Consumeless for a year

A journal of a year of consuming less and consuming sustainably

Most sustainable lunch meeting so far 19/01/2010

Today I had a meeting with Stef,  whom I met in Brussels a couple of weeks ago. We wanted to discuss some mutual interests and possibilities for collaboration so we made a lunch date. Yesterday I sent him an e-mail to check whether we were still on for the lunch date and mentioned that I wouldn’t mind making another appointment if necessary because I try to bring my own lunch as much as possible (I briefly explained our consumeless experiment of course). Stef happily replied that he invited me to come over to his place so we could eat ‘bokes’ (sandwiches) together. And so we did. I brought my own lunch and we had a nice and constructive meeting. Interestingly, Stef and his family try to be self supporting with respect to energy. They almost manage to do so by using solar panels and a solar boiler!

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Family visit 18/01/2010

Making candles

This weekend we visited Eise’s brother Victor and his family in Bloemendaal. The good news was that we didn’t take Lotte, our dog, with us, so we were able to use public transportation. We bought a NS Voordeelurenabonnement, which gives a 40% discount (on all trains in weekends and on trains after 9:00 AM on week days). Hopefully this will stimulate us to take the train more often this year! This will be a major bottleneck, I’m afraid, since taking the train is about twice as expensive as the fuel it takes to go by car (with the two of us). We had to choose who of us would buy the Voordeelurenabonnement (the pass allows the owner plus 3 others to travel with a discount, so one pass is sufficient if we travel together). We figured that Eise would probably use the train on his own more often, so he bought the pass.

Home-made beeswax candles

We had a really nice weekend and finally spent some decent time with Eise’s nephews. And we had a very sustainable weekend too! Maaike, Victor’s girlfriend is fully into macrobiotic cooking, so we ate very healthy and very organic food! We brought a candle-making set as a present (beeswax candles, of course, paraffin is terribly unsustainable since its made of crude oil) so we made a huge amount of strange-looking candles (making candles isn’t that easy!). I was slightly tempted in a shoe store (Victor needed new shoes), where they had really cool and warm woolen slippers (something like these, but in bright pink) in my size for less than half of the price. But I didn’t need new slippers. So I didn’t buy them. Actually, it really was that easy! And furthermore we did mostly consumeless and sustainable stuff (feeding deer, visiting gnomes, etc.).

The coming few weeks I am home alone, so I have to cook for myself (I have to admit, Eise does most of the cooking, and usually I don’t take the trouble to cook a full meal when I’m home alone). Today that was no problem because I didn’t go to Leuven but to Hasselt so I was home earlier than usual and had plenty of time to cook.

One final thing worth mentioning is that I participated in a biweekly meeting at work via Skype so I did not have to travel to Leuven. Not a bad experience actually. With a little bit of microphone aiming by my colleagues I could hear everything quite well and we lost connection only once.

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Positive meeting news 15/01/2010

After complaining about meetings without veggie lunch options, I must also report two positive meetings I attended this week. The first one was a presentation of a project called The BlueCall Phone by Ithaka, a centre coaching people with a handicap. Part of the centre is an Oxfam Wereldwinkel, a shop selling fair trade products. It was an early breakfast meeting and Oxfam fair trade coffee, tea and orange juice  were served!

"Future friendly packaging" at TU Delft

Today I had a meeting at TU Delft‘s Studiolab. We had lunch in one of the faculties’ restaurants. Of course I should have brought my own lunch, but I find that a bit difficult, as I never know beforehand what the others’ plans are for lunch. I don’t want to be a killjoy. So. We went to the restaurant where I tried to assemble a sustainable lunch. I didn’t take any of the pre-prepared and pre-packaged salads or sandwiches, but took a unpackaged sandwich, some butter and some cheese. And a bowl of soup. I was happy to find organic butter milk (all dairy was organic). I was slightly less happy to find disposable plates, cups, bowls and forks, knives and spoons. However, all plates, bowls and cups had a sign saying “future friendly packaging”. No clue what that means exactly, but at least the restaurant tries to be more sustainable I guess!

By the way, we went to Eise’s parents last Wednesday, so I went to Delft by bike! 😉

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Organic trademarks US vs Europe/Netherlands 13/01/2010

Eko keurmerk

In both the books No Impact Man and in Eating Animals (by Jonathan Saffran Foer), I read that US organic trademarks are mostly commercially driven and the rules that they prescribe do not really guarantee organic products, animal welfare, etc. For instance, in the US, a cow that never gets to go outside (but has a window with a view) can provide certified organic beef and dairy.

To be honest, reading this upset me quite a bit. So I did a little research into European and Dutch organic trademarks. I was happy to find out that the rules here are much stricter. For example, a Dutch trademark which is very common is the Eko Keurmerk. I looked up the rules this trademark sets and that looks much better than the American stories I read about. To be Eko certified, animals should be able to go out whenever they want. And stables should accommodate species-specific behaviour (e.g. chickens like to sleep while sitting on a roost, so this should be provided in a stable. And pigs that are about to have piglets build a nest, so nesting material should be available.). What I also liked, is the fact that Eko allows for giving animals medication when they are sick, as long as their meat or produce is not used for a period twice as long as the medication manufacturer prescribes. No Impact Man tells a story of a dairy farmer who isn’t allowed to say that his milk is organic, because he gives is animals medication when they are sick. Apparently, to produce certified organic milk in the US, no medication at all is allowed, so animals who have a simple infection that won’t cure naturally have to be put down.

