6 Top tips for real sustainability!
Sustainability - a topic that concerns us more than ever. We can hardly avoid dealing with it. But where does the new outcry come from? It has to be because more and more people understand that we need to protect our biodiversity. Our air, our water, our earth (the double meaning is absolutely deliberate here) - we have to keep all of this clean so that life on this planet can continue today and in the future.
Big names like the Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg or her German counterpart Luisa Neubauer are giving the new eco-movement a new lease of life. They express what many others do not dare to. Fortunately, more and more people are realising how important it is to make their own lifestyle as sustainable as possible. But along with the increasing number of environmentalists, activists and a generally larger audience from all walks of life, there is also the greed of some to make a profit from this dedication. With clever marketing methods they try to convince us that their product is sustainable, so that we can continue to buy their products with a clean conscience. The deliberately “green” presentation of products is commonly known as “greenwashing” and is a great danger for anyone who really wants to make a difference.
For this reason, AHO would like to give you 6 tips for creating real sustainability, where you can be sure that you're doing something good for our planet with every step you take. Here we go!
1. Go vegan!
Okay, the big topic of vegan nutrition simply has to be the first and most important tip here. Why? Because it's one of the few ways to instantly make life heaps more sustainable. We eat an average of 3 times a day, so our eating behaviour has a great impact on the world around us. We can opt for a sustainable, animal-friendly and healthy diet every day - without sacrificing good taste or loss of health. To do this, we just have to think outside the box. To save us going on about the benefits, here are a few facts:
1.1 Food cultivation and caloric efficiency
In Germany around 60% of the arable land is used solely for the cultivation of animal fodder. In contrast, just under 21% is used for direct food production. In other words: the rearing of the animals is significantly more resource-intensive. Instead of fodder for animals, we could grow more food for humans.
1.2 Gassy cows and methane
The famous image of a farting cow - said to be more harmful to the climate than many a car - might initially make you giggle. However, if we take a closer look at reality we find that cattle emit large amounts of methane . This gas is roughly 25 times more harmful to the climate than CO2. With around one billion cows bred worldwide, the impact is huge.
1.3 Deforestation of forests for animal husbandry
We don't only require land for the rearing of cattle, but also for pigs, chickens and any other animal whose freedom we are taking away. This is one of the main reasons why an area the size of 30 football fields are cut down in the Amazon rainforest every minute. The problem here is that it's not just CO2-absorbing trees that are disappearing. Entire ecosystems are destroyed, along with the habitats of countless living beings and the all important biodiversity that keeps life on earth in balance.
1.4 Water consumption on a vegan diet
When it comes to water consumption we have to make an important distinction: direct water consumption (for cooking, showering, etc) and indirect water consumption (the water used in the production of a certain product, the “water footprint”). With a vegan diet, the indirect consumption of fresh water is much lower than that of an omnivorous diet. The explanation is simple: it takes about 15,000 litres of water to make one kilo of beef. Most of the water is used for the growing of feed, although the animal itself will naturally also have to consume fluids. A part is also used for cleaning stables, etc., if necessary. According to the WWF, a cheese burger can have a water footprint of 2,453 litres. In relation to this, a 10 minute shower requires an average of 150 litres.
These facts make it clear to what extent our diet has an impact on the environment. Any food that you consciously make vegan helps to make your lifestyle more sustainable.
2. Shop organic!
A few years ago they were a rarity. But nowadays they're available in almost every supermarket! We're talking about products which are certified organic. What's the difference between organic and non-organic and is the price difference really worth it?
Organic farming consciously avoids using any genetic engineering in its crop cultivation. This means that the biodiversity on organic fields is significantly higher. The label indicates this not only with regard to the fields in which crops are planted, but also to the areas where the wild herbs and various animal species are spared from aggressive chemical-synthetic pesticides. This not only saves emissions and energy and protects the groundwater, but ensures and promotes natural pollination because insects are able to flourish on pesticide-free land. Accordingly, organic farming not only protects our earth, but the initially higher purchase price is offset by fact that less damage to the environment. You're saving yourself much more money in the follow-up costs which the general public as a whole will have to pay to set the damage right! So we should try, as far as we can, to fill our shopping baskets with organic products (and where possible, with products grown regionally- see our next tip!) But how do we recognise organic products? This is evident from the label. But, as with many things in life, these come in quite the variety and they each indicate different things. We'll introduce you to the most important organic labels and briefly explain what they mean.
2.1 The EU-Organic-Logo
According to the requirements of the EU organic label, a product may only be called “organic” or “eco” under the following conditions:
- That no chemical pesticides and fertilisers are used
- Limits with regards to maximal space an animal has per square metre are maintained
- "Humane" farming of animal (we ask ourselves what humane slaughter looks like...)
