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The Five Rules of Personal Sustainability

Zero Waste Lifestyle

Last Updated on January 23, 2024

I have five rules to maintain my personal level of sustainability. I am lazy. I don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen. I don’t want to spend all Sunday prepping everything in the world.

And, I never, ever, ever want to put up laundry, but I do… because it’s the adult thing to do. So, where’s the line between just right and too much? 

Only you know your schedule, determination, and laziness factor. But, here are my rules and tips for figuring it out. 

I HATE making tortillas. Words cannot even express the level of hatred I feel just thinking about rolling out tortilla dough.

  • Is it delicious? Yes.
  • Is it worth it? Absolutely not.
  • Are they ever round!? NEVER!

I cannot stand the uneven wobbly sides, the hour I spend rolling them out with a pin, and that I have to make each one individually….. 

Personal sustainability level: 0

If something is that unenjoyable for you, you should probably find another way. What’s so awesome is this day in age – there’s always another way!

Go to your local Mexican restaurant for freshly made chips or tortillas. I found a tortilleria right around the corner of the famers market that sells 20 corn tortillas for $1.50, and they’ll put them in my own bag! 

Personal sustainability level: 10

rule one: double it

This applies for anything that can be frozen. And, you will be surprised what you can freeze. I store baked goods in a pillow case in a freezer drawer.

I store wet goods in glass mason jars. Don’t overfill the jars or they will crack! Remember liquid expands when frozen. 

I keep breakfast in the freezer. Whether it be energy bites, toast, waffles, pancakes, (homemade) or bagels (store bought in a cloth bag).

I also store things that take a long time to cook like beans, stock, soup, or marinara. I fill up the small sink with cold water and place the mason jar in the sink. It will defrost in about 30 minutes. 

rule two: active time 

Active time must be less than an hour including clean up! You’ll be hard pressed to find a recipe on my blog that takes over an hour of active time.

For special occasions, like Thanksgiving, I make exceptions. But, in general – if it takes longer than an hour; it isn’t happening. I get home from work at 5:30, and I want full bellies and clean kitchen by seven. Is that too much to ask for? 

rule three: multitask

While the pasta is boiling, I typically have a double broiler on top making use of the down time. I have definitely made body butter atop of dinner. 

When my waffles are in the iron, I’m doing all of the dishes and wiping down counter tops. When I’m brushing my teeth, I’m wiping down the counter tops and cleaning the sink.

I keep rags folded at the edge of all my counter tops for quick and easy wipe downs.

rule four: shelf life

If it has a shelf life of less than three months, I won’t make it. I aim for a six month shelf life.

This is in reference to cleaning products or DIY. It is not sustainable for me to make something I need every week or every other week. That is just way too much commitment. 

rule five: love/hate

If you hate doing something, it will never be sustainable.

If you love doing something, it will always be sustainable. Like, I hate making tortillas. It doesn’t matter if it fits every other rule – it is not sustainable.

But, I love entertaining and making elaborate spreads. Sometimes I break my rules, but it’s sustainable because I enjoy it so much. 

It’s all about finding a balance that’s right for you.

If you feel overwhelmed with the DIY, too much cooking, too much cleaning – find a way to make it sustainable for both you and the environment. Find your tortilleria.

They’re out there. It might just take a little digging. 

Have you found your level of personal sustainability? What are some of your rules? 

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  1. In regard to sustainability–I love cleaning with Zero Waste products. I used to hate cleaning with Clorox and other toxic chemicals. Even as a kid, I’d ask my mom, "Really? You want your child around this gross stuff?" And I would clean with such distain as I feared bleach would splash on me.

    Nowadays, I take my spray bottle of vinegar and happily clean away without fear! It has definitely made it more enjoyable.

  2. Thank you!!

    I have been feeling so overwhelmed recently with the thought of making EVERYTHING. I am still trying to find my groove with it all, slowly switching over but still getting store bought things as needed until I find the time/ingredients to make them. I love your mouthwash idea but can’t find aloe anywhere so store bought natural mouthwash is my current compromise.

    I like food finding multiple uses for one thing. I was making English muffins, but it was using too much flour and too much time, and it was stressing me out. Not good! There’s an Iraqi restaurant down the street that will sell me Samoon bread in my bags! I can use them for quick pizzas (I know you’ll approve!), sandwich bread, and I can split one in the morning for breakfast sandwiches.

    I like your shelf life rule though! I’m also pretty lazy, and don’t want to spend all my time in a kitchen. Working towards finding a balance slowly but surely.

    1. Slow and steady wins the race! The whole time I was writing this post, I knew that my mouthwash and the aloe vera gel didn’t fit the rules. Lol! But, they aren’t things that I’ll make consistently.

      Yes! I love that they’ll sell it to you right in your own bag! Perfect!!

  3. I’m going to have to try freezing cooked beans! I never thought of that. I agree that you need to find a balance. My kids love greek yogurt, and I have no desire to make my own or pay 4x as much for yogurt in a glass jar. My compromise is to cut back on my own personal yogurt consumption by adding some steel cut oats to my breakfast rotation. It takes a little more time to put together, but it’s just as healthy, a fraction of the cost and it doesn’t come in a plastic tub 🙂 I’m definitely in search of a tortilleria in Berkeley!

    1. You can make steel cut oats really easily the night before! Toast 1 cup of oats in 1 tbsp of oil for a few minutes. Add in 3-4 cups of water (depends how you like it) and bring to a boil. Turn the stove off, cover, and let sit over night. That’s it! It saves me so much time on breakfast in the morning since I can just throw the pot in the fridge and it lasts for the work week.

  4. I absolutely hate shaving my legs. It’s the worst thing in the world, so my rule is that from September- March, I let it grow. Extra warmth in the winter, you know 😛

    Other than that, I’m lucky that I really enjoy cooking anything and everything, so spending a few hours a day doing something doesn’t stress me out. Multitasking definitely helps with cooking though! I always have Netflix on so I can feel like I’m being lazy and sitting on the sofa, but then I get to enjoy warm homemade brownies or naan. It’s a win win.

    1. Yes! I love listening to music or netflix when in the kitchen. Makes me feel like I have company! Also – I officially want brownies and naan…… Can you imagine chocolate naan? This is a great idea. Dessert naan.

  5. I had to laugh at your tortilla comment. I made them last week and the recipe looked so easy and wonderful, and on the picture they were perfectly round and beautiful! Yeah. Right. My arms were getting tired rolling out those individual things, and then I started a guessing game with myself, "What country is this tortilla?" They were the strangest shapes… one came out like Germany. I do eat a lot of quesadillas though, so it is a shame that they are not easier to make that doesn’t make us want to scream and cry.

    1. RIGHT!? Someone, somewhere loves it, and they’re perfect every time…. I love the country game. Brilliant! My tortillas often look like Wisconsin. Not a country but…. you get the picture. lol.

  6. As I type this, I’m working on my fifth or so hand-crocheted mesh produce bag…I may have the opposite issue as you–I want to make everything! As a semi-expert on the handmade it’s so easy to feel like I should make everything even when it takes up far too much of my time. I love your personal sustainability rules and definitely have to come up with my own spin on them. Thank you for sharing this 🙂

  7. Love this – this is so relevant! Especially when trying to explain to non-ZWers that yes, you took the time to make those cloth bags, or that pizza, but no, making everything from scratch is definitely not a necessity!

  8. Thank you so much for the information – there are certainly things I hate to do and things I love to do. I was struggling to "conform" and do those things I hate. So, I was about ready to give up on a number of things.