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Are you at the beginning of your low-waste journey? Switching things up in your life and changing your habits can be difficult at the beginning. I remember when I started sustainable living, there are so many things that I didn’t know and that I wish I knew at the time.

Changing your lifestyle can be overwhelming and you may not know what to do about it.

At this early stage, a great thing to do is to get inspired and learn about every possible thing about this new way of living.

Knowing how other people made the transition and what they did before starting sustainable living makes you feel less alone. And it’s easier to know what to expect from it.

When I first started sustainable living, I would have loved to know about certain things. Being aware of them would have made my transition a lot easier.

So, I combined these things in this blog post and I hope they will help you learn a few things about sustainability and zero waste.

Here are 8 things I wish I knew before starting sustainable living! 

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8 things I wish I knew before starting sustainable living

1 – You can be sustainable in other ways than just reducing waste

Sometimes, you may not be able to reduce your waste or plastic consumption.

But, there are a lot of other options for you to have a positive impact on the planet! Waste isn’t the only variable on which we can act upon.

You can decide to go to work once a week with your bike or public transportation instead of driving your car.

Take action to make sure that you aren’t polluting water systems by pouring chemicals into your sink. This one is a great way to help preserve water.

Educate other people on the current environmental issues that are threatening the Earth.

Support environmental NGOs, either financially or by volunteering with your time.

If you can’t reduce your waste, I’m sure there is something else that you can do to be more sustainable.

Don’t forget that each action you do has an impact on the planet and it can be a positive one.

There’s a ripple effect, the sum of every little thing you do for the environment makes a huge difference.

And the sum of all the little actions done by hundreds, thousands and millions of people can save the planet.

2 – Don’t buy all the “zero waste swaps” you see online

If you’re interested in sustainable living, I’m sure that you’ve seen videos and articles about “zero waste swaps you need to buy”.

I’ve even made one myself about 15 easy zero waste swaps for beginners!

While some of these swaps are useful and will help you reduce your waste, I think that some of them aren’t necessary.

For instance, I think that, if you don’t have one already, you should get a reusable water bottle. A reusable water bottle will help you reduce waste and plastic consumption.

A tea strainer and a French press are also amazing zero-waste swaps. They will help you reduce waste in the kitchen when you need to make tea or coffee.

However, I don’t think you need to buy brand-new glass jars. You can reuse the ones you get when you buy food in glass containers.

I also think that bamboo to-go utensils aren’t necessary since you can use the silverware you already have in your kitchen.

These are just ideas, but you know best what you need.

So, deeply think about whether you truly need this item and ask yourself questions before buying it.

Also, remember that you don’t have to buy these swaps new. The best way to buy something is always to buy it second-hand, for instance at a thrift store, which is one of the best ways to help the environment.

And before buying anything, see whether you already have what you need at home.

It may not be the perfect option, but it might be enough and practical for what you want to do with it.

For instance, I’ve never bought a mixer to make cakes. I already own a hand blender that works perfectly fine for mixing the ingredients.

Do what you can with what you have first, before buying anything.

You don't need to buy all the zero waste swaps before starting sustainable living.

3 – Don’t think you need to change everything at once

I truly wish I knew this tip before starting sustainable living.

There are so many actions we can do each day for us to help the environment and live more sustainably.

You can make zero waste swaps and learn tips and tricks on how to reduce your waste.

But sometimes, when we see all the things we can do to be more sustainable, it can be overwhelming.

It can be discouraging and it becomes stressful. You might feel guilty and think that you aren’t doing enough.

But the thing is, you can’t change your life and turn it upside down overnight. You can’t change your entire lifestyle and forget about how you used to live for years in one single day.

Thinking that you can change everything overnight might make you lose all the motivation you had.

And you may be so overwhelmed that you end up doing nothing at all, which would be such a shame.

You have all the good intentions but you can easily burn out and lose motivation. Like with every lifestyle change, you need to take it one step at a time.

You need to remember that, whatever you do to live more sustainably, you are making a positive impact on the world.

Try to do things progressively. For instance, one month, try to get into the habit of taking shorter showers.

Next, avoid using plastic bags at the store and bring your own reusable bags with you.

And the following month, try to focus on cooking more at home and avoiding ordering take-outs too often.

Implementing new habits for one month or one week at a time is the best way to make continuous progress.

And you’ll gain traction and motivation along the way. You’ll start to see your progress and will be excited to do more.

And more importantly, you won’t feel overwhelmed by a sudden lifestyle change that entirely transformed your life in a day.

When you try to do too much at once, you risk not doing anything at all, which isn’t what you want. 

4 – You don’t have to give up the things you love

We all have hobbies or do activities that, in a certain way, aren’t entirely sustainable or zero waste. Maybe you love painting and have a lot of art supplies that aren’t eco-friendly.

Or you love playing video games but you’re aware of the negative impact technology has on the planet? Or maybe you love traveling and flying several times a year?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to give these things up!

If you love doing them, and they’re making you happy, you shouldn’t feel guilty doing them just because they aren’t 100% sustainable.

Zero waste and green living shouldn’t go in the way of your happiness and well-being.

