Maybe it’s my Dutch roots that can’t bear to throw anything away, or my California background that has turned me into a bit of a hippie, but living a more eco-friendly lifestyle has been on my mind lately. I’ve always cared a lot about nature and want to make sure my lifestyle reflects these values.
But here is the deal; sometimes making the eco friendly choice SUCKS. In our moment-driven culture, it is not easy or fun to sell people on the idea of making changes for our long-term wellbeing when we are so focused on instant gratification and living in the moment.
For example, I thought it would be so fun to ride my bike to church one day. And it was nice, no lie: wind in my hair, sun on my face, the satisfaction of making a healthy choice. But you know what was not fun? Showing up to church with big red marks on my forehead from my super nerdy helmet, sweating profusely in my church clothes, having to choose pants when I wanted to wear a dress, and then having to stuff my helmet under my seat. Not much incentive for repeating that endeavor.
You know what is convenient? Cars. My car can get me anywhere faster than my bike. Plastic bags! Flying on an airplane! Single-use items! The problem with getting people to act on climate change is that we love convenience and resist change. Anyone trying to persuade an individual to adapt their lifestyle needs to acknowledge the cost of the change.
But just because something is difficult or inconvenient doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done, or isn’t valuable. Life is about getting uncomfortable, and learning something from that place of discomfort. We need to be careful, in a society where we prioritize what is fast, easy, and feel-good, that we don’t miss the value of slowing down, facing challenges or making an uncomfortable choice because it is the right, or better choice.
What Can We Do About It?
Here are some ways that I have tried to make more sustainable life choices. They aren’t revolutionary; they are just the ones that I am trying these days.
- Use less plastic bags
I try to minimize my use of ziplocs, which is pretty easy to do if you have enough tupperware. I will sometimes wash and reuse them, if they aren’t too dirty. But do you know what sucks? Trying to dry these suckers out completely. Also one time I saved a ziploc bag that had dog food in it, and almost reused it to marinate meat… Oops, gross. I also save old bread and tortilla bags to reuse for doggie bags, and I recently purchased a pair of reusable produce bags that are great for transporting my fruits and veggies home, but not so great at keeping them fresh in the fridge. I am currently trying to solve that problem.
- Walk or bike more
I am lucky enough to live close to a few restaurants and a grocery store, so sometimes I will walk over for a drink, or to grab some ice cream or groceries.
- Use more eco-friendly products
This is the area that I am trying to improve the most.; supporting brands that are making sustainable choices, like making products out of recycled materials, or minimizing their use of plastics. My most recent purchases have been a PEVA shower curtain liner, and my previously mentioned mesh produce bags.
- Find new uses for old things
Prolonging an object’s final trip to the landfill is something that pushes me to be creative, while also challenging me to be realistic. I stuffed my Moroccoan pouf footstool with old sheets that got ruined when I moved. Reusing restaurant to-go containers is great for when I want to share my baked goods and don’t want to worry about retrieving a tupperware. But sometimes, I have to tell myself just to throw things away. Storing everything broken just in case it can be repurposed is not the precedent I want to set for my home.
- Shop local
Purchasing foods from local farmer’s markets decreases carbon footprint, since the goods don’t have to travel as far to get to consumers. Plus, it is way more fun. Going to the farmer’s market is a fun outing on the weekend, and is a fun way to make connections with vendors. It often costs more, but it feels great to be supporting the people who are directly selling you the goods, if it is something you can afford.
- Be smart with water.
New Mexico is currently facing exceptional drought, so shorter showers are on my list. BOO! When I had a backyard, I would collect the water from the shower that normally goes down the drain while I wait for it to heat up, and use it to water my plants. Find small ways to save water! Turn it off when you brush your teeth or wash your hands.
Here are some things I want to try in the future
- Join a compost program like whatever in ABQ. They pick up your food waste and turn it into soil.
- Buy a microfilter for my washing machine someday. Apparently our clothes release microplastics into the water that are not so great, and this filter helps remove them.
- Research and shop from more sustainable brands or thrift stores, and try to ditch fast-fashion.
- Look into options for offsetting my carbon footprint when I travel (which I am not going to stop…sorry) but I can plant trees after, and make sustainable choices during my trips.
- Visiting the bulk food market near me.
Is making changes in my daily life in order to develop a more sustainable ethic fun, or convenient? I don’t know if I would use those words all the time, but it is rewarding, Am I doing it perfectly? Absolutely not. But I think the exercise of aligning my actions with my beliefs is valuable. Anne-Marie Bonneau sums it up well:
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
This mentality is so important because something that stops a lot of us from acting is that we won’t be able to commit fully to something, or we won’t be able to meet a standard of perfection, so we don’t even try. Don’t let everything you can’t do hold you back from all that you can.
Do I think the entire planet’s destiny rides on if I re-use one or two ziploc bags, or if I ride my bike one time out of two hundred car trips? No, I don’t. But I am also of the many-drops-in-a-bucket mindset; if lots of us make little changes, the impact will be significant. It is not perfect, but there is so much value in trying.
What are some ways that you try to live a more sustainable or eco-friendly life?
If this is interesting to you, I enjoyed perusing this website about climate change.
If you want more tips about goal-setting, check out this post I wrote about New Year’s resolutions, or this post about how to create more moments of calm in your life.
Thanks for being here!
4 thoughts on “Sustainable Living: Why Saving the Planet Sucks, but We Should Do it Anyways”
Small steps do add up! And over time, the things that seem inconvenient at first become the norm. I haven’t used plastic wrap in ages since we also use plastic containers for storing leftovers. And the containers for margarine are saved for when we freeze our veg garden produce in summer.
I only bought a car last year (before that I did everything with my bike and cargo bike) but still manage to bike to school (parking is incredibly expensive and troublesome in the city center).
I believe that putting all of the responsibility on individual consumers is not fair either. By law, supermarkets now have to charge for plastic bags, meaning most people bring reusable bags. The largest grocery store chain has eliminated plastic produce bags and sells their own mesh bags. They gave each customer one set for free when they introduced the practice.
Last but not least: Your helmet looks great! I remember being self conscious about it at first as well, until I slipped on ice with my bike one day and landed, partially, on my head. The helmet was dented but my brain remains intact (or so it seems to me ;-)). Trust me, no one thinks you look like a nerd!
So many points! That is amazing that you just bought a car last year. I find cars to be a necessary evil where I live. That was one of my favorite things about China; walking, scootering or taking the bus everywhere. I do think more businesses need to take more responsibility in getting creative about packaging. And yikes! Sounds like a bad wreck. Glad you were ok. Good reminder to keep wearing it! 🙂
We are utilizing the local YMCA’s food waster/compost option this winter. We have a backyard composted but it buried by snow right now. It surprised me how easy it was.
Little changes do add up. Keep it up.
That is cool that your YMCA has a food waste/compost option. It is something I saw more in Seattle but haven’t found here yet.