Living green isn’t always easy. While there are many opportunities for becoming more eco-friendly – from consuming less, to getting politically active, or investing sustainably – it can feel a little overwhelming to choose which actions can really make a difference. 

If this is how you feel, we have good news for you: we’ve asked 18 climate, sustainability and finance experts to give their number one tip on how to live green. 

Ready to learn? Then read on!

The fight against the climate crisis requires a systemic change from society. For that systematic change, we need to put the knowledge and experiences of the people who are most affected by the impacts of the climate crisis at the forefront.

The big levers to achieve real change are and will remain politicians and big companies. 

However, what individuals can and must do today is not only educate themselves about the climate crisis, but to listen to and learn from MAPA (Most Affected People and Areas). 

Because the truth is: people from the global north do not have the solutions for people from Uganda, for instance. I (Hilda) am from Uganda and already know what our village needs, and it is definitely not a capitalist system, which is causing more floods and droughts here. 

– Hilda (Flavia Nakabuye, Uganda) @ nakabuyehildaflavia and Leonie Bremer @ leoniebremr, Climate Activists 

No matter how sustainably it is produced, everything we consume wastes resources -- and our never-ending hunger for resources is the main reason for the exploitation of the world’s ecosystems. 

Besides political activism, consuming less is the most sensible thing we can do in order to pursue a greener lifestyle.

– Marisa Becker, Sustainability Expert @ SustainableMe

My number one tip for a greener lifestyle is to be loud and get involved, whether that is privately (e.g.in discussions with friends) or by joining environmental organizations. 

Of course, it’s important to try and reduce your own ecological footprint – to avoid plastic, to ride a bike instead of driving, and to minimize meat consumption – but the necessary political turnaround and systemic changes will not happen at home. For that to happen, we need a lot of people who are politically engaged and loud, and thus get the message into politics. 

Also, we should never forget that getting involved politically or in an NGO requires nothing but motivation, whereas sustainable consumption is – in a largely unsustainable economy – still very much a privilege. Getting involved also means making it possible for everyone to consume sustainably. After all, shouldn't it be possible and affordable for everyone to buy only organic and pesticide-free food, for example? 

So the motto should be: let’s just do what we can and get loud, instead of getting hung up on choosing a bamboo toothbrush or criticizing others for their "unsustainable" consumption.

– Johanna Buchmann, Sustainability Analyst @ carbontalk

To live greener, we need to start thinking globally instead of locally; collectively instead of individually. We need to address social injustices and inequality, make education a global priority, and learn to look out for each other. When we stop exploiting each other, we will stop exploiting the Earth.

– Ann-Sophie Henne, Critical Sustainability Journalist @ nachhaltig.kritisch

My number one tip for living more eco-friendly is to get politically vocal. As individuals alone, we won't achieve enough. We need political change. And to achieve this, we need to be politically active whenever possible, be it elections, demos, party memberships, supporting petitions, etc.

– Lea, Sustainability Expert, @ familie_nachhaltigkeit 

Nature does have the ability to regenerate, but not at the rate we are exploiting it.  

Our approach at the individual level should be mindfulness. Where do I shop? What do I buy? How do I move around? Do I really need item X? Can I possibly borrow it? 

We should not only be concerned about extending our own human lifespan, but also the lifespan of the things we consume. Above all, we should pay attention to their production and supply chain and, if necessary, opt for repairs to new purchases.

– Astrid Aschenbrenner, Sustainability Expert, @ wienerkind_

Demand creates supply – whether for everyday products or for financial or investment products. 

As consumers, we have the power to change our consumption patterns to become more eco-friendly. Yet, at the same time (and in an equally effective way) we can also use our investments as a leverage for change in the financial industry. 

Because it's as easy as that: the natural demand of consumers also creates the supply in our economy. Of course, to change the demand / supply routine takes time and does not happen overnight. But still, if you invest in the future climate winners today, you will pave the road to a more sustainable tomorrow.

