Sustainability: The 21st Century’s most Pressing Issue

Sustainability is a major focus in the 21st century. We know we are burning through the earth’s fossil fuels at a rapid pace. Now is the time to create awareness and make tough decisions to ensure that our children and grandchildren also have the opportunity to live on a healthy, vibrant planet.

So, what does sustainable mean to you?

I have recently started thinking about sustainability in my own life. I’m noticing that the season’s are changing. Next week it’s Christmas and the temperature here makes it feel more like early Spring. I want to make a change, a difference, and in this blog I am going to try to evaluate some of the choices I am making: things like how much of the energy I use is renewable, the transportation choices I make, how much waste I can eliminate through recycling and composting, how often I decide to live with less, and what is involved in the clothes I choose to buy and wear, are all day-to day decisions that impact sustainability.

Alternative Energy

This one is easy for me because here in the Netherlands the electricity that I’m using to run the computer right now is 100% green energy!

  • 39% comes from wind
  • 41% comes from biomass
  • 20% comes from water energy (from abroad)

The price of green energy is the same as regular energy here. So the choice is easy.

Windmill park in the Netherlands

Windmill park in the Netherlands

Transportation

To be honest, my transportation choices are not 100% green.
I work 4 days a week, and I travel twice by public transport and twice by car. Tuesday’s and Thursday’s I use public transport to and from work. On Wednesdays I use the car to take my son to my Mom’s house so she can take care of him while I work. She lives about a 20 minute drive away and it’s on my way to work. But on Friday’s I take the car simply because it’s more comfortable, I don’t have to worry about being on time to catch the train (and I love singing out loud with the radio!)

I could probably do more, but being 50% green when it comes to transportation works for me right now. Maintaining a healthy balance in sustainability and comfort and convenience is important and in the long run it will help me stick with my sustainability goals.

Dutch Sprinter train

Dutch Sprinter train

Waste reduction

Where I live you can sort and dispose of your waste in just about every category.
Plastics, metals, and drinking cartons can be sorted and recycled and collected every two weeks, the same goes for paper and cardboard. Food and garden waste can be separated for composting and are collected weekly. As long as we remain diligent about sorting our waste, very little needs to be thrown away.

Waste container for plastics and paper

Waste container for plastics and paper

Living with less

This sounds so appealing to me, but has been hard to do with a baby. I’m taking the path towards minimalism slowly. Right now, I’m initiating a giant purge of our attic. I’m going through my son’s baby gear and stuff one last time. I have a colleague at work who’s expecting a son in January and he is happy to take a lot of old baby clothes and gear off of our hands.

Stuff, stuff and more stuff!

Stuff, stuff and more stuff!

It’s crazy how much baby stuff we’ve accumulated in the course of two years. Boxes and boxes full of clothes. I’m glad my son is finally getting bigger and can now wear his clothes longer before he outgrows them.

There are some other boxes with mine and my husband’s clothes. Mainly summer clothes, but also some remaining winter attire. I’m planning to tackle those boxes this week.

My end goal is to get everything out of the main area of our attic so I can create a place for me to paint, write, or be creative.
Having a goal to work towards makes the decision to get rid of stuff easier, and when the space frees up and is used as a place for me to get creative, hopefully there will be no more room for storage!

Clothes

When it comes to dressing sustainably I’m a total noob. For me it’s important to look nice so I feel good about myself. I don’t buy clothes often and when I do, they’re usually on sale. I usually just buy what fits and looks good but I have never stopped to wonder, “who made my clothes?

I know there are many companies who produce their clothes in sweatshops abroad under awful conditions and that mostly women, and sometimes even children, have to work long hours for just pennies to make sure I can buy relatively cheap fast fashion. This is an area I am definitely going to have to think about some more and see what changes I want to make to live more sustainably.

It was an interesting exercise to evaluate my own life this way, and hopefully by next week I’ll have an update for you on what changes I have made… or at least some progress on my attic project. I don’t want to be a materialistic person, but when I look at my attic it says otherwise. As the end of the year is coming to a close this is a great time to let go of clutter and make room for more important things.

Until then, please share your story. How sustainable are you living? Are there any changes you would consider making? And if so, what is stopping you from making those changes?

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Mandy

About the Author

Mandy is a 31 year old librarian, mom of a toddler, wife of a graphic designer and owner of cat named Sprite. Read more about her as she takes baby steps on the path towards a more sustainable, minimalistic and mindful lifestyle. Follow more of Mandy and Logan's adventures on momMandy 

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