The thought of starting your sustainability journey from scratch can be overwhelming. Where do you even begin? The products in your bathroom? Your makeup bag? How about the cleaning products under your kitchen sink?
There is no right or wrong way to begin your journey. All that matters is that you start. So in this article, we're going to talk about why we should all be switching to a more green lifestyle, how to start making the switch without overwhelming ourselves; and why implementing even the most minor changes can make a significant impact.
Why Go Green?
Now that we're full speed ahead into the new year, it's time we all started making some changes to our lifestyle so we can all lower our carbon footprint. I don't know about you, but I want my children and grandchildren to enjoy the planet just as I did as a child. If we continue at the current trajectory, future generations seeing Earth as we knew it as children are slim.
Going green means that your products are sustainably-sourced, manufactured, or upcycled. You consider everything you do and minimize your impact on the planet. Instead of buying brand new products, you use what is already in circulation. If we were to all follow this model, it would ease the current pressure that we're putting on our environment when we manufacture new products.
As humans on Earth, we have an environmental obligation to keep our planet safe and healthy. Taking from her more than we give back has caused irreversible damage. Some of the side effects that have come as a direct and indirect result of the industrialized world are:
- Biodiversity loss
- Animal extinction
- Global warming
As you've perhaps seen or read, biodiversity loss and animal extinction create an imbalance in natural ecosystems (4). This imbalance creates a global environmental change that scientists have dubbed "defaunation." We're facing the Sixth Mass Extinction (1), where, in just 40 years, the world has lost 52% of its wildlife to extinction thanks to human interventions and activities.
Global warming has been primarily caused by manufacturing plants, mining, and other large factories that emit tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Though global warming refers to the Earth heating up, causing issues like ice caps to melt, it's also causing extreme weather events. We see heatwaves, wildfires, snowstorms, hurricanes, and tidal waves like never before.
Overconsumption will be a more significant issue in the future as our population on Earth grows, as the resources we require to live and exist will continue to deplete. Solutions need to be implemented now to avoid a catastrophe in the future. I go into this topic in more detail in this article.
Going green or sustainable means eliminating a lot of "junk" from your life. You can choose a more minimal lifestyle, which means decluttering, which can also positively impact your mental health.
You can reduce your animal byproduct intake. You may recall the beef boycott a few years ago. Environmentalists said that we all need to stop eating meat and dairy to reduce our carbon emissions because those industries contribute a huge chunk of carbon dioxide. While many of us have taken on a less or no-meat diet, experts warn that it isn't a sustainable solution for everyone on Earth to stop eating meat. Instead, we should be more mindful and reduce our meat and dairy consumption.
While I'm not vegan, I am 95% plant-based, which many dietitians will give the tick of approval for, like a well-known and respected nutritional scientist and dietician, Dr. Joanna McMillan (3). She encourages a plant-based diet because of the health benefits of such a lifestyle. Dr Joanna takes a pragmatic view of diet and lifestyle and understands that even farming plants can negatively impact the planet — there's simply no perfect solution. Her recommendation is the Mediterranean diet, all about eating natural, whole foods, vegetables, seafood, olive oil, whole grains, and consuming only high-quality meats.
Check out her detailed article if you're interested in reading a no-bull dietician's take on The Game Changers documentary, a film about meat, protein, and strength.
While we're talking about diets, a diet high in meat can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, especially colorectal cancer (5,6,7).
Another health benefit of going green is that you may even feel morally better about not consuming animal byproducts, which will improve your emotional health.
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood facts about switching to a green or sustainable lifestyle is that it costs more and is not accessible to everyone. This is simply not true. I dive into this topic in this article, but to sum it up, sustainable products are not always more expensive than conventional products. Not anymore, anyway.
If you choose to buy sustainable products, they can sometimes cost more. But they are usually cleaner ingredients, making them safer, potentially preventing health implications later on.
Take toothpaste as an example. Like Bite toothpaste tablets, a sustainable brand contains just a handful of clean ingredients, all sourced ethically. They use a fluoride alternative because fluoride stops cavities, though questions have been raised about its safety. Compare that to Colgate toothpaste, which contains Triclosan, an antibacterial agent and a possible known carcinogen (9).
While it's not a given you'll get cancer from toothpaste; there is evidence that many of the chemicals we have in our everyday household products can bioaccumulate over time. So while you may only be exposed to a tiny bit each day, some ingredients stay in our bodies, so after years of exposure, it can become an actual hazard to our health (2).
Cheap shampoo that contains sodium lauryl and laurel sulfates are other good examples. SLS and SLES are skin irritants that have also been linked to hair loss and other possible health implications. Spend a few more dollars on a non-sulfate shampoo and you can skip the hair regrowth pills later in life (8).
In the long term, going for the cheaper alternative could end up costing you a lot more later on.
With more brands joining the sustainability movement, prices are more competitive. And because technology is constantly advancing and improving, sustainable skincare is now just as effective as conventional skincare, and it's even better in many cases. So going sustainable is really worth the investment when you look at it across your entire life.
How to Avoid Overwhelm
So how do you do make the switch? It can be overwhelming; the whole climate change doomsday topic makes us want to bury our heads in the sand. But we simply can't anymore.
You can start by reading my article on How to Reduce Environmental Anxiety. If you're a human who identifies as a woman, this article may be helpful; Women's Beginners Guide to Becoming More Sustainable. If you're a parent, start here; How to Be a Sustainable Influence On Your Children. Or, if you're just curious about what sustainability means, especially in the beauty industry, read What Does Sustainable Beauty Actually Mean?
The easiest way to take on sustainability is by taking baby steps and compartmentalizing your home—tackle one room at a time, starting with the kitchen. I suggest setting up your various recycling and trash cans first, then swapping out one item from the kitchen as needed. When the kitchen is complete, move to the bathroom, the bedroom, etc. Make it a slow habit that will stick.
So how do you "be" green? First of all, a circular economy is arguably the best way to adopt a sustainable lifestyle quickly. But to live a life that is 100% circular would be a tiresome feat. So as well as contributing to a circular economy, buy products that are:
- Made with sustainably-sourced materials, components, or ingredients
- Are sustainably manufactured and distributed, which includes packaging and shipping operations
- From an environmentally-conscious company
Choose good quality products that won't wear out quickly or don't impact the environment as much during manufacturing. Buy from sustainable fashion brands. Invest in quality bedding over cheap bedding. Choose zero-waste or recyclable packaging, and recycle your beauty packaging through PACT.
Another way you can be green is to donate your time, money, or resources to foundations and causes that help the planet. Here are some of our picks. You can also plant trees. Or reduce your carbon footprint through carbon offsets.
Turn off the tap when washing dishes or brushing your teeth. Unplug electrical appliances. Walk instead of drive. Don't use the clothes dryer. Think about every little thing you do, and try and improve how you do it, so it has a smaller impact on the environment.
Making small changes in your daily lives will ensure the longevity and sustainability of your commitment. Even the smallest change will make a difference to your health, your finances, and the environment. And don't beat yourself up if you don't get it right the first time. The point isn't to be a perfect environmentalist. The point is to try.
"We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly." Anne Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef.
Emma Jade has been a trained esthetician for over 15 years. She is a sustainable skincare writer, educating and building awareness around proper skin health that doesn't cost the Earth.
Some of the products promoted in our blog are from our online store. Many others are brands we have researched and found to be great examples of sustainable, ethical, and innovative brands in their field, and we don't profit from mentioning them in our blog. #CollaborationOverCompetition