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

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

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

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

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

Become vegan/vegetarian or try reducing your meat intake

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

Be more mindful of how you spend your time

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

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

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

Connect with your food and appreciate its value

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

Declutter your life

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

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

Keep learning

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

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

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

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.

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.

After last weekend we can gladly say that summer has officially started. This asks for celebration! TBYW closed off the season before the summer break starts by hosting one of the biggest events of the year: the TBYW Summer Festival. The theme for this edition was Zero Waste, a topic that was used as broad as it gets. From making DIY eco-friendly cosmetics to growing your own plants and herbs, a wide range of DIY crafts and interactive sessions prepared everyone for a sustainable, waste-free summer. Doing so, we set ourselves free from the waste through recycling, reusing, reducing and reconnecting. In this blog you’ll find a review of the day through 4 lessons I learnt at the first-ever summer edition of the TBYW Festival

#1 Zero-waste DIY’ing does not have to be expensive, difficult and time-consuming

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)
Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

DIY’ing? Isn’t that for people who have a lot of time, money and specific skills? Well, the answer is no. Using only some necessary ingredients, visitors DIY’d their way to a pantry filled with dish soap, all-purpose cleaner, deodorant, toothpaste, menstrual pads and much more. The main ingredients that were used were ones you can find in your cupboard, such as towels and jars. The rest of the raw materials was bought in bulk  at the Soap Queen. The eco-friendly cosmetics workshop was a massively popular one during which, in about one and a half hours, the participants learnt to make sunscreen, toothpaste and deodorant. No artificial ingredients were used, just the necessary ones. And the fun thing is, from there on it was  just a matter of putting everything together in the right quantities and you’ve made yourself the ecologically-approved, natural, environmentally-friendly, waste-free version of the cosmetic products you use the most. Win-win!

#2 Bacteria can be good for you

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

Bacteria are generally linked to disease and food decay and we should do as much as we can to avoid having them! Right? Well, no. Some bacteria are actually essential to stay healthy. Large amounts of ‘bad’ bacteria can get you sick, or make food go bad, but ‘good´ bacteria can make sure that the bad kind does not stand a chance of growing. These good bacteria are referred to as probiotics. Probiotics provide healthy bowel flora which is essential for healthy digestion, bowel movement and a well-functioning immune system.

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

Fermentation is a process that provides for ready-made, natural probiotics. Through the use of micro-organisms a metabolic process takes place, changing organic materials make-up. Kombucha is the perfect example of a fermented product with great health benefits due to the high levels of probiotics. The base consists of hot water mixed with sugar and black or green tea. After the mixture has cooled down to about 20°C the micro organism is added: the SCOBY. A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast and looks as funky as it sounds. However, this is the essential component that eventually causes fermentation to take place. The SCOBY ‘eats’ the sugars that are in the liquid, and produces alcohol (the alcohol percentage remains at a maximum of 1%), enzymes, carbon dioxide, a range of acids, vitamin C and B-vitamins. Not all claims such as the detoxing and cleansing properties are supported by scientific research, but in any way a refreshing drink with probiotics, vitamins and far less sugar then usual sodas can’t be wrong!

During the festival a one-hour kombucha workshop was provided by one of our beloved volunteers. As TBYW hopes to give more in the future, keep an eye out for more workshops after summer!

#3 Kimchi is one of the healthiest foods in the world

Credits: Simon Lenskens

Kimchi is a Korean side dish with pickled vegetables. The slightly sour taste might remind you of the previously named kombucha, and that is because kimchi is fermented as well. At the Summer Festival a kimchi workshop was held, given by non other than the founder of The Table For Kimchi who is Korean herself. Her level of knowledge and passion for the product was contagious for all participants who after the workshop could take a jar of the good stuff home.

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

Kimchi is prepared by dehydrating vegetables first, in salt. After that, a mixture, known as the kimchi paste, was prepared using seventeen (!) ingredients. To put that into perspective, most kimchi recipes use five or six ingredients. For this session, a vegan and sugar-free version was prepared using apples and kiwi instead of sugar and vegetable broth, sea greens (kelp, seaweed) and soy sauce to provide for the umami taste that fish sauce or shrimp paste can have, which are commonly used.

