Leading a more sustainable life: 5 ways to assess sustainability

Sustainability at home has been on my mind a lot lately. Here's what it means to me and the steps we're taking to lead a more sustainable life.

I probably have my sustainability-focused employer to thank for planting this seed. In reality, working and schooling and living at home 24/7 have given us a birds-eye view into our household’s consumption habits. When there is too much to manage, I get overwhelmed. So I thought it’s time to make some changes.

Consumers consume, that’s just what we do. 

What and how we consume is really at the heart of sustainability. And as we consume things, what is the end result?

To sustain something, in essence, to keep it going, you have to make that thing last. You have to have some of that thing left over in order to be able to keep using it. And in the process of using that thing, you have to be mindful about the trail of energy, garbage and waste you’re leaving behind. 

You see, there’s a lot of “things” that we consume, or on the flip side, consume us. Some things I consume on a daily basis:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Coffee
  • Money
  • Content
  • Products
  • Services
  • Electricity
  • Gasoline

Ok, that last one, very rarely. And obviously I don’t mean I’m literally consuming gasoline. I mean for our car, which we actually have only one of and literally never go anywhere. In fact, we’re ultra-conservative with driving. So, we have a sustainable advantage there. 

Sustainability saves precious resources

Main-stream sustainability tells us to look at the physical trash and waste our habits produce. This is the “gateway drug” to more sustainable choices. My personal sustainability philosophies center around the intangible, precious resources I have available to me from day to day, like my:

  • Time
  • Energy
  • Brain power

These are the things that can consume me, if I’m not careful. I’ve come to realize that the first steps of making more sustainable choices start with awareness and mindfulness.

Along with tangible sustainability shifts like shopping local, composting and switching to products that produce less waste, I think it’s important to lead an emotionally and energetically sustainable life. 

But, what do I mean by this?

Consumption + output = sustainability 

The key to sustainability is to balance what we consume with the output of what that consumption produces. If I spend a lot of time on my blog, is the output of the content worth it? I think so! If I consume a lot of content online and it numbs my mind or makes me feel anxious, is that feeling worth it? Probably not.

Balancing life responsibilities can be hard. How much I work or manage the household from day-to-day are clear examples of this. If I work more, I use up more energy and time for other things. If I over-manage my household (trust me, there’s never a shortage of cleaning) then I have less time for fun. My time and energy are precious resources.

As someone with the blessing of being a day dreamer and over-thinker, my biggest challenge lies in staying grounded and setting realistic expectations. I get grandiose ideas all the time, but they are not sustainable.

Evaluating where to begin on your sustainability journey

Some people have choosen to go zero-waste which is very admirable, but it’s not realistic for us at this point. Having kids brings a whole ‘nother level of waste into your life. To start small, here are 5 ways I started to evaluate our sustainability practices at home:

  1. Assess garbage output: how often and how much are we taking the trash out? What the heck are we even throwing away to begin with?
  2. Plastic reduction opportunities: what every-day items are we using that produce a lot of waste or have harmful chemicals in them?
  3. Reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose, refuse: can I stop any of the trash before it comes into our home, or find a use for items that I feel bad throwing away?
  4. Schedule and time sustainability: are our current habits and schedules sustainable? Can we make more time for recharge or the things that bring us joy? 
  5. How we spend money: are we supporting local businesses to keep our dollars in our local economy?  Are our dollars spent on brands whose ideals we align with and efforts we support? Does our money create more waste? Are we preparing for our family’s future?

I must admit the fifth question takes a lot more thought, especially because we are Amazon customers. Amazon is an amazing tool as a parent and during the pandemic, but I must admit I don’t feel that great using it! 

As someone with a blog I have considered setting up an affiliate account but at the end of the day, I don’t want to encourage more consumption. I hope to manifest income opportunities that are a little more aligned with my feelings on all of this. 

Consider sustainable life changes

I hope that this blog provoked some thoughts about areas of life that can be more sustainable. Remember that in addition to the physical resources we consume, that your time, energy and brain power are precious resources too. What sustainable changes are you open to making?

We’re starting with reducing plastic in our home, which I will share in an upcoming blog in more detail.

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