This is going to be a long one, but I wanted to have all of my ideas on this in one place. I am probably going to keep adding to the post as I get new ideas. Many who have already spent some time thinking about how they can make their lifestyle more environmentally sustainable might already know about some, perhaps all of the following points but maybe it will still be helpful to you to see all of them in one list. Perhaps it will remind you of the importance of being very aware of what you consume and of cutting back on the things that negatively affect the environment and maybe even you by weighing you down unnecessarily. At least, that’s what I hope this blog post will be able to do for you and I would be delighted if you took the time to read it and maybe even shared some of your own ideas with me in a comment :).
“I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer: if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change. I’m going to make a change for once in my life.”Michael Jackson
The 5 R’s:
- REDUCE: Simplify your lifestyle by reducing the amount of things you buy, consume and throw away.
- REFUSE: Refuse the things that you realise are unsustainable and unnecessary in your life. To do this, you have to become very aware of the products you consume and the actions you take, inform yourself about their impact, start thinking about what you really need and then act on what you have realised during this process.
- REUSE: Realise the value of all the items around you and of the materials they were made from. Don’t just throw stuff away. Think about how you could reuse things or give them away for others to use and enjoy. Try to find a second hand option when you want to buy something like clothes, books, furniture etc. and also try to avoid buying products that come in packaging which is made to only be used once and thus cannot easily be reused.
- RECYCLE: Ideally, after the first three steps, there should not be a lot that you have to recycle. Make sure that you seperate and clean the items properly in order to facilitate the recycling process. Again, try to think about the material and work it took to make the different items. It will result in you becoming more mindful and consuming more responsibly.
- ROT: Start composting. If you don’t have the outdoor space to start a big compost heap, consider getting or making a wormery yourself. I even recently heard of this product with which you can turn your food waste into cooking gas!
Aaand… some more 🙂
- Use Ecosia (a search engine that plants trees with the money it makes)
- Avoid flying and driving
- Walking/ cycling/ public transport/ car-sharing
- Go on vacation closer to home
- Support local businesses (also when on vacation!)
- Wwoof (world-wide opportunities on organic farms)/ workaway: great cheap & sustainable option for a gap year or active vacation -> Get food & accomodation for free in exchange for some hours of work and really immerse yourself in the culture by living with locals
- Eat less or no meat/ animal products (meat-free days/ vegetarian/ vegan) and make sure those you do eat come from sources which care about the animals and the environment
- Buy more locally sourced, unprocessed, unpackaged food: go to weekly farmers’ markets and bring your reusable bags and containers! (maybe you also have a bulk store near you?)
- Avoid food waste (difference between best-before and use-by dates, observe how much you need in a week and plan your grocery shops accordingly, follow the recommendations on storage, make sure you can see everything in your fridge well so that nothing goes bad because you forgot about it)
- Avoid single-use and non-compostable packaging and other products (there are biodegradable alternatives to plastic now!, my chocolate is packaged in it:) ); for this one you have to continually pay a lot of attention in order to notice where the stuff that you immediately throw away after using it once enters your life (e.g. packaging of food/ drinks you get when you’re out with friends, paper mail & advertisements, plastic water bottles, office supplies…); then you can start working on eliminating them/ finding alternatives
- Bring a reusable water-bottle and lunch-box with food you made at home in order to avoid buying water and processed food packaged in plastic
- Don’t leave any trash you maybe still generate lying around outside & try to pick up some of what other people leave behind (maybe there are even clean-up projects near you that you could participate in?)
- Volunteer for/donate to a reliable environmental organisation
- Maybe try and grow some of your own food (or ask at a local farm if you could perhaps spend a day or even more working with them to experience what it takes to grow good organic food; a two week internship I did at an organic farm got me really interested in sustainable food production!)
- Sustainable electronics: This is quite difficult as far as I know, but you could always try to find recycled options and in the case of buying a new phone, I have heard that the company Fairphone is doing a good job. The fairphone 3 is quite expensive (450 euros), but this is because the company really makes an effort in terms of responsible material sourcing and good working conditions. Plus, it is a completely modular phone and they offer spare parts, which means that it should last you much longer than other phones.
