A Beginner’s Guide to Sustainable Living (How to Get Started with Sustainability)

sustainable living guide

Not sure what sustainable living is all about and don’t know where to begin? Educating yourself is the best way to get started, so you have already taken the first big step.

Sustainable living has been a hot topic for a while now – and for good reason. It’s not just a temporary fad or trend, but a responsibility. Understanding how to live sustainably is important since it impacts more than ourselves, including all living organisms and the future generations to come.

Preachiness aside, though, sustainable living offers benefits that can improve your quality of life and even save you money in the long run. And if you’re a total newbie, no worries – you’ve arrived at the right place. 

This beginner’s guide has all the quick tips you need to start sustainable living, each broken down into two key points: what an unsustainable activity causes and how you can reduce that cause from happening

With all that said and out of the way, let’s get into it.

What is Sustainable Living?

So, what does sustainable living mean exactly?

Sustainable living is reducing or avoiding actions that are causing harm to the planet. The earth won’t be inhabitable if we keep doing these actions, so these actions can no longer be sustained at the current rate.

Sustainable living is also referred to as eco-friendly living, environmentally friendly living, green living, and net zero living.

There are many different ways to live sustainably, so it can be a lot to process and begin doing at the start. The good news is that each small change you make causes a big difference, so rest assured that doing something is better than doing nothing. 

Why Should I Start Sustainable Living?

What’s the point of sustainable living, really?

It all comes down to saving the earth, including all living things that currently inhabit it and will inhabit it in the future. Wearing flowers in your hair and holding hands in a big circle might come to mind, but the fact is that sustainable living has become a matter of now or never. 

Sustainable living is the only way to ensure the earth remains inhabitable. This includes preventing natural disasters caused by the negative effects unsustainable living is having on the planet. 

At a glance, temperatures are rising, land is receding due to rising ocean levels, biodiversity is dying off, and natural disasters are becoming more frequent – all because of the unsustainable practices we’ve become accustomed to.

Doom and gloom facts aside, though, sustainable living can improve your quality of life and also save you money. But if not for yourself, sustainable living should be done with the planet, life itself, and all future generations in mind.

How to Start Sustainable Living for Beginners – 10 Ways

As touched on earlier, there are many different ways you can start living sustainably. 

This is a good thing but it can also be a lot to manage at once, so we’ve gone ahead and broken it down into ten key areas with small, easily implementable lifestyle changes that you can start to do, or at least learn about, today. 

So don’t be scared off by the idea of a massive shift in your lifestyle; most of the changes you can make don’t require much effort to reduce your carbon footprint and even present various health and economical benefits.  

Each section below explains two simple points: why it’s no longer sustainable and what you can do to reduce the negative impact it’s causing.

1. Reduce Energy Consumption 

High electricity and gas consumption causes CO2 emissions (the release of greenhouse gasses) – a major contributor to global warming. 

COemissions are damaging the ozone layer, which is progressively heating up the earth’s climate, causing the increase in natural disasters, land loss, and loss of biodiversity. 

Needless to say, our excessive use of energy is one of the biggest problems that needs tackling to help the environment.

How you can reduce your energy consumption:

  • Invest in renewable energy, such as solar panels
  • Invest in energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances
  • Hang your clothes out to dry instead of tumble drying them
  • Hand wash dishes instead of using a dishwasher
  • Turn off lights and appliances when they are not needed
  • Wear an extra layer of clothing instead of increasing the heating

2. Reduce Transportation Emissions

Vehicles that run on gas churn out CO2 emissions that, like high energy consumption, contribute to global warming on a daily basis and all the negative impacts it’s having on the environment. 

Simply put, gas-powered vehicles are one of the major contributors to climate change, considering the amount that we rely on transport around the world. This is made worse, though, when we travel unnecessarily or unwisely.

How you can reduce your transportation emissions:

  • Invest in an electric vehicle or hybrid car
  • Use your gas-powered vehicle only when necessary (long journeys)
  • Walk or cycle for short journeys
  • Take public transport (bus or train) or carpool where possible
  • Avoid flying often
  • Practice eco-friendly driving (driving slower and avoiding harsh acceleration)

3. Reduce Use of Plastic

Anything made of plastic is unsustainable because it simply isn’t biodegradable, often taking hundreds of years, or more, to decompose, depending on the product.

You might be surprised to know that most plastics aren’t recycled either, instead being left to decompose in landfills or sent to be incinerated, which contributes to CO2 emissions being sent out into the atmosphere.

How you can reduce your use of plastic:

  • Avoid buying single-use plastic products, such as straws, coffee cups, plastic plates and cutlery, plastic bottles, and shopping bags
  • Invest in reusable products, such as reusable coffee cups, reusable straws, reusable bottles, and reusable shopping bags
  • Opt for canned drinks and drinks in cartons over plastic bottled drinks
  • Opt for packaging-free foods that can also be refilled (such as pasta and rice as well as fruit and vegetables) over packaged options
  • Switch plastic tupperware for glass or steel containers

4. Reduce Using Paper

It’s no secret that paper is made from trees. Trees are natural absorbers of greenhouse gasses (CO2) and cutting them down to make paper therefore contributes to global warming. 

