Martin having a heart-to-heart with a small yellow chick in the kitchen

Sustainability is not optional or an add-on. It is the only way for humanity to survive on earth. I must emphasise that sustainability is a political issue above all else. We cannot achieve sustainability through our own consumption decisions within a system that isn’t sustainable. But we do need to walk the talk in our individual lives — to prove to politicians that we are ready for change, and to show our neighbours and friends that we are serious about this.

This is the current status of my approaches, attempts and failures at sustainability. I will update this from time to time.

Food & Nourishment

What works: Since early 2018, I have been a vegetarian (I am also not eating fish). Increasingly, I am eating vegan food. I like vegan butter and eat mostly vegan bread spreads, only the occasional piece of cheese or an egg or two, every once in a while. I am convinced that humanity needs to significantly cut down on eating animals — to protect the dwindling resources and threatened lifeforms on this earth, to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions caused by (mass) animal farming, and to respect our fellow lifeforms and neighbours with whom we biologically co-exist on this planet. Without eating meat and without most other animal-based products, my life is absolutely great — in part also because meat replacement products have really improved over the past few years.

What doesnt work: While I try to avoid buying food that has traveled around the globe, I don’t properly manage to limit myself to seasonal and strictly locally sourced foods. In part because I am not a great cook; I don’t cook at home frequently enough to allow for regular produce shopping — it would end up spoiled. So I am still consuming a significant share of packaged/processed foods.

Secondly, I am sharing a dog with my partner. He has been fed meat-based foods all his life and I don’t currently see us weaning him off that.

Mobility & Travel

What works: I have stopped flying for pleasure in 2018. For my documentary film, we tried to do as much of the travelling as we could with an electric car. But we did have to go on a couple of flights that we couldn’t avoid (we over-compensated for emissions on all of them). Ever since the shoot wrapped in early 2020, I no longer fly, period.

I switched to an electric car in 2015 and drove it for over eight years, and over 200,000 kilometres. I now own my second electric car; I bought it second hand, with 20,000 km on it. On long distance trips, I alternate between taking trains and the electric car. In the city, I like to use public transport.

What doesnt work: I understand that owning a car is not the path to a sustainable future — no matter whether it’s electric or not. Producing a car requires enormous amounts of resources from the earth, at a considerable expense to the natural world. Making a machine of one and half to two tons that moves around is a gigantic use of material. And yet, I still haven’t managed to give up on owning a car.

I also don’t use my bike as much as I should whereas I drive around the city too much. I used to cycle everywhere as a kid, and really loved it. But somehow this has changed. Today, I find biking surprisingly exhausting, and whenever I cycle someplace, I arrive totally sweaty — which is not really socially compatible in most cases … It’s not because I’m out of training; I run my five kilometre course without much trouble. But something about biking has become stressful for me. Not sure why.

The dog is a convenient excuse to drive in the city, too. Taking him onto overcrowded subway trains or trams is a truly unhappy experience for everyone involved.

Living & Energy Consumption

What works: I buy my electricity from a collective that produces renewable energy. In addition, I have a solar module on my balcony. I underheat my apartment in the winter, and have installed external blinds to shield my apartment from the sun in the summer, so I don’t need/use air conditioning. (I live on the top floor of a turn-of-the-century building in Berlin.)

What doesn’t work: I have a gas heater in my apartment and currently do not see a way of getting rid of it. It heats both the water and the apartment itself (underfloor heating). To reduce the CO2 load, I am buying my gas from a provider of green gas and only heating water once in the morning for an hour. While I know that burning gas must end, I currently don’t see a way of getting away from it in my home.


What works: I have invested a bit of money, and set myself very strict rules for what my money cannot be invested in. Fossil fuels are completely excluded (0%). On the positive side, I am trying to make sure that my money goes to companies that are trying to be part of the solutions and not part of the problems plaguing us. I believe that a lot more people need to be interested in what their invested money is doing to the world. I think too many don’t care enough about this and only look at the returns.

(For about a year — between the summer of 2022 and the summer of 2023 — I created and ran a YouTube channel to talk about precisely that: sustainable investing. I also made a website about it.)

What does not work: Very simply put, making capital investments to make money is, in and of itself, an unsustainable activity. This cuts to the heart of our current problem — our entire economic model is designed to be unsustainable. I understand that we have the system we do, and that I am living in it. And so my best bet is to make investments that will hopefully help turn things around. But deep in my heart, I know that the whole idea of capitalist investing does not work in the long run and over time. So there is a built-in contradiction.


What works: Fashion is among the most destructive industries on the planet. The pollution that’s linked to fashion, and the waste that is created through our (over) consumption of fashion is staggering. I am lucky in that I’m not interested in fashion and I hardly buy any. I wear my clothes until they fall apart, and when I do buy new clothes, I make sure to go to shops that sell organic and sustainably sourced clothes. Since I buy so little fashion, it’s not a problem that these products are a bit more expensive.

What doesn’t work: I have not yet adopted the habit of buying second hand clothes. I feel a bit of a barrier there — to me, clothes are something rather personal, and I am unsure about buying other people’s. I also don’t like the act of shopping, and shopping for used clothes seems even more daunting to me. But I am sure I’ll get there eventually.

Equipment / Digital

What works: Making films and working with digital art requires equipment. I try to buy as little as possible and make do with what I have. Sometimes, I do need new devices, though. A few months ago I wanted to start drawing on the iPad but found out that my old iPad didn’t support the Apple pencil. So I bought a refurbished, slightly newer iPad. I don’t need to own the latest model of everything. It’s ridiculous what phones, computers and tablets can do these days. Most people who own the shiniest new version will never get close to exploiting their machine’s capabilities. So that’s a tremendous waste of resources. I also decided that a smart watch is not something I’ll ever buy — the phone itself is bothersome enough, I don’t need a watch that replicates the beeps and updates.

In terms of social media, I’ve found that I am better off without them. I quit Facebook some time in 2022, I think. And I left Twitter in 2023 when Elon Musk bought it. I had always liked Twitter and had been a user since 2008. But I wasn’t going to be part of that billionaire lunatic’s new plaything. I now only post occasionally on LinkedIn, and I have a Mastodon account. And, of course, I am experimenting with YouTube.

What doesn’t work: I do use tech all the time, and I am holding my phone in my hand more often than I want to.

Consumption, Generally

What works: I am very lucky in that I do not enjoy buying things. Shopping, online or in stores, is not something I like. At all.

So I don’t.

I’ll buy the occasional book. I like to own films on DVD/Bluray (which also reduces my streaming footprint). And I go out to eat every now and again. But that’s it, really.