10 Ways To Help You Grow A Sustainable Lifestyle Right Now & Make A Big Difference For Your Health & The Environment
July 19, 2017
updated June 8, 2018
by CS Sherin
These 10 steps were originally published in Recipe For A Green Life. The following is an edited and adapted version, from and by the author.
Depending on where you live, the resources available to you will determine how and how much you are able to do. Don’t let that stop you. Each of us can make a positive difference starting now. Every positive choice and change in habit that you make today and each day, adds up and makes a big difference. Don’t stop with a handful of actions. Keep going. Keep investing in healthier resources, ecosystems, and communities.
The approach is inclusive and truly grassroots. It starts with each of us, right where we are, with what we have, and what we are capable of, and grows from there. It embraces unique, creative, ethical, and transparent daily habits and choices. It rejects greenwashing, consumerism, corruption, and destructive, harmful practices. These steps can help you to amplify your personal power in positive and impactful ways. Are you ready to make a big difference for the environment and your loved ones? Let’s get started right now!
- Refuse to be a consumer. Consumerism means gross waste and misuse of materials and resources. Convenience, waste, single-use items, cheap-and-fast come at a huge price to our health, ecosystems, resources, and quality of life. Buy less. Fix, reuse, repurpose, refurbish, trade, and renew as much as possible. Find reusable items for drinks, bags, and any items you use daily. Avoid buying items that you waste, use once, and don’t really need. Refuse to trash, misuse, and consume resources mindlessly.
- Aim for zero waste. Aim to be less and less wasteful. Start by taking two weeks to observe what you use and throw away each day. Read labels. Notice packaging. Go through drawers, cupboards and cabinets and notice what is there–what you have invested in. Is there unnecessary chemicals, toxins, packaging? Are there products and appliances that set you up to needlessly waste via single-use items? Continue observing what you throw away and what you put in recycling. After a week or two of this practice you will gain insight into many things that you take for granted or dismiss as unimportant, when that is far from true. As you move forward, plan how to slowly and surely change what isn’t sustainable. Create new habits and choices to replace the wasteful and toxic ones you observed. Avoid wasteful and unnecessary packaging. Avoid single-use disposable items. Use items and materials that are healthy in the long-term, and that you can safely reuse, refill, renew, repair, and up-cycle. Trade, donate, and simplify. Choose reusable items like stainless steel, ceramic, bamboo, hemp, glass, sustainably sourced wood, and cloth.
- Decrease your daily meat and dairy intake. The amount of meat and dairy being consumed is grossly unsustainable, unethical, and unhealthy for people, animals, resources, and the environment. At the rate we are going now, the United Nations University has estimated that without changes, greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 80%! Multiple extensive and major scientific studies agree that a worldwide move to a plant-based diet could instead reduce emissions by 63% (vegetarian) to 70% (vegan). The American diet takes too much, wastes too much, and shows little to no concern for the dire crises we face that impact future health and survival. Also, the American diet puts unbearable strain on health and subsequently health care systems, as well as environment, animals, and resources. Even the most die-hard meat and dairy fan can recognize the benefit for health and the pocketbook in easing up on meat and dairy intake each day. Ready to get started, and make a life-affirming change? Explore fun, balanced, easy sustainable plant-based recipes. Hint: there are many recipes and guides that set you up for success for this adventure in Recipe For A Green Life.
- Aim to eliminate single-use plastics. Aside from emergency and medical situations, we need to move away from single-use plastics ASAP. Disposable plastics are made with non-renewable resources–petroleum and natural gas, mixed with chemicals. Each year, 12 million barrels of oil are used in the US for SINGLE USE DISPOSABLE plastic bags alone (Source: SPREP, Fact Sheet # PF-004). This statistic doesn’t even include ALL single-use disposable plastics. The choice for relentless and widespread single-use plastics is suffocating the ocean, killing wildlife, and finding its way into the food chain and our bodies. (The majority of all plastics ever made were never recycled. Most plastics made today are not recycled, and many cannot be recycled or have a very limited ability to be recycled.) Break the mindless habit. We need to hold producers of single-use plastics accountable. And we, must divest from their destructive choices as much as possible. Use stainless steel, heat-resistant glass, organic cotton, hemp, refillable, washable, and reusable containers and items instead.
- Give up harmful products and habits. For example, give up cigarettes with butts, plastic lighters, plastic drinking straws, chewing gum, lead ammunition, balloons, glow sticks, and polystyrene foam. These are all insidious forms of damaging pollution to our health and environment. Good news! There are toxin and waste free alternatives for all of these. What are some of the better alternatives? Quit smoking. Or, roll your organic tobacco in hemp papers. Instead of plastic lighter, use a hemp wick dispenser or a stainless steel lighter. Instead of plastic drinking straws, invest in stainless steel, titanium, silicone, paper, or bamboo drinking straws. Buy lead-free ammunition for your hunting gun. Instead of balloons find reusable and unique decor for celebrations like ribbon dancers, paper kites, and scrap fabric streamers. Instead of glow sticks, use the flashlight on your phone, or a paper lantern with a reusable warm-colored LED light inside. And finally, there are many alternatives to polystyrene foam, which is often used for packaging, hot beverages, and deli and other carryout containers. There are reusable stainless steel or heat-resistant glass containers or biodegradable recycled paper and cardboard containers that can be used instead.
