Thursday, July 30, 2009

10 Sustainable Lifestyle Tips

Written by Zachary Shahan

Lifestyle is the biggest underlying contributor to our environmental impact. The things we buy, the products we use, the way we travel, are all influenced greatly by our lifestyle. Our lifestyle is the root of all our green (or not green) actions in some way or another. How we think, what we think about, how we spend our free time, our daily and weekly habits, what we decide to bring into our lives — this is our lifestyle.

I’ve come up with a top ten list of lifestyle factors that I believe have the biggest impact on whether or not we are living sustainable lives. Is your lifestyle sustainable?

We often write about great products that can green your home (see “5 Products to Green in Your Everyday Life”, “Five Greenish Products You’ve Seen on TV” and “Five More Greenish Products You’ve Seen on TV”), ways to cut home energy consumption (see “10 Ways to Cut Home Energy Consumption”), and other such thing-related green topics. This top ten list delves into the more fundamental aspects of our lives — why do we buy what we buy, why do we do what we do, why do we go where we go?

These tips should help to transform your life from a green life to a super-green life, or from a not-so-green life (maybe a yellow life), to a green one!

#10: Educate Yourself

Thought you got your degree from a university, or from primary school? You did, but things are constantly changing. The world is constantly in motion and things are constantly being updated. How can you make proper actions and decisions if you don’t stay informed? Learning is a lifelong process, especially since what we learned in the past isn’t always right (the world is flat) and since things are always changing (habitats disappearing, weather changing, tomatoes being made from fish cells, and so on). Stay informed by educating yourself a little everyday, or every week if everyday is too difficult for you. Great websites to stay on top of all green issues include: Sustainablog (for all things green, especially new products and lifestyle); EcoWorldy (for world environmental news); CleanTechnica (for technical news and information); Red, Green & Blue (for political news), Eat.Drink.Better. (for food news), EcoLocalizer (for local green news), Planetsave (for activist and environmental news), and others from Green Options Media.

#9: Spend Some Time With Yourself
We all need some time to reflect on our actions, our lives, our beliefs, and the direction we are going in if we are going to live sustainable lives. We need this time, whether it is in transit, while we are doing other things, or while we are taking a short break from work. The best way to do this, though, is to give a little time to yourself everyday (or at least once a week) — to sit back, relax, let your thoughts settle, and take a clear look at things important to you. Take some time to sit with yourself everyday.

#8: Don’t Rush
Most of us these days seem to rush around from one place or one activity to another all day long. Rushing may not be pleasant, but it also has many negative effects for sustainable actions. When we rush, we are very impulsive, we buy things and do things we don’t need to buy or do. When we rush, we grab a quick snack wrapped in a piece of plastic, and then another quick snack in a plastic wrapper, and then another, instead of eating whole foods. When we rush, we forget to do various things — turn off the lights, shut off the computer, unplug appliances that aren’t in use, and so on. When we rush, drive for short trips instead of taking our time and going by bicycle or foot.

#7: Read a Book
Reading a book is a way to entertain ourselves. It is also a way to educate and culture ourselves. It also helps most people to relax — hence, the reason why people fall asleep reading. Reading a book is also a green activity. Instead of going to the cinema (who knows how much energy cinemas use), instead of driving to a restaurant or club, instead of going shopping for more things you don’t need, you can sit down and read a book and you achieve many green goals!

#6: Unplug
This is somewhat of a lifestyle tip, I guess. It is a habit that must be created. When you are not using something electronic, turn it off and unplug it. This saves tons of energy. It is a simple habit that can go a long way.

#5: Leave the Plastic
Plastic probably has not shown us it’s true face yet. We think it’s convenient, useful for many things, and cheap. But plastic produces many concerns. It is already shown that a chemical used to make some plastics, and found in 93% of people tested, produces cancer, infertility, obesity and early puberty in numerous animal studies. Plastic is now being linked to childhood obesity and it is practically certain now that it can cause breast cancer in women. Additionally, plastic may cause autism — a serious problem that has sky-rocketed in recent decades. PVC plastic has many demonstrated, non-debatable problems. “PVC contains phthalates, softeners needed to make the plastic bend, and they have been found to interfere with hormonal development. The production of and burning of PVC plastic releases dioxin, a known carcinogen, into the atmosphere.”

Plastic is the most common type of ocean litter, harming countless sea animals as well. Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, wants plastic bags banned completely. For more on plastic ocean litter, read the haunting article “Plastic Oceans”.

Join IKEA and others — cut plastic out of your life. For a list of “safe” plastics and help getting started, read “What Plastics Do to Your Body”.

#4: 1 Call or Email a Day
Living in a democracy, I think it is paramount that there is substantial citizen involvement. As mentioned in tip #10, we should be informed, but beyond that we should also be at least a little involved in our democracy. It takes 30 seconds to a couple minutes to send an email or make a call to your representatives to let them know what is important to you. There are several websites that can help you voice your opinion. You can find all kinds of petition topics at the Petition Site. You can even start your own petition on this site. You can also check our sister site, Planetsave, for news on environmental activism and activism opportunities.

#3: Drop it Before You Shop, Don’t Shop Till’ You Drop

Consumerism beyond our needs or overconsumption is one of the leading causes of many environmental problems in the world today. Why do we shop so much more than we need? Why do we consume, consume and consume. Perhaps, it is because we have not found any peace within ourselves. For more on this topic, read “Personal Happiness and the Environment: A Sustainability Connection” or “Personal Happiness and the Economy: A Sustainability Link” or “Personal Sustainability: The Path to Worldwide Environmental Sustainability”. Next time you have a big urge to shop, remember tips #9 and #7, and maybe #10, and see if that doesn’t help.

#2: Cut off the Car
This might have been #1. Transportation is the second leading contributor to greenhouse gases in the country.

You can save a lot of money by driving less (or not at all), as approximately 30%, the largest percentage, of a working family’s budget in the US goes to transportation. It is several times more relaxing to walk, bike, or use public transit instead of driving. It is healthier. And it is one of the best things you can do to live a more sustainable life. Cut off the car, in whatever way you can.

#1: Eat Fruits and Veggies
As we’ve discovered, livestock production is a bigger cause of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide than transportation! The American Dietetic Association (ADA) used to say that a vegetarian diet was a safe diet to live on. Now, the ADA recommends it due to the fact that it is shown to decrease the risk of major health problems and premature death — cancer, ischemic heart disease, hypertension, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. As Einstein stated: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” Take a chance — try out the vegetarian diet, and see how it changes your life. For help on how to live vegetarian (or even vegan), keep an eye on Eat.Drink.Better. and hundreds of other resources on the internet.

Interestingly, those last two tips are basically the leading two tips health experts are giving for addressing the obesity crisis in the United States. There is a clear relationship between the way we are dirtying the planet and the way we are fattening ourselves. Live clean, live green and live healthy.

Live sustainable.

From Sustainable Blog