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Some tips we’re using to try and live more sustainably for the year ahead
Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently (or are part of a conservative head-in-the-sand government that doesn’t believe in climate change *ahem* looking at you Australian Liberal party) – you’re probably aware that the planet right now is on track to burn up in flames, likely within in our lifetimes if we don’t start making some changes to how we produce and dispose of products, food, and energy.
Though it often feels like there’s not much we as individuals can do to stave off the apocalypse (apart from suspending a certain Presidents twitter account), over the last few months Stefan and I have been trying to build habits and make purchasing decisions based on the sustainability of products, or whether we can verify if it has been made using sustainable practices.
I’ll be honest, this change wasn’t some lightbulb moment, where we woke up on a Saturday and decided to change everything and become eco-warriors. It has happened gradually, as we’ve watched more Youtube video clips on the topic, as we’ve discussed the issues with friends and personally, as I’ve become more and more interested in minimalist and sustainable travel and lifestyle blogs.
Bit by bit, living in a sustainable way has become more important to us.
Sometimes though, it’s hard to know where to start, and honestly, there’s probably a lot of things we aren’t doing, that we could be doing, but haven’t adjusted to yet. Flying back to Australia for one thing (Co2 emissions are terrible!) or eating purely locally sourced vegetables for another (I can’t resist imported berries in the Austrian wintertime).
So we are nowhere near perfect, and in fact are just trying to do our best. But doing some small, impactful things, that seem manageable, has made a difference in how we decide what to buy, recycle and which brands to support.
These are just some of the ways in which we’re trying to live more sustainably this year, and hopefully, they’ll help you, if you’re wanting to make some changes but are unsure where to start.
Support local businesses & markets
Your local fruit and veg market will definitely have more locally sourced produce and much less plastic packaging than your nearby supermarket. Especially in Vienna, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to fabulous local markets with fresh and delicious produce.
From the big name Naschmarkt and Brunnenmarkt to the littler Karmelitermarkt, Rochusmarkt, Meiselmarkt…there’s really no reason not to go to a local food market on the weekend. There you can stock up on fresh, local and (hopefully) sustainably produced groceries.
You can make the most of the trip by enjoying the chance to get up close to a lot of different cultures and mingle with your local community.
Plus, by purchasing at a local market you’re likely supporting local farmers & small business owners, while saving yourself loads of money – win win for everyone!
If you can’t make it to a ‘big’market on the weekends, or just need to grab something quickly, try to choose a local produce store over big brand supermarkets that mass import fruit & veg, your friendly local grocer will appreciate it.
Become a Weekday Vegetarian
Ok I can feel your eyeballs rolling to the back of your head with this one, but hear me out!
Y’know how back in the 1950’s, having your Sunday Roast once a week was a really big deal? That was mostly because meat was considered a once-a-week treat to enjoy around the family dinner table. Nowadays, we take the idea of eating meat every day as a God-given right. The problem is, the meat-eating industry is the single most destructive force behind climate change, for many, many reasons. Most hilariously…because of cow farts.
I’m not joking – cow farts release destructive methane into the air, and because of our insatiable drive and entitlement to read meat, we’re breeding (and killing) cows at mass scale which means….too many cow farts.
The meat industry is by far one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and we know that in a perfect world, half the population turning vegetarian would help solve the problem.
However, in the spirit of small, manageable changes that we can actually stick with, I didn’t want to go all out vegetarian from one day until the next. I was actually vegetarian for 5 years, starting when I was 19 years old, and went back to eating red meat when I moved to Europe. So I know that it can be done.
That said, I’m also a realist, meat can be delicious and we live in Austria, where its rare to have more than 1 vegetarian option on the menu, and even then it’s normally a sad salad.
Enter weekday vegetarianism. A simple concept, that means you can still enjoy the occasional steak while reducing the volume of meat you consume and money you give to the meat industry.
