6 Practical Steps Toward Sustainable Living

6 Simple Steps To Sustainable Living That Can Save Both You And The Sea Turtles

These six steps will have you on a journey to sustainable living in no time!

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Sustainable living is all the rage right now. Everywhere we look people are ditching single-use plastics and fast fashion. Why? To cut a long story short, the idea behind this movement is to promote the care and well-being of the earth and its inhabitants. That seems easy enough, right? The hard part is knowing how and where to start. These steps will help you navigate the start of your journey toward sustainable living in six meaningful and practical ways.

1. Become a conscious consumer

Brianna Elizabeth

Are you passionate about the care and keeping of earth and its inhabitants? Do you want to improve working conditions for people in low-income countries? Would you love it if your everyday products actually served to benefit your health? If your answer to any of these questions was "yes," then come sit by me! Being a conscious consumer means that you know where your products come from, how they were crafted, and what their impact is on the environment.

I firmly believe that real change begins within, so before trying any of the following steps take some time to decide why sustainability is important to you. A great place to start is by researching your favorite companies' ethics and integrity reports and deciding whether or not they align with your value system. You can also find tons of documentaries that explain the significance of sustainability in entertaining ways!

2. Ditch single-use plastics

Brianna Elizabeth

We live in a throw-away society where we see everything from to-go boxes to relationships as disposable. This perspective is doing us all a lot more harm than good. One of the most important steps toward transitioning into a low-waste and sustainable lifestyle is ditching single-use plastics. Recycling is not the answer anymore. A lot of the plastics we recycle still end up in the ocean. Although, it still is better to recycle single-use plastic than send it to a landfill. So what can we do about that? Swap plastic out for glass, bamboo, or stainless steel whenever you can. There is a huge market for plastic-free products available, so dig in (consciously)! Bamboo travel cutlery, reusable travel mugs, and nondisposable to-go boxes are great products to start with.

3. Switch to home-crafted products

Brianna Elizabeth

I absolutely love DIY! I also like being able to trust that my products come from organizations that truly care about humanity and environmentalism. Shopping locally or from Eco-friendly companies is a great way to switch from generic brands that are often harmful to the earth and our health. I personally use a shampoo bar from Apple Valley Natural Soaps, homemade bentonite clay toothpowder, and DIY body scrub from used coffee grounds! If that seems a little too hippie-dippie for your taste try starting with something a bit more basic, such as buying products in bulk or making your own household cleaners.

4. Reduce your meat consumption

Brianna Elizabeth

Most of us have no idea how much water and energy go into producing a single pound of meat. Hint: it's a lot. Yes, protein is an important part of our diet, but meat is not the only source of protein for consumption. This is not me telling you that you have to be vegan to live a sustainably minded lifestyle. All I'm saying is you should research the actual health and environmental issues that surround eating meat, and decide whether or not the daily strip of bacon still fits into the vision you have for your life.

5. Donate to reputable organizations

Brianna Elizabeth

Our everyday habits truly impact the world around us. However, ditching plastic, buying ethically sourced products, and reducing our meat consumption simply isn't enough. The most important way to ensure positive change is to donate to organizations that are dedicated to promoting sustainability. Think of organizations that fight to improve working conditions and better environmental standards, and choose to donate toward their work every once in a while. If you're not sure where to donate, try the Global Fund for Children. If you would rather shop for a good cause, try Live Fashionable or the Package Free Shop.

6. Have grace for yourself

Brianna Elizabeth

Try to reduce your consumption by shopping less frequently, buying long-lasting and secondhand items, and borrowing what you don't have from friends and neighbors whenever you can. Attempt to reuse things for as long as possible, and fix objects when they break instead of just throwing them away. Finally, recycle when you can't reduce or reuse. At the end of the day, have grace for yourself. Remember that you are not going to save the planet singlehandedly, and remind yourself how awesome it is that you're doing your part to make the planet a greener place for everyone.

Congratulations! You're now on your way to a sustainable start!

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Are Plastic Straws Really Killing Sea Turtles?

It's no secret that plastic isn't great for the environment, but how sensationalized is this topic actually becoming?

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When I first saw a video of a sea turtle getting a plastic drinking straw removed from its nostril, I was obviously upset like any other viewer would be. I care a lot about the environment and about animal life and it was upsetting to see that a product of human consumption and ignorant waste was destroying precious parts of our world. I wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon of "plastic straws kill sea turtles!!!" but only knew about the issue from this video and what I heard from people or saw on social media. The whole topic of plastic waste into the ocean remained in the back of my mind until the recent pledge of Starbucks to stop using plastic straws in stores by 2020 reminded me of the issue.

