth of businesses and job opportunities. The green economy aptly contributes to sustainable development and must be enabled and supported through favorable policies, regulations, and targeted public expenditure reforms. As an individual, part of your choices for sustainable living is to support and invest in businesses and technologies that offer sustainable solutions to environmental challenges.
c) Local Economies: Support local businesses and producers to reduce carbon emissions associated with long-distance transportation. This looks like shopping at your local farmer’s market to replenish your groceries and buying from thrift stores. Active participation in local markets and community-supported agriculture programs promote local economic resilience.
The fourth pillar of sustainable living is personal well-being. It deals with the interconnected nature between the health of the planet and the well-being of humans. Here are some simple choices for a sustainable living you can make to embrace personal well-being:
a) Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Adopt a healthy and active lifestyle that benefits personal health and the environment. Choose plant-based and organic foods, if you can, then keep your own chickens for eggs, engage in physical activities like walking or cycling to the store, read more than you sit in front of a screen, and prioritize mental well-being by maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with others and seeking help when you feel overwhelmed by life.
b) Connect with Nature: A great way to sensitize yourself to the importance and sacred nature of our world is to simply spend time in nature, whether through outdoor activities, gardening, or enjoying green spaces. Cultivate a sense of awe and respect for the natural world, fostering a deeper connection with the environment. This way, it’ll become almost natural for you to take up sustainability causes and make choices for sustainable living.
c) Work-Life Balance: Strive for a healthy work-life balance to reduce stress and promote overall well-being. Making time for leisure activities, quality time with loved ones, and self-care practices that restore and rejuvenate is important. You can’t fight for the environment if you don’t care for yourself.
What to Stop Doing to Be More Sustainable
Stop Using Single-Use Plastics: Single-use plastics are among the most significant contributors to environmental pollution. Items like plastic bags, disposable cutlery, and water bottles end up in landfills and oceans, causing harm to wildlife and ecosystems. You can significantly reduce plastic waste by not using these products and opting for reusable alternatives such as cloth bags, stainless steel water bottles, and bamboo cutlery.
Stop Using Energy-Intensive Appliances: Appliances that consume excessive energy contribute to high utility bills and have a negative environmental impact. Avoiding energy-guzzlers like old refrigerators, a generator, inefficient air conditioners, and outdated light bulbs can make a significant difference. Choosing energy-efficient appliances, sustainable heating services, using window tinting to promote cooler rooms, and installing LED lighting saves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Stop Buying Chemical Cleaning Products: Many conventional cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that harm the environment and our health. We can reduce water pollution and create a healthier living environment by avoiding these products and opting for eco-friendly alternatives, such as plant-based cleaners or homemade solutions using vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice.
When these harsh chemicals flow into our drains, they seep into natural water tables, waterways containing fish and other aquatic animals, plantations, and the air. Based on a census analysis done by Finances Online, as of 2020, there were 128.45 million households in the US. Imagine the immense impact it would have if all these households made simple choices for sustainable living such as this one.
Stop Consuming Fast Fashion: The fashion industry is notorious for its negative environmental impact. Fast fashion, characterized by cheaply made, mass-produced clothing, contributes to pollution, excessive water usage, and unethical labor practices. Most mass-produced clothing is made from non-biodegradable materials such as nylon, spandex, polyester, and rayon.
Synthetic materials take between 20 and 200 years to break down completely. Fabrics such as organic cotton, silk, bamboo, hemp, and linen make up the few clothing materials that are hundred percent biodegradable. Consider buying clothes from sustainable and ethical brands to be more eco-friendly, or choose second-hand options. By reducing or entirely stopping our consumption of fast fashion, we reinforce our choices for sustainable living while promoting a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry.
Stop Food Waste: Food waste is a significant and widespread environmental issue. The solutions are simple. We can minimize food waste by avoiding excessive food purchases, planning meals, and properly storing leftovers. Additionally, composting organic waste can help reduce methane emissions from landfills and provide nutrient-rich soil for gardening.
Excessive Water Consumption: Conserving water is vital, especially in regions facing water scarcity. You’ve had it said, “Water is life.” Avoid wasteful practices such as leaving faucets running or dripping, taking long showers, not fixing broken pipes, leaving the tap running when brushing your teeth, overfilling bathtubs for children, or overwatering gardens. Installing low-flow fixtures, harvesting rainwater, and using water-efficient appliances can significantly reduce excessive water consumption.
Disposing of Electronic Waste Improperly: Electronic waste, or e-waste, poses a significant environmental threat due to its toxic components. Avoid throwing away old electronics in regular trash bins. Instead, recycle them through specialized e-waste recycling programs that ensure valuable materials are recovered, and hazardous substances are disposed of safely.
Stop Using Unsustainable Transportation Choices: Traditional modes of transportation, such as cars powered by fossil fuels like petrol and diesel, contribute to air pollution and carbon emissions. Consider alternative transportation methods like walking, cycling, or public transit whenever possible. If car usage is necessary, carpool or choose fuel-efficient vehicles, such as hybrid or electric cars. The White House states that the U.S. has over 130,000 public electric vehicle charging stations nationwide. What this means is that there’s an electric vehicle charging station near you.
Making eco-friendly choices and avoiding harmful practices is essential for creating a sustainable future. We can make positive changes by being conscious of our daily actions and considering their environmental impact. From reducing single-use plastics to conserving energy and water and growing organic foods that are kind to the environment, every small step towards eco-friendliness matters.
By collectively adopting these practices, we can protect our planet for future generations and contribute to a healthier, more sustainable world. You can make your contribution to the planet by adopting a sustainable lifestyle. Let’s strive to be responsible stewards of the environment, making choices for sustainable living that benefit the Earth and ourselves.