Consumeless for a year

A journal of a year of consuming less and consuming sustainably

Car vs. public transportation – trade off 12/01/2010

I’ve had a couple of work meetings since we’ve started this experiment, and our rule about work-related transportation says I should “take public transportation to meetings if time allows”. We knew beforehand that this was a rule which is very much open to interpretation, but I have actually been comparing the time it would take to travel by car to that of traveling by train or bus for each meeting. I ended up taking the car to each of these meetings. To be honest, I really feel that the extra travel time that public transportation would cost me is too much for each of these meetings, but I’m curious about your opinions. What time difference do you think is acceptable?

Some examples:

  • Yesterday I had a two-hour meeting in Genk. Driving from Maastricht to Genk (I was working at home) takes about 35 minutes. The quickest public transportation option was taking two busses (Maastricht – Hasselt – Genk), which would take 1 hour and 40 minutes. Extra consideration: working in the bus is not really feasible.
  • Today I had two meetings in Gent (in total from 12:00 to 17:00). I drove to my work in Leuven first (my normal commute), which took about 1 hour and 10 minutes. I arrived at work at 8:15 and left to Gent at 10:45. Driving to Gent cost 50 minutes. Afterwards, I drove to Oostende (about 40 minutes) because I have a very early meeting tomorrow morning. After that meeting, I’ll drive to Leuven (which should be an hour and a half), and in the evening I will drive back home (which should be a little over 1 hour). So total travel time by car is approximately 5 hours and 10 minutes.
    Taking public transportation would have looked like this:

    • The trip Maastricht – Gent would take 3 hours (by bike – 2 trains and a bus). It would not have made sense to go to Leuven first, so I would have missed the 2 hours and 30 minutes of working time, but I could have worked in the train for about 2 hours (split into 90 minutes and 30 minutes slots).
    • From Gent to my hotel in Oostende would have cost 1 hour and 30 minutes.
    • From Oostende to Leuven would have cost 2 hours and 15 minutes (of which I could have worked 1 hour and 40 minutes in the train).
    • From Leuven to Maastricht would have cost 2 hours.
    • Total travel time would have been 8 hours and 45 minutes.


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First consumeless day at work 04/01/2010

Today was the first workday after the Christmas holiday and the first day at work in our consumeless and sustainable experiment. And I’m pretty satisfied! My colleagues were happy to think along with our rules and we had quite some fun about the experiment. Let’s see what I did (and didn’t do) with respect to consuming less and consuming sustainably:

Paperless office

My Moleskine notebook (hack inspired by

I’ve tried to work according to paperless office principles before, but I never really liked it. But now I’m planning to persist. I actually think that when I do this for a year, I’ll get used to most parts of it. Today I wasted one post-it by writing a useless note (thoughtlessly), I wrote notes on four pages in my large Moleskine notebook and two in my small Moleskine notebook (I use the big one for taking notes during meetings and the small one for taking notes during the day for this blog). I just visited the Moleskine website to check their sustainability policy, and was slightly disappointed. The only thing that was mentioned was that acid-free paper is used and that the FSC certification is pending…. Hopefully they will get the certificate soon, departing from my Moleskines will be hard! The best paperless act of today was a meeting I had with two colleagues during which we had to judge 40 slides according to a lot of dimensions in an Excel file. Normally we would have printed the slides (probably with the colour printer), but both of my colleagues were more than happy to view the slides on a laptop!

Car & bike
I started applying the rules of ‘ecodriving‘ today. In addition to this style of driving, I also drove with 110 km/h in stead of my usual 130. I have done this before for a while (last year in summer, when fuel was rediculously expensive), and it saved about 10-15% of fuel! Also, I had a meeting quite close to where I work, so I borrowed a bike from one of my colleagues (to plow through the snow!). I even thought of bringing my hat and gloves this morning.

I had a meeting including sandwiches. Usually I eat either a vegetarian sandwich or a sandwich with fish (salad). But I don’t want to eat fish this year (besides not eating meat, which I never do), so I picked veggie sandwiches only. Which is actually not too easy! It is really hard to recognize a meatless sandwich in a huge pile of (mostly) meaty sandwiches without touching all sandwiches first. Finally, I decided not to eat a prepacked cookie with my coffee. Because it was packed, it can be reused for another meeting, it doesn’t need to be thrown away (the art of exaggeration).

I always switch off the light in the bathroom after I leave, so I continued doing that. This morning, I arrived at work first (which I often do), so I only switched on the lights in our office, and not in the hallway (which is separated from our office by a glass wall, so there’s plenty of light from the office in the hallway, as long as nobody’s working there). The interesting thing was that nobody took the effort to switch on the lights in the hallway the whole day!

There are still a few things I have to get used to more and that I still have to do. To name a few: I am going to ask our secretary to change my food preferences to ‘vegetarian’  in stead of ‘no meat’. I am going to take my laptop to every meeting to try to take digital notes (although I am not sure whether this is really a lot more sustainable than carrying a Moleskine with me). I’m going to send my boss a request to switch to fair trade coffee and to have at least one type of organic tea (actually, he was the one pointing out that I should make organic tea today!).

Additional tips for consumeless and sustainable offices are of course very welcome!


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