Hey there, if you’re trying to figure out the challenges of a sustainable lifestyle (and why it seems TOUGH sometimes), you’re in the right place.
I did a teeny tiny survey on this topic a few days ago and here’s what I found:
Let’s start with the good news.
76% people believe their lifestyle changes towards sustainability can create positive change. Yet there are 21% who don’t really know if their personal actions are making any difference. There is also a tiny minority of 3% who believe their lifestyle changes cannot make the world a better place.
A lot of times I get asked what a sustainable lifestyle is. Is it simply recycling your waste or growing your own food? Or is there more to it?
It seems there is no one straight answer to this question. I feel that a sustainable lifestyle can’t be defined by the book because…
…it has so many labels like green & eco-friendly living, conscious living, eco-conscious, minimalism, conscious consumption, zero waste etc.
The bottom line is that a sustainable lifestyle can mean different things to different people.
But you know what, there is at least some consensus about what it can mean (that’s what the figures of this survey reveal, so keep reading).
The Meaning of a Sustainable Lifestyle
In the survey, I asked people their definition of a sustainable lifestyle.
51% people say it includes eating organic, recycling, being zero waste, going plastic-free, living with less or minimalism, taking public transport or riding a bike, living off the grid, wearing sustainable fashion buying less clothes and using natural beauty & body products.
15% people define such a lifestyle as living with less or practicing minimalism. To 9% people, it means recycling. 8% think going zero waste is the answer.
Here’s a breakdown of 27% responses which has been shown as ‘Others’ in the infographic:
- 3% – using natural beauty & body products
- 1% – eating organic
- 1% – living off the grid
- 1% – taking public transport/riding a bike
- 1% – all the above except taking public transport or riding a bike
- 1% – most of the above
- 1% – combinations of the above and depends on where you’re located
- 1% – using products that are chemical free and non polluting, eating organic, sustainable clothing as well as fashion habits (such as wearing the same thing for years to come), recycling, zero waste as much as possible, public transport.
- 1% – minimalism, zero waste, using all sustainable sources
- 1% – conserving energy (electricity, natural gas, gasoline, airplane fuel), avoiding the worst toxics, composting (recycling plastics), buying used when possible, etc
- 1% said they’d like to choose more than one option
Reasons For Living Sustainably
Now, the next logical question was – why do you want to live sustainably? What does it do for you personally? What motivates you to do this at an individual level?
Here’s what people had to say:
40% say they’re interested in green living because they feel it’s their responsibility, they want do it for the planet, improve the quality of lives, be healthy and save money.
30% people say they feel like it’s their responsibility. 14% say they do it for Mama Earth. Only 5% do it because they want to improve the quality of their life. Similarly, 4% are motivated to follow this lifestyle for good health. Only 3% do it because it saves them money.
The rest of the respondents said they’re interested in an eco-friendly lifestyle because:
- 1% – it makes sense
- 1% – all the above reasons but at this point it doesn’t save them any money
- 1% – most of the above
- 1% said they wanted to choose more than one option from the multiple choices
The Challenges of A Sustainable Lifestyle
Now here’s the juicy part of this survey. This is why I started.
One of my biggest struggles is dealing with all the plastic packaging I end up with every month. Even though I carry my own bag when I’m shopping, the dry food and liquids that I buy come pre-packaged in plastic. But I’m not facing this issue alone…
It turns out that 26% of the people have a similar challenge – they would like to get rid of all the plastic they consume but they just can’t because there are no alternatives available.
But if if there’s a will, there’s always a way. So, either you get all your produce bags and shop in bulk (which may or may not be organic), or you simply stop using certain things. And that brings me to the second biggest issue people have…
12% people say a sustainable lifestyle requires too much effort and that’s their biggest hurdle in living it. Fair enough, you don’t want to spend our lives reading labels.
Another two big challenges for people are that living green is too expensive (11%) and the lack of like-minded community around them (11%).
Cost is a very valid concern, even for those who do care. Whether we like it or not, let’s admit it that everything from organic food to mason jars costs more than regular food and plastic boxes available in the market.
Although there is a growing sustainability movement worldwide and there are green initiatives in every major city in India, they all seem scattered. In India, there is no movement as such geared towards sustainable living.
In Delhi, you can meet a small group of people at events and farmers’ markets here and there who try to consume consciously, but I personally feel like a lot can be done to bring this community together.
