PERSONAL SUGGESTIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE LIVING

The following short points may help you to question your lifestyle and try to live more lightly on this planet. See my separate environmental page for a more detailed description of my own attempt to live a sustainable lifestyle, on which this list is based.

General Principles | Housing | Energy | Transport | Food | Water 

 Clothing | Household Products | Waste | Media/information




General principles

Be content with little, and freed from all inordinate desire
(Baha'u'llah)

 ask questions about even the least significant aspects of your life and lifestyle

 experiment with changes that might lighten your footprint upon the earth

pick your own life style; there is no one right way to do things that applies to everyone

 get off the consumer treadmill and focus on what you really need

 apply moderation, neither over-indulgence nor complete denial

 appreciate good things without excess


Housing

 pick your housing location to reduce your need for transport (to work, shopping, school, etc.)

 occupy the smallest size residence that meets your needs. It will be more economical to heat, clean and maintain

 choose high quality construction with the best insulation, natural lighting, lowest maintenance, and most environmentally-friendly materials possible

 install energy-saving light bulbs (compact flourescent are better than halogen, and the new LEDs best of all) and use them only when necessary

 weatherstrip the windows and doors, and double the glazing if it is not already done and the temperature extremes require it

 use energy-efficient appliances and never leave them on standby

 aim for an efficient use of space with nothing wasted

 for heating consider a low-pollution wood heater or energy-efficient heat pump

 lower the thermostat to avoid excessive heating

 do no open the window for a long time when the heat is on; 5 minutes to refresh the air is sufficient

 collect rainwater from the roof for toilet flushing and gardening

If you have your own house, an English study (Douglas, 2010) has ranked the different ways to make a typical English house more energy efficient, both by the amount of CO2 emissions saved, and by the time necessary to pay back the investment. The following lists give the two ranked orders.
CO2 savings (annual kg): ground source heat pump instead of electric heating (6000); small mast-mounted wind turbine (2600); external solid wall insulation (2100); internal solid wall insulation (2000); condensing boiler (1260); solar electricity (1000); attic/loft insulation (800); double glazing (720); cavity wall insulation (610); solar water heater (580); draughtproofing (130).
Payback time: attic/loft insulation (2); cavity wall insulation (2); draughtproofing (8); condensing boiler (12); ground source heat pump (12); internal solid wall insulation (18); external solid wall insulation (30); double glazing (35); small mast-mounted wind turbine (40); solar water heater instead of electric (50); solar electricity (55).


Energy
See energy-efficient housing mentioned above, and transport below

 choose renewable electricity sources if available

 avoid unnecessary electronic devices, electrical appliances and power tools, and choose those most highly rated for energy efficiency

 a microwave oven cooks faster and with less energy than other electric cooking; induction is the most energy efficient form of electric cooking; boil water in an electric kettle

 a pressure cooker uses 50-75% less energy than cooking in normal pots

 try cooking several things, or a whole meal, in the same pot

 in some places, solar cookers may be practical

 cooking with a biomass fuel (wood or charcoal) is better that fossil fuel (gas other than biogas, electricity from coal, oil or gas) if it is produced sustainably without threatening forests or vegetation cover, you can avoid indoor air pollution, and you are in a rural area where air pollution is not a problem

if you have a lawn, prefer a push mower to a power mower, and hand tools or electric garden tools to gasoline/petrol driven tools (inefficient, noisy and highly polluting)

 for clearing brush, try renting a herd of goats or a flock of sheep

while some power tools are hard to replace (electric drill for masonry), many hand tools are just as effective as their powered equivalents


Transport

In order of priority:
 walk

 ride a bike or electric bicycle

 use public transport, preferably trains, subway, trams or trolley-buses using renewably-sourced electricity, or buses running on biofuels

 join a car-share scheme, or rent a car only when necessary

 if you cannot avoid owning a car, choose an electric, hybrid or energy-efficient small model

 keep an old car until it wears out (it takes a lot of energy to make a more efficient new car)

 reserve car use for heavy shopping and going where there is no public transport

 carpool for travel to work/school; for children, join or organize a pedibus to your local school (children walk together with adult supervision)

 drive as little as possible, combining trips where possible, lowering speed and driving economically

 consider nearby vacations or those destinations reachable by environmentally-friendly transport

 avoid air travel unless necessary for education, work or service to the community

 do not choose driving long distances to avoid all air travel; the latter may consume less fuel per passenger/kilometer

 carbon credit schemes to financially compensate for air travel or other consumption are a poor second choice to leaving the carbon in the ground, they are better for the conscience than for the environment


