After decades of pursuing convenience and living quality, people’s use of food and clothing has generated an enormous amount of irreversible consumption. If we maintain our current lifestyle, the environment’s retaliation is expected to occur in the foreseeable future. To let people coexist with the Earth peacefully, a sustainable lifestyle is gradually being embraced by the world. This article will offer a concrete explanation of sustainable living and ways to help us realize sustainable living.
What is sustainable living?
The Earth’s natural resources are limited. Other than non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels and limited quantities of minerals such as metals, renewable resources like forests, water, and wildlife require a certain amount of time to regenerate. However, the rate at which people consume resources is much faster than the rate of regeneration, which means that these renewable resources will one day be exhausted. Sustainable living is a brand new way of life that attempts to reduce the ecological footprint of individuals or societies, thereby realizing co-existence with the Earth’s ecology, achieving natural balance and lowering the use of resources on Earth.
The essence of sustainable living originates from the three pillars of sustainable development: environment, society, and economy. While satisfying people’s basic needs, it is imperative to protect the interests of future generations and embody the spirit of sustainable living in everyday life via the concept of circular economy and zero waste.
What is a sustainable lifestyle?
A sustainable lifestyle should be materialized through different facets of life including eating habits, living space, transportation, recreation activities, shopping habits, and everything else you can think of. By reducing resource consumption and releasing natural resources back into the environment, a balance can be attained that matches the speed of natural resource regeneration.
Why does sustainable living matter?
Improve resource security
Security is the most fundamental need of human survival because everyone wants to live in a secure world. However, the world we now live in has been egregiously overburdened, and the only way to ensure security is through resource security. Sustainable living means investing in resource security and decreasing our dependence on resources.
Promote healthy living
There are many ways of sustainable living that make us healthier. For example, eating less meat, choosing color-safe garments, and improving air quality.
Make a difference where you can
Do you feel that the United Nations SDGs are out of reach and that sustainability is only achievable by the government or businesses? Embrace the philosophy of sustainable living every day and contribute to the environment where you can.
Promote the development of new economic models
The current status of resource overload demonstrates that people’s previous economic model cannot guarantee sustainability, so we urgently need new technologies and business models such as green energy and circular economy to address the problem. Sustainable living enables us to exert our influence as global citizens. Let us refuse the traditional economic model that supports mass production and mass waste.
Twelve ways to live a sustainable life
Sustainable eating habits
Sustainable water consumption
Sustainable waste processing
Sustainable energy use
Sustainable eating habits
Eating is the most basic human need that places a burden on the Earth without us realizing it. Having sustainable eating habits will help us minimize unnecessary waste and maximize the nutritional benefits of food.
1. Eat less meat
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ Statistics, 26% of the planet’s ice-free land is used for livestock grazing and 33% of croplands are used for livestock feed production, as producing 1 kg of beef requires consuming 7-9 kg of grain, and 3-5 kg of grains must be consumed to produce 1 kg of pork. According to research in 2022, meat only accounts for 7% of the total food produced worldwide and provides only 21% of proteins, yet meat production has led to more unnecessary land development for agricultural purposes and accelerated forest degradation. Although meat provides some of the essential nutrients needed by people, it must be consumed in moderation.
2. Choose seasonal ingredients
With advancements in refrigeration, processing, and production technology, we can enjoy a wide range of fruits and vegetables all year round. Nonetheless, cold storage and processing consume a great deal of energy, so choosing seasonal ingredients not only lowers energy consumption but also reduces waste caused by surplus food.
3. Enjoy local delicacies
Every region offers distinct produce and crops due to climate and soil conditions, so selecting food produced near you not only saves you money but also minimizes crop and energy consumption caused by transportation.
4. Buy in small portions
Influenced by marketing strategies, we are tempted to buy products in bulk. Who can resist the temptation of buying nearly double the amount of goods for a fraction of the original price? The truth is that we are often unable to finish the food right away after purchasing a large meal, which ends up in the kitchen waste bin. Also, when we buy family-size snacks, they are frequently discarded because of factors such as moisture or expiration, thereby creating a lot of waste without us realizing it. Choose small portions of food as much as possible and assess how much you can eat before buying!
Are you troubled by what to wear every day, or is your closet always stuffed full of clothes? Sustainable clothing lets you build your personal dress style and look after the environment at the same time.
1. Choose sustainable clothing materials
Currently, the main clothing materials include:
- Natural plant fibers such as cotton and linen.
- Wool, silk, and leather from animals.
- Artificial fibers such as polyester fibers, rayon, and nylon.
Raising animals consumes resources such as grains and water, while artificial fibers are produced using energy, water, and chemical agents. Choosing clothing made from natural plant fibers and making sure that the cotton complies with Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) regulations ensures the sustainability of the clothing materials.
