What is Sunbeams?

Sunbeams is a group of practically minded individuals who want do do what they can to reduce their impact on the environment.

Would you like to know 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.

Organic food shops and markets

Food Shops


Colruyt is an ordinary supermarket, but it has the most eco-friendly policy of them all (click here for more info on their green policy) and has a wide range of organic products. Their website is partly available in English. The buyers association TestAankoop/TestAchat has declared it the cheapest supermarket in Belgium.

There are several options. You can either go to the shop yourself and do not forget your bags/boxes. Or you can also order everything on-line and pick it up at the cash desk of your nearest Colruyt (Collect and Go). You can also to choose to order products from Bioplanet online and have them delivered at your Colruyt. Another option is to use their Collivery service: order things through their website and have it delivered at home (for free when above 250 euro), which can be used for your storage items once a month or every two months. Do not forget to save your on-line shopping trolley or pushcart (“winkelwagentje”) for next time as your “personal shopping list”: you will only need to make minor changes next time you order! You will find it all on


Delhaize has a service to bring goods (organic and non-organic) at your home (free as from 300 euro, else you pay a small fee) and then you can order a selection bio food and even organic baskets. You will get a catalogue sent to your home.

Organic markets


poubelles de recyclage

A second life

Do you want to get rid of something and it is still in good shape? Here are some options:


Pre-cycling or thinking before consuming/buying is our best advice!

Do I need it? That is the question. Can I do without one? Could I repair my old one? Could I borrow one? These are the key questions to ask yourself before making a purchase. If you do need to buy one, buy one second hand. Look at the wrapping, the lifetime, and/or the recyclability of the item. Inform yourself about the environmental impact of producing the item you are planning to buy. For instance, to produce one jeans, do you know that 8,000 liters of water is needed (Google on the ecological impact of buying jeans and/or growing cotton)?

Share or Borrow - You can create your own collective group in your neighbourhood or with friends, sharing not only equipment like garden tools or repairing tools, but also toys. If a collective group sounds too drastic, asking someone to lend you an item is not that difficult.

Refill or reuse - ink cartridges, soap containers, bags, and many other things can be reused and refilled!

Rent - libraries do not only exist for books. One can also borrow CDs and DVDs at mediatheeken/mediateques and even toys at ludotheques (you could also ask at your commune). You can rent bikes at ProVelo, Villo! or check Fietsersbond for Flanders. Cars can be borrowed, too (see Cambio! If you want to rent (out) your items, check Zilo or alternatively, look in The Yellow Pages.

Have a look at our article on pre-cycling to get more ideas.

Dealing with Waste

If you end up with waste after all, then sorting will be needed. Living in Belgium, sorting rules and regulations are different in each region and even in each commune.

Each commune has weekly garbage collection schedule and there are some differences as to guidelines on sorting waste per commune and/or region (Brussels, Flemish or Wallonian). Information can be found in English on FostPlus or on the website of your commune. Aside from the bag for plastics/metals/tetra paks, usually, paper is collected separately. Depending on the commune, there can be a separate collection of kitchen waste and/or garden waste. Then there are the bags/bins for remaining waste, but not everything can go in there. Chemical waste, glass, electronic equipment, etc. need to be recycled differently and there starts the challenge…

Glass - What cannot be returned to the shop/market for refund need to be split into coloured glass and clear glass and can be added to glass collection bins which you can find at supermarkets or street corners. Usually, there are specific time frames: one cannot use these bins at night because they make too much noise. is an organic food delivery company which also has a very interesting not-for-profit service for waste collection. They deliver the food you ordered at your doorstep and when you return your emptied boxes, you can fill them up with waste to be recycled. In addition, selected a range of charity organizations benefitting from some of these collections. They collect the following items:

Batteries are collected in small containers at many supermarkets and post offices, but are also collected by

Medicine - Left-over syrups and other medication which have run out of date need to be brought to your local pharmacy without the paper/cardboard wrapping.

Container parks - it depends a bit on the commune, but usually, one can get rid of big pieces like mattresses, oil (!), electronic equipment which does not work, etc. via container parks. In some communes, you will need to pay a small fee and/or an ID-card is required. Addresses and opening hours can be requested from the commune.

