Starting with Sustainability

Following Tuesday’s post about Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I said I was going to write a series of posts examining areas in which changes need to be made to realign my habits and choices with my purpose and beliefs. This week I’m going to explore the idea of living sustainably (also inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle).

To me, sustainability means living in a way that makes good use of my resources, a way that takes care of the world around me– the very world that our Creator made and entrusted to us. It means being a good manager of the things I’ve been blessed with, knowing I have a responsibility to care for this earth.

I took part in Plastic Free July, which was a good kickstart to living sustainably. So much paper and plastic are wasted with disposable products, and I embraced this challenge with the intention of reducing my consumption of them. Although I admittedly put the challenge on the back burner for most of the month, I succeeded in most areas of avoiding consumable plastics and paper products.

  1. I chose not to use plastic baggies except for some freezer items; we’re low on storage, and sometimes bags make more sense than sticking containers in the freezer. But I tried to stick to reusable containers for storing my food.
  2. I stayed away from plastic utensils, which I wasn’t too keen on before, anyway, but it did require being more diligent about packing real utensils in my lunchbox for work.
  3. I also was more consistent in bringing reusable tote bags when I went shopping. I had been in the habit of doing so for grocery shopping, since I frequent Aldi, which requires you to pay for grocery bags if you don’t bring your own, but I started bringing them everywhere.
  4. I also have begun skipping the plastic produce bags, since I throw them away as soon as I get home anyway.
  5. Additionally, I dabbled in the use of cloth napkins instead of paper ones and washcloths/dish towels for the kitchen instead of using so many paper towels (except in situations when the mess would permanently stain the cloths, like with curry or fruit juices).

I would, however, like to take bigger steps, as these changes were relatively easy for me to implement and stick with. I know I can do more to reduce the amount of waste I generate and make better use of my resources. Plastic Free July was just the beginning, the stepping stone to greater changes. I plan to begin doing the following:

  1. Consume more local, organic produce. This one’s going to be difficult since I’m so frugal, but I want to make progress in this area. I will shop more at farmer’s markets and eat more seasonally instead of paying for the transportation (and poor growing conditions wrought with pesticides and GMOs) of commercially grown food, but supporting local farmers and food that was grown responsibly. This means being patient to wait for things to come into season instead of giving in and buying sub-par quality out of season. It also will include endeavoring to grow more of my own food, whether in pots or a backyard garden.
  2. Encourage my roommates, family, and friends to use more reusable materials instead of disposable ones. This includes bringing out (and being willing to wash) the real plates and utensils when we have our weekly community dinners. It also means hunting for or making more towels and rags to supplement the ones we currently have to keep us from reverting back to paper. Together we can make a bigger difference than I could do alone.
  3. Learn to can my own food. I asked my grandma if she would show me how to can tomatoes, and I bought a couple cases of glass canning jars, but we have yet to actually do any canning. I want to know that I am eating food that was grown locally (and seasonally) and preserved without any unhealthy ingredients.
  4. Use refillable containers instead of disposable ones. I plan to use small refillable plastic bottles for shampoo and conditioner instead of buying the travel-size ones, use a refillable hand soap dispenser instead of always buying new plastic ones, and make sure I carry my water bottle with me instead of grabbing bottled water simply out of convenience.
  5. Use cloth napkins at home, not just at work. It’s been easy to pack a cloth napkin in my lunch bag, but I know it will be an entirely different ball game to try to institute the use (personally and communally) of them at the house.

I know these steps are still small, but over the next month, I will endeavor to adopt these new habits. I may change or add to them as necessary, but I look forward to feeling better about how my actions impact the world around me. I want to actively choose to engage in behaviors that will preserve what resources we have and protect the world that has been entrusted to us. Will you consider joining me?

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