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Your Guide to Self-Sufficiency and Adopting a More Sustainable Lifestyle

We can learn how to live more sustainably. Here's your guide to prioritizing self-sufficiency and sustainable living.

Written by
Olabisi Ajala

With growing populations comes an increase in demand for goods and resources. Although it’s necessary for us to utilize resources to boost our standards of living, the way we go about it can significantly impact the environment. According to the United Nations (UN), the world’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion people within 30 years. That's why it's our responsibility to prioritize sustainable living.

Since 1970, resource extraction has tripled. With the trends and patterns of production and usage, our global material use could reach 190 billion tons by 2060. This pattern also forecasts that greenhouse gas emissions could increase by 43%. Now the question is: What can we do to curb the negative effects of human activities on the environment? 

Beyond government and corporate interventions, we, as consumers, can make a change. One of the greatest intentional steps you can take is to adopt a self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle. This calls us back to the basics—an ode to simplicity.

While it can be overwhelming to think about all the changes the world needs, you can do your part and reinvent your everyday activities. Here's how.

What Do Self-Sufficiency and Sustainable Living Have In Common?

Self-sufficiency means being able to provide for your needs—without depending on outside aid. When you’re self-sufficient, you can meet your needs like food, shelter, water, and energy without over-reliance on outside resources.

That means self-sufficiency could be the opposite of our consumer-driven society—to be self-sufficient means you only use what you have and live within your means. And that's where sustainability comes in. Although we may not use the terms self-sufficiency and sustainable living interchangeably, they intersect.

Sustainable living represents a lifestyle of reduction: reducing our consumption and impact on the environment. And self-sufficiency is one way to achieve this. Self-sufficiency tackles knowing how much is enough and employing low-impact methods in daily living—helping you reduce your carbon footprint.

Contrary to the name, self-sufficiency doesn’t necessarily mean doing it all by yourself. In this light, self-sufficient living can also mean interdependence on support systems. Think local resources, immediate communities, and even your family and friends.

Here's how you can embrace a self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle moving forward.

8 Ways to Embrace Self-Sufficiency and Sustainable Living

Adopting a new lifestyle can sometimes feel daunting. To take the fear out of the process, see this as your guide to learning new skills to live more sustainably.

Remember: You don’t have to make changes all at once. Start small and work your way around—after all, sustainability isn't one size fits all. Here are some ways to guide you towards embracing this simple and mindful lifestyle.

1. Grow Your Own Fruits and Vegetables

From fruits to vegetables and herbs, you can grow your own produce! If you have garden space, use it to your advantage. You can grow almost anything, from cucumbers and bell peppers to tomatoes and strawberries.

With food supply and shortage challenges in our world today, growing your food can present many benefits. Apart from providing you with delicious fruits and veggies, growing your own produce also indirectly targets pesticide usage in commercial food growth and supply.

The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that more than 1,000 pesticides are used globally in farming and food production. And these chemicals put wildlife, ecosystems, and people at risk. By growing your own food, you can help limit the use of toxic chemicals in agriculture.

For city dwellers or those living in smaller spaces, it can be difficult to find a garden space. However, there are solutions! For example, you can try growing microgreens with an at-home kit. And you can still opt for organic or locally harvested fruits and veggies.

2. Plan and Cook Your Meals

Planning and cooking your meals will not only save you money from constantly eating out but also limit your package waste. It’s one thing to develop the skill of growing your food or gardening, and it’s another to take up cooking as an essential practice.

Although eating out or ordering takeout can be convenient, the constant practice can take a toll on the environment and your wallet. Food takeaway or package waste is a major challenge and with constant ordering, you're increasing your carbon footprint. 

Thankfully, meal cooking and meal prepping are easy habits to adopt and can help tackle the problem of food waste. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that over 70 billion pounds of food waste enters landfills every year. And food waste accounts for approximately 30-40% of the food supply in the U.S.

Some popular ways to meal prep include cooking in batches, prepping the ingredients you need for a recipe, and sticking to individually portioned meals. You can even plan shopping lists and stock up on storage containers to keep your food fresh.

Check out our low-waste grocery shopping tips for a realistic way to make sustainable living possible.

3. Preserve Food to Reduce Waste

Preserving food is one way to prevent food waste. Without effective preservation practices, you’ll find yourself constantly throwing food out—sending it straight to the landfill. And when we send food waste to the landfill, the food improperly biodegrades and releases methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

There are various methods of food preservation, each dealing with specific types of food. Check out some of these common methods:

Drying: You may want to dry your summer vegetables and fruits for the winter. The process requires removing the water contents to ensure the fruits and vegetables don’t spoil over time. For this practice, you can use a dehydrator. If you don’t have one, you can load up your fruits in an oven. 

