Part One: Guide to Sustainable Healthy Living // Getting Started

I hear all the time from friends, family, and readers that they want to bring more sustainable practices into their lives but they just don't know where to start. I also find that many of these same people may have wonderful intentions, but are trying to make too many changes overnight, which makes the process of shifting their lifestyle nearly impossible. That is why I wanted to create this Guide To Sustainable Healthy Living where each week I will be sharing more information and resources that will help make your journey towards sustainable living so much easier. 

Over the past five years, I have been on an intentional and somewhat non-intentional journey towards living a more sustainably focused life. While I would love to tell you that one day I just woke up with this intense desire to change the way I impacted and interacted with the world around me, you and I both know that that just isn't how these things work.

Slowly over time the way I started to view the world, my own personal environment, my daily choices, and most importantly the purpose I felt that I was meant to fill all started to shift...sometimes it required some pushing, sometimes it happened naturally, but it absolutely was gradual.

This really is what I want anyone who is reading this post to understand, that truly sustainable change takes time. In a society where extremism seems to be thrown at us from every angle, it can be hard to remember that every person started somewhere. Some people may have grown up in very sustainably focused families, which made living this way very natural, while others may have had a health scare that propelled them down a quicker path. But each and everyone of these people started somewhere, and just by reading this post you have started.

Congratulations! You have made a conscious choice to read something that is focused on living in a way that positive impacts the world around you, thats a really powerful and selfless thing and you should be proud of yourself. Even if just reading this post is all you can do right now, it is enough because you are on your own path, and it isn't going to look like anyone else's. 

There is a tendency when people start to incorporate more sustainable practices into their lives to judge those who aren't or to guilt people into trying to make a change that they may not be ready to make. That is not what The Well Essentials or this post are about. This post is about helping those who want help get started in sustainable living. It isn't about judgement, it isn't about forcing people to live this way, it's about empowerment, because as you will begin to see living in a way that supports the health of our bodies, our community, our environment, and global citizens all over the world is really empowering.

And guess what, people who are empowered are electric. People want to be around these kinds of people, and that is how change happens. Not through judgement or force, change happens when people feel empowered by their actions and choices, and other people decide for themselves that they want to feel this way as well. 

guide to sustainable healthy living: getting started

Alright so let's get a little deep shall we.

One of the biggest premises of living a sustainable life is this notion that each and every choice you make has an impact. The coffee you order everyday to the clothes you buy all require you to make a choice, and all are part of a greater global health system. So simply put, sustainable living comes down to choosing to be more conscious in the way you impact the world through your choices and actions.

Sustainable living is conscious living, and in many ways it is strictly about a moral code that you have decided to be a part of. There really is very little personal gain that is involved in sustainable living (other than the empowerment you feel by positively impacting the world around you). Ultimately when you choose to go down this path towards sustainable living, you are choosing to change the way you impact the world so that the lives of people you probably will never meet will benefit. 

There are a few main categories when it comes to sustainable living, and I find that usually people gravitate to beginning their journey in one category. This makes the process feel far less overwhelming and encourages positive reinforcement that eventually trickles into change in the other categories. 

On my journey to living a sustainable healthy life I have found that the main categories at play are: Food, Home, Self-Care, Travel

Since these categories are a bit broad I thought it would be helpful to break each one of them down and talk about the sustainable aspects that fall within each category. I also plan to go into a longer in-depth post on each category later, but for now lets start with this overview.

{ FOOD }

Our food system has one of the greatest impacts on our health as humans, and the health of the environment. Since we need to consume food every single day to maintain a healthy body, I find that focusing on choosing more sustainable options when it comes to our food is a very simple place to start, with many many positive outcomes. 

Since many of you probably are aware of the positive health and environmental implications of choosing organic, I want to talk a little more about why when thinking about sustainability in our food choices, it actually is really important to think a little further. This post I wrote goes a little bit deeper into this topic. 

sustainable food

When it comes to our food there are a few ways that we interact with it:

  • Eating Out

  • Food Shopping

  • Cooking

All of these areas of buying, preparing, and consuming our food are places where there is the potential to bring more sustainable practices into your life.

