Sustainability,  Upcycling and DIY

5 (More) Simple things you can do to live sustainably

A few weeks ago I wrote an article to get you started on the sustainability journey, about 5 very easy and free things you can do to have a positive impact on the environment. The ones I mentioned previously were pretty basic and required minimum to no effort on your part. But now, we want to level up a bit, so I present you 5 more things you can do to live ethically and eco-conscious.

Fish Plate Fix
Fish Plate

1. Repair instead of replacing

Do you remember when you were young and your grandparents had stuff that was bought decades before you were even born? Yeah. In the past, things used to last. Unfortunately, we’re currently living in a society designed to have us replace pretty much everything at a very fast pace, whether it’s broken or not.

However, you can change this pattern with a little discipline. You don’t need to immediately buy something new if the old one is broken. Many things can be repaired – you can take them to someone who does this for a living or you can do it yourself. It’s really not rocket science. Thanks to the blessing that is the internet, you can find tutorials on YouTube for pretty much everything, so why not try to fix something and save yourself some money? A couple of weeks ago I accidentally broke a plate I had from this lovely account, but I was too sad to throw it away, so I glued it back together. I even made a short video of me doing this, which was f*cking awesome, but somehow I managed to delete it.1 I do, however, still have the before and after pictures. It’s not perfect, as I couldn’t find all the small pieces, but I love how it turned out and I want to paint the cracks with gold paint to resemble Kintsugi. It now has more value to me than it had before it was broken. I have also fixed up some ripped pillows and whenever I have time, I use a lint remover on my clothes to make them look brand new. Trust me, it really works and it makes all the difference.

These are just some examples, but the options are endless. You can take your clothes to a tailor, you can take your shoes to a shoe repair shop to fix them or freshen them up, you can take broken electronics to places where they fix them and so on. Try not to be too hasty in replacing items if they can be repaired. However, I am aware that not everyone has time to do all this. If that is the case, the minimum you can do is not to throw them away. You can try donating them (yes, people take even broken stuff, you know, to repair it themselves) on Facebook donation groups. If the item is broken beyond repair, do not despair, Because after repair, comes repurpose.

2. Upcycle as much as you can

DIY Planter
DIY planter

You know all those DIY crafts you saved on Pinterest over the past decade but never actually gotten around to do any of them? Now is the time. Before throwing shit away, try to make it a habit to first think if it can be reused in some other way.

I keep all plastic containers in my pantry and save them up, in case I get any ideas. I save up all elastic bands. I keep literally all plastic bags which products come packaged in and use them for cat or dog poop. I also keep all the wrapping paper from gifts as well as gift bags and reuse them several times. I always found it very stupid how we only use wrapping paper once, for a few hours and then we throw it away. It seems completely pointless to me. If you have a little imagination, you can find a purpose for pretty much anything and reduce your overall waste. Last month, I made a planter out of a yogurt cup and some wine corks. It turned out pretty cute.

However, I had about 100 cups in my pantry and you can’t really make planters forever, can you? Well, I found a solution to that as well. I asked on Facebook if there’s anyone who needs them and I found several people who did. Most of them use these plastic containers for planting seeds, especially if they have a garden. I simply donated all of them to a woman who actually needed a lot of them. And I will keep doing this over and over, instead of throwing them in the recycling bin, because that’s a joke, lol.

Another thing, which I learned from my mom, was to use expired soaps and shower gels to clean the bathroom. Why let that product go to waste? It doesn’t harm you in any way, since you only use it to clean the sink or toilet. I also made some pillows out of used blankets and torn clothes, which I used as stuffing. After a while, these things become a habit. And your mind will automatically think “what can I use this for?” about pretty much everything.

Reuse Soap
Expired shower gels I used to clean my sink

3. Buy more consciously

As a consumer society, we tend to buy way too much shit we don’t really need. The things that are a necessity to live a good life, you probably already own. Listen, you don’t need another cute top, you want it, there’s a difference. This over-consumerism we all take part in has a huge impact on the environment. What we can do about it is to shop less.

