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Articles how to make simple changes towards an eco-friendly lifestyle? Have you wondered where to buy your organic food and goods locally? Or how to be more energy efficient? Do you know what is recyclable in Belgium? We do - or we know someone who does! This site is intended to be an information rescource and focal point for ecologically minded people living in and around Brussels. Please revisit the site often, because we update it on a regular basis. http://sunbeams.eu Sat, 25 Mar 2017 17:27:12 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Biodiversity and Children http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/223-biodiversity-and-children http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/223-biodiversity-and-children Biodiversity and Children

What could be more rewarding than spending some time with your children observing life in your garden (or even your balcony or park)? Whether it is planting some seeds and watching them grow into veggies, or watching butterflies visit a flower and roll out their long “straw” to drink nectar, if you just take the time, your garden will give your children a moment of internal quietness while they witness amazing buzzing activity.

Before you start, try to make enough free time in order to enjoy nature’s activities with the family. With a bit of patience and flexibility, you can involve even small kids in the preparation phase and pick and choose your favourite activities:

1. Give your children their own little plot of land or their own plant container. Ownership is important here! No mum/dad or big sibling needs to interfere in the young child’s personal approach when it comes to gardening! A little freedom can create miracles (be prepared to bite your tongue if it does not look pretty or neat)!

2. Find some easy, fast-growing plant seeds which the children can also enjoy, such as giant sunflowers (they grow taller than dad), sweet peas (nice to harvest and eat right away) or the edible nasturtium (the tall growing 3-4m ones). Make it into a routine to check the process daily and talk the waiting time away with stories and riddle games about nature and by looking at nature books...

3. Small-sized garden tools and little gloves can make it into a special moment, working alongside mum or dad!

4. Planting indigenous bushes and flowers which attract butterflies, bumblebees, and bees (see our 4 language-list on our website www.sunbeams.eu) can make your patch of land into a feast for the eyes and nose. You can easily find nature books and websites which can help you and your kids to learn all about local species.

5. Do not forget to leave a patch of land to nature: the host plants for butterfly eggs and larvae are often called “weeds” by humans. Sowing some wild flower seeds in between makes it look very pretty. Leaving some piles of wood and stones will offer shelter for them as well!

6. Making your garden into a haven for birds is very rewarding: shrubs for birds to hide from predators, bushes with berries for their food (go for the local species), a little pond or water area, all of these will make a huge difference. Extra feeding is only necessary in winter time (November-February), but water is always welcome.

7. Hedgehogs and rabbits might visit your garden if you leave a space in and/or under the fence/wall/hedge of your garden for them to pass through.

8. And of course, it is not ideal to use pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides when you have children around. There are many alternatives available: e.g. eco-labelled garden products, homemade potions (internet!), or rediscover some old wisdom by combining the right plants to keep away insects (e.g. permaculture techniques).

9. A little pond with a shallow slope will automatically bring guests and permanent inhabitants: salamanders and frogs will find their way to your garden (do not get eggs from other places as these might bring with them the wrong bacteria for your local amphibians), and all kinds of dragonflies will become regular visitors!

10. Planting a domestic tree is a lovely thing to do with kids (local species can be found on our website in several languages)! Make sure you plant them in the right season (October to March) and that you find the right spot for them to grow big!

11. Last but not least: composting. There is no better educational process to observe with your children: the complete cycle! Involve your children in composting your kitchen waste, putting it into the right bin, bringing it outside in a little bucket, adding the right green and brown layers, maybe some more water or cardboard and watching the worms do all the work. Then, finally to end the cycle, add the compost to their little garden to make their next season seeds grow tall....

Enjoy!

If you want to know more about what you can do for biodiversity take a look at the special page on our website www.sunbeams.eu or at the suggested activities with children on this page.

The Sunbeams Team

A few nice addresses:

    • Toy shops such as e.g. Nature et Découvertes (www.natureetdecouvertes.be)Woluwe Shopping Centre, City 2 and Esplanade in Louvain-la-Neuve) and Lokilino (Tervuren) offer many ideas for nature activities;
    • Webshop of Vivara (www.vivara.be) gives a commission fee to nature organisations like Natuurpunt (www.natuurpunt.be ) and Vogelbescherming (www.vogelbescherming.be );
    • Some English bookshops have a good selection of nature books for kids, e.g. Treasure Trove (Tervuren).

Activities with kids:

www.naturalsciences.be: Many activities for the whole family including an exhibition on biodiversity in the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

 

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Articles Thu, 28 Jun 2012 19:11:39 +0000
Nature’s Helping Hand http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/222-nature’s-helping-hand http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/222-nature’s-helping-hand Nature’s Helping Hand

Summertime is here! Before you head off to your summer destination, you can plan ahead with some help from nature. Don’t let minor stings and aches spoil your travel fun! Put together a natural first aid kit so you are prepared for the unexpected.