Canning: Canning is another popular method of preserving food. For this method, you’ll need canning jars, lids, and seals to preserve food in airtight containers. The best part is that you can store both raw and cooked foods in these jars. 

Pickling: Pickling is one of the easiest preservation methods. It requires making a homemade pickling solution where you can store a variety of vegetables. You can create a solution using salt, vinegar, and sugar (which you bring to a boil in water) and then pour over your fruits and vegetables in a jar for storage. 

Freezing: This is a simple way to preserve food items, from leftovers to fruits. When you buy fruits in bulk for daily smoothies, for instance, you want to ensure that your fruits remain in good condition. Freezing them keeps them preserved and ready every morning for your smoothie intake. When you have leftovers, you can refrigerate them—and then place them in a microwave when you’re ready to eat them.

Salting: You can preserve foods such as fish, meat, and vegetables using this method. Salt draws out moisture from food products, reduces the bacteria, and makes food useful for later usage. 

Check out our specific guides for keeping produce fresh. There are plenty of hacks for keeping bananas, celery, and lettuce fresh.

4. Practice Composting

If you want to take your food waste reduction a step further, you can compost organic waste. And we know: Composting isn't for everyone. But once you get the hang of it, you might never look back.

This practice involves turning organic matter or waste into useful, nutrient-rich material for the soil. In this light, you can compost waste materials from your kitchen and yard.

And lucky for us, at-home composting is getting easier. According to our research, there are plenty of new home composting innovations on the market. Plus, you can get a simple kitchen countertop compost bin.

5. Repair and Mend Clothes

Studies show that the fashion industry is consistently growing, with a particular increase in online sales and retailers. Total U.S. fashion e-commerce sales are expected to increase by over $80 billion between 2020 to 2024. That's an average annual growth rate of nearly 12%.

And while consumers love buying the latest fashion trends, it's true that these trends don't always last. Often, our out-of-style clothes get thrown away. In 2018, 11.3 million tons of textiles were landfilled.

One of the reasons some people throw clothes away is wear and tear. To curb this, try mending and sewing the clothes with holes or tears! When you mend your torn clothes, you're actually extending the item's life—and it prevents you from buying new clothes that might have been made unsustainably.

Apart from clothes, you can also repair items like broken chairs and tables, preventing you from leaving old furniture at the curb to be picked up. The more you can mend, repair, and embrace creating problem-solving, the more you embrace a self-sufficient lifestyle. 

6. Opt for Renewable Energy

Low-impact, alternative energy sources like solar energy support a self-sufficient lifestyle and sustainable development. If you have the resources, consider investing in a renewable energy source like solar energy. This not only reduces your over-reliance on the general power supply but also supports clean energy.

According to our research, we're noticing an increase in eco-friendly energy across the board. That means eco-powered mobile devices, solar panels for your home, and even small-scale, portable solar panels for when you're on the go.

It's true that installing solar panels isn't easy or accessible to everyone, but with the rise of portable solar panels, this renewable energy source may be making its way into our homes sooner than we think.

7. Travel More Sustainably

We can't always avoid traveling, especially since many of us commute to and from work and school. However, there are ways to travel more sustainably.

According to National Geographic, transportation accounts for 15-20% of global emissions each year. And the leading cause of air pollution in the U.S? Motor vehicles. So first and foremost, you can walk or bike whenever possible—eliminating the emissions that come with driving. And good news: Electric bikes are becoming more accessible.

Since we can't always walk or bike from point A to point B, you can adopt other sustainable travel habits, such as carpooling when possible to reduce the number of cars on the road. You can also take public transportation at peak hours—the fuller the train car, the more eco-friendly the ride.

8. Purchase with Purpose

Self-sufficient and sustainable living embraces living within your means, reducing your purchases, and living simpler. Although self-sufficiency arms you with skills to provide for most of your needs, there’s no denying that you’ll still need to consume. This raises the need to embrace intentional and conscious shopping over mindless overconsumption.

As a consumer, you can purchase with a purpose. That means participating in a more circular economy, only buying what you truly need, and supporting small companies and companies with eco-initiatives. Practicing mindful consumption puts you in control of sustainable living. As a result, you reduce the amount of waste you produce and only surround yourself with useful products. 

The Takeaway

You don't have to change every aspect of your life overnight. Instead, sustainable living is about making the changes that work for the planet and you. And at Brightly, we believe in the planet over perfection. Even just making one small change can add up to a major difference—and have a positive impact on the world around you.