- Animal feed must also be certified organic
- Antibiotics must only be used for medicinal purposes
- No genetic engineering
- A maximum of 49 added artificial ingredients
95% of these requirements must be met for the product to bear the organic label.
2.2 The German Organic-Logo
The guidelines of the German organic seal are based on the aforementioned EU organic requirements. The seal is awarded by the Federal Ministry for Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture. All organic raw materials must come 100% from German organic agriculture so that the German organic label can be awarded.
#funfact No. 1: The AHO Raw Natur Cracker have 100% German organic ingredients and therefore carry the German organic seal.
This seal stands for the oldest and strictest cultivation association in Germany. It goes beyond legal requirements in that it places special emphasis on long-term soil fertility. The farm is seen as a cycle, an agile organism that is gently treated with self-made preparations made from manure, medicinal plants and minerals.
#funfact No. 2: The sunflower seeds that we use in our crackers at AHO bear the Demeter logo.
The Bioland seal also meets higher standards than required by law. The focus is, among other things, on the long-term maintenance of soil fertility. It is just as important for Bioland organic farmers that feed comes from their own farm as far as possible. In addition, sick animals receive naturopathic treatment.
#funfact No. 3: The flax seeds for our raw food crackers are adorned with the Bioland seal and come from a neighbouring farm in the Weser Uplands.
Another organic seal that goes beyond the criteria of the EC organic regulation. The guidelines are detailed, whereby in addition to food, textiles and wood products can also be labeled with this seal.
#funfact No. 4: The sprouted spelt which we use for our crackers are Naturland-certified.
Because organic is not always organic in practice, AHO tries to be as transparent as possible and communicates the origin of our raw materials as clearly as possible!
3. Buy regional!
The label “regional” has been known to raise many a question. How does the retail industry define the word 'regional'? Is regional always more sustainable than sustainably produced products from overseas? Let's find answers to the questions together.
We've scoured the internet for a definitive answer. Never a simple task. There are many factors to consider and to take into account when looking to buy the most sustainable option. It is often very difficult to find out where a certain product comes from, at least in the supermarket. Fortunately, more and more places are putting labels up in their various sections where they state the land or region in which the food was produces; at least for fruit and vegetables. The question for us to consider is whether an apple from Germany is more sustainable than an apple from Italy, France or Spain. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this. It is clear that buying products from your own country will mean that they have traveled a shorter distance than products from another continent. But closer examination is required - For example, the storage of domestic apples can have a higher contribution to greenhouse gas emissions than those freshly harvested from South America. Accordingly, regionality is not the only aspect to consider when it comes to sustainability. Buying seasonally, for instance, is another important factor. Fresh strawberries in winter are simply not an option if we want to eat sustainably. So what can I do to make sure that the bilk of my groceries aren't coming from overseas or are travelling thousands of kilometres by truck?
We would recommend farm shops, a vegetable Crate subscription or shopping at local weekly markets - this is where farmers gather to sell their own groceries. Their products will not only be regionally-grown, but you'll have direct contact to the person who grew the fruit and veg, so you can ask them any questions you may have about cultivation. This also has the advantage of supporting the local economy. Small businesses are always glad to be supported and not to be put out of business by huge competitors from overseas.
Further research on the products can also be helpful. The environment will thank us for that little bit of extra effort! That being said, regional products are closer to us anyway, which means that they had to travel less and are accordingly fresher. In addition to a happy farmer and a radiant environment, our own health also benefits from regional purchases.
If regional is not possible, you've now got the option to obtain raw materials from fair trade handlers. There are already several fairtrade options for coffee and chocolate. Fairtrade products can also be found in most stores.
#funfact No. 5: The sun-dried cherry tomatoes in the AHO Raw Pizza Crackers carry the Fairtrade seal. In addition to the German basic ingredients, we also pay attention to the most ethical and sustainable way we can find with the spices!
4. Don't fly so much!
'Aviation-shame' has become something a recognised feeling in recent years. Planes are one of the worst environmental offenders, and people are encouraged where possible to avoid travelling in this way.
Wait a minute! First i'm not allowed to eat meat, then I have to buy only regionally grown organic produce, and NOW i'm not even allowed to go on holiday!?
No, that's not what we're saying. Travelling the world and getting to know a wealth of other cultures is something we particularly value at AHO. We see it as self-enrichment; a tool to broaden your view of the world and of the ways in which other people live their lives. Above all, travelling helps you to appreciate the things at home more and to collect inspiration for leading a more environmentally friendly everyday life. A truly ecological life, however, cannot be realised sustainably if we travel too much by plane, because: In relation to each and every one of us, there is no other human activity that can be found in causes emissions as high as flying in such a short time.
