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

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

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

Lara Egbring, 26, Former TBYW General Coordinator

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

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

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

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

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

“Activism pulls people together.”

Isabel Allen, 24, TBYW General Coordinator

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nina Poort, 21, TBYW Wasteless Wednesdays Dinner Coordinator

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

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

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

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

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

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 plane,” 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!

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/

I consider myself to be an environmentalist.

At the age of twelve I found myself in my first environmental march holding a banner over my head and shouting slogans quite shyly. Since then I have been a member in a number of environmental NGOs and participated in events and clean ups. In my daily life I’m loyal to my tote bag and avoid using plastic, I use public transport or my trusted fiets, buy chemical free products, opt for fairtrade and organic products when possible, and most of my meals are plant-based. When elections come along I thoroughly look at environmental policies and projects in manifestos. Also, nature is my place to get away and recharge, there is nothing quite like a stroll surrounded by lush greenery or a dip in the blue sea to make me feel at peace again.

© Oxford Dictionaries

Environmentalism is the philosophy that our environment is worth protecting and we must be involved in its preservation. An environmentalist is then the individual who is concerned about protecting the environment. What I described previously is a very personal form of environmentalism and I’m sure that there are many out there who look at it and think, ‘Well, that’s not how I’d do it!’ I guess there are many different ways in which we can be environmentalists this is depends on our life style and choices, as we try to forge a greener path in an unsustainable system we’re currently experiencing.

The principal reason why we should all be environmentalist is because we are human. We inherently share this common need and responsibility towards the natural environment. This is because we depend on resources and all their services for our own existence, so really the well-being of the environment is also our own. It is only our own failure to not realise this. All the comforts that we have become accustomed to, and the lifestyles which we just think of as normal would not be possible without all these resources. Being an environmentalist is simply the recognition of one’s place and role within this ecosystem and its sustainability.

 

 

Earth day is a commemoration of this common commitment to safeguard our environment from deterioration and degradation. This day serves as an annual reminder of our everyday responsibility as individuals and communities to honour the natural environment in which we live (Earth Day Network, 2019).

 

 

The origins of this day are set in a time of civil protests and growing ecological awareness. In 1969 founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin came up with the idea to set up a national day focusing on the environment. This came about after the massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, which was then the largest oil spill by waters the USA had suffered, killing birds, sea creatures and fouling coastlines. On the 22nd of April in 1970, twenty million Americans took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of one hundred and fifty years of industrialization and demanded a healthy sustainable environment for their communities (Earth Day Network, 2019).

 

Earth Day 1970 gave voice to that emerging consciousness, channelling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns on the front page.

Today over one billion people participate in various events around the globe. People march, sign petitions, organise clean-ups, meet with their elected officials, plant trees. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Faith leaders even connect Earth Day with protecting God’s greatest creations, humans, biodiversity and the planet that we all live on (Earth Day Network, 2019).

 

These event spread over 193 countries are coordinated by the Earth Day Network (EDN) . The network’s aim is to broaden that which we understand by the environment, to include our health and communities. This richer definition draws the link between the earth’s and humans’ wellbeing, to redirect greater efforts towards the preservation of the natural environment for a common benefit. The Earth Day Network does this by creating civil engagement at multiple civil levels and working with those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Diversifying – Educating – Activating

Each year Earth day puts up a lens to a specific environmental issue so the global population can take a closer look and understand. Earth day 2019 will bring to focus the global species decline, with this year’s theme being ‘Protect our species.’  Presently the earth is experiencing the greatest rate of extinction since the dinosaurs, the difference is that this rapid extinction is a result of human activity (Earth Day Network, 2019). Mainly through our unsustainable agriculture, deforestation, habitat loss, pesticides, pollution, poaching and trafficking of species, and impacts of climate change. While extinction of up to 5 species a year is considered normal, scientists estimate that we are now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the normal rate. For more facts on this, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This rapid species extinction presents a risk as it jeopardizes the balance upon which nature thrives. By wiping out other species we are abolishing our chance for a flourishing and sustainable planet. There is good news though, as this extinction rate can still be slowed down, and many of our declining, threatened and endangered species can still recover however this requires for us to collectively demand immediate action.

With this year’s theme the Earth Day Network aims to

  • Educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon.
  • Achieve major policy victories that protect broad groups of species as well as individual species and their habitats.
  • Build and activate a global movement that embraces nature and its values.
  • Encourage individual actions such as adopting plant-based diet and stopping pesticide and herbicide use.

What the first Earth Day back in the 1970’s, was able to do was to bring together people from all walks of life. The realization of the common threat but also the collective potential to come up with solutions and address these environmental issues acted as an impetus to the modern global environmental movement. People are the heart and the conscience of this movement, and it is people who see that environmental issues are taken by their representatives and acted upon. So, all of us; professionals, pensioners, students, and all others are all environmentalists in our ways.

However, if you feel that you could use with some pointers, the Earth Day Network provides some simple Earth Day Tips!

Sources

Earth Day Network

How the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill sparked Earth day