One of the biggest obstacles to people ‘going eco-friendly’ is the never-ending list of changes to make. It’s daunting. But what’s the phrase? — ‘When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time’. I’m going to share the first steps I took to kick start my sustainability journey. Think of it as a lifestyle audit – it’ll will help you see the wood despite the trees. And if you enjoy spreadsheets, you’ll be pleased!
Open a spreadsheet and create the following headers (how you set this out is based on preference – you could do it in columns or rows):
One for each of the rooms in your house.
On-the-go (I included college/work in this).
Pets (if applicable).
Garden (if applicable).
Miscellaneous (I included things like energy provider and gifts here).
It’s entirely up to you if you want to keep clothing, make-up, etc, under their respective rooms or create new ones. For example, I don’t use much make-up so I left it under ‘bedroom’ but if you use a lot, a separate list might be easier.
Then I listed everything I could think of that could be deemed unsustainable or for which I could find eco-friendly alternatives. See my examples in the picture (these are just snapshots) 🙂
Next, I created another column at the end and, alongside each item, made a note of where I source that product, what services I use, or who else might be involved. I did this just so I had all the information down and it simply made my life easier when I came to tackle each item. E.g. you might need to change suppliers rather than product or, with a bit of digging into the brand, you might even find out that you’re already using the most sustainable option.
Once I had my final list of all the areas in my house/life that I wanted to tackle (bearing in mind my final point in step 2), I researched alternative products, brands, supermarkets, etc to decide upon the best alternative option/s for each item. This will make it clearer to you where to start and what might need to wait.
Remember, when finding an alternative, you might not hit the nail on the head with your first try – I had to try numerous different shampoo bars from different brands before finding the right one, meaning I had to revisit that item on my spreadsheet a number of times. It wasn’t a case of just doing some googling, picking a brand, and then being done with it. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have everything sorted straight away.
Find those quick wins! And, by that, I mean which are the simplest and easiest/quickest items for you to tackle – whether they be easy in terms of finances or the fact that there’s a zero-waste shop down the road. Whatever suits you and your situation. For me, I tackled groceries first because switching to loose veggies (for the veggies you can buy loose!) was a quick win and I could implement that almost straight away with our next weekly shop. I’d also been dying to move towards plastic free groceries for ages.
All you really need to do next is tackle each item in your own time and when you feel it’s practical. Because I love lists 😉 I added another column to ‘rank’ the items in terms of priority and whether they were short term or long term ‘goals’. It really helped to de-clutter the entire task in my head and allowed me to eat the elephant one bite at a time.
Finally, I reached out to my family and friends to get them on board. I know talking environmental sustainability with close ones can be awkward sometimes but to make this a real lifestyle change, it really needed them on side, in part because as it’s included ridding ourselves of ‘stuff’. And where does most of your ‘stuff’ come from?? Gifts. Gifts that either don’t satisfy my ethics or come packaged in waste that I don’t want to be dealing with – it’s not rude to say so, it’s just the truth. It’s a principle as important as one’s faith or Veganism so don’t feel as though you can’t appeal to them. When they understand how important it is to you, they’ll support you.
If you’re still not sure where to start, here are 5 relatively simple swaps you can make to begin your sustainability journey:
– Buy and carry a coffee mug (do we even need to discuss this one??).
– Switch to slow fashion (thrift thrift thrift).
– Refuse plastic veggie bags and either pile them in to your trolley loose or buy yourself some cotton/hemp produce bags (there’s loads available online).
– Swap cleaning cloths for old clothes (rip or cut up old t-shirts – a money saver!).
– Reduce your meat in-take**
**With the current crisis in Australia, I implore you to consider reducing the amount of animal products you eat. It is one of the quickest ways to reduce your carbon footprint and is recommended by scientists, environmentalists, professors, and politicians!