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.

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.

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!

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

“Oh c’mon, it’s just one straw” Said 8 billion people.

Straws are made in ten minutes, used up in twenty and stick around in the natural environment for a lifetime. These and other issues regarding waste disposal were discussed at the end of April, on this blog. We dove into the bin, untangled waste, looked into waste streams, researched plastic disposal and drew not-so-rosy conclusions. A world-wide trash epidemic is polluting our groundwater and oceans. Sad news, but that should never be the conclusion! At the beginning of May me and three TBYW’ers took on a challenge to keep as much matter out of landfill as possible: the zero-waste challenge. Halfway through the month I present a personal update and easy tips and tricks for going zero-waste.

As I tend to be  radical, the last thing I disposed on the last day before the journey, was my own trash bin. We took one final walk to the sidewalk in front of my house and after an short goodbye we parted ways. I was ready.

Waste-free travel

My personal zero-waste journey started in Italy. The first day of the challenge was perfectly timed as that was the day that me and my mom went on a week-long camping trip to Sardinia. My first mistake was not telling her about the challenge, as I found a pile of disposable cutlery in her suitcase. Oops! Quickly swapped the plastics for two sets of regular cutlery and we were good to go. Zero-waste on a trip does require some preparational work. Tip one: DIY. To fill your toiletries bag, minimalist packing is the key. I brought my own reusable make-up remover wipes (an old towel cut in round shapes, nothing fancy), DIY waste-free deodorant, DIY waste-free toothpaste (I used the same recipe as deo for efficiency seasons) and a bamboo toothbrush. My deodorant recipe is: coconut oil:baking soda:cornstarch using a 1:1:1 ratio, plus  a few drops of essential oil of your preference.

Depending on your skin, mix and match the ingredients until the effect of the product is optimal for you. I used peppermint essential oil for deodorant because I used the same recipe for toothpaste which is not recommended, I prefer a nice smell such as lemongrass and a bit of tea tree as a deodorant. For travelling, however, I chose efficiency over comfort.

Tip two: pack smart. Bring as much of the essential inventory as you need: think of a reusable coffee-cup, cutlery, sugar, salt/pepper in tiny containers, reusable wipes (an old towel cut into rectangles) etcetera. My dish soap also served the purpose of detergent and did an excellent job. Really, you don’t need a different product for every specific purpose. Such an easy way to save money, weight and space!

Tip three: Leave little room for interpretation when shopping in a foreign country (in which you don’t speak the language). Expressing a clear “no” when at the market the assistants want to put your produce in a plastic bag. Don’t be shy in using non-verbal communication in case you want to use your own reusable linen bag for bread, or your own container to bring olives or cheese. Some shop assistants respond positively, some shop assistant do not approve, to put it lightly. Like when we did our first round of groceries and got our first round of waste in as well.

The lady behind the cashier took the onions and unleashed a waterfall of Italian words that made clear that we weren’t supposed to take loose onions. She stormed out and came back with a plastic net of onions. You can call it a lack of backbone, but we didn’t have the nerve to decline her onions and bought them in the net. I was already proud to resist her clear dissatisfaction over the fact that we hadn’t used plastic bags to cover the rest of the fresh produce in the first place.  In any case: be as clear as you can but don’t worry if it does not work out.

Waste-free alternative to plastic disposable spoons

Tip four: Be easy on yourself. The road towards a zero waste life will only be sustainable if you enjoy it. You won’t enjoy it if you are too hard on yourself, simple as that. It’s fun, it’s an experiment, it’s not about perfection. Don’t think in terms of failing: think in terms of learning curve. This is essential to not feel discouraged if anything unexpected happens. Like when I ordered coffee and got it in a styrofoam cup. Shit (plastic) happens! As long as, instead of using a plastic spoon to stir the coffee you use your sunglasses, it’s not the end of the world. We extended the lifetime of the cup with three rounds of coffee in the morning and wine in the afternoon. After that coffee-flavoured wine (or wine-flavoured coffee) wasn’t enjoyable anymore and the cup was added to the trash.

