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take a small step 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 Sun, 26 Mar 2017 22:45:55 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Small Step: Inspiration for Saving Water http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/196-small-step-inspiration-for-saving-water http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/196-small-step-inspiration-for-saving-water

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

So often there's the sense that only with dramatic change can we bring about a more sustainable world -- but in reality, sometimes all it takes is the imagination of a child. Meet Mason Perez, a 9-year-old from Reno, Nevada, whose science fair project has helped save his community tens of thousands of gallons of water. Two years ago, when he was only seven, the gradeschooler discovered an all-too-common point of waste that had been overlooked by grown-ups there for ages. And, with just one surprisingly simple fix, Mason found a way that the city could conserve one of its most important natural resources. [...]  One day, he was at the a local baseball field enjoying a hot dog with his mother, and afterwards he visited the park's restroom to wash up -- but the water from the faucet was so strong that is was almost too painful for his little hands to bear. That's when he stumbled upon a simple discovery: if the tap was turned down halfway, it was actually just as effective. The youngster began to suspect something which most adults had never thought of -- that reducing water pressure could save a lot of water. [...] "His tests showed savings from 6 to 25 percent. It is common practice for construction workers to leave valves fully open when installing plumbing -- it's important for clearing out new pipes, but evidently unnecessary to stay that way in the long-term" [...] Since 2009, the park has reduced the water pressure in its facilities, saving an untold amount of water and saved 20 percent off their utility bill each month. [...] His project took the top prize at the science fair.

What can you do to save water?

This article was originally published in the July 2011 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

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Small Steps Thu, 14 Jul 2011 19:41:38 +0000
Rent Eco-Cups for Your Next Party http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/184-rent-eco-cups-for-your-next-party http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/184-rent-eco-cups-for-your-next-party

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).

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Small Steps Thu, 05 May 2011 19:56:12 +0000
Make Your Own Kitchen Hand Scrub http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/170-make-your-own-kitchen-hand-scrub http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/170-make-your-own-kitchen-hand-scrub

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.

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Small Steps Thu, 17 Feb 2011 20:44:10 +0000
Roll Your Own Kyoto http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/77-roll-your-own-kyoto http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/77-roll-your-own-kyoto

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

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Small Steps Wed, 07 Apr 2010 14:43:16 +0000
Stop the Advertising Stampede http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/72-stop-the-advertising-stampede http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/72-stop-the-advertising-stampede

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.
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Small Steps Tue, 30 Mar 2010 08:24:18 +0000
Save Money and the Planet with Your Fridge http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/68-save-money-and-the-planet-with-your-fridge http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/68-save-money-and-the-planet-with-your-fridge

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.

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Small Steps Mon, 29 Mar 2010 18:32:16 +0000
Small Step: Precycling http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/46-precycling http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/46-precycling

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.

The easiest steps:

  • Take your own reusable carrier bags with you.  Nest them inside one another to carry easily.  Alternatively, carry a rucksack.
  • When making a purchase that is small, consider placing it in a pocket in your clothing or in a bag, you may already be carrying.
  • Combine as many trips out as possible into one and eliminate the number of times you use your car.  Better: Cycle or Walk.
  • Stop junk mail. In Belgium:  get the “no-publicity” sticker for your mail box at your commune; go to www.1307.be to cancel your phone books (gids/annuaire) ; add your name to the list on www.Robinson.be to avoid advertisement by mail 

Ramping up your steps a notch:

  • Determine if you really need a new item.  Can you share an infrequently used item with family, friends, or neighbors?  Could you advertise to hire the infrequently item out inexpensively to another person.  Could you start a neighborhood exchange club?  Can you buy the item second-hand somewhere?
  • If you do need a particular item, look for minimal packaging and packaging made from a high percentage or recyclable material.  Can you yourself recycle the packaging?  If not, look for alternative packaging.

This article was originally published in the February 2010 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

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Small Steps Thu, 25 Feb 2010 13:45:20 +0000
Start a New Habit: Buy Seasonal Food http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/34-seasonal-food http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/34-seasonal-food

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.

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Small Steps Wed, 24 Mar 2010 19:58:52 +0000
Green Your (Expat) Magazine http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/32-green-your-expat-magazine http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/32-green-your-expat-magazine

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!

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Small Steps Wed, 17 Mar 2010 16:36:13 +0000
Five Steps to Get Green Energy at Your House http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/28-five-steps-to-get-green-energy-at-your-house http://sunbeams.eu/index.php/participate/-take-a-small-step/item/28-five-steps-to-get-green-energy-at-your-house

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.

Did you know that even if the wind does not blow, you will continue to have electricity that may have been generated by wind power in your house? Your green energy derived from alternative sources including wind is put on the general electrical network (not through a little cable leading to your house) until you or other users tap if for use; so in fact, everyone may receive a bit of it!

Did you know that - depending upon your electrical consumption - the current green suppliers mentioned below supply electricity at either a price equal to the mainstream companies or even cheaper? Now that you know, you can take action and change your supplier so that you will keep money in your pocket and help the environment at the same time. Don’t put this article down. Take a few minutes of your time right now to make a positive eco-lifestyle change.

Steps to change your energy supplier

  1. Check which green suppliers are available in your region (www.brugel.be for Brussels; www.cwape.be for Wallonia and www.vreg.be for Flanders). Greenpeace will help you choose with their updated ranking. According to them, the following suppliers are considered today to be the “most green”, because they invest in renewable resources and still provide reliable service: Lampiris for Brussels and Wallonia (call for free at 0800/40123 - apparently, if you choose Dutch they might also address callers in English and help them through the website); Ecopower for Flanders (English speaking persons available when you call 03/287.37.79). If you like, you first can calculate their price for service to you (see indicated websites or call for free 0880/971980); be certain to have your annual bill ready for reference.
  2. Download their contract. Take your annual bill (with the current company) to fill in the following data: 18 digit EAN number(s), your type of meter (usually single meter, or sometimes a meter allowing a difference between day/night prices) and your kWh consumption per year. Express the desired date of transfer and just send it off!
  3. Check which kind of contract you have with your current supplier (noted on your bill as unlimited duration or for 1, 2 or 3 years) and the time frame needed to cancel the old contract (usually with 1 month notice). If you have a specific contract it is best to write a letter “recommandé” (French) or “aangetekend” (Dutch), but in any case your new supplier will inform the “old” supplier about the transfer and the switch will be done automatically at the appropriate transition time dictated by your contract.
  4. You usually keep your old meter – unless you want to change it to a two-fold one with a specific day/night price - a technician will pass by your home to record the consumption level at the time of the transfer. You will receive a final bill from the old company and as from the transfer date all future bills will be from the new supplier.
  5. By the way, did you know that regardless your supplier your electricity is cheaper during the weekend?

See also our article on energy certificates and subsidies.

This article can be found in the March 2010 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

 

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Small Steps Wed, 17 Mar 2010 15:58:22 +0000