How to trick yourself into living a sustainable life

The most common response to my aim of living a zero waste life is „Well, isn’t that really exhausting?“. I would love to say that it is always easy but it would be a straight up lie. This needs, as all changes do, time and unfortunately personal motivation.

The Deutsche Aktionstage Nachhaltigkeit (German Action Days on Sustainability) take place until June 5th. This motivated the Nachhaltige Warenkorb (Sustainable Shopping Basket) to call all bloggers to participate in the blog roll “Bye inner lazy bastard, hello sustainable life!“.

The organization’s aim is to show alternatives to our consumption behavior for a sustainable lifestyle and invites everyone with their  weekly challenges to participate and to implement one small change at a time. Funny, I just started the  zero waste challenge. 😉



With small changes to a sustainable life.

I am without a doubt a supporter of tiny, but steady changes.

step by step. day by day. change by change.

Seemingly big changes might look like that in hindsight, but when you are right in the middle of working on them, the small changes seem big enough.

„Sustainable consumption is possible today“, according to the Nachhaltige Warenkorb, and I can only agree completely – if it wasn’t for the inner lazy bastard in all of us, right?



Trick yourself 😛


People are lazy by nature and nobody can prove the contrary to me. Call it resourceful (one’s own strength) or efficient (time, physical energy). However, at the core, we all like it very convenient. If you are the exception of the rule, congratulations and have fun getting obscenely rich when you market your secret.

For me, I will need an incentive to bring myself to keep up certain sustainable behaviors. If that is the case for you too, I have a few ideas for you:



Be prepared.


The first step is supposedly the hardest, although I don’t really think so. Running a half marathon, the first step is fairly nice. Step 20,000, on the other hand, is endlessly tedious.

To at least have a successful start towards a sustainable lifestyle, I can only recommend to be prepared. For example, you are more likely to pass on the plastic bottle if you carry your own reusable water bottle. It is easier to avoid plastic bags if you have your own reusable cloth bag with you.

If you do not have time to go to many specialized shops to get everything without packaging, don’t give up right away. Think about alternatives to your regular meals, where the ingredients are available without or less packaging in the supermarket.



Do not let yourself get discouraged.


My sustainability Achilles heel is this vexing topic of organic waste. My inner bastard sits on this organic waste as there is nothing more beautiful. I know, routines are built over time and habits cannot be internalized in a second. But especially me (natural resource manager and soil scientist), who knows exactly how important organic nutrients are, should be capable to come up with enough motivation to compost. Well, you would think so.


Short version: Establish a habit loop (cue – routine – reward) to adopt a certain habit you think is desirable.


Long version: I have to outsmart myself good and proper to get my carefully separated organic waste to the bin or compost. We don’t have a compost in our apartment building and the next organic waste bin is four minutes (!) away. However, it is in the opposite direction of my way to work, so I see it as a detour.

Four minutes by foot! I always take my bike, so it is a minute. One minute! And this damn minute prevents me from composting my organic waste!



Use the power of habits.


According to longstanding habit change wisdom, my current organic waste routine looks like the following: #workinprogress

  • Lay the cue >> bag in front of the door: I put an old newspaper for my waste bag on my kitchen counter (I can’t leave the apartment if the kitchen counter is a mess due to slight OCD tendencies) – I will fold the bag (because it is fairly easy), put the organic waste in it and put it in front of my apartment door to avoid leakages in the kitchen
  • Reel off the routine >> dispose of the organic waste: I will see the paper bag in front of the door – get anxious it might leak there and smell (I am very sensitive to odor) – I will bring it to the organic waste bin (important: to put my keys in my backpack right away, so I am not tempted to just open the garbage room downstairs)
  • Get your reward >> whatever makes you happy: no bad conscience and nobody who is bothered by the awful smell in the kitchen

Side Note: I will get myself a Bokashi bin right downstairs – comfort wins (and more nutrients are being returned )!


Look for your weaknesses (mine: mess and odor) and exploit them mercilessly to get to your goal (a sustainable lifestyle).





Package-free shopping is almost a small dare for me. Do I dare, do I not? Bulk shops are a true relief because I know I am in good hands with my intention to save resources and will not be frowned at.

The biggest challenge was (and oftentimes is) to ask, if I can get something in my own bag or container. By now, I think it is completely ridiculous to get a paper bag at the bakery for my two minutes way home. Bakeries are pretty much the only place where I pull out my cloth bags shamelessly.

It became more and more ordinary, the more often I did it.


Tip: The first time might be uncomfortable. But what is the worst that could happen? They say no? Well, if that is reason enough for you to never try, you might be better of baking your own bread. 😉



Take your time.


Take more time is a great advice on a busy day, am I right? Sorry, but especially in the beginning it really helped to try something new. It will take shorter and short with time and routine.


No coffee-to-go cup is necessary, when I sit down in a coffee shop. I don’t have to stay for hours. But with just three more minutes it will take me to drink my coffee, I avoided that a single-use cup was thrown away. It doesn’t take that much time…


I have to confess I am not the biggest DIY girl. I prefer to buy certain products such as shampoo or deodorant. However, I like to repair my clothes  and bake or cook my own meals. I am sure there are things you like to do yourself as well. Save resources and money!


Take the bike and not the car. Of course, it would be way easier to just hop in the car right in front of the door and get to wherever you want without breaking a sweat. But biking is so much nicer! You don’t have to start on a cold and rainy day. Pick a nice warm day and a short distance to see if you like it.

Tip: Put everything you need on the table the night before. Then you won’t fall back into your old routine and just grab your car keys. Just put your keys for the bike (and your helmet) where your car keys use(d) to be.

I promise, the gentle breeze and the endorphins released due to the exercise will convince you of the undeniable beauty of biking. Treat yourself afterwards and your brain will be delighted by the new means of transportation. 😛



Last, but not least:


Get informed.


Look up sustainable alternative and think about how they could benefit your goal of a sustainable lifestyle. It maybe take a little while, but it will save you a lot in the long run.

If you don’t like to do the research yourself, take advantage of people who do 😉


What are your biggest problems with your inner lazy bastard and what do you do to outsmart yourself?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *