It feels a very self-assured thing to do, set out to list all the awesome things you do for the world (oh lord) but I thought hey, people have already seen the lists of the things you “should” do – why don’t we put together a list of the things that we actually do? And so we did. To some it might seem like we’re bragging and puffing our chests, but remember that’s not at all what the aim is – instead it’s to show how we’re trying to walk the talk and that it’s not hard or especially time consuming to live a sustainable lifestyle.
We bike, walk or run most places we go
Yep. And hopefully it won’t just prolong the life of our planet, but our own as well. Pair a bike with a backpack and you have a combination that’s fit for most everyday errands. We have our package pickup spot (for the few times we get something online) 7k biking away, and the same goes for our closest grocery store. Anything less than an hour away on bike and we bike there – rain or shine. Add to that a fondness for walking and running and you understand we don’t hit up the car very often.
We do once-a-month grocery hauls
We live in a rather remote place, as you all know. In order to make this life actually sustainable and not just a fossil fuel party due to excessive car driving, we have purposely started doing once-a-month grocery hauls so we don’t need to use our car much at all. Besides reducing car travel by a lot, these big hauls have also come to feel smart for other reasons. First: what a time saver! Not just from having the meals planned, but from not going to the store multiple times a week. Second: no food waste over here! Contrary to what many might think when you say you do big hauls, we find that nothing ever goes bad in our fridge/pantry as we properly clear both out before the next stock up. Plus, we don’t really buy dairy products or fragile vegetables – and those are really the only things we can think of that would go bad quickly.
We love where we live and drive very sparingly
We seldom feel the need to leave where we live, unless heading on an actual trip somewhere (to go skiing, perhaps). Our lives feel very rich and stimulating here where we are, which means we rarely hop in the car to go places for, let’s say, a day trip or so.
We don’t fly*
Once we realized the emissions caused by airplanes, it was a total no brainer to say no to flying for pleasure. Our last flight in that category took place in February 2017, when we flew from New York to Colorado to go skiing. We didn’t know better then – but we do now. And there’s absolutely no way we could live with ourselves if we prioritized our own vacation over the severe effects of climate change we will see – and that have cost people’s lives already. *But there’s of course a “but” here. We have all of Mike’s family back in New York, and while we’ll be the first ones to sign up to go across the Atlantic by boat once that becomes a reality, the only way we can see his parents and brother is by flying there. We’ve been back there since we moved, but we spread out our trips as much as feels emotionally doable, we make sure to stay longer when we do in fact go and we climate compensate (but don’t be mislead by the wording – climate compensating is better than not, but it’s not a quick fix solution that makes your emissions go away.) Conclusively: most people fly for pleasure and for pleasure alone. Most people don’t have close family on another continent or have other urgent reasons why they need to fly. If only truly necessary flights took off, we would see a drastic decrease in emissions – and that’s what we need to strive towards.
We eat plant based
Heck yes, and we’ve never felt better! I’m a long-term vegetarian (became a lacto-ovo vegetarian in 1999) and once Mike and I moved in together, he more or less joined the tribe as well. Ever since we moved to Sweden and became more aware of the climate impact of dairy products, we’ve transitioned to more or less an entirely plant based diet – we will have cheese on occasion, but that’s about it. We’ll also have eggs once in a while, but I think it’s safe to say about 99.5% of our calories come from plants these days. We’re also not big fans of meat substitutes and vegan replacement products but prefer to always cook from scratch with “real” ingredients. Our pantry is always full of lentils, beans, chickpeas, grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and all sorts of flour for bread baking.
We don’t buy… stuff
We haven’t bought clothes (running gear excluded) in over five years. That could either mean we had way too many pieces of clothing five years ago (probably) or that we walk around looking like total bums (not impossible) but most likely, it means that we’ve broken free from the wheel of constant consumption, started caring for the clothes we already own and learned what we actually like, need and will use. And it goes beyond clothes – we don’t really buy anything these days. Food and household essentials, of course – but not too much else.
We grow our own vegetables
… which is one of the most rewarding things we’ve ever ventured into. Why does it matter? Well, of course we end up eating mostly vegetables that have been grown ultra locally and without any harmful pesticides or farming principles get near them or the soil they grew in – but we firmly believe the most profound effect sustainability-wise comes from our much deepened appreciation for and understanding of the process of organically growing vegetables without cutting any corners, in turn leading to zero tolerance for food waste, willingness to pay more for food produced the right way and a desire to spread that awareness to others. Add to that an even greater love for nature, heaps of new knowledge and endless time spent outside and you realize keeping a veggie patch is a gold mine for many reasons and something exactly everyone should give a go, if they have the means to.
We care for bees, worms, birds, microorganisms…
We can’t care for every square meter of this planet but we can care for the 2,500 or so that we happen to own, and we take that responsibility seriously. Here, we let our lawn turn into a wildflower field every summer and keep our hands off the mower. We plant hundreds more flower seeds in our garden beds so as to create a heaven for pollinators large and small. We create homes for bees, water stations for birds, leafy covers for worms to hide underneath. We rescue any and all creatures that have gotten lost and need help – including those with a stinger and those that hiss – and think of every being as part of a system we cannot live without. Curious to learn more? Check out this post on how to create a biologically diverse and pollinator-friendly garden.
