We are so excited to start series of interviews with sustainable living advocates. Sustainable living is a choice and is a journey. Come along with us to discover sustainable living insights and tips from women just like us. Let`s celebrate every woman who is changing the world one step at a time! Today, we are interviewing Cathy Hammond, sustainability advocate from British Columbia. Cathy travels across Canada with her adorable four-legged friend, Millie and shares her sustainable journey.
Why did you become an advocate for sustainable living?
In 2018, I travelled to Nicaragua through my university on spring break to do some community projects. While we were there, I was appalled at the amount of litter and plastic waste on the ground. I asked some locals about it, and they explained that because the country doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with waste, it ends up being littered, blown around by the wind, or sometimes burned. They also said that because a lot of the water isn’t potable, and because packaged and processed foods are cheap, the locals consume a lot of products packaged in plastic. Long story short, I decided that since I lived in a country where I had to privilege to avoid packaged foods, I would. It just really hit me in Nicaragua that our beautiful planet has become so littered with waste. Shortly after my trip, I started my Instagram account (@sustainably.cath, formerly @plasticfree.cath) to show that a low waste and sustainable lifestyle could be possible for anyone - even students like myself.
In a nutshell, what do you do to live a sustainable lifestyle?
Originally, my main goal was to avoid single-use plastics. Over time, my goals have evolved and I not only live relatively low waste, but I consume less meat and dairy, travel in my off-grid camper where I limit water and power usage, and do small things like walk or bike when I can.
What was the first actionable step you can recall towards living a more sustainable lifestyle?
I recall my first grocery shopping trip after my trip to Nicaragua. Suddenly I was so aware of how many of the products I consumed in the past were so heavily packaged in plastic. This grocery shopping trip took me at least twice as long because I had to think about and Google ideas for how to get my favourite foods (or similar to) without packaging. I got really into making my own bread and salad dressings, along with other miscellaneous things I would normally buy packaged beforehand.
What is the biggest impact/improvement you have noticed through living a more sustainably?
I find that my life is simpler. I realized that you don’t need as many different products as are sold to you by companies. For instance, coconut oil is great for cooking, moisturizing, and conditioning hair! You don’t need something different for each task. In general, I’ve found I have less “stuff” and more time to focus on relationships and my favourite hobbies.
What would you say is the biggest obstacle with sustainable living and how do you work towards overcoming it?
It can be really easy to fall into “eco guilt”. That is, not thinking you’re doing well enough. When I started trying to live low-waste, I had a lot of moments and meltdowns over not being perfect. I couldn’t understand how popular influencers did it. I quickly learnt that they don’t! No one is perfectly sustainable, and that’s okay. But it really takes some time to realize that and not let this eco-guilt discourage you from living a more sustainable life.
What are the biggest myths about living sustainably?
I think that it’s expensive. That was the whole reason I started my Instagram...I wanted to prove that you could be sustainable and low-waste on a budget. I was a university student at the time, so I couldn’t afford fancy swaps or gadgets. I had to go with what I had, and I think that’s truly the most sustainable route.
I also think that there’s a myth that it consumes your whole life. That’s so not true. I think at first it feels like that because you’re making new routines, but once you fall into habits, it becomes natural and it’s just a part of you and how you live, rather than your whole identity.
What is your advice for small, actionable steps people can take towards living a most sustainable lifestyle. Why should it matter to them?
In regards to being more low-waste, my biggest tip is to just take inventory of what you already use. Collect your garbage for a week (or even a month) and see what items produce a lot of waste, and how you can switch them out. There’s so much information online on how to swap to low-waste alternatives for common products.
Living sustainably matters because we’re in a crisis. And even small things you can do will make a huge difference. We don’t need a million people being perfectly sustainable, but a million just trying their best to do what they can!