A lot of people feel overwhelmed when facing the climate-crisis. Where to start? What to do? How much impact can I, as an individual, really make? We believe sustainability doesn’t have to be complex, costly or difficult. And some sustainable choices are very easy or even pleasant to make. So, we collected a list of 30+ small, sustainable acts. Because small acts count up together. Pick some that appeal to you, and make this new year more sustainable than the last.
Food, packaging and food waste
- Bring your own doggy bag. It’s 2024, in the EU we pay 'plastic-allowance' on take-away plastics, so you don’t have to be ashamed anymore. Forgot to bring your own? Then it’s okay to ask for a doggy bag. Clean your doggy bag at home and use it for other stuff, until it breaks.
- Drink water from the tap. Of course not for any country around the world, but we can’t believe people are still buying bottles if the tap water is fine. This saves loads of plastic (and money).
- At the end of the week, tidy up your fridge and make a one-pan meal from all your left-overs. And don't be surprised when this becomes your favourite meal of the week.
- Freeze your leftovers, nothing is better than coming home from a busy day and your supper just needs some heat!
- Bring your own shopping bags to the supermarket. Forgot one? Fill the pockets of your coat, or find an empty paper-box that supermarkets often display somewhere near the entrance/exit. Saves: at least 3 plastic bags a week.
- Store your fruits and vegetables at the right place; in or outside the fridge. Eggplants and courgettes outside the fridge and eggs, apples, and broccoli, inside. And a Banana Hack: Keep bananas separate from other fruits. They release gases that ripen fruits faster.
- Buy the separate bananas that lost their ‘bunch’. Apparently, people don’t like single bananas in the supermarket and these occasionally end up as foodwaste.
- Cut out meat sometimes. Choose a vegetarian or vegan option more often. This really makes a difference: When all people living in the Netherlands would eat half of the meat they do now, we would save 10.8 megaton of CO2-EQ.
- With the tip mentioned above, you can also reduce the impact of your organisation. Go for a vegetarian/vegan lunch “policy”, for example. Or the classical “meatless monday”, to start with.
- Use more of what you buy. Diminish cutting waste and use more, like the stems of your broccoli and cauliflower. And a beauty tip: browned avocado is perfect to moisturize your skin!
- Trust your senses, not the food labels. Food expiration dates are just suggestions for final selling dates.
- Always shop smart, buy what you need, and don’t let yourself be seduced by in-store marketing.
- Avoid coffee cups/pads and unnecessary items. Why fill up our landfills and drink bad coffee at the same time? Drinking coffee was perfectly fine before Nespresso invented “coffee pads”, George, drink your coffee from beans…
- When at the office, use your coffee mug several times. The same goes for tea. This is also applicable to any other situation by the way; at home, at a friend's etc. With doing so, you save a lot of water with not rinsing the mugs so often.
- Pee in the shower. This means no unnecessary flushing of your toilet. Whether in the toilet or shower, all water ends up in the same sewage system anyway. But please, don’t do the other things; that's disgusting. Saves: up to 11 liters of water a day.
- Turn off the shower when shaving your legs, beard, etc. You wash away all the shaving foam, and the water runs for nothing.Saves: 20 liters of water a day.
- Turn off the shower when soaping. Makes so much sense… Saves: 10 liters a day.
- Don't brush your teeth in the shower. Brushing your teeth while showering means showering for +- 2 minutes extra. Saves: up to 11 liters of water a day.
- Are you a daredevil, who always showers cold? Don’t feel bad if you aren’t. We also love our warm showers. But; it takes some time and running water before the water reaches the 38 degrees a standard shower is performing at. Don’t let this water just flush away, take a bucket and collect it. To clean your house, or give it to your plants. They will like it. Maybe this trick will make you water them more regularly as well ;)
- Choose sustainable brands. With every euro you spend on them, you enable them to work on their sustainable mission. While with not-sustainable brands, well, you just higher their profits. Look at the websites of the brands to read about their sustainability aims and ambitions. Many brands nowadays focus on this, luckily.
- And is this information lacking at a specific brand? Dare to contact them, and ask for this information. This will make brands realise they need to work on their sustainability.
- This is also applicable for organisations; have you thought about how sustainable your partners in your supply chain are? Or the parties where you order your energy, office utensils or catering? Ask them about their sustainability ambitions and encourage them to speed up their sustainable transition. And if a party doesn’t want to take their green steps, well maybe it is time to change to another supplier.
- Buy products second hand or refurbished. With this, you prolong the life span of the product. Every new item that is being produced has an impact on our planet. And once this impact is made, it is a waste to not use the product as long as possible.
- Look in your wardrobe; are there any items you never wear? Probably someone else will be very happy with them! So go and find a new owner for them; bring them to a second-hand store, give them to a friend or sell them online (Marktplaats, Vinted or any other initiative). Also, nice to do: invite some friends over and do a little clothing swap. Ask everyone to bring some items and exchange them. Big chance you all will end up with some nice ”new” items.
- Use less fossil fuels. So cut out the car, plane, ship or motorbike whenever possible. Take your bike or walk, and work on your health condition at the same time. Win-Win.
- No option other than a fossil-fueled transport method? With the more people you share the vehicle, the better. So invite a colleague to ride along, share your ride with a hitchhiker and best; take public transport whenever possible.
- Of course, we can’t ignore the climate-bad-guy: avoid the plane. Yes. We say it again. Take the plane as little as possible. The emissions are just gigantic. Especially for short distances, the plane is the ultimate worst choice. Over 1000 km, the plane can be more sustainable than taking the car, when you are just by your self. But read the previous sentence carefully: because as soon as you share the car, the car is the more sustainable choice.
- Choose a sustainable bank and insurance. Because these institutes will invest your money in a good cause, while keeping on eye on it in your behalf. Win-win, for you and our planet. Check out which banks in the Netherlands are most sustainable. Choosing a sustainable bank really has a great positive impact.
- Dry your laundry on the clothesline. No need for a dryer! Dryer costs money, electricity, space in your house, and your clothing wears down quicker. Per cycle: €1.95 each time, adding to quite some money per year.
- Clean out your mailbox. Storing all the emails you’ll never read again takes up a lot of data and energy. Read more about this: the impact of online behavior.
- Turn your heater 1 degree lower. This alone can save you up to 7% on your annual energy bill! If you're feeling cold, use a warm blanket, cuddle someone, or wear your nicest (second-hand) pullover.
- Pick up one piece of litter from the street every day. If everyone aged 10 and older does this, we could prevent 500,000 kg of litter from ending up in Dutch nature every day! Many hands make light work.
- Most central heating boilers are set to the factory default of 80ºC, but they operate more efficiently at 60ºC. This quick adjustment can save a significant amount of gas and, consequently, reduce CO₂ emissions. It doesn't compromise comfort, and there's no risk of a cold shower. If you're unable to do it yourself, installers affiliated with Techniek Nederland and local energy cooperatives are also willing to assist you.
Goodluck! We are curious which small sustainability choice will become your favourite this year.