Someone recently asked me how long I’ve been “into sustainable living ” and to be honest I really struggled to answer. The truth is, I was born into it. Back in my childhood though it didn’t have a fancy name like “zero-waste movement”, it was simply called being frugal and responsible. We sure have strayed from those old-fashioned values, haven’t we! When I stopped to think about it, I realized that the zero-waste movement might be making a huge mistake trying to get everyone to believe in climate change. Isn’t it more important to simply encourage people to live more sustainably? Do we really care why they make that choice? I know I don’t! So, it’s high time we agree to disagree on the climate change issue and change the dialog! Let’s talk instead about the incredible benefits of a sustainable lifestyle that aren’t related to environmental or political issues!
Have you ever heard the saying “waste not, want not”? It’s an oldie but goodie because it’s SO true! Following a zero-waste lifestyle saves SO much money! Because well, it eliminates (or at least minimizes waste)!
I’m not exactly sure why people want to buy things just to throw them away! It seems it would be a lot more expedient to just set your money on fire! I understand convenience. And I too occasionally use disposable items for big parties or holiday get togethers but it’s a relatively rare occasion. Consider simple swaps like using storage bowls instead of plastic bags. Or a lunch pail with reusable containers. You don’t even have to buy storage bowls and lunch containers. You can be super thrifty and just wash and reuse jars! We can all afford to cut back on disposables!
If you haven’t heard the term planned obsolescence you’re not alone. Most people haven’t! But this is what people are complaining about when they say, “they don’t build things the way they used to” or “nothing is built to last anymore”. I’m pretty sure we’ve all complained about this at some point in time.
Planned obsolescence is a real thing and it’s caused in large part by consumerism. The truth is many people just like to buy new stuff or get the latest model. In a rush to be the first producer of a new feature and with full knowledge that people will want the latest and greatest next year quality gets tossed out the window (along with a number of other things). What I’m saying is manufacturers are only expecting you to use your new item for a year or two, so they aren’t worried that you’ll stop being a customer because your products break. As a matter of fact, they’re counting on you as a lifelong customer. And they know you’ll spend tons more money with them replacing your item every year or two than if you spent more on one that would last!
Avoiding planned obsolescence is difficult because things that are built to last tend to cost more up front. In the long run you save a bundle, but you must have the money to invest! When you’re chasing your tail replacing broken stuff it’s very hard to save! Consider shopping at resale, and consignment shops and don’t forget about your online options (ebay, ThredUp, Facebook marketplace, Next Door etc). If you can buy vintage items that are built to last, all the better. But even if you can’t it’s easier to save up for a quality item if you’re paying discount prices for replacements.
If your parent or grandparent never told you to stop being wasteful and turn off lights or stop cooling the whole house with the refrigerator open you must be a Rockefeller! I can’t begin to tell you how many times I heard things like this growing up. Do you know why? Because every red cent counts and it drives up your utility bills when you waste energy!
Consider setting your thermostat at a compromised temperature (instead of very low in the summer and high in the winter). Challenge yourself to wait to turn on your temperature control in the first place! And of course, turn off lights and keep your refrigerator and freezer closed! Speaking of refrigerators, are your appliances energy efficient? That will save you a bundle! And though your parents and grandparents would never have imagined saying it… power down your devises at night!
Good for Your Health
Did you know that living more sustainably is REALLY good for your health (which by the way saves you money on health care costs)? Many zero-waste practices help stave off chronic disease which increases both health and lifespan!
So, let’s start with something that’s been making headlines recently… plastic! I’m sure you’ve heard that BPAs are a carcinogen! But did you know that it’s believed that ALL BP’s are? And, plastic can’t be made without any BPs at all! BP’s leach into your food just from contact with plastic, this is worsened if you introduce heat. That means, microwaving in it, putting hot food in it or simply letting it sit somewhere warm!
Not only is plastic a known carcinogen but they’ve just linked it to the male fertility global health crisis. Scientists have recently identified a compound in plastic that leaks into our food and tampers with our hormones. In women who are pregnant with boys this could cause infertility in the son! Y’all, I couldn’t make this up if I tried! Think about it! Do you want to consume something that is such a tremendous endocrine disruptor that it’s causing sterility in unborn babies???
Swap out plastic for glass or stainless steel to keep your family as safe as possible. You can also try out bee’s wax wraps which are super easy to make yourself with a few easy to find ingredients and scrap fabric. Oh, and don’t forget that disposable cups (including hot beverage cups) are lined with plastic, so consider getting yourself a reusable water bottle & mug! (Many places offer discounts if you bring your own cup, so this also saves money!)
