By guest author Paula Mugabi
Choosing to live more sustainably can seem daunting or unreasonable at first thought. However, our consumer choices ripple across the earth and affect global neighbors we may never meet. It’s important to the health of our environment and our neighbors to slow the filling of landfills and maintain the health of water sources globally.
We’ve asked our Instagram friend and sustainable lifestyle champion Paula Mugabi to share with us 10 simple lifestyle changes that anyone can make to live a more thoughtful lifestyle. We’re challenging ourselves and our community to adopt one or more lifestyle changes during the month of April in celebration of Earth Day!
“Most people think that becoming more sustainable requires major life changes, but that is just not so. There are some easy steps that one can easily incorporate in their daily life to create a meaningfully positive impact. I suggest the following 10 lifestyle choices to get you started:
1. Buy just the food/groceries you intend to eat. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, about one-third of food bought is wasted. The United States Environmental Protection Agency states that food is the single largest category of material placed in landfills, where it emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Food wastage is not only bad for your wallet but also the planet. Tip – make a weekly meal plan and write a shopping list from that to help you plan ahead and waste less. Also, consider composting your food scraps and turn them into fertilizer!
2. Use tote bags for shopping. All the plastic that ends up in landfill takes about a hundred years to decompose, if not longer. Also, it is apparently more difficult to recycle plastic bags as they tend to get stuck in the recycling machines. So, please avoid them as much as possible. Tip – if you do have plastic bags from big retailers don’t fret; take them back to the store – many big retailers will recycle them for you as well as undergarments.
Fun fact! Rwanda has banned plastic bags throughout the entire country in an effort to keep the country clean and prevent toxins that are released when they are burned. Check out our Fabric Zip Shopper that zips into its pocket, making it easy to tuck into a backpack or purse!
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3. Take shorter showers! The average shower is a little over eight minutes long, but, according to The Washington Post, about 20% more time is wasted before even getting into the shower. Many people have the habit of leaving water running while finishing up chores, sending emails, or waiting for water to heat up. For a standard showerhead, every minute wasted equates to 2.5 gallons of water and this water is usually hot, so there is energy loss too! Tip – don’t turn on the shower until you are ready. Set a timer on your phone to help you manage time or listen to two of your favorite songs if you have speakers in your bathroom.
- replacing plastic straws with reusable straws
- switching single-use plastic bags to reusable storage bags and from plastic Tupperware to glass
- switching paper towels to washable microfiber cloths
- switching to bamboo cooking utensils or other sustainable woods like musave, which grows back after it is cut (Have you seen our Macy White Carved Musave Spoons?!)
Don’t forget handcrafted décor and household items you can get from sustainable companies. Tip – although it may be tempting, don’t get rid of household items that are not sustainable if they are still in good shape; wait for them to wear out and then purchase new items. Recycle these old items once they are no longer usable.
5. To the Fashionistas – buy less fast fashion. Fast fashion items don’t last long and end up in landfills. According to the New York Times, more than 60 percent of fast fashion fabric fibers are synthetics, derived from fossil fuels, and when they end up in landfills (about 85 percent of textile waste in the United States goes to landfills or is incinerated) they will not biodegrade. Tip – Follow me on social media, I have lots of tips! Buy less, thrift, and support sustainable brands.
6. Support sustainable companies. Vote with your dollar by supporting sustainable companies! More will be encouraged to go the sustainable route if we support the industry. Tip – for an easier start, consider starting with household items and fashion basics like tees, leggings, and undergarments.
7. Skip bottled water and single-use coffee cups and use reusable options instead. By skipping bottled water and using reusable water bottles and water filters, you will help save marine life by keeping plastic out of the ocean! You will also conserve trees by skipping disposable coffee cups. Tip – get a collapsible water bottle that won’t take up much room in your bag. Also, get a cute reusable coffee traveler mug that you would enjoy using.
8. Buy seasonal and local produce. A lot of fuel and packaging is required to transport food from distant places. Shopping locally and seasonally will reduce this. Tip – sign up with a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), shop at your local farmers market, or sign up with a local produce delivery company.
9. Turn off lights and unplug electronics you are not using. No brainer! This saves energy and your bills! Double win for you and a big win for earth conservation. Tip – a large part of appliance energy consumption is associated with energy-inefficient products or with electricity leaking (many devices use energy when they are in standby mode, without performing their principal function). Beware of small sneaky items like leaving your computer on and plugged in all night!
10. Plant a tree! Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. According to the World Bank, between 1990 and 2016, the world lost 502,000 square miles of forest,—an area larger than South Africa! We need trees for clean air. Tip – if you don’t have a backyard or don’t the time to plant a tree consider supporting organizations that plant trees. Also, some brands plant trees when you make purchases from them.
One last sweet bonus: Use an ice cream cone instead of a cup!”
LEARN MORE: In the information age, there are a plethora of websites and documentaries dedicated to sharing truths about consumerism and the industries that support it. Take some time and watch or read something that you wouldn’t normally. You might be surprised how deeply you care about what you learn. Here’s an article listing 10 documentaries that highlight everything from the fast fashion industry to how 2040 can look if we made more sustainable choices!