t seems like everyone is talking about climate change recently. And for good reason too. The impacts of climate change are wide-ranging and will likely play a role in some part of your life — if they don’t already.

So what can you do?

It may seem like climate change is too big for just one person to tackle. And healing the planet certainly isn’t the responsibility of one person. But if we all come together to make little alterations in how we live our lives, we’ll be a lot closer to bringing about the change we want to see in the world. After all, small changes can have big impacts.  

Let’s jump into the five tiny changes you can implement into your life to be more sustainable.

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Why should we care about being sustainable?

The idea of sustainability, and a core element of the term sustainability's definition, is to be continuously maintained over time without the extreme depletion of natural resources.  

This is the embodiment of the sustainability movement that works to create a healthier world for everyone to live in. Ideas of sustainability are often connected to the concept of a circular economy, although you don’t have to exist within an economic system that works to reduce waste (among other things) in order to be sustainable.

When you think about sustainability, it might be helpful to think about it from a selfish perspective. It might sound counterintuitive to approach sustainable living this way, but hear us out.

What kind of world do you want to live in?

Chances are it’s a world that has beautiful rivers to swim in, clean air to breathe, and plastic-free green spaces to congregate.

These are simple wants (and needs, to an extent), but they are desires that most of us share collectively. Because what’s good for one person tends to be good for all when it comes to the realm of sustainability.

So let’s dive into some of the ways that you can live a more sustainable life to help yourself and the planet become a little greener.

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Identify small areas of big waste

For many people who are just getting into sustainability, it can seem like their entire life is filled with plastic. This realization is overwhelming, to say the least.

But we can start chipping away at plastic by identifying small areas that produce lots of waste.

Take tissues and paper towels, for example. These single-use products generate copious amounts of waste after just one use — which is crazy when you think about it!

We quite literally buy trash with these types of products.

To combat this, try switching out your paper towels with reusable towels and your tissues with handkerchiefs. You’ll be cutting back on waste and saving money in the process.

And the great news is that this process can be replicated over and over again in your home. Do you use q-tips, toothbrushes, or plastic bags? If so, all of these things can be swapped with sustainable dupes and that will last you much longer than a few uses.

Another thing to consider is how much plastic comes along with some of the products you use every day -- thing about the big plastic bottle your shampoo comes in, or how much plastic ends up in the landfill thanks to laundry detergent bottles each year. Luckily, there are sustainable swaps for these types of products as well. Zero-waste shampoo and conditioner bars are eco-friendly and work just as well as their less sustainable counterparts.

Say no to fast fashion

With how fast trends cycle through, it can be tempting to overhaul your wardrobe very season. And it's especially hard to resist the temptation now that TikTok is serving specially curated shopping experiences right to your FYP.

So how do you make your fashion more sustainable? There are a few things you can do.

For starters, try shopping for timeless pieces. You know, the ones that aren't going out of style anytime soon. Stocking your wardrobe with clothes you won't want to ditch as soon as the next trend comes around is a great way to cut down on your consumption (and carbon footprint).

You can also look for responsible brands that are dedicated to sustainability. For example, REI sells the comfiest flip flops ever in several colors, and they're made from recycled plastic.

Another sustainable brand we can't get enough of is Day Owl -- the company that takes plastic out of the landfill and turns it into on-trend backpacks, totes, and crossbody bags. As a Benefit Corporation, they meet the highest standard in social and environmental sustainability, which means ou can feel good about adding these timeless, versatile pieces to your wardrobe.

Think about how you can cut your carbon emissions

All of us produce some emissions, whether it's from the car we drive or the way that we heat our homes. It’s probably impossible to completely eliminate carbon emissions from your daily life, but there are ways that you can cut down on the emissions you do produce.

Carbon is generated from a variety of places inside the home, so a great place to start can be right inside. Laundry is a big contributor to carbon emissions because of the energy that it takes to heat up the water for washing and the air for drying clothes.

When doing laundry, try washing your clothes with cold water and air-drying instead of throwing your clothes in to tumble dry. A nice side benefit of doing the latter is that air-drying your clothes can help them last a lot longer because this form of drying is much less damaging to the garments.