Collection of waste at your door - In Brussels, you can call the service to collect big waste at your door all year round. Then Net Brussel/Bruxelles Proprété will pick up your “groot huisvuil/encombrants” and the phone number is 0800/90117. In some communes, you have annual collections per neighbourhood.

Electronic equipment - If your device stopped working and you need to buy a new one, the shop is required to take the old equipment (even if you did not buy it there). Today, all new equipment you buy is taxed and labelled with Recupel and thus, all non-functioning equipment you return to the shop has to be accepted without charge. For mobile phones, you can even get a fee back, or you can donate them to charity through For more information, check our article on e-waste.

Composting - The best option would be keeping all kitchen and garden waste to be recycled at your place. Composting can be done in all gardens, on balconies, and even inside the house. Find out which model suits your home: read on composting on our website or come to one of our workshops demonstrating the different models in May-June. Alternatively, you can look for a composting place in your neighbourhood or find a neighbour to partner up with you.

Dog toilets - Check out addresses on BruCity. Be aware that you might have to pay up to 250 euros if they catch you leaving droppings in the wrong place…

Happy recycling!

Getting Started with Composting

How to get started at home or through your commune

Your commune can give information about:

Collective composting

In many places, you can find collective composting projects. Find the nearest collective composting site in Brussels here. If your neighbourhood does not have one yet, consider starting one with your neighbours: you can get support of the Brussels Environmental Institute IBGE/BIM for this.

More info on composting in general and with links to Brussels in Dutch or French.

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

sunbeams tree planting - Mission Accomplished!

the sunbeams tree planting event on 20 March was a huge success. Thank you to everyone who pledged trees came along - especially the sunshine! A full report will be posted here soon. In the meantime you can see some photos in our picasa album - - check back regularly as we will be updating it with photos as they come in.


Copy_of_VBV_logoThe tree planting event is organised by sunbeams with the technical assistance of the Flemish Forestry Association (VBV - Vereniging voor Bos in Vlaanderen) and the support of the King Baudouin Foundation (BreXpat), the Agency for Nature and Forest, and the Flemish Government.


The forest will be planted in the village of Oetingen, which is in the commune of Gooik, 20km west of Brussels.

The address of the site is Frankrijkstraat 10, however there will be limited parking in the adjacent streets so we encourage you to park in the town square (Kerkplein, 1755 Gooik - Lat. Long. 50?46’23.22"N 4?03’47.76"E or 50.77305334702715,4.063235521316528) which is a short walk from the site. The walking route will be signposted for you.

Public Transport

You can travel to the site on public transport from Brussels Station in an hours, using a train and 2 buses. Trains depart about every 2 hours.
You can use the De Lijn journey planner to plan your route.
The destination information is:
Aankomst gemeente: GOOIK
Nr. 10


The event takes place between 10.00 and 16.00 on Sunday 20 March 2011 and you may come whenever suits you. Larger groups have been asked to co-ordinate their arrival with us to avoid too many people arriving at the same time. There will be a formal welcome for several dignitaries at 11.30.

Clothing & Footwear

We have arranged that it will not rain on Sunday and the temperature will be moderate, however please keep in mind that you will be in a field with long grass so please dress suitably and wear sturdy, waterproof footwear.


On arrival please go to the registration tents where you will be given the appropriate number of tags for your trees.


If you have not yet paid for your tree(s) please be prepared to pay with cash on the day. If you have made a transfer since Wednesday please bring a copy as proof of payment.


After registration you will be given a short demonstration on how best to plant your tree(s). The holes will be prepared in advance and spades will be available for your use.


Once you have planted your tree(s) you are welcome to stay and enjoy the atmosphere for as long as you like. Several organisations will have stands for you to visit, including: (bio-basket delivery, with hot soup to sample!), Brussels Gardener’s Club (gardening), Jeugdbond Voor Natuur (Nature), Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen (Birds),

about us

Ilke - founder and president

Ilke is Belgian and did development cooperation in a former life. She has always had a passion for nature showing her kids e.g. the transformation of butterflies and tadpoles in her kitchen. The idea of Sunbeams started growing in her head in March 2008 after hearing Lester Brown speaking at the European Parliament in Brussels. Now her kitchen is the headquarters of Sunbeams. She takes care of the cooperation with our partners and sponsors and is responsible for the overall coordination of Sunbeams.

