With so much happening in the world at the moment, it can be easy to forget the importance of living gently on our planet. In the face of political upheaval, violence, and medical crises – things that directly and immediately affects each of us individually on a daily basis – thinking about our footprint on the rest of the planet easily tends to take a backseat. Climate change is something that often feels insurmountable and overwhelming even in the most peaceful environment, and can cause significant anxiety to sensitive people. With that in mind, there are some small, really simple habits to learn(or unlearn) that will help make a world of difference, ideal for those who want to start their journey of sustainability!
Without further ado, let’s get this show on the road:
BE LESS WASTEFUL
Simple, everyday things that we take for granted can have a noticeable impact on our environment and local infrastructure. It’s important to remember that nothing is limitless! Avoid wasting resources like water, toilet paper, food, and electricity. Keep showers short, don’t keep taps running, don’t leave lights on in vacant rooms, switch appliances and electronics off when not in use, avoid using excessive amounts of toilet paper, or avoid using paper towels and switch to reusable towels. If everyone lived in a way to better preserve resources – especially natural resources – we could build far more sustainable communities, save money, and even prevent crises during droughts, fires, or electrical shortages. Better yet – preserve and learn to reuse things! For example, rainwater (and dishwater) can be used to water your plants.
SHOP LESS OR SHOP SMART
Everyone loves to spoil themselves once in a while, you deserve a reward for working hard to earn your money! But stop for a moment to think about what you are spending that hard earned money on. Next time you’re out for some retail therapy, try to remember all the things you buy that never get used: Those pants you’ve never worn. Those games you never play. The pile of food you buy that – despite your best intentions – never gets eaten and lands in the bin. All the impulse-bought things you have “stored” in the attic or in the garage that in all honesty will only gather dust and never see daylight again until the next garage sale. When you see something that sparks that spending thought, ask yourself “Do I need it? Is it practical? Will it be used? How badly do I want it?” and most of the time you’ll find that after a few minutes you’ll lose interest. Excessive shopping isn’t just bad for your wallet, it’s bad for your environment. Avoid synthetic fabrics when buying clothes (generally avoid things that contain ‘poly’-anything), these contain micro plastics that poison waterways and wildlife. Instead, opt for natural fibers like cotton, linen, wool, or hemp – even better if they are organic and sustainably sourced or naturally dyed but be warned that it can be expensive! Natural fibers tend to be less irritating on your skin, more breathable, and get beautifully soft with washing. All while being a better option for our beautiful planet also. Better yet, avoid ‘fast fashion’ (ie. fashion seasonal, mass produced garments) and buy quality, timeless garments that can last you years and be flexible. I love opshopping (thrift shopping for non-kiwis), and buy the majority of my clothes and furniture second hand in mostly natural materials. That includes furniture, I avoid MDF and would rather spend some time upcycling or refurbishing a worn solid-wood item.
Now this might seem like a strange point but hear me out. So much of the produce we eat come from farms abroad, usually because certain plants can’t adapt to climates outside of their native homes. The same goes for many flowers! I’m not saying boycott bananas or anything like that – but instead of buying from the supermarket why not try some fresh goods from your local farmers market? Or buying products made locally in your home country? Not only are you supporting local families and strengthening your economy, you would be cutting down on shipping emissions. New Zealand has a plethora of small businesses selling beautiful (and eco-friendly) products to enjoy! Oh Natural is one of my favorite one-stop places to find locally made goods!
ONE VEGETARIAN/VEGAN MEAL PER DAY
Yes, I know how delicious a juicy steak is. I know how tempting the smell of fried chicken is. I know how scary it sounds to cut meat out of one meal each day – but I promise you it’s easier than you think! In fact, most of us tend to eat multiple vegetarian meals per week without realizing it because we simply don’t label it. Having a peanut butter sandwich for lunch? Granola for breakfast? There are also sandwich spreads and margarines that are cruelty-free and delicious. Try almond milk with your granola or muesli, you might be surprised! There are many ways to do this without hindering your daily routine, and without breaking a sweat, and you can get really creative and experiment with cool new stuff! If you want to kick your OMD (one meal a day) game up a notch, check out Suzy Amis Cameron’s website for inspiration!
AVOID UNNECESSARY PLASTIC
There it is. The elephant in the room. You knew it was coming, I deliberately left it for last. Plastic is equal parts genius and awful. Endless uses, endless possibilities – but unfortunately also near-endless lifespans. I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate on the effect plastics have on our planet, so I won’t harp on about that. But what I will advise, however, is to be vigilant with everything you purchase. You may be surprised how many things contain plastic in our everyday lives! Be mindful, read labels, and if you do purchase plastics make sure they are recyclable, bio degradable, or that they are disposed of responsibly. Remember that, although convenient, supermarkets are not always the best choice for shopping sustainably. In New Zealand, there is a rising number of Refilleries like Good For and Bin Inn popping up, where you can take your own containers and fill them up with wholefoods in bulk and avoid waste. They also usually stock all sorts of eco-friendly goodies, soaps and laundry detergents, and even home made snacks. I buy loose-leaf tea from refilleries when I can to avoid synthetic teabags – and as a bonus I can make my own blends! Here in Wellington we have also discovered Commonsense, an eco-conscious store that stocks all sorts of fresh produce and healthy foods (with loads of plant based products for any vegans struggling to find variety), and also lots of locally made goods. Their refill options are limited, but they make up for it with a carefully curated selection of stock that avoids waste and plastic. There are many more refill and eco-conscious shops out there, some can be pricey, but try checking out your options online. Once you start filling up shelves with pretty glass containers full of healthy food it will be hard to go back to plastic!
And there you have it! 5 Easy things we can work into our lives to help the planet without even breaking a sweat! Every bit helps, so let’s encourage each other (and ourselves) to learn healthier habits. As a bonus, I feel a (small) sense of achievement when I do these things. So even if you’re not an eco-warrior, why not give it a go and see how easy it is to take pride in living more sustainably? Post your own tips below!
I hope this little guide helps – even inspires – someone on their journey to living healthier!
Be kind, stay healthy!