As you may know, at Greenfish, we give our very best to walk our talk. While understanding the impact of our job, we also care about the baby steps that settle our commitment in our daily life. This white paper highlights different initiatives tried and implemented by us. It covers small things anyone can implement to make a change and start a different lifestyle.

In your plate

Food represents a fair chunk of our budget and thus, of our impact. According to experts it represents between 19 and 29% of anthropogenic greenhouse gases emissions[1]. By changing your diet, you can greatly influence your environmental footprint. According to a scientific study that gathered 369 complete Life Cycle Analysis on 168 fresh products[2], producing 1 kg of red meat (beef or lamb) emits more than 25 kg of CO2eq, whereas anything else you can eat is below 6 kg of CO2eq! Most of the remaining animal proteins (pork, chicken, fish, and egg) are included in the category of products emitting between 3 to 6kg of CO2eq. Rice, fruits and vegetables from heated greenhouses, milk and tree nuts belong to a 3rd category, for which the production requires between 1 and 3 kg of CO2eq. All the cereal and pulse, and the field grown fruit and vegetable fall in a category emitting less than 1 kg of CO2. This should help you prepare menus that can reduce the impact on our planet!

Everybody who has tried knows how hard it is to change his diet, especially at this time of the year! The good news is: you can already change the way of doing your grocery shopping! In fact, every time you spend money on something, you decide which industry you support. For instance, when buying your groceries at a bio supermarket or a local farm, you do not only increase the quality of what you get but you also improve the wealth of farmers and allow them to continue their purposeful work.

Revisiting your menus and shopping at local grocery shops is a simple way to directly reduce your waste, your CO2 emitted and the imbalance in food production of some countries. And this time, even if you belong to the minority, you genuinely have an impact!

In your bathroom

Having a healthy and clean house is essential to enjoy being at home. Indeed, we spend a lot of time and money in buying all the products we need to clean our floor, bathrooms, sink, mirrors, windows,… But do we really need all of this? The cleaning products’ industry weights more than $168 billion in annual revenue across the globe. On average, a European household spends 550 euros a year on cleaning products. In the US, those expenses even add up to 680 dollars a year.[3]

As strange as it may seem the cleaning products we spray all over the house have negative effects on us because of all the toxic chemicals they contain. Simple, natural and adaptable recipes will change your life. The advantages? Savings, less waste produced (you can reuse your containers and find the ingredients in bulk), less space needed and a healthier interior environment.

To make the first step, you only need a few basic ingredients: backing soda, vinegar, lemon juice, black and Marseille soap, essential oils and olive oil. With those items you will be able to make your home as shining as you want.

Here is a multi-tasks cleaner recipe for 1,5 litres of product: 1 L. of water, ½ L. of white vinegar, 20-30 drops of essential oils, optional: 2 tablespoons of black soap.

If you do not feel at ease with making your cleaning products by yourself, do not hesitate to subscribe to a workshop where you can learn how to do it[4]. It is also a great opportunity to meet with your friends around a sustainable theme.

A last option that you can consider is to purchase all those products. Indeed, you could also buy homemade cleaning products made by local companies such as “Barbe verte”. A lot of bulk shops also provide this service. Go for instance with your bottles at “Belgo markt” or “L’épicerie du Relais du Triporteur”. There are also specialized soap shops where you can discover an incredible amount of different soaps such as “Savon de Lyna” or “les savonneries Bruxelloises”.

Get rid of the toxic chemicals and, as we say at Greenfish, stay lean and clean for 2018.

In your wardrobe

You might have touched upon the fast fashion impact, but did you know that 20% of industrial water pollution is due to the treating and dyeing of textile, that the clothing industry is the second biggest polluter of clean water or that 90% of cotton is now genetically modified? This being said, everyone can take action to limit this impact.

First, think circular! Clothes can be exchanged, reused or reworked to enjoy a life after their first use. As an example, the Belgian start-up Taleme is enabling moms to rent out clothes for their babies to avoid buying items that will only be worn 3 or 4 times. Besides rotating systems, there are also the second-hand markets and shops such as the  Brussels Vintage market that you can attend every first Sunday of the month.

