Disclaimer: we are two white, middle-class students living in a city that is quite eco-friendly, with markets, eco-friendly bars and a proper cycling infrastructure.
Don’t get us wrong: this 30-day challenge was actually challenging; we found it fun, but hard. We hope some things stuck; our friends have told us they will be making lifestyle changes after watching us go through this process, so that’s fab.
But let’s design some hypothetical situations where the majority of these zero-waste swaps would be harder.
You’re a single mother of four in one of the most sprawling cities in the world. You have to shop at the 24-hour Walmart because you work night shifts at a hospital.
You have to buy in bulk for cost-effectiveness, which means a lot of plastic (multi-packs are always covered with it)
Bikes would be impossible, public transport is unreliable, so driving is probably your safest bet if you want to get to work on time
Investment purchases, like the Mooncup and a metal razor, are more daunting. The money has shorter term but necessary uses
You’re a retiree living in tower blocks. You have severe arthritis and struggle holding anything. You have an ok pension and plenty of time on your hands.
The safety razors are not an option, you wouldn’t want to risk an open blade
You find it hard to drink sometimes without a straw
Going to a market happens to be very far from your house, and you cannot make the journey there and back
The point is, the Ginger and the Vegan are in a position of privilege that allowed us to try all of these things we've talked about in the past 28 days.
The first time I shopped without buying any plastic items, I winced at the checkout price. Committing to a plastic-free life is not cheap. Along with being able to our day-to-day shopping plastic free, we are also in a position of privilege to experiment with investment purchases. The Mooncup, had it not worked, would have totalled €20 non-refundable. For us, that is not a big deal, for others, that is one week of food.
We also live in a time and a place where the zero-waste lifestyle is becoming more and more widespread. We have access to information and products that haven’t hit other places yet. The society and communities you live in inevitably affect your life, no matter how many individual changes you make.
We hope that by experimenting and documenting everything, we helped you find something in your life you can change. The process of switching to a zero-waste lifestyle is different for everyone. You don't have to make drastic changes from day one (or ever). Just simple swaps, baby steps. Some of these are easier swaps than others. If you don't want to switch to a Mooncup for example, for whatever reason, its OK. It’s all about being honest with ourselves and doing what we can.
Luckily, the internet is amazing! There are loads of blogs and groups dedicated to the zero-waste lifestyle that can help you on your own journey towards a wasteless life.
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December is the time of year when mailboxes, both physical and virtual, start to fill with requests for donations from charitable organizations of all kinds.
Often, people would like to contribute but are overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of requests they receive.
"Will the organization make good use of my hard-earned money? How can I know if they have been involved in scandals? Are their interventions actually effective?" are some of the questions we all want to ask before we make our Christmas donations.
As you might know, here at Kinder World we're all about effective giving. That's why we picked 11 outstanding charitable organizations that we thoroughly vetted and determined to be worthy of your cash.
If you want to know more about how we vet organizations, please have a look at the dedicated page.
As you will see, under each organization there's the possibility to donate to them thanks to our freshly minted donation widget. If you also want to know more about our donation tools, have a look here.
The first Favela Painting project took place in 2005 when artists Haas & Hahn (Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn) painted a large mural with local community members in Rio de Janeiro.
The local and global impact of this project inspired them to continue creating large-scale community art projects across the world.
Strongminds empowers impoverished African women by treating depression at scale and enables these women and their families to lead more healthy, productive, and satisfying lives.
Depression is the most prevalent mental illness in the developing world. In Africa, it’s devastating: 66 million women are suffering. The great majority have no medical services to turn to for help.
Cool Earth is an organisation that works alongside rainforest communities to halt deforestation and climate change.
Of them, Sir David Attenborough said: "Helping Cool Earth to halt tropical deforestation makes a real difference. Perhaps the biggest difference we will make in our whole lives.”
Sightsavers works on preventing sight loss and avoidable blindness in some of the poorest parts of the world by treating conditions such as cataracts and fighting other debilitating eye diseases.
In 2017 alone, the organisation has supported more than 316.000 cataracts operations.
Steun Emma is a children’s hospital in Amsterdam. They have a renowned neonatology department that provides premature babies and their parents with care and comfort in this most difficult time along with high-quality scientific research.
They are now on a mission to improve their facilities to make the lives of parents and babies easier and the hospital’s research even more extensive to help as many people as they can.
Simavi is an organisation tackling water, sanitation and health challenges to stop preventable diseases, reduce mortality rates and boost social and economic development.
Guided by the principle that "health is the first step out of poverty", they are working to guarantee basic health to everyone.
NSGK is a Dutch organization that helps children and youngsters with disabilities to get rid of obstacles.
They want to make society more accessible for disabled children, strengthening their self-confidence and contribute to positive imaging so that children with and without disabilities can play, learn, play sports, live and grow up not apart but together.
Human Rights Watch is an international organisation that conducts research and advocacy on human rights.
Founded in 1978, it publishes more than 100 reports and briefings on human rights conditions in some 90 countries each year.
Dutch branch of Proveg International, it's an organization whose aim is to reduce the global consumption of animals by 50 percent by the year 2040.
In particular, Proveg inspires and motivates people to live a plant-based lifestyle by raising awareness about the importance of doing so. They support everyone who is interested in changing their eating habits by providing practical information about how they can transition to animal-free alternatives.
After their child Max died at 8 months old from a viral infection, Joke and Steven Le Poole decided they wanted to save as many children as possible around the world and created the Max Foundation.
With their MAX-WASH approach, they aim to prevent child mortality in the most effective and efficient way.