Zero Waste at home

All-purpose cleaner recipe

After the return it was time to become a waste-free domestic princess. I was already able to do some of my preparations during the first of a series of TBYW zero waste workshops (check out the Facebook for upcoming workshops). The DIY cleaning products workshop provided for the ingredients, bought in bulk from the Soap Queen webshop. We made an all-purpose cleaner and a dish soap.

In the context of step #2 of going zero waste: ‘reduce’, I critically went over my cupboard with cleaning products. Do I really need a different cleaner for the surfaces in my room, the bathroom and the kitchen top? The answer is no. So far All I use is dish soap and the all purpose cleaner and my room is clean so: can confirm, I’m surviving with at least half the cleaning products I thought I needed. This actually goes for many of the different products I use in my life. Once you’ve made an inventory of what those products that you need are, continue to tip five: Make zero-waste swaps. The most important ones to get started are:

eCoffee to-go cup

Tip six is: look up what possibilities there are in your neighbourhood to shop bulk and package-free. The Turkish shops and the markets are by far the most cheap alternatives I have found in my surroundings. For inspiration in the city of Amsterdam, check out https://www.hetzerowasteproject.nl/p/bulk-boodschappenadressen.html to see what you can get where. I went to the Delicious Foods store at the Westerstraat and got a 5% discount for bringing my own bags and jars! Today’s yield: hemp seed, flax seed, tea, chickpeas, coconut flakes, almonds and cashews (the latter three to make my own milk later on: recipes will follow!).

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: once starting this journey, do not start throwing away wasteful products now that you have them anyway. Use it up, recycle or compost what can be recycled or composted. Your ultimate guide to composting you can find here.

My final tip is to shop second hand. Check your local thrift shop to get what you need, or go to secondhand clothes shops. An online possibility with a range somewhat broader than the Episode vintage-style  is United Wardrobe. When you buy second hand, often you have less/zero packaging and you’ll discard the use of resources that are needed to produce new stuff.

Finally, I can’t emphasize enough how this is not something you do overnight, and you shouldn’t expect that. It really isn’t about doing it perfectly, it is about making an educated decision on what and how you consume, and doing that for the better. You have the power to make choices that will lead to a more sustainable system, everyday. We are so privileged to have such a great range of options to make in what we buy and where that comes from, so why not make a choice that contributes to keeping the planet a bit more free from waste?

If you want to know more and follow some great zero-waste workshops, keep an eye on TBYW’s social media channels https://www.facebook.com/TBYWA/ and join the workshops!  

There is nothing quite like opening a fully stocked and perfectly organized squeaky clean fridge. It becomes a well-chilled sanctuary for our precious food and delectable offerings to our late-night cravings. Yet, this sanctuary at times becomes a cemetery where unfortunately sometimes our food rots. It’s either because it’s forgotten in some part of the fridge, it’s not stored well, it sits in an unclean space, or because of poor grocery planning. However there are things you can do to avoid this and turn your fridge into a tool to avoid and reduce of food waste at home. Here are some tips.

Temperature

Keep it cool.

Set your refrigerator between 1°C to 5 °C. If it’s any warmer, you run the risk of growing harmful bacteria but if it’s any colder some of your food may begin to freeze.

Organising your fridge

Top shelf; Here temperatures are constant so it’s best to keep drinks. Also, this is the first part of the fridge that you’ll look at, so it’s a good idea to keep leftovers stored in clear containers.  

Middle shelves; Keep dairy here. Your milk, yogurts, cheese, and eggs should go here. Also, milk should be put at the back of the shelf since this is the coldest bit.

Bottom shelf; This is the coldest shelf, which makes it an ideal place to store raw ingredients. Things like raw meat and fish should be kept here in tight packaging to avoid dripping and cross-contamination.

Drawer; These tend to retain some moisture which is good for produce. You can place your fruits and vegetables here. If you have multiple drawers, use them to separate ethylene producing fruits and vegetables like apples and avocados, from sensitive ones to avoid quick spoilage.

