Going to university comes with a lot of responsibilities. Went to class? Check. Cleaned your room? Check. Hit the gym? Check. Kept up your eco-friendly habits? Che… Wait, how do I fit that into my agenda?

The truth is, it can be tricky to stay eco-conscious as a student – living in a small space with limited finances, whilst feeling under pressure to get work done can make you feel unmotivated to keep up your green habits. Regardless of how good your intentions are, with too many things on your plate, environmentalism simply becomes another factor complicating your daily choices.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to feel this way! Making eco-conscious decisions – whether it’s regarding your daily habits or your diet – can benefit you as much as it helps the planet. The following seven eco hacks are fun and practical, and ultimately help you improve your life. Cost-effective and easy-to-follow, these tips are perfect for any students who want to better themselves whilst also helping the environment. 

© KLTV

Street markets are your best friend
When it comes to food, we all know that it’s better to buy organic, locally-sourced produce than it is to get the big supermarket stuff. One look at the prices at your nearest biological shop, however, can scare you (and your student budget) away from the idea of ethical food shopping forever. Nevertheless, while biological stores are the ones that get the most rep with regards to ethical food sourcing, they are not your only (or even primary!) source for organic food. Street markets allow local farmers and vendors to sell their produce directly to customers for a cheaper price, since none of the money has to go to a middleman (i.e. a supermarket). The result? It’s better for the environment (less transportation involved), more ethical towards the producers (they get to keep the whole price you pay), and cheaper for you. That’s what they call a win-win-win scenario!

There are many fantastic markets in Amsterdam that are worth you paying them a visit. Some of our favorites include:

  • Dappermarkt (East)
  • Albert Cuyp Markt (De Pijp)
  • Lindenmarkt (Jordaan)
  • Ten Kate Markt (West)

Opt for reusable bags, cups and cutlery
A classic piece of advice you hear with regards to zero-waste living, this one has some surprising benefits for you. Besides avoiding the use of a whole lot of unnecessary plastic, bringing your own reusables can also save you money – you no longer have to pay for a plastic bag every time you shop at the supermarket, and many big chains (like Starbucks) give you a discount for bringing in your own reusable cup.

Choose plant-based alternatives
One of the issues I have encountered since living on my own as a student has been finishing up all of the food I buy before it expires. Gone are the days of my family fridge, where any item was consumed within a day and another one came to replace it. Now that I have to eat everything that I get on my own, it often takes me a week to drink a carton of milk or finish a bucket of yoghurt. The solution I found? Plant-based alternatives. Not only do they have a lighter carbon footprint than conventional animal-derived products, but they also last longer. That way, I have enough time to finish my food without worrying it might expire (or having to eat the same thing for every meal!).

Lower the heating when you go to bed and turn it back up when you wake up
Dutch winters can be frosty, and no one likes to be cold. However, lowering your heating when you go to bed can have considerable benefits for the environment, your wallet and your health, and the residual heat (and your blanket) will likely be enough to keep you toasty until the morning. By using less electricity to keep your room warm at night, you will lessen your carbon footprint and decrease your electricity bill. In addition to that, you will likely experience better sleep, since studies show that the human body rests best at slightly lower temperatures (somewhere between 18 and 21C).

© LDNFashion

Thrift shops are a fashion goldmine
We all know that fast fashion comes at a high cost, both ethically and environmentally. Luckily, thrift stores are there to provide an alternative that is not only cheaper, but also incredibly fun. Going thrift shopping makes for the perfect Saturday afternoon with a friend, and can truly feel like a treasure hunt. Besides, with all the second-hand stores popping up around Amsterdam, there really is something out there for everyone, regardless of whether you’re after last season’s finds or are searching for authentic 90s apparel.

Some of our favorite second-hand spots in Amsterdam are:

  • IJHallen (a monthly flea market held in Amsterdam North)
  • Kringloopwinkel De Lokatie (East)
  • Leger des Hells 50/50 Budgetstore (East)

Volunteer
The most valuable thing you can dedicate to a cause are your time and your energy, and volunteering allows you to do just that. Next time you have a minute to spare, consider spending the afternoon helping a local environmental initiative. The possibilities are endless – from picking up garbage at a nearby park, to helping cook for a food waste organization (wink!) to making banners and striking against climate change. Regardless of what you choose, your time will be well spent – not only will you help the environment, but you will also (according to research) experience a powerful mood-boost from knowing you’re supporting a good cause. In addition to that, volunteering can help you develop practical skills and build up a resume that will later be useful to you after you graduate.

Being eco-friendly doesn’t have to be difficult – in fact, it can often make your life easier! Even as a busy university student, you can make better, more eco-conscious choices that help the planet – all you need is some creativity, a bit of enthusiasm and a willingness to start.

I credit environmentalism for many of the wonderful things in my life – it’s the reason why I became vegetarian, adopted a more minimalist mindset and made a bunch of awesome, eco-conscious friends. It taught me how to appreciate the amazing life I have access to, and made me become more aware of how my actions affected the world.

But there was something less wonderful that came about with my new understanding, and that was environmental guilt. It would strike me in the most random of places – at the café, whenever I bought my coffee in a paper cup; at the supermarket, when I picked up a bottle of coke; or at home, if I happened to see any food that I had to throw out. Where there had once been blissful ignorance, now lurked my guilty conscience.

In a way this was a good thing – it meant that I’d hopped off the consumerism hype train, and was now taking full responsibility for my actions. After all, with all the climate change the world is facing, we need more people to do that, right?

I wasn’t the poster child for eco-friendly living – I wasn’t vegan, or zero-waste, and I didn’t host major climate protests.

Yet environmental guilt also made me feel exasperated and sad. I questioned whether my mistakes made me a terrible person, because despite my best efforts – despite eating plant-based meals, and volunteering, and being conscious with my purchases – I still came to the same disheartening conclusion: I wasn’t (and would likely never be) the perfect environmentalist. I wasn’t the poster child for eco-friendly living – I wasn’t vegan, or zero-waste, and I didn’t host major climate protests. I was just an ordinary girl trying her best; I worked to maintain my green habits, whilst also running the rest of my life.

