My Top 5 Eco-friendly Living Challenges

My Top 5 Eco-friendly Living Challenges

Green leaves on a tree on this post about eco friendly living challenges


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Challenges to living your most eco-friendly life

Living with eco-friendly habits can throw you some challenges. There are usually a few areas that prove harder than others, often because of constraints around money, time, and all the commitments we have in our lives.

There are lots of habits that you can change easily, like switching to more environmentally alternatives to your everyday products (this link covers how we reduced our household rubbish through a series of small changes).

However, if you are like me, you have found a few stubborn areas that are hard to change. This post covers my top 5 challenges, and some possible solutions to them.

My Top 5 challenges, and potential solutions

Challenge 1 – Buying food in plastic

I grow some food at home, and make some meals from scratch using ingredients that are packaged in compostable or recyclable packaging. But, I do still buy processed food items that are packed in plastic.

This is mainly down to convenience, but also because we want to buy certain foods that are hard to make at home. These foods are often processed foods that we don’t really need and are not particularly healthy, such as chippies and biscuits. However, they can also be some staple foods such as milk, rice, bread, and prepacked vegetables.

Potential Solutions to challenges

Solutions to this problems include:

  • Stop buying these items – this can be hard, as many basic staple foods are packed in plastic. But it would be better for my and my family’s health if I stop buying some of the processed food.
  • Buy at bulk stores, where you can shop without plastic packaging. This takes some time and organisation before hand, but could be done less frequently than your regular weekly shopping.
  • Recycle as much plastic as possible in your area – I can recycle plastics 1, 2 and 5 in my council collection, plus I save soft plastics to recycle at a supermarket. It’s not the long term answer, but in the short term, it is an option.

Challenge 2 – Buying things I don’t really need

I sometimes imagine that I will become a Minimalist one day, and completely de-clutter my house (and of course, passing on items in a responsible way, not just throwing them out). A catalyst for me to jump into a lower waste lifestyle was listening to the podcast The Minimalists. The ideas they discuss of living well with less, and rejecting the consumerist ideal of continual purchasing really hit home with me.

But the reality is, I am a bit of a collector. I love books, clothes, houseplants, crockery and pretty things. So I still buy things that I probably don’t need, and I have to care for them, and maybe eventually dispose of them.

My children also have a certain amount of ‘stuff’, particularly as they grow bigger and move through stages – school uniforms, shoes, toys, books.

Potential Solutions to challenges

  • Plan and research purchases, particularly the big ticket items. What do I really need and will the options I am considering do the job well, for as long as possible?
  • Buy second hand – charity shops have some excellent quality items, usually at lower prices than buying new. This is especially the case with books in New Zealand, which I find are very expensive to buy new.
  • Borrow instead of buy – libraries, toy libraries, hiring items, borrowing from friends and family (as long as you return them in a reasonable time frame!).

Challenge 3 – Driving a petrol car

This is a big one for me. We live rurally, about 20kms from the nearest towns and city, with extremely limited public transport. There are actually no bus services available to people living in my village (although there is a bus service that stops about 5km down the road). So public transport it not a realistic option.

We have two petrol engine cars, as my husband drives to work each day and I need a car to get anywhere further than a few kms. I can cycle or walk in my immediate area, but I am not confident to cycle on my local country roads. There is little room for cyclists on the side of the road, and the traffic is often large vehicles like trucks, tractors and milk tankers. I am just not willing to take on the risks of country road cycling.

Potential Solutions to challenges

  • Buy a Electric / Hybrid vehicle to reduce fossil fuel use. This is in our long term saving plan, but not something I can afford right now. I am running my current car to the end of it’s life, so that I make the most of the resources that went into it. My car is almost 20 years old, but is generally a solid reliable car. When I need to replace it, I will look into getting a second hand EV or Hybrid.
  • Car pool – sometimes I take trips into town or to events with other people. This reduces the amount of petrol used, by only taking one car instead of two or more.
  • Plan my driving trips, so that I combine a few errands on the days I do drive into town. This means I don’t drive every day, but maybe 3 or 4 times a week.

Challenge 4 – Taking flights (not very often though)

I don’t fly all that often. And I am not sure when I will ever fly overseas again, with this current Covid-19 pandemic situation.

The last time I went overseas was two years ago, and that was the first time in 15 years! So overseas flights are not really a regular occurrence for me.

However I do fly within New Zealand occasionally, as I have family members living at the other end of the country to me, in Wellington. My family members are getting older, and may not be able to travel to visit me so regularly. So it is likely that I will be visiting them in Wellington more often.

Potential Solutions to challenges

I could drive to visit family, but it takes many hours, and it is quite a hard drive. At the moment, my solution to this challenge is to pay for carbon emission offsets. On the most recent flight I booked, the offset cost be an extra $5.

Challenge 5 – Concern that people think I’m judging them

This can be a huge barrier for people who are going a bit ‘greener’. It’s the idea that people might think I am criticising or judging them for their choices, in relation to the choices that I make.

My lifestyle might be different from other peoples’ lifestyles. But, I don’t want people to feel that I think I am ‘superior’ or on some moral high horse about my choices.

I might be seen as being a bit weird for some of my habits, but I’m ok with that; I just don’t want people to eye roll if they think I am lecturing them.

Potential Solutions

My solution to this challenge is to really believe that my choices are the best for me to make. And that I can make a difference to our environment through my choices.

I aim to stay positive, aim to be encouraging, and aim to remember that everyone has different circumstances. Everyone is on a different path, and being more eco-friendly might not be a high priority for people.

I love being able to discuss ideas of sustainability and lower waste living with people. However, I try hard not to sound judgmental, patronizing or like I am morally superior to people doing things differently to me. I don’t like being lectured about what I should or shouldn’t do; who ever does?

Having said that, I think it is ok to share ideas with people if they want to make some changes to their habits.

This post covers some ways to reduce the amount of waste you create. And I feel that ‘progress over perfection’ is the way to stop yourself becoming overwhelmed, if you are on a path to reducing waste.

What are your biggest challenges? Please comment below!


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