Sustainable living sounds great in theory, but can feel impossible to put into practice.
In a world where “eco-friendly” is trending, how do you even differentiate between products that are actually good for the earth, versus those that aren’t?
Is it even possible to become a more conscious consumer without breaking the bank?
And do my choices even make a difference?
Trust me, I’ve asked myself the exact same questions!
It can be hard to know where to start without feeling the pressure to throw away all of our old beauty and cleaning products, go vegan, and commit to using one square of toilet paper a day.
That’s why I’m so excited for today’s conversation on the SHE podcast with Laura Wittig, CEO and co-founder of brightly.eco, a media platform that features content, community, and brand recommendations that ignite change via conscious consumerism.
While she’s incredibly knowledgeable about all things eco-friendly, she’s also an advocate for a grace-based, non-judgmental approach, learning as you go, and taking gradual, practical steps towards a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, without overhauling your entire life all at once.
You don’t have to be extreme to make a difference.
If you’re interested in making small, simple changes, or just learning more about what sustainability really is, then this episode is for you!
Understanding Your Sustainability Values
There are so many buzzwords surrounding the eco-friendly movement, that it can be hard to even keep up with actually understanding them.
Laura defined “sustainability” in the simple terms of meaning “planet-friendly”.
When a product, process or practice is “sustainable”, it’s not damaging the earth.
Seems simple enough, but there are always trade-off decisions we make as consumers.
That’s why Laura recommends identifying your “sustainability superpower”- the value that is of top priority to you when making consumer and lifestyle decisions. (You can actually take her quiz here to help identify yours!)
Maybe for you, your highest value is animal rights, so you’ll prioritize looking for products that were not tested on animals and consuming less animal products.
Or maybe it’s chemical elimination, or maybe it’s the human aspect of how laborers are treated. Whatever it is for you, it’s important to recognize and rank what matters most to you, and allow those top values to be the primary guides of how you work towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
Once you’ve identified your primary values when it comes to sustainability and more conscious consumerism, it’s time to get started on a more sustainable lifestyle – which can feel like the most overwhelming thing ever.
Now, before you sell your car and bike to the grocery store, slow down.
Remember that clean living is a journey. None of us do it perfectly, and it looks differently for everyone based on their family, their career, their finances, and especially their values.
When it comes to your purchases, Laura recommends to start with simply being more mindful.
Before making a purchase, evaluate if it’s filling a real need, or if it’s something you could do without (and no, this doesn’t mean you can never buy ice cream again – remember, we’re taking a grace-based approach).
And don’t throw away all of your cleaning products, beauty products, food, and clothes that aren’t sustainably made and sourced just yet.
It’s actually wasteful and harmful to the planet if you throw away unused products and buy all new “eco-friendly” products all at once.
Use what you already have, and then, once you’re ready to buy something new, intentionally and consciously purchase a product that aligns with your top values.
A great way to identify which products align with your values is utilize the back of labels that you see on products. (Listen to the full episode to get a quick run-down on what labels you can look for: the leaping bunny, fair trade, USDA organic, B corporation, and climate neutral certification.)
Also know that sustainable living isn’t expensive, and it’s not just for people with a lot of disposable income.
Remember that sometimes the choice to not do or purchase something is one of the most eco-friendly choices you can make.
Choose intentionality over convenience, buy second-hand or hold onto items longer before replacing them or throwing them out, and know that as a consumer, you have the power to vote with your dollars and direct change towards your values.
So be mindful, but also be curious.
Rather than beating yourself up for having no idea what fair trade even means, or feeling annoyed with the inconvenience of rinsing out your milk carton before putting it in the recycling bin, look at sustainable living as a hobby that you want to learn, not a chore that you have to do out of shame or guilt.
And like all new hobbies, experiment and be open to trying new things!
You don’t need to throw out your entire closet, but maybe try having a capsule wardrobe for a week and seeing how it goes.
You don’t need to go completely plant-based, but maybe try doing “Meatless Mondays” and exploring new recipes.
You don’t need to have a full-on organic farm in your backyard, but maybe try growing herbs in your kitchen window.
Start with a few small steps that seem fun, realistic, and implementable for your life.
There are plenty of resources online, as well as Laura’s podcast, Good Together, which are available to help equip and empower you so you can be better informed, aware, and knowledgeable of the world around you, so take advantage of them!
Learn More About Sustainable Living
Most importantly, remember that the goal isn’t perfection, just growth.
There’s no judgement with this – we’re all learning together.
But also know that your choices of what you consume, what you buy, and how you live do have the power to make a difference. As Laura said: “Individual behavior multiplied on a massive scale does make large, recognizable change.”
You don’t need to turn into Mother Nature overnight, just start with one small, practical step forward toward a more sustainable life.
A great place to start is listening to today’s full episode to learn:
- What sustainability really is
- Why sustainable living doesn’t need to be expensive
- Gardening tips for beginners
- Tips for reading labels to find eco-friendly products
- Practical changes you can make as a consumer to live more sustainably
To learn more from Laura and access her resources, check out brightly.eco.
And after you give this episode a listen, let us know in the comments: what is one new thing you learned from today’s episode?