100-100-100 Trash free challenge


Recycling is so popular in our neighborhood, that the glass, paper and plastic recycling bins at the end of our block are often overflowing. Considering that my family alone drops off a bag each of glass, plastic and paper every week, this excess comes as no surprise to me.

I totally support recycling, but on the other hand, where are these supreme heaps of paper, glass and plastic recycling coming from? In a country where Albert Heijn, one of the largest Supermarket chains in the nation, sells its cucumbers individually wrapped in plastic, I’m guessing that most comes from packaging.

I’ve had a vague goal of cutting back on the amount of plastic, glass and paper that enters our home by changing my shopping patterns. I’ve done a bit to address this by using cloth bags and getting my unpackaged produce at Joe’s Vegetable shop. Yet laziness and convenience seem to undermine my desire to take it a step further. It’s like I need a waste-reducing support group to get my lazy *ss in gear.

But then something remarkable happened!  Duurzaam Den Haag announced the 100-100-100 challenge: 100 families, living 100 percent trash-free for 100 days. What? How could you live trash-free? And when they say trash, are they just talking about trash, trash? Or do they mean having zero waste–as in no paper, plastic, glass, food scraps, etcetera?

One way or another, I wanted to find out, and in doing so, signed up my family to participate in this ridiculous challenge. Am I going to turn into some uber-recycling, make-your-own-toothpaste, zero-waste scary person? And is that really so scary, or is it that the idea of changing our patterns is scary?

imageThe kick off event aptly began on Halloween evening and it was packed. Far from being scared, the crowd had a restless enthusiasm you might expect at a Holland’s Got Talent show–people amped up and ready for the challenge to begin.

The excitement was palpable as a woman spoke about her zero-waste lifestyle. The applause for the program initiators was just shy of thunderous and I was swept up in the energy. Then it got even better. I met up with my neighborhood group aimg_4406nd we all shared our thoughts about the program. We each received a goody bag with an electric scale to weigh our trash, a nifty cardboard recycling container for batteries, led lamps and small electronics, a bar of soap wrapped in newspaper and some start-up instructions.

My neighborhood What’s app group is on fire. We encourage each other, share tips and research and we’re already planning a cooking evening (what to do with left overs) and a composting workshop.

In the first five days, my family has managed to avoid opening the main trash can in the kitchen, thus producing zero waste (rest afval). I haven’t cleared out the small bathroom trash cans as of yet, which are filled with true trash–tissue, cotton swabs, dental floss, the occasional band-aid, etcetera. But we have been slowly eliminating items from these trash cans as well. Did you know you can recycle wooden tooth picks in the vegetable, fruit and garden waste bin?  And although we save the cardboard inner role of the toilet paper, sometimes they end up in the trash (laziness!) instead of the recycling bin. Those days are now over.

Did you know that in The Hague, tin cans, drink packs and bottle caps can be recycled via the plastic bin? That baking paper can not be recycled?

This week’s challenge was to count how many times you open a new package. You’d be surprised at how quickly it adds up, especially if you count each individually-wrapped tea bag. The subtle changes we can make to reduce waste and recycling material become self-evident. We could purchase loose-leaf tea, for example, and in doing so eliminate all of those little envelopes and tea sacks. We could skip the plastic bag at the bakery by opting for an unsliced loaf and placing it directly in a reusable bag. The possibilities are slowly but surely unfolding before my eyes and I have rediscovered my rose-colored glasses upon the path of 100-100-100. We’ll see how long they stay intact!

 

 

 

 

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Get your Green on April 18th, 2015 with Earth Day The Netherlands, Bezuidenhout Style


Are you interested in making some changes in your life to lessen your impact on the environment, but aren’t sure where to start? Do you live in The Hague area and wonder what sort of environmental non-profit organizations (stichtingen) are out there and what it is that they do? Do you want to learn about the environment and meet others interested in sustainable living? Do you like festival-like events with music, organic food, eco-shopping and hands-on activities all in a social and educational atmosphere?