2. Give priority to dye-free or MADE IN GREEN clothing
The textile dyeing and finishing industry is one of the heaviest users of chemical substances and water resources in the world. The wastewater discharged is also harmful to the environment. Natural dye-free yellow-brown cotton helps to decrease the resources consumed during dyeing and finishing. If you still want clothes in different colors, you can also purchase OEKO-TEX® MADE IN GREEN certified clothes, whose production process is subject to strict scrutiny.
3. Refuse fast fashion
Although fast fashion allows us to buy fashionable clothes at cheap prices, it is plagued by problems such as rapidly changing styles and inferior durability associated with reduced costs in raw materials. Consequently, although clothes featuring good materials and classic tailoring may be more expensive, they are more in line with a sustainable lifestyle as they do not have to be replaced frequently.
4. Provide and use secondhand clothes
Even the most perfect garments may not suit everyone due to individual aesthetics and build. However, used clothes can be reborn if they are given to another user. Exchange clothes that are still in good condition but which you don’t wear anymore for other secondhand clothes to let them find the most suitable owner instead of being discarded in landfills.
Sustainable water consumption
Water is the source of life, and freshwater is essential to sustaining life and economic activities. Due to factors such as urbanization, increased population, and climate change, water resources are becoming increasingly scarce. Adopting a habit of sustainable water consumption is the only way to protect people from the agony of water shortage.
1. Use a dual flush toilet or install a water-saving valve
We go to the toilet to relieve ourselves when nature calls. To ensure cleanliness, toilets in the past removed waste with a full flush when in fact liquid waste does not require so much water to flush down. Dual-flush toilets address this problem by delivering just the right amount of water in every flush to reduce the unnecessary waste of water resources.
2. Repair water leaks
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s statistics, an average family wastes over 10,000 gallons of water due to leakage from faucets, shower heads, toilets, and outdoor irrigation facilities. Detecting and repairing these leaks will result in 10% savings in water bills and reduce water waste.
3. Use a sink instead of tap water when washing fruits and vegetables or dishes
When cleaning fruits and vegetables or dishes, try to do a cursory scrub in the sink to remove the grime before rinsing them with clean water. This simple gesture can save up to five liters of water every time.
It only takes a small cost or a simple change of habit to make sure we are surrounded by sustainable necessities. Three such examples are given below:
1. Reusable tableware and cups
Disposable tableware and cups are difficult-to-recycle waste generated in large quantities by people every day. Whether you are at home or away from home, always use reusable tableware and cups. Decline disposable tableware provided by stores to reduce the use of wood and plastic resources.
2. Bamboo toothbrushes
Bamboo grows at a rapid rate and is the largest herb in existence. Using bamboo instead of plastic as a toothbrush handle ensures the sustainability of raw materials. After use, it can be composted and returned to the environment.
Avid readers are often faced with the dilemma of selecting book collections due to limited book storage space. It is likely that some of the books are only read once and stowed away in the back of the bookshelf. eReaders enable you to collect any book you want without consuming wood to produce paper and print books. According to research, replacing 120 physical books with an eReader will achieve the benefits of true sustainability.
Packaging is an integral part of our lives because everything we purchase comes with packaging. How do we prevent these product add-ons from consuming resources? Below are four types of sustainable packaging:
1. Naked packaging
The most sustainable packaging method is naked packaging, hence vegetables, fruits, eggs, and other items with shells should have naked packaging to minimize the resources needed for packaging.
2. Reused packaging
Many types of packaging can be reused including cardboard boxes used for express delivery and plastic shopping bags for fruits and vegetables. Some manufacturers have launched packaging recycling systems to let online buyers return the packaging after receiving their products so that they can be reused by the supplier.
3. Recyclable packaging
Some paper or plastic packaging can be recycled, so choose products with recyclable packaging as much as possible, and avoid composite packaging materials such as paper cartons with plastic coating, or potato chip packaging consisting of aluminum foil and plastic. These are very difficult to recycle.
4. Compostable packaging
Most packaging requires qualities such as slimness, lightweight, and short-term use, which are consistent with the qualities of compostable materials that are returned to the environment after use through the composting system. In addition, manufacturers like renouvo utilize agricultural waste bagasse as the raw material for producing lunch boxes, bags, and cups, thereby ensuring the sustainability of raw materials.
Most people require the assistance of the transportation system every day for work, shopping, school, hospital, restaurant, or traveling. The manufacturing of tires and the use of fuel constantly deplete resources, hence it is imperative to implement sustainable transportation.
1. Public transport
Buses, trains, and subways are the most efficient means of transport. Under the same energy consumption and carbon emissions conditions, they can transport more mileage per person than private vehicles, and their average mechanical life span is longer than that of conventional vehicles.
2. Fossil fuel-free engines
Engines powered by a sustainable source of energy such as electricity or biofuel (green power generation or fuel extracted from bagasse) are better alternatives compared to conventional engines that run on non-renewable fossil fuels.
3. Realize the last mile
Try to reach your final destination on foot or a bicycle, which are the most primitive and sustainable means of transport.
The money we own is the common currency that powers the world, but do not forget to exert a sustainable influence while making a profit.
