What exactly does it mean to live sustainably? In a nutshell, a sustainable lifestyle is one that incorporates eco-friendly principles and practices to reduce your use of natural resources. Sustainability not only means using less, but also replacing what you use whenever possible. If you also think of sustainability as a way to get back to basics and honor nature, then you may find it extremely gratifying to transition to an eco-friendly lifestyle. Every choice we make impacts others: other people, other animals and other environments. Choose to make the smallest footprint possible, and you're making a choice to live a greener life.
A sustainable lifestyle wouldn't be able to, well, sustain itself if it weren't for the three guiding principles of environmental consciousness: reduce, reuse, and recycle. These time-honored practices have been the guiding stars in the promotion of a more carbon-neutral society for decades. There's a reason that these three Rs have stuck around in the eco-friendly vernacular. They are simple and anyone can incorporate them into their lives.
Ways to Live Sustainably
Not sure what choices sustainability starts with? Try these on for (smaller carbon) size.
- Create less waste. With the three Rs in mind, aim for buying fewer products in general, but focus on items with less packaging or making your own products can really help. Consider using reusable materials like fabric instead of wrapping paper, and switch to reusable cloth pouches or glass jars instead of plastic zip bags.
- Grow your own food. Going completely off the grid would be a huge undertaking for most families, but maintaining a garden is a rewarding backyard project. Growing your own vegetables and fruits means less gas spent getting your food, and yourself, to the grocery store.
- Conserve fuel. Become a one-car family, walk or bike to work, and use mass transit. Reducing pollution is crucial to the health of our planet. If you have to drive, try to limit trips and buy a used or high-mileage car.
- Pay attention to the little choices. Change your light bulbs and adjust your thermostat. These are energy suckers! Switch your lights for LEDs, which are more efficient than regular bulbs (even the eco-friendly ones, notes Fixr). Only using the air conditioning or heat when truly necessary will also help save energy, as will reducing your water consumption.
- Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about the obstacles facing our environment today, like pollution, unsustainable fossil fuel usage, and habitat destruction. If you want to find a like-minded community, you can join a local wildlife conservation group or attend an environmental activism talk.
Preparing to Live a Sustainable Life
If you think you're ready to make the switch to a sustainable lifestyle, keep these four steps in mind:
- Research. There are many resources available to help set you on the right path toward sustainability. The Story of Stuff is a great resource to check out on the topic. Websites like Eco-Cycle and Global Stewards also offer green living information and inspiration.
- Make lists. Review your current lifestyle. What activities, products, and services might be overtaxing our natural resources? This can include lists of everything from food and cosmetic choices to building and gardening materials to transportation and delivery modes. Reviewing this information really is the key to figuring out ways to live sustainably.
- Minimize. Take stock of your stuff. Do you really need all those extra clothes and tools hanging around your house? Holding onto clutter and nonessential items can weigh you down. The more stuff you buy that clutters your focus and your space, the less positive impact you can have on the planet. When you get rid of things you decide not to keep, make sure you can recycle them or donate them to a place in need.
- Commit. To live in a greener way takes effort, but it does get easier with time. You can dive into your new lifestyle all at once or take baby steps. No matter what you decide, you may soon find it so fulfilling that you wish you had begun this journey sooner!
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Why It’s Good
Switching to a sustainable lifestyle is one of the best things you can do for the environment. With a little research and effort to start, living sustainably can be a gratifying experience.