9 Sustainable Lifestyle Changes to Start Practicing Today
Going green with my bestie, Malak Aly, in this collaboration
Sustainability, defined, is ‘the ability to exist constantly.’ More specifically, it is essentially the capacity for the biosphere and human civilization to co-exist. It involves meeting our own needs without compromising future generations having to meet our needs. By ensuring and striving to improve our quality of life as well as environmental health, individuals can be proactive in ensuring healthy communities, clean air, natural resources, and a nontoxic and sustainable society (Thalia, 2020). Through such means, sustainability is made up of three pillars: the economy, society, and the environment. In other words, those three pillars can also be categorized as: profit, people, and planet.
Several lifestyle changes that individuals can partake in for a long term benefit to our planet are to: recycle, minimize waste, reuse, carpool, be a conscious consumer, volunteer, be inspired and educated about minimalism, and begin deciding about implementing a more plant-based diet. Everyday is a new and other opportunity to make educated and effective choices that can positively influence our environment, the climate, and other species- ranging from what we consume, how, (if any) many children we decide to have, and using our voice and space for the better.
With that being said, the following are 9 sustainable lifestyle changes to be implemented into our daily lives:
Minimize waste (reduce) - Each person living in the U.S. generates an average of 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of trash per day (TCo). On a global scale, 2.12 billion tons of waste is generated every year (TWC). Although some of this waste is recycled, most of it ends up in landfills, which is then burned and contributes to global warming. With this in mind, one of the most effective methods towards being more eco-friendly is to reduce one’s consumption levels. In doing so, one will produce less waste and help lessen the amount of goods that end up in landfills. One can attempt to implement a less wasteful lifestyle by being inspired by minimalism, which is the intentional practice of only consuming what is necessary.
Reuse - According to the nonprofit organization called Clean Miami Beach, the habit of reusing must be our first priority because it allows consumers to use a good multiple times and avoid having to dump it in the trash or recycling bin. Reusing allows us to maximize a product and increase its lifespan, which in turn helps to avoid the production of these same materials.
Recycle - If a product can not be reused then it is best to ensure that it gets recycled. Recycling is the process of reclaiming materials and reusing them to create new goods (TCo). Make sure to do your research on what can be recycled so that you may properly separate your waste.
Be flexible with your transportation methods - One large contributor to the issue of global warming is our day-to-day transportation methods. Analyze where you need to go and the various methods you can take in order to reach your final destination. When thinking about this, aim to prioritize transportation methods that emit the least amount of CO2 gases. For example, these methods could be walking, bike riding, skateboarding, rollerblading, using public transportation, using electric vehicles, etcetera. The purpose of being flexible about your transportation methods is to ensure that you are being conscious of your carbon footprint and trying your best to prioritize eco-friendly modes of travel.
Be a conscious consumer - Being a conscious consumer requires one to be constantly mindful and informed about how one spends their money and consumes goods. The first step in being a conscious consumer is to do your research. This can take the form of doing online research and asking questions directly to the company you plan on purchasing from. Once you have some facts and clear answers regarding the full production process of a good, one can move forward making informed decisions and purchases. A helpful way to be informed and support ethically produced products is to support Fair Trade Certified goods. When a product is Fair Trade Certified this means that it complies with Fair Trade principles which require the manufacturing process to promote sustainability and ensure safe working conditions.
Volunteer - An excellent way to give back to the global community is to volunteer one’s time or donate funds to a reputable nonprofit organization. There are a variety of ways one can get involved with a nonprofit organization, such as, completing in person/online volunteering, hosting a fundraiser, working as an intern or staff member, being an ambassador, etcetera.
Prioritize plant-based living - Being more plant-based can take various forms from dietary habits to materialistic products. By prioritizing a more plant-based lifestyle, one assists with the fight against large scale animal slaughtering and abuse. In turn this helps with maintaining balanced levels of essential animal populations.
Invest in reusable items - Tying in with the first point mentioned, investing in reusable goods is a highly effective way to being more green. Some essential reusable products you should consider investing in are: water bottles, utensil sets, food containers, and grocery store bags.
Reconsider your priorities/values - These sustainable lifestyle changes require reflection and contemplation, which may result in a reconsideration of what one values in life. Regardless of how sustainable one may choose to be, there is no harm in allowing yourself to be more mindful of how you consume and live everyday. In doing so, you can avoid ignorance and, in turn, be more likely to help the global community.
In conclusion, every choice we make holds influence. Every product we purchase or decide to buy, has an environmental footprint and lasting effect- ranging from the materials used to create it, to the pollution, to the packaging, to the pollution released during manufacturing, and more. Moreover, plastic, as mentioned, never goes away. Each year, seabirds, sea turtles, seals, and thousands more of other marine animals are killed after ingesting plastic or getting tangled up in it. By cutting down on plastic through using reusable straws, eliminating single-use water bottles/bags/and straws, and avoiding products made from plastic when possible, this can move our planet towards a more sustainable one with a hopeful and realistic future.
Living in the modern and consumerist society we are in, what steps and decisions will you take to ensure balancing the line between competing our needs (which can include moving forward technologically and economically), and the need to protect our planet and the earth we and others around us live in?
Malak Aly (Chapman University'22)
Valentina Solci (The New School'22)