Growing up, I was always a little eco-conscious. My family recycled, we reused containers as much as we could, and we bought only what we needed. Though, the last two had to do with money being tight, they were still sustainable options.
These habits have stayed with me since, and even though I wasn’t that sustainably-aware, my autopilot with things like recycling, using a reusable container for lunches, no impulse shopping, etc were better options than most.
This summer, not sure why honestly, it hit me: wow, we are destroying Earth. Myself included. Then, UN reports came out, stating that if we don’t make changes right now, it’ll be irreversible.
I went into an extremely depressive state. I was so anxious, I started therapy (the real reason why I went.) I couldn’t really get out of bed because I felt guilty that even my existence was contributing to the problem. This made things like driving to work hard, but it made things like just walking around the grocery store and seeing people use plastic even harder.
Every decision I made from that day, I had to find out if it was the most sustainable option. When planning for trips, I had to see if flying or driving solo would release the least carbon emissions. I would do all my errands in one trip, even if that meant starving myself because I wouldn’t be home for hours (and we know eating out sustainably is difficult.) I only went thrift shopping, and I felt bad for even stepping into an Old Navy. I even decided to bike around my neighborhood during a heat wave instead of driving to the gym, and I actually had to lay down in someones lawn because I couldn’t breathe and didn’t have the energy to get home.
I was so angry and frustrated. I couldn’t understand how could people not see the harm they were doing. Everywhere I went, there was a surplus of plastic, trash on the ground, and unnecessary traveling when any of us could have easily walked or biked. People would go to the nearest gas station to get slushies in styrofoam cups. I would hear people say they were going to buy single-use disposables for an event because it was more convenient. Celebrities are still seen using plastic bottles, constantly flying, and promoting unethical + sustainable products/brands. I couldn’t go on social media without hearing about climate change and seeing people already give up, accepting defeat.
Why was I literally putting myself through harms way if everyone around me still didn’t seem to care? How can I fix a problem I can’t fix?
So for about two months, it consumed me. All I can think about and all I could talk about was climate change. When it’s that big of a problem, you will literally drive yourself insane if you are constantly thinking about it.
My learningfrombalance kicked in and I knew I couldn’t live like this. I wanted to help find a solution, but I had think realistically as well. Here’s what I knew: as much as I could do to live a low/zero-waste lifestyle, that won’t be enough.
But awareness is a start. I’m grateful to have a platform that I can promote these things to and people will actually listen. I have plans to share so much more of my journey as I go on it, and hopefully I can do sustainably challenges to encourage others to join me as well.
Though, Instagram is more difficult to switch up your content, and still retain your original audience. Realistically, I knew I couldn’t just completely switch, and I didn’t really want to. My platform has always been mainly mental health, and I think that’s what it’ll always be.
So I decided to start a magazine, it’s magazine, to be able to share these issues, amongst other things, and try create a place where you can read about it, learn about it, and do something about it. Because I think a lot of us are aware there’s an issue, and the news is a great way to really drill that into us, but no one ever offers solutions.
What good is that?
I’ll offer a few:
- You have to be aware. You have to know what’s going on. A huge reason we have this problem is people just don’t know the consequences. Most of the time, that’s literally it. Awareness is what gets the ball going. The reason I never was more sustainable is because I knew the facts would terrify me, and they did. But if you look at ALL the facts, we still have a chance. The odds are against us, but we still have a chance.
- Make changes where you can. My issue was that I thought too big. I wanted to sell my new car for an electric vehicle, even if that would put me in extreme debt. Be realistic with yourself. Running out of shampoo? Buy a shampoo bar next time. Need a new household cleaner? Make your own. Have black beans on your grocery list? Buy it in your container this time. Craving a burger? Try a veggie one instead of beef. Every little thing matters. Your consumer decisions are also telling businesses what you want and what you don’t want.
- You have to be okay with being a little inconvenienced. It’s not exactly the best experience going into a new restaurant you’re trying out and asking if they could use your container instead of theirs. No one likes having to get up a little earlier to catch the bus to avoid driving your own car. Sometimes it does suck having to carry a few too many things in your arms to your car because you forgot your reusable bag again. But eventually these habits will be formed and you won’t feel inconvenienced anymore, because this will just be your life.