This was when I ran into an issue – I wasn’t just trying to excel at eco-friendly living; I was also trying to be a good student, have a social life, get some exercise in, maintain a healthy diet… oh, and remember to call my mom at least twice a week. In short, I was trying to do it all. And (lo and behold) that meant that I couldn’t do it all perfectly all of the time.

Even when I did try my hardest, priorities would have to take place. I’d grab a ready-made dinner because I had been at the library until late. Or I’d eat out with friends and completely forget about whatever food I needed to use up at home, therefore letting it go bad. Eighty percent of the time, I still observed my eco-friendly principles. But it was those twenty percent of slip-ups that gnawed at me.

Why is it that with environmentalism, we all feel like either sinners or saints?

I couldn’t help but wonder if other people had experienced that same sense of pressure related to environmentalism. I raised the question with some of my more eco-conscious friends, and found out that many of them felt the same.  Rosa, a friend of mine who studies Environmental Sciences at uni, said that she often felt guilty for “not doing enough” because she couldn’t single-handedly elicit climate policy change.

At TBYW, many of my team members also shared that they felt bad for making mistakes and compromising their green habits. “Last week I went on a trip to Spain and had to travel by plain,” our team coordinator, Izzie, said. “And I was like ‘Urghh, I feel so guilty about this!’”

A quick Google search showed me that my friends and I weren’t alone in our struggles. There were numerous articles, both academic and personal, dealing with the topic of environmental guilt. In fact, the phenomenon had become so popular that official terms like “green guilt” and “Environmental Guilt Syndrome” had been coined to describe it.

But why is it that with environmentalism, we all feel like either sinners or saints?

You used a plastic straw? That’s it, you’re an eco terrorist now.

Perhaps the answer to this question lies in the near- authoritarian tone that can sometimes surround environmental discourse. Especially online, we often hear people throwing the blame around, or read articles that leave us crippled with guilt. Such media often makes us feel like every error we make is fatal, like anything short of perfection is not enough.

You put some honey in your tea? You should be ashamed for not being vegan. You used a plastic straw? That’s it, you’re an eco terrorist now.

Such abusive environmentalism often justifies itself by referring to the dire state of the planet. “The Earth is dying,” they scream. “There’s no room for mistakes!”

our guilt won’t save the planet

Yes, the Earth is dying, but these people are forgetting a vital thing – mistakes happen, whether we like it or not. For most of us, perfect green living is an unfeasibly high bar – one that serves to demotivate us more than anything. Our lives and, yes – human imperfection – get in the way, and we don’t always manage to act in the most eco-friendly of ways.

However, lynching ourselves over that isn’t going to fix it; our guilt won’t save the planet. Of course, I’m not suggesting that we all become complacent, and never try to improve our harmful habits. I’m simply saying that eco-responsibility shouldn’t (and doesn’t have to!) equal feeling burdened with environmental guilt.

Perfectionism can elicit a sense of desperation that can makes us give up – what’s the point of persevering if we’re never going to be good enough? Having a guilty conscience paralizes us and prevents us from learning from our errors. By learning to accept our mistakes instead, we can see environmentally-friendly living as a learning curve – the longer we do it, the better we’ll become at it. We can understand that we’ll never be perfect, and that’s ok. If we keep putting in our best effort most of the time, the impact of our positive action will outweigh the damage done by our mistakes.

Another issue with environmental guilt is that it (over)burdens a few, whilst allowing many others to go unaccountable. “Individual changes make a difference, but we also shouldn’t forget to hold leaders and big companies accountable for their actions,” our TBYW general coordinator, Lara, said. “We shouldn’t get stuck in blaming ourselves and others for not doing enough – as we seen in the UN report, a mere 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global CO2 emissions.”

If we can deal away with our guilty consciences, we can instead focus our energy on the positives of environmentalism, and turn eco-friendly living into something we really enjoy.

Research shows that while guilt is effective in eliciting action from those who already care about an issue, it does little for the ones who don’t. This means that if we want more people to improve their habits, guilt-tripping them into environmentalism isn’t the way to go – something you already know if you’ve tried convincing your parents to have a meat-free day.

By keeping shame at the forefront of environmental discourse, we keep increasing the pressure on those who are already doing their best, whilst simultaneously not addressing (or potentially even scaring away!) any potential newcomers. Instead, we should strive to create a positive conversation where everyone feels welcomed to give eco-friendly living a shot.

Guilt is a terrible motivator to do anything, and environmentalism is no different. When we’re triggered by guilt, we act from a place of obligation – we’re doing things because we think that we have to, not because we want to. Consequently, we miss everything that’s so wonderful about green living – the comfort of cooking from scratch, the fun of exploring thrift shops and flea markets, the joy of finding like-minded eco-conscious individuals. If we can deal away with our guilty consciences, we can instead focus our energy on the positives of environmentalism, and turn eco-friendly living into something we really enjoy.

Leaving shame behind can be the best thing you do for your environmental journey. Without environmental guilt, you can focus on what’s truly good about green living, and enjoy the experience. On top of that, you will also be better able to look at your slip-ups with objectivity and compassion – in fact, you’ll probably be excited to learn from them and do better next time!

If going zero waste is your ambition, you need to take a look not only at our own lifestyles, but your pet’s lifestyle as well. My experiences with my cat and other animals I’ve been pet sitting for over four years now) taught me that everything from food to litter and poo bags has serious effects on the environment. I’m far from perfect, but here are some small but impactful steps you can take to raise your pet more consciously.

  1. Cook food when possible

Cats and dogs can thrive on a cooked food diet. I buy cheap meat parts at the butcher for my cat, (like chicken hearts or livers) and cook them with grains or small portions of vegetables[1]. This way I keep him happy, make sure he has a variety of meats in his diet, and I use animal parts that are not as popular as chicken breasts or steaks.

