What exactly does sustainability mean, and how can you live it in your everyday life? Does everything always have to be perfect, and where do I start? In this article, I’ll try to explain all of this to you, using our example.
Clarification of definition
Sustainability means managing the resources available. That means only taking as much of the respective system as there is available. At the same time, there should always be enough left over so that the respective system can stabilize itself again.
A small example: Sustainability on the bank account would mean spending only enough money that I can cover ongoing and variable costs and not go into minus. If money stays in the account at the end of the month, it increases more easily (interest) than if I always spend everything. This means that I may be able to spend a little more money next year, but I have to put some money back for the current month. Ok, I know the comparison with the interest rate is a bit low (there are almost none left), but the point became clear, right?
Unfortunately, sustainability doesn’t seem to be that simple in relation to our planet. In 2020, for example, the resources were already used on 08/22/2020. So the account was empty after just over half of the month. Earth Overshoot Day. From August 23, 2020 to December 31, 2020 we lived on the credit of the earth. That is over 4 months and a total of 130 days. So if the earth were a real account, we would already be bankrupt.
At the same time, resources are very unevenly distributed around the world. This leads to starving people, dying rain forests and suffering animals. Countries in which sufficient resources would be available are nonetheless considered “Third World countries” and thus among the poorest countries in the world. This deficiency arises from the fact that the richest countries in the world, which make up around 20% of the world’s population, consume 80% of the world’s resources. This leaves only 20% of the resources for the rest of the world, i.e. a total of 80% of the world’s population. Wrong world, literally.
But enough negative information. Although I am in favor of familiarizing myself with the facts, at the same time I always try to follow a solution-oriented approach. Getting active is the motto.
What can I do?
After it became more and more clear to me that I would like a healthy earth for my future and possibly also for the future of my children, I knew that I wanted to change something for myself. An earth from, which every person who lives on, can get feed. An earth that is not only exploited, but also given something back in return. And an earth on which life is worth living. After realizing all of this, I knew I wanted to change something.
So what can i do? Step by step, I – or at this point I actually have to talk about us both – have changed our lives.
When shopping, you can change things very quickly and there are many ways to make a contribution. Every purchase decision we make influences the market. With that thought in mind, every purchase is suddenly so much more valuable. As the saying goes, every purchase is a voting slip!
Plastic is a big problem in general. For example, we Germans caused a total of 5.4 million tons of plastic waste in 2019. That is 76 kg per person, of which 38 kg is packaging waste. That’s more weight than I put on the scales myself. Unfortunately, since a large part of the plastic waste still ends up in the oceans (see e.g. Seaspiracy the film), it is all the more important to produce as little of it as possible in the first place. And since private households make up 85% of all plastic waste, we can do something about it.
We therefore pay attention to sustainable purchasing that is as low in plastic as possible. For this we go shopping in an unpacked shop. In this called “Unverpackt” there are all kinds of food. You can fill as much as you need with your own cans, glasses and packaging. A great thing, especially when you need small amounts of a specific kind of food. There is also have a lot of fruit and vegetables (e.g. from “Pois Portugal”) and all sorts of other practical things to buy at “Unverpackt”. Recently there has even been a book on unpackaged shops in which some tips are summarized, and general unpackaged shopping is explained.
You can also pay attention to it in the supermarket. Often there are now options without plastic. We always bring bags for fruit and vegetables. In most shops these are automatically deducted from the weight, or you can do this yourself. When it comes to canned food, you can often opt for the glass variant, and there is now even a larger selection of plastic-free (or at least plastic-reduced) packaging in the cooling area. In addition, it is always worth checking whether things are not also available in bulk packs. This is usually easy on the wallet, and you only need a place to store things. For example, we have a lot of things in the basement and just always fill up our containers for the kitchen.
Regional and seasonal
Shopping regionally and seasonally is not only good for the environment, but also for us. It has been proven that seasonal foods are better for us and provide us with all the important micro and macro nutrients in the respective season. You can shop both wonderfully at the market, seasonally and regionally. I love strolling and shopping in the market. We always have our own bags and cans with us anyway, which also saves a lot of plastic.
Consumption of animal foods
Not only plastic is a big problem, in our current way of life. In the same way, our meat consumption and thus also the consumption of animal products is a huge burden for the environment. We are therefore vegan and save 2 tons of greenhouse gases per year.
More precisely, I will write at least one more article on the subject, because my enthusiasm would go beyond the scope here 😉 Overall, however, it can be said that even a reduction in the consumption of animal products would make a clear difference. I don’t want to step on anyone’s feet with that. Until 2019 we both also ate meat and didn’t always pay attention to the origin. In 2020, we both became vegetarian and then vegan later. The whole thing is therefore always a process and everything is possible, not a must!
Last year, due to the corona pandemic, the topic of fast fashion was discussed on a larger scale for the first time. Because of the pandemic, millions of tons of clothing could not be sold. Unfortunately, I was unable to research what exactly happened to them. What is clear, however, is that destruction is cheaper than donating to charitable organizations. Every year, we Germans throw an average of 4.7 kg of clothing per person in the trash. Larger fashion manufacturers are now launching 4 collections in one year. Every German buys around 60 pieces of clothing a year.
I also had to process these numbers. In order to be able to produce these quantities of clothing, production costs are low, since only cheap clothing can be sold in large quantities. Most of the time, savings are made in manufacturing costs. This creates child labor and wages that people cannot live from.
To counter the whole thing, I have been boycotting fast fashion labels for several years. I buy my clothes used and sell or give away clothes again and again. I think it’s very nice to swap clothes with friends. So both benefit, because everyone has something new to wear. If I buy new clothes, then only from fair fashion labels. That usually costs more, but 1. I have a clear conscience and 2. I don’t harm anyone. Unlike most Germans, I wear my clothes for many years. Usually so long until the part rips or no longer fits me. In general, I’ve noticed that a smaller wardrobe is much better for me. For example, I don’t have to think so much about what to wear in the morning. Therefore, used and fewer clothes relieve me, my wallet and are sustainable.
