The moment of truth has arrived! It’s time to measure the impact I’ve made the past year. My goal is to live within the earth’s capacity. Meaning that if everybody lived like me, we’d need 1 earth or less (as we have). I started calculating this score for the first time 4 years ago. Back then, I started with a score of 2.5 earths (while I was already a vegetarian, so before I started measuring it must have been like 4 earths or something. I was a disaster for our planet). The second year I went down to 1.7 earths and last year I had a score of 1.1 earths. If I go down this year, I will finally come to 1 earth or less. I am very excited for it and curious to see how I’ve done. Let’s find out! Have I lived eco-positive the past year? 2020/2021.
Each year I take the test from Zaailingen. I think it’s very accurate because it’s a mix of different calculators. Also, since I took that test each year it’s easy to compare the results if I use the same one this time. The test consists of 10 categories. The 10 categories that cause the biggest impact on our planet. These are: stuff, meat, household’s energy, traveling by car, all other foods (besides meat, dairy and eggs), flying, clothing, eggs and dairy, water and public transportation. I’ll add a graph (in Dutch since the test is in Dutch) with each category. This way you can see my score (the yellow part) and the score of the average Dutch person (the green part). For my score to be within the earth’s capacity I need a score of 257 points or less in total. So, let’s start!
Category 1: Stuff
The first category. For the average Dutch person this category creates the biggest impact. The average Dutch person buys 2200 euros of new stuff each year. This past year I personally bought 396 euros worth of new stuff. That means I improved in this category, since I had bought 466 euros worth of new stuff last year. I didn’t include secondhand stuff in this number, since the impact goes to the person who buys the item new. Also, I didn’t include consumables like shampoo or sunscreen. I will need those thing every year and they aren’t stuff really, they disappear in the end.
My goal is to get to 0 one day, or at least close. This year I didn’t make that goal, but that’s okay. In July 2020 I moved out of my parental house to an apartment with my boyfriend and in August 2021 I moved again to a student flat. It’s not weird that I need some things new when I move. My experience is that you can’t buy 100% of the things you need secondhand.
In the list below I will list all the things I did buy new, adding up to 396 euros in totaal. In front of each item I will put an X or a V. The X’s are things I could have avoided and so didn’t need to be bought new. The V’s are the things that I couldn’t find secondhand and that I really needed. The V’s are the things I couldn’t avoid and so don’t feel bad about. I usually buy these things from sustainable brands. Here’s the list:
X Special planks to hang up a poster, September 2020, 4 euros.
X Hooks for our curtains, September 2020, 4 euros
V A Baking mat, September 2020, 4 euros.
V A plant, September 2020, 12 euros.
V Sticky Nails for the walls, September 2020, 6 euro.
V Bees Wraps, September 2020, 18 euro.
V Helix Piercings, October 2020, 80 euros.
V An item to repair one of my shoes, October 2020, 4 euros.
V Cap to cover up electricity cables, November 2020, 3 euros.
V Printed Photo’s, November 2020, 8 euros.
V Needles and thread, December 2020, 5 euros.
V Sex Toy, December 2020, 50 euros.
X Batteries, January 2021, 5 euros.
V Special plug for my piano, March 2021, 3 euros.
V Paint for the wall, July 2021, 30 euros.
V Mattress, July 2021, 150 euros.
X Some painting utensils, July 2021, 30 euros.
V Rain Poncho, August 2021, 1 euro.
Only 5 things that I regret, worth 43 euros. The planks for that poster weren’t necessary, with more effort I could have maybe fixed it otherwise. But it’s only 4 euros. The hooks for the curtains could have been bought secondhand if we weren’t in a rush. The batteries were wrong because I should have bought chargeable batteries, but I was in a rush again. The painting utensils are the biggest thing that could have been avoided if I had planned better. However, I do also doubt the mattress. It’s the most expensive thing on the list, 150 euros, and not sustainable at all. However, a truly sustainable mattress costs 2300 euros and I can’t afford that. All in all, better than last year, but not as good as I want to. This category gives me 54.492 points.
