Sustainable living: how to make an impact through simple steps

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We all know pollution is a growing problem in our world today, and many of us would love to live a more sustainable life and help the planet, but don’t really know how to or it just seems too difficult. But it doesn’t have to be. You don’t need to live in a little cottage in a field and only eat the crops you grow, make your own clothes and filter the rain water. Think of sustainable living as an ongoing process, and the most important thing is to be a little better than yesterday, to make a little extra healthy choice for you and the planet, to use a little less plastic today than you did yesterday.

Even though you might think that you cannot make an impact just by using these simple steps, that is not true! Every choice we make is a chance to make an impact, and if more of us would just make a few healthier choices, we could build a better, healthier world in no time! One thing that people often ignore is that living a more sustainable life is not only good for the planet, but especially for you! Using a lot of products full of chemicals, eating highly processed foods and consumerism is not good for you, and it is perfectly fine if you do these things just to help yourself live a better, simpler and healthier life! Not to mention you will save a lot of money as a side benefit!

So if you are just getting started, trying to figure out ways to live a more sustainable life, here are a few steps you can take to make more sustainable choices everyday:

1. Recycle, reuse, repurpose. Consumerism has grown so much during the last years, that it became the new normal. It is normal to have all these things, to buy new things whenever we want and to realize we already had them at home. But this is not only a waste of your energy, time and money, but also something that brings you a lot of stress and extra work. Minimalism has proven to bring us more peace and joy, to help us save time and money, and to make us really appreciate the things we have and make use of them instead of having 10 very similar items and forget about them until we have to throw them away. You can simplify your life and own less things that actually bring you joy. With the items you no longer want to keep, you can donate, sell or repurpose them.

2. Always use a reusable shopping bag at the grocery store. They are very trendy now and come in all shapes and colors. When shopping for fruits and vegetables, you can also use textile bags. It saves you a lot of money and less waste for you and the planet! If you can’t seem to remember to grab one of these bags when going to the store, just keep one of them in your purse/backpack all the time! This way you will never be taken by surprise. And even if you are, just remember, it’s ok! This is a process and you should’t be too hard on yourself.

3. Replace plastic straws/containers. For many of us, straws are completely unnecessary in most cases and we can simply not use them at all. However, if you really enjoy drinking out of a straw, there are plenty of reusable options: bamboo, glass, metal straws that you can get in all shapes and colors. Coffee cups are also a big problem because they cannot be recycled, and you can reduce waste by just bringing your own reusable cup or water bottle anywhere you go.

4. Eat less meat. Eating plant-based is one of the best choices you can make for the environment (and your own health). When we think about land use and water use, around a pound of beef will take around 1900 gallons of water, whereas something like tofu will take around 300 gallons to make. When we eat more plant-based foods, we use fewer resources.

5. No more food waste. The best way to avoid food waste is meal-prepping. Take a few minutes every week to decide what you are going to eat, find the recipes and shop accordingly. Having a plan in mind when you’re going to the grocery store will help you avoid buying a bunch of items that don’t really go together and will eventually be thrown away. If you want to take an extra step, do a quick scan of your pantry and fridge, see what ingredients you have around and make up recipes using them. This way you will not throw away anything, and you will need to shop for less items. Most stores also have a discounted price for produce that is not looking very good or for items that will expire in a few days. If you have recipes that include those ingredients, buying them will save you money and they will not be thrown away. Win-win!

6. Switch to natural cleaning products. You can find natural cleaning products out there, but it’s easier and cheaper to make your own, in your recycled containers. A very simple solution like 50% vinegar and 50% water can be your go-to spray for cleaning pretty much anything. If you need something stronger for scrubbing tiles, the bathtub, oven or other difficult areas you can make a paste using baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and a bit of soap. It works like a charm! You can also swap your dish sponges for a bamboo brush (which is compostable), which will last a lot longer, around a year, instead of a sponge which you are supposed to throw away every two weeks. Finally, you can swap paper towels for towels of microfiber cloths and just wash all of them at the end of the week.

These steps may seem like they will not make a difference, but they will. And if you are not that concerned with helping the planet, you can do it for your own health and wallet. These simple things will help you save so much money and time in the long run, while improving your health and happiness overall. And remember, this is a process, and the goal is not to make everything right and beat ourselves up when we don’t succeed, but trying to be a little bit better everyday, and getting used to make small, but healthier choices everyday. It may seem hard at first, but you will get used to it in no time and you will be happy you did it. Good luck!

Written by: Chirvase Maria