5 Simple Tips for Living More Sustainably

Kira Simpson

Since I started my (still-evolving) journey to live more sustainably, I have learned that there is no ‘one size fits all’ green lifestyle, and living sustainably means something different to each of us.

When I first heard the term ‘sustainable living’, it conjured up images of home veggie gardens, an off-grid power supply, and a bare, minimalist home. And it scared me!!!

While living off-grid, having a vegetable garden and a minimalist home are wonderful for some, it just didn’t fit in with my lifestyle.

So I started to wonder what I could do to be ‘greener’ in my everyday life. I lived in a rental, I wasn’t keen on gardening, I loved my ‘stuff’ and the idea of getting rid of it all didn’t thrill me. Fast forward one month, a little research and a few ‘aha!’ moments, I realised that there were LOTS of things I could be doing to live more sustainably AND they fit right in with my lifestyle.

Invest in reusable coffee cups

Did you know that not all disposable coffee cups are recyclable? I didn’t! It might surprise you to hear that while some of the plastic lids can be recycled, it’s the paper base that’s the problem because many paper coffee cups have a thin plastic coating to keep the hot liquid from seeping through the paper. You don’t have to give up your takeaway coffee but you should ditch the single-use cups. Reusable coffee cups are awesome! They come in an almost infinite number of colours, styles and sizes AND they keep your coffee warm. Get one.

Buy locally grown produce

So much of the fresh produce sold at the big supermarkets is shipped from halfway across the country. Food grown and purchased locally has less distance to travel, which means less CO2 emissions. By buying closer to home, you’re reducing your carbon footprint and supporting and encouraging growth within the local economy. If you don’t live near a farmer’s market, try searching for online stores that grow and deliver produce close to your home. I’m in Brisbane and love Home Fresh Organics, and when I lived in Sydney I used Doorstep Organics. You can find some wonderful farm-to-table delivery places in almost every major city. You’re supporting local farmers and the convenience is fantastic!

Take your own reusable bags when shopping

This seems like a simple act, but it can have far-reaching impacts. Even if you reuse your plastic grocery bags, they eventually end up in landfill where they only start to degrade after 700 years. Unfortunately, plastic bags don’t always stay in landfill; they often find their way to our parks, bushland, rivers and oceans where they pollute the local environment and kill animals that consume or become trapped inside them. This awful cycle will continue for over 1000 years during the bag’s degradation process. You can stop this just by taking your own reusable bag when you shop. When I forget mine, I just carry the groceries, which is painful, so it means that next time I’m more likely to remember!

Compost your food scraps

Do you know what happens to the food scraps in your bin? It’s pretty bad. When food waste accumulates in a landfill, it decomposes aerobically and produces methane, a greenhouse gas, 20 times more potent than CO2. As the food waste breaks down, the toxic chemicals it produces are released into the atmosphere and surrounding landscape where it travels to waterways, parks and residential areas. If you only do one thing to live more sustainably, composting should be it. Composting is so easy and anyone can do it! If I can, you can. I use a Bokashi in the kitchen and have a large compost bin outside. I have had a few questions about Bokashis so I will share a post on that one later.

Stop buying crap clothes!

When you buy poorly made clothes on a whim because they’re inexpensive and ‘in fashion’, you’re contributing to the destructive throwaway culture. Instead, invest in your wardrobe. Take the time to find good quality pieces you will love and wear for years to come. I would rather own one, higher-priced, well-made piece that I wear every week than six cheaply produced items that I wear once, then end up in landfill.

So, that’s it. Five very simple changes you can make to live more sustainably. It can take about a month to form a habit, so keep at it and don’t beat yourself up too much when you slip up. None of us is perfect and all we can do is try to do better, one small change at a time. These are only small changes but it’s often the smallest actions that have the greatest impact.

Kira Simpson

Kira Simpson is an environmentalist and sustainability expert. She started The Green Hub as a blog in 2015, which has since grown to become one of Australia’s largest education sites dedicated to helping people live a more sustainable lifestyle.