Two and a half earths. Two and a half! If everybody on this planet lived the way I live, we would need two and a half earths! This seemed totally unbelievable to me at first. I spent the past few years mentally patting myself on the back because I was under the impression I was leading a reasonably sustainable lifestyle (eating almost no meat, taking the train to work, buying locally whenever possible, getting green electricity at home and shopping very rarely) – and then this: two and a half earths just for me!
Some of you might be wondering “What the hell is she talking about?” and some of you might already know the little digital tool called “Fußabdrucktest” that lets you calculate your ecological footprint (there is something similar in English called “Ecological Footprint Calculator“, but you need to enter your email-address in order to use it). I answered all the questions of the Fußabdrucktest very honestly – which is why I got the very accurate result that two and half earths were needed to sustain my very own lifestyle for all the people living on our beautiful planet. I was in shock.
From this moment on it was clear to me that I had to make some changes.
For me, sustainability has always been an important topic – even before it became omni-present in the media and in everyday conversations with friends, coworkers and family-members. I like the fact that animal rights, climate change and plastic pollution are discussed in various TV- or radio-shows and that people, who are conscious about the way they live, can get a vast amount of information about what they can do to stop the madness that is our daily consumer behavior. So if there has ever been a good time to make changes in one’s life, it is now. I decided to start lightly with some minor changes that would not affect my day-to-day life too much in order to not become discouraged already at the beginning.
Getting started with “This is a good guide”
At the Frankfurt book fair I dug out a book called “This is a good guide” by a Dutch woman named Marieke Eyskoot. I started reading it at home in bed the same night and finished it three days later because it gave me so much insight and inspiration regarding sustainable consumption. The book not only provides background information on how the products we use are being produced (clothes for example), it also offers alternatives or explains why one might overthink buying certain products at all (do we really need so many clothes?). I am happy to lend the book to anyone who is interested!
No more Amazon
Amazon. The paradise of online shopping. Although I am not a big shopper (neither offline, nor online) I have been ordering the occasional Amazon-package in the past years. And how convenient it is! The product of your choice will be delivered right to your doorstep the next day for a ridiculous price. We all know the downside of this luxury: underpaid employees, semi-legal company structures in order to prevent paying taxes, a monopoly position due to suppressed competitors and the strict pursuit of an expansion strategy with the goal of global domination. And we support that by ordering package after package. Enough of that, I thought, and had my Amazon-account deleted. Yes, this is right – you cannot delete it yourself, you need to ask Amazon to delete it. Here is how.
A second life for clothes
I used to donate old clothes (or rather: clothes that I didn’t want to wear anymore) to charity – which is still a good thing I suppose, but not really appropriate if the clothes are basically as good as new. So I went on an online-search for second hand stores in Frankfurt and found a very nice one called “Outflip“, that has been in business for the past 20 years. It is located in my favorite district Bornheim and being run by a pragmatic and down-to-earth lady who will assess your clothes very critically upon various requirements (“This is out of style”, “Wrong season”, “This pattern won’t sell”). But if she does take any of the three items you are allowed to present to her during your personal appointment (no appointment, no acceptance of goods) and she manages to sell them, you will receive 50 percent of the retail price. If that’s not worth the trouble, what is!
They are popping-up everywhere: shops that sell groceries without packaging. They are called “Unverpackt” (Berlin) or “gramm.genau” (Frankfurt) or “Schüttgut” (Stuttgart) and encourage you to bring your own (empty) packaging in order to fill it with whatever you need to buy. The selection of goods you can get there is expanding rapidly; most shops also sell soaps, shampoos or solid toothpaste. I went there a couple of times in the past weeks – admittingly you need to be a bit more organized for this compared to simply running into the supermarket, but it feels just so good to get home without a crazy amount of plastic packaging that will fill up your waste-bin in no time.
Coffee to go in a cup to keep
Not much to say about this – using coffee-to-go-cups is a no-go for every responsible person. And it is just so easy to bring your own cup from home and hand it to your coffee-dealer. My favorite coffee place called “Espressionist” actually even gives me a discount of 20 percent for bringing my own cup. Being responsible has never made more sense – economically and environmentally.
So this was my gentle introduction into the topic of sustainability. And there is gonna be more. Stay tuned.