When I started my sustainable living journey in 2018, I made a lot of mistakes. I thought that in order to live sustainably, I had to follow a lot of rules. I didn’t realize that one person’s sustainable journey could look different from another’s. If you are considering a more sustainable lifestyle, here are some tips (not rules) that could help you get started.
- Use a reusable water bottle
- In most of the United States, there is free water at drinking fountains in churches, stores and attractions. Using a reusable water bottle helps not only reduce single use plastic that goes to the landfill, it also can help cut costs. No more $3 disposable water bottles at the zoo!
- Donate and thrift Items
- According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away almost 25 billion pounds of textiles each year. Donating to and shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops is a way to give an item new life.
- Say “No” to freebies
- Who likes clutter? Not me! Sometimes I attend events where there are free items for attendees. Paper fans, letter openers, magnets, pens, etc. Before grabbing a freebie, just think, “Am I actually going to use this? Will it end up in the junk drawer? Will it end up in the trash?” I’ve found that when I really consider if I’ll use the free item, the answer is almost always “No.”
- Eat up!
- Reduce your food waste by trying some or all of the following: Regularly check your fridge and pantry for food items that need to be eaten. Save leftovers instead of tossing them. Freeze food to extend its life.
- Bring your own
- Going to a church event with food? Consider bringing your own reusable utensils, plate, cup, bowl, etc. Not only does this reduce trash, it also is a great conversation starter. Yes, whenever I bring my own utensils and such to an event I always get asked why.
- Run the dishwasher
- A 2020 University of Michigan study shows that running a dishwasher can save water, CO2e and time compared to handwashing.
- Save energy
- If you’ve driven through the midwest, you’ve probably seen several windmills. But only 20% of electricity generated in the U.S. is from renewable energy sources. Save energy by turning out lights when you aren’t in a room, running a washer with full loads of laundry, hanging up clothes to dry instead of using a dryer, and unplugging unused electronics.
- Advanced Tip: Find a store that sells sustainable alternatives
- So you’ve already mastered all the above tips? Great! Keep going. If you’re financially and geographically able to buy sustainable alternatives items for everyday items, make the switch!
Remember that each person’s journey may look different. When I started living more sustainably, I lived in a place where there wasn’t always potable water. Because of that, I had to buy bottled water. As a young professional, I’m not always able to afford quality items that I know will last longer or purchase items that have a smaller impact on the environment. I make more trash today than I did four years ago, because circumstances have changed. Instead of feeling guilty or shameful, I know God sees the efforts I make and blesses them. And I know that God will see efforts you make and bless them too!