Photo by Hollie Post on Unsplash

Cats need more meat in their diets than dogs do, so for a dog you can increase the ratio of cooked vegetables to meat. If you have leftover food that you won’t be able to eat yourself, you can always cook no-waste meals for your pet (just avoid garlic, onion, salt, and spices). Rabbits are also great pets to help with preventing food waste – they eat any vegetables and some fruit that go bad quite quickly (think lettuce, celery, spinach, etc).

Whenever I eat fish, I buy one with the head still attached and give it to my cat after cooking. It might not be the prettiest or most elegant food, but it’s what cats eat in nature. They can also eat raw or cooked eggs (since they eat raw meat, fish, and eggs in nature, their digestive track is adapted to deal with salmonella or other parasites better than humans).

2. Buy food in bulk

It’s not completely realistic to cook for your pet every day, so whenever possible, buy food in bulk. Websites like Zooplus.nl offer discounts when (the bigger the package, the higher the discount) so you can minimize the amount of packaging that ends up in the trash. As for wet food, I try to buy big cans and keep them in the fridge for a few days after opening instead of buying small, plastic sachets and using one every day. Ecological pooping

3. Ecological pooping

Photo by Matt Nelson on Unsplash

If I walk a dog twice a day, that’s at least two plastic poop bags that go to the trash daily. With 1.5mln dogs living in the Netherlands[2], it adds up to 3mln plastic bags every day, and 1 billion per year (and that’s only in the Netherlands!). These numbers are shocking, but they can be easily reduced as most of mainstream supermarkets (Action, Ekoplaza, some Alert Heijn shops) already sell biodegradable bags.

For Cats, most of the commercially made litter is made of bentonite clay or silicon crystals, none of which are biodegradable. A more natural choice would be litter made of wood shavings, sawdust, or paper. Make sure you also discard used litter in biodegradable bags (and not in plastic bags).

4. Ditch the cosmetics

Photo by Autri Taheri on Unsplash

I’ve never been a fan of dry shampoos for cats or washing the dogs with perfumed soaps, but now more than even I’m more conscious of what goes down the drain. I myself stopped using cosmetics with chemicals harmful to the environment, and that goes for pets, too. If needed, washing your pet with warm water is more than enough.

5. Use natural toys

Photo by Jonathan Wiemers on Unsplash

Opt for toys made of natural materials like hemp, string, and wood. They’re safer for your pet and for the environment. Dogs also love chewing on beef or pork bones, dried pig ears or chicken legs. It might seem gruesome, but that’s yet another way to make use of animal parts that would otherwise go to waste.

If you’ve ever had a cat, you know that they prefer to play with a cardboard box rather than the expensive toy you bought for them. They rarely need complex, plastic toys or toys running on batteries. See what your cat plays with the most and use that instead. For example, my cat loves to chase around cloves of garlic (because of the rustling peel) and fruit pits. The only downside is that I keep finding them under my couch while cleaning the apartment, but my cat is happy, so I let that slide.


[1] For a list of human foods safe for cats, visit this website.

[2] An estimate number for 2018, according to Statista.

Rescuing vegetables and preventing food waste at home (e.g. by making leftover dinners) requires some creativity. It happens sometimes that I pick up discounted vegetables from a supermarket or market, but then don’t really know what to do with them. Looking for a recipe around these vegetables doesn’t always work, because it usually requires getting more ingredients than the ones you already have. 

But there is a way around it. Each world cuisine gets its unique flavors from the mix of spices and herbs. So when I feel like making a dish from a certain part of the world, I use the vegetables that are available in the Netherlands (no looking for exotic ingredients) and spice them up in a certain way. Remember that once you start practising these mixes it will become your second nature. And no recipes needed!

Italian

Photo by Jakub Kapusnak on Unsplash

Base: Cook on the basis of olive oil and garlic. 

Best vegetables: Almost any vegetable will do for an Italian-style dish, for example tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, carrots, onions. 

Spices and Herbs: Use a mix of dry herbs like oregano, basil, rosemary, parsley, and thyme

Grains: Serve your Italian-style dish with pasta or short-grain rice like Aroborio

Top up: finish your dishes with fresh basil, cheese, and/or olives.


French

Photo by Nick Nice on Unsplash

Base: Cook on the basis of olive oil or butter, garlic, and onions. If you’re making stew, use red wine and vegetable bouillon as liquids.. 

Best vegetables: celery, carrots, onions, mushrooms, green beans, asparagus, potatoes, eggplants, zucchini.

Spices and Herbs: Use fresh thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and ground nutmeg. 

Grains: Fresh bread.

Top up: Fresh thyme, rosemary, or parsley.


Greek

Photo by Dmitry Dreyer on Unsplash

Base: Cook on the base of olive oil, garlic, and onions. 

Best vegetables: Tomatoes, peppers, olives, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, eggplants, cucumbers, potatoes, 

Spices and Herbs: Dried oregano, basil, rosemary, parsley, thyme, and paprika powder

Grains: Pita bread, rice, or orzo

Top up: Finish the dish with a squeeze of lemon juice, crumbled feta cheese, or serve with tzatziki sauce. 


Japanese

Photo by Cody Chan on Unsplash

Base: Cook on the base of sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. 

Best vegetables: Bok choy, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, cucumber, radish, daikon, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, spring onion.

Spices and Herbs: Get the unique Japanese flavour by adding a few teaspoons of soy sauce, sake, and miso paste into your dish. You can also use them to prepare a salad dressing. Optionally, try adding some honey or sugar to sweeten the dish

Grains: Short-grain rice (e.g. sushi rice), rice noodles, ramen or udon noodles.

Top up: Finish your dish with toasted sesame seeds, nori or other seaweed. 


Indian 

Photo by Pille-Riin Priske on Unsplash

Base: Cook the stews on ghee or coconut oil with ginger and garlic.

Best vegetables: Potatoes, spinach, legumes (lentils/split peas), broccoli, cauliflower, eggplants, leafy greens.

