On my path of changing my attitude towards money and reaching financial independence I have been able to broaden my awareness to the world around me. I have developed a much more in tune sense of mindfulness, embraced simple living and discovered my passion for the outdoors. Combining all of these changes is what has led me to my biggest change, a lifestyle that I would have never suspected. I am now striving towards environmentally conscious sustainable living.
Striving Towards Environmentally Conscious Sustainable Living
Wikipedia describes Sustainable living as; ” a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual’s or society’s use of the Earth’s natural resources, and one’s personal resources. Its practitioners often attempt to reduce their carbon footprint by altering their methods of transportation, energy consumption, and/or diet.”
Looking back over the roughly 6 years of big changes I have started making in my life it all began with a sense of urgency to shift my financial mindset. Radically increasing my savings rate, investing for the future, decreasing my clutter, minimizing my consumer mindset and adopting strong common sense frugal habits. Earlier on my journey I touched on this in a previous blog post The Best Plan is a Simple Living Plan and here as well The Environment starts at Home .
Along this journey I began saving money and enjoying a much simpler life free of excess and striving towards a more minimal lifestyle. As I reached these goals I found myself spending more time outdoors and reflecting on how I spend each day. How do my daily choices affect my community and more importantly the environment.
Having a sense of pride in my decisions that reflected my ethical and moral beliefs pushed me to optimize my life even more. One of the biggest enlightenments for me was that if you consider decreasing environmental impact and footprint that you will actually reduce your monthly cost of living.
What I am Doing to Achieve Sustainable Living
On my path to achieve sustainable living I have made many simple choices. While you might not agree with them all there are several that you could, or better said “should” start doing today.
Consider a few of these things when making your own changes. Does what I am doing or what I am purchasing bring happiness into my life and improve my quality of living? Have I considered where the product comes from or how it is made? What happens after it has served its purpose for me? Consider the entire cycle of life for your products, your energy and your food.
It is important to note though that our personal efforts are just the tip of the iceberg. They won’t make the rapid large scale change we need in the world to clean up the environment or reverse climate change. What it will do though is create a massive wave of support that will force governments to make radical change and also hold companies accountable to the environment.
My Top Ways Towards Environmentally Conscious Sustainable Living
Sustainable Living Starts with Housing
One of the largest impacts you can have revolves around your home. I am a firm believer that houses have gotten too large over the past few decades. A smaller home is easier to heat and cool. It takes less resources to build and a smaller house helps prevent you from purchasing more “stuff” to fill it.
Smaller homes also take up less space which reduces urban sprawl. Tight nit communities with well thought out densification preserve green spaces. Within your community consider location, walkability is the best thing you can do. Mitigate your work commute and see if you can be close to parks, grocery stores and schools to make it easier to walk or bike.
Once you have your home look at how you live in it, how are you using electricity or other sources for heating and cooling? How much water are you consuming and is your yard water wise?
Here are a few of the things we have done in our house.
I have changed all the lights in our house to LED and donated my old CFL bulbs to the thrift store (reuse). I run our hot water heater at a cooler temperature and always wash our clothes in cold water. We run our thermostat at 25 for cooling in summer and 18 for heating in winter. We also use a heat pump for our heating and cooling which is energy efficient and uses electricity. (BC power grid comes from98.4% renewables) Open blinds for solar heating in summer and close them early to keep cool in summer.
Landscape your yard such that it uses plants, shrubs and trees native to your region while considering drought resistant varieties. Transition away from those green lawns, a green lawn doesn’t sustain you or add to the ecosystem, it often represents waster. Instead consider planting fruits and vegetables for your yard, it feeds you and is fun.
If possible try to upgrade your appliances to high energy efficient units. Evaluate everything you have in your house and watch those power bars with phantom energy drain plugged in (yes your tv).
Reduce Reuse Recycle your way Towards Sustainable Living
Reduce and Reuse
This is huge and one that everyone has ZERO excuse to not be making serious efforts in and have a profound affect on your sustainable living.
Let us start with Reduce, it all begins with your purchasing decisions. I suggest first buying less and for what you are buying look at high quality items that will last. Considering where and how those products are made and then how big is the impact to have it shipped to you.
Be aware of how much packaging is used on items you purchase as well. The biggest place that you can reduce is at the grocery store. I am a big health advocate so if you look at natural whole foods and avoid processed foods you easily avoid a lot of plastic and cardboard packaging. I personally don’t drink any pop or milk so if you do the same you have cut a huge amount of plastic waste out of your life.
My last reduce is actually a diet choice, I have moved towards a vegetarian diet. With the current state of large corporate agricultural operations the terrible large scale impact they are having on the environment is undeniable. If there is less meat being consumed then the operations would in theory be smaller and help the environment. If you must eat meat then look at supporting a small scale local farmer who employs the highest of ethical standards for his animals and the environment and consider eating just a little less.
By avoiding meat I have cut a massive amount of shrink wrap and styrofoam into my life and further waste. When you do shop at the grocery store take your won reusable shopping bags, there is zero excuse to use plastic anymore or paper for that matter. Take your own mason jars and buy bulk ingredients, we do this and it cuts our waste 100% and is actually cheaper. When picking out your fruit and vegetables try to pick ones that don’t have packaging and don’t use those plastic bags. We bring all our fruit and vegetables home loose and just wash them, they don’t need to be put into plastic.