Have you watched the Netflix documentary “The Devil You Know” yet? If not… you should! To summarize, the wonder invention that allows you to clean up from cooking easily and ensures your food will never stick again is essentially poison. And during production it got into the water supply. Now that chemical is found in the blood of 99% of humans including newborn babies! It’s believed that this compound builds up in the blood stream with repeated exposure and causes disease (possibly even cancer). So, I suggest you stop buying and using Teflon!
Here’s the thing though, you can’t just throw those pans away, they are hazardous waste so you must dispose of them properly. You can contact your local trash pick up or recycling center and they’ll tell you what to do.
Your best bet is to stick with stainless steel or cast-iron cookware and to use unbleached parchment paper to prevent sticking (not silicone mats, as these may off gas or leach as well). And the next time some new miracle invention comes out, think twice about bringing it into your home! It often takes years to know if something is truly safe, so don’t sign up to be a guinea pig! Stick with what’s tried and true!
You won’t believe this but sitting is bad for your health! That’s right! We sit all day at work then sit in cars so we can go home and sit on the couch and it’s damaging our health! So, forgo the car! Take some of the time you might usually spend sitting on the couch and walk or ride your bike to run your errands (or even to work). The exercise and time spent outdoors will pay huge dividends for your health!
Live too far from work to walk or ride your bike? Have you thought about carpooling? I’m from the Detroit, Michigan area (you know the city that put the world on wheels) so you practically have to pry people’s keys away! But I’ve recently noticed that the carpool lots, even here, are filling up! Could that be because people are committed to their health and have found out that the single biggest determinant of lifespan is community! Creating a community where you belong actually makes you live longer. Car-pooling is a great way to do this!
Plus, whether you believe in global warming or not, surely you believe in air pollution! Who hasn’t been behind a big stinky truck or stuck in traffic smelling all that exhaust? You know that’s not good for anyone!
People who are committed to sustainability often follow different diets. Don’t worry… I’m not going to try to make you vegan here! But your nutrition will be drastically improved by following some simple sustainable nutrition habits!
Avoid Processed Food
There’s a whole lot of waste involved in processing food, things like actual food waste, transportation and packaging are important considerations for sustainable living. But did you know that processed food is destroying your health as well!
Even if you aren’t concerned about the environmental impact of processed food, you should be worried about the health impact. Poor nutrition is now the number 1 killer in the US! Food dyes, preservatives and refined carbohydrates have all been linked to a laundry list of chronic disease. And for the first time in history, life & health expectancy are both declining! 1 in 3 Caucasian children and 1 in 2 minority children in the US will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. When I was growing up it was called “adult onset diabetes” because it was widely believed children couldn’t develop it! Processed foods containing sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and refined flours are the primary cause of this epidemic! And both preservatives and food dyes have been linked to the increased prevalence of ADHD, depression and anxiety!
Instead of eating processed foods, choose whole foods and schedule a food prep day! If you do choose to eat out, choose wisely, there are many farm to table and whole food restaurants now. And, don’t forget to eat in to prevent plastic carry out containers from contaminating your food!
In the past 10 years there’s been a tremendous increase in the availability of fresh, local meat and produce. Farmer’s markets, CSAs and food co-ops seem to have popped up everywhere! These shopping options save tons of money. And farmer’s markets now even double SNAP benefits as well! You can easily get organic fresh produce for less than the grocery store chain conventional at a farm stand or farmers market. To find out what to ask at the farmer’s market to make sure you’re getting the best quality for your money click here.
Eating local produce is a sustainability issue because it minimizes transportation and chemical use in farming. This is also one way eating local is nutritionally better! The further your food travels the less nutrient dense it is. For example, broccoli is extremely high in vitamin C but 2 days after being harvested it’s gone! Not only that but often produce is picked before ripe which minimizes nutrients and then sprayed with a chemical to make it quickly and artificially ripen so it looks good on supermarket shelves.
And… if you’ve ever eaten anything fresh from the farm, garden or farmer’s market I don’t have to tell you about the difference in taste! It’s almost like you’re eating a completely different food!
Eat Wild Caught Seafood, Pastured Meat, Eggs & Dairy
See… I told you I wasn’t going to make you become vegan! If you’re already vegan good for you and you can definitely skip this portion but if you aren’t, read on!
Eggs & Dairy
There is a BIG difference is the nutrient content of eggs and dairy produced by animals that are pastured. If you’ve ever cracked a pastured egg you probably noticed that the yolk is dark orange not light, milky yellow! That’s because when chickens eat a natural diet there’s more beta-carotene in their eggs along with several other vitamins and minerals.
