Modern life right now is centered around consumption. We consume food, clothing, products for entertainment, products for our health and wellbeing, experiences, etc. Everything.
It is so easy to buy food rather than make your own. To let yourself go for a cheeky shop at Primark or H&M and buy items that you don’t need but are almost too cheap to pass up. To fill your home with an abundance of things because if they are available for purchase and you don’t have them you want them. To blindly accept chemical products you are putting on your body and around your home without considering the effects on your health or the impact of its production on the world. And to be far too ignorant about where all these products are made and how far they have traveled before arriving at your door.
There are so many people in this world and such a high demand for these products to be easily consumable, accessible, affordable, available to us instantaneously. We have a short attention span and low patience when it comes to bringing new things into our lives which we believe will enrich them in one form or another. We like instant gratification. Because the world serves it to us just so.
I participate in this. We aren’t doing anything ‘wrong’, in fact, we are fulfilling our socially prescribed roles as consumers. The roles which have been designed for us and are so deeply embedded in the systems we live in that they are all too subtle. We perform a functioning role in the system that is created for us to continue consuming and discarding, consuming and discarding.
However this is so unbelievably problematic. The lifestyles we have become accustomed to are totally unsustainable. Resources are limited. We are producing a huge amount of waste.
Not only that, but we have lost total respect for the earth and our fellow humans.
We are too far removed from the production of the items that we use and we aren’t encouraged to engage. But we cannot forget that the demands of our lives effect the quality of the lives of others, and have the potential to restore or drain the earth.
The system is so deeply engrained that I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s near impossible to live an entirely sustainable, waste-free life. I am not a pessimist by any means, but as I’m becoming an adult and choosing the kind of life I want to lead, I notice how difficult it is to make these lifestyle changes.
We have been raised in certain ways, we have been exposed to products, ways of obtaining ‘necessities’, and perspectives on the value of earth and humanity. We aren’t openly taught to question and re-think these things. It’s easy to take adults’ perspectives as law as a kid, and as an adult to be too accustomed to one mode of functioning to consider there could be another way.
But this is an opportunity for us all to reflect on our lifestyles, and consider the impact of our choices on the rest of the world. And it’s never too late to make changes. Start with small things and work outwards. Brainstorm and discuss ideas with others. Feel connected!
Here are 5 very simple lifestyle choices that I make which allow me to lead a more sustainable life.
1. I make sure to turn off any plug sockets and unplug electrical devices when not in use. For me these include: lights, heaters, tvs, printers, phone and computer chargers, etc. I also turn off the tap when I’m brushing my teeth, and soap up all my dishes before rinsing. This is an easy way of reducing your energy and water use, while saving some money on your bills as well.
2. When boiling water for a cup of tea (of which I have at least 2 a day, & often more!) I only boil as much water as needed for my one cup. Boiling the kettle full of water but only making one cuppa uses a lot of unnecessary energy.
3. I bring my own grocery bags when I go food shopping, and re-use any small bags and buckets at home to collect and store loose foods. I am making an effort to shop at more markets, where you can find lots of things (such as granola, grains, dried fruits, nuts, sweets, etc.) in large buckets and pay for the amount of weight that you buy. I also buy fruit and vegetables that are loose and do not come wrapped in paper or plastic. This helps me avoid bringing home lots of packaging that will only end up in the bin, and allows me to re-use plastic bags and buckets sitting around, that I would either throw away or recycle. Instead I re-use them! And accrue less going forwards!
*I also want to make an effort now to transition more to buying fruits and vegetables that are locally sourced, either from farmers markets or collectives which outsource to local farmers. Buying fruit and veg that are in season avoids purchasing foods sent in from other countries. This requires a degree of flexibility surrounding your diet which would vary season to season – which could also end up being more fun and diverse in the long run.*
4. I always carry a re-usable water bottle with me, and attempt (but do not always manage) to bring a traveling tea mug / smoothie cup if I am drinking those things during the day too. It saves you money to make your own drink or bring your own tap water rather than purchasing out in the world. But better than that, it avoids you obtaining a plastic bottle or paper cup which will just end up in the bin. Tap water often tastes just fine and is certainly clean enough in the countries I live in. Even if you can recycle the bottle or cup, it’s much better to reduce your intake to begin with. The less demand there is for these objects, the less they might be produced in the future! So every little helps.
5. When purchasing items from stores (especially things that are super unlikely to be package-less such as: shampoos, skin care products, etc.) I am trying to be conscious about the ingredients and conditions under which products are made. There are apps that I’ve started using which can direct you to certain brands that are certified for using more natural ingredients or for not testing on animals (I’ll link these below). I also try to find places to shop that are more ethically conscious in their entire policy and are likely to only stock products of integrity.
I don’t claim to have it down perfectly to a T, but I’m trying. If interested in reading some more, you can check out some of the links I have put down below.
Energy Saving Tips
In-Season and Locally-Sourced Food Schemes
On the Un-Sustainability of 10 Everyday Products
Sites/Apps for Cruelty-Free & Natural Products
Things You Could DIY Rather Than Buy