It's no secret that sustainable living is important, but the idea of a sustainable lifestyle is intimidating, to say the least. You may want to start making changes in your life but may not know how. Or, you may not even know what sustainability really is.

Essentially, sustainability is how we meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. Little changes that you implement in your daily routine can make big waves in the grand scheme of things. What you do now matters in the long run.

Chances are, you've heard R3 (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) time and time again. I will tell you not only how to effectively follow R3, but also how to Be Mindful while you do it.

Reduce

Taking time to consider the impact of the resources you use every day on the earth. 72% of our earth is made of water. While that sounds great, once you factor in the water that makes up our oceans, icecaps, and salt lakes, less than 1% of that is drinkable. While the water coming out of your sink faucet won't run out anytime soon, eventually it could. Take the time now to reduce your water usage (and, in turn, it'll reduce your utility bill at the end of the month!).

You can also take steps to reduce your carbon emissions into the atmosphere without making a drastic change to your lifestyle. Try to reduce the time you spend driving your car alone. You can carpool with a friend or two or get healthy and ride your bike or walk where you need to go! You can also take measures in your home to reduce carbon emission by turning off the lights when you leave a room, don't turn your thermostat up too high or down too low and make it overwork, and you can insulate your home to reduce drafts and air leaks!

Reuse

Plastic bags fall through our fingers faster than we realize. The last time you went the grocery store and left your cloths bags in your car, you probably walked out with 20 or more plastic, single-use grocery bags in your hands - especially if you asked the cashier to double bag your milk. Many counties are taking initiative and banning plastic bags in order to promote reusable bags in everyday life!

It is also important to abstain from using single-use water bottles, zip lock bags, and styrofoam food containers. Instead, invest in reusable water bottles and Tupperware containers! Not only will you be treating the earth well, you won't have to take your trash our nearly as often as you do now! Reusable containers are convenient for travel and if you take your own cup to Starbucks, you save 10 cents on your order!

Recycle

Obviously, recycling is an important factor in sustainability, but many of us don't know proper recycling techniques! One of the most important things to know is that not everything that has a recycling symbol on it can be recycled in your county. That number inside of the three arrows means something! Check on your county's website and see what you can recycle and what you can't.

You can't recycle anything that has any food or chemical waste on it. So that cardboard pizza box with the grease and cheese stuck to the bottom is a no-go. So is your milk carton until you've rinsed it out completely and there is no food waste. Fun fact: you can recycle the container that holds Lysol wipes - but not until after you've rinsed it out.

You also cannot recycle staples, paper cups, or straws.

Be Mindful

In addition to educating yourself on the R3 system, educate yourself on products that are simply good or bad for the earth. One of the most detrimental substances is plastic. Most of the time when we use plastic, we know it, but recently something has popped up called a microbead. Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic that can be used in toothpaste or facewash. Microbeads also fully compose containers of glitter. Since they can be found in products that are often just washed down a drain, microbeads are sent directly to waterways that contain marine life that mistake the beads for food. Then we eat the marine life that ate the plastics, and you get the picture. Not only does our misuse of plastics affect other life, in the grand scheme of things, it affects us too.

There are many things to be mindful of when it comes to sustainability, and if we don't research them, chances are we'll never know. Implement small changes in your life now and you will make a big impact on the future.