Top Sustainable Lifestyle Changes, Discussed and Simplified

By Mary Cappelletti

Hello, Mary the intern here. In a recent post I talked about whether top down or bottom up actions are more important and effective. Ultimately, I concluded that both were vital in the fight to end climate change. Now, I want to address how you can make some of these changes in your day to day life. In this post I’ll be talking about lifestyle changes, but in the future I will address how you can influence policy. 

There are so many lifestyle changes we can make to benefit the environment, but these vary in how influential they are, as well as how easy they are to maintain. Recycling and using reusable bags are great actions to take, but as we discussed earlier, they have a very small impact, particularly on their own. However, the most influential actions demand a lot from us, and are perhaps unlikely for some people. I want to introduce the most influential actions and draw attention to them, but also discuss how we can simplify them if they aren’t a feasible option. 

Many studies show that the number one lifestyle change people can make to help mitigate climate change is not have a child. This is a tall call, and likely one we quickly skim over. However, I’d like us to pause and consider it. Having a child is an incredibly personal choice, and I understand the lack of consideration for the environment when making this decision. I don’t want to use this space to ask people to not have children, yet I would like us to recognize the impact adding another human to the planet can have. What I would like to ask us to do, is to raise our children to be conscious consumers. Raise our children to respect the natural world and the other beings that reside in it. Raise our children to love the things we can’t understand and protect the things that differ from us. Raise our children to be warriors for a better future. Perhaps then having a child will have a greater positive, rather than negative, influence in many ways. 

The next biggest lifestyle change people can make is to not own a car. This is another tough one that may be unrealistic for many. However, for those of us living in a large metropolitan area such as Seattle, it is doable. In fact, it might even be more pleasant after the increase in traffic over the last few years. Yet, I know that asking people to not own a car is probably unreasonable and somewhat hopeless, so perhaps simply consider driving it less often or converting to an electric car. Make small changes in your life like walking to work or to the gym. Car pool when it’s possible. Take public transportation on the days you have a little extra time. Maybe instead of always treating your car as an everyday tool, use it as a treat to only be used when necessary. 

Another tough, but influential action individuals can make is to fly less often. Specifically, avoid long, international flights. Personally, I have always struggled with this one. One of the reasons I have such a desire to save the world is because of its beauty and abundance of life. All of which I want to witness first hand. This may sound fairly selfish, and maybe it is, but I think it’s a common trend among those invested in the environment. We tend to also be the ones who want to travel the world to see all the natural wonders and everything in between. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t control that desire or give it up once in a while. Furthermore, there are constantly new and improved ways to travel the world. So next time you go on vacation, perhaps you can put a little more effort into finding the most sustainable ways of travel, or maybe stay local. 

Perhaps one of the most doable, yet tough actions is eating a plant based diet. Now, I might not be the one to speak on this because I am a vegan and I find it achievable, so maybe I’m biased. However, maybe that’s what makes me the perfect advocate. I made the switch from vegetarian to vegan about two years ago and found it extremely difficult. So, I can speak from experience that it is painful, and it is sad. But, if you believe in it strongly enough, that will all wither away and you will eventually be invigorated by this change. Although I can’t make any promises to you, I can tell you is that I felt healthier, happier, and more proud of the lifestyle I chose when I made the switch. Eating a plant based diet is almost always listed in the top 5 things we can individually do for the planet, sometimes it’s even listed first. Grist recently published an article about plant based diets making more of a difference for the environment than cutting down on flying and driving an electric car. I understand that a completely plant based diet isn’t for everyone, but I think we can all be more conscious of the food we consume. Perhaps we can start eating meat only a couple days of the week. Cut out red meat. Buy local produce when possible. The products we purchase have an immense impact on the world and it’s important we be aware of these impacts. 

These are just a few of the lifestyle changes we can make to help mitigate climate change, but they are among the largest. Maybe you aren’t in a place to make any of these changes, and that is completely understandable. But, perhaps you can start considering them and start creating discourse on them. Sometimes one of the biggest changes we can make is to simply talk. You never know whose eyes you may open, or who may open yours. 

Some of these topics will be explored more thoroughly in future posts, others will not. Let us know if there is something in particular you’d like me to write more about. Thanks for reading!