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A step by step guide to more sustainability

 

What you can do in your everyday life

70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to around 100 companies, mainly oil, coal and gas producers. This is the worrying result of a 2017 study, so does it matter even what we as individuals can do to protect the climate? We think it does. Of course it will take enormous global efforts and pressure on politicians. But companies do not act in a vacuum. They produce what consumers want to buy. In other words, our attitude and consumer behaviour influence what big companies do. Of course, fair clothing, ecologically conscious shopping or environmentally friendly trips are only small building blocks - but many small things eventually add up to something big. That’s why our consumer behaviour can unleash great power. It is perhaps the greatest power we have.

 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), too, sees it as the duty of each and every one of us, in addition to governments, to do everything possible to limit global warming. This is possible in various areas in which we can all decide again and again. Here we present some immediate measures. Important: Every little helps! If you cannot implement all the measures immediately, start somewhere. Take one step at a time – and talk to others about it. Because the more of us do something, the more we can achieve.

Transportation and travel
Being mobile and travelling – both symbols for freedom, prosperity and social participation. And it is simply fun! Since 1960, passenger traffic has quadrupled. Then there is freight transport, which has tripled in the same period. But traffic also pollutes the environment. Here is what we can do:

  • Drive less:
    Cars with combustion engines are bad for the ecological balance sheet. Think about transport alternatives: could you go by bike, on foot, by public transport? Some routes are still extremely difficult without a car. For such journeys, try to use a car together with others as often as possible. To get the same eco-balance as a train, a car must be occupied by at least three people. If you live in the city, consider carpool apps. Otherwise, you can carpool with neighbours for regular trips, for example to work or shopping.

  • Avoid long distance flights: 
    Flying less is good for the climate – even though traveling is one of the most beautiful things in the world and the temptation with low-cost airlines is admittedly quite big. Particularly long-haul flights have a heavy impact on your personal eco-balance. With one long-haul trip less, you can save a lot of emissions in one go. One approach is to make fewer different trips per year and stay longer at one destination. Various companies also offer financial compensation for greenhouse gases. In addition to the price of the flight ticket, you pay a fee that helps save CO2 elsewhere, for example by expanding renewable energy. Such compensation payments may only be the second-best solution, but they are better than nothing.

  • Fair travel:
    You can also achieve a lot by choosing your travel destinations wisely. There are fascinating destinations within Germany and Europe that you can reach by train or coach. Have you experienced, for example, the incredibly clear air and the spectacular view of the North Frisian Islands? Or the romantic rivers and channels of the Spreewald? And these are only two of countless examples. There are so many highlights right on your doorstep! Before booking a trip, find out whether climate protection is a concern of the tour operator and which offers you want to use locally. Skiing in the desert, for example, might not be one of them ;)

  • Video calls instead of business trips: 
    If your job requires travelling, check with your employer whether you really need to be present in person or whether a video conference is sufficient. We have gained some experience with this during the Corona lock-down. Many companies now at least try to avoid domestic flights when business trips are absolutely necessary.

Diet
We can make a direct contribution to more sustainability with our nutritional style. Greenhouse gases are produced at many points in food production, for example in feeding livestock, meat and dairy processing and transport. As a rule of thumb, animal products have a higher impact on the climate than plant products.

  • Eat less animals, more plants: 
    One reason is the emissions caused by the animals themselves; the other reason is the consumption of resources and land during the keeping of the animals as the production of their feed is CO2-intensive, too. In addition, there are emissions during processing, transport of the animals and meat products until they end up in your fridge. Almost 70 percent of the emissions in food production can be traced back to animal products. Vegetable products, on the other hand, only account for about 30 percent.

  • Every less is more:
    If you simply love your steaks and schnitzels and don’t want to do without them, you may be able to reduce the amount of meat you eat. Every vegetarian meal means one less piece of meat – and that’s great! Nobody must become a hardcore vegan overnight. Instead, try to deliberately avoid meat at all meals on three days a week. If you’re already a vegetarian, you could do a vegan challenge together with friends for a limited period. Also give those new veggie alternatives a chance if you haven’t tried them yet.

  • Buy meat from your region: 
    If you want to treat yourself to a piece of meat, make sure that it comes from your region. The advantage is that long transports are no longer necessary – which is better for the environment and for the animals. You will see that it tastes much better than meat from the discount store.

