Is our lifestyle sustainable? Greening the Earth one conscious choice at a time

October 21, 2021 - by Yasmeen Farha Sarbudeen
LWC Think & Lead

“Reduce, reuse, recycle” – these are three words that we have heard repeatedly all our lives. From government-led initiatives to school activities and outreach programmes, adopting a sustainable lifestyle has been one of the biggest challenges to humanity. While the effects of climate change can be felt every day through rising daily temperatures, shaking the entrenched buy-use-throw habits seems like too much of a hassle due to our unsustainable lifestyle.

Furthermore, the idea of a sole individual making a change does not seem promising – I mean, could one person really make a difference?

It was only recently where I realised that incorporating sustainable habits into my daily routine does not have to be as inconvenient and tedious as it seemed. With the COVID-19 pandemic still at large, many of our lifestyle habits have been disrupted. In this time, we have been presented with the perfect opportunity – like a clean slate, to re-assess some of our daily practices and make a conscious effort to change.

Every little effort counts, and with everyone playing their part, we can collectively make a change. Here are some ways you can help save the earth by adopting a more sustainable lifestyle:

Sustainable fashion

With more time spent at home, consumers have moved retail therapy habits online, relishing the luxury of time to scroll through online shopping applications. I plead guilty to being an avid online shopper myself, with the countless attempts to fill the void left by the lack of socialising, especially during the circuit breaker and periods of social isolation.

Whilst indulging in my guilty pleasure, I failed to realise the amount of packaging waste I had accumulated through the purchases. Only recently was I introduced to sustainable shopping. Who knew I would still be able to shop while doing my part to limit how my retail habits were impacting the environment?

The fashion industry presents itself in glossy images, but there is more than meets the eye. Fast-fashion outlets do not only make use of unethical labour practices, but it is also one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gasses and carbon emissions in the world. Research conducted by Princeton University students highlights that the fashion industry is currently responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

Photo Credit: Unsplash, Anna Sullivan

According to a study conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it takes 3,871 litres of water to make a pair of jeans – from the production of cotton to the eventual delivery of the product to the retail stores. As such, the production of just one pair of jeans equates to a carbon equivalent of 33.4 kilograms. With a single pair of jeans producing such an alarming amount of carbon, it is tough to imagine how much greenhouse gas has been released into the surroundings to make all the garments in the wardrobes from a single household.

However, sustainable fashion alternatives, such as clothes and accessories, have become more prominent over the years. Retailing in online and brick-and-mortar stores, sustainable fashion brands provide consumers with more affordable and sustainable ways to shop.

Sustainable fashion refers to the production of garments and accessories in an ecologically and socially responsible manner. Combining eco-consciousness and ethical fashion, sustainable fashion encompasses the consideration for people, the planet, and the rest of the living world, including animals and plants. Some examples of sustainable fashion stores are OliveAnkara, Haikini, AnotherSole and Tessellate.Co – offering a plethora of options ranging from garments, footwear and even accessories. The team at LivingWord Communications also had the opportunity to work with ethical children’s fashion brand The Extra Smile.

Photo Credit: Pexels, Sam Lion

But if buying more clothes always means a surplus of wardrobe essentials, how do we get rid of clothes while still caring for the environment?

Garments, regardless of what condition they come in, can always be recycled. Outfits in pristine condition can be donated to many organisations, such as The Salvation Army, New2U Thrift Shop, H&M and many more. These donated clothes will then be given a second lease of life, sparking joy to those most direly in need.

If your outfits are worn out, torn and tattered, don’t throw them away. The recycled materials can be repurposed into rags, bags and many more!

While fast-fashion alternatives may seem like the convenient and more affordable alternative to shopping, patronising sustainable fashion businesses can not only help save the environment but also support local brands which utilise every dollar spent on a good cause. Not to forget, you get a snazzy and unique addition to your wardrobe!

Meatless Meals

As a huge foodie, meat is essential in all my meals. Without meat, my meals always felt incomplete, leaving me feeling unfulfilled and unsatisfied.

