When we leave to study abroad, we worry about bureaucracy and worry if we will be able to find a new circle of friends. At the same time, household trifles such as taking out garbage and buying groceries seem insignificant. However, surprises await you here as well, because in most European countries, environmental awareness has become an integral part of everyday life.
How and why to sort waste? What is green electricity? Why is veganism gaining popularity? What does the “BIO” label mean on products?
In this article, we have collected information on the main points to show that a sustainable lifestyle does not require sacrifices, and everyone can follow it.
Separation and recycling of garbage is necessary to reduce the destructive effect that uncontrolled consumption and related consumption has on nature (and, accordingly, on our health) waste. Garbage categories and rules may vary from country to country, and sometimes from region to region. Before the trip, it is better to clarify this question (here, for example, there are collected instructions for sorting in Germany).
There are many solutions how to organize garbage sorting in your kitchen: for example, put one bucket with several compartments, or start several separate buckets / bags for different types of waste.
In addition to recycling, in recent years there has been a growing movement to reduce or refuse to waste in general. There are tons of sites out there that tell you how this idea is put into practice.
Adherents of a waste-free (or zero waste) lifestyle do not use plastic packaging, disposable tableware, prefer to buy second-hand furniture and clothing and make cosmetics on their own. Of course, such a life requires a huge investment of time, effort and often money. However, everyone can be inspired by this idea and take small steps towards reducing waste. For example, when buying fruits and vegetables at the supermarket, do not put them in a plastic bag, but carry a textile bag with you; give preference to goods with a minimum of packaging; buy and carry with you a beautiful water bottle instead of buying water in plastic; when entering a mall, do not indulge in impulsive shopping, buying goods for a promotion, but ask yourself if you really need so many things.
Read also: “Top 10 places to study in Europe “
Let’s move on to food. Some products in supermarkets in Europe have the BIO, ECO or Organic mark on the label. This means that such a product has passed special certification and was manufactured in compliance with the norms of environmentally friendly production. An overview of country-specific bio-certification requirements can be found here, and the European Commission explanation can be found here. There is no such certification in Russia, and any manufacturer can call their product bio, natural, organic and whatever they want. Naturally, these words cause mistrust and seem to be just an advertising gimmick, especially since bio-products are more expensive than conventional ones. However, buying such products in Europe, you really make a more informed choice and invest in caring for the environment.
A few words about meat. Industrial animal husbandry (that is, when animals are raised in meat processing plants, and not on traditional farms) is not only inhumane, but also damages the environment. Emissions of methane into the air and excrement into water, huge costs of water and electricity, inappropriate use of large areas are the main factors that have a devastating effect on the environment (details here).
We do not urge everyone to become vegetarians or vegans. To show concern for nature, it is enough to reconsider the consumption of meat and meat products. This, by the way, will be beneficial not only for the environment, but also for your own health. Here is what the WHO has to say:
“ Eating meat is known to have a number of positive health effects. In many countries, public health authorities recommend limiting the consumption of meat and red meat, as they are associated with an increased risk of death from heart disease, diabetes and other diseases . ”
Being a vegetarian or vegan in Europe easy. Even among fast food, it’s easy to find meat-free options – like falafel instead of shawarma or a vegan burger. Not to mention restaurants or cafes, where there should always be vegetarian options on the menu (no, not just vegetable salad), and a huge selection of vegan products in supermarkets.
Being at home, you can also take care of the environment – it is enough to economically use water and electricity . For example, turning off the water when you brush your teeth, or washing your clothes in a water and energy saving mode.
If you are planning to settle in a new country for a long time, you can find out about different suppliers of electricity and choose renewable energy (obtained from the sun, water, wind); open an account in a green bank – such banks invest only in eco-friendly projects; become a member of a farm – pay monthly fees and regularly receive a basket of fresh organic products at home; buy a bike and ride it around the city; join food sharing.
Eco-friendly lifestyle – understanding that any of your actions have an impact on the world around you. Even if you are not close to such a view, and you find European prices for garbage collection ridiculous (in Berlin, for example, you will have to pay from 240 to 370 euros per year) or tariffs of renewable energy suppliers, you can treat with research curiosity about a sustainable lifestyle and try some of its elements for yourself.