What is still holding us back from living a sustainable life?
In the past few years, awareness of climate change has increased around the world. Scientists around the world have shown us the dramatic facts and the future problems we are facing. Sustainability has established itself as more than just a trend. We know that we have to act now, fast and drastic changes are needed to solve this crisis. Entrepreneurs and companies aiming to solve climate change and find sustainable alternatives are getting more and more.
The truth is, all the solutions we need already exist. We have all the technology, renewable resources, vegan food alternatives, and natural resources. So the question that we should be asking ourselves is: Why are we not all living sustainable lives already? What is missing or holding us back?
Studies show that if you ask 1000 people if sustainability matters to them 90% will say: “Yes!” Of course, they say that in surveys. Who wouldn’t? Nobody is going to say “I don’t care about the environment.” But if you ask people if they are choosing sustainable options or actively living a more sustainable lifestyle this percentage will drop to less than 40% depending on the age and location.
Why is that? Why do we say we care but don’t act like it?
A sustainable lifestyle is generally considered more expensive and ranked number 1 reason why people are not living more sustainably. Eco-friendly products, installing renewable energy, and ethically produced food often come at a price. Paying more for the sustainable option is holding people back. But aren’t we smart enough to think more long-term? Most of the time sustainable options payout, and even help you to save money after time.
Let’s look at the lifetime costs of some examples:
Razors. The reusable safety razor seems like the more expensive option compared to disposables. In a lifetime you will be spending 600€ on safety razors and more than 1300€ on plastic ones.
Even more extreme: Water bottles. A lifetime of reusable water bottles will cost the average user around 500€ compared to buying plastic water bottles all your life, which will sum up to more than 25.000€
We, humans, are habitual creatures. We like to do things the way we are used to and we like to take the easy, convenient way. You need to go out of your way to live more sustainably. You need to actively take action and change things in your everyday life. Which is why inconvenience is named as the second most common reason for not living sustainably.
Having to take public transportation, carpool, or ride your bike to work seems like a small step. But every morning we get up and get in our car to drive to work. It’s easier. We don’t depend on a timetable or other people. But do you know the impact that this one daily action has? You can save 200g CO2 for each kilometer that you can avoid to drive the car. If you commute 20km each day you can reduce your carbon footprint by 1000 kg CO2 each year.
And yes, it might be more time consuming to go to the zero-waste store to buy your groceries in bulk instead of the supermarket. But just remind yourself, that you create less waste. Sometimes you might simply forget about it. And that’s okay, just make yourself a note next time. Make it your new habit. And soon enough it will feel as normal to you as brushing your teeth in the morning. It’s worth it!
Governments are failing to lead the way
Climate change is a political topic. So we expect our government to be leading the change and taking concrete action to fight climate change. But they don’t. Even the most environmentally conscious of our world’s leaders are not doing enough. Banning single-use plastic and sanctioning companies for carbon emissions is great. But it’s simply not enough. Making new laws and passing bills takes time. Time that we don’t have.
We as individuals need to take action to force the government to act. If 7 Billion people will start to live more sustainably the world will change. It will show our governments that we demand change. Don’t wait for other people to save our planet.
Our generation is facing humanity’s biggest challenge. Past generations weren’t aware of the scope, future generations won’t be able to reverse it anymore. So it’s on us to determine the fate of our planet. That’s big. And overwhelming. Where do I as an individual even start? How can my actions even make a difference? Can I still go on vacation? Questions over questions.
In the end, it’s clear that there are many misconceptions about a sustainable lifestyle. But it’s really not that hard. It’s normal to be overwhelmed by this problem. We all are. But it’s important to not let this stop you from taking action. Because your actions do matter, and you can make a difference.
You don’t have to go vegan, sell your car, or live zero waste. Try less waste, drive your car only when necessary, and eat less meat.
1 000 000 people reducing their meat consumption by 50% is much more impactful than 100 vegans.
Don’t let the thought of not doing enough stop you from doing something. Start somewhere, choose one thing at a time to work on, and inspire others to do the same.