Germany has set itself challenging climate targets: the federal government wants by 2030 to save 65 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions measured in 1990. The plan is for the entire country to be climate neutral by 2045. We all need to play our part to enable Germany to succeed: business, government and of course we as citizens. All students can do a lot to live more sustainably. We’ve collated the most effective tips for a climate-friendly lifestyle.
Germany together with 175 other countries has committed itself to adherence with the targets set by the Paris Agreement, the international treaty on climate change. A lot has already been achieved in terms of climate change, but Germany is not progressing fast enough in many areas. One example is that we Germans are living in ever larger apartments and houses. And many of us are still driving cars with a traditional combustion engine rather than electric vehicles. This is increasing our emissions.
These two examples indicate that climate protection is a massive task that the whole of society must confront. Everyone in Germany can make a huge contribution towards climate protection via decisions in their everyday lives. We’re fortunate that it’s easier than ever to live sustainably in Germany. Because simple changes in our everyday life and in our consumer behaviour can reduce our own carbon footprint. Take a look at the tips we’ve set out below:
Throughout Germany there are now some 500 so-called packaging-free stores where you can buy food without packaging. This includes pasta, rice, flour, sugar, eggs, lentils, cornflakes and much more. The important thing is that you take along your own tins and jars. The weight of the empty container (unladen weight) is recorded when you start your shopping. Once you’ve filled it, the container is weighed again and you only pay for the weight of the goods. That prevents a lot of packaging waste. It also means that you only buy as much as you actually need.
Half of the land surface in Germany is used for agriculture. A majority of the produce is certainly exported, but agriculture also provides a good supply of food for domestic use: including milk products, cereals and wine. Fruit like apples, pears, plums and strawberries or vegetables including potatoes, lettuce, maize, carrots, onions and cabbage also come from German fields. It’s better for the climate to buy regional food, because it reduces the associated transport emissions. There are weekly markets in many German towns and cities where you can buy fruit and vegetables from local farms. It’s often even cheaper than in the supermarket. By the way, ten percent of German farms practice organic farming, so their products have organic quality.
The production of clothing is a very resource-intensive process. The longer clothes are worn and the fewer new ones are bought, the better for the environment. That’s why you can now also lease clothing in Germany. It’s possible via sites like and .
Another option for greater sustainability in your wardrobe is a clothes swap party: here guests come together and bring clothes they no longer want to wear. These clothes should of course still be in good condition. Then all the guests can try on other people’s clothes and choose something they like. You can simply organise a clothes swap party yourself, or as an alternative.
Waste not only pollutes nature, but also endangers plants and animals. More and more marine animals are dying from plastic waste that enters our seas and oceans via rivers. This upsets the entire ecosystem. But even waste that ends up on a rubbish tip is a major problem, because it ends up being incinerated – which generates emissions.
Preventing waste is therefore a significant aspect of a sustainable lifestyle. Yet it’s not that difficult: don’t use take-away cups for coffee and take your own shopping bags from home to the supermarket. You even have to pay for plastic bags in the supermarket, after all.
Another tip: the mains water quality is very good throughout Germany, in many regions even better than bottled water from the supermarket. Drinking mains water not only saves you money, it can also prevent the need for single-use plastic bottles.
A University of Applied Science study in 2020 reveals that Germans pay particular attention to sustainability standards when it comes to food – an organic or fair trade seal, for example: almost 70 per cent of Germans consider that to be important.
Although you can reduce your carbon footprint through your own consumer behaviour, even without a special seal: by not eating meat for instance – because factory farming pollutes the groundwater, air and soil with harmful substances and consumes large amounts of water and energy.
It’s also important to take a closer look when it comes to fish, because our seas are overfished. The MSC seal on the packaging and the "Fish Guide" app run by the environmental foundation WWF Germany help you to find sustainably farmed and eco-friendly fish.
If you don't drive a car at all or only very little, this decision means you’re already doing a lot for climate protection. It’s actually very easy to get by without driving a car in Germany: the rail network is extensive and relatively affordable. Our cities have trams and underground railways and many towns have good bus connections. And public transport – ÖPNV in German – is free of charge for students within the federal state using the semester ticket.
Other alternatives to your own car are the e-scooters that can be booked spontaneously via smartphone apps in many major cities – or of course a bicycle.