I’ll be the first to say it, trying to be more sustainable can be incredibly overwhelming. There are so many factors that can come into play when sustainability comes up in conversation that can make the topic of being more sustainable seem inaccessible to the average person just trying to do their part to save the earth. Additionally, to add to the already multi-faceted and vast field of sustainability, in the age of social media and influencers, there can often be a certain feeling of social pressure to be doing more to be sustainable that only adds to the overwhelming feeling of trying.
However, sustainability does not have to be this scary, unrealistic goal to integrate into day-to-day life. In fact, it can be quite easy, accessible, and fun, with these tools:
1. Start Using Reusable Straws!
Reasoning: If you’re like me, cold drinks are your go-to no matter what season it is or what the weather looks like outside. With cold drinks, come the often demonized entity of the single-use plastic straw. While it’s true that plastic straws do not necessarily make up the majority of the ocean’s pollutants (the majority comes from the big fishing industry), reducing single-use plastics in our lives and the lives of our loved ones can make a serious impact!
Easy & Fun: With the movement to end the use of plastic straws, and my personal opinion that drinking out of a paper straw just isn’t the same, I’ve gotten into the habit of sticking a reusable straw in every one of my coat and bag pockets, so that no matter where I go or what I’m wearing, I’m bound to have one accessible. Plus, reusable straws have started booming as a market, so have some fun with it and browse through to find your favorite!
Reasoning: Okay yes, I know I just said lessening our straw-use would make a significant difference (which it absolutely will), but imagine that reduction in the context of all the single-use items in our lives! Yes, packing lunch every-day to go to work or class can be time-consuming, but with a little extra thoughtfulness, it can not only prevent you from buying the chicken tenders and french fries your body doesn’t want, but it can also save you the 10$ it costs to eat out, AND it saves the packaging of to-go lunches. Plus, its without a doubt a healthier option overall. #doublewin
Easy & Fun: On the topic of packing lunches, I recommend visiting Pinterest for millions of recipes and ideas on how to meal prep easy, fast, and fresh meals that will save you money and time, but also keep your body nourished. Another fun and healthy way to reduce single-use products is carrying your own reusable water bottle! With so many fun and trendy options, reusable water bottles have almost become a fashion statement in and of themselves, so why not join in on the fun, get yourself a reusable bottle, and save the earth while youre at it!
3. Avoid Fast Fashion Brands
Reasoning: Yes, as a college student, I am also working on a tight budget, and often times cannot afford to truly invest in clothes that are ethically and sustainably made because they tend to carry a bit of an elevated pricetag. However, there are definitely ways to keep us accountable in terms of what brands we are buying from, and what their impact is in terms of ethics and the environment. Sometimes it can be tough and tedious to look into each brand’s business practices, but lucky for us, Good On You has already done most of the work for us. Check out their site’s evaluations on your favorite brands! https://directory.goodonyou.eco/
Easy & Fun: It drives me crazy when posts only talk about the negatives of fast fashion, but don’t offer alternatives or solutions that can be accessible to the average person. Well, here’s my solution to fast fashion: poshmark, thredUP, Mercari, and any other site or app like it. These re-sell sites are a great tool for consumers because everything is sold second-hand, so it doesn’t reinvent the wheel of producing more clothing or accessories. But, it also means some great quality products for a fraction of the cost!
4. Shop Small
Reasoning: As a general trend, small businesses tend to run with relatively more ethical business practices than large corporations. Yes, again the prices may be slightly more expensive, but in many cases, the product received does come with its own benefits. For instance, shopping at the farmer’s market on Saturday instead of buying all produce at the local chain grocery store can not only mean putting the food on a family’s table, but it also means fresher, likely more organically grown food.
Easy and Fun: The farmer’s market can easily become an opportunity to spend time with friends, much more so than a weekly trip to Giant. Or, for clothing, small towns like Wayne or Ardmore have tons of small businesses that might be fun to explore on the weekends! (Shameless plug, check-out Profugo Market for some sustainably and ethically made products!) But seriously, just googling “farmer’s markets near me” can bring up all local markets in your area and when they run!
5. Challenge yourself!
Reasoning: If you’re competitive like I am, this will really help you stick to your plan of being more sustainable. Personally, I like to set realistic, but firm expectations for myself. For example, this past September I stuck to the notion that if I did not bring my reusable straw or cup, I was not allowed to get my morning coffee. Sure, there were a few days that I may have drifted off a little in class because of caffeine-deprivation, but overall it ensured that I truly made sustainability an integrated part of my routine, as opposed to just an afterthought.
Easy & Fun: Everything is more fun with friends, so make it an external competition as well! See how many friends you can get involved in the initiative, and maybe even try to raise the stakes
I’m a firm believer that we each have to do our part to leave the earth a little better off than we found it. Give these tips a try in the month of February and see which ones stick! And please comment your favorite ways to be a little more sustainable too!