Do your bit for the planet and go green under the Iberian sun with these 10 simple ways to live sustainably in Spain.
When moving to a new country, getting your head around everyday life can be challenging. This is no different in Spain, with all its great beaches, bars, and Baroque architecture. However, while enjoying all the trappings of Spanish life, living green might not be high on your list of priorities. But don’t let that worry you, because it’s easier than ever to live eco-friendly in Spain. To give you an idea of what you can do, here are our top 10 simple ways to live more sustainably in Spain.
1. Fly like a bird
Did you know that the average seagull has an annual carbon footprint that’s just a tenth of the average human? OK, so we might have made that up, but when it comes to getting around this great country, birds definitely make light work of those long journey times between Spanish cities. Indeed, what better way to see your new home than ditching the car and heading out on Spain’s impressive AVE network? Although ave means bird in Spanish, AVE actually stands for Alta Velocidad España, Europe’s longest high-speed rail network. And these birds can fly – at up to speeds of 310 km/h (193 mph).
Spain’s first high-speed rail route opened back in 1992, connecting the capital, Madrid, with Seville, in the south of the country. Since then, the network has expanded out across the country. From A Coruña and Barcelona to Cadiz and Murcia, the AVE has swept through Spain – with more routes in the pipeline. If you’re thinking about exploring your new Iberian home without the hassle or carbon footprint of cars or planes, let the train take the strain and get a ticket for the AVE.
2. Go green for your energy…
Imagine if living sustainably in Spain was as simple as flicking a switch in your own home? Well, it can be if you sign up for a green energy supplier in your new Spanish home. Signing up for a renewable energy supplier in Spain is easier than ever, as the country moves towards a greener energy future. Indeed, Spain has invested significantly in its renewable energy production. But while you might expect solar energy to be powering this change, it’s actually wind that leads the way, accounting for almost 50% of Spain’s green energy in 2020.
If you’re new in Spain, then setting up your home utilities is probably high on your to-do list. When it comes to choosing the right green deal for your home, you have plenty of options. An ever-growing list of companies offering energy from renewable sources as part of their wider product range. Some companies only offer green energy, making it even easier to decide. Energy providers in Spain include:
- Hola Luz
3. …or make your own
If you’re looking at inventive ways to live sustainably in Spain, you might consider making your own energy. No, really. With all the sunshine the Iberian peninsula enjoys each and every year, solar panels are fast becoming a must-have home accessory for expats and locals alike.
As you might expect, demand for solar panels has been growing following a recent change to Spanish law. Of course, whether this is a good option for you depends on your circumstances and where you live. However, with installation costs decreasing and more companies entering the market, it’s never been a better time to go solar. Just make sure you do your research ahead of time and avoid being left in the shade.
4. Download the best green apps
These days, we seem to live half our lives on our smartphones. Whether we’re chatting with friends and family, catching up on Tik-Tok, or even watching the latest TV series, our phones are never far away. However, did you know that all this scrolling can help you go green? That’s right, the answer to your sustainable living problems can be found in your app store. More and more green-minded apps are popping up to help you make healthier choices for yourself and the environment. Whether it’s bike-sharing in Barcelona, vegan deliveries in Valencia, or car-sharing in Cadiz, there’s a lot to choose from.
However, remember that if an app is really going to make a difference, it needs to be one you’ll actually use. To give you some inspiration, here are three of our favorite apps for living sustainably in Spain:
- Save delicious food from the trash by downloading Too Good To Go. Use the app to find treats at reduced prices from your favorite neighborhood eateries, helping them cut down on food waste.
- Spend your life searching for things online? Then why not plant a tree with every search? Download Ecosia and your own personal tree counter will tell you how many you have helped plant.
- Buy and sell secondhand gems with Vinted, the app that connects you to an online marketplace in your very own neighborhood.
Read our guide to the top 10 must-have Spanish apps for more suggestions on what you should be downloading,
5. Bring your own bottle
For those relocating to Spain, it’ll come as little surprise to know that Spain can get hot. Summers in the country can sweltering wherever you are, although you can typically expect the highest temperatures in the southern regions of Andalusia and Extremadura. Indeed, it’s here that Spain recorded its highest ever temperature back in 2017 when the mercury reached 46.9ºC. But if you’re out and about in your new home during these warmer temperatures, be sure to stay hydrated.
