What if I told you that environmentalism can improve your life? That, in addition to being good for the planet, it can also make you happier?

In the following blog post, three TBYW team members open up about their environmental journeys – about how they got started, what inspired them, and how their lives changed for the better. From building confidence to connecting with others to finding new inspiration in life – these three ladies show that anything is possible when you commit to creating a greener planet.

“It feels liberating to act from what I believe in.”

Lara Egbring, 26, Former TBYW General Coordinator

For Lara, it all began after a friend invited her to a TBYW dinner three years ago. Originally from Munster, Germany, she moved to Amsterdam in 2014 to study Psychology. At that point, she had already developed some interest in environmentalism, but wasn’t fully aware of its impact.

Growing up, she had always been a sensitive child, concerned with the wellbeing of others. “Since I was young I was always protecting in a way, both small animals and nature,” she says. Unfortunately, this sensitivity often made Lara feel excluded from her immediate environment. “I didn’t feel like society was representing my needs,” she says. “So I tried to push it back, I wouldn’t open up to that side of myself because I felt it was not supported by the broader picture.”

Thankfully, this all changed when she was welcomed into the TBYW community, a space where she found many like-minded people. After learning about food waste, Lara was inspired to start implementing the “tips and tricks” she had picked up along the way, and to continue reading about environmentalism. “It was like an entry point into becoming more aware of so many more problems in society and how they are linked to each other,” she says. She became ever more fascinated with how consumerism shaped our society, and felt motivated to “give people back their creativity, their freedom and connection with the environment” through her activist work. “I wanted to help people reach their full potential,” she says.

TBYW made Lara feel accepted and gave her a chance to pursue her environmental aspirations. “Finally finding an environment where people also shared these needs and values helped me to become more confident, and to inspire others through that,” she says. More importantly, her activist work taught her to connect with others – even those, whose opinion differed from hers. “Because of my psychology background, I like to always see the other person as someone who is connected to me in a way,” she says. “So rather than always judging quickly on someone who’s not into environmentalism and doesn’t care about it, I try to understand how they came to this opinion.”

Ultimately, environmentalism inspired Lara to reject consumerist norms, and helped her live more openly and boldly. “It feels liberating to act from what I believe in, not just from what I’ve been taught,” she smiles.

“Activism pulls people together.”

Isabel Allen, 24, TBYW General Coordinator

Even before joining TBYW, Izzie knew that food was an important factor in her green journey. Originally from Dorset, UK, she first got into environmentalism back when she graduated high school in 2014. “I became vegetarian when I moved out of my parents’ house,” she says. Two years later, during her studies at the University of Liverpool (where she worked as a Green Officer for a school organization) she became vegan.

For her, veganism was how she learned to care not only for herself, but also for the planet. “I think it’s the healthier option in life, but also that it’s more environmentally healthy,” she says. Eating vegan inspired Izzie to perceive her diet in a more holistic way, and to be less harsh on herself. “There are two aptitudes for food – there’s body-healthy food, and food that’s healthy for the environment,” she says. “Even if what you’re eating might not be body-healthy every time, it helps to know exactly where your food comes from.”

After moving to Amsterdam in 2017, she discovered TBYW through the Tuesday food cycle markets. “I liked the variety of products and that I got to save money,” she says. Before that, she explains, she used to cook the same meals on rotation and often questioned the origin of her food.

The organization also drew her in with its strong community spirit. Izzie, who was doing her Master’s in Eco Feminism at the time, says that she felt inspired by the “heavy female presence” of TBYW. “We have this kind of sisterhood of handing down the coordination woman-to-woman-to-woman, and also a lot of the volunteers and all of our current interns are women,” she explains.

The feeling of community is what she defines as the best part of becoming an eco-activist. “Activism pulls people together,” she says. “And then you have this really nice network of people together that all have a similar outlook, this shared concept of care for the environment.”

“Knowing that you can make a difference is such a powerful thought.”

Nina Poort, 21, TBYW Wasteless Wednesdays Dinner Coordinator

For Nina, it all began when she found out about climate change at the age of twelve. Reading about the current ecological crisis terrified her, but she didn’t know how to react to this new information. “It made me really scared,” she says. “I didn’t understand that there was something I could do and I felt really powerless.”

Years later, in high school, Nina was able to look at the problem differently, and decided to become vegetarian. Having grown up with a vegetarian mother, this wasn’t much of a shift for her, but she was the first in her family to consider environmental factors. “My mom does it mostly for animal rights,” she says. “I feel like I’m teaching her a lot about the environment.”

After moving to university in Amsterdam, Nina slowly shifted to fully plant-based eating, but eventually allowed herself some lenience in her diet. “I was a really strict vegan for about a year and a half,” she says. “Now I’m ‘flexi-vegan’ a.k.a. I eat croissants,” she says. Once again, motivation for this change came from her family – only this time, it was her cousin who inspired her. “I became vegan because my twelve-year-old cousin was vegan,” she smiles. “She’s an activist, she’s really outspoken about it.”

