How to slowly become more sustainable
Sustainability is an issue that we collectively face. Over the past few years, I’ve attempted to reduce my waste footprint but failed miserably.
In the last few weeks, as I reassess my personal situation, finances and where I want to be in life, I’ve come to the conclusion that I might just be doing this whole sustainability thing all wrong.
The issues with trying to live sustainability too quickly
The issue with trying to live sustainably is that we often binge on the lifestyle of others before truly understanding our own personal needs. This can lead us to go out and spend on the things we think we need, resulting in stuff that we don’t actually use.
However, the thing with living sustainably is not about buying a set of fantastic Instagramable glass jars. It’s about how we go about living our day to day life.
Sustainable living is an idea that is centered around the concept of reducing one’s impact on the environment as much as possible. This often conjures up images of being plastic-free.
But there’s more to reducing your plastic usage in your daily life. It’s also about creating a system that supports this idea of environmental impact.
Small habits, big impact
We often fail at sustainable living because we try to do the big things (like replacing our entire pantry storage system) without first establishing roots for the little habits.
I’m talking about the little things like taking your own jute or cloth shopping bags to the supermarket. Or reusing that glass pasta sauce bottle for storing your dry goods rather than going out to buy plastic containers (or a set of new ones).
The thing with sustainability and sustainable living is that you don’t have to be sustainable in all areas — you just have to be sustainable in one.
Especially in the beginning, when it may feel overwhelming to create all the changes you see others are doing in their lives.
3-Step Process to Building Up Sustainable Habits
A lot of people fail at living sustainability is because they try to do too many things at once. Sometimes, this change happens too quickly that your identity, personal and professional environment hasn’t moved fast enough to match who you want to become.
Who we are is made of a series of decisions and when our decision making muscle isn’t quite trained up to match the person we want to be, it can lead us to feel like we’re not achieving our goals.
Building up small but a series of consistent sustainable habits can help us shift our personal identity from a normal 21st-century consumer to a mindful and sustainably living one.
Step 1. Pick the smallest area for change
The smallest area doesn’t mean your physical area. Rather, I’m referring to a habit that contributes to an increase in inorganic waste. Here are a few ideas:
- take your own shopping bag when getting the groceries, or use your hands to carry them.
- stop your paper bills and have them delivered electronically via e-mail
- clean with a solution of vinegar and baking soda instead of buying chemical cleaning spray bottles
- get organic cleaning materials like luffas (also known as loofahs or loffas)or the coconut fiber scouring pads
- cover your containers/bowls with lids instead of using cling film
- buy LED light bulbs instead of incandescent ones because they last longer
Step 2. Make the change and keep it up
Once you’ve selected your smallest change, it’s time to implement it.
Changing one thing at a time rather than everything all at once can reduce resistance to the mental load you might face. Big changes can be hard to sustain, that’s why changing one small thing at a time is easier.
If you struggle at keeping up the change, it may mean that the thing you chose is either too big or too hard to do at the current moment. This may also mean that you need to get into the groove of other sustainable habits first before trying to pick up this one.
Step 3. Repeat with another new habit
Once you’ve got step 2 locked down, you can repeat the process again with a new habit — or expand on the current habit to increase its overall impact.
The point of step-3 is to act as a reminder that sustainable living is best done in increments so that you gently become aware of how your actions, choices, and decisions in certain moments impact your contribution to inorganic waste.
The easiest way to start living a sustainable life is to start reducing your inorganic footprint.
Small changes at regular increments can also let you become aware of your own habits and tendencies. Habits tend to stick better when they’re small, easy and has little resistance.
When you change too much at once, you’re creating a giant ball of resistance that you have to figure out in one go.
And that’s why a lot of us fail at trying to live sustainably.
So before you go out and buy all those jars and containers that you might not actually need, buy just one and slowly switch over. You might end up with less and find other ways to not spend money.