This blog is a change from my usual education related writing. However, sustainability is now a part of how I teach, and encouraging the next generation to think green and clean has become part of my mission as a facilitator.
The thought of turning into an environmental warrior who goes gung ho and reverts to minimalism was scary to me. I wanted to live a sustainable life, and yet I didn’t want to jump into a lifestyle I wouldn’t be able to maintain in the long run. During my journey towards this kind of lifestyle, I realized that multiple small steps might be more meaningful and provide a sound base to ease into sustainable living. Simply becoming more conscious of your decisions and choices is also a massive win for the environment. Once you reflect on your lifestyle, you can find small nooks to make minor changes that grow bigger and blossom over time. Here are the simple steps I took to begin living a more sustainable lifestyle-
Avoid ordering in your groceries
The convenience of apps such as MilkBasket and Swiggy is undeniable. Ordering groceries at the swipe of a smartphone may seem like a great thing to do, but every time you avail of these services, you encourage stores to use unnecessary packaging and burn fuel while delivering your goods. The solution to this is listed in my next step.
Go grocery shopping once or twice a week
Plan your meals and make lists of what you need. Then, go out shopping and stock up for the week so that you make a single trip that satisfies all your needs. Meal planning here is a good idea since you will procure any ingredients or veggies you may require in the coming week. When you go out shopping, carry your own cloth bags, or read on for my easy grocery shopping hack.
Get a large, rolling grocery bag
I found this bag on Amazon, and it has been a lifesaver. Since I shop for groceries once a week, I generally buy in bulk. Carrying these items from the basement to my home was an arduous activity. This bag eliminates troubles related to packaging as well as transportation. I finish my grocery shopping in the store and then ask the person at the checkout counter to keep filling my rolling bag with my items (no polythene or paper bags required). In this way, I do not need to take even a single bag from the store, and my shopping trip ends up being zero-waste in nature.
Use mesh bags for fruit and veg shopping
Most fruit and vegetable shops have paper bags for customers to put their veggies in and organize them in their cart. However, the waste of paper perturbed me. Imagine how many paper bags go in the bin after hundreds of people return home with their groceries! So I bought some mesh veggie bags on Amazon, and I carry them with me on my shopping expeditions. Rather than using the store’s paper bags, I put my veggies directly in these mesh bags, and they’re ready to be billed. They even keep your refrigerator compartments organized.
Buy groceries at a bulk store
When I began reflecting on where most of my household waste comes from, I realized that food packaging tops the list. So I started exploring bulk stores and found one conveniently located near me (Adrish, Gurgaon). A bulk store urges you to come in with your empty bottles and containers, fill grain/pulses, etc., and buy it by weight. We have been shopping at Adrish and thus made grocery shopping plastic-free for months now. A bonus is how much my sons love pulling the levers at the store and scooping ingredients into our containers!
Use as many reusable products as possible
Look around your home and reflect on how many things you throw away after a single use. Kitchen towel, for example, is a big waste of paper. While I understand that these things may be necessities at home, I always question whether I can use a cloth duster to mop up something rather than use paper. A handy Scotch Brite or towel usually subs for kitchen towel well. It’s always a good idea to walk around your house to see where the most paper or plastic is used and work from there to minimize it.
Reusable menstrual products and urination devices
Since we’re talking about reusable products, feminine hygiene is one of the biggest single-use industries in the world. I switched to menstrual cups years ago and never looked back. I’m surprised more women do not know about them because they are unmatched in comfort and hygiene. I have tried cups from all over the world but found PeeSafe’s menstrual cup the most affordable and easy to use.
Another feminine hygiene product is the stand and pee urination device. While the better-known ones are made of cardboard and allow you to stand and pee, I recently switched to the silicone version, which is reusable and can be used for years at a time. These devices help prevent UTIs, allow you to pee easily on road trips without squatting, ease the tension on hiking trips; the list is endless. The best part: no single-use feminine hygiene products go to the landfill.
Switch to baths with a mug instead of a shower
I didn’t know how much water is wasted because of showers until I taught my students a unit on waste. The figures were alarming. I switched to mug baths 80% of the time last year and maintained this habit. The rest of the 20% includes showering when I’m washing my hair or feeling sick and need a little indulgence.
I must admit, it took me some time to come around to composting. Like most others, I thought compost would be smelly and hard work. While it isn’t too much hard work, I did find it smelly until I perfected the composting process. I bought the Gobble Junior by Daily Dump on Amazon. I now have a steady supply of compost for my household plants after the initial teething issues. Our society composts the green waste produced, so I feel like keeping some food waste to create compost wasn’t necessary, but it just made me need to buy less when I could create my own.
The more we buy for our homes, the more waste will eventually go to landfills. I struggle with this all the time. I don’t follow through in certain situations when temptation takes hold. However, I know that I’m aware of how I should be buying less unnecessary stuff, which makes me more mindful of my decisions as a consumer.
These simple steps are mere suggestions on how you can quickly start living a more sustainable lifestyle. None of these should be a hard and fast rule that makes your life miserable. Instead, treat these as reflection points to build sustainable practices that suit you and your lifestyle. You should be left feeling content and satisfied that you’re doing your bit to save the planet every day. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know!