Today is a big one! Some of you might have guessed, that’s kind of my pet subject. Yes, of course, I care about human rights and peace, or animal welfare (coming up next week), but what I am really passionate about is the environment. I am always a bit shocked, and concerned, that not so many people seem to share that interest of mine for sustainability and environmental issues. So just like everything published here, it’s pretty much a pep-talk to myself, and a work in progress, just like those 3 points are. If you master them already, please get in touch, I want to know how you do it!
1. Stop buying new things
How to start… well, I am going to just say it: shopping for new things is not exactly environmentally friendly, and in the long (actually not so long) run it’s not sustainable. That’s such a huge part of our lifestyle, it can be a bit hard to acknowledge and integrate, but it has become pretty obvious, even for IKEA.
The great thing is that the less you buy, the less you want to buy. I realized it early on. I spent less time in malls or on online shopping websites, and it did not take me long to get completely over it. Instead, I got to have a lot more time and energy to spend on productive things. To be honest, a huge part of my non-materialistic personality comes from the fact that I move all the time, and I get anxiety thinking about clutter. Packing boxes is the worst, so when I want to buy something now I always take a second to think about whether I’ll take it with me when I move. I visualise my two relatively small suitcases and all the things I need to fit in there, and I can assure you that it does the trick! 95% of the time, I put it back on the shelf.
So I guess my first tip for you is: move to a different country every year. Or pretend you are 🙂
And my real tips for you are:
I prefered experiences to things. Instead of buying or asking for clothes or stuff, I’d ask for tickets for a show, and I’d make a thoughtful homemade present (like not a crunchy, lame one – one that you know will speak to the person you are offering it to on a very personal level, and is also something they need and will cherish because YOU made it). Another great way to go: used books! They can be beautiful, and they have had a past life, and I love to imagine who they have been inspiring before me.
Not only is it better for the environment, but it also adds a bit of soul to a present you are giving, making it unique and unforgivable.
This thinking has permeated my lifestyle, and now I buy used and second-hand every time I can. This admittedly involved some changes in my habits, but I would not go back to a more convenience-centered consumption lifestyle. I buy clothes, shoes, books, furniture, and accessories second-hand (and sometimes, I even get them for free, through swaps, Facebook groups, or free stores!).
And this goes without saying, but when it’s your turn to get rid of things, make sure you either repurpose, donate to charities, or give them away to friends or strangers!
2. Watch your waste.
Although a zero-waste lifestyle is pretty hard to nail, it should be an inspiration. There are so many ways you can easily curb your waste: you could commit to never wasting food again, downsize your fridge a bit (a huge fridge/freezer does not help staying on top of things) or at least clean it weekly to make sure that perfectly fine bunch of carrots in the back does not get forgotten. You could join (or create) a food-sharing programme. You could never buy/take a plastic bag at the supermarket, and instead always bring a tote bag with you (it takes no time to become a second nature). You could buy your food in bulk, and bring your own containers (Mason jars for instance).
The added benefits of all this? Well, it’s pretty hard to eat processed food in a zero-waste way, so that means you have to cook, or at least prepare food more often. That means you’re in it for a way healthier and cheaper lifestyle.
3. Overhaul your lifestyle!
Sounds scary but it can actually be pretty fun. Buy a second-hand bike and sell your car! Go meatless on Mondays (or all the time)! Stop showering! (jk). There are lots of little deeds you can do on a daily basis that do add up. Preferring public transportation or better yet, biking to driving a car is a great start, and it’s also very fun and ends up saving you time (you really can’t exercise or read a book in a car). Eating less meat is another awesome way to reduce your carbon footprint. Plus, if you come from a culture where vegetarianism is not super popular (like in France), that means you’ll get to have great conversations with the people who will be surprised by your choice, and that’s a good way to raise awareness. Most importantly, keep asking yourself questions: where does this apple/dress/table come from? Is there a way I can get the same thing with a smaller footprint?
When I think back on how I was behaving and consuming 5 years ago (I mean, I thought I was avant-garde because I kinda recycled…), I feel like this journey was pretty impressive, and yet painless. Is that how you feel too? That’s pretty motivating. I hope in 5 years I’ll look back and be amazed by everything I accomplished to make sure my values meet my behaviour.