1. Eat less animal products
The easiest way to reduce your personal impact is to reduce your consumption of animal products to a minimum: “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use” according to Poore from the University of Oxford, who led the most comprehensive analysis to date about the damage farming does to the planet. “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car” as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions. Read further here to learn the details.
It’s also interesting to take a closer look at each product category and its emissions. Butter made from cow’s milk causes the highest amount of emissions according to the German Federal Environment Ministry. Beef and cheese are ranked 2nd and 3rd and that way still having a very high environmental impact. Take a closer look here (sorry the page is only available in German).
Avoiding animal products isn’t only good for the planet but also for our health. The American Assosication of diets points out “…appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes”
This all might seem like a big project at the beginning, but just try little steps. Try oat milk with your coffee, try alternatives for butter and cream, experiment with tofu or seitan. It’s fun!
2. Take trains, not planes
To me personally this part is the hardest, because I love traveling to far away places so much and that is strongly connected to my concept of freedom. But until we find better ways to fly that are not harming our planet that much I decided to reduce flying to a minimum. I especially avoid flights within Germany and countries close by. My mother lives in Switzerland, so instead of flying to her every time (direct flights are super cheap) I take the train which takes about 7 hours. A few years ago I would travel to far distanced places like Nepal or Brazil twice a year. I currently stopped that completely until I see either more sustainable solutions or political change which is so urgently needed.
3. Buy more second hand
So many things are already existing and that way don’t require any resources anymore. I think it´s so important to not support companies such as H&M, Primark etc. that promote fast fashion. I am not saying I never buy there but I really try to reduce it and I figured out that buying second hand is so much fun. It´s way cheaper, it´s sustainable and it´s more creative. In my apartment almost everything is second hand except for the curtains. I even use bed sheets that my grandparents bought many decades ago and I love them. It’s also fun to explore flee markets. I try to buy things second hand as much as I can from clothes over furniture and books.
4. Avoid waste
It´s the little things that are easy and still make an impact. I try to never buy plastic bottles. I once bought myself a really nice glass bottle that I can fill with hot teas (I am a tea addict) and in summer water with lemons. I take it with me everywhere and just refill it when it´s empty. It also saves me some money. Then I always have linen bags with me so I don´t need plastic bags for my groceries. I also bring a linen bag to the bakery for my bread. I calculated that I save around 100 paper bags that way per year. I don´t buy paper towels for the kitchen and I use bamboo straws. Ordering drinks at bars or restaurant without straws could make a change as well.
5. Change your bank
Actually it is so important which bank to provide your money with. In Germany every conventional bank is involved in the arms industry and not just a little bit (it´s a huge business promising great revenues). And of course supporting a lot of harmful businesses like food speculation, coal extraction and nuclear power. I don´t want my money to support these fields. Luckily in Germany we also have banks that exclude unethical business areas and instead invest in more sustainable fields such as organic farming, social projects, renewable energy etc. That’s where I see my money.
6. Buy more organic
Yes, some people told me “but it´s so expensive” and it is a bit more expensive. But I noticed if you buy more regional and seasonal the difference is not that big. If you buy organic strawberries in winter of course it´s really expensive. Besides that I think producing foods in a sustainable way that is less harmful to nature has a cost and I am willing to pay for it. Then there is another aspect: our health. There are plenty of studies that show how conventional food is full of chemicals, pesticides etc. which are harmful on a long-term perspective. So at the same time you are investing in your health. Besides that I have a really good feeling when I shop at organic stores. I feel that my money goes to more ethical companies that treat nature better and that produce high quality products.
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