Food

Calculating the energy cost and environmental impact of food is complicated: vegetables grown locally in a heated greenhouse may require more energy than those shipped from far away, and bulk transport may use less energy than your drive home from the supermarket

 favour fresh produce, locally grown and in season if possible

 prefer simple, wholesome food, with at least 5 daily portions of vegetables and fresh fruits, and avoid snacking between meals

 become a vegetarian or at least avoid red meat and use only small quantities of meat (as in oriental cooking); poultry or pork production generates less greenhouse gases than goat, lamb or especially beef

 try to choose fish from sustainable fisheries (MSC) or responsible aquaculture (ASC)

 if you have a garden, grow as much of your own food as possible

 eat little frozen or pre-prepared food

 cooking in the microwave, a pressure cooker, or several things together in a single pot saves energy

 avoid bottled water and bottled water-sugar beverages (high transport cost for little/no benefit)

pick food shops/supermarkets that feature socially- and environmentally-responsible items, and prefer a local farmer's market if there is one near you


Water

 drink tap water unless it is contaminated

 if the water is chlorinated, letting it stand for a day will allow the chlorine time to escape

 run faucets and the shower at low volume with water-saver attachments

 add objects (brick, bottle full of water) to the toilet tank to reduce the volume of each flush

 do not let the water run when it is not immediately needed (like while you brush your teeth)

 prefer a shower to a bath; with a low-flow system, it is possible to take a comfortable shower with 10-20 liters of water

 use rainwater to flush the toilet and water the garden, if possible


Clothing

 pick clothing manufactured in socially and environmentally responsible ways, and do not buy more than you really need

Washing clothes uses energy and water or dry-cleaning chemicals and produces pollution, so:
 try to minimise the weight and volume of your clothing

 wear clothes requiring dry cleaning only when necessary

 wash full loads at an economy cycle with a simple no-phosphate detergent dosed carefully

 avoid an electric dryer unless there is no alternative

 avoid clothes that require ironing (energy intensive)

 if you plan to do dirty work, wear as little as possible

 use short sleeves or no sleeves, shorts, and other styles that save on fabric

 wear the minimum number of layers required by the weather (raising your metabolism to keep warm helps to keep weight down)

 in choosing a fabric, consider the best balance of criteria: synthetic fibres wash and dry more easily, do not require ironing, and hardly wear out (nor do they decompose in landfills); natural fibres like cotton and wool do not come from petrochemicals and are greenhouse gas neutral, but may require more energy and water to clean; much cotton today is produced in unsustainable agriculture with heavy chemical and energy use, and often health impacts on farm workers, while clothing from organic cotton is still hard to find; blends of synthetic and natural fibres may be more practical for shirts, pants and dresses

 do not discard clothing until it is truly worn out (unless you pass it on to others)

 learn to repair things when necessary

 pick conservative timeless styles, and keep clothing until it comes back in style (this requires not gaining weight)


Household products

 avoid too many chemicals in household products

 aim for simplicity: simple bath soap without perfume; vinegar-based toilet and bathroom cleaners; zero phosphate detergent for clothes-washing; simple shampoo

 try to use as little as possible, and avoid things that may leave residues or release volatile compounds into the air

 avoid pesticides unless essential for health and safety

 garden without chemical industry products.


Waste

 try to generate as little waste as possible, reusing what can be reused, recycling what can be, and avoiding throw-away products

 plastics and packaging are a major source of waste and a global pollution challenge for the oceans
 take advantage of all recycling opportunities available locally

 recycle paper, glass, plastic bottles, aluminium, compostable organics, clothing, etc.

 return appliances and electronic goods to the stores that sell them, or take them for recycling if possible

 dispose of special wastes (batteries, solvents, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, oil, paints, etc.) properly, not in your general trash

 if you have a garden, maintain a compost pile

 use cloth napkins and shopping bags, and a minimum of paper towels

 prefer rechargeable batteries for most purposes

 buy recycled products


Media/information

 be sensitive to media impact on you, and the way they subconsciously manipulate your thinking and emotions

 voluntarily limit your exposure to media messages you did not ask for

 use the Internet and social media in moderation, and balance with real human contact

 sitting is bad for your health, so get up and move around often, or work standing up

 pay attention to the aesthetics of your surroundings: painting from artists that you admire, a few simple but beautiful objects, man-made or natural, etc.

 your relationship to the natural world is important psychologically and spiritually, so try to keep some contact with nature or living things (plants, animals, an aquarium, walks in a park or the countryside, etc.).


REFERENCES

Douglas, Ed. 2010. Wrap up warm. New Scientist, 27 March 2010, pp. 46-49.



Go to chalet home page Return to personal home page
Last updated 28 July 2016