The big city has its challenges when trying to live a simple, sustainable life. Nevertheless, it is possible to live a greener life in the urban jungle. With just a few easy steps, everyone can do their part towards a more sustainable future. Here are some examples of sustainability in everyday life that can be implemented, easily and without much cost while still being very rewarding.
What does sustainable living mean?
Depending on whether someone lives in the city or on a farm, their level of eco awareness, and their priorities, every individual has their own interpretation of sustainable living.
This definition from Wikipedia sums up the term:
“Sustainable living refers to a specific lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual’s or society’s use of the Earth’s natural resources. Practitioners of sustainable living often attempt to reduce their carbon footprints by altering methods of transportation, energy consumption and diet.”
Sounds complicated? Put simply, it is a way of life that reduces the impact on the environment by leading a healthier and more conscious life.
What holds people back from turning to sustainable living?
In our busy lives, especially in big cities the majority of the population is on auto-pilot: grab a take-away dinner, fill the shopping trolley without giving much thought what goes in and in your body, eat in front of the TV without noticing the amount etc. Who has the time to think about greener, sustainable living?
No time is the most common reason holding people back from a more conscious and greener life, as well other excuses like:
- Can’t afford it. (high cost of eco – friendly products)
- Don’t know where to start and what to do.
- It’s not my job to take action, it’s the government’s?
- Why bother after all?
All of the statements above are misconceptions. My family and I are doing it while living in the big city, and from our experience, adopting a more sustainable life has been a great satisfaction!
What are the benefits of a sustainable lifestyle?
We found the shift towards a simpler, greener living, empowering and liberating. Here are just some of the major benefits for our family:
- Leading a healthier life
- Helping the environment
- Saving money
- A healthier home
- More free time to spend with children
- Teaching our kids about sustainable fundamentals
- Eating delicious, home cooked food
How can we be sustainable in our everyday lives?
Sustainable living doesn’t mean giving up all the luxuries of the modern era and changing your lifestyle completely. Instead, it’s about adapting it to green living. So you want to give a sustainable living a go, but where to start?
The most important moment, in my opinion, is the realisation. The need to become environmentally aware and the willingness to take action, whatever the reason. It might be climate change, economic downturn, health, or something else. As the old saying goes: When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
Our turning point was becoming parents: we had the urge to change so many things in a short period. Then we realised that sustainable living is not something you can do overnight: it’s a learning process, a gradual step-by-step approach. It’s a way of living, and we are loving it!
If you are new to the idea of sustainable living, start with small projects that can be done easily. There are numerous green tips that don’t involve a lot of effort, time, or money. Most of them can be implemented immediately. Make a few changes at a time to suite your priorities and situation.
Sustainability examples in everyday life:
- Switch off appliances at the power point.
- Change the light bulbs to energy saving ones.
- Switch off devices during the night.
- Turn off the light in empty rooms.
- Lower the heater temperature a few degrees, set the air conditioner temperature a bit higher.
- Generally buy less stuff – say no to consumerism.
- Shop at second-hand and op-shops.
- Take reusable bags (when shopping).
- Use your local library instead of buying books and magazines.
- Buy recycled toilet paper.
- Say no to soft drinks and bottled water, reuse a bottle instead.
- Try to cook homemade meals as often as possible.
- Buy local and in season produce: Farmers markets are great for fresh fruit and veggies.
- Consume less meat – better for your health, environment and pocket.
- Take homemade lunches to work in reusable containers.
- Walk, cycle and take public transport whenever possible.
- Car-pool when going to work or picking up kids from school.
- Walk short distances.
- When it comes to packaging, the best approach is refuse-reduce-reuse-recycle.
- Think before printing, and if you have to, print double sided.
- Switch to paperless bills.
- Recycle whatever you can, not only packaging, but any items in the household. Can I use it in an other way?
Garden (a bit more involved)
- Grow some of your food.
- Plant a herb garden in soil or in containers. Even without a garden, you can grow herbs on the window sill or balcony.
- Living in an apartment? Join a community garden.
The above list can go on and on. They are just a few easy green living ideas to get started.
What does sustainable living mean for us?
We are an ordinary family of 4 living in a big city, not striving to be self-sufficient: it’s hardly possible to be in an urban jungle. Our goal is just to live a more simple and sustainable life, implementing green changes one step at a time.
We aren’t perfect and don’t do everything right all the time, but we are trying our best and hope to get greener as we go, because we believe sustainable living is a journey, not a destination.
