If many of you were like me you are probably wondering what is “sustainable living” and “where do I begin.” There are many foundational principles around sustainable living from personal health, to animal health care, eco-friendly, and global health equity. For me it wasn’t an issue of it being all or nothing rather acknowledging the interconnectedness of it all. So I begin making small steps to incorporate best practices for myself and narrowed my focus down to personal health. Keep in mind that some principles may resonate with you more than others and that is totally fine. What is great is that your individual choices you make will be beneficial in the other areas.
For example, I am an avid coffee drinker. To place perspective around fostering a sustainable mindset I began taking note and researching if my beverage was sustainably sourced. Most importantly, I identified if my coffee was Fair Trade Certified of Direct Trade and looked closely at if it was ethically produced. Were the laborers treated and paid fairly for their work? This was a small step for me. Also, if the coffee is rainforest alliance certified it is supporting a more environmentally friendly way of producing coffee, which is less likely to result in environmental exposures to the community where the coffee is grown, and is healthier for personal consumption.
To begin on the path of sustainable living it is important to know what you best identify with as a driving principle and think how this currently relates to your daily life. I started by taking personal inventory of my consumption: from dining out, clothing and online shopping, cleaning supplies, beauty products, paper supplies, home goods and etc. Next, determine what you can do without and how you can minimize your footprint. These changes can be made month-by-month. I personally found this challenging because I have always been a connoisseur of things and keeping things around for “just in case.”
While it may be challenging to overhaul your entire life all at once, it is not realistic and is overwhelming. The goal is remembering that sustainable living is a life long process of growing and expanding your consciousness around your impact on the world through your personal choices. This change doesn’t happen overnight.
Here are a few ideas of how you could implement changes monthly to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle and become more empowered in your choices:
January: Reduce your usage of plastic. This includes individual plastic utensils and food storage baggies. Perhaps change over to mason jars or glass Tupperware containers.
February: Begin watching some socially conscious documentaries and reading materials to become more informed. Netflix has some great options, two of my favorites are Chefs Table and The True Cost and I love the book, “The Responsibility Revolution” by Jeffery Hollander and Bill Breen.
March: Begin making your own skincare and body care products. Or switch over to over-the-counter non-toxic safe options. My favorite body products locally are by Alpenglow and I enjoy Avalon Organics skincare and body care products.
April: Spring clean your home with non-toxic cleaning products. A good google search can help you make some of your own home cleaning products with basic household ingredients and essential oils. Another option is to get rid of dryer sheets and use organic dryer balls and add your favorite oils to them to freshen your clothing. My favorite vendor is Ecoigy and can be found on Amazon.
May: Eliminate plastic waste at the market by simply bringing your own shopping totes. Some of my favorite totes come from Baggu and BeeGreen.
June: Begin thinking about season capsules for your clothing and accessories. Think about what is seasonal vs. what is timeless. There are a plethora of ethical fashion brands that will have you looking posh on a budget. I personally love Madewell and Sseko Designs.
July: Get creative with planning your meals and Shop Local! We all love a good Farmer’s Market and Alaska has some of the best produce during our summer months. Let’s not forget fishing in our great State for some delicious Salmon and Halibut. If animal health care if your focus, perhaps, minimize your meat and dairy consumption with your meals.
August: Time to begin our winter planning and get out and harvest our delicious berries. Also, begin canning and flash freezing all our produce we’d like to consume during our fall and winter months.
September: Begin nesting for winter. Let’s organize our clothing in piles of what’s for keeps, for sell, and for donating. This would be the time to consider making a bit of income from selling some of your gently used clothing to online resellers like Poshmark and Tradesy.
October: Get cozy indoors and make your own candles that aren’t laden with chemicals. This could be a fun project with family and friends. Also, think of who makes little fair trade individual candies/treats to gift away if you celebrate Halloween.
November: Use bees wrap for covering your foods or recycled parchment paper. Let’s lose the plastic wrap for the holidays. Also, meal plan ahead to conserve meals and build new meals from left overs.
December: Who are you buying holiday goodies for? Let’s think of all the awesome local businesses to support for gift giving and wrap gifts in fabrics that can be reused versus paper.