In recent years, fully sustainable living has become a lifestyle quickly on the rise. However, what does “fully sustainable” actually mean? And, in a world full of plastic and unsustainable habits, is it even possible to be fully sustainable?
What is sustainability?
Sustainability centres on meeting our own needs without compromising the needs of others, particularly the future generations. Sustainable living aims to reduce individual and societal impacts on the environment by making positive changes that neutralize the climate crisis. An example of sustainable living might be walking to your local shop rather than driving or using a reusable shopping bag rather than a disposable one. To be fully sustainable, an individual or society must have a neutral (or positive) impact on the planet. They and their lifestyle mustn't take more from the planet than what it gives back; if you cut down one tree, you must replant at least another.
Is fully sustainable living a realistic goal?
Whilst the thought of following a wholly sustainable lifestyle is certainly gratifying, the fact of the matter is that living in a fully sustainable way is difficult. Our plastic-obsessed, fossil-fuel-reliant society throws up countless obstacles on a day-to-day basis. For example, the overwhelming majority of supermarket produce comes packaged in mountains of plastic, and walking to work often isn’t an option due to long commuter distances.
Despite us doing our best as individuals, big companies are the ones causing the most damage to our environment. Twenty fossil fuel firms are understood to be responsible for a third of all carbon emissions. Whilst it’s still important for individuals to do their bit, occasionally buying some plastic-wrapped apples from the supermarket has an incredibly small impact on the environment compared to the ongoing damage caused by these big businesses. In light of this, constantly inconveniencing yourself to achieve personal zero environmental impact becomes redundant. Until big companies are forced to become fully sustainable, it’s best to focus your energy on doing as much as you can rather than absolutely everything you can.
Simple ways to live more sustainably:
Eat less meat and dairy
According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, meat and dairy account for around 14.5% of global gas emissions. Scientists advise that to tackle the climate crisis, a shift in global eating habits is needed. However, this isn’t necessarily to say that you can never enjoy an ice cream or a slice of pizza again. Whilst following a vegan diet is undoubtedly the best way to lower your carbon footprint from food, it’s not going to be a feasible transition for everyone. This is why movements such as Meatless Monday have become so popular. Meatless Monday encourages people to enjoy plant-based meals once a week to reduce their overall meat consumption. Their website has loads of delicious recipe ideas, so you’ll never be stuck on what to make. We also have plenty of great vegan recipes right here on the KiteNest blog.
Cut down on food waste
A staggering 6.7 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK, costing the average household as much as £400. Whilst it’s easy to forget about that leftover pasta dish at the back of the fridge or that bread that’s hiding at the back of the cupboard, pushing ourselves to reduce our food waste is an essential part of living a more sustainable life. Plan your meals out before you head to the supermarket to avoid overbuying, keep a close eye on use-by dates, and make good use of your freezer. You’ll not only be doing the planet a favour, but also the contents on the purse.
Grow your own veggies
Growing your own fruit and veggies is a great way to reduce your plastic consumption. Plus it’s great fun. Whether you have a ginormous garden, a balcony, or even just a window box, there’s plenty that you can grow. The Royal Horticultural Society's website is a brilliant place to head for tips and inspiration.
Let your grass grow
If you’re fortunate enough to have a lawn, consider letting it grow out a little more between cuts. This will not only save electricity or petrol, but longer grass will also encourage more wildlife into your garden.
Walk instead of drive
Now we’re not telling you to ditch your car for a ten mile walk to work every day, but if you’re just popping down the road, consider reaching for your trainers instead of your car keys. In England, many short journeys which could be made on foot or by bicycle are instead made by car (60% in fact!). Walking not only helps to reduce carbon emissions from cars, but has been shown to boost our moods, improve sleep, and reduces the risk of heart disease.
Invest in reusable products
In the UK, the consumption of single-use plastic items is expected to increase. In 2030, it is currently estimated that the country will consume 59 billion plastic drink stirrers. You only need to run a quick search on Ecosia to see the immense amount of harm single-use plastics can do to our natural environments and wildlife — and all so we can make sure our drink is nicely blended together. A simple way to be more sustainable in your day-to-day life is by investing in (and using!) reusable products in the place of single-use / disposable products. From metal water bottles to metal drink stirrers, cotton tote bags, fabric sanitary towels, and beeswax food wraps, there are countless reusable products that you can buy to make simple yet sustainable swaps.
Use eco-friendly cleaning products
When it comes to keeping the house clean, most of us don’t think much thought about the products we’re using. However, many mainstream cleaning products are packed full of harmful ingredients that cause damage to the environment. Chemicals such as preservatives, detergents, and foaming agents are generally the most harmful. Swapping these products out for new products (made with natural and sustainable ingredients) is an easy way to be kinder to the planet.
Where you can, try to shop sustainably. There are many small businesses out there that stock local and sustainably sourced products. These products might be a little on the pricier side compared to what big retailers have on offer. But, you can rest assured that your purchase isn’t contributing towards increased carbon emissions and plastic waste. Many big brands are now catching onto the increased consumer demand for sustainable products. Sadly, this is leading to a lot of false and deceptive advertisements, now commonly referred to as “greenwashing". If you’re unsure as to whether or not a company is sustainable, take a scroll through their FAQs, read reviews online, or drop them a direct message for more information.
If you’re on the lookout for some new cosmetics and bathroom goodies, you can have faith that, at KiteNest, all of our products are 100% sustainable, plastic-free, and cruelty-free. The mainstream beauty industry generates 120 billion units of plastic waste each year. As such, replacing your regular body wash with one of our natural soap bars or your regular plastic toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush would be an easy yet sustainable swap to make.
Although we all love getting a new outfit, the fast fashion industry is a huge polluter, responsible for 10% of all annual carbon emissions. That’s more than all international flights and maritime shipping put together. If the fast fashion industry continues to grow at its current rate, then it’s predicted that its greenhouse gas emissions will have doubled by 2030. An easy and affordable way to say no to the fast fashion industry is to shop second-hand. There are loads of great places to pick up a new outfit sustainably, from charity shops to vintage shops, car boot sales, and second-hand websites. You'll be spoilt for choice.
Whilst in an ideal world, we'd all live fully sustainable lives, the fact of the matter is that sometimes it's just too difficult. Forgetting your Bag for Life once (or even a few times) doesn't make you a failure or a terrible person. The main thing is that we do what we can, and push for governments and big companies to do the same.