Sustainable living is a practice that promotes a smaller use of Earth’s natural resources. By altering energy consumption habits, a person can minimize their carbon footprint—the number of carbon emissions released into the air as a byproduct of an individual’s actions. Small choices add up to reduce an individual’s ecological impact, such as opting to ride a bike versus driving a car. Whether through diet, general energy consumption, or transportation choices, any attempt to use fewer nonrenewable resources is a step toward sustainable living.
Often, sustainable practices are rooted in the hopes of living harmoniously with the earth and only using as much of the earth’s energy as necessary. Some businesses have worked toward creating zero energy buildings, where the total energy used throughout a day is equal to the total renewable energy created onsite for net-zero energy usage. Local establishments, including the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, have adopted zero waste plans to minimize the amount of trash created onsite.
Living in a net-zero home isn’t the only way to change your global impact. Sometimes the idea of moving toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle can seem overwhelming, but by making a few small changes, it is easy to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. These six tips are a great place to start.
One of the simplest ways to live more closely to the earth is to grow your own food. Grabbing a ripe red tomato at the peak of summer or harvesting alpine strawberries from your windowsill can be immensely satisfying. San Diego’s temperate climate and long days of sunshine make it perfect for growing produce. You can start small if you want. Green onions can grow hydroponically in a vase by a sunny window. A windowsill herb garden is an excellent option for kitchen favorites like basil, thyme, and rosemary. Easy vegetables for beginner gardeners include tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and carrots. Planting a citrus tree or avocado tree in your yard is a long term investment in cultivating fresh produce at home that pays off. Nothing beats a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice straight from the garden.
Even if you don’t have a green thumb, consider at least shopping for produce in your area. Local farmers work diligently to make fresh ingredients available to your kitchen. Buying locally reduces greenhouse gas emissions for food transportation, supports your San Diego neighbors, and fills your kitchen with heirloom ingredients right from Southern California.
If you prefer a home that looks lived in, don’t write off minimalism. Minimalism doesn’t have to mean throwing out all of your belongings and living in an empty house. The minimalist mindset can be a useful tool for paring down your belongings to the essentials — the things world-famous minimalist Marie Kondo says “spark joy.” Rather than a home filled with clutter and a closet stuffed with fast fashion, sifting through your belongings and narrowing them down to the most important items can refresh your living space and rejuvenate your attitude.
At the heart of minimalism is the concept of using, having, and wasting less, which coincides perfectly with sustainable living. Minimalism encourages responsible consumerism and easily lends itself to a more self-sustaining lifestyle. This antithesis to materialism invites people to shop less frequently and urges people to consider the environmental implications of an item before buying. If you’re not ready to fully commit to the minimalist lifestyle, consider starting by simply decluttering a room or two. You’ll be surprised by how much you can live without.
Consignment shops can be a goldmine for vintage homewares and furnishings, and reusing, refurbishing, and revamping outdated pieces is a perfect way to add a unique flair to your home. Not only do these one-of-a-kind pieces set your design apart, but it also reduces your ecological impact.
Some secondhand shops in San Diego to keep an eye on include The Atomic Bazaar and Garnet Vintage Home Collections. The Atomic Bazaar specially curates 20th-century modern designs, so you’ll find retro pieces with clean lines reminiscent of MadMen, while Garnet Vintage Home Collections has a wide selection of pre-loved decor, furniture, and art. Online vintage shopping has surged in recent years as well, making it more possible than ever to skip the department stores and choose to reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever possible.
Composting helps reduce the reliance on chemical fertilizers for a vivid and healthy garden, and it can be done easily at home! Not only is composting beneficial to your home garden, but creating a compost pile at home also helps reduce the amount of methane gas, a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming, and subsequently lowers your personal carbon footprint. Additionally, composting fortifies your soil by reintroducing helpful bacteria and fungi to the garden so that your plants are more resistant to pests and disease.
So, how do you do it? Composting is done best in a dry, shaded area of your lawn. You can choose to compost in a bin or simply in a pile on the ground. Initially, you’ll need to establish a base of branches, twigs, and dead leaves — also known as “browns” — and then mix in vegetable waste and food scraps as they are collected. Your compost pile will need to be moistened occasionally during the dry season to promote proper deterioration of organic materials. Indoor composting is also an excellent option if you lack outdoor space or want to keep things under wraps. Appropriately managed compost should not smell or attract pests, and it will typically be ready to use in the garden after about five weeks.
Introducing energy-saving technology to your home is a helpful way to initiate sustainable living practices. There are plenty of cost-efficient options that will ultimately save energy and money. Tankless water heaters, for instance, cost significantly more than the old-fashioned water heaters we often see, but the advantages far outpace the disadvantages with an endless supply of hot water, less wasted water as heated watercourses from the tank to the faucet, and a longer-lasting design with fewer leaks. One of the most expensive portions of electricity usage for a home is typically the heating and cooling system. A smart home thermostat, such as a Google Nest Thermostat E, can be controlled directly from your phone and will learn your schedule so that it can change the temperature when you’re away to help cut costs and save energy. According to Google, this thermostat can help reduce energy bills by 10-15%, and it is the first thermostat to become Energy Star certified by the United States Energy Protection Agency.
Some energy-saving home updates are surprisingly simple. A smart power strip will turn off electronics when they switch into power-saving mode, thereby saving both money and energy by minimizing usage. Simple choices like swapping incandescent light bulbs for energy-efficient LED bulbs are great ways to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.
If you’re remodeling your home, when it comes time to discuss new floors, consider alternatives to traditional wood flooring. Bamboo flooring is equally as stylish, but bamboo is significantly more renewable than some popular hardwoods. Plus, bamboo is moisture-resistant and durable, so it is a long-lasting investment. If you prefer a trendy, cutting edge design, forego wood floors altogether in favor of sleek concrete flooring. This durable modern design is perfect for a high traffic kitchen, and it makes cleaning a breeze. Other ways to incorporate renewable resources into your home design are by installing solar panels on your roof to generate energy at home and harvesting rainwater for your sprinkler system.
Online calculators can help establish the size of your ecological footprint, which can allow users to understand the impact that their everyday choices have on the planet. When making consumer choices, keep in mind the impact of your purchases. If you haven’t already, consult Marie Kondo’s KonMari method for pointers on how to sort through your belongings and decide which items bring joy, whether from functionality or sentimentality. For beginner composters, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has information online to help you learn the basics.
San Diego is a vibrant community with innovative and empathetic residents who are determined to live symbiotically with the earth. If you’re interested in learning more about moving to La Jolla or homes for sale in San Diego, please contact me for more information.