A few days ago, I was reading about the Lima Climate Change Conference that took place in Lima, Peru in December. An agreement was struck by 190 countries to abide by certain environmental regulations  in the near future. Whether you believe in the impact of climate change or global warming or are passionate about environment conservation, it’s hard not to think about how our actions today will affect future generations. At the very least, I would hope most people can agree it makes sense to conserve resources when possible, right?

So this eventually led me to re-evaluate my day to day activities to see how sustainable my lifestyle is. Here’s a quick breakdown of some major areas:

  • Recycling – We try to recycle as much as possible in our household. It is second nature now to look at an item for the recycling symbol. We also recycle old light bulbs, ink printer cartridges, batteries, etc. You have to save these items and make a trip to a store that takes them (like Home Depot or Target), but it’s not a big deal.
  • Transportation – Though I have to drive to work a couple of days a weeks (to the burbs), I work from home most days and try to take public transportation as much as possible otherwise. Great thing about Chicago is it is also very walkable.
  • Water – Though we drink tap water (after filtering with Brita) and try to wash dishes and clothes resourcefully, water is one area I can improve in. Basically my showers could be a little shorter. Who doesn’t love a hot shower during our cold winters! But ok, I should work on this one… starting with these tips.
  • Energy – I try turning things off when not in use, but I feel I can improve in this area as well. We had to buy a new furnace since our old one was well, old, and was not very efficient. Would love to get some solar panels on our roof, but not sure our condo association will go for it. Hopefully ideas like solar panels are not so far fetched in the near future with Chicago looking to make them a reality.
  • Chemicals – For household cleaning supplies and detergents, we have started buying more “natural” products that supposedly have less negative impact on the environment. To dispose of hazardous chemicals, one can take them here.
  • Diet – We try to buy more organic, though it is tough because of the cost. Eating less meat is supposed to be more sustainable, but we like eating meat too much! But we recently tried a meat CSA, so that is at least a step towards sustainability.
  • Re-usable bags – We have re-usable bags from like 4 different grocery stores. Want to ban plastic bags in Chicago? No objection here.
  • Stuff – We could buy less, though we try to keep non-essential material things to a minimum. We also try to donate as many used/old things as opposed to throwing them out. You can drop off items at places like Salvation Army or use something more efficient like our friends at Zealous Good!

After doing this self-assessment, I was feeling pretty good about myself. But then when you Google “sustainable living“, I saw how much more I could do. I can at least take some solace that I’m headed in the right direction.

How do you measure up and what can you do to live a more sustainable life? Here in Chicago, you can get ideas and inspiration from a local meetup group or find resources online at the City of Chicago site. Or you can just ask your friendly neighbor!

Have any personal tips or advice on how you are contributing to a sustainable Chicago? Please share!