If you thought “yes,” or even “maybe” to any of the above questions, then come to Earth Day The Netherlands 2015. This one-day event will bring the International Earth Day concept to The Hague, giving Dutch and Internationals alike a chance to celebrate Earth Day and take action for the earth. Planning on coming? Let us know on Facebook by registering for the event here.

What: Earth Day The Netherlands (The Hague, Bezuidenhout)
When: Saturday, April 18th, 2015
Time: 11:00-15:00
Location: Meeting Rooms at Christus Triumfatorkerk
Juliana van Stolberglaan 154, 2595 CL, The Hague
Why come? To learn about the environment in a fun, festival-like setting.
Admission: Free

Earth Day Netherlands 2015 is shaping up to be a wonderful event. Who is welcome? Anyone interested in learning more about the environment! This event is for people who live in the Bezuidenhout neighborhood, but also for people who live anywhere in the Netherlands interested in connecting with others about sustainable living and action.
Here is a partial list of organizations participating. Information on musicians, eco-vendors and speakers will be provided in upcoming posts. Please SHARE this post on your blog, on your Facebook page, on twitter, etc. Thank you!

Eco Non-Profits
A rocha Den Haag
Duurzaam Bezuidenhout
Duurzaam Den Haag Haagse Krach Karavaan Project
FAIR TRADE CTK
Oiko Credit 
Repair Café Den Haag
Sea First Foundation

 

Do lifestyle environmentalists count?


I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but I’m getting a kind of reputation here in the Netherlands as an environmentalist. And truth be told, that both excites me and makes me uncomfortable. Now here is the question; what do people mean when they call me an environmentalist? Are they referring to my eco-friendly  ideologies and lifestyle or do they mistake me for someone with a scientific mind who can explain why global warming is a reality, or lay out the intricacies of the marine ecosystem and how our misuse of the ocean as a trash can combined with over fishing are destroying this vast resource? Well, I can do that to a degree, but not without first referencing the research that experts in the field have conducted. I’m admitting to the following; there is not a scientific bone in my body.

Snottykins organic hankies
Snottykins organic hankies

On the other hand, thanks to a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and years of writing experience, I can read and digest information about the environment and (often) convey it in an intelligible manner; but is this enough? That is the question that has always haunted this “lifestyle environmentalist.”

Is there room in the environmental movement for those not steeped in science? This question represents a fear I’ve nurtured and given legs throughout my life, leaving me with the following damning conviction: you can’t be an environmentalist, Kristin, because you didn’t study environmental science, marine biology and geography. You’re more of an environmental cheerleader; your sleek words the pom poms, your enthusiasm the cheer, your soap box the half-time show. Glitz and glamour without the substance to back it up. Sure it’s cute. But the game (the real environmentalists) is what matters. But is this true?

I mean, I have done a fair bit of good for the environment with those pom poms; I’ve made lifestyle choices that reduce my impact on the environment, I’ve volunteered for environmental organizations, I aided and abetted the Handkerchief revolution in the U.S., I’ve grown gardens and planted seeds in community projects, I  initiated a sustainability project at the firm I used to work for, I was on the sustainability committee at our church in the U.S., and I’ve written a novel called GREEN where the environment is far more than the half time show.

But when someone calls me an environmentalist, I feel a need to slow them down and make the distinction. “I”m more of a lifestyle environmentalist,” I hear myself saying.

And this lifestyle environmentalist is currently organizing a mini “Earth Day Celebration” in The Hague, slated for Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 at the ABC Treehut from 17:00-19:00

Boy was that fun to put into a block quote! More details on this Earth Day Celebration will be forthcoming on this blog, on Facebook and via emails to my peeps in The Hague.

What are your thoughts? Do lifestyle environmentalists Count? Can they play an important role in expanding the environmental movement?