I would have loved to have read an article, such as this before I started my own personal journey. A journey into living a sustainable lifestyle which is good for me, my family and the planet as a whole.
I have included here a list of the things that you should know before starting a sustainable lifestyle.
It is not a post describing sustainable living techniques but rather one that sets you on the right path. After all, it’s knowing where to start and then moving off that is the really difficult bit! Hopefully knowing some of the things that I wish I had known before I started, will be helpful for you.
There are three main areas that will see you fail and these are:
- Eco-anxiety (self-imposed stress)
- Lack of fun ( change can be hard if you let it be)
- Dips in passion (disconnect with what drives you)
Strangely enough, it’s the passion and fun which are the easy bits to control and counter. It’s the eco-anxiety that reveals itself as self-imposed stress which is the more difficult one.
This is because it is all generated and kept alive by you and your emotions. Therefore to be successful we need to reduce the problem of stress.
Remember the only stress involved here, is the stress you put upon yourself to achieve. Conveniently it’s the topic of reducing stress which leads me very nicely to my first point…
You Can't Change Everything All At Once
When you think about it you are making the second biggest change of your entire life. Second, only to leaving home and becoming truly independent. Relationships, marriages, and even children will all affect the way you live.
However, only you have the power to decide HOW you are going to live your life.
Always remember that no matter how strong the desire, or how tempting it is, you simply can’t change everything all at once. This is a journey that you are going to be on for all of your life.
So it’s very important to let things change and evolve slowly over time. It’s OK to be half in and half out, so long as the goal remains constant. You will get there eventually and it’s your journey, no one else’s.
It is so very important to realize this one point and I can’t stress it enough. It’s your journey, no one else’s!
Along this journey of living sustainably, you will make mistakes, take wrong turns, make questionable decisions but its Ok. Every mistake that you make will teach you something. Look upon mistakes as little life lessons. They are positive things and should be greeted with a smile, not a grimace.
Its always OK to make mistakes.
If you think about it we want to be on this journey for the rest of our lives. If we try to change everything all at once it’s going to be unrealistic, unsustainable and unachievable.
It certainly won’t be full of fun or indeed, stressless. Also, you have to take outside factors that are not under your control into account.When I started going Low waste, plastic-free, healthy eating, etc we simply didn’t have the infrastructure near me.
There were no farmers markets, organic food shops, zero waste, and refill shops. These were all factors out of my control which I had to find a way to workaround. Sites like this really helped to keep me on track.
So trying to live a fully sustainable lifestyle all at once and failing can make you feel lousy. All you will see and concentrate on are your failures and then the dreaded negative vibes will set in.
This is true even though all of your efforts will actually be truly amazing. You will not see and appreciate the impact you are having on the world and those around you.
So try to remain realistic about what you can change in the present. There is no need to get hung up or depressed about those things that you can’t change just yet.
Making Mistakes Is Inevitable
Making mistakes along your journey is a very natural and normal part of any big change. To be honest, Its how we learn best.
I personally gave myself a very hard time every time I cheated or made an error of judgment.
However, that negativity served no other purpose than to push me back and to cause me stress. Even those mistakes that I made completely by accident. Or those that I had no control over, went onto the “beat myself up list”.
So I definitely think that you should understand that it’s when we make mistakes, that we learn the most. You need to allow yourself to think about your mistakes in a positive way rather than a negative way.
Change your mindset in this way and make them work for you, not against you. Do this and your mistakes will spur you on not hold you back.
If you can change your mindset, as I have; these mistakes can give you the motivation and the inspiration to achieve even higher goals.
Seeing your mistakes as a good thing is crucial to your success and trust me, it makes you happier too. Even my wife and kids like to be around me now and I enjoy life a whole lot more.
The euphoric feeling that you get from seeing the positive can help to sustain you through all your eco-anxieties. It will also help you with the understanding that you should never feel ashamed of your efforts.
It's Your Journey (Be Proud)
I believe that this is the second most important lesson of them all.
Your journey is your own. Do not compare yourself to other people and just focus on what you’re doing and your own personal journey.
Each of us has different ways of thinking and different ways to achieve a goal. All of us are in different parts of the same path.
Where somebody else is, and what they are shouting about; or what is important to them, is not part of your concern.
Your journey is yours. So if you have plastic in your kitchen or are not as eco-fashion conscious as them, so what? You are still doing good by your fellow man, your family, and the environment.
Be pleased about it and shout it from the rooftops!
Don’t compare yourself with others who may be further down the path than you. Even if they started at the same time. They may have access to all that they need including the time and resources.