When it came to cosmetics, it was clear to me very early on, that I only wanted to use natural cosmetics. In the meantime, I have found the perfect brand for myself. “Naturkosmetik München” is therefore my heart recommendation for you. A really great startup that uses, as much as possible, regional ingredients and is vegan and cruelty-free.
Overall, however, I can say that natural cosmetics – vegan and cruelty-free – are the only possible option in my cosmetics selection for me. In between, I also made cosmetics myself from time to time. For me, only natural cosmetics are an option because – based on my personal experience – they are better for my skin. Mind you, the skin is the largest organ in us humans and therefore needs special attention. In addition, in my experience, natural cosmetics are also the most sustainable alternative. Organically grown ingredients and products are always better than conventionally grown ones. The packaging of natural cosmetics is often more sustainable than the conventional alternatives.
Sustainability and minimalism at home
Change can also be implemented very easily in everyday life, towards a more sustainable life.
Do you already use green electricity? If not, a change hardly hurts. Neither your wallet nor yourself. There are now a lot of different electricity providers. In general, however, it is worth taking a closer look to find out how green they are. We chose Greenpeace Energy. But in Germany there is also, for example, the “Elektrizitätswerke Schönau”, which I think is very good, because it arose from a citizens’ initiative and is still in the hands of the citizens today.
If you don’t live in a rented apartment like we do, but own a house or an apartment yourself, you can also take care of larger issues such as heating. That is actually a bigger cost factor, but there are now great funding opportunities form the government, that make retrofitting financially attractive.
I have just described one of the biggest building blocks, shopping. At the same time, consumption is a big issue overall. Less is actually more, and minimalism is the keyword. Not only do you have less stuff at home and therefore less ballast (I speak from experience). But you can also save money. I now write down my wishes, which are often influenced by advertising, on a list. If I still want it after a few weeks, I’ll buy it when it fits. We also buy everything used, as much possible. That also saves money and a lot of resources. You can not only buy used items, you can also sell wonderfully on the Internet or at flea markets. I think it’s a great cycle that is worthwhile for everyone.
A nice part of sustainability is giving back to nature. In the garden, you can for example create wildflower meadows. At least leave a few flowers while mowing so that the bees can find something to eat. In addition, small hiding places in the garden are always great for any wild animal. Therefore, you can leave a few corners in the garden untidy, regardless of whether the neighbors complain or not.
We are very lucky with our garden, which is our retreat, workshop, recreational holiday and playground. Our garden has some corners that are well overgrown. We have different piles of twigs and branches, leaves and scrub. We also have a compost in the garden on which we compost garden waste. A second compost is more for the vegetable and fruit waste from the kitchen. I grow quite a lot of vegetables myself. We also have an apple tree and raspberry and currant bushes in the garden. A real paradise for us humans as well as for all kinds of animals, from small to large.
If you have a balcony instead, the bees will be happy to have a few flowers or fruit and vegetables that they can pollinate. There are also great instructions for a balcony garden.
With mobility, it is of course totally possible to live more sustainably. By using public transport, less flying with an airplane or even cycling, the ecological footprint can be significantly reduced. Due to the corona pandemic z. For example, there was a clear reduction in global Co2 emissions by 6.3%, in Germany by as much as 11.4%. This is good news, but nowhere near enough.
In my opinion, this is the area in which I still have the most potential. Unfortunately, Max and I both have cars for work. We also cover shorter distances by car. This is due, among other things, to laziness, but also to the fact that, in my opinion, the tickets for public transport are far too expensive. For example, the trip to the shop and back would cost €5.70 for one person. If there were cheap annual tickets, we would certainly use the bus more often.
Instead, because I needed a new car – my old Golf was 27 years old – I bought a used small car that consumed as little fuel as possible. I am very satisfied with that now. In addition, my goal is not to fly within Germany. Overall, we only fly very little. The next unavoidable big flight will be a visit to the family in Australia. As I said, there is still significant development potential for me and us in this area and if you have good ideas, please let us know.
When it comes to money, too, you can change a lot towards sustainability.
For example, we have changed our house bank. At (German source) https://www.fairfinanceguide.de/ you can see how sustainable your own house bank is. What I actually didn’t know before is that many banks are investing, for example, in the arm’s industry, nuclear power and so on. Since these are absolute no-go’s for me, it quickly became clear to me that we had to change banks. Unfortunately, the “Sparkasse” does not clearly distinguish itself from the topics, which is why we ultimately switched to GLS Bank.
I’m currently researching for us about sustainable investment. Overall, I can say that there are two major sustainable EFTs, the MSCI World Socially Responsible Index (SRI) and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index World Enlarged. Of course, there are also other options with banks outside of investing in funds that clearly distinguish themselves from projects that are harmful to the environment, animals or humans.
If this paragraph completely over strained you, but you are still interested in sustainable money management, then just find out more, e.g. under one of the following pages or videos (in german).
But I alone don’t change the world, do I?
Nothing is perfect, and I don’t think we’ll ever be. But every small step is a step in the right direction. No matter how small, no matter whether you just try one thing or turn your entire life upside down. In the end, everything is beneficial on the way to a world worth living in. So don’t be shy, try it out, find joy in the little things.
And as already mentioned above, every single decision, whether for shopping or at home, at the bank or with the electricity provider, is a decision for animals, for others, for you and me and for our earth.
With these thoughts, I let you go for the rest of the day. Enjoy it, and maybe you want to change something today towards a better future.
All the best,