Living Sustainably: Urban Green Lab’s Top Recommendations

What does it mean to “live sustainably”? Why is it important? At Urban Green Lab, we refer to the sustainability definition of ‘just sustainability’ as written by Dr. Julian Agyeman.

Keeping that in mind, living sustainably is working to make every day decisions that consider the triple bottom line: our society, the economy, and our planet.


Below you will find a compiled list of recommendations and resources that will help guide you down the path to living a more sustainable life. Living sustainably is about much more than just recycling, it’s a commitment to environmental protection, economic viability and social equity. Our recommendations were informed by Project Drawdown, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, and many other local and national sources.

Remember to take your sustainable journey one step at a time! Many of these changes involve real lifestyle alterations that can take some getting used to. Living sustainably is a journey, not a sprint!


Reduce Food Waste

Up to 40 percent of food is wasted in the United States while 1 in 4 people have experienced food insecurity this year. 95 percent of that food waste goes to landfills where it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. When we waste food, we also waste the water, energy, agricultural chemicals, and labor that goes into growing, storing, and transporting it.

  • Plan for meals and events, store food smartly, get creative, use everything, freeze leftovers, and remember to use them later. Visit SaveTheFood.com for more information on these tips.
  • Understand expiration dates. “Best By”, “Use By” and “Sell By” dates indicate peak quality, not food safety (except on baby formula). Use your sight, taste, and smell to help decide!
  • Donate leftover food to organizations that feed people, and compost scraps to support healthy soil.
  • Take the pledge to reduce food waste with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and sign up for the Mayor’s Food Saver Challenge if you own or work for a restaurant. 

Eat For A Cooler Climate

Food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Reduce the number of animal products you consume! There are many things to consider when making sustainable food choices, but one way to reduce the emissions associated with your diet is to eat animal products less often (mainly beef, lamb, and cheese).  Land-use changes and farming practices have the highest impact on emissions, rather than processing or transportation.
  • Buy locally, ethically produced goods from independent businesses to support your local food system.
  • Sustainable food systems feed everyone while supporting the workers and the environment. 

Consume Responsibly

Consuming responsibly is about doing more and better with less. Responsible consumption protects environmental resources and contributes substantially to alleviating poverty worldwide.

  • Reuse, repair, share, borrow, and recycle are all options you should consider before disposing of any product. Stay up to date with local resources here.
  • Say no to unnecessary plastic. When possible, say “no” to plastic cutlery, straws, bags, and other products you only use once.
  • Conduct a life cycle assessment before making any purchase. To do a mini LCA, think critically about what a product is made of, where it came from, how it was produced, it’s intended use, and how it will eventually be disposed of.
  • Support companies that protect nature and use ethical practices. Opt for sustainably made products when making any purchase and beware of “greenwashing”. One of Urban Green Labs favorite online retailers is EarthHero! Use code “UrbanGreenLab” to get 10% off your purchase and donate 10% to Urban Green Lab!

Save Energy

Electricity production is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. 63 percent of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas.

  • Beware of vampire loads! Some electronics in your home consume power even when they are “off”. These are called “vampire loads”. Unplug devices, use power strips, curb idle time, and make energy-efficient upgrades.
  • Saving energy also saves you money. LED light bulbs use at least 75 percent less energy, and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
  • Advocate for a renewable energy grid! Energy production is the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gasses.
  • For more tips on how to save energy at home and the office, look no further than Socket: Nashville’s Sustainability Outlet.
Solar installation on top of the Music City Center.

Save Water

The demand for water has outpaced our planet’s population growth, and half the world’s population is already experiencing severe water scarcity at least one month per year. Water availability is becoming more unpredictable and in some regions, droughts are exacerbating water scarcity, negatively impacting people’s health, threatening sustainable development, and harming biodiversity worldwide.

  • Reducing your shower time by just one minute can save an estimated 1,800 gallons of water per year. Save water when brushing your teeth, washing, and showering.
  • Report and fix leaks – big or small.
  • Don’t use plastic water bottles! Remember that water bottle companies sell plastic and often unjustly take water from areas that need that valuable resource to support their local people and ecosystem.
  • Defend people’s right to clean water and sanitation. Support groups that work to keep governments accountable, invest in water research and development, and promote the inclusion of indigenous communities in water resource policies. Get involved in World Water Day and World Toilet Day campaigns that aim to provide information and inspiration to take action.

Make Informed and Equitable Choices

Making equitable choices and ensuring no one is left behind are keys to living a more sustainable life. Reducing inequality will require transformative change.

  • Marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by climate issues. When we value all people equitably, we create an environment that is safer for everyone.
  • Stay open-minded, listen, and learn from others.
    • Demand the benefits from progress are shared.
    • Support causes that benefit the people and protects the planet.
    • Stand up for your rights, and the rights of others.

Stay Educated On The Issues And Vote

Our list of recommendations may same seem a bit daunting to some but it doesn’t have to be all at once. We believe a little change can go a long way. Making small changes to your daily life can have a compounding effect over time. Let us know what you are doing to #livesustainably by using our hashtag on social media or sending us an email at connect@urbangreenlab.org.

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