Sustainable living is a hot topic right now. The impact that humans (and pollution) have on the environment is more prevalent than ever. Scientists have been noticing and reporting – and people are finally starting to pay attention. You may want to do your part to help, but if you aren’t sure how to go about it, read on…
What exactly is sustainable living? How can you reduce waste and trash? How can you make more of an effort to reduce, reuse, and recycle? And how can you live sustainably in today’s busy world?
Let’s examine these questions and take a look at some of the things you can do to play your part in the sustainable living movement…
What is Sustainable Living and Development?
First things first – what does living sustainably mean?
Simply put, this is a lifestyle change made in an effort to reduce the number of natural resources you consume including food, commercial products, and energy.
This includes your personal behaviors and the business practices of the companies you buy products from.1
If it all seems a bit intimidating, it shouldn’t be. Many organizations, businesses, and interest groups are making huge strides to help every citizen more easily play their part.
Living sustainably can be a major change, but the reward that comes along with the work is worth it. Playing your part to protect the environment for future generations by reducing pollution is a worthy pursuit. And while you may not live to see the full consequences of your actions, future generations will.
Sustainable Living Practices
Let’s dig a bit deeper into some of the most effective sustainable living practices…
1. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
This includes canceling snail-mail subscriptions, reusing grocery bags, and so much more. You can make small changes, like using washable towels and rags to clean messes instead of paper towels or napkins. Moms, consider using cloth diapers to reduce waste, instead of the disposable ones.
There are so many specific changes that could be made in this area, but the overall message is to create less trash through recycling whenever possible.
2. Eliminate Single-use Plastics
The amount of plastic waste in oceans and landfills is overwhelming. Single-use plastics, like straws and grocery bags, are banned (or soon to be banned) in many areas of the country and world.2,3
Changing product packaging is a big factor in helping to reduce waste. While straws and bags get a lot of attention, product packages are another huge source of waste and trash.4
3. Use (and produce) Renewable Energy
Choosing cleaner, renewable energy sources is another hot topic associated with living sustainably, because it can help reduce pollution. This can include changing to solar power, buying a hybrid or electric car, or simply utilizing other energy sources less. Consider carpooling or taking public transportation to get to work or school. Better yet, walk or bike, if possible.
It’s worth your time to research solar power and how it is being utilized and rewarded in your community. Many solar panels and other items, like solar tubes, come along with tax deductions on installation. There are even sometimes yearly tax incentives to encourage the use of solar power.5
4. Trash Toxic Products
This change can be as beneficial to you as it is to the world around you. There are a lot of strange ingredients in several personal-care and cleaning products and other random items like food storage containers.
Fertilizers and weed/pest killers get a lot of attention, too. Living sustainably means making an effort to avoid using or buying products and materials that are toxic to either you or the environment.
You should also research the environmental practices of businesses you frequent. What kinds of toxic chemicals are they putting into the environment at plants and factories, or through packaging or ingredients?
Sustainable Development Practices
While living sustainably focuses on your actions here and now, sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present, while also considering the needs of the future. Sustainable development seeks to balance the needs of society, the environment, and the economy.
Key indicators for sustainable development include:
- Demographic characteristics
- National production
- Happiness and well-being6
All of these factors are important, and they’re all connected.
The companies you buy from can dramatically affect your personal levels of sustainability and waste production.
Find out which businesses and organizations are engaging in sustainability practices and development. Make it a point to support them.
Companies that aim to reduce pollution and waste often have this information prominently displayed on their websites.
You can even utilize this philosophy when picking out your own home. Sustainable development means no waste. The tiny house movement is very popular amongst those who live sustainably. While tiny house living isn’t for everyone, if you can, consider just how much space you will need in your next home or apartment. Go smaller if you can. Many people recycle items from their previous home, as well. Another new type of house is the “green home,” which isn’t always tiny but is focused on sustainability.7 You can also take steps to make your current home more “green.”
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Living Sustainably
The phrase, “reduce, reuse, recycle,” was first introduced in 1976. It was intended to encourage all homes and businesses to examine the impact of their trash and waste on the environment. There was a mass scale movement to try to get Americans to start recycling paper, plastic, and glass waste. While the goal wasn’t zero waste, it certainly started moving things in that direction.8
To truly live this philosophy, you should take a close look at how much waste you’re putting out above and beyond trash. Reducing waste means rethinking every choice you make, from eating out to shopping.
It also means looking for products that have been made from recycled materials and that are, themselves, recyclable. It also means finding ways to reuse or re-purpose items you’ve already used. And again, sometimes the smallest things can make a huge difference.
Each time you go to throw something away, ask yourself, “How can I avoid putting this in the trash?”
What is Zero Waste Sustainability?
The notion of zero waste sustainability is basically the “holy grail” of the sustainable living movement. Its name is a dead giveaway that the goal is to create no waste in your daily life.
Zero waste sustainability takes the notion of “reduce, reuse, recycle” to another level by adding another r-word – recover. The idea is to try and recover energy from every bit of waste created. This can include using organic waste as compost to leftover solar energy being shared with a power grid system. As with other aspects of living sustainably, a lot of changes can be made to move towards zero waste sustainability.9
Living Sustainably: Eco-Friendly Green Living
Making choices that help reduce waste and move you closer to zero waste is a great feeling. Sustainable living aims to encourage these choices every day on a mass scale. If you’ve not yet jumped on the bandwagon, though, don’t worry. It’s never too late to start making changes – even small ones. Every little thing you do has an impact, so try not to get overwhelmed. Take baby steps, and make small changes over time to ease yourself into a more sustainable, zero waste lifestyle.
Reduce your own personal levels of trash, waste, and pollution if you want to pursue a sustainable living practice. There are so many intricate ways you can try to live a zero waste lifestyle, too. It’s a topic worthy of research, and it can’t be overstated: what you do now will impact the lives of future generations.
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