If you do compare you will get depressed about it and this is where your eco-anxiety will creep in. Furthermore, you will experience those negative thoughts of self-doubt, jealousy, and uselessness.
It is these thoughts that will only serve to push you back and create disharmony in your life. All of these negative thoughts, however, are simply not true. What you are doing, no matter how small, is simply amazing.
You are becoming a conscious global consumer and are taking full control of your life. Moreover, you are controlling the way that your life impacts others and the environment around you.
By living a sustainable lifestyle you will change the way the societies of the planet work. Plus their attitudes and impact they have on the environment in the most extraordinary way possible.
You are participating in a global mindset change. One that will change the thinking of governments, global corporations, dictatorships and more importantly, those around you.
So remember it’s your journey, It belongs to you.
Lifestyle Terms Are Only Guidelines
They should not be thought of as absolutes. They are not a set of absolute rules to follow to the letter. Don’t get drawn into the thinking that you will be seen as doing it wrong and should be criticized.
The terms are there to provide you with guidelines to follow to achieve better sustainability, not absolute sustainability. There are some who do achieve a very high degree of sustainability through them, but they are not the norm.
An absolute minimalist for instance only has 100 possesions in their life!
These terms merely set the boundaries of what you’re trying to achieve. It will be rare that you will ever hit the boundary. Or in fact, stay there for a sustained amount of time.
Remember that this is a long term lifestyle choice, not a short term race. If you want to live sustainably don’t strive for the perfectionism of these lifestyle choices.
Live them within your means and be proud and positive about it. You can celebrate others who achieve more than you but never downgrade yourself when doing so.
My example of guidelines here would be the absolute minimalist who would have 100 items in their life. By the way, if this is what makes them happy then I am all for it.
Never look down on other people’s sustainable lifestyle choices just because they may be different from your own.
Within my guidelines, a minimalist can have over 100 plus items if it truly makes them happy. Paints would be a good example of this as paints really bring joy to a painter.
So being a true minimalist does not necessarily mean being an absolute minimalist. By now you should be getting the idea, follow your heart and ditch the rules for guidelines.
You are amazing, never forget that!
Do What Makes You Happy
This basically means don’t give up on doing or keeping the things that you love. As I have said, all sustainable lifestyle rules are not hard and fast rules, they are merely guidelines.
Each of us may interpret them a little differently but no interpretation should equate to;- deliberately make yourself unhappy.
Living a sustainable lifestyle will decrease your stress, make you feel whole inside and increase your happiness over time. That statement is not just fanciful thinking, it’s a well-documented fact.
You will start to reconnect with nature, eat a better diet, use less toxic materials, increase your family time and consume less materialistic goods. All this will happen organically over time so you can see how my improving your happiness statement is correct.
So why start by throwing away that which you love, it just doesn’t make sense. If you are an artist, keep your toxic paints and use them up doing what you love.
After all, when they are spent you can then replace them with new non-toxic ones. The same can be said of non-ethical fashion if clothes are your thing or Tupperware or wood. Whatever makes you happy, let it keep you happy.
There is no need to feel guilty, remember; this is your journey no one else’s!
Imagine how hard the journey would become if you discarded all the things that gave you joy in life. For many people doing this first was their big mistake. Furthermore, I promise you, if you do this on your journey it will be a very short and sad one.
Making the changes organically and slowly over time, however, is very different. It makes you feel empowered, excited and gives you a very real sense of progress.
If you take the responsibility for your new lifestyle slowly others will follow you and support you. Now isn’t that truly the way to achieve happiness and peace inside?
Connect With Your Inspiration
This is, without a doubt, the most important lesson of them all. Your inspiration is unique to you. For you, it will always provide a strong backbone and be the safe shelter of your hopes and ambition.
This is your core purpose, the reason you are here and the reason that this journey will be a success. You are amazing!
Whatever it was that inspired you to investigate the change to a sustainable lifestyle will be the solid root of your tree. However, just like a tree root, you need to feed it once in a while.
For me, the reason I got into this lifestyle was for the benefit of my family. I no longer wanted to feed them the none-nutritious rubbish in the supermarkets.
Nor did I want them to breathe in the noxious fumes from the cleaning solvents, or watch me clean all day. I valued my family time and my family. So I did what you are doing now and investigated the alternatives.
Now my life is better. I have adopted some principles whilst working on others and no longer waste my energies on negative thoughts. If I get it wrong I quickly embrace my mistake and learn from it.
Mistakes are now thought of as little gifts from me to me.
