When you search for the word in a dictionary, you get two definitions:
The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
The avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.
To sustain is to maintain, but to go even further, it is to avoid the further detriment of our environment.
As the Environmental Protection Agency puts it, “to pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”
In a world with more than 7 billion people, this can seem daunting.
We consume. We take. We leave a lasting impact.
This isn’t to fault anyone. Corporations and industry, not individuals, have the biggest impact and role to play.
In fact, just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to the Carbon Majors Report.
But that doesn’t mean our efforts are for naught.
To live sustainably is to think more consciously about how our actions, our purchases, our lifestyles affect not just the planet but our communities at large.
To live more sustainably is to think more about the collective good.
And there are plenty of ways for us to do so. All we have to do is take the leap. What better time to start than right after Earth Day?
Big or small, there are many ways we can all start living more sustainably. If you want to leave the biggest impact:
Switch to a renewable energy source
If you’re in a state like Texas, you have a lot of choices when it comes to your energy provider. A simple, more sustainable switch would be to choose a renewable energy plan to power your home. This is something we’re working on, to bring the benefits of clean energy to your home, regardless of whether you’re a renter or a homeowner and without putting solar panels on your roof. Not only do renewable energy costs continue to decrease, but new renewable energy sources are emerging all over the country, making it more accessible. With electricity being one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, switching to a clean source to power your home is a good first step. You can find more posts on renewable energy on our blog.
Other things you can do to live more sustainably:
Aim to go reusable
This can be tricky. I know we’ve all been guilty of using plastic containers, especially throughout the pandemic. Sometimes it is a necessity, for instance in the case of a public health crisis, to utilize single-use products. But ideally, we can all make little changes, like using reusable food containers in our homes or purchasing a tumbler for coffee instead of using the plastic, disposable cups. Any switch to less plastic is a good move.
Recycle or compost
I know some of us can be limited by what’s available in our own living communities. For example, I know some apartment buildings don’t offer recycling. With that said, there are still options available for recycling or composting, if you want to take the leap. For instance, many cities have drop-off recycling centers for all of your recycling needs. In Houston, you can drop off your recyclables if recycling doesn’t come to you; all you need to do is separate it out beforehand. There’s also the option to compost. There are many ways to do this, indoors or outdoors, in order to dispose of food waste. For Houstonians, there’s even a subscription service called Zero Food Waste Houston that will pick up your compostable waste from your home on a routine schedule and use it for a variety of purposes.
Walk or bike more when you can instead of using transportation
This is something I’ve been doing more during the pandemic, and it’s pretty great. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely used my car less in the last year. Not only does this mean my own personal carbon footprint has been less, but by biking or walking when possible, it also just makes me feel good to get out and move more! Another level to this would be to utilize public transportation when possible as well instead of our personal vehicles.
Avoid fast fashion
According to Good On You, an app for ethical fashion brands, fast fashion can be defined as “cheap, trendy clothing that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at breakneck speed to meet consumer demand.” The idea being to get new items to market as fast as possible. There’s no shame in wanting to look good at the cheapest price, but if you can splurge a little bit more to purchase from more sustainable, ethically-sourced brands (or even spend less in clothes in general), you’re an actively more conscious consumer.
Support local farmers and shop locally for produce
No matter where you live, there are options to support local farmers. In the Houston area alone, there are countless farmers markets that showcase a variety of local produce and products grown fresh and seasonally, oftentimes at cheaper prices than large grocery stores.
Buy less, especially from online
Buying online, which utilizes shipping and has a much larger carbon footprint than purchasing items locally, isn’t the best option. With the pandemic, shopping online was a lifesaver for many. As more people get vaccinated and things start to open back up, if you can buy things locally, it’s more ideal. In fact, if you don’t need it, try simply not buying it at all. Chasing trends in general is unsustainable.
Serving your community, in any shape or form, is a good thing to do. To keep our communities vibrant and resilient, it takes action from individuals like you. This can include everything from volunteering at a local homeless shelter or a community center to participating in activism, events or marches. You can pick what you’re passionate about and just do it!
Use your money to take action
One way of doing this is by utilizing new financial platforms that are aimed at climate action, like Atmos Financial or Aspiration. You can also pick and choose where you spend your money. There’s power in choosing who you give your money to whenever you shop; find sustainable brands who support environmental endeavors and support them.
Motivate others to take action, including elected officials
We can be the change. By motivating others to take steps toward sustainability, we can encourage better practices in our own communities. But we can also reach out to our leaders. The work is just beginning, and we can hold people in power accountable to take the necessary climate action.
The list could go on.
Whether big or small, actions can add up and make a big difference.
It’s important to remember: there’s no right or wrong to start thinking more consciously about our consumption and the role we can take in climate action.
The important thing is to just start.
We’re all in this together.
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