What is the mission of your platform? This question was asked by the owner of a sustainable business in an introductory meeting to explore the possibility of partnering. My answer was that we seek to inspire people in an accessible and positive way to make sustainable choices in their daily lives. And while I was elaborating on the subject, I suddenly realised two things – that I no longer have to justify the necessity of doing this, and that there is now a sustainable alternative for everything we eat or use.
If you’re looking for fair and environmentally friendly clothes, you can borrow them, or use the search engine of the website, where you’ll find the largest selection of large and small online sustainable fashion stores. You can filter by type of clothing, but also by materials or the production methods you find important. You can then order the item you want and have it sent to you by the fashion store. That way, you also support the entrepreneur.
These days, if you want to eat plant-based food, you can go almost anywhere. If you’re getting a coffee to go, you can opt for plant-based milk – and a vegan cake to go with it if you like. Restaurants have vegan dishes, there’s a vegan supermarket in Amsterdam as well as a vegan cheese shop. There are vegan meal kits, and when you walk through a supermarket, you almost get stressed because of choice overload. You’ll find burgers made from seaweed, cereals or peas, Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream, and plant-based milk, cream, yoghurt, chocolate and chocolate paste. There are even ready-made frozen vegan meals for the Lazy Vegan who has neither the time nor the inclination to cook an extensive meal.
We now also have coffee from all corners of the world at our fingertips. Roasted in the , or in a prison in Zaandam just north of Amsterdam – delicious, organic and fair trade. And if you like, you can even make coffee in a rented machine with a smart metre, where you pay for the coffee you drink, have no waste and spontaneously find new beans on your doormat when your supply is running low.
You can whizz around the cities on one of the hundreds of electric rental scooters, take a rental bike to and from your meetings or rent your neighbour’s car using an app. You can control the temperature in your home with an app, which also shows you how much energy your solar panels are producing, wash your hair with a zero waste shampoo bar, and make your own detergents with ingredients from one of the many zero waste online shops. These are but a few of the many examples I could give.
Yet despite all these alternatives, the convenience of selecting and the wealth of information available about climate change, overconsumption, plastic pollution, animal suffering, biodiversity and deforestation, the urgency to take action is growing every day. The fact that I no longer have to explain why it’s important for people to make sustainable choices may make my job easier, but the need to actually do so – and my concerns – are growing.
There are so many alternatives, but people need to know that they’re there, and start and continue using them in great numbers. And that’s where we come in.
Asceline Groot is ondernemer bij hetkanWEL, schrijfster van ‘Het Nieuwe Groen’ en PhD kandidaat aan de Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen. In haar columns schrijft zij over (start-up) sociale ondernemingen en trends en ontwikkelingen op het gebied van duurzaamheid.