Of course, we need to make efforts to live more sustainably, but do what you can and see what you can change.

If you don’t want to change something because it brings you happiness, it’s okay. Try to change something else.

If you eliminated the things you love from your life, imagine how sad and how hard it would be.

You wouldn’t feel excited to make changes to help the environment, so it’s counter-productive. Remember that sustainable living shouldn’t be a restrictive lifestyle.

5 – There is no such thing as zero waste

The term “zero waste” was initially created for the industry. But we often use it to give ourselves guidelines to reduce consumer waste as well.

It’s supposed to be a goal we’d like to achieve. To live a zero-waste lifestyle is a mission to be more conscious of the waste, we, as a society, create.

But, there is always waste somewhere.

If you managed to buy an item packaging-free, that’s amazing, but waste must have happened somewhere else.

During the extraction of raw materials, the production process, transportation, or maybe during the distribution process.

Did you know that for every pound of trash we produce as consumers, about 7 pounds were created upstream in the supply chain?

No matter how hard you try to be zero waste, there will still be waste somewhere.

Because, as a human, you need to consume things. Food, clothes, water, and many other consumer goods.

Everything has an impact on the planet. And we don’t all have the same access to certain things, that may or may not be sustainable.

So, zero waste is an almost unattainable ideal. But we can do a lot to get closer to it with each consumption choice we make.

There is no such thing as zero waste in sustainable living.

6 – It’s okay to make mistakes on your sustainable living journey 

If you’re a perfectionist like I am sometimes, chances are you are giving yourself a hard time when you make a mistake.

But, know that it’s all right if you get a plastic bag even if you want to avoid them at all costs.

It isn’t the end of the world if you accidentally get a straw in your drink at a restaurant. It’s okay if you need to take a long hot shower to feel better.

If you have to drive your car to work every day, it’s okay. You are human and you aren’t perfect. Neither of us is.

We can all make mistakes. Don’t feel bad about them, learn the lesson, and try to do better next time.

But don’t overthink it because you might lose motivation on your sustainable living journey. Remember that making mistakes is the best way to learn something.

So, try to see mistakes as a positive experience rather than a bad thing. Use this new knowledge to improve and get better.

And if you can’t change certain things, don’t feel bad and do other sustainable things that are more achievable for you.

There are so many ways to be more sustainable every day!

7 – Don’t make people feel guilty for not doing as much as you do

When you start learning about sustainability, you become aware of all the waste and pollution that is being produced in the world. And the figures are frightening.

So, you start doing your part, you reduce your plastic consumption, you recycle as much as possible, and you refuse straws and plastic bags.

But, when you see someone who doesn’t make any effort, don’t make them feel guilty. That isn’t going to get you anywhere.

If you make people feel bad about what they’re doing, they won’t be motivated to change their habits.

And they might even refuse to make any effort. You can’t change people, and you shouldn’t try to.

The best thing to do to inspire people is to live by example and not impose things on others.

You can show them how you live and the benefits of this lifestyle, but don’t force anything on them.

Tell them that you can teach them some sustainable habits, but if they don’t want to, they don’t have to. I think that living by example is the best way to inspire people.

This is exactly what happened with my parents when I transitioned into low-waste living!

I talked to them about what I was doing and why it was important, without forcing them to adopt these habits.

And they progressively started to make some changes in their life to reduce their waste as well.

8 – Don’t compare your journey to others’

With social media, it’s easy for us to compare ourselves and what we are doing to others.

We can think that we aren’t doing enough compared to this person, or that this person is way more sustainable than we are.

I used to think this way when I watched videos of people having only a glass jar’s worth of trash.

But remember that your journey is your own and you should focus only on what you are doing.

Comparison can bring you down and make you lose motivation. That’s a habit we should break to live more fulfilling lives.

Of course, you can get inspired by other people.

But, it should bring positive thoughts to your mind to help you improve, and not bring you down. You are doing what you can with what you have.

If you find yourself comparing your journey to others’, make a list of all the things you do to be more eco-friendly. It will make you realize that you are already doing a lot!

What you are doing makes an impact, regardless of whether other people are doing more.

So, use comparison to get inspired on what you can do next, but don’t get upset thinking that you aren’t doing enough.

Because you are doing enough.

Those were 8 things I wish I knew before starting sustainable living! I hope that you could learn something new about this way of living.

I think that being aware of these things will make your transition to zero waste and sustainability easier.

If you’re new to this lifestyle, what have you learned today from this blog post?

And if you’re more advanced on the journey, what were some things that you wish you’d have known before starting sustainable living?

Let us know in the comments!

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  1. I’ve been environmentally conscious for a long time, but rejecting consumerist culture is what really changed things for me. Just asking, “regardless of cost, do I need this?” has saved me money and clutter and lessened my environmental impact.

    I realized I will likely never be plastic-free, but right now I’m focusing on not killing old growth trees and reducing my involvement in fast fashion.

    1. Thank you for your perspective, I love it!! 🙂
      Yes, while we cannot be completely plastic-free, we can definitely take action to reduce our consumption and save natural resources as much as we can. Every little bit helps!

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