Here are some great ways to get started:

  • Choose to support local sustainable restaurants that are showcasing local, seasonal ingredients from local farms. There are so many amazing restaurants and chefs who are focusing on feeding people in a sustainable way, and choosing to do your date-night-out at one of these restaurants is an amazing way to support a sustainable food system in your community.

  • Shop at your local farmers market and make a point to visit once per week. Make it a fun family activity, and try and purchase some new foods that you may not have tried before. Shopping locally and seasonally is one of the best ways to support a sustainable, and regenerative food system.

  • Cooking from home results in far less food waste, and is a healthier way to connect with you food. Try cooking one more meal per week at home, and focus on using up all the local veggies you bought at the farmers market.

{ home }

Our homes are the next places where bringing more sustainable practices into our lives can be easy to do. This is partially because some of these things can personally benefit our own health and well-being, and also because our homes are where we spend a great deal of our time, and so they feel worth investing in. 

sustainable living

Here are some great ways to get started in creating a sustainable, healthy home:

  • Every single item in your home has either been made in a sustainable, or non-sustainable way, and most kitchen ceramics, glassware, appliances, etc. are not being made in a sustainable/ethical fashion. An easy way to start transitioning your kitchenware towards more sustainable sources is to start purchasing your ceramics locally. So the next time you are in the market for a new platter, set of dishes, or coffee mug, look up a local potter and choose to support the livelihood of someone right in your community.

  • Switch to reusable napkins. Most households use a lot of paper in the form of paper towels and napkins. Simply switching to reusable linen napkins can reduce your waste and save money over time. Make sure however to choose a textile maker that produces your new linen napkins in a sustainable/ethical fashion. Minna is one of my favorite options for beautiful kitchen towels and napkins that have been handmade by artisans around the world.

  • Choose glass: Whenever possible try and limit your plastic "consumption". Instead of purchasing lots of ziplock bags, and plastic containers, think about switching to glass mason jars for storing your household items. Ball mason jars are made in the USA, and can be reused over and over again.

{ self - care }

Self care is the next big category where I like to focus on holistic medicinal practices, beauty, bath products, books, exercise, and clothing. Basically anything that you purchase or take part in specifically for the purpose of making you feel good falls into this self-care category. 

sustainable skincare

Here are some great ways to get started in transitioning your self-care practices into ones that are more sustainable:

  • Switch three of your makeup or skincare items to ones that have been made using sustainable practices, with ingredients that have been sourced sustainably. Don't feel like you have to throw everything out at once...instead start with the items you current use that are running out and replace them with options that are better for your body and the environment. One of my favorite resources is Follain, a sustainable skincare store located right here in Boston.

  • Start thinking about your clothing differently. Cheap clothing almost always means that it was made in an unsustainable, and most likely harmful fashion for the garmet workers. So the next time you feel the need to buy something new and cheap, first take a look in your closet and see if there is anything you can use...there most likely is. If not, seek out consignment shops, and online secondhand retail sellers like Poshmark for purchasing your new clothing item at a very discounted rate. If that still doesn't get you what you need, make the decision to invest in a new item of clothing. Seek out sustainable clothing retailers like Nisolo, Reformation, Everlane, etc. for your new wardrobe item, and cherish it.

{ travel }

Travel I find to be one of the hardest places for people to make changes right away, mostly because a lot of the time our travel options feel somewhat out of our control. We have kids with lots of activities, jobs in opposite directions, and so many more reasons that make changing our travel plans difficult, but not is where you start:

  • Take a look at your schedule for the week and see if there are any options for carpooling. This could be as simple as offering to pick up the neighbors kids before soccer, or organizing a once a week carpool into the city for a few commuters in your town.

  • Choose the car in your family that gets better gas mileage most of the time. Try coordinating errands so that the car the gets better gas mileage is used more often. This will result in a cost savings to you, and less energy used and being put into the environment.

  • Whenever possible take public transportation, or even better walk or bike. I have a rule that as long as I have an hour to get somewhere and its under 3 miles I am going to be walking. This way I get exercise and avoid using any energy to get to my destination.

Next up in this "Getting Started With Sustainable Healthy Living" series I'll be sharing with you some of my favorite resources to read, watch, listen, and follow for education and inspiration about sustainable living.