Do your bit for the environment and make your French life greener with our top 10 ways to live more sustainably in France.
As an expat living in France, there are a number of things you’ll need to do as you settle into your new lifestyle. However, for many, the thought of living green isn’t high on the priority list. Thankfully, it’s easy to live sustainably in France without having to disrupt your everyday life. To help you understand your green options, here are 10 simple ways to live a more sustainable life in France.
1. Get on your bike
As a nation, the French absolutely love cycling. Every summer, l’Hexagone is gripped with velo-fever as the hardy rides of Le Tour de France take the highways and byways; crisscrossing the country’s spectacular scenery before ending on the Champs Elysee in Paris. But the fun doesn’t stop there. In recent years, many French cities (including the capital) have invested heavily in their cycling infrastructure. So, whether you’re in the yellow jersey or simply commuting, there’s no reason not to do it on two wheels.
If you’re thinking about heading out on your bike, you have a number of options. Perhaps the most obvious is to simply buy your own. This is the best option if you’re living in the countryside and want an enjoyable way to visit your local boulangerie. However, many of the bigger cities operate bike-share schemes, letting you move around central areas as you please, picking up and dropping off cycles as you go. What better way to explore your new home?
2. Download some green apps
Sometimes, it can feel like a lot of your life is spent on your smartphone, chatting to loved ones, and flicking through your apps. If you’re a little addicted to your phone, then why not let it help you live a greener life in France? Downloading the right apps is an easy first step on the road to sustainable French living – and luckily, there are plenty to choose from. Whether it’s the app of your local bike-share scheme or one that helps you find your nearest vegan restaurant, the choice is yours. But remember, to ensure these apps make a difference, it’s essential that you download something you’ll actually use.
To give you an idea of what to search for, here are our favorite French apps for sustainable living:
- Find green-minded businesses in your area with Tookki. From vegan boulangeries to ethical fashion boutiques, there’s something to satisfy all tastes.
- Save delicious food from the garbage with Too Good To Go. Using the app, you can find treats at reduced prices from your favorite neighborhood eateries, helping them cut down on food waste.
- Spend your life searching online? Then 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.
For more information on a range of French apps and what you should be downloading, read our guide to the top 10 must-have French apps.
3. Go paperless with your banking
One of the first things you need to do when setting up your new life in France is to open a French bank account. Not only will having a local account help you set up any payments – such as your home internet connection or your French mobile phone bill – but it will also make it easier to buy all those household essentials in France. However, as we all know, banking often comes with a lot of paperwork attached. From bank statements to credit card bills, it can seem like a forest is being delivered through your letterbox.
To keep your home free from all that unwanted banking literature, why not sign up for a mobile bank instead? Mobile banking in France is straightforward and easy to set-up, with a growing number of banks entering the marketplace. These include traditional French retail banks and many mobile-only banks, including N26 and bunq. Not only can you apply for an account in minutes by downloading their apps, but you’ll also receive all bills, statements, and more straight to your phone.
4. Sign up for green energy
Imagine if you could live more sustainably in France simply by flicking a switch at home? Okay, so that might be pushing it, but signing up for green energy is an effective way to do your part. It can also signal to energy suppliers that renewable energy is popular, propelling them to invest more in these greener sources. While much of France’s energy comes from its network of nuclear power plants, there is a growing move towards sustainable methods, including wind, solar, and hydroelectricity.
If you’re a new arrival in France, setting up your home utilities is likely one of the first tasks on your to-do list. If you’re in the market for green French energy, then you’re in luck as there are plenty of choices. There is an ever-increasing number of French energy companies offering green electricity packages as part of their product range. These include:
5. Buy local
One of the best parts about living in France is exploring your new home, whether it’s your neighborhood grocery store or the Sunday morning flea market in the nearest village. And while all this might be part of the quintessential French life you’ve been dreaming of, you’ll actually be helping the environment, too. That’s right, by keeping things local you could be doing your bit for the future of the planet by cutting down on all those manufacturing, agriculture, and transport emissions.
Instead of stocking up on all that food produced abroad at your local supermarket, why not head to your nearest market instead. Most towns and villages across France host markets at least once a week. Here, you’ll be able to pick up all manner of locally produced meats, dairy, fruit, and vegetables, among other treats. The flea market (brocante) is also a great place for all that authentic French furniture. Just think, you can avoid the mass-produced flat-pack options and give that classic dresser a new lease of life in your French farmhouse home.
6. Grow your own
Have you ever dreamed of living off the fat of the land? While buying local produce is an effective way of going green, there’s nothing better than growing your own at home. Imagine whipping up a great French recipe like ratatouille or beef bourguignon using vegetables grown outside your back door. Or making some traditional French cidre with the apples you’ve picked from your orchard? Suddenly going green sounds a lot more exciting.
Don’t have a farmhouse in Provence? Don’t let that put you off. Even if you’re living in a studio in central Paris, you can still live sustainably in France by growing your own food at home. You can start with something basic, like a window ledge herb garden or tomato plants on the balcony. These can be used in whatever dish you create for your family and friends. They’re certain to be impressed by your delicious, homegrown cooking.
7. Ditch the plastic in your garden
Aside from your brand-new vegetable patch, there are plenty of ways to make your farmhouse garden part of your new green lifestyle. One of the simplest things you can do is rid your garden of plastic. Completely. You’ll be surprised at just how much in modern gardens is made from plastic, so why not try to cut down and make your garden a little greener?
You can start by choosing sturdy, long-lasting garden and patio furniture made from wood. Not only will this give your green space an elegant feel, but it will also help you avoid dealing with unsightly and environmentally damaging plastic. However, it doesn’t have to stop with furniture. Terracotta pots and planters are also a great alternative to plastic. Or, if you have the skills, you could even build some wooden planters.
8. Leave the car at home
One of the best ways to live sustainably in France is by rethinking your car usage. Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions throughout Europe. Private car use is a big part of this, and leaving your four wheels at home is an easy way to live a greener life. However, you don’t need to invest in the latest Tesla to boost the green credentials of your French commute.
France might be one of the biggest countries in Europe, but you can still get around quickly and efficiently using the local public transportation network. Larger cities have metros and trams, all connected with a high-speed rail network and local bus services. However, for an even healthier commute, why not jump on two wheels? Whether it’s cycling or taking advantage of your new home’s local e-scooter sharing platform, you’ll soon find the best option for you.
9. Compost your food waste
Just whipped up a fabulous French feast for your family? Or maybe you’ve rustled up some delicious French snacks for friends? Whatever you’ve been doing in the kitchen, you might want to think about all those food scraps. Before you slide them straight into the trash, why not consider composting instead? Some French municipalities offer food composting bins as part of their regular garbage and recycling collections.
However, if you’re committed to green living in France, you might want to take your composting to the next level. Whether you have a cozy balcony in the middle of Montpelier, or a leafy garden in the Parisian 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.
10. Recycle, recycle, recycle
So far on this list, we’ve looked at a wide range of ways to green up your new life in France. But one of the best ways to do it is simply… recycling. While the French recycling system can seem a little confusing to new arrivals, you shouldn’t let that put you off. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll soon find that you’re recycling with ease. From newspapers and magazines to all those leftover wine bottles, you’ll be able to give new leases of life to it all!