10 Ways to Live a More Sustainable Life
Happy New Year to all our loyal clients and eco-loving friends! We are so excited to be entering 2017 with you. A new year promises a fresh start; opportunity for growth and change seems to burst from the seams on January 1 each year. And as the days pass rapidly by, the promise and opportunity also passes by in swift fashion. So often at the start of a new year, we make resolutions that are unattainable. We want to, but we just can’t do it 100% the first time around, and so we give up. This begs the question – is it really us failing with each new year's resolution? Or could it possibly be the way we construct our resolutions and annual goals? I propose that we not run away from the large goal or resolution, but simply to break it down into much smaller, attainable goals that reflect back to us a feeling of success and completion with each small step.
This year, our goal is to live a more sustainable lifestyle both in the office and at home. On the whole, this broad stroke goal can quickly become overwhelming because there are so many avenues to take and so many ways that convenience could easily trump sustainable goals. So we break it down into smaller, more attainable goals. First we need to define sustainability. By most definitions, this is the act of consciously reducing our carbon footprint by altering methods of energy consumption, natural insulation, transportation, and the foods we choose to consume. Big, lofty definition, yes. But let’s begin with eco-friendly baby steps and break it down.
Here are 10 ways you can begin living a more sustainable life today:
- Recycling – We all know the old adage reduce, reuse, recycle. Seems easy, but it is far easier to ignore what this statement means. We must reduce. You can easily reduce unnecessary packaging. You can live a more minimalistic lifestyle to reduce clutter and waste. Reduce energy consumption. Reduce waste going to the landfill by composting particular kitchen waste or by recycling paper, plastic, and glass items. I plan to recycle at every opportunity by creating convenient collection areas throughout my home. Bathrooms, kitchen, and my home office will be the primary areas of collection. Lastly, let’s discuss how we can reuse. One way is discussed into more detail under #9. Additionally, you can use fabric grocery bags or buggy bags in most shopping situations. In Temecula, CA, grocers are being forced to convert to reusable bags or they will be charged $0.10 per plastic or paper bag in stores as regulated by Prop 67. You can buy particular foods in bulk and reuse storage containers at home. You can reuse other items by completely changing their use literally making treasure from trash.
- Lighting - I have begun upgrading traditional light bulbs in my home to Phillips Hue LED bulbs, which are recognized for their energy efficiency through the Energy Star rating. These must carry a minimum 3-year warranty (sweet!) and have a really cool vibe with all the color combinations! I personally love “concentration” for when my puzzle craving strikes again and “relax” for that wind down to a perfect sunset lighting. A great and fun way, to reduce energy consumption.
- Transportation – This can be a tricky one for many if public transportation isn’t an easily accessible option (think suburbs, small towns, and rural areas). However, this can also be an excuse. I am trying to optimize my driving routes when I run errands, and choosing to only go to the grocery store once a week. I began these practices in December and already see a change in my routine and my car mileage! If you want to be an overachiever, you may consider purchasing an electric hybrid vehicle, but that is not a baby step in my book and may not be an option for many.
- Cleaning Products – I am transitioning to natural cleaners. Many I will be or already am mixing at home. Others, I leave up to sustainable home cleaning supply companies like Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, and Honest. I’ve also heard good things about Method. There is no need to take all the convenience out of life when trying to live more sustainably. Just make sure you are checking labels and making sure the companies stand behind what they purport through mission statements and marketing.
- Unplug – I am trying to unplug devices and small appliances when not in use or charging. There is no need for them to continue drawing power, no matter how negligible an amount it is. There is an alternate definition here, too, where we should take the time as humans to unplug. We need to step back from our constant need to tweet, Instagram, and text so that we can see and experience the world we are trying to save.
- Shipping – My best friend is a HUGE Amazon person. He orders gobs of things on the mega site each year simply because “it’s easier to do that than go to the store”. But while you’re paying pennies to have your paper towels delivered to your doorstep in two days or less, I have to question how much these practices will cost Mother Earth later down the road. Instead, I am currently working on converting him to shopping local. If you can’t bring yourself to break the Amazon habit, try using their Prime Pantry option. This allows you to shop for all the same items, but you have to wait until you fill the box before it ships. This would eliminate several unnecessary shipping adventures I dare say.
- Grow a garden & plant some trees – Directly combat your carbon footprint with these blessed vegetation creations. Plus garden fresh food tastes so much better than store bought! You can even fertilize your planted babies with the composting you’ve been doing from #1’s recycling methods.
- Water conservation – This one always ranks high on the list of ways to live a more sustainable life, but in developed countries, it seems to be a hard concept to master. Again, take baby steps. Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth until it’s time to rinse. Run your dishwasher during low use times of day (typically after 11 p.m. but check with your local utility). Wash clothes only when you have a full load. Shorten shower times or move to an every other day schedule of bathing. These are small steps but they add up to hundreds of gallons of water weekly.
- Quit Bottled Water – This one is important. Americans used approximately 50 billion plastic bottles of water last year. Less than 25% of these are recycled either because the user did not choose to recycle or because their local utility does not offer recycling options. Either way, over 38 billion water bottles go unrecycled each year. With the advent of insulated cups, there is no need to continue purchasing what really breaks down to glorified bottled tap water when you could stylishly keep your water handy in a reusable cup or thermos. Break the habit today. You’ll thank us later!
- Community - Join an environmental group in your community. This is a great way to meet new people who can give you other ideas on how to live a more sustainable life. Beachside communities often clean up their shorelines and help local wildlife through their environmental efforts. In landlocked cities, environmental groups pick up litter, plant trees, give community lectures, work on community gardens, and more to impact their local areas. If your community doesn’t have an environmental group. Consider launching one yourself!
We encourage you to begin taking your own baby steps and living a more sustainable life today. Start by using sustainable flooring materials and cork materials for your next home improvement project. Let us know what sustainable living practices you are taking and we will walk this path together. Cheers to you and yours this happy New Year! May 2017 be amazing for each of you!
Note: Any products or brands mentioned here are not promoted by AmCork and used purely as examples for living a more sustainable life. We are not suggesting, selling, or promoting any particular sustainable products or brands.