Nina made sure her cousin knew the impact she’d had on her. “I told her it was because of her since I wanted her to feel empowered,” she says. Knowing that her actions can inspire others is Nina’s favourite thing about environmentalism. “If you notice that other people see what you’re doing it’s a really beautiful thing,” she says. She shares how, every time a friend asks her about the environment, she feels moved. “It makes you feel like what you’re doing matters.”

In the end, environmentalism helped Nina feel empowered and confident in her ability to create a better planet. “It made me a lot more capable to think about topics like these,” she says. “Knowing that you can make even a small difference is such a powerful thought.”

January 1, 2020. New year, new me. At least that’s how it goes, right?

It’s that time of the year again when many of us are swearing that we will quit smoking, start hitting the gym every day, or finally get onto learning Spanish.

Most of us know that New Year’s resolutions tend to be a whirlwind of overly-ambitious promises, most of which we never stick to. And for good reason – with society always telling us that we need to look prettier, get fitter or just become better overall, many of our goals can feel superficial and forced, thus making us unmotivated to follow through.

Still, this doesn’t mean that you should write New Year’s resolutions off all together – it simply suggests that you can start making better ones. Let 2020 be the year when you stop trying to reinvent yourself through setting huge, unrealistic expectations. Instead, try making small, mindful changes that benefit not only you, but the environment as well.

Below you will find 5 eco-friendly New Year’s resolutions that are actually worth making. These tips will help you slow down and become more present, all the while helping the environment. They might not seem huge, but I promise that if you stick to them, both you and the planet will be thanking you by the end of 2020.

Become vegan/vegetarian or try reducing your meat intake

Animal farming has a terrifying impact on the environment, both in terms of its CO2 production and of the vast amounts of natural resources it uses. The New Year might be a good time to limit your meat consumption, or to try cutting down on animal products all together. If you’ve been thinking of becoming vegan or vegetarian, this can be an opportunity for a fresh start. If that seems too big of a leap, try implementing smaller changes – maybe you can cut out red meat, or have a meat-free day once a week. Regardless of what you choose, know that every little improvement counts and contributes to a healthier planet.

Be more mindful of how you spend your time

Nowadays, too much of our free time is spent in mindless consumption – we shop, go to restaurants, pay to see movies and visit theme parks. This encourages a capitalist economy that thrives on excess, and fuels harmful industries link junk food chains and fast fashion. To make matters worse, only engaging in paid activities makes us unresourceful with how we spend our free time, turning our social interactions into a monotonous flow of eating and/or spending money together.

This year, try being more creative with your pastime entertainment. Next time a friend asks you to hang out, offer to go for a park walk together instead of just going for a meal. Ask them to join you for a new dance class, a seminar, or a volunteering shift at Taste Before You Waste.

The most beautiful thing about this resolution is that it will not only help you save money, but it will also make you become infinitely more aware of how you’re choosing to spend your time. You will learn new things, end up having better conversations with friends, and maybe even discover sides of yourself you never knew existed.

Connect with your food and appreciate its value

Eating healthier is a New Year’s resolution that most of us make, but one that a few manage to stick to. Due to the convenience culture we live in, we have largely become disconnected from how our food is prepared, relying on ready-made meals and snacks instead. This year, try approaching your food from a different perspective – one of appreciation and gratitude for all the hard work and resources that have gone into it. Try cooking from scratch more, and select produce that is local and seasonal. By becoming more conscious of how your meals are grown and prepared, you will naturally feel driven to choose fresher, healthier alternatives. Once you connect with your food in this new way, you will instinctively start to make better choices – both for the environment and for yourself.

Declutter your life

We live in a world of hyper abundance, where we’re constantly encouraged to buy and own more. Decluttering your life can go a long way in helping you clear your mind and making you aware of what items you truly need. Dedicate a couple of hours to going through your closet, kitchen pantry and toiletry collection – filter out everything that you’re not using, and donate what you can. You’ll be surprised by how good you’ll feel after that. By ridding yourself of the excess, you will free more of your mental space to focus on the essential.

Having a minimalist mindset can also be useful when making new purchases. Now that you know which clothes and products you really use frequently, you can invest in a few quality staples, rather than making mindless purchases.

Keep learning

Life is a learning curve, and there’s always something new to discover about environmentalism. There is a sea of information out there on pretty much every environmental topic you can think of – from veganism to zero waste to slow fashion. In 2020, make it your priority to continue educating yourself, and set a goal of watching at least one documentary (or reading one book) on environmentalism per month.

If this seems too daunting, break it down into smaller feet and aim at reading one environmental article (the TBYW blog has dozens of exciting entries!) a week.  Growing your knowledge can help you make more eco-friendly decisions, which can inspire people around you as well (and isn’t that the positive ripple effect we all want to create this year?).

Make 2020 your best year yet by choosing to take care of yourself and the planet. And remember, it’s not about being perfect – it’s simply about growth, kindness and trying your best.