In honor of Earth Day, you may be inspired to start thinking about your relationship with the world—and, more specifically, how your lifestyle impacts the Earth’s future. As recent news coverage will tell you, creating a sustainable lifestyle is more important now than ever. Sustainability is key to the Earth’s future and by making small lifestyle changes now, you can leave a positive impact for future generations.
What is a “Sustainable” Lifestyle?
But what exactly is a “sustainable” lifestyle? According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the idea of sustainability is based on the fact that everything you need for survival and well-being depends, in large part, on your natural environment. Sustainability preserves the natural environment in a condition that is suitable for survival and well-being.
Why is Sustainability Important?
While most people would agree that sustainability is important, many people also wonder why sustainability is specifically important right now. According to the United Nations, the current status of the world’s sustainability is harrowing, which could cause extensive issues, world-wide. Noting some of these issues, the UN reports:
– Each year, an estimated one-third of all food produced—worth around $1 trillion—ends up rotting in trash cans or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting practices, meanwhile food insecurity continues to impact communities worldwide.
– The food sector accounts for around 30% of the world’s total energy consumption and accounts for around 22% of total greenhouse gas emissions.
– Humankind currently pollutes water in rivers and lakes faster than nature can recycle and purify its water sources, while millions still suffer from lack of access to clean water.
– Should the global population reach 9.6 billion by 2050, humans would require the equivalent of almost three planets to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles.
It’s easy to see that the sustainability of our planet isn’t exactly headed down a positive path. These are all big issues with big ramifications for the environment. Thankfully, you can make small changes to your lifestyle that add up to a big impact. Here are five changes you should consider making this Earth Day.
Sustainable Lifestyle Swaps to Make Now
- Switch to Organic Produce
As you do your grocery shopping this week, reach for the organic produce instead of whatever produce is most affordable. Organic farmers use fewer pesticides, better protect the soil, reduce pollution, and work to increase plant biodiversity. Overall, these differences in farming practices ensure that you still get the fresh veggies and fruits you love while supporting the environment. Make an effort to search for organic labels.
- Go Beyond Organic Produce
Beyond buying organic produce, you can make the switch to more sustainable foods overall. Certain foods require more resources to produce and cause more damage to the environment. Sustainable foods, however, are those that “satisfy human nutritional needs while limiting impacts on the environment,” according to Virginia Wesleyan University. The university notes that individuals switching to sustainable foods often begin by choosing to buy vegetables over meat and by purchasing locally-produced seasonal foods rather than those that have been transported cross-country or cross-planet. Purchasing locally-sourced food could mean shopping at farmers markets to reduce your carbon footprint.
Examples of sustainable foods include beans and lentils which require little water and have a low carbon footprint, as well as broccoli which naturally repels pests, reducing the need for pesticide use. Another sustainable option is potatoes, which require little water and fertilizer and can be stored for long amounts of time without spoiling. For anyone looking for a sustainable meat option, organic chicken is less harmful to the planet than beef and lamb. Similarly, mussels are a great seafood option because harvesting them doesn’t damage coral reefs.
- Switch to Cycling
While biking isn’t always an option for everyone, if you do live somewhere with a bike-friendly commute, cycling can be an excellent way to reduce your environmental impact while improving your health. Cycling reduces the amount of harmful CO2 emissions in the atmosphere, reduces noise pollution, and reduces the need for road work, which causes additional water and air pollution. Rent a bike or purchase one for more regular use and take advantage of the nice spring weather. If this isn’t an option for you, consider taking public transportation or carpooling when you can.
- Revamp Your Skincare
In developing a sustainable skincare routine, you should only use products that are as harm-free and cruelty-free as possible. These days, beauty and skincare brands must go much further than simply not testing their products on animals. Conscious consumers are now seeking products that are organic, vegan, and palm oil-free. Opt for products that have packaging that’s recyclable or refillable to cut down on plastic use. Select clean brands with transparent ingredients. Some brands even contribute a portion of sales to different sustainability initiatives. Do your research before making a purchase.
- Invest in Sustainable Clothing
Sustainable clothing likewise reduces waste and environmental damage. However, both the sustainable skincare and sustainable clothing industries suffer from a lack of transparency, which makes doing your research about each company you support even more important. As Harvard Business Review details, most “sustainable” clothing brands aren’t necessarily sustainable—they’re just less unsustainable than the other ones.
Follow the larger part of the sustainable clothing movement that asks you to wear what you love for longer to cut down on clothes-related waste in landfills. Fast-fashion is terrible for the environment, and fast-fashion companies exploit their workers. Invest in higher-quality clothing that will last longer. This investment could mean buying more neutral pieces that you can wear with many different outfits and investing in classics rather than trendy pieces.
When you do decide to part with your clothing, don’t throw it out. This will only contribute to landfills. Instead, sell your clothing on a resale website to extend its lifecycle, such as Poshmark, Thredup, or The Real Real.
The Bottom Line
Sustainability is key to the Earth’s future and by making small lifestyle changes now, you can leave a positive impact for future generations. Luckily, making those small changes is far easier than you might think. You can begin by making a few new choices when shopping or by biking to work, because these simple lifestyle changes have proven to make a real difference.
For more tips on how to live a life that’s both good for you and the planet, sign up to receive Arootah’s new wellness newsletter, The Wellness Return.
Which of these sustainable lifestyle changes will you be making? Let us know in the comments below!