Living a sustainable life
Updated: Jun 7, 2020
Would you like to live more sustainably? Not sure how? Before we started the Greenhaven Centre I had been puzzling over this for some time, thinking how sustainable living would impact my current lifestyle, what sacrifices I might have to make or effort I'd have to put in to get there. To live the life I've been dreaming about, we bought a farm and we're building an eco-village. But what if you can't do that? Turns out to live more sustainably these days doesn't take much of a change at all, great for all the busy people out there wanting to make a difference. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Step 1: Save energy
So you've moved over to energy-saving lightbulbs and you turn off all the lights when you're not in the room. Fantastic, but what else can you do? Buy for energy efficiency when you purchase new items for the home. Try switching your energy provider to one that's 100% renewable. Go further and get some solar panels fitted, or better, build your own wind farm! Check out your government pages to see if there are any grants available to support you in making your home 100% renewable.
For more energy saving tips, check out https://www.uswitch.com/energy-saving/guides/free-energy-saving-tips/
Step 2: Reduce your plastic (and your waste)
Yes, the dreaded plastic; used once and lasts a thousand lifetimes. It's hard to cut out completely (I myself have relapsed from being zero-plastic) but not impossible, and reducing it should be less of a task for most of us. Think about your waste. How many plastic bags could you get rid of just by replacing your plastic bin bags with a council-approved rubbish bin? Buy compostable bin liners, and then use them for composting. Invest in some reusable cotton bags for your fruit and veg. Refuse to buy if it's wrapped in plastic. Take a look at your rubbish bin and work out yourself what you can do to get rid of the plastic in it.
Step 3: Compost
Ok, so if you're like me you tend to have a lot of potato skins and carrot ends lying around. Greenhaven has a huge composting area, but back when I only had a little balcony where I grew all my herbs and vegetables, I kept a worm farm. They couldn't really keep up with the supply, so I also set up a bokashi system, a fermentation process for composting. It can be used indoors, you can use it for all your food scraps and the compost is ready in weeks, not months.
Step 4: Repair or upcycle
Pretty much anything can be reused; old pianos can become ornate writing desks, your old woollen socks with holes in the toes can become amazing winter gloves. You could even try sewing that hole up and keeping the sock. If you need inspiration for how to fix or reuse old things try looking online for a recycling group like Preloved: https://www.preloved.co.uk/blog/inspiration/.
Step 5: Travel differently
Thinking about going on holiday? Flying is reported to be one of the biggest producers of carbon emissions in our upper atmosphere, and short, domestic flights are having an ever-increasing impact on the environment. Use the train, the bus, the bike, or drive before you fly. For shorter journeys, walk, run, skip, jog, cycle, scoot, bus, or use an electric car for the lowest levels of emissions. Need a car to go to the shops? Reduce the traffic to and from the supermarket by shopping online and get them to deliver to you.
Step 6. Buy sustainably
Reduce the carbon footprint of your shopping and support your local economy by buying from local producers. Go to farmer's markets for your fruit, veg, meat and cheese. Go organic and eat less animal products, a vegetarian diet can be a cheaper diet too. Buy second-hand and get creative on making your old thing look new (a bit of upcycling again).
Want to learn more? There are lots of useful books and internet sites about living sustainably, reducing your carbon footprint and making the world a generally better place. This is a Good Guide for a Sustainable Lifestyle by Marieke Eyskoot has lots of practical tips on fashion, beauty, food, home, work, travel and leisure, and shows that you can be both stylish and sustainable. The Energy Saving Trust has some helpful hints on how to make your home a renewable energy beacon: https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/renewable-energy.
You don't need to be perfect. That's the dream of course, and it's good to have goals. But if all 8 billion of us are imperfectly sustainable it will make a bigger impact than a few being perfectly sustainable. Do what suits you in a way that works for you, because doing good and feeling good are what we're all about.