Door; Even though most refrigerator models come with beverage and egg shelves on their door, this is not a good place to keep them. This part of the fridge is prone to temperature fluctuations and is actually the warmest part of the fridge, so avoid storing highly perishable foods. Instead keep your condiments and well-preserved foods here.

Top of the fridge; Usually this part is quite warm so avoid storing any food here. Instead you can keep some small kitchen appliances and utensils, or just your pile of cookbooks.

© Appliance Service Station Inc.

Storing Principles

FIFO –  First In, First out; Always move the food that is already there, and it closest to expiration date to the front of the shelves. That way you have a better visualisation of what you need to consume first and you’ll make have space in the back for the new groceries. This also helps to avoid finding a stray yoghurt from 3 months ago in the back of the shelf.

Markers. Set. Go; It’s very likely that you are not the only one using the fridge so labelling the shelves into sections can be a helpful way to keep the fridge organised. Food should also be labelled to avoid the ‘What is this, and when did I make it?’, sure a quick sniff can be suggestive of the answer but better to play it safe and just label it.

Air it out; Air needs to circulate in your fridge to avoid parts of the fridge from becoming too warm or too cold. When you over stock your fridge there isn’t enough air circulation and this can create warm or cold pockets causing food to spoil quicker.

Eat-me first!; This is really handy. Just take any organizing box and stick a post-it saying ‘Eat me first!’ then place all the food which is going to perish soon and needs to be eaten. This will convince everyone in the house to reach for these items before trying anything else.

Keep it together; Food keeps for longer when it’s still whole. Meat, fruit, and veggies expire quickly when they have been chopped, sliced and diced. Keep your foods whole until you’re ready to consume them.

Plastic – not – fantastic; The unfortunate trend of plastic wrapped produce is bad for MULTIPLE reasons, one of these being that food actually spoils quicker. Instead use glass containers, paper bags and,  mason jars or a damp tea towel for fresh herbs and leafy vegetables.

Tidy up; In order to keep food good for as long as possible, it’s important that it stays in a clean space. So keep your fridge tidy, clean up any spills and make sure to wash the insides every month.

© Gardner’s Supply Company

While we’ve been talking about what goes in to the fridge, it’s equally important to talk about what doesn’t. This may be to avoid altering the texture or flavour of the food, or even it going bad. It can also be to simply save space and keep a tidy ventilated fridge.

  • Foods you shouldn’t refrigerate; potatoes, onions, garlic, honey, tomatoes
  • Foods that can but don’t need to refrigerated; peanut butter, oils, apples, butter
  • Food you must refrigerate; milk, cheese, eggs, meat

What other tips do you follow to keep your fridge in check and avoid wasting food?

When looking at the way we organize our meals, most of us follow a day-to-day or meal-by-meal logic. While such irregularities have a series of affects on our daily rhythm, this blog post focuses on another seemingly small but still relevant symptom: the waste of food produced due to a lack of planning.

As hunter-gatherers of the 21st century, we daily cross the grocery store, become enthralled by aesthetics or hunger and snatch all these fresh beauties. Sometimes other unanticipated tasks pop up or the laziness kicks in and the meal is not being prepared. Not a problem, the food will still be good the next day. But what about all the other days to come? How can we make sure that the goodies in our fridge and cupboards are not going bad that quickly? How can we plan more efficiently so that as little as possible – or in the best case nothing – goes to waste?

As a food surplus organization we engage with these questions on a daily basis. In doing so, we are always eager to learn and brainstorm with our fellows in the search for best practices, be it through workshops, lectures or panel discussions. Zoe, one of our hosting coordinators, therefore set up a workshop series consisting of three sessions to identify better food surplus management. The first workshop engaged with the question of how to treat your foods appropriately to postpone present symptoms of spoiling. Zoe worked out different guiding themes that play a relevant role in the according planning, and allocated the themes to the workshop tables in the first session. Each group of participants was invited to discuss ideas related to their table theme, followed by a plenary session on more general ideas and know-how from the audience. We were surprised by the many ideas that were brought to the tables, mostly household insider tips and some good old grandma tricks.

