While I have loved seeing today’s culture leaning towards more sustainable practices, making it easier and more mainstream to think sustainably, I also have been weary over the opportunity for businesses to capitalize on this shift in the market. I will be the first to admit that I did invest in some cotton grocery bags and other reusable swaps, but I also truly believe that the best way to be more sustainable is to buy and consume less overall. In my experience, it simply comes down to small changes in habit and mindset. Here are five changes I’ve made in my everyday life to be more sustainable.
Think ahead and plan smarter. Living more sustainably is rooted in some planning and a little extra effort. How many times have you forgotten your reusable grocery bags at home, or bought a plastic water bottle because you didn’t have a reusable one on you? Guilty. For me, this has meant planning a grocery list before leaving the house in order to bring the right bags, and keeping a utensil set at work, where I eat out of the house. I also reach for full fruits that I have to take the time to cut myself, as opposed to the precut, packaged alternatives. I’ve noticed that often, waste (single-use plastic) is a byproduct of accessibility and easiness. But as a result, I have learned that what is easy is not always right. Putting in a little extra effort makes a big difference.
Educate yourself. Similar to ‘green washing’, there’s nothing stopping a brand, company or individual from claiming that they are sustainable. While this can depend on your personal views and preferences as to what is deemed an adequate ‘amount’ of sustainability, I still think it’s important to at least read into a business’s sustainable practices before blindly accepting them as true. In addition to researching companies that I am a customer of, I also enjoy getting inspired by others living sustainably, through blog posts on all types of sustainable living topics and YouTube videos in order to learn new practices or to simply be motivated by leaders in the community.
Get creative with what you have. Consumer culture has trained us to believe that we need particular things for particular uses: vases for flowers, jars for our pantry, pitchers for drinks. I’ve enjoyed breaking that habit, and getting creative with using the things that I have in different ways. Large bouquet of flowers? Throw them into a glass pitcher. Empty jar in your kitchen? Ditch the lid and use it as a cocktail glass, pencil holder or catchall for mementos. Practicing resourcefulness has been monumental in my sustainable living journey.
Buy Less. If you start to adapt the ‘get creative with what you have’ mentality, it will be even easier to simply buy less. Not to mention, this is the number one way to live more sustainably. It can be harder said than done, which is why I’ve taken small steps to minimize the temptation. I have unsubscribed from retailer emails that put sales and new merchandise at the forefront of my inbox. I also don’t shop in stores often, but rather browse online and keep a wishlist of items that I love. If I still love and want the item in a few weeks, only then might I make a purchase.
Transition Your Mindset & Be Happy With What You Have. Again, sometimes easier said than done, especially when a lot of us enjoy treating ourselves with material items, or feel excited when we buy new things. By practicing gratitude every day and allowing myself to recognize happiness when I feel it, I have slowly disassociated things with happiness. I’ll admit that this was a slower process for me, but by getting into the daily practice of gratitude, I am creating habits that are not only more sustainable, but also good for the soul.