So for now, we’re sticking with only eating red meat on weekends, which funnily enough, is making us appreciate it more, and be more conscious of our purchasing decisions when we do decide to eat meat.
All about those baby steps to make a difference!
Say no to plastic straws
This one is so easy I can’t believe we haven’t started doing it earlier.
I’d never even thought about how mindlessly we use plastic straws in drinks at bars and takeaway joints, until the guys at Common Wanderer pointed it out on their Instagram stories. Now, when I get a drink and it has a plastic straw in it, I immediately cringe, because it’s so unnecessary!
Think how much plastic is needed for you to have a straw in your Aperol spritz.
Now think how many spritzers, cocktails and twirly straws are used each night in your local hangout. How much plastic can you imagine is being made and used for a one-use item.
You know what else works? Your mouth, direct to the glass. It’s as easy as saying ‘no straw thanks’ when you order. Or you can go next-level and BYO sustainable metal straw when you travel or go out.
There are one or two bars in Vienna now that actually serve drinks with metal sustainable straws, most recently in Spear we were able to reuse our metal straws, which was a lovely touch to reduce waste.
Choose sustainable clothing & shopping
Sustainable fashion ain’t just for your hippie Aunt anymore.
Every choice you make on where to shop impacts which businesses continue their damaging practices to create high street fast fashion around the world. I’ll admit, I was a huge H&M, Zara and Mango fan a few years ago when I was broke and first moved to Vienna. Couldn’t resist the racks and racks of clothing that changed almost weekly – but now, when I walk into those stores, all I hear in the back of my head is the question ‘who made this?’.
How did these clothes get here, why is this top so cheap, cheaper than a movie ticket? What sacrifices have been made along the way – environmentally and in terms of human rights?
That’s the thing with developing a damn conscience, once you start becoming aware of the issues surrounding fast fashion, you can’t pretend you don’t know anymore. Plus the quality of those clothes is normally terrible, they crumble after a few washes and with Zara especially, they are designed for teeny tiny Spanish/Italian sized women so don’t last long at all.
Instead, I’m now actively seeking out sustainable brands when buying new clothes. At the very least, when I buy something now, I want to make sure it’s an investment piece, rather than something I’ll wear twice and throw away 12 months later.
Some of my favorite brands that promote their fair production practices or sustainability that I’ve found are Grüne Erde, Closed, Ethical by DariaDaria, Everlane (who don’t ship to Austria yet, dammit!) PrAna for sportswear and Armed Angels.
One for the ladies – diva cups
This is a pure numbers game ladies. Think how many tampons/pads/pantyliners you would go through on a regular cycle.
Now times that by 12 for how many you go through in a year.
Now calculate that by how many years you’ll be needing sanitary items, and think about how much waste that (damn annoying and unavoidably necessary) way of managing your period is creating.
On average, because of the chemicals used to make them, tampons take up to 500 YEARS to completely decompose, because of their chemical components!!
Wusstest du, dass man als Frau durchschnittlich 500 Zyklen durchlebt, somit rund 3.500 Tage blutet und das zusammengerechnet 10 Jahre durchgehend? 🍓Wir sind Frauen. Unser Körper ist ein Geschenk. Lasst uns stolz darauf sein. Sagen wir heute einfach einmal DANKE. erdbeerwoche wünscht euch einen schönen Tag☀️🌹 #menstruation #menstruationmatters #periodpositive #frauenpower #bloodywoman #togetherwearestrong @fairfetzt beautiful Makeup by @gepudert 💄
Diva cups are not only more sustainable as an alternative, but hollllllyyy shit they are so much more convenient when you travel. Honestly, my life and soul is lighter for not constantly carrying around a stash of tampons that can come rolling out of my handbag at any time (I’ll rant about European tampon packaging some other time – yep, I’m a riot at parties) and I can’t imagine going back to that life since switching to diva cups a few years ago.
