Since we live in our own apartment, we have the ability to make decisions on how we want to live. We couldn’t do this previously when we were still living at our parents’. As we love nature and the environment so much, we naturally adapted towards a more sustainable lifestyle over the years, aimed towards reducing our ecological footprint here on Earth.
Over the years, when we learned and discovered new things, be it through the University or through our personal interests, we tried to apply them to our own lifestyle as quickly as possible.
Living a more sustainable lifestyle and reducing our ecological footprint will help humanity mitigate climate change, reduce the destruction of ecosystems, help reduce the extinction rate of species, and much more! That is why we’d like to share 7 easy tips to help you live a more sustainable life.
1. Use organic vegetables and fruit
During regular agricultural practices, a plethora of methods is used that harm the environment to a great extent. Some well known examples are the use of pesticides, the use of chemical fertilizers and the use of growth stimulating hormones. Not only are these practices harmful for the environment, they can also pose a threat to our health when consuming the products.
More often than not, fertilizers are excessively used in agriculture. Farmers add more nutrients to the soil than the crops can take up. Consequently, during rainfall events, this excess of nutrients gets flushed out of the agricultural fields and ends up in the surrounding areas.
Croplands are generally surrounded by nature areas. The nutrients that are flushed out of the crop fields thus end up in these adjacent nature areas. Fertilization of croplands thus indirectly results in the fertilization of the surrounding nature.
The fertilization of nature areas has turned out to be very harmful for ecosystems. The enrichment of these natural systems leads to the disappearance of many naturally occurring species because they get suppressed by so called invasive species. Here in the Netherlands for example, the shrub layer is often taken over by species such as nettle, european blackberry, and moor grass, that suppress the naturally occurring vegetation because they thrive in nutrient rich ecosystems.
This is just one of the many harmful consequences of regular agricultural practices. Organic farming has been introduced as an alternative holistic and sustainable form of agriculture. Organic farming promotes biodiversity, naturally resistant species and varieties instead of genetically modified ones, recycling of material, retaining long-term fertile soils, causes for a decrease in pollution, minimizes soil degradation, and etcetera.
2. Natural organic cleaning products
Our second tip for a more sustainable lifestyle is somewhat related to the previous one. In addition to organic food, we also advocate for the use of natural organic cleaning products. For a while now, we have been solely using these for all our cleaning purposes and we have not been able to find any downsides to the use of these compared to their chemical counterparts.
The first time we actually came across these types of products, was during our preparations for a two week hiking trip in Norway. We planned a hike during which we would be far away from any inhabited areas. We thus had to brush our teeth, do the dishes, and etcetera outside in nature. We hence had to look for products that were biodegradable, that is, easily broken down by soil life and that does not result into toxic compounds.
When we came back home from our hiking trip, we gradually exchanged all our chemical products with natural organic alternatives. You can think of products such as toothpaste, washing detergent, dishwashing soap, and shampoo. For each of these products and more, natural organic alternatives are available.
The use of these natural products will reduce the amount of pollutants released in the environment. When pollutants from chemical cleaning products end up in the environment, they can be toxic and hazardous for ecosystems, and can take a very long time to break down.
By using natural organic cleaning products instead of their chemical counterparts, you can easily contribute to creating a more sustainable environment to live in for all of us and our future generations.
We have been using these alternatives for quite a while now, and find that they certainly do their job just as well, if not better! It has even been found that it can be directly beneficial for your own health. A part of the cleaning products you use ends up in the air your breathe in every day, and you use them basically on your whole body. When using natural organic products, you will not breathe in or cover yourself in toxic compounds. It might even help you get rid of that rash you have had due to the laundry detergent you have been using!
3. Do not flush the toilet at home each time you go for number one.
For most people, I guess, this will be a bit of an odd and/or extreme tip. Nevertheless, we will put it out there for you to consider. In the Netherlands, roughly 30% of the water used per household on a daily basis is flushed down the toilet.
A while ago, I read something that is still with me to this day. Somebody mentioned that the water we use to flush the toilet in the western countries, is cleaner than the water many people use as drinking water. Which is just absurd.
By flushing the toilet less often you can very easily help reduce the water use of our current society. During most toilet visits people only pee. By not flushing the toilet each time we pee, we can easily save large amounts of water each day.