– Hava Misimi, Finance Expert and Advisor, @ femance_finance

By investing in sustainability-focused companies, you provide them with increased financial resources. That is important because these companies can in turn use the resources to drive their R&D spending in order to develop new technological innovations that positively impact our environment.

 At the same time, if interest in sustainable investments continues to increase, it will mean that, in the long term, many more companies will be forced to take sustainability aspects into account in order to be able to compete on the capital market successfully.

 Additionally, sustainable investing can also act as a tool that sensitizes us, as end consumers, to consider sustainability aspects in our consumption choices. We always need to remember that we, as consumers, influence the direction the world is taking with every little decision we make each day. 

– Julius, Sustainable Investment Expert, @ greenbull.invest 

The topic of this year’s World Environment Day was “ecosystem restoration”. From an investment perspective, there is often discussion of “stranded assets” in the fossil fuel industry, but the same applies to current extractive farming practices. Why? Because input costs are rising, yields are declining and land is rapidly degrading. 

Regenerative or ecological practices, if utilised correctly, can present great opportunities for sustainable investors in the form of appreciation in land values, more resilient farms or ecosystems, huge potential for carbon capture and storage, and positive impact for both local and global communities. 

If we continue on the subject of agriculture, sustainable finance can support it in many ways – whether it’s transition finance, funding young farmers who bring a renewed enthusiasm to the field, or simply engaging with their portfolio companies to assess the risks and opportunities and driving change with their investment capital. Are you interested in investing sustainably? Then why not invest in regenerative agriculture and play an active role in restoring our ecosystems?

– Rashid Rasul, Investment Lead, @ Cooler Future

At the end of the day, money defines the direction our economy takes and thus also the future of our planet. 

According to a 2017 CDP study, only 100 companies worldwide were responsible for 70% of CO2 emissions. Of course it’s not as black and white as this statistic, since we, as consumers, are partly responsible when we buy these companies' products. But the problem is that we often don’t have a choice.

However, here is something we can do: If large investors and private investors decided to only invest their money sustainably – instead of channeling it into these companies –  it would increase the likelihood of slowly getting those 100 companies to rethink their ways. Simply because they have to.

We can see our investments as votes. With our company shares, we gain shareholder rights. In short, that means that we can ask critical questions at shareholder meetings and demand change. We have already seen in recent examples of Exxon and Shell that shareholder activism can have an impact. 

The paths to a more sustainable economy are many, and sustainable investing and shareholder activism are two important, yet often overlooked, ways to make a big difference.

– Susanne Leidescher, Sustainable Finance Expert, @ investmentsforfuture

Food for thought:

Not only the companies, but also governments are put under pressure to implement more ambitious climate targets. Take, for example, France or Germany, that were overruled by court decisions for their failure to address the climate crisis. 

To live more eco-friendly, the key lies in promoting companies that focus on sustainability. 

The influx of financial resources and the support of numerous investors would allow innovative companies that challenge the status quo to thrive – in a more targeted, rapid and promising manner.

This is where I see the greatest potential for a greener future.

– Ricardo Tunnissen, Financial Advisor, @ ricardo.tunnissen

At the end of the day, finance is about moving capital from one place to another. If you’re given the opportunity as an investor (which you are!) to allocate money towards sustainable companies instead of climate-harming companies, you should do it. 

Sustainable investment, by the way, has long ceased to be a “sacrifice of returns”. In fact, it can be a lucrative boost, both for your returns and your conscience. The challenge we’re currently facing when it comes to sustainable investments is the development of transparent selection criteria. 

– Carlos Link-Arad, Co-founder @ Beyond Saving

Each of us must do our part to address climate change. One step can be to invest our money sustainably in order to exert a certain pressure on the acting actors.

There are already individual funds that include certain sustainability criteria. Unfortunately though, there is still a lack of stringency and transparency when it comes to the sustainability criteria, in that each fund provider can interpret the criteria differently. What we will need in the future is a global standard, so that we as investors can really invest our money with a clear conscience.

