Welcome back to Sustainable Existing. This is the second episode of the podcast. Just to get it out of the way, in the beginning, my website is www.sustainableexisting.com. At the bottom of the website, you can find my social media accounts as well as contact information. I encourage everyone to reach out with advice, comments, or any feedback. Now that that's over, let's jump right in.
Before I get into any specifics about sustainability, I thought I’d spend an episode to give an introduction to sustainability and to go over what you should know before starting the journey of a sustainable lifestyle. I’ve watched many youtube videos and read many blogs and can’t exactly list them so just know that most of this information comes from other sources.
Many of us, as well as myself, have grown up in consumerism lifestyles. It wasn’t thought of where the item was coming from or where the item will going after ew are done using it. For most people, there are stores within a decently close radius from their home providing almost any basic item. Everyone jumps to purchasing items that may be cheaper, but the cheap price comes at a cost. They are typically poorly built or made of poor, unethical materials. This may not seem like a big deal, and after these items’ short-lived lives, they can simply just replaceable with another cheap item. These choices are unsustainable and not eco-friendly, they abuse resources at an unsustainable rate that is harmful to both human civilization and nature. The easiest way to take a step towards sustainability is to be more aware of your overall consumption habits and how much waste you produce.
The push for sustainability came about a few years ago from images that were released of landfills overflowing, animals being harmed by trash, and mounds of plastic and trash polluting the ocean. This came up as a big red flag to many people. Just as you wouldn’t put toxic or harmful materials into your own body, you shouldn’t release toxic or harmful waste onto the planet. According to ellenmacarthurfoundation.org, if we don’t control our wasteful habits, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean that there are fish. I understand that climate change is a very controversial topic, but for the betterment of this Earth for future generations, we all need to make an effort to healthier choices for this planet.
I understand that moving to a sustainable lifestyle may be intimidating, and I thought so myself before beginning this project. This is not a choice you have to make all at once and not a change that will be easy. It’s okay to make mistakes because, in reality, it is nearly impossible to go plastic-free especially in this day of age. Just as you aren’t going to be a pro-athlete the first time you try a sport, sustainability will take some time to learn and practice before you become comfortable with it. Not many people will say this, but you shouldn’t give up things you love. Whether you love art, and have copious amounts of supplies, or if you love reading, but looking at e-readers or other electronics gives you a migraine, its okay not to give those things up. This journey shouldn’t be something you dread doing. The key is to research healthier options. If you love art maybe look into buying some paints that have less packaging, or try turning items you are done using into art. If you love reading and paper books, maybe you could reach out to friends and create a system of borrowing and swapping books. This journey is what you make of it, so don’t make it something you dread.
Consistently throughout my research of sustainable and eco-friendly choices, I’ve seen the 6 R’s of Sustainability. This is the basic overview you should keep in mind throughout your journey to sustainability. Just that note that different pages may have them named differently or may not have all the ones I have here. This information was inspired by a few different blogs and youtube channels.
The first R is Refuse. You should refuse items that aren’t necessarily needed. This is not to say you can only purchase necessities, but it is important to attempt to cut down on things that aren’t. Another important thing is to refuse to buy items that use materials that can’t be recycled and to also refuse single-use items. Single-use is an item that can only be used once and then is tossed. I understand that in a pinch you may need to use single-use items when you are out and about but try to think ahead in those scenarios.
The second R is Reuse. Instead of just tossing things, try to think if you can use them again. Can it be reused another few times beyond its initial use? You should always try to take care of your belongings to optimize items’ full lifetime. My family reuses the sturdy containers in the hot food section of the market for leftovers after we are done with the initial food. I understand that it is plastic, but by reusing it to it’s fullest potential is better than just tossing it.
The third R is Recycle. This is probably the first thing most people think about when becoming more eco-friendly. The key is to be aware of the products you are using and whether they are recyclable or not. As much as people throw recyclables into the trash, many people toss non-recyclable items into the recycling bin. Recycling still produces emissions, but it is still a positive change as opposed to just tossing everything.
The fourth R is Repair. Repairing is especially relevant to clothing and textiles. Just Americans throw away about 14 million tons of textiles a year, all of which end up in landfills. With Sustainable Existing, I want to help teach and practice ways to repair clothing as well as other things to try to help prevent tossing items that are no longer in pristine condition. I feel that this is a skill that a lot of teenagers lack and aren’t taught about, myself included so I hope to dive into this practice myself
The fifth R is Re-purpose. Although this may seem similar to reusing, it is a bit different. While reusing is just using the item for the same initial purpose, repurposing is taking the initial item and giving it a new use. For instance, My dad has used old wine bottles to make citronella candles for our patio in our backyard. Again I want to go into this R with Sustainable Existing and this R involves you to get crafty. Some people consider this to be a separate R, but I think rotting (or better known as composting) is another way to re-purpose. Personally, I’m not going to start composting for the duration of my Gold Award, but it may be beneficial to those that have gardens and can use the compost to fertilize their garden. For those that are interested, there are countless of blogs and youtube videos that go into composting
The last R is to Reflect/ Rethink. This R brings the ideas of sustainability all together. Throughout your entire journey, you must take time to think and reflect on your choices. As I’ve mentioned before, this isn’t something you can race through and do all at once, so it is always good to take time to reflect if you are comfortable to take on another aspect of sustainability into your journey.