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by Maria Blanco

I’d be lying if I said to you that I became 100% sustainable overnight.

The truth is, I struggled, and I struggled a lot. As of today, I’m still on the journey to finding the balance between being sustainable and being normal.

It’s a big change, and yes, it is fucking hard, especially if you live in a city like New York. It’s so easy to get carried away by the glamour and lifestyle the city has to offer. When you pass street style stars getting their picture taken on the corner, you don’t want to be that girl wearing Buddha pants and a “tree hugger” t­-shirt.

But I know where you are. You’ve realized the critical stage the world’s in, and you want to do everything in your power to change it. That’s great, but the Roman Empire wasn’t built in a day, and neither was you favorite Leed Platinum building.

To a lot of people I’ve talked about this, it’s either all or nothing. But that’s the exact wrong way to look at it.

A few months ago, I went through this journey myself. Before I found this lifestyle, I was a fast ­fashion over-consumer, and I didn’t even know how damaging that was. When I moved to New York, I stepped out of my comfort zone, that magic bubble where nothing bad ever happened. Here, I was more exposed to the real world, and I absolutely freaked out. Not too long after that reality check, I began to investigate more about sustainability and found the documentary The True Cost. After watching it, my perception of the world and the people I am surrounded by changed drastically. I’m not kidding when I tell you I spent days crying because I felt so helpless.

My first instinct was to throw away all of my clothes and become a sustainable minimalist overnight. But my student budget was not on board with this decision. Instead, I’ve found myself on a slow but satisfying journey toward sustainability. This isn’t just preferable; it’s necessary. Here’s why:

1. Budget

I don’t know about you, but I personally can’t afford a sustainable wardrobe makeover, or afford to redecorate my apartment, or replace my whole beauty routine at once. New York City is already very expensive, and becoming sustainable overnight through purging and buying is not exactly the best way to stay on budget. By no means am I saying you should run away from sustainability and never look back. What I am trying to say is: Why don’t you start by making just your next purchase something sustainable instead, and that way make the transition painless? (Or at least less painful.) Plus, the most sustainable thing you can do is slow down your purchases in general, instead of tossing everything out and going on a shopping rampage. If you’re embarrassed by your Forever21 top, just make sure to tell people who compliment you on it that you are wearing it until it falls apart, since you bought it before you started shopping sustainably.

2. Time

It is no easy task to find a sustainable version of everything, and given that we New Yorkers seem to be in a rush every day, finding the time to transform into your sustainable self overnight may not actually make it into your agenda. On top of that, making this change is a journey in itself, and you simply can’t rush it. Becoming sustainable is not like trying a new diet or a new beauty product, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s definitely one you’ll love if you just take it slowly. Each and every choice you make throughout the day has sustainable implications, and you can’t research the best choice for everything within a week. So go one by one. Through time, you’ll make discoveries about the sustainable world, learn so much about yourself, your preferences, and your abilities. You’ll learn through trial and error to make better choices and finally realize that being sustainable is way cooler. Just give it time!

3. Lifestyle

Although I vow for this lifestyle, and there is nothing that’ll ever make me go back to the way I was before, there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Sustainable things are sometimes hard to find, or don’t even exist. Plus, new science is coming out all the time that contradicts other sustainable science. There is no perfect choice, at least if you live in American society. There is just the “least bad” option, and often people differ on what that is. Vegan? Waste-free? Local? Anti­-consumerist? Conscious consumer? There’s no right answer. All I know is that all of these options are outside of the norm. So don’t expect to go all green tomorrow and live the same way you do now. It won’t happen.

And don’t beat yourself up for loving Zara or being a shopaholic. The truth is, we were raised as consumers and many people don’t even know what’s going on, or simply don’t care. But you are here reading this, so kudos to you! My best advice? Take it as it comes. You’ll begin you journey into becoming a better person, while you still get to enjoy the things you love.

Remember, every little thing you do is better than doing nothing, so you do you, and eventually you’ll find your way into the sustainable life. For now, let’s not be total douchebags and do our best.

What has your journey to sustainability been like? Share in the comments!