8 Tips on how to live sustainably

Published 27/04/2022

Sustainable living is a fairly broad concept. To understand how to live more sustainably, it is important to understand what sustainability is exactly. You can read about it here. Do you want to live a fully sustainable life? Then you have to be completely CO2 neutral. That means a vegan, packaging-free lifestyle with only green choices. You don’t use a gas cooker and you trade in your car for a bicycle. You generate your own energy and filter your own water, which you use to water your own vegetable garden. For most people, this is a tall order, which is why they often choose to do nothing. Because that ideal is unattainable. But really, every little helps. And if you choose to separate your waste, you’re already doing incredibly well. Here are 5 simple ways to live more sustainably.

1. Reduce your plastic use

You don’t have to live completely plastic-free because that’s still quite a task. But there are very simple steps to using less plastic. There are some simple things you can replace that will make you use a lot less plastic:

 

  • Tote bags as shopping bags. They fold up small and last a long time. Like this cute bag with a world map you can colour in.
  • Fruit and vegetable bags to put loose products in, then you also leave the packaged products behind.
  • Do your shopping at the market and take some jars or containers with you to put the products in. Ideal for nuts, herbs or loose vegetables like green beans. Did you know that the inside of the paper bags from the nut store are covered with a layer of plastic, to keep moisture out?
  • Bring your own coffee mug if you go for a to-go coffee. Did you know that the inside of a paper cup is covered with a layer of plastic?
  • Go for a reusable water bottle instead of disposable ones.
  • Buy your creams in packaging made from recycled plastic, or preferably glass or packaging-free.
  • Put leftovers or your sandwich in a sealable box instead of plastic cling film.
  • Pay attention to microplastics. You will be surprised how many products contain them. Read more on how to recognize microplastics in products.

2. Choose reusable

Both making and breaking down products consume a lot of energy. The more energy something takes, the more emissions are usually released. The more we buy and throw away after one use, the more is produced and ends up on the waste mountain. Examples of products that can be replaced with reusable alternatives:

 

  • Dishcloth instead of kitchen roll
  • Storage trays or beeswax covers instead of aluminium foil
  • A tea egg with dosed loose tea instead of disposable bags
  • Reusable cotton pads instead of disposable ones
  • Reusable cotton buds instead of disposable ones
  • Reusable silicone travel minis instead of buying individual ones for each trip
  • Reusable wrapping paper instead of single-use paper
  • Growing paper as a card or shopping note. This paper contains small seeds that you can plant in the garden or in a container on the balcony.
  • Reusable Teflon baking paper instead of disposable paper
  • Fabric handkerchiefs instead of tissues
  • Reusable or biodegradable coffee cups instead of plastic cups. Or go for a coffee machine that does not use cups or pads, such as a french press, perculator or espresso machine.

3. Go thriftshopping

Apart from products that we only use once, there is also a lot that we throw away when we are fed up with it. Think of that dress that you really liked last summer, but is now out of fashion, or that side table that you no longer like three months later. The more we use, the more is made. Next time, try to find your clothes in a second-hand or vintage shop instead of a fast-fashion chain, and scour thrift shops for your new favourite furniture instead of buying cheap stuff at Ikea or Amazon.

4. Reduce your water use

Cleaning water releases a lot of CO2 and often involves the use of harmful chemicals to remove toxic substances from the water. The more water we all use, the more it has to be cleaned. If we are all more conscious of our water use, we can reduce the amount of water filtering. You can do this by showering for a shorter time, not leaving the tap open when brushing your teeth and washing the dishes in a bowl instead of under a running tap. The washing machine is another culprit. Be aware of the length of your washing programmes, the amount of water used and avoid half-empty washing drums on a full programme.

But you can also choose water-saving alternatives if you have the budget for them. For example, a WC with a button for a small flush, a water-saving dishwasher or washing machine, or even a private filter system or using rainwater instead of filtered water for your WC. Did you know that you can drink the water from the toilet bowl in a lot of countries? That’s actually a waste of environmental impact.

5. Dress warm

We like to be comfortably warm and that’s only natural. But instead of turning up the heat immediately, while you are still sitting in front of the TV in a T-shirt, you can also put on a jumper and curl up on the sofa with a nice blanket. Candles also provide a surprising amount of warmth and make it extra cosy. This way, you reduce your energy consumption and CO2 emissions, and you also save money.

6. Consume less animal products

Unfortunately, animals are responsible for a lot of CO2 emissions. A cow the most, a chicken the least. If we all ate a little less meat and drank less cow’s milk, fewer animals would be needed to meet that need. Moreover, the production of beef costs more than any other foodstuff. Pork and chicken are also in the top 10.

7. Reduce foodwaste

The production of food also requires energy and water. On average, we throw away about 1/3 of the food we buy! Try to avoid this by freezing your leftovers and introducing leftover days. This way, you don’t have to eat the same thing for three days, but you also don’t have to throw it away. Also check the supermarket for products that are close to their expiry date and take them with you for dinner. They often have a reduced price and many products can easily be kept in the freezer for another month.

Another idea is to pick up meals and products from local participants of “To good to go”, an app that works against food waste. The baker around the corner, the hotel in the city or the local shops, pizzeria or supermarket can join in and offer their products at a considerable discount on the app. Order your package and collect it at the indicated time. It is always a surprise what is in your package. It’s available in many European countries, the UK, big cities in the US and Canada. So you can save food while travelling as well!

8. More sustainable travel options

The bicycle is better than the car, the bus is better than the car, the train is better than everything and the plane is the worst. How do you travel the most? Are you the type that gets in the car for 2km or do you easily cycle half an hour to work? And next time will you take the plane to Berlin or Paris, or will you go by train? Be aware of the emissions per mode of transport and make a good assessment. The excuse is often that a flight is faster. But if you add the time spent at the airport and the time to get there, is that really the case? And is that time really so valuable that you would choose the most polluting option? Moreover, you can see much more in the train than from the plane, unless it is completely clear.

Do you still want to travel by plane or is it too far to travel by public transport? Book your flight via FlyGreen. A programme that automatically calculates your CO2 emissions and adds a compensation amount to your ticket. This extra amount is used to subsidise a large solar panel project in India.

And then choose a sustainable accommodation. On this site, you will find a lot of suggestions for websites where you can book more sustainable accommodation.