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Sunbeams - take a small step
take a small step

Small Steps (11)

Treehugger tells the story of a 9-year-old boy who helped save thousands of liters of water with a school project:

Planning a party? Don't want to deal with heavy china or glass? Why not try eco-cups next time? Whatever the occasion of your festivity, eco-cups can be a cool and green alternative. They come in various shapes and sizes and are a nice way of making your party more sustainable. The Brussels Environment Institute has 10.000 eco-cups in stock to lend for any event taking place in the Brussels-Capital region. The price is 6 cents a piece, which includes cleaning afterwards. Make sure to reserve ahead, because demand is apparently high. More information is available online or via telephone (02-8885210).

Working in the kitchen stresses your hands. Having a good hand scrub handy will make it easier for your skin. Here is a very simple recipe from Good Life Eats (check there for US measurements), which only uses sugar, salt, lemon and olive oil. Incidentally, olive oil works great for baby skin, too.

  • 350 ml sugar
  • 170 ml salt
  • zest of 1 extra large lemon (or other citrus)
  • 240 ml olive oil
  • 120 ml pure lemon extract, optional

Just mix everything together and put in jars.

The Bond Beter Leefmilieu (the Flemish umbrella association for a better environment) has an excellent campaign called "klimaatwijken" for citizens to act themselves and meet the European Kyoto goal. Starting each year on 1 November, households can commit themselves to cut 8% of their energy consumption in 6 months time. Participants can get advice of energy masters. For more info have a look at www.klimaatwijken.eu/be

IBGM mailbox stickerAre you coming home and find your mailbox overflowing with supermarket advertising, catalogues and free trying to lure you into spending your money? Not only does it clutter up your mail and seduces you to part with your hard-earned euros, it is also a huge waste of paper and other ressources. There are a few steps you can take to reduce the advertising stampede:

  1. Go to the website of the Brussels Environment Website and have them send you their mailbox sticker (Flanders version here, Walloon version here). It allows you to indicate to the postman and other "suppliers" what exactly you want and do not want in your mailbox. This is an official sticker, which means you can actually launch a complaint when it is ignored. Note that infos from your Commune will still come through since they are not considered "presse gratuite/gratis bladen".
  2. Sign up to the Robinson List. Once you have done this, the 450 or so members of the Belgian Association of Direct Marketing should no longer send you their stuff. By the way, this also works for phone marketing.
  3. Contact the company directly, if there is no other way to make them stop sending you material.
  4. If you get customer publications from your insurance company, supermarket of choice or mobile phone provider, find out if they have an electronic version (mostly a PDF) on their website - one example is Electrabel's Energique magazine. Some communes also post their magazine as a PDF on their website.
  5. For more ideas on how to reduce paper - such as getting invoices by e-mail instead of snail mail - check the "Gestes pratiques" section at IBGM or the Mailbox Zero tips on Good.is.

Many of us are wasting money and energy because we have not set the right temperature for our fridge and/or freezer. The recommended setting is between 5 and  7 °C for the fridge and about -18 °C for the freezer.

Ok, you have started recycling or have stepped up your recycling and reuse of items.  The time has come for the next small step to make change in your environment - Precycling!  Precycling eliminates or reduces the need for recycling or use by consciously preventing waste before it happens.  Simply put - Thinking before consuming.

If you buy your fruit and vegetables from the supermarket or corner shop, it can be difficult to know which of them are in season right now. Season calendars give you an overview of the local seasons of the vegetables and fruit available here in Belgium. They are either in Dutch or French (or both of them), so you'll want to know how what you want to buy is called in Dutch or French (See, you'll increase your language skills along the way!)

You can download one of these season calendar and hang it up in your kitchen: Velt (PDF download) - Brussels Observatory for Sustainable Consumption (PDF download) or the one from Research and Information Center of the Consumer Organisations (PDF download).

Alternatively, you can order a handy hard copy for your handbag (or reusable shopping bag) at the Brussels Environment Institute.

For our list of Organic Food Shops and Markets click here.

If you feel that your expat magazine could need a "green corner" and that it would be nice to have articles such as ours published there, feel free to let us know and we can get in touch with the editors. Our articles can be used freely as long as we can have a reference to our project and website in them. And please inform us where it will be published - that would make us very happy!

Photo by Vlastula on flickr!Did you know that you easily can get a green supplier for your energy in Belgium? Green electricity in Belgium is derived mainly from wind power, but also is generated from bio-gas (from fermentation), bio-mass (burning agricultural waste without releasing CO2), hydraulic power and solar power. Electricity itself cannot be more or less “green”, but using a green supplier makes sure they will invest part of their profits in renewable resources.

If you live in the Brussels Capital Region, have a look at your house seen from the sky with a thermal camera measuring the efficiency of your roof insulation. The Brussels Environment Institute website shows you just how much heat you're wasting... available in Dutch or French. Subsidies for roof insulation are available in all regions of Belgium - learn more in our article on the topic.