The new year is a time when we are allowed to start again and that certainly includes a more sustainable version of ourselves. But before you are tempted to start blindly getting rid of things to replace them with more sustainable alternatives, pause and reflect. Sustainable living is not about one specific product swap or a list of to-dos – it’s a change in mindset.
Instead of immediately throwing things away to allow that “new eco-you” to bloom, try using what you already have until it truly reaches the end of its life. At the same time, there are also single-use items that we buy regularly and often; these are usually the easiest places to begin when it comes to finding an eco-friendly alternative. My 2020 mindset tips revolve around one well-known mantra: Less is more.
Decluttering is where it’s at. I’m still working on it myself – I like to say that I’m a minimalist stuck in a hoarder’s body. Decluttering is not an overnight change; it’s not as simple as ‘just getting rid of stuff you don’t need’. It’s the emotional attachment you have to stuff. I get it. Minimising, downsizing and decluttering come in many different stages of difficulty. Try to start with clothes you no longer wear. Or college books you still have even though you graduated more than (way more than in my case) a decade ago. Donate to a local library or offer to universities.
If you have to replace certain things, try charity shops first. The carbon dioxide emissions from clothing production account for ten per cent of all global emissions. By buying secondhand, you’ll save clothing items from a landfill, and will help to reduce the overall demand.
Learn how to say “no” to stuff. Even that handbag on sale. Turn down freebies from events. If you take that pen, string bag, whatever, you are just creating a bigger demand to make more. You don’t really need that item. Don’t feel like you need to switch everything at once either. Choose one thing, give yourself a little time to adopt that habit, and then move onto the next.
It’s going to be more achievable, more affordable, and a more sustainable long-term approach to change.
Pat Kane is the founder of reuzi; www.reuzi.ie