5 things we can learn from the most eco-friendly places in the world

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Whether it’s declaring war on plastic or simply doing the washing up differently, here’s what we can learn about eco-living from around the world…

Chances are when you’re on holiday you’re not thinking about the real issues of today or fretting about taking out the recycling.

After all, that’s kind of the idea of taking time out.

Beaches and city breaks aside though, there’s a lot we can learn when we cast our eye beyond the UK, especially when it comes to eco-living.

Here are five lessons from some of the leaders.

1. Amsterdam

Lesson: Saddle up

If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam you’ll know two things: a coffee shop isn’t necessarily somewhere to get a cappuccino and beware of the bikes.

Yep, the Dutch capital is also known as the cycling capital of the world, which probably has something to do with the fact that bikes outnumber humans and the city is interspersed with over 400km of cycle paths.

Obviously, Amsterdam has been adapted over time to be the cycling-friendly haven it is now and in the UK we still have a way to go before we can throw around stats like a quarter of all trips being made by bike as the Dutch can.

Nevertheless jumping on a bike isn’t just good for getting quads of steel, it’s also a fossil fuel and pollution-free mode of transport while freeing up that rage you feel as your bus goes on its 4th diversion of the day.

2. Switzerland

Lesson: Eat your greens 

While in the past vegetarians and vegans had to settle for the classic option of a meat dish ‘without the meat’ in a world that grappled with the idea of a plant-based diet, the landscape is improving.

Unbeknownst to many, the Swiss are pioneers of meat-free living. Switzerland was recently named the best place to be a vegetarian in Europe and are also home to the world’s first ever vegetarian restaurant, Hiltl.

Studies have shown that ditching meat and dairy is the most effective way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet.

While it’s a big change and for lots of people cutting meat and dairy out altogether isn’t realistic, we can still follow the Swiss’ lead, and going plant free just one or two days a week can make a big difference.

3. San Francisco 

Lesson: Have a plastic plan

Just in case you missed the memo, plastic bottles are bad. In fact, most incarnations of plastic are a big fat no.

While in the UK we’ve got used to handing over 5p for a plastic bag every time we forget to bring our own, San Francisco have been well ahead of the curve.

The US city banned plastic shopping bags in large supermarkets and pharmacies back in 2007 and now they’re on a mission to do the same with plastic bottles.

San Francisco is phasing out single-use plastic water bottles and striving to increase the amount of water fountains and filling stations around the city.

And besides swapping plastic water bottles for reusable ones outside the house, we can also change our everyday behaviour inside the house for the good of the planet by choosing sustainable materials.

As part of their fight against virgin plastic, Ecover have been offering refills in independent stores around the UK since the 1990’s. 

Just take in your old Ecover bottle and re-fill it with anything from washing up liquid to laundry detergent.

4. Copenhagen

Lesson: Raise the roof

Not only are the Danish achingly cool, they’re also at the forefront of the eco-revolution.

Copenhagen’s population is set to grow by 20% over the next ten years, and the capital city is seeing it as an opportunity to evolve in a green way.

They’re on a mission to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025 and are implementing everything from electric buses to a planned 20% reduction in heat consumption.

The Scandi city is also going in big on ‘green roofs’ (they’re the ones with luscious vegetation on top of them) and making them a requirement for all new buildings with roof slopes of less than 30 degrees.

As well as looking utterly Instagrammable, green roofs have lots of environmental benefits like energy conservation and heat reduction and despite the UK’s generous rainfall we’ve been a bit slow on the uptake.

5. Palau

Lesson: Sea the bigger picture

If like the rest of the world you’ve been moved by sad-looking turtles and the mistreatment of our oceans, it’s spiriting to know that change is in the air.

Countries like Palau (a small island in the Pacific Ocean) are banning the use and sale of chemical sunscreens due to the toxic effect on marine life and their link to coral bleaching.

So next time you’re considering a dip in the ocean make sure you check the content of your sunscreen bottle and avoid offending ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene.

Instead, choose a brand like Aethic who have worked with marine scientists to make sure their suncream is eco-friendly and not damaging to even the most delicate marine life.

Trying to protect the planet starts with the everyday. Switch to Ecover and join the clean world revolution.