- But also be flexible with yourself. If you forget to say no straw with your drink, you had to buy something in plastic packaging, or you’re running late so you had to drive to your destination, it’s okay. We don’t need to be perfect at this point, we just all need to be doing better.
- Spread the word. Encourage others, like families and friends, to make sustainable choices. If there’s a certain Instagram/YouTube influencer you like, ask them too, they can help promote this lifestyle even if they just make a small switch, like using a reusable cup. In general, you’d be surprised what one conversation does to change a person’s view towards climate change. You can even do more by sharing petitions, joining protests/rallies, and calling your state representatives. Your voice has power, use it.
I also want to to stress that living sustainably does not have to be expensive.
It’s actually supposed to be a lot cheaper, and it is for me. I’m glad I knew that much going into my journey.
The issue a lot of people have, and it’s definitely businesses, is we run to get the newest eco-friendly product, even if we don’t need it. When you’re buying things like reusable tumblers, glass containers, and other sustainable products on a regular basis, it adds up.
Look at what you have and get creative. This blog is a great resource for information, swaps, tips, etc for anyone at any place in their journey. If you need something new, make sure it’s going to last you for years to come. Quality over quantity, always.
Here are a few switches/investments I made so far:
- I bought a reusable tumbler and water bottle
- I bought a few metal straws and a carrying case for them
- I bought 2 glass storage containers for lunches
- I bought a simple lunch box
- I use my silverware from home rather than buying a new set for going out to eat
- I bought reusable bamboo cotton rounds and produce bags
- I bought a shampoo and conditioner bar
- I save the reusable bags I have sent to me for groceries
- I make my own dishwasher detergent
- I use soap bars
- For online orders, I always request the least amount of plastic/packaging possible.
- I stick to cardboard/glass packaging
- If I buy plastic, I only buy things that I know was made out of recycled plastic
- I buy anything I can in bulk
- I make my own dry shampoo
- Since I don’t wash my hair every day, I take shorter showers
- I stopped buying so much online, including things like supplements
I also have all my favorite products here if you’re interested. But all these switches were made over time, not all at once, so I was able to budget for them. Out of everything I purchased, I haven’t had to replace and dispose of anything once. Definitely a lasting investment so far.
I knew that living sustainably meant I had to change a lot of my life, including how I ate. I used to eat chicken about once a week, but I plan to stop eating meat completely. Once I can find a good homemade yogurt recipe, I plan to stop buying and eating dairy yogurt. I also had to simplify a lot of what I eat, since I do want to buy as much as I can in bulk.
Part of being labeled as a “food instagrammer” is making unique recipes, but sometimes that means supplements, things you could only find online, or ingredients wrapped in excess packaging. I couldn’t justify doing that just to fit into a label I didn’t really want to fit in anymore. I make simple recipes now to make the most of the things I buy. It’s a process, because that usually means rotating between the same few meals each week, but I’m learning.
I do like the challenge though, because for example, you can do SO much with just oatmeal:
- Energy bars
- Energy balls
- Oat flour
- Oat pancakes
- Oat pie crusts
- Stovetop oatmeal
- Overnight oatmeal
- Oatmeal scrubs
- Oatmeal masks
So you can really just creative what what you make. My biggest tip is to just go one day to your store and see what bulk options you have. Then try to think of any recipes you can make. I know at my Fresh Thyme, I can buy grains, flours, nut butters, liquid sweeteners, oils, protein, spices, and a few other things in bulk. So if I wanted to make a quick snack like energy balls, I know I could purchase everything with any packaging. I can create SO many meals with just these basic ingredients, so I’ve been writing a list of things I want to try and seeing where I can buy them with minimal to no packaging.
Keep in mind, if you don’t live close to a bulk store, you might want to make one giant trip a week instead of smaller ones. Carbon emissions do add up, so just plan ahead. I live just a few minutes away, but I still try to go in one giant trip anyways, saves me money too because when do you ever leave the store with just the one item you went in for?
