Easy Lifestyle Changes to Live Sustainably

What does it mean to live sustainably? Wikipedia describes it as “a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the Earth's natural resources, and one's personal resources.” To me, to live sustainably is to be aware of what I am consuming, asking questions such as “is this item necessary in my life?” or “how was this item produced?” It’s a no-brainer that being eco-friendly is a trendy fad, and it is hard to avoid environmental consciousness at Colby (fun fact: Colby has been carbon neutral since 2013!).

I wouldn’t say that I was super environmentally conscious growing up, but I wasn’t totally oblivious either. However, coming to Colby has made me become hyper aware of my lifestyle, and the little things I can do to make the world a better place, even just a little bit. Sure, utilizing reusable bags when you go grocery shopping isn’t going to save the earth. However, I think it’s important to be aware of your own lifestyle, educate yourself, and spread awareness to others.

I made it one of my new year’s resolutions to abide by the rules below. I hope that you implement these lifestyle habits, too!

  1. 1. Purchasing / Using Reusable Items

    glass bottles in Reusable bag

    It seems obvious, but I am definitely guilty of forgetting to use my reusable items sometimes! When you think about it though, the amount of plastic forks and knives, paper bags, and disposable boxes being used everyday in the dining hall is ridiculous. I always try to bring a bag, whether it be just my backpack or a tote bag, and my own portable silverware kit to reduce waste. You can get a similar set here.

    Other items to consider are reusable grocery bags, straws, water bottles, and produce bags (Trader Joe’s has amazing mesh ones for a few dollars); reusing old school notebooks is a great way to save paper and money, too!

  2. 2. Researching Sustainable Brands

    Person in yellow sweater typing

    This is definitely a harder accomplishment for me, because sustainable brands tend to be more expensive, and it’s obviously much more tempting to buy from fast-fashion brands.

    The next time you make a purchase, I suggest googling “sustainable brands for (item you’re looking for)” to see a list of sustainable, usually small-business brands.

  3. 3. Thrifting

    sustainable fashion support

    Thrifting has definitely become a trendy activity in the past few years. My personal favorite places to thrift clothes are Depop and Poshmark. It’s also a great place to sell your clothes, too. Buying clothes second hand is a great way to not only save money, but avoid fast-fashion and cheaply made clothing that are not environmentally friendly. It’s also such a fun activity to do with friends.

  4. 4. Really Think Before You Buy

    Person using laptop holding credit card

    Do you really need that sweater that you know you only want because it’s a trend you saw on TikTok (and worse: you’re only going to wear it once)? When the above tactics aren’t getting you what you want and you are dying to buy an item from a place that isn’t sustainable, really think about it. I try to judge that by placing value on the item: will I get years of use out of the item? Will this item make me happy? These are questions that you should ask yourself before making any type of purchase.

  5. 5. Shopping Locally

    packaged fruits and signs set up at a booth at a farmer's market

    It’s so easy to buy things on Amazon with just a few clicks and cheaper prices. But on a larger scale, it’s supporting a mega-capitalist company that utilizes cheap labor, not to mention the environmental harm transporting your online purchases has. 

    I didn’t realize the importance of buying locally until recently. Not only does it support local businesses, but it is so much better for the environment because it reduces the amount of transportation (buying veggies that come from a neighboring farm vs. veggies that come from across the country, and it contributes to a thriving community). 

    One of my favorite activities at Colby is going to the Farmer’s Market. Locally grown food tends to be humanely grown and more nutritious than the mass-grown foods sold at supermarkets.

    So the next time you think about making a purchase from Walmart or Amazon, think twice about it!

  6. 6. Educating Yourself

    Person holding coffee and book

    I was honestly surprised with how much I’ve learned about sustainability from taking classes at Colby. From anthropology to science-based classes, Colby has lots of courses that provided me information on how to live sustainably.

    One of the best books I’ve read is On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal by Naomi Klein. Learning about what’s happening to the earth was a huge motivation for me to change my lifestyle, even if it’s just small changes.

Unfortunately, in order to make any type of progress in environmental policy, it has to come from institutional change. However, I hope I shed light on the little ways you can change your lifestyle to help the environment!