Second, think out-of-the box! An increasing number of brands are innovating to supply the fashion world with sustainable product. How? Take Piñatex for example. This is leather made from pineapple leaves. It has been introduced by Ananas Anam. The company is transforming an agricultural waste product into valuable fashion items from footwear to clothing. Another brand focusing on recycled materials to craft their products is Matt&Nat. Similarly to the Piñatex fabric, their accessories and footwear is made out of recycled nylons, cork and rubber as well as vegan leather as opposed to animal one.

Third, think lean! Coco Chanel herself stated “Fashion changes, but style endures”. Create your own timeless wardrobe and narrow it down to the necessary. Believe it is impossible? Well, have a look at Bea Johnson’s 15-item-wardrobe. This zero-waste guru manages to create 50 different outfits out of it! Not only will this buy you more space, but it will definitely reduce your time to get ready in the morning.

In a nutshell, a great step is already done when you think “reuse” before “buying new”. And if you go for new items, consider buying from sustainable and eco-friendly brands that support the circular economy model.

Mobility

According to the European Commission, road transportation accounts for approximately 20% of the total CO2 emissions of the European Union[5]. Clearly, this means that there is room for cutting our mobility-related emissions. Nowadays, many alternatives to cars reduce your footprint. And they are often very cheap alternatives as well.

The healthy alternatives are walking and biking. Both allow you to arrive faster at destination when the distance is not too long. While walking is easily accessible by essence, biking is also facilitated by many initiatives: the well-known Villo, the green GoBee Bike or the electric Billy Bike are readily available for your mobility swap in Brussels. When your destination lies further, you can easily combine with public transportation. A foldable bike can be carried for free in the metro, the tram, the train and the bus! Public transportation services are being improved every day for the travellers’ greatest comfort. Therefore, this is an alternative that is worth being considered. All these alternatives allow you to escape the world’s worst traffic jams as listed in the Inrix Global Traffic Scorecard, and hence to save precious time.

Alternatives for car lovers do also exist. On the one hand, companies like ZipcarZen CarCambio or Drive Now put shared cars at your disposal. You can use them whenever you need to drive somewhere. On the other hand, UberBlabla Car or Kowo developed user-friendly applications that facilitate the organization of carpooling. And if you want to hold on to your own car, small efforts can slightly decrease your footprint as well. First, you can learn how to drive in an eco-friendly way. Second, from the outset you could carefully choose your car by making use of tools like the carbon counter.

At Greenfish, we strive for a zero emissions world when talking about mobility. The objective is to abandon diesel cars for 2020. To make the transition easier, several initiatives have been taken. Our newest mobility plan is made of different packages possibly including an electric or hybrid vehicle, an electric bike (Ahooga), and a public transportation, Cambio or Zen Car subscription. Thereby, step by step, we cut our emissions related to our own mobility.

To sum up, there are plenty of alternatives to the ownership of a car. And this would greatly reduce your footprint Why not giving it a try? One month without using your own car. Do you accept the challenge?

On holidays

We often say that travels change your life. In this article, we are going to explore how to change your way of travelling. Christmas is coming and with its spirit the urge of leaving the town for a sunnier or snowier destination increases. Unfortunately, holidays may have a big impact on the environment. How can we balance the envy of discovering the world, being cosmopolite on the one hand and on the other hand having a positive impact on the environment? We are going to evaluate the solutions that we can implement while going on holiday.

First you can easily analyse the different transportation options you are offered. Indeed, the holiday destination is one of the main issues. We want to discover new places, cultures, other kind of food and we often link this to a remote destination. However, Europe is also a rich mix of cultures, architecture and languages. It is time to rediscover our own continent.

In any case, it is important to avoid taking the plane. Flying accounts for 75% of the global tourist industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. Adapt your flying habits to the 3R’s philosophy “Don’t fly, fly with an efficient airline[6] (in economy class), then offset”[7]. Offsetting means that you will buy your ecological impact with carbon credits. Even if you are driving your car, there are ways to limit your environmental footprint. You can use carpooling (Blabla Car, Karzoo, Ridefinder…) or take the train. A high-speed train journey from London to Paris only emits a tenth of the carbon of an equivalent to a similar short haul flight.

