How to be sustainable

Sustainability in 3 steps

I am often told that sustainability is too hard but I truly believe that to be sustainable is much easier than not being sustainable. It is really a matter of mindset. With a good mindset you can put a plan into place to achieve a life of well-being and sustainability. 

On average people in the western world will require a minimum of 50% reduction in their ecological footprint. Read the definition of sustainability here.

A 50% reduction in ecological footprint can be achieved in three basic steps.

Step 1: Reduce the amount of stuff you buy

Reduce the amount of stuff you buy including all goods such as food, goods, shelter, energy and transport. It also includes the resources that are used in the services we use.

Reducing your footprint is a matter of numbers. Do you really need 2, 3, 4 or more of everything. For instance does your family need more than one car, one fridge, or one TV? Do you need something big when something small will do. For instance a small house will have a significantly smaller footprint than a large one. Likewise with cars.

Key strategies:

  1. 80:20 rule – only buy what you use often – read more »
  2. Rent, borrow or share the rest – read more »
  3. Minimise waste e.g. 20% of food – read more »

Potential overall reduction: 10-25% or more

The best things in life are free

Instead of spending money on physical goods and services that use material and energy resources, you could spend your time creating life experiences that are free (or cheap) and use much less resources. Examples include:

  • Relationships
  • Education and lifelong learning
  • Culture and creativity
  • Sport, recreation and exercise
  • Spending time in nature
  • Community involvement and volunteering

Read more about the best things in life here »

Step 2: Make what you have last longer

Make what you have last as long as possible, at least twice as long. In the case of food, this is not possible but in some cases, things can last a lifetime or more. Reuse, recycle, repair, renew.

Key strategies:

  1. Buy good quality, durable goods – read more »
  2. Look after or repair goods – read more »
  3. Watch the fashion trap, buy classic designs instead
  4. Nothing disposable, no waste

Potential overall reduction: 10-25% or more

Step 3: Buy things made from sustainable, renewable resources

To reduce your footprint even further buy goods and services that are made from renewable, recyclable resources – both materials and energy. Choose to buy goods and services with low energy production techniques e.g. hand-made and/or locally made.

Key strategies

  1. Minimise plastics – especially disposable products and packaging
  2. Buy organic, seasonal, local food – read more »
  3. Buy natural materials – wood and plant-based are best
  4. Buy locally made, craft-produced goods and services

Overall reduction: 10-25%

How do you halve food consumption?

You might ask how do you halve your food consumption? Sufficient food is essential for well-being and you cannot reduce the amount of nutrition you need. However, the answer is that it is not about halving consumption in terms of the physical amount, unless you are overeating, but about the size of the food footprint. These ideas will explain:

  1. The type of food you consume affects the size of your ecological footprint. Less meat but more vegetables means there is the same (or better) nutrition with a net decrease of ecological footprint.
  2. Growing your own also doesn’t decrease total consumption but it does decrease your net ecological footprint because you are increasing earth’s bio-capacity. The more self-sufficient you are in anything the more you increase the earth’s bio-capacity.
  3. As mentioned above, if you eliminate all avoidable food waste that’s about 20% saving just there.