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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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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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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Meaty lunch meetings – this is it!

Filed under: Food & drinks,Work — Karin @ 21:37
Tags: , , , , , ,

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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Consumeless & sustainable in Italy part II 09/01/2010

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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Consumeless meetings – part II 05/01/2010

A short update of my experiences at work. Today I had another meeting with sandwiches, and guess what, not a single vegetarian sandwich! Meat and fish only! So I had a dilemma. Normally, I do eat fish, but I don’t eat meat. This year I wanted to eat purely vegetarian. I had two options (besides not eating anything at all, which was not an option): call the situation an emergency and eat fish after all, or remove the ham from a ham & cheese sandwich (with the obvious disadvantage of ham taste on my cheese sandwich). I chose the fish option, but I regretted it a bit afterwards. Next time I’ll remove the ham in the hope the persons ordering and delivering the sandwiches see it as a sign that not everyone likes to eat meat!

I did have the opportunity to make the right choice for drinks by the way. In the meeting room were loads of canned and bottled juices, sodas and waters, but also a thermos of coffee and a can of tap water. So I drank coffee and tap water! No waste.

Tomorrow will be a more challenging day. I’m flying to Italy for a meeting. I have a terribly long stayover at Rome, and I’m not allowed to bring my own bottle of water. I’ll bring lunch, but I’ll have to buy drinks and dinner I’m afraid. Let’s see what Rome Fiumicino airport has to offer in terms of sustainable food!

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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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