How do you start your sustainable journey?

This is a question that I often get, how do you start your sustainable journey?  The answer is fairly easy, just start. You do not need any fancy reusables, fit out your house with more eco items, buy an electric car and install solar panels on your roof, just to start. If you want to that is great, but let’s take baby steps and know that you can start your journey right there where you are.  


Amazingly, the world is starting to focus more on the environmental issues that are facing our planet. Schoolchildren around the world are taking to the streets or online to protest inaction on climate change, and famous influencers are taking a stand against single-use plastic. This awareness is helping to drive action, and while many companies are starting to offer sustainable alternatives, there are still many environmentally problematic things in our day to day lives.  


Over the last few years, I have been actively trying to reduce the waste that our household produces. It was not always easy, but I am happy to say that we no longer have a rubbish bin and there is very little that leaves our house to go to the landfill. So little, that I haven’t seen our building’s garbage chute in a few months.  


So now you might say, “well that is great, but in my situation, it is not possible”, and you may be right, but even if you cannot go to zero waste there are definitely things you can do to reduce your waste and the negative impact we are having on the planet. Luckily, I have already gone through this journey, and there are a lot of tips that I can give you, so you don’t need to figure it all out for yourself.  


First, start with the things you can easily give up. If you start with the hard stuff, you may find yourself giving up before you have even tried. Once you have given up one or two things and created a new reduced waste habit, you can improve on your record by giving up more items. If you are not sure about the items you use most of and that has an impact on your waste, do a quick bin audit to find out. Make a list of everything you throw in the bin for a week and there you have it. I have also created an easy template to place by the bin and tick off whenever you throw something “away”. 


Once you know what you throw away, look at the five items that made it in your bin most frequently. Select one of the items that would be easiest to reduce or remove from your daily life and make it a habit and then move on to the next until that becomes a habit.  


Here are three easy swaps you can start with today.  

  1. STRAWS are easy to avoid. You can either sip your drink directly from the glass or cup or use a reusable straw. ⁠There are many different reusable options available like glass, metal, silicon, bamboo and many more. They are easy to clean and can be reused. ⁠Next time you order a drink, make sure to ask for it to be served without a straw. The turtles in the ocean will thank you.   
  2. Stop using single-use PLASTIC BAGS, instead carry a reusable bag with you. If you forgot your bag, ask for a box. On some occasions, my handbag has also doubled as a shopping bag. I have also pushed the shopping cart with all my groceries to my car, after forgetting all the bags in the car. It only took a few minutes to pack them in my reusable bags and no single-use plastic bags were used. It has also been a reminder to never forget them again.  
  3. Get a reusable coffee cup and avoid disposable COFFEE CUPS. You will save trees, reduce waste and if you pick the right cafe, you will also save money. Some cafes have started offering a discount or incentive when using your reusable cup. If you forget your reusable cup, take a few minutes, sit down and enjoy your coffee in a ceramic mug. Life is too busy anyway, and you deserve a break. Some cafes have also started mug libraries, that allows you to use of their mugs for your takeaway coffee and you can return it on your next coffee run.  


Every step you take towards a sustainable life is a step forward. Therefore, start your sustainable journey right where you are. Do what you can and feel comfortable with, living a more sustainable life is a journey and not a race.   


About the author, Mariska

Hi and welcome! My name is Mariska. I am originally from South Africa, but now call the world my home. I am an artist, designer, environmentalist, podcast host and speaker.

I started the Mama Earth Talk podcast in 2018 to share some of the things that I learned about just how easy it can be to reduce your impact on the environment. This then quickly grew into a forum that showcases the amazing things that many people are doing to make the planet better, and further into a source of hope and inspiration for many. A few of the amazing guests include Zero Waste Queen, Bea Johnson, Claude Silver, Kathryn Kellogg and zero waste chef Max La Manna.

If you do not already I urge you to follow me and my journey on social media (@designbymariska), and to refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot your own waste using the handy tips I post!

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