How to Live Sustainably
This month, I have been asked to talk about a very BIG and CHARGED word: SUSTAINABILITY.
The reality is that I think and talk about sustainability way before June’s Earth Day and way past July’s Climate Action Week. One of my favourite people to speak about environmental activism is Dora Szelecki. She is an incredible Storyteller and Optimist Transformation Lead, which I am fortunate to call a friend.
So, without further due, here is Dora’s interview packed with incredible insights on her journey to sustainable living and packed with actionable advice.
Let’s start with the basics. What does being sustainable mean to you?
Dora: Our life, and being able to experience our beautiful world, depends on preserving a livable climate on Earth. We already know that with the climate crisis, another world is coming. It is needed, and we can change. So for me, being sustainable means seeking out and facilitating bold, fast and widespread action, by ourselves, in our communities, and through governments and businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
What made you passionate about living more sustainably?
Dora: Growing up, I enjoyed learning about the Earth through TV programmes by David Attenborough or National Geographic. And my family had some sustainable practices, like growing some of our food and repairing items, but I wouldn’t say I was immersed in sustainable living. I wasn’t a passionate environmentalist until my late 20s, when the impact of climate change became obvious in my life.
Living more sustainably is not a passion for me. It’s a necessity…I think we don’t need to be passionate about sustainability to change our behaviours so we can continue living in bearable conditions and enjoy our passions.
Tell us about what you do to care for the planet. What sustainable things do you do, daily/ monthly, transportation or food-wise?
Dora: I don’t have it all figured out! What works for me is introducing small adjustments often and trying to keep new sustainable habits consistent. This way, swaps that felt like a compromise a year ago are now part of my routine.
The climate change narrative in advertising or the media can often be a source of anxiety and hopelessness for me. So I try to focus on my actions that can mitigate the dramatic changes in the world that I love: from nature and food to cultures and people. It’s all connected. And it’s all personal to all of us.
I would say my main sustainable choices are more conscious consumption habits, changes in my daily travel, and how I use my time and talent to tell the story of climate change, hope and possibility.
What advice would you give someone trying to shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle?
Dora: It does sound like a massive cliche, but no action is too small. Don’t stress or bully yourself about committing to one big change that is difficult for you. Instead, focus on swaps, habits or adjustments that are easy for you to adapt quickly.
Our transport, fashion, food and lifestyle choices all impact the climate. You can find small changes that address the climate crisis and also come with immediate benefits.
Food is a good place to start for many households in the UK and EU. For example, eating more seasonal and local produce, less meat and more vegetables. These are small swaps that can help both your general health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions too. Creating meal plans and cooking with what you have can help eliminate food waste, a relatively easy habit that’s good for the environment and your wallet.
The current energy crisis has created pressure to consider saving energy at home. Some swaps, such as conscious use of lights or reviewing gadgets and appliances, are relatively easy. While others, such as insulation, heating or changing your home’s energy source, require more research and investment.
Reducing what you buy, reusing and repairing what you already have, and recycling what you no longer need can have a huge impact. For me personally, reducing consumption was difficult but impactful. The journey involved self-reflection and eliminating impulses by clearing my mental and physical spaces.
Buying fewer items and focusing on quality and sustainable sources has been very rewarding. I noticed that sharing experiences over gifts has made my relationships better too.
Travel and transportation might be difficult to change for some. For example, I cycle and use public transport. But flying is not something I personally could eliminate easily, although I feel quite guilty about it. So for me offsetting and travelling slow, longer stays and using trains instead of plane-hopping were the short-term action I could easily commit to.
Most importantly, something that everyone can do is speak up! Discussing climate action with your family, friends, communities, at work, and holding your elected representatives accountable for the actions of your region or country.
What are five sustainable brands everyone should be aware of and why?
The most sustainable clothes or objects you can have are the ones you already own. If you need to buy new items, be conscious of what, where and how often you buy.
In fashion, I like the innovative materials of Parley for the Oceans used in some Adidas collections, quality clothing from Patagonia — which also offers repairs — and sportswear from the Girlfriend Collective. I also like to buy and sell second-hand clothes on Depop and Vinted.
In beauty and personal care, I buy soap instead of liquid hand wash solutions, and I enjoy innovative products from Haeckles and appreciate REN's scalable zero waste efforts.
What are some of the great resources ( books, websites) available to educate oneself about leaving our planet better than how we have found it?
If you want to deep dive into understanding more about climate change, sustainability and the possible solutions we have, I suggest exploring:
- Penguin’s Green Ideas is a collection of interesting climate change science, theories, history and possibilities.
- The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, who led negotiations for the United Nations during the Paris Agreement, is an optimistic book about climate change and action.
- Let my people go surfing by Yvon Chouinard, legendary businessman and environmentalist, is about how doing good and having grand adventures became the heart of his business, Patagonia.
- Net Positive by Paul Polman is an interesting read about the business community’s responsibility in climate action.
These are Dora’s insights about Sustainability. If you know more and want to share your suggestions with us, please do. We would love to hear about your big and small steps!
This blog contribution was made by Gaelle Couberes.
Gaëlle COUBERES is a French but Londoner at heart; she has been living in the UK for over twelve years.
She believes in the power of sisterhood, championing both diversity & inclusion and mental health.
Gaëlle works for Unilever as Sr Global Innovation Manager, taking pride in being a content creator, a mental health champion, and a mentor. She truly believes in the power of community and solidarity, the magic dust that makes a difference in life’s wild ride.
Besides crafting content for the Like-Minded Female Network as a Blogger, she leads Lean In London. Beyond that role, she is also a Mental Health First Aider and volunteer for the incredible #IamRemarkable initiative.
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