Spices and Herbs: Chili pepper, coriander seeds, cumin, turmeric, mustard seeds. You can also use read-made curry paste (red, yellow, or green). To get the stew consistency, use canned tomatoes and/or coconut milk (add vegetable bouillon if needed).

Grains: Long grain rice (e.g. basmati) or Chapati bread.


Chinese

Photo by Ryan Kwok on Unsplash

Base: Cook on the base of peanut or sesame oil with garlic

Best vegetables: Bamboo, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, paprika, onion, cabbage, bok choy, leafy greens

Spices and Herbs: Fennel seed, cinnamon, cloves, star anise. Use soy sauce, sesame oil and/or oyster sauce for dressings or sauces. 

Grains: Egg noodles or rice


Mexican

Photo by Tai’s Captures on Unsplash

Base: Cook on vegetable oil or lard with chili pepper and garlic

Best vegetables: Tomato, black beans, avocados, potatoes, corn, onions, paprika.

Spices and Herbs: chili powder, cayenne pepper, coriander seeds, cumin, cinnamon 

Grains: Corn tortillas, wheat burritos, rice

Top up: Finish you dishes with a squeeze of lime juice and fresh  coriander leaves.


Middle Eastern

Photo by Kyle Brinker on Unsplash

Base: Cook on olive oil with garlic and onion.

Best Vegetables: Eggplants, tomatoes, onions, chickpeas.

Spices and Herbs: Cumin, sesame seeds, sumak, thyme, dried marjoram, 

Grains: Couscous, bulgur, rice, or flat bread.

Top up: Finish your dish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and fresh parsley or mint leaves. You can also serve your dish with hummus or grilled halloumi cheese. 


Thai 

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

Base: Use red, green, or yellow curry paste as a base for cooking. Add coconut milk for stews. 

Best Vegetables: Paprika, eggplant, carrot, broccoli, leafy greens, green peas, spring onion.

Spices and Herbs: Ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, garlic, chili pepper (or use pre-made curry paste)

Grains: Jasmine rice or rice noodles

Top up: Finish your dish with few leaves of (Thai) basil or coriander, cashew nuts or peanuts, a squeeze of fresh lime juice. 

Eating eco-friendly can be tricky when you lead a busy, fast-paced life, and no-one knows that better than university students.

Exams, parties, and long hours spent in the library – all these make it so that in our university days, cooking isn’t at the top of our priority lists. As students on the go, we’d rather look for something that is quick, simple and (preferably) delicious. With convenience as our prime objective, it can be easy to get swept up in an onslaught of ready-made meals, losing track of all the fresh ingredients going bad in our fridges.

The result? Stale bread, mushy bananas, and vegetables that have surely seen better days, all rotting in our kitchens. But while these leftovers don’t sound overly appetizing, you shouldn’t discard them as useless just yet – with just a little bit of creativity and enthusiasm, they can still be turned into tasty, simple-to-prepare snacks.

The following three recipes show you how to use some of your residual food to prepare snacks that are both healthy and delicious, and that take mere minutes to make.

The added bonus? These recipes are perfect for social events. Whether you are hosting a potluck dinner, or are simply having a gezellig round of drinks with friends, these quick bites are guaranteed to hit the spot.

So ask some of your friends to come over, crack a beer open, and let’s get cooking!

© 28bysamwood

Veggie Chips

Veggie chips have been growing in popularity recently, and for good reason – they are crunchy, delicious, and make for the perfect complement to a movie night-in.

But what’s even better than buying veggie chips, is preparing your own. Not only does this homemade version taste as good as the original, it’s also healthier, comes with zero plastic packaging, and costs you very little to make.

Ingredients:
old vegetables (potatoes, carrots, beetroot, parsnips and sweet potatoes work best for this recipe)
a drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Preheat the oven to 200C, and line a baking tray with some parchment paper. Very thinly slice your veggies into ribbons (using a vegetable peeler works great for this) – the best part of this recipe is that is also uses the vegetable peels, which would otherwise surely be wasted. Spread the veggie strips on the tray and drizzle them with olive oil (think “less is more” – too much oil makes for soggy chips). Add salt and pepper to taste and bake for 20 minutes, turning the tray halfway through. Serve with some ketchup on the side and enjoy!

BONUS TIP: If you wish, you can season your chips with additional spices to give them any flavor you like– options include paprika, oregano and basil.

© Emily Meijaard/ TBYW

Mediterranean Bruschettas

If you think eating your week-old bread sounds less-that-enticing, think again. These oven-baked brushettas are garlicky, aromatic and make for the ideal tapas-style dinner spread.

Ingedients:
old/ stale bread
2-3 cloves of garlic
a drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
dried or fresh oregano
dried or fresh rosemary
(optional) sundried tomatoes
(optional) olives, pitted and chopped

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180C. Peel and finely mince or crush your cloves of garlic. Cut all your slices of bread in four, and drizzle each part with olive oil. Rub the garlic into the bread and season with the salt, oregano and rosemary. If you like, garnish your bruschettas with some sun-dried tomatoes and olives. Line a baking tray with some parchment paper, and arrange the bread on top. Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the bruschettas turn golden. Serve them with a glass of white wine, or simply enjoy them on their own!

BONUS TIP: This recipe is incredibly versatile, and allows you to include any ingredients you have that might otherwise go bad. Got some cheese you need to use up? Grate it and sprinkle it on top before putting the bruschettas in the oven. Have a mushy tomato lying around in your kitchen? Turn it into salsa and use instead of the sun-dried tomatoes.

© bigbasket

Banana Mug Cake

This recipe is perfect for when you have a bunch of overripe bananas in your fridge, but don’t feel like going through the trouble of making banana bread. You can make several mug cakes for a cozy night-in with friends, or just fix one up for yourself as a sweet post-dinner snack.