And this brings us to the next challenge that 7% of the people face with eco-conscious lifestyles – they feel like they’re doing it all alone. To be honest, I felt like this initially – like the odd girl who continuously refuses plastic bags, makes her own hair wash and takes her own box to get a slice of cake from a bakery.
But now I know there are more and more people living like this. I know a handful of them in my city and I’ve connected with quite a few on social media.
27% people who took the survey chose or mentioned a range of problems which I have clubbed under the category ‘Others’. Here they are:
If we think about it, one can’t change their lifestyle overnight and if one starts, they need alternatives. It’s not surprising that 6% say they don’t know where exactly to begin. 4% people don’t have green, zero waste or organic store near them to find alternate goods, which is another problem.
Another 4% feel that they don’t have enough information to make lifestyle changes. Although we live surrounded by information 24 x 7 (and yes, there are a lot of blogs, YouTube channels and companies out there promoting sustainability), you can still miss out on that kind of info.
If you’re all excited about living consciously, that doesn’t necessarily mean your family is. 2% people say their family doesn’t support them and another 2% say they lose motivation after some time.
Then there are the very positive 4% who feel they have no challenges. The rest say:
- 2% – can’t find other options
- 1% – their neighbours are not concerned
- 1% – face the problem that certain specific items are not available in bulk or package free or in paper/glass containers.
- 1% – find it problematic that sustainable lifestyles do not make sense to the other people
- 1% – feels there are several challenges, but that doesn’t deter them from taking a step forward
- 1% – thinks it’s time consuming sometimes
- 1% – the Earth’s systems are so complex that they don’t know where to start and are always worried about unintended consequences
- 1% – convenience is their biggest challenge
- 1% – have some of the challenges mentioned above.
There was one respondent who wanted to choose two or three options and felt like he/she was being forced to choose all or one, and not each of the right choices.
HOW CAN YOU USE THIS DATA?
First of all, know that you’re not alone in finding this lifestyle tough sometimes, there are others like you. The idea behind this survey is that anyone can use this data to start a conversation, help their readers, viewers, community and customers.
- Use this survey as a starting point. Speak to your friends, family or green community about the biggest challenges they’re facing with a sustainable lifestyle
- Organise a meetup, brainstorm, share your ideas and come with solutions
- Start your own initiative to solve the challenges of a sustainable lifestyle – it could be a campaign, creative project, or even a non-profit or a social business.
WHY I CREATED THIS SURVEY?
It was chatting with Anais Bock, my former coach at The Do School, about helping people who want to live sustainably with the work I do at The Conscious Desi – through the blogs I write and events I organise.
‘Go out and ask people directly what’s their biggest and most pressing problem with living a sustainable lifestyle’, that’s what Anais suggested to me.
I didn’t take to the streets and start asking questions. Instead, I created this survey spontaneously to find out if I am the only one who finds this lifestyle overwhelming and challenging sometimes.
I wanted to collect this data and make it accessible to anyone so that they can use it professionally or personally (like I mentioned earlier). Who knows, this might motivate someone to do a similar survey which covers a large group of people and is better designed.
Usually huge organisations do a survey (and their data carries weight & authority) but I just wanted to see if I as an individual can do a small survey to find out something I’m curious about. Now I think it’s a great tool to seek the opinion of your community.
DETAILS OF THE SURVEY
There were only 4 questions in the survey. Each question had multiple options and a respondent could only choose one option. A total of 100 responses were submitted. No emails or names were taken because I felt that might discourage some people from taking the survey.
The link to the survey was shared on 6 Facebook pages – The Conscious Desi, Green Drinks, Indian Journey to Zero Waste, Sustainable Menstruation India, The Sustainable, Green Business Networking – India & Delhi – NCR Waste Matters.
THE PROBLEMS WITH THIS SURVEY
I know this is not the perfect survey (and I believe in DOing rather than sitting in a bubble and perfecting something). I am not trained in doing surveys. This is my humble attempt to initiate a conversation about the challenges of a sustainable lifestyle and how we can come together to make it fun and easy.
A BIG THANKS to all those who took this survey and opened up their hearts about the challenges of a sustainable lifestyle. And a special shout out to I Linh Nguyen who designed the lovely infographics.
I’d love your feedback about the survey. Do you find sustainable living tricky at times? If you’re facing some of the challenges of a sustainable lifestyle, please share this post with your community. And don’t forget leave a comment below!
Psst…I’m open to collaborations. Let’s talk about how we can team up to solve these problems.