Is sustainable living your resolution this year? Here’s how to get started.

What is Sustainable Living?

Sustainable living is a way of organizing your life around choices to limit your impact on the earth’s resources. There are four main ways this can be done: 

  • Refusing to use a product that isn’t made sustainably, can’t be reused or recycled. (Example: not buying products wrapped in single-use plastic)
  • Reducing the amount of resources you use by using less, or finding a way to substitute part of your demand. (Example: using energy efficient appliances, eating a vegan diet, building a garden, using reusable items)
  • Replacing what resources you use. (Example: generating electricity with solar panels or a wind turbine, planting trees, starting a compost pile)
  • Recycling what resources you can’t replace. (Example: recycling plastic bottles, paper bags, etc.)

By practicing all of these you can limit your dependence on the earth’s resources and lessen your impact on the environment. Good news is the sustainable lifestyle also benefits your life, and can make you healthier, increase your sense of fulfilment and generate serious savings for your utility bills —  a win-win! 

The ultimate goal of sustainable living is to reach net zero impact, which means you don’t take any resource from the earth without being able to replace or recycle it — for example, growing your own food, recycling water, using the earth to naturally heat and cool your home, etc. This is a pretty difficult goal to reach, especially with all the tempting conveniences of a modern world, but it’s a great goal to work towards.

How to Get Started With Sustainable Living

Sustainable living involves considering the effect your actions have on the environment and changing the way you would normally do things. Change is never easy, but you don’t have to do it all at once.

While jumping into sustainable living can seem daunting, there are simple changes you can make towards a more sustainable lifestyle. 

To help you get started, here are 5 ways you live more sustainably right now:

#1 Start With You

The best way to get started with sustainable living is to take a hard look at your current lifestyle. Identify wasteful practices, assess areas of your life you’re open to adjusting, and educate yourself about why sustainable living is important.

If you’re just getting started with sustainable living, it’s important to start small. Focus on easy attainable goals at first, like scheduling weekly trips to the recycling center, or swapping out plastic shopping bags for reusable ones, then work toward the bigger lifestyle changes like making your home more energy efficient or adjusting your diet. It’s completely acceptable to do what you can do, and work towards a greener tomorrow one step at a time. 

#2 Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Once you’ve identified the areas in your life with the most sustainable living potential, you can get to work reducing the amount of resources you use. Some great ways to do this are:

Adjust Your Travel

  • Take public transportation, walk, or ride a bicycle rather than driving short distances in a car
  • Avoid unnecessary trips — group your errands so you drive the least amount possible

Optimize Your Energy Efficiency

  • Using less electricity and less water with energy efficient light bulbs and appliances. Or, use fewer lights in your home only when you really need them. 
  • Dine by candlelight a few nights a week. 
  • Start timing your showers and try to beat your time week after week.

Change Your Diet

  • Practice sustainable eating by consuming foods grown locally or grown with less water consumption. 
  • If you can, try going vegan*. If you don’t feel you can cut out dairy and meat all at once, substitute a few of your weekly meals for vegan versions, then adjust your palette over time. Pro-tip: spend some time coming up with sauces you love. They can go on almost anything to dress up veggies, a salad, pasta, and will make vegan meals tastier and more creative.

*A vegan diet could be one of the biggest positive impacts for sustainable living on an individual level. Animals raised for food production require a lot of water and contribute to a major portion of fossil fuel emissions annually. 

#3 Make Smart Buying Decisions

Paying closer attention to what you buy can have a serious impact on the environment and help you practice sustainable living. Simple buying decisions, like refusing items that come packaged in plastic, buying in bulk to reduce packaging and limit trips to the store, or purchasing things that are reusable or at least recyclable. 

Shopping sustainably is about more than just packaging, however. When you buy things that have to be shipped from across the globe, you’re also putting your dollars towards the fuel and energy used to transport them. To practice sustainable living, try sourcing items from local farmers, artists, and makers. You’ll not only reduce your carbon footprint, but you’ll also be supporting your local economy.

#4 Build Sustainably

If you have the opportunity to build your own home, or do some renovations on an existing home, there are ways you can practice sustainable living to limit your home’s reliance on the earth’s resources. In your building projects, use recycled or sustainable materials wherever possible. Also, if you can find materials and finishes at a local retailer, you’ll save energy and shipping costs. 

You can also build energy efficiency into your home, by choosing energy efficient windows and doors, installing eco friendly light fixtures, and even heating and cooling your home with the help of the earth. If possible, you may choose to help power your home by installing solar roofing or even a wind turbine. These additions will not only limit your home’s dependence on the energy grid, they can also significantly reduce your energy costs. There may even be tax benefits in your area for switching to renewable energy sources. If you can store and use energy throughout the year, it may be possible to reach net zero on your utility bills.

#5 Move to a Sustainable Community

If you really want to kickstart your new sustainable lifestyle, consider joining a sustainable community. Sustainable communities are set up to bring together people with shared environmental priorities and support a healthy, green way of life. 

In addition to its ecological bonuses, there are many benefits to living in a sustainable community for your health and wellness. You can build and live in a sustainable home, grow your own produce, raise chickens, and contribute to the local pollinator population. You also have opportunities to enjoy nature surrounded by trails, trees, and amazing views.

Some members in sustainable communities are able to reduce their energy use and source enough clean energy that they live in net zero homes. This means the home has zero reliance on the grid for power. They can store energy gained in the summer to use to heat and power the home through the winter months. 

Sustainable Living: It’s Not All or Nothing

The best way to get started is to start small. Take advantage of the many local resources that can help you on your sustainable living journey. Focus on changes that you can easily make and work towards the bigger lifestyle changes over time. You can do just a little bit and make a difference. You can do just what you can and make a difference. 

It’s okay if you’re not ready to go vegan or cover your roof with solar panels just yet. Sustainable living is a skill that takes practice. Once you start, you’ll keep finding ways to improve to make a difference for your life, your community, and the planet. Cheers to a leaner, greener new year.

If you’re ready to jump into a sustainable lifestyle this year, take the first step by joining the community at Couch Mountain. Our sustainable community prioritizes environmental solutions and responsible building practices. Located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains with scenic views around every corner, there’s no better place to get started, and live better. Reach out to our team today to set up a tour.

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