Lesson 7: Living more simply

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Coffee Mug
Sustainable living means using the items you already have instead of buying something new.

Despite my list of product suggestions in the Lessons in Living Sustainability series, the greenest items you could possess are usually the ones you already have. The glass jar holding your store-bought jelly in the fridge, the novelty coffee cup you were gifted by a friend, the pound of ground meat in your freezer, the cotton tote bag you got for free during that campus resource fair … the impact of producing that item has already happened. Challenge yourself to use these things fully, give them away if you cannot, and then replace them once it is no longer useful or you are ready to change your habits. Consider secondhand options when possible. At the grocery store, think about this when deciding what items to bring home. If you host events or manage purchasing for a team, consider how this “buy-less” philosophy could be applied to the decisions you make.

The decision to live simply is also one that shows privilege, as many people do not have the option to purchase more than what they need. For those of us who can, we don’t have to be perfect — but we owe it to ourselves to do our best, reduce our waste and footprint where we can and adopt habits that build a healthier future, starting in the kitchen.

Caitlin Jacobs is the sustainability program manager in the Office of Sustainability. You can find more sustainable living ideas on the Vatican’s new Laudato Si' Action Platform.