As many of us are quite aware, our planet is in trouble and has been for some time.
For years, decades even, we’ve been receiving warnings about the state of our climate and the negative effects it is having on the world we live in. Unfortunately, the global response has been less than effective at dealing with the coming catastrophe.
While governments and large corporations can have hugely significant impacts on the state of play, many of us underappreciate the role we play as individuals.
For us at Jersey Girl Organics, sustainability is a key consideration for how we run our business, influencing so many of the decisions we make. These considerations often flow into our everyday lives as individuals, and this guide seeks to set out a foundation for understanding sustainability and how we, as individuals and businesses, can play a crucial role in changing the future of our planet.
Before we go too far, let’s take a quick look at the definition of sustainability.
It’s important to note that sustainability, as a concept, covers three pillars:
While most of us view sustainability in the context of the environment, the definition of sustainability actually means it can be applied to many parts of our life.
Sustainability, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.”
In the terms of the environment, it’s defined as “avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.”
So, what does that actually mean? In layman terms, sustainability is about finding balance - a way of doing things now so that future generations can enjoy the same lifestyle or resources that we do today.
In even more simple terms, it’s a way of living, a choice, that ensures the longevity of our planet and all those who inhabit it.
Therefore, sustainability is the responsibility of everyone. While large corporations can have big impacts through sustainable manufacturing choices and recycling, it’s up to all of us to do our part.
The 4 R’s of Sustainability
A core tenant of sustainability is the reduction of waste. How you reduce waste can be done in different ways, but at the heart of sustainability is the effort to remove the amount of waste we put back into the environment.
To achieve this goal, you can use the 4 R’s of sustainability: reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink.
Plain and simple, the biggest way to remove waste is to reduce our levels of consumption. Making the decision to reduce the amount of new waste is the best way to implement sustainability in your life.
Before making a purchase, think about how you will use a product - will it be used multiple times? Will you dispose of it after a single use? Do you really need to buy it?
A few quick ways you can reduce your consumption is to bring your own cup when buying coffee; take your own food to work instead of buying lunch every day; purchase reusable cutlery instead of using plastic; buy a water bottle and refill it yourself rather than purchasing water from a store.
Reusing items is another simple thing you can do everyday to cut down on waste and work towards sustainability.
Some of the more obvious choices are reusing water bottles, reusable canvas shopping bags and reusing take out containers.
But you can also think outside the box and see how items can be used for purposes other than their original use. Think about reusing glass sauce jars as storage for around the house, or how shoeboxes can be kept and reused.
For most of us, recycling is what we think of as the best way to live more sustainably, but in fact this should be a last resort.
Despite booming plastic use and production globally, recycling of plastic hasn’t kept pace. Many facilities will only recycle the types of plastic that are commercially viable, meaning they can be resold to go back into the production cycle. The rest of the plastic is discarded.
Because we think about recycling too much, we disregard the other Rs - reduce and reuse. Which brings us to the fourth R, rethink.
As consumers of goods, rethinking how our purchase decisions affect the environment is one of the best ways to live more sustainably. Rethink is sort of an umbrella term that encompasses the other three Rs, which makes it an even more important factor to consider.
Sustainability at Home
How can you live a more sustainable life at home? The easiest way to start thinking about ways you can improve is to break down your home into the areas where you spend both a lot of time and money.
Sustainability in the kitchen is a huge opportunity for many people, simply because we spend so much time cooking, and a lot of money on food and drink. Here are a few suggestions:
Shop at farmers markets or at stores that sell bulk, loose items. Cutting down on packaging is a huge win for sustainability
Make your own sauces, dips and salad dressings
Reuse old jars and containers when purchasing from bulk stores
Use washable towels rather than paper towels
Purchase reusable food wraps such as bees wax paper rather than cling film
Purchase steel or bamboo straws
Purchase seasonal food and be more considerate of the quantities you buy so you don’t waste anything
Living sustainably also easily extends to the bathroom, and the easiest way to improve here is to reduce the amount of packaging your buy:
Switch to soap and shampoo bars
Invest in a reusable razor instead of the disposable plastic ones
Buy reusable cotton pads rather than cotton buds
Purchase recycled toilet paper that comes in a paper wrapping
Sustainability at Work
When it comes to living low impact at work (or when you’re out and about, for that matter) some of the easiest changes relate to our food habits:
Take your own food to work in Tupperware or reusable containers
Invest in bamboo or another reusable cutlery set
Buy a metal straw
Invest in a good quality water bottle with a filter
Buy a keep cup rather than takeaway coffee cups
Also, think about any initiatives you use at home that can be carried over to the workplace. We’ve seen many customers purchase our refillable glass milk bottles for the office as a way to cut down on workplace waste.
How to start living more sustainably
Outside of the list of things above that you can do at home and at work, there are a few more initiatives and changes you can make that can help you live a more sustainable life. Here’s just a few of them.
Define what sustainability means to you
The first step in living more sustainably is to actually understand what it means to you. For some, it’s about cutting back on waste and finding ways to reduce their plastic use. For others, it might be more about their food choices and food waste.
Everyone has different priorities and goals, but if you can define what’s important to you, choosing the right initiative and changes to make becomes easier.
Calculate your carbon footprint
Finding out how much carbon you are releasing is a great starting point for living more sustainably. It forces you to think carefully about your everyday choices and where you can improve.
Focus on yourself
While it may not feel like it, if everyone made one small change towards being more sustainable the world would change overnight. While it’s easy to sit back and think that all the biggest changes come from governments and large businesses, the reality is that we all have a much larger role to play than we give ourselves credit for.
When it comes to shopping sustainably, buying local is one of the best things you can do. Find your local farmers market each week and do as much of your shopping there as possible. It may be inconvenient for a while, but soon you’ll fall in love with your weekly visits and the fact that you’re supporting local businesses and farms.
Also, you'll be helping cut down on transport costs, which is a huge contributor to carbon emissions.
Support sustainable businesses
When you shop with businesses that practice sustainability, you’re signalling your desire for a better planet in one of the most impactful ways - your shopping dollars.