What is sustainable living?
Sustainable, or eco-friendly, living is a lifestyle where one tries to reduce one’s, or society’s, use of the Earth’s resources. The goal of living a sustainable lifestyle is to reduce overall environmental impact1 by making changes that can offset climate change or other negative threats to the environment.
The Global Footprint Network has a great tool you can use to calculate your environmental footprint2 .
Why is it important to live more sustainably?
According to the UN, if the global population reaches 9.6 billion by 2050, we would need an equivalent of almost three planets3 to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles.
Adopting a more sustainable lifestyle can:
Protect our ecosystems
Improve quality of life
Preserve natural resources for future generations
How do I live a more sustainable lifestyle?
Reducing your carbon footprint may sound like a daunting task. But don’t let that stop you from trying. Living a more sustainable lifestyle is a never ending journey—and no positive change is too miniscule. Here are 10 ways you can live a more sustainable lifestyle, starting today!
1. Go paperless
Approximately 1 billion trees4 worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S. alone. One easy way to waste less paper is to opt for paperless statements and notifications from internet providers, banks, utility companies, etc. Nowadays you can also ask shops to email your receipts instead of printing them out.
Tip: You can opt to get those long CVS receipts sent via email instead of being printed.
2. Recycle (properly)
Have you ever placed shredded paper, food waste or plastic bags into a recycling bin? Unfortunately these items, along with many others, are commonly thought to be recyclable, but are not. It’s very important to properly sort rubbish, as placing the wrong materials into the recycling bin can negatively affect the recycling process.
Tip: Check out WM’s guide5 on what can and can’t be recycled.
3. Donate unused items
If you have clothes or other items you no longer want, reduce waste by giving them away or donating them to charity.
4. Ditch the plastic
Single-use plastic is a huge problem worldwide. Plastic waste tends to end up in oceans and landfills, posing a threat to wildlife and the environment. Here are a few statistics highlighting the issues around plastic, along with ways we can use reusable or refillable alternatives to address them.
5. Don’t waste food
When there’s food you can’t finish, don’t throw it away. Instead, save it for lunch the next day or use food scraps for composting.
6. Watch what you wear
The fashion industry generates 10%8 of the world’s carbon emissions each year. With fast fashion retailers dominating the space, it’s increasingly important to become aware of global issues and to support sustainable fashion.
Consider shopping secondhand at thrift stores or resale websites. You could also explore clothing brands that source fabrics sustainably or brands that are certified to be climate neutral.
7. Shop local and organic
Shopping locally is not only better for small businesses, but also better for the environment. Food from local farmer’s markets and local shops are more likely to be sustainably sourced and less likely to be wrapped in plastic. Plus, shopping local helps to reduce your carbon footprint.
8. Drive less
An easy way to reduce your carbon footprint is to avoid using your car (and Ubers or taxis) and utilize public transportation. If you must drive, consider carpooling or purchasing an electric vehicle.
9. Save water
Water is a resource we often don’t think about as finite. Living a sustainable lifestyle should involve efforts to conserve water. Here are some simple ways you can save water at home:
Use energy-efficient dishwashers and washing machines
Take shorter showers
Install water-saving shower heads and toilets
Put a plastic bottle in your toilet tank
10. Use less energy
Using less energy can help reduce carbon emissions. Some ways to reduce your energy consumption at home include:
Switching to LED lightbulbs
Using less AC and heating
Switching to solar energy
Investing in a smart thermostat
Turning off lights when you don’t need them
Hanging clothes to dry instead of using a dryer
Unplugging appliances or electronics that continue to draw power even when they’re not being used (i.e. game consoles, printers, wall chargers)