Have you been thinking about trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle? You’re not alone. The results of a 2019 study published by Forbes magazine indicated that 77% of people surveyed were interested in learning how to live more sustainably. But what does living sustainably actually mean?
At its core, the sustainable movement is about living in a way that minimizes harm to the environment, conserving the planet and its resources for generations to come. According to statistics compiled by the United Nations, if the global population reaches 9.6 billion by 2050, the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide enough natural resources to sustain our current lifestyles. In other words, action is critical to reversing the current trends.
Although COVID-19 created many societal challenges in 2020, the U.N. sees the pandemic as an opportunity and a turning point for global citizens to create more sustainable living solutions. In order to do so, they believe we must work towards patterns of production and consumption that support a sustainable future.
If that all sounds like a lot, it is. The good news is that making a positive contribution to sustainability is easy to do with our everyday choices. Small actions add up, so we’ve compiled some of our favorite easy and tangible tips for living more sustainably in 2021.
Avoid unnecessary waste
- By now, many of us are in the habit of bringing reusable bags to the grocery store and carrying a refillable water bottle. If this is you, a great next step would be to pare down on other single-use items like plastic utensils, paper napkins, straws, cups, and coffee sleeves.
- Reduce unnecessary paper use by skipping your receipt at the store or having it emailed. Still, getting a lot of unwanted paper mail? Contact companies to ask them to remove you from their mailing list and encourage them to go paperless.
- Food and personal care products can sometimes come in excessive packaging that goes to waste as soon as it’s removed. Instead, look for companies that use minimal or recyclable packaging. You could also cook at home more and buy staples in bulk to avoid excess food package waste.
Get creative with conservation
- Food production contributes to a large percentage of the planet’s energy consumption. If you already cook at home often, some more ways to conserve less include gardening and composting at home, eating more plant-based meals, shopping at farmer’s markets, or joining a CSA for local produce.
- Fashion lovers may want to consider buying thrift apparel, borrowing or swapping clothing with friends, instead of buying new. If you do a lot of laundry, another easy way to be more sustainable is to air dry your laundry whenever possible.
- If you’ve already made the switch to LED lighting, challenge yourself to conserve additional energy by leveraging natural light or even working outside to avoid passive electricity use.
- As more eco-friendly transportation options emerge, more people are ditching their cars to live more sustainably. However, if you’re not ready to make the switch, maybe you can commit to walking, biking, or using public transit a certain number of days per week or on short errands.
Be a conscious consumer
- When choosing personal care products, don’t be afraid to read labels! Look for brands formulated with minimal ingredients that you recognize and can find in nature, such as plant-based essential oils.
- Opt for brands that do not test on animals. Brands that are truly cruelty-free will also ensure that none of their ingredient manufacturers conduct animal testing.
- It can also be helpful to shop small. Large cosmetic brands tend to contain more chemicals and fillers due to the high volume demands of mass production, whereas independent makers have the advantage of producing on a small-batch scale with higher quality ingredients.
- Not all-natural products are created equal, so be wary of “green washing” or products claiming to be eco-friendly just for marketing purposes. Real sustainable brands will be transparent about their ingredient sourcing practices and be able to back their claims with certifications such as Rainforest Alliance Certification for sustainable farming.
- As consumers, we have unlimited choices, but not all products are created with sustainability in mind. It’s a good idea to know about the brands you spend your money with, so it never hurts to do a little research to learn about a company’s practices and values.
Did you find that you do a lot of these things already? If so, that’s great! A good goal might be to challenge yourself to do a few extra this year. Also, consider collaborating with your friends and family to create added accountability. The more we incorporate these small incremental changes, the more collective impact we can make. Cheers to a more sustainable 2021!
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