However, it never occurred to me how the succulent piece of meat could cause so much harm to our environment. According to a study published in the journal Science, beef originating from beef herds produce an estimated 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and 950 million hectares of land.

We spoke to Mr Low Chip Khoon, Vice-President of Earth Society Singapore, to find out more about how reducing meat consumption can significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into society.

Mr Low shares how every individual can make a huge difference when it comes to reducing meat consumption.

“Big changes, such as changing diets, can help tremendously in reducing global emissions and saving the food and water resources on the planet,” he said.

Meatless Monday SG is an organisation that advocates for individuals to go meatless on Mondays. While they primarily drive their cause on social media platforms, the organisation actively encourages the participation of individuals to go meatless on Mondays, advocating a community movement by sending and tagging them in photos.

Photo Credit: Pexels, Chudesabyvaut

“The impact of each individual’s effort to go meatless is immense. With just one person supporting Meatless Mondays for one year, they can save up to 215kg of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. This amounts to 1500kg of carbon saved in one year – by just by one person!” Mr Low added.

Truthfully speaking, cutting out meat can seem like a nightmare, especially for meat lovers. However, with recent advancements in technology, many meat alternatives have made their way into convenient stores, supermarkets and food chains such as restaurants and cafes.

Brands such as Impossible and Quorn, and many more, have introduced a plethora of meatless meat alternatives, including plant-based meat patties, meatballs, chicken nuggets and many more. After countless attempts to recreate a similar sensory experience, likening the flavours and textures to that of actual meat, consumers can now adopt a healthier meatless lifestyle at least once a week without being extensively inconvenienced and miss having meat in their meals.

Photo Credit: Unsplash, LikeMeat

These plant-based meat alternatives are now readily available in convenient stores, such as our local 7-11. With meatless options being made easily accessible, affordable, and closely mimicking meat products, making the switch towards reducing actual meat consumption is much easier.

The wider variety of meatless alternatives introduced highlights how consumers are now more willing to adopt flexitarian diets. Flexitarian diets refer to diets that are mostly plant-based but still occasionally allow for meat and animal byproducts. In a survey conducted in 2020, 42% of survey respondents identified as primary meat-eaters, with the number followed closely behind as 39% of the respondents now adopting a flexitarian diet. With more people involved in making a conscious effort to eat less meat, the journey to adopting a healthier lifestyle while actively saving the earth can be accelerated.

Upcycle to Recycle

One of the most common ways to provide a pre-loved item with a new lease of life is recycling. However, not all products can be recycled, coming with many stringent prerequisites. In place of conventional recycling methods, more upcycling methods can be encouraged and adopted instead.

Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming used, unwanted and even waste materials in order to create a product of higher quality or value than the original. Upcycling stretches the limitations of recycling, providing any used material with the opportunity to be rebranded into an object as good as new.

Photo Credit: Unsplash, Noah Eleazar

Many initiatives and campaigns have been introduced to raise awareness of the various ways of upcycling. The Central Singapore Community Development Council (CDC) introduced the Central Singapore Upcycling Contest and Project Upcycle to encourage community involvement towards upcycling habits.

More organisations are actively spreading the word of upcycling by raising awareness and encouraging more such efforts in the community. For example, Terra SG, a social enterprise with a sustainability and humanitarian focus, organises upcycling activities and workshops to educate consumers on the benefits of and how to upcycle. Additionally, The LampPost Project team collaborated with Fashion Makerspace to organise workshops to educate the public on effectively upcycling, using pre-loved materials to be repurposed into accessories such as sling bags. These classes have been held in either small groups or even online – further emphasising how the act of upcycling does not require an extreme amount of effort and can be picked up easily.

The world is our home now, but it is also the home of our future generations. We call this earth our Mother Earth. Therefore, we as earth’s occupants need to make an effort to change our lifestyles to preserve and conserve our planet with the utmost tender loving care. The small changes we make to our lifestyles can go a long way to create a new normal for environmentally sustainable lifestyle habits and choices.

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