Photo by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto :

Sustainable Habits (2010-2021)

I don’t come from an environmentally focused family or area of the world. In fact, when I became interested in environmental topics, municipal recycling wasn’t even available to me. Thankfully, in many areas of the world accessibility to environmentally responsible systems has changed throughout the years. Here’s a look at some of the habits I’ve implemented and built upon over the years to live more sustainably.

Photo by Catherine Sheila:

2010 Even though I didn’t have access to recycling or bulk stores, I still wanted to make sustainable changes in whatever ways I could. In late 2009 I started eating a vegetarian diet and bringing my own travel mugs and water bottles whenever I left the house. I also worked on reducing paper towel usage in my household. I don’t know if I had any reusable grocery bags at that point, but I tried to use fewer plastic bags by stuffing the plastic bags I got as full as possible or carrying items without bags. I was greatly focused on changes that could save money as well as help the planet.

2011 I became more vigalent about keeping the thermostat to a more moderate temperature (a bit chilly in the winter and a bit warm in the summer). I don’t know if the environment was truly a motivating factor for me, or if cold summer homes and warm winter homes just seemed excessively wasteful to me.

2012 I started recycling. I think a lot of what was happening was wishcycling, because I didn’t truly understand the values of different plastics or alternate materials at that point.

2013 I got married. I made sure to have real dishes, glasses, and cutlery available at the event alongside an exclusively vegetarian feast. There were plenty of things at our wedding that may be seen as wasteful, but my husband and I did our best to limit the amount of single use trash produced at our event. At this point I was starting to see single use waste as a real problem.

Photo by Brent Keane:

2014 I started cooking a lot more. I had a much better set of knives to cook with, and realized just how much more enjoyable cooking was with good equipment. Because of this I committed to only buying good quality kitchen equipment and caring for it properly to make it last a lifetime.

2015 I moved to California and started seeing trash everywhere I looked. The population was much higher than where I moved from, and trash accumulated in the blink of an eye. I lived within walking distance to 2 grocery stores and committed to walking to get my groceries several times each week. I also started taking my own bags to the grocery store religiously. On the walk to the grocery store and back I would pick up trash along the route and always had a full bag at the end of my journey. I also switched to reusable menstrual supplies, makeup remover pads, etc. and started hanging laundry to air dry at least half of the time.

Photo by Sarah Chai:

2016 I had a baby! I opted for a homebirth and focused on buying high quality reusable items for the birth. I focused on getting durable baby items made from natural materials and a plethora of cloth diapers. While all of this was well made, everything except for baby clothes was purchased new. I was starting to understand the issues with synthetic materials leading to microplastics, poorly made items destined for the landfill, and cheap products linked to unethical work conditions, but I hadn’t yet grasped the fact that no true change could happen until total consumption was lowered. I also started volunteering with a cloth diaper charity where I collected, sanitized, and distributed cloth diapers to families experiencing diaper need.

2017 I moved to Colorado and bought a house. Unfortunately our house was falling apart, so we spent countless hours repairing issues as they arose. We researched ways to repair items in more sustainable ways, insulated areas to reduce heating costs, switched lightbulbs to energy efficient options, etc. I joined a CSA (local farm share) and started to cook more meals from scratch. I did struggle with the learning curve of cooking with CSA vegetables (which is why I post CSA meal inspiration). We also bought an electric vehicle.

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2018 I had another baby and another homebirth. We continued to cloth diaper our children and purchased minimal items for our second child. We continued to repair and replace items around our house as needed and started frequenting the library regularly.

2019 I started buying items from package free stores. I couldn’t get much from our local package free stores, but we supported them and other local businesses as much as possible. Cooking with local vegetables started to become second nature. I started staying home with my kids once per week to lessen the amount of miles driven each week. This was the year I started to truly understand that I (and others) needed to reduce consumption rather than try to live typically but with better materials and labor practices.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk:

2020 Covid happened, so my husband started working from home. I started making large batches of staple foods like jam and pesto and freezing the extra for a later date. I started cooking from scratch more, and experimenting with recipes that felt too daunting previously. I also started shopping at a different package free store where I could buy a huge variety of pantry staples. I started making bread at home and learned how to identify and responsibly forage food from around my home.

2021 I started composting through an app named ShareWaste. I also taught myself basic clothing mending techniques. My family switched to looseleaf tea and bought it package free. I started prioritizing borrowing, renting or buying used items over buying new. I started fermenting and pickling more vegetables and taught myself how to water bath can certain foods.

Photo by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto :

I’ve never been one to implement New Years resolutions, but I am someone who always strives to educate myself and improve my habits over time. I have come a lot further in my sustainability journey than I ever thought possible.

I hope this inspires you to see that each sustainable step is a step in the right direction. Habits build off of each other and become second nature, and little habits can add up to big change.