It’s almost the end of 2017, the perfect time to renew one’s sustainable lifestyle goals and make some resolutions! Did the holidays completely overwhelm and occupy way too much of your time this year too? I took a week off of blogging just to finish all the gifts I made and mail stuff to send to family out of town. Then I baked a hideous but delicious vegan bundt cake and cooked a dish to bring for Christmas dinner. I spent the rest of the time trying to find scant moments with my wife where we weren’t completely involved in a Christmas project. Our cat basically protested because we couldn’t spend any time with her. It was a lot.
All the excitement, however, made me think about the new year, and what I hope to accomplish by living a more sustainable lifestyle. Perhaps is inspiration came from all the new things our families got us. Or maybe the wrapping paper. Or because I started to realize while preparing for the holidays that no matter how hard one tries, Christmas makes it really easy to consume. I realized that while we solved some pretty big puzzles in our lives regarding how to live in an urban environment and reduce our carbon footprint in 2017, I still want to get better at somethings.
We spent the first part of 2017 planning our wedding. So much of our planning went to ensuring the wedding was as eco-friendly as possible while navigating the constraints of throwing a large party for 100 people. The second part of 2017 we streamlined some of the systems that we have in our home around waste, being better organized, and setting up new systems like a backyard compost pile.
We still work on these practices all the time. One thing that I think we accomplished in 2017 was to learn how to live alone, without housemates, while still practicing a lot of the same waste reduction methods we learned while living in a co-op for several years. When we made the decision to go off on our own, we were definitely concerned that we would fall back into old habits. Thankfully, we incorporated many practices from our old house into our new house. These practices include things like reusing plastic bags, washing aluminum foil, and using rags instead of paper towels.
Our journey continues, however. I wrote this list of goals to incorporate more eco-friendly practices into our lifestyle in 2018, that I hope inspires you to live more sustainably as well.
2018 Goals For a More Sustainable Lifestyle
1. Bringing Less Into The House
I’m essentially a magpie in human form. If I see something I think could be useful, I pick it up and bring it home. I need to start being more selective about what enters my house. Because I often purge items and I end up with a huge pile of stuff I don’t actually want, which sits in the hallway and drives me crazy for months at a time.
Part of my process around this needs to reflect what we actually need, versus what I perceive we could use. The most challenging part of this is that a lot of stuff we don’t even buy. I find stuff on the street, in free boxes, friends give us stuff, our parents are always foisting used stuff on us, it’s endless. I need to be better about drawing hard lines for myself about making sure everything that enters our home is actually something I want to stay.
2. Minimizing Food Waste
Every so often, something gets lost in our fridge and I feel so bad when I find it later and know I have to compost it. I’ve been combatting this problem by being very aware of what we don’t finish and resolving to do a better job of finishing it the next time we buy it. I’d like to take that up a notch by having a more organized fridge and planning meals better around what we already have in the house. For example, if we have feta and olives, I should make Greek salad. I’d like to find a food storage system that makes it easy to see the food that we have in our refrigerator, and I’d like to be more intentional about what I buy.
One of the biggest challenges around food waste in our household is that my wife travels a ton for work, and can be called away at a moment’s notice. This means more food in the fridge for me to get through on my own, which can be hard. Don’t get me wrong, I like to eat, but I can’t possibly eat two servings of everything. When she’s called away I then have to relearn how to grocery shop for just 1 person. Because I always lived with housemates during my 20s, I never had to learn how to buy groceries as just one person. To combat this, I really need to have more impromptu dinner parties in 2018, haha! I also really need to learn to not fill up my basket when I shop.
3. Cutting Down on Plastic.
I don’t use a lot of plastic like plastic wrap (the wedding was the exception!) on a regular occasion. Sometimes I use it when I bake, or in an emergency, but for the most part, it could take me years to get through a role. We already wash and reuse plastic produce and ziplock bags. We do use plastic Tupperware, but we also use mason jars.
I’ve been noticing, however, how much plastic we accidentally bring into the house when we buy packaged things, like tortellini or frozen blueberries. Even pasta comes in those ridiculous plastic wrappers. Most of that plastic we can recycle at our local grocery store, but I’d like to get better about not bringing it home in the first place. I’ve become accustomed to creating a bag of “plastic recycling” that sits on our trash, and it overwhelms me how much we actually end up with!
