How to Practice Sustainability in Everyday Life

Photo by S Migaj on Unsplash

We’re all encouraged to shift to a more sustainable way of life. From the changes we can propose to governments and industries, to our very own daily routines – there are a number of ways we could develop the habit of practicing sustainability as the norm.

While it’s true that there’s no single way to go about it, the variety is also what makes sustainability pretty exciting.

Here are a few simple steps you can take in your everyday life. Now, these are by no means cast in stone – meaning they can totally change as we learn more about our environment and our society.

Think smaller for your home space

Look at the living space you’re in. Whether you’re in your dream forever home now, or are still aiming to move somewhere more comfortable, you have to admit that most of us consider our dream house as a big house.

But actually, one of the best ways to practice sustainability is to downsize. Most of us don’t need a guest room or a formal dining room anyway.

In a new paper published by New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), they found that transforming our living spaces toward sustainability means more than outfitting it with smart design and low-carbon features.

One neglected factor? The size of our homes.

The researchers estimate that sustainability and equity considered, a single person home should be no larger than 215 square feet. Meanwhile, a family of four should be comfy enough in an 860 square feet space.

In contrast, the average home size in the U.S. is 1,901 square feet – more than twice what is measured as sustainable.

So why is a big house unsustainable?

Even if we don’t notice it (as much as we would notice how factories generate emissions), our homes actually use considerable energy as well.

The United Nations estimates that households consume nearly a third of global energy and contribute 21% emissions as a result.

In a UK review, reported by BBC News, the world’s wealthiest are found to produce the most carbon footprint. Aside from their frequent use of private jets and SUVs, the wealthy generally maintain massive homes.

According to lead author, Prof. Newell from Sussex University, even if the rich could afford good insulation and solar panels, they “live in the biggest homes in which they can easily afford to heat, so they tend not to worry if they’re well insulated or not.”

So what’s the lesson? If you can, downsize. We usually don’t need a guest bedroom or a formal dining room anyway.

Live near where you work + shop

The EPA reports that transportation is the biggest contributor of CO2 emissions. This is something that all of us could definitely do something about.

Many companies are now opting for remote work setup, and it seems like it will be the norm. But for people who still need to go to their place of work, anything to curb transportation use could promote sustainability.

Commuting from home to work in your own private car is the least sustainable way to go about things.

Whenever you can, leave your car (and your jet if you’re a billionaire) as a last option. Opt for public transport, carpooling, biking or walking instead.

Shopping-wise, we’ve found that while online shopping creates single-use plastic issues, in terms of carbon emissions it’s actually a more environmentally sound option.

That’s because delivery systems are more optimized compared to how we typically shop in-store (i.e. without planning the route, going on multiple trips per week, etc).

Anything you do to lower the amount of traveling will make for a more sustainable world.

Be mindful about home appliance use

Aside from transportation use, this is also one arena where we can surely improve our sustainable endeavors.

No, we’re not asking for the extreme like going off-grid, but little changes can add up to easing up on our consumption.

Things like investing in energy star appliances; wearing two (ethically made) sweaters instead of one during those winter nights; using stovetop instead of an electric kettle; keeping your fridge on a low setting at 37 degrees Fahrenheit ideally. All these are doable, and they could go a long way. – these little habits could go a long way.

And if you can afford it, install solar panels. They do come at a considerable up front cost: approximately USD20, 000 for a typical home. But if you have the means, it can be a sustainable investment.

You won’t have to rely on fossil fuel-based power while in your home.

Minimize single-use plastics

Many governments and communities are cracking down on plastic and banning single-use products. And it’s been a long time coming, too.

Plastic waste found in oceans devastates millions of marine life each year. In fact, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans! We wouldn’t want for things to come to that.

Depending on your lifestyle, single-use plastics can be reduced or avoided completely.

For example, use a ceramic cup instead of Styrofoam. Make your own brew at home instead of buying a plastic-packaged one at the store. Have some reusable straws at the ready. Ditch the packaging if a brand allows you that option.

And when possible, shop in zero waste stores where you can purchase plastic-free items, and you can Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) to place goods in.

Eat plant-rich; eat local

Raising livestock is one of the most land and energy-intensive undertakings. Cattle require enormous amounts of grain as feed, and forestlands have been decimated in order to make space for fodder.

Not only that, but cows and steers also emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In fact, emissions created by the transportation industry are equal to livestock emissions! That’s how huge the impact of meat is.

Sustainable changes mean we could reduce our impact through our diet. Barring any dietary requirements, eating a plant-rich diet is a great option. By consuming less meat, and eating more plant-based crops and leafy vegetables, we pick foods that are less exhaustive on our natural resources.

Being sustainable also involves getting your food nearby. Transporting ingredients and other imported foods require fuel, packaging, and manpower.

We bet that grapes harvested locally will be just as satisfying as grapes imported from Chile. Imported produce are alluringly exotic, yes. But it comes at a cost for you and especially for the planet.

It’ll be better to patronize your local produce first before seeking imported goods from all corners of the earth.

The Takeaway

Sustainability, if practiced in our everyday life, can take on many forms. As individuals, it’s helpful to think of sustainability as a philosophy that you can manifest in different ways.

It’s being more mindful of your purchases and your waste. It’s nourishing your body with the good stuff. It’s a decision to reboot what has been damaged and leave something good for those who will inherit our world.

After all, we’ve enjoyed many wonderful resources. It’s time to give back and create lasting habits to preserve what is left.

Got any questions about how to practice sustainability? Do you want to share any other sustainable practices? Let us know in the comments below.

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