Home Living in Portugal House & Home 10 ways to live sustainably in Portugal
Last update on September 20, 2021
Written by Christian Lapper

Looking to live a more sustainable life in Portugal? Then why not follow these 10 steps to help reduce carbon emissions, food waste, and more.

From delicious cuisine and friendly locals to beautiful destinations and vibrant festivals, there are plenty of great things to discover when you move to Portugal. And while living a greener life might not be at the front of your mind as you get to know your new home, you’d be surprised by how easy it is to accomplish. So, to help you can make the switch to a cleaner, greener lifestyle, here are 10 simple ways to live more sustainably in Portugal.

1. Use public transport

If you’re thinking of ways to live sustainably in Portugal, one of the best things you can do is re-think your car usage. The transport sector is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions in Europe – and that includes private vehicles. Therefore, cutting down the amount of time you spend behind the wheel of your gas guzzler is a healthy way to reduce your carbon footprint. And thankfully, there are plenty of ways to do this.

trams in Lisbon

One of the easiest ways to cut down your car use is to simply let the train take the strain – or the metro, bus, or tram. You get the idea. Fortunately, Portugal is home to a dense and accessible public transport network that spans the entire country; offering routes between and within the major cities and towns. In fact, Lisbon is home to one of Europe’s most Instagram-able urban tram networks, which will make you soon forget just how much you loved sitting in traffic.

2. Download the best green apps

These days, it can seem like there’s an app for everything. From learning your sleep patterns to telling you how much water your houseplants need, you really can download your way to anything you want. And if you’re looking to live more sustainably in Portugal, downloading the greenest apps on your smartphone is a great first step. However, just like everything else on this list, you will only make a difference if you actually stick with them.

man learning on phone

To help you get started, here are our favorite apps for living sustainably in Portugal:

  • Reduce local food waste with Too Good To Go, which connects you with nearby cafes, bakeries, and more, to save delicious treats from the trash.
  • Plant a tree with every online search with Ecosia and track your progress with a personal tree counter.
  • Leave your car at home and plan a journey on the rails with the CP app, developed by Portugal’s railway operator, Comboios de Portugal.

You can find more ideas in our guide to the top 10 must-have apps in Portugal.

3. Shop local

One of the underrated pleasures of living abroad is browsing the aisles of the local grocery store and seeing all the interesting foods on offer. However, as great as Portuguese supermarkets are, the ‘food miles’ (the term used for the distance your food travels before it hits the store) of those goodies can quickly add up. Indeed, many everyday essentials rack up huge kilometer counts on their journey to your plate. This all creates carbon emissions, so cutting down is a great way to live sustainably in Portugal.

market in the Algarve

Luckily, there are a few ways to do this in Portugal. For instance, you can start by making more environmentally-focused decisions in-store, such as buying locally sourced or in-season produce instead of more exotic goods. Alternatively, you could give your nearest supermarket a miss and head to your local food market instead. Not only is this a great way to get to know your neighborhood, but it will also give you peace of mind that the goods you are buying are locally produced.

4. Sign up with a green energy supplier

Living more sustainably in Portugal can be as simple as flicking a switch in your living room. Indeed, signing up with a green energy supplier in your new home is easier than ever, as an increasing number of providers are looking to improve their renewable energy offering. However, while you might expect solar power to lead the way in this sunny country, it doesn’t even come close. In fact, in the first quarter of 2021, it was actually wind and hydropower that produced most of the country’s green electricity.

Portugal windfarm

Setting up your home utilities is likely to be high on your to-do list during your first week in Portugal. And this gives you a great opportunity to choose the right green deal to meet your needs. You have a number of options, so it’s important to shop around to find the best tariff for you and your usage. Energy providers offering green electricity in Portugal include:

  • Gold
  • Logica Energy
  • Yes Energy

5. Make your own renewable energy

If you’re looking closer to home for ways to live sustainably in Portugal, then you might want to consider getting your very own renewable energy resource. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about building your own windmill in your back garden or damming the local stream, but rather, going solar. With all the sunshine Portugal enjoys each and every year, solar panels are quickly becoming the new must-have accessory for expats and locals alike.