Reusable mugs, water bottles, cutlery, and straws. The amount or plastic society is using is almost unbelievable. EarthDay.org states on their website that “Humans buy about 1,000,000 plastic bottles per minute in total and only about 23% of plastic bottles are recycled within the U.S.”
Make a vow to yourself that you will always have your water bottle and reusable mug with you and take out cups and plastic will not be part of your lifestyle anymore. The bonus game I play with myself is that if I don’t have my reusable container I don’t make the purchase and in turn save money in the process. Search out local coffee shops and restaurants that have programs in place where you can bring your own mugs, bottles and containers. As well search out those same businesses that make efforts to reduce reuse and recycle, your support helps spread the message further.
The last point on reduce and reuse is with consumerism. When you decide you need something new carefully evaluate that purchase. Do I need it, is it of high quality to last, will it improve my quality of life and bring me happiness. Once you have evaluated that purchase look to see if you can obtain it via used sites, garage sales or thrift stores. If not source it out locally and support a local business. If you are replacing an item sell it or donate it helping reduce the amount of new products in the marketplace, minimizing your personal clutter and improving your finances.
Once you have done everything that you can to reduce and reuse we are left with Recycle. Nowadays it is hard to find regions that don’t have a recycling program and it is your duty to make sure that you work your hardest to not put a single thing in your trash. I am fortunate to live in a place that has an extensive recycling program (CVRD Recycling) as well as organic waste pickup.
I always remember the impact the documentary Clean Bin Project had on me.
Transportation is Key to Sustainable Living
Before even looking at the car we drive I will refer back to my earlier point about choosing where you live. Reducing the amount of time you spend in a vehicle to get to work, school, sports, doctors and groceries has a huge impact on your environmental footprint.
We should be trying to live in highly walkable and bike-able communities where we are close to the places we work and play. Mr Money Mustache wrote a good piece on why we should be considering riding a bike as a healthy alternative, What Do You Mean You Don’t Have a Bike . For our family we chose our current home for the fact by creating a 5 block radius I could walk to anything I needed including the store my wife owns and runs.
Of course we can’t all walk or bike everywhere and owning a car for many is still needed. With this in mind we really don’t need that huge SUV that burns through the gas. We put so much emphasis on big fancy and new when really, a car is a tool that gets us to where we need to be and hauls what needs to be moved. Avoid buying into the idea that you always need to buy new and that a used vehicle will save you money. Look at your habits and realize that you can probably get away with a mid size or compact vehicle and in the process will get a highly fuel efficient vehicle. When you need that big vehicle considering a car share service or rental.
My Nissan Leaf
Over the course of the past 6 years we downsized and sold our big 4×4 trucks that were hard on fuel. We traded in on a small compact car and a small SUV, this saved us money on fuel and put way more money in our bank accounts. We decreased our carbon footprint greatly but to me this wasn’t enough.
For the the past year I carefully looked at how much I was spending on fuel, maintenance and oil changes etc on our current SUV. At the same time I was researching the available 100% electric vehicles in our region. After carefully running the numbers it finally made sense to purchase a used 2013 Nissan leaf. A special thanks to Kootenay EV Family for his amazing and informative website tracking his Leaf since new for several years now as well as Rebecca Abernethy for her posts over at BC EVenture.
So with that being said we purchased a 2013 Nissan Leaf 100% electric car. I wrote about the purchase and initial thoughts in a very detailed article here; Why I Bought a Nissan Leaf.
Owning this electric vehicle has been awesome and it feels so good to not have to go to gas stations to put gasoline in my car. Driving silently down the highway with zero emissions feels great knowing I am helping the environment. Yes I know that making the car still has a fossil fuel requirement and that natural resources are needed for the battery but in my mind so do conventional vehicles, I am just taking the fuel side of the equation away.
I have been tracking my driving usage and plotting that against the cost of fuel savings and my vehicle payment. So far I am breaking even so the car is essentially free or should I say “expense neutral”. On the side of electric usage, we are very fortunate here in British Columbia that Close to 95% of BC’s electricity is generated from renewables. (NEB – Canada’s renewable landscape)
Always Optimizing to Live a More Sustainable Life
I don’t pretend to think I am doing it all right or the best way, what I do know is that I am trying my hardest. Society is on a runaway uphill trend right now using more resources and seeing a greater impact than ever on our environment. It is our duty as stewards of our communities and children of Mother Earth to show the natural world our respect and do everything we can to save it.
Take the time to do a mental inventory of your lifestyle choices and how you spend each day. Pick one thing you want to tackle and make your best effort to live more sustainably. I don’t expect anyone to change overnight and maybe it starts with just a challenge like TreadLightly~RetireEarly wrote on her blog, Zero Waste – A Week of Tracking My Trash .
The point is to just start somewhere and if you have time also consider helping make a difference with the waste impacting our world already. Many great organizations exist such as Surfrider Pacific Rim Chapter that works with community volunteer driven cleanups.
If you want to know more about what sparked my financial journey that evolved into my sustainable living efforts start with this great blog post I wrote.
Sustainable Living Update
Be sure to follow along on my mindful journey discovering the benefits of the outdoors, simple living, personal finance, sustainable living and mindfulness on social media. My Instagram account is @Stasher_BC as well as over on Twitter at @Stasher_BC . Make sure to use the hashtags #MindfulExplorer and #ExploreBeyondTheUsual so I can see how you are optimizing and improving your own life.