Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Solutions for Sustainable Living

Recently, one of my cousin's mentioned to me about starting a website that was dedicated to sustainable living. Sustainable living, simply put is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the earth's natural resources and personal resources. This mainly entails altering the methods of transportation, energy consumption and diet. A few days after our conversation, I received the link to the  afore-mentioned website and was asked to contribute an article if I was interested. I thought to myself that this could not have come at a better time. It had always been on my mind to make changes to my lifestyle in order to reduce my carbon footprint. The motivation to finally do something about it rather than be a passive onlooker came about after a recent holiday in Bali where I stayed at an Eco-friendly resort. From my stay at this resort, I gained a finer appreciation for utilizing as minimum resources as possible, reducing waste and being more respectful towards maintaining the ecological balance of nature.

Thanks to globalization, we are so wrapped up in consumerism that we find it difficult to foresee how the choices we make today, impacts the future. Given everything we are shown in the media regarding status-symbols and elitism, it is expected that we develop the tendency to lean towards instant gratification. This makes us unrelenting to the prospect of an alternate lifestyle and cultivates a cavalier attitude towards it. I understand and agree that it may not be possible to live our life in a way that fulfills every requirement of sustainable living but there are certainly small changes that we can adopt on a daily basis that could make a difference for the generations to come. Although, a significant change can happen only if these changes are implemented on a much larger scale, we can make informed decisions regarding what is in our control and set a good example to those around us.

If you have given the concept of sustainable living some thought but are unsure of what you can do about it then this post is perfect for you. This post is a list of 20 tips aimed at sustainable living that I thought would be easy to integrate into our daily lives with minimum hassle. It can be challenging at first no doubt but I reckon these tips are simple and easy to follow 

The photos in this post are from my home/workplace with the exception of the title photo and two logos which were obtained from the internet

So without further ado, here we go!

1. Walk, cycle, use public transit or carpool to work. If your driving, keep in mind to drive slower and keep your tires inflated. When relocating or changing jobs try to live close to work.

2. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Compost - Reusing packaging material saves more energy than recycling. Reuse zip lock bags, gift wrapping paper and storage containers. Keep the original containers of products such as washing liquid, shower gel and fill them up with handy refills that are now readily available. By avoiding extra packaging, you save both energy and landfill space. You can even reuse old furniture and clothes by giving them a makeover. Look for the designated recycling bins and try to recycle newspapers, cartons, tin cans and plastic bottles as much as possible. A lot of products come with the recycling logo on the back of the label so look out for such items. Yard and kitchen waste (leaves/grass/vegetable scraps) are 30% of trash. Reduce this amount by composting.

3. Conserve water - Don't let faucets run. Never water your lawn at midday. Its ok to let the grass grow longer. Take low-flow short showers. Plant native or drought-tolerant garden plants. 

4. Sustainable energy such as solar power is a better alternative to power small homes and can be used in conjunction with the standard electric power supply in bigger spaces.

5. Buy new houseplants for a greener home. Certain house plants such as aloe vera, spider plant, snake plant, English ivy, Chinese evergreen and bamboo palm are natural air purifiers.

6. Lower your thermostat in the winter and raise it in the summer. Try using ceiling/stand fans instead of air conditioning. To keep cool, use a dehumidifier, close drapes during the day and open windows at night.

7. Create your own natural cleaning products at home. Mixing 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 tsp baking soda in 2 liters of water gives you a perfectly good all-purpose cleaner.

8. Wash dishes by hand in a basin with cold water (without letting the water run for too long). Use the dishwasher only when necessary and when it is full. Let the dishes air dry on a drying rack. 

9. Only do full loads of washing, preferably use cold water and line dry your laundry.

10. Use a reusable cloth instead of paper towels/tissues to clean your kitchen. 

11. Take your own reusable eco-friendly bags during grocery shopping. As much as possible, say no to plastic and paper bags. 

12. Turn off all electrical appliances when they are not in use as they still use electricity. Even while on standby, they consume 10% more electricity. Make it a habit to switch the lights off when you leave a room.

13. Buy an inexpensive reusable water bottle and stop buying plastic disposable bottles. Also, keep a reusable food container to pack food from your favorite take out joints.

14. Opt for energy efficient light bulbs and electrical appliances. 

15. At work, print only what is absolutely necessary and recycle paper by using both sides.

16. Pay your bills and file your taxes electronically to cut back on paper usage. Don’t request for a receipt from an ATM if you intend to throw it in the trash without even looking at it! Your smart phone can also help you save valuable paper. Create to-do lists on your phone instead of scribbling away on sticky notes or notepads. iPhone apps like Grocery Gadget (see pic) is a great tool to create and organize grocery shopping lists. Not to mention that it is free! I personally use this app and ever since I've started using it, I have completely stopped using paper to pen down items that I need to buy from the store.

17. Get each member of staff to bring their own mug to work instead of using wasteful plastic cups every day.

18. Quit smoking - Second-hand smoke is a major indoor air pollutant and health hazard. When you quit, both you and your family will lead longer and healthier lives. 

19. Eat more vegetables and buy more local and organic foods. Better even, grow your own vegetables and herbs! It doesn't matter if you live in an apartment and don't have much space. Start small with hanging/wall mounted pots and containers. This is something I have been trying to do despite the space, direct sunlight and humidity constraints. Here is a pic of some basil that we've grown from seeds that a friend had passed over
Also, keep in mind that having home cooked meals frequently will not only be lighter on your pocket but will also improve your eating habits.

20. Give it away - Before you throw something away, think about if someone else might need it. Either donate to the less fortunate or a charitable organization.

So there you have it. Simple right? I'm sure many of the above tips are already followed in many households and work places and if they are not, its never too late to start. As you can see, an eco friendly way of life doesn't mean sacrificing all comforts or a life less fulfilling. All it takes is a little practice!

If you have any thoughts or ideas on sustainable living, please contribute on the website I mentioned earlier. Active participation is always appreciated



  1. good n easy tips.. all can try working towards it. g

  2. Such a thoughtful post Megha. If we all do our bit, the world would be a much better place to live in.


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