It’s difficult at first, but you can unlearn this. As a former hyper-consumer, refraining from shopping constantly was the biggest challenge I faced in my sustainability journey. I am still not there yet. I still sometimes buy shit I don’t need and I end up never using it. However, I’ve learned to do it less often, so that it’s become the exception, not the rule. Try to think twice before purchasing something out of impulse. Do you really need another pair of shoes? You already have 20 pairs. Become more aware of the fact that you don’t need them, you want them. Making this distinction very clear in your mind can help you reduce your impulse buying. Another thing you can do is to wait a few days and see if you still want the product after some time has passed. That always seems to work for me and helps me reduce at least 50% of impulse purchases. If you simply cannot refrain from buying something, at least try to find it second-hand. There are loads of places to find pretty much anything, like OLX, Facebook Marketplace, Buy and Sell/Trade Groups on Facebook. Recently I needed a vertical hand mixer, but I didn’t want to buy a one new, so I searched Fleacycle and found several. Wanna know what I “paid” for it? Two cartons of Alpro milk. Yep, that’s about 20 RON. I’ve written more about second-hand shopping here.

4. Reduce single-use plastics

If in my previous article I’ve talked about ditching plastic bags, now it’s time to take it up a notch. Single-use plastics are absolutely horrific for the environment and make up a big part of the plastic pollution we are currently facing. It’s also stupid. The purpose of single-use plastics was to aid people with disabilities, not to make it extra comfortable for Stacy to drink her Pina Colada with a plastic straw. There are many things you can do to avoid using single-use plastics whenever you can. Firstly, you could start by making a list of how many types you personally use. Do you use plastic cutlery? Plastic straws? Plates? Maybe to-go coffee cups? Do you tend to buy a lot of fruits and veggies wrapped in plastic? Do you use a plastic toothbrush? After you’ve made a list, try to think of alternatives. Some examples could be: drink without a straw (shocker, I know), switch to bamboo toothbrushes, try to buy vegetables in bulk (without using a plastic bag), opt for food that comes wrapped in paper instead of plastic or maybe invest in a zero-waste kit.

Zero Waste Bag
The crochet bag I use for grocery shopping. The plastic bag in which the cereal came will be used for cat poop

You don’t necessarily need to buy this stuff. You can literally make your own kit. Use cutlery you own and a jar or a cup you can carry with you everywhere. You can take your to-go coffee in your own cup, use your own fork and knife, instead of the plastic ones. Get creative, there are no rules to this. There is only one question you should ask yourself: is there an alternative to the product you are using, but with less plastic?

5. Reduce your meat consumption

I know some of you avid meat-eaters think this is preposterous, but that’s just silly. Look, nobody is forcing veganism down your throat (hehe). But do you really need to eat steak with a side of sausage, topped with meatballs three meals a day? Remember vegetables? Yeah, those things. Which are actually very f*cking healthy for you. You don’t have to go vegan if you don’t want to, but you can reduce your meat intake for the sake of your own health and the planet. The meat industry is one of the most environmentally destructive and damaging industries, responsible for insane amounts of pollution, deforestation, greenhouse emissions and one of the biggest contributors to climate change. By eating less meat, you can help reduce this impact. I’m not going to tell you how much meat you should eat or how often, this is your own decision. But you could try to make a challenge and set milestones that are doable. For example, eating meat only once a day, once a week or however you want, just try something different than your regular habit. Eating the same stuff over and over is boring. You’d be surprised how many meatless recipes and delicious foods exist out there. Especially now, with sooooooooo many alternatives to pretty much any meat-based product. I’ll just leave this tasty Verdino burger here. And this absolutely amazing corn soup which I must try to make myself soon. Yummy.

Vegan Burger
Corn Soup

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