In fact, the lightbulb moment for me on this topic was when I met with the founder of Erdbeerwoche – an Austrian startup that is dedicated to creating the next generation of sustainable feminine hygiene. Again, once I knew some of the facts, I changed my habits and honestly have never looked back, Diva Cups are the bomb.
Select the right Lightbulbs
We use eco lightbulbs throughout the apartment and have them set on timers to ensure lights aren’t left on when we’re not home. Because honestly, haven’t we all known about lightbulbs being a factor to greenhouse gases since we were kids?
This one is a big challenge for us this year. I’m hyper aware that my little travel addiction has environmental consequences that we need to take responsibility for, by finding more environmentally friendly ways to explore.
In our everyday life, we manage very easily without owning a car to get around the city. We both regularly take public transport or ride our bikes into work each day, to reduce our carbon footprint.
Additionally, whenever possible, we travel by train rather than a flight. It’s not only more sustainable, but I genuinely love train travel, even if we’re just popping to Tirol or to nearby cities like Prague, Budapest or Amsterdam. There’s nothing better than sipping coffee and watching the world go by your window.
In my happy place on a train trip to Ljubljana
The big challenge for us is offsetting our flights. With an upcoming wedding in Bali, inevitable flights home to Australia because we’re expats, not to mention travel we both need to make for our jobs, that’s a lot of emissions adding up. I’ll be offsetting them using this website for the trips we can’t avoid.
For upcoming holiday planning in 2018 though, both Stefan and I are looking into more local adventures in Austria, hopefully by using the OEBB Austria card so we can hop all over the countryside easily and more sustainably.
More local adventures like this please!
Travelling sustainably also means that when we’re in destinations we support local businesses, engage with local communities and choose activities with trusted local suppliers. We try to stay in family-owned B&Bs or guesthouses instead of a chain, resort-holiday style hotel and use public transport instead of air-conditioned private coaches when we can.
How else do you see the locals in action? Again, small decisions that can have an accumulative impact.
Plus, by supporting local businesses, you’ll have a much more authentic experience and local adventures that cookie cutter holiday packages won’t necessarily deliver!
So, when you’re travelling, try to think of how you can support the local destination, and try to avoid contributing to the over tourism issues that many destinations are currently struggling with.
This one is pretty straightforward for me when it comes down to it – buy less shit.
All that clutter, all those clothes you haven’t touched for 12 months, or junk clogging up your storage units, get rid of it.
Donate it, reuse it, recycle it. If you haven’t used it in 12 months, you probably never will.
We have a simple guiding light for this approach though. When I first arrived in Vienna, my entire life was in 1 backpack and 2 (admittedly jam-packed) handbags. I owned basically nothing, and I got by just fine that way living on the road. Since then, I’ve been working to keep my clothes and possessions to a minimum, to get back to that standard.
Because living out of a backpack for years taught me – you don’t actually need all that stuff.
Reduce and Reuse
We’ve all done a lot to focus on recycling in our everyday lives, but when was the last time you thought about reducing and reusing things?
Get yourself some good Tupperware to reduce those takeaway packages and glad wrap usage.
Get a water bottle you’ll take everywhere so you don’t have to buy a plastic one everytime you get thirsty.
Reduce the packaging you use and accept on items you buy. Say no to the plastic bag at Peek & Cloppenburg, and the extra plastic knives and forks in your Vietnamese takeaway lunch.
You don’t have to go all out zero waste to make a difference. Like all of the points mentioned above, it’s really about making small, manageable changes to your everyday habits that will accumulate into making a difference.
It might not seem like it, but these few changes will have you approaching your decisions differently and (hopefully!) feeling better about your impact on the world.
We all still have a long way to go, but at least with these efforts, you can start making a change, without having to overhaul your entire life in a weekend.
What tips or tricks do you have to try and live more sustainably? I’d genuinely love to know, as we’re still learning too, and it’s only through discussion that we can all get better at this! Let us know in the comments and I hope these tips have helped spark your own ideas for sustainable living this year.
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