What Is Sustainable Living and How Can I Start?

What Is Sustainable Living And How Can I Start? banner

Everyone’s  sustainable living journey looks different. As a sustainability-focused Indie Publisher, Mango strives to not only reduce our carbon footprint, but also amplify the leading voices in environmental discussions.

If you want to learn how to live a sustainable life or find books that celebrate the magic of our planet, then you’re in the right place. Whether you want to start in your closet or in your kitchen, starting small is more important than not starting at all.

From cooking more plant-based meals (Making Vegan Meat) to creating your own natural and sustainable products (Natural Remedies for Your Home & Health), we’ve compiled a clean and green sustainable living booklist that answers all your questions–What is living sustainably? What does sustainability mean to you? How can I start to live a sustainable life?

Making Vegan Meat by Mark Thompson cover
Natural Remedies for Your Home & Health by Laura Ascher cover

What Is Living Sustainably?

In order to learn how to live a sustainable life, we have to not only understand what living sustainably is, but also what it’s not. We’ve all heard the term “sustainable” but what exactly is it? Merriam Webster defines sustainable as: 

a: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged
b: of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods

But it doesn’t end there. There are a few other terms we have to look out for when understanding what living sustainably is not, specifically, “natural and “greenwashing.” 

Within the sustainable living movement, we often hear the word “natural” being thrown around—although natural does not always mean sustainable. Gittemarie Johnson, author of Sustainable Badass (available June 28th), gives us more insight on why we should be weary of the word “natural”: 

Sustainable Badass by Gitte Marie Johansen cover

It does not cost anything to brand a product as sustainable, green, eco-friendly, or natural, and the company does not have to disclose any information about their production to use these buzzwords… So look for third-party regulations and certifications that can document how true their claims are: look to Fairtrade, GOTS, and Who Made Your Clothes, among others, for guidelines.

As we continue to ask “what is living sustainably?,” the next term we come across is “greenwashing.” In Sustainable Badass, Gittemarie elaborates on this new trend:

Some products are green, and some products are more sustainable than others, but it can be difficult to spot them. One reason for this is that it’s free for a company to market their products as “biodegradable,” “green,” “eco friendly,” or “compostable.”…These products don’t have to go through tests or controls to ensure that they live up to their marketing, and therefore, these descriptions are often used in abundance for commercial purposes. When a product is promoted or presented as more sustainable than it actually is, it is called greenwashing.

To give you an even more in-depth example, check out the 5 Types Of Greenwashing 

Now that we know what to look out for, let’s learn what sustainability means to our authors. 

What Does Sustainability Mean To You?

Now that we’ve defined what sustainable living is and is not, we’re almost ready make lifestyle changes that last. But first, we have to ask why we want to live a sustainable life before we ask ourselves how to live a sustainable life. 

For some, sustainability means reducing their carbon footprint. For others, it’s creating a healthier environment. Inside In Defense of Plants, Matt Candeias inspires us with a plant’s fight for survival: 

In Defense of Plants by Matt Candeias cover

“Plants are the foundation of functioning ecosystems. Plants open our otherwise finite planet by taking energy from our nearest star and using it to make food. If photosynthesis never evolved, there is no telling how drastically different life would be, if it could even be at all. Plants supply food to other forms of life, which go on to provide food to other forms of life, and so on and so on… Once you get past all the hokey folklore and mysticism surrounding them, you will find that plants are endlessly fascinating in how they make a living and interact with the world. Plants are fighting for survival just like the rest of life on Earth, and their sessile nature has forced them to evolve unique and bewildering ways of getting by long enough to reproduce. ”

You don’t need a PhD to answer the question, “What does sustainability mean to you?” (Although it certainly helps, Matt!). In fact, you can introduce kids to the beautiful world around them with MinuteEarth Explains: How Did Whales Get So Big. A perfect gift for kids who have everything, the hit YouTube channel MinuteEarth answers all of your child’s curious questions alongside engaging images of the natural world. 

MinuteEarth Explains cover

Now that we’ve answered the question  “what is living sustainably,” and understood what sustainable living  means to our authors, we’re ready to dive into four projects that teach you how to live a sustainable life!

How Can I Start to Live a Sustainable Life?

Whether you want to dabble in zero waste, create a more conscious wardrobe, experiment with a plant-based recipe, or try out some sustainable DIY, we’ve gathered excerpts from our sustainable living booklist for every lifestyle. Here are four ways you can start to live a sustainable life:

1. For The Zero Waste Hero

When it comes to learning how to live a sustainable life, those looking to declutter and transition into a more minimalist lifestyle will benefit from a zero-waste initiative.  Stephanie Marie Seferian, author of Sustainable Minimalism, defines zero waste as follows:

The zero-waste movement educates the public on critical issues surrounding disposability. And while sending less garbage to the landfill is certainly a pillar of sustainability, an expansive definition of waste includes wasted energy, water, fossil fuels, minerals, and more. When you analyze the problem through a wide lens instead of a narrow one, true zero-waste living likely seems unrealistic.

