Every year, on 22nd April, the whole world celebrates Earth Day. We remember about the importance of taking care of our celestial home and avoiding irreparably damaging it. With global warming and climate change creating havoc increasingly often everywhere (I got snow in my city in April, but not in December or January), our small individual choices are having an increasingly high importance. This is why today I want to talk to you about how we can live a sustainable lifestyle that promotes at the same time our wellness.
As a Geography teacher, I know that explaining the science behind almost every phenomenon happening on our planet is an easy task scientifically. However, I will not give you a lecture about desertification, ice melting, or freshwater shortage. Instead, we will talk about how to include wellness into our lifestyle, beauty, and eating routine in a more sustainable way through easy to do actions.
Living sustainably can help not only our planet, but also ourselves. When we are more in touch with nature, we feel more productive, creative, and, most importantly, happier. So let’s explore together the small easy to do changes we can implement into our lives starting today.
Have you ever measured your ecological footprint or even heard of it? It is a scientifical indicator that shows how many planets we would need if every person on Earth would live the same way we do. You can measure it here for free. You might be surprised by the results.
According to the United Nations, sustainable living means “understanding how our lifestyle choices impact the world around us and finding ways for everyone to live better and lighter.”
Sustainable lifestyles are not a perfect system. The shift towards sustainability in our homes, communities, and lifestyles is a process of change that looks different for everyone. And individual actions, though they might seem small and irrelevant, are part of the collective. They are valuable contributions to a larger, stronger movement on reducing human impact on Earth and the benefits go beyond our household.
As David Suzuki once said: “In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket.”.
So how can you live a healthier lifestyle? Here are some tips I have.
Reducing our consumption
This can be easily done if you are a natural minimalist. Otherwise, an effort is required. You can turn of the light every time you do not need it. Or switch to compact fluorescent ecological bulbs (CFLs). Turning off the tap when brushing teeth. Taking shorter showers. Letting the grass grow brown. There are many small actions we can take into our home to reduce consumption of water, electricity, waste etc.
And part-two of reducing consumption is reducing waste. The less we consume, the less waste we produce. Recycling and avoiding non-recyclable products when we have a choice is a good way to help our planet and to live sustainably at the same time. 60% of landfilled materials are organic matter, so instead of throwing it away consider composting and growing some plants. Here is a guide to help you get started with composting.
Also, finding new purposes for broken items can help a lot. For instance, my wellness increased a lot when I found the perfect relaxing method for me: building 3D origami from old magazine paper. Now I have perfect handmade gifts for friends and home decorations from things I usually never used.
I admit I tend to shop online because it is faster, and I can find cheaper products. However, I always look for brands I trust and that have no ongoing issues with unsustainable materials or exploiting labor. For instance, I do not shop from Shein. I did this only once, a few years ago, but since that purchase researching the brand before buying became a habit.
Also, I decided when I need a new clothing piece to stop buying a new one before I visit at least three thrift shops or a local clothing swap. Some pieces of clothes are always in fashion and I would rather have a classic piece with a high turnover rather than a fast fashion cloth with a color that will fade after the first wash.
Lastly, consider shopping locally. It has so many benefits, from helping the local economy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by limiting the travel required for the produce to get to you, and having a greater awareness about the production process and the used ingredients.
And when you go shopping locally, never forget your reusable bag at home.
Other small things you can easily do around your house for a sustainable lifestyle
- Use as much natural light as possible by opening up the blinds.
- Turning off all devices at night, including the Wi-Fi box.
- Getting a water-saving showerhead.
- Using recycled pet litter that is biodegradable, instead of the plastic one.
- Using the bicycle or the public transport when walking distance is to long.
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator (it also counts as a leg workout so double benefit).
- Consider bulk buying from local farmer’s market every time this is an option.
- Avoid plastic-wrapped products when you can, as well as bottled water if the tap water is safe to drink in your area.
- Being a minimalist when it comes to things you have around you (I recently found about the 333-time capsule fashion challenge and I am excited to try it starting next month).
- Learn how to sew buttons and patch holes, so you can keep clothes longer.
- Go paperless every time you can (I am a huge fan of handwriting on agendas, but if I really must put it down for mental clarity I opt for recycled paper).
- Use cloths instead of paper towels.
- Use a dishwasher instead of handwashing.
