“A sustainable lifestyle leads to greater health, both for yourself and for the world around you”
It starts and ends with your own personal choices.
What you eat, what you wear, how you travel, and how you manage your household, are all aspects that come into play.
In the search for a sustainable lifestyle, we often look at the old ways of doing things. We try to steer away from lives dominated by technology and mass production. When we think of self-sustaining communities, we can see that they aim to depend less on man-made advances and more on the resources around them.
This mindset is not only adopted by self-sustaining communities – the world at large is moving more towards harvesting natural resources to power modern development. Green energy initiatives are at an all-time high and only growing more. Emerging technologies are focusing on sustainability, and a sustainable yet modern lifestyle is becoming easier to obtain.
There are a lot of low-effort ways to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. It can be as simple as having a short shower instead of a bath, or even doing things that barely impact you at all, such as turning off appliances that you aren’t using. The importance of energy saving should never be overlooked when so much destruction is coming from energy industries.
Eating at home is a simple yet impactful sustainable lifestyle choice. Taking public transport instead of driving is a sustainable lifestyle choice. For some of us, it is easier said than done. Some cities are geared towards bikes and public transport, while some make it much easier to get in your car and drive to a restaurant for your meal of choice. Eating at home is the more sustainable option, and it is even better to have friends or family over to join – it is more fun, and it results in less energy being used to feed more people.
Some people go even further and grow their own produce. There are so many benefits to growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The process does not require much skill – there are so many resources out there to help beginner gardeners. It also does not cost a lot of money to get started and the financial reward, in the long run, will surely show when you have your own supply of produce and do not need to run to the shops for every item.
Another benefit of a home garden is the associated psychological satisfaction. Studies have proven that people for happier and more optimistic when surrounded by plants. It is a fulfilling achievement to successfully grow anything and the process is very rewarding. It allows you to connect with nature and reap the benefits of your work. Cooking with your own produce makes the meal more special than cooking with bought produce. You know exactly where your food is coming from and how it has been treated, so you can put any worries about harmful pesticides aside and simply enjoy.
Growing your own food is easier if you have a garden, but it is not out of reach to those who have limited space. Indoor gardens are becoming increasingly popular as the general population moves into cities and away from open garden spaces. There are companies out there that offer indoor gardening equipment and can aid in the growing adventure, such as Agrilution, OmniGarden, and CityCrop. Whether you opt for getting assistance or embarking on your growing adventures solo, there are always things to keep in mind when setting up an indoor growing space
An example of an indoor herb garden (source)
- Hydroponic or soil?
Hydroponic systems can be great for indoor growing, as they take up little space and can be easier to nourish. The downside is that they can be more expensive than soil growing and require a slightly higher level of expertise. You need to look at your space and decide what is right for you.
- Start Simple
Keep your limited space in mind and work within your means. It is easier to expand after you have gained some skills and experience.
- Keep lighting in mind
Do you have a natural source of light such as a window, or will you need to depend on artificial light? Remember to consider lighting when looking at your budget and plant selection,
- Preserve your produce
Homegrown produce can start to rot long before store-bought produce would, because it is generally organic and non-GMO, meaning it is healthier but with a reduced shelf life. Preserving produce is a way to make sure nothing goes to waste. Herbs are especially great for this – they can be dried out and kept for years.
For those who love to eat out, it is reassuring to find out that not all bars and restaurants are unsustainable. Rooftop venues are increasingly popular in cities and are much more sustainable than many other kinds of venues. They utilize space that would otherwise be unused. Some rooftop venues are adorned in plants and greenery, adding more oxygen to their environments and improving air pollution with their existence. The Living Room in Maboneng, South Africa, is a celebrated venue that serves healthy food and hosts live music in a rooftop venue that is covered in greenery.
The Living Room, Maboneng (source)
These kinds of spaces are important because they fulfill our need to be social without posing any additional harm to the environment. Even those who love to cook still enjoy a meal out every now and then, so it is important to support sustainable business when dining out and leading a sustainable lifestyle.
Sustainable living means always looking for the least energy-intensive ways to achieve the same results. Sustainability embraces that it is better for the energy to come from a person as opposed to from an external energy source. Cycling or taking an electric scooter to work instead of driving is a more sustainable choice. Studies have shown that living a car-free life is one of the most impactful lifestyle changes that you can make in the quest to reduce your carbon footprint. Cycling instead promotes personal health, reduced CO2 emissions and, in some locations, can make life easier by allowing more access to places where cars cannot drive.
It is always more eco-friendly to use your own energy.
In some places, people would never dream of depending on cycling. Sometimes the terrain is against you, the weather is harsh, your city is too far-spread for it to be a viable option, and sometimes it is simply an issue of safety. One the other hand, some cities make cycling so easy that driving is the foolish option. In these cities, many people opt for bikes over cars for the sake of convenience without ever even taking sustainability into account.
Amsterdam and Copenhagen are two major cities where bike lanes are so accessible that cycling is the easier option and owning a car is increasingly tricky and expensive. These cities are greener by default because fewer people are opting to drive and contribute to C02 emissions.
Bikes in Amsterdam (source)
In downtown Amsterdam, cars are a hugely inconvenient transport method. Not only is parking impossible to find and insanely overpriced, but a large majority of the city roads are not even accessible via car. The busy streets of inner-city Amsterdam are impossible to drive down, either because there is simply no space, or because the law has decided that it is unsafe for motor vehicles to exist in these spaces. Streets dominated by shops and canals are only accessible via foot or via bicycle. The city is incredibly easy to navigate with a bike, with bike paths accessible in every part of the city and a traffic system that has integrated cyclists into it.
