A Deeper Dive on How to Live Sustainably

Whether you are just starting to get into living more sustainably or you have been trying to live a more sustainable life for some time now, there is always room for improvement when it comes to adjusting our lifestyles to better support the environment.

Previously, we shared a blog from Elana Jadallah that offered up seven simple ways to live more sustainably. Now, this article is for those who are ready to commit and take the plunge into living a more sustainable lifestyle for the good of the planet.

Who or What Decides That Something is Sustainable?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) briefly boils down what sustainability means: “Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”

We’ve got one planet. Do we need to sustain it? Yes–but we also need to help it sustain us. That symbiotic relationship is at the heart of understanding sustainability and the importance of everyday actions that support it.

Why is Sustainable Living Important?

The concept of sustainability is not new. It dates back to at least 1969, when the U.S. created a commitment to “fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations” with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. Most conceptions of living sustainably stem from this act, with many new developments helping to inform planet-healthy behaviors as environmental and climate science has advanced. The basic upshot is pretty simple, however: The planet’s resources all exist in a cyclical nature, and human consumption behaviors disrupt those cycles. Sustainability is about maintaining them so that they last–so that we might, too.

What Can I Do Every Day to Live More Sustainably?

If you know us, you know what we are going to start with: To live more sustainably, we all must stop using single-use plastics. It is a challenge, to say the least. Our world has become attached to plastic as it has become easy to mass produce and mindlessly accept as part of our everyday lives. But the downside of plastic use is obvious. Most environmental experts posit that every plastic item ever made still exists–plastic simply takes about a thousand years to decompose if it’s not incinerated (which is poisonous to the environment itself). We see it everywhere, but most of all in our food and beverage containers.

Free Fixes to Live Sustainably

Most sustainable fixes won’t cost anything. For example, one easy everyday fix you can make that costs nothing is to simply ask your servers to not provide you with plastic straws, lids, or cutlery. The more people that forgo the use of these items means the less demand there will be for them.

Ultimately, the goal of sustainable living is to reduce our impact on the environment. And while there are many ways to do this, it doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Here are some simple sustainable living tips that you can start doing today:

  1. Use less water: Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth, take shorter showers, and water your plants during the cooler hours of the day.
  2. Save energy: Switch to LED lightbulbs, unplug appliances when they're not in use, and close the blinds or curtains to keep your home cooler in summer.
  3. Reduce food waste: Plan your meals so you only buy what you need, compost your food scraps, and donate unopened food to a local food bank.
  4. Shop secondhand: Buy clothes, furniture and other items from thrift stores or online resale sites instead of buying new things. Really think about how badly you actually need something new!
  5. Walk or bike instead of driving: Explore your city or neighborhood on foot or by bike, and leave the car at home for short trips.

What Are Some Ethical And Sustainable Clothing Brands?

“Wear and tear” is a reality of our clothing, and we will inevitably need to purchase new stuff. When that happens though, we can still shop sustainably by favoring ethical, sustainable clothing brands—companies that give back to environmental causes, and who use minimal or sustainable packaging and production materials.

Some of our favorites include Keen, Mammut, and Toad & Co., all of whom share a similar ethos as Klean Kanteen. We love Mammut, not just because they make great-looking, high-quality outdoor gear, but because their commitment to environmental responsibility is right in line with our own. They’re heavily invested in clean production, animal welfare, reduced carbon footprint, and ethical production, and they meet all these goals while still producing terrific products that stand the test of time. They use materials like organic cotton, which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the use of toxic pesticides, and Solution Dye, a toxin- and water-free, sustainable method of coloring that significantly reduces CO2 emissions.

If you are trying to combine high-quality shoes with an eco-friendly mindset when considering the right footwear for your next hiking trip, we can confidently and proudly recommend KEEN Footwear. Keen has similar values to us when it comes to protecting the environment. Every boot, sandal, or sneaker they sell helps them support programs that benefit the community and the environment. They have been collaborating with The Conservation Alliance since 2005, working hard to make a difference. They’ve donated more than 100,000 shoes, 200,000 masks, and $5M in cash and product to those in need. On top of that, their products are completely PFC/PFAS-free, with no non-biodegradable chemicals, and 90 percent of their leather is sourced from LWG gold-rated tanneries. And, like us, their focus is on quality: They make truly high-performance, durable sneakers and boots.

We’d also recommend shopping at B-Corps, some of which include Cotopaxi and United by Blue. Keep an eye out as well for Certified Climate Neutral companies; two popular and high-quality manufacturers are Allbirds, which makes really comfortable footwear, and Vuori, which is especially good if you are looking for sustainable athleticwear made from recycled materials.

What Does a Sustainable Life Look Like?

Some very smart folks have phrased sustainability this way: Nothing new. We also understand that that is not always possible! We are fond of the Zero Waste movement for this very reason–it focuses on the ideal of reusing what we already have, and finding new ways to make use of things that already exist. Perfection is not realistic, but it’s also not really the goal. The point is to make many good small decisions that reduce the amount of physical items we need to rely on in our lives.

For example, there is a huge overlap between those who love the outdoors and those who want to preserve it. The question then becomes, how do I hike and camp sustainably if I need quality items, like backpacks, tents, and food storage? The answer isn’t to use low-quality, ill-fitting, or mispurposed items you already have, necessarily—instead, focus on buying one quality thing that will last you a long time and that was made sustainably. For outdoors enthusiasts, consider Gregory, ENO, Mammut, and Big Agnes as high-quality brands that care just as much as we do about the environment. If you are trying to picture a sustainable lifestyle, the first thought to get rid of is the one that tells you that you need a new tent and a new pack every single year. Instead, make one educated, informed purchase, and use it until it can’t do the job anymore (and then repurpose it to serve another purpose!).

Another way to live sustainably, even within the confines of your own home, is to re-envision how you store your food. Many of us have simply come to accept, almost unthinkingly, the inevitably of plastic tupperware. But why?

It’s far from the best option. It stains (if you’ve ever kept spaghetti sauce in a plastic container, you know this story). It retains odors and tastes, even after it’s gone through the wash. It can become misshapen and deformed over time, and it can leach chemicals into your food when heated. And, how could we forget: It takes a millennium to decompose! No plasticware will last you your whole life. A cabinet and fridge full of high-quality stainless steel containers, on the other hand, very well could!

Klean Kanteen has designed food storage containers for snacks, lunches, and other meals with the intention of providing easy on-the-go solutions for food on the go, but they also can play a major role in transforming how you store your food at home. Imagine doing one shopping trip for your food storage and never having to worry about it again—you buy the food you need, you store it in certified, hygienic 18/8 stainless steel so it stays fresh until you’re ready to eat it, and you repeat the process without ever needing to throw away a nasty plastic container again. Now that's what living sustainably looks like.

We all know that the environment is important, but sometimes it can be difficult to know how to make sustainable living a part of our everyday lives. There is no real rulebook for concepts like Zero Waste of sustainability—it’s all about making an effort. Ultimately, everyone should try to start small and make the best choices they can, moment by moment. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, but the simple act of thinking twice about whether you really need that new item and what it will cost the planet to acquire it can go a long way.

Sustainable living simply means making choices that minimize our impact on the environment. It can involve everything from choosing to buy local produce to solar power for our homes. There are many ways to reduce our carbon footprint, such as driving less, taking public transportation, or using energy-efficient appliances. Living sustainably is not only good for the environment, but it can also be good for our health, and often our wallets. Lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight, but rather moment by moment. By choosing the sustainable option in as many of those moments as possible, you can actually make an impact.