Lisa - co-founder
Much like the black gold that her compost bin produces, Lisa works hard to recycle the many varied elements of her life into a useful end-product. A plant scientist by education, she helps to shape and enhance Sunbeams by decomposing her experiences as a mother, Montessori teacher, biotechnology quality assurance specialist, freelance writer and prolific volunteer. From Boston (Massachusetts, USA, not Lincolnshire, England), Lisa has also lived in Iceland, Turkey, and England prior to moving to Belgium in 2006. When not spending time with her husband, two children and four quadrupeds, she makes every effort to integrate in Belgium by improving her Flemish and French language skills.


Leanne spent most of her childhood rummaging around in the muck and mud for all manner of creepy-crawlies and ardently hopes her children and their children and their children’s children can do the same. She has written for several expat oriented publications and is currently studying for her masters in management.

Eva - business relations
Eva is a freelance consultant that assists companies in the management of their business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society and the environment. She is from Barcelona and has been in Belgium since 2003.

Andrew - creative director, bus driver

The pictures guy, Andrew hails from Canada and hopes to allowed back in someday. When not drawing things he likes to make things or tinker with things with engines. A successful freelance commercial artist and teacher Andrew moved to Brussels in 2005 and is a proud house husband.

Dave - writer

Dave is an American writer who started working with Sunbeams while living in Brussels. At the moment he is biking around the world working on permaculture farms and trying to contribute to the newsletter as often as possible. More information is available on his website.

Morgan - website wrangler, IT co-ordinator

morgan1 International philantropist and inventor of polar bears, Morgan tends to start every paragraph with nonsense. From Dublin, he has been in Brussels for 15 years. A geologist by training, he now earns a living by convincing people that he knows something about technology.

Arijana - researcher
Arijana is a mathematician and a full time mum, conducting research on alternative treatments of neurological disorders, in the field of biochemistry, nutrition, energy medicine and subconscious mind.


Olga has had to be green from early childhood on, when she helped her parents every summer to grow own vegetables in the garden around their summer house near Saint Petersburg. She has studied climatology in Russia and environmental management at EPCEM (Netherlands) and has working experience in the Polish renewable energy sector. Starting a new life again in Belgium, Olga joined Sunbeams to share her experience and hobby (actions’ graphic design) with the rest of this strong international team.


Lover of winged creatures, dark chocolate and spirited children. Trained as an ecologist, she’s taught a handful of -ologies (ornith-, entom-, evolutionary eco-) stateside in a tenured post, and will always remain a teacher at heart. Her greatest pleasure comes from discovering and sharing the secrets of the natural world, especially with kids. She moved to Belgium with her family in 2005 and now spends her time teaching yoga to children and exploring many facets of the Old World.


Laura is Canadian and currently works for the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) as a project manager for a European Commission funded project that studies the integrated impacts of natural disasters in Asia and Europe (MICRODIS). She has long been an environmentalist, even founding the Student Environmental Forum at the University of Kent at Brussels and presenting at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2008. With the Sunbeams team, she has taken part in many fun environmental events and now focuses on targeting the university population in Brussels to spark participation, information sharing and awareness for eco-friendly living.

Alex is German and very interested in all things green. He does not own a car, but should still use his bike more often. Alex collaborates in the website team and maintains the Sunbeams Facebook page. To pay his bills (which he tries to receive electronically whenever possible) he works as a conference interpreter for a European institution.

Geoffrey, our resident Joomla expert, is an experienced breathwork facilitator, EFT practitioner, Laughter Coach, Teacher and life smilist. He has assisted many people to find, create and manifest better, happier and more fullfilling lives. He has extensive experience as a breathwork, EFT and Laughter therapist. His scope of treatments includes: Family and relationship issues, sexual and other abuse issues, depressions, OCD, addictions, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, general life improvement.