When traveling, it’s always easier to have things close by and avoid the emergency scramble to find things and/or communicate your needs in a foreign language.  All it takes is a few trips to an organic store and a pharmacy to take care of the essentials. 

So what are some emergency essentials to keep on hand?  The Belgian Red Cross has a First Aid kit available for around 20 euros and contains all the basics including bandages, an emergency thermal wrap, etc.  In addition, here are some natural remedies (in alphabetical order) to get you started.

Arnica – a tube in gel or cream form of this is useful for any trauma – but do not use on open wounds.  Arnica also comes in oil form which you can use on sore and strained muscles.  Try arnica in homeopathic form for internal use to minimize trauma.  

Aloe Vera – the gel of this plant is great for sunburns and skin irritations.

Calendula – available in many forms including cream, this plant has soothing, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties often used for healing wounds and burns.  Many baby creams and oils contain calendula to help skin irritations.

Charcoal – look for this at a bio store and get the activated charcoal variety. This is a highly absorbent powder that is great for stomach ailments including diarrhea. It comes in powder, granular or capsule form (easiest when traveling). 

Clay – Bring along a tube of ready-to-use green clay paste made from raw illite clay which can be used for clay packs and compresses in case of bone or muscle damage.

Essential oil-based insect repellant – make your own or buy one of the ready-prepared mixes that include essential oils like lemongrass, peppermint, cedar, geranium, or rosemary.

Natural eye drops made from euphrasia are useful for long flights. They come in handy, single-use tubes.

Ginger – with anti-spasmodic properties, ginger capsules are especially useful for motion sickness.  Keep on hand for car or sea sickness.  Another easy way to bring it with you is in tea bag form.  You can also try specially formulated wrist bands that use acupressure to soothe stomach upsets.

Homeopathic remedies – head over to a specialist pharmacy like Debrus-Tensi near Montgomery for some tubes to help with common problems like runny nose, fever, stings, and overindulgence. You can also get homeopathic bug bite ointments.

Oregano – another plant with anti-bacterial properties that comes in capsule form, oregano is useful at the onset of a cold or sore throat.  Pranarom has a whole line of essential oil formulas that come in capsule or spray form for easy transport and storage.

Other essential oils that come in handy include lavender and tea tree oil.  Lavender is easy to use directly on the skin (test a small area first to ensure there are no allergies) and helps with burns and wounds.  It’s also good for relaxing and for easing headaches.  Both lavender and tea tree take the swelling and itch out of mosquito bites. Tea tree has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties.

Rescue Remedy - Bach flower remedies for calming all kinds of emotions like anger, grief, and fear are also handy to have. There is also a specific night time formula to help with sleeplessness.

Keep all of the above in a safe place – you can get creative and store them all in a recycled cookie tin or lunch box, and remember to include some padding for the glass bottles so the contents stay safe for traveling.

Happy travels!

 

Nüket is a coach with a holistic approach to living a healthy and fulfilling life.  She lives in Brussels and works with individuals and companies, supporting them in making positive changes. Helping to create lifestyles and environments that are more balanced and healthy are her passion!  If you would like more information, or a free sample session, contact her by email at nuketveral@globalwellbeing.org

 

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Articles Thu, 28 Jun 2012 19:01:44 +0000
Mobility with Kids http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/221-mobility-with-kids http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/221-mobility-with-kids Mobility with Kids

I live less than 300 metres from a large grocery shopping complex.  Due to my lack of a driver's license, this proximity to the shops was of primary concern when we chose our house (right behind price!).  Yet shortly after moving in, I realised that my dream of popping up at the shops to do the weekly re-stocking of groceries had turned into a nightmare for one reason - the kids. 

In my dream, I had never bothered to work out the seemingly impossible logistics of transporting three small children (at the time, all under 5), four large bags of shopping and my own, increasingly lagging morale, for 300 metres.  What had initially seemed a hop, skip and jump from the house was suddenly more daunting than a marathon.  Finally, after yet another epic excursion with me trying in vain to strap babies to my body, toddler in pushchair, bags of groceries to said pushchair and still have a hand free to escort the five-year-old across the road, I decided to take action.  With persistence, I came up with three possible solutions: the bike trailer, the bike wagon (bakfiets in Dutch) or a Radio Flyer-type pull wagon.