While the cabbages were dehydrating, the kimchi paste was prepared. Sea salt is an important ingredient that will eventually cause the ‘bad’ bacteria to not win the competition with the probiotics. The fermentation process takes around four months on 3°C, so you have to have a little bit of patience if you let it ferment in the fridge. However, if you store in at room temperature you can speed up the process and your kimchi is ready after about one week.

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

The health benefits of kimchi come down to the facts that it’s high in fiber, low in calories and packed with nutrients. We don’t have to get into the benefits of probiotics that are present due to the fermentation process again, but it’s worth naming that kimchi is full of it. With regards to the nutrients, kimchi stores among others; vitamin A, B1, B2 and C, and essential amino acids and minerals such as iron, calcium, and selenium. Continuing onto a range of components that are hard to pronounce, kimchi contains capsaicin, chlorophyll, carotenoids, flavonoids, and isothiocyanates that a.o. aid hormonal balance, digestive health, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and the list goes on and on. Finally, an important component to name is sea greens. Sea greens have been rising in popularity in the health food section, and serve as a great alternative for animal-based protein due to their richness in protein and minerals.

At the festival the mixture was tasted right after it was made, and people loved it already. Traditionally kimchi is used as a side dish,  for instance with fried rice, inside dumplings, in a spicy stew (kimchi jjigae, 김치찌개) or as kimchi with udon, a thick wheat noodle (김치 우동). Last saturday the freshly made kimchi was served simply on a bit of toast and it didn’t take long before the whole dish was empty. To fully benefit from all those health impacts however, we should (unfortunately) be a bit more patient and wait until fermentation has taken place, properly.

#4 A plastic-free lifestyle is adaptable for anyone

The collected waste of the month
Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

Late in the afternoon the TBYW-festival visitors were invited to join an interactive session during which four volunteers shared their experience with a plastic-free lifestyle. Whereas the title of the session, plastic-free, might sound frightening, what became clear in the discussion is that plastic-free does not have to be taken as strictly as it sounds. It is a process, and in this process we try to refrain from speaking in terms of ‘doing it perfect’ and ‘failure’ because these make it seem like there is one way to do it, all or nothing. This is not true. Easy swaps from disposable, single-use goods can be made, to reusable and sustainable. For example, make a linen bag, coffee-to-go cup and prepared meals part of your standard packing list when you’re on the go. This way you can decline the plastic bags, disposable coffee cups and plastic-wrapped meals and you’re already well underway on your journey to keeping plastics out of our natural environment.

The most striking findings of the discussion are the following:

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)
  • All participants spent LESS on their groceries this past plastic-free month. By buying in bulk and choosing your products more wisely, it was found that everyone lowered their grocery-expenses this past month. Also, as many prepared the meals and took them when they were on the go, less money is spent on plastic-wrapped sandwiches and salads.
  • All participants had a healthier diets during a plastic free month. It was found that buying package free largely directs you to the fresh produce-aisle or the markets where mostly non-processed foods are sold (bread, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables etc.). This automatically causes you to stick to a diet reliant on non processed, fresh food. Isn’t that a great side-effect!
Credits: Simon Lenskens
  • Most participants learnt new food preparation skills. Examples of this are: making sourdough bread, making pasta, preparing plant-based milk, etcetera. It was found that after the third time it’s not even that much of an extra effort anymore to make your own bread or milk, and it saves you a lot of money.
  • Plastic-free requires mutual effort of both people and politics. Policies could drastically decrease plastic use. With the choices we make on the consumer-level, we can show that there is a demand for for instance decreased plastic packaging and more zero-package shops. We vote with our wallet, so to say. It requires politics to push plastic-free policies and it requires people to make plastic-free decisions. This way, the consumer cán make a difference.
Credits: Simon Lenskens
Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

Conclusion

All in all, I can really say that not only the festival was very learningful, it was great fun as well. And what was highlighted in this blog was just the tip of the iceberg. The TBYW Festival offered not only workshops, also an informative wall about the future of food, a clothes swap corner, a yoga session, a food market, music in the evening and let’s not forget the great food that was provided throughout the entire day. The atmosphere was very relaxed, and the setting felt intimate, even though most of the workshops were pretty much full. I would like to thank all the people who came, and the TBYW team for the great organization! I am looking forward to the next version of the festival that will probably be held in autumn/winter, and I hope to see you there!

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)
Credits: Simon Lenskens