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13 ways my life has become greener

I’ve come to accept the fact that I love writing, I really do, but sometimes it’s hard to make time for it and then before you know it, another year has passed…. So here I am again. Trying to pick up where I left off.

Remember how I mentioned in my last post, that I’m starting small in changing the world? Well here’s me a year later and I’m so proud of how far I’ve come with making changes! So I thought I’d share this list with you guys. I’m sure there’s some of you who will find this super helpful!

The principle behind each and everyone of these is pretty much the same. It consists of asking myself the same questions whenever I need or want something “Do I really need this? Can I make this myself? If not, is there a green alternative? If there’s no green alternative, what can I do to minimalise the impact?”. For me this goes for everything in my life. Wheter it’s about my clothes, personal care, hobbies or job, I try to make sure that whatever it is I do, it’s in line with my wish to live a life with respect for our planet. It’s a process of trial and error. Some things work, and some don’t.

    1. Vegan…ish?

      Most of you know I’ve been a vegetarian for over 9 years, and after I read an article last autumn I’ve decided to cut dairy from my diet too. Weirdly enough it was more difficult for me to stop consuming dairy products than stop eating meat 9 years ago! But after 6 months I’m there, not using nor missing dairy anymore (truth to be told, vegan Ben & Jerry’s icecream helps, a lot).

    2. Clothes

      I truly believe that living a sustainable life doesn’t inculde throwing everything ‘bad’ away and buying new things. So instead, whenever something can’t be repaired and needs replacing I make sure to buy it from an environmental friendy company. So over the past year I’ve been able to slowly introduce some amazing brands to my cloest! I’ve completely fallen in love with the Dutch brand Saintbasics. Their underwear is the best I’ve ever worn so I will probably wear those until the day I die! Aside from that my favourite brands are Patagonia (serioulsy, I could buy their whole collection. Outdoor+sustainable, count me in!) Armed Angels, Ragwear and the shop Nukuhiva (the Dutchies who follow me might know this one ‘cuz it’s a shop created by Floortje Dessing).

    3. Writing

      Unlike some people typing really isn’t the same as writing with pen and paper for me. So I was thrilled when I found out about Greenstory! I’ve been using my greenbook for over a year now and I’m still so happy with it! It’s especially usefull when it comes to making quick notes at meetings, creating todo lists and keeping an overview of my plans for each week. I love that you can customise it and buy only the type of pages that you need. They recently launched a vegan leather cover to keep it safe!

    4. Food storage

      I’m very spoiled when it comes to lunch, I don’t like plain bread very much so usually when we cook diner we make sure it’s enough for 3 or 4 people and I eat the leftovers as lunch. I’m very lucky that Imke loves bread haha, so when our leftovers are just enough for 1 lunch she generously lets me have it! But the plastic containers that I had since I left my parent’s place 9 years ago were starting to wear down. We bought a new set of glasscontainers (with plastics caps, but atleast those don’t wear down as fast) for storing and freezing and we invested in stainless steel lunchboxes from Ecolunchboxes and Boc n’ Roll wraps for our lunch and sandwiches. I’ve also made my own beeswaxwraps recently, great for storing pieces of vegetables, or cut fruits and to cover bowls and pans with instead of using disposable foil.

    5. Moisturizers

      After a year of testing different oils I’ve finnally found the perfect facial oil that doesn’t make my skin super dry: Squalan. What a feast this one is. Glass bottle, Dutch company and only one drop is enough. As for the rest of my body; I use coconut and jojoba oil and am still expirimenting with this a little bit. But on sunny days coconut is the way to go! It has a low spf and that is somehow enough to keep me from burning instantly when the sun is out.

    6. Dental care

      About 6 months ago Imke came across the dutch “Leven zonder afval webshop” a zerowaste webshop. The so called DentaTabs are great, toothpaste without a tube! We store them in a glass jar in the bathroom and it works even better than normal toothpaste! Recently we finally finished up the last plastic toothbrush so I’m finally brushing with a bamboo one: the Humble Brush.