Second, when you are on holiday you are also creating waste. You need some innovative thinking to reduce this as much as you can[8].

  • Prepare your travel. Where are you going? Are there local and in bulk shops over there? The idea of traveling is to discover new dishes and specialties. Explore them in small markets instead of going to big universal supermarkets. Make a list of shops and markets where you can buy food. Regarding the drinks, it is also a very good excuse to discover local vineyards.
  • Prepare your containers. When you are going on holiday you want to travel light so think about the space they are going to take. It is better to use containers in fabrics that you can fold and two or three Tupperwares. Do not forget your water bottle: you can usually find public drinking water everywhere in the cities or in the country side.
  • While you are there, try to avoid using the car. Holidays are also an opportunity to run, walk and ride a (electric) bike to discover the region.
  • You can also save some money with the couch surfing experience: you sleep on the couch of a local who is willing to walk you around his/her city. It is a great way to visit and to experience pure local districts.

In case you are still not convinced that there is beautiful destination close to us, here are some great places to discover during a Belgian or European trip:

  • Belgian cities: Mons, Leuven, Tournai, Durbuy, Bouillon, Eupen, Dinant, Spa, Ypres…
  • Belgian nature: Le lac de Bütgenbach, Le lac de Warfaaz, Les lacs de l’Eau d’Heure, La réserve des hautes Fagnes…

Around Belgium: Lille, Amsterdam, Texel, Aix-La-Chapelle, Trèves, Verdun, Londres, Strasbourg, Paris and Le Touquet plage.

In your pocket

After having given you an insight on how to consume better and hence to save a bit of money, let us discuss what you can do with the money you just saved. If the dizzying spread of the bitcoins and other altcoins scares you and you are looking for more concrete investments, this section should get your attention. In fact, there are now several initiatives developed by citizens, NGOs or companies that help you to use your savings as to have a positive impact on our society.

If you are simply looking at a bank with a strong and sustainable investing strategy, do not look further than Triodos. They only invest your money on social, environmental, or health & culture projects and allow you to check precisely where your money went. Unfortunately, so far, in Belgium, they have only investment activities and not yet commercial ones.

For those who are willing to have a more direct connection with their investment, follow the Danish example! As early as 1996, wind enthusiasts have gathered in a cooperative and have invested in twenty offshore wind turbines of 2 MW. Nowadays, the Middelgrunden produces about 3 % of the annual electricity consumption of Copenhagen and symbolizes citizen involvement in the energy transition. Some institutions such as RESCOOP, Babyloan, and Crédit Coopératif give you the opportunity to invest in tangible projects, with or without return on investment.

 

Whether you want it or not, you shape the world in which you live! Today, many initiatives allow citizens to join forces and have a positive systemic impact on our planet. We shared some of our experiences and hopefully inspired you (if you were not already) to take the first steps towards the transition.

You lacked ideas for your New Year’s resolutions? What about focusing on one topic as a start and sharing your feelings with us? You might surprisingly like it and learn much more things than what we already have experienced at Greenfish! Feel free to share what you already do to reduce your impact!

 

Adrien Girard – Senior Project Manager at Greenfish
Laurence Vandenhoeke – Business Manager at Greenfish
Valentine Picquet – HR Recruiter at Greenfish
Delphine Struyf – Project Assistant at Greenfish
Nassim Daoudi – Chief Executive Officer at Greenfish

 

[1] Climate Change and Food Systems (Sonja J. Vermeulen, Bruce M. Campbell, and John S.I. Ingram)

[2] Systematic review of greenhouse gas emissions for different fresh food categories (Stephen Clune, Enda Crossin, KarliVerghese)

[3] https://www.cleaningproductsconference.com/news/2015/insight-do-you-know-the-five-most-important-trends

[4] https://happygreen.me/category/beaute-naturelle-et-bien-etre/

[5] https://www.transportenvironment.org/what-we-do/air-pollution/road-vehicles

[6] https://www.atmosfair.de/en/kompensieren/flug

[7] http://mongoose.energy/8-ways-to-reduce-the-environmental-impact-of-your-annual-holiday/

[8] http://www.ecoconso.be/fr/Tourisme-durable