In my previous post, The Reality of Living Sustainably, I wrote about some areas of my life that are definitely not sustainable or eco-friendly. The intention of that post was to demonstrate that it’s impossible to live zero waste and zero impact in a modern world. Nobody is perfect, and it’s up to individual action and choice within our means to pick eco-friendly over convenience. That being said, there are many areas of my life that I’ve changed over the past few years to be more environmentally-conscious. In celebration of Earth Day, I am sharing 10 sustainable habits that I’m proud to say have become part of my lifestyle through choice, sometimes at the expense of convenience and comfort. Of course, it goes without saying that some people have more choice and privilege than others. My life looks different to yours, and my “sustainability wins” should not make you feel guilty if you can’t do these things. However, if you can, then I hope my sustainable habits inspire you to make changes in your life too!
Make meals, mostly from scratch
Cooking from scratch, or cooking at all, is dependent on your personal lifestyle and circumstances. Lots of people don’t know how to cook, or they have other areas in their lives that take priority. I happen to enjoy cooking so I prioritize cooking meals from scratch. Now, this doesn’t mean I have gone full homesteading and grow and make everything. I prepare my meals using ingredients or products bought from the supermarket. Where possible, I use food that I’ve grown myself. Buying lunch and takeaways for dinner is expensive, and you aren’t necessarily in control of the nutrients and ingredients you put into your body. It’s far cheaper and healthier to make food from scratch at home if you can. As an example, here are some of my weekly meals:
- Cereal with oat milk. Cereal is sometimes purchased in bulk.
- Toast or bagel. Definitely purchased, but healthier and more sustainable than a fast food breakfast.
- Smoothie. Banana, oats, oat milk, and frozen berries. The oats and berries are bought in bulk.
- Homemade soup or vegan soup from a tin. Soup is the best.
- Couscous with hummus and veggies. Couscous is often bought in bulk.
- Pesto pasta with peas. Pasta is often bought in bulk. Pesto comes in a jar, or you can make your own! Try: Carrot Top Pesto
- Jacket potatoes, beans, and broccoli. Potatoes bought loose, or from the allotment. Broccoli is loose, and the beans are in a tin. Sometimes vegan cheese, other times lactose free.
- Sausage tray bake. Vegetarian sausage with roasted root veg or peppers. Sausages come in cardboard and veg is bought loose.
Short showers and shallow baths
I’d like to say that this is a conscious decision of setting a timer for 5 minute showers. The reality is we have a small hot water tank and I can’t have a full bath or a long shower because the hot water runs out! I wash my hair 3x a week and the other showers are quick rinses. I use bar soap and shampoo.
If you can install a compost, I highly recommend doing so! It saves so much food waste going to landfill, plus you eventually get free compost!
See: How to Compost
Limiting food waste
I pride myself on how little food we waste. This mentality has partly come from a place of frugality, and I’m sure many of us were taught not to waste food for budgeting reasons. In the UK, 9.5 million tonnes of food was wasted in 2018, 70% of which was household waste (WRAP). I argue that the key to reducing food waste is meal planning, and picking meals that use up ingredients. Sometimes that means getting creative and combining leftovers, or using up soft veg in a delicious soup. The freezer is also your friend. If you aren’t going to eat it, freeze it! Baking, fresh spinach, leftovers, chopped apples, and bread are all food items that go in my freezer regularly. It also helps if you opt for dried goods, tinned foods, or items with a long best before date. Speaking of best before dates – these are guidelines only!
Implementing a spending budget, or using the 30 day rule before making big/impulse purchases can help you avoid buying things you don’t need. Lots of people also use the one-in-one-out method, but I’d suggest asking yourself whether you’re getting rid of the old thing simply to make space for the new – this isn’t sustainable. Making a list, and opting for certified ethical, fairtrade, and environmentally-conscious brands with clear climate and sustainability plans are also worth considering. When buying for others, I try my best to buy gifts that the recipient will use, given that returned items often end up in landfill.
Take public transport
I don’t really have much of a choice as driving into the Oxford City Centre isn’t practical. Nonetheless, I like taking public transportation and it’s certainly more sustainable than driving everywhere.
Growing my own
I’m really pleased with how much produce I was able to grow at the allotment and home garden last summer. The potatoes, beetroot, and squashes lasted us most of the winter, and it’s a good feeling being able to supplement our groceries with home-grown food, free from pesticides. I also grew a lot of vegetables from saved seeds, meaning the cost was down to the compost. The more compost I can make myself (see above), the less I need to buy.
Shopping second hand and hand-me-downs
Most of the clothes I buy are second hand from Depop. I also love passing things on to other people, such as the second-hand books I’ve read, or swapping clothing with Lucy. Most recently, we got some new-to-us herbs in pots, and last summer we got a load of outdoor planter pots for free!
I’m trying to be intentional with the fruit and vegetables I buy. For example, I focus on root veg in winter, and save buying berries for the summer. See: Eating Seasonally and Locally in the UK while living Zero Waste
Arguably one of the most sustainable changes a person can make in their daily life is eating less meat, dairy, and heavily-processed foods.
There you have it, 10 sustainable habits that I have adopted into my lifestyle. These habits do require forward-planning and intention over convenience, but are so rewarding if you can make them work with your routines.