Sustainability: one of the most popular buzzwords of our time. But what does it actually mean?
To us, the constantly-evolving term represents humans living a mindful life that minimizes negative inputs while maximizing positive outputs. Keeping your carbon footprint low. Consuming and producing energy that aligns with the earth’s natural forces. Maintaining community wellbeing.
While it isn’t always convenient, everyone knows that to live sustainably makes for a healthier world and a healthier self. But it’s challenging to embrace a sustainable life in an unsustainable world.
Here are a few ways to get started.
Eat locally. Farmer’s Markets, mom & pop grocery stores, and simply looking for the “local” sticker are all easy ways to drastically reduce your carbon footprint. The average tomato travels 1,369 miles from its root to your plate, requiring time, manpower, gasoline, and added preservatives. Eating local is healthy for the planet and for your belly. And the best part, it tastes better too.
Garden. Even a small backyard garden lessens your environmental impact and gives you the satisfaction of interacting with your meals from seed to plate. For city slickers, windowsill planting is an easy and affordable way to grow small vegetables and frequently used herbs. More simple ideas and guides are available here.
Compost. Keep a bucket separate from your trash and collect any extra food or organic material you don’t eat or use. The mixture can be used to fertilize your garden or donated to larger citywide collections. Composting the 21.5 million tons of food waste accumulated every year would be the equivalent of removing 2 million cars from the roads in relation to saving greenhouse gas.
Explore natural remedies. Sustainability starts with yourself. Eat when you’re hungry and sleep when you’re tired. And if you’re feeling under the weather, start with a glass of water and some fresh air rather than popping some ibuprofen and gluing yourself back to your computer. Here’s a list of unexpected natural remedies that might even be sitting in your garden right now.
Diversify your protein. Even red-blooded Americans don’t need red meat every day of the week. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that regular consumption of beef and pork is detrimental to your own health as well as the health of the planet. Mixing up your diet with unexpected other proteins like mushrooms, quinoa, and black beans do the job nutritionally and are more environmentally responsible than animal proteins.
Creatively use your food scraps. Don’t throw away those carrot heads, celery ends and potato skins. You can put all your vegetable scraps into a freezer bag and they’ll stay good for up to 10 months. Tossing them into a boiling pot makes for a delicious homemade vegetable broth or soup.
Adjust your transportation habits. We don’t all have to drive to work every day. Carpooling and public transportation will save you a couple dollars and cut down your daily carbon emissions. If you live in a city, opt for a walk or bike ride to work if it’s feasible.
Ditch single-use items. Cut back on disposable plates, cups and utensils. Bring your own bag to the grocery store so you don’t end up with ten plastic bags each time, destined to be crammed into an overflowing drawer or thrown away. The U.S. alone throws away about 25 billion Styrofoam cups every year. That is enough to wrap around the Earth 436 times.
Rethink your wardrobe. The average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year. Thrifting is a fun and sustainable way to keep your fashion fresh while saving money in the process.
Avoid the mass market. Everything from homegrown hardware stores to farmer’s markets to local craft beer helps keep your cash cycling through your local economy. Local businesses generate 2-4 times the economic impact of non-local businesses. And they often give out cool stickers.
Turn it off. The phrase our parents beat into our brains since we were kids does have merit. Americans spend $130 billion a year on wasted energy. There’s no need to leave your TV on all night or your lights on all day. Try opening up the windows in the summer and lighting the fireplace in the fall. The world and your wallet will thank you.
Get involved with your community. Anything from getting to better know your neighbors to attending town meetings will deepen your personal connection with the community around you. In-person engagement fosters collaboration over competition, acknowledges actual needs, and reduces useless attempts to solve problems that don’t exist.
Educate yourself. Understanding your body, your community, and the world around you is the single best thing you can do to become more conscious of your individual impact. Start here!