Posts filed under ‘The Basics’

Where we are

(Oh how I love double meanings….)

I figure I should explain a little about the contexts that surround this blog. Despite the fact that I got my inspiration from a series of American (and Canadian) blogs , I have to point out that this is NOT an American blog. This is a blog grounded in my reality and environmental experiences, which are deeply related to living in the Netherlands.

And still, I feel a connection to the American blogsphere, not only because it was the source of my inspiration but also because my boyfriend is American, and like it or not, I know that at some point in the near-midterm future we will be relocating to the US. I know that at that point, I will have some serious adjusting to do, together with my green lifestyle policies, and, accordingly, with this blog.

But now for a brief explanation of what living in the Netherlands implies for our lifestyle, and what is the current status of our struggle towards sustainability.

Transport:First of all, the country is tiny… and flat. We live in tiny town. We don’t have a car. There are cycling paths on every street. Cycling is the main form of transport around our tiny town, and that’s what we do. There are special saddle bags on the bag of our bikes which allow us to carry a surprising amount of groceries. And for outside town, the public transport service is pretty good. So the transport part is already as green as it gets here, so I won’t be talking much about that. Flying, however, is a problem, with such an internationally scattered life, but I will get back to this some other time.

Consumption: We always bring our own bags for shopping. Especially because grocery bags cost 20 E cts in most places. But I have to admit that sometimes I get small plastic bags (that are free) because I use them to scoop out kitty dumplings out of the litter box… I am currently looking into tackling this problem. Other than that, I also have to say that I have been, inadvertently, following the Compact buy nothing principle. I haven’t bought anything since Xmas… This was, for me, a source of consumer depression for a while but I’m over that now that is fits so nicely into our newly acquired reduced consumption goals.

Food: Regarding food, we have been, generally, going for organic stuff, except when organic is WAY out of budget. I still haven’t decided weather I want to go for “local” in this place. Consider that this super-small, overcrowded country is the third largest exporter of agricultural products in the world. I don’t even want to think about what they do to their food here, but I will mention that there are ongoing rumours about horse meat in meat products and sugar injections into strawberries. I will investigate into local vs. organic further on, but I have to say that for now my preconceived judgement prefers tomatoes transported from Spain…

Energy: A lot of wasting in this department, you can have a look at The List. Last time I changed a light-bulb I bought a CFL. Other than that, all the other lights are the regular type… and I’m not going to change them unless they burn out. The house is rented and I don’t expect to be here long enough for CFLs to “pay for themselves”. We don’t have a drier. We merrily hang our clothes on the balcony and the laundry rack when its cold. I’ve never known any other way to dry clothes…

Water: Let’s see… I share showers a lot 😀 the toilet has flush control and we don’t own a dishwasher, for better or for worse.

Heating: Its central. We have been abusing it a little, especially because the landlords don’t send us the bills. But its spring now and we have been cutting down on it.

Waste: We recycle all of our paper and glass… No plastic or metal, sadly, because they don’t have collection for that.

So there… that’s about all there is to know about the environmental conditions of our little household.

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April 2, 2007 at 2:25 pm 2 comments

Declaration of Principles

Now that sustainability experiments are sprawling at nearly every virtual corner, why not have a go as well? Maybe the originality factor is long gone by now, but hey, the less CO2 the merrier.

Here we set out to live as sustainably as possible, on a measly student budget. So keeping things sensible and economical is the key. We are just a couple of plain, lazy and cheap environment students. We are not about to go to any extremes like giving up toilet paper or olive oil… or TV. Maybe if I had a book deal I would too…

The reasoning behind this experiment is that, a lot of times, reducing your consumption of random useless stuff, together with your consumption of resources is not only better for the environment, it is also better for your wallet. And if we want to have more money to spend on organic, local and fair trade, we can. It is just a matter of redistribution. Save on your bills, buy better food.

The rules we will be following throughout this ordeal:

  1. Reduce our consumption of resources as much as we can (energy, water, etc.)
  2. Reduce our consumption, period. Buy less stuff, produce less waste.
  3. Quantify! Have a true sense of how much waste we are avoiding, how much resources we are sparing, how much money we are avoiding.
  4. Conscious environmental choices. To determine when we should buy local or organic, or both, case by case, in our situation.
  5. Replace eco-nasty products for eco-friendly ones as needed. I decided I’m not going to create more waste by not using what I already have.

Now that the rules are down and we know where we stand, I will make The List of all my environmental bad deeds, and start working on my Environmental Karma.

April 2, 2007 at 2:24 pm Leave a comment

Mission Statement

2002 was an important year. I was choosing a university and a study program, my choices governed largely by teenage idealism and the desires of changing the world and making a difference. I managed to shake off the influence of ER in my career choice, and rationalized that saving the Environment was a worthier cause than saving individuals. So after careful pondering I decided to go for the provincial “farmer’s” university, and the most green sounding program name I could find, Environmental and Natural Resource Engineering.

However, it was when I decided to dedicate my life to Environment and Natural Resources, that my my enthusiasm waned, my idealism faded, and my environmentalist dreams were devastated. Whereas I had been a fierce recycler up to then, my newly acquired knowledge threatened my most rooted greenist beliefs. It was then I discovered that all those carefully washed and recycled yogurt packages were thoroughly picked out and discarded at the sorting stations. I was told that, sometimes, the impact of recycling paper was worse than the impact if making new, virgin paper from murdered trees, and that dishwashers were, actually, water saving.

And, I have to admit, the anti-environmentalist mind-set that surrounded me forced me into conformity. The word Environmentalist had a very strong negative connotation. It was associated with tree-huggers, Greenpeace boats and weed-smoking, hemp-wearing rasta nuts (not that I think there is anything wrong with these things). So that’s how choosing the Environment made me think like an Engineer, and not like an Environmentalist. An engineer is a manager. Of waste, water, waste water, air emissions and things of the sort but especially of People, all for a not-so-little sum of money. An engineer doesn’t care about the birdies or the fishies. An engineer cares about his job. He cares about having HIS waste collected with the highest possible efficiency, that is, the quickest, cheapest and best. The environment is not an end of itself. It is a quality indicator.

So as an engineer, I learned not to care about the birdies and the fishies, but mostly, learned that one person could not make an impact unless his/her efforts were accompanied by a policy, a campaign and a collective effort. There is no point in doing something yourself, unless everyone else does it too. And that’s why no one ever does anything. We are all waiting for someone else to do it…first.

But now, behold, here is the point of this blog: I have been inspired! I have found all these people on the Internet who WERE actually doing something. Suddenly I felt that I was part of the minority who does nothing, rather than part of the countless people who DO. And those who DO are way cooler than those who don’t (no global warming pun intended).

So, inspired by No Impact Man, among others and, maybe, to some extent, by My Name is Earl (yes, the TV show), I have decided to do something, rather than nothing, to be part of the solution and not part of the pollution. So, I hereby proudly announce to the world, I am coming out of the closet!!! I confess… I am an environmentalist, always have been, even when I thought I wasn’t.

I will report on my struggle to, as No Impact Man puts it, “put my money where my mouth is”. So what’s going to happen? Next, I will define my rules of the game, and see how far I can go to green up my act. I know that so far I have been far from living according to environmentalist ideals, but I am willing to change (and drag my boyfriend along for the ride)..

March 26, 2007 at 2:15 pm 6 comments


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