So, you’ve heard a lot recently about sustainability, how important it is for the health of our planet and ourselves. You’d like your own children and grandchildren to inherit a nice world to live in, which means moving towards a sustainable lifestyle.
But how do you get there? Where do you start? It all seems so big and overwhelming that it’s easier to just carry on as normal. After all, you’re only one person.
The good news is that one person can make a difference, and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. I’d like to use this blog article to help guide you through the early stages so that you can get a good start on living more sustainably.
Step 1 – Figure Out Where You Are Now
What does your life and your lifestyle look like now? What do you love about it, and what do you hate about it? Jot down two lists that cover both sides.
What annoys you in life?
- The piece of plastic thread that attaches the labels to new clothes.
- Excess packaging in an order from an online shop.
- The magazine that comes in a plastic bag that “can be recycled at most major UK supermarkets” – who remembers to take them to the supermarket in the first place?
- When your regular brand of chocolate, eggs, cereal etc suddenly change their packaging from paper and card to plastic.
- Hearing that your favourite butter, bread or other essential foodstuff has changed their recipe, so now you have to check the ingredients and be mindful of which range you buy in future.
- Going for a walk with your family and the dog and having it spoiled by litter everywhere, and broken glass on the path.
- Ordering something online that you think is coming from the UK, only for it to turn up two weeks later from China.
- Being stuck in traffic on the drive to work.
- Being squashed in on public transport like sardines on the commute to work.
- Spending your weekends doing all the cleaning and tidying up when you would rather be relaxing.
On the other hand, what cheers you up?
- Discovering that a shop close to you stocks your favourite brand of artisan cheese?
- Learning that your favourite actor, singer or sportsperson supports the same causes and charities that you do.
- Finding the time to sit down to a home-cooked family meal instead of a microwave meal.
- Actually getting the kids away from their screens for an hour and a walk in the local park.
- Having a long, relaxing, candlelit bath with no interruptions or distractions.
- Arranging a coffee or a drinks date with friends.
- Enjoying a lazy breakfast in bed with a good book or a podcast.
- Watching the birds and other wildlife in your back garden.
- Growing your own flowers and plants, or herbs and vegetables.
- Finding that dress that you loved on sale in your size and favourite colour.
Step 2 – Where Do You Want To Be?
Now that you know where you are, and you’ve pinpointed the things that spark joy for you, as well as the things that annoy you, it’s time to think about how you’d like your ideal life to look.
What does sustainability mean to you? One word can mean different things to different people.
Of course, the plastic-free, zero-waste, circular economy and vegan movements all play a part in moving towards a sustainable lifestyle, but you don’t have to throw yourself into something head-on if you’re not yet fully on board with it.
Start with something important to you, and that aligns with your values.
Does your family’s daily use of online and electronic devices run up high bills every month? Can you come up with a plan to do something together that doesn’t involve them…or at least, use only one device instead of five, eg a family movie night.
Perhaps you still prefer to buy new clothes over second-hand, and decide you would rather pay more for quality items over disposable quantity.
Maybe you want to have more time to dedicate to cooking dinner from scratch instead of depending on takeaways and ready meals.
Or, you want to open your pantry door to see neat, orderly rows of Instagram ready glass jars filled with dried pastas, grains, beans and cereals.
Are you tired of coming home from work to a pile of post that needs sorting, or an untidy living space where you can’t properly relax?
It could even be something like using your time more sustainably. Are you tired of spending more time searching Netflix than actually watching it. Especially when you have a pile of books that you promised you would read this year?
Whatever your main goals are, get them down on paper. Now, it’s time to start getting creative and moving towards those goals!
Step 3 – How Can You Get There?
Moving towards a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t have to be hard.
At this early stage, I’m not going to ask you to do a major overhaul of your life and KonMari your entire house. Right now, I just want you to look for quick wins. That way, you can see the benefits straight away, and you’ll be inspired to keep making small steps forward.
If you’re looking for more uninterrupted time with your significant other, remove the TV from the bedroom. And, crucially, leave your phone in another room.
If you want to start building an Instagrammable food cupboard or pantry, start rinsing out and saving used jam and sauce jars instead of throwing them into the recycling bin.
Find those huge clip-top glass jars from Ikea that you bought with good intentions and never used. Fill them up with pasta, rice, cereal, or any other dried goods and enjoy the pretty aesthetic goodness! Even if your current foodstuffs came in plastic bags, you’ll soon want to omit that step. Start looking for an alternative supplier, whether from a refill shop or a bulk-bag.
To cut back on the amount of things in your house, clear one surface of excess stuff. Just one. Choose one surface and get to work. It can be your home office desk, the dining table, or the kitchen worktop that somehow became the default magnetic space to put random things without a home. Once you’ve done that, enjoy the sense of peace and cleanliness that comes from having a clutter-free surface!
If the rest of your family notice it and are encouraging, designate that space as a clutter-free area. Once one lonely item finds its way to that space, others quickly join it and soon you’re back to where you started. Be firm and consistent with creating that no-fly, prohibited, off-limits zone for stuff to accumulate.
If you want to start buying more sustainable clothing, pick something that you need and start online-window-shopping. Ask in Facebook groups for recommendations – Sustainable(ish) with Jen Gale is a great starting point.
Denise Duffield-Thomas recommends “upgrading” small aspects of your life to enable you to start living the life of your dreams right now. In Get Rich, Lucky B*tch, she gives examples such as nicer underwear, chocolates, organic foods, etc.
Nothing extravagant, just spend a bit more than you would normally spend on that particular item. By doing so, you’ve taken a small step towards your goal; and you’ll probably take better care of the clothes, portion out the pricier chocolate, and make sure you eat every last one of those organic tomatoes!
These are just some ideas off the top of my head. I’m sure you can come up with a lot more that fit in with your current lifestyle while moving towards a sustainable lifestyle.
What is one thing you can do this week to take that first step? Please let me know in the comments below!