I suspect that buying more in bulk might be one answer. One thing that I have started doing that’s really made a difference is saving bulk containers and washing them. Like when I buy olives from the olive bar, I save the plastic container, rinse it out, and reuse it. The people who work at the grocery store are none the wiser. I’d also like to make or invest in some reusable produce bags and bulk sacks.
4. Using Fewer Disposables
I still find myself in situations where I need to grab a plastic fork to eat lunch with. I’d like to invest in a bamboo utensils kit for my travels outside my own home. On a recent trip to San Diego, I packed a fork, knife, spoon and linen napkin in a cute bag and loved it! Not only did I feel uber chic eating take out with my silverware, I felt better about not using ANOTHER plastic fork and paper napkin. Plus, it made it easy to cut into an avocado on the road. I did, however, get stopped at airport security for having the butter knife (I mean really, I could have done more damage with the knitting needles I was carrying), so I think bamboo might be the wiser choice!
This same principle applies to disposable beverage cups and to-go containers. When buying take-away teas I’ve definitely asked the barista to put the tea bag and hot water in my insulated water bottle, and no one has ever said no. I also need to remember to bring to-go containers when I eat out, to decrease the amount of “boxes” I ask for.
5. Buying More Locally
We are blessed to live within walking distance of a large, locally owned independent grocery store and I shop there almost exclusively. All the produce has signs indicating where it was grown, and I try really hard to only buy produce grown in California (because that’s where I live). We’d love to shop more directly from farmers at farmers markets on the regular, however.
We were much better at shopping at farmer’s markets when we didn’t live so close to the grocery store and it’s something that we really miss as a practice. It’s been my experience that eating a locally grown diet with seasonal produce is really beneficial, helps the body acclimate to the seasons, and makes me feel good about where my food is coming from. This principle also applies to buying things like honey, cheese, wine, bread, and just about anything canned.
6. Decreasing Pet Wastefulness
Our cat, Stella, is one of our biggest contributors of waste to our household. The canned cat food alone is definitely a problem because every day and a half we go through another can. I’ve considered switching her away from canned food over to raw food, as the containers from some companies are compostable, but I need to do more research as to how to make it affordable as well as ensure that she’ll get all the nutrition she needs.
I’ve also done a ton of research on cat droppings having parasites that kill sea otters, which means I’ve been using compostable bags for her droppings (but not her litter, I compost that) and putting them in the trash. I’d like to do more research on the lifecycle of those parasites. It seems from previous research that unless she regularly kills and eats mice, the parasites shedding eggs via her droppings shouldn’t be a problem. In that scenario, I’d rather flush or compost her waste.
7. Wearing Less Synthetic Fabrics – Even When Used
Did you know that everytime you wash your synthetic clothes (anything made from polyester, nylon, acrylic etc) millions of tiny plastic fibers shed off and make their way into our oceans? The plastic fibers reak havoc on our ocean’s ecosystems, add more plastic to our seafood and pollute our shorelines. Eek! I buy almost all of my clothes used, but I need a better filter for picking out natural clothing only. The less synthetic clothes we wear and wash, the better it is for our environment overall.
I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about how if the washing of the synthetic clothing is a problem, soaking might be a short terms solution. I’ve used this fantastic soaking wash with fantastic results, on synthetic and natural clothing alike. Also, washing less is always a good habit to be in, and I almost always wash everything on cold.
8. Making More Food Staples From Scratch
This one really comes back to the plastic and disposables issue. It would be great to make more bread, broth, and jam from scratch. In the past, I’ve definitely made tons of things like granola, almond milk, toothpaste, and applesauce. I need to get into a more regular habit of doing this to cut out the number of containers that I bring home. It’s also healthier to make these items from scratch. One has a lot more control over the ingredients and the amount of sugar added. The biggest barrier I’ve found to making more food items from scratch is time. I guess we’ll see how far we get with this one! Maybe I can think up a few DIY projects to help me.
Love and blessings for a positive, conscious and thoughtful 2018! More more ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle in 2018, check out these posts to get you started!