What is sustainable living?
Tips to live more sustainably

Topics Discussed

The term “sustainable-living” has different synonyms including “earth-harmony living” or “net-zero living”. Sustainable product and lifestyle choices equate to a lower carbon footprint.

According to Wikipedia, sustainable living describes “a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual’s or society’s use of the earth’s natural resources, and one’s personal resources.”

There are endless examples and decisions that we can all take in order to live more sustainably, some of which include:
– Composting
– Reducing the volume of resources that we use
– Adopting clean-energy sources
– Eliminating single-use plastic items from our every-day lives

Supporting your local economy and eating less meat are also examples of sustainable lifestyle choices. 

Let’s discuss three simple changes you that you can make in order to significantly reduce your carbon-footprint. After all; “the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” – Robert Swan

1. Purchasing More Sustainably #PlasticFree #NaturalMaterials

2. Cycling More

3. Avoid Buying Animal & Wildlife Endangering Products

How can we live a sustainable life?

1. Purchasing More Sustainably #PlasticFree

By adopting eco-minded shopping habits, you are supporting both:

– The local economy 
– Fair-trade arrangements

Eco-conscious purchasing ensures that both the product and product-packaging have been ethically and organically sourced. 

Basic environmental principles can be broken down using the ‘three R’s’ (reduce, reuse, recycle). Although an old concept, the ‘three R’s’ are as relevant today as they’ve ever been.

By choosing to shop at an eco-friendly store (online or offline), consumers can expect complete transparency behind each and every item in terms of the production and manufacturing processes.

As a rule of thumb, look out for Green Product Certifications when scanning product packaging.

Unfortunately the same level of transparency isn’t reflected in many large-scale supermarkets, making it harder for busy customers to decipher between sustainable and unsustainable items. 

Eco-conscious stores should be able to provide confidentiality that the items have been sustainably sourced, and not contributing to ocean and landfill waste and pollution.

Unsure on how to cut down on your plastic-waste? You can start with:

– Bringing your own reusable shopping bag/s when you go shopping

– Stop buying drinks in plastic bottles. There are plenty of alternative drinking materials

– Avoid buying items that are packaged in plastic

2. Cycle More, Drive Less

Moving on from purchasing-habits, let’s discuss some of the impacts that motor-vehicles have on the environment. These impacts highlight the importance of choosing to cycle where possible.

The impact of engine emissions:

It is estimated that each year, the average (car) engine alone exhibits around one pound of carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere.

The US alone has an estimated 280 million cars travelling the road each year. As the earth’s oil resources continue to deplete, along with political and environmental chaos caused as a result of oil-mining, adopting eco-alternative cycling initiatives (specifically in cities/metropolises) is certainly a likely action needed in the fight against global-warming.

Fortress.wa.gov published a handy PDF discussing the health and environmental effects caused as a result of automobile emissions.

An overview of the points discussed in this publication include:

– Carbon Monoxide
– Ozone
– Sulfur Dioxide
– Nitrogen Dioxide
– Lead
– Particulate Matter
– Toxic Air Pollutants

and how each of these play a role in damaging our environment.

Cycling : The solution to healthy air-quality?

In the US it is estimated that transportation alone accounts for around 33% of all CO2 emitted by road-vehicles.

Scientists believe that more than half of that amount comes from car engine pollution.

Aside from the human health-benefits of cycling, bicycles are a zero-emission transport alternative, meaning that they leave carbon footprint behind.

Of course, for some people it isn’t practical to cycle each and every time they are commuting, however there is no denying that inner-city cycle-systems (and schemes) are greatly under-utilised, if utilised at all), in many major cities around the world today.

Many scientists, engineers and urban-architects have highlighted numerous possibilities of how future cities could look, if we were to modernise our city transport systems. 

Despite this, cities such as Amsterdam, Netherlands, are examples of cities that have successfully transitioned into cycling hubs for both tourists and local residents. There are around 881,000 bikes in Amsterdam alone!

The Dublin Bike Scheme in Ireland is another example of an initiative/scheme aimed at improving the air-quality and reducing pollution caused by traffic.

3. Avoid Buying Animal & Wildlife Endangering Products

Ensuring that your shopping-basket contains goods that are manufactured without causing any harm or danger towards wildlife is another important aspect of sustainable living.

You should also avoid buying products that are tested on animals before they become available to sell.

By avoiding brands that test on animals, you can ensure that the items in your basket haven’t caused any type of discomfort or harm towards an animal held against its will.

In particular, some brands within the cosmetic and cleaning industry have been accused in the past of using animals for testings purposes during product-testing phases.

For more information on products that are not tested on animals, take a look at this guide list of ‘cruelty-free’ brands (created by the CCIC). Brands that manufacture products using animals on the endangered species list are especially prohibited.

Unfortunately, most animals are not named on lists such as these, meaning that many animals can still be harmed at the expense of someone else’s financial gain.

Beauty Without Bunnies have created a fantastic search-portal to help customers source cruelty-free cosmetic and personal-care products.

The following list of products have been specifically subjected to bad press in the past, so it may be worth your while being extra vigilant when checking the labels:

– Sunscreen
– Creams/shampoos with micro-beads
– Bleached-based products
– Single-use plastic items

and many more.