Aside from what I eat, my day-to-day routine has changed too.
The first thing I do when I wake up is think about any errands I need to run, and whether it was a walking/driving distance. I try to go out in one trip, so I make sure I have everything I need: snacks, reusable bags, grocery list, etc. If I know a friend needs to make a trip later, I’ll invite them with, or just pick it up for them, because carpooling helps or I could save them the trip!
I also try to become more aware of how much of each item I use, whether that’s skincare, food, or cleaning products.
I do my skincare routine in the morning when I wake up, I eat breakfast, run errands/go to work, go to the gym, shower/do my skincare routine again, eat dinner, then work on my own personal stuff.
So during the day, I know I use the same skincare products twice, I eat three meals which means 4-5 dirty dishes, and I wear 3 outfits a day. This probably sounds crazy and weird, but knowing these things helps me keep track of when I’ll have to replace these items/do laundry/do dishes. All of that would require energy, so I want to make sure I’m not wasting more than I need to waste.
I try to do laundry once a week, and I do a biiiig load and usually don’t separate everything (whoops.) In the same load, I’ll wash my reusable bamboo cotton rounds, dish towels, and reusable napkins. I do dishes about once a day or once every two days, and I make sure it’s completely full. I keep my skincare routine simple now so I can use less products, and I can also try to find zero-waste alternatives down the road.
Now clothes. I’ve gained a lot of weight the past few months since recovering from eating disorders, so I actually don’t have a lot that fits me right now. It’s difficult, because I have to buy A LOT of new clothing, but buying from ethical + sustainable brands can be expensive so stores like F21 sound tempting.
What I’m doing now is trying to sell as much as I can on Poshmark, buy essential items from pricier sustainable brands that I know will last, and find everything else at Goodwill. I look at Goodwill for things like big t-shirts (to crop or just wear on their own,) dresses, jeans (to turn into shorts or just wear,) flannels, and other tops. I’m not a fan of accessories, but I do like seeing if they have any purses or small backpacks. I like getting decorations and mason jars here too. For things like new underwear and bras, I’ve been looking at PACT.
I’ve never been too into fashion, so I actually prefer to wear solid colors and simple pants, so ethical fashion really works for me. If you do like trendier outfits, go to a city or a college town and see what they have. Poshmark is also great for finding specific trendy pieces. But in general, I wear the same few pieces constantly, it works.
Currently, I’m a bit more relaxed now that I know I’m doing my part to spread awareness, while practicing what I preach as well. Listening to people like Greta Thunberg has also helped inspire me to keep going and be persistent.
Though, it still is difficult, especially when you don’t really have people actively living the same lifestyle as you. I often cancel plans because sometimes I don’t feel like explaining why I won’t just randomly get a coffee, eat out at that specific restaurant, or buy more than a handful of items. I can’t justify making those choices anymore if it involves unsustainable practices, and it’s sad that more sustainable choices aren’t commonplace. I also don’t enjoy that there are others that still judge me for making these choices, including people close to me. I still often get very embarrassed still when I bulk shop or ask to get my coffee in my own cup, but it’s worth it for me. Just goes back to getting used to being slightly inconvenienced, you just have to keep doing it until you’re comfortable or it is commonplace.
It does give me hope knowing social media is here to help spread the word, I feel like that’s been so helpful in getting this through to people. I’ve also noticed that there are a lot of other people who are, and have been, actively promoting this lifestyle for a while. There are thousands of people who are willing to make these things, and I think consumer-driven choices is what’s going to make the biggest push for more low/zero-waste stores and products. As for emissions being released by giant corporates, that’s when we keep fighting and demanding change from our lawmakers, which is honestly the part that scares me the most. We know how politics can be.
I have faith that we can absolutely make these changes, but I’m just worried it won’t be in time. But there’s no use in worrying about the future or past, because we need changes to happen now, in the present.
I have zero respect for people who don’t take a stance on issues. Your silence speaks volumes. Just do what you can, no matter how small. Help spread the word. Times are so scary right now, and we are seeing the effects of climate change today. Make an effort, you don’t have to be perfect, we just need every single person to start making changes. Please.