climate change

What is Low Impact Living?

Plastic is everywhere you go, but there are always unpackaged options!  Valladolid, Mexico

Plastic is everywhere you go, but there are always unpackaged options! Valladolid, Mexico

I first heard of the idea of ‘low impact living’ when a YouTuber I love to watch, Immy Lucas of Sustainably Vegan created the ‘Low Impact Movement’. She had been trying her best to live a zero-waste lifestyle but had grown frustrated that she couldn’t reach 100% waste-free.

On the about page of her website, The Low Impact Movement, she writes: “Being plant based, low waste, minimalist and ethical, I wanted a movement that encompassed all of those values and merged them into one.”

So, she created the Low Impact Movement, combining all of these values that I also stand for. When she announced it, I remember being so excited – it so perfectly combines everything I’m passionate about too! 

For me, living a low impact lifestyle means causing the least amount of harm possible, on animals, people and the environment, while also striving to use the least amount of resources possible.

The best way to do this is to eat a plant-based diet, avoid using plastic or one-use items as much as possible and repurpose, repair or recycle items you own before purchasing new things (and looking at second hand before buying new).

These are the ultimate goals – but what I love about using the term ‘low impact’ is that it’s about intention, not perfection. We’re all on our own path, working it out for ourselves one step at a time. If we encourage and support one another to learn and grow, every change we make as individuals makes a difference. No matter how big or small your efforts are, we all have to start somewhere.

I love that the term ‘Low Impact Living’ is realistic and can be tailored to fit the individual, taking into account where they are at in their journey to low waste, plant-based living.

Being vegan greatly diminishes your use of resources and your impact on the environment. It means doing your absolute best to avoid animal products or products that use animals in testing or for entertainment. By eating as whole-food plant-based as possible, it can also be the healthiest diet, reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers.

Essentially, if you want to cause the least harm possible and use the least resources, going vegan is the best thing you can do! ‘Low Impact Living’, however, is like the next level, as it takes into account your waste, too. So, if the idea of going vegan is a tad overwhelming, starting with low-waste everyday swaps could be an easier starting point.

In endeavouring to live a low impact lifestyle, I try to always reuse bags, buy in bulk and avoid plastic and one-use items to the best of my ability. I very rarely buy clothes or anything, and if I do, I buy second-hand when possible.

For me, travelling without creating waste is harder than travelling as a vegan. Especially if you’re moving around a lot! But that’s a great thing about staying in one place for longer – you can be better prepared and discover the best products to buy.

When it comes to reducing your plastic use, preparation is key. It means keeping reusable bags with you all the time, remembering to bring your reusable water bottle everywhere, and using containers for take-away food, packed lunches or bulk items such as rice.

The markets in Guatemala are actually fantastic if you want to avoid plastic bags! You can buy lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, rice and even already chopped up vegetables in bulk bins – simply bring your own bag, container or jar along with you. Aside from cutting down on plastic waste, buying in bulk at the markets here is also cheaper than the plastic-wrapped equivalents at the regular supermarkets, plus it supports the locals!

How it should be - the markets in Guatemala are fantastic for lowering your plastic use!  Xela, Guatemala

How it should be - the markets in Guatemala are fantastic for lowering your plastic use! Xela, Guatemala

Back in Australia, it’s not always the cheapest option to buy in bulk – but it is still doable! I’m looking forward to challenging myself to use far less waste now that I’m home again, so I’ll keep you all posted on how I go! While living in Xela, Guatemala, I did my best to avoid plastic as much as I could.

We even started bringing our own basket to the market, as it’s so much easier to transport the fruit and veggies home that way. There are usually spare boxes floating around too, so you can always ask to take one! I also always have my reusable bags with me where ever I go, plus a backpack.

But as awesome as all that is – there are some low-waste items that simply aren’t an option in Guatemala, that I took for granted back in Australia.

Back in Australia, I buy bamboo toothbrushes. I wouldn’t have a clue where to buy one in Guatemala, and the postal service is literally non-existent. The only option is the ridiculously expensive DHL courier service. Best avoided, especially for the sake of a toothbrush!

Back in Australia, I buy stainless steel blades for my reusable razor. But I couldn’t for the life of me find stainless steel blades that would fit my razor in Mexico or Guatemala.

But regardless of the differences between Central America and Australia, it all comes down to this: when you know better, you can do better. It’s simply important that wherever you are, you do your best!

Look at all those fresh, pre-cut and plastic-free vegetables!  Xela, Guatemala.

Look at all those fresh, pre-cut and plastic-free vegetables! Xela, Guatemala.

Even in Guatemala, low impact living is possible. So, I feel like in Australia, where there’s even more access to awesome reusable and biodegradable products, likeminded communities that you can join, and a wealth of information readily accessible – there’s not much of an excuse is there? Why not give it a try?

