Easy lifestyle choices for sustainable living
What is Sustainability and why is it important?
Sustainable living is the practice of reducing your demand on natural resources by ensuring that you replace what you use to the best of your ability. Because we are using more than we are replacing, we need to look at the importance of sustainability and the effect that it has on our planet.
Here are simple lifestyle changes you can make :
1. MAKE YOURSELF AWARE
Expanding your knowledge about the impact of single-use plastic, the meat and dairy industry and other global environmental issues will have a great effect on your own mindset. There are plenty of great news articles, blogs, documentaries and films out there, but here’s a list that are a must-watch —
· The Economics of Happiness (here)
· Earthlings (YouTube)
· Dominion (YouTube)
· The Game Changers (Netflix)
· Cowspiracy (Netflix)
· Minimalism (Netflix)
· Forks over Knives (Netflix)
· What the Health (Netflix)
· Buy from the Farmers’ Market/Eat local — By supporting your local farmers’ market, you’re also supporting more low-scale food agriculture which tends to be more kind to the Earth. It doesn’t occur to many that certain foods go in and out of season because of the year-round availability in supermarkets. The availability of such out of season food all year round involves using energy gobbling means to grow food in huge greenhouses by creating an appropriate weather condition through heat.
· Avoid plastic packaged food — Often grapes and strawberries have a plastic packaging and onions are packed in a plastic net which cannot be recycled. Try buying fruits and vegetables unpackaged from a farmer’s market or look for a supermarket where food is not wrapped in plastic. Carry your own shopping bag.
· Avoid food wastage — Give the leftovers to those in needy instead of keeping them in the fridge for days to rot before finally throwing the food away. And there are times when we buy more than we need. Plan your meals, shop with a list, and only buy what you need.
· Grow your own food — You don’t need massive space to do this. Even a balcony will accommodate a few plant pots. Peas, tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs like mint, coriander, basil are good to start with as they’re easy to grow. Nothing is more rewarding than growing your own veggies and fruits.
· Switch to a more plant-based diet — Skip eating meat once/twice a week. Also consume less/avoid dairy products. More than half of the world’s food emissions come from animal derived products, with beef and lamb being the biggest culprits. Intensive livestock farming is massively detrimental on the environment and we have a choice to not use animal products all of the time.
· Home Decor — We recently bought a house in Amsterdam and tried to buy sustainable, refurbished items as much as we could. We made sure all the furniture we bought was ‘responsibly sourced wood’ certified. Also there’s no shame in buying second-hand or refurbished furniture which would otherwise end up in landfills. It also encourages innovative, creative ways of re-using an item differently. You can easily find cushions made with ‘responsible cotton’ or a recycled material and plenty of other recycled home-décor items.
· Kitchen — Swap your cling-wrap for reusable bees-wax or silicone food wraps. Ditch the paper towels for kitchen cloths. Segregate your kitchen waste and use eco-friendly trash bags.
· Home-made cleaners — Research on some home-made options for natural cleaners. Vinegar and water can clean most surfaces, you can make your own soaps and laundry detergent too. By using natural cleaners you are reducing the amount of plastic packaging and the amount of chemicals that are being introduced to the water system. You can buy all kinds of natural cleaners from Vrije Markt stall (only on Saturdays) in Ten Kate Markt, Amsterdam or visit their website www.vrijemarkt.org.
· Disposable cups and plates — Look for biodegradable/compostable disposables if you cannot avoid buying disposable plates(e.g. throwing a party for a large gathering at home). These are easily available, thanks to the awareness and growing demand for environment friendly products.
· Travel cups, cutlery and bottles — Keep a set of bamboo or corn starch cutlery with you and say no to plastic cutlery in the food court. Carry a re-usable coffee cup and request at the coffee shop to fill coffee in your own cup. One-time-use plastic water bottles are a huge problem in landfills, invest in a good BPA free reusable water bottle and carry it wherever you go.
· Beauty & Grooming — Buy cruelty-free make-up. Most popular make-up brands we know are not cruelty-free, their products are tested on animals. There are many bloggers on Instagram and YouTube that review cruelty-free make-up brands. Use baby-oil instead of face wipes to remove your make-up. For eye make-up, use reusable cotton pads. Swap the single use razors with the changeable-blade metal razors. You can also look for a bamboo handle razor. Buy a Bamboo or a recycled toothbrush. I love the ‘Jordan’ soft toothbrush (FDA approved, 100% recycled, packaged in FSC certified paper). You can find this in any Kruidvat store. I also use the Bamboo toothbrush from Holland & Barrett.
· Fashion — Avoid leather and fur, use faux instead. You can find big brands with ‘I am sustainable’ label on their winter wear. There are many vegan fashion brands for your bags, clothes, shoes and accessories. I love bags and own a Stella McCartney which is a vegan brand. Also, Matt & Nat has a great collection of vegan bags. I bought one. O My Bag in Amsterdam is an eco-friendly store with a wide collection of bags and accessories.
· Walk/Cycle — Don’t take your two-wheeler to go to places that are within walking distance. Buy a cycle if you can’t walk. Cycling being the most common mode of transport in the Netherlands, we cycle to work, to do our groceries and also to explore the city.
· Carpooling — If you have a colleague living nearby, share the ride to work everyday. You can also share the car with a few neighbors to buy groceries every week.
· Public Transport — Take the public transport whenever possible. The transport system in Europe is great, we take trams, metros/trains whenever we can. Most cities in India have well-connected public transport, make use of it. It also reduces the travel time and traffic.
Although these modes of transport emit their own gases into the air, 100 people taking a metro/train to get to destination A has less of a detrimental impact than 100 people driving their cars to reach there.
5. ENERGY CONSUMPTION
· Switch to Green Power & Gas — Green electricity is electricity generated from renewable energy sources, such as sun, wind and biomass. If your supplier doesn’t provide green power then switch to one who does. We did!
· Use daylight — Replace incandescent bulbs with LED and CFL bulbs. Sunlight is free, use it as much as you can to reduce dependence on fossil fuels to produce electricity. Also, tube lights and bulbs will last longer.
· Turn off/unplug devices when not in use — This will save energy and reduce electricity bills.
Any conscious effort to make small lifestyle changes is a constructive step towards preserving the planet because over time sustainability will no longer be a choice, it will be the only way forward.