Upcycling and DIY,  Sustainability,  Second-Hand lifestyle

5 Simple things you can do to live more sustainably

Whether you’re already a pro and you’re totally nailing the eco-friendly life or you’ve only just started your journey to living sustainably, keep on reading. I’m sure you’ll find some ideas of where to begin or stumble upon something in this article that you’ve maybe overlooked in your personal sustainability journey.

Green plant in water

When it comes to change, we often tend to resist it, especially if it involves effort and money. Change is even harder when done suddenly. Luckily, nobody is forcing you to change overnight. Personally, when I started being more aware of my own negative impact on the planet, I began making small changes in my daily routine in such a way that I barely even noticed I was doing them. Over time, I kept adding more and more sustainable habits to my life, gradually and with minimal effort, so that it became natural.

So here are five habits that can get you started towards living more sustainably:

1. Avoid buying plastic bags at the supermarket

Shocker. Bet you didn’t expect that, did ya? In all fairness, plastic bags are pretty horrible for the planet. They end up in the forest, in the ocean, in animals’ stomachs and pretty much everywhere. A plastic bag will literally outlive you. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you all this, everyone knows how much of a pain in the ass plastic bags are for the environment.

There’s really no need to buy new ones. If you’re Romanian, there is a 99% chance that your house has what we call a “bag drawer” or a “bag with bags”.1 You basically already have a shitload of plastic bags in your house that you can use when you go shopping. Just take one of those and use it. And then reuse it over and over until it can’t be reused anymore. Think about it, if you reuse a plastic bag 10 times, that’s already 10 fewer pieces of plastic ending up in the ocean.

In case you don’t already own a plastic bag (highly unlikely), you might own a textile bag. Maybe you have one of those laying around the house. You can use that when you go grocery shopping. I personally prefer using textile bags because I can wash them often. It doesn’t have to be fancy or instagrammable, any textile bag will do. Life isn’t Instagram perfect and that’s fine.

If you don’t own a textile bag or a plastic bag (I’m already wondering what type of odd person I’m dealing with here, but ok), you can buy one from a second-hand shop or better yet, make one. It literally just takes some old fabric from a T-shirt, a bit of sowing and you got yourself a reusable bag, my friend.

2. Reduce your food waste

This should be a no-brainer. Not only is throwing away food a complete waste (and an insult to people less fortunate than you, who are literally starving to death), it’s very bad for the environment. But how? Food is biodegradable, right?

The environmental impact of food waste is quite big. Unless composted, “biodegradable” stuff does not decompose properly. Food that ends up in the landfill produces an insane amount of methane gas, contributing to – you guessed it – climate change. It’s bad enough that food is literally being thrown away in all areas of the food chain, from production and distribution to retailers and the catering industry, you don’t have to add your own consumer contribution to it.

You got the idea, right? Food waste is bad. So try to be more calculated when buying groceries, you’re not stocking up for the Apocalypse. That’s so last year. Literally. Make a shopping list and just buy the food you need. If it’s food that goes bad quickly, there’s no point in buying a lot of it, you’ll just end up throwing it in the trash. If you do buy a lot of it, at least store it in the freezer for future use.

Bonus tip: Eat your leftovers. Whenever you want to eat something, take a good look in the fridge. Yes, even behind the stuff that is behind the stuff. Think of what you can cook with that. If you can replace one or two ingredients with something you already have, do it. Get more creative in the kitchen. Make a new dish from leftovers. Make a smoothie or a salad from fruit or vegetables that are close to going bad. Throw the leftover spinach in an omelette. The possibilities are endless.

3. Turn off power switches

This will be quite short. Turn off the lights when you are not using them. Why on earth would you leave the lights on in the kitchen if you are in the living room? Why would you leave the bathroom light on if you’re not IN the bathroom? Electricity is expensive, yo. Unless you enjoy paying more money than necessary on electrical bills, I recommend that you make a new habit. Just leave the lights on where you need them and turn off all the rest. The same goes for the TV, laptop, PC or any other appliances that you don’t use (especially overnight). Just turn them off. This habit takes practice, I sometimes struggle with it and forget as well, but lately I’ve done a pretty good job.

