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  • Writer's pictureJulia Deufel

Easy ways to live more sustainably, save money and stop harming the planet

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

How can we slow down global warming? Will my small contribution make a difference? What can I do to be kinder to our planet?

These are big questions. The more people ask these questions and behave more consciously, the sooner our individual contributions will add up to something bigger. I have been working on answering these questions myself for years and started writing down answers in the summer of 2019. That summer I fell down the rabbit hole of ‘sustainability’.

“The rabbit–hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself” — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I started to explore ways to be kinder to the environment and cause less harm to the planet. I got very into it — I even got to be interviewed by Channel News Asia about how to be more mindful of sustainability at Christmas! This research brought plenty of scary prognoses and statistics with it, but I’m not here to scare you — I’m here to help. So I am sharing some of my findings with you! Bonus: most of the suggestions I am about to make will save you money. Sustainability does not have to be expensive.

I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the privilege I presume you and I have in this article. You probably have access to running water, devices with screens and money to purchase luxuries like coffee to go and ice cream. Many people do not have these types of privileges. I invite you to be grateful and mindful of this fact!


Transportation: Walk, cycle or take public transportation. In many cities in Europe, you can even rent a bicycle on a monthly basis with Swapfiets.* If you want to drive somewhere, consider car-sharing (check out Share Now, Greenwheels or Zipcar). There’s always Uber, Lyft, Grab or Gojek. Be mindful of the car you choose to drive — hybrid vehicles or, better yet, electric cars are the future.

In the shower: Get in and out faster. Turn the water off while you shave or do your skincare routine. Try a bar of soap instead of shower gel (old fashioned and uncomplicated — if you find this too slippery, try keeping the soap in a jute bag) and solid shampoo and conditioner. Using a bar of soap to wash your hands with at the sink is another great option. There are some great sustainable, ethical options on the market that leave your hands velvety smooth. You can also use washable cotton pads to remove make-up.

Cleaning your teeth: Turn the water off while you brush your teeth. Use a bamboo toothbrush or sustainable brush heads for your electric toothbrush and sustainable toothpaste (and mouthwash) if you can. My personal favourite toothpaste is NOICE dental gel. Look for something plastic-free, organic and vegan — these will be clearly labelled on the packaging.

Washing your clothes: Wash your clothes (especially jeans and jackets) less often. You can hang worn clothes outside overnight to freshen them up or remove stains by hand. Use an eco cycle on your washing machine at a low temperature and try using powdered laundry detergent instead of the liquid stuff to reduce packaging. The eco wash cycle may seem like it takes a long time — this is because it heats the water more slowly using less energy. Hang your clean clothes to dry instead of using a tumble dryer!

Dim the lights and your screens: Turn the lights off when you leave a room. A classic. Also, try dimming your phone and laptop screens to save a little energy — your battery will last longer, so you’ll save energy by charging less frequently. While you are at it, turn your plugs off at the socket or unplug devices completely when they don’t need to be switched on.

Wearing a mask: An FFP2 mask (the European equivalent to N95) can be worn up to five times if you allow it to dry, not touching other masks, for one week between uses. If you are allowed to wear a fabric mask where you live, please consider wearing a cotton or linen mask instead of a disposable one. They are more comfortable, better looking, don’t create waste or hurt birds, and will save you money over time. Medical masks are currently mandated in Germany so this does not apply.

Bonus tip: If you struggle with ‘maskne’ (your skin is breaking out on your cheeks and chin), wear a cotton or linen mask under your medical mask and wash the reusable mask by hand after every use.

In the kitchen: Let food cool before putting it in the fridge. Fill your freezer up - a full freezer requires less energy. With all this reduced energy use your electricity bills will be lower!

Reduce, reuse, repurpose: Your glass jam jar (or jar of mayo, olives, pickles, etc.) makes for a cute cocktail glass or a very aesthetically pleasing pantry. You can fill them up with spices, rice, quinoa, dried beans, or tea. Do you need a container to keep your pens in? Or store your makeup brushes? Need a tiny plant pot? Just wash your empty jars, repurpose them and hey presto!

If you live in a hot and humid climate: Set your air conditioner to a higher temperature (try 22°C instead of 17°C, or 25°C instead of 22°C). Better yet, use a fan instead and switch off the aircon altogether.

If you live somewhere cold: Turn your heater down to a low temperature but leave it on. The most energy is used while heating up, so turning it up high and back off again is inefficient.

When eating or drinking out or food shopping:

  • Bring your own bottle/tumbler/mug/bags/boxes to carry it all in. This does not have to be an ‘environmentally friendly’ tote you go out and buy especially — it can be a backpack.

