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Practical Advice In Our Quest for a Sustainable Life


April has been all about motivation for us! We just watched 7 Yards and are still feeling all the tingles of possibilities (schedule this into your programing if you need a dose of inspiration). I don’t think we have the right words yet to describe fully what we have been living through together. One silver lining is that this past year has given us time to pause, assess, reflect, and begin to take action in our lives in new ways.

What is the first thing you do when you set a goal or want to make a change? Well for us, straight away we seek advice and console from trusted friends and experts. We sat down with small business owner, Jen Milnes, a former Global Fashion Director of Store Inventory and Strategy, now turned Executive Leadership Coach and expert in how to live more sustainably. We asked her to shower us with her wisdom, read on for her practical tips and even product picks to help you make progress today and each day that follows. If you need extra support, bounce over to our Instagram account and tell us what BIG goal you have set! We will respond with an inspirational message to cheer you on!

By: Jen Milnes

Jen Milnes is a champion of change helping to educate and coach people through changes in their lives with the focus on People and Planet. 

Happy Earth Month! This is a great time of year to reflect on the fun times you’ve had in nature, especially this year in a pandemic. Many of us have taken walks in nature or spent more time outside than usual to stay sane and have something to do given our limited options. As we reflect on the joyous moments outside, it leads us to the next reflection of how can we do more to take care of our Earth?

As you think about trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, why do you want to do it? What is your motivation? For me, my young kids are the motivation to leave this Earth a better place. I love our outdoor adventures as we hike up to the top of a mountain or swim in a clean lake. If I want my kids (and future generations) to be able to enjoy Earth as we know it today, we need to take action. For others, the motivation might be clean drinking water or ensuring an environment where animals can thrive. Whatever your personal reason is, you want to feel it so deeply that it supports your desire to change.

Because next comes the hard part – changing our behaviors. Humans are creatures of habit – we get used to cleaning our house in a certain way with paper towels galore and cleaners in plastic bottles. Or we expect the store to give us anything we buy in a bag provided by them since that’s what’s always been done. But as we think about sustainability, what’s always been done can’t keep happening. Our Earth is warming at a rate faster than we want which will impact our environment and our health. So think about one thing you can do this month that is better for the environment – just one. Here are some common starter options:

  • Bring reusable bags to the grocery store to avoid using plastic bags. (“12 million barrels of oil are used to manufacture the plastic bags consumed in the United States each year,” according to Waste Management Northwest.)
  • Refill a reusable water bottle with water from your tap rather than buying a single-use plastic bottle. (“Last year, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38.” And “America’s demand for bottled H2O uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year. That’s not including the oil used for transportation,” according to Habits of Waste.)
  • Create a meal plan for the week before grocery shopping to avoid buying unnecessary food. (“Up to 40% of food in the US in never eaten.” NRDC
  • Shop locally instead of purchasing items from large corporations online. (Not only is it good for the environment, but it’s good for the people and economy where we live. Learn more here.)

    Finally, think about what support structures you can put into place to support the change that you want. A support structure is something that helps make the habit change easier. For example, if choosing to bring reusable bags to the grocery store, perhaps you place the bags on the front door handle or in your car so it’s easier to remember. Or if starting meal planning, you use a template that is helpful for you both planning ahead and then while you’re shopping at the store so you stick to the list. Or if using reusable napkins instead of paper towels or paper napkins, place a bucket nearby in the kitchen for dirty napkins.

    It can feel overwhelming at first to think about changing your habits to live more sustainably. It may feel like you don’t have time on top of everything else – working, shuttling kids to activities, and trying to stay healthy (hello pandemic!). But continuing to live our lives at the current rate of consumption and negative impact on the environment is pushing our Earth to a tipping point where we won’t be able to return. I invite you to choose one change to make in the next month – just one. Commit to it and do your best! If all 5 million adults in NJ made one change this month, we would create a ripple effect of improvement on our environment.

    Check out my top five small business picks on Beyond Main and why I think they are great for you too!

    The Papery

    Loose Leaf Tea - Raspberry Truffle - swap tea bags with plastic packaging for package free loose leaf tea - reuse the container!

    S’well Insulated Bottle - Angel Food - swap single use plastic bottles of water for reusable water bottle to refill at home or on the go.

    The Toy Professor

    Magna-Tiles - reusable and last forever to pass along to another family when done! Toys available last minute on a Saturday morning before the birthday party - what a parent-saver!

    Silver Linings 
    Julie Vos Obsidian Black Crescent Bangle - a bracelet can act as a support structure to remind you of a change you want to make - maybe it's a heart to remind you to be kinder to yourself or it's a color that inspires you for peace. 

    The Co-Co 
    Gift The Co-Co - building community with others and learning to grow in your career and life can have such an impact