The contribution of flying to climate change is estimated to be at least 5%. That's pretty significant given that only 5% of the population have ever actually boarded an airplane. Effectively, 95% of the world's population are having to deal with the negative consequences of a privileged minority whose emissions are, relatively speaking, enormous. We cannot afford to just wait for the state to intervene. A tax on CO2 is at least as overdue as a kerosene tax. Unfortunately, shortly before the end of World War II, the Chicago Convention made kerosene tax-free.
So we cannot expect the governments to steer us in the right direction, we have to decide it for it ourselves and steer the market in that direction with us.
But how can we travel the world, marvel at distant places, get to know completely foreign cultures and experience culinary surprises without regularly taking to the skies?
Well, first the question arises whether there might not be beautiful places nearby that we can reach by long-distance trains or buses or even by bike. Often your own environment is more diverse than you might think. The rail network is constantly being expanded and work is also being carried out on speed and efficiency. So it is no problem to explore all of Europe by Interrail. But Chantal explains how even distant destinations can be reached by land in her exciting blog entry - she managed to travel from Berlin to Mongolia without a plane. So it is clearly possible! By taking a little more time with our travels, we can make the actual journey to our end destinations part of the experience. True to the motto: the journey is the goal. A slower way of traveling enables us to get to know more people, to see more places and also conveniently helps immensely to protect our climate. Let's discover and connect the world together without flying!
5. Get on your bikes and ride
Since we're already on the subject of transport, let's continue with that. The well-known saying “Germans love their cars” still rings true. Volkswagen AG is, after all, the second largest car manufacturer in the world (in terms of number of units and sales) and 35% of German employees work in the automotive industry.
But in times of climate change, environmental protection and a general discussion about mobility, we too should start questioning our beloved motor engines- or at least the way in which we use them.
The volume of traffic is particularly high in the city. The exhaust fumes, the traffic jams and that constant droning noise is only one effects of this. A simple solution: ride your bike more. In the city in particular, this is usually not a problem, there are cycle paths, the infrastructure is good - work or the nearest supermarket is often not too far away from home. The WHO recommends that we take at least 10,000 steps a day anyway - one hour of slow cycling corresponds to about 7,500, so ¾ of your daily quota would already be achieved!
In addition to burning calories, exercise in the fresh air is also good for us. The sun gives us vitamin D and our cardiovascular system as well as the immune system are strengthened. In addition to CO2 and normal wear and tear, we also save fuel costs. We should stop looking for excuses all the time: “looks like grey skies today, I think i'll take the car”, “the others are waiting for me, I'll be quicker with the car.” Try asking asking yourself instead: would it be good for me to exercise in the fresh air? The answer is almost always yes. If the distance to be covered is really very long, there would still be the option to cover a part of the route by bike. Get peddling!
6. Second-hand comes first!
“Clothes make the man” - a quote that encourages us to express our identify through our clothes. The positive side is that we can express ourselves; our interests and our experiences, visually. But the fashion industry has now become a fast-paced and exploitative industry. We've probably all heard of factories which have burned down in some distant land. The conditions in some of these places there are unimaginable; as are the low wages. In addition to inhumane circumstances, the clothing industry is one of the worst offendors when it comes to climate change. Cotton demands a lot of water and due to the use of pesticides it has to be washed again after the harvest. The clothes are dyed, dirty waste water is created, which has to be cleaned again with fresh water. Every single piece of clothing goes through a very resource-intensive process.
We now have many great options to counteract this. In the cities, second hand shops are supplied with vintage clothing that is absolutely on trend. Social department stores like Oxfam even donate the proceeds to do development work projects. On Kleiderkreisel.de we can also conveniently browse through the "store shelves" online. With second-hand clothing, we not only protect the climate, but in most cases even our wallet. A win-win situation. By getting rid of our once loved clothing pieces we'll be providing them with a new home and proud new owners! The result is a beautiful circle in which favourite pieces of clothing which each tell a story are shared without damaging the climate or harming people.
Our summary on sustainability:
Wow, that was a lot of input. Sustainable here, ecological and fairtrade there. Sometimes we all feel a little overwhelmed with the whole situation. That's why we sometimes find it easier to just carry on as we have before; we think we can't change anything on our own anyway and since we can never do everything perfectly anyway, that there's no point in trying. Nobody's perfect. We can all just try to do our best. Every step that we take towards a more sustainable lifestyle is a valuable one. You can take your time. Nobody expects that within one day you will become a raw food vegan who does not fly, does not drive a car, only buys organic and second hand products and either grows his own food or purchases it from the farmer next door. Start with the things that are easiest for you. Bit by bit. Taking things slow is always good. There will be things that you and I can improve on. However, that shouldn't stop us from doing the little things we feel ready to do today. We grew up in a system in which many things that are harmful to the climate are viewed as completely normal. It is up to us to question these things and to work on them bit by bit and to improve the conditions - for us, all living beings with whom we share the planet and of course above all for Mother Nature herself.