Make your new Belgian life more environmentally-friendly by following these simple steps to live more sustainably in Belgium.
Are you an eco-friendly expat living in Belgium? If so, then you’re probably thinking about ways to make your new life more sustainable. Thankfully, nowadays, it’s easier than ever to be green as an expat living in Belgium. To give you an idea of how you can make greener decisions as part of your everyday life, here are our 10 ways to live more sustainably in Belgium.
1. Download the right apps
If you spend most of your time on your smartphone, then you’ll be pleased to know that it can actually help you live a greener life. Downloading the right apps is a great first step to making your Belgian adventure more sustainable. There are loads of excellent apps on offer, from bike-sharing to vegan baking. But which Belgian apps should you be downloading? Well, that depends entirely on you. If you want an app to truly make a difference in your life, you need to download something you’ll actually use.
To get you started, here are our favorite green Belgian apps:
- Save delicious treats from the trash with Too Good To Go. Using the app, you can find food at a reduced price from your favorite neighborhood eateries, helping them cut down on food waste.
- Spend your life searching online? Why not plant a tree with every search? Download Ecosia and your own personal tree counter will tell you how many you’ve helped plant.
- Free tap water Belgium is an app that does exactly what you might expect. Find free sources of tap water across the country including some restaurants, too.
For more information on Belgian apps and what you should be downloading, read our guide to the must-have apps in Belgium.
2. Choose a green energy provider
What better way to live a greener life than by simply flicking a switch from the comfort of your own home? That’s right, one of the easiest ways to live sustainably is through your energy provider. And luckily, Belgium has a wide range of renewable energy sources on offer. From windmills off the coast to solar panels inland, you can do your bit to encourage the green energy revolution by signing up with a green energy supplier.
If you’re a new arrival in Belgium, one of the first things you’ll need to do is set up your utilities at home, including gas and electricity. When it comes to choosing a Belgian energy company, you have plenty of choices. However, if you want to live more sustainably, then why not pick a green energy provider? A growing number of Belgian energy providers offer green electricity, including:
Overwhelmed by all this choice? Then save your energy by using a comparison website. Platforms such as Aanbieders make it easy to compare various companies while offering a switching service for customers.
3. Shop locally
If you’re an expat living in Belgium, then chances are you won’t have far to travel to your nearest supermarket. However, have you ever considered how far your food has actually traveled to get to your local grocery store? Whether your family likes almonds or avocados, your favorites have journeyed from far and wide to read your kitchen. These food miles rack up vast amounts of carbon emissions through transportation alone – and tackling this issue is a big part of living sustainably in Belgium.
So how can you help reduce the food miles of your weekly trip to the grocery store? Well, one easy way is to make different choices in the supermarket aisles. This includes choosing locally-grown options were possible and opting for seasonal produce instead of overseas imports. Another way is to shop locally. Fortunately, you’ll find a wide range of different markets throughout Belgium, which sell plenty of fresh produce and dried goods from local producers. Not only will you reduce your food miles, but you’ll also get to try some local delicacies.
4. Compost at home
If you’ve just whipped up a Belgian feast with all those locally-sourced foods, then you might want to think about what to do with all those food scraps. But before you slide your leftovers into the trash, why not consider composting instead? Many Belgian municipalities provide food waste collection as part of their regular garbage and recycling services, so you might be able to dispose of it this way. You’ll soon be surprised just how quickly those orange bags fill up!
However, if you’re serious about living sustainably in Belgium, then you might want to take your home composting to the next level. Whether you have a cozy, street-side balcony or a leafy garden in the suburbs, getting started is easy. There are two main ways to compost at home: worm bins and bokashi. The bokashi system includes microbes while the worm bins involve, well, lots of worms. You can put your composting bin on the kitchen countertop, the balcony, or in the garden. Before you know it, you’ll have great, homemade compost to help your plants and flowers thrive.
5. Leave the car at home
One of the healthiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by reassessing the way you use your car. Transport is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions across Europe, and cutting down on your usage is an excellent way to do your bit for the environment. However, you don’t need to invest in the latest Tesla to boost your green transport credentials in Belgium.