Rima is a political scientist by training and moved to Brussels in 2008 where she has been working as a consultant since then. Her interests are many, from the environment, alternative health, to organizational development. In her free time she enjoys taking care of her many plants.

Nüket is a natural health coach with a background in naturopathy, coaching and business. She combines her experiences to focus on a holistic approach to healthy living and well being. She works with individuals and companies helping in the creation of lifestyles and environments that are healthy and balanced. In her prior life she worked in the fast paced international high tech sector and in her free time traveled the world in search of blue waters, wild animals and local culture. Originally from California, Nüket endeavors to live a natural lifestyle in Brussels and most of the wild animals she now sees are limited to the occasional fox or rabbit in Woluwe park.

and the strong behind the scenes team: Beatrix, Ellen, Eli, Fiona, Jane, Jarita, Katrina, Kirstie, Leanne, Martina, Nickie, Nikoleta, Nuket, Ronna, Sarah, Tamas, Vanessa… and you?

what we do

Would you like to learn about simple changes towards an eco-friendly lifestyle? Have you wondered where to buy your organic food and goods? Or how to be more energy-efficient? Do you know what is recyclable in Belgium?

With this website, we want to share information on an eco-friendly lifestyle with the expatriate community in the Brussels area. We write practical articles, organize presentations by specialists, and help exchange information among each other. At our events and at fairs, we distribute our information pack containing many practical ‘tools’ to live and eco-friendly life in Belgium.

We are always looking for enthusiastic people who are willing to implement all these ideas, including contributions to this website: volunteers wanted! If you think you could help us realizing our project or would like to contribute or cooperate in some kind of way, please contact us.

You can read more about what Sunbeams does in the news section or in our monthly e-mail newsletter. Signing up is easy!

why we do it

Sunbeams provides a positive focal point for expatriates wanting to live an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle in Belgium.


our achievements

sunbeams in the news

Sunbeams founder and president, Ilke Pedersen-Beyst, was interviewed in the ‘First Person’ feature of the Bulletin magazine in September the interview here

since May 2008 we have been contributing a monthly article to the magazine to the Danish Club of Belgium

there have been 8 sunbeams articles on the expatica website since January 2009

Small Talk, the magazine of the Brussels Childbirth Trust (family association) has published 3 articles by us and we will have a monthly article from September 2009 onwards. named sunbeams it’s website of the month in January 2009

dekrantsunbeams founder Ilke Pedersen-Beyst was interviewed for the March 2009 issue of ‘De Randkrant’ a monthly periodical for inhabitants of the Flemish ‘Rand’ [border] around Brussels. You can read the article here (in Flemish, acrobat_logo 350Kb)

sunbeams was featured in the end of year edition of the Jane Goodall Institute newsletter.

and in the November/December 2008 issue (n19)of the bi-monthy Away Magazine.

You can find us in the e-newsletter of the Earth Policy Institute of Lester Brown, the October 2008 issue or just click here.

Our Sunbeams project was publically launched in The Bulletin on 11 September 2008. There was another article on us in January 2009 and we have had two readers letters published (April and May 2009).

We also had an article in the e-newsletter of the Brussels-Europe Liaison Office: you can read an interview with the founder of Sunbeams on their September issue sent around on Wednesday 10 September 2008 or just click here.

Today Sunbeams is promoted by

Other Cooperations established

Sunbeams distributes publications by

Sunbeams participated at the following fairs

Presentations by Sunbeams for adults

Other events organized by Sunbeams

Future cooperation planned

Events planned


Other achievements

contact us

You can contact us directly through our contact form, or by our info at email address for enquires regarding:

Get cleaner air in your homes with houseplants

Houseplants are nice additions to homes and they do more than act as décors. Did you know that houseplants are useful for purifying the air you breathe in your home? By adding a few, choice, low maintenance house plants, we can help keep the air inside our homes clean and pure - eliminating pollutants and toxins, counteracting off-gassed chemicals and contributing to balanced internal humidity.