Wherever you live, if you want to reduce your impact on the environment, start with reusing bags, bringing your own water bottle, using a keepcup for takeaway coffees, and buying in bulk as much as possible. Some supermarkets have a bulk section, or maybe there are delivery options near you if you can’t access any bulk shops where you are. Just avoid plastic as much as you can, as every little bit helps!

Yet as I said earlier, the best thing you can do to help the environment is to go vegan! Plastic waste is horrible, and we should minimise it as much as we can, but the sheer volume of resources that are used to raise, feed, transport, slaughter and butcher animals for meat, dairy and eggs is absolutely obscene for the small amount of food this lengthy process results in (I’ll touch more on this in a later post). Not to mention the connection between animal agriculture and the horrible fires in the Amazon jungle right now (this article by Vice explains it well!).

Going vegan may seem like the most difficult step, but it has the greatest positive impact. Minimise your intake of animal products in your own time, as best you can, and you’ll be helping not only the environment and animals, but fellow human beings too – there are so many humanitarian reasons to go vegan as well!

Changing your habits may seem very overwhelming, but if you do it gradually, in your own time, it will be much easier than you’d think. The goal is simply to do your best to cause the least harm possible. It’s about intention, not perfection!

We live very privileged lives, and I am so insanely grateful that I was born in Australia and have the opportunity to travel the world. We have the access and ability to reduce our harm on the environment, on animals and on fellow human beings, while still being healthy. Low Impact Living may take getting used to, but it’s totally worth it, knowing that you’re striving to make this world better for everyone.

Absolutely love the traditional clothes commonly worn by Mayan women here in Guatemala. So beautiful, colourful and handmade with natural dyes, much better for the environment!  Salcajá, Guatemala

Absolutely love the traditional clothes commonly worn by Mayan women here in Guatemala. So beautiful, colourful and handmade with natural dyes, much better for the environment! Salcajá, Guatemala

The one downside to low impact living is that it may not be as convenient. But as you get used to it, it only gets easier. If you go vegan, the food just gets better as you learn recipes, and as more options become available.

Is convenience truly that important, in the big scheme of things? Of course, it will be more difficult for some people than others, especially for those with ties to farming. I absolutely feel for those whose livelihood depends on animal agriculture (people are animals too – we should be looking out for our fellow humans as well!). I would love to see more efforts invested into helping these industries transition. I know that it is a complicated and difficult issue, but surely there are solutions.

Because as important as it is to look at these issues from a local standpoint, we have to take into account the entire world. We have to consider the health and wellbeing of every living being on this planet, humans and animals alike. We have to reduce global warming, or there will be no living beings on this planet at all.

Isn’t the future of this world more important than keeping things how they’ve always been? Especially if the only thing stopping you is habit. Habits can be changed, and if you’re reading this, you have the opportunity to change those habits, right now.

Now you’ve taken the time to read this, what are you going to do with this information? I know it’s a lot to take in, so just to summarise, here are a few ideas for actions you can take. I hope this helps!

  • Keep reusable bags inside your everyday bag

  • Start using a reusable water bottle

  • Get yourself a keepcup for takeaway coffee if you need a lid, or simply use your favourite mug if you’re within walking distance to a café (a lot of people do this! You don’t need the fancy keepcup if you’re not walking far)

  • Choose the vegan option when you eat out

  • Bring food with you in containers when you’re out all day, to avoid buying packaged foods

  • Eat in at cafes/restaurants instead of getting take-away, if you don’t have a container with you

  • Minimise your consumption of animal products and try experimenting with plant-based products at home

  • Seek out buying in bulk where possible, using containers or repurposed jars

  • Try going completely vegan! (Check out the resources linked below, and stay tuned for more on Veganism here!)

The epic Vegan Tempeh Salad at Mandarina Cafe. So delicious!  Xela, Guatemala

The epic Vegan Tempeh Salad at Mandarina Cafe. So delicious! Xela, Guatemala

If ever you’re feeling overwhelmed about it all, just think of the bigger picture. Remind yourself that every little bit truly does help. Think of those who would love to be in your shoes, with all the options and choices we have in Australia.

Lower your impact for those that can’t.

Lower your impact so that at the end of the day, you will know that you did your best to make this world a better place for every living being.

Let me know if you have any questions or want to discuss anything at all! Comment below, contact me here or direct message me on Instagram. I’d love to hear what you guys think, and get the discussion going! It’d be awesome to hear more suggestions on actions we can take too! What do you do, or want to start doing, that helps lower your environmental footprint? The more we talk about these things the better!

Also, I highly recommend checking out The Low Impact Movement for more information! It’s a super helpful website, and a really supportive community.

Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you’re having a beautiful day!

Ebonie

If you’re interested, there are some fantastic documentaries you can watch too: Cowspiracy (on Netflix) from an environmental perspective, What the Health (also on Netflix) on the benefits of a whole-food plant-based diet, and for the ethical, animal-rights point of view, watch Dominion.