The start of every year brings new hope and the chance for a fresh start. With so many challenges around the world over the past two years though, it can cause anxiety and interruptions to our health and well-being, whether directly or indirectly, consciously, or unknowingly.
The word sustainable is often associated with eco, green, the environment; but just as important for sustainable living is the well-being of the self and our community.
So, the most important thing for us to do in such times is to focus on making positive choices, starting with a growth mindset and actions to bring about the changes and results that we desire - firstly for ourselves, then our community, and our environment; the trichotomy of healthy, sustainable living.
Be kind to yourself.
Everything starts from you, so it's important that you first and foremost take care of yourself and your well-being. Have a positive mindset; encourage yourself the way you would support your loved ones. Give yourself credit where it's due. Don't underestimate yourself. Celebrate achievements and milestones, and don't forget to reward yourself!
At a former workplace with a somewhat toxic culture, we were all talking quietly about leaving. One of my colleagues constantly underestimated herself, telling me she couldn't leave as she had been there for eight years, didn't know anything else, had no tertiary degree, and hence believed no one else would hire her. I encouraged her to try, to not doubt her skills and capabilities developed from her experiences - and she had such great work ethics. Within two months, she found herself a new job with a much more positive culture :)
Give yourself time
Nothing happens overnight. There will be obstacles along the way. Persevere and just get back up and try again. Facing a big issue? Break it up into smaller parts to resolve - where there's a will, there's a way.
Surround yourself with a positive social circle
It is true that you are impacted by those around you. So, surround yourself with people who add value to your life - those who believe in you, cherish you, encourage you, and are honest with you. There is enough negativity in the world, and you don't need it unnecessarily from people who you supposedly trust.
I have cut ties with two friends - one recognised the error of their way, found their way back into my life to apologise and remains a dear friend; the other failed to see any wrongdoing, and despite our 15+ year friendship, I'm glad it ended, for it only added toxicity to my life over most of its course. I'm just sorry it took me that long to see it.
FOR THE COMMUNITY
We are all part of a community. Even if you are an introvert with a small social network, you are still part of a larger community as you interact with your workplace, local shops, restaurants, and services - and the way you interact with these groups has an impact, big or small.
Be kind to others.
Ever get annoyed at someone who may have jumped the queue in front of you, or someone who honked at you for no good reason? It's easy to get worked up, and react negatively back.
But maybe that person who stepped in front of you simply had a dreamy moment; that honking driver may be in a bad mood from work. Sure, it doesn't make it "right", but how we choose to react can go a long way. You never know what the other person is going through, and if we can hold our breath and just offer a polite reaction, or even let the moment pass, we can help reduce the negativity around us.
Negativity is a cycle, as is kindness; which one would you prefer? Every little bit counts towards a more (or less) sustainable world - it's your choice.
Help out your local community.
We like to support groups that provide help and assistance at the local community level as they tend to receive less government resources and funding, are often very targeted in what they aim to achieve, and are always appreciative. Answer callouts for specific needs and requirements, such as canned and non-perishable goods, supermarket vouchers, warm clothing and blankets, etc. Again, a little goes a long way.
Everything you do has an impact on the environment as well - as you eat and drink, as you consume, as you work and travel. So what can we do to make these everyday habits and lifestyles that we take for granted more sustainable?
Everyone knows the importance of recycling. But even recycling itself is costly in the resources required to make it happen - did you know 45,000 litres of water is needed to produce one tonne of recycled paper? This highlights the importance of reducing and reusing before the need for recycling, and is what induced the lightbulb moment for the Paper Saver to be created.
Recycling should be the last resort because an average 18% of all recyclables actually end up in landfill.* This is due to contamination (think greasy pizza boxes, nappies, soft plastics, e-waste, used tissues or paper towels, food waste), and also because we are still playing catch up to finding cost effective ways to process recyclable materials locally after countries in South East Asia rightly closed the doors to taking our rubbish.
So, if the buck can stop with you, let's make it happen.
Choose to reuse wherever possible.
Tubs, containers, jars - items your foods come in can be reused for storage of other food items such as leftovers, homemade condiments and drinks, dried foods... the list is endless! If you have kids, they make great arts and crafts materials for imaginative creations too.
Reusable coffee cups, reusable straws, reusable cutlery, reusable water bottles, Paper Saver Reusable Notebooks... we've come a long way to become a more reusable society. But more needs to, and can, be done.
Just last Christmas, I gifted a friend an insulated reusable water bottle after noticing that she kept bringing single-use plastic bottles of water each time we caught up (she already has a Paper Saver :)). Another friend kept bringing disposable plates and cutlery to picnics, so I gifted her a picnic set to stop her buying wasteful single-use items. This demonstrates that even the people around us still need more education about the environmental value and ease of using reusables, over the habitual convenience of wasteful disposables.
We started a compost bin a few years ago, and not only have we reaped the benefits of it for our veggie garden, but we have also noticed significantly less waste going into our general bin. As a result, we were able to reduce the size of general bin to the smallest available - less waste, less costs - win-win!
TO SUM UP...
There's still much to be done. It starts with you and making sure that you look after yourself first to live sustainably. We then make that effort towards our local community, as well as our environment - because if any these are not in healthy states, then it's not possible for us to live well either - the trichotomy of sustainable living.
P.S. You can have a fresh start any time, not just in the new year. "New year's resolutions" is a human-made concept that psychologically pushes for change at just one point in time, but in reality, any time is a good time to make positive changes :)