Like anything in life, trying to lead a more sustainable lifestyle comes with its challenges. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can’t always do the most sustainable thing. Because of the greenwashing phenomenon, sometimes we are even convinced by brands and the media to participate in eco-unfriendly practices! It can feel confusing and disheartening. Here are some eco-mistakes to try avoid.
Along your sustainable journey, it’s good to have an open mind, research your options thoroughly, and think critically about what truly makes sense for your needs. And if you find yourself accidentally making “eco-mistakes”? Don’t beat yourself up about it!
Everyone is doing the best they can, and that is always the most important thing. Our goal is always to do better tomorrow than we did today— it’s an endless journey toward sustainable living but one worth travelling nonetheless!
If you find yourself getting caught in any of these common eco-mistakes, consider making a change!
Eco-Mistake #1 – Constantly buying new sustainable products.
While it’s great to have a constant supply of new sustainable products, constantly buying them can be an expensive and wasteful practice. Not all eco-friendly products are created equal. Some are designed with a long shelf life in mind, while others are intended to break down quickly (but still be made from eco-friendly materials). Either way, constantly buying more products is not necessarily a sustainable practice, if what you already have on hand will work.
For example, many people will throw out their existing plastic items long before their shelf-life is over to replace them– this action actually creates more waste!
Another example is overbuying second-hand clothing. Thrifting is an awesome way to buy clothes without contributing to the fast fashion industry, but too much of a good thing is possible here! If constantly thrifting and re-donating clothes has become your MO, consider if that is actually a sustainable practice.
You may also consider how many times you’ve bought a new sustainable item, only to realize the process of using it does not fit in with your existing habits or lifestyle. The item sits unused, because it did not adapt or fit well with your routine. Be careful to avoid gimmicky products that you aren’t committed to incorporating into your life fully– we’ve all been there!
Finally, keep in mind that fake sustainable labels can lead us astray from finding truly eco-friendly options for our homes and businesses. Remember: just because something looks “green” doesn’t mean it is! Greenwashing is very common these days, so doing your own research is critical to avoid more eco-mistakes.
Read our Eco Jargon Glossary to understand the terms and what they really mean
#2 Driving everywhere.
It’s never easy to change your longstanding habits, especially when it comes to driving! However, the carbon emissions from transportation are one of the largest contributors to climate change. Consider if there is any room in your life to drive your personal vehicle a bit less.
While reducing your carbon footprint may seem like an overwhelming task at first glance, it doesn’t have to be so daunting! When it comes down to changing something as fundamental as how often we drive our cars, focus on making small changes, one at a time.
If public transportation is an option for you, try to use it as much as possible! You could start by trying to carpool or take the bus to work once per week. (Of course, wouldn’t it be lovely if we all had electric cars?)
Eco-Mistake #3 – Focusing only on recycling.
Recycling is like a gateway drug into sustainability. For most people, it is their first relationship with an eco-friendly habit. We’re taught how to recycle in elementary school, and sometimes that is where our environmental education ends.
Of course, recycling serves a very important purpose. It helps us to reduce the amount of landfill waste we contribute to each year, while also repurposing our waste that can be used again. If your local municipality or state allows for multi-stream recycling, by all means, go crazy with it!
Just make sure that recycling is not the only sustainable habit that you focus on. Recycling is a great thing, but it comes with its own inefficiencies and downfalls. The number one priority should be on reducing our waste in the first place, followed by reusing what we already have. Recycling is sort of like a last resort in some ways.
Read: Recycling and the Science Behind it
The good news is that there are many other simple and easy habits to integrate into your daily life that could have an even bigger (and better) impact than classic recycling!
#4 – Giving yourself a hard time.
One of the biggest eco-mistakes you can make is beating yourself up all the time! If you’re unkind to yourself, it might discourage you completely from the sustainable habits you’re trying to make.
Changing any habit is difficult. Be kind and patient with yourself. Celebrate the wins you make! Always be sure to acknowledge when you go out of your way to do something really good for the environment. When things don’t go exactly as planned, take a deep breath and try again. Giving yourself a hard time doesn’t help anyone, especially not the environment!
When it comes to sustainability, it’s clear there’s a lot of talk about what you should and shouldn’t do. With so many different opinions out there, and new information coming out regularly, it can be difficult to know who or what to trust. The best thing you can do is research before making any kind of purchase, and try your best to keep learning!