How To Bring Sustainable Living Into Your Life This Year
You guys know that I am so passionate about sustainable living, heck I created this wonderful business for the purpose of sharing as much education and inspiration about sustainable living with as many people as possible. In my life the foundational principles of sustainable living are the leading light that drives virtually everything that I do. From the way I make choices, to the things I prioritize, to the way I wish to treat others, and the impact I want to leave on this world, sustainable living is behind a lot of it.
So since so many of you have been asking me about ways in which you can slowly get started in bringing more sustainable practices into your life as well, I figured why not go ahead and share with you some of my favorite, simple ways that you can bring more sustainable living into your life this year.
what are the principles behind sustainable living
Before we get into my favorite ways that you can get started living more intentionally and sustainably this year, I want to walk you through the principles that are the foundation behind this way of living. You may find that some resonate with you more than others, and that is 100% okay. What is amazing is they are all very much interconnected, so even if you feel more called to adopt this way of living because of one of the principles, you will naturally have the added benefit of positively impacting the others just because of how they are connected. So what are they?
- Eco-Friendly: Has a positive impact on the environment, and focuses on reducing waste of all kinds (may for instance be rainforest alliance certified, or certified organic)
- Animal Welfare: Working for the humane treatment of animals and animal welfare. This does not necessarily have to be associated with a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle, and can include the humane treatment of animals in our meat industry.
- Global Health Equity: Supports the health, workers rights, and environmental safety of people living and working in various parts of the world where exploitation is common.
- Personal Health: Focuses on reducing harmful potential exposures on the consumer. This could include non-toxic skincare products, safe cleaning supplies, organic food, etc.
To put this into perspective lets just take the food industry as an example: You decide that you would like to purchase some coffee for your family, here is how you could think through that purchase with more of a sustainable mindset.
- A coffee that was certified fair trade or direct trade is looking very closely into the ethics behind the way that coffee was produced. You can feel more confident that the laborers were treated and paid fairly for their work.
- Something that was certified organic or rainforest alliance certified is supporting a more environmentally friendly way of producing the coffee, which is less likely to result in harmful environmental exposures to the community where the coffee was grown, and is healthier for personal consumption.
so where do you begin?
Now that you know what the foundational principles are behind sustainable living I am going to ask that you choose one that you feel the most called to. For me it is global health equity. Since much of my work has been spent working to improve the health and wellbeing of people living in developing countries, there is nothing that drives me more.
Once you have identified what your driving principle will be, it is time to start thinking through it a little bit more when it comes to your daily life, and I am going to walk you through the exact steps I use for myself to do this.
how to bring sustainable living into your life this year
01: take an inventory of your purchases
Think back over the past few weeks. What did you purchase? Most likely it included some online shopping, maybe some new clothes, food, cleaning supplies, soap/shampoo/conditioner, etc.
Some common categories of purchases for a person/household are:
- Food Shopping
- Eating Out
- Clothes Shopping
- Online Shopping
- Cleaning Supplies
- Paper Supplies
- Skincare Products
- Home Goods
02: determine what you care the least about
Now think about which category of purchases you feel the least connected to. Maybe it is your cleaning supplies, like who really has strong feelings about those right? We are going to start there.
While it may seem counter intuitive to adopt a very intentional, thoughtful way of living by starting with the things you care the least about, there really is a method to my madness.
You need to gain momentum when it comes to sustainable living, and starting with the easy things first is the way you will get this car running.
03: start making small changes month by month
Start with the short term, when you plan to make small changes in a shorter period of time, you are more likely to stick with them and will naturally begin to feel more motivated by your choices.
While it may be really tempting to try and overhaul virtually everything in your life all at once that just honestly is not realistic, and would be entirely overwhelming. Living more sustainably is a lifelong, wonderful process of continuing to grow and expand that way you think about your personal choices and impact on the world, and it doesn't all have to happen overnight.
04: gain momentum and step outside your comfort zone
We are going to work on saying buh-byeee to our comfort zone and use the momentum gained making small, initial changes to really fuel some bigger shifts moving forward. This means that as you start to feel more passionate, and comfortable in the changes you have made, you are going to take a hard look at the things that are outside your comfort zone that you are fighting.
Using the momentum and encouragement you have gained so far, start coming up with a plan of attack when it comes to some of those changes that you are more hesitant to make. The idea of making them will get easier the more momentum you have behind you.
05: ideas to get you started
I hope that you guys already have some ideas in mind after reading through this post about how you would like to from more sustainable practices into your life, but just in case you are still feeling a little lost here is a list of 12 different ideas that you could work on adopting each month to help you embrace sustainable living, and become so empowered in the choices you are making, and the way you are living everyday.
- January: Purchase some reusable glass tupperware (l love these ones), or mason jars to replace your plastic containers and reduce the amount of plastic bags you use for food storage.
- February: Sooth your dry winter skin with some non-toxic, safe skincare options. Replace that old drugstore scrub with something homemade, or search for local skincare makers in your area. I promise you there are amazing, safe, local skincare companies virtually everywhere.
- March: Watch a few sustainable driven documentaries to give you some inspiration. Some of my favorites are Sustainable, The True Cost, Cowspiracy, and Chefs Table
- April: Spring clean your home with non-toxic cleaning supplies. Recycle your old cleaning supply containers, and make a commitment to only use safe products moving forward. Use the environmental working group to search for cleaning supplies that are safe for you and your family.
- May: Reduce your plastic waste while food shopping by purchasing cloth food bags that you can bring shopping with you. Use these instead of the plastic bags (you know the ones of rolls you put your individual produce in) and opt for the bulk section for buying staples like nuts, seeds, and grains.
- June: Make a commitment to only shopping for sustainable fashion options this spring. Take a look inside your closet and be really honest with yourself about what you think you need versus what you want. If there is something you really want search on a second hand site like poshmark, or at a sustainable fashion retailer. If by the end of the month you still really want one item from a fast-fashion retailer (like Jcrew, Madewell, H&M, etc.) ask yourself whether you will wear this clothing item at least 30 times. If the answer is yes, then make the purchase, knowing that you were very conscious about why you are purchasing this item.
- July: Choose to only purchase your produce from your local farmers market. Get creative planning seasonal meals during this wonderful, and abundant time of year.
- August: Use this month to plan ahead for the winter. Go blueberry and strawberry picking and freeze these berries to use all winter long. Along the same line, try canning tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, and freezing other vegetables like zucchini, and spaghetti squash for consuming during those cold months.
- September: Take a good look at your wardrobe and make three piles. The clothes you wear all the time, the clothes you were sometimes or for special occasions, and the clothes you want to sell/donate. Put the clothes you want to sell/donate in a bin and make a poshmark or tradesy account and get selling. This will extend the use of your clothes, and will help you make a little extra cash.
- October: Instead of buying bags and bags of chemical laden candy, try supporting a company that is making safer candy, and is also supporting a more ethical cacao industry. Equal Exchange makes small individual chocolate candies that are perfect for halloween, and are certified fair trade.
- November: Ditch the plastic wrap for saving all the holiday leftovers that are bound to be plentiful over the next month. Purchase some bees wrap food wraps for keeping your leftovers fresh.
- December: Shop local for all of your Christmas/holiday gifts this year. Ask your family to support your sustainable goals and not purchase any gifts for you that were not created in a sustainable way. Give them some good ideas to help! Wrap your presents using linen kitchen clothes that can then be used again.