The first step to having clean indoor air starts with opening windows every day to air out the house. Rain or shine, airing out the house for a short while (10-15 minutes is all that is required) is the key. Try to do this before 9am and after 4pm, when the air is heavier, so less toxins and pollution come into your homes.

Next step is choosing which indoor plants you bring into your home. Not all plants are created equal! Some are more effective than others at keeping your house air clean. There have been several studies conducted on the effects of indoor plants. In the late 1980s, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted many studies evaluating the beneficial effects of plants indoors.

The NASA study notes: Two of the key ingredients which have contributed to today’s potentially serious indoor air pollution problems are tightly constructed buildings with dramatically reduced ventilation rates and the radical change in the nature of building materials and household furnishings. Add to this, new household products such as cleaning and polishing solutions, insecticides, glues, personal hygiene and health care products, along with numerous electronic devices and radon gas and you have the ingredients for serious health problems…” “Indoor air pollution and ‘sick building syndrome’ can contribute to symptoms such as allergies, asthma, eye, nose and throat irritations, headaches, fatigue, sinus and respiratory congestion. “

Given the amount of time we spend indoors, whether at work or at home, (or in some cases, both!), we can be spending an awfully large amount of time with these hundreds or so of pollutants!

If these all sounds a bit scary, here is the good news. Plants live and grow thanks to a photosynthetic process. This process requires a continuous exchange of gaseous substances between plant leaves and the surrounding atmosphere. The most common gaseous substances exchanged are carbon dioxide, oxygen and water vapor. A plant’s leaves normally give off water vapors and oxygen, and take in carbon dioxide. The NASA study provides evidence that plant leaves can also take in other gaseous substances from the surrounding atmosphere through tiny openings (stomates) on their leaves. In fact, both plant leaves and roots can be used in removing trace levels of toxic vapors.

The most common air pollutants found indoors are formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. Formaldehyde is used in many building materials, including particle board and foam insulations. It is also found in many cleaning products. Benzene is a common solvent found in oils and paints. Trichloroethylene is used in paints, adhesives, inks, and varnishes.

The advantage that houseplants have over other plants is that they are adapted to tropical areas where they grow beneath dense tropical canopies and must survive in areas of low light. These plants are thus ultra-efficient at capturing light, which also means that they must be very efficient in processing the gases necessary for photosynthesis. Because of this fact, they have greater potential to absorb other gases, including potentially harmful ones. NASA also noted that some plants are better than others in treating certain chemicals.

For example, English ivy, gerbera daisies, pot mums, peace lily, bamboo palm, and mother- in-law’s tongue were found to be the best plants for treating air contaminated with benzene. The peace lily, gerbera daisy, and bamboo palm were very effective in treating trichloroethylene.

Additionally, NASA found that the bamboo palm, mother-in-law’s tongue, dracaena warneckei, peace lily, dracaena marginata, golden pathos, and green spider plant worked well for filtering formaldehyde.

Here is a list of some plants that are among the most effective all-around.

f you have pets you will need to be more careful what plants you choose for your home. Avoid growing these 12 houseplants that are considered toxic for pets:

Once you’ve got the plants figured out, keep your environment healthy by avoiding air fresheners (plug-ins, sprays, candles, etc). Toxic-free candles can be found at bio stores and you can also try beeswax candles.

Some good resources:

Your Naturally Healthy Home, by Alan Berman.
Plantes depolluantes Boudassou edition LaRousse


We are looking for volunteers who share the same passion and interest: people who care for the environment and our planet. If you have some time, dedication and maybe some special skills to offer, please do not hesitate. We will need people to take care of:

IT issues, including website
events: organise and/or host
write articles
Answer questions coming in
legal issues
fund raising
start a co-operative buying group
help expats dealing with local authorities
helping hands
distribute information

You can indicate if you would like to volunteer some of your time or skills by just emailing us.
notes for potential volunteers
It is our legal obligation to provide all volunteers with the following information:

Sunbeams is registered as a non-profit organization “vzw/asbl”.
Our Mission and Goals are legally registered and you can read them here.
We have insurance covering volunteers participating at our events and fairs.
We do reimburse costs incurred for Sunbeams, but only on the basis of authorization from the President or one of the two co-founders. All official receipts need to be given to one of the above mentioned people before any refunds can be made. For the time being transport costs cannot be refunded.
There is an obligation on all volunteers to be discrete and not divulge any personal information (on beliefs, family situations, health etc) concerning any other volunteers working with/for Sunbeams.
Ilke Pedersen-Beyst, President of Sunbeams

take a small step

Rent eco-cups for your next party
Written by Alex
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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Make your own kitchen hand scrub
Written by Alex
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.

