Mindset Shifts for Sustainable Living

Jul 8, 2021 | Conscious Consuming, New Habits

Changing habits is hard so mindset shifts are often required. This holds as true for trying to live more sustainably as for anything else. Over time, I’ve made a few mindset shifts. I’ve made a bit of a list below of some things that come to mind with the thought that this may be of help for you to consider if and where you might like to shift your thinking to live a more sustainable life.

Imperfect action

Let’s start with #imperfectaction shall we? It is my family footprint project mantra (and hashtag) after all.

I’m a recovering perfectionist. My thinking used to be quite black and white. If I started an exercise plan but missed a workout, I’d give up for the rest of the week and start again on Monday. Always Monday. This was the pattern across many areas of my life. Clean slates, fresh starts, New Years Resolutions, 1st of the Month. Monday.

When I first started reading books on sustainable action and following #zerowaste on Instagram and the like, I felt the ugly perfectionist tendencies surfacing once again. How could we life the perfect low waste, low carbon life? I quickly realised that I couldn’t. Perfection in an imperfect system is not possible.

Life is messy. It is confusing. It is imperfect. I had to learn to accept that and do our best anyway.

Conscious consumption

Having no intention of moving off the grid and living solely off the land (which, I’m sure, would mean fostering out my children who would refuse to come with me!), I am faced with being a consumer. We live in a culture of overconsumption. It is easy to get swept away in all of the needs and wants when there is so much on offer and so easily obtained. Taking time to stop and be conscious about what and how we consume takes a mindset shift. Remembering to refer to waste reduction principles of REFUSE – REDUCE – REUSE – ROT – RECYCLE as a framework for bringing more consciousness to my consumption is a muscle I am building.

Photo by allison christine on Unsplash

Valuing secondhand

I guess I’ve always been a fan of secondhand goods for the financial savings. I really appreciated hand-me-down clothes for my children when they were young because they grew so fast, it was expensive to keep them appropriately clothed. When I was younger, though, I can’t remember shopping at secondhand stores for clothes for myself. I think I figured that I could afford new, so I bought new. It was the same with furniture. As students, we lived with whatever we could scrounge from home or even things we found on the street. Once I was in a salaried job, I bought stuff new. That was just what you did. I didn’t think about it.

Much more recently, I have taken to seeking out secondhand as the first option because of my sustainability values. Realising that, once bought, everything is ‘used’ has helped me appreciate the value of secondhand goods. I even bought my husband a secondhand gift for his 50th birthday. Secondhand gifts are controversial but if it is something they will love, in great condition, why not? Big mindset shift there.

Reevaluating assumptions

Finally, assumptions. I guess this is really a series of mindset shifts. Along our family footprint project way, I have discovered assumptions that I held which prevented me from taking certain actions. I touched on my assumption about buying new above. It was just what I did. I didn’t think about it. I just assumed that was what people (including me) did. Another assumption that comes to mind is that we needed two cars. When one car was written off in the Canberra hailstorm of early 2020, we didn’t replace it for 12 months. When we did, it was because we evaluated the need for it rather than just making the assumption.

Of course, it is difficult to uncover your underlying assumptions because they can be quite invisible. However, I keep an eye out for resistance to behaviour changes as one way to uncover them. Taking challenges such as a buy nothing new month can also help to reveal them. Once uncovered, I try and take the time to challenge and investigate them. Again, it is about bringing more consciousness to my choices.

What mindset shifts have you made to live a more sustainable life?