Intentional food shopping is a great start to your zero waste journey. Here are some of Stephanie’s tips on creating and using a reusable shopping kit:

  • Several glass jars in various sizes. Place bulk bin items, including rice, grains, oatmeal, popcorn kernels, and more, in jars. Weigh them at home first and write the tare (weight while empty) on a piece of masking tape, then affix it to the bottom of each jar.
  • 8 oversized, reusable tote bags. Reusable tote bags are stronger, and therefore more convenient for transporting purchases, than paper or plastic.

Zero waste doesn’t mean you can never use a trash can again, rather, to reduce waste and consume intentionally. This kind of sustainable living strategy is all about learning  how to take care of yourself and your planet by upcycling, recycling, and understanding waste prevention. It is a huge step to take and if it seems overwhelming, try reducing waste little by little–buy a water bottle, use rags instead of paper towels, compost your fruit, etc.. Just follow the 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot!

2. For The Fashion Phenom:

If you consider yourself a fashionista and are wondering,  “what does living sustainably have to do with my closet” the answer is simple—fast fashion. Gittemarie gives us an overview on why fast fashion isn’t the best option for your next #outfitoftheday with an excerpt from Sustainable Badass:

Sustainable Badass by Gitte Marie Johansen cover

“[Fast fashion] is an expression the clothing industry originally introduced to describe the fast pace with which clothes are designed, promoted, and sold to consumer….[It] is the fifth-most-polluting industry in the world, a place it has earned because of water pollution, emission of greenhouse gases, production waste, poor waste management, and through the impact of the production of materials.”

To kickstart your fast fashion detox, try Gittemarie’s sustainable living fashion habits:

  • Watch documentaries about fast fashion, like River Blue and The True Cost.
  • Avoid using shopping as a leisure activity and limit purchases to the necessities.
  • Avoid trends, and buy only what you know you will love for a long time instead.
  • If you can, think about other advantages of products rather than just their cheap price tag; cheaper is not better.

Now that you know the downsides of fast fashion and overconsumption, you’re ready to learn how to get organized and turn your closet into a #conciouscloset.

3. For The Natural Creator:

Do you consider yourself a product junkie? Someone who loves to keep up with the latest trends whether it be in skin care or home? Sometimes the hardest part of learning how to live a sustainable life is acknowledging the hyperconsumerism that we all fall trap to.

If you’ve ever wondered about making your own natural products, Laura Ascher of Natural Remedies for Your Home & Health provides us with a Coffee Sugar Scrub recipe that is equal parts invigorating and  sustainable:

Natural Remedies for Your Home & Health by Laura Ascher cover


  • ½ cup coffee grounds
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil


  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Add in coconut oil, vanilla, and essential oils. Mix until well combined.
  3. Scoop into a container with an airtight lid for storage.

How to Use

  1. Scoop out a generous amount and gently apply it to dry skin.
  2. Massage it using a circular motion and then allow it to soak into the skin for 5–10 minutes.
  3. Rinse off with warm water. Follow with a body moisturizer. For best results, use the coffee scrub up to three times a week.

We hope this coffee based scrub perks up your senses to continue reading our curated sustainable living booklist. If you feel even more inspired to take your DIY skills to the next level, then checkout the ​​famous female leaders in history who broke the bank and gain some tips into the world of entrepreneurship.

4. For The Plant Based Chef:

If you’re a foodie with a penchant for cooking and creating masterful recipes, then keep reading! Find out how to infuse your cooking and take the first steps to living a sustainable life. Mark Thomspon, author of Making Vegan Meat answers the question: Why plant-based? 

Making Vegan Meat by Mark Thompson cover

“Everyone has their own reasons for eating plant-based foods, either health-based, animal-based, environmental-based, all of the above, or a million reasons in between…Plant-based diets have been around for a long time, all the way back to before 300 BC, and plant-based meat isn’t something that’s new or trendy. Early vegetarians would boil soy milk to make soy skin, then take that soy skin and tightly pack it together with seasonings and flavors to create a mock meat that had texture and flavors similar to real meat!”

The viral Vegan Arby’s Beef and Cheddar recipe by Mark Thomspon himself is perfect to show off to your friends and family, especially to help them understand what sustainability means to you. If you have a loved one who is the outdoorsy type, then Making Vegan Meat would also be a perfect food gift for dad. 

Try the amazing plant-based recipe here:

Now that our authors have answered–– What is living sustainably? What does sustainability mean to you? and How can I start to live a sustainable life?––we hope you feel inspired and energized about your sustainable living journey this upcoming Earth day.