What My Sustainability Journey Looks Like Right Now

Since moving out of my parents’ house down to Alabama, I’ve been more conscious about curating this new space to be as sustainable as possible. Obviously, there have been limitations (read: I’m unemployed) in making this home completely eco-friendly, but as long as I am doing what I can, I think that’s good enough for right now. My wildest sustainability dreams live on my Pinterest, and one day I hope to have a home that is eco-forward in its lifestyle.

For right now though, my journey toward sustainability doesn’t look like all the beautiful homes on Instagram, or the fancy products that replace single-use items – it looks more real. It’s cardboard boxes as storage bins, washing and reusing plastic containers I can’t recycle, using dish towels for drying dishes and storing food, and growing my own basil, mint, and scallions.

I had plans to stalk local thrift stores to find second hand beauties to add to my first home, but with the pandemic closures and safety precautions, that didn’t happen. I did end up finding some second hand items, though. My parents are redoing their kitchen/downstairs area and luckily enough happened to be getting rid of some Ikea furniture. We brought a cabinet, dresser, and a few shelves to Alabama, and more of the set will remain in our garage until Tom and I move back to California next year (thanks mom and dad). I also scored an office chair and an ice chest off my aunt, wine glasses and baskets and a tea pot from my Uma, and a few steals from the local Facebook Marketplace here in Enterprise.

We did end up buying new furniture for the apartment, mostly online. Amazon, Big Lots, Wayfair, Lowes, and Walmart are definitely not sustainable companies, but when you move across the country with 3 days notice, you have to make some compromises. I couldn’t sleep on an air mattress until we could afford a environmentally conscious mattress because those things are pricey. Plus, I love my Big Lots couch – the display one we got for a discounted price. Those are realities.

Other realities are the small victories. I requested our Amazon packages be delivered plastic free, which is hit or miss at times. (You can learn how to do so, here.) We purchased 1 roll of paper towels in May and it’s still going strong. We compost our green and brown waste at our local community garden. Since our local recycling plant only takes plastics #1 and #2, I wash and reuse any plastic containers that can’t be recycled. We haven’t purchased single-use plastic bags, and won’t. I use a biodegradable litter liner and natural clay litter for my cat, Gnocchi’s, litter box. My daily vitamins come in compostable packaging. We shop locally whenever possible, and when we do shop at Walmart we bring our own bags and avoid styrofoam/difficult to recycle packaging as much as possible.

I feel like a lot of people are overwhelmed to start their journey toward sustainability because of how sustainability is portrayed on social media. Don’t get me wrong, I love staring dreamily at minimalist, plastic-free kitchens with sprawling counter tops and plenty of natural light that have been perfectly staged for displaying beautiful eco-friendly products. But that’s not a reality for the majority of people.

If people only knew that to start, all you have to do is wash that empty peanut butter jar and use it for chips when you pack a lunch (because chips always get squished in bags, let’s be honest), I think a lot more people would get on the sustainability train. It’s as easy as saving that plastic box your spinach came in and putting it in your freezer to hold you green waste. It’s as easy as using leftover cardboard boxes to organize your bathroom drawers. It’s as easy as putting food down the garbage disposal instead of in the trash! Choo-choo everybody – hop on!

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