Clean living. Green life. Sustainability. Did I get all the buzzwords in there? Sustainable living is a hot topic right now, as it should be, as we’ve only got one planet and it’s not looking very good at the moment (*gulps nervously*). Over the past few years, we’ve seen a change in the discourse and dynamic of what it is to live sustainability and why it’s important. Plus, it’s become quite the passion of mine (says every millennial ever). I’ve made it my goal to be as sustainable as I can be in my personal life, so I thought I’d share the five things I’ve found to be the most important.
Before we begin, let’s define that word, sustainability. I believe sustainability, and living sustainably, is all about reaching current needs without compromising the needs of the future. To me, it’s about making choices that are good for you, and good for the planet. Whilst that seems pretty easy to understand on paper, the ideals of sustainability and the sustainability market have become saturated with barriers and judgements. But more on that later…
Now I’ve said the word sustainability far too many times, and it no longer seems like a real word, let’s jump into the five things you can do to live more sustainably!
1. HOLD CORPORATIONS ACCOUNTABLE
Oh, you thought this was going to be a fluffy little piece on making sustainability ~cute~ and ~friendly~? Okay, well, I do have some cute and friendly tips but we’re starting off with the real issue. No matter how many important and effective personal changes we make as humans, if big corporations don’t get their act together, large change will be slow. Did you know that 15 companies in the UK have a hand-hold on a chunk of our greenhouse gas emissions? Simply changing to a bamboo toothbrush isn’t going to do much against 67 million tonnes of CO2 being released into the air.
However, we rely on these companies for our electricity, gas, holidays, and livelihood, so it’s not as easy as going ‘well, I simply won’t use those companies then!’ So, what can you do? Simply grab your bamboo toothbrush and make some noise.
Research the companies you use in your everyday life – where you get your energy from, your favourite food spots, your favourite travel provider. Use ones that are willing to make change. Sign petitions. Boycott brands. Use your voice! If enough people make some noise, they’ll hear. Scare them – flip their good friend capitalism over to crush them; there’s no sales to be made if there is no market.
Now we know the damage that is being done by the big boys, we can’t be complacent. Hold those huge corporations accountable whilst working on your own personal changes, and you are taking a step in the right direction. Now, let’s talk about something more ~aesthetically pleasing~ than shouting at fossil-fuel guzzling corporations…
2. SWAPS IN THE BATHROOM
I’d say the bathroom is the place where most single or minimal use products go to die. One use and BAM, it’s death, purgatory, and Hell for razors, face wipes, bottles, tubes, and period products. However, I have good news for you – if you’ve got a single use product, I can guarantee there’s a reusable or more sustainable option out there. So, make a swap!
My favourite swap has got to be from cotton rounds to washable face pads. You know the kind of cotton rounds I mean – the plastic bags that lay in waiting at the entrance of Primark or Superdrug, 50p for one hundred rounds, and you always end up picking up another bag even though you’ve got four open packets lurking in the bathroom cupboard (now I know that’s not just me…). I would end up using and throwing away at least five of these rounds whilst doing my skincare, more if I was taking off my make-up. It was so blimmin’ wasteful. So, I made the swap to bamboo face pads! I bought them in a pack of twenty, and they came packed up in a washing bag. Normally, I have two rounds on the go at any one moment; one for toner, one for cleanser. When they get grotty (and it takes a few days for them to get grotty) I throw them in the wash bag, and use a clean one. When the wash bag is full, I throw it in with whatever wash is on and BAM, they are ready to use again. I’ve had this set for over a year now; they are still looking fresh, feeling fab, and doing the job of hundreds of cotton rounds. Plus, it’s saved me money in the long run, which is never a bad thing.
There are so many other swaps you can make in the bathroom to go from single-use items to reusable! Forget buying disposable razors that dull after two uses; there are so many more permanent (and skin friendly) options out there, like Estrid or FFS. If you don’t have children, there’s no need to keep buying cotton swabs when there’s Last Swab. And if you have a period, try using a Mooncup or DivaCup instead of a tampon.
Remember – you don’t have to do this all in one go. Making swaps can be costly. I started with the rounds and now I’m only just financially able to consider making other swaps! One swap is better than no swaps.