Amref Flying Doctors is an international organisation focused on health in Africa.
In October, we wrote about their effective intervention against female genital mutilations (FGM) in Sub-Saharan Africa. This intervention, called Alternative Rites of Passage, aims to replace FGM with humane rites of passage.
Most of the household products that we use for cleaning — from our bodies to last night's dishes — are 80 percent water. Which means most of the packaging for cleaning products is used to contain water which most of us have on tap at our homes.
It also means that when all those cleaning products are transported from the factory to under our kitchen sinks, we're carrying around 80 percent water.
All the additional packaging and transportation means more pollution and more carbon emissions aka more poison for the planet.
There are, of course, alternatives to your run-of-the-mill cleaning products. You can purchase sustainable detergents, dish soap, and even a spray to clean your dog's little accidents. But these products usually focus on using natural ingredients instead of the amount of water the product contains or its packaging and transportation.
Another alternative is to make your own. Which arguably is the greenest option you have. There are many recipes online for any product you can imagine. You can make your own fabric softener, silver cleaner, deodorant, and even sunscreen.
And that's the issue with making your own. It's a bit of a gamble when it comes to how effective your cleaner will be and, in the end, it's not very sustainable if you need to use four times the amount of a regular cleaner.
Dutch designer Mirjam de Bruijn has come up with a solution to these dilemmas. Her project 'Twenty' proposes the non-water ingredients in cleaning products to be concentrated and sold as powder, bar or liquid capsule.
What sets De Bruijn's idea apart from solid shampoo bars and, well, soap is the idea that the customer would buy the concentrated cleaning agent and add water to it at home.
De Bruijn's sleek design is still in the concept stage but the change it suggests is promising. It takes very little effort, from the customer, but means a great deal when it comes to reducing the unnecessary carbon emissions caused by packaging and transporting water.
In the Global West, we're privileged to have safe water at our disposal but one in ten people in the world don't have access to running water and two out of five have to use contaminated water resources.
The lack of clean water leads to diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio, which results in over 1000 deaths a day. Simavi is a non-profit organisation tackling water, sanitation and health challenges to stop preventable diseases, reduce mortality rates and boost social and economic development. You can support them by donating below.
Moderation is the last thing on people’s minds at Christmas. Shopping, travelling and eating reach peak levels – putting pressure on our planet. Even Santa poses a problem. If you don’t believe in flying reindeers, that sleigh must be rocket-fuelled to reach the supersonic speeds needed to travel around the world to visit hundreds of millions of children in just one night using conventional engineering.
The example goes to show just how many presents we buy and send each Christmas – creating problems with packaging and transport. And as the population increases, so does the pile of presents. To get round this, presents have got smaller and virtual gifts such as an experience day have risen in popularity.
This has an added benefit of reducing packaging and transport problems. But virtual presents have a carbon footprint too. Electronic downloads still have an impact, as data has to be stored and transferred, using energy. So everything we buy has some impact, even through the electronic process of buying.
So how can we have a greener, more sustainable but generous Christmas? Here are five gold circular things!
The amount of food wasted at Christmas has a massive carbon (and water) footprint. Using less and storing excess in a winter wonderland – your freezer – is a great way to avoid waste. If leftover food doesn’t go in the freezer, cooked turkey and vegetables will keep for up to three days in the fridge.
However, not producing excess in the first place is the best way to avoid waste. Portion size is a big part of this and so is cooking things you actually like. Just because something is traditional does not make it compulsory. For instance, sprouts can be very controversial – so, if you don’t like them, skip them. You could also try an alternative to the traditional meat option, such as a nut roast. Vegetarian and vegan choices at the Christmas dinner table can massively cut the impact of your Christmas.
Lower the impact of gifts through choices of paper and packaging. A lot of seasonal wrapping is non-recyclable as it is coated in plastic. This is concerning as plastic tends to spread everywhere – it has even been detected at the North Pole. A better approach would be to use wrapping paper made entirely out of paper. Gift bags are another great option – they can be reused and therefore help cut a massive amount of waste.
You can give twice if you buy your presents second hand from charity shops – supporting worthwhile projects while also reducing consumption. You can also buy locally produced goods and support your local economy. Buying second hand potentially halves the carbon footprint.
A typical T-shirt alone has a footprint of around 8.77kg of carbon dioxide and 2700 litres of water. If 1% of the 55.6m people in England alone bought just one second-hand T-shirt instead of a new one, they would be saving around 4.9m tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of driving 1,049 passenger cars for a year, and a whopping 1.5 billion litres of water.
Christmas decorations and fashion are basically the same every year. So celebrate your Christmas collection and reuse it, over and over again. It is a tragedy that only one in four Christmas jumpers are ever reused. According to the Carbon Trust, an artificial tree needs to be used around 10 times to have an equivalent footprint as its real counterpart.
There are few holidays that are so focused on being caring, helpful and generous as Christmas. So celebrate this and try to avoid buying unnecessary stuff that people don’t want anyway. Donations and acts of kindness really lighten the load on that sleigh. A colleague once bought me a toilet for a family in Sierra Leone. No wrapping, no plastic: the best present ever – and Santa didn’t have to lift a finger!
➡️Another gift idea to make your Christmas more sustainable might be to donate to Cool Earth, a high-impact organization that we thoroughly vetted.
Cool Earth is not only an offset scheme. It provides grant funding to rainforest communities, supporting community work in rainforest protection and ensures their voice is heard in agreements about the future of the rainforests.
You too can help to save our planet. A more liveable Earth is just a click away 👇