5 Ways to Live a More Sustainable Lifestyle

March 25, 2017  •  1 Comment

By Alison M. Brown

If you've read the news lately, you've probably seen the proposed cuts to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the dismantling of energy efficiency programs, rollbacks on drilling regulations, and the repeal of a law preventing mining companies from dumping coal in streams. Unfortunately for the environment, this news is rather bleak.

For most of us, this comes as a complete shock after spending eight years under the progressive leadership of Barack Obama. We thought we were moving in such a positive direction! But we can't rely on the government to protect our environment. Personal commitments to conservation and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are now more important than ever. Here are five easy ways to contribute.

1. Say no to single-use plastic bags

This is one of the easiest things you can do to help the planet. Experts estimate that single-use plastic bags (like you get at Walgreens or Safeway) can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. That's a lot of years taking up space in a landfill! You can easily get reusable bags created from sustainable materials such as bamboo, canvas or things like recycled plastic. If those are a pain to carry around, just grab a compact one on Amazon or next time you see them at the check out stand. They can fit in your purse or backpack when you're on the go. Not only are these more durable than single-use bags, but you'll be helping the environment a TON. This goes for anything plastic as well, including ziplock bags, garbage bags, tupperware, or those bags you throw veggies in at the supermarket. Unless your bags say "compostable" - just don't use them. Bring your own, or shop at places that keep this in mind. If you're looking for compostable garbage bags, Seventh Generation has a great line of eco-friendly products - they're available at Target.

2. Be a conscious consumer

As I mentioned before, plastic anything is terrible for the environment and most of it winds up in our oceans. Scientists estimate that over 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently inhabit our oceans, which accumulate into garbage patches twice the size of Texas, or wind up being consumed by wildlife. So if you see a product that uses a lot of plastic wrapping, try to buy another brand that doesn't. One other way I like to be a conscious consumer is by purchasing household appliances or other gadgets that have multiple uses. This strategy has been a good way to simplify my life, and also ensure clutter is kept to a minimum. One of my favorite gadgets is my beloved Blendtec blender, which I received as a birthday gift last year (thanks, KB!). Not only can it make delicious smoothies in under 30 seconds, it can blend soup, grind coffee beans, puree vegetables, juice fruits, AND it's self-cleaning. When you're finished, you just add one cup of water with a bit of soap and run the cleaning cycle. Talk about efficient!  

3. Stop using paper towels

Ending the use of paper towels is another great way to help the environment. Surprisingly, this is one I have trouble with. If I make a sticky mess, cloth towels only absorb so much and they become sticky themselves. The push for sustainable business practices and advancements in technology mean that more sustainable paper towels are on the market, but they aren't a necessity - they're just convenient. Bounty paper towels, for example, are now 100% made from responsibly managed forests. While that's great news, trees are also absorb carbon dioxide, one of the main contributors to climate change. Imagine if we cut down no trees at all? We'd have that many more available to absorb carbon and keep our air clean.

4. Stop drying your clothes in the dryer

This one is tough for Americans. If you grew up in the US, you're accustomed to drying your clothes in the dryer. But in most countries around the world, dryers are viewed as wasteful and people don't own them. When I was living in Australia, all of my laundry was done by hanging it to dry the natural way. Because I lived in Melbourne with some painfully long winters, I had to get pretty strategic with my laundry because sometimes clothing would take up to a week or more to dry. So if you are one of the lucky ones who live in regions such as Southern California, you have plenty of opportunities to dry your clothes in the sun. You can use a clothes horse, or even go the old fashioned way with a clothing line. Drying your clothes naturally also improves longevity and helps retain color.

5. Wash your dishes with one sink of water

As a native Californian, I'm surprised this hasn't become a widely adopted practice. Many experts believe the next resource crisis will focus on clean water supplies. According to National Geographic, "while nearly 70 percent of the world is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh. Even then, just 1 percent of our freshwater is easily accessible, with much of it trapped in glaciers and snowfields." With access to very limited amounts of fresh water, it's imperative we conserve this precious resource. When I was living in Australia, I noticed a lot of people washing dishes using just one sink of water. I grew up by endlessly running the tap while I washed dishes, clearly an inefficient and wasteful practice. Australia has a drought-prone environment (as does California) and during one of their most severe drought periods, the government implemented educational campaigns to help people learn basic water saving techniques. These included filling your sink with soapy water and washing/rinsing all dishes there, instead of running the tap. It also included keeping a bucket in the shower to catch runoff to use for watering plants. As an American, these techniques took some getting used to (especially having a bucket in the shower) but it really makes a lot of sense. 

*Bonus: Get rid of your car*

For the last six years, I've been a proud non-car owner. I decided to get rid of my car not for environmental purposes, but because I was moving overseas. But not having a car has been a breath of fresh air. Not only have my stress levels decreased significantly, I've helped decrease carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. Over the last six years, I've been fortunate enough to live in Melbourne, Australia and San Francisco, California where I had access to great public transportation systems. The sharing economy also provided services such as Lyft and Uber, so I could get around for a lot cheaper than owning a car. I also had Flexicar, Getaround and Zipcar memberships, meaning I could rent cars by the hour whenever I needed wheels. While ditching your car isn't feasible for everyone, I challenge you to think about using your car less frequently. Could you walk to the store instead of drive? Can you carpool to dinner? Do you really need to drive to get a coffee, or can you make one at home?

Making a conscious effort to think about your impact will change your perception and your lifestyle overtime. It's changed mine, and I hope it can change yours, too. To learn more about sustainability or my work in this area please visit www.alisonbrownconsulting.com.

Click below to view:


Comments

1.Michael Johnson(non-registered)
Great article Alison! Can't get rid of my car, but some other great ideas to keep in mind. Maybe this summer I'll forgo the dryer!
No comments posted.
Loading...

Archive
January February March April May (1) June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June (1) July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September (1) October November (1) December
January February March (3) April (1) May June July August September October November December