Such a transparent and globally accepted standard for sustainable investment criteria would give investors better advice and guidance on which investment opportunities are really sustainable and, ultimately, help save our planet. We as investors need to be able to quickly see the environmental impact that each investment has. This way, we could quickly decide whether we are truly investing our money sustainably and have an impact on the companies.

– Max Paprotny, Investment Expert - @ maxximieren

Did you know?

At Cooler Future, we believe that there is a lack of standardised metrics and transparency in the investment world, when it comes to sustainability and climate change. Our mission is to change that by introducing climate impact as a third layer to investment decision making, next to the traditional risk and return metrics.

Every investment is an investment in our future!

So it certainly pays off to look closely at what's happening with your money. After all, if you just leave it in your savings account, you have no idea who the bank is lending your money to. 

It may take you some time to get to grips with sustainable investments, as you should remember that not everything that glitters is green. But if you consciously invest your money in sustainability-committed companies (e.g. through stocks, impact investment funds, or carefully picked ETFs), it can make a difference (e.g. help the companies you invested in to develop products that protect the climate and the planet's resources).

Be it strategic consumption or sustainable investing, your money is your vote for a sustainable future!

– Elly Fiege, Sustainable Investing Expert, @ mrs.fairnance

With sustainable investments you can invest in companies that make an important contribution to climate and environmental protection, e.g. in companies that treat water, install wind turbines, or sell organic food. What we need to realize is that we can achieve a really positive environmental impact with our money and still make a very good return. 

However, when making sustainable investments, watch out for “seals of quality”. In Germany, for instance, the FNG seal acts as a quality standard for sustainable investment funds. It includes transparency criteria, the consideration of labor and human rights, environmental protection and anti-corruption criteria. It is based on a “minimum standard” companies and investment products have to fulfill and gives you a better idea about which investments fulfill those standards.

– Nicole Katsioulis, Sustainable Investment Advisor, @ geld_marie

In order for sustainable investments to have a truly positive impact on our planet, we need to establish more trust among people and potential investors. Unfortunately, there is currently no uniform minimum standard for sustainable investments and thus greenwashing is a big problem, often practiced by companies and investment products. Because of this, many investors are still very uncertain about investing sustainably. 

What we need in the future are clearly defined standards for sustainable investment products, which should increasingly be promoted and advertised. This would strengthen trust among investors and would thus allow more money to flow into the sustainable market. 

The more capital invested in it, the more companies will in turn be motivated to operate sustainably, which will help save our planet in the long run.

– Denise Hauck and Andre Kleinbub, Investment Experts @ investinhappinessde

Slowly but steadily, we are realising that resources like sand, wood and water are finite. This makes it all the more important to think more in terms of cycles rather than landfills. One way to move towards a more circular economy is by Investing in companies and projects that facilitate such a change.

– Jennifer Brockerhoff, Eco Investment Advisor, @ women.invest.green

If we all understand that we as consumers have power, by constructing our investment portfolios sustainably, we are halfway there. 

Because even though it may only seem like a tiny step towards more sustainable solutions, together it is a big step. Why? Because in doing so, we are showing companies what we want and then they will have to increasingly offer it.

– Katharina Brunsendorf, Finance Expert, @finanzheldinnen

Conclusion

We hope that these 18 tips gave you some valuable insights into what you can do today to start living green(er). With all this knowledge gathered, the most important takeaway is to remember that in your quest to be more eco-friendly, there are many roads you can take. 

That’s why at Cooler Future we’re challenging investors to address their contribution to climate change by helping them support companies that actively reduce their emissions and are on the path to net-zero. 

Of course, it’s up to you to decide what works best for you, whether it’s investing sustainably, getting politically active, or changing your consumption behaviours. But at the end of the day, complex problems need holistic solutions — so why not take this expert advice and start getting active in more than one way?

Rebecca Pflanz
Rebecca is Social & Community Manager at Cooler Future