In recent years, I’ve made a shift to try to live a more sustainable life. I haven’t done anything extraordinary but small actions that take barely any effort add up over time. Here are some things I do to live more sustainably in France.
First, here’s why sustainability is important:
Sustainability is important for a very simple, very straightforward reason: we cannot maintain our quality of life as human beings, the diversity of life on Earth, or Earth’s ecosystems unless we embrace it. There are indications from all quarters and from the smallest to the largest scale that sustainability is something we must address. We will run out of fossil fuels. Thousands if not millions of animal species will become extinct. We will run out of lumber. We will damage the atmosphere beyond repair… If we don’t change.
And the root of that change lies in understanding and striving for sustainability—in our own homes, in our communities, in our ecosystems, and around the world.
Just one quick thing. My choices aren’t superior to anyone else’s. I don’t think that way and I’d never judge someone else for making a choice that feels right to them. There are many sustainable practices I haven’t implemented yet, so I’m by no means an expert. We all do what works best for our values, priorities, and wallets. For me personally, the things I’ve learned have made me want to shift my habits where I’m able to, so I have. They’re just little choices that help me to do my part in making the planet a better one. And I hope to add more to the list as time goes on.
Our choices do have an impact, both good and bad, so why not do our best to make them good ones? There’s so much we can’t control in this world and making sustainable choices helps me feel more in control.
Also, while there is an environmental movement in France (and elsewhere), it’s not entirely France and its social causes that have made the biggest impact on my personal shift to live more thoughtfully in regard to the environment. The main reason why I’ve focused on living a more sustainable life goes back to educating myself and I credit blogging for that.
I’ve learned so much from my readers and other bloggers about how to make better choices for the environment and our fellow humans. Being in this space has me researching and reader others’ content all the time — well outside my niche — and I never would have sought all of that out living back in the USA without a blog.
Here are 5 small things I do to live a more sustainable life:
Make my own coffee instead of getting it to go
I’m starting with the easiest one. I nail this every morning! Back in NYC, I probably trashed at least 5 paper, plastic, or Styrofoam to-go cups and straws per week. But now? Less than one every couple of months. Really. But I can’t take all the credit for this one.
It just so happens that in my area of France, to-go coffee isn’t really mainstream, so I make my own brew each morning because it’s the most convenient. I either use a single-cup cone, as shown above, or use my French press. There’s no Starbucks or any type of to-go coffee shop in walking distance, so even if I wanted to grab a latte on the go, it’s just pas possible. I feel good about making my own coffee each morning and love my alone time that goes with it in front of my laptop. I feel even better knowing I’m not contributing the amount of to-go cups in the trash anymore.
Walk as much as I can
We purposely bought our house in the center of our town so it’s easy for me to walk to the grocery store, gym, bank, post office, and pretty much anywhere else I need to go. Tom and I share a car and we try to leave it parked as much as possible. It’s better for the environment and our wallets, since gas is quite expensive in Europe. That’s not to say that French people all walk everywhere, though. In cities, yes, people walk a lot. Parisians and New Yorkers are a lot alike in that respect since most people don’t have cars and rely on mass transit and their own two feet. It’s good exercise and I always do my best thinking when I’m out walking around, so I’ll continue to walk places as much as possible.
Choose ethical and sustainable clothing brands whenever possible
Over the years, I’ve become more aware of ethical and sustainable manufacturing processes and have taken a strong liking to brands who make it a point to do good in the world. Basically, sustainable clothing respects the planet and its people and that’s something I can get behind. Whenever possible, I try to support companies with sustainable practices.
One company I’ve supported for years is prAna. They make sustainable 100% organic clothing that’s fair trade certified and it’s what I’m wearing in the photos in this post. They have beautifully made outerwear, activewear, travel and adventure clothing, and more for both men and women. I feel better knowing where my clothes are coming from and that the people making what I put on my body are fairly paid and working in safe conditions. I want to continue expanding my wardrobe to contain more sustainable options.
Lastly while on this topic, I’m the first to admit it’s NOT always possible to buy sustainable clothing. Many brands can be expensive but it’s important to start small and buy whatever your budget allows — a t-shirt, socks, undergarments. A small step is better than no step at all.
One of my favorites for basics (and beyond!) is Everlane.
France’s food culture makes this next one easy. One of the things I love about France is that many restaurants pride themselves on offering local fare. The vast majority aren’t serving local, seasonal cuisine to be trendy, though. They’re embracing the farm-to-table model because local offerings are often the most cost effective and there’s no shortage of amazing French products to put on the menu. From fresh seafood and produce, to wine made with locally harvested grapes and dairy products from animals raised in the region, there’s something for every type of menu pretty much wherever you go in France.
Eating locally is a cultural experience but it also means that the food tends to be fresher and reasonably priced since restaurants don’t have to pass the cost of importing 90% of what’s on the menu onto the customer. When I have the choice between a restaurant that serves dishes made with local ingredients versus not, I always choose local and support close-to-home wine producers, farmers, etc.
Use reusable grocery bags or a shopping trolley
When I was still living in the USA, there was always the option of getting paper or plastic grocery bags at the register. In a single trip, you could accumulate five or more bags that would find their home in the trash. Some grocery stores even started offering a small discount of 5 or 10 cents for shoppers who brought their own reusable bags as an incentive.
Little by little, bringing my own bags became the norm back in the USA and that habit has carried over to my life in France. Life here has actually reinforced that habit because free paper or plastic bags given out at the register is not the norm at all. In most grocery stores in France, you need to bring your own bags or you’ll have to pay to buy some. So bring reusable bags or wheel a shopping trolley to the grocery store if you don’t want to be caught by surprise. Either option is better than going home with bags you’ll end up trashing after just one or two uses.
Have you made any shifts toward sustainable living?