4. Buy second-hand

This is one of my personal favorites. I must confess I’m a bit of a hoarder, especially when it comes to clothes. Since buying clothes is not something I am willing to give up just yet, I wanted to find a way to still upgrade my wardrobe and live sustainably. The solution I found works best for me is buying second-hand and vintage.

For the last couple of years, 80% of all the clothes, shoes and accessories I bought were second-hand. And it brought me much more joy than when I bought something new. I personally hate fast fashion for two main reasons:

  • It’s incredibly damaging to the environment and degrading to the workers in pretty much all possible ways.
  • I absolutely hate having the exact same clothes as everyone else.

To solve both problems I found a LOT of Instagram accounts that sell vintage items or simply second-hand stuff:

These are only a few of the ones I follow and buy from. There a literally thousands of them, all you have to do is search on Instagram and find the accounts best suited for your personal style. There are also sites like Depop, where you can find tons of cool stuff from all over the world.

Apart from Instagram, I also buy from actual second-hand shops. Unfortunately, life rarely permits me to spend a lot of time in physical l shops and last year’s pandemic didn’t help either. So if you’re like me and you have a full-time job, you probably don’t have time to scout for second-hand stores either. However, instead of hitting the mall and leaving with tons of fast fashion items, you might want to look at online second-hand and vintage accounts first. This way, you don’t participate in the supply-and-demand cycle. As a result, you reduce your negative impact on the environment. Plus, you can own items that are unique, not having to worry that 500 other people are wearing the same thing.

Though I personally don’t, I know that some people have an issue with pre-worn clothes. Well, I have news for you: if you think the ZARA top you’re buying is germ-free, you’re in for a treat. Literally, hundreds of people try those on every day and their germs end up all over the clothes. Ew. If however you still have a problem with this, I’ll tell you how I clean my fabrics. Before wearing them, I wash them with a detergent and a fabric conditioner designed to kill germs and disinfect textiles.

Buying second-hand is a lovely way of giving perfectly good clothes a new life and preventing them from ending up in the landfill. It’s a terrible waste to think that millions of fabrics end up being thrown away, simply because they are not “in style” this year. That’s a load of crap if you ask me. Wear whatever you want, however you want. You know what’s in style? Ethical fashion.

5. Donate, never throw away

The thought of someone throwing stuff away makes me die a little on the inside. Additionally, the thought that most people throw away stuff causes me literal psychological distress. That’s not normal, I know, don’t worry, my therapist knows all about it. But it bothers me, it does. If you have stuff around the house that you don’t need anymore, DO NOT throw it in the trash. Even if it’s not functional, I guarantee that someone is willing to fix it.

Instead, you can donate or even exchange your stuff on Facebook groups dedicated to this. You can donate/exchange anything. And I mean literally, anything. From clothes and shoes, appliances, random décor items and kitchen utensils to toys, books, cosmetic products and even things that you’re not really sure what their purpose is. Personally, in the last year, I exchanged so many things I didn’t need anymore and got absolutely amazing stuff in return. The feeling you get when that “useless stuff” finds a new home, with someone that actually wants to use it is priceless.

However, if meeting up with people to make trades is too much of a hassle for you, donating them on Facebook is a good option as well. On donation groups whoever wants your stuff will come and pick up up themselves.

Fleacycle CLUJ is a trading group from my city, but there are groups just like this one for your area as well. I’ve met up with amazing people, got awesome stuff, given things a new life and made new friendships. Alternatively, here are some donation groups for Cluj, but look for them in your city as well: Donații Cluj-Napoca, Donez lucruri gratis Cluj-Napoca, Donatii Lucruri gratis Cluj-Napoca, Lucruri gratis Cluj-Napoca, Donatii Lucruri gratis Cluj-Napoca. These are only a few, there are many more.

I hope these were helpful to start you on your journey. Let me know in the comments what else you do to live sustainably.

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