11 Simple Tips For Sustainable Living in 2021
Want to live more sustainably but overwhelmed by where to start? These 11 simple tips will help you reduce your environmental impact, cut your waste, and live a more sustainable lifestyle.
These past twelve months have shown that we’re all connected — and that we all need to take bigger steps towards a more sustainable way of living, in harmony with every living thing on the planet.
To tackle climate change, clean our waterways and landscapes, and avoid the next pandemic, we all need to become more sustainable, and work together to cut our collective impact on the planet.
If you're just starting out on your sustainability journey, the first few steps can feel overwhelming - they were for us too. We felt overwhelmed by the amount of information, and apprehensive that it would be all-consuming of our time, too costly, or force us to give up pretty much everything (plot twist: it doesn't!).
The good news is: a sustainable lifestyle — one where you reduce your carbon emissions, limit your plastic and resource consumption, and generally just live in a more considered, green way — isn't just accessible, but simple too.
Below, we've covered 11 super simple tips to help you cultivate a more sustainable lifestyle. Adopting even just a couple of these small changes will well and truly set you on the path to living a greener lifestyle that's healthier for you, the planet, and everything on it. You might even find that you're doing some of them already!
11 SIMPLE TIPS FOR A MORE SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE LIVING?
At its most simple, a sustainable lifestyle is one that works towards and makes positive changes to reduce your overall environmental footprint. The overall goal is reducing your individual carbon emissions, and living in a way that genuinely cares for the planet, the people on it, and yourself too.
There are practically endless ways you can do this; reducing your plastic usage, limiting your flying, switching to clean energy sources, cutting your meat consumption, shopping sustainably, recycling and reusing things properly, and so much more.
It’s all about educating yourself on the issues that matter most to you and working towards a more gentle, greener way of living that is also sustainable for you personally.
After all, we don’t need a few people practising sustainability perfectly, but millions of them doing it imperfectly!
#1 CHANGE YOUR MINDSET: CONSUME LESS AND THINK REUSABLE
So much of sustainable living and building sustainable habits comes is tied to your mindset. Once you start noticing that there might be a better way to do something you've never questioned, it's a domino effect.
We first started our journey by pledging not to buy plastic bottles, which led to opening our fridge and thinking 'there is way too much plastic in here', to looking at our bathroom shelf lined with plastic toiletries, and so on.
We’ve all been raised on quick convenience; we don't even question stopping at the shops on the way home to grab some (pre-sliced, plastic-wrapped) things for dinner. It's only when you think about where that packaging finally ends up that it begins to dawn that there might be a problem.
Question your current daily habits, including how you purchase and dispose of everything from food to clothes or furniture, and whether those habits could be improved over time. Could you walk or cycle to work instead of drive? Buy less plastic? Cut your shower time? Shop at a bulk grocer instead of a huge supermarket?
Then, do your research and dedicate yourself to learning more about the issues you care most about.
You don't have to make a million changes all at once (that's way too overwhelming!) but the first step towards a more sustainable lifestyle is to work on changing your mindset from 'consume first' to a more mindful approach. We guarantee that the more you practice thinking this way, the easier (and more fun!) it becomes to make greener choices for you and the planet.
#2 ALWAYS BE PREPARED
The old saying 'fail to prepare, prepare to fail' is so true when it comes to living more sustainably.
We always used to forget our reusable coffee cups, so now we put them straight back in our tote bags, which hang by the door. Our reusable water bottles come everywhere with us so we don't ever need to buy one out.
We also got collapsible Stojo coffee/drink cups which take up no space in our bags so we’d have no excuse!
Make your new habits as simple to stick to as possible by throwing a few reusable bags in your car, stashing a metal straw or cutlery set in your handbag or backpack (they literally take up no space), or putting your reusable water bottle by the front door so you never forget it.
Basically, if you set yourself up to succeed from the outset, you'll find it becomes second nature really quickly.
#3 REUSE, REPURPOSE, OR RECYCLE EVERYTHING
Contrary to what you see on perfectly curated social media feeds or chic sustainability blogs, you don't need to go and drop lots of money on brand new sustainable items for your new lifestyle.
The whole purpose of shifting to a more sustainable/zero waste mindset is not just about addressing cleaner product options, but the entire culture of overconsumption. The goal is to consume less overall.
