Sustainable living: Tips for everyday life with impact


Sustainability can be implemented in all areas of life. Whether it’s shopping, leisure, travelling, cooking, heating or gardening: step by step, you can achieve more sustainability in your everyday life with small changes.

But what does it actually mean to gear your own consumer behaviour and actions towards sustainability?

The “three-pillar model” offers an approach to the concept of sustainability: this model is based on the assumption that there is not just one dimension of sustainability, but three that are equally important:

  • Ecological sustainability: ecological sustainability is about protecting the environment, including natural resources.
  • Economic sustainability: Economic sustainability means doing business well. Although profit should be made, corporate strategies should be designed for the long term. Fair trade, for example, is part of economic sustainability
  • Social sustainability: Social sustainability includes fair pay, the realisation of employees’ interests as well as the opportunity for training and further education and free professional development.

The three pillars of sustainability: ecology, economy and social issues

The three pillars of sustainability (also known as the “three-pillar model”) are a benchmark for countries and companies: Based on the three pillars of ecology,…

Although the “three-pillar model” formulates guidelines for companies and states, you as a consumer can also orientate yourself on the different sustainability dimensions in order to make your own everyday life comprehensively sustainable:

  • Ecological sustainability in everyday life: How can I reduce the plastic in my bathroom? How can I get around in an environmentally friendly way? What can I do to ensure that my consumption does not harm the environment?
  • Economic sustainability in everyday life: How can my clothes last longer so that I don’t have to dispose of them so quickly? How can I preserve my food? How do I invest my money sustainably? 
  • Social sustainability in everyday life: How do I buy fairly? How can I use my resources to do something good for the environment and my fellow human beings? 

In this article, you will find an overview of effective tips for living sustainably in everyday life, organised according to the following areas:

  • Sustainability when shopping
  • Sustainability in the household
  • Sustainability in personal hygiene
  • Sustainable wardrobe 
  • Sustainable living
  • Sustainable gardening
  • Sustainable nutrition
  • Sustainability in leisure time 
  • Sustainable travelling
  • Celebrate sustainably
  • Sustainable finances

The “pyramid for sustainable consumption” as a guide

According to the major Utopia study “A question of attitude” from 2020, more and more people are thinking about the environmental and social consequences of their purchasing decisions. Among conscious consumers, “less consumption is more”. Therefore, before you go shopping, you should ask yourself whether it is even necessary to buy something new, in line with the so-called pyramid for sustainable consumption.  

The consumption pyramid shows how you can consume most sustainably. The model is read from bottom to top, so that the base represents the most sustainable consumption option and the top the least sustainable. It is therefore most resource-efficient to first use what you already have or to repair things instead of throwing them away immediately.

If repairing is pointless, you should look around to see if you can borrow, swap, buy second-hand, make things yourself, or even try your luck at online casino games such as Only at the very top, as the least sustainable option, is “buy”. 

So before you buy something, you should repair, borrow and swap things.

Shop sustainably

Weekly markets are a good place to go for seasonal, regional and plastic-free shopping.

Sustainable shopping is a complex endeavour because it involves all three pillars of sustainability. After all, the items you buy are made from raw materials that may be environmentally harmful to extract. These raw materials are then processed by workers who may be paid too little. And it may be a disposable product, meaning you have to buy a new one every few weeks.

Buy local

When you shop regionally, you support the local producers of fresh fruit and vegetables. You also avoid products having to be transported over long distances, which emits a lot of climate-damaging CO2 gas.

You can buy regional produce particularly well at weekly markets, farmers’ markets, organic supermarkets and farm shops. 

Regional organic boxes are also a good option for sourcing local produce. 

When shopping regionally, don’t be fooled by terms such as “local” or “from the region” – these are not protected and do not provide reliable information about the regionality of a product.

On the other hand, the Regionalfenster mark of origin is a good guide. 

Shop seasonally

Strawberries in December and pumpkin in spring? Many types of fruit and vegetables are available in the supermarket all year round. But this is not sustainable, because if we want strawberries in winter, they have to be imported and travel long distances. It saves resources if we buy what is in season in our area. You can find out more about the benefits of a seasonal diet here: Seasonal fruit and vegetables: is it really better?

The Utopia seasonal calendar helps you to recognise when fruit and vegetables are in season.

List of the best: The best organic supermarkets

What does “organic” actually mean? Organic production means that there are no artificial elements in the value chain, meaning that the production and raw materials are natural. The same applies to organic production, for example in organic farming. However, what is meant by “natural” is a matter of interpretation unless there are clear legal regulations. As a result, “organic” does not mean the same thing everywhere. 

You can find out more about the term “organic” here: What does organic mean? In the check: food, cosmetics, clothing, cleaning products

Organic labels, such as the EU organic label, Bioland label, Demeter label and Naturland label, provide guidance when buying organic food.