3. KEY WORD: REFILLABLE – AD GIFTED
If you could see my search history for the last few months, it mainly comprises “I am twenty-four why do I have sciatica?”, “persian style rug under £50”, “why do I hate exercise?”, and “refill stations Hampshire”. This is probably the most ~aesthetically pleasing~ sustainable swap you can make, and I am hooked. Simply put, the idea of refill stations is to cut out plastic. You bring a bottle or jar to a station, fill it up with cleaning products or pasta or skincare, and off you go!
This change had been in my future for the past few months – I am moving house, so am slowly accumulating bottles that I can label and put product into like the stereotypical twenty-something I am. However, The Body Shop kick-started this change when they invited me to my local store to check out their new refill station (Ad gifted)!
At the moment, my local store has six of their best selling products available in the station including hand wash, shampoo, and body wash. You simply pick up one of their aluminium bottles, pump in the product, decorate with stickers, and you are done. Once you’ve bought the bottle, you only ever have to pay for the product you are pumping. It’s better for the planet and better for your wallet. Check on their website to find the nearest The Body Shop refill station!
It’s not just The Body Shop who are making the change. In Hampshire alone, you can find stores like Projects and Earthian on the high street that offer well-priced refillable food and product options. With my move in mind, I think I’ll be calling on the services of The Hampshire Refillery drop-off service soon enough!
4. KNOW. THE. BARRIERS
It’s so easy to jump head first into the “wow, I’m going to turn my life around, I’m going to be the most sustainable person EVER” narrative. That’s all well and good if that’s the way things work for you, and more power to you if sustainability is ~your thing~. But, a word of warning, don’t become ‘that person’. Who is ‘that person’? Well, that person who doesn’t respect people’s barriers.
Leading a more sustainable life is hard, nigh on impossible for some people. Sustainable products can be expensive, cultures are different, and the sustainable clothing market is even sizeist! There are so many barriers that can stop people leading what you think is the ideal sustainable life. I know being vegan is good for the planet. But my allergies, dietary restrictions, and health conditions won’t let that be an option for me. Buying products at refill shops is better for the planet, but can be more expensive than products in supermarkets – it’s not accessible for those on a budget. And don’t get me started on people who say “just thrift!” or “try brands like Everlane!” YA’LL that is not size inclusive!
You’ve got to approach your sustainability journey with barriers in mind. By saying things to others like “you should really go vegan” or “I can’t believe you still buy from the high street”, you are forgetting all about your privilege that lets you live the way you do.
By becoming ‘that person’, you’ll end up turning people off living more sustainability. There’s no harm in sharing what you do, and even being proud of what you do, but do not forget that every person on this planet is different. Okay? Okay. Rant over…
5. DO THE BEST YOU CAN!
That’s all we can really do, right? There’s no point in turning your life upside down if you are going to be miserable or struggling. Any change is a good change – whether the best you can do is shop at pricey no-landfill clothing shops, or the best you can do is making sure you recycle.
Personally, I try to live by the tips I’ve laid out in this post, and am a huge single-use-swapper. I’m a working woman with no dependents, so a lot of change is accessible to me. However, my health conditions and saving requirements mean there’s some changes that are out of my reach. And that’s more than okay, because I am doing the best I can! And that’s all that matters.
Here are some more changes that you could try to live more sustainably –
- Cutting back on meat. I can’t remove it from my diet, and I’m not sure I would ever want to, even if my restrictions allow it! However, just eating it in a few meals a week instead of all of them makes a big difference.
- Carry a reusable water bottle and coffee cup with you wherever you go. You’ll never need a single use plastic cup when out and about again!
- Don’t throw away; donate! Buying second hand helps to reduce waste and landfill, so donate any clothes, toys, or furniture you have to a charity shop, instead of throwing them away.
- Reduce fast fashion. Only buy what you need. I know, it’s so much easier said than done. There’s no point in buying clothes that you are only going to wear once or twice.
So, those were my top five things you can do to live more sustainably (with a bit of anti-classist and anti-sizeist ranting between)! Let me know in the comments what you are doing to live more sustainably.