Ingredients (for one mug cake):
1 overripe banana
4 tbsp flour
1 tsp sweetener of choice (brown sugar, maple syrup and honey all work)
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
5 tbsp milk of choice (plant-based or not)
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
½ tsp vanilla extract
(optional) 1 tbsp chocolate chips or raisins to use as a mix-in

Method:
Grease a large mug with the coconut oil. Mash the banana and add it to a bowl, along with the flour, sweetener, baking soda, salt, milk, vanilla extract and mix-ins (if using any). Stir well to ensure the ingredients are evenly combined. Pour the mixture in your mug and microwave for 2 minutes at 900W. If the mug cake isn’t cooked to your preference, you can microwave it for a couple of seconds at a time until you reach your desired result. Devoir while warm!

BONUS TIP: Overripe bananas are the perfect vegan substitute for eggs in almost any pastry recipe. So, if you have some extra time on your hands, try experimenting by baking banana brownies or making some banana oatmeal cookies instead.

Next time you’re about to throw away limp vegetables from your fridge, think again! It’s possible that the veggies are simply dehydrated (usually the fridge makes them lose water faster). If they’re not mouldy, you can most probably revive them with water. 

It’s also a great way to save money while  grocery shopping. You can pick up rescued vegetables on donation from Tuesday Food Cycle Markets organised by Taste Before you Waste or benefit from discounted food at the supermarkets. 

Ekoplaza, for example, has daily discounts (up to 50%) for vegetables that are not as firm anymore. Oftentimes you can find wilted spinach or collard greens that revives beautifully after a SPA treatment. 

Below are two simple ways you can treat your vegetables.

Ice Bath 

For any leafy greens from spinach to collard greens and lettuce, the best method is an ice bath. 

Fill a large bowl with cold water, add a handful of ice cubes and submerge your (washed) leafy greens. Place the bowl in the fridge to keep it cold. Already after 20 min you’ll see the leaves “drink up” the water and become fresh and crispy! 

Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash

Some bloggers advice to only do the ice bath for 20 min, but I actually like to keep my lettuce in the ice bath in the fridge for a few days. It doesn’t spoil and keeps fresh!

An ice bath also works for green beans and potatoes. Just peel the potatoes before submerging into an ice bath. 

Glass of Water 

This method works for celery, carrots, broccoli, and asparagus. Just trim the bottoms of the vegetables and place them upright in a tall glass of water until crisp (usually around 30 min). 

This method works great with herbs, too. Just change the water often to prevent the stalks from going mouldy. 

What vegetables can’t be rehydrated?

The re-hydration methods (both an ice bath and a glass of water) won’t work for vegetables that rot quickly (e.g. zucchini, squash, pumpkin and tomatoes). So make sure you use them quickly, e.g. by making a tomato soup or pasta sauce, zucchini fritters or spiralled zucchini “noodles” (so called zoodles), pumpkin soup, or simply roast the vegetables to serve them on top of rice, grains, pasta, or lettuce. 

And most of all, try to avoid food going bad in the first place by knowing how to store them in your fridge, outside of it, and what vegetables and fruit to keep apart to prevent rapid ripening.

Taste Before You Waste has always stood for making small, individual acts of change that can build up to create a greater difference. We believe that engaging in thoughtful consumerism in even the smallest ways day-to-day can have a lasting impact on our food- and ecosystems.

Still, while such personal efforts do matter, there is something to be said about supporting direct civil activism through demonstrations and demanding political change – especially in dire times like these, when a global eco-crisis impends on us with every passing day.

In light of the upcoming Rebellion Week on October 7, 2019, we have decided to share with you some of the most accessible and effective ways to engage in eco-activism.

Maybe you have been wanting to make a change for a while now, but have felt unsure of where to start. Or maybe, you had simply never given it a thought until now. In either case, this guide will give you some easy, actionable steps to help you begin on your eco-activist journey.

Keep up with local activism and join its initiatives
The first – and most important – step is to get acquainted with which activism groups are active in your area. Do your research – browse their websites, read their mission statements, and see if there are any that resonate with you. Look up and join some of their events to get a feel for how they approach their objectives.

Found an activist group that you like and want to get involved?
Offer to help organize their events – most groups are always searching for more volunteers, and are eager to receive a helping hand.

Looking for a place to start?
Here’s a list of some of the eco- and food activism groups that are active in Amsterdam to get you started on your exploration:

  • TBYW Activism Group – A division of TBYW that offers free catering to activist events and demonstrations – our goal is to literally “feed the movement”
  • Extinction Rebellion – An organization that started out in the UK and then spread globally, Extinction Rebellion uses “non-violent civil disobedience” to raise awareness about the horrifying ecological crisis our planet is facing
    https://extinctionrebellion.nl/en/
  • Fridays for Future – An international movement that aims to initiate political action against climate change
    https://fridaysforfuture.nl/
  • ASEED Europe (Action for Solidarity, Equality, Environment, and Diversity Europe) – An initiative which started out in Amsterdam and spread out across the continent, ASEED Europe strives to involve youth in changing climate policies
    https://aseed.net/en/

Speak at city council meetings
Many people don’t know this, but you can address environmental policy changes directly with the authorities by attending your local city council meetings. Most city councils make their meetings open to the general public, and have a time slot allotted in the beginning where citizens can share their concerns. The city council of Amsterdam meets once every three weeks –you can find their meeting schedule, as well as other relevant information, on https://www.amsterdam.nl/en/governance/city-council/.

Write a letter to local political leaders
Should you want to directly contact authorities, you can also try sending a letter to local political figures who you think are capable of initiating change, or who you want to call accountable for their actions. You can find a list of information and contact details for all current Amsterdam governing body members on the city website.
https://amsterdam.raadsinformatie.nl/leden
https://www.amsterdam.nl/en/governance/mayor-alderpersons/

Spread the word
Spreading the word about environmentalism is perhaps the easiest way to engage in eco-activism by far. Talk to your friends about it, and encourage them to adopt more eco-friendly habits. Invite someone to join you the next time you go to a protest, or ask them to volunteer together at an event (cooking for the TBYW dinners makes for a great pastime activity!). Share activist demonstrations on Facebook to help them gain traction, and re-post environmental articles that might resonate with people.