Saving Our #ForestLife

Many of the animal habitats that exist in our forests are also becoming increasingly endangered due to human-caused forestry activities. These activities are known to cause water depletion and deforestation.

What are some examples of sustainable-lifestyle choices?

Although a broad question, sustainable-living examples in the form of eco-conscious purchasing-decisions highlight some of the simple changes that we can all make to in order to live more sustainably.

Since many aspects of living more sustainably intersect with one-another, some of the information discussed in this section overlap with points discussed in the above.

Some every-day product-alternatives include:

– Using Eco-Friendly Light Bulbs

Change your light bulbs to energy-efficient, LED or CFL light bulbs if you haven’t already. It is estimated that the average energy-efficient light bulb uses less than $1.50 of electricity each year and will last at least one decade.

– Drinking Organic Coffee

By purchasing eco-friendly coffee from organic farmers,  you can minimise the dependence of synthetic soil materials (natural fertilisers are used instead). This avoids environmental damage.

Eco-friendly coffee should also be fair-trade. Making sure that everyone receives their fair-share has positive impacts on the local economy.

– Using Dish Cloths Over Wipes 

As well as finding their way into wastewater systems, wipes can also cause issues in the ocean.

Wet wipes accounted for more than 90% of the material causing sewer blockages , according to an investigation by the Water UK investigated in 2017.

For more information on everyday habits that lead to plastic pollution in the ocean, you can read this PDF published by Eunomia.

– Using Biodegradable Garbage/Trash Bags

Biodegradable trash-bags tend to be produced using plant-based materials which biodegrade much quicker in comparison to typical petroleum-based plastic.

An earth-friendly trash-bag will not take long to decompose; in-fact much quicker than a normal trash-bag.

– Walk Or Cycle Where Possible

We discussed the environmental benefits of cycling in the previous section. But what about the human advantages that arise as a result of cycling?

Move away from petrol and diesel powered transport also influences other economical changes such as human obesity. Health services could save billions in healthcare costs if illnesses caused by obesity and type-two diabetes were reduced.

Another non-environmentally related benefit that arises from cycling is the reduction of road-caused fatalities that occur each year. It is estimated that a national increase in cycling could save 500 road deaths a year.

Here is an infographic published by the British Cycling Association (United Kingdom), highlighting the societal benefits of mass cycling adoption:

societal benefits of mass cycling adoption

Why is sustainable living important?

Here are some examples that illustrate why sustainability initiatives should be a priority for you:

– The threat of climate-change

Examples of environmental damage caused as a result of human-activities can be seen across the world, such as:

– The burning of fossil-fuels
– Deforestation

Excess-pollution and overpopulation are examples of how humans are impacting the physical environment, according to the National Geographic.

– Animal Extinction

Animal diversity and survival is at risk as result of changes in climate. With sea-levels rising and oceans warming at alarming rates, we are experiencing longer and more intense droughts, affecting both water and crop supplies.

Marine creatures are being forced out of their natural habitats and behaviour patterns, causing a knock-on effect down the rest of the food-chain.

Land animals are facing the same if not worse threats as natural habitats throughout jungles and forests are experiencing the same levels of environmental chaos.   

– Preservation for future generations

Sustainable lifestyle choices made by the current global population will play a significant role in the how habitable the world will be for future generations.

In 2015, the Welsh Government created an act aimed at protecting future generations from ‘short-term thinking’. This Act was later coined the ‘Well-Being Of Future Generations (Wales) Act‘.

All public bodies in Wales must consider how their decisions align with goals outlined in the Act.

– Over-dependance on limited-resources 
(In particular fossil-fuels)

Humans are overly dependent on fossil-fuels for maintaining day-to-day (often very profitable) activities, making the depletion of fossil-fuels resources a serious concern.

Scientists continue to research and discover more ecologically-friendly substitutes for fossil-fuel resources.

At the current rates of production and extraction, earth’s oil supplies are due to run-out in approximately 50 years, natural gas in 54, and coal in 110, according to ZMEScience.

Sustainable Principles

On a broader level, sustainability as a topic can be outlined using three principles or pillars, referred to as the ‘Three Pillars Of Sustainability’.

How can we promote sustainable living?

We’re living in an era where human activity is significantly damaging our environment.

Identifying ways to ensure that we, as a global society, live sustainably is nothing short of mandatory in order to preserve our planet for future generations.

Here are three examples of how you can promote sustainable-living in your local community:

1. Sign-up for community supported agriculture (CSA)

By signing up for CSA, you can help to support and maintain local efforts of sustainability in your community.

Each scheme can differ region to region, however in general, you pay an upfront fee for one season’s worth of fruit and vegetables from a local source.

Normally CSA offers  delivery or collection services. Supporting CSA efforts helps to ensure safety in terms of food cultivation, and also eradicates the need to worry about worker and environmental exploitation.

2. Start a compost pile

Here we compared different organic compost options in case you’re interested. By composting, you help to keep degradable materials out of your waste pile, instead returning them to the soil as healthy nutrients.

Composting your leftover waste is a great way to help keep your community green. Here we compared different organic compost. Read our organic composts comparison here.

3. Cycle

As reiterated throughout this article, one simple change that most of us can make is to choose to cycle short distances as oppose to driving. 

According to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey: “25 % of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40 % of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle”.

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