3 Guiding Principles to Sustainable Living

By Zarine Kakalia

When purchasing environmentally conscious products, it is understandable to question whether your efforts are making an impact in sustainability, or if they are simply adding to consumerism with another item sold. The answer is not easy, since the word “sustainability” functions at too large of a scale to directly compare to individual items. However, that does not mean you are not making a difference you are! Every single action, whether it be buying a vegan lipstick or investing in solar panels, contributes to sustaining a better world. 

Environmental issues are endless: global warming, habitat loss, pollution, the list goes on. Trying to tackle the whole realm of sustainability at once will leave you feeling lost and confused. Rather, I believe it is more important to simply be mindful and intentional as you go through actions in your everyday life and interact with the world. Keeping these three guiding principles in mind will help you to make everyday decisions that are inherently good for you and good for the planet, allowing you to embrace sustainable, mindful living.

"Every time we purchase a plastic-free item, we take business away from the firm producing plastic packaging"

  • Reduce First
  • We all know the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. However, many of us skip to the end and focus on recycling, rather than beginning with reducing. If everyone in the world consumed as much as the average US citizen, four Earths would be needed to sustain the population. Therefore, reaching zero-waste is more about what we don’t buy.

    Focusing on three new R’s: Refusing, Repurposing, and Repairing, will help you reduce consumption. Before buying bamboo utensils, try packing metal ones from your kitchen into your purse. Before buying vegan makeup, make sure you finish all the products you already have. This is easier said than done! With online shopping at our fingertips, it is so easy to fall into the trap of buying unnecessary green-branded products. Remember that the best thing you can do for the world is buy less overall. 

    And when you do need to buy something, choose the product that is best for you and the planet. You will find that natural products tend to work better, so you will be more satisfied and waste less. 

    "A simple mindset change, such as focusing on being more intentional with your decisions, will make a bigger impact than you imagine. Let’s work together and leave a legacy, not a carbon footprint"

    You can also repurpose items you would otherwise recycle, such as old cans into flower pots!

  • Believe in Grassroots Change
  • As individuals and as consumers, we hold power! Our wants and needs drive demand functions, which fundamentally impact what firms produce. Every time we purchase a plastic-free item, we take business away from the firm producing plastic packaging. When investors decide which companies to invest in or when companies decide which products to create, they first and foremost will look at consumer demand. If the numbers don’t present a worthwhile investment opportunity, more sustainable alternatives wouldn’t exist! So, while one person’s habits do not make the whole change, we all contribute to a greater push for sustainability. 

    The world doesn't need 100 people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need the whole world to try their best. And that includes you :)

  • Stay Informed
  • While every single action makes a difference, do not let your impact stop at buying sustainable products or your vision be narrowed to zero-waste. All aspects of the environment can be improved with mindful decisions. The most valuable gift you can give yourself is education, so read about the amazing world! Here are a couple of ideas to help you get started in other aspects of your life:

    For your kitchen:

    • Shop at a farmer’s market, or stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods which have loose produce, to avoid plastic packaging and support local farmers
    • Bring your own cloth produce bags to grocery stores. If you do use a plastic produce bag at a store, reuse it at home as a trash can liner.

    For your bathroom:

    • Collect your shower water in a bucket, and use it to flush your toilets
    • Mix shades of lipstick, or use lipstick as blush, to get more variety out of the products you already have before buying new ones.

    "The world doesn't need 100 people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need the whole world to try their best. And that includes you"

    For your city:

    • Vote for your public officials who have strong stances on climate change and actionable plans
    • On every hike or walk or run you go on, bring a plastic bag and pick up litter you find. You will be surprised at how many people compliment you, and do the same themselves next time.

    I hope you noticed that a majority of these changes do not require new products or a drastic change. A simple mindset change, such as focusing on being more intentional with your decisions, will make a bigger impact than you imagine. Let’s work together and leave a legacy, not a carbon footprint. :)

    Get to know Zarine here!

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