What Is Sustainable Living?

Sustainable living refers to ways of life and social behaviors that minimize environmental degradation (use of natural resources, CO2 emissions and waste) while supporting equitable socio-economic development and a better quality of life for all. It also promotes the idea that people and nature are interconnected. This movement was started by Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, which highlighted the harmful effects of pesticides and fertilizers on wildlife.

It also includes choosing more eco-friendly products, like cleaning and hygiene products made with recycled materials, reusable plastics, or plant-based alternatives to regular paper for pens and notebooks. Other environmentally friendly practices include shopping at thrift stores and buying second-hand appliances, using an energy-efficient search engine (like Ecosia), and eating a plant-based diet, with an emphasis on local and organic foods.

A more complex ethos of sustainable living refers to striking an ecological balance with the earth and returning to it whatever is taken from it, ideally by achieving a zero-energy home that is self-sustainable and independent of mainstream non-renewable energy sources. This type of lifestyle is not for everyone, and major changes are usually needed in order to achieve this.

Some of the biggest changes are usually related to food choices. The most obvious change is going from a high meat and dairy intake to an entirely vegan diet, which is healthier for the animal and human body. This is followed by reducing the amount of packaged goods that are consumed, and instead making meals from scratch with ingredients that are locally sourced and sustainable.

Another important aspect of sustainability is to focus on regenerative activities, such as planting trees, growing gardens, and spending time in nature. This not only helps to improve the environment, but it can also be beneficial to one’s mental health by lowering stress levels.

It is often argued that sustainable living involves giving up luxury or comfort, but this is not always the case. In fact, many of the actions that are considered sustainable can actually be cost-effective and save money in the long run. Switching to electric vehicles or a hybrid car, for example, can significantly cut down on fuel costs. Moreover, opting for a green energy provider that uses renewable resources can help to lower one’s monthly utility bills.

The three guiding principles of sustainable living are reduce, reuse and recycle. This time-honored phrase is still a staple in the eco-friendly movement and for good reason. These simple, yet impactful actions can make a significant difference in the world’s health and environmental health.

The broader ethos of sustainable living aims to incorporate a greater sense of meaning into the actions that are being undertaken by sustainability pioneers. This shifts from a mechanistic paradigm that assumes that humans and unsustainability pre-exist and is disconnected from wellbeing, to a relational paradigm that sees the interplay between the individual and the more-than-human (O’Brien 2016). This enables individuals to make a connection with their sustainable efforts, which makes them feel more important, as well as more meaningful to the community at large.