Five steps to a more sustainable lifestyle?

A Norwegian journalist, Petter Egge, interviewed me recently. He absolutely wanted five pieces of advice for a more sustainable lifestyle. I resisted – giving advice is not what I’m best at. But he was very persistent and finally we arrived at five points.

Today I got to see the article in print, and find that Egge has done some excellent research and added facts to the advice. So I’d like to share it. The last point was news for me. You could say, stick to second-hand clothes if you want to have a holiday abroad!

1. Pay attention to what you eat

Food production is one of the biggest causes of climate change. It’s also one of the areas with the biggest and easiest potential for change. For instance, if every family of four made some non-drastic changes in their eating habits, they could save as much CO2 as they would by getting rid of the family car.

Facts: 18 % of human-produced greenhouse gases come from the production of meat, eggs and milk. Food production also consumes enormous quantities of water, energy and chemicals. Globally, food production accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than the whole transport sector. Producing one kilo of beef corresponds to 126.5 km of travel in an average Norwegian family car.

2. Compost!

Separating your garbage is good. Even better if you compost the organic waste – in the garden, on your balcony, or with a friend. Organic waste accounts for the biggest fraction of the garbage, by weight, so you save on transport – and your garbage bin doesn’t smell.

Facts: Food and garden waste account for nearly a third of our garbage, so composting can save a lot. Each kilo of garbage causes about as much CO2 as 1 km of car driving. Each Norwegian generates 821 kilos of waste annually, whereas the average for Europe is 500 kilo. Norwegians are however recycling champions.

3. Choose your energy suppliers

In Sweden we can choose our electricity supplier in order to buy 100% renewable (in Norway almost all electricity is renewable). In our home we’ve changed from oil heating to heating with pellets: compressed forest waste, which is almost CO2 neutral.

Facts: In Norway nearly 70% of all housing is heated by electric radiators. Heat pumps can save between 20 and 60%. Different kinds of heat pumps take heat from the air, water, sea or soil. Pellets are the most effective fuel, at 95%. If you replace oil by wood or pellets you can save 3.7 tons of greenhouse gas annually.

4. Take care of your health

What’s good for your health is also often good for the environment – and vice versa. For example, taking the bike or walking instead of driving is good for your health as well as the environment. The same is true of food. We say ‘you are what you eat’, but actually the environment is also what you eat. More vegetables and less meat, for instance, is good for both.

Facts: 10% of Norway’s greenhouse gas emissions come from car driving. More than half of all trips under 1 km are made by car. If you go by bike instead you save 172 g CO2 per km, and if half a million Norwegians were to commute by bike 100 days a year we would together reduce greenhouse gases by 150,000 tons.

5. Cut your costs

If you ask people what they long for, it’s not more things but more time. If you use any surplus money to reduce loans, rather than buying more things, you reduce your need for money. You can choose to work less and use your time differently. The less money we spend on things, the fewer resources we use – and the more time we have.

Facts: All production of goods gives rise to greenhouse gases. For example a sweater that costs 400 kroner has a carbon print of nearly 40 kg of CO2. If you buy two items of new clothing a month, the carbon print per year is nearly as big as flying twice from Oslo to London and back.

Translated from Stavanger Aftenblad 3 June 2011