- When you need to give a gift, consider experiences instead of things.
Lastly, I have a day per month, set at my own time, when I give both myself and the planet a break. During that time, I don’t buy anything, I don’t use any electronic device, I don’t cook, I don’t answer phone, I don’t turn light on, I don’t use any resources. I just mentally detox with a book or a walk in the park or playing with my cat. I am not yet able to do this weekly, but there is a statistic that doing this for a whole day each week my environmental impact on environment will be reduced by 14.4% per year. However, the greatest benefit is on my wellness. I cannot stress enough how mentally good I feel after a day with no electronic device use. I could never give them up completely, but a mental detox occasionally is amazing for my mind and soul.
This is such a complex topic I don’t even know where to start from. Beauty and wellness go hand in hand, and both industries are not as where they should be from a sustainable point of view. However, progress is made really fast and natural, clean, and environmentally friendly wellness and beauty practices are becoming a priority for both companies and consumers. Sustainable beauty means making conscious and informed choices when it comes to products we use and how we use them, so that our impact on the environment is minimal.
Here are some things you can start doing if you are not already:
Avoid plastic materials in beauty products and opt instead for natural ones. For instance, I recently discovered we can use volcanic sand in scrubs to avoid water pollution. You can read more about it in the interview I had with Eha Urbsalu, founder of Viking Beauty Secrets Brand.
Consider water-free beauty products. I previously talked about how we can save water and produce better beauty products at the same time while reviewing this Lookfantastic Monthly Beauty Box.
Moreover, limit the amount of water you let running when washing your face or brushing your teeth. Only 3% of Earth water is fresh water, and almost 98% of the fresh water is in glaciers from the poles that we cannot access. So, there are so many regions around the world lacking freshwater access. Use this resource sustainably.
Natural ingredients instead of chemicals
Read labels for toxic and harmful chemicals, such as parabens or talc. Clean beauty is important not only for skincare, but also for haircare, as Lynn from Masami Hair Products Brand thoughtfully explained in this guest post on my blog. Instead opt for natural and sustainably produced ingredients, such as the berries from northern Finland found in Viking Beauty Secrets creams or the goat milk in Kate Somerville moisturizer.
Consider a simplified, skinimalist skincare routine. It does not mean giving up using some steps of the skincare routine, but using products by rotation, especially at night. For instance, for two nights per week, you can use a face serum, the following two nights a face mask, the following two a heavier face cream, and so on. I explained more about this concept in this article. (I haven’t tried this approach yet but it is something I plan to do in the next month).
Reuse, recycle, reuse, share
Use reusable cotton pads for removing makeup, or even no pad makeup removers. I love for instance the micellar mouse from Medik8 I recently started to use.
Share products whenever possible with the rest of the family. For instance, I have a large size SPF product from Avene I share with my boyfriend.
Recycle packages after you finish the product. For example, I keep all packages in a bag and every December I go with them to Sephora to recycle. This way I also receive some vouchers and help the environment at the same time. I also look for packages that I can recycle myself and use as jewelry boxes or soap bars boxes after finishing the product. And the beauty magazines I have around the house almost always turn into origami decorations.
Avoid purchasing one-time-use products, such as single-use face masks. At the same time, do not fall to the other extreme of doing your own skincare and makeup recipes, as you can do more damage than good for your skin, as you can see very well explained in this article.
Ethical and sustainable production
Instead of using essential oils for your home and wellness relaxation routine, try using some flowers. As herbalist Jessica Baker explained in this interview, essential oils are unsustainable to produce and the environmental damage caused for producing for a small bottle of essential oil far exceeds the benefits.
All in all, when making a beauty purchase try looking for the following certifications and labels: cruelty free, vegan, non-toxic, palm oil free, ethical sourcing, thoughtful packaging. The more boxes you check from this list the better. “Beauty is only skin-deep but the impact of buying ethical and sustainable beauty products is far-reaching.”
First, even though avoiding animal-based ingredients such as meat, milk and egg can greatly benefit our planet, I will try to avoid talking about this topic as a vegetarian, or a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, or even pescatarian diet is not for everyone. Every human is different, and our bodies need different things. So, listen to your body mindfully and decide whether giving up some animal-based products might be a good choice for you or not. Personally, I removed meat from my diet but I kept dairy products and eggs. However, I may consider eating meat once per month in the future, as my body start showing signs of lack of B vitamins, despite the fact that I take some vitamin supplements to compensate.