Category 2: Meat
Eating dead animals is a big source of negative impact for the average Dutch person. The average Dutch person eats 120 grams of dead animals each day! I chose to live a life with compassion and so I don’t eat anything that needs to be brutally killed. You can read why in this post. This category gives me 0 points and I’m sure that’ll never change.
Category 3: Household Energy and Gas
The average Dutch person uses 1589 kWh of electricity and 610 m3 of gas. Well, we didn’t use gas in our apartment, so that’s easy. And! We didn’t use the heating all year round since we had great isolation. Therefore, I think I did good this year. And this is the first year that I had my own house and that I actually was able to look into our use of energy. Normally I always took 20% below the average score, which was a lot. Let’s see. I lived in a household of 2 persons, 43 m3 and we used 1166 kWh of energy and no gas. That is amazing! This is very low and gives me a score of 20.571 points. That makes me very optimistic because that’s about 50 points less than last year!
Category 4: The Car
I try to avoid using the car, but that’s not always realistic. I even went on a holiday tot Italy by car this year! However, I do try to use the car with as many people as possible, this lowers the impact. For instance, we went to Italy with 5 persons in one car. The average Dutch person drives 8745 kilometers each year. I calculated my score by filling in my kilometers every week. Every Sunday I checked where and how I travelled the past week and this way I have an accurate score. I travelled 6258 kilometers in total, but barely alone luckily. This category gives me 22.187 points. That is amazing! Last year I had a score which was more than double. I had expected this because I didn’t have a long distance relationship anymore and I worked from home. I am very happy with this score!
Category 5: Plant-based foods
Meat, dairy and eggs are specific categories. That’s because these products create an immense amount of negative impact. This category contains all the food that’s left. The average Dutch person eats 2521 grams of food each day. I find this category quite hard to calculate but I’m going with the same score as last year, 50% of the average score. 70% of the impact in this category is caused by drinks, like coffee and soft drinks. For health reasons, my personal goal is always to drink water and so I think I’m doing quite good in this category. Besides, I follow this food plan, to eat as sustainable as possible. I save food, eat 100% plant-based, mostly organic and where possible local. Half of the average is 37.221 points. Same as last year.
Category 6: Flying
Flying is something which is just not realistic anymore, since we’re in the middle of a climate crisis. It just can’t be done sustainable. The average Dutch person flies 4198 kilometers each year. I personally haven’t flown since 2018 and I am determined to keep it this way. This past year I went on two holidays by train in The Netherlands and one holiday by car to Italy. No plane needed at all. This category gives me 0 points. That makes me so happy!
Category 7: Clothing
The average Dutch person buys 36 pieces of clothing, weighing about 18 kilo’s. Let’s see how I did. Buying no new clothing wasn’t realistic the past year. I bought 14 things! That seems quite a bit but 10 of those are underwear. This is the third year in a row that I bought underwear and it was ridiculous. Two years ago I bought underwear from OrganicBasics. Turns out they didn’t fit me right and I thought I just bought a size too small. The next year I bought the same ones from OrganicBasics, a size bigger. Then I found out the problem wasn’t the size, the model just wasn’t right for me. This year I bought 10 pieces of underwear at Saint Basics. And finally! I have some good underwear which suits my body. I can finally close this underwear chapter.
Then there are 4 more pieces. Two of them are curtains. I didn’t take the time to look for a sustainable brand because I was lacking sleep (because we didn’t have curtains). We bought one at IKEA and one at Kwantum. I did look for secondhand curtains though, but I never found any in the right size. Then, I bought a swimsuit at H&M. I know, horrible since I never buy fast fashion. My weight had been fluctuating a lot due to the COVID-19 crisis and I wanted to fit a bathing suit before buying it and so I went to H&M. Sustainable fashion brands simply aren’t there in Groningen, only online. I didn’t have the time to order 3 sizes and then send 2 of them back (which is not sustainable either). I do regret this a little, next time I’ll go with secondhand again, like I always do.
