What is Sustainable Living – The Ultimate Guide

How to Get Started with an Eco-Friendly Lifestyle?

What is Sustainable Living? If you’re new to the idea of sustainable living, the thought of starting an eco-friendly lifestyle can feel daunting. But don’t worry – everyone has to start somewhere. Because you’re here, you’re probably interested in making better decisions for our planet. And that means you’ve already done much of the complex, internal work. So, props to you!

This guide will show you how to make small, eco-friendly changes in your life. We’ll cover the basics of sustainable living, give tips on getting started, and provide resources for where to go from here.

How Do We Define Sustainability?

What is sustainable? It is a complex and nuanced issue. At its core, it’s about meeting the needs of the present without reducing the ability of future generations to do the same. Sustainability is about living in a way that doesn’t deplete the earth’s natural resources or damage its ecosystems.

That’s a tall order, but it’s one that we need to start working towards if we want to leave a livable planet for our children and grandchildren. The good news is that we can make small changes in our everyday lives that will help get us there.

Who is Responsible for Saving the Planet?

We all know we need to be more sustainable and reduce our environmental impact. But it’s not always easy to understand how to make green choices or where to start. That’s where large corporations come in. They have the resources and the power to make a real difference when it comes to sustainability. Investing in renewable energy, recycling initiatives, and green infrastructure can help protect the environment for future generations.

Of course, we can’t rely on corporations to do everything – we still need to do our part. We can start by making small changes in our daily lives, like recycling more and using less water. Every little bit helps, and if we all do our part, we can make a big difference. Let’s talk about some of the specific changes we can make in our lives to make a difference.

How to Make More Sustainable Choices and Live More Sustainably?

To shop more mindfully, here is a short list of questions to ask yourself before making purchases. These are some general rules for sustainable shopping:

  • Do I really need this?
  • Do I have something at home that fulfills the same purpose?
  • Can I buy this item secondhand?
  • Is this item well-made?
  • How long will it last?
  • Is the company that made this item providing their workers with a fair living wage? (if buying new)
  • Was this item produced ethically? (if buying new)
  • Does this brand mention circularity on its website?

Use Biodegradable and Compostable Home Items When Possible

There’s a good chance that most of your products have a biodegradable option. Toothbrushes, kitchen sponges, and bin bags come in biodegradable and home-compostable versions. Important note: Home compostable items can break down in a backyard compost bin. Products labeled as “compostable” might not. They might need a commercial facility to decompose.

Different countries have different regulations on what gets labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable,” so be sure to research the product before you buy.

If you’re trying to be as green as possible, it’s best to stick with home compostable items. Many are available, check out our review of the compostable Pela Phone Case.

sustainable-living-guide_selection of home compostable Foodware
eco-friendly bamboo bedding set from Panda London

Buy Eco-Friendly Bedding & Other Linens

With bedding and other linens, there are a few things to remember.

  • Look for natural fibers like bamboo, cotton, hemp, or linen. These materials are biodegradable, breaking down faster than most others.
  • Find bedding labeled as certified organic. Organic means they were grown without the use of harmful pesticides or chemicals.
  • Buy products that are fair trade certified. Fairtrade certification means the workers who made them were paid a fair wage and worked in safe conditions.

When you choose eco-friendly bedding and other linens, you’ll be doing your part to help the environment – that’s always a good thing! Check out our post on sustainable fabrics.

Use Energy-Efficient Bulbs and Lighting

One of the easiest ways to save energy and money is to switch to energy-efficient light bulbs. These bulbs use less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last longer, so you won’t have to replace them as often.

There are a few energy-efficient bulbs, including LED, CFL, and halogen. LED bulbs are the most energy-efficient option, but they can be more expensive than other types of bulbs. CFL and halogen bulbs are less costly and more efficient than incandescent bulbs.

Explore Sustainable Energy to Make Your Home or Business More Eco-Friendly

The solar power situation is vastly different worldwide, so this may or may not be an option for you. Either way, it’s worth keeping an eye on what the green energy industry is doing in your area to know when it becomes an accessible option.

Avoid Plastic Whenever Possible

You may not realize it, but every time you buy something made of plastic, you’re contributing to environmental pollution. Plastic is made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource that takes centuries to break down in landfills. The production of plastic from fossil fuels creates toxic emissions that pollute the air and water.

And once it’s in the environment, plastic threatens wildlife. Animals can mistake bits of plastic for food and starve to death when their digestive systems become blocked. Plastic pollutes the environment at every stage of its life cycle. Manufacturing, production, and disposal. Most of the plastic we produce globally ends up in landfills or oceans. Choose almost anything – paper, glass, aluminum, cardboard, or wood, over plastics derived from fossil fuels.

Use Earth-Friendly Cleaning Products

Most of us are familiar with the traditional cleaning products we grew up using. Even so, these products often contain harsh chemicals that can damage the environment after ending up in our waterways. (This happens when the cleaning products end up down our drains.)

