Updated: May 29, 2021
I am a researcher working in the field of sustainability science. I think this is indeed an important endeavor. But to be honest, what will bring about change are actions. And there are many actions one can take. My research is an action in itself. But there is much more I can do.
How can I do research on sustainability, telling others what needs to be done, if I do not do it, or at least try it? What is needed is self-experimentation! In my research I want to understand how we can transition towards a more sustainable lifestyle. But why only looking at this from an outsider or theoretical perspective? Why not trying it myself?
I have been pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle for a longer period of time now. Partly I have been successful, partly not. I have been moving around, living in different places and was thus also confronted with different obstacles and supporting circumstances.
This is a self-experiment! And I will try to document it as good as possible in this blog. I am using this blog for various means, so I will tag this one with the category self-experimentation. Like this anyone interested in blogs about my journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle can filter.
Where am I now in my journey? I currently live in The Netherlands. I moved here in March 2021. For me moving is always a great opportunity to implement changes as it disrupts my habits. If sustainability was not on my radar, I would not use this disruption to improve my lifestyle. Funny! Improving my lifestyle does not mean I am aiming to get more stuff, but to have less. This is why I think the definition of the goal is so relevant. What I am aiming towards looks like me downgrading, if I apply the logic that our current economic system preaches. Though, for me it is an upgrade. Anyway, I am digressing form the question of my starting point.
I am 36 years old now, I have a vegan and gluten free diet, I am single and may have to change location due to my work every couple of years. Generally, I try to consume consciously. So I think about what I buy and I often do not buy things right away but wait some time to make sure, I really "need" it.
My bathroom is mostly plastic free or at least plastic reduced. I use solid soap, which I try to buy in a paper wrap. My toothpaste comes in a glass container, my toothbrush is an issue tough. I have used bamboo and wooden ones, but they were not good for my gums. Though, I think this was because I used self-made toothpaste which was a bit too rough maybe. I currently use a bioplastic toothbrush. But bioplastic is neither that sustainable, so I will give bamboo another try. I keep my toothbrush in a glass jar which previously contained a vegetable spread (upcycling?). I have a wooden brush which have for about 10 years. The bristles are from wild boar, so not vegan. This is a choice I often have to make. I can get vegan, but not plastic free. Or I can get local but not vegan... It is trade-off... I usually do not use lotion or so. But if I do I buy stuff in glass containers or in a metal tube. The top of these containers or tubes are usually out of plastic. I have also mixed my own facial oil (Jojoba and rose). I have a hand creme that comes in a metal tube. To moisturize the body, I think it suffices to buy some good organic vegetable oil (almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil). These usually come in glass bottles. I have a metal old school razor and I a natural pumice stone to remove hard skin. I wash my hair wish a hard soap bar from lush. Honestly, I think this is not the most sustainable solution, but it is the best shampoo I could find so far (and I tried a lot). Also, the one I use contains honey, which is not vegan. But the other ones make my hair and sculp dry. I rinse my hair with apple cider vinegar and water. I also have a scrub glove, which is unfortunately out of polyester.
I use recycled toilette paper. I think about switch to one that is packed in paper, instead of plastic. For cleaning the toilette, I use a bought product. But I usually by a more sustainable option. I use a moon cup, which was one of the best decisions ever!
I have a mostly vegan and gluten free diet. I make exceptions for honey (particularly if I feel ill). I also have my one cheat food, which was pizza. But I think about eliminating as well. I usually not eat pizza more than 5 times a year. But after eating it my body does not feel too good. I try to buy everything organic. But there is the big tradeoff I am struggling with. Organic, or local, or seasonal, or plastic free? Usually, I cannot have all of these. Most of my waste is plastic! That is awful. It is 90% food packaging. I really struggle with reducing this. I do not have the time to go to a farmers’ market and the zero-waste shop has a waiting list, as the demand is so high! I honestly do not understand why supermarkets are not switching to less packaging. We already had this, just some years ago! How where your grandparents shopping and how are we now? I also do not buy local. Well, if possible I do. But honestly it would reduce my food choices further. So, I buy rice and coconut oil and I am guilty of buying imported fruits and vegetables. I try to not buy processed food too much. I have a rule. If there are more than 3 ingredients on the list, than I do not know (some E number or so) then I do not buy it. Thus, I mostly cook for fresh. Being a vegan, I do not buy much meat or milk substitute products. Currently, the only thing I have in my apartment is a margarine (without palm oil, but in a plastic container).
