Sometimes it might seem like changing to a more earth-friendly lifestyle takes moving mountains, but it is really all down to small changes in our day-to-day routines, purchasing habits or hobby choices. The key thing to remember is not to let perfect be the enemy of great – even the most hardcore environmentalist would tell you they aren’t perfect on every front. After all, you are producing carbon footprints simply by breathing in and out! Here is a list we’ve compiled of 10 simple habit changes that could lead to a more sustainable lifestyle. We suggest picking 3 items which speak to you most to start with – we all begin with small steps.
1. Spend more time in nature
There is something about being in nature — whether it’s surfing in the ocean or hiking in the mountains — that compels us to appreciate the wonder and beauty Mother Earth has to offer for the eyes and for our soul. Inevitably, it also causes us to think about the importance of being kinder to her so we and the next generation could continue being able to appreciate its rich goodness. This doesn’t seem like an activity that could produce measurable impact for a sustainable future, but as Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard said “I don’t really believe that humans are evil; it is just that we are not very intelligent animals. No animal is so stupid as to foul its only nest, except humans.” It is easy to forget our planet home while living in a concrete jungle, but being in nature helps reconnect us to the one nest we all live in and have a responsibility to protect.
2. Reduce meat consumption, and if you have to eat meat, choose better cuts
Avoiding meat and dairy products is the “single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet”, according to the scientists behind the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet in an article by The Guardian. The analysis shows that even the lowest impact meat and dairy products still cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable vegetable and cereal growing.
While evidence is clear that less meat consumption is better for our planet, we understand how it is hard for some of us who have been eating meat all our lives to completely cut out all meat on the get-go. If you do have to eat meat, it’s best to get sustainably farmed options, such as sustainably farmed or low-impact meat.
If you are eating out, there are more and more options of beautifully executed dishes that just happen to be plant-based. From the turmeric chai latte at Grassroots Pantry and the salad wraps at Mana, to the vegetarian tasting menu at Upper House’s Cafe Gray and the “Impossible” baos at Little Bao, restauranteurs offering food at various price ranges and cuisines are making eats that are both scrumptious and good for our planet. Hungry for more?
3. Read and learn more about how to be kind to our planet
Knowledge is power, and although awareness doesn’t necessarily lead to action, action always start with awareness. If you are not knowledgeable about sustainability issues such as human impact on our planet and what we could do for a better future, you’re in a good place — for the only way is up!
There are plenty of resources out there which could satisfy your curiosity. Our favorites books include Drawdown by Paul Hawken, This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein and The Wardrobe Crisis by Clare Press. If you’re looking to follow social media accounts which share information on how to live sustainably and the latest in sustainability news, check out @theminimalistwardrobe, @futuretechlab and the @1millionwomen. We also love @zerowastememes for laughs.
4. Shop secondhand
We believe in quality over quantity and investing in beautifully-made pieces. Shopping secondhand not only extends the lifecycle of a piece of clothing — for every garment you choose to purchase secondhand means one less garment purchased firsthand — it is also friendlier to the wallet! Instead of caring about the trend of clothing you wear, invest in knowing your personal style and acquire pieces you know you’ll wear over and over again. In fact, reducing the negative impacts of fashion on our planet is a big reason why we are doing what we do 🙂
5. Support ethical and sustainable companies and brands
“Stop buying crap, and companies will stop making crap” is the title of a Fast Company article illustrating how consumer action affects businesses. After all businesses depend on YOU for their survival — every purchase you make is a vote for the kind of business you want to support and the world you want to see. By supporting brands that are making a conscious effort for the betterment of people and the planet, you are helping them succeed. We love designer brands which are making a conscious effort in lowering their impact such as Stella McCartney and Gabriela Hearst. We also love stores which sell sustainably-made or zero waste products such as Live Zero and the recently opened Slowood!
6. Wash your clothes less
The CEO of Levi’s, Chip Bergh, caused controversy when he claimed people should never wash their jeans. Bergh explained that he ‘spot-cleans’ his jeans with a toothbrush because washing them causes damage and is a waste of water.
And there is truth to his words — most of us have been washing our clothes way more than necessary.
Up to 82% of fashion’s energy use, 66% of its solid waste and over half of its emissions to air come from washing and drying clothes, according to Kate Fletcher, author of Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys. This is not surprising: 90 percent of the total energy used by a typical washing machine is to heat the water; only 10 percent is used to power the motor — and let’s not forget about the impact detergent have on marine life!
To reduce our impact on the environment, we truly do not need to wash our clothes so often unless they have obvious soil or odor. When we do wash them, using cold water is way better than hot water. Also different fabrics require different amount of cleaning — for example, wool and cashmere have self-cleaning properties and definitely do not require frequent washing. Reducing our fashion footprint isn’t just about choosing the right brands, it’s also about choosing the right garment caring habits!
7. Take the public transport more often
By moving more people with fewer vehicles, public transportation can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and moreover, most rail transit vehicles emit little or no pollution as they are powered by electricity. Your morning commute might take a bit more time, but that’s the perfect opportunity to catch-up on some reading and news. Your might have to walk a little more, but isn’t that the perfect warmup exercise for a fabulous day at work?
8. Fix and mend things instead of replacing them
With rising convenience offered by technology in getting things whether it is a new shirt or a new love interest, we default to replacing things instead of fixing them when they don’t work well. Where does that lead us? Americans now buy five times as much clothing as they did in 1980, according to Mattias Wallander, CEO of USAgain, a textile-recycling company, and they are nowhere happier than they were almost 4 decades ago.
A garment that is damaged a little could still be worn with a bit of sewing, a heel that snapped off could be fixed in a mere hour or so. We love initiatives such as Fashion Clinic that aim to bring back the culture of mending and fixing. We also love the shoe repair booth outside Central MTR Exit D2!
9. Avoid toxic beauty products
It is incredible how much chemicals are actually in conventional beauty products – from carcinogens to endocrine disruptors – not only are they toxic to our planet, they are toxic for us!
In Hong Kong, “manufacturers, importers and suppliers should ensure that consumer goods comply with the ‘general safety requirement’, which means that they are reasonably safe”. Aside from this rule, the regulations surrounding ingredients allowed to be in beauty products are relatively loose – so it falls to us to be wise about our beauty product choices. Luckily, more and more brands are offering clean beauty options. We like brands such as Vanessa Meghan and Uma Oil, and we love checking out the latest clean beauty options on Goop and at Live Zero.
Switching to clean beauty options might cost more, but good health is priceless. If it doesn’t break the bank, investing more in cleaner products to put on your skin and body will definitely reap returns on a better future for you and the planet’s health!
10. Use your voice to share information and advocate for sustainable living
If you like it, share it! What has worked for you and what have you enjoyed in trying to lower your environmental impact? Whether it is over a dinner table or on social media, sharing what you have learned or what you are doing not only helps other people on their own journeys, it might inspire some new ideas for yourself as you exchange ideas. Whether off or on line, as you continue to impart your thoughts, it often becomes inevitable that you’d find a community of like-minded people who share the same ideals and interests, sparking new friendships and even professional connections. Never underestimate how something positive you share might inspire someone somewhere!