Fortunately, there are now many earth-friendly cleaning products available on the market. These products are made from natural ingredients and are safe for people and animals. Also, many are grey-water friendly, meaning they won’t pollute our waterways when used.

As more and more people switch to earth-friendly cleaning products, we can make a real difference in protecting our planet.

ECOVER - eco friendly cleaning products for washing up and cleaning
Sustainable Living - Say no to fast fashion

Avoid Buying Fast Fashion

Fast Fashion is one of the world’s top polluting industries. If you’ve never gone down the rabbit hole of why fast fashion harms us and the planet, I invite you to take a look. Many online videos delve into this topic and why it’s crucial to stop relying on fast fashion brands to clothe us.

So what can you do to break the cycle? For starters, try to become more mindful of your clothing consumption. Stop buying into micro-trends and focus on building a wardrobe of timeless pieces that you can wear repeatedly. Not only will this help reduce your carbon footprint, but it will also save you money in the long run. Shop sustainable fashion brands or pre-owned clothing and focus on buying high-quality pieces.

Buy and Use Reusable Versions of Single-Use Products (Sometimes Called Sustainable Swaps)

These are more expensive upfront but will pay for themselves quickly, depending on how often you use them. A swap is only more sustainable if you actually use it. If you find that you don’t use it, try to sell it or rehome it. These are some of the items you can replace with reusable versions:

  • Food storage bags: Use silicone food storage bags and pouches
  • Food storage containers: Avoid buying plastic containers to store food in. Glass containers will last a lot longer and are easier to recycle or reuse later in their lifespan.
  • Paper towels and napkins: You can get reusable paper towels that work similarly and, in some cases, better. Restocking paper towels and napkins is an unnecessary expense. A set or two of reusable paper towels will pay for themselves in no time.
  • Reusable takeout/takeaway container: If you take your lunch to work or go out to eat often, buy a metal or glass takeout container. You can use it to pack your lunch and skip the to-go container at the restaurant.
  • Kitchen products: Swap for wooden cooking utensils and chopping boards. Switch to high-quality cookware. Avoid Teflon, which pollutes the environment. Cast iron pans are a better option, such at the Le Creuset Rice Pot we use.

There are more sustainable swaps to make, so keep exploring your options. It’s best to get started with what will be the easiest for you to increase your chance of success. For example, swapping out paper towels with a reusable version might be easier if you only use paper towels for cleaning. But if you use them often for other projects, you might have difficulty finding a suitable replacement.

Start swapping one item in your house at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed. Don’t feel as though you need to overhaul your entire home in one day, one week, or one year. Just keep moving forward and take it a day at a time.

Sustainable Lifestyle Changes

We listed specific ways to make more sustainable shopping choices above, but we want to mention some lifestyle changes that can help reduce your footprint. Consider making some of the following sustainable lifestyle changes:

Try Zero Waste (But Don’t Get Hung Up on The Zero Part!)

You may have seen the term “zero waste” floating around online. Should you try it? Yes, but don’t worry about the “zero” part. The goal of zero waste is to reduce waste, your reliance on single-use items and focus on using reusable items. This can be a lot easier than it sounds, and it doesn’t mean you must immediately give up all disposable items but plastic bags are a great place to start.

Instead, you’re working toward the goal of a low-waste lifestyle. It’s all about reducing consumption and minimizing our impact on the environment. Start by making small changes, like carrying a reusable water bottle or coffee mug with you, and see how it goes from there. You may be surprised at how quickly you start to make a difference. Check our Farah’s review of the OrganiCup menstrual cup.

Explore Going Plant-Based or Reducing Your Animal Product Consumption

Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change. Besides the greenhouse gases produced by livestock, clearing land for grazing and feed crops contributes to deforestation. The United Nations has estimated that animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, while some studies put the figure even higher. If everyone in the world adopted a plant-based diet, our carbon footprint would significantly dent.

But even making small changes in our diets can make a difference. Reducing our meat consumption, buying locally sourced food, and choosing organic products are good ways to start. If you cannot fully part with meat, try some dairy alternatives. Every little bit counts! The plant-based food industry has come leaps and bounds in terms of quality and flavor over the last decade.

Try Growing Some of Your Food at Home

Anyone who’s ever had a garden knows there’s nothing like eating food you’ve grown yourself. It’s empowering to be able to walk out to your backyard and pluck a ripe tomato off the vine or harvest a basket of freshly picked strawberries.

There are options for those who live in flats, apartments, and tiny homes, too! Vertical gardening and hydroponics have expanded how people can grow food, even as beginners. And while growing your own food takes time and effort, it can be well worth that effort. Not only will you enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor, but you’ll also get to control what goes into your food. You can be sure that your produce is organic and free of harmful chemicals. And you’ll know exactly where it came from.

