What does it mean to live sustainably


How the term sustainability came about

In the original sense of the word, the term means “long-lasting effect”. This definition is rooted in forestry thinking and was first mentioned in 1560 in the Electoral Saxon Forest Code in order to ensure continued use for the mines despite the high demand for wood.

The "sustainable management of the forests" prevents complete logging and guarantees the natural regeneration capacity of the forest, because only as much wood is removed as can grow back. The forester Hans Carl von Carlowitz coined the term and described the triangle of ecological balance, economic security and social justice in 1713.

Originally translated into English as “sustainable yield”, the term “sustainability” came back to German-speaking countries in the 1970s as a result of the ecological movement.

“Sustainability” has long since left forestry behind and can be found in many areas of life.

What does sustainability mean?

Traditional ways of life in pre-industrialized societies were more sustainable in their effects than modern industrial society. Humans were immediately confined to a certain area for food production and living space, which resulted in a natural interest in the continued existence of this ecosystem. In many indigenous cultures, myths, rituals and taboos were used to try to keep changes in the living environment and ecosystems to a minimum.

We can all contribute to maintaining our ecosystem worth living in for the benefit of future generations. It is important to be aware of what makes a sustainable lifestyle. In addition to ecological factors such as reducing CO2 emissions, saving energy and conserving natural resources, social aspects such as compliance with social standards in production and fair trade are also important. There are also economic factors to consider. These include the efficiency, practicality, life cycle and regionality of a product.

Living sustainably in everyday life

Every day we can choose anew for a sustainable lifestyle. Each of us can make a contribution through our own actions.


  • Choose low-packaging products
  • Buy durable items
  • Reusable bags made of fabric or paper instead of plastic bags
  • Purchase of used goods: e.g. in second-hand shops and at swap sites
  • Always select the highest energy efficiency class for household appliances
  • Decision in favor of eco-textiles from fair trade
  • Purchase of ecological cleaning products
  • Avoid unnecessary products such as toilet bowl stones, fragrance sprays or aggressive special cleaning agents


  • Choose seasonal products from the region
  • Give preference to organic products
  • Buy food with the Fairtrade seal of approval
  • Introduce meatless days

Waste and disposal

  • Avoid waste wherever possible
  • Separate garbage properly
  • Avoid food in the trash through conscious shopping, correct storage and good planning
  • Cook leftovers into tasty, creative dishes
  • Reusable instead of disposable reduces the volume of waste
  • Prefer organic drinks (tap water, organic, regional fruit and vegetable juices, teas, etc.)


  • Saving energy through thermal insulation and renovation
  • Select low washing temperatures for the dishwasher and washing machine
  • Identify power guzzlers and switch them off
  • Avoid stand-by operation


  • Cover short distances on foot or by bike
  • If possible, switch to public transport
  • Form car pools
  • Drive a fuel-efficient car
  • Buy cars with low fuel consumption or alternative drives
  • Going on vacation in a climate-friendly way, i.e. largely avoiding air travel

Nature and garden

  • In-house composting
  • Use organic fertilizers
  • Do not use pesticides
  • The more plants left naturally, the more beneficial insects


  • Laptops have a lower power consumption than stand PCs
  • Avoid stand-by operation
  • Save paper: if necessary, print out on both sides
  • Use recycled paper
  • Print in black and white instead of color
  • Plants in the office increase well-being and promote concentration

Sustainably into the future

The challenge for the future is to change existing patterns of shopping, consumption and production in such a way that a decent life is possible for future generations and, at the same time, our quality of life and joy of life increase.

Let's live sustainably together!


SOL: http://www.nachhaltig.at/

Book tips:

The discovery of sustainability: Cultural history of a term
March 2013, Ulrich Grober
ISBN-13: 978-3888978241

Live sustainably: Buy consciously, use sensibly. Alternatives to throwing away October 2013, Susanne Wolf
ISBN-13: 978-3990130285

A good day has 100 points: ... and other everyday ideas for a better world
October 2014, Thomas Weber
ISBN-13: 978-3701733422

The art of planting trees: How sustainability works in practice.
20 examples; With tree seeds for your own garden
September 2014, Hermine Hackl
ISBN-13: 978-3702233945

People shape sustainability: Carlowitz think further
December 2014, Saxon Hans-Carl-von-Carlowitz-Society (author)
ISBN-13: 978-3865817006