Reducing your ecological footprint

ETIV volunteers plant mangroves on the banks of the “Contas River”, in Itacaré, Bahia

ETIV volunteers plant mangroves on the banks of the “Contas River”, in Itacaré, Bahia

The tips you will find below were kindly put together by our current volunteer Stéphanie Schmid, who helped drafting it when she was part of Sustainable Development working group at Geneva University, in Switzerland.

1. Consuming in a sustainable, responsible and healthy manner

Each waste needs lots of energy to be produced (raw materials, electricity, transport,...) and lots of energy to be disposed or recycled (transport, incineration, water,...) when not simply littered... That's why the best waste is the one that has never been produced!

Here are some good practices to adopt:

  • find out about the alternative possibilities before buying a new product (barter, second hand,...) or when buying a new one, choose the most "eco-friendly" (environmental label,...);

  • find out about the possibilities of fixing (tutorials,...) or reuse a product before throwing it away (donation, barter,...);

  • find out about waste recycling (especially for electronic devices which include toxic components), when fixing or reusing is not possible and recycle it according to sorting instructions;

  • use durable and reusable dishes and containers instead of paper or plastic dishes and containers;

  • avoid use of plastic straws, plastic and aluminium foils using instead high-quality plastic (BPA-free,...) or glass containers to store food;

  • use a gourd with tap or filtered water instead of buying plastic bottles or cans;

  • descale machines regularly (coffee machine, kettle,...) to improve their efficiency. Unless otherwise instructed by the manufacturers, you can use white wine vinegar to descale;

  • avoid food individually packed (sugar, biscuits, chocolates,...);

  • use fans instead of air-conditioning systems. When using an air-conditioning system, close the door and/or windows opened to the outside;

  • close doors and windows during the day to keep the rooms cooled (except when fresh streamed air);

  • fix as soon as possible all issues involving waste of resources (water leaks,...);

  • reuse the back of pages as drafts ;

  • use natural light as much as possible;

  • using your own bag instead of using plastic bags when shopping;

  • use natural products (soap, vegetal oils,...) instead of industrialized over-packaged hygiene or beauty products;

  • use natural products (white wine vinegar, baking soda,...) instead of industrialized over-packaged cleaning products;

  • use eco-friendly means of transport (by foot, by bike, public transports,...);

  • use cloth instead of kitchen rolls.

2. Developing good practices on Internet and when using electronic devices

Sending e-mails, downloading documents, searching information on Internet,... these actions involve use of servers which are hosted in data centers requiring a lot of energy as they have to be constantly cooled down. Thus it is important to adopt good practices when using the Internet and, generally speaking, to use electronic devices in a responsible manner.

Here are some good practices to adopt:

  • send "easy to read" and short e-mails instead of long and repetitive e-mails;

  • switch off computer and electronic devices (screen including) when you are not using them instead of leaving them on standby;

  • change the font installed on your computer, phone and tablet (for example: Garamond, Times New Roman or Ecofont whose characters contain tiny holes reducing ink consumption);

  • limit the online data storage ("cloud storage") and regularly delete files;

  • reduce use of search engines to avoid an excessive servers use. Get organized and create "favourites' lists" including websites you regularly visit or type full URL directly on the address bar;

  • use a sustainable search engine;

  • manage your inbox: regularly deleting e-mails you do not need anymore especially those with large attachments and unsubscribing to unwanted newsletters (using a free program such as if needed);

  • unplug chargers (cellphone, batteries, electronic cigarettes,...) when you are not using them;

  • set up standby mode ;

  • limit the recipients of e-mails to those really concerned by the e-mail subject;

  • opt for a short electronic signature and avoiding use of image or attachment;

  • use a search engine that reverse revenues generated by advertising for sustainable purposes (Lilo, Ecosia,...);

  • use a black homepage such as Blackle;

  • print only what it is necessary and, as the case may be, setting the printing options (duplex printing, black and white printing, selecting only certain pages,...);

  • switch off the lights and all electronic devices (fan, air-conditioning system,...) when leaving or not using them and switch them on only when needed;

  • decrease the brightness of computer, phone and tablet screens;

  • avoid or limit attachments (documents, photos, videos,...): send attachments only to concerned recipients, optimize document sizes (compressed files, low-resolution PDF,...), use a USB stick or an internet file transfer service that deletes the files after a period of time (WeTransfer, for example);

  • switch off GPS, WIFI, and/or bluetooth or using "airplane mode" to save batteries as much as possible;

  • use an advertising blocker (such as Adblock or Ghostery) to delete unwanted advertisings;

  • close unused programs when using your computer;

  • delete apps you never use (especially those requiring regular updates).


Words by Stéphanie Schmid, who found inspiration for this list here.