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Think small: Simple steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle

Separating your rubbish, saving electricity, travelling by train: These are all ways we can live more sustainably.

But climate change is influenced by many more areas of our lives than you might think. Those who want to live consciously can do more – for example, at the office or the supermarket.

> Watch how you watch Netflix: For many of us, not being able to open up our laptops and stream the latest series would be unthinkable nowadays. However, the server farms needed to provide content require a lot of energy.

A few tricks make things more environmentally friendly: Stream once, watch from your hard drive all other times is the general rule. Films, shows and music should not be streamed over and over again, but downloaded once to the device and played from there.

While you may not be able to keep your favourite Netflix shows downloaded, your favourite songs on Spotify will likely fit onto your phone’s hard drive. If possible, try to use a LAN connection or at the very least Wifi, as mobile data uses more energy.

When streaming, you can opt to reduce the picture quality of the videos. This reduces the amount of data that gets transferred and thus also the power consumption. And remember that streaming content in 4K or UltraHD comes with a larger carbon footprint.

> Think local and seasonal: Food often has to travel many hundreds or even thousands of kilometres before it ends up in your refrigerator at home. It’s worth buying seasonal fruit and vegetables that grow in your region. By buying regional and seasonal, consumers not only avoid environmental pollution caused by long transport routes, but also by heated greenhouses, for example.

> Green washing: There is considerable potential for saving resources when washing clothes. It starts with the washing machine. A model in the best energy efficiency class is often more expensive to buy, but it usually pays for itself in the long run, thanks to the savings in energy costs, says Indra Enterlein from the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union.

When washing clothes, a temperature of 30°C is often sufficient to get things clean. This can save more than 50% of electricity costs compared to 60° washes. This is because washing machines use up to 90% of energy in heating the water. Nevertheless, a 60° wash should be run every two to three weeks to prevent bacteria from forming in the machine.

If you use non-toxic cleaning agents in the household, you’re also doing your bit for the environment. Consumer advice centres say that a neutral all-purpose cleaner, scouring powder and a vinegar-based cleaner or citric acid are perfectly adequate for removing all dirt.

Where water alone does not do the job, the all-purpose cleaner will help – for example, with some grease on the floor. For stubborn dirt and crusty stains, scouring powder is helpful. Vinegar or citric acid help get rid of limescale deposits and urine stains.

> Travel slowly: According to environmental tourism activist Antje Monshausen, everyone should avoid air travel if there is a less climate-damaging means of getting somewhere. Take the train, for example. If you do have to take a plane, you can offset the CO2 emitted by donating to organisations that support projects to reduce CO2. However: “Reducing the amount you fly comes first, then offsetting,” says Monshausen. So flying less is best.

> How about an environmentalist career? If you want a job where you’re actually helping reduce the looming global risks of climate change disasters, you have a number of options: Roof gardener? Electronic engineer? Crop technologist?

Given the multitude of offers, the problem is more choosing one, and that’s what career advisors are for. No matter what job you choose, you can make it more sustainable by thinking twice if flying for work meetings is really necessary and, of course, trying to take a bike or bus to work instead of driving.

> Not all gardens are “green”: If you want to clear your garden of fallen leaves as ecologically as possible, it’s best to use a rake and broom. Leaf blowers not only make noise and consume fuel or electricity, they also harm wildlife. Spiders, insects, hedgehogs and mice caught up in the air stream are flung away at tremendous speed. They are killed even faster in garden vacuums, where they get shredded at the same time.

A garden that is lit up at night is good on the eye, but bad for wildlife. The artificial light turns night into day. The result is that birds start singing too early and insects and butterflies get buzzed to death around the light source instead of looking for food. That’s why it’s better to turn lights off at night that don’t need to be on.

> Appliances and e-waste: Washing machines, televisions, toasters – anyone buying a new electrical appliance is inevitably faced with the question: what to do with the old appliance? The best thing to do is to take it to the shop where you bought the new appliance or the local recycling centre.

This ensures that the appliances will be professionally recycled and that valuable materials will be recycled. As some appliances contain harmful substances, it’s forbidden in many places to simply throw them in the household waste.

For the same reasons, batteries should also be recycled. Supermarkets and electrical goods stores, drugstores and DIY stores usually take back the types they have or had in their assortment. You can also take them to the recycling centre.

> Investing in the future: Investing money to profit from long-term value developments is all well and good. But if you’re informed, you don’t have to reach for the first shares that come along. There are investments that focus not only on profitability but also on the ecological, social and ethical principles of a company – with success.

Stiftung Warentest, Germany’s leading consumer watchdog, has found that the conventional stock market index MSCI World has performed worse in recent years than its sustainable counterpart, the MSCI World Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) index. – dpa/Christoph Jaensch



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