Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.(See: Sustainability | US EPA Online, accessed 4 Sept 2021)
Over the last eight weeks we have been covering the various ills that the planet has been suffering at the hands of the plastic industry. We’ve learned that it is systemic and damaging to the eco-system. Our oceans contain islands of man-made garbage. Our lives are touched by the petroleum industry and its plastic products from grocery stores to the clothing stores down to the very bags they give us to carry home our purchases. Plastic is so pervasive in our daily lives that it is a challenge to break our consumer reliance. By changing how we think, we can change how we do.
Through all the research and reading that I’ve done on this topic, I’ve learned a few things. I cannot change overnight, as overwhelming as change can be, sustainability needs to be a very thoughtful change. Depending on personal economic factors, reaching sustainability in my own household can be quite expensive IF I was not willing to start small. Yet, starting small can be a huge impact if we are ALL willing to change, make some sacrifices in learning how to live sustainably. So, here are some ideas on where and how to begin, as the most important part of sustainability is to simply START. I will share some sources of information that are available and provided through CCGKC’s partners throughout this article.
The Grocery Store: CCGKC equates the grocery store as the quickest way to get started on living sustainably.
This is the most obvious place to start and will depend on your own economic situation. I am retired and living on a fixed income. By thinking outside of the box, I have found ways to eat well, while staying within my budget while reducing my use and dependency on plastic.
- Buy products that are packaged in GLASS OR PAPER BOARD. When reaching for the mayonnaise, buy the brand in the glass jar. When buying your eggs, buy the eggs in the pressed paper packaging. I used to buy 1.5 dozen at Costco for their great price, but those plastic egg cartons are not sustainable. I pay a bit more, but I have also reduced animal products from my diet for health and sustainable food sourcing. As a result of this commitment, I only have eggs once a week, with fish being my only other source of animal protein. All farmed animal sources have been removed from my diet. Glass jars can be used in place of plastic storage containers. Here’s is the collection of glass containers in my kitchen as I write this:
- Buy water, juice and other liquids in GLASS CONTAINERS. The plastic water bottle is the king of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. PLEASE stop buying it (it has also been found to contain microplastic particles that are remaining in your body’s liver and kidneys). OPT for a REUSABLE METAL WATER BOTTLE instead.
- Get a full set of REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGS. Canvas is the best as it is washable. The store branded bags are also okay as they are made from recycled plastic (which will eventually break down and wind up in landfills). They can also be washed in your washing machine. OR, better yet if you can sew, make your own bags from old jeans and other heavy cotton fabrics, rather than throwing them away.
- Buy loose BULK PRODUCE (plus it is healthier), but take CLOTH PRODUCE BAGS to the grocers OR save the plastic bags you already have and reuse the dickens out of them. I wash the ones I use and have done so for months, which just goes to show how resilient they are and hard to break down. Again, if you sew, these can be made from old sheer net curtains that can often be found in resale shops and upcycled into new produce bags. Here is my “bag” drawer (note: I use clothespins to close my bags because they are easy to use, handle freezing very well, cheap to buy, not plastic, therefore, sustainable):
- If you do eat meat products, do not buy the prepackaged. Get it wrapped in the WAXED BUTCHER PAPER directly from the butcher’s counter. That stretchy plastic can leach toxins into the meat (and forgo the Saran Wrap-like products for home use).
- If you are able to economically handle the added expense, there are new products on the market that may be a bit costly at first, but they will outlast plastics in the long run. Here is a recent article listing kitchen products, which have passed sustainability guidelines from NYMag: 41 Best Sustainable Kitchen Products 2021 | The Strategist, online, accessed 4 Sept 2021. IF you can go this route, try to recycle or reuse your old items as much as possible to keep them out of the landfill.
- Finally, for food waste: forgo the garbage disposal. If you have the yard space to compost, do so. The result is rich soil for your garden. If not, there are several partners with CCGKC who will collect your compost that eventually wind up at Missouri Organic Recycling https://www.missouriorganic.com. Here are links to our partners who are compost collection services available in the metro area: KC Can Compost at https://kccancompost.com and the Compost Collective Kansas City at https://www.compostcollectivekc.com.