A bike trailer is a sort of cart that can be attached to nearly any standard adult bike.  Most trailers can fit a maximum of two children and have a small "boot" area in the rear.   Some models can be transformed into a three-wheeled pushchair as well, albeit a large and cumbersome one.  Bike trailers have several advantages: they are reasonably priced (a dedicated eBay search can find new models costing around 200 euro including transport), they are (usually) easily removed from your bike when you aren't bringing the kids for a ride, they are a convenient method of transporting more than one child at a time and they are remarkably stable.  Bike trailers are built so that even if the bike tips over, the trailer stays upright.  They also provide shelter from the elements for the children - but unfortunately not the cyclist!  Finally, they can be used with very young babies, provided you install a proper baby seat.  Some models will accommodate a Maxi-Cosi-type seat, but there is usually room for only one of these.  A more practical option is the baby-seat designed for cycling with a trailer.  These are very popular in The Netherlands where they are called a "babyschaal" and common brands include the Melia, Weber and Chariot.  Several online shops offer transport to Belgium.

However, there are some other considerations when deciding on a bike trailer.  First, make sure the model you choose will fit through any doors you will need to pass through to get it from where you are storing it to the street!   Even with the wheel guards removed, a bike trailer is wider than most things you are likely to try getting out of the front door.  You will also want to make sure you have adequate space to store it; unlike a collapsible buggy, once it is constructed, you are unlikely to want to completely dismantle the contraption after each use.  You will likely also want a basket and saddle bags for your bike; the "boot" space in a trailer is far from spacious.  Safety is another concern.  Although trailers are stable, they do "trail" behind the bike and the not-so-vigilant driver might not notice their presence.  The best way to mitigate this is to attach a flag to the trailer and to swallow your pride and just walk the thing across the zebra crossing.  And of course, strap a helmet on yourself and your passengers.  Finally, even the lightest bike trailer can become agonisingly heavy when loaded with kilos of toddler, baby, shopping, nappy bag, etc.  If you are serious about doing the shopping with a bike trailer, and you aren't in the running for “World's Strongest Parent,” make sure your bike has gears.  And as you sweat your way up the hill, remind yourself how much money you are saving on gym memberships!

A bike wagon attached to the front of an adult bike is one way to avoid the risk of drivers not noticing the children they are dragging around.  Most drivers are bound to see it coming, especially if you have invested in one of the attractive pioneer-style canopies to protect your urchins from the meteorological elements.  But investment is the key word here.  These wagons do not come cheap - expect to pay at least 500 euro.  And because they are not as easily removed from the bike as a trailer, if you want to do any cycling without the wagon, you're going to need a second bike.  Due to their impressive size, locking them up can be a logistical challenge.  However, for all that, they ooze old-world charm.  And you'd be hard-pressed to find a kid that didn't want a ride.

For those not inspired to join the "peloton" of urban-chic cyclist mommies, why not try a simple pull wagon?  Sure, they can be a little large and unwieldy, but imagine the fun of trekking out to the shops with the kids able to hop in and out as often as their little hearts desire (or as often as mommy feels inclined to stop and wait for them to clamber in/out, again).  And unlike the tipsy pushchair, you don't need to worry that your hoard of groceries (or whatever) is going to cause Junior to do a backflip the second you let go of the handlebars.  Again, you're going to need space to store it, and it isn't the most practical option for the baby who can't sit unaided, but for those of us with toddlers and pre-schoolers ,it can add a dash of sanity to the chaos that is shopping with children.

In the end, I chose a bike trailer and invested in two special seats: one for the newborn baby (Melia Babyschaal 0-8 months) and one for the toddler (Melia Babyschaal 8-18 months).  The seats were a pain to install, but once in, were sturdy and, what with their faux-sheepskin coverings, provided the itsy-bitsies with luxurious first-class travelling quarters.  I use the trailer for nearly all distances under 6 km and within six months it had paid for itself with money saved on tram and bus tickets.  And the best bit: I didn't feel guilty about that bar of chocolate - surely I'd earned it! 


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Articles Thu, 28 Jun 2012 18:59:07 +0000
Forêt de Soignes Tree Planting Event - March 2012 http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/220-forêt-de-soignes-tree-planting-event http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/220-forêt-de-soignes-tree-planting-event Forêt de Soignes Tree Planting Event - March 2012

We are happy to report that our tree planting in  the Forêt de Soignes / Zoniënwoud on 18 March was a complete success. More than 500 of you joined us and planted nearly 2,500 trees! Our heartfelt thanks to all you who came along or contributed. You can browse though some pictures of the event in our online album.

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Articles Sun, 03 Jun 2012 18:53:57 +0000
It’s springtime! Lighten your load! http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/219-it’s-springtime-lighten-your-load http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/219-it’s-springtime-lighten-your-load It’s springtime! Lighten your load!

