About a year and a half ago I had the opportunity to live with my aunt and uncle in Asheville, NC. I knew that this experience was going to change me (there was a LOT going on at that time) but I didn’t know that it would change the way that I think about HOW I live.
This was the first time that I had lived on well water and a septic system, understood some general green building principles (geothermal heating, solar power, composting and rain water collection) but I didn’t learn all of these day-to-day changes all at once, because living there each day didn’t FEEL different. It took me a few months to figure out that a few small tweaks brought about a serious dent in my carbon footprint, and my life wasn’t lived any differently.
So when I moved back to “city life” I started to question why these same ways of living couldn’t follow me. The answer was that they could, and the secret was to implement these green ways of living in the same way that I had discovered that my aunt and uncle were using them; Only one little bit at a time.
These days, as friends and family see those small differences in my day-to-day, they’ve begun to ask what I actually “do” to live a slightly more sustainable city-dweller life, so here’s some of my rules for change. Stay tuned for Part II when I talk about some of my favorite products. Enjoy!
Rule 1: Curate your life
This is basically a fancy way of saying purge stuff you don’t need or don’t want out of your house. I was lucky to move to NC with only a few worldly belongings (that’s a story for another day), however, I also promised myself that I wouldn’t keep things around that I didn’t love. This proved to be especially hard as I moved into my new home and everyone wanted to give me furniture to get me started. I also struggle when friends and family buy me gifts, but my mom is now well-versed in the idea that anything she sends me will be loved and enjoyed, just not necessarily by me and in my house (unless it’s edible… Then yes. All. The. Yes.)
Rule 2: Analyze only one or two areas of your life at a time
For me, I started by analyzing my laundry routine and switching to a reusable water cup. It was a small start but it’s grown exponentially. I only thought about making changes when I was about to go and purchase something less sustainable because I was out of some kind of supplies. This was how I re-thought paper towels, dryer sheets, plastic straws, plastic forks for packing lunches, disposable makeup remover pads, etc.
Rule 3: Things are going to cost more up-front, think about the savings over time
I work for myself and try not to spend a ton of money, so when it was time to purchase cotton make-up remover pads it was hard to swallow the $14 for reusable bamboo facial pads when you can buy disposable cotton pads for less than $5. Ask yourself how long you think the item is going to last before you need to replace it. For the facial pads, I anticipate at least a year or two (if not more). In that same time period I would spend closer to $40 in the cheap ones. So, money was saved, right?
Rule 4: If it’s annoying to do, it gets ditched (or outsourced!)
I was very apprehensive to purchase replacements to paper towels, but I reminded myself that they HAD to be ditched if they were annoying to use, so I gave them a shot. Now they’re one of my favorite things in the kitchen. The same thing happened when I traded in traditional bottled shampoo and tried a shampoo bar from Lush.
I’m also in the midst of trying to decrease the amount of food waste that I throw in the trash, but I am the last person that should be composting and in less than 900 square feet of living space. So I’m on a quest to find a community resource like Crown Town Compost to take over that burden.
This same rule is why I don’t go zero-waste and become that weirdo that makes their own laundry detergent… “Ain’t nobody got time for that”