So, food is actually still a big construction site. This is mainly related to waste reduction and food miles.
I try to use as little toxic products as possible. Thus, I clean with baking soda and some vinegar. Here in The Netherlands, I could not find a organic cleaning vinegar in a glass bottle. I do not want to use non-clear vinegar for cleaning. I have a bought soap for the dishes and a bought detergent for my clothes. Both is from a sustainable brand. I try to make sure that sponges are at least recycled. Right now, I even have a hoover. While that is a nice luxury, it does consume energy and of course I have to buy bags.
Of course, I separate waste. Though, I have a hard time to separate organic waste here! What a waste! They do not collect it in my area as not enough people are providing organic waste. So the municipality is not collecting this waste separately... have to figure out what to do about this. It really bothers me. I already stated that the amount of plastic waste I have is an issue. Honestly, this is a tough one...
By now most of my clothing is organic. I spend a lot on clothing (well compared to brands it is not a lot). I do not buy fast fashion. I just ordered 8 panties for 150€. Crazy! A fast fashion brand offers the same amount for 9€. Something is wrong here! I ordered new panties because I do not want to used the washing machine for so little clothing. I think If I have more panties, I have to wash less often but more at a time. So I try to be resource efficient here. I like to repair my clothing as much as possible (well my mom does it for me) and thus I have my clothing for a long time. I do usually not buy synthetic fabrics. I already stopped doing this before the whole micro-plastic thing came up. Synthetic fabric is gross! I just don't like it. I even buy organic kitchen towels and bed sheets. It is an investment. But as I said I do not replace them often.
Shoes are an issue as well. I keep my shoes until they fall apart. But usually, I buy a leather product. This is as vegan natural fabrics often break earlier. So, I have the choice between shopping more often or going for non-vegan. I go for the resource efficient (I hope) option. This is also because I really do not enjoy shopping. The other option would be plasticky shoes, but well, I do not like that option. Why? Well... plastic...
I do have Apple products and yes I am aware of the social and environmental problems. But the products so far have made my workflow easier. Though, the fancier Apple gets, the less I do like it. Like, why do I need a fancy bar instead of normal keys? Let's see how this develops. I hope they will cut back on the fanciness. It also makes me crazy that they are changing port design so often. My phone and iPad are refurbed. Thus, I at least try to cut back on resource use. I send quite a lot of photo and video material to my family and friends. This is for sure not good for my footprint. Actually, I think my energy or generally resource consumption elated to the use of electronic devices is high. I think this is often forgotten. Sending an e-mail costs energy. Sending a video via WhatsApp costs energy. But it is not only related to my private life. For my job I am 100% dependent on electronic devices. Without a computer nothing would work. And almost all my work is done using an electronic device. A lot of my wok is stored for a longer period of time on some sort of electronic device. So, this is another big construction site.
This is I suppose one of my biggest issues too. Now in the Netherlands I can use the bike easier. Going to the beach is a 20-30 min ride, which is totally fine (well at least for now during the warmer season). Going to work will cost me 40 min by bike. I think that is too much time, compared to a car ride of 20 min. This time aspect is a big issue! Public transport does not help here either, I think... Due to the pandemic I am in home office. So this is something to be figured out at a later point in time. I try not to use my car too often. I would not want to get rid of my car, because it is connected to freedom. I can just pack my stuff and go. I grew up on a little hill. Public transport was and still is bad. As I got my moped with 16 I was so happy to finally leave whenever I wanted to. Well, if there was no snow...
I also like to visit far away places, thus I use planes. I do not know what to do about this...