It's springtime! Nature is waking up – blossoming with growth and rejuvenation. We too are part of nature and springtime is detox time for us humans! There are plenty of solutions in nature to help us rejuvenate.”

 

In traditional Chinese medicine, spring is associated with the liver and the gall bladder. Both of these organs work together as blood cleansers, and have probably been working hard these last few months. In winter, we typically have heavier foods, move less and have fewer fresh vegetables and fruits. As a result, it’s easier to accumulate toxins. As we transition to warmer weather, we can help our bodies clean out the liver and the gallbladder so they can function at their maximum potential.

Liver dysfunction is the root of a lot of diseases. The symptoms of a sluggish liver can include many things such as chronic fatigue, increased irritability, skin problems, and digestive issues, amongst others.

Here are some easy ways to lighten your load:
• First thing in the morning, drink some freshly-squeezed lemon juice (1-2 tablespoons) in warm water to encourage detoxification.
• Remember to stay hydrated all day by drinking more water than you normally do to help flush toxins (6-8 glasses of spring water is ideal).
• Eat clean, high-quality food – including organic vegetables, grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, wild-caught fish, and good fats like olive and coconut.
• Eliminate processed foods as much as possible. Stick to whole foods to increase nutrition and minimize toxins.
• Incorporate detox-specific foods into your diet. Beetroot, apples, carrots, garlic, onions and artichokes are some of your liver’s best friends. They help get rid of toxins, have antioxidant properties and can even help in the elimination of heavy metals.
• Increase movement to get your lymph moving which moves the toxins out of your body. Toxins are released through body fluids so move and make a cleansing sweat.
• Another important way to move toxins out is through breathing – make time for deep cleansing breaths throughout the day.


Spring really is the perfect time of the year for cleaning. Detoxification means cleaning our bodies from the inside out. Feel lighter and have more energy in time for the warmer weather so you can make the most of your time outdoors and of your coming summer vacation. Your body will thank you for it!

Nüket is a coach with a holistic approach to living a healthy and fulfilling life. She lives in Brussels and works with individuals and companies, supporting them in making positive changes to create lifestyles and environments that are more balanced and healthy. If you would like more information, or a free sample session, contact her by email at nuketveral@globalwellbeing.org

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Articles Sun, 29 Apr 2012 14:07:15 +0000
Early spring vegetables: to eat or not to eat? http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/218-early-spring-vegetables-eat-or-not-to-eat? http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/218-early-spring-vegetables-eat-or-not-to-eat? Early spring vegetables: to eat or not to eat?

Early spring vegetables feed our eyes with vivid colours, provide us with vitamins and minerals and revive our pallet with crisp, tasty choices. Popping up in grocery stores and markets, they are calling out to be bitten into. Flavourful and juicy, they’re a long-awaited change to the root vegetables available during endless winter months. Especially because at the beginning of spring, our bodies crave for a vitamin boost and a bit of variety in our everyday diets. But are the early spring vegetables really so healthy?

Chemical fertilisers - Mendeleev's table

Unfortunately, despite their beautiful colours and memorable fresh taste, the early spring vegetables may contain many chemicals which stimulate their growth and artificially enhance their healthy fresh appearance. Early vegetables are usually not grown in natural conditions, they lack sunshine and therefore, need to be heavily fertilised. Many of them contain harmful compounds - nitrates, nitrites, lead (found especially in vegetables grown near traffic) and pesticides.

Many common vegetables such as celery, radishes or beetroot contain nitrates, but the real problem occurs when the nitrogenous substances are artificially accumulated in vegetables. When fertilised, plants don’t absorb as much nitrates as they need, but as much as they get. These substances are not hazardous to the plants themselves, but in humans, they can be converted to nitrites and then to cancer-causing compounds called nitrosamines.

Everything in moderation

Despite some disadvantages, don’t avoid eating early spring vegetables! They’re full of vitamins and minerals; they give us the foretaste of summer and improve our mood. Even just a variety of colours on your plate will make you feel so much better. If you buy your vegetables from an unknown source, you should fear the harmful consequences of chemical substances only after eating large quantities. A spring vegetables salad once in a while will do no harm to our health. Moderation is the key - have a balanced diet and consider early vegetables as a nice and healthy addition to your spring meals. Eating vegetables is so much better than not eating them at all, just make smart choices - be aware of what you buy, where you buy and how you store.

What are the smart choices?

1. Go organic! Organic vegetables are free from artificial fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Organic crops are subject to careful control from fertilisation to growing, right up to packaging and labeling. Organic vegetables are predominantly more expensive, but it’s a choice worth considering...

