Sustainable lifestyles are not monolithic; they do not look just one way. The curated look that you see on Pinterest and Instagram is NEW. Folks were sustainable long before it became trendy, and they did so in a way that worked for their own lives. We can achieve a sustainable lifestyle in this way, too. We can call it “imperfectly sustainable,” or we can just call it being real.
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It’s 2022 – Happy New Year!
2022 is here, and I want to start the year with y’all by talking about avoiding the trap of trying to be perfect in our journeys for a sustainable lifestyle. I feel like this whole conversation is one that I have with myself a lot, so maybe it is just for me, but I feel like some of y’all can relate to it, too. If you can relate, let me know.
New Year, New… nope, let’s not do that.
Let’s make this the year of no perfectionism goals.
The stroke of midnight on January 1st will never make us magically change. Nor will we ever reach a state of perfection in our pursuits to be sustainable. Perfection is not attainable in any way, and chasing it is a fruitless effort. This is something I’ve battled with a lot, and my issues with trying to be perfect even stop me from producing content here and on social media like I should. I just freeze up and feel like if I can’t deliver something that everyone will truly love, I shouldn’t deliver anything at all. I don’t know why I have thought for so long that I can please everyone, but I’m glad I’m getting out of that frame of mind. Y’all are about to get this sustainable content, and it will be imperfect, but it will also be well thought out and genuine.
You’re going nowhere fast if you’re trying to be perfectly sustainable.
But here are 7 ways that you can stay true to your amazing self and be imperfectly sustainable:
7 Ways To Be Imperfectly Sustainable
1. Use what you have
Use what you already have – even those mismatched plastic tubs that your aunts pack up and send to you full of your favorite food. Shop your own closet when you have a big event to attend or vacation planned. You don’t have to buy the latest “sustainable” version of something for you to feel like you’re making a difference. You probably already own something that will suffice and will cause you not to need to buy anything at all.
One of the greatest ways to prevent waste is by using what you already have!
2. Keep it regular degular (meaning, don’t change up your whole life before you’re ready)
Like Cardi B said, keep it “regular, degular, shmegular.” Forget that pretty picture of all white everything and perfectly curated sustainable living for a moment with me here. I wouldn’t mind having that aesthetic for my own home one day. However, it is not required for sustainable living. Christine Platt reminds us of that with her “Afrominimalist” aesthetic which combines both African-American/African culture and the style of minimalism. Christine stays true to her aesthetic and style while also achieving a life of living with less. Living with less means less waste, and that is sustainable. She did it without having to change who she is at her core, so everything she does is familiar or regular to her identity, while she also elevates and grows into living with less.
You can be yourself and be sustainable. In fact, you’ll probably find that the way you were raised included some sustainable practices – like that reused Tupperware, saving grocery bags, and keeping old towels to make cleaning rags.
Living sustainably doesn’t have to cancel out who you are by forcing you to stop doing everything that is unsustainable. Keep it regular and stay true to you while learning to live more sustainably.
3. Don’t toss it. Fix it.
Once again, keeping items that we already own is an optimal solution to living more sustainably. But sometimes, things break. When something breaks, rips, or tears, it is important to not immediately dismiss it. Put on your thinking hat and figure out if it is possible to fix it! A modern way mend is with Sugru moldable glue. You can stick to traditional mending, such as patching up holes in clothes with good ole’ fashioned needle and thread, or use modern mending techniques with iron on patches to fix torn clothes.
4. Buy what you need, and make it last
I will never condemn anyone for buying regular items that aren’t considered sustainable. This is especially true when that is all someone has access to. We need things to survive, and not all of the things that we buy will be sustainable. However, we can all benefit from the habit of buying less. Our cultural norm is to buy, buy, buy just because things are available and staring us in our faces as we walk through aisles of products. Try not to let that tempt you.
Make your purchases intentional and well-thought out so that when you buy new things, they serve a good purpose and last as long as they possibly can.
5. Use items over and over
Whether you’re reusing the plastic butter container to store leftover black-eyed peas or the holiday cookie tin for barrettes or sewing notions, some items can be used over and over. Reuse is one of the major “Rs of Sustainability.” Be an outfit repeater and wear your clothes over and over. Keep your water bottle close to you and refill it over and over – don’t forget to wash it regularly, though! Keep those raggedy towels and turn them into rags, and use those rags to clean up mess after mess. Just keep using what you have and find new ways to use it when you think you just can’t use it anymore!
6. We’ll never know it all, but keep learning
The field of sustainable innovation is ever-growing and changing. There are also some old school hacks that we are rediscovering that are more sustainable than many of our current habit. At one point, we thought that recycling is the most sustainable thing that we can do. Now, years later, we have started to realize that recycling is not a final solution for the issues of pollution and overconsumption. The recycling system doesn’t deliver results like we thought it would. A lot of things that are sent to be recycled end up in the landfill anyway. But the bright side is that just like we learned to recycle, and just like people have developed innovative ways to use some of those items that are recycled, we can learn new ways to take action to be sustainable in our everyday lives.
7. A little effort is better than no effort at all
When the world of living sustainably is new to someone, it can really be overwhelming. There are so many ideas about how to best achieve a sustainable lifestyle – be vegan even if you live in a food desert or have dietary restrictions, be zero waste and don’t create more trash than can fit in a mason jar… these things just are not possible for everyone.
In fact, they’re not possible for most people. But do you know what is possible for some? Making the switch from bottled water to an in-home water filter system (even if that is just a pitcher with filters) is a small change that can start to make a difference. Limiting your use of paper products is another way to be a little more sustainable. Trying to stop wasting water in the shower or when you wash dishes is a great way to waste less valuable resources. These “little efforts” matter so much.
Final Thoughts on “Perfectionism is Not Sustainable: 7 Ways To Be Imperfectly Sustainable”
Small changes alone may not “save the world,” but they do create sustainable habits for you and set an example for those around you. Remember that to live a more sustainable life, you must first sustain yourself. You can’t be a change maker if you’re completely drained from trying to live a picture-perfect sustainable lifestyle for others. Your journey is beautiful, and real, and genuine. Revel in that.
Seriously. Take the time to sit in the feeling of joy of how far you’ve come, how much you’ve learned, how funny the mistakes have been, how much you’ve shared, and what you’ve enjoyed the most about your unique path to live more sustainably.
Oh, and stop trying to “save the world” alone. Don’t put that weight on your shoulders. Learn all that you can, make changes where possible, and keep moving forward at your own pace.
It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.Addie Fisher
It doesn’t have to be perfect to be impactful.
It doesn’t have to be perfect to spark change.
Your imperfect sustainable journey is just right for you.