The New Year is a great time to make plans for the future, especially one that is sustainable all year round. Whether you are committing to a healthier you or are hoping to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, 2019 is definitely the year to kick-off your eco-friendly journey. As we reflect on the many environmental disasters such as wildfires, floods, and hurricanes that took place in 2018 as well as the most recently released climate change assessment, it is important to remain optimistic and remember that each of us can make a HUGE difference by adopting a more sustainable lifestyle.
Remember, sustainable living is not a destination; it is an ongoing journey that will introduce you to new places, new people, and new habits. Every journey begins with the first step, but when it comes to leading an eco-friendly lifestyle, it might not always be obvious where to begin.
That's why we reached out to the Aquarium of the Pacific's Education & Citizen Science Coordinator, Dr. Jenny Lentz, to learn about her own journey in sustainable living. With a B.A. in Environmental Science and a Ph.D. in Oceanography & Coastal Sciences, Dr. Lentz is not only extremely knowledgeable and passionate about environmental issues, but she is also an inspiration when it comes to living her own life in a sustainable manner.
“The time is now to step up and create that vision for what we want to live in,” said Dr. Lentz.
Sustainable Soup for the Soul
There are many ways to be sustainable when grocery shopping, preparing food, and eating out. Dr. Lentz’s top choices for eating green include buying in bulk, shopping with reusable produce and grocery bags, and using a toaster oven instead of her full sized oven for smaller dishes or to reheat food.
Here are other ways you can feed your soul sustainably:
- Buy more locally produced, less processed and less packaged food
- Reduce your meat and dairy consumption and/or participate in Meatless Mondays
- Don't let food go to waste! Either save the rest for later, share leftover food with your peers or donate.
- Donate excess or unwanted produce to local non-profit organizations or community groups such as Harvest Partners LB.
Sometimes you have those days when you don’t have the time or energy to prepare your own meals - we get it. On those days when you simply must dine out, be conscious of where you choose to eat out and politely say no to single-use plastics.When eating out, Dr. Lentz makes sure to be on the lookout for these eco-friendly restaurants and have a reusable container with her in case she has leftovers.
Wondering how you can find local businesses and restaurants that support sustainability? The City of Long Beach Office of Sustainability loves green businesses and recognizes their sustainable practices by awarding those that qualify with a green business certificate. Keep an eye out for establishments throughout the city that proudly display their California Green Business Network certificates. Or encourage your favorite businesses to take part in this free program offered by the city.
Water You Waiting For?
Water conservation is crucial when living in a state that is largely at risk from droughts. One way Dr. Lentz saves water is by using a shower bucket, which allows her to reuse the water that falls into the bucket to water her plants.
Here are other ways Dr. Lentz suggests for conserving water at home:
- Do dishes and laundry only when you have enough to run a full load.
- Use a shower timer to keep your showers short.
- Consider showering less often, if appropriate for your lifestyle and activity level
- Choose a water efficient washing machine and other appliances.
- Add compost or an organic matter to soil to improve soil conditions and water retention.
- Collect rainwater in a rainwater barrel.
Stay Cool (or Warm) My Friends (while saving energy!)
Even if you are a renter who can't make major upgrades to your home, there are a number of ways to make the temperature of your living space more comfortable. Before moving into her house, Dr. Lentz was a renter who used many (environmentally friendly) life hacks to stay cozy in the winter and cool in the hotter months of the year, and as a homeowner she continues to practice these sustainable lifestyle tips. For example, she used blackout curtains to help keep the hot sun out of her place during the day, resulting in interior temperatures as much as 20 degrees cooler! She also recommends purchasing removable window films and placing them on exterior windows to reflect light coming and keep the heat from passing through.
Lead a bright, sustainable lifestyle and save money by trying out these helpful tips:
- Swap out incandescent and halogen lights for LEDs. They will not only cut your energy bill, they can also keep rooms cooler since LEDs give off almost no heat.
- Turn off any lights in rooms that are not in use.
- Unplug devices and power strips from outlets, as they can still consume electricity even when not in use.
During the colder times of the year, wear warmer layers inside, snuggle up with more blankets, or use space heaters to only heat the room you are in. Dr. Lentz cautions not to buy the cheapest space heaters because they may not have the same safety features, which could result in fires. However, when used correctly, space heaters can be extremely efficient at heating small spaces. Remember to close the doors to rooms you are not using and only turn heaters on for a few minutes and then turn it off once you are warm enough.
Zero Waste On the Go
Zero waste connoisseur Dr. Lentz makes sure to have her zero waste kit handy at all times. You can have these items handy in your backpack, purse, or car (if you have one) to live zero waste on the go!
Grab these go-to items for your zero waste kit or add some of your own:
- Reusable water bottle
- Reusable bags
- Durable, reusable food containers
- Reusable utensils
Just by having a zero waste kit you become a great example and make a HUGE difference in the amount of waste you will produce.
“It’s important for people to make personal choices and show by their actions that they’re not going to use disposable items,” says Dr. Lentz.
Where Do I Begin?
Start small, but think big.
Sustainable living is a journey that never ends so be patient and forgiving with yourself. Try to make small changes at first that you can easily adjust to. Then you can work your way up to more challenging goals.
“It’s a continuous process and you really start to reevaluate your life,” advises Lentz.
As for the future of sustainable living, Lentz hopes that people will begin to focus on our level of consumerism. She envisions a day when future generations will take sustainable ways of living is for granted as the norm because it is all they have ever experienced.
Until then, it is important to continue having positive dialogue centered on sustainability and the future of consumerism. More importantly, Lentz warns that in order to see progress, we must avoid the “shaming” that is sometimes tied to living a sustainable lifestyle.
Lentz believes that it is important to move away from guilt about what humanity has done to the planet and toward messages of hope and inspiration that get people excited to be a part of the sustainable future.
“Guilting people just puts people down it doesn’t get us any closer,” she says.
Ready to tackle all these tips? Here are some resources to help you on your eco-journey.