Here are some aspects of green sustainable living that are important to our family:
- Living consciously
- Reducing our energy use
- Growing some of our food
- Living simple life where family comes first
- Reducing waste
- Eliminating chemicals from our home
- Shopping consciously
- Cooking our meals using fresh and ingredients in season
- Walking / cycling / using public transport whenever possible
- Introducing the concept of sustainable living to our children
Our examples of sustainability in everyday life
- I like to cook and bake bread, so the food category is the first on the list.
- We strive to buy local produce when possible, fresh and in season fruit and veggies. Farmers markets, u-pick farms and our own garden are favourite sources.
- We have three chickens, very spoiled ladies that wreck our veggie and herb garden every so often. But the eggs are great, so we can’t complain.
- We have reduced our meat consumption for health reason, but when buying we choose organic / free range.
- Things we buy organic include milk, meat, coffee, tea and cocoa (last three fair-trade too). For fruit and veggies, choice depends on availability and season.
- When shopping, I read the labels and avoid food with preservatives, artificial colours and flavours.
- My husband and kids have homemade lunches for work/school/kinder every day – all spoiled a bit too, but it’s healthier and I don’t complain.
Energy and Water
- Let’s start with the most common: we changed light bulbs to energy saving ones.
- The air conditioner is rarely switched on in our home.
- We don’t have a clothes dryer.
- The ceiling insulation has been installed and windows and doors sealed.
- All power points are switched off at night; even our son is doing it now.
- We switch off the computer when not in use even if it’s only for an hour or so.
- Rooms not in use aren’t heated and don’t have the light left on.
- We have switched to green energy.
- Showers are timed to 4 minutes, garden is watered with grey water and dishwasher uses less water than I do and never complains about dirty dishes!
- We have a front loader washing machine, which uses a lot less water than top loaders.
- A water saving shower head has been installed.
- We have a small urban garden that we are sharing now with our chickens. I plan to introduce them to the world via this blog – they aren’t camera shy!
- The herb garden is recovering (chicken attack) and waiting to be relocated into pots in a safer position.
- Front garden has been planted with drought tolerant plants and hasn’t been watered for ages.
- We own one car and that one is often parked in the garage for days.
- My husband uses public transport to get to work.
- Kids and I cycle/ walk to school and kinder whenever possible.
- When using car, I try to combine several things I need car for, like shopping, visits and appointments, in one day.
- For holidays we chose local destinations and only every few years an overseas trip.
- Green cleaning is one of the first changes we made. This is one of the sustainability examples in everyday life that does’t cost much to implement. My favourite cleaning method is a microfiber cloth and pure water. I also use natural soap, bicarb soda, vinegar, lemon and essential oils in tiny amounts.
- We have floorboards and tiles throughout the house for easier cleaning.
- Shoes are taken off before entering the house, for the same reason as above.
- A plant based liquid laundry detergent is used for coloured washing, though there’s still the conventional one for whites. I’m testing and trying different eco brands right now.
- There will be more on green cleaning on this blog in the future.
- For the kids we buy natural and organic bath and shampoo products.
- Our toothpaste is natural and fluoride-free. There is far too much fluoride in our water already.
- We also use bicarb soda as a tooth cleaner as well as natural deodorant.
- We prefer a vegetable based bar of soap and natural ingredients shampoo.
- I’ve stopped dying my hair 5 years ago and don’t use hair products like gels or hair sprays.
- Most cosmetics have vanished from our bathroom shelves; on a daily basis I only use a natural lipstick and a face cream, preferably my own mix.
- My husband uses natural and organic shaving gel.
- Generally, I shop less and really buy less stuff.
- I ask myself before buying: do I really need it or can I buy it second hand?
- I like to shop at second-hand and op-shops and also give my unwanted items there.
- Whenever possible, I go shopping without kids – no need to explain this one?
- I try to shop locally.
Recycling and Composting
- Composting is one of my passions, so much so that I have to write a separate post about it.
- Like most of us, we do recycle paper, glass, tins and plastics. However, we are trying to reduce packaging as much as possible: buying in bulk, buying loose fruit and veggies, etc.
- Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle is our approach.
Are you still with me? It’s quite a lengthy post, although we have so much more to add. Instead, to continue with sustainability examples in everyday life, we would rather tell you about our simple sustainable life through the posts on our simple living blog.