The more our living standard degrades the world around us, the more we tend to feel paralyzed and incapable of facing fundamental challenges, like changing our lifestyle. Overlooking the fact that we live in a finite world is a convenient reality. There are many easy excuses to sticking to the way we consume. We might feel like one individual cannot change things plus we have enough personal problems, but the biggest illusion of all is that we lack the money to buy responsibly. The good news is: Living sustainably is easy, fun and possible on budget! Even though the following 10 ideas were collected in Lüneburg, I am sure they will inspire you to live sustainably in any other city. Do you want to see a change in the world? Then start with changing the things that surround you.
- Grow your own vegetables!
Did you ever feel your smile freeze when the vendor at the local farmer’s market hands you three carrots and some tomatoes and tells you she wants everything that is left in your bank account? Gardening is a sustainable and peaceful alternative to save a lot of money. Now, before you persuade your roommates to rent and share an allotment garden (read more on cultural confusion that this might cause, in Rebecca’s post), you might want to get a taste of urban gardening in a community garden. Check out if there is an edible campus project or a community garden in your city and get started! In Lüneburg a student initiative called Leufarm cares for a vegetable garden on campus. Participate & share responsibilities with others. Thus you can learn from scratch what is necessary to care for your own piece of soil.
- Get a refill!
17 million barrels of oil are used in the production of disposable water bottles annually . Thankfully, in many areas, tap water still has better quality than bottled water, but most people buy water in plastic bottles out of convenience or habit. Forget buying bottled water and get used to bringing your own, reusable water bottle everywhere you go and get a tap water refill. A beverage-producing company situated near Lüneburg, promoted the “unique, smooth taste” of their water. That same water being packaged and shipped comes out of the Lüneburg taps. All you can drink and package free.
- Share your food!
Protest against consumerism and help to save goods that would have been thrown away. Share in your neighbourhood, with roommates and friends when you have food left. If you want to meet more people who are interested in this topic, search for a Facebook group in your area. In Germany and Austria you could make an account at foodsharing.de and get into direct contact with people who have groceries to share. In Lüneburg and many other cities this community also provides food sharing shelves, where you can bring leftovers and help yourself with just as much as you need. Read John’s blog post for more insight on food sharing and waste in Germany. The shelves’ locations, more information on the topic and ways to participate are published on the website.
- Have more stay-cations!
The current prices at low cost airlines threaten to extend your intention-action gap? Stay strong and cure your wanderlust by behaving like a tourist in your own city. If you live in Lüneburg get some ice cream and smell the salty air at the Gradierwerk (use the link to see the location). At this construction, situated in the city park, natural brine gradually drops down brushwood, filling the surrounding air with salt. Other than the notion of being at the sea, this is supposed to have a positive effect on your lungs. After a refreshing bath in our beautiful river Ilmenau you leave all the sorrows of everyday life behind.
- Start to fix things!
Has your bike’s tire been flat for a while and you have no clue how nor motivation to fix it? Save money and emissions for gasoline and get help in a do-it-yourself shop. At Leuphana campus we have one run by a student initiative named KonRad. No matter if you need a lot of assistance in repairing your bike or bring your own guide book, here you will find all the tools and support you need until your bike runs smoothly again. Also, renting a bike trailer from this shop every now and then will make your life without a car a lot easier.
- Get involved!
The current economic system, based on the illusion of an infinite world, definitively threatens our environment, but in addition it creates social problems. The growing gap between rich and poor, old and young, immigrant and state resident is supported by a culture of competition instead of community. Get involved or support initiatives that fight for social equality and democracy. Every Wednesday at the political project Anna and Arthur’s, one local initiative cooks a delicious vegan dinner for donations. Everybody is invited to join and pays what they can. The collected money goes to the chefs of the night, for example the group “solidarity with migrants”. This event is more than a cheap way to eat out: the place provides a cosy and inspiring atmosphere where people from different backgrounds come together to meet new people and to share great food.
- Save trees!
When you move to a new city or your partner kicks you out, you might need some furniture. Forget kötbullar, save money and emissions and buy second-hand. Personally, I am a fan of online portals like craigslist or ebay kleinanzeigen where you can directly search for literally ANYTHING, second-hand. Often students leave Lüneburg after their graduation and therefore there is a lively second-hand market. The second-hand furniture store Sack & Pack provides everything from forks to couches. As an extra to the benefits of second-hand, your purchase helps to reduce poverty and inequality within the area. The store is one of seven run by the initiative New Work Lüneburg which creates workspace for permanently unemployed.
- Shorten supply chains!
Your urban gardening project provides you with fresh vegetables, but buying everything else organic can still be costly. Find out if there is a package-free or community-run store in your area. In Lüneburg you could check out the package-free and organic store KornKonnection. Because of regional and direct supply chains, membership involvement and volunteering, prices are low and products fair. Koko works towards zero waste, therefore beside the stock of unperishable goods, products like organic bread, cheese or milk can be ordered as you need them.
- Learn about local fruits!
Learn more about local fruits and their condition and meet other people interested in the topic. In a local club, you can get training and information about edible fruits in your area. Lüneburg, for example, is surrounded by many forested areas where wet summers provide good conditions for mushrooms and berries. Ok, it might sound a little extreme, but wait until you smell the forest while filling your basket with fresh, handpicked mushrooms, I am sure you will enjoy it! Make sure to become a safe, conscious and sustainable gatherer and gain knowledge on walks with experienced members of your club. When collecting be aware of poisonous species and take into account that for mushrooms, unlike berry bushes, which can be collected fully every year without harming it, damage to the mycelium affects the future yields.
- Swap don’t shop!
With the change of seasons you enjoy changing your wardrobe a little. But will you wear all of it again next year? Step out the vicious cycle of consumerism and donate, while picking up something new. Organize a swap party with neighbours and friends. You also might find a swap shop in your area or get inspired to open one yourself. One we have in Lüneburg is called Die Zwiebel and it is accessible when the university is open. Here everybody can share or find clothing and many other things for free. A commercial alternative are second-hand stores. My favourite in Lüneburg is called ZEUGHAUS. The store is well organized, clean and cosy. Like the furniture shop Sack & Pack it creates work space for permanently unemployed while saving resources. People with low income, e.g. students supported with financial aid, like BAföG get discounts up to 50 %.
So, realising these 10 ideas will change the world? It will contribute to a change, as soon as it motivates you to see the space you move around in every day with new eyes. Leaving unsustainable trajectories behind, while you start to enjoy finding and creating sustainable solutions around you, you will have successfully contributed to make this world a better place. I look forward to learning about which solutions you will find in your city in this process and which of those I found in Lüneburg are also applicable where you live. So, my question to you is: Which ideas that save money and emissions make your day in Lüneburg or another city? Please comment below!