Quitting single use plastics is an important way forward, but there’s more to sustainable living than ditching straws and takeaway coffee cups. So where do we go from here?
Your desk chair is broken and needs to be fixed. It's a wooden chair that isn't particularly special. It will cost you the same amount to get it fixed as it would to buy a new one. So, what do you do? Research where to fix your chair and go down that path? Or hop online and order a new one that'll arrive on your doorstep in a couple of days?
You already know what I'm going to say you should do in this situation, but let's be frank for a moment. Beyond reusable coffee cups and shopping bags, living sustainably requires planning, time, dedication and resources. If we're honest with ourselves are we sure we wouldn't opt for that quick mail order chair?
I consider myself fairly dedicated to reducing my environmental impact and I'm in the extremely privileged position of being able to focus my efforts on sustainable living and have the resources to do so. Yet, I struggle to navigate my way around our convenient gig economy. We've constructed a world where we can meet almost every one of our needs with a swish and click of our smartphone. Once we've found ourselves within such a bubble, how are we meant to break out? We can say no to the big four single use plastics — straws, takeaway cups, bottles and bags — but we need to move beyond this initial step to find our way back to a sustainable lifestyle and reduce the impacts of climate change.
Furniture, electronics, clothes, transport, investments, energy…. These all contribute to our environmental impact, and the list goes on. We create change through the way we live but this needs to bleed over into systemic change — and it can.
Recently, the two giants of Australian supermarkets, Woolworths and Coles, announced new environmental measures, including pulling plastic straws from the shelves and halving food waste respectively. And these changes came about, at least in part, due to community pressure — if you needed a reminder that your choices as a consumer are valuable and make a difference then this is it. Another giant which made a big sustainable move recently is Ikea, who announced that they will ban single use plastics by 2020. Ikea's sustainable outlook extends beyond plastics.
The multinational company has committed to design products using only recycled and renewable materials, reducing emissions for home delivers and offering more plant-based food choices in stores. The different areas these commitments reach into begin to show the scope needed to reach sustainability. Big companies making these changes will hopefully pave the way for systemic change, where our choices to consume better and consume less are facilitated by the society we're living in. Yes that's right, we need to switch from buying new to repairing what we already have, and put pressure on those who manufacture our goods to create long lasting products and curb or appetite for the latest and greatest.
The many factors of sustainable living don't stop there, and they are different for everyone. We have plenty more to consider. It can be expensive, it can be inaccessible, you could live with people who disagree with you, you could be living in a country that disagrees with you or which doesn't have the resources to tackle the problem.
Recently, I saw documentary 'Inventing Tomorrow,' which follows the stories of teenagers developing environmentally focussed science projects in the lead up to an international science fair. Young Sahithi Pingali from Bangalore, India, poignantly made the point that all the "kids" from the developing countries were much more mindful of climate change, that most of their science projects were on the topic. Sahithi Pingali aptly put this down to the fact that the people who came from the developing countries were living in the midst of the effects from our environmental destruction. They all saw that change has to happen. Sahithi Pingali's American counterpart agreed with her, saying that when it comes to environmental issues, it's often a matter of out of sight, out of mind. But should we who have the world at our fingertips not also support and participate in this change?
Consider your desk chair again. What should you do? Unless you're a handy person, fixing the chair isn't going to be the easiest or quickest option, but it might be the most sustainable choice. Fixing that chair instead of buy a new one is consciously choosing less. It may only be a drop in the ocean of the systemic change we need, but it's a start.
Written by Emily Contador-Kelsall
Read this next: How Is Your Fast Fashion Addiction Affecting The Planet
WE ARE WOMEN AND GIRLS FROM EVERY CORNER OF THE PLANET BUILDING A LIFESTYLE REVOLUTION TO FIGHT THE CLIMATE CRISIS, WILL YOU JOIN THE MOVEMENT?