Use your voice – both on- and offline – to share the ideas you think people should hear.

Looking for a place to start? Join the International Rebellion Week on October 7
The International Rebellion Week, hosted by Extinction Rebellion, will start on October 7, 2019 and will take place in several major cities across the globe. The protestors will peacefully occupy central urban areas to raise awareness about the pressing urgency of climate change.

In Amsterdam, the demonstration will start in the early morning of October 7 at Museumbrug. TBYW will be supporting the initiative by supplying free catering for all of its participants, providing food we have prepared from rescued produce.

Each person’s presence matters, and every voice helps to reinforce the demand – so, if you have been meaning to become an activist, perhaps this is your place to start.

https://rebellion.earth/international-rebellion/?fbclid=IwAR2IXJrf4m2rGxV0bkUxuARjxjLWtpqsRqV7rXEeZfB79Dhq13oKdzF5lbQ
https://www.facebook.com/events/1877626222340263/

Whether you want to lower your food waste, or are looking to make some more environmentally-friendly diet choices, food activism starts in your shopping basket.

Statistics show that nearly a third of the groceries we buy end up in a landfill, with as much as five million kilos of food being thrown away annually in the Netherlands only. Even the food that does make it to our plates can have a costly effect on the environment, depending on the means of its production – some of it, research suggests, can account for up to twice as much CO2 emissions as car use.

The amount – and type of food you buy is therefore crucial for the development of a food market that is both less wasteful and more ecologically viable. Conscious and well thought-out grocery purchases can ensure that we aren’t generating an excess of food in our pantries, whilst also signalling a shift in marketing demand to food producers and supermarkets alike.

The key things to look out for when grocery shopping in a more ecologically-friendly way are the objective necessity you have of a certain food, the resources that went into producing it, and the likelihood that this item would otherwise end up wasted.

Check your fridge first
Before making a trip to the supermarket, inspect your fridge and see what products you already have available. Pay special attention to items that are about to expire soon, and try to come up with creative ways to use them. This initial step helps you avoid making redundant purchases, and makes sure you aren’t wasting any of the food you already have at home.

Make a list of what you really need and plan your meals ahead
Now that you know what items you need to use up, create a meal plan for the week, and base your shopping list around it. Planning ahead of time makes sure you are being efficient with both your shopping and your meal preparation, and helps you avoid a situation where you have nothing to eat, or (on the contrary) have purchased way too much food.

Check alternative food sources
Before hitting the shops, try to source your groceries in an alternative (and more environmentally-friendly) way – a good place to start might be food rescue markets. Using rescued produce is always preferable over buying products at the grocery store – that way, instead of risking the creation of additional food loss, you are decreasing food waste by using products that have already been discarded by the retailer (but that are still perfectly edible!). Additionally, you are usually able to get such food for free or by paying only a fraction of its original price (the TBYW Tuesday Food Markets offer you to make an optional donation in exchange for your purchases).

Resist marketing temptations
Supermarkets have a way of making us buy stuff we don’t really need – whether it’s “buy-one-get-one-free” deals or delicious chocolate in shiny wrapping, we often walk out of the store with far more food than we initially intended to get. Making unnecessary purchases like those increases our chance of wasting food, and supports the flourishing of excessive consumerism. Once you have your shopping list of necessary items, try to stick to it, and resist flashy advertising. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to an extra pack of cookies every now and again – just make sure it’s you who’s making the decision, not the supermarket marketing team.

© Taste Before You Waste

Shop local, shop seasonal
All food is not created equal when it comes to the amount of environmental resource that goes into its making. Fruits and vegetables that are out of season often have to be imported from the southern hemisphere, and thus require large amounts of fossil fuel to facilitate their transportation. Additionally, since it has to travel such a long distance, much of this imported produce goes bad before it’s even reached the supermarket shelves, therefore resulting in vast quantities of food loss. Fruits and vegetables that do not traditionally grow in a European climate (think mangos and avocados) have a similarly taxing effect on the environment. Of course, you don’t have to give up such items entirely, but try to prioritise local and seasonal produce instead – buy strawberries in the springtime, when they are in season, and try swapping out your tub of guacamole for some hummus or salsa next time you need a dip.

Go for the odd ones out
A lot of fresh produce gets left behind on supermarket shelves solely for its lack of aesthetic appeal – items like bruised apples and oddly-shaped potatoes are less likely to get bought, even though they share the same flavour and nutritional value as their prettier counterparts. Consequently, such fruits and vegetables are likely to be discarded by the retailer much before they have gone bad, simply because there’s no market for them. Buying this kind of “imperfect” produce makes sure that it doesn’t get wasted, and helps undermine the current unrealistic market ideal of perfectly-looking food.

Buy products that are close to their expiration date
If you know you’re going to use up an item relatively quickly, or are shopping for a ready-made meal, try going for products that are close to their sell-by date (most big supermarkets indicate them with a sticker) – this way, you are not only buying food that would otherwise be wasted, but will normally also get a discount on its price. Additionally, most products are good for at least a couple of days after their sell-by date (though this is highly dependent on the kind of food you’re buying – some items, like chocolate, can last for up to several months!), so you needn’t worry about consuming them straight away.

Making consistent, deliberate choices with the way we source our food gives us the power to create a fairer, more sustainable food market, and allows us to have a positive impact on the environment.

It also shows that food activism doesn’t always have to be about huge actions – sometimes, it can be about something as simple as the way we do our weekly groceries!

In speaking of food waste we often hear about the environmental consequences: waste of land use, energy, water, our natural surroundings, and so on. However, the real cost of food waste is not only paid for by nature, but also by people. This blog dives into the social impact of a malfunctioning food system, in which over 30% of the worldwide production of food is wasted (FAO, 2018) while at the same time one in nine people does not have access to sufficient nutritious food. What is the state of hunger worldwide, versus the state of food waste? Who are the ones most affected? What are the main consequences that they carry? In other words: how can the food system be balanced out?