- Buy local, organic, humane, and Fair Trade products. Buying local cuts on cost, emissions, and supports local businesses and local farms. Buying organic eliminates pesticides and GMOs while maintaining a more ethical, natural, and healthy approach to food, resources, and health. Supporting local organic farms and gardens lessens food waste and helps communities to unite and thrive. While organic labeling can be tricky, it is worth learning about in order to make the best choices for you and your family in the long run. When you buy a product, textile, or food from another country, it is best to buy Fair Trade. This certification ensures basic standards and protections for health, human/animal rights, and habitats, as well as workers’ rights, fair pay, and the ability to form unions. Otherwise, too often we unwittingly fund human and animal rights abuses, habitat and species loss, sweatshops, slavery, and serious degradation of our biodiversity and natural resources. Invest in ethical and transparent sourcing, businesses, practices, and products. Divest from what is toxic, unsustainable, harmful and wasteful without conscience. Support communities, health, kindness, and equity.
- Conserve, preserve, and protect resources and habitats from pollution, toxins, and other threats. Stop using pesticides. Grow an organic garden in containers or on land. Compost. Support and protect pollinators. Learn about and practice permaculture gardening–it conserves space and grows more food. Conserve and protect water. Make a stand for the health and future health of water, air, soil, habitats, and communities. Network with others, invest in sustainability in your daily life through your awareness, choices, and actions.
- Recycle everything possible. Recycle your hazardous waste responsibly at a local recycling center. All electronic devices, appliances, many kinds of batteries, and CFL light bulbs are some of the potentially dangerous and toxic items–they contain heavy toxic metals, are flammable, can explode and pose a negative threat to health. Make sure you keep hazardous waste out of landfills. Find and contact your local hazardous waste site to find out what they take and when.
- Drive less. Transportation in the US is still largely dependent on non-renewable fossil fuels. Besides serious pollution from derailment, exhaust, and toxic batteries and tires, greenhouse gas emissions is another concern. Driving is a significant source of pollution. Even if you have a hybrid car, likely the battery production was brutal on resources and habitats, and so, degrades quality of life for communities. Bike, walk, carpool, and use public transit as much as possible. Get creative, network with others interested in healthier communities, and find solutions for your region, perhaps via improving transportation routes, modes, and choices.
- Make your own toxin, waste, and cruelty free Green products like deodorant, toothpaste, laundry detergent, dish detergent, hand sanitizer, cleaning, and plant-based meals. Choose the most sustainable and ethical sources as much as possible as you buy ingredients for recipes. Research, practice, and commit to ongoing learning. This way, the products you use daily become less costly, both literally and in relation to health and the environment. Read Recipe For A Green Life: A Holistic Sustainable Living Handbook & Recipe Book for practical and helpful recipes and guides for every step of the way in nearly every area of life. This way, we take back our power through our daily choices and habits, and act upon our ethics and compassion in practical, easy and tangible ways that make a real difference.
CS Sherin, Recipe For A Green Life 2018© Please feel free to share this article–in its entirety with author, source credit, and this copyright notice–on social media and for non-commercial educational purposes only.
- Sherin, CS. Recipe For A Green Life: A Holistic Sustainable Living Handbook & Recipe Book, (Wisconsin: Wild Clover Press, 2018) chapter 3.
- Hertwich, Edgar., et al. “Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials, A Report of the Working Group on the Environmental Impacts of Products and Materials to the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management,” United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) online, June 2010, http://www.unep.fr/scp/publications/details.asp?id=DTI/1262/PA.
- Karney, Dan. Environmental Policy, “United Nations Report: World Urged to Vegan Diet,” Center for Business and Public Policy, January 27, 2012, http://businesspublicpolicy.com/?p=2188.
- Smith, Carol. Our World, “New Research Says Plant-based Diet Best for Planet and People,” United Nations University, November 15, 2014, https://ourworld.unu.edu/en/new-research-says-plant-based-diet-best-for-planet-and-people.
- Tilman, David; Clark, Michael. “Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health,” Nature (online), November 12, 2014, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v515/n7528/full/nature13959.html. DOI: 10.1038/nature13959.
- “Plastic Bags-Fact Sheet,” Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Factsheet No. PF-004, revised November 2008, https://www.sprep.org/attachments/Publications/FactSheet/plasticbags.pdf. https://www.sprep.org/factsheets-archive/factsheet-archive.
- “Plastic Bags Fact Sheet,” Earth Policy Institute, October 16, 2014, http://www.earth-policy.org/press_room/C68/plastic_bags_fact_sheet.