It’s easy to adopt sustainable habits that naturally lend themselves to your current living situation. If you live in the country, you can have a garden. If you’re in the city, you can bike to work. If you live alone, you can keep the thermostat at a brisk 60 degrees.
However, if you want to truly live sustainably, it’s important to look beyond your current dwelling. After all, you never know what the future may hold. You may find yourself sharing living space or moving from an urban to a rural area or vice versa. Here are several ways that you can establish sustainable habits regardless of your current living scenario.
Learn to Think Bigger Than Yourself
The number one greatest step that you can take in adopting a universally sustainable lifestyle is learning to think bigger than yourself. The best way to do this is to consider the five W’s whenever you’re going to engage in an activity or make a decision:
- Who: Who is affected by this activity? Were workers, both foreign and local, treated well in providing a product or service to you?
- What: What non-human elements are impacted by this behavior? Were the animals that you’re eating treated well? Was the paper that you’re using harvested responsibly?
- Where: What parts of the world does this action hurt or help? Are you ignoring the impact of your decisions simply because they’re geographically removed from you?
- When: Am I considering the larger timeline in my decisions, or am I putting my current needs over those of other people, places, or things in the past or future?
- Why: Why do I need to do this action or activity and is it worth the cost?
By asking yourself these questions on a regular basis, you create a system to vet everything you do, no matter where you find yourself.
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Along with thinking bigger, it’s wise to consistently apply three critical thought processes throughout your activities. These are:
- Reduce: The ability to reduce things like your water consumption and fossil-fuel usage are essential aspects of a thoughtful, sustainable lifestyle.
- Reuse: Fixing things is one of the building blocks of maintaining a sustainable homestead. Even when something no longer serves its original purpose, though, don’t get rid of it right away. Instead, look for another way that it can provide value in your life.
- Recycle: As an item’s life ends, always do your best to avoid tossing it in the garbage. Recycling things and composting compostable materials ensures they will be resurrected with new purpose rather than spending decades rotting in a landfill.
The three R’s can completely revolutionize your entire way of thinking. Rather than purely using your possessions to answer your own problems, it shifts your mentality to consider the items you’re using as things of worth in and of themselves.
Water is precious. As one of the most critical elements of life, it should be treated with respect. It doesn’t matter if you live in the heart of Africa or next to the Great Lakes, you should always be careful to use water as a valuable commodity.
This attitude can impact your life in numerous ways. Stop running water while you get ready to shower or brush your teeth. Install efficient water fixtures and toilets in your home if you can. Put in a little extra legwork to collect rainwater for things like watering the garden or cleaning the car. Regardless of the specific activity, having a healthy attitude towards water is always helpful.
Sustainability is often thrown to the wind during the sourcing, manufacturing, and shipping of products. Fortunately, more and more information is becoming available that helps to shed a light on the back end of the manufacturing process.
As a consumer, it’s important to embrace your responsibility to research before you purchase. For instance, if you’re buying coffee, look for the Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance labels to ensure that the beans were sourced responsibly. The labels may vary, but the same goes for your clothing, your food, and even your car.
Shopping local is a great way for you to maintain a sustainable mindset. It supports your local economy and reduces food miles. If you want to truly be sustainable in sourcing your goods, you can even try to grow some of your own food. Gardening isn’t just a rural pursuit. You can even effectively do container gardening right in an apartment.
Traveling is always an important part of modern life. Whether you’re heading down the street or across the country, 21st-century individuals are used to crossing massive distances on a regular basis.
One of the most common (and environmentally detrimental) forms of travel is the commute to work. This is especially damaging if you drive alone in your car. For instance, a personal car or a taxi tends to produce more than twice the carbon compared to taking the bus and three times that of an electric vehicle. Riding a bike or walking are obviously your best options, though they might be impractical depending on your situation.
As with all of the points on this list, the objective here shouldn’t be to simply figure out the best way to travel to work or the store in your current living situation. It should be getting used to thinking through your travel options at all times.
Just because you don’t live in the city anymore doesn’t mean you should give in and start driving yourself to work alone. Look for a local carpooling site, find a nearby bus station, or invest in an electric car. Even if your living space changes, it should never change the way that you think about sustainable travel.
Building a Sustainable Mindset
Sustainable living certainly has to do with where you currently find yourself residing. However, true sustainability extends far beyond a specific house, apartment, or homestead. It should impact your mind, thoughts, and perspectives.
Sustainable living should be a way of life. Start by getting used to running through the five W’s and applying the three R’s to your daily routine. Then, begin to weave in more specific items, such as conserving water, traveling thoughtfully, and shopping sustainably.
If you can get into the habit of thinking through your actions in this manner, you’ll be able to create and maintain a sustainable, eco-conscious lifestyle, no matter where you find yourself at any given moment.
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming. You can keep up with his writing on his Twitter.
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