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How to Live a Sustainable Lifestyle

By: Michael Grefe, Associate Professor, Interior Design

August 9, 2017

How to Live a Sustainable Lifestyle

We all know about the effects of global warming from books and movies such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and sometimes we feel overwhelmed that we are not doing enough—or should be doing more—to help our planet. Everyone is so busy that we forget about our surroundings and how fragile it is and why we need to protect it, not just for us, but for our children and our children's generation to follow.

A sustainable lifestyle minimizes the harm to our existing natural resources and helps us to reduce our carbon footprint by minimizing our consumption of energy. One example is living in smaller homes, or living off the grid through alternative energy sources. This can not only reduce our energy use, but it can also simplify our lives. Many states are now requiring shoppers to bring their own reusable bags to reduce waste since there are not enough landfills to accommodate all of the plastic and non biodegradable materials that we create. While it's a pain, we all can understand that we would rather look out at the azure blue ocean waves instead of a flotilla of plastic bags cruising along our beaches.

We can live a sustainable lifestyle by reusing our plastic bottles, recycle our cups, and stop purchasing products that don't practice sustainability. Biking, carpooling, ride sharing, taking the bus, as well as walking, are good ways to both save money and reduce your carbon footprint. Buying fuel-efficient cars, energy star appliances, and replacing our gas fired water heater with one using solar energy will help to reduce our fossil fuel consumption. And replacing our incandescent bulbs with LED lighting can help us save money and minimize the amount of blackouts during hot summer months, or power interruptions during the winter. Learning how to repair your old toaster or air conditioner can save you money, but also helps to minimize our landfill usage. Buying used clothing instead of buying clothing at the local shopping mall helps you to both save money and minimizes our usage of natural resources. Who knows, you may start a new fashion trend!! Instead of playing with video games or working on a computer, start spending time hiking outdoors and reading library books, as it will not only save you money but help you to relax. A vegetarian or vegan diet can save substantial resources and can be a healthier and less expensive alternative to the traditional American meat infused diet.

The reality is—we, as a society, produce too much garbage and do not have enough land for landfills or garbage disposal areas so we have to cut back or replace some of our recreation areas and parks with landfills. No one wants to go visit “Mt. Landfill” or “Yosemite Landfill.” We, as a society, want safe drinking water and healthy food, as well as knowing that our future on this planet is secure.

While it can seem daunting on how to start living a sustainable life, the best thing is to get involved through national and local organizations like the Sierra Club or Friends of the Earth, as well as local green meet-up groups. There are even new sustainable communities being built across the United States, which includes new housing, communal gardens for food, and communal daycare as part of a kinder back-to-nature lifestyle. While it's a lot of work living sustainably, the benefits are increased joy and satisfaction, a sense of purpose, and it helps to bring you in touch with a much wider global community. 

Here are the three crucial steps for sustainable living: 

1. Minimizing clutter in your life. 
2. Review what we buy or how we travel, as it helps us understand why we must shift from unsustainable choices and wasteful spending to a more frugal lifestyle. 
3. Living with joy in our lives, balancing our own needs and, at the same time, treating our planet with respect so it can stay viable for generations to come. 

So, who’s with me? There is no time like the present to start making a change that will both help yourself and everyone around you.

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By: Michael Grefe, Associate Professor, Interior Design

August 9, 2017

sustainable life