My inspiration is my family and doing right by them. This is my journey and I own it. However, I know that whenever I get low it will always be the inspiration that picks me back up again.
As for family time, we are now connecting with each other, spending less time on screens and connecting with nature.
My kids love to be outdoors and my wife has taken to it so strongly that she now has walking goals. These goals stretch way beyond mine but connecting like this is in itself inspirational!
So why is this lesson of connecting with your inspiration so important?
Well, It grounds you. It gives you your sense of purpose and it feeds you when you are low. So I encourage you with all my heart to recognize your inspiration.
Find the time to connect with it so that your motivation never dwindles and you can sustain this lifestyle.
Think Before You Act
There are many people who will offer advice on how to live a sustainable lifestyle and more importantly, what to buy.
Whilst some of these people will be genuine, and the products good, not everything will be suitable for you.
Take stainless steel straws for example. They are a good product with many redeeming features over their plastic counterparts, but do you really need them?
Just because they are an accepted part of the sustainable lifestyle revolution does not mean that they are a must-have product. If you don’t use straws then why buy them?
Think before you act.
For example, If you buy stainless steel straws just because you think you should have them, then you are wasting your money.
Worse still, you are contributing to a wasteful system of consumerism of the worst sort. The ore has to be mined, transported, fired, (with other resources), transported again, beaten, shaped, etc, etc.
All of this just so that you can claim to be living a sustainable lifestyle whilst owning a product that you may never use! This is why I say, “think before you act“.
In all parts of sustainable living let your desires drive you, increase your knowledge and don’t follow others. Do not get drawn into doing what others think is right or what they recommend.
Do what is right in your heart, always think before you act and listen to your core inspiration.
Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle, Repurpose, Rot And Refuse.
This is the perfect place to start your journey, cut costs and prevent yourself from going too far too quickly.
As I said earlier real change happens organically so don’t force it.
Think of these Rs in everything you do. Without a doubt, It will save you heaps of time, money, effort, eco-anxiety, and family stress.
When trying to live a sustainable lifestyle these Rs will keep you on track. They should be at the forefront of your mind and in every decision that you make.
Remember if you only do these Rs then you will be reducing your environmental impact considerably.
Reducing the number of things that we buy, own and replace will drastically reduce the impact on the environment. Fewer resources will be mined, processed and eventually sent to landfill.
Reusing what we can, such as empty bottles/jars will give them another lease of life and keep them out of the trash.
Repairing items not only reduces landfill but prevents new resources from being mined. Extending the life of an item is also cheaper and forces manufacturers to improve quality if they want to maintain sales.
This is good for the environment as it prevents planned obsolescence. This is a process by which manufacturers create goods with a very limited lifespan. This means that they need to be replaced quicker which means higher profits for them.
Reducing your spending by repairing goods negates this and forces them back into producing higher priced but better quality goods.
Recycling keeps a variety of materials in the goods chain and removes them from the trash. This gives them a second lease of life and helps create jobs, invention and the economy.
Repurposing means finding an entirely new use for an item such as creating pencil holders from water bottles. You could also try making handbags from jeans. Lamps, and tables from engine parts and even go-carts from prams.
Rot as much kitchen and home waste as you can in your home compost area or bin. You can even do this in a small apartment.
Refusing means that you cut down on the things that you don’t need. This, in turn, helps to cut down on the things that you own and will eventually have to discard.
To start you off you can refuse junk mail, plastic shopping bags, straws and free toys in meals. The list is seemingly endless, so where will you start?
All you need to know is that your journey is yours.
Be very proud of it and never compare your journey to others. Keep your core inspiration in mind and always think of the Rs in every decision you make.
Know that all your mistakes are just positive learning experiences and remember that YOU ARE AMAZING!
By choosing to start living a sustainable lifestyle you are contributing to a real-world environmental movement. As this movement gains traction the world will become cleaner and less toxic.
Endangered species will be saved, resource depletion will be slowed and soo much more. Furthermore, you will be instrumental in all of this!
Good luck, and I hope that I have cleared away some of the self-doubts that you may have been experiencing.
Remember Why It’s Good
Switching to a sustainable lifestyle is one of the best things you can do for the environment. With a little research and effort to start, living sustainably can be a hugely gratifying experience.
Mark Aspland is a proud father of two boys, would be amateur actor and green living enthusiast. He has been sharing hints, tips and sustainable living content on his website Sustainability Dad since august 2019.
He now has an army of followers who are like hearted individuals passionate about the environment and how to affect positive change through peaceful action.
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