Photo: Bok Choy

When you think of the word sustainability, do images of farms, recycling symbols, and windmills come to mind? Sustainability can be a huge concept to wrap your mind around. Working at Down to Earth, I’m usually surrounded by like-minded people who incorporate sustainable practices in their lives without a second thought. However when I run into the “real world”, it shocks me sometimes how little many care about sustainability. 

Recently, I was eating lunch with an old friend at Down to Earth. When we got our food from the deli and sat down, I noticed that she had 2 forks, a ton of napkins and 3 bottled waters. What could she possibly need all that for? Is someone coming to join us? Nope, she doesn’t like to use the same fork for her hot food and her salad. She claims she’s a messy eater so that’s why she needs all the napkins. And the 3 different water bottles? She doesn’t like to carry around anything that sticks out of her bag so she buys 3 small water bottles instead of 1 big one. What!? I started to friendly scold her that she was being wasteful and she just laughed it off. 

After lunch, (I took all the extra napkins she didn’t use and put them in my bag for my car – by the way, she’s not a messy eater at all, she barely used 2 napkins!) we walked around the store, specifically the Natural Living section. There we walked by the reusable containers and bottles and she was practically squealing about how cute the containers were. Did I mention that my friend is super fashionable and always looks like she walked out of a magazine ad? Seeing an opportunity, I casually suggested she could make up for her wasteful ways by using this kind of stuff more often. There was a fruit infusion bottle that she said her favorite YouTube fitness personality uses and from there it kind of spiraled into her grabbing a shopping basket and buying the infusion bottle, a Hydroflask, a reusable bag, and a few stainless steel reusable containers. I tried to talk to her more about why it’s important to use resuable containers and bags and her eyes glazed over. She told me it simply didn’t interest her the way it interested me but she can get behind having cool looking stuff. 

It’s often easy for me to forget that bringing your own water bottle, a personal pair of chopsticks, and  re-using old paper for a notebook are just not as common as I think they are. My friend perhaps didn’t see why the real spirit behind sustainability is important, but at least she took a small step in the right direction. This experience helped remind me that too often people who care about the environment are perceived as full blown activists, treehuggers, hippies, or other stereotypes. But I’ve noticed that when I dole out little tidbits of information in a certain way to friends and family members, it makes it easier for them to think more about their daily lives. Another success story is my cousin who started bringing her reusable containers when she went out to eat because her leftovers in Styrofoam containers would always spill in her bag or get soggy. Now, she packs it up and it’s ready for her to chow down on later. Another friend of mine is saving to go on a trip and wants to pinch pennies everywhere, so she recently started carrying around her own water bottle to refill and making her own coffee. After only 1 week of not buying any bottled water or coffee, she saved over $70. She couldn’t believe how much money she was wasting on things she perceived to be such small expenses and I gently told her she also didn’t waste any additional plastic… she agreed it was “impressive” but was more concerned about her bank account.

These are all small steps to living a more sustainable lifestyle and all for different reasons. But I say whatever helps! I’ll just be a little ninja pointing out tiny sustainable practices as stealthy as possible. What are your favorite little ways to be sustainable? Do you face resistance when trying to convince others to incorporate more sustainable practices? Let us know in the comments below!