Just kidding. Really grabbed you with that title, right?!
The truth is, living sustainably can be really difficult. Our culture is hyper focused on single-use items, convenience and quantity over quality, to the degree that for many of us, it’s completely ingrained in who we are. We typically don’t think twice about hopping in our gas-guzzling, emissions-producing car, driving through the multi-billion dollar corporation rhyming with Farnucks to get our iced latte in a single-use plastic cup with single-use straw, and sit on the freeway with thousands of other people in their cars with their Farnucks drinks. On the way home, we stop to get takeout in single-use plastic containers, sit in front of our TVs while browsing our smartphones on Amazon to order stuff we don’t need – with 2-day shipping, of course.
And let me clarify by saying – I am not immune to this. I drive my car to work every day. I occasionally drive through Farnucks. And I’m really bad about watching TV and scrolling my phone at the same time – hello, millennial culture (#oops). So this post is in no way to make me sound like I’m the perfect model of sustainability; I am far from it, hence this journey to learn and improve.
It’s no secret that we’re in a crisis. The more I learn about the climate crisis that our Earth faces the higher my anxiety is. I know that no small changes by one individual person is going to make a difference; there has to be BIG CHANGE from the major corporations who are causing the most destruction (looking at you). But there’s this quote I’ve seen floating around the zero-waste / sustainability movement:
And this is really the key for me. I won’t be able to do everything perfectly, most people won’t. But if we can all make small changes to our daily routines, maybe just maybe we might start to make a difference!
101 Ways to Live Sustainably – This infographic by Curbed is a great place to start. I took a quick inventory and currently, I am doing 39 / 101 things. Again – not perfect! The list brought up a lot of good points and things I didn’t even consider, like how to get involved in your community to promote and improve sustainability in your area. But it also includes the go-to methods, a few of which were the easiest switches for us to make in our household, such as:
- Reusable water bottles / containers – I bring a reusable water bottle and coffee cup with me every day, since I always drink both every day.
- Composting – we do this through Recycled City and they are a great organization!
- Be more conscious with purchasing – unless absolutely necessary (and it usually isn’t!) opt for longer shipping if you have to order online. But even better, support local small businesses if you can.
- Be aware of energy used – we wash clothes in cold water and use LED bulbs, as well as a smart thermostat. All of this helps keep our energy usage lower!
Last but not least, something that I think is super important and often overlooked in this new age of greenwashing and Instagram-worthy sustainability: we use what we have. As I’ve mentioned a hundred times already, I’m not perfect. I’ve made a lot of bad decisions when it comes to how I consume. But the only thing that could be worse is trying to correct those bad decisions with consuming more.
For example, probably two or three years ago I bought a huge box of plastic single-use flossers from Costco. Clearly, a horrible decision that I’ve discovered since my foray into sustainable living. And I’m reminded of that every day when I use them, because I’m still using them. I didn’t throw them out to get some fancy new compostable floss in a Gram-able bamboo holder. I’m living with my shame, and will continue to do so until I’ve gotten the most use out of them that I possibly can.
It’s the same with shampoo and body wash bottles, deodorant, dryer sheets, cleaning supplies, etc. A ton of these items are bad for the environment and I shouldn’t have purchased them but I did, so I will use them until they’re gone! And only then will I replace them with plastic-free shampoo / soap bars, wool dryer balls, homemade cleaners that are safe for the house and environment, etc.
This long tangent is all to say: just do what you can. Make the small switches that make sense for you and your family and don’t feel bad if you can’t do it all! Not everyone can spend $25k to put solar panels on their roof, run for local office or become a vegan overnight. You can pick up trash in your neighborhood for free. You can support local businesses without having to govern them. You can eat more chicken and less beef (or try out Meatless Mondays!). It doesn’t have to be a huge, overnight change!