It’s that time of year when we all reflect on our past year, and what our goals are for the one.
Lindsey, the founder of Nadjarina, a conscious luxury brand based in Los Angeles, talks about how to break down sustainability into approachable, easy steps anyone can work into their day-to-day lives so you can make living a more sustainable life a realistic New Year’s resolution you’ll actually keep.
One of the most frequent pieces of feedback Lindsey gets through conversations with clients and the community is that living a sustainable lifestyle is intimidating and requires big changes that don’t always seem feasible in our busy lives. Consequentially, not knowing where to start or how to start, people often throw in the towel and hope their Hydroflask will redeem them.
But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Everyone and anyone can adopt a sustainable lifestyle, and do so effortlessly.
“The trick is to break down the macro goal into micro-goals,” explains Lindsey.
We have 12 micro-goals, meant to align with the 12 months of the year. If you approach one goal per month, you’ll already be living an effortlessly (more) sustainable lifestyle by the end of 2021.
Use reusable bottles
If you’ve swapped your on-the-go hydration from disposable water bottles to a reusable water bottle (like a Hydroflask, for example), you are already on the right track! Keeping a reusable bottle in the car or in your bag to refill wherever you go is a great way to eliminate un-needed plastic. You can do the same for coffee/tea.
Hit the farmers market
Nowadays, most farmers’ markets are delivering organic, fresh-picked produce at the same price as non-organic grocery store items, so it’s much more accessible cost-wise.
Make it a fun weekly outing! Hit a stand with baked goods and coffee to snack on, as you get inspired by the colorful market selection of produce and hormone-free meats. If weekly is overwhelming, start with once every two weeks.
Learn how to eat and cook seasonally
Adapting your diet to a seasonal diet is truly one of the best things you can do for yourself, and such a symbiotic benefit system. Eating seasonal and local is what your body was designed for, and it supports a clean, healthy environment — both sides reap the benefits.
Challenge yourself to learn one new recipe a week (or month) until it’s intuitive. Feeling confident? My favorite thing to do is find interesting produce and Google recipes when I get home. If you’re at a loss, almost everything is delicious tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic, then roasted in the oven. Or toss an eclectic salad together. Herbs? The dressing is as quick as googling a recipe and throwing ingredients in a food blender/processor.
Break it down into how much you can take on, and do that until it becomes a habit, then challenge yourself to do a little more until it becomes effortless.
Ditch your plastic bags
Keep reusable grocery bags in your car (because who actually remembers to grab them ahead of time?) Hang them on your doorknob after you’ve unpacked groceries, so that you remember to bring them back to your car. Those habits make you successful.
… and ditch all plastic for that matter
Wrap unfinished produce in wax cloth. Buy reusable silicone snack and sandwich bags. Swap your plastic Tupperware for glass or ceramic (nobody wants the chemicals from plastic going into their food!) Keep your produce in cotton mesh bags.
Know who you consume from
Every dollar you spend is voting for a business ethic, value, and practice. This is your biggest weapon towards a sustainable global community. If you stop buying from a brand that avoids stepping up to the standards you believe in, we slowly dismantle destructive systems.
How do you know who to choose? In a pinch, a good rule of thumb is “if it’s missing, it’s shady.” What is omitted isn’t pretty. In the competitive landscape of the modern day, brands will always market their good attributes. Brands market their sustainable efforts and good-doing to bring you in, typically amplifying one good thing because a majority of their business practices are otherwise shady.
For example, many clothing brands try to make you feel good about them with organic cotton or recycled materials (which is great, and it’s moving in the right direction!), but if under-aged children made $.40 a day to make that shirt, do you really feel good about that cotton t-shirt being organic now? If a brand doesn’t talk about its labor standards, it’s because it’s inhumane; the same way, if a food brand doesn’t market its ingredient choices, it’s because it’s not good food.
Quality clothing over quantity
The cost of an item is not just the price listed on the hangtag. It is the lives affected behind the company, the environmental impact. Fast fashion brands bring in millions of dollars every year, but they are ripping off designs from smaller brands and artists, underpaying their labor forces who work in inhumane factories, and using cheap materials and construction practice. They don’t want your clothes to last more than a few washes. You should be upset about that. This creates a vicious cycle of consumption and waste.
Look for brands who focus on sustainable practices (at least to some means), and look for pieces that will last, so you’re not contributing to the massive garment waste. Proper sustainable options often come at a higher price point, but there are comparable options out there — and sales! The best thing you can do as a consumer is purchase pieces made to last, that you can create traditions around, and pass down to your own children.
Use reusable napkins
They’re chicer for both you and the environment. Your dinner party is instantly elevated by nice, cotton napkins. You can even make a fun craft project recycling old cotton (woven) shirts into custom napkins.
Buy in bulk
Soap, olive oil, conditioner… anything you use a lot of, buy in bulk. Then, invest in containers you like for your home to store all of these items in (soap dispensers, hand-made olive oil bottles, etc). Bonus- everyday items become a design element in your home and make your space feel more elevated.
Upcycle and recycle your clothes
It’s inevitable you’ll eventually lose interest in a few pieces. If you have kids, I don’t need to linger on how quickly they grow out of clothes. Go through your closet at least once a year (spring cleaning and pre-Christmas are my two favorites!), then haul everything to a women’s center or second-hand store. Have your neighbors or friends do the same, and gather up enough to make you feel extra good about that trip to the donation center (bonus — tax write off!)
Some brands, such as Nadjarina and Patagonia, will take garments back to donate or up-cycle. There are also resell platforms such as Poshmark to sell gently used items (or buy second-hand items).
Don’t be mislead by greenwashing
Greenwashing is marketing tactics that divert and mislead consumers into thinking a brand is sustainable.
This may not sound like a habit, but adapting the mindset, and what you use and buy consequentially, is a habit. One that might take patience to adapt.
Know what terms mean plastic — polyester, nylon, acrylic, vinyl, elastane, etc. — and stay away from them. If you do choose man-made materials, go with brands that have either recycled those materials and/or will up-cycle the materials for you and keep things out of landfills.
There’s a lot of misleading information out there. For example, “sustainable” fabrics like modal and Tencel aren’t really sustainable, they’re just easier to break down when they hit landfills. More than 150 million trees (often from old-growth forests) are logged every year and turned into the cellulosic fabric for modal and Tencel. That statistic hurts for materials that tote themselves as sustainable options. Again here, “what missing, is shady”.
Be kind to yourself
Look at how far you’ve come in 12 months! This last step is for you, wherever you are in your evolution. Challenge yourself to do better in one area (or a few). Expand and evolve your commitment, and keep going!
“We can’t guilt ourselves for the things we love, so we have to find that balance. We cannot live 100% sustainably, but we can consume in such a way that preserves our precious resources; preserves the lives and community behind our consumption; seek solutions one habit at a time; and focus on quality over quantity so that we are not contributing to the waste,” says Lindsey.
Seek solutions on habit at a time, and be kind to yourself as we evolve into a more sustainable lifestyle.