    7. Shampoo, soaps and deodorant

      I’m still figuring out this one. I’ve been using shampoo bars for over a year now. For some reason my hair keeps feeling strawlike at the back of my head. The Lush shampoo bars with conditioner worked great but I wanted something more natural. I’ve recently started trying the new shampoobars from HelemaalShea in combination with apple vinigar as conditioner and that seems to make my hair smoother. We’ll see how it’ll hold out! As for soap and shavingcream I also have two solid soapbars! For deodorant I found a pretty good solid version too, after having tried the salt/crystal version that left me super uncomfortable if i started sweating, I’m now using the solid deodorant of Lamazuna which works like a charm!

    8. Medicine

      My asthma forces me to take medication twice a day but I’ve been working on reducing that drastically. Last year I managed to cut down to only half of the dose that I used to take, and in a couple of weeks I’ll have another check-up to see if there is a possibility of cutting it down even further. Even with my cats I don’t have to use my allergy pills anymore! I do however need a nosespray to keep the horrors of hayfever at bay but I’m getting so much better! Another thing that I’m looking into is Salt therapy, it helps keeping asthma and allergic reactions at bay without the use of medication but I haven’t tried it yet.

    9. Groceries

      Buying vegetables at the grocerystore is something we hardly ever do anymore. For over a year now we’ve been getting a weekly vegetable and fruit box from local farms around Breda (Boerschappen). You get different seasonal vegetables and fruits and as a bonus we get to eat a varierty of things that we normally would never buy ourselves and our diet became a lot more balanced because of it! Unfortuntely they don’t offer a box without cheese and even though Imke still eats cheese from time to time it’s usually too much so we’re looking into other vegetable and fruitboxes in our area. When we do get groceries we try to buy our bread at the Aldi where you can use your own bag and get our veggies from the local vegetablestore that sells them without plastic too. Since cutting milk I’ve started watching mynutrient intake too, and eat nuts and seeds a lot more. These are often packed as well, or the stores where you can get them without packaging are super expensive and we really don’t have the money for that so we buy in bulk where we can.

    10. Learning DIY skills

      Being able to make, repair or mend things are such incredible skills. More and more I’ve come to realise that I want to learn more of those skills. I’ve been having a go at sewing, so far being able to sew and create a cushion for a bench, a cover for my piano and flaxseed pillows that you can heat up and pencil pouches. Not everything is super neat but I’m making it all myself and it works! Aside from that, since we got our two adorable cats we also made our own scratching post and scratching tipi instead of going for storebought ones(that are ugly as). Last week we had a woodcarving workshop so now we have those tools in house as well. My first go was a scoop that I can use for my oats(I’d been meaning to buy one so this was perfect!)

    11. Going green with my money

      Oh my it’s a hassle, switching between to different banks but I think it’s worth it. I recently transfered from the Rabobank to ASN. I believe it’s important to know where your banks invests your moe and ASN is one of the best in the Netherlands when it comes to awareness for humans, animals and the planet.

    12. Green hygiene

      I mentioned I had bought a mooncup last time, but I hadn’t tried it yet. Well, that one didn’t work for me but the Organicup did! But unfortunately on my heavy days it’s not enough so I switch between using the cup and tampons. I also got Thinx underwear to use with the cup as a backup, and washable pantyliners. Those two are not entirley ideal for me yet, I’m used to having super ultra mega thin pantyliners in combination with tampons or my cup, and both the thinx and the washable liners are super thick in comparison. I hope I’ll be able to find something that is as thin as what I’m used to!

    13. Cleaning

      We have a lot of old cleaning supplies from Imke’s grandma, but gradualy we’re starting to change up. We’re almost at the point where we can try soapnuts for our laundry! And I recetly found a brand, Sonett, that sells dishwasherpowder in bulk so we don’t have to use those tablets wrapped in plastic anymore! As for cleaning we’ve been using Marcel’s green soap products, they smell absolutely amazing and are a lot better for the environment. We’ve also been using wooden dishwashing brushes instead of sponges and the plastic ones.

Like I said, it’s a process of trial and error and I spent a lot of time doing research for some of the things I wanted to change. Like how it took me a year to find oil in a glass bottle that actually works for my face, or how for certain things there are no sollutions yet and you just have to settle for the second best option. Like razors. I can be super clumsy and I don’t have the courage to try a old fashioned safety razor and for some reason I couldn’t find any razors with disposable blades that were biodigradable or enviromently friendly. I settled with the razors of Boldking because atleast they have the option to return the used bladeheads so they can recycle them into new ones.