2. Grow your own...if you’re lucky enough to have a garden. The best would be a small piece of land located at least 100 metres from a busy road. Besides, growing your own vegetables equals not only chemical-free salad, but also a lot of fun!

3. If you’re unfortunate enough to live somewhere in the city centre, you can still have a small garden on your window sill. Cress, chives and even radish can be easily grown in pots. Those plants don’t require too much care; they just need sufficient sunlight and frequent watering.

Some tips for buying and storing

If you have no means to grow your own vegetables, here are some tips that you can follow when buying them.

1. Carefully choose your vegetables. They should be fresh-looking with no signs of mildew. Smell the vegetables before purchasing. Obviously, they will never smell as intense as those picked in the middle of summer, but they should have a nice, delicate aroma.

Root vegetables like radishes or carrots should be firm and smooth and have intact greens. Unless they are organic, avoid the temptation of buying overgrown radishes - large and shiny ones probably received a lot of chemicals during intensive fertilisation. Lettuce should have green leaves and be crisp - if you see any evidence of decay or discolouration, better not buy it. Good-quality spring onions have green, crisp tops and white necks, avoid the ones that are yellow or wilted.

2. Proper storage is important. Don’t keep your vegetables in plastic bags, they accumulate the moisture and accelerate the conversion of nitrate to harmful nitrite. Wash the vegetables thoroughly before eating - lukewarm water will help remove some of the harmful chemical substances. Lettuce and spinach should be washed and dried before being stored inside the refrigerator, this will remove excess moisture.

Are you craving for a mouthwatering spring recipe? Try these Smoked Salmon Spring Pots - easy to make and absolutely delicious!

Ingredients:
- 6 thin slices smoked salmon (about 140g) (preferably wild Alaskan salmon which doesn’t have chemicals found in farm-raised varieties)
- 150g cream cheese
- 3-4 radishes, grated (about 60g)
- 2 spring onions, chopped (about 40g)
- 1 tablespoon of dill, chopped (about 8g)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons cream
- watercress for decoration

Directions:
1. Line each cup of the muffin tray with cling ?lm, press it inside until it sticks to the sides of the cup. Line each cup with one slice of salmon, press the salmon inside.
2. Prepare the cream cheese. Mix the cheese, the lemon juice, the cream, the dill, the chives and the radishes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3. Fill the muffin cups with the cream cheese. Fold overhanging salmon and press down lightly to compact the filling. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
4. Remove the pots from the muffin tray using the edges of the cling ?lm. Place them upside down on a plate. Make a small cut in the middle of each pot and decorate it with the watercress, some ground pepper and olive oil.

Cooking Tip: if you don’t have muffin tray, try using coffee cups.

You can find more healthy recipes at http://www.midnightspoon.com


Magdalena Wawrzonkowska

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Articles Sun, 29 Apr 2012 14:54:22 +0000
You, Me, and Biodiversity http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/217-you-me-and-biodiversity http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/217-you-me-and-biodiversity You, Me, and Biodiversity

We humans are not an isolated species. Due to globalization, industrialization, and our number, we have an enormous impact on this planet. All the things we do and those we choose not to, have repercussions on the world we live in.

Interconnected

If we each started practicing a no-impact lifestyle today, without electricity, shops, or technology; if we just picked and ate berries and only used hand-made tools, one can argue that the planet would not be able support the current population. However, the opposite is certainly true. The planet cannot sustain every individual living an average Western lifestyle.

Ecosystems are neither static, nor isolated entities. Relationships between animals, humans, and plants are radically intertwined. If bees become extinct tomorrow, our main pollinators would disappear, and the effects on our food supply would be devastating. Ecosystems are delicate. Like houses made of playing cards, they collapse when a single card is removed.

Changes in ecosystems, caused by man or nature, can both have positive or negative results. An article in the National Geographic issue of March 2010, illustrated this well. Wolves were reintroduced to Yellow Stone National Park in the mid-90s after a fifty-year absence. The result: a change in the park’s entire appearance and cycle of life and a return to a richer bio-diverse ecosystem. The park’s rivers, fish, shrubs, trees, and its small and big mammals all went through a metamorphosis as a result of one single change in the jigsaw puzzle. It is a powerful example of the interconnectedness of all living things.

Our role: a choice to make

Throughout history, species have been coming and going even before mankind emerged on the scene. We, as human beings, are not the sole factors affecting evolutionary change; however, it is undeniable that we are mainly responsible for species’ and ecosystems’ disappearance at an alarmingly accelerated rate during the last decennia. We do have a crucial role to play.