Beyond laundry, you can lower your emissions in the way that you cook and eat, too. Eating less meat is a great way to lower your overall carbon emissions. And switching out the type of oven you use can lower your emissions but cutting the amount of gas that can leak out of those appliances.

There’s really no better time to experiment in the kitchen. Try out a few meatless meals each week and consider purchasing a hotplate to contribute to your cooking. Just a few small switches in the kitchen can help take you a long way when it comes to lowering your carbon emissions.

If you live in an urban environment, biking may be a great option for you when it comes to cutting back on emissions. Biking is not only good for the environment but good for your health, too.

Reevaluate your transportation habits

It’s hard to get around in America without a car. Countless highways, lack of public transportation, and little to no sidewalks in some areas can make transportation in America difficult.

But despite these challenges, there are still ways that you can reevaluate your transportation habits to be a little greener.

Of course, walking or biking to where you need to go will be the best option. But it isn’t the only option to make your transportation habits more eco-friendly. One of the easiest ways to have a healthier commute is by participating in carpool programs if you own a car. Carpooling is a great way to save on carbon emissions by increasing the number of people traveling while decreasing the number of vehicles used.

And if you can’t carpool, consider using public transport when convenient. Not all public transportation will be a good option for you when traveling to your destination, but in many cases, it can get you somewhere faster than a car could.

Trying your hand at a few DIY projects can be a great way to spruce up your home without having to buy a bunch of new stuff.

Give DIY a go

An important pillar of sustainability is using what you already have before going out and purchasing something new. To take this a step further, trying to make things you need yourself can be an incredibly sustainable way to live your life.

Remember the issue with tissues we mentioned earlier? Instead of buying a brand new set of handkerchiefs, try turning an old tee shirt into reusable tissues with just a pair of scissors (and maybe a ruler, if you’re a fan of precision).

Or, if you see a hole in your sweater, try sewing it yourself instead of throwing it out in favor of a new one.

Engaging in DIY projects can help reduce your waste while also teaching you a few new skills. And it can be done in virtually every aspect of your life — from growing your own food to making the art that hangs on your walls.

A bonus of DIY is that you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that you did something yourself, and there’s nothing that quite beats that feeling.

Reduce your consumption

While living a zero waste lifestyle may be the ultimate goal for some, it’s near impossible to achieve this, or any sustainability at all, if we don’t lessen our consumption.

It can be difficult to lower our consumption when we’re constantly bombarded by advertisements pushing us to buy the latest piece of tech or trendy new clothing item. But saying no to overconsumption is one of the best tools we all have in our arsenal that can help us all lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

Lowering your consumption can leave you with fewer physical things to worry about — which is itself a big relief — but it can also leave you with fewer things to throw away when you’re not using them anymore. And that’s the real benefit of lowering your consumption.

So next time you see a new item you’d like to buy, stop and think a moment before purchasing. The planet will thank you.

Using Refurbished Electronics for Sustainability

Refurbished devices are pre-owned items that have been restored to a fully functional condition, offering a more environmentally friendly alternative to purchasing brand-new products.

Opting for refurbished electronics, such as refurbished all-in-one computers, is a sustainable choice that reduces e-waste, conserves resources, and offers cost savings without compromising quality and performance. By giving new life to pre-owned devices, you lead a more sustainable lifestyle and contribute to keeping the planet healthy.

It can be helpful to center your sustainability journey around yourself, but it’s also a good exercise to think about others when it comes to building habits for a more eco-friendly life. When creating those habits, think about the type of world you might want to leave behind for future generations.

What kind of world do you want to leave behind?

Sustainability can be overwhelming to even those who love it the most. There is so much that needs to be changed in our world to make our planet healthier for everyone, and picking a starting point to begin your sustainability journey may feel near-impossible.

But a good place to return to if you’re struggling is to think about the type of world you want to leave behind. If you plan on having children, ask yourself what type of planet you would like them to grow up on. Is it one that’s plastic-free? One with a cyclical economy? Whatever comes to mind first, start there. If you have passion, action will be sure to follow.

Because at the end of the day, sustainability is something that is meant to be long term. Change won’t happen overnight, so be patient and have hope. If you keep believing that things will get better and do a little work to make it happen, one day it might just be true.

May 12, 2023