When you buy something what do you think about? The cost, value, availability, desire, and needs are certainly in the picture. Sometimes we even purchase things mindlessly and wonder where all of our money went at the end of the month too. We all have our weak moments, to be sure, so there is no reason to feel bad about that. The more important issue is to just keep moving on.
Having a sustainable mindset means more than just buying what you need or want. It means looking at everything and quickly following that item (including the packaging) back to their origins. What raw materials were needed to produce the item? Are those materials abundant and easily harvested with little to no impact on the environment? Or do they contribute to the destruction of entire ecosystems and put our ability to live here in danger? If you’re not sure, make a note of it and research it the next time you have a few free minutes. If you still can’t figure it out, you can simply email me and I’ll see what I can do to help.
We might not see the results of our actions right now, but I can guarantee that our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will. What kind of message do we want to send to them? By acting and purchasing without thought to the future, we are telling them that we care more about our comfort and convenience right now more than their welfare and for them to have a clean, healthy, and viable plant to live on. It’s like telling them that we love them only as much as it is convenient to do so. The moment that I realized this point, which is the most important, in my opinion, is when I was ready to go all in.
Brushing Yourself Off
I will admit freely that I falter often and give into marketing ploys and convenience. But it’s like with anything else, you just get back up, brush yourself off, and keep going. No one is perfect at anything and because we’re humans it would be ridiculous to think that we are. But we do the best we can in any given situation, then look back and figure out how we can do it better next time.
That doesn’t mean that we should excuse ourselves and think, “well, it happened again and it will probably happen again, so it’s no big deal.” When you really think about it, everything is a big deal, even the small stuff. Everything in this universe is made up of its smaller parts, so the better the smaller parts, the better the result. Think of it like a recipe. The better your ingredients, the better your dish will be. Would you rather cook with clean, healthy, fresh ingredients, or use spoiled milk, rancid butter, and wilted vegetables?
My mother told me that the best place to start something is at the beginning, so I always recommend my clients start with just one thing. Here’s a tip though: don’t try to go plastic-free all at once. It will drive you crazy, drive your partners crazy, and just make you so frustrated that you want to quit. It’s better to do this type of journey in small steps. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
So choose just one thing that you want to change that would be more sustainable choice. Most people start with food because it seems to be an easy go-to. Choose loose potatoes instead of a 5 pound bag. I take small produce bags, like these, with me to the grocery store and just wash them when I get home. When they’re clean, I put them somewhere near my purse so that the next time I go down to my car I can grab them. Of course, you don’t have to choose potatoes as your first thing, but you get the idea.
If you want to do something that won’t cost you a dime (or very little), you can opt for rags instead of paper towels. I received a big trash bag of old t-shirts from my mother-in-law that I cut up into usable rag-size pieces. I keep them in a vintage lard bucket on my kitchen counter. We use them for everything that you would use a paper towel for, wash, and reuse them. I do actually buy paper towels, but one roll lasts us easily 6-9 months and we use the cardboard center roll to help start the fire in the woodstove in the winter months. If I hadn’t had taken them she would have sent them to a thrift store where some, but probably not all, of them would have been sold. All of the rest would go to a landfill in the end. So I’ll use them until they’re falling apart and then toss them in the fire when they have no more uses left in them.
A New Perspective
Looking at everything we do and everything we purchase with a sustainable mindset takes practice, and just like our muscles, if you don’t use it, you lose it. You can look at absolutely anything around you right now and think about the carbon footprint that it created. That includes the raw materials, the transportation of the raw materials to the processing plant, the resources used to transport and process them, and then the packaging of them to the factory where they will be made into an end product. Once that product is made, which also takes more energy and resources, it needs to be packaged and transported to a selling point. Once there, the facility requires energy and resources to even be there in the first place and to operate, so the carbon footprint becomes even larger. Then the product is sold and taken home, where it is used and the packaging discarded. As you can see, something as simple as a lamp can have an enormous carbon footprint, depending on what it is made of, where it was made, if it was sold directly to the customer or went through several middle-men, and the packaging it came in. Even the packaging must be taken into account, but it too has a carbon footprint.
This Is A Choice
I will say that at the beginning, it can be overwhelming, but if you do just one thing each day, those changes will add up. Choosing to live lightly on the Earth is just that, a choice. At first you look at everything, analyzing it, but eventually it just becomes a part of who you are and doesn’t take nearly the effort that it did in the beginning. But then, anything worth doing is worth doing well, right?
I have a teacher that told me that Native Americans, before they do anything, they look seven generations into the future to try and see what the impact will be on those that will be here then. I love this concept and try to remember it when making daily choices. Seven generations would be my great-great-great-great-great grandchildren and so many of the things that are happening right now will impact their lives. I want my family to look back and know that I did everything I could to show them that I love them, even if I’m not there to tell them.
I challenge you to start today, right now, and practice looking at how your actions and purchases affect your family, the environment, and your health, because they are all connected. We are so lucky that we have the ability, opportunity, and responsibility to make our own choices and all of us, myself included, could benefit from making the best ones that we possibly can.
*Image source: Pexels on Pixabay