A Beginner’s Guide to Sustainable Living
Unless you’ve been living on the moon, then you’ve likely heard about the tragic state of planet earth.
For the sake of those that have been living that zero-atmosphere lifestyle up there in moonsville, here’s the short of it: things aren’t going well.
Though the earth might look pretty from the edge of a crater, on an environmental and atmospheric level, the situation isn’t so glamorous.
Thanks to decades of short-sighted human practices – deforestation, pollution, plastic overuse, to name a few – the planet is becoming less habitable with each passing year.
If your home base is somewhere here on earth (who am I kidding, that’s everyone), then you may well be wondering how you fit into all this. What can regular folk like you and me do to help stop the rot?
The answer? Sustainable Living.
Sustainable Living is adopting lifestyle choices that are geared towards the long-term health of the planet.
In essence this means reducing the human demand for natural resources, as well as participating in their regeneration.
Such a lifestyle also requires one to adopt a long-term, big picture mindset. Firstly because sustainable practices are only meaningful if we…uhh, sustain them. And second of all because you are only one person. When some horrible corporation is destroying entire forests or endlessly pumping smog into the atmosphere, our individual actions can feel negligible or pointless.
But that’s doesn’t mean they aren’t important. On the contrary – every little contribution matters. Our collective efforts can make a difference.
There are dozens of ways in which a person can lead a more sustainable life, but as a beginner it’s best to first focus on the small everyday habits that make a difference over time.
Perhaps the least complicated action that can be taken is to reuse and recycle non-perishable materials.
Plastic especially is a problematic for the environment, as it often ends up in landfills, or worse, in rivers, oceans and forests. It is advisable to avoid purchasing plastic items where possible, particularly SINGLE-USE ITEMS (capitalised for maximum terror) like plastic bags, straws, and water bottles. These are a major blight on the natural world, and should therefore be bought with the frequency of nuclear waste.
Another largely effortless way in which you can become more sustainable is to reduce your energy consumption, and thus the carbon emissions for which you’re responsible.
This can mean something as simple as switching off lights and standby devices when they aren’t being used, or not overdoing the central heating. Is that too easy? Yes, it is – which is why you might also consider forgoing unnecessary power-hungry home appliances like tumble dryers and dishwashers. That may sound like a horrible forfeit (washing dishes ain’t no fun), but it will help you reduce your personal carbon footprint.
To up the ante even further, it’s worth reviewing your driving habits.
According to the US EPA, your typical passenger vehicle emits approximately 4.6 metric tons of CO2 per year. How much? Too much. The solution to this problem is stupidly simple: Drive less. Or better yet, don’t drive at all – walk or cycle instead. Of course this isn’t realistic for people that regularly that have to travel long distances, but there are other environmentally-friendlier alternatives to a single person car journeys, such as: car sharing schemes, public transport, electric vehicles and time portals (coming any day soon, I can feel it).
Addressing how we buy and consume food is another unspectacular, yet very meaningful action that can be taken in pursuit a more sustainable lifestyle.
Ground zero is to ensure that you do not waste food. Throwing away food is a heinous act given there are still many who go to bed starving, but also because food is a limited resource. When shopping, only buy what you’ll use – your pantry doesn’t need a war bunker level of supplies. If you do end up with food surplus/leftovers, the best thing is to either donate it to charity, or compost it (where appropriate – rice krispies don’t belong in the natural ecosystem, genius).
Since you’re out in the mud composting, why not try growing your own food?
Organic farming is really the epitome of sustainable living, as it doesn’t require the chemical and CO2 heavy practices of commercial produce. Not to mention that fruit & vegetables grown in your own backyard are generally tastier, better for you health, and totally free. With a garden full of plant foods, you might then consider reducing or eliminating meat from your diet. Animal products are not only a limited resource, but the intensive farming methods used to make them are a significant contributor to climate change.
Solar panels, and beyond!
As you can see, adopting a sustainable existence doesn’t require one to abandon society and live in the wilderness. Kind of a relief, no? A few sincere lifestyle changes is all it takes.
But maybe you want to take a step further? Here’s some ideas:
- Only use eco-friendly and fairtrade products
- Use renewable sources of energy (e.g. solar power)
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