By becoming more aware of the social consequences of a malfunctioning food system, including food waste, we can strengthen the view on our role within a global food network. It will show that the smallest action that aid the reduction of personal food waste does make a difference in changing the planet’s and people’s health. Accordingly, we look for ways to achieve social as well as environmental justice through the food-related choices we make daily.  

A closer look at the issue

Our food system has developed into a system stimulating continuous growth, in many cases at the expense of life on the planet and livelihoods of people. Some people are more affected by this than others, but ultimately it harms everyone. The current production of food is enough to feed the world population twice (WFP, 2018). At the same time, roughly one in nine people worldwide suffer from hunger (FAO, 2018). It is clear that a profound change in the food system is needed to nourish the 800 million people that suffer from undernourishment in a way that ensures the health of the planet.

The global population is expected to grow with 2.3 billion people by 2050, counting almost ten billion people in total. The food production should increase with 56% to feed all those people. Or: we can reduce our food waste and not have to increase in food production at all.

On the macro-level, plans are made to reach targets to reduce food waste and nudge consumers’ behaviour in the right direction such as streamlining expiration labels and eliminating the use of trays in cafeterias (see box) (Ranghanatan et al, 2018). A big share of the waste, however, still happens on the micro-level: within households. Figure 1 shows where food is wasted on the consumer level the most.

Figures are consumer waste per capita based on data from the 2007 FAO report ‘Global Food Losses and Food waste’. Globally, consumer food waste amounts to roughly 350 Mt which equates about 50 kgs per person or 10% of total food supply (Gustavsson et al (FAO), 2011

In the figure we see that the so-called high-income regions, defined by the World Bank, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), have the highest share of wasted food at the consumption level. The USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand produce a striking 110 kgs of food waste per person each year.

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 2017
Note: Developed countries are not included in the regional estimates since the prevalence is below 5%.

So: how does that relate to undernourishment? Whilst the number of undernourished people was steadily falling from 2005 – 2014, it has started to increase again in 2014 and has since risen again to 821 million people (Hutt & Gray, 2015).  The following chart shows where undernourishment is prevailing, globally.

The chart shows that the largest part of undernourished people live in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia. So the regions where most food is wasted on the consumption level are the ones where hunger is least prevalent. This raises a moral question: how we can justify wasting the food that people in low income countries apparently are in such great need of?

Less food waste, more food security…?

To a large extent, the social impact of food waste relates to environmental consequences. The next figure gives an overview of those environmental costs.

Scialabba, 2014)

A growing global demand will put extra pressure on the agricultural sector. However, the need to produce more food can be offset dramatically by reducing the amount of food that is wasted. This also seems like an ethical thing to do, as societies carry most of the costs of the environmental impacts of food waste. First of all, simply said, human efforts to produce food that does not get a use, is wasted effort. Secondly, the pressure on countries to produce food is increasing as population grows. At the same time regions such as Sub Saharan Africa and the MENA-region also experience increased pressure on their agricultural productivity due to the effects of climate change. Soil is degrading, water resources are getting more scarce and more extreme weather conditions occur. If no serious system change takes place, the risk of a global food crisis is inevitable.

Rural women’s role in food security

The ones who are most affected by the increased pressure on the food system are rural women in low income countries. Women feed least and last in the countries that are faced with hunger, conflict and famine. Therefore, rural women are part of the so-called “left-behind category” (Nyirongo, 2018). Famine and hunger are not related to the fact that there is not enough food for people; it relates back to the access that people have to the food that is available, which is a political issue. Regarding food access, women are last in line. There are three reasons why:

  1. Deep-rooted gender norms. In many countries, the case is that women only eat after the men and kids have had food. Especially when crisis hits, women are the first to sacrifice their food to make sure the family has enough. Women do 2.6 times more unpaid care and domestic work than men do and earn 23% less for paid work (ILO, 2016).
  2. Man-made conflict. Man-made conflict is the number one driver of food insecurity and women are hit hardest by that. As men fight in conflicts, women become the head of the household, yet having little to offer to their families due to a lack of resources. Additionally, women are more subject to abuse, violence and abduction from their homes in times of conflict.
  3. Lack of women’s rights. In many countries, women have less power and less rights compared to men. Even though women make up for more than half the world’s agricultural workers, they do not own any of the financial means, land or tools to farm (WFP, 2018).

Challenges for the role of rural women for development, food production and poverty eradication are further complicated by a changing climate, food price inflation and economic crisis. Women empowerment is essential, not only for the well-being of communities, families and individuals, but also for overall economic productivity. Women are key agents in development as their productivity level is higher than men’s. A study of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated that if women had equal access to resources as men (tools, land, credit etc) agricultural output would rise up to four percent. This might not seem like a lot, but globally, as a high share of low-income countries are active in the primary (agricultural) sector, this definitely adds up. Additionally, if women are given the opportunity to control household income they are more likely to spend it on food, health, clothing and education than men are.

Believe.earth

Improvements in food security can be made by, for instance, improving rural women’s access to agricultural resources and credits and enhancing decision making and ownership within households, communities and at government-level. Gender equality is essential in achieving food and nutrition security and contribute to social and economic growth, both now and in the future.

Conclusion

Globally, a clear pattern is visible: in high-income countries most food is wasted consumption stage of the food supply chain. Low-income countries hardly waste food at that level. These countries that largely rely on their primary sector, of which agriculture holds the largest share, suffer the most from the consequences of food waste because it puts pressure on their capacities. At the same time, they encounter the greatest problems in the agricultural sector such as heat and drought, water scarcity and more extreme weather conditions due to climate change.

The prevailing food crisis is a direct consequence of food loss and food waste practices, of which rural women in particular are affected the most. To solve these issues in the food chain it is important to empower rural women, as not only does it reduce inequality, it also increases agricultural productivity, and investment in the community that women take part in.

