Consumeless for a year

A journal of a year of consuming less and consuming sustainably

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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Our motivation 20/12/2009

As promised, in our first full post we try to explain why we conduct this experiment of consuming less and consuming sustainably in 2010. We have several reasons for doing this experiment, which we will elaborate on below.

First of all, one of our ideals in life is to contribute to a sustainable world. So far we have tried to do this by using organic products, by using energy sparingly, by eating no (or very little, in Eise’s case) meat, etc. Consuming less is another way to be more sustainable, and we would like to try to apply the principles of consuming less and consuming sustainably to our current lifestyle. Fully adopting a consumeless lifestyle would have quite a serious impact on our lives and it would probably be unrealistic to keep doing this forever. This is the main reason of doing this experiment for one year. In this year, we aim to pursue consuming less to the most extreme level as possible considering our jobs, living situation, etc. By the end of the year we hope to have found ways to comfortably apply consume ess measures to our lifstyle in the long term.

Besides our sustainability ideals, we see this experiment as a personal challenge. We would like to see whether we can really do this consuming less for a whole year. For Eise this is related to the whish to lead a simple, sober life and of not wasting anything. Karin sometimes feels that she could be less consumption-minded.

Finally, we hope to reach some financial gain with this experiment. At the moment, we never really think twice if we buy something. As a result, we quite often buy things we don’t really need, which is not too lucrative. Consuming less seems an easy solution to this. However, consuming as sustainably as posssible, as we plan to do in 2010, is not always the cheapest option. We will keep a detailed financial log during 2010 to see whether we really save money by consuming less.

Finally our motivations to keep a blog about the experiment. One of the most important reasons for keeping this blog has to do with motivation. It will not always be easy to consume less, so by publicly committing to this experiment we hope to find some external motivation. At the same time, this blog allows us discuss all decisions and dilemmas we encounter during the experiment. We hope to receive lots of feedback and tips from people reading this blog so we can make the experiment even more interesting. A third important reason for us to make a blog is to share our experiences. We hope that our experiment and stories will inspire other people to be more sustainable as well. Finally, we expect that we will use this blog a lot to explain to people what we are doing and why. This might come in handy if we decide not to go out for dinner with friends, or if we are being a pain in the ass by suggesting to take the train once again!

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