Sustainability: How to begin when you feel overwhelmed
If you’re on Pinterest, Instagram, or just about any social media, you have probably seen something about sustainable living. There are so many different names for it from eco-friendly to zero waste and so many others. And maybe you want to get in on it. Living sustainably is great for the environment, good for your health, and good on your wallet too!
The problem lies in the beginning. Starting something new is a challenge, and you see so many people living these “perfect” zero waste lifestyles. You may feel intimidated or not sure where to start. It may seem like too big a task, especially if the people around you are not all-in with the movement as well.
Luckily, there is comfort in knowing that no one is perfect. You are not expected to be perfect, and perfect is not what the planet needs. All that the planet needs is better. Just little by little, taking baby steps toward a brighter future. You don’t have to throw away every piece of plastic in your home or go vegan in an instant. The best way to begin living sustainably is to start with one small thing.
You could try recycling everything as it says on the label. Normally you need to wash containers before recycling, or remove the lid of some bottles. By taking care to separate your recycling and do it well, you may save an entire load of recycling from winding up in the landfill.
You could buy some reusable straws and to-go coffee cups and water bottles rather than getting disposable ones. Once coffee shops start getting back to normal, they often run discount programs that allow you to refill your reusable coffee cup for a significantly lower price than buying it in a disposable cup. Since that’s not usually available right now, you could ask for your iced coffee in a paper cup rather than a plastic one, as paper decomposes at a significantly faster rate than plastic. Take your own straw if not your own cup. Simple and small things like that add up.
An unseen killer of sustainability comes in the form of clothing. “Fast Fashion” is trendy in the moment. These clothes that you find in a lot of chain stores are cheaply made, and they may be made in sweat shops or with child labor. The materials are not usually sustainably sourced, and they are low quality so they will wear out faster.
Instead of heading to the mall to buy clothes that will wind up in a landfill, you can take your retail therapy elsewhere! By shopping at thrift stores, you give clothing a new life. They get much more wear, and you can find unique clothes that fit your style for a significantly lower price than new. Or with a little research, you can find clothing stores that sell quality clothing that will last you for years. There are now stores that take pride in selling quality, cruelty-free, and sustainable clothing. While the price tag may be a bit daunting, you can rest easy knowing that this piece will last you years longer than a cheaper shirt elsewhere, saving you money in the long run.
You could even start your sustainability journey in the bathroom! There are some things we simply can’t live without, such as soap, haircare supplies, or skincare products. The problem with these is the packaging. Most shampoo and conditioner bottles can’t be recycled, and if they are recyclable it is difficult to do so. The best thing to do is use up what you have, then make a switch that works for you. You can find products that offer refillable bottles, and these refills are often cheaper than the disposable products you may buy currently. If you don’t have a refill store in your area, many refill stores are shipping directly to your door!
You could even ditch the plastic entirely and use shampoo and conditioner bars rather than liquid. These usually cost about the same as a bottle of shampoo or conditioner at the grocery store, or less if you use higher-end products, but may last a lot longer. Often they are better for your hair, and you can find ones that fit your hair needs and smell amazing! Simple bar soap is often better than bottled body wash or face wash, and they are usually a lot more cost effective. You can even find plastic-free lotion bars!
The possibilities with sustainability are endless, but that doesn’t mean you have to dive in and try to do it all at once. Instead, take the changes slowly and just replace one thing at a time. Little changes done consistently lead to big changes. Once you feel comfortable with one thing, you can move on to another until you are satisfied that your life is where you want it to be. Take your time, because the best things do not happen overnight. Happy Earth Day!