How to live more sustainably, two steps to a greener lifestyle

Sustainability is a complex concept, and there isn’t one universally agreed upon definition. In search of what sustainability is for me, I draw upon the teachings of Dr. Vandana Shiva, environmental and social activist, Earth Democracy:

“We need to reinvent our eating and drinking, our moving and working, in our local ecosystems and cultures. Enriching our lives by lowering our consumption, without impoverishing others. Above all, we need to subject the laws that govern production and consumption to the laws of Gaia; the laws of the planet.”

 Dr. Vandana Shiva

And just as Naomi Klein, the award-winning journalist and author, explains in her book ‘This Changes Everything’: ..‘We live in an economic system that fetishizes GDP growth above all else – regardless of the human or ecological consequences, while failing to place value on the things that most of us cherish above all: a decent standard of living, a measure of future security and the relationships with one another!
Changing the earth’s climate in ways that would be chaotic and disastrous, is easier to accept, than the prospect of changing the fundamental growth based profit seeking logic of capitalism. What can we do? What doesn’t require a technological and infrastructural revolution? to consume less – right away!’

Step 1

Consume less new stuff

Before you use the online ‘one-click’ buying option, check inside your cupboards, shed, and garage for the product you want to buy. The chances are that you already own it; in fact, most of us have everything we need (and more).

The media constantly bombard us with promotions for the newest and trendiest gadgets and how to earn more money to buy yet more clothes, more gadgets, more accessories, more and more. One wonders, though, why do we strive to increase our wealth? Why our primary goal in life is to make more money? Why the things we already have is never enough?

Everything we ever need has already been made

How to consume less new stuff

  • For essential purchases, please consider buying for the long term instead of purchasing a product that will not last the test of time.
  • Unsubscribe from online retailers’ newsletters.
  • Wait a few days before you make a purchase.
  • Consider buying second hand.
  • Rent or borrow from friends, neighbours, and family.
  • Some local councils operate ‘library of things,’ places where you can borrow tools, toys, camping gear, cooking and cleaning gadgets, and more.
  • Look after your things and repair them instead of buying new ones.
  • Find new uses for the things you already own.

You will save money AND the planet too.

Through action comes change. If we change how we consume and what we choose to bring in our homes, we can become part of the current social revolution. Gone were the days when we would not question where things came from, who made them, and how they were made. We used to be at the mercy of the multinational corporate propaganda – not anymore.

Our questions demand answers, and every big corporation, every political party, and organisation has started to realise that consumers are conscious customers who can not be fooled any longer.

Step 2

Adopt a plant-based diet and a cruelty-free lifestyle

Although veganism is a lifestyle choice fueled by ethical motives and animal compassion, a vegan lifestyle brings about many other positive effects on people and the environment. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that cutting meat and dairy products from an individual’s diet could reduce their carbon footprint from food by up to 73 percent.

The United Nations mentions industrialised meat production as the second largest cause of environmental problems. Animal farming creates water and air pollution, soil pollution, acidification, and degradation of biodiversity – caused by, among other things, the deforestation of the rainforest (where forests are destroyed to free land for crops used to feed cattle).

The main focus of veganism, of course, is to stop animal exploitation. Many of the conventional substances that clothing, cosmetics, furniture, building materials, and other items are made from are derived from animals. Animals are also used for experimentation and research. Many people today still believe that skin and fur are “by-product” materials of the meat industry. Sadly, more than a billion animals are killed for their skin and their derivates every year and processed into raw materials overseas.

Therefore, choosing a cruelty-free lifestyle is a positive step towards protecting the animals’ fundamental rights, the people who work in this cruel industry, and the conservation of our planet.

How to eat more plants

  • Educate yourself about the power of nutrition and where your food comes from. The truth about our food lies hidden in the list of ingredients, the nutritional information, and the farms where it is produced.
  • Try to incorporate more legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables in your diet.
  • Choose seasonally and UK grown produce as it is a more sustainable option.
  • Seek to buy products without animal derivatives – because they are created using less natural resources or animal exploitation.
  • You may also want to get a nutritionist’s advice and of course, talk it through with your doctor.

To quote the vegansociety’s ‘how to go vegan’ tip:
‘Making small changes to your everyday meals is one of the easiest ways to increase the amount of plant-based foods in your diet. You could start by removing meat or dairy one day a week and go from there. Or you could try changing one meal at a time, having vegan breakfasts during your first week, adding a vegan lunch during week two and so on. You could even try changing one product at a time by swapping cow’s milk for almond or soya milk or butter for coconut oil or margarine. There’s a plant-based alternative for almost every type of food you can think of, so you don’t have to miss out on any of your favourite foods.’

To also quote the late Donald Watson words, who was a vegetarian for 20 years and vegan for more than 60 decades. Watson was an animal rights advocate and founder of the Vegan Society. Here is a snippet from his interview with George Rodger in December 2002:

‘I doubt if anyone really knows how our digestion works. They might think they know, but the whole thing is so wonderful, that food can be converted into flesh and blood, bone and hair, as well as energy, mental processes, and even into spiritual enlightenment, that science has hardly got round to accepting as a possibility.
We don’t know the spiritual advancements that long term veganism – I mean not over years or even decades, but over generations, would have on human life. It would be certainly a different civilisation, and the first one in the whole of our history that would truly deserve the title of being a civilisation. Full stop.’

Quote by Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society in an interview by George D. Roger in 2002

We have the power to vote with our money – we need to use this power even more. We, the people, hold the future in our hands; hence, our actions DO matter. And as the musician and keynote speaker Jana Stanfield once said:

You can not do all the good that the world needs but the world needs all the good that you can do

Jana Stanfield

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Elena Daniilidou

Elena is an ethical vegan and minimalist advocating for sustainable and slow living.

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