Consumeless for a year

A journal of a year of consuming less and consuming sustainably

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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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 http://bit.ly/qppfm)

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.

Lunch
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).

Energy
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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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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