The last item is a pillow cover which I bought at a local market in Italy for my family. It was a gift and I don’t regret that. This category gives me 10.194 points. More than last year but I am determined to get to 0 next year! Again, haha …
Category 8: Dairy and Eggs
The average Dutch person eats 1.2 eggs, 210 grams of cheese and 1925 grams of dairy each week. I eat vegan and so I eat none of these things. In this post you can read about the ethical reasons not to consume eggs and in this post the ethical reasons to not consume dairy. This category gives me a score of 0 points!
Category 9: Water
The average Dutch person uses 43.8 m3 of water each year. This year I can finally measure this category for the first time for me personally. Normally I’d take 20% below the average, but now I can actually see it in our water bill. We used 57 m3 liters of water with our household of 2 persons. This gives me a score of 10.606 points. This is a little less than last year and I am content with this.
Category 10: Public Transportation
Now, this is always the biggest category in my personal score, besides stuff. This is also the category that always kills my score, leaving my score above the limit of 257. I really tried to improve here. The past year I lived with my boyfriend and so I didn’t travel far to him every week and I worked from home. I am really curious to see how I did. The average Dutch person travels 1016 kilometers a year by public transportation. My score is always higher, but I want it to be. I try not to use the car and I don’t fly. Public transportation is the only thing left at that point and it’s the most sustainable way to move big distances.
I registered every train ride and added it up. I traveled 10.792 kilometers by train. Wow … That’s even more than last year. I expected to improve but I actually travelled more. Well. That is a bummer. But since I did improve this year in the car category I do actually think this is logical. This category gives me a score of 49.924 points. I would like to say that I want to improve in this category, but do I really? Traveling is important to me and I do this in a sustainable way. I don’t want to give this up and I think I don’t have to. Almost 11.000 kilometers of travel for below 50 points. I have 257 points in total. I think it’s okay if 50 of those go to traveling.
How Did I Do?
Maybe you’ve counted along, maybe you didn’t! To live within the earth’s capacity I need to have a score at 257 or below. My score from 2020/2021 is … *dumdumdum* 208,195 points. I made it!!! I finally made it! If everybody lived like me we’d need 0,8 earths.
I have to say, this went faster than I thought. The fourth time taking the test, I made it. I don’t need to make adjustments anymore. I should just stick to this lifestyle I currently have. Like this, everything is okay! I am finally living an eco-positive lifestyle! Woohoo!
But well, you know me. I will continue to try and lower the score. I will try to buy no new stuff and no new clothing. Still, I will try to lower my energy bill and the amount of kilometers I travel by car. I like the challenge. But where I first knew that I wasn’t there yet, I now know that my behavior is already sustainable.
And also, this is the first time I lived within the earth’s capacity. I’m 22. That means I didn’t live within the earth’s capacity for 21 years. If from now on I had a score of 1 earth each year, I would never make up for all those years. That’s why I will try to go below 1 each year. Not to 0 of course, then I’d have a miserable life. But maybe 0.5? Or 0.7? To make up for all that damage I did the first 21 years of my life. You know, I already made up for last year. A score of 1.1 last year and 0.8 this year makes 1.9 for two years. That’s great!
And I will also try to lower the score for this thing I know is coming up one day again, a big flight. My boyfriend wants to travel and so do I. I think the coming years Europa is fine, but maybe later I’ll have to compromise. I can’t keep saying no to flights. My hope is that the technology is better in a decade but who knows. I think we want to discover North America or maybe Asia one day. I will try to avoid a harmful flight but one day I know it’ll come. And then it’s good to know that I have some spare room. If I have a score of let’s say 0.8 earths for the coming 5 years, then I have a bit of room to make that big flight.
I am delighted! I did it and I’m proud of myself. Now it’s only about maintaining this lifestyle and focusing on positive impact. Finally, I have reached my goal. And I hope my journey inspires you to do the same. I didn’t do many radical things to change my lifestyle if you’d ask me. I slowly adjusted things and over time I have reached my goal. If I can do it, you can too.