Buying eco-friendly products and discarding your not-so-friendly ones can actually make the issues of waste and consumption worse. Instead, the best sustainable products are the ones you already have.
Make use of what you've already got at home, upcycle old furniture, sell your used clothes, books and knick knacks. We've also sold our old camera gear via Facebook Marketplace, and found amazing second-hand pieces of furniture or art there too (for much cheaper prices than new as well!).
When you do eventually decide to throw something out, make sure to dispose of or recycle it correctly.
#4 STOP USING PLASTIC
Almost every single piece of plastic that has ever been made still exists somewhere on this planet.
Sometimes it's in landfill. A lot of the time, it's in our waterways, on our beaches, and littered through our natural landscapes. Plastic has now been found in the deepest ocean trenches and near the summit of Mt Everest.
It also requires 10% of our global crude oil supply — a finite supply — each year to create.
One of the most sustainable habits you can adopt right now is to stop using plastic, cold turkey.
Here are some of our top tips:
Just say no - ask for no straw/spoon/sauce cup etc
Shop with your own produce bags or simply buy your produce loose and give it a wash when you get home (we do this all the time - trust us, no shop attendant cares!).
Use a reusable coffee cup (our fave is this collapsible one by Stojo) or drink your coffee at the cafe
Shop at local grocers, where your food is less likely to be wrapped in ridiculous amounts of packaging
Opt for zero waste toiletries, like solid shampoo bars and soaps, safety razors, reusable wipes, etc
Opt for recycled packaging, glass, or cardboard where possible.
STOP. BUYING. BOTTLED. WATER.
#5 TURN OFF THE TAP
How many times have you stood at the sink washing pots, brushing your teeth, or rinsing something off with the tap on full blast?
Letting the tap run while you're not actively using the water is a huge, huge waste of resources. And in a world where many people don't have access to clean drinking water, it feels even more ick.
Instead of mindlessly letting the tap run the whole time you're in front of it, get into the habit of turning it on and off when you actively need to use it to rinse or fill something.
Pop your veggies in a bowl filled with water to wash them, turn off the tap when you're washing pots and pans, and if you want to be super sustainable, place a large tub in the sink to catch grey water and use it in your garden when you're done.
In the bathroom, turn off the tap when brushing your teeth or washing your face and limit your showers to 5 minutes (imagine how much water gets wasted by all of our shower daydreaming and off-key karaoke sessions!?).
Bonus points? Switch off the water when you're shaving your legs or soaping your hair.
#6 SWITCH TO SUSTAINABLE FIBRES AND SLOW FASHION
Fast fashion is hugely unsustainable and generally unethical in a number of ways: exploitation and human rights abuse, excessive water use, microfibre waste, deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions and a number of harmful toxins used throughout the manufacturing process.
Not to mention all the times you've bought that on-trend top from H&M only to have it fall apart in the wash a few weeks later - or worse, sit in your wardrobe having barely ever been worn.
Instead of mass-produced synthetic clothing, opt for sustainably made, organic textiles and brands who put people and the planet at the centre of their business. It's better to buy fewer high-quality options, like a classic knit jumper you can wear for years than to buy many crappy quality fast fashion items.
Recycled and organic cotton, organic bamboo, linen, and hemp, along with Tencel (a cellulose fabric) are great options for fabrics, while there are plenty of sustainable fashion brands out there changing the world. Personally, we LOVE a good thrift store find - some of our all-time fave outfits have been found second-hand!
#7 STOP WASTING YOUR FOOD
One-third of food produced each year is wasted, equating to 1.3 billion tonnes of discarded, edible food.
Beyond the loss of produce, it also means that all the water, land, energy, labour and greenhouse gas emissions used and created throughout go to waste too. Not to mention the waste of life, if you're throwing out meat.
We've all been there with forgetting a veggie or those chicken fillets until a few days too late, but sending tonnes of perfectly good food to landfills each day when 9% of the world lives in food scarcity seems pretty mind-boggling to us these days.
Some of our tips for limiting your food waste:
Have a well-thought-out meal plan to make sure you buy only what you need and use everything you purchase.
Freeze excess produce and add it to your food whilst cooking.
Old or ugly veggies still make for good soups, stews, and curries.