While it’s possible to simply plant more trees (this is one of the best ways we can tackle climate change, in fact), trees unfortunately take decades to grow. On the flip side, most uses for paper are available digitally, making it easier than ever to reduce paper usage!

How you can reduce your paper usage:

  • Avoid buying new products made of paper, such as newspapers
  • Buy second-hand books or comics instead of brand new ones
  • Unsubscribe from receiving paper mail and opt for digital letters/notices instead
  • Send digital invites instead of paper invites
  • Use your phone, tablet, or laptop/computer for writing or taking notes 
  • Opt for reusable towels or handkerchiefs over disposable tissues or napkins
  • Opt for email receipts over paper receipts

5. Recycle More

Man-made waste is a major contributor to environmental pollution and the release of greenhouse gasses. 

Recycling the things we use and consume is an effective way to reduce the impact unnecessary waste has on the environment, and this doesn’t just include recycling recyclable products, but actively choosing to buy more products that can be recycled as well as finding ways to reuse everyday items.

How to recycle more:

  • Research all the materials that are possible to be recycled
  • Look for and buy more products that can be recycled
  • Avoid buying and using non-recyclable products, such as plastic bottles and plastic shopping bags
  • Give clothes away or have them repaired instead of throwing them away
  • Recycle all materials and recyclable items, such as lithium batteries and ink cartridges, in the correct recycling bins
  • Recycle electronic devices and appliances where possible, or donate them if they are still working

6. Avoid Unethical Businesses

Big companies and corporations mass produce products on an accelerated scale, often without much care for the negative effects it causes to the environment. 

This fast-paced, large-scale production—across various industries, at that—can involve deforestation, the burning of fossil fuels, the use of animals for various reasons, and tons of unnecessary waste. As a result, buying the products funds these issues.

How you can avoid supporting unethical businesses:

  • Do your research on businesses before buying from them
  • Look for ethical businesses that are environmentally friendly
  • Use local businesses and independent sellers instead of commercial businesses
  • Avoid fast fashion businesses and major fashion retailers
  • Buy second-hand products where possible

7. Make Mindful Purchases

Buying non-recyclable products, electronic appliances with poor energy efficiency, and even poorly made products can lead to more landfill waste, more pollution and emissions released in the atmosphere, and increased energy consumption, in general.

How you can make mindful purchases:

  • Buy second-hand products when and where possible, including clothes, shoes, and appliances
  • Buy recyclable products and biodegradable products
  • Buy appliances with good efficiency ratings
  • Buy high-quality products over low-quality products, which generally last longer and reduce contributing to waste
  • Opt for products that use rechargeable batteries over disposable batteries
  • Avoid buying products that were tested on animals

8. Eat Organically

Industrial farming often involves the traditional use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides (and other toxins), as well as the mass production of animals, making many farm-based products on the market unsustainable and damaging to the environment. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are also bad for our general health!

How you can eat more organically: 

  • Look for and buy products that are marked as organic
  • Buy products from businesses that maintain high ethical standards
  • Switch to free-range eggs
  • Opt for organic meat that is GMO-free
  • Purchase in-season produce that hasn’t needed to be imported
  • Opt for frozen vegetables over fresh vegetables
  • Extend the shelf life of produce by freezing it before it goes bad
  • Buy produce from small ethical farmers
  • Learn to grow your own produce, such as fruit and vegetables

9. Reduce Water Consumption

Water is an essential resource for various reasons, but it needs to be treated and pumped before it can even reach our taps. This also contributes to energy consumption and the release of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.

While we need water for many important purposes, many of us consume more water than we need to – or even realize!

How can reduce your water consumption:

  • Turn off the tap when water is not being used during brushing your teeth, showering, or washing dishes
  • Hand wash your dishes instead of using a dishwasher
  • Opt for short showers instead of baths
  • Use unused or dirty water to “flush” the toilet
  • Collect water using a water butt
  • Wash clothes and beddings only when necessary
  • Use a bucket of water to clean your clear instead of a hose
  • Invest in water-efficient appliances

10. Try Veganism

Veganism is a lifestyle and practice that involves avoiding all food and products that are produced from, or produced using, animals or fish. 

The large-scale farming of animals, including forced breeding, growth stimulation through drugs, and the global transportation of such products, contributes massively to CO2 emissions, along with the deforestation that takes place to build these factory farms.

How you can try veganism:

  • Adopt a more plant-based diet
  • Switch meat products for vegan alternatives
  • Switch all dairy products for vegan alternatives
  • Avoid buying clothes made from animals, such as all leather products
  • Avoid buying products made using animals
  • Avoid buying products that have been tested on animals

Final Word

And there you have it: 10 ways to live sustainably, including the small actions and changes that you can start today to reduce your carbon footprint and make a positive impact on the environment.

As mentioned earlier, don’t overwhelm yourself by feeling responsible to do all of these at once! Simply make small changes wherever possible, one by one, and go from there. This has a bigger impact than you might think, and remember that doing something is better than doing nothing.

You’ve educated yourself by reading the above, so you’ve already gone ahead and made the first big step to living more sustainably. If you need to, don’t forget to save this guide for future reference!

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