We shop organic
Yep. You’d be hard pressed to find anything non-organic in our grocery bags as we unpack them at home, and we find that what we save from cooking from scratch and not wasting any food far outweighs the price difference between conventional and organic food.
We bake our own bread
It won’t save the world, the fact that we’ve made it a thing to bake all our own bread. We know that. But it makes us happy and connects us to the food we eat, reduces plastic waste, erases any questionable ingredients from our diet, makes a wide variety of organic breads possible (there aren’t too many organic bread choices at the grocery store) and saves us money – which, in turn, can be used towards better things.
We don’t waste food
We have always been pretty good at not wasting any food, actually, which may in parts be due to the fact that I’ve had that deeply ingrained in me since I was a little girl (I simply come from a home where it was common sense to not let anything go to waste and that was just the way we did things). I can’t even remember the last time anything had gone bad and had to be thrown out! If there’s one thing that I think acts as a quick fix to heaps of food waste, it’d be going plant based and eating local produce only. The former refers to the fact that you avoid typical short expiration date items such as milk, and the latter that you steer clear of easily perishable vegetables most of the year.
We are members of several environmental organizations
We can do a lot ourselves but enabling larger organizations to do even more is a smart move – especially if you don’t want to have to do much yourself. Even the smallest sum will make a difference, and just by baking your own bread or reducing your food waste, you could easily save per month what that donation would be.
We mend, repurpose and recycle
And we take pride in doing so! Nowadays it brings us joy to mend a hole in our pants, refurbish an old cast iron pan we found, replace small malfunctioning parts of items and have them continue running for years to follow – it’s almost addicting, actually! The last resort is actually to recycle – something we thought was “all” you had to do a couple of years ago.
We opt out on rice, avocado and other questionable food items
All plant based products weren’t created equal and we, therefore, choose to not indulge in certain things because of for example excessive water usage, questionable farming methods, greenhouse gas emissions etc. Some of the things we never buy due to one or more of those reasons include avocado, rice, cashew nuts and fresh asparagus, berries and legumes out of season. Feel free to read more about how you make your vegan diet more sustainable.
We switched careers and now work towards positive change
It wasn’t a decision we made to “save the world”. We don’t deserve that credit at all. What happened to us was simply that one thing lead to another – but here where we are now, after many things have led to other things, there’s absolutely no way we could return to a work routine that didn’t actively contribute towards positive change. We’re in too deep, have learned, realized and understood too much, want to turn this ship around too badly – so this is what we’ll do. Work for new eating norms, redefine modern values, show an alternative lifestyle, teach others how to grow vegetables… our mix might have a bit of everything but the common denominator is clear: our love for nature and desire to protect it.
We bring reusable bags to the grocery store
… including the little mesh ones for produce. Looking back, it seems completely crazy there was a time when people didn’t do that. I know there are many of them out there still, but it’s just seems so wild to buy (!) new bags every time you’d go to the store (note: grocery bags, whether plastic or paper, cost money in Sweden and aren’t given away for free at check out).
We use electricity mindfully – and have chosen a green power provider
Welcome to our house – where you’ll want to keep your thick sweater on and perhaps extra socks too come winter time, as we keep the temperature around 18 degrees. Where lights go off as soon as they’re not absolutely needed, where we cook massive batches of food to reduce the times we cook and turn on the stove/oven, where we run the washing machine during “off” hours, where we hang dry our laundry, where we don’t have any outdoor lights on “just because”… in turn, we receive super manageable electricity bills as a major bonus – on top of the environmental wins, of course. You should try it, too 😉
We’ve made sure our savings are invested sustainably
Taking charge of our investments and retirement savings was a bit of a hurdle to get over – but once we sat down to take care of things, it really wasn’t too much work or a headache at all. Ultimately, money (unfortunately) rules the world – so one of the inarguably most effective things you can do for the world is to make sure your money is working towards a green future and isn’t, let’s say, funding drilling for oil. You’ll be surprised by how much dirty business is going on, so set aside an hour to get yourself and your money out of there. For our Swedish readers, check out this post by sustainability profile Maria Soxbo: Spara hållbart – det stora inlägget om pengar.
And we do everything we can to pass these values on
Sharing bits and pieces of our lives, creating (hopefully) valuable content to inspire others to live more green and taking our jobs as parents trying to raise a planet keeper seriously may not seem like the we’re-going-to-save-the-world type actions you might think you need to devote yourself too – but sharing is an invaluable tool we have on hand. This is how we brake norms and create new, sustainable ones. This is where we connect with likeminded and win over the not yet convinced. This is where we can show for the awesomeness of a life within the planetary limitations and this is where we can help steer the world in a better direction. It’s not always easy, being open with your life and inviting others to peek in, but we sincerely believe in the power that is holds. Plus, it’s also so much fun to get to know you all out there.
Those are the major bullet points that came to mind – but I’m sure I’ve forgotten a bunch that we do and also that there are tons of things we should add to our routine.
We’d love to hear which of these things – or others – you do to live a more sustainable life and the comment section below is all yours! If this post resonates with you, or let’s say you want to convince your significant other or a friend it’s not that difficult to live sustainably, please share away – it just makes us happy.
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– Sophia & Michael