Small changes go a long way. When it comes to sustainability, you don’t need to be a top notch tree-hugger or off-the-grid hippie to make things happen. Here are 10 things each of us can do to live greener!
1. BRING YOUR OWN BAGS
The life of a plastic bag is usually less than 10 minutes, but its decomposition can take up to 400 years.
Can you imagine the impact that this has? It is not only a true ecological disaster but also a nightmare for our eco system: remains of plastic bags are often found in stomachs of many marine animals such as whales, seabirds and turtles. It is so easy yet so effective to bring your own when you go buy your groceries or clothes. You can stock up on stylish collapsible totes or re-usable bags that you can carry around with you everywhere you go, or keep a stash of our national Valorlux eco-bags.
2. LIGHTS OUT!
Be practical and logical: turn the lights off when you leave a room. This simple habit will be saving you lots of electricity.
3. SHOWER SMARTLY
A regular shower head uses 15 liters of water per minute. How many minutes are you showering per day? If you often indulge in long showers, here’s a simple trick you can do to save the water: turn off the water when you just don’t need it, such as when you’re lathering shampoo on your head or running soap on your body. Remember: you only need water for wetting & rinsing, but you don’t need it in between.
4. RETHINK COMMUTING
And go for public transit. Yes, cars are cozier. Yes, sometimes train schedules can be a pain in the butt. But let’s be honest: an annual pass in Luxembourg costs 440€, which is far lower than the price, fuel & maintenance costs of a car. How much of your money do you think you spend on fuel, parking & fixing up your car every year? So, it is not only more environmentally friendly but also cheaper and good for the mind (traffic jams & endless parking queues will not be a problem). Not saying that you have to sell your car and go all out, but maybe it’s a good idea to already find an alternative for your most regular trips, from home to work for example. And who knows, maybe you’ll meet your new best friends in there while you’re at it! You could also fall in love with the freedom of riding a bike (it will also shape your legs into sexiness and boost your cardio while you’re at it). Another option: car-sharing. Find a deal with your neighbours, co-workers or through a networks of people who are regulars at it.
5. REDUCE YOUR MEAT & DAIRY
A quick disclaimer: I’m not saying that everyone has to go plant-based like me. But let’s be honest: the ecological footprint of the slightest chunk of animal protein is just insane. The production of 1kg of meat is ten times more polluting (water consumption, carbon emissions, soil & water toxicity, greenhouse gases) than 1kg of vegetables. A single kilo of beef impacts the climate as much as 250 km drive, making this whole industry more polluting than ALL means of transport combined. If you don’t believe the facts, I highly encourage you to watch “Cowspiracy“, an awesome and fun documentary that will open your eyes around the subject. Moral of the story:
You can’t claim to be an environmentalist and eat meat…Sorry!
Hey, it’s not so bad. Just reduce the nasties and enjoy more beautiful, fresh veggieness instead. Your health and tummy will thank you too. Plant-based food can be really yummy. Need inspiration? Look through our conscious foodie section, filled with recipes & tips!
6. GO EASY ON DISHWASHING
Apparently and contrary to popular beliefs, a dishwasher consumes far less water than regularly washing dishes by hand, under certain conditions. Make sure it is fully loaded (please don’t run a whole wash if there are only 3 glasses inside) and be smart with your machine. Try the eco-program which uses less water. If you can, customise your wash to a lower temperature and a shorter rinse to economise energy as well. And if you’re about to get a new dishwasher, check for energy & water stats. A step further for those who are already on the green path: make your own dishwashing tablets, to help lower the water toxicity (and the packaging waste/costs related to always having to buy them)!
7. OUTSMART FOOD WASTE
We’re definitely not a post-war generation like our grandfathers, but today we don’t realize just how spoiled we are with the abundance of food we are surrounded with, and often take it for granted. I’m often surrounded with people who throw food & leftovers away like it’s “nothing” and dispose of any fruits or produce that has gotten a bit brown or mushy (not gonna spit out any names..). Come on! Make some banana bread with those brown bananas. Use this little leftover rice or beans to make delicious galettes like the ones you can eat at Nature Elements (these guys known their way around it!). Make a dip, a bouillon or a scrumptious veggie patty out of those vegetable scraps! If you’re not this creative, just try to shop a little smarter. By buying small quantities more frequently, you are more likely to ensure there is no waste. It also helps to know the best ways to preserve food. I am not such a huge bread eater, and I used to throw away a lot of bread when I bought a loaf and left it out. Now, every time I buy one, I keep it in the freezer and take out the pieces when I feel like having it. Result: I haven’t wasted any bread in 3 years!
8. BUY IN BULK
Today, so much of what we buy is wrapped in plastic and packaging material that we throw away instantly. Find a place where you can buy some things in bulk, such as produce, grains, nuts etc, and bring your own containers (jars, bags etc). This is my newest resolution as I just found out such a shop opened nearby where I live. I’m so looking forward to it!
9. MAKE YOUR OWN
Another option would be to make some of your own things. For example, instead of buying your those individually-wrapped cookies for you or your kids (the absolute trash disaster), take some time on a sunday, make your own and fill a lovely cookie jar. Those little swaps can go a long way. Plus, you know exactly what’s in your food. Definitely NO palm oil in these cookies. You can take this DIY approach into practically anything:
– House-care products: the dishwasher tablets as mentioned in n°6, cleaning your kitchen counters with some good ol’ vinegar…
– Food preparations & preserves, such as homemade pickles, elderlflower syrup, or homemade brews like beer, cider and kefir, if you’re feeling fancy!
You can DIY anything you want! Go crazy and think about all the possibilities. Think about all the plastic waste you can avoid from not buying these products and making them yourself. This will also generate some fun activities and discoveries for you, your kids, your friends, and will make you feel proud to learn those frugal lifestyle skills, some of which are our grandmothers knowledge.
10. SIP LIKE A PRO
Do you know how much waste plastic bottles generate everyday? It is so easy to stop buying bottled water and drinks when you have adopted the habit of having your own re-usable bottle again and again. There’s a bottle out there for everyone: you can keep it practical & sporty with this awesome, lightweight one, which preserves the temperature of the water (cool water all day can be great in summer!). You can also get cheap & chic with a fancy VOSS bottle (costs 2€ to buy it once in Auchan, then you can re-use it) or upcycle any glass bottle you have around (hey, you can even make it fun and decorate it). Or if you need to filter your water in the meantime, this “Eau Good” bottle with its charcoal filtering stick is an awesome, eco-friendly invention.
EXTRA: Check out another related article on Orla written by Patricia, for those who want to reduce their packaging waste.
Credits: Illustrations by Linda Dieschbourg.