So little by little I’m changing and going for the best option that is available for me at the time. I hope that this list is able to help anyone out there trying to live a greener life. I know I would’ve loved to find something like this when I first started!

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Getting back to my (green) roots

IMG_0465So here I am, almost 7 months since my last post. It’s been a bit of a rough spell these last few months. But spring is here once again and that alone is enough to make me feel better. This year however, spring did not only bring flowers, sunshine and vitamin D. It also gave me perspective.

A couple of weeks before my birthday(always a good time to start over or contemplate your future) I felt so incredibly stuck. Frustrated and stuck. Stuck at work, stuck with myself, stuck with finding a new job. And frustrated at the world. Frustrated because I want to change this world. Help it become a better more humane place. One in balance with nature. The problem was that I had no idea how. No matter how I tossed or turned I could not come up with a plan to ‘fix’ the world into becoming a sustainable one. There was so much I wanted to do. Help reduce plastic, built forests, stop animal cruelty, help people realise that underneath our clothes and religions we are all the same and we all want to be happy, help humanity see that we need all the different species of animals and creatures on this planet. That we should care for them instead of exploiting them. But you know as well as I do that there’s no single cure. So I tossed and turned, frustrated at my helplessness and unable to find how I want to contribute to a better planet. So, before you get your hopes up, no I didn’t magically find the way to a better future. But I gave up, in a way, of trying to fix it right now. If I didn’t know how I wanted to do it, I couldn’t do anything. I had thought about it over and over again but I just couldn’t find a way that I’d be able to follow right away(or in the near future). So instead of forcing myself to keep thinking and hitting that brick wall I let go.

I let go and the moment I did I realised that even though I couldn’t do anything big this instant, but I could start small(I already knew a small change can have a big impact since I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 10 years but somehow forgot). So I vowed to cut down plastic use, and become more aware of where I put my money(we vote with our money, so might aswell do some research and ‘vote’ for the type of companies I’d want to support). I had already vowed to use up the tea bags we had left and only buy loose tea in the future, started experimenting with different oils(in glass bottles) to try and stop using moisturizer from plastic containers, bought a Mooncup after reading a positive review on Ikbenirisniet(which I haven’t had the chance to try yet) and become more aware of what I bought that came in/with plastic overall. Flashforward to my birthday, where I got a two small greenhouses which then caused me to create a square meter vegetable garden on our balcony and, suddenly, trying to produce at least a part of our own vegetables was on the list too.

After my birthday in March I went on a yoga & meditation silence retreat (Human Awakening, who were absolutely amazing and I definitely want to come back next year but I’ll save that for another time!) which allowed me to create more space and quiet in my head too. In the meanwhile I also started as some sort of junior employee at the IVN (Institute for Nature Education and Sustainability). An organisation focused on bringing people in contact with nature and educating them, with loads of different projects focused both at children, adults and the elderly. This change in work really helped improve my overall feeling too. Even though I’m not directly responsible for the projects they do, I help with them, and in turn do atleast something remotely helpful to our world.

So here I am now. 3 weeks into my new habits and so happy with the progress I’m making. Even though the steps are small, and some take time (such as stopping to use teabags(I had a LOT of teabags) atleast I’m doing something.

I’m hoping to pick up on writing again, but I won’t be too hard on myself. Either way, I’m already excited at the thought of keeping you guys up to date about all of this!

With my head tilted back to the sky

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Those who know me well, know that I have this ever lasting obsession with the sky. No matter where I will be, I will often have my head tilted back to the sky.

There’s something about the sky that makes me want to sit down and just take it all in. Especially when it’s around dawn or dusk, I adore those parts of the day. The early brisk mornings, where the light has just barely started to touch the trees and the world around you is still asleep or those early sunsets in winter; where everyone in the train commuting home is sitting with their heads bent down reading the newspaper or focused on their phone and I feel like I’m the only one in the whole train who is seeing the beautiful sunset that is happing just outside of the carriage window. I like to look around in those moments sometimes, wondering how noone can see the beauty of nature right there. How there is noone else in the train going “oh wow that’s beautiful” and put their phone down for a while to just watch the outside world bask in the last rays of sunlight. Then I’ll shrug and go back to dreamingly watching how the sun paints the sky in many different hues. I also love that time when the sun is already down and you can see the sky becoming different hues of blue.

DSCN1047Imke got us a small but very good camera for my birthday. The pictures are amazing but what made me especially giddy is how well the pictures of the sky taken with it turn out!

So today, I’ll share with you some of the skies I’ve seen and photographed here in Ireland. Some are not high-quality because they were taken with my phone, but I wanted to show you the different faces of the Irish sky 🙂 Personally I enjoy sunny weather but the sky lacks depth without any clouds in it whatsoever, the same way a completely grey sky lacks depth too. It’s the contrast and different hues that catch my attention most.

Howth:Irish nature in the capital

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Howth is one of my “you must see this” spots when friends or family are over for a couple of days. It’s incredibly easy to get to yet you still get a taste of real Irish Nature on the Cliff walk.

Imke recently wrote a blog for An Óige about our trip to Howth, which we did in the first weekend we were here way back in February. Despite the cold we had a lovely day to be outside.

Have a look at it here 🙂

Irish HI hostel organisation; An Óige

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As you might have read before; My girlfriend and I are living in Ireland for half a year whilst she is doing her internship here(I’m here just for fun;) )

However, what I hadn’t told you is what her internship is actually about; Blogging and creating content for the Irish youth hostel organisation An Óige about their many different hostels!. Recently one of her supervisors at the company asked if I was interested in creating content for them as well, and joining Imke on her travels to hostels, which I obviously would not turn down! So you can expect short blog descriptions with a url to the original blog that I wrote for the An Óige blog whenever we have travelled to hostels 🙂

Our first trip together was to the Wicklow Mountains. Even though I was not asked to create content back then already, I joined Imke for 2 days on her trip while I was off from work. Because it would feel silly to write exactly the same story she already wrote for An Óige I would much rather just refer to her blog post; which you can find over here.

I’m very excited to be able to write for them as well, and looking forward to our first big trip together! March 12 is when we will leave on our Wild Atlantic Way road trip of 9 days(including spending my birthday on the road!) So stay put for more travel updates after that!!

Lá Feabhra; Spring in Ireland

As someone born on a warm and sunny day in the middle of March(and who celebrated almost every birthday with good weather) I always thought of spring starting earlier than the commonly known starting date on the 20th of March. No, for me spring started way earlier. So you can imagine my delight when finding out that here in Ireland the official start of spring is not in March but in February! The first of February is known here as Lá Feabhra; the first day of spring and a day where Saint Brigid is celebrated. In the past they used to sow the first few seeds on this day to ensure a good harvest.

Today was one of the first sunny days where I was off while Imke was at her internship and after having spent so many days off staying inside because the weather was crap, I was more than happy to go out!

We live right next to a park and even though it consists mainly of grass and a handfull of trees, it’s on a hill and gives a nice view of the Dublin Mountains on the other side of Dublin. The last few weeks, flowers have been making their way up out of the grass but today I noticed for the first time that a lot of the trees already have green buds too!

Spring really does come at the beginning of February here! It completely caught me off guard. The last years spring always seemed to come too late. By the end of March I was already yearning, craving even to see green leaves on the trees again, and then it often still took a month before they would even start to bud. It was an obsession really; all I could think of when I would look at the trees would be how much I longed to see them green again. But here, here spring has already arrived before I even started to long for it!It makes me love this country even more. I can’t wait to see Dublin in its full green glory.

The way of the wind

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Have you ever looked at grass in the wind? And I mean really looked at it? Because if you have, you would have seen the way the wind blows. How certain air streams twist and bend. The wind is not one entity, it doesn’t all come from the same direction with one single airflow. It’s an multiple being consisting of many separate airflows, bending, twisting and turning. All caused by obstacles, some nearby, some miles away.

I love how the grass, the leaves on the trees or trash floating about, can all make the invisible visible; suddenly it’s very clear how the wind turns and twists, which path each individual air flow takes and where it joins up with others.

I could literally sit on a hill for hours, just gazing at the way the wind blows through the grass. This majestic thing that is so powerful yet only visible through other matter fascinates me.