Living a life that is more sustainable for the environment is a hot topic nowadays not only here in Graz, but all over the world. When it comes to reducing one’s carbon footprint, nearly everyone is concerned, but often people do not know where to start.
So if you want to live more sustainably, sustainabe living is one more reason why Graz is a great place to live in. There are hundreds of options out there to reduce one’s carbon footprint.
The hard work was done by the creators of the website Nachhaltig in Graz. Bea and Mo’s mission is to help the people living in Graz to lead more sustainable lives. On this website, you can find all the packaging-free shops as well as events and workshops all around the topic of sustainability. But since the website is in German, I would like to take inspiration from them and write here the most important things I can take from it.
Sustainable living in Graz
Houses in Austria are generally built very well insulated and heating is thus scarcely needed. This is because winters are (or used to be) very harsh and cold and walls are thick to insulate the house the best it can.
Especially the newest houses are being built with sustainability in mind, as people tend to want to spend as less as possible for heating. Floor heating is very popular for this, as it heats the whole house without using many resources.
If you are looking for a house or a flat, try going for newer houses that have lower ceilings, as they need less heating and are better insulated.
More and more electricity providers in Graz use partly or wholly electricity made from renewable sources. You can compare the prices of providers here and choose 100% renewable sources, in order to make living in Graz more sustainable.
The very controversial Murkraftwerk is currently being built in the south of Graz to provide electricity for the city from the strong currents of the river Mur. Although it is a good idea to create more industries for renewable energy sources, the Murkraftwerk project was criticised by many for different reasons. Firstly, it changes the flow of the river, affecting the flora and fauna living from it. Secondly, many trees and plants were destroyed along the river in order to build it. And thirdly, the project was very expensive and paid by from the city, and the citizens of Graz were not asked about it.
The most sustainable and practical way to move around Graz is by bicycle. This is also the preferred way of many people living in Graz, especially students. Bicycles can be found cheap and need little maintenance. They also do not produce greenhouse gasses that are bad for the environment. Every year there is a bicycle market at the Graz fair, where you can buy all kinds of bicycles at a good price. Otherwise you can find used bikes on Flohmarkt Facebook groups, like this one or this one.
Otherwise, taking trams and buses is a good alternative. They produce less greenhouse gases per person than cars and they connect nearly every part of Graz to the centre.
Sustainable shopping in Graz
Doing your food shopping for the week in a sustainable way has never been easier in Graz. If you bring your own bags and containers, you can reduce plastic consumption and your carbon footprint. Many shops, especially smaller ones, are happy to put your food inside your own containers. But big chains like Spar and Hofer also are trying to change their ways with fresh produce, for example you can take your own mesh bags or use the paper bags that are now provided instead of plastic ones. (Although there is still a long way to go for the big chains).
Tips to reducing plastic waste when shopping
- Bring your own shopping bags
- at best canvas ones, but if you have plastic ones just keep on reusing them until they are destroyed.
- Bring your own containers
- glass or aluminium would be great, but if you have plastic ones keep using them until they are destroyed.
- Avoid buying products that are wrapped in unnecessary plastic.
- Replace products that you usually bought in plastic containers with alternatives
- for example switch to Landliebe yogurt, that is sold in glass jars instead of plastic ones.
- Avoid buying takeout and go for restaurants that offer sustainable packaging alternatives.
- Buy cleaning products with refillable packaging.
- Buy milk in the raw milk vending machines, instead of buying it in supermarkets.
Where to go for your grocery shopping in Graz
The easiest way to go, is to buy all your food in a Farmers’ Market. Here you can be sure that the food is locally grown and produced, and it is of very good quality. The prices are also not higher compared to normal supermarkets. They also don’t have any issues if you bring your own containers and bags.
Das Gramm and das Dekagramm are also great options. These are two packaging-free shops opened by two girls from Graz and are kind of unique in Europe. There are very few completely packaging-free shops here. Das Gramm is smaller and has also a café where you can have lunch. Das DekaGramm is better for the big weekly shop.
Here is a complete list made by Nachhaltig in Graz, of all sustainability-conscious shops in Graz. They also show where to buy specific things, like bamboo toothbrushes, hygiene products or raw milk.
For clothes, there are two options: charity or second-hand shops, or shops with a sustainable background.
If you want to buy second-hand clothes, here is a list of shops where you can go to in Graz.
Otherwise here is a list of shops that sell fair-trade clothing or clothes made with sustainable processes.
Books and other items
There are many shops and bookshelves popping up all over Graz, where people leave behind books or other items (even food) that they do not need and anybody can come and get it for free.
Nachhaltig in Graz supports and organises this. They created a list of articles on their website where you can find the bookshelves and shops.
Initiatives for sustainable living in Graz
Refill your reusable bottle for free
To avoid the waste that comes from plastic bottles, a good alternative is to buy one that you can reuse and refill it when needed. The ladies from Das Gramm came up with an initiative called Refill-Graz. On the website, you can find a map of places where you can go to and ask for the bottle to be refilled with water. This is all free of charge. In summer, you can obviously refill the bottle at one of the fountains scattered all over the city centre.
Refill your coffee cup
To-go cups for your coffee are one of the worst things to happen to the environment. They are over-used all over the world and made of materials that take centuries to breakdown. This is not great if your goal is sustainable living. For this, two initiatives have started in Graz.
First, many coffee places (like Tribeka) are happy to make your coffee in your own cup. So you can buy one of those reusable coffee cups and take it with you.
Second, in many cafés in Graz you have the option of taking a reusable cup from them, leaving 1 euro deposit and taking it back later. You can take it back there or in any other partnering café. Here is a list of places that are participating to this initiative, called BACKCUP.
Sustainable takeout delivery
Velofood is a Graz-based food delivery service, which aims to deliver your food in sustainable packaging and by bike. More and more restaurants in Graz are joining the Velofood family. This is even making good competition for the Lieferservice/Mjam giant, who is also slowly switching to bicycle delivery.
Find out on the Velofood website which restaurants are participating. If you need to order takeout, think about them first.
Urban gardening is gaining more and more popularity in big cities. Not everyone has the possibility of having its own patch of garden to grow vegetables. There are multiple plots in Graz where the city has been organising community gardening projects.