Some tips for sustainable eating are:
It doesn’t need to be something big. You can start small with some herbs in a pot or tomatoes on a patio. It will give you a greater appreciation for the food you eat and gain a better understanding in what factors help plants thrive and the attention they need. Here you can find more benefits of gardening.
I already mentioned this before at the shopping point from sustainable lifestyle, but going to a local grocery ship is a very fun and healthy way to support your local community. The benefits are far reaching and the planet will thank you for making this choice. Research from 2022 indicates that food transportation accountes for nearly one-fifth of food system emissions. At the same time when you buy locally you can meet the producers, socialize, and learn some new recipes and tips about the vegetables and fruits you buy at the same time.
Also, by shopping locally you also end up eating seasonally. Which is again a great way to sustainably eat. For instance, you can read here about some spring vegetables you can include in your diet or smoothies you can easily prepare in spring. And this handy calendar can help you see which fruits and vegetables are fresh in every month of the year.
Tap you tap
If there is one thing I miss from my hometown and that I absolutely loved in my travels in Northern Europe this is the safe to drink tap water. Tap water is labeled as safe to drink by authorities but is smells and tastes of chlorine and other toxic substances, so I end up drinking bottled water. If tap water is not a choice for you either, consider buying large bottles (10-15 liter) instead of small (0.5 or 1 liter) ones. If you are forced to use plastic for the basic necessity of drinking, at least we can do it with the smallest environmental damage as possible.
Think thoughtfully about your grocery list and opt for foods in bulk. For instance, I plan my meals for an entire week and do the shopping only in weekends. Bulk buying, as well as avoiding processed foods and including more plant-based ingredients are great for reducing environmental damage and improving your health. There is less packaging, waste, energy, and water needed to produce them, and your body will feel better due to the increased level of natural, unprocessed foods. Here are some tips on how to spring-clean your eating habits and start fresh in a healthy and sustainable way.
Using all your senses when you eat and enjoying food rather than just ingesting it. Slow down, avoid distractions, and tune in to your body signals. You will be surprised how often we end up overeating because we do not pay attention. This article is focused on mindful eating during Easter holidays, but the tips are universal in their nature.
It is also a great way to avoid food waste, along with the bulk buying and meal planning. According to WWF, 30% of the food produced is wasted. If food waste was a country it would be the 3rd largest greenhouse gas producer after China and USA.
Eat more variety
75% of the world’s food supply comes from just 12 plants and five animal species. At the same time, livestock industry alone generates nearly 15% of all humanity greenhouse gas emissions, while global meat consumption soared 500% between 1992 and 2016. WWF calculated all those statistics for us to see in a clearer way how we impact our planet. It is imperative for humankind to include a greater diversity of foods in our diets and to moderate our intake of animal products, while prioritizing plants. It is not only great for the nature, but also for the body. You can read here about the benefits and struggles of giving up meat in your eating routine can have.
Wellness is a choice we make. And all aspects of our wellness are interlinked with each other. Whether we talk about physical, emotional, social, vocational, financial, or environmental wellbeing, we cannot achieve any of them by neglecting another. Environmental and sustainable wellness is essential. The place we live in affects our general wellbeing in more ways than we may realize. Who enjoys breathing polluted air everyday or exposing the skin to toxic UV rays that the ozone layer no longer stops? Earth is our home and while industry-wide and country-wide changes are necessary, our own small decisions should not be neglected.
In this article I shared some small things you can start doing for the environment every day without affecting your lifestyle significantly but with a major impact on our planet wellness. However, the most important thing any single one of us can do to save our planet is to talk about it. So, engage in smart conversations with people around you about sustainable and environmentally conscious choices and behaviors. We can all learn something from one another. Also donate to sustainability initiatives when you can. Financially or in time.
We have power. Time and our voices are the greatest weapon in sustainably living. As well as our individual choices when it comes to our daily lives. Sustainable living and wellness are possible and are a matter of choice.
Start small. Take a break more often. Observe the world around. Practice mindfulness. And make the best choices for both you and your home, which is the entire planet.
How are you celebrating Earth Day? Please let me know in the comments below.