5 Ideas for More Sustainable Living (Part 1)

Living a lower impact lifestyle is definitely a gradual learning curve. I learn new things every day and try to incorporate them in my life. I wanted to share the top 10 tips (in a 2 part post) I use to pick more sustainable options. While these may be old news for some, hopefully this can help others on your journey to a more sustainable life!

As a side note before I begin, these are all tips aimed at reducing green house gas emissions or natural resources associated with supporting my lifestyle. (For a quick and easy explanation of what green house gases are, check out this video).

Electricity production accounts for 34% of U.S. energy related greenhouse gas emissions. If available in your area, swap to using electricity sourced renewably. Clean energy is powered by solar or wind energy versus the burning of fossil fuels, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change. Some areas have renewable options through their local electric company and others can sign up for clean energy programs through companies like Arcadia. For more details on this, check out this post

Calculate your average carbon footprint per month. This step helped me to start linking lifestyle decisions to the amount of emissions use to support them. This includes decisions all the way from the type of home we live in to where I source my food.

If you know your footprint, you can also buy an equal amount of carbon offsets. Carbon offsets are essentially programs that capture carbon from the atmosphere, reducing carbon dioxide from building up in the atmosphere, which is the #1 green house gas contributing to climate change. If you travel a lot, you can also buy carbon offsets specific for the length of your flights.

Make your voice heard regarding climate issues on the political front. This is a big one, because no matter the amount of effort we put into personally reducing our impact, policies on a national and international level will ultimately make the most impact.

For example, we may work hard to pick a car that has a low emissions. However, if emissions policies are lax nationally, the overall number of cars on the road producing excess emissions will continue having a devastating impact on our atmosphere.

Also, emissions are a global issue. Most green house gases are in the atmosphere long enough to disperse and mix with other gases, so one nation’s emissions affect the entire world. As the U.S. and China produce the most emissions, we have to step up and work to mitigate the negative impact we are having on global atmosphere.

You can explore different organizations fighting climate change online and sign up for their email action alerts. Then you will know when important votes or issues are at stake and have practical and easy ways to respond. Some groups I follow are Citizens' Climate Lobby, the National Resource Defense Council, and the Nature Conservancy.

…Aka buy quality over quantity + nurture what you have to its grave.

Purchasing “quality” items can be tricky when on a tight budget because higher quality items are often much pricier. I’ve been in grad school for 6 years, so I fully get the budget issue and that is why I normally end up doing tip #5… However, when I do buy new items like kitchen appliances and household items, I try to buy higher quality items. I look at reviews to assess durability or carefully examine the construction of an item to see if it looks flimsy or durable. I also try my hardest to repair items when they break or tear. I have super glued an endless number of shoes and broken mugs, sewed up holes in sweaters, taken apart sound machines to repair the whirring mechanism, and even attempted to fix the screen of a broken iPhone. Yes- repair is not always possible, but when it is, it feels like such a victorious recitation.

Did you know that in 2015, textile production for clothing emitted more green house gases than all international flights and maritime shipping combined? (For a deeper dive into this and the textile industry’s impact on the environment, check out this awesome report from the Ellen McArthur Foundation.)

By buying used items, you can save your pennies and the Earth’s resources by reducing the production demand for clothes, decorations, furniture, electronics, appliances, and cars. One way to buy used items that requires a bit of mastery is to scavenge thrift stores and charity shops. However, if you need a specific item, I recommend turning to Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, and Amazon for household items, clothes, furniture and electronics and Thred Up and Poshmark for clothes. As not everything on Ebay and Amazon is used, I have included two images below to show how to filter and find used options.

On Ebay, you can select “Preowned” as a filter.

On Amazon, for some items they have “Used” options available for sale as well.

I hope these 5 tips offered some insights for you on your sustainable journey. Again, I make baby steps every day as I integrate these ideas more and more into my life. If you try anything out, let me know! And keep your eyes out for 5 more tips on their way in Part II of this post.