Many people think that adopting a sustainable lifestyle is very difficult. One of the reasons for this is the way social media portrays it. They rarely show the non-sustainable aspects of the behind-the-scenes mistakes of everyday life.
You may have noticed that many sustainability Youtubers, bloggers, or Instagrammers give the impression that they live a 100% sustainable lifestyle. They display their perfectly curated flat lays, their perfect apartments with their perfectly esthetic sustainable products. Looking at these glimpses of their life from the outside creates the feeling that these people live in a bubble. Perhaps they are rich and therefore can afford all the expensive sustainable brands when we don’t. It may seem like they never make mistakes, never use non-sustainable products, or don’t have any wasteful habits. The sustainable and zero-waste life seems a bit elitist. That is complete and utter bullshit.
Most of them are not doing it on purpose. Obviously they’re only going to post things that look good and are relevant to their content. However, I believe that this plays a huge role in discouraging many people from adopting this lifestyle. This lack of focus on the imperfect parts of their life has a bad side effect. It creates a false idea that living an eco-friendly life is difficult or expensive. Yes, it can be, if you’re trying to be 100% zero waste, which is unattainable anyway. But it doesn’t have to be, because you don’t need to be perfectly zero waste or perfectly sustainable.
Living a completely sustainable, zero-waste life is nearly impossible for the average person. Let alone living an esthetic one. Sure, some people manage it and I admire them greatly for that. But that’s not for everyone. Personally, I couldn’t do that. I am a firm believer that we do not need a handful of people doing sustainability perfectly. We need millions of them doing sustainability imperfectly. So don’t get discouraged if you feel like you have many wasteful habits. Don’t get frustrated that your low-waste pantry looks like your grandma’s and not Marie Kondo’s. Don’t worry if you can’t afford expensive alternatives to wasteful products. We all have wasteful habits. And low-waste living doesn’t always look pretty. Use what you have. Get what you can afford. Change what is doable at the moment. And continue to improve what you can, in time.
So here are 10 things I still do that are completely not sustainable or low-waste:
1. I still buy fast fashion
Horrible, I know. Especially since I hate what the fast fashion industry is about. However, I am still on a journey to sustainability, so even though I can go for months1 The longest I did was 11 months fast-fashion free. without buying a single fast-fashion item, sometimes I slip. And when I slip, I slip badly. I try not to visit sites like Bershka, H&M, or Sinsay, precisely because I don’t want to give myself opportunities to give in. Yet I still do. I used to be a hyper-consumer, remember? When this happens, I feel like a drug addict. I can’t help myself. So I buy. Of course, I feel bad afterward and there’s a whole joy-shame cycle I go through. Over time, I’ve managed to choose what I buy more carefully. I bookmark the items for a few days. If I still want them after a week, I buy something that I’m sure I’ll wear for years and leave all the rest for next time. Of course, by next time they won’t be on the site anymore so, problem solved.
Later edit: currently fast-fashion free for more than 1 year, yee-haw.
2. I use non-cruelty-free products
I can’t always find the cruelty-free versions of the products I use. Sometimes time doesn’t allow me to go to a specific store where it’s sold. Other times I simply can’t afford it that month, so I have to opt for a cheaper, non-cruelty free version. One recent example is this – a couple of months ago I was really, really low on cash. I couldn’t afford spending 50 RON on my usual laundry detergent, so I literally had to cut out a f*king coupon from a PROFI catalog to buy myself a 6kg Bonux detergent for 25 RON. I know, right? Who knew Bonux still exists. Is it cruelty-free? Definitely not. It’s probably super toxic to the environment as well. But now I had detergent for the next 3 months. When it’s all used up, I’ll go back to my usual laundry detergent which is vegan and cruelty-free. It’s from Sansin and you can find it in Kaufland or DM stores. 2Tip: In Kaufland it’s much cheaper.
3. I don’t compost
Living in an apartment building makes it a bit difficult to compost. There are several brands that offer the solution for composting in an apartment, but they’re a little above my budget, for now. I’ve also seen a lot of people on the internet keeping their scraps in a freezer and taking it to a compost collecting place every week, but I don’t think there are any places like this in my area. If you know any in Cluj-Napoca, be sure to let me know. Until then, I don’t compost.
Later edit: I’ve started composting my organic food scraps with the Bokashi compost bin.
4. I use a LOT of electricity
I have six pets. Trust me when I say this, the washing machine is my best friend and an absolute champ. Not only do I have a shitload of clothes, which already means I wash 2-3 times a week, but I also have an abnormally large number of blankets and towels that need washing constantly. The dogs have blankets, the couch is covered in blankets, the hedgehog has blankets, everybody has blankets. Sometimes, Jax pees in the house due to struvite stones and anxiety, so I use a lot of towels to quickly clean it up. You can imagine how much washing goes on in this house. On top of that, I use the laptop every day, as I work from home. When I don’t work, I’m still using the laptop. I’m basically glued to the laptop. I am slowly becoming AI. All the appliances in the house are pretty old, so they use a lot of electricity. The hedgehog needs at least 23oC, so there’s a terrarium lamp that is on permanently. The only thing I can currently do to reduce the amount of energy I use is turning off the lights and work to afford better energy-efficient appliances.
5. I smoke
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s an obnoxious habit. Smoking pollutes the air by releasing toxins and cigarette buds are literally toxic waste. They contain a ton of chemicals that end up in the environment. And let’s not forget the negative footprint of their production. The individual cigarette packs are wrapped in plastic and so is the big carton. Plus the footprint of their transportation to the store. And I recently found out that cigarettes are also tested on animals. So yeah, not sustainable or ethical at all. I’m not going to find excuses for this habit, as I have none. It’s just something I do and I haven’t yet managed to quit.
