Sustainable Living: A Guide To Making Better Choices

The terms ‘sustainable’ and ‘sustainability’ have broad meanings and yet are commonplace in today’s world. Read my previous post ‘What Does Sustainability Mean?’, for a brief introduction to the concept. In this post, we will explore what it means to practice sustainability in our daily lives with supporting links to previous blog posts and further reading materials.


Now, what is sustainable living?

A person who practices ‘sustainable living’ aims to reduce their personal impact on society and the environment by making positive changes in their lifestyle. These changes are considered positive as they more or less “counteract” the impacts of climate change and other negative environmental issues linked to human activities.

Sustainable living can be synonymous to ‘low impact living’, ‘zero waste living’ and other phrases that promote ‘greener’ practices. Some everyday considerations in improving your lifestyle to better benefit you and the planet include using public transportation, avoiding food waste, growing your own food, supporting local tourism and businesses, taking shorter showers and minimising the use of disposal plastics (ladies, have waste-free periods!).

Image source: SustyVibes

All these practices come down to reducing the wastage of food and water resources, minimising the use of fossil fuels and generating less waste (degradable and non-degradable). While the full picture of sustainability can be quite complex (it’s a balance between economic, environmental and societal needs), there are many available sources that can help you understand the “hows and whys” behind sustainable practices:

There are many guides out there for anyone interested in living more sustainably (see ‘What is sustainable living?’, ‘How to be a greenie 101′, ‘How to live a sustainable lifestyle; among other links attached here). However, there are also a lot of “green trends” promoting sustainability that fail to actually create awareness on why sustainable practices matter. Examples of these green trends include the ‘metal-straw-hype’ and ‘canvas-bags-are-good-for-the-planet’ collections.

Reusable items that support sustainable practices. Image source: Pexels

None of these trends are bad, but when consumers are not made aware of why these practices are important, it becomes easy to lose track of whether the choices we make as consumers are actually sustainable. For example, the reason for purchasing any one of the two items above is to reduce disposable plastic waste. A person would only need one metal straw or perhaps two (of different size or shapes) that would replace all future use of plastic straws. However, the trend on metal straws had consumers buying a whole array of metal straws in all shapes, colours and sizes. Now that the trend has subsided, how many of us continue to carry the many metal straws we own, around with us?

Similarly with canvas bags, a person requires only 2-4 reusable canvas bags, depending on their shopping needs. Purchasing a canvas bag everytime you see one you like and owning a collection of canvas bags that you don’t fully utilise, defeats the purpose behind the practice (producing cloth can be very water intensive which is a waste of resources if you have more canvas bags than you need).

The point is while efforts to live sustainably are great, as consumers, we need to think critically about our choices. Sustainable living aims to reduce our environmental impact (i.e. carbon footprint) – this includes buying/using only what we need. A lot of water, energy and material resources go into the products that we buy and using more of those resources than we actually need is the exact the opposite of sustainable living.

Many businesses use the term ‘organic’, ‘vegan’ or ‘sustainable’ in hopes of appealing to consumers who are or want to be more environmentally friendly. While some businesses are true to the cause, others embellish the truth on how their products are derived (this is called greenwashing).

There isn’t a ‘one rule fits all’ when it comes to living sustainably. Not everyone can afford to embrace the sustainable lifestyle, especially those that are underprivileged. Personally, I find the two most important factors to sustainable living is to 1) think critically and 2) get creative.

Find new ways to deal with leftover foods, plan out your weekly meals so that you only buy what you really need. Shop once a week, which saves you time spent on shopping and fuel if you drive to the store. Reuse plastic bags (if you can’t avoid taking one). Carry around a reusable water bottle – this is one the most basic practices you can adopt.

Ways to reduce your impact on the environment. Image source: Pinterest

Reflect on your relationship with nature and the planet. Reflect on your daily practices and needs. Ask yourself how you can improve your current practices to be more sustainable. Question the sources of your products and seek better alternatives based on your needs.

Sometimes, efforts to be kinder to the planet can be challenging. It can also be overwhelming, especially when you realise the gravity of climate change or how massive corporations contribute to the bulk of our environmental problems (yikes!). Sustainable living is something you can do as an individual through your everyday life to be kinder to the planet. You don’t need to fit a year’s worth of trash in a mason jar (good on you if you can though!).

Practice sustainable living in whatever capacity fits you best. Every little bit you contribute counts. 

Image source: Schwabentraum (2021)

Referenced Links:

Conserve Energy Future (2021). 15 ideas for sustainable living https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/15-ideas-for-sustainable-living.php

Circular Ecology (2021). The three pillars of sustainability. https://circularecology.com/sustainability-and-sustainable-development.html

Kell, K. (2018). How to have a zero waste period. https://www.goingzerowaste.com/blog/zero-waste-periods/

Pebble Mag (2021). How to live a sustainable lifestyle. https://pebblemag.com/magazine/living/how-to-live-a-sustainable-lifestyle

Sustainable Jungle (2021). What is sustainable living? https://www.sustainablejungle.com/sustainable-living/what-is-sustainable-living/

Low Impact Living (2021). A beginner’s guide to sustainability. https://lowimpactlove.com/low-impact-living/

Acaroglu, L. (2019). What is greenwashing? How to spot it and stop it? https://medium.com/disruptive-design/what-is-greenwashing-how-to-spot-it-and-stop-it-c44f3d130d5

Tiuttu, T. (2019). Can everyone afford a sustainable lifestyle? 4Circularity. https://4circularity.com/can-everyone-afford-sustainable-lifestyle/

SustyVibes (2021). Sustainable living does not have to be expensive. https://sustyvibes.com/sustainable-living-does-not-have-to-be-expensive/

Buzzworthy (2021). This woman fits a year of trash in a mason jar. Here’s how you can, too. https://www.buzzworthy.com/year-of-trash-in-mason-jar/

Schwabentraum (2021). Zero waste and sustainable living. https://schwabentraum.com/zero-waste-and-sustainable-living/

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