A 3-step beginner’s guide to sustainable living (with poster)

Here are the 3 principles of sustainable living. Follow these and you can gradually move to a zero waste lifestyle

Sustainable living concept of a green Earth in a hand

Whether or not you’ve been following the unfolding climate change catastrophe over the last few years or heard of Greta Thunberg, there is no disputing the fact that we all have a stake in the future of our home planet. If not for ourselves, we owe it to our kids to leave them with a future of hope. This requires a cultural shift from a culture of wasteful consumerism to one of minimalism and respect for nature. While changing the trajectory of human progress may seem impossible, it’s really not. There’s a simple answer and it’s called sustainable living.

Most of us have a fair understanding of what sustainability means, but our understanding is often flawed. Ironically, there are many who believe that sustainability is itself unsustainable because of the amount of effort they think it requires!

I’ll be honest. I was one of those naysayers too, doubting the practicality of sustainable living. I’ve come a long way since then and I’m here to share what I’ve learned so far.

Like most kids, I loved being in close contact with nature, but growing up also brought a disconnect from that natural world. As I began to learn about sustainable living and delved deeper into the subject, that love for nature was rekindled.

It is now more than eight years since I’ve made considerable progress on my journey towards a sustainable lifestyle. As I’ve said, sustainability doesn’t have to be a struggle. To keep it simple, let’s just focus on three principles that are central to sustainability.

3 ideas to start living sustainably

1. Segregation: Beyond dry and wet waste

The first step towards a sustainable lifestyle is segregation of waste. I started segregating all of the waste generated from my house into dry and wet waste. Gone were the days of randomly tossing any and all types of waste into a common garbage bin. Whether it was a bus ticket, credit card receipts or e-bills, everything was collected. As with any new venture, you make slow and steady progress. From simply segregating dry and wet waste, I then went on to also separate dry recyclable plastic waste like used water bottles and food packaging. Separation of metal waste products like razor blades and pins came next. Lastly, I started collecting e-waste that I’d send to e-waste disposal and recycling facilities. At first this may seem tedious and overwhelming, but in time it just comes to you naturally. Besides, it’s a small price to pay for a cleaner environment.

2. Reduction: staying committed is the key

When I was shifting homes,  the menace of plastic and polythene bags became more apparent to me. Every corner and space in almost every closet and cupboard was occupied by something wrapped in plastic. It was then that I decided to reduce my use of plastic. I first decided to stop using plastic bags for shopping and always carried my own cloth, re-useable bags. Yes, it wasn’t easy to make this transition at first and I’d often forget to carry a re-usable bag. But, you’ve got to cut yourself some slack while staying committed. So, I’d accept plastic shopping bags if I really needed them, but if I was shopping near my home I’d return to get my re-usable bags. After 3-4 return trips, the habit started to come to me naturally and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever find me venturing out without a reusable bag now.

3. Refusal: stop accepting plastic as much as possible

About 3 – 4 years ago I began to encounter a lot more individuals and NGOs that work for the environment and sustainable living. From my interactions with them and my own research I began to learn more about the impact of mass consumerism on our fragile environment. With a burgeoning human population and finite resources on the planet, we need to appreciate the bounty that nature has provided and use it judiciously. Whether it’s electricity, gas, water or food, the over consumption and wastage of produce is having disastrous consequences on the world around us. I now refuse to accept things that will add to landfills or pollute the ocean, such as plastic straws, single use plastic, earbuds, take out containers, plastic cutlery and plastic water bottles or pouches.

Poster: A 3-step guide to sustainable living
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10 tips to save water in our daily life

  1. Prefer bucket baths over showers
  2. Water from the washing machine should be recycled
  3. At restaurants, ask for a water refill in your glass only if you’re going to drink it, and as much as you will drink only
  4. Use the washing machine and dish washer only once it is fully loaded
  5. Install water saving filters on all taps
  6. Get a low-flush option for the toilet
  7. Fix any leakages immediately
  8. Turn off the tap when brushing teeth, soaping hands or scrubbing dishes
  9. Water your lawn and plants using water judiciously
  10. Follow rain water harvesting, even if on a small scale.

While collective action is required, I also learned about steps that I could take as an individual; small measures to avoid waste and to only consume what I actually need. Figure out what’s practical and works for you, whether its avoiding or restricting your consumption of packaged juices, car-pooling and using public transport instead of driving, carrying instead of buying bottled water, not wasting food in restaurants and so on.

Take small steps towards living sustainably

I’m not here to kid you and tell you that these changes can come to you overnight. But with small steps we can make great progress. Until you start to make an effort at sustainable living, it can seem impossible and incredibly tough. But that’s not very different from every other aspect of life. From the day we were born, we had a lot to learn and this required considerable effort from our parents and ourselves. In hindsight, those hard lessons seem easy and like the most logical path forward. It’s much the same with sustainable living. To put it plainly, sustainability is to unlearn all the wasteful habits that we formed over the years and replace them with cleaner alternatives to guarantee a  healthier and greener tomorrow for ourselves and the next generation.

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