Last year I wrote a post about ecobricking (read it here if you fancy). I became quite obsessed with saving plastic from being dumped in landfill. Up until a week ago, I’d accumulated the most immense pile of plastic – I wish I’d took a photo because I was practically wading through it as it sat on my bedroom floor. Knowing I had overwhelmed myself with a responsibility I couldn’t maintain, I separated a manageable bag full of plastic and threw the rest away. Of my planned posts, this wasn’t one of them but I know now how important it is to emphasise the importance of choosing your battles. I’d been trying to tackle the plastic waste produced by a household of five students. This was a totally unrealistic goal (especially with the amount of uni work I’m swamped with at the minute) and it took up until now for me to realise this.
When heading on a journey to a more sustainable and zero-waste lifestyle, it’s important to remember that you can’t make all the changes you want to all at once. Even more importantly, some of the changes you wish to make might not be feasible right now. For example, being a student means I’m on a budget so I can’t always afford plastic-free alternatives; there will always be hurdles and limitations regardless of your circumstances. If you’re like me and love everything about the idea of a sustainable, zero-waste lifestyle, here are some reminders to stop you being overambitious and feeling overwhelmed:
1) Make changes that you can handle
Make the easy changes first. For me, that meant going veggie since I barely ate meat before and never bothered to buy it whilst I was away at uni. At the time, ecobricking was easy for me because I could fit it into my week – obviously this isn’t the case at the moment (more on that in a minute). If this means switching to a bamboo toothbrush, shopping second hand, composting, growing some of your own veg, or whatever it is that works in your life, then start there.
2) One change at a time
If you can comfortably make four changes to move towards a more sustainable, zero-waste lifestyle, I recommend staggering them. The urge to do it all ASAP is strong, but resist and you’ll make your life so much easier. These lifestyle changes can sometimes take getting used to, so make sure you can stick to one before you attempt another three.
If it’s too much or circumstances change, take a step back and change your approach. This is exactly what I’ve done with regards to my ecobricking – I’m still doing it but I’m working through the plastic I kept before adding any more to the pile. Be flexible and forgive yourself if you need to move backwards sometimes.
4) Make do with what you have
Some of my previous posts are dedicated to the zero-waste alternatives I’ve bought. These are sometimes unavoidable and important, but if you can live more sustainably and produce less waste with the resources you already have, that’s the best thing you could do! Already own a reusable plastic water bottle? Keep using it! Don’t swap it for a metal one if the one you own still has some life left. In a world obsessed with consumerism, don’t feel any pressure to try and buy yourself a sustainable lifestyle – it doesn’t work like that.
5) Choose the best option available to you
Sometimes your ideal choice for a sustainable alternative isn’t an option. I recently ran out of moisturiser, and whilst I would love to be able to order more from an online plastic-free shop, I don’t need any other plastic-free alternatives. I choose to order in bulk from online plastic-free shops. Ordering one plastic-free product and having it delivered seems more harmful than buying a plastic-packaged product on the high street. Instead, I did a little research on the Boots brand Botanics and went with their moisturiser. Yes, the tub is plastic, but my research revealed Boots have cut the environmental impact of their entire supply chain by 32% (read the article here). It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do at the minute and my best is all I’ve got.
6) Appreciate how far you’ve come
A year or two in and the motivation or excitement towards your journey might be lacking. Or you might have put yourself in a position where you feel you haven’t done enough. If either of these are true, think back to what your life was before you made any changes – I guarantee you’ll see how far you’ve come and how much your sustainable lifestyle has grown and changed. Appreciating where you are now is so important because it will keep you interested and prevent you from beating yourself up over little failures.