Most of us are aware of the seriousness of sustainability and how little time we have left to prevent irreversible changes, even a quick glance at the planetary boundaries demonstrates that clearly (3 out of 9 are already on a high-risk level). On the other hand, many of us push that thought away and believe that there are other people who will handle this problem. Politicians, scientists, businesspeople. It is indeed correct that there are certain aspects of sustainability that we cannot directly address, like the loss of biodiversity. But shall we leave it all to those people and believe they will solve the problems and safe the planet?
No! We need to take matters into our own hands and act. Now. But how can we do that?
There are many guides published, ready to help us pursue a more sustainable lifestyle(1)(2). Some universities, like Stanford or Boston College, released their own student guides on sustainable living.
One guide that particularly drew my attention is the UN’s “Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World”. Its main aim? To inspire people and to show everyone that they can make a difference and that every single action they undertake (consciously or not) matters. As they underline, change starts with us. They have distinguished four levels of saving the world, starting from “Things you can do from your couch” talking about very obvious actions like turning off the lights. The next level, “Household Hero”, requires slightly more effort and includes actions like taking short showers, eating less meat. The third level involves using refillable water bottles, shopping vintage or shopping local. The ultimate level concerns t the work environment and talks about things like mentoring young people or biking or walking to work. UN’s article certainly does not encompass all the small actions we can do, but I would argue that is a good starting point in making some changes in our lives towards being more conscious and sustainable.
Sustainable lifestyle was also a common topic at the WBCSD, for example, some of the FreSH sessions dealt with ways of making every day’s food choices both healthier and more sustainable. As underlined on the WBCSD website, most of the lifestyle impacts come from food, homes, transport, and purchases, and these are indeed the actions the UN’s report was revolving around.
To sum up, taking a closer look at your daily habits and trying to change them step by step would be a good starting point. One could ask how small and seemingly insignificant actions make a difference. It is just one Costa cup, one Sainsbury’s plastic bag, and one relaxing and really long bath, right? Yet I believe that saying “just one” is a lie. Additionally, once you realize the impact of transportation, of meat production or where do plastic bottles end up, you no longer want to be indifferent. Because even the smallest, seemingly trivial action like a text message or drying our hands does live a carbon footprint (1). The small actions add up very quickly and it is up to us whether they will add up to something positive or destructive.
The change starts with you.
(1) Berners-Lee, M. (2010), How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything.