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Maps distorted by economic indicators visualise lack of balance in the world:

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GDP (wealth)

This picture is intuitive to understand: it shows an overweight US and Europe compared to very thin South America and Africa. Poorer countries are squeezed.

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The Poverty map is counter intuitive, as it shows just a skeleton of the Americas, Europe and Australia.

Ran into this shirt at the Vega Life shop in Amsterdam:

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Because all girls want to wear a fox around their neck?

I told a friend who commented that she had seen knitted foxes that refer to actual fox furs in fashion:

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Knit your own fox – pattern by beeskneesknitting.

Later, at yoga class, I saw a girl wearing this tribute to Björk:

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Shirt with swan print from SheInside.

So, what do we make of these? A tongue-in-cheek remark at our use of animals for fashion? Do the girls who wear them make a serious statement about the fashion industry? We could even say that you support the misuse of animals for beauty, because you approve of the idea to wear animals. Or are they just very cute?

February 1st was the beginning of the Vegan Challenge in the Netherlands. The Dutch Organisation for Veganism and Viva las Vega’s dare anyone to participate and eat and live naturally for one month.

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The Vegan Challenge is on the whole month of February.

I was vegan for three years between 2007 and 2010. But I turned back to being a full-time vegetarian because finding food alternatives when eating out with others cost me too much energy.

I do still enjoy the things I learned during this time and support the ideal of a balanced consumer pattern. So I decided to monitor my vegan/vegetarian footprint during the Vegan Challenge month.

This is how I did the first week:

Friday (35% vegan)

Breakfast: soy yoghurt and muesli (honey free)

Dinner: used soy yoghurt instead of cream in the sweet bread recipe for desert

Saturday (70% vegan)

Breakfast: soy yoghurt and muesli (honey free)

Shopping: visited vegetarian shoe shop Vega-Life in Amsterdam and bought a new pair from Vegetarian Shoes

Dinner: in the Amsterdam Library with a vegan friend, fries with tomato ketchup and a salad without animal products

Desert: ginger flavoured dark chocolate

Sunday (60% vegan)

Breakfast: soy yoghurt and muesli (honey free)

Dinner: Indian tomato curry with rice, papadums and mango chutney

Monday (55% vegan)

Breakfast: soy yoghurt and muesli (honey free)

Shopping: soy yoghurt was sold out in the supermarket (by people in the Challenge?) so I eat real yoghurt for the rest of the week. Bought “blue mice” (a sugar and aniseed sprinkle Dutch people put on bread) because the blue and white version was promoted to be free of animal food colouring by the Vegan Challenge. Bought organic, vegetarian cheese.

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Biscuit with “blauwe muisjes”

Dinner: vegetables, baked potatoes with a Tuscan vegetarian with dairy

Tuesday (20% vegan)

Dinner: salad, vegetables and Corn fritters (with egg)

Wednesday (10% vegan)

Shopping: bought washing detergent and softener and maple syrup at the organic supermarket (good for the planet!)

Dinner: pizza with cheese

Thursday (10% vegan)

Desert: made a fruit juice from the Nike Training Center recipe I earned doing my work-outs

Result: 37% vegan this week!

Visiting a very big Carrefour, I was surprised to see the amount of recycling bins at the entrance. I had time to notice because I was early – supermarkets in France appear to open later than at home, at 8.30am – but even so, they were hard to miss.

The regular bins for batteries, paper and plastic were there. But these were accompanied by special bins for mobile phones and small domestic appliances!

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Doing green in the Carrefour supermarkets.

A sight never seen in the Netherlands. We have to go to different locations to neatly get rid of all of these things. Which reminds me that I still have to cycle to the communal waste site to dispose my pile of broken devices…

We chose wood not because it’s different, not because it’s sustainable, but simply because we believe its engineering properties suit the requirements of most bicycle applications better than any other material – Renovo Bikes

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Renovo has also designed a model for Audi.

Business cards according to the cradle-to-cradle principle.

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Green business cards by Studio Mosgroen.

Today, my friend from Geneva told me about cooperative farming in Switzerland. In a country where organic food is not widely available cooperative farms offer a chance to purchase local, organically grown food. And not only that, farmers and consumers are connected. Buyers have a share in the company and are expected to help on the land for four half days a year. An example is “les jardins de Cocagne”.

Vegetables by LollyKnit on

Cooperative farming is known as CSA: Community-supported agriculture.

The Netherlands is also familiar with this form of community farming, involving consumers in different forms. An example close to my home is Amelis’Hof. They have subsciptions on weekly vegetable bags and offer voluntary work for people in a care program.

Guaranteed slave free fashion by i-did in Utrecht.

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Stone necklace from the i-did webshop

The clothes label is featured in an article by De Pers.

How do you carry your water with you? I was made aware of this question in the past when a non-Dutch classmate asked me whether he understood the message on my water bottle right. “Neem mij mee in je leven” did that mean “take me with you in your life”? Upon confirming, my classmate gave a concerning smile. And he explained me the irony. However healthy it is to drink water, most consumers do not know that with the water they consume tiny amounts of dissolved chemicals from the plastic bottle it is stored in. The medium is the message.

The result of my fear for plastic bottles.

The shock of learning this came back to me today at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne. The event’s booklet provided a list of what to bring as a visitor: A hat and sunscreen (because we are in Australia, of course) and a reusable water bottle. Now, my water bottle was reusable, because I always refill the bottles of mineral water I buy in the supermarket, but I suspected this was not what they meant. And numerous other visitors confirmed by proudly walking around with their stainless steel water bottles. So I gave in and bought one for myself. After all, I prefer the taste of (Dutch) tap water over mineral water anyway.

I was invited to a film screening of FOOD, Inc. tonight organised by a sustainable future interest group.

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KEENER is a group in the Kentish community that is concerned with climate change and sustainable energy.

The discussion that followed had an interesting international twist. My party added some nationalities: Swiss, French and Dutch myself, but the rest was from the Kentish area. Some of the locals remarked that the movie showed a very specific problem of the American food industry. I found that very remarkable, as the movie presents a very global problem to me. Also, I had caught myself comparing Australia to the US from time to time while enjoying the view on the road. How could this people feel so disconnected from American consumerism?

Two other things that stood out:
– We were set apart from the group as somewhat fanatic advocates of the movies ideas, being vegetarians or “Pflanzenfresser” as our host called us. Funny how this immediately influences your position.
– Steve from The Lost Seed explained us about his non-hybrid seeds. They produce plants that can be harvested for their seeds to plant again, something that is quite unusual nowadays.

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