In our world today, we’ve lost many life skills, survival hacks, and sustainable living skills. This is primarily due to technological advancements and increased dependence on lifestyles made easy by time-saving products and machines. In this age of technological dependency, many have lost some measure of basic survival skills to live without a dependence on the goods and services to which we have become accustomed. In many cases, they are barely taught at home.
Also, to live a sustainable lifestyle, there are various practical skills that we need to learn. These skills range from those we can teach ourselves to those we can learn from experts. Also, they differ in how much time you spend learning them. Coincidentally, many skills we need to live sustainably also merge with life skills.
In this article, we explore some basic skills to support your journey to living sustainably.
Transitioning from fast consumption living to environmentally conscious living has become crucial. With growing concerns about environmental issues, people are making decisions to incorporate sustainable practices into their daily activities.
Living sustainably is a lifestyle that aims to reduce individual and collective environmental impact. We achieve this by making positive decisions that curb climate change and reduce environmental damage.
This lifestyle attempts to minimize individual and societal use of the earth's raw materials. It also takes a closer look at how we use personal belongings to reduce the environmental damage that lifestyle choices can cause. In essence, it’s also earth harmony living or net-zero living.
Sustainability means making choices today that will positively impact the future—choices like reducing the demands for raw materials and replacing the resources we use to the best ability.
There are three main principles of sustainability: environmental preservation, economic viability, and social equity. By examining these principles, we can better understand how we need skills to address them.
Related: Our compilation of some of the most important sustainability facts helps point to the increasing need to move toward and increase engagement in sustainable living principles. Read our full article What is Sustainable Living for more information.
This is when we channel efforts into minimizing the environmental impact caused by processes, systems, human activities, and products. It deals with managing energy consumption, prioritizing zero-waste production, and switching to renewable energy in homes and offices, amongst other things.
This principle deals with frugality. This principle encourages individuals to use socio-economic resources to their advantage. It concentrates on making decisions and upholding behavior that focuses on living within our means.
This refers to societal structures and systems that actively support present and future generations to live healthily and comfortably. We have to monitor present-day activities so as not to jeopardize the future.
There are numerous ways to live sustainably. Some of these ways include reducing resource use, composting, reducing over-consumption, relying on clean energy sources, practicing minimalism, and purchasing local and organic products. Also, this lifestyle varies from individual to individual.
Composting is the process of returning anything that comes from nature to the earth and allowing it to biodegrade in the soil. This, in turn, functions as fertilizer. We can compost food waste like yam peels, vegetables, and other leftovers. We can turn them into fertilizer when they break down naturally instead of sending them to landfills.
Purchasing only necessary items is a big step to living sustainably. This entails questioning what you need and why you need it. It also challenges you to note available options before deciding to go out to buy new items. This reduces trash within homes and reduces production waste in the long run.
One of the most sustainable practices you can adopt is to use what you already own. After this, shopping secondhand is also a good practice. Look out for things you need at online thrift stores, local websites, zero waste stores, and sites like eBay, Etsy, and Poshmark. Also, pay attention to companies that make zero waste and eco-friendly products from natural and recycled materials while following sustainable business practices.
Minimalism is making the utmost use of available materials; that is, maximizing resources to the fullest. A minimalist lifestyle supports freeing yourself from clutter and only owning things that serve a purpose. This also helps facilities produce items that support a sustainable planet. Generally, it helps us focus on what matters and what we need instead of mindless buying.
If there is less waste, there is less to recycle. It’s important to apply the 4rs, reuse items, or repurpose them for different uses. Also, this helps us reduce the need to buy new items since we can convert old items into useful products.
Self-reliance skills are closely related to sustainable living skills. This supports the optimal use of local resources while championing sustainable development. A self-reliant person is an innovator, coordinator, organizer, and decision-maker. People with such skills can provide for their needs independently for an extended period. People often interchangeably use sustainable and self-sufficient skills; however, they are not entirely the same.
Self-sufficiency skills help in meeting needs without reliance on the outside world. As a result, there’s a heavy focus on independence and being able to survive even in the harshest conditions. These skills enhance living one’s life without reliance on the outside world. Although you’ll find that many of these skills also translate to what we need to live sustainably, the intention is different.
Sustainable living skills pay attention to protecting the earth’s materials, living within our means, and reducing our environmental impact. Skills for a sustainable lifestyle contribute to the economic, environmental, and social lifestyle of humans.
People can learn various types of skills to live a sustainable lifestyle. These range from basic skills to some that require deep learning, so you can create time to understand them. Some of these skills are:
Everyone needs to eat - from kids to adults. There’s no denying that consuming a healthy meal and reducing processed food intake are important to our health. When you consistently eat one healthy meal after another, you fuel your body. Homemade food reduces costs. It also gives the certainty of required nutrition for the family and individual. Learning how to cook also helps in waste management. When people reduce ordering food, fewer takeaway packages end up in landfills.
Cooking is a necessary skill. This skill is not just restricted to preparing meals alone; it also entails knowing the proportion of raw foods to prepare to avoid wastage that contributes to our global food waste problem. Additionally, this skill informs us on using kitchen equipment and how to improvise when certain utensils aren’t available. This also encompasses learning to bake goods like fresh bread and pastries. This way, you can provide yourself and your family with nourishing dishes.
Cooking and growing food go hand in hand. When you grow your food, you can then prepare it into meals you desire. Many people take up this skill due to the fear of food scarcity and insecurity if there's a break in the food supply chain. However, this is something anyone can begin to learn at any time.
