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I’m going to assume you live on the grid. That is, in or near to a city and dependent on its resources (water, electricity, etc.). Because let’s face it, anyone existing off the grid in say, a cabin in the woods, is not going to be interested in learning about sustainable living ideas from two urban hippies.
They’ll more than likely be outside fixing their solar panels, chopping woods or hauling water. Who has time for frivolous blog reading when there’s survival work to be done?
An Extreme Example of Sustainable Living
After witnessing the devastation caused by the 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill, American environmentalist John Francis (aka the planetwalker) stopped riding in motorized vehicles. For the next 22 years he carried a message —on foot— of respect for the Earth, earning an MA in environmental studies and a PhD in land resources along the way.
John Francis Walks the Earth
Drive Less, Walk More
John’s idea of sustainable living is certainly admirable and if you have the desire (and the time), I say go for it. For most of us however, it’s a tad pie in the sky. We have responsibilities that require us to be places a lot faster than we’d be able to manage purely on our own steam.
Our planetwalker’s approach may well veer too far to the left of the sustainable living scale, but at the same time, most people nowadays veer way too far to the right. Choosing to drive even when walking is perfectly doable and in some cases, the more practical option as well.
We need us some middle ground here.
Cars are useful, obviously, particularly if you have to deliver a large shipment of goods, need to get your kid to school on the other end of town or require an emergency visit to the hospital. In these instances, by all means, start ‘er up.
The problem, however, is that we use our cars excessively. The negative effects of this ‘petrol’ addiction are far-reaching and come at a much greater cost than just the price tag of that new ride. Exhaust fumes are bad news for the planet and our health. And, of course, there’s the depleting of our natural resources to make said petrol.
• How many cars does your family have?
• If you have two or more can you downsize by one?
• Would it be possible to walk, bike or use public transport more?
Sporty and I are lucky enough to live in a city that’s small enough to get around on foot. Our public transport options are also pretty good. If we’re going out at night (or to drop off our compost waste) we’ll call an Uber. For the very occasional longer trip we’ll hire a car.
Along with being better for the environment (yay!), not owning our own car has also saved us a ton of money. Since selling our little vee-dub back in 2012 we’ve reduced our monthly transport costs by at least 80%.
Eat a Plant-Based Diet
Humans (most of us, anyway) are raised as omnivores. From a young age we’re taught to consume meat, eggs, milk and cheese with gusto. So suggesting to most people that eating plants is better, well, the message is going to fall short of its mark.
It’s like I’m here with my point and they’re three suburbs over gnawing on a pile of ribs. They just don’t want to hear it!
And who can blame them really, when the word ‘vegan’ brings to mind images of soggy brussel sprouts and overcooked broccoli reminiscent of their years at boarding school?
That said, once they meet Dana aka Minimalist Baker and sample some of the ridiculously delicious recipes in her 31 Meals ebook their preconceived notions will change for sure. In the meantime, let’s see what else we can do to win them (you?) over to the green side.
When it comes to sustainable living, switching to a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for the planet. It’s a win for more than just the environment though, because eating this way is also better for your health and your wallet.
Animal agriculture is the most destructive industry facing the planet today. It’s the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction. And that’s just the tip of this melting iceberg. Check out this infographic to find out more.
• How much meat (and other animal products) do you consume?
• Can you maybe reduce your intake by becoming a weekday vegetarian or committing to Meat Free Mondays?
• Going meat-free even one day a week can make a world of difference!
If you’re up for it, I highly recommend taking the 30-Vegan Challenge with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, host of the well-known Food For Thought podcast! Just give it a try and see how you feel after a month of eating only plant-based food.
Stop Washing Your Clothes So Often
Many of the world’s problems —and our own, as well— stem from not thinking. We do stuff because it’s how we were taught or what we learned from watching the adults in our lives when we were kids.
The pot roast story is a classic example of this. Another example, one that’s more in keeping with our sustainable living mission, is the idea that we need to wash an item of clothing every time we wear it.
If you’ve just been for a three hour hike or commuted to and from work on a packed bus, then sure, toss those dirty rags in the washing basket. But what if you were sitting inside the whole day doing nothing more strenuous than move your mouse cursor?
There’s no need to put those clothes in the wash, put them back in your cupboard to wear again the next day (or the day after, if the thought of wearing the same thing two days in a row upsets you).
By the way, Sporty says to remind y’all that this laissez faire approach to laundry does not extend to one’s underpanties!
Sustainable Living Resources
How many planets does it take to support your lifestyle? Find out with the WWF’s Ecological Footprint Calculator.
Watch Cowspiracy to learn more about the severe impact that animal agriculture is having on the environment.
Watch The True Cost to see how fast fashion is exploiting factory workers and polluting the planet.
Read our series: Eating a Plant-Based Diet for Beginners (and Curious Omnivores) and see how simple it is to make the transition.
Check out our post on environmentally friendly shopping tips. It has a bunch of things you can start doing right now to make a difference.
Here’s why you should avoid plastic straws at all costs.
I’m guessing you’re already recycling, which is awesome, but if you want to further reduce your landfill contributions you absolutely have to make internet friends with Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home.
There you have it folks, three more than doable sustainable living ideas you can start implementing in your life right now. Remember, it’s about being mostly mindful: so do what you can, from where you are, with the means you have at your disposal.