Sustainability Reminders: 33 Lifestyle Changes That Will Have A Positive Impact

Chances are you’ve heard and been affected by the diatribe against human “business as usual” that isn’t helping the environment in any way. Protesting against governments and corporations is the right call. But not enough. It can feel overwhelming and even pointless to go against the grain to do something with seemingly little impact. However, doing something about this issue sounds more promising than ignoring it entirely. A lot of you might be well-versed with this list already. If you aren’t, it’s never too late. Even if you are, little reminders always help.

  1. 1. Know what you’re consuming and where it comes from 

    We’re largely kept in the dark about how the products we buy end up our markets and where exactly they came from. This is often encouraged by certain businesses themselves since they prioritize profitability, which can come at a cost to the environment. Educating yourself will let you make more informed choices.

    I. Reduce meat and dairy consumption and try to source what you eat from local farms - livestock farming takes up farmland as well as crops that could have been consumed directly by humans. There is a massive amount of water required for that. 

    II. Choose sustainable seafood if you consume it — salmon farming in BC is not a very sustainable industry at the moment because intensive salmon fishing has depleted resources prematurely and the demand has kept increasing, so it’s a lose-lose situation. 

    III. Eat seasonal foods as much as you can — a massive amount of greenhouse emissions are produced in growing unseasonal foods. Besides, the anticipation and joy of having your favourite fruit in its respective season is worth going without it for a while. I’m already ready for strawberry season next summer. 

    IV. Eat local produce — BC grown tomatoes might be slightly more expensive than Mexican ones but they’re a lot more sustainably grown, especially considering the transportation impacts on the environment

    V. Educate yourself — documentaries like Food Inc. and Earthlings are a great insight into the (not pleasant) behind-the-scenes of the meat and dairy industry. Earthlings, in particular, was an eye-opener and made me adopt a plant-based lifestyle. 

    VI. Support local businesses — big corporations are usually backed with assets (both literal and metaphorical) that give them a bigger stance on controlling prices. This forces the manufacturers to sell at lower prices and hence cut corners (and therefore compromise on the quality) to maintain their profitability. The corporations, in turn, sell these items at competitively low prices and drive local businesses out of the market.

    VII. Look for labels like “fairtrade”. If you go to UVic, chances are you’ve heard of us boasting of being a “fairtrade” campus.

    VIII. Avoid buying bottled water unless absolutely necessary — not only does it result in a massive influx of plastic waste, but the industry itself does not practice sustainability. Read here about how Nestlé bottles water from areas with lax government laws and makes billions of dollars.

    IX. Eat organic and whole foods.

    X. Have a few potted plants around the house and try to grow a few basic veggies and herbs

    XI. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You have a right to know what you’re getting and what it has been made of. Don’t be afraid of being seen as a Karen (but don’t actually be one). When in doubt, speak up!

  2. 2. Reduce and Reuse (Recycle too)

    Single-use products are a major contributor of waste that is difficult to dispose of properly. We hear about recycling a lot, but reducing consumption altogether and reusing wherever possible is a lot more effective than just recycling alone.

    I. Carry a tote bag or two while going shopping. Stacks of plastic or paper shopping bags around the house are not fun to deal with. The few cents you pay each time can also really add up. 

    II. Carry a travel mug and a bamboo or metal straw for drinks 

    III. Pay attention to the packaging when you buy anything — if the packaging is made of eco-friendly materials, it’s a good sign that the company takes sustainability into account. Layers of packaging are often wasteful and difficult to dispose of. 

    IV. Try to minimize waste — this picture and the Friends episode it’s from is enough incentive, isn’t it?

    V. Compost — sorting your trash out takes minimal effort and is extremely beneficial to the environment. Chances are that the green bin is right beside the black one. If you don’t have one, get one. 

    VI. Avoid plastic utensils and containers. A recommendation is a fantastic product called coconut bowls , which is literally bowls made out of recycled coconut shells.

    VII. Let your clothes air dry instead of using the dryer

    VIII. Avoid takeout containers — it IS pretty nice to slow down, sit at the restaurant and spend some time savouring the food and/or company; it certainly beats mindlessly eating it while focusing on Netflix.

    IX. Go digital — do you really want all your bills sent to your mailbox every month? Using e-bills not only minimizes paper and transportation costs but also ensures that you have everything within your account online and not strewn around the house. Speaking for myself here, but I’m sure some of you can relate. Also, get your receipts emailed instead of printed. 

    X. Opt to bike or use public transport for commutes where possible. If you are heavily dependent on a car, try to get an electric-powered one. 

    XI. Reduce the use of heating in your house unless absolutely necessary — layering up in blankets, socks and sweats can be very cozy!


  3. 3. Opt out of fast fashion and for cruelty-free beauty

    Fast fashion refers to inexpensive but not robustly-made clothes that are meant to be worn for a short time and then discarded, usually because of fashion trends that peak and then die out. As fun as it can be to get cheap clothes without having to worry about damaging them, it creates massive waste while using up a lot of resources to keep producing new clothes.

    I. Shop locally.

    II. Shop from thrift stores and/or buy second-hand outfits — The Patch in Victoria is a fabulous thrift store for quirky vintage fashion.

    III. Donate or sell stuff you aren’t using — somebody else might appreciate it more than your overwhelmed closet. 

    IV. Attempt the minimalist 333 challenge — it’s pretty straightforward: dress using 33 items or less for 3 months. Read more here.

    V. Check for certifications — WRAP and B Corporations are two certifications that are known to be stringent on ethical and sustainable practices. Here is an extensive article by Wholesome Culture with more details.

    VI. Learn DIY skills to mend or repurpose clothes to make them last longer — jeans can be made into shorts, a dress can be made into a skirt and a top. The possibilities are endless and the results might turn out to be very cute.

    VII. Spend more on ethical and sustainable (and potentially more expensive) brands for clothing you’d be happy to wear over and over instead of something you’d discard within a few months.

    VIII. Switch to reusable pads and menstrual cups. 

    IX. Opt for brands like The Body Shop and Wholesome Culture.

    X. Reduce consumption of face wipes and use reusable cloths instead.

    XI. Try to get products without packaging — local stores often have soaps, shampoos and conditioners that you can buy bars of or take your own container to. Zero Waste Emporium in Vic is a good place to get started. 

These are just some basic lifestyle changes you could implement to live more sustainably. Taking care of the planet we all inhabit is a collective task and every little bit counts. Do you have any suggestions not listed here? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!