Can You Live in the City and Be Sustainable?

From the high desert farming communities in the Drakensberg Mountains of Southern Africa to the tropical islands in Thailand people are noticing climate change. Awareness is building momentum and the message is reverberating that sustainability is essential for our health and the health of our planet.

Just over 55 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and that figure is expected to grow as more people flock to the cities. According to global researchers contributing to Project Drawdown, we already have the information needed to reverse climate change within the next 30 years. Here are some easy ideas for you to become more sustainable in your city life.


  1. Modify Your Diet

The quickest way to reduce meat and dairy from your diet is to eat more vegetables, rice, and beans. Perhaps you are even ready to adopt a fully vegan diet. Go for it! If it’s not for you, you can still reduce impact by replacing one or two meals a week (at first) with a vegan or vegetarian choice, such as having a portobello mushroom and polenta instead of a hamburger. Or, don’t make meat the main focus of your meal, such as in a stir-fry. For the greatest impact, buy locally grown fruits and vegetables. To get more ideas, host a monthly, rotating vegan potluck. A vegan diet is a smart choice for the environment, as it will save water, slow down clear cutting, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and use farmland more efficiently.

  1. Buy Less, Use Less, Impact Less

The wealthiest 20 percent of the world consumes 76.6 percent of the world’s goods and resources, according to the World Bank Development Indicators. Reducing your consumption will impact the supply chain, and slow manufacturing at the source, thus reducing waste that will eventually end up in a landfill. Reduce the amount of plastic that you use by carrying your own reusable shopping bags and water bottles, for example. Do your best to buy in bulk, and choose products that have less packaging.

If you are a homeowner, consider using smart glass and smart thermostats, LED light bulbs, low-flow toilets, showers, washing machines, and high-quality insulation. Collect rainwater in specialized bins. Save unused cold water from your shower to water houseplants, or even reroute the pipes to water trees. If you have outdoor space, start, or refurbish an existing garden with drought-resistant plants, instead of having thirsty lawns. Build a compost pile or use a worm box. Consider acquiring a hive or two to start your own small bee farm.

  1. Recycle

Aim for zero waste, whereby all your household waste get reused or recycled. Always make use of your curbside and citywide recycling bins. Plastic bottles and scraps can be turned into ecobricks for creative building projects. Repurpose your junk mail for making collages, or get off of bulk mail lists altogether. The top suggestion on Drawdown’s list of top 100 solutions to reverse climate change is to ensure that you properly recycle your old refrigerator, to convert the HFCs into something less toxic to the atmosphere. Work with international groups to support proper recycling and switch to natural refrigerants instead.


As consumers, we wield more power than we often think. If we band together and say no to unsustainable practices, we will start to see a difference at the source. Put your passion to use by attending environmental events and joining up with other like-minded people to share ideas and raise consciousness. Host an EcoChallenge at work, school, or in your community.

You don’t have to make all of these changes overnight. Choose one or two appealing ideas and see where it leads you. Taking small steps to becoming more sustainable can be simple and habit-forming. Other people will soon start to take notice when you cycle to work, drink through your own reusable straw, or grow a thriving garden. Think of the changes that can be made in the world if done as a collective movement. Why not start today?