  • Regional rocks:
    Of course, this does not only apply to meat. There are often local or regional alternatives for all other products as well. When did you last pay your local market a visit? This is where local producers offer their fresh produce – which is not only good for the climate, but also for your body and soul.

  • Choose seasonal food:
    With fresh fruit and vegetables, the right season also plays a role. If you can, choose varieties that come from farms near you instead of fruit and veg that must be transported from far away. Find out when which fruit and vegetables are ripe. Hint: Give strawberries at Christmas a second thought … You can find seasonal calendars for fruit, vegetables and salads on the Internet, which often come with ideas for delicious dishes.

  • Throw away less food:
    Almost one third of the food produced ends up in the garbage. Hard to believe, but this amounts to 82 kilos per year – two full shopping trolleys! You can tackle this with systematic shopping, proper storage of food, creative cooking and conjuring something from leftovers. You can use various platforms to give away food that you can’t use up, or you can ask your neighbours ... By the way: The best bore date is exactly this: the date before which a food product is best. It doesn’t mean it’s not okay after this date. You can rely on your eyes, nose and sense of taste. If you don't notice anything, the food is most likely still absolutely fine.

  • Avoid garbage: 
    Speaking of shopping: For your next shopping trip, make sure you have a few bags and sacks ready that you have kept from you last shopping. Avoiding plastic has a lesser impact on CO2 reduction than not eating meat or avoiding long distance flights. However, a plastic diet does help to protect the environment because it keeps the mountains of rubbish smaller. Plastics are not completely decomposable, instead they are burnt or end up in the sea. In addition to sustainable veggie nets and reusable paper bags for bread and rolls, there are also beeswax food wraps that you can use to store leftovers and wrap up your sandwiches. Many shops accept them for your cheese at the cheese counter.

Your home
With few exceptions, our residential buildings must be heated or cooled – mostly still with fossils. Even if you’re not a house owner and can’t invest in environmentally friendly technology, you can make a difference:

  • Clever heating:
    Have you ever given the temperature in your apartment another thought? If you lower the temperature by one degree Celsius, you can already save quite a bit of energy. Find out about proper ventilation and other tricks. Also ask your property manager about modern heating thermostats, for example. And next time you go to a flea market, look out for some comfy wool sweaters that will keep you warm.

  • Disconnect power guzzlers:
    Switching off devices when they are not in use has become pretty much common sense. If you use socket strips with switches, you can also switch off the standby function. Each device is hardly important on its own, but all of them add up to a lot. Also find out how much power each appliance actually uses. Ovens, water heaters and older refrigerators and freezers are particularly energy-intensive.

  • Go for green energy:
    Choose an electricity provider that obtains its electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydro, biomass and geothermal energy. Check the small print of your current provider to find out what proportion of electricity is already coming from such sources or whether you get electricity from nuclear and coal-fired power plant

Clothing
Since you are reading this article on Emerald Berlin, you probably already know a bit about this! ☺ The textile industry, like most others, contributes to the production of harmful greenhouse gases. Oil is also the raw material from which synthetic fibres are made. Apart from production, every day, incredible amounts of newly produced clothing items are shipped from the producing countries to us, the consumers.

  • More sustainable labels:
    When you buy clothes, look at the labels and find out about the details. Responsible labels focus on environmental protection and fair production conditions, but also on quality and durability. Sustainable means that the materials used are renewable and are processed without a lot of chemicals and usually with a significantly lower water consumption. Fair means that the clothing is produced under fair working conditions. If a high-quality piece lasts for years, it's okay if it costs a little more.

  • Second-hand clothing:
    Second-hand clothes are another option. Many a favourite item can be found on sales platforms, swap meets, flea markets and charity shops. This is not only sustainable, it also allows you to create your own style beyond mainstream fashion. By the way: Sometimes you can even find the latest pieces from the big fashion chains on the second-hand platforms. Check before you buy something new if someone else’s mistaken purchase might be your new favourite!

  • Less is more:
    Every fifth garment is only worn once or twice before it is disposed of. We all have a full wardrobe, don't we? How about this: Buy fewer but high quality sustainable clothes – and then wear them longer, more consciously and with pride.
You can read more about sustainability in general and sustainable fashion here.

 

The author of this blog article is Katharina Frier-Obad. You want to give her feedback or have a question? Write her a comment here.


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