Sustainability has been somewhat of a buzzword over the last several years, but what does sustainable living, or eco-living actually entail?
Sustainable living is a lifestyle that aims to reduce a person’s environmental impact. It doesn’t mean that you have to live uncomfortably, but rather that you should live more mindfully of how your actions are affecting the planet around you, from what you eat to how your dress and the way you travel.
There are countless ways you can start living more sustainably in your everyday life, and today I’m going to run you through some of the most impactful changes you can make.
Why Is Sustainable Living Important?
Sustainable living is important for so many different reasons. Sustainability is all about reducing our impact on the planet, which includes helping to stop climate change, preventing the complete depletion of the Earth’s limited resources and stopping unnecessary waste from polluting the planet and damaging natural ecosystems. By living more sustainably today, we can ensure the planet is still inhabitable for future generations to come.
Can Sustainable Living Stop Climate Change?
So why are sustainability and living sustainably important in our fight against climate change?
A major part of sustainability is using less fossil fuels in order to curb the number of harmful greenhouse gases being released into the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s these greenhouse gasses – most significantly carbon dioxide – that are causing the planet to heat up, aka climate change.
Living more sustainably can therefore help make a difference in the fight against climate change by reducing each person’s carbon footprint. An increase in individuals switching to more sustainable lifestyles will also help to encourage large corporations and governments to figure out how to be more sustainable which will make an even bigger difference in the long run.
Sustainable Living Vs. Zero Waste
Sustainable living and zero-waste living are two terms that are often used interchangeably, and although they are both driven by the same end goal — to help preserve the planet — and include many of the same lifestyle choices, they’re not identical.
One of the main differences between the two is the way in which they prioritise lifestyle changes.
Those following a zero-waste lifestyle strive specifically to reduce the amount of waste and rubbish they produce – such as single-use plastics – while those choosing to live a sustainable life tend to look at the bigger picture and aim to lower their overall impact on the planet.
A real-world example of this would be that someone living a zero-waste life might be comfortable eating meat as long as it didn’t come wrapped in non-biodegradable plastic packaging, however, a person following a sustainable lifestyle would probably consider the wider environmental and ethical issues with animal agriculture and opt for a plant-based diet instead.
How to Live Sustainably
If you’re looking for tips on how to live more sustainably, you’ve come to the right place. Below are some of the things that can and will have the most impact if you apply them to your life. So here’s how to live sustainable.
Eating a Plant-Based Diet
Animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs are some of the highest impact foods on the planet, with animal agriculture taking up an unproportionate amount of the Earth’s dwindling resources and livestock being one of the largest emitters of harmful greenhouse gases.
Therefore switching to a plant-based diet is one of the best ways to reduce your environmental footprint and live more sustainably.
In fact, one person switching to a vegan diet for one year is estimated to save 1.5 million litres of water, over 1,000 sq.m of forest and 3,322kg of CO2, not to mention the lives of hundreds of animals. (Source: https://thevegancalculator.com/#calculator)
While switching to a completely vegan diet straight away might be tough for a lot of people, you can always try taking smaller steps first such as committing to ‘Meatless Mondays’, taking part in Veganuary or trying to gradually increase the amount of plant-based meals in your diet each week. Every small change still makes a big difference.
Switching to green banking
The first thing you’re probably wondering is why is traditional banking not eco-friendly?
Well, in short, most traditional banks, pension funds, and insurance companies are investing their money – aka your money – into fossil fuel reserves such as crude oil, coal and gas which are the root causes of climate change. Many also hold shares in companies that sell military technology and weapons to conflict-ridden regions. Something which they do their best not to let their customers know about with a lack of transparency.
Ethical banks, on the other hand, are institutions that operate with far more transparency and make sure to only invest in ethical and eco-friendly industries. These green banks also ensure that their activities support cultural, social and environmental projects in a way that’s more than just basic corporate responsibility for the sake of good PR.
Switching your banking to an ethical bank can therefore be one of the simplest yet most impactful ways of reducing your carbon footprint and living more sustainably.
Although I’ve already discussed why sustainable living and zero-waste living aren’t identical, reducing non-biodegradable single-use plastic is a major part of both.