We can start making a difference through our daily choices as consumers and producers. We can continue destroying ancient forests by buying paper tissues for nose-blowing, or we can find ecologically-sound alternatives to do the same job. We can try to control species by genetically altering them for disease/pest resistance, or we can place our trust in biodiversity and follow more natural solutions- like permaculture or integrated pest control management - when growing our food. We can support monocultures and their ecosystem consequences, or we can incorporate livestock and interplant species and rediscover “forgotten species” of vegetables and fruits, thus encouraging biodiversity. We can continue buying, believing there are no consequences for our actions, or we can reduce and change our consumption and start repairing, pre-cycling, recycling, and reusing things.

Why contribute to biodiversity?

There are many reasons to promote biodiversity. There are ethical reasons (our duty to the next generations), ecological reasons (protecting fragile ecosystems of which we are part of), economical reasons (we depend upon natural resources) and emotional reasons (preservation of endangered species like the polar bears). Whatever motives, there is one overall reason we must bear in mind: no one knows exactly what the consequences are when one piece of the domino set-up in our ecosystems is removed. No one knows when the tipping point will be reached that will cause irreversible changes for humankind.

Why not cherish the planet? Pay it respect through your actions. Take small steps to make changes in behaviour which can lead to positive consequences. Why wait? There is still hope left, if we all start today.

What can we do?

As consumers, we can become aware of the story behind the items we purchase. Increased research provides us with knowledge of the implications of the lifetime cycle of a product: the materials used and waste generated in production, the transportation distance and energy needed before the product ends up in the shop, as well as the ethical standards adhered to throughout the production process. We can keep ourselves informed.
Whether you are a child, a student, or an adult, you can make a difference and help turn the tide. All changes cannot be accomplished overnight; however, you can start today by taking small steps, one at a time. Looking at organic, fair trade and energy usage labels is a good start. You can choose clean and renewable energy at home. You can find products with strict eco-labels that respect your body, home, and garden. You can use green dry-cleaning. These are all available in Belgium. Not all changes are difficult: you can eliminate junk mail by placing a sticker on your mail box and use reusable mugs and cutlery when not at home. Nor do they have to be expensive: you can switch your diet to more local, fresh, and organic food, buy in bulk, and reduce the meat on your plate. Take on the challenge. Preserve and cherish our planet’s rich biodiversity on which we all depend on.

Links
http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-stuff/ : this animated video provides very accessible information on the impact of the production and consumption-oriented world we are living in;
www.fao.org has many fact sheets and background studies with figures and estimates on developments in biodiversity, especially in relation to food and agriculture;
http://www.belgium.be/en/environment/fauna/index.jsp provides information on who is responsible in the three Belgian regions on aspects of biodiversity;
www.biodiversity.be gives an overview of research and science focusing on biodiversity in Belgium.

- Ilke Pedersen-Beyst

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Articles Sun, 29 Apr 2012 15:48:56 +0000
Increase Your Energy Efficiency - Juice it Up http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/216-increase-your-energy-efficiency-juice-it-up http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/216-increase-your-energy-efficiency-juice-it-up Increase Your Energy Efficiency - Juice it Up

As my days get busier and time seems to get shorter, I decided to start the new year with a plan to simplify my life and do things more efficiently.   I finally got myself signed up for delivery of organic veggies (thank you, Reason2.be!) and wonder why I didn’t start earlier.      Every week, I receive a box of fresh organic produce delivered straight to my door.   I no longer have to make a few trips a week to get my shopping done; hoping that the ingredient I am looking for is in stock, fresh and available in the quantity I’m looking for.  I’m saving time, gas and shopping stress (yes, there is such a thing)!

 

An added side benefit to all of this is that eating healthy has gotten easier and more efficient as well.  Since the deliveries began, I’ve found it easier to plan out our meals.  I’ve also been juicing more regularly because it’s so much easier when I have all the ingredients on hand – no more excuses!  And, when there are a few veggies or fruits left over that I can’t seem to fit into a meal, I just toss them into the juice!

So I now have a new daily habit of juicing and drinking a delicious and healthy vegetable juice with fresh, organic ingredients.

Juicing, like a lot of things in life, can be simple with a little planning.  Apart from getting a juicer, if you don’t already have one, it really can be quite easy.  Here are some tips to making it a fun and more common happening in your home.

