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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Jaber

7 Ways to Live More Sustainably

Updated: Oct 17, 2021

Four years ago, while stuck home with the flu, Beatrice Crocker, a 20-year-old French Language student at Simmons University in Boston watched a documentary about veganism that inspired her to change her life.

She learned that more than one million species are at risk of extinction as a direct result of climate change. She learned that 70 percent of deforestation—one of the leading causes of climate change—is due to animal agriculture. And she learned that a single hamburger takes roughly 100 gallons of water to produce.

These facts convinced Crocker to not only become vegan but turn to an overall more sustainable lifestyle. She cut out meat and animal products, started composting, and avoided using single-use plastic, like non-reusable water bottles, coffee cups and straws. Crocker stopped shopping at Amazon and instead began thrifting, shopping as sustainable stores, and even began a clothing swap Facebook group for her and her friends.

Living a sustainable lifestyle doesn't have to be difficult or life-changing. For someone living in Boston, there are a several easy ways to start living a more environmentally friendly life. "Take it one step at a time," Crocker says. "Once you start doing research into how large the average American’s carbon footprint is, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Try to choose one thing that you can reasonably achieve, and repeat."

Here are some easy steps that you can take to live a more sustainable life:

1. Shop smart

It's important to be aware of how you're spending your money. You truly vote with your dollar, so it's vital to be conscious of what your money is supporting when you are purchasing clothing, groceries, and everything in between.

"I would say one of the most important changes I have made in my life is to stop using Amazon and other online shopping platforms," Crocker says.

Instead of these fast fashion platforms, both Crocker and Alexa DeMarco—a 20-year-old glassblower who has devoted herself to living an all-around sustainable lifestyle—suggest thrifting and repurposing old items.

"If you buy things from a thrift store, and you have the time and energy to teach yourself how to sew—which isn't too complex and can be done with fairly inexpensive materials—you can fix your clothes instead of going to buy more," DeMarco says. If you can't bring yourself to say goodbye to online shopping, try Depop, a fashion marketplace app where users can buy and sell clothing and accessories.

As for food, consider shopping in the reduced produce section of the grocery store. "At Stop and Shop and Market Basket they have a big tower of all this produce that has like one bruise on it," DeMarco says. "And you can get a whole bunch of bananas for like 50 cents."

Also, look for food options that don't come with unnecessary packaging and opt for whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whenever possible.

2. Eliminate waste

"Our whole world is literally wrapped in plastic," Crocker says, which is why limiting your personal waste is an ideal first step to take when attempting to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

It can actually make a big impact. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American produces about 4.9 pounds of solid waste per day.

There're so many simple changes that you can make to eliminate waste. For example, don't use plastic bags at the grocery store and instead bring reusable bags. "Instead of getting all my produce in one of the little bags, I just throw them in the cart and wash them when I get home," DeMarco says.

Another simple step is to "start carrying a reusable water bottle, a set of reusable utensils, and a reusable straw around everywhere," Crocker says. "If you don't have a straw or a cup, don’t go get coffee."

Waste doesn't just mean plastic, however. Paper, glass and metals all add to this country's overwhelming waste problem, so if you see a way to eliminate any trash from your life, then go for it. "I don't have paper towels, I just have a bunch of rags, and I put them in a pile and then I wash them," says DeMarco. "That works for me."

3. Don't buy what you don't need

"We're raised in a society that tells us to consume everything and anything," DeMarco says, but it's important to recognize that this doesn't have to be the only way. "I won't buy an item unless I know I'm going to use it."

Try to monitor the resources that you consume and only purchase products that you know for certain won't go to waste. That could mean skipping the colorful dress that you will only wear for a single photo op or refraining from purchasing the peculiar food that you never actually eat.

4. Try composting

Composting is a great way to have a positive impact on the environment and lower your carbon footprint. By utilizing your food scraps rather than trashing them, you can reduce methane emissions from landfills, enrich soil, and encourage the production of beneficial bacteria.

"I compost all my food scraps," Crocker says. "Black Earth Compost is an amazing company that is currently being used in tons of cities and towns on the Northshore of Boston." Black Earth Compost is a Massachusetts-based full-service compost company dedicated to collecting food scraps across New England. Through Black Earth Compost you can purchase a composting starter kit and schedule weekly pickups. You don't necessarily need a company to start composting, however. If you have the room, you can easily create a compost pile in your backyard or even in a bin inside your living space.

5. Donate and reuse

"If [you're] getting rid of stuff, make sure it's going to go to somebody who will need it," DeMarco says.

Donate to homeless shelters and thrift stores, give unwanted clothes to friends and family or start a clothing swap like Crocker. "I started a clothing swap Facebook group for the girls in my town, where women can post and buy/swap clothing items for very cheap or free," she says.

6. Shop locally

A great way to buy the things you need without a guilty conscience is to shop locally and support small businesses. From food to cleaning supplies, local is the way to go.

"I try my best to eat things local to support vendors that I want to see grow," DeMarco says. "And when I need something like soap, I try and buy it from a friend who makes soap or cleaning supplies."

Crocker agrees. "Whenever I need to buy a gift I typically turn to small local businesses before anywhere else," she says. "This helps by cutting down on carbon emissions from shipping, as well as the fossil fuels that large companies often use in their factories for energy."

7. Educate yourself

The most important takeaway from this article is to educate yourself. Watch documentaries, read educational articles, and be aware of the effects that your actions have.

Though living sustainably may seem difficult and daunting, it clearly doesn't have to be. Nobody can become the perfect environmentalist overnight, but what you can do is take small and simple steps to work your way there. If something on this list seems attainable, then it's always worth it to do what you can. "There's no rulebook," DeMarco says, "there is no right way to do it."

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