Practical Ways to be More Sustainable
Striving for self sufficiency naturally leads us toward a more sustainable lifestyle. In my previous post, Sustainability is Self Sufficiency, I discussed why living a more sustainable lifestyle is important. Through research, I have learned a number of useful suggestions that work for our family. While there is more to be learned, there is way more to be done. Let’s learn and do together, friends! Keep reading for a little more in depth look at the ideas of where we can begin.
It is very easy to say that we will not buy anything unsustainable. However, it is far more difficult to actually follow through. When deciding whether something is sustainable or not, we need to think about the entire lifecycle of the product. We can develop a greater awareness about what the things we buy really cost – not only in financial terms, but also in terms of the environment and people. We should:
- Consider the raw materials used and where they were grown or made.
- Think about the energy used from the raw materials right through to delivery of the finished product. (Including emissions generated by that energy use.)
- Determine how much land was used to make a product and whether it was managed for the good of people and planet.
- Consider water use and whether water was wasted through the lifecycle of a product.
- Consider what harm (if any) was done to people and/or animals during the lifecycle of the product.
- Think about what happens to products at the end of their useful life. (Will they become a waste problem for later generations to solve?)
Simply seeking out this information empowers us to make better choices about the products we choose to buy. By analyzing the information we will find that, for example, we should:
- Reduce meat and dairy consumption or at least avoid factory farmed meat.
- Stop using single-use plastics and reduce our use of synthetic products (including ‘plastic’ clothing like polyester) wherever possible.
- Avoid using cotton and other crops grown with the use of herbicides and pesticides with high water use. Instead, opting for organic cotton or other eco-friendly materials.
The drive towards self-sufficiency becomes more prominent when we take a closer look at this category. When we begin to think about how we can reduce the amount we buy in general, we see that one key way to do so is to do more ourselves at home. We can, for example:
- Grow as much of our own food as possible so we are less reliant on damaging food production systems.
- Learn gardening, cooking and preserving skills to help feed ourselves and our families in more sustainable ways and prevent food waste.
- Develop skills like making yarn, knitting, sewing, weaving etc.. And use natural plant fibers (or animal fibers if we keep livestock) to make clothing and other items for ourselves and our homes.
- Learn how to make natural cleaning and beauty products, natural dyes and other items from the plants that we grow.
- Develop age-old skills like basket weaving and woodworking to make plenty more useful items from the natural materials around us.
Reducing is not only about cutting down on what we have to buy. It is also about reducing the amount of resources such as the energy and water we use. Ultimately, the goal should be to rely 100% on renewable energy to power, heat and cool our homes. Also, to always use water well and wisely, catching and storing as much as we can on and around our properties.
Another key way to reduce what we buy is to reuse items we own for as long as possible. Upcycling second hand items to give them a new lease of life is a great way to reuse and save money. Additional ideas:
- Upcycle old furniture rather than buying new.
- Choose vintage clothing. Give old clothes new lives by altering them to make new garments or by turning them into something new.
- Reuse packaging for other projects like starting seeds or making craft projects.
When thinking about repairing old items, we generally think about sewing skills, mechanic skills, or electronic repair. All of these are important. The more skills we can learn to keep the things that we already own going, the more self-sufficient we can be.
Becoming more sustainable means looking not only at how we can repair items, but also how we can repair systems. Think about small steps you could take. You might garden organically, restore biodiversity in your neighborhood, ‘re-wild’, litter pick, or make our societal systems more sustainable and co-operative.
Finally, recycle. We can take and sort our recycling to leave it out for collection or take it to a local recycling center. We can also take steps to encourage and promote the idea of the circular economy, in which trash is looped round and fed back into the beginning of a product’s life cycle. There are numerous products on the market that uses packaging that is made from recycled material. We can support that when possible.
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Another important thing to do to be more sustainable is recycling food waste and other organic matter through a home composting system. Even if you don’t have a garden, composting is something we can all do on a small scale where ever we live.