Thankfully, Belgium is a compact country with plenty of options if you don’t feel like driving. The public transportation network is accessible and efficient, with metros, trams, trains, and buses connecting towns and cities across the country. However, for a healthier commute, then why not head out on two wheels? Whether cycling or hopping on an e-scooter, you’ll be able to find the best mode for your journey.
6. Explore the markets
When setting up a home in a new country, it can be tempting to simply head to your nearest furniture warehouse and stock up on all the latest home trends in one fell swoop. However, flat-pack fixes aren’t necessarily the best way to build your brand new sustainable home. These items are mass-produced, often taking a lot of energy and emissions to manufacture, package, and transport to the store. So how can you avoid these pitfalls when living sustainably in Belgium?
One way is to take advantage of all the fabulous markets Belgium has to offer. Here, you’ll find whole treasure troves of antique furniture, accessories, and those precious artworks that make a house a home. You can simply search online for your nearest flea market and set your alarm if you’re after something in particular. These markets are often popular with tourists and locals alike, so you won’t want to miss out on anything you might need. Happy bargain hunting!
7. Go paperless with your banking
Are you a new arrival in Belgium? Then, one of the first things you’ll need to do is open a Belgian bank account. Not only will this help you set up all those important payments for your home internet and TV and Belgian mobile phone, but it will also make everyday life much easier. You’ll be able to visit the supermarket or your favorite fashion outlets without worrying that your card might not be accepted. However, while banking can mean a lot of mail delivered to your home by way of statements and bills, it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you’re a green-minded expat, then you’ll be pleased to know that these days it’s easy to make your banking in Belgium completely paperless. While many of the larger Belgian banks offer an increasing number of paper-free options, the easiest way is to sign up for mobile banking in Belgium. There is an ever-growing number of international and local mobile banks to choose from, including bunq and N26. You’ll be able to apply for an account in minutes once you’ve downloaded the app. And for ease, you’ll also receive all your bills and correspondence straight to your phone.
8. Cut down on water usage
If you’re arriving from warmer climes, then you might not think about saving water in Belgium. In fact, with around 800mm of rain falling every year, you might think that there’s more than enough to go around. However, despite all that rain, the country isn’t immune to global water shortages. That’s why it’s so important to conserve water wherever you can if you’re trying to live sustainably in Belgium.
Luckily, there are many simple ways you can lower your water usage during your everyday life. And, as ever, the best ideas often start at home. In the bathroom, consider swapping your shower head for one that restricts flow. And when you’re cooking, you can reuse boiled water by draining it into a bowl. This can then cool and be used when tending your plants. Outside, avoid using hose pipes and opt for water-efficient planters and flower beds. It doesn’t stop when you leave the house, either. Leave bottled water on the shelf and take your own reusable bottle wherever you go.
9. Eat less meat
As you may be aware, a diet heavy on meat and other animal products is not the most environmentally-friendly way to fuel up on calories. In fact, there are a number of ways in which switching to a vegan, vegetarian, or even flexitarian (that’s when you only eat meat occasionally) can help you live a greener life. Firstly, you won’t have to worry about any agricultural emissions as a result of feeding livestock and creating methane. You’ll also help reduce those extra emissions from transporting the meat to your local supermarket.
But, don’t worry if you’re worried about missing out on steaks, hamburgers, or your favorite pizza toppings. There are plenty of options in Belgium for a diet beyond meat. In your local supermarket, you’ll find vegetarian ranges and meals, while fresh produce can be found in-store or at your nearest market. If you want to eat out, make sure you download the Happy Cow app. This is an excellent tool to find your nearest vegan takeaway, vegetarian curry house, or meat-free pizza parlor.
10. Recycle, recycle, recycle
Last but by no means least… recycle! It’s one of the easiest ways to live sustainably in Belgium and can be done at home by the whole family! To make things easy, the locals have created a relatively easy-to-understand recycling system. Most collections are done by local municipalities on the roadside. Anything that can’t be left outside will need to be taken to your local recycling park. This includes appliances, chemical waste, and more. For more information, read our complete guide to recycling and garbage collection in Belgium.