Juicing prep

  • Buy enough veggies for juicing to last the week.
  • Keep it simple and seasonal with the ingredients – you don’t necessarily need a new combination for every day of the week.  Two recipes for the week will keep it interesting.
  • For vegetables that store well, wash them up once in the week and put them in containers or bags – one for each day. 
  • Keep your juicer outside your cupboard so you have an inviting juicing station (out of sight means out of mind).
  • In the morning or whenever you want to juice, grab a container and start juicing!
  • Kids love to help  - my daughter is a great juicer assistant, pushing down the vegetables, and even daring to try different combinations of ingredients until we find one that works for her.

Getting the most out of your juice

  • If you want to make some for later in the day, keep in mind that juice oxidizes very quickly so make sure to store them properly in containers that are filled to the top and air tight, shielded from light and stored in the refrigerator.  I use an extra large thermos. You can also try canning jars.
  • Use the pulp as additional fiber in your dishes, as mix to pet food or as compost.

Clean up

I have to admit, when people say “Cleaning the juicer is a pain!” I get it.  But I’ve found there is a way to make it easier!!  

  • After I make the juice, I first sit down and enjoy my juice, savoring the flavor and marveling at whatever new combination I’ve come up with for the day.  
  • Once I’m done with drinking, I wash the juicer immediately after I use it.  It takes just a couple of minutes and then it’s done, drying and ready to go for the next day. 

Why is raw juice so good for you?

  • Juice provides concentrated vitamins, mineral and anti-oxidants.
  • Juice provides easily digestible nutrients.  Juicing extracts the liquid nutrition and leaves behind the pulp (fiber). (Not to say that fiber is something to avoid – your body needs fiber – juicing just provides a way to get a lot of nutrients in a very digestible form).
  • Juicing is an easy way to consume a lot of vegetables that would otherwise be difficult to eat.  
  • The nutrients are intact and haven’t been altered by heat and oxidation.  
  • Juicing gives you the life-force of the plants! 
  • Juicing helps to suppress appetite as it gives real nutrition and helps reduce cravings.
  • Drinking fresh juice is alkalizing for the body, helping keep your body and immune system strong.

What can I juice?

  • You can juice lots of different things.  To get real health benefits, the best juice is made primarily from vegetables.  
  • The idea is to get the benefits of the vegetables and limit the sugar intake from fruits.  One apple or pear for example is a good option if your juice is really green and you want to smooth it out a bit (carrots and beets also have high sugar so keep their amounts down in your juice combinations).
  • Lemons and limes give juice a nice zing and just a bit can make a big difference.
  • Some juicing basics include a few celery stalks, 1-2 carrots, ½ beet, ½ cucumber, 1-2 cm of ginger root, and a handful of parsley or spinach.  
  • Check out http://www.living-foods.com/recipes/juicerecipes.html for 20 simple juice recipes. 

Nüket is a coach and health consultant with a holistic approach to living a healthy and fulfilling life.  She lives in Brussels and works with individuals and companies, supporting them in making positive changes to create lifestyles and environments that are more balanced and healthy.  If you would like more information, or a free sample session to experience coaching and determine if it’s right for you, contact her by email at nuketveral@globalwellbeing.org

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Articles Mon, 13 Feb 2012 19:54:53 +0000
Ecover. Eco-who? http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/215-ecover-eco-who? http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/215-ecover-eco-who? Ecover. Eco-who?

Let’s face it: keeping your home clean is a chore. But, while we cannot avoid our household duties, we can avoid using conventional cleaning products that can be harmful to Mother Nature and our health. You can always opt for do-it-yourself cleaning products but if you are looking for eco-friendly commercial products, look no further than Ecover.

 

In fact, you may have already seen their products, which range from washing-up liquid to room fragrances, since they are widely available in Belgian stores and supermarkets. At some points of sale, you can even bring your old bottle or container and have it refilled. Some customers claim to have used their bottle over years and even decades. I have been using several of their products to great satisfaction. And if you’re worried about having to sacrifice performance when buying green, here’s what CEO Mike Bremans has to say: “We just wanted to make ecological products that happened to clean. Now we make cleaning products that happen to be green.” But let’s look at the origin of the “world’s most well-known brand of sustainable household-cleaning products.”

In 1979, Frans Bogaerts, an out-of-work soap salesman, started his enterprise in his barn in Malle in Northern Belgium (does Westmalle ring a bell?). Environmental concerns were getting traction in society and Bogaerts saw what traditional cleaning products did when dumped mindlessly into rivers. The main villain here is phosphate, which boosts algae growth and eutrophication. Ecover’s first products, a washing powder and a dishwashing agent, were the first in Europe to use plant-based and mineral ingredients instead of phosphate, but they could only be bought in specialty shops back then. Bogaerts persisted and eventually sold his enterprise in 1992. He died in August 2011 at the age of 76.