4. Reusable products
Let’s take a second to think about all the products we throw away on a daily basis. There’s quite a lot, right? If we look around in the grocery store we go to, we see people grabbing plastic bags for each separate item of fruit and veg. Yesterday for example, we saw someone take one banana and put it in a bag. Next, they grabbed two tomatoes, and put them a new bag. They took an apple, and put it in another bag. It’s odd to realize that they will just throw all those bags away when they get home.
Our current culture has gotten so used to throwing stuff away without thinking about it.
Reusable packaging is a great alternative for single use plastic. You can think of objects such as sealed containers, cleanable water bottles, and sturdy cotton bags for your groceries, as shown on the photo below. There are even alternatives available for cling film and aluminum foil!
We recently came across the brand Onyalife, which offers some great reusable alternatives such as produce bags to take with you to the grocery store to put you vegetables and stuff in, or reusable sandwich wraps. And all of their products are 100% recyclable and mostly made from recycled products such as single use water bottles!
The same goes for other products of course. When you go shopping, for groceries or clothes or whatever, it is just as easy to bring a strong cotton bag or a backpack with you to take the products home with you instead of buying a plastic bag each time. Just try to be creative and take a look around, there are loads of alternatives available these days to replace single use plastics.
Because we live in a small student dorm room, we sadly do not have a garden to do it ourselves, but composting your green waste is a great thing to do. Put simply, composting is the recycling of your green waste into a rich soil, also known as compost.
Although we are unable to compost our green waste, we do separate it from our other waste (as we also do for our plastic waste). By composting your own green waste, you directly help with the segregation of green waste from your regular waste. This helps reduce the amount of waste that ends up in harmful locations such as waterways, landfills and water treatment centers.
If you have a garden, and especially if you have your own little vegetable garden, you can use the compost as a natural source of necessary nutrients for your plants. Not only does this help your plants to better mitigate pests, but it will also result in a more flourishing vegetation and more nutritious fruits and veggies.
As opposed to chemical fertilizers used in common agricultural practices, these natural fertilizers are not bad for the soil or the surrounding area. Compost does not only help your soil retain water and nutrients much better, but it also releases its nutrients much, much slower. This causes the nutrients to not flush away with each rainfall event, but to be bound by the soil or taken up by the plants.
Composting is thus good for your own garden, helps you save money by not having to buy chemical supplements for your garden, and on top of that helps with the recycling of your waste and the waste management in general. On top of that, it is also quite easy to do. The website nrdc.org offers a nice and easy introductory how-to guide.
6. Take the bike
As Dutchmen, we of course have to mention the bike. I am not completely sure, but from what I have heard from speaking to foreigners, the daily use of your bike is most popular here in the Netherlands. Here in Wageningen, we even have bike traffic jams on weekdays from students heading to University.
Of course, nowadays it is difficult to not have a car. But we’ve heard stories of (and witnessed) people taking the car to drive about 500 meters to the store or to someone else’s house. Well, that’s just insane. Not only is this bad for your car (at least so we’ve heard, we are certainly no experts on this matter), but also just unnecessary.
Here in Wageningen, and in the adjacent area, we do just about everything by bike. Taking the bike is not only good for the environment – less emissions of greenhouse gasses – but is also good for your own health, and will save you some gas money! Some extra exercise and cash is of course never a bad thing.
We actually wrote about our decision to sell our car in our first blog post, so head on over if you are interested in reading that or if you want to know what we do to save money by making more sustainable and healthy decisions!
7. Eat less meat
Our final tip for a more sustainable lifestyle that we couldn’t leave out, is to eat less meat. The average amount of daily meat consumed per capita here is more than 200 grams. This is more than double the recommended daily amount! I do not know the consumption of other western countries, but I imagine it won’t differ much from this amount. By just reducing your meat consumption to the recommended daily intake, you can already make a great difference.
Approximately 18% of the global greenhouse gasses emitted by humans, comes from the livestock industry. Additionally, livestock takes up an enormous amount of land. You don’t just need land for the livestock itself, but also for the crops produced to feed them. Globally, about 30% of the land, is used for agricultural purposes. It is thus safe to say, that reducing your meat consumption can greatly help mitigate climate change. It has been found that a change in diet can result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and land use of up to 60%.