You may also have noticed that this isn’t true of cage-free eggs. That’s because cage-free and pastured aren’t the same thing! Chickens that are cage free are kept indoors (often in a warehouse with only 1 – 5 small openings). They tend to all rush the opening which is just like what used to happen at general admission concerts in the 70’s (this was banned after it resulted in trampling deaths at a Who concert). So not only does this affect the nutritional quality of the eggs but it also affects the quality of life for the chickens.
Keeping animals in unnatural, cruel and inhumane conditions should never be acceptable. Despite whether you believe humans are meant to be omnivores, herbivores or carnivores you have to know how wrong it is to knowingly participate in torturing another living thing. Keep in mind that not only are factory farming practices dangerous to animals but they also contribute to food borne illness and create hazardous and inhumane working conditions for humans. Purchasing only pastured meat pressures the meat industry to change their practices and makes the food supply safer for all of us! It’s already making a difference; prices are coming down and there’s greater availability so keep it up!
Wild Caught Seafood
Farmed seafood is fed an abundance of soy and grain which changes its nutrient density and flavor! Plus, the farmed seafood industry is putting fishermen out of work! But those aren’t the primary reasons I avoid all farm raised fish! It’s actually because the FDA just approved GMO fish in the US. I’m super creeped out by whatever they’re doing to the fish to make them grow to an unnatural size at an unnatural rate! GMO fish doesn’t have to be labeled (except in states that currently require GMO labeling) and will simply be sold as “Farm Raised”. YUCK!
Let’s appeal to your vanity for a moment! I know this matters a lot to me! No one wants to age prematurely!
Are you aware that hygiene and cosmetic products don’t undergo any scrutiny from any governing body including the FDA? You literally have NO IDEA what you’re putting on your skin and many substances can be absorbed transdermally (through the skin and into the blood stream). Recently it’s been discovered that parabens and artificial fragrances both cause endocrine disruption and have even been linked to several types of cancer. They’ve even found hazardous chemicals like lead in lipstick and nail polish. And anyone who’s gluten free knows that most hygiene products contain it and it causes reactions!
To avoid the health consequences and premature aging caused by exposure to harsh chemicals in hygiene products consider natural sustainable products instead. They often use only known natural ingredients and avoid hazardous or toxic chemicals.
Oh… and while we’re on the subject of vanity… If you don’t want to look like a lifelong smoker skip the straw! Using straws causes wrinkling around the mouth that looks just like smokers’ mouth!
Beneficial to Society as a Whole
I’m pretty sure that most of us long to leave the world a better place than we found it. And while you might not be concerned about environmental damage it’s hard to overlook what’s happening to society as we know it!
I don’t think I know a single person who isn’t concerned about mass consumerism and what it means for society as a whole. People are simply buying things to throw them away. They can’t ever seem to get enough, and most people are living way above their means (and enduring all of the stress related to that). Does anyone really believe that this constant chasing the next best thing is good for family stability, mental health or benefits society as a whole? We are quickly replacing quality relationships with quantity of things and guess what, it’ll never be enough!
If you’ve ever thought of others as over-entitled, over-spending or materialistic, I’d strongly encourage you to make an adjustment in your own life so you can set the example of contented minimalism and simplicity.
There are plenty of reasons to live more minimally and for me this is one of the most compelling! As mass consumerism takes the world by storm so does demand for massive amounts of cheap goods. But what is the true cost of those goods? What are the working conditions, pay and treatment of the people who work manufacturing them? Are you incidentally supporting child slavery? The answer is likely yes! Most of us do in some way! But when you know better, you do better! Understanding where your goods come from and what the company policies are forces change.
A great example of this is the fashion industry. Clothing consumption is at an all time high. But, inexpensive “fast” fashion is manufactured by women and children who are paid less than 25% of a living wage, work in dangerous conditions such as condemned building and are exposed to harmful chemicals. They often work 80+ hours a week with few breaks and abusive conditions. They don’t have a choice!
Conscious consumerism matters. After a building collapse in Bangladesh that killed thousands there was a global outcry for options in the fashion world. This re-birthed the slow fashion market. Now you can find affordable, lasting clothing made by people all over the world who are earning a living wage! And if this isn’t an option for you consider buying second hand!
If you’d like to be able to take your kids to the park, go camping or simply drink the water that comes from your faucet you might want to consider sustainable living. You may not be concerned about climate change and sure it might still be snowing 25 years from now, but will you be able to enjoy it. We’re running out of places to put our trash. We’re creating air pollution that makes it difficult to see the stars in the night sky and there are already places in the world that have destroyed their water supply.
You don’t have to believe in global warming to want to live more sustainably! You just have to care about your bottom line, health, society as a whole and showing your grand kids the big dipper or taking them fishing!
Spread the word and inspire others to live healthier, happier longer lives by living sustainably! Share this post!
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