Sustainable Living Definition: The Three Principles of Sustainable Living
What is sustainable living again? Well, to put it simply, it’s a lifestyle where you make deliberate choices to reduce your negative impact on the environment. It’s present in just about any part of your life – from grocery shopping to pastime activities. Not to be a prophet of doom and gloom, but if we want to keep living on this planet (especially if you care about what happens to those who remain after you’re gone), we have to step up our sustainability game.
Sustainable living rests on three main principles:
- Environmental. This one is all about reducing the environmental impact our activities have on the planet. From scorning plastic bags to reducing our carbon footprint and taking part in local clean-ups, it’s all about where we live and what we can do to make it better.
- Economic. The fact is that money makes the world go round, but it doesn’t need to make it go under. Economic sustainability is about providing relevant jobs to each community so that it can thrive on its resources and needs. This is why big, self-seeking hotel chains are a big no-no in natural reserves … or anywhere really. They already have enough money, and local communities deserve the spotlight.
- Social. As the name suggests, the principle of social sustainability stands for the rights and freedoms of all people (which are accomplished without harming anyone). Let’s take the well-known #BlackLivesMatter movement as a prime example. The movement seeks to eradicate systemic racism and inequality, and nobody’s human rights will be impinged on in the process.
Depending on your abilities and circumstances, these principles may look different in practice, but there are many ways you can make responsible choices to reduce your own negative impacts on the environment.
Sustainable Living – Ideas That Won’t Give You Headaches
If you’re anything like me, you don’t need to be reminded that our planet cannot continue to function as it did until the early twentieth century. The population boom has seen us jump from four to eight billion people in a single century, and linear production cannot sustain this. Instead, the ‘reduce, renew, recycle’ parole should get more attention.
Now, I would like to point out that blaming the individual for climate change and aggregating guilt around plastic straws has been a successful diversionary tactic of capitalism. Of course, it’s big corporations that are driving us all into a less-than-ideal future, but that doesn’t mean we as individuals cannot do our part. With that said, here are some easy ways to make your life more sustainable:
- Reduce your consumption. And I don’t mean food. When you get a strong urge to shop (online or offline), consider whether you really need a new item. If you decide that you do, see if you can find a second-hand option still in good shape. There’s no shame in buying second-hand – it gives both the environment and your bank balance a break, and it may even help the person selling it.
- Get friendly with backpacks and reusable bags. When you’re out grocery shopping, bring your favourite tote or backpack instead of going for plastic bags.
- Shop locally. Help out your local manufacturers and producers whenever you can instead of ordering stuff from another continent.
- Shop in season. I’m sorry if this hurts to hear, but you don’t need to eat strawberries in Winter. Growing them in greenhouses and feeding them chemicals does nothing good for the environment or your body. Similarly, I get that you may like avocado, but consider where it’s coming from and what the increased demand means for deforestation and how it affects local communities.
- Replace air filters. Air conditioning takes a fair deal of energy, even more so when the filters are dirty. Clean or replace them at least twice a year to conserve energy.
- Dump paper towels. What a way to get trees cut! All so that we can waste half a roll of paper towels on drying our hands. Tea towels will do the job just as marvellously, and they are perfectly reusable – just wash them with your laundry.
- Cook at home. Don’t order takeout every other day; learn to cook instead. In addition to reducing single-use plastic packaging, you’ll be opting for healthier food choices with less saturated fat and sodium.
- Fly economy. Believe it or not, getting a cheaper seat on the plane is good for the environment. Business and luxury suites take up more space and add weight to the plane, which, naturally, increases fuel consumption.
- Don’t litter. This needs no further elaboration. Simply – don’t. It’s in poor taste and off-putting in addition to its environmental impact.
- Support sustainable beauty products. Not every hair or make-up company is eco-friendly. Think animal testing, a plethora of chemicals, irresponsible waste disposal, and poor treatment of their employees (Lush is a great example of greenwashing). Screen the brand before you buy something!
Make Sustainable Living at University Great Again!
As a student, you already have a wonderful opportunity to learn so much. Why not add extra steps to make your university life more sustainable?
Go Green in Your Room
Whether you’re sharing a flat with friends or living alone in a student dorm, there are some simple ways to make your room greener:
- Open the shutters to get the most of natural light.
- Unplug your chargers when you’re not using them.
- Don’t leave the lights on when you’re not there.
- Set your PC on energy-saving mode.
- When you’re showering, conserve water – it doesn’t need to run all the time you’re conditioning your hair.
- Recycle responsibly. Check the packaging, separate your trash, and take glass to designated waste disposals.
Go Green on Campus
Out and about-ing on campus can also be greener with some of these simple tips:
- Use public transport or cycle to university.
- Enjoy outdoor activities, lakes, and rivers.
- Join an eco-conscious club or society and plan awareness-raising activities.
- Buy notebooks made out of recycled paper.
- Ditch endless photocopies and printing. Save paper by borrowing books from the library and reading what you can in electronic form.
Sustainable Urban Living is Not an Urban Myth
There is a good deal of pollution coming from major industrial centres and big cities – we won’t even try to deny that. Still, there are ways to be more environmentally and socially conscious.
- Save water. I know I’ve said it already, but there are just so many examples of negligence: starting a dishwasher or washing machine even if they’re half-empty, leaving the shower running while doing something else, and, of course, the cultural meme of tap water flowing freely while someone is brushing their teeth and inspecting one stray hair on their chin.
- Go to local restaurants. If you’re eating out, help a local spot. Instead of tea at the Ritz/Olive Garden, see what that spunky chef whose place exudes delightful spicy scents has up his sleeve.
- Shop locally sourced groceries. Visit marketplaces and talk to vendors; they have the best produce overall! (Of course, I understand this can be pricey, and no judgement if you opt for supermarkets, but even then, check out the labels and try to go for seasonal fruits and veggies).
- Ditch the car. In big cities, it’s insane to try to navigate the streets in the morning rush or after-work rush-ER. Instead, public transport offers convenient and eco-friendly alternatives. Walk to the nearest shop and cycle to your favourite pastime places.
- Compost. The future is now – instead of throwing all your trash away, you can compost it and use it to feed your plants. Speaking of plants, tomatoes are quite easy to grow, and so are avocados! If you really can’t live without the green superfood, try growing it yourself.
Picking and Choosing the Best Ways to Live Sustainably
There are plentiful varieties of sustainable living – sometimes so many that it’s easy to get lost. No worries! My advice is to start small and incorporate consistent changes to your lifestyle as you go along.
Start with reducing retail-therapy sprees and only shop when you truly need something. Speaking of reductions, your plastic waste should be up there, too. Separate your trash to make the most out of recycling potential, and get a bike or e-scooter to get you where you need to go.
Support local shops, artisans, and restaurants both at home and abroad, and don’t shy away from budget flights and public transport.
The grass may be greener on the other side, but we sure can be greener at home too!