  • Eat less dairy, meat and fish. Eat more plants and other things that grow, like beans and pulses. This is healthier and cheaper too!

  • Try to shop as local as possible. Do you live in Europe? Then maybe you can skip mangoes and avocados. Apples and kale are cheap and grown closer to home! Are you in Singapore? Wet markets and supermarkets alike sell produce from nearby Malaysia and Indonesia, try to avoid purchasing products from Australia or South America.

  • Shop in bulk where possible — less expensive and less packaging.

Eat ice cream from a cone instead of a cup. Voilà, zero waste.

Upgrade your search engine: Ecosia is a search engine that plants trees on your behalf. All you have to do is switch from Google to A tree is planted for every 45 searches. You can download the Ecosia app for your phone and add the extension to your browser. Ecosia is CO2 neutral and privacy-friendly. You can even keep track of how many trees you have helped to plant in parts of the world that need them most.

If you menstruate: Try a menstrual cup, washable pads or period underwear. I cannot express just how fantastic my experience has been using a cup. Not to be dramatic, but it is life-changing. Not only does it improve the rather unpleasant experience of bleeding each month, but it is clean, creates no waste and can last for up to ten years. I use a Freedom Cup — this company also provides menstrual cups and education to underprivileged women and girls. There are also cups you can wear while having sex during your period.

New (to you) clothes:

  • Instead of buying something new, try a clothes swap with your friends or visit a clothes swapping store like The Fashion Pulpit. Explore second-hand and vintage shops, look on eBay or use apps like Vinted and Depop.

  • If you’d like to buy something new, I encourage you to support small businesses and local sellers — this is more impactful now than ever before! When shopping for ‘sustainable’ and ‘slow fashion’, look for brands that share who makes their clothes and where they are made. Choose items made from bamboo, linen, hemp or organic cotton.

  • While shopping online, choose ethical and sustainable items that are produced and shipped from the continent you are on. Australia has a lot of lovely options, but it’s far away from everywhere else! Many brands like these also exist in Asia, Europe, North and South America and Africa. Yes, all the continents! I can’t speak for Antarctica. If you live there, you’re even more aware of climate change.


Hot and cold drinks: Reduce the number of soft drinks and the amount of coffee you consume. It takes three litres of water to make one litre of coke and 140 litres of water to make one espresso (bean to cup). Reducing the amount of water we use is one of the eco-friendliest things we can do. And you will save money too! Try drinking tea instead — loose-leaf, if you really want to commit to the conscious life. The flavours, aromas and benefits are endless. I’m including this in the more difficult section because reducing coffee intake can be a challenge!

Make your own cleaning products: This is one of the projects I hope to take on in 2021. All I can tell you from experience is that mixing some white vinegar with warm water can remove stains and yellow marks from clothing. I’ll leave this section to folks that have done more research — I’m sure you’re in good hands. If this is one step too far for you at the moment, I recommend organic and vegan cleaning products sold in recycled packaging. Frosch is a German company that has been vegan, organic and recycled since its beginning and its products are no more expensive than equivalent brands!

Bonus tip: As always, the internet is your friend. Type ‘eco-friendly cleaning products’ plus the country you live in into the search bar to find all you need to know. No doubt you’ll start getting helpful ads in no time!

Compost: If you live in a place that includes compost in its refuse collection, just collect all food scraps and organic matter in a separate bin. It’s that easy. If you live in a place like Singapore, where this is not standard, you can compost yourself at home! A friend of mine keeps her DIY compost bin on the balcony, complete with worms she treats like pets. See for yourself:

DIY vegetable broth: To give your vegetable scraps an extra(-delicious) lease of life, pop all your fruit and vegetable peels and scraps into a container and store it in the freezer until you have enough to make broth. Put them all in a large pot and cover them with water. Add some garlic and aromatic herbs and leave it to boil for at least 30 minutes or the broth turns a rich brown colour. Then strain out all the scraps and, finally, put them in the compost. Home-made, free vegetable broth!

Travelling: There is not much of this happening in 2021. I encourage you to stay where you are, safe and healthy and enjoy the outdoors close to where you live. Let’s talk about sustainable travelling again when it’s possible to explore the world safely again.

Here’s the Instagram post I shared in 2019, when I first delved deep into this journey of learning, becoming more conscious and changing my habits. I updated it in February 2021. Happy saving the world!

If you have even more simple sustainability tips, please comment and share them below!

*You can use this code to get your first month of a Swapfiets bike for €12: JULIA85404.

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Aug 24, 2021

Love it! Well done 👏


Heather Attwood
Heather Attwood
Mar 16, 2021

Thanks for the great tips Julia 😘🙏

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