Sustainability is often promoted as an all-or-nothing game —- if you can’t play perfectly every time, don’t play. The guilt that fills those who care about the environment by not being able to install solar panels, purchase a new electric vehicle, or invest in green businesses weighs heavily.
However, if more individuals and/or groups practiced sustainability more consistently but imperfectly, larger benefits across the globe would be seen. This is in contrast to the small few who can invest more time and money into their sustainable lifestyle.
We’re breaking down the misconceptions surrounding sustainability, and small, yet effective practices that nearly anyone can do to live a gentler, more sustainable life.
Sustainability is a common buzzword in the environmental space. Defined sustainability means the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level. On an environmental level, this ties in energy and natural resources, as well as to maintain a certain level of overall health for the planet.
Individuals and groups that care about environmental progress often resort to sustainability as the solution for humanity to continue, progress and thrive. However, many individuals feel intimidated by sustainability. Sustainable living has generated confusion among the public, with many individuals believing if they are not living perfectly and sustainably in every way, they are furthering environmental harm.
This misconception has pushed individuals further away from the true goal of practicing sustainability imperfectly, which is a more realistic goal for most individuals.
For sustainability to work, it needs to be sustainable in practice for an individual or group. Purchasing an electric car and installing solar panels, while effective for energy sustainability, is not achievable for the average person in the short term, even if they genuinely have an interest in the environment.
There are plentiful tips, practices, and resources available that are just as effective at promoting sustainability compared to electric vehicles and solar panels. Often, the small, daily practices made by individuals make a significant difference. With that said, here are 8 sustainable things nearly everyone can do to help the environment.
Switch Off Your Lights
The habit of switching your lights off when leaving a room is a sustainable staple. Any way we are able to lower our energy use is beneficial to the planet. Plus, habits like switching lights off can save you money over time. The average savings is 1.2 cents per hour that a light is turned off. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but over time, this can save you hundreds of dollars a year and thousands of dollars over decades.
Wash Your Clothes Less Often
Most clothes do not need to be washed after one wear. By allowing more time between washes, you save yourself time and save electricity. When drying clothing, aim to dry them outside when possible, as this greatly reduces your energy usage.
T-shirts, jeans, and jackets can generally be worn 3-4 times before washing. For garments like socks and underwear, allow one wear before washing. Bedding should be washed once a week.
Use Public Transportation
While most of us may not be able to afford the latest electronic vehicle, public transportation is cheap, accessible, and a sustainable mode of travel. By carrying more people per trip, public transportation has been argued to be a more sustainable method overall compared to electric vehicles. Many cities have begun adopting electric public transportation vehicles.
The less distance your food needs to travel to make it to your home, the more sustainable it is. By purchasing local goods when possible, you can directly help support local agriculture, sustainability, and your local economy.
Use Reusable Bags
Nearly everyone already owns a reusable bag. Think totes, backpacks, and drawstrings. Using reusable bags when you shop is an effective, cheap, and accessible way to practice sustainability. You will help divert single-use plastic bags from landfills, help protect wildlife, and reduce plastic pollution in the environment. Many stores offer reusable bags for at little as one dollar.
Use Reusable Water Bottles
Single-use water bottles are one of the most collected wastes across the world. Many people believe bottled water is cleaner, safer, and tastes better. However, little research supports this. In fact, bottled water is often re-mineralized and contains added sodium, a marketing tactic to encourage buyers to purchase more water.
Other research suggests that BPA, a compound of plastic bottles, is an endocrine disruptor and can have long-lasting impacts on human health. To avoid environmental and health impacts, consider purchasing a stainless steel or glass reusable water bottle.
Choose Organic When You Can
Organic foods are grown using certain criteria that help protect soils, biodiversity, and do not allow for pesticide or herbicide use. By purchasing organic, you are directly funding agriculture that is more sustainable and gentler to the environment and human health.
Technology like TVs, computers, phone chargers, and other electronics still use electricity even when they are turned off but remain plugged in. By unplugging electronics when not in use, you are helping reduce your electricity demand and saving money.
Sustainability is a common buzzword in the environmental space.
Many consumers who care about sustainability feel guilt for not performing it perfectly.
There are many ways to practice sustainable behaviors that are free, simple, and effective.