Sustainable living can mean a lot of things.
For me, at least, the first step was and is to be more conscious of what I purchase, use (or don’t), and ultimately consume.
Whenever I buy something, I aim to follow these steps:
1) I first look to see if it can be bought used.
Oftentimes, the answer is yes. I’m only just at the point of leaving my parent’s home, and acquiring items for just about everything has become important. Thankfully, I’ve inherited a number of kitchen appliances from family members. When I get close to actually “flying the coop”, I will be looking more intensively. Kijiji and Swap-and-Buy sites are your friend!
2) I look for companies with ethical missions and/or practices.
These vary greatly (some examples are: a commitment to environmental practices/the use of green materials, fair or direct trade goods, local production, etc.). Please, provide me with a cause to get behind – for example, supporting careers for women in developing nations. I’m an easy sell after that. 😉
3) I buy quality.
As much as possible – finances can be very limiting! I want everything I own to last a long time. I’m not the most careful person (aka: I regularly dump coffee on myself or my computer, walk into walls, drop my phone, etc.) and need items that can stand up to some abuse. This is especially important for the next point…
4) I buy less.
Last year I cut my wardrobe down to the bare essentials. I’m working on consolidating my face products (this entails throwing out the old, donating what is still good but I won’t use, and replacing with more ethical products). With the exception of furniture, everything I own can be condensed into four large Rubbermaid containers. This should (theoretically) make moving “a breeze” – updates to come!
5) I don’t worry too much about it.
It’s impossible to be perfect. My favourite bras are from Victoria’s Secret. My face primer is a generic brand of dubious background. Sometimes, Walmart has a GREAT sale on hangers. Actually, sometimes I need something (like, actually NEED it) and don’t have the finances to spring for a “better” product. This is more than okay.
Other specific actions I take:
- Sourcing meat from a local farmer
I am not a vegetarian, for a number of reasons – I will eventually be writing a post detailing these. This said, I care very much about animal welfare and am appalled at many of the conventional farming practices out there. By buying my meat from someone I know, I: am confident that the animals are well treated, I contribute to my local economy and to the livelihood of a community member, and I am indirectly making good use of northern Ontario’s agricultural climate (which is not suitable for produce most of the year, but is excellent for raising livestock).
- Walking places
This is as much an issue of physical and mental wellbeing as it is an environmental issue for me. The city I live in at present is one of the most sedentary. We don’t have an efficient public transit system, so many people drive everywhere. I’m fortunate that I live somewhere I can walk or bike many places, and I strive to do so whenever possible (weather permitting).
- Buying Local
I don’t buy strictly local – I try to support companies that create better opportunities for developing nations, and do buy from select european companies as well in the spirit of free trade – but I strongly believe in supporting businesses native to the region. I work at an independent coffee shop, partake in yoga and climbing classes at local fitness centres, buy cheese from our fromagerie downtown, get vegetables in the summer from a Veggie Box run by a local farmer (and have even gone to help pick my own!). My family gets honey and eggs from some homesteading friends.