So, I am slightly reassured, but this again shows that we really need to be critical, and that we shouldn’t believe everything that manufacturers want us to believe. I also wonder whether there are ‘truly organic’ trademarks in the US.

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Meaty lunch meetings – this is it! 12/01/2010

Filed under: Food & drinks,Work — Karin @ 21:37
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Again, I found myself in a meeting with fish and meat sandwiches only. That’s the second time this year (while it is only January 12th). I have decided that from now on, if I know for sure that there will be sandwiches during a meeting, I will e-mail ahead to kindly inquiry whether there will be vegetarian sandwiches. If not, I’ll bring my own lunch. I find this quite stupid, but it seems to be the only option. Why aren’t meat and fishless sandwiches provided by default? As if non-vegetarians only eat sandwiches with meat! A simple cheese sandwich would do the trick for me. Quite frustrating!

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Biodynamic pet food arrived 09/01/2010

Filed under: Food & drinks,Pets — Karin @ 19:43
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This week, the biodynamic pet food I ordered arrived. I was especially curious what Lotte, our dog would think about it. Our cats mostly eat anything, but Lotte really didn’t like a (huge) bag of dog food we bought a while ago. She even left half of the food in her bowl all the time. But watch this video (pls ignore the kitchen, it came with the house, not our style, needs replacement)! Here Lotte (and the cats) get the organic food. I’m so happy! I’ve ordered two huge bags of dog food and two moderately huge bags of cat food. The good news: when you order large amounts, you get a 5% discount and you don’t pay shipping costs.

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Consumeless & sustainable in Italy part II

View on the (Talfer?) river in Bolzano

So there I was, in Bolzano for a business meeting (quite cool acutlly, a PhD comittee meeting about a thesis on interaction design for deaf children). My first attempt at consuming as little and as sustainable as possible while traveling. It wasn’t too difficult, actually. The thing that I found most awkward was spending time in city centres (and at airports) with the knowledge that I couldn’t buy anything. It made me look at shops and city streets in a completely different way! Actually, who would ever have thought I would say this, I lost almost all of my interest in shopping! I had a few hours to wander through Bolzano and I automatically started looking for shopping streets. But since I lost interest after a few minutes, I just wandered around, watching beautiful old buildings and took a stroll along the river. When I got back at my hotel, I thought I had walked for at least two hours, while in realt it was only 1 hour and 20 minutes!

The thing I thougt would be most difficult was eating. Of course, I was quite limited in my choice of where to eat. I had breakfast in the hotel and the people who organised the meeting took me out for lunch. I haven’t found any organic food, but I was able to make some choices. At breakfast I ate nothing that was packaged and I did not eat out-of-season and out-of-location fruits. I ended op eating muesli with seeds and yoghurt, a croissant with (not prepackaged) jam, a cappuccino and home made (!) apfelstrudel. Lunch was a vegetarian pizza (with artichoke cream, eggplant and courgette). Eggplant and courgette probable were local, mabye in the south of Italy they even grow in winter, who knows! I had dinner in the cafe of my hotel. Polenta (very local!) with mushrooms and gorgonzola. Also not too bad I guess. And I asked the waiter which of the red wines was local (there was one from Bolzano even, which was lovely!).

One dilemma was the hotel sauna. They had a small sauna complex which was open every afternoon and evening. I really felt like going to the sauna, but I wondered how unsustainable that would be. Of course, the sauna was on, whether I would go in or not, but I hate to use such an argument (“the plane is flying anyway, so I might as well take it”). Eise thought sauna’s are not very unsustainable, because they are isolated very well. I ended up going (which was great!), but I noticed that the heating system went on about every minute or two… And I got two towels and a set of disposable slippers… Anyone an idea about the energy usage of a sauna?

I did take the stairs in stead of the elevator all the time (which turned out to be quite an exercise; my room was on the fourth floor, but the floors were about two normal floors high (23 steps)!). Then Eise told me that elevators hardly use any electricity when they go down, in stead, he though electricity might even be generated and stored because of the flywheel that is used (anyone knows more about this?)…

On my return trip I hardly consumed anything. I filled the bottle of water I got at Rome airport with tap water (which they are very proud of in Bolzano, straight from the mountains). In a supermarket I bought organic mais crackers and some (local) fruit. I took a train to Innsbrück, then a bus to the airport and from there I flew to Brussels (where I took a train to Maastricht). I ate all the stuff I brought for lunch, so I didn’t have to buy a thing.

So all in all, this first consumeless trip was quite OK, I think. Next time I’ll definitely try to go by train and I’ll try to find more sustainable hotel options (now I stayed in the hotel that was suggested to me).

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