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A beginner’s guide to sustainable living

Everybody’s talking about it and claiming we need to subscribe to it, but what is sustainable living and how easy is it to get started? 

A trendy buzzword, a lifestyle movement or a mainstream responsibility that too few of us are living up to. However you think of sustainable living there’s no denying that it’s big news and something we all need to know more about, but it’s a huge subject. This beginner’s guide to sustainable living should give you an idea of why it’s fast becoming unavoidable and how you can make your first tentative steps into a greener lifestyle.

Get informed and educated

As with any significant lifestyle change, be sure to do your homework. A sustainable lifestyle will mean something different to most people, depending on where they are starting from but one thing we can all agree on is that it runs far deeper than simply being a bit more eco-friendly.

Trying to boil sustainability down to one easy-to-digest sentence is all but impossible. That being said, the crux of the matter all comes down to individuals taking responsibility for their personal impact on the planet, through the way they consume. It’s more than just the food being eaten and the clothing being bought though, as waste reduction, energy saving and resource allocation are all essential considerations as well. Taking the time to read up on these issues will give you an insight into the small lifestyle changes that can be made immediately, while more in-depth ones are interwoven in due course.

Shop smart

How and where you spend your money is one of the most powerful tools for sustainable living and it can become all-encompassing, quickly. You might start by simply looking for alternatives to animal leather, buying small accessories to start with before working your way up to shoes and bags. From here, you’ll naturally evolve into a more informed consumer that looks at the composition of everything you buy, down to the packaging too. Is it made from recycled materials and can it be recycled again? 

As and when you became more committed to sustainable living, you might also want to start looking into the ethics of parent companies of brands that you like supporting. What have they invested in, do they have an easy-to-find environmental policy? Is there carbon neutrality planned into the business model to offset previous fossil fuels use? By supporting companies that make a real difference, you create a demand for sustainable product lines, thus helping to save you money while you save the planet and encouraging others to get onboard as well. The knock-on effect of shopping with ethics is, frankly, staggering. 

Reduce your waste 

It all starts with a few small changes and from there, you’ll notice the amount of household and concerning food waste you produce will reduce significantly. Good starting points include ditching plastic water bottles in favour of carrying a stainless steel option that can be refilled when out and about and buying products that come in fully recyclable packaging. If the packets have also been made from repurposed composites, so much the better.

You’ll quickly get the hang of carrying out a cursory look on the back of a packet, to check if it is fully recyclable or not, but if you get fed up, you can move to phase two, which is trying to shop as zero waste and plastic-free as possible. What does this look like in a standard supermarket? Buying loose fruit and veg, sticking to sauces in glass jars, not using any plastic bags and looking for loose dry goods that can be bought in your own containers. 

Don’t forget that zero waste refers to a way of living that takes sustainability to the next level. It’s not about having no packaging at all per se, but paring right back and trying to have as few non-recyclable materials in your household as possible. This is not only a great way to protect the planet’s natural resources, but will also help to lower your carbon footprint and emissions. 

Travel more consciously

It’s not a secret that global travel contributes significantly to climate change, water consumption and carbon emissions and though international lockdowns have allowed for a little breathing space, with restrictions easing, travel is on everybody’s minds. If everybody made some small everyday changes, it would help to offset the inevitable uptake in commercial flying to far away destinations.

Are you willing to holiday a little closer to home perhaps? What about buying an electric car when you are next in the market? Or, why not take up cycling? Good for you and great for the environment, it’s a win-win in terms of healthy and ethical transportation. If you need some facts and figures to give you the final push to pedals, there’s a calculator that shows you real time benefits you can expect to see.

Create your own guide to sustainable living

Embracing sustainability starts as something you know you should do and quickly evolves into a driving force and many people find themselves getting a little competitive, just with themselves. Could they create even less waste next week? Can they do anything to ensure future generations will live sustainably as a matter of course? Writing your own guides, even if just for your own family, will help to get the message across, but if you have a blog or social media channels, you can add tips and tricks that you have found useful on your own journey.

Sustainable living is all about protecting the earth’s resources, treading gently and trying to undo the damage that’s already been done and the most powerful tool for all of this is communication, with friends, peers, family members and even strangers. Recommend products that meet your eco ideals, showcase things you’ve bought that make you feel good and help you to do good and most of all, keep going. The road to sustainability is paved with mistakes and stumbling blocks, but staying the course will reap incredible benefits, in the end.