1. Invest in companies with good ESG scores
Many institutions will annually rate companies based on their ESG reports and objective data such as MSCI and Dow Jones. Besides supporting their sustainable activities and investing in companies with good ESG scores, companies upholding sustainable management principles generally also exhibit better performance.
Extended reading: WHAT IS ESG – OVERVIEW OF ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND GOVERNANCE.
2. Do not support high-polluting industries
Petrochemical, steel, and aviation are high-polluting industries. It is suggested to observe if they have engaged in technological innovations for the sake of sustainability. Otherwise, besides mistakenly harming the Earth with the power of investment, enterprises may lose their investment because they are unable to adapt to future regulations.
Sustainable waste processing
Proper disposal of waste can turn waste into resources to replace the resources that would otherwise be extracted and mitigate resource consumption.
1. Classification at the source
Classify waste at the source into paper, recyclable plastics, and metals to enhance the resource recycling rate and lower the need for new resources.
2. Do not litter
Once waste enters the environment, it will compromise the regeneration speed of natural resources and release microplastics and plastics that will be accidentally ingested by animals. Therefore, please make sure to dispose of trash in the appropriate trash bins according to trash classification regulations.
3. Home composting
The best way to dispose of organic waste is composting, but compost recycling systems may not be available in every region. That’s why composting at home will reduce the quantity of organic waste going into landfills, thereby creating a more sustainable environment.
For more information on how to compost at home, read this article:＂How to Compost at Home & Benefits of Home Composting＂
People’s lives are driven by consumption, so every penny we spend is a reflection of our values.
1. Choose products from social enterprises first
The social enterprise is a new business model that has emerged in recent years that allows enterprises to engage in social welfare activities while making a profit to sustain their business without relying on donations or subsidies. Choose products from social enterprises first to support them through the power of consumption!
2. Purchase durable products with a maintenance warranty
The more durable products are, the less new products need to be manufactured, thereby slowing down the speed of resource depletion. Some manufacturers provide several years of maintenance warranty so that consumers do not have to worry about discarding their products if they are accidentally damaged.
3. Compostable products
Compostable products implement the concept of the circular economy. Using products made of sustainable raw materials allows them to be returned to the environment after use, in turn fostering the growth of new raw materials and playing a role in achieving sustainability.
Having a place to shelter from the elements is what most people desire. Sustainable housing enables us to contribute to the Earth’s sustainability while living comfortably.
1. Green building methods
Green buildings are constructed using recycled construction materials, and the architectural design is adjusted according to the local climate to ensure good ventilation and lighting, keeping the building cool in summer and warm in winter, thereby minimizing the use of air conditioners. In addition, solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems are installed to further lower energy and water resource consumption.
2. Energy-saving air conditioners
In the searing tropical heat, air conditioners have become a necessity. Energy-saving air conditioners can reduce energy consumption by two-thirds compared to conventional air conditioners.
Change the next generation’s values and that of people around us through sustainable education to get everyone involved in sustainability-related endeavors, as well as implementing sustainable behaviors more effectively.
1. Cultivate the concept of coexisting with the earth
Everyone should be aware that there is only one Earth and that the only way to realize sustainable living is by maintaining a delicate balance to ensure that we will not be confronted with the predicament of resource bankruptcy.
2. Strengthen environmental education
Environmental education helps to solve environmental issues at the root of the problem to facilitate an environmentally sustainable education method. Environmental education involves pedagogy, psychology, behavioral studies, sociology, economics, chemistry, ecology, earth science, and other disciplines. The hope is to continue cultivating talent in various fields and bring people closer to the environment.
Sustainable energy use
Energy is indispensable to human civilization because lights, transportation tools, home appliances, offices, and factories all rely on energy supply. However, our hunger for energy also causes energy depletion. That’s why using sustainable energy in everyday life ensures that we can continue to enjoy the wonderful life brought by civilization.
1. Use energy-saving home appliances
Most countries in the world such as the US, Canada, Japan, and the EU have developed energy labels for home appliances to help consumers choose energy-saving electrical equipment. Selecting energy-saving home appliances will reduce energy use significantly without sacrificing living standards.
2. Maintain good refrigerator usage habits
The refrigerator is one of the most energy-hungry home appliances. Before opening the fridge, think about what you want to get first. Also, keep your fridge up to 70% full to reduce the time for the fridge’s compressor to be turned on and enhance its cooling efficiency.
3. Unplug all unused home appliances
Even if they are not switched on, home appliances plugged into the wall outlet will still drain electricity. Furthermore, some home appliances such as televisions and air conditioners will continue to consume electricity in standby mode, hence if you are not using these home appliances, unplugging them will prevent unnecessary waste of energy.
What can we do for sustainable living in 2023?
Sustainable living has become a new lifestyle trend. We can find ways to live sustainably in things we use daily, such as food, transportation, energy, and water resources. Eat less meat every day, walk more, and unplug unused appliances—these simple habits will accumulate to safeguard our resource security and help us sustainably maintain a comfortable life.