Solar panels Portugal

Indeed, demand for solar panels has risen significantly in the last decade, as the Portuguese government is looking at ways to reach the country’s renewable energy targets. As a result, it’s easier than ever to get affordable solar panels attached to your roof. And with costs decreasing and more companies entering the marketplace, it’s never been a better time to go solar. But before committing to anything, just make sure you do your research ahead of time to ensure that PV panels are the right option for you.

6. Choose an eco-vacation

It’s important to get away from it all for a week or two, and new arrivals in Portugal will soon discover that they are spoiled for choice when it comes to great destinations to visit. Whether you fancy exploring the natural beauty of the Azores or hitting the rugged Algarve coast, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Portugal. And, of course, there’s the rest of Europe to explore, too.

Azores ecotourism

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to travel more sustainably if you’re watching your carbon footprint; from taking the train to planting trees when you get there. And, of course, there are a growing number of eco-tourism destinations springing up across Europe, too. From diving with sharks to sailing in the Mediterranean, these offer some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for the green-minded traveler.

7. Swap four wheels for two

Aside from using the public transit system in Portugal, there are other ways to reduce your transport emissions. Swapping your private car for a bicycle is one of them. Not only will this help you manage your household expenditure on petrol and other car costs, but it will also allow you to burn off calories during your commute.

cycling in portugal

While Portugal might not enjoy the same cycling reputation as Denmark or the Netherlands, things are definitely changing in the country. Many of the bigger cities have invested heavily in their cycle infrastructure in recent years, making it easier than ever to jump on the saddle. And you don’t even have to buy your own wheels, either, as some parts of Portugal have bike-share schemes that are easily accessible, such as Lisbon’s Gira network.

8. Go paperless with your banking

One of the first things you’ll need to do after arriving in Portugal is open a bank account. Not only will this make you feel more settled in your new home, but it will also make everyday life a bit easier. Whether you’re buying metro tickets, stocking up on groceries at your local supermarket, or treating new friends to a few beers on a cafe terrace, it’s easier when you have a local bank account. And that’s not all. Opening an account with the right Portuguese bank can also make your life a little greener.

N26 app

A great way to do this is to sign up with a mobile bank in Portugal. Having all your banking needs met on an easy-to-use app can make a significant dent in the amount of unwanted paper you receive through your mailbox. Luckily, mobile services are increasingly popular with Portuguese banks, including many of the biggest names. However, if you’re thinking of going mobile, then you might want to consider a completely app-based bank such as N26. This German mobile bank offers a range of services in Portugal which you can access by downloading the English-speaking app and setting up your international IBAN.

9. Eat less meat

If you’re looking to live sustainably in Portugal, then what better place to start than at the dinner table? As you may know, a diet that is heavy in meat and other animal products is environmentally unfriendly. Therefore, switching to a vegan, vegetarian, or even flexitarian (when you only eat meat occasionally) can help you live a greener life. Indeed, eating more plant-based foods can contribute towards reducing agricultural emissions which are created by livestock feeding and the methane they produce. It can also lead to fewer emissions from all the transportation involved in meat production.

chestnuts

But how easy is a plant-based diet in Portugal? Good question. After all, this is a country that is famed for its delicious seafood, such as bacalhau, sardines, and other delights. But don’t let that put you off cutting down on meat and fish because there are now more options than ever when it comes to plant-based diets. Whether you’re shopping at the local supermarket or treating yourself to a meal at a restaurant, you certainly won’t go hungry. Downloading the Happy Cow app is a great way to see what’s available in your new neighborhood and find your nearest green dining options.

10. Watch your water usage

Water scarcity is an increasingly pressing problem in many parts of the world. This includes Portugal, which has seen many weather-based catastrophes in recent years, including droughts. While the issue of water scarcity is more acute in the drier areas of Portugal, including the Algarve region, effects can often be felt throughout the country. Therefore, if you’re trying to live sustainably in Portugal, it’s essential that you conserve water wherever possible.

As well as following all the special measures that are put in place by local administrations during times of drought, there are things you can do to save water all year round. For example, you can swap your shower head for one that restricts flow and reuse boiled water from the kitchen to water your houseplants. You can also respect the local environment in your own garden by choosing a design that is in keeping with your drier surroundings.