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What does sustainability look like for *you*?

By Shannon Kenny

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There are so many terms floating around about what it means to live an environmentally conscious lifestyle: zero-waste, eco-friendly, van life… the list goes on.  

For some, it may mean limiting the amount of animal products you eat, or taking the plunge to go full-on vegan. For others, it may involve buying secondhand clothes from Beacon’s Closet or Goodwill. And for a select few, it can even mean creating no more than a jar’s worth of trash each year.

I personally like to use the term *sustainable living* because its not bound by a strict set of rules that some random person decided at one point or another. It can be different for everyone — remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all here.

There’s no right or wrong way to live sustainably and there’s no barometer that decides if you qualify, especially because not everyone has the same resources available to them. You may not have access to bulk groceries, or to recycling drop-offs, or to online stores where you can source sustainably made products, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do what’s in your power to lower your environmental footprint.

Having grown up in Trinidad, I often see the disparity between what my family has access to and what I have in New York City. When it comes to buying what they need, my family’s often limited to what retailers bring in. Due to the cost of shipping and import taxes, the costs of shopping online can work out to be about double what they’d pay here in the states.

So what’s the solution when your resources are limited?

work with what you got

Don’t have access to recycling? Try buying as much as you can from local vendors and markets to avoid items that come in packaging. That way, you lessen your need for recycling right at the source — by reducing the amount of trash you create.

Don’t have access to stores with eco-friendly products? Okay. Can you make your own products, like fashioning a soap dish out of chopsticks? Or turning an old tee shirt into a reusable bag?

Don’t have access to secondhand stores? How about buying the best quality clothes you can find, so they last fooorrrreevverrrrrrr.

You see where I’m getting at? Contrary to popular belief, sustainable living doesn’t have to look a specific way. It’s just about approaching things a little differently. This mindset also makes the simple act of trying more accessible, and a lot less intimidating.

finding what works for *you*

For me, sustainable living means trying to limit the amount of packaged foods that I buy and sourcing as much as possible in bulk or produce sections. I also eat plant-based about 90% of the time, and try to avoid single-use items by saying no to plastic bags and disposable water bottles.

I try to be very intentional about the clothes that I buy, getting only what I need and sourcing sustainable makers whenever possible. This also filters into how I handle my period, since I’ve swapped out disposable pads and pantyliners for THINX.

Have you noticed I used the word *try* a lot? That’s ‘cuz sustainable living isn’t about being perfect.

Do I ever cave to that bag of Cheetos? Yes. Do I sometimes hop in a Lyft instead of riding the subway? Yes. Do I fly to Trinidad, instead of backpacking my way home? Abso-freakin-lutely!

I’m not perfect. I simply try to maintain an awareness around what I buy, consume, and throw away. When I don’t make the most sustainable decision, I’m damn well aware of it — but that’s okay too!

So tell me, what does sustainable living look like to you? And what are the areas that you struggle with? Start the conversation in the comments!

Shannon Kenny is a THINX Leader and the founder of Mama Eco, a blog and website dedicated to helping you find simple solutions to sustainability. You can also find her on Instagram.

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