As a community-based nonprofit organization, one of our key concerns is the environmental conditions in Southeastern Massachusetts. We understand how overwhelming it can be to look at the fight to save the environment as one large battlefield. Instead, let’s break it down into something manageable. After all, as Vincent Van Gogh once said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

What is Sustainable Living?

The United Nations Environment Programme defines the term “sustainable lifestyle” as one that includes behaviors and choices that are designed to minimize damage to the environment. Entire bookstore shelves (or Amazon search pages!) are dedicated to showing us how we can create sustainable routines, homes, and lifestyles in all ways imaginable. Most of us take one look at the options and are easily overwhelmed. 

We don’t need to be if we focus on the three core points that we’ve all become familiar with: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

Reduce Single-Use Plastics

The first way to create a sustainable lifestyle is to look at the products that we purchase. Many of these products are created to be disposable using single-use plastics. According to an article by, 79% of the plastics created sit in landfills as waste. From the container that is used to hold our shampoo to the plastic bag we use to carry it from the store, we weave our way through a sea of single-use plastics with every item we buy. Changing our use and consumption of these plastics is a great way to begin making a change.

Simple Change: Is there another brand available that uses recyclable cardboard for its packaging? By choosing this option you eliminate how much plastic we are leaving behind when we are finished with the item. 

Bigger Change: Spend some time researching the item that you need to purchase. Is there another item or brand that is more durable or meant to be refilled or reused rather than replaced? These versions may cost a bit more, but if it requires replacement as often it can save us money in the long run. And, again, we’ve created less waste!

Want to learn more about single-use plastics? has a wonderful resource available for free here: Fact Sheet: Single Use Plastics

Reuse When You Can

If we aren’t using single-use items and disposing of a product each time it’s been used, what do we do? We reuse! Some items are designed for long-term use or are simple to reuse by purchasing refills and replacements. With other items, however, we need to be a little more creative. We can give items a second life by repurposing them in other areas of our homes or businesses. Glass jars can hold leftovers in the fridge or dry goods in the pantry. If you are crafty with a needle and thread, an old pair of jeans can become a reusable shopping bag. Many items can be purchased second-hand through thrifting or buy/sell/trade groups online. Each time we reuse an item or purchase something second-hand, we significantly decrease the amount of waste we send to the landfill. 

Simple Change: Purchase a reusable water bottle to carry with you to school or work. According to, switching to a reusable water bottle will eliminate an average of 156 plastic bottles from making their way into our waterways annually.

Bigger Change: Leave fast fashion behind for thrifting and sustainable fashion. Not only does the fast fashion industry contribute to air pollution and, in some cases, poor employee health, it results in over 100 billion items of clothing being added to the landfill every year. Darning and repairing clothing, upcycling old pieces of clothing into new, or purchasing gently-used clothing items can eliminate a lot of waste plus it can save you money!

Learn more about fast versus sustainable fashion here: Fashion for the Earth

Recycle Responsibly

Recycling is an important part of managing the waste that our communities produce. Unfortunately, while we are told to recycle, we aren’t always told how to correctly recycle. States across the country utilize different systems for recycling, so there isn’t just one standard to follow. Take the time to understand how your local community handles recycling including what items are included and how those materials should be prepped for the recycling process.

The general recycling rules for communities in the Commonwealth are:

  1. Metal: Food and beverage cans can be recycled. Empty and rinse these before placing them in your recycling bin. Make sure there isn’t food or liquid left behind.
  2. Plastic: Bottles and containers can be recycled. Rinse these items and replace the cap before placing them in your recycling bin. Again, clean items only!
  3. Glass: Bottles and jars can be recycled. Empty and rinse these items before including them in the bin. Lids can be placed loose in the bin.
  4. Paper and Cardboard: Mixed paper, magazines, newspapers, and cardboard boxes can be recycled. Empty and flatten cardboard boxes. 
  5. Use the Recyclopedia on to search for specific instructions for anything not listed here.

Bonus Tip: Get Involved!

Is protecting your local community from environmental threats important to you? Join us in educating the community through canvassing, attending an Activist Meeting, or participating in an environmental justice campaign with Sabrina Davis, the Coalition for Social Justice Education Fund’s Environmental Justice Coordinator. 

Join us on Tuesday, April 30, 20204, for our April Activist Meeting! This month’s topic is Environmental Justice. Hear about environmental concerns in our communities and how you can create change. Speakers include Sabrina Davis of CSJ Ed Fund, Alexis Wall from Mass Public Health Association, and Cindy Luppi of Clean Air Taunton. This meeting will be presented live on Zoom from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM. To attend, RSVP online using this form.

Whether it’s educating yourself or educating others, each step we take toward a more sustainable lifestyle contributes to a big change in our communities. 

If you’d like to volunteer with CSJ Ed Fund, please fill out this form
Looking for events to attend? Check out our Events Calendar.

Photo by Grant Ritchie on Unsplash