Traditional cycling certainly has benefits – but for those who do not wish to use all their energy cycling, e-bikes are the low effort solution. E-bikes have become increasingly popular in cities like Amsterdam. They are powered by electricity and use rechargeable batteries. Swapfiets and JUIZZ are some of the leading e-bike retailers in the Netherlands. With the Netherlands relying more and more on renewable energy sources for electricity, these options are undoubtedly more sustainable than driving and still offer more comfort to those who have decided that traditional cycling is not for them.
Sustainably can be about moving away from technology, but a growing amount of technology is adapting to fit in with a sustainable lifestyle and making it easier than ever to stay green without sacrificing the comforts of modern life.
One good thing that has come out of the digital age is that we are increasingly less dependent on paper. Kindle has replaced books, companies such as Greenvelope have developed to replace cards and wedding invitations with digital alternatives, and even universities are now moving more towards study aids found online.
Companies and brands from all industries are illustrating that sustainability is about taking old ideas and revamping them in ways that cause little or no harm to the environment. People working with technology are creating new and innovative ways to change technology to harvest renewable energy and make positive changes.
One of these is a new technology that uses sunlight to clean water. Using a photocatalyst (a material that chemically changes under light) scientists have developed a solar-powered method of cleaning water that eliminates close to 100% of harmful bacteria.
It is an amazing innovation that hopes to bring clean drinking water to places and people where drinking water is dirty or inaccessible. This technology has now been applied to solar panel technology, and solar panels are hitting the market with the ability to clean water with only the power of the sun.
In the western world, we can take clean water access for granted, but many are not so fortunate. In some developing countries, clean water can still be a scarce resource. This kind of technology allows access to clean water to those whose governments and cities are not providing it to them.
Solar-powered technology has come a long way and is being utilized in many fields. Electricity has become increasingly geared towards using solar power. Some buildings have even gone so far as to install solar-powered windows to help generate power for the buildings to make use of. Solar-powered windows are gaining popularity for many reasons. They are more powerful than ever before, generating more and more energy for buildings. While initial installation can be expensive, renewable energy reaps great financial return as it allows for less dependence on external power and allows buildings, brands, and people to become more self-reliant. It used to be that solar panels could only work with direct sunlight, but they have become more efficient in recent years and are now capable of functionality even in shady conditions.
Solar panel windows on an apartment building (source)
Unfortunately, solar panels are not yet perfect and there are some downfalls in using them. The manufacturing process behind solar panels does produce greenhouse gases and emit carbon in the atmosphere. The upside is that solar panels do not emit any toxic gases after the production process while they are in use, but this is still problematic.
Green energy still has a long way to go, but people are finding innovative solutions to the problems we are facing in harvesting renewable energy.
One gym has taken an interesting approach to the problems of electricity. One gym has taken the concept of using energy from humans over energy from external sources one step further and has found a way to harvest the power from those working out in the gym to power it.
Eco Gym is the home to this creative energy solution, embracing the energy that its customers come inside to release. It homes 21 cardio machines that double as energy generators, most of which are bike-orientated workouts.
Eco Gym energy harvesting equipment (source)
The equipment works by turning the motion energy into electricity through inverter technology. It converts energy produced into kilowatts that are capable of being used as an electric source. The human-generated energy is not enough to power the whole gym, so they have gone even further to utilize green energy by making use of both a rooftop solar panel system and wind turbines to generate enough energy for the building.
Impressive technologies like this are emerging in many different industries and sustainable markets are rising in all sectors, positively impacting our ability to lead sustainable lifestyles.
These days, it is seemingly impossible to live without a smartphone. It is common knowledge that smartphones are often made from unsustainable materials in unethical work environments, but even this knowledge is not enough for us to give up this 21st-century necessity. Most of us simply cannot imagine life without our smartphones!
A 2018 Greenpeace report showed that since 2007, we have used as much energy creating phones as it would take to power India for an entire year. With alarming statistics like these surfacing, it is painfully obvious that the smartphone market needs to adapt to accommodate much more sustainability.
Fairphone is a smartphone brand aiming to achieve sustainability in its own way by addressing a problem that most smartphones face – they are designed to be impossible to repair. It is much easier to throw away and replace a smartphone than it is to repair it in most cases. Parts are hard to source, repairs cost more than the smartphones themselves, and we have all come to accept that smartphones are pretty disposable and not meant to last for more than a year or two. Fairphone hopes to change this aspect of the smartphone market by making phones that are easier to replace and more durable, with the overall goal of phones that last longer and a smaller market need for new smartphones.
Smartphones still have a long road to travel to reach sustainability, but phone chargers are well on their way. There are phone chargers that work with solar energy and allow the sun to charge your phone without ever connecting to an electric socket. There are even phone chargers that allow you to use your personal kinetic energy to charge your device. The K-Tor Hand Crank Generator Pocket Socket is exactly what it sounds like – it allows users to charge their device using a hand-cranked system that turns kinetic energy into electricity.
K-Tor Hand Crank Generator Pocket Socket (source)
Some brands have released biodegradable smartphone covers, giving us an eco-friendly option to choose over the common plastic smartphone covers we have all become accustomed to. At this point, we can only hope that smartphones will start to adapt to sustainability that their accessories are starting to evolve to.
With so many industries adapting to adopt sustainability, it is easier than ever to lead a sustainable lifestyle. We can still have modern comforts without hurting the earth if we make informed purchasing choices, keep sustainability in mind and put the work in to find solutions to products and technologies that are harming the environment.