Compost leftover or unused food and turn it into fresh, rich food for your garden
Freeze your veggie scraps and use them to make veggie stock every few weeks (we use this recipe).
Basically, it all comes back to the idea of consuming everything mindfully and consciously and remembering where that food on your plate came from, and how it got there.
#8 MORE PLANTS, LESS MEAT
We know this one's hard to swallow for meat-eaters, but the easiest way to reduce your overall footprint and live sustainably is to switch to a mostly plant-based diet and quit factory-farmed meat.
Currently, livestock production contributes nearly 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, occupies at least 30% of our habitable ice-free land, about 7,000 litres of water are required to produce one single pound (.45kg) of beef, and 36% of the world's crops are fed to livestock.
Cattle ranching is also the single largest contributor to deforestation all around the world, but particularly in the rapidly-disappearing Amazon rainforest.
We went veggie in 2016 after witnessing the impact of deforestation, resource consumption, and hunger in countries all around the world, and it's made us more mindful eaters, way healthier, saved us a lot of money, and helped us discover an amazing world of tastes and flavours we'd never have known about!
For a more sustainable future, everyone's food goal should be to make meat a treat, rather than an essential food group. And if you can't quit meat yet? Go for locally sourced, humanely raised, and sustainably produced.
#9 WALK OR TRAIN, DON’T DRIVE
We all know that transport is one of the biggest polluters when it comes to emissions, so thinking about how you could swap those solo car rides for a more sustainable option every now and then makes a huge difference.
Could you cycle or take the train to work instead of drive? Walk to the shops instead of drive? Catch a train across the country instead of fly (like our three-week train journey across India)?
By choosing already-existing on-ground transport (buses, trains, etc)and minimising your individual transport modes and even short-haul flights, you're cutting down on unnecessary emissions.
Plus, by walking places instead of driving you get fresh air, exercise, and the chance to immerse yourself in an area more than when you're just rolling through it!
#10 SHOP AND EAT LOCAL AND SEASONAL
Here in our adopted home of Budapest, we can pretty much always work out what's in season thanks to the price changes. Some months sweet potato will set us back £1.50/kg, other months it skyrockets to £4.50/kg. The reason? It's no longer in season and has to be imported from abroad.
They're definitely the most noticeable seasonal price changes we've ever seen, but they're always a good reminder to us to stick to what's in season and locally grown.
Shopping and eating locally-grown, seasonal food has a few benefits:
You support the local economy of workers, grocers, and the food culture that surrounds it
You cut down on long carbon-intensive supply chains used to transport those out-of-season fruits and veggies across the globe on gas-guzzling trucks and flights.
Seasonal produce is harvested when its nutrient and vitamin content is at the very highest - meaning its flavour and health benefits are at their peak.
The same goes for small business - when it comes to handicrafts, clothes, furniture, you name it - choosing to support a local small business over the big chains supports local economies and skills while also drastically reducing your carbon footprint.
#11 INVEST IN RENEWABLE AND ENERGY-EFFICIENT TECHNOLOGIES
We're definitely not saying you have to go buy a Tesla, but if you have the option to when investing in your next big purchase, look for the ones that are as fuel-and-energy-efficient, renewable, and sustainable as possible.
From fuel-efficient cars to climate-friendly TVs, solar panels to energy-rated home appliances, the choices are endless. But you don't even need to go all out; it could also be a planet-friendly thermostat in your house, installing a water-saving showerhead, or switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs.
Plus, if we all keep buying them, it shows companies that we, the consumer, want them to continue investing in developing these technologies for our future.
And of course, turn your lights and appliances off when you're not using them!
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY?
We’ve got posts about sustainability at home and how to live more sustainably on a budget coming to the blog very soon, but in the meantime check out the below for tips on becoming a more eco-friendly, planet loving traveller (and human!) here:
PLASTIC | Quit plastic for good with these 13 simple steps to a plastic-free life
ALL ABOUT CARBON | Our ultimate guide to carbon offsetting (and whether it actually does anything)
ECO ESSENTIALS | The sustainable, eco-friendly products we never leave home without!
ANIMAL KINGDOM | How you can be an animal-friendly traveller
THE POST-COVID ERA | How you can travel responsibly as the pandemic ends
DISCOVER A MORE SUSTAINABLE LIFE HERE
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That, and you're officially a legend.