6. I still buy products in plastic packaging
There aren’t many shops in my city where I can buy in bulk. There are a few where you can buy beans, nuts, or condiments, but I don’t know any for things like shampoo, conditioner, or dishwashing soap. Yes, some brands deliver zero-waste products, but as I’ve mentioned before, I can’t always afford that. Which ultimately means that I have to buy many things that come in plastic. From cleaning products to food. I recycle as much as I can, but we all know that’s not really a solution. What I can upcycle or use again, I keep. Most bottles and hair product containers I give to someone who produces homemade cosmetics, so they are reused. I plan to upcycle yogurt containers as flower pots and mushrooms containers as sock organizers. Other than that, most plastic things end up in the recycling bag.
Later edit: I’m currently buying all my cleaning products and bathroom essentials from a shop in Cluj-Napoca called Terrawell, so I’ve cut down on plastic packaging a lot.
7. I buy meat-based pet food
Personally, I don’t support veganism for obligate carnivores.3 Yes, I know dogs are not obligate carnivores, only cats are, but I still don’t want to keep them on a vegan diet. Some people do and that’s their business. Four of my pets eat meat-based food: the cat, the dogs, and the hedgehog. I don’t buy them raw meat, but the dog food and cat food I get them contains meat. So inevitably, I am contributing to the meat industry, even though I don’t eat any and haven’t for about 3 years or more. This is non-negotiable, so unless they hurry up with those lab-grown chicken wings, this is not something I plan to change in the future.
8. I want to own a car
Having a car is not very sustainable. Especially an older car. The most sustainable way of transportation is via bicycle, followed by public transport. But buses became even grosser than they already were, due to the Coronavirus, so that’s out the window. Most people have cars, who can blame them? I’ve been car-less my entire life and it has always been an obstacle for many things I wanted to do. Shopping for groceries kinda sucks when you’re a 47kg skinny girl trying to carry 3 heavy bags on the bus. Going on vacations is always an inconvenience since we all know how lovely and clean CFR rides are. Taking my pets to the vet is an absolute nightmare. I can walk one of the dogs to the vet since it’s not very far. The other dog I can’t, as he has severe anxiety and cars4 And people. And concrete. And trees. And wind. And basically, everything that is outside. are a big trigger. Walking him to the vet is a horror show. The cat, hedgehog, and guinea pigs – a nightmare. The last time I took the cat on the bus I died of embarrassment, as she was yelling goddamn murder the entire f*king ride and everyone was staring at me. Taking the guinea pigs and the hedgehog by bus is not noisy, but it’s not very good for them. They scare easily and are very stressed out. Needless to say, not many taxicabs accept me with pets. That is an option, but only when I get lucky. So yeah. I want a car. As soon as possible. And since I’m pretty broke, I probably won’t afford the latest Tesla. I will most likely get some piece-of-shit car and give it a new life5 I plan to buy secondhand, of course.. It will most probably not be very eco-friendly, but I’m poor, so give me a break.
9. I order online
For some time now, ever since I discovered exchange groups on Facebook, I try to get most of the stuff I need from there. I got plates, bowls, a laptop cooler, books, boots, clothes, pet toys, flower pots, actual plants, a luggage bag, two blankets, a lot of jams, pickles, condiments, honey, nuts, and handmade soaps. You can pretty much find anything on these groups. Some things I get from OLX or NUCA Garage Sales. Other things, I just can’t find. So I buy them online. I order stuff from EMAG and many other online stores, plus the occasional shame-filled shopping spree I mentioned in paragraph 1. All of these things come wrapped in plastic. The boxes are filled with plastic fillers. The carbon footprint of their production and transport is huge. That’s why I try to find as much as I can secondhand. But I’m only human. And a recovering hyper-consumer. Obviously, I still order stuff online.
Later edit: I haven’t ordered anything online in the past months, other than pet food and an eco-friendly laundry detergent I wanted to try out. Honestly, I don’t remember buying anything at all lately that wasn’t an absolute necessity, so yay for me.
10. I still eat eggs and dairy
Before you burn me at the stake – yes, I know the egg and dairy industry is just as bad as the meat industry. However, this is a journey I’ve been on for a few years. It started with quitting meat and reducing the amount of eggs and dairy I consume. After a while, I began only buying eggs from backyard farmers near me. I try to consume non-dairy milk when I can, but I buy dairy as well. That’s not good enough, I know. It’s something I often beat myself up for. Finding a vegan alternative for eggs and dairy hasn’t worked for me yet. Some products exceed my budget, some require much time preparing, some taste horrible, and some I simply don’t know about. It takes a bit of time to gather this knowledge and I am slowly working towards veganism, but until then, I still contribute to the horrors of the animal industry.
Later edit: Currently making my own vegan milk and I’m super excited about it. I’ve reduced my overall dairy consumption drastically lately and the next thing I want to try is home-made vegan butter.
You see, I don’t do sustainability perfectly. It’s quite far from perfect. But I do as much as I can. For each non-sustainable habit I have, I try to find a few eco-friendly ones to compensate. And I continuously work on being better every day. Sustainability it as a journey, not an overnight transformation. And yes, you can work towards a sustainable life even in Romania. It will take some research and some time, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll be easy.
So, if you haven’t decided that I’m the Antichrist for the above habits, stay tuned. I’ll soon share with you the sustainable habits that I do have in a future post. Until then, here are a few of them that we can all easily do for free.