- Avoid wasting water: short showers instead of long ones or baths, not leaving the water running when it is not needed, washing clothes & dishes with full loads or, even better, filling the sink, closing the tap, and washing them by hand (the easier the more you refused and reduced before!), water-saving equipments (toilets, dishwashers, shower heads…), drinking tap water (if it’s safe where you live!), water harvesting, grey-water treatment, composting toilets, not contaminating water with chemicals from hygiene and cleaning products…
- Use more natural hygiene and cleaning products: this one is closely connected to the last one. You don’t want to harm the environment or your body by using products full of chemicals on yourself or on the items in your home. The first step here is of course to cut back on the amount of products you use and to then find more sustainable options for those that you do need. There are loads of options for natural hygiene and cleaning products out there, so it should not be a problem to find the right ones for you! (examples: bamboo toothbrushes, toothpaste tabs in compostable packaging, package-free natural soaps, coconut oil)
- Reusable period products: menstrual cups, washable period-proof underwear, washable pads…
- Use reusable cloths or sponges for cleaning instead of kitchen paper or disposable plastic sponges
- Consider switching from tissues to washable cotton handkerchiefs
- Wrap food in reusable beeswax wraps instead of in plastic or aluminium foil
- If you have a dog: consider getting biodegradable dog poo bags
- Try to find a brand that offers toilet paper made from recycled materials or from bamboo (it would of course be best if you found it in a store near you instead of having to order it on the internet)
- Make your garden/ balkony a home for many different plants & animals: build insect houses, make your collection of plants as diverse as possible and choose those that are very useful for insects, let everything grow a bit more freely so that your green space not only looks nice but can also serve as a place of refuge and as a home for small animals
- Avoid wasting energy: Switch off/ unplug devices and lights when you don’t need them, buy energy-saving appliances when the old ones stop working, fill any gaps you find under skirting boards or at windows and doors, don’t leave the fridge door open, defrost, don’t put hot food in the fridge, let your clothes & hair air dry, cover pots and pans with a lid when cooking, take more cold showers (also good for your health! 🙂 ), don’t put too much water in the kettle, try to think more about warming your body (e.g. with a blanket) than warming up the entire house when you feel it’s a little cold
- If you want to build a new home or it is possible for you to do some work on your current one, try to use natural and/or reclaimed materials and to insulate the building well (maybe you would like to inform yourself a bit about passive houses)
- If it’s possible to you, switch to renewable energy sources (but inform yourself well about how reliable the different providers are!)
- Switch to a bank that explicitly doesn’t invest in unsustainable projects/companies
- Make notebooks from paper that is still blank on the back (simple tutorial)
- Share with others: don’t just think of your stuff as YOUR stuff, tell others that you are open to sharing (e.g. clothing, books, household utensils…) and you will see what a positive effect this can have!
- Inspire others!!: Encourage more sustainable living in your family, friend group, at school, in the workplace, on social media…This way, the changes each of us make individually add up and turn into something that can truly change the world.
To put it in a nutshell, it is all about becoming aware of how much and what you consume, carefully thinking about which of these things you need in life and which ones you do not and then aligning your actions with your beliefs. This means reducing the amount you consume and finding more sustainable options for the things you still want to have (best case: borrowed/second hand/local/organic/unpackaged). And, most importantly, share your ideas and plans concerning a more sustainable lifestyle with others in order to inspire them, to have a bigger impact and to have more fun on your journey by taking it with others!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post! Please do not hesitate if you would like to leave a comment to ask a question, start a discussion or add something to the list. I hope that I was able to help and inspire you with this post. It can often feel like you’re not doing enough, no matter how much of an effort you make, but I hope that this list was able to encourage you to do what you can, to be proud of that and to share it with others. It might not seem like it, but you have all the potential to change the world. Because remember: You may be a small part of this world, but you are not insignificant!