But: we shouldn’t forget the responsibility that the consumer has on the other end of the food value chain. System changes can come from here, too. The question isn’t only: how can we increase agricultural productivity to meet the nutritional needs of ten billion people in 2050? But: How can we make better use here and now, of the food that already exists? This is where we should strive for making healthier choices in consumption, both for the people as the planet. Cutting down on meat consumption would be a major step ahead, as this relieves a lot of pressure off the planet’s resources and lowers greenhouse gas emissions. Combating food waste is another major one. With that we can influence the lives of those most affected by the malfunctioning food system on the other end. Now, why should we care? Because, as Martin Luther King said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

References:

  • Besley, T. Persson, T (2008) Wars and State Capacity. Journal of the European Economic Association DOI: 10.1162/JEEA.2008.6.2-3.522
  • FAO (2010) How to Feed the World in 2050
  • FAO (2011) The state of Food and Agriculture. Women in agriculture, closing the gender gap for development.
  • FAO (2018) The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World. Building Climate Resilience for  Food security and Nutrition. http://www.fao.org/3/I9553EN/i9553en.pdf
  • Hutt, R., Gray, A. (2015) What is Hunger? World Economic Forum. Derived from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/10/what-is-hunger/ at 21/05/2019
  • Kapur, D. (2011) 31 – Agriculture, food and nutrition security. Public Health Nutrition in Developing Countries, Pages 844-878.
  • Kim, K. & Morawski, S. (2012) Quantifying the Impact of Going Trayless in a University Dining Hall. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition Volume 7, Issue 4, Pages 482-486.  
  • Lipinski, B. (2013) By the Numbers: Reducing Food Loss and Waste. World Resources Institute. Derived from

https://www.wri.org/blog/2013/06/numbers-reducing-food-loss-and-waste at 22/05/2019

Summer’s here! Bring out the sun beds, dig out that bathing suit, lather yourself in sun screen and just lie under the sun forgetting all about deadlines and alarm clocks. Well… not exactly, but another beautiful season is upon us and with it come different patterns and habits. As I was daydreaming of all the things that I will be able to do in summer like to go out more, hang out on the beach, and reclaim the wonderful afternoon siesta, I started to think of good habits to pack for this summer. I’m going to share a few of them with you here.

At home

Shed those extra pounds

With a new season it’s always great to look into your closet and see which pieces of clothing you haven’t worn. A simple trick is to put the hanger facing outwards (opposite to what you’d normally do) when hanging clothes on the rail and if after the season they are still turned outwards, then you don’t really use is.

Keep it cool

Higher temperatures mean food can spoil quicker. It is therefore crucial to wash and store all food well. Remember to look at our blog on how to store food properly. If you get distracted and find your lovely fruits covered in dark spots, don’t worry about it. Just cut out the good fleshy bits add some lemon juice and voila you have a nice refreshing smoothie OR simply gather those lonesome fruit, slice them razor thin, add some red wine, brandy, brown sugar and lots of ice for a simple summer sangria


© MollieKate

Chop – Drizzle – Eat

Let’s face it, it’s warm, we’re lazy so we might not feel like making a proper meal. Summer is perfect to enjoy a nice crunchy salad with all kinds of vegetables, beans, herbs, grains, nuts, and lentils. Scrape your fridge or cupboards, chop and mix everything and then drizzle with a lovely dressing. You can opt for one of my personal favorites: Tahini dressing, or Fresh mint dressing. Yum!

Out and about

Stay safe

The sun’s warmth is lovely but not its UVA rays. It’s important to protect our skin with face and body sunscreen as well as after-sun. Unfortunately, commercial sunscreens have a huge deteriorating impact on marine life and are linked with the destruction of the coral reef (Danovaro, R. et al, 2008). Fortunately, there are eco and even zero waste options which you can make yourself.

Tidy up!

Clear blue waters, soft green grass or beautiful clear sands. These splendid places offer us moments of peace and a place to have fun with our friends, so why not give something back? While you’re at the beach or park you can  spend 5 minutes cleaning up and even join the social media trend #5minutecleanup. It’s quick and very effective, and just think if all of us got into this habit!


© Giovanni_Tafa

Guilt free Ice cream

It doesn’t matter if it’s  vanilla or a triple chocolate chip cookie madness, ice cream is EVERYTHING in summer. However, this icy creamy goodness comes packaged in plastic that we unwrap and throw out before devouring it. We can easily avoid this by buying ice cream cones so everything is consumed and no more plastic. Yes please!

Going away

Pack it

It’s not just your luggage that needs to be packed, so does your food. Before heading out make sure to freeze what can be frozen i.e. dairy products, some vegetables, all fruits and more. Soft herbs like basil, mint and parsley don’t hold up well frozen, so chop and mix them with olive oil and freeze in an ice cube tray.  Another option is to see what food items can still be eaten and give them away to a friend or neighbour who will be more than happy to receive them!

Be prepared!

– The city;

A mason jar and a tea towel go a long way. These two items can save you a lot of unnecessary waste. The mason jar is perfect to keep beverages, ice cream scoops, and small snacks, while the tea towel is great to hold bread, croissants, fruits, or lay out for a mini picnic. These take minimal space and can be carried around the city in your favorite tote bag ♡

– Camping;

This requires a bit more preparation. The basic items would be a good water jug which keeps your drinks chilled or hot, as needed. Then reusable cutlery and a compostable plate (made from bamboo or cornstarch; I know incredible!). Finally, your toiletry kit; bamboo toothbrush & holder, toothpaste tablets, deodorant, bug spray, moisturizer, and sunscreen which can all be DIYed.


© GoingZeroWasteBlog

© GoingZeroWasteBlog

Summer is all about having fun, and that’s what our journey to reduce food waste should be about. It’s all about discovering alternatives and being creative with what you have. When I say you it is not just one individual but ALL of you who are reflecting on your personal habits but also the collective potential to make a positive change.

Who’s a self sufficient responsible zero waster? You are!

Sources

Sunscreens Cause Coral Bleaching by Promoting Viral Infections ( Danovaro, R. et al, 2008)

Going zero waste

Cookie and Kate recipes