Are you ready to learn how to live more sustainably but aren’t sure where to start? Do you intentionally buy locally sourced products or think about how to reduce CO2 emissions? Are you concerned about how much plastic and food packaging you are consuming? Or are you not thinking too much about climate issues but want to reduce your utility usage?
Whatever your sustainability style might be, I’m here to give you options!
It is important to acknowledge that there might be a significant part of you that wants to live in a healthy environment and needs a few ideas on how to improve your sustainable living. A recent study by NielsenIQ found that 78% of US consumers say that a sustainable lifestyle is important to them.
When consumers are asked if they care about buying environmentally and ethically sustainable products, they overwhelmingly answer yes: in a 2020 McKinsey US consumer sentiment survey, more than 60% of respondents said they'd pay more for a product with sustainable packaging.
There is a lot of debate about whether products claiming they are sustainable actually are and how brands are capitalizing on “greenwashing.” I get it; as a consumer, I’m there as well, and to be honest, it is quite confusing.
My approach is to go back to basics, independent of what your sustainability style is. Here are a few suggestions and actions that brought me some enlightenment.
Photo Courtesy of Camden Brickell Apartments
Find Ways to Reduce Your Utility Usage
Reducing energy use in your home could increase our energy security and reduce the pollution that is emitted from non-renewable sources of energy. Saving energy helps the environment by decreasing power plant emissions. To generate electricity, most power plants burn coal, natural gas, or other fossil fuels. The less energy you use, the less harmful emissions you generate.
Here are two of my favorite tips:
Wash clothes in cold water (yay, they shouldn’t shrink!). About 90% of the energy the washing machine uses goes towards heating the water. According to the Sierra Club, every household that switches to cold water washing could eliminate about 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
Computers use a lot of energy, so be sure to put them into sleep mode, hibernate, or shut them down at the end of the day.
Keep your thermostat on its "Auto" setting. This way your HVAC system only runs when necessary, during warm or cool months!
Buy Local, It Makes People Happy
It is an interesting concept, and I am still getting my head wrapped around it but, by doing so you are contributing to the local economy and businesses. You are supporting your community development by creating jobs and by reducing transportation distance, and you are generating less carbon dioxide and less traffic (which makes people happier). Looks like a win to me!
Donate Your Stuff: The Circular Economy is Real
Do you love finding the newest, freshest styles every season? It can be really easy to buy more, buy on sale and then move on and throw away last seasons favorite finds. I hear you, but how can we make some changes that make an impact?
According to the United Nations, fashion produces 20% of the world's wastewater and 10% of the world's carbon emissions, and by not being conscious about it, most of us end up contributing to increasing the amount of waste going to landfills.
Let’s think circularly. This means keeping materials in use, either as a product or, when they can no longer be used, as components or raw materials. This way, nothing becomes waste, and the intrinsic value of products and materials are retained. Here are some examples and actions you can take:
Donate the clothes you no longer use to Goodwill or any other local charity instead of tossing them out. This way your clothes will recirculate, and someone can extend their life cycle, reducing emissions and waste.
Educate yourself on what your favorite brand is doing from a sustainable and circular perspective: Zara, for example, has a policy of collecting, processing and reusing or recycling 100% of waste from their own operations. Target has a goal to design 100% of its owned brand packaging to be recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2025. Patagonia will actually take your Patagonia used clothes back and pay you for it!
Think about Plastic and Packaging and Ask Yourself: "Do I really need this?"
We produce over 380 million tons of plastic annually, and some reports indicate that up to 50% of that is for single-use purposes. The average American uses and throws away 110 pounds of single-use plastic every year.
Avoid single-use plastics such as plastic bottles and drinking straws: Single-use plastics, such as plates and cutlery, make our lives easier, but generates plastic waste that will end up in landfills. You can go to work and the gym and use your own reusable bottle.
Be aware of disposable containers: Disposable containers are inundating supermarkets (polystyrene trays, PET bottles, tetra packs, plastic containers, etc.). Is there an alternative you can use? Can you suggest your favorite takeout spot to provide you with alternatives: Recycled plastic bags? Paper take-out boxes? See Tetrapak sustainable packaging options for inspiration.
Recycle and help our economy: Recycle bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard. Keep food and liquid out of your recycling. No loose plastic bags and no bagged recyclables. Recycling not only benefits the environment but also the economy. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recycling and reuse activities account for $37.8 billion in wages for workers and $5.5 billion in tax revenues every year. Recycling glass, for example, not only helps save space in the landfill but also saves resources. For every ton of glass recycled, we conserve 1,300 pounds of sand, 410 pounds of soda ash, 380 pounds of limestone, and 160 pounds of feldspar.
Share Your Ideas
Whatever your sustainability style and approach, we all excel when living in a healthy environment and prosperous community. How about choosing one sustainable action to make your living experience better for your community and sharing your experience with us?