Climate change is a fact with carbon dioxide levels reaching their highest peak in 650,000 years. Our planet’s polar ice sheets are losing mass while the global sea level and temperatures are rising. Every second we are producing thousands of plastic bottles that will end up littering our oceans and causing fatalities among many species.
Is it inevitable or can we do something through living sustainably?
Some scientists believe the damage that has been done is irreversible. In fact, even if we were to miraculously stop emitting greenhouse gases right now, the temperature of Earth will continue to rise for a few more decades.
One thing is certain – if we were to solve this, it would take a lot of effort on many different levels. We need adherence to international policies, broader implementation of new technologies, and drastic shifts in behaviour.
As a single person on Earth, I know I cannot change the world. Yet, regardless of the outcome, I feel it is my duty, right, and responsibility to take action. We can never be perfect, living in a society where most products are sold in plastic packaging, using a private vehicle to go to the supermarket, flying to see our family for the holidays, etc. We still need to try our best. So here are 8 ideas on how you can live sustainably.
Avoid plastic use as much as you can
1.Shop at the market or try using cotton bags for produce to avoid using small plastic bags that cannot even be recycled. Always choose products that have no unnecessary wrapping like the single avocado that has been put in plastic wrap for no reason.
2. Carry around a reusable water bottle you can re-fill at home or outside rather than purchasing water that has been stored in a plastic bottle. It is also better for your health.
3. Throw a set of reusable utensils in your purse or in your car’s glove compartment to prevent the use of disposable forks, spoons, or straws. Multiple-use plastic cups are also a more eco-friendly alternative if you’re having some friends over or going in nature. As far as packing food goes, you might also want to replace your plastic foil with their eco alternative—beeswax wraps.
4. Buy personal hygiene products without plastic. Go for a bamboo toothbrush versus a plastic one, a bar soap in paper wrapping versus liquid soap. These days there are even shampoo and conditioner bars that are extra convenient when travelling. You can also make your own natural deodorant with baking soda and essential oils. Talking about travel, creating less waste can also save you money during your trip!
5. If you are a dog owner, look for alternatives to regular toys, poop bags, bowls, collars, and food. These days there is a multitude of products that makes owning an eco-friendly dog a breeze.
Here are some more zero waste swap ideas to transform your everyday life.
Use public transport, a bike or walk places
The “urban heat island effect” is a phenomenon observed in cities where air temperatures are higher than in the surrounding suburban or rural areas. Why? So many roads, buildings, and people are concentrated in a small area. This affects air quality and can pose risks to public health.
Some cities, like my current base Bologna in Italy, have taken the initiative to stimulate locals and visitors to use sustainable transportation. All you need to do is download an app and log your trips for the day. Each trip earns you sustainability points that you can turn into a delicious gelato or cinema tickets.
6. If you choose to bike or walk, you’ll also add in more physical activity in your day, ultimately taking care of your own health. Public transport, on the other hand, can “save” you a lot of commuting time that you can put towards reading a book or learning a new language while you’re riding. Not sure what to read next? Here are 12 books on sustainability you might find interesting.
Know where your clothes come from
The fashion industry is not as glamorous as it seems. It produces 10% of our carbon emissions and is the second biggest pollutant after oil. This is largely due to the so-called “fast fashion“, although luxury brands are still as involved in environmental damage, just in a different way.
7. There are now numerous “sustainable” brands that make goods from recycled plastic and organic cotton. This is, of course, a better alternative to supporting fashion giants that are only after their profit margins. The best choice is wearing secondhand clothes. Here’s an amazing quote by brand consultant for circularity and sustainability in fashion Rachel Kibbe: “The only true sustainable way to shop is to not shop at all. Unless you’re buying clothes that [already] exist.”
8. Speaking about fashion, I’d like to mention something I have noticed in my own behaviour. Back in the day, when consumerism was not that widespread and affordable, my family would repair rather than replace every single thing that had an issue. These days I am trying to apply the same approach to my wardrobe, taking care of my clothing before deciding to toss it. The same goes for shoes.
I’d like to invite you to read about Kintsugi, the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery. It might inspire you to look differently at imperfections, be it in objects or people, including yourself.
Find alternative uses
9. If you’re a creative person, you’ll love this one. Maybe your avocado has overripe now – it can still make for a nourishing DIY hair mask. Some fruits or veggies that are getting soft can make delicious healthy muffins for your dogs. Coconut oil is as versatile as it gets, finding uses in cooking, hair care, and skincare. I’ve got a textile belt I use in place of a yoga strap. My granny uses old tyres in her garden as huge pots for her flowers. There are endless possibilities.
Have fun with living sustainably
I think the key to living sustainably and enjoy it is your attitude. Will you take carrying a reusable water bottle as a burden or will you view it as an opportunity? Will you make the switch from products with plastic packaging to those that have none? Every single thing that we do is a choice. I do not ask of you to obsess over it. Just do your best to make more eco-friendly choices more and more often. If you have kids, make sure you’re a sustainable parent. I am sending my thanks to you. The planet will too.