Plus, growing some of your food can be a great way to save money on groceries and avoid buying something shipped across the country or the world. Getting started with some greens or herbs is a great way to save money right off the bat and enjoy some of the freshest flavours you’ve ever experienced. Check out our Hydroponics guide and iDOO growing system review.

iDOO Hydroponics Growing System - tasty home grown basil plant
What is Sustainable Living? - home composting

Start Composting

Composting is a great way to reduce your environmental impact. When food waste breaks down in landfills, it produces harmful methane gas, which pollutes the environment. That’s where composting comes into the picture. If you’re living in an apartment or other small space, indoor composting is a great option.

Specialty bins are available for sale, or you can repurpose a storage container with holes drilled in the lid. Bokashi bins are popular with composters who live in flats, as well. Outdoor composting is ideal if you have a backyard or other open space. You can build your own bin. Use pallets or wire fencing, or buy one from your local hardware store.

Be sure to locate your bin in a shady spot and cover it with a tarp during rainy weather. Add a mix of green (fruit and vegetable scraps) and brown (dry leaves and twigs) organic waste to your bin, and turn it regularly to aerate the contents. For more information take a look at our comprehensive guide to composting!

Not ready to start composting yet? That’s ok! You can store food scraps in the freezer until you’re ready to start. Simply place them in a resealable bag and pop them in the freezer until you’re ready to add them to your compost bin.

Buy Food Locally When Possible

When food is grown locally, it doesn’t have to be transported long distances, which reduces the amount of pollution produced. Local agriculture often uses less energy-intensive methods, such as rainwater harvesting and composting.

Small-scale local farmers often use more sustainable farming practices that help conserve natural resources and protect natural habitats. And since local farms sell directly to consumers, more of the money spent on food stays in the local community. A win-win scenario if you ask us!

Sutton Community farm is a great local produce supplier. They supply a delicious weekly box of locally grown vegetables and fruit which we have been enjoying for months. We highly recommend others support these local initiatives to reduce the impact of large-scale industrial farming practices.

Sutton-Community-Farm - reusable bag
Reusable Delivery Bag

For Business Owners, Start Considering Sustainability

As a business owner, sustainability should be top of mind – not an afterthought. There are many easy ways to make your business more sustainable. Business owners often overlook sustainable methods in favour of slightly increased profits.

Even if business owners are environmentally conscious, they might not have considered environmental sustainability for their business. Try investing in green website hosting and look at compostable packaging. Source materials and products nearby to help support the local economy.

Become familiar with your supply chain and possible human rights issues within it. Do your best to become an advocate for positive change and sustainable development within your industry. Explore programs like 1% for the planet and check out the requirements to become a certified B corporation.

By taking deliberate steps to make your business more sustainable, you’re making a difference and leading the way for others to follow in your footsteps. What else can we do to spread the message about climate change and sustainability? So, what else can we do? Changing your personal buying habits is a great start, but it isn’t always the best way to make a difference. We can affect more tangible, lasting change if we begin to tap into our communities and take collective action.

Vote for Political Candidates that Support Earth-Friendly Policy

It’s important to know that we cannot entirely rely on politicians to make the correct choices. Still, with each election, we have the opportunity to make our voices heard and shape the future of our planet. One of the most important ways we can do this is by voting for political candidates that support Earth-friendly policies. This includes candidates committed to:

  • Environmental impact: Reducing greenhouse gas and carbon emissions (methane gas and carbon dioxide)
  • Sustainable development: Protecting natural habitats
  • Reducing dependence on fossil fuels: Investing in renewable energy sources

By voting for these candidates, we can send a strong message that we’re serious about preserving our planet for future generations. We can also encourage other people to do the same, building a movement for change that will ultimately lead to real progress on environmental issues.

Creating Content

Creating content is an excellent start if you’re passionate about environmental issues. By creating videos, blog posts, articles, or social media posts about sustainability issues, you can educate people on what’s happening and why it matters. Share meaningful discussions, talk about climate legislation, and discuss hot-button issues. (Issues like fast fashion, the intersection of climate and tech, or a plant-based diet.)

Creating content is a great way to build momentum and make a lasting impact on people who may not have sought out this information on their own. Not only that, but you can also help spread awareness of what individuals can do to help make a difference. It’s more important than ever to ensure that our content is informative and empowering – not just entertaining.

Wrapping Up

What is Sustainable Living? We can all live sustainably in many ways, but it’s important to remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. Sustainability is a journey, and each person’s journey will look different. The most important thing is to start somewhere and keep moving forward. Small changes in your everyday life can have a profound impact down the road. Especially as you share your sustainable living practices with friends, family, or the rest of the world. 

We can make a difference and build a better future for our planet by working together. We’re working on creating more resources for you here that will go into depth in each of these areas and provide more context, resources, and how-tos. Our goal is to equip you with the knowledge you need to live a more conscious, more sustainable lifestyle. 

Did we miss anything on this list of sustainability tips? Did we answer the question, what is Sustainable Living? Please let us know via our Contact page – looking forward to chatting about sustainability with you all.