being realistic about sustainability this new year

being realistic about sustainability this new year

According to Forbes, 77% of people are trying to live more sustainably, and with the new year comes an opportunity to make a commitment towards bettering ourselves. While traditionally people take this time to plan workouts or strive for a more nutritious diet, I have noticed a lot of people committing to a more sustainable lifestyle this year. Since 2023 has started, I have noticed tons of content about “easy sustainable swaps to make this 2023”, and “how to be more sustainable” on multiple social platforms. For me, this was bittersweet. While I was super happy that more people are seeking to make sustainable lifestyle changes, looking at how others were offsetting their environmental impact made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough. Much like fitness or health influencers, sustainable influencers can set unrealistic expectations, which can foster guilt. While I know influencers don’t do this on purpose, it’s still important to remember that there is always more going on beyond the surface. For example, even though I use bar shampoo and conditioner, my styling hair products are still stored in plastic. Does this mean I’m failing at living a sustainable lifestyle? Of course not! But it’s easy to see what others are doing and compare yourself. It’s realistic that until I find an alternative that works for me, I’ll have to rely on the less environmentally-friendly options that I’m used to. 

I have spent a lot of time looking at sustainable alternatives, and I can admit that some alternatives just do not work with my lifestyle, and that’s okay. While some might be comfortable using reusable paper towels or toilet paper, I am not. I think living a more sustainable lifestyle is about making small switches in your day-to-day life. Bringing a water bottle to fill up instead of defaulting to a plastic, single-use water bottle may not seem like a big change, but it can make a big difference over time.

Image Source: Natural Products Insider

Switching products in your household is not the only way to make an impact towards a more sustainable lifestyle. When it comes to overall environmental impact, it’s companies that are doing the most harm for the planet, not the people. To combat this, I recommend trying to avoid companies that are known for having a bad impact on the environment. According to in April of 2020, companies like Ikea, Apple, and Walmart are facing the most flack for their sustainable practices. While it’s not always possible to cut certain companies out of your routine, being mindful of the practices that your favorite companies partake in is a good start to cutting out companies that don’t match your values. It might take a while to find alternatives that work for you, so don’t stress about making these changes immediately. 

In order to be more realistic about your sustainable lifestyle progress, I recommend following a premade plan so that you don’t get overwhelmed. There are tons of plans that you can use or edit for your lifestyle! Here is an example of a year of zero waste plan that I found online. This can help you be consistent about your progress while allowing you to also keep track of that progress. I also recommend joining or creating a group to keep track of each other’s progress, share recent environmental news, and go to local climate protests together. Having a group to rely on can help you stay motivated and informed, while also being fun! 

I hope this helps some of you to be more excited about living sustainably, and less overwhelmed or guilty about all that has to be done. Everyone’s sustainability journey is different, and some things that work for others may not always work for you. If you’re still struggling on where to start, here are some of the first things I did when I was seeking more sustainable options:

  1. Switched out my household cleaners for refillable cleaners in glass bottles.
  2. Shampoo and conditioner bars instead of plastic bottles.
  3. Take canvas or other reusable bags when you go shopping.
  4. Changed my default web browser to Ecosia, which turns your searches into trees.
  5. Switch to glass or silicone food containers, and use beeswax wraps to store your leftovers.

These switches have been the easiest and most effective switches I have made at the beginning of my sustainable journey. Hopefully these have been helpful! Either way I am so proud of anyone who is making efforts to live a more sustainable life, no matter where in your journey you are! If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to sound off in the comments!

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