Taking a look at your personal carbon footprint is a good exercise in order to identify the impacts of living, eating and travelling that you create, whether they are sustainable or unsustainable. In this blog post I would like to address my own decisions towards a more sustainable lifestyle. We all are very busy with things happening in our lives but why not to take just 5 minutes to think about the sustainability actions that I am already applying in my daily life and after that to make an action plan about the changes that I could improve in becoming more sustainable in my daily life.
This is a journey which will develop on time. An action plan should be reviewed every three to six months and update with any new changes that I could apply. I do not give myself YET a gold medal for this but every small step leads towards a bigger impact. Like for every change in life, there is an end “letting go of something” and a new beginning “learning new habits”.
What is sustainable consumption?
Sustainable consumption is consuming products and services with a small environmental and social impact and buying for a real need by making conscious buying decisions. Consumption itself is not the core problem. It is how we consume and what we consume. Companies who encourage people buying less are fundamentally affecting to our consumption habits which leads us to consume in a more sustainable way.
Unsustainable consumption or over consumption on the other hand is buying more than we need. It is about buying the same incredibly lovely t-shirt in seven colors for different outfits or buying too much food that ends up to the bin or buying three hundred rolls of toilet paper because it is on sale and so cheap that the promotion just cannot be bypassed.
What comes with consumption? It costs us money and it comes with responsibilities. When you buy something new you need to find space for it, you need to spend time maintaining it and take the task to dispose it when you are done with it. With too many things your house gets full and you will need to move to a bigger house. With all that comes stress and even anxiety thinking what should I do with all the things I have bought.
Where I am now? – shopping
Two years ago I was a “big shopper” who went shopping to fulfill different moods; happiness, frustration or cheering myself up. My shopping habits were more or less unsustainable since I bought things without a real need to buy them. I am sure many of you can relate to this emotion influenced buying behavior.
Since six months I have been shopping less clothes and shoes which also has allowed me to save money to something more meaningful. I pay much more attention to the quality of the materials and companies sustainability activities. I favor organic materials over plastic-based materials. Polyester and other plastic textiles release micro-plastics when you wear them and especially when you wash them. Clothes made from organic materials such as cotton and wool are better options, they last longer looking good and have a better re-sale value. I choose timeless and multi-usage items and never buy something for one single occasion. I do not go with every fashion trend that comes along. Clothes and shoes that I no longer need, I bring to recycling collection points, sell them or bring to flee markets.
Changing the way I look at second hand objects have been the most difficult change. One year ago I changed apartments and my new apartment was unfurnished. In the kitchen I bought a second-hand fridge and a second-hand washing machine which I had never done before. I used to buy everything new. It is a great way to save money and give an extended life for the products.
Where I am now? – eating and personal care
When I go grocery shopping I always bring my own cloth bags and reusable bags for fruits and vegetables. If I do not have for some reason a cloth bag with me, I carry everything home in my hands. I buy something new only if I really need it, for example, when my toothpaste finishes, only then I get to buy a new toothpaste. I have a small apartment so it is quite sustainable that I cannot store anything extra. I also changed to use clean make-up such as Bareminerals. However, I am still looking for a perfect natural cosmetics brand that would propose eco-friendly, recyclable packaging.
Today, I already sort and recycle everything that I can. I wrote about recycling and waste management in my previous blog post. Related to this, two very important single actions that I follow are decreasing water consumption, energy use and avoiding food loss.
Since two years I have reduced the amount of red meat I eat but since I do a lot of sports, I feel that I need it from time to time. However, I am gradually going towards a plant-based diet and I mainly eat vegetarian and I have replaced dairy products with plant-based dairy alternatives. Other thing that I have learned to let go is single packed yogurt pots. I used to eat one single packed Greek yogurt every morning. Since a year I have replaced it with porridge which is packed in recyclable single portion paper bags.
Where I am now? – work and travelling
At work, I keep my own coffee cup and water bottle with me all the time. In the work cafeteria I can have my coffee made to my own cup. I also drink two liters of water everyday from my own BPA free water bottle by Eva Solo. Even when travelling I keep my own water bottle with me because it is during travelling when our consumption habits tend to “slip” from normal. Buying a new disposable plastic water bottle whenever you are thirsty…well think again.
I rarely ever print any paper copies anymore. Since a couple of years my desk has been paper-free, except for a single to-do-list on a post-it.
I have not owned a car for 6 years. In Paris a car is not a necessity. I use the public transport; metro, bus, tramway and electric scooters to move myself. Last summer I went by bike to work. The change started by biking during weekends with rented bikes and gradually I started to use my own bike to go to work. It makes 14 kilometers per day of cycling which is totally carbon free and keeps me fit at the same time! It is also free, unlike the public transport card which costs close to hundred euros per month so I also make savings and good by using my bike.
I begin to think about small changes that I could do related to travelling. First thing was obvious, I have always suffered from too big and heavy luggage. So, I decided to make the first change there! Now I cope with a small cabin luggage anywhere I go by flying. As a big surprise travelling has not been as light before than now! Less luggage means also less emissions. Next thing would be compensating my flying trips!
Where I want to go?
Changing the way we look at consumption is important. Consuming only to things or services that we actually need must be systematic. Of course our daily choices include also unavoidable emissions. For this reason there are social non-profit companies such as Compensate which lets you to compensate your purchases and help you to create climate action.
Do not give yourself a too strict plan to follow. It is good to start slow and gradually add something to it. At the end all those actions comes naturally to you and you can feel that you are making a positive impact!
My personal action plan:
- I take better care of my clothes, shoes, bags and accessories by maintaining them and repairing them to make them look and last longer
- I verify that a new product I buy is sustainably produced and can be recycled
- I gradually change into more plant-based diet favoring seasonal and local fruits and vegetables
- I start using only micro-plastic free cosmetic and shower products
- I reduce single-use plastics by avoiding buying plastic packaging
- Next time I fly I will compensate the emissions I create
Why not making your own sustainability action plan today?