As the topic of plastics and their pollution of the environment (largely the oceans) has become so recently powerful I decided to do some research of my own. If I was going to tell people to stop using plastic straws because they were killing sea turtles, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't just repeating everything I heard from social media.

Turns out, plastic straws are hurting sea turtles and other marine life, but a lot of what I thought about plastic waste was exaggerated (at least from what I had heard from others). Sea birds are the most impacted creature by plastic straws, not sea turtles. About 1 million or more seabirds die every year from ingesting plastic straws and choking on them. In research from recent scientific studies, 80-90% of seabirds have some kind of plastic inside of their stomachs. Also, the ecological footprint that plastic straws alone leave on the planet is actually pretty small compared to food waste or fossil fuels.

However, all the buzz about sea turtles may come from the fact that globally 86% of sea turtle species are known to be affected by plastic debris. Overwhelming amounts of plastic garbage in the ocean have caused a steady decline of the leatherback sea turtle over the past several years, so much that they have been placed on the endangered species list. Plastics can hinder eating and consumption, breathing abilities, and even reproductive capabilities of all kinds of sea turtles.

So while plastic straws may not be killing sea turtles in hordes, they are killing sea birds, and plastic overall have caused huge and deadly effects to many sealife species. We have known that plastic is bad for the environment and the oceans for quite a while, given the fact that the Great Garbage Patch was discovered almost 20 years ago, so it's more than time to start caring about the problem. If we can eliminate single-use plastic straws that aren't biodegradable, we can stop using other single-use plastics and make a better effort to reduce our harmful impacts on the oceans. Individually, we can move towards small changes, which can move our society to a more sustainable and healthy place. If you are more interested in this topic, I would suggest reading about how you can make a change or looking at this article and checking out this scientific journal.

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Vinicius Amano

@viniciusamano

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Being Sustainable Is Hard But It's Not Impossible

Although we've all heard of climate change and have witnessed the disastrous effects that humans have had on the environment, it still seems like most people are not subscribing to the ideals of sustainability.

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Sustainability is a tricky term. Most people that hear about it eventually put in the back of their minds, the same place they put "student loans" and "crippling depression." Most people know that to adhere to this ideal would mean to change how they live.

Sustainability is about adopting behaviors and systems that will ensure that the Earth is around for many generations after ours. Sustainability aims to preserve the Earth in terms of seven generations ahead. Seven generations after ours and societies on Earth will be using entirely different systems than what we do now, therefore, we should start this process now to ensure that they will be able to live comfortably and sustainably.

This is where most people tune out, understandably so. It's hard for us to think about the implications of our actions and how they will affect life on Earth much after our own deaths. It suddenly seems like an incomprehensible problem that no one person can ever solve.

"My actions won't make a difference," most people say, convinced that just because they stop eating meat or buying plastic or start drinking from paper straws, that nothing will change. However, what they fail to consider is how their actions will influence the minds of others around them, and one person who stops eating meat or using plastic sends a ripple effect through the people surrounding them. One person making lifestyle changes in the name of sustainability leads others to suddenly consider, "maybe I should eat less meat?" or "maybe I won't use single-use plastics anymore?"

The idea is not that any one person picking up plastic on the beach is going to save the planet, but rather that through education and awareness, we will all take small steps to preserve our home. Large groups of people all taking small steps leads to big changes, and politics and the economy will follow the demand of the people.

The most difficult thing for most people to do is to adopt those small behavioral changes. Not everyone can afford to stop eating meat, but everyone can afford to opt out of single-use plastics. Buying a personal water bottle is one easy way to do this. Stop buying plastic water bottles just to throw them away. If you need to buy them, make sure to recycle them. Instead of taking plastic silverware and straws from restaurants, bring your own reusable set.

Understandably, most of you are already cringing. It's hard to go against the grain and commit to living a plastic-free lifestyle for the sake of sustainability. And what about when you go to Chipotle with your zero-waste kit and somebody asks you a question about why you have that? Fear or convincing themselves that it's "inconvenient" will keep most of you from adopting these little changes that, over time, make a huge difference in the amount of plastic we put in our oceans.

Although we can't all be leaders of huge sustainability efforts to clean our oceans or buy an electric car, we can all make small changes to mitigate this tragic problem. On our current track, the last half of our lives will be starkly different from the first half, for the worse. Educate yourself and be part of the solution instead of the problem.

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