Some simple everyday changes you can make to reduce your plastic use include carrying a reusable eco-friendly water bottle rather than buying single-use plastic bottles, and bringing your own bags to the grocery store rather than using the plastic bags supplied.
Taking a look around your house at items you use every day and seeing if they can be swapped for reusable or plastic-free versions is another great way of reducing plastic use and increasing sustainability in the home.
You can swap plastic dish sponges for a natural wood and bristle brush, switch your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one, buy reusable menstrual cups or period underwear rather than tampons and opt for more sustainable shampoo and conditioner bars rather than commonplace plastic bottles. The list of things you can do to reduce plastic use in the home is truly endless.
Switch to green energy at home
Talking of sustainability at home, switching to green energy is another great way to start living more sustainably in your day to day life.
Switching to green energy can range from installing rooftop solar panels, domestic wind turbines or a micro hydroelectricity system in your home, to simply switching to a renewables-backed energy supplier.
Some other small changes you could make at home to be more eco-friendly include turning off lights every time you leave a room, swapping your bulbs for energy-efficient ones and switching to a smart thermostat to more accurately control your home’s temperature.
Conscious Travel and flight offsetting
The tourism industry has a powerful environmental impact, particularly due to the greenhouse gases emitted through air travel and other forms of transport. In fact, tourism is responsible for roughly 8% of the world’s carbon emissions. Travel can also have significant physical, social and economic impacts on the destinations and local communities you choose to visit.
I’ve spent a lot of time recently reflecting on my own travel habits and thinking about how I can travel more sustainably in the future.
Simple changes such as opting for train or bus travel over flying (if possible), eating and shopping locally rather than going to large international chains and even packing more sustainably for your trip can all help to make your travel habits more eco friendly.
If flying is your only option, try looking for airlines that implement carbon offsetting. This means the airline will give you the option to pay a small amount more in order to offset your carbon footprint. The money is invested into projects which help to reduce CO2 levels by the same amount used during your flight. Some airlines already doing this include Qantas, JetBlue, British Airways and KLM.
If your airline doesn’t offer this service, you can also purchase your own offsets in advance with organisations such as Sustainable Travel International.
Switch to ethical clothing
The ethics of fast fashion is something that has hit the news on multiple occasions over the last several years, with many large fashion brands being called out for their poor labour conditions and negative environmental impact.
While their clothing may be cheap, thousands of workers around the world are still being paid sub-poverty wages and factories are releasing large quantities of harmful chemicals into the environment on a daily basis, destroying local ecosystems.
So, how can we be more sustainable in our fashion purchasing habits?
Ethical clothing brands are usually free from animal cruelty – such as these vegan leathers, are manufactured in humane working conditions – look for fair trade certifications – and use environmentally-friendly materials and production methods.
Eco clothing brands also promote slow fashion, which means that they value quality over quantity. So even though the clothes might be a little more expensive to start with, they’ll inevitably last much longer than those from most fast fashion brands.
Sustainable Living on a Budget
Something which seems to put many people off of eco living is the perceived costs of sustainability, with the higher price tags of organic, eco-friendly and cruelty-free products being one of the first things to come to mind. However, this is a common misconception. Living more sustainably often comes with no additional costs and can even end up saving you money rather than costing you more.
Sustainable living habits which either cost nothing or can save you money include:
- Being more mindful of heat, electricity and hot water use around your home which will cut down on energy usage and bills
- Composting rather than throwing food waste in the bin
- Simplifying your life and buying less
- Buying second hand products such as clothes or household goods
- Fixing or repurposing old items rather than purchasing new ones
- Making your own cleaning and beauty products at home (see more below)
- Walking, riding your bike or taking public transport rather than driving your car everywhere to reduce fuel usage
Some other eco-living changes may require an upfront investment such as buying a smart thermostat or energy-saving light bulbs for your home, installing solar panels – did you know you can rent solar panels? – or buying eco-friendly reusable products rather than disposable single-use items. But all of these things will eventually save you money in the long run by reducing your energy and shopping bills overall.
So there you go, that’s how to live a sustainable lifestyle on a budget.