Fair shopping

When we enjoy a piece of chocolate or a cup of tea, the first thing we probably don’t think about is where it comes from. But the fact is that chocolate and tea are popular consumer goods in our everyday lives that are often produced under exploitative circumstances. Buying fairly is part of social sustainability, as it prevents the exploitation of labour in the fields and factories.

Fair trade and Fairtrade: what does it actually mean?

When shopping, look for labels such as the Fairtrade seal or Gepa.

You can find some products that you should look out for fair production in the picture gallery The most important Fairtrade products at a glance.

Plastic-free shopping

A 2017 study found that the amount of plastic produced worldwide between the 1950s and 2015 amounted to 8,300 million tonnes. And this plastic is not disappearing – it remains in the environment as microplastics, especially in the world’s oceans. The production of plastic is also harmful to the environment, as it requires the extraction of the fossil fuel crude oil. The extraction, processing and use of crude oil causes many ecological problems. Buying sustainably can therefore also mean buying as little plastic as possible. The easiest way to do this is in an unpackaged shop. But even if you don’t have an unpackaged shop near you, you can use these tips to make your shopping more sustainable: 

  • Take cloth bags and reusable containers with you when shopping, for example an empty screw-top jar. Even in normal supermarkets, you can often have the goods at the fresh food counters put into containers you have brought with you. 
  • Avoid products that are unnecessarily wrapped in plastic: After all, many types of fruit and vegetables come with their own packaging, their natural skin. 
  • Organic supermarkets and weekly markets often have a larger selection of plastic-free fruit and vegetables.
  • Buy drinks in reusable glasses and bottles from regional producers.
  • There are also unpackaged delivery services. 
  • Don’t shop to live more sustainably

Some things you don’t even have to buy to live more sustainably:

  • You can save yourself the hassle of lugging around water bottles: Tap water is regional, virtually free, packaging-free and controlled. 
  • Self-sufficiency instead of shopping gives you independence and is not that difficult to realise. 
  • Millions of tonnes of edible food are thrown away every year. Foodsharing helps to combat this waste. At, you can give away and find leftover food – or bring it to a so-called “Fairteiler” in a public place.
  • Harvesting instead of buying: To prevent waste and promote local stocks, provides a map showing fruit and nut trees, berry bushes and herbs in public spaces. The initiative brings together tree owners, harvesters and social organisations with the help of an online platform.

Sustainable living in the household

Switching to a green electricity provider is a simple change.

There are many different levers you can pull in your household to make your everyday life more sustainable. These are often small things that you can change quickly. 

Home remedies instead of cleaning products

These 5 household remedies replace almost all cleaning products – tips & tricks

Nobody needs cupboards full of cleaning products: you can make almost all cleaning products yourself from simple household products such as vinegar, citric acid, soda and bicarbonate of…

Storage and preservation

Storing food correctly helps it to stay fresh for longer and prevents it from having to be thrown away prematurely. You can also save a lot of plastic if you follow a few tips when storing food:

  • You can reuse store-bought jars for food storage pretty much forever, even for freezing.
  • You can preserve fresh fruit and vegetables in various ways to make them last longer.
  • Organise your fridge correctly and avoid typical fridge mistakes so that food stays fresh for a long time and you don’t waste energy. 
  • Look for sustainable alternatives to aluminium foil and cling film, such as beeswax cloths. 

Save energy

Save electricity, water, heat and money with these tips and live more sustainably: 

  • Identify power guzzlers and remember to switch off standby mode. 
  • Switch to a green electricity provider.
  • Find out more here: Save energy: 17 new energy-saving tips for the home
  • Dispose of waste correctly and recycle

If waste is disposed of correctly, it can be recycled and fewer new resources need to be used. How to do it right: Waste separation & recycling: The facts and most important tips.

Sustainable personal hygiene

Solid hygiene products save plastic.

There is great potential for more sustainability in the bathroom. You can buy many products that are plastic-free and organic or make them yourself. Here are some tips for sustainable body care.

Less plastic in the bathroom

Whether shampoo, conditioner, dental care products or shower gel – many hygiene products are available in solid form and packaged in paper or glass. Solid products usually last longer than their liquid counterparts. 

Pay attention to the ingredients

With the help of the Codecheck app, you can recognise whether soap, make-up and lotion contain substances that could be harmful to your health and the environment. These ingredients include palm oil, microplastics and some fragrances such as lily. 

If you want to avoid animal ingredients in your cosmetics, there are also vegan cosmetics and cosmetics without animal testing. 

Look for natural cosmetics alternatives

With natural cosmetics, you are not only doing something good for yourself, but also for the environment. There are natural cosmetics alternatives to almost all cosmetics and care products, such as:

  • Deodorant without aluminium, 
  • sun cream without chemicals, 
  • shampoo without silicones
  • make-up, 
  • toothpaste,
  • natural cosmetics for men, 
  • better condoms.

Natural cosmetics labels provide guidance in the search for natural cosmetics. 

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