When you grow food, you no longer have to rely heavily on supermarkets and grocery stores. Also, it helps you save costs, especially when there are hikes in prices. Plus, you get to grow whatever fruit, vegetables, and food of your choice. By growing your own food, you can curb the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in the growth process.
Preserving food teaches us to rely less on other synthetic preservatives that commercial food producers use. Preserving food relates directly to growing food because you’ll need to preserve the crops you grow. In this light, food preservation is a necessary skill that helps us prevent food waste in society.
We can preserve food in various ways. These include pickling, dehydrating, fermenting, salting, drying, canning, freezing, and bottling. We can also preserve meals by making jam, relishes, chutney, and so on.
Developing gardening skills and techniques makes growing food, flowers, and edible plants so much easier. Gardening is a great skill that shows how caring for something and watching it grow from seeds to plants is rewarding. It not only deals with sowing seeds but also having knowledge about soil composition, pest control, tackling plant problems, harvesting procedures, and storing seeds.
Generally, this skill allows you to access edible plants, fruit, and vegetables easily. These days, it’s easy to get seed packets with instructions on usage. You can even turn garden time into a fun time by inviting friends and family members. Even if you don’t have ample garden space, you can get started with a container garden.
This is the act of making fertilizers from food scraps. Composting not only enriches the soil but also helps to fight against global warming. This is because the decaying organic matter in landfills releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, usually in the form of methane.
Making good compost requires a moderate mix of organic materials. You should have “greens” like vegetable peelings, weeds, lawn clippings, and “browns” like cardboards, newspapers, brown leaves, crushed eggshells, etc. Good compost helps plants grow and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers.
Sewing is one of the basic skills that we’ve lost over time. Most women, men, and even children in the past knew how to sew, knit, crochet, and mend garments. Many people teach themselves how to sew; however, you can also learn from an expert.
However, nowadays, many people tend to throw out torn pieces. It’s important to learn these skills because they save us money, enhance creativity and reduce homemade trash. Even if you don’t have a sewing machine, you can learn how to hand-sew and mend clothes. It can also serve as a livelihood for those who have a deep interest.
This is one of the practical and sustainable life skills we need. Carpentry enables the repair and restoration of older furniture and even construction of new ones. It reduces over-consumption and extends the lifespan of products.
Even from a young age, you can teach kids the importance of fixing things. For instance, some homes will buy building materials to make repairing a fun skill. This instills the knowledge of creating and repairing in children.
Water is life, and everyone needs clean, drinking water for survival. This makes the skill of collecting water very important. Climate change brings more extended periods of drought, water shortage, and water scarcity in many areas. As a result, collecting water is the safest option for survival.
Setting up barrels to retain water for households, gardens, and pets is a great way to reduce water bills.
Upcycling clothing and other items is the process of converting old materials into new products of higher quality and greater functionality. Upcycling is creative reuse. It’s transforming recycled products into something with new higher value. It keeps reusable materials out of landfills and allows you to create unique pieces.
“Do it yourself” is the method of constructing, modifying, or repairing things yourself. This way, you don’t need the help of a professional or certified expert.
DIY projects often involve upcycling and recycling. It gives room for a shift to a sustainable lifestyle. For instance, people can turn old shirts into kitchen napkins. By doing this, the home creates less trash. Making personal care products like dish soap bars from organic ingredients like essential oils also helps the environment by reducing plastic bottles.
Sustainable and self-sufficiency skills are numerous. Many basic skills vary per individual. Other sustainable skills are foraging, first aid, animal husbandry, and housekeeping. Apart from helping you build new skills, you can also talk to people around you about your interests as a way to find community.
When adopting skills for living sustainably, it goes on to affect many aspects of your life. Many of these are also life skills that everyone can learn. It goes beyond redefining an individual’s lifestyle to reduce living costs and protect the environment. Let’s explore some of the benefits of these skills:
Sustainable life skills help you reduce your cost of living. This also contributes to reducing the earth's natural resource consumption. As a result, it helps save costs when most things that need to be paid for can be sorted independently. Many families who prioritize these life skills end up protecting not only nature but their money in the long run.
Consumption of quality and non-toxic food products promotes good health. Living a sustainable lifestyle helps in attaining physical fitness and improved living standards. We can achieve these health benefits due to little or no consumption of foods with chemicals. For instance, when we grow our food, we can carefully watch what we put into our bodies.
Utilizing different types of solar energy, using non-toxic materials, and effectively maximizing the planet’s raw materials will ensure the environment is stable. This then supports the current generation and future generations’ needs.
Sustainable and self-sufficiency skills help us conserve water waste at home, impacting utility bills and water wastage. When we collect water, make compost and upcycle items, we save energy and maximize water usage.
By adopting certain skills, we extend product life spans. We do this by converting items to new ones and repairing or mending them. For instance, upcycling helps convert waste products to new materials.
It’s a great idea to learn basic sustainable living skills. They empower you to contribute to the sustainable development of society. At the same time, you get to save money and practice self-sufficiency.
You can take advantage of the internet by becoming a self-taught individual to learn these. You’ll often find YouTube videos and course creators that teach various things from first aid to sewing techniques. You can also ask friends and family members to guide you. Alternatively, you can learn these basic practices from community classes. Collectively, we can regain the lost skills in our societies to support caring for our planet.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.