In the following you can find an overview of these tips and tricks: 

 

  1. Daily physical check

Check what is in stock: Take a photo or write a list of fridge contents. This helps to avoid buying doubles or unnecessary foodies, which eventually end up in your trash bin.

  1. Supplements

Make a shopping list of things that would complement your stock. For example, use sticky notes or download one of these modern grocery shopping apps!

  1. Resistance

Stay strong towards marketing strategies from supermarkets; don’t give in to ‘buy one and get one for free’ if it doesn’t serve your own consumption well. Also, don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, which definitely ends up in steering your choices according to the momentary craving for food.

  1. Tailor-made care

Bread: Always keep your bread in paper, never in plastic, and in a dry, dark place instead of the fridge. It will most likely not mold. Moreover, think of ways to process it once it is not fresh and soft anymore. For example, cut slices and put them in the freezer, every time you crave bread you can portion what you need.

Leafy greens, spring onion, leek, and herbs: But them in a glass with water or roll them into a wet towel and but them in the fridge. It keeps them alive like a flower, and it might even keep growing a bit. Alternatively, chop herbs before they go bad and fill them into an ice cube tray with a bit of oil, this way you can always add a dose when you cook and need it.

Bananas, avocados, tomatoes, apples, citrus fruits, peaches, apricots, and nectarines: Keep them outside of the fridge in a dry place; they will keep their taste and durability.

Potatoes and carrots: If possible, keep them in a pot of earth or sand in a dry and dark place, or leave them dirty, they like that!

Most other delicate veggies and fruit like mushroom, broccoli, cherries and berries: These need respectful and delicate treatment, most suitable in the fridge (or freezer, if you want to keep them for later).

  1. Cooling

Also your fridge has different climates, so to say: The coldest spot is at the bottom, which makes it the perfect storing space for veggies (yes, that’s what these plastic drawers are for!) On the top, you can keep your cheese and other foodies that don’t suffer from the minimally higher temperature. In general, keep your raw ingredients at the bottom and away from the cooked food. The door is the warmest area of the fridge, suitable for condiments and juices.

  1. Symbiosis

Vegetables and fruits affect each other’s ripening process when kept in close proximity (they release ethylene gas). For example, ripe bananas will make other fruits and veggies ripen faster, and green apples will make potatoes keep longer. Foods that release ethylene include:

Fruits: Apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, cranberries, figs, honeydew, grapes, mangoes, nectarines, papayas, passion fruits, peaches, pears, persimmons, plums, and prunes.

Vegetables: Green onions and tomatoes.

  1. First In, First Out

Don’t wait until the last moment and organize your fridge so you eat first what went in first.

  1. Measurements

Weigh your dry pasta, rice and grains before cooking to avoid making too much. For an indication, check the packaging or experiment and note down your personal quantity, usually around 50 – 100g dry per person.

  1. Freezer Library

In general, freezers work like a time capsule for fresh food – it locks nutrition and preserves the taste. You can freeze your fruits, coconut milk and curry pastes, as well as cooked meals. Use labels to recognize the icy things in your freezer. Portioning it beforehand will save the hassle to cut frozen food.

Some good old granny tips:

  • When you know you will eat your avocado but it is still too hard, you can wrap it in newspaper and put it in a dry cool place. It should be ready to eat in a day or two. The same goes for bananas.
  • Some say that its better to keep eggs outside of the fridge since it has a natural layer that protects it from going bad. But it depends in which country you live, or if it’s organic or not.
  • When you separate bananas from their bunch, they will continue ripen more slowly.
  • If any of your veggies are looking soggy like carrots or lettuce, soak it in ice-cold water. It will harden it and bring it back to its natural state. Soak flabby salad in ice-cold water right before serving.

We are looking forward to see you at our next sessions!

 

Please note that there are different opinions and perspectives concerning some of the tips we prepared. In most cases, the appropriate treatment depends on factors like temperature, durability and moisture. Try out for yourself and note down what works best in your case. Also, please feel free to comment and share your feedback and tips with us!