5 Practical Steps to a Sustainable Lifestyle
Usually when you punch "sustainable lifestyle" into the search engine, you get 101 ways to transform your life to be low impact...but at a major price. Switch all your plastic out how glass, go with bamboo instead of other hardwoods, change everything to reusable. At the end of the day, you may have a more "sustainable" household, but you'll also be out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Here's a practical 5 step plan to get you on the right track without replacing everything you own.
1. Use what you have
The biggest enemy of a sustainable lifestyle is waste. If you go out and replace all your kitchen containers with reusable glassware, that's awesome, but what do you do with the plastic you've accumulated? Hopefully it will go to a second life at a thrift store or on Facebook Marketplace, but chances are a good amount of those things will simply go to the trash.
Solution: Use what you have, then when it wears out or you need something else, go with a more durable product that will have a longer life and can be reused or recycled when you're done using it.
2. Keep what you use, pass on what you don't
When you have too much stuff, things tend to get lost. You forget where things are, and if you even have them, so what do you do? You buy more!
Solution: 1) Declutter. When was the last time I used this? With what frequency do I use this? Am I likely to need to use this again in the near future? If the answer to those questions leads you to believe it's worth keeping around, then keep it.
2) Organize. If it doesn't have a place, make a place for it, or take it to your nearest donation center. P.S. Tossing it in the junk drawer does not count as "its place".
3) Limit. Recently, I attacked my laundry room and kitchen, asking myself the hard questions and liberally weeding through my inventory. At one point, I had 5 different sized funnels in front of me. Did I need 5 funnels, even if different sizes? How often do I use that many funnels at one time?
The answer is never.
We now have 1 funnel.
4) Replace. As you need new things, choose items that meet your needs but can easily be reused or recycled when you're done with it. Our macrame is made using recyclable cotton cord, yarn, and brass hardware that can be deconstructed and recycled at the end of it's long and beautiful life.
There are brands from every category, from clothing to kitchen appliances, that are committed to making the world a better, cleaner place.
It's so easy to put things in the trash. Twice a week, those angels from the sanitation department come by and cart it off so you never have to think about it again. But that's a big part of moving to a sustainable lifestyle - thinking about what's going on behind the scenes. Your unloved handbags and mismatched socks may seem worthless to you, but to someone else, it could be a different story.
Solution: First option is to donate or sell it. Poshmark, Facebook Marketplace (my go-to), Ebay and Craigslist are all great for selling from your home, and there are so many donation facilities, all you'll need to do is a quick Internet search.
Secondly, learn about recycling and how to do it properly. Republic Services has an excellent how-to on recycling that will teach you what to put where. If you're wondering what to do with unusual items, like old bras or broken chairs, check out this for textiles (shops like ours rely on recycled textiles to create our cord and yarn), this for furniture, and this for electronics.
4. Be choosy in what you buy.
Educating yourself on how items are made and what regulations are in place to oversee that they are made responsibly goes a long way to empowering yourself to make a difference. From decorating your living space to organizing your closet, you
Solution: Buy less, choose well. Your dollar speaks volumes, even if you can't immediately see the impact. Choose brands that are committed to using sustainable materials, paying fair wage, and shopping small where possible.
Also, don't feel bad buying to match your aesthetic while meeting your practical needs. Curating a mindful home is a lifelong craft with value far beyond its fast-and-cheap counterpart.
5. Watch your trash.
This may sound strange, but being mindful about what fills your trash can every week and why can be a good indicator as to what you can change to reduce your waste.
Solution: Whether it's table scraps, paper products, plasticware, or cardboard boxes, there are easy ways to limit what ends up in the landfill. Cut back on wasted food by freezing (raw vegetables and bones can be frozen to make broth), composting, or reducing meal sizes. Paper and plasticware can be switched out for reusable products instead. Many plastics and cardboard items can be recycled.
In the end, what is easy is not always what is responsible. You have to be willing to think outside the box and do a little more work, but ultimately you can transition to a more sustainable lifestyle today without spending your life's savings.
While it's impossible to do all the right things all the time, making an effort to buy responsibly will ripple out into every area of your life and even into your community.