Sustainable living is becoming more popular. More people are taking climate change seriously and more people are becoming aware of their environmental impact.
A 2019 study by Southern Cross University indicated that 77 per cent of those surveyed want to learn how to live a more sustainable lifestyle, with 93 per cent showing general concern for the environment.
In 2019, youth across the world participated in a global climate strike, proving that environmentalism is more than just a trend or a passing moment in youth subculture. It’s something that people are willing to fight for.
However, there still doesn’t seem to be a clear answer on how to live a more sustainable lifestyle or how to undo the damage that we’ve already done. Some people say that it’s the government’s responsibility to protect the environment. Others think that responsibility falls on corporations— and in some ways, they’re right.
Corporate greenwashing is when a company rebrands itself as eco-friendly without actually reducing its environmental impact. They’re vague when they make claims about being eco-friendly and use terms like “sustainable,”“recycled,” “ethical” and others as buzzwords. In reality, there is a lot more going on behind the scenes that actively harms our environment and pushes us further away from sustainability and preservation.
Take Lush, for example. The cosmetics company is known for being cruelty-free, using fresh ingredients, and using minimal or no packaging, with any packaging they use being 100 per cent post-consumer plastic or other recycled materials.
However, many of their products contain sodium lauryl sulfates or sodium laureth sulfates. These chemicals are toxic to aquatic life and don’t break down easily. The World Health Organization says we shouldn’t let it enter the environment; we all know where shampoo goes after it gets rinsed down the drain.
There are many other companies guilty of greenwashing who do a lot more harm to the environment and a lot less to make up for it. There are laws in place that prevent companies from lying to consumers, but greenwashing itself isn’t properly regulated in Canada.
With all that said, how can anyone truly live a sustainable lifestyle? And how much will it cost to make the switch, considering how many common household items aren’t eco-friendly? The answer may not be clear cut, but there are some ways to transition into some form of sustainability.
To start, it’s important to be mindful of your own habits regarding waste, rather than what’s trending. Decluttering may come to mind when you make any big lifestyle change, but the result is a lot of unnecessary waste. It’s tempting to want to dive right into being green, especially after realizing how harmful a lot of the products you use really are. Try to get as much use as possible out of what you already own — use up the products you have, reuse or repurpose any items you can, and give away anything you really can’t stand to have in your home. It’s going to be hard to find truly sustainable alternatives anyway, so starting this way will help you ease into it and give you time to educate yourself on sustainability.
Staying educated is crucial. Start reading about how companies source their labour and ingredients, which chemicals are toxic, which chemicals don’t degrade easily, who uses these ingredients, in which products these ingredients are often used — and keep reading. Stay updated with this sort of information because what’s true today might not be true tomorrow.
Single-use plastics are slowly being phased out of our everyday lives, but we’re now seeing that the alternatives we’ve been presented with all come with their own set of environmental problems.
Finally, understand that consumerism as it stands cannot be sustainable. We cannot truly progress into sustainable living at the consumer level. Consider taking action: Contact government representatives and make an effort to ban the use of toxic chemicals. Hold corporations accountable for outsourcing labour and polluting the environment. Support organizations who value sustainability and are already fighting for change.
It doesn’t cost a lot of money to live a more sustainable lifestyle, but it is a long road ahead.