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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Organic trademarks US vs Europe/Netherlands 13/01/2010

Eko keurmerk

In both the books No Impact Man and in Eating Animals (by Jonathan Saffran Foer), I read that US organic trademarks are mostly commercially driven and the rules that they prescribe do not really guarantee organic products, animal welfare, etc. For instance, in the US, a cow that never gets to go outside (but has a window with a view) can provide certified organic beef and dairy.

To be honest, reading this upset me quite a bit. So I did a little research into European and Dutch organic trademarks. I was happy to find out that the rules here are much stricter. For example, a Dutch trademark which is very common is the Eko Keurmerk. I looked up the rules this trademark sets and that looks much better than the American stories I read about. To be Eko certified, animals should be able to go out whenever they want. And stables should accommodate species-specific behaviour (e.g. chickens like to sleep while sitting on a roost, so this should be provided in a stable. And pigs that are about to have piglets build a nest, so nesting material should be available.). What I also liked, is the fact that Eko allows for giving animals medication when they are sick, as long as their meat or produce is not used for a period twice as long as the medication manufacturer prescribes. No Impact Man tells a story of a dairy farmer who isn’t allowed to say that his milk is organic, because he gives is animals medication when they are sick. Apparently, to produce certified organic milk in the US, no medication at all is allowed, so animals who have a simple infection that won’t cure naturally have to be put down.

So, I am slightly reassured, but this again shows that we really need to be critical, and that we shouldn’t believe everything that manufacturers want us to believe. I also wonder whether there are ‘truly organic’ trademarks in the US.

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Biodynamic pet food arrived 09/01/2010

Filed under: Food & drinks,Pets — Karin @ 19:43
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This week, the biodynamic pet food I ordered arrived. I was especially curious what Lotte, our dog would think about it. Our cats mostly eat anything, but Lotte really didn’t like a (huge) bag of dog food we bought a while ago. She even left half of the food in her bowl all the time. But watch this video (pls ignore the kitchen, it came with the house, not our style, needs replacement)! Here Lotte (and the cats) get the organic food. I’m so happy! I’ve ordered two huge bags of dog food and two moderately huge bags of cat food. The good news: when you order large amounts, you get a 5% discount and you don’t pay shipping costs.

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Consumeless & sustainable in Italy part II

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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Pet food 03/01/2010

We’re nearly out of dog and cat food, so we have to buy new. This is the first time we really think about sustainable food for our pets so I started searching for ‘green’ food. I knew the brand Yarrah, which is sold at our local organic food store. We’ve once tried a test package of catfood of this brand with our cat (which we don’t have anymore), but we didn’t really like the fact that the cat pooped much more because of the food. Now this would not be an issue anymore because we don’t have a litter box in our house. The cats can go out as they please. We haven’t tried Yarrah dog food yet.

Searching for organic food, I also found another brand, called Defu. They have both dog food and cat food and are slightly cheaper than Yarrah (mainly because the animals have to eat less of it every day). And Defu has the Demeter trademark, so it is biodynamic, which is even better than organic because stricter rules are applied by the trademark organisation. I’ve ordered a small package of both dog food and cat food at Zooplus, to test whether our pets will actually eat the stuff before we buy big bags (which is much cheaper).

I couldn’t find more organic (or sustainable in any other way) pet food  that is sold in the Netherlands. If someone else has any tips or suggestions, please let us know!!

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First ConsumeLess days, and first (micro)dilemmas 02/01/2010

We’re two days into our experiment! Happy new year to everybody!

Making lunch to go

The first of these days is not really worth mentioning, consumeless and sustainability-wise. We spent New Year’s Eve at friends in The Hague and New Year’s Day at Eise’s family. We went home after dinner so we didn’t have to purchase anything ourselves yesterday. We did however leave for The Hague right before lunch time on Thursday, so we brought our own sandwiches! Consumeless act number one.

Today was more of a day according to our new lifestyle. We did nothing special (doing some new year’s cleaning) and there were hardly any moments we had to think twice before doing something. We did buy six energy saving light bulbs to replace the last ‘normal’ bulbs in our house. And Eise had to go to both the supermarket and the organic food store (in stead of the super market only) to buy organic ingredients for our food this weekend. We had dinner completely according to our rules: we ate pumpkin, with onions, garlic and goat’s cheese (all organic) from the oven, risotto (not organic, but we still had it in stock) and (organic) salad.

Dinner

Dinner brought us a (tiny) dilemma though. We usually leave the oven door open after taking out the food in order to let out the remaining heat. However, we have a oven/microwave oven combination which has an automatic light that switches on when the door is open. The question now is: does the heat from the oven that adds to the temperature in our kitchen outweigh the energy that is used for the light? I think not, but I’m not sure…

A related problem would arise (we just thought) when we want to heat something to drink. In winter, we like to drink hot apple juice with cinnamon (De Werf-style). What would be better: heating the apple juice in the microwave oven or in a pan on the stove? We have a halogen stove, but I have no clue whether heating something on this stove requires more energy than heating it in the microwave oven.

It’s not so easy, this applying consuming less and consuming sustainably to all aspects of our daily life!

A question that was asked a couple of times the last few days was how essential we thought visiting family and friends was (refering to our first rule, saying we only buy things if we really need them). We haven’t made up any rules about this except for the transportation rules. We have been thinking about this issue and decided not to make a special rule for this. The idea of this experiment was to try to live our lives as consumeless and as sustainably as possible, and our lives include visiting family and friends. Of course we will keep the transportation rules in mind all year!

Finally, a shocking fact I just came across reading National Geographic’s Green Guide (which I found in our stack of magazines I was sorting out), related to cotton production (which we’ve dicussed in the post Inspiration as well): “Conventional cotton production uses more than 18 percent of the world’s pesticides”! We’re seriously considering to never buy any other cotton than organic cotton in the future. Which is not too difficult anymore. Most mainstream stores (H&M, C&A, HEMA) have cotton basics these days. And buying organic jeans is not difficult as well (Kuyichi, Levi’s, Ascension, and probably many more).

So, this really is the start of our experiment to live as consumeless and as sustainable as possible for a year. We hope to hear from all of you, so please let us know what you think of our rules, our experiences and our blog! We are happy to receive any tips and suggestions!

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