- Laundry Detergent: Why not opt for the powdered version that comes in cardboard boxes? Plastic detergent bottles are usually found in three different sizes and are hard to recycle especially of late when more and more plastic is landing in the landfills, the boxes will biodegrade at a much faster rate and can even be composted.
- Come up with your own ideas or do some additional research to see what is out there.
The Clothing Stores: Second most important place for sustainable behaviour due to the excesses in the fashion industry from “Fast Fashion” manufacturers:
From a previous digest article published in May 2019, titled The Question: Is Fast Fashion a Climate Problem? The article discussed the different types of fabric as the pros and cons of their construction as well as the enormous amount of waste and toxins produced by the fashion industry.
- Shop at stores that sell sustainable wearing apparel made ethically in ‘green’ shops. It may take some research, but it is worth the search to save our environment by being responsible consumers. Here is a start of some of the new manufacturing firms who have been listed for their ethical and sustainable measures: Zero Waste Online; 40 Affordable Ethical Clothing Brands From Around the Globe. Accessed 4 Sept 2021.
- Sustainability is a major buzzword in the clothing industry, so look for it and make sure they are truly selling sustainable attire and not simply ‘greenwashing’ their data by making their company seem environmentally responsible. See: Conscious Life and Style Online, 19 May 2021, 7 Types of Greenwashing in Fashion: What You Need to Know. Accessed 4 Sept 2021. (Greenwashing is a topic for a separate article and will be covered in the next digest for 12 Sept 2021).
- Mix and Match is a good way to get a lot of different looks out of a small wardrobe.
- Trade clothing: There are many resale shops that will trade for your unwanted clothing where you can trade/ sell quality clothing items. Arizona Trading Company in Kansas City and Lawrence is a trendy second-hand trade-in shop. Check them out here: Arizona Trading Company
- LEARN TO SEW: Keep this art form alive. You can mend, alter or make a complete new outfit using sustainable fabrics. Once you become a proficient sewer, you will be able to change the look of your garment by changing buttons, the collar,sleeves and/or necklines to update the look. There are always fabric dyes and fabric paints, as well. Repurpose and get creative. Here are two of my own projects:
- Organic Cotton, Linen, Hemp, wool and Flax are among the most sustainable fabrics. Check the laundry label for fabric content before you buy. If it is Polyester or Acrylic….it is plastic. The Sustainable Jungle Online has a good list of sustainable fabrics: https://www.sustainablejungle.com/sustainable-fashion/sustainable-fabrics/
- Have fashion trade parties with your friends. Prom time? — maybe a girlfriend would love to wear your old prom dress OR you may be able to repurpose it by shortening or embellishing the garment.
- BUY LESS: Ask yourself, do I need this or do I want this. Need and want are two very different things. Of course, if all you own are jeans and t-shirts, and you have just landed a job in a bank, you will absolutely NEED business attire, but make that purchase count with clothing that will last years instead of winding up in the landfill in 3 to 6 months.
Check out CCGKC Partners who are dedicated to Sustainability in the maker/sewer category:
The Sewing Labs at https://thesewinglabs.community where they teach sewing, offer fabric giveaways and rental machines. They frequently have refurbished machines for sale, if you do not own your own machine.
See our partners at RE.USE.Full for resources at Re.Use.Full: Homepage for recycling clothing and more.
HOPE FAITH Ministry offers training for the homeless. Check into their resources for training in sewing at https://www.hopefaith.org
SO, What exactly is SUSTAINABILITY?
Sustainability involves three elements or the THREE E’s: Environment, Economy and Equity. The University of California, Los Angeles has a great video to explain these elements of existing on this globe sustainably. Here is their You Tube video “What is Sustainability” click here: https://youtu.be/zx04Kl8y4dE See also: UCLA EDU for more information at https://www.sustain.ucla.edu/what-is-sustainability/
NOTE: Links shared here are for general information only. Climate Council will never endorse a product or company unless they are members of the council. We do not test products, other than for our own benefit in looking for the most sustainable and eco-responsible products on the market.