However, while you’re out exploring your new home, do your bit for the environment by avoiding bottled water. A single 500ml plastic bottle of water can have a carbon footprint of 828g of carbon dioxide. Instead, invest in a reusable water bottle that you can carry around easily, topping up when you need to. It’s not just reusable water bottles that can help you live sustainably in Spain while on the go. A reusable coffee cup can also be a great investment for all morning pick-me-ups.
6. Swap four wheels for two
If you’re looking at ways to get healthier and greener at the same time, you might want to reassess how you use your car. Transport is one of the biggest contributors to Europe’s carbon emissions, and cutting your usage is a great way to do your bit for the environment. However, you don’t need to splash out on the latest Tesla to boost your green credentials – you can simply swap your four wheels for two.
While Spain might not enjoy the same reputation as the Netherlands or Denmark when it comes to cycling infrastructure, things are changing. Indeed, many cities have invested heavily in their cycle network, such as Barcelona which now ranks among the world’s best cities for cyclists. But bikes aren’t the only mode of transport you could choose if you’re looking to travel green. Spain has a wide-reaching public transport network, and there’s an ever-growing number of e-scooter rental opportunities in many Spanish cities.
7. Vacation at home
When moving to a new country, there are few things better than exploring your new surroundings. And if that new country is Spain, you’re spoilt with having a whole continent of excitement and intrigue awaiting you. Whether you hope over the border to Portugal or France, head across the sea to Morocco or Italy, or venture further afield to Russia or Poland. However, if you’re looking to cut down on your carbon footprint, your dream European itinerary might have to change. But don’t let that worry you, because Spain has some great options for all tastes and budgets.
For most people, Spain means beaches. Indeed, the country has a staggering amount of sandy beaches just waiting to be explored. However, there’s much more inland to keep you entertained. For starters, how about the ancient cities of Cordoba or Granada in the sun-kissed region of Andalusia? In winter, Granada is also a great base for the ski resorts in the nearby Sierra Nevada. If skiing isn’t your thing, why not get out and explore the breathtaking Picos de Europa mountain range? On the northern coast, San Sebastian is a foodies paradise, while nearby Bilbao is home to the famous Guggenheim museum. In short, you have plenty of options!
8. Bank without paper
Just arrived in Spain? One of the first things you’ll need to do is open a Spanish bank account. Not only will this make it easier to set up all those important payments – such as mobile phone plans and utilities – it’ll also make your day-to-day life a lot easier. No longer will you have to worry that your card won’t be accepted when grabbing tapas with friends, or picking up groceries at the Spanish supermarket. However, while banking can mean a lot of unnecessary paper, it doesn’t have to be this way.
If you’re a green-minded expat, you’ll be pleased to know just how many options you have to keep your banking paperless. While many of the larger Spanish banks offer an increasing number of paper-free options, the easiest way is to sign up for mobile banking in Spain. There is an ever-growing number of international and local mobile banks to choose from, including Openbank 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.
9. Limit your water usage
As the world changes around us, water scarcity is becoming an ever-increasing problem in certain parts of the world. This includes Spain, with many of the country’s regions suffering from severe water scarcity. This scarcity is more acute in the drier areas in the south, but the effects can often be felt throughout the country. That’s why, if you’re trying to live sustainably in Spain, it’s important to do your bit by conserving water wherever and whenever you can.
As well as adhering to any special measures put in place by local administrations during times of drought, there are things you can do all year round to help out. For example, swap your shower head for one that restricts flow or reuse boiled water from the kitchen to water your houseplants. Outside, respect the local environment in your garden and go for a design in keeping with your drier surroundings.
10. Cut down on your meat
As you probably know, a diet heavy on meat and other animal products is not the most environmentally friendly way to eat. 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, or the methane they create. You’ll also help reduce those extra emissions from transporting the meat to your local supermarket from far-off countries.
However, while all this sounds great, how easy is a vegan – or even vegetarian – diet in Spain? After all, this is the country famed for its jamon serrano, albondigas, and, of course, pulpo. But fear not. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by just how many options are available for non-meat eaters in Spain. And you won’t just have to stick to patatas bravas when you eat out, either. Download the Happy Cow app and find your nearest vegan takeaway, vegetarian curry house, or meat-free pizza parlor.