Sustainability 101 – essentials and habits to build a more sustainable lifestyle

What changes do I need to make to become more sustainable in my daily life? Do I need to throw out all my bad products and replace them with green alternatives? Will I have to quit some of my bad habits altogether? And what does that exactly entail – a sustainable lifestyle?

Essentially, this is a way of living that reduces the amount of damage to the environment. Therefore, it is sustainable because we will be able to continue life in the quality we know for a longer period of time. This means that sustainability goes beyond minimizing our carbon footprint to combat climate change. It is also about preserving (scarce) resources and polluting our beautiful planet less. At the heart of this lies using products that last longer to do both: reducing the waste produced that is contaminating, for example our oceans, and decreasing the amount of resources needed to make a new product. 

So, what exactly are these swaps that help us become more sustainable? Here comes our carefully assorted list of essentials and habits with which you can help contributing to showing more respect to mother earth.

Bring a water bottle and (plastic) containers

Here is a question: how much plastic and other wrapping would a person approximately throw away after buying a ready-made lunch at Albert Heijn or McDonalds next to uni? Now, think about how much you would produce if you had brought pasta salad (for example) from home, ate with you own cutlery and refilled your reusable bottle at uni. This will save you a lot of money too by the way, because cooking at home is generally cheaper than eating out. You don’t have the time to prepare something in the morning? Cook twice as much the evening before and already fill the leftovers in your container.

Don’t forget to bring your own cutlery

What’s up with these plastic straws?

Single-use plastic is the environment’s enemy. It takes centuries to be degraded into its components (to be exact: 400 years for a plastic bottle), pollutes the oceans and starves turtles and birds to death. These innocent creatures will eat the plastic confusing it with prey until their stomach is full (and stays full) – without being nurtured by their food though.  Just ask the barkeeper if he can give you your drink without a straw. If you do want to slurp from a straw, buy a metal straw at Dille & Kamille and carry it in your bag.

Your lemonade tastes even better with a clear conscience

Reusable bags to buy your veggies

How do you carry these tomatoes home? In another single-use plastic bag? Of course not, if you can simply take a reusable cotton bag from home. In some supermarkets you can even find superlight microfiber bags in the fruit and veggie section. This small investment does yield long-term benefits.

Set up a recycling bag and separate trash

Of course, it will be impossible to stop producing garbage altogether. Nonetheless, separating your trash will enable that what is still of use can be recycled – instead of just burning the trash or dumping it somewhere. In doing so, you will need a trash can for paper and one for recycling plastics, metals and drink packaging. Here it is important to remember to actually rip off the paper wrapping around the plastic container of your yoghurt and throw it into the different bins.

On top of that, it would be ideal to set up a composting bucket for the biodegradable waste. That way you will get fertile soil for your home gardening projects. If this, however, is too complicated for you, you can also buy biodegradable bags from Action. Or, you check on the website of the municipality where the so called green bins are located in your neighborhood and bring your organic waste there.

Buy in bulk and chose refillers

It makes a huge difference whether you buy a small soap in a plastic container (which you have to replace every month) or whether you buy the family pack and refillers. These will of course last longer, (probably be cheaper on the long run), and at least you can reuse the soap dispenser.

Eco-friendly alternatives to single use products in the bathroom

Just because you try to be more sustainable does not mean that you don’t want to clean, for example, your ears anymore. Nevertheless, next time try buying cotton swabs made entirely of cotton at Ekoplaza instead of those with a plastic in between. If you want to take it one step further you can order reusable and washable swabs here made of silicone that lasts. 

This is what your bathroom could look like …

Clean your kitchen with microfiber cloths and a bamboo brush

If you are as clumsy as me, you will probably run through a package of kitchen paper equally as fast (spilled my coffee this morning anywhere it doesn’t belong again). Same goes for the sponges that start smelling after what seemed to be two times of doing the dishes. So why don’t you try cleaning your mess on the kitchen counter with microfiber clothes instead of kitchen paper in the future? And most certainly this bamboo brush (1.99 €) from Xenos will make your dishware shine just as bright. 

Our commissioner just bought her bamboo brushes

Use what you have first!!

Now, does this mean that you will have to throw away all your sponges and cotton swap and handsoap? Of course not. If anything, this would be counterproductive, because you would throw away perfectly good products.  After all, the most important lesson is that nobody expects you to have a 100% eco-friendly lifestyle.  As a matter of fact, achieving this will probably be impossible. Instead, take your time to replace your everyday products one at a time (when that sponge starts to smell) and slowly incorporate one sustainable habit after another into your student life.  

Now it is your turn. Are there any habits you can incorporate into your daily life today already? Did you find reusable bags for your veggies at Albert Heijn already?

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