Living sustainably is different for different people and so is the motivation for doing so. For me, it started when I had my son. I realized how much we were damaging the planet, and that my son would grow up in a much worse condition than it is in today.
So my husband and I decided to do as much as we could, to give him a better future and decided to make changes to our lifestyle.
None of this can happen overnight. One can start with small easy steps and gradually move on to bigger changes. Trying to do everything together can become overwhelming and discouraging, so it's best not to do that. Just like any lifestyle change or exercise or diet program, ease into it and slowly ramp up.
Here are the basic principles that we follow:
1. Reduce our waste as much as possible.
2. Reduce overall consumption — use whatever we already have and buy only what we really need.
3. Avoid usage of disposable products (single use plastic, cotton balls, diapers, sanitary pads, kitchen wipes and even paper napkins etc). Instead, we use reusable options for these.
4. When we buy, we try to buy sustainable products from small local brands, as much as possible.
Reducing waste can be a huge contribution to the environment. Once our trash leaves our homes, it ends up in a garbage dump or landfill where it stays for 100s or 1000s of years, with new waste getting dumped on top of it every day. All kinds of waste, decomposing food, sanitary waste, medical waste gets mixed and emits methane which is a deadly greenhouse gas (way deadlier than CO2). It also releases other toxic gases into the environment and into the soil and also contaminates water. All of this comes back to us in the food we eat and water we drink and into the air, we breathe.
On an individual level, just by simply reducing our waste, we can make a huge impact. So how do we do that?
1. Carry your own cloth bags whenever you go shopping (and even refuse paper bags if you can). Carry your own water bottle and a cloth napkin. If you want take-away coffee, carry your own cup. While traveling, even carry a set of cutlery and reusable straws (especially with kids).
2. Reduce random shopping. I’m guilty of doing this before I became aware of the waste issue. I would scan shopping apps if I was getting bored and would end up buying stuff which I didn’t really need (especially clothes and shoes). Now I’ve hardly bought anything in almost 2 years, and I think I have enough clothes to last a lifetime!
3. Consider sustainable grocery shopping. Buy locally grown organic produce. Try and buy groceries without packaging as much as possible (local small grocery stores sell a lot of loose stuff. Even big supermarkets let you buy loose groceries). Carry your own containers and fill up as much as possible. Reduce consumption of processed packaged food. You’ll automatically reduce waste and end up healthier!
4. Another easy step is to swap regular use commercial products with sustainable brands. The easiest category is home cleaners. Once your floor cleaner, bathroom cleaner, dish wash soap, detergent etc are over, instead of buying your regular brand, buy a biodegradable one. They aren’t just good for the environment, but also for you. Commercial cleaners are full of nasty chemicals, that release fumes and are dangerous for us. Pick up your detergent and look up its ingredients online. You’ll not want to use it again! Thankfully there are lots of brands that make natural, biodegradable cleaners.
5. Next, move to bathroom products. Once your shower gel is over, buy a soap bar. Try a shampoo bar. When it’s time to change your toothbrush, get a bamboo brush. These kinds of changes are the easiest to make because they don't need a change of lifestyle, just a change from brand/product. And you'll also save a ton of plastic.
A word of advice — Please don’t start throwing your things out! Use what you have, till the last drop and then swap. This also goes for things like plastic containers (esp kitchen storage). Use them till you can and once it’s time to buy new, opt for glass or steel containers.
6. Reuse and repurpose existing stuff (just like our grandparents did!). For instance, we use old worn out T-shirts/clothes to clean floors and make kitchen wipes out of them. Saves money and reduces waste! We even use old socks as utensil scrubbers instead of using plastic ones.
8. Reduce consumption of disposable, especially ‘use and throw’ products. No matter what material they are made. Most of these aren’t recyclable or biodegradable. Not just single use plastic, but even things like paper tissues, wet wipes (these are essentially made of plastic. I always thought they were made of paper!), cotton balls, paper cups (like coffee takeaway cups) which have a hidden plastic layer inside etc.
9. Segregate your waste. Just keep 2 bins, one for all dry stuff and one for kitchen waste. Sanitary waste (used sanitary pads and diapers, used band-aids etc) and anything that’s touched your body (e.g cotton ball with make-up or nail polish remover), should go into ‘reject waste’. Even if your housing complex doesn’t have a facility for this, put these in a separate bag while disposing off. Dry waste should literally be dry! So if you have food or milk packets, rinse and dry them before disposing off. This way food wont rot inside and they won’t contaminate otherwise useful and recyclable dry waste like paper and plastic.
10. Find out if you have a dry waste center or a recycler close by and give them your dry waste for recycling.
11. Avoid bin liners for dustbins where you only put dry waste. Garbage bags are unnecessary plastics that cause huge problems in garbage dumps. Even those advertised as ‘compostable’ or ‘biodegradable’ are useless as nothing composts in a garbage dump/landfill, not even the most organic thing i,e food!
12. Consider home composting. This can be done at a later stage, and I’ll write a separate post about that! But composting can literally save us from climate change! And it’s the most satisfying thing ever!
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I also recommend following some amazing people on Instagram for inspiration and tons of tips and tricks.
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