Today, Bogaerts’ barn is one of the greenest factories overall with a 6,000 m2 grass roof, no central heating and no air-conditioning. The company won several awards and even made it to Time Magazine’s 2008 list of environment heroes. However, Ecover also faces criticism, e.g. for its cleaning performance (that’s because they don’t use optical brighteners) and for ‘lack of evidence’ for some of its green claims (read more at The Guardian).

We do encourage you to give Ecover products a whirl and see for yourself if they work for you. They provide a lot of information on their website, even on production methods or staff transport. And why not sign up for their newsletter while you’re at it? Ecover will plant 50,000 m2 of forest for 50,000 subscriptions.

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Articles Mon, 13 Feb 2012 19:51:10 +0000
Keep Your Joules - 15 Tips to Help You Save Energy http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/214-keep-your-joules-15-tips-to-help-you-save-energy http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/information/our-articles/item/214-keep-your-joules-15-tips-to-help-you-save-energy Keep Your Joules - 15 Tips to Help You Save Energy

There are plenty of good reasons you should reduce your, and your household’s, energy intake: to save money, to lessen your dependence on the grid, to help planet Earth. Whether the motivation is economic, environmental or just plain experimental, there are numerous ways to achieve this goal. Energy-reducing tactics can be applied to your use of electricity, water, heating and cooling systems, as well as to your driving habits and food intake. While there are many avenues for diminishing your joule-dependence, let me give you 15 relatively easy tips to help get you on your way!

  1.  Replace the light bulbs in your home and office with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). CFLs not only use less energy (one third to one fifth of that of an incandescent bulb) but they also have a longer life expectancy! This straightforward method can save you up to 75% on lighting costs. CFLs can be found in most local hardware stores or Brico downtown.
  2. Another very simple way to reduce your electrical energy intake is to turn off unnecessary lighting and use task or desktop lamps with CFLs instead of overhead lights.
  3. Unplug all the electronics, battery chargers and other equipment when they are not in use. Taken together, these small items can use as much power as your refrigerator.
  4. Enable "power management" on all your home and office computers and make sure to turn them off at night (computers still use energy in sleep mode). Additionally, a laptop uses up to 90% less energy than bigger desktop models, so I guess it is time to think about getting that new Mac Book Pro! On a related note: if you’re still using screensavers, stop! They provide no benefit for LCD screens, and they use up your precious joules.
  5. When it is possible, wash your clothes in cold water rather than warm or hot. Approximately 90% of the energy used in a clothes washer goes to water heating.
  6. Reduce heat and air leaks in your home. The biggest utility expense for most households is heating, so reducing how much heat leaves the house is key to lowering this cost. Here is a fun way to do it! On a windy day, carefully hold a lit incense stick next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electri­cal outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and other places where air may leak. If the smoke stream trav­els horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing, or weather-stripping.
  7. You know those times when you run the tap to get the water hot enough? Well, instead of letting that water and cents flow down the drain, put a jug under the tap and collect the water. Once the water is hot, remove the jug and go give your indoor plants a drink (plants usually prefer lukewarm to warm water anyway so they will be happy with this idea).
  8. When getting ready to drive on a cold day, avoid idling. Think about it—idling gets you 0 miles per gallon. The best way to warm up a vehicle is to drive it. No more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days is needed. Anything more will simply waste fuel and increases emissions.
  9. When you are in the kitchen, make energy-efficient cooking choices by using small appliances, such as the toaster oven, electric skillet or slow cooker for specialized jobs. Quite simply- small appliances use less energy.
  10. This tip is only for those households with a very effective dishwasher- skip rinsing the dishes! Rinsing dishes before loading them into the dishwasher only wastes energy. For those of us with less than desirable dishwashing machines, just rinse with cold water instead of warm or hot.
  11. Put a lid on it! Another crafty kitchen technique to reduce energy use is to cook food and boil water in a covered container whenever possible. This traps the heat inside and requires less energy.
  12. Turn off the water when you are brushing your teeth or shaving, especially if it is warm water.
  13. Don't use the toilet as a wastebasket or ashtray - water is wasted every time you flush.
  14. One way to reduce your energy footprint on a global scale is to be diligent about recycling all your newspapers, cans, bottles, plastics, cardboard and other materials. It takes a lot of energy to make new containers, paper products and packaging so let’s all try and make sure we are not being lazy about using the green, blue and yellow bags!
  15. And here is the last one. It is a little controversial but I think will make all the Sunbeams readers feel good! Rely on online news sources rather than printed newspapers or magazines. It takes a lot of energy to make the paper, print and deliver these publications to your door.
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Articles Mon, 13 Feb 2012 13:11:18 +0000