Consumeless for a year

A journal of a year of consuming less and consuming sustainably

Repair manifesto 21/01/2010

A while ago I came across the Repair Manifesto, part of Platform 21‘s project Platform 21 = Repairing. Platform 21 is a Dutch design platform. The idea behind their project is that repairing in stead of recycling is underestimated as a creative, cultural and economic force. The manifesto is written within this project “describing the benefits of fixing things and calling upon designers and consumers to break the chain of throwaway thinking”. I really like the idea of looking at the beautiful side of repairing. It reminds me of a strategy sometimes used by the Dutch State Service for Cultural Heritage (according to Eise’s father who told us this once). Their strategy in maintaining monuments is to do renovations in such a way that the original (broken) structure is still visible. By doing this, a building gets ‘scars’ showing its history. Beautiful! We plan to apply this principle in our own house as well. When we moved into this house, we replaced the stairs, which left a hole in the living room floor. It still is a hole, but we aim to fill this hole with wood in a way that won’t make it invisible, but that shows that there once was a hole.

But to get back to the Repair Manifesto. The eleven ‘rules’ fit very nicely into our own consumeless and sustainability rules, which is why I post the manifesto here.

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Questions and first dilemmas 27/12/2009

First, thanks to all of you for your encouraging reactions to our experiment and our blog! Many of you already raised a few interesting suggestions and questions, which we gladly take into consideration.

We’ve made a few changes to the rules based on the reactions we received. First, we’ve decided to make the ‘sweets and snacks’ rule a bit stricter. In essence, we don’t need sweets and snacks so we shouldn’t buy or eat them. Our initial rule was to only eat home-made sweets and snacks, but with that rule we would be able to buy¬† as many eggs and as much chocolate as we wanted to make chocolate mousse every day… On the other hand, if we have people over for dinner, we don’t want to be bad hosts and serve plain simple food only. So we changed the rules a bit. We can make sweets and deserts when we have guests (we do have to make them ourselves though). If we don’t have guests, in principle we don’t make sweets or snacks, unless we have all the ingredients in stock anyway (e.g. when we have a lot of apples, we would be able to make an apple pie if we had flour, butter and sugar as well). We’re not allowed to buy ingredients for sweets and snacks especially (unless we have guests).

A second change to the rules concerns general rule nr. 4. This rule used to say that we had to do research in order to find the cheapest option if we really needed to buy something. This was a little confusing and the rule seemed to be contradicting the third rule. The idea was, and we’ve changed the rule accordingly, to choose a product first, based on the general rule of sustainability, and then to spend some time doing research to find the cheapest place to buy it.

A couple of problems or dilemmas based on reactions we received remain:

  • Cancelling our internet subscription is not an option. Karin works at home one or two days a week and does need the internet for this. Driving back and forth to work on these days would be much less sustainable than cancelling the internet subscription.
  • It was suggested to stop using wifi and get wired again. We’re studying the feasibility of this in our house now.
  • We started taking the adapters of our laptop out of the power socket as soon as the battery was full. However, some people have suggested that this actually is not very good for the durability of the battery. But leaving the plugs in the socket all the time doesn’t seem the best option as well. What to do?

Please share your opinions on these matters with us!

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Inspiration 23/12/2009

Yesterday I went to the library to find some books for inspiration about consumeless and sustainable lifestyles. And as tremendous coincidences, we were given two highly relevant books of people who (at the time they bought the books) didn’t even know about our experiment! Eise works as a volunteer for Het Bewaarde Land, an initative for elementary school children which is all about experiencing nature in a positive way. As a thank-you Christmas present he got a book about eating and drinking with wild plants. Yesterday, I also got the No Impact Man book from Desiree (with whom I am going to hunt for crop circles in England next summer – luckily Dees is completely willing to travel according to our consumeless and consume sustainably rules!).

So today I got started with browsing trough the stack of books I had collected and found some interesting ideas and inspiration for our experiment. A few insights (mostly fabric and clothes-related):

  • For the production of cotton, lots of heavy pesticides and artificial fertilizers are used. Katherine Hamnett says on her website: “The situation of cotton agriculture in the developing world, involving 400 million farmers, is catastrophic. Pesticides cause 20,000 deaths per year from accidental poisonings [World Health Organisation (WHO)], 1 million long-term acute poisonings per year [PAN], 200,000 suicides per year (due to debt for pesticides) [PAN].” Using organic cotton is a much better alternative.
  • I read in the book ‘Praktisch Idealisme: lijfboek voor wereldverbeteraars’ that the production of wool is actually not very environmentally friendly. Keeping sheep causes enourmous surplusses of manure and degreasing wool requires a bunch of chemical stuff. However, I am a huge fan of the brand Icebreaker, and they actually produce merino wool clothes quite sustainably (they explain their sustainability philosophy and way of working on their website). So (and I expect this to be our morale for 2010) we should carefully study each product and brand before we can decide whether it is sustainable or not. General rules are not enough.
  • According to the same book I mentioned above, viscose is also not the best option. Viscose is made of wood and in order to produce viscose, trees need to be cut. In addition, the process of making viscose out of wood fibers is quite environmentally unfriendly. I do wonder whether there are friendly and sustainable types of viscose. Maybe there’s FSC viscose?? I did read in the book ‘Hip Groen‘ that the shop Brennels sells clothes made of pine tree viscose, apparently more sustainable.
  • Praktisch Idealisme‘ also offers a ranking of environmentally friendly food products. This really is an example of a highly practical advice. Although the list is not complete (what about fresh bananas transported by boat?), it really helps to make choices in everyday life:
    1. fresh, field-grown food from the Netherlands
    2. canned food
    3. food in pots
    4. fresh, field-grown food from Southern-Europe
    5. dried food
    6. frozen food
    7. fresh, greenhouse-grown food from the Netherlands or Europe
    8. fresh food from outside Europe, transported by plane

So far what I’ve learned. I will update the rules accordingly.

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The Edible wild plants book

The No Impact Man book

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