Tagged under household diy kitchen
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Roll your own Kyoto
Written by Alex
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

Tagged under energy consumption kyoto challenge
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Stop the advertising stampede
Written by Alex
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:

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”.
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.
Contact the company directly, if there is no other way to make them stop sending you material.
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.
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
Tagged under reduce paper household advertising
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Save money and the planet with your fridge
Written by Alex
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.

Tagged under energy household kitchen
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Small step: Precycling
Written by Alex
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.

Tagged under waste recycling
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Start a new habit: Buy seasonal food
Written by Alex
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.

Tagged under food shopping
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Green your (expat) magazine
Written by Alex
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!
Tagged under publishing smallstep
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Find out how much heat your roof is losing
Written by Alex
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.

ake an eco-challenge
Eco-challenges (13)
Monday, 11 October 2010 11:34
Eco-challenge: “Défi energie” of the Brussels Environment Institute
Written by Alex
The Brussels Environment Institute has put together lots of information on improving the energy efficiency of your household. The “défi energie” is available in French and Dutch on the IBGE website.

Published in Eco-challenges
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Thursday, 29 April 2010 15:36
Eco-challenge: Get rid of all the plastic bags
Written by Alex
This is our very first challenge and these are some of our suggestions:

Reorganize you garbage: get one big garbage bin for the white (and other) official garbage bags in your kitchen and make sure you get a proper lid to close it, instead of using small bags to fill up a big one;
Make sure you get all kinds of reusable bags/boxes/trolleys: the ones provided by supermarkets, small thin bags to hide in your handbag and unfold when you need them, trolleys (some to be folded) and handy foldable boxes to leave in the car. It is such a nice feeling to be able to refuse all those plastic bags offered to you in the shops and at the market;
Try to buy fruit and vegetables in loose and big quantities (see next month’s challenge);
Get a composting bin or compost place in your garden: this will reduce your (smelly) garbage.
Make use of “Tupperware” and similar boxes to store things in the fridge, to use for picnic and as lunch boxes.
Published in Eco-challenges
Tagged under recycling plastic
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Thursday, 29 April 2010 15:32
Eco-challenge: Get a weekly organic basket
Written by Alex
get access to a weekly organic fruit and vegetable basket in your neighborhood!

There are many reasons to do this:

For your health: you will get a nice amount of fruit and vegetables every week, they are as fresh as they can be and they are organic and to say it with Michael Pollan’s words: this is REAL food;
For the environment: buying locally reduces your ecological footprint avoiding food miles (transport of your food) - even the fair trade ones come by boat which is less polluting than airplanes - it reduces packaging (no plastic involved);
For your taste: nothing tastes as good as these fresh and organic treasures;
For the wellbeing of traditional farmers versus the big food industry: both the local ones and the fair trade partners in developing countries;
For biodiversity: some of the vegetables are almost forgotten and have become unavailable in our supermarkets, but taste lovely and are very nutritious.
Check out a selection of addresses, recipe books, season calendars and more in our article.

Published in Eco-challenges
Tagged under food basket
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Thursday, 29 April 2010 15:30
Eco-challenge: Drink tap water
Written by Alex
This will be our challenge for this month:

Tap water in Belgium is safe and needs to qualify to 55 EU and WHO criteria and you can read all about it on in English (under “Practical Information”).
At first it might have a chlorine smell/taste, but if you leave it for 10 minutes most of it has evaporated!
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice might make miracles as to the taste!
If you want to read about the impact of you drinking bottled water (waste, health, etc.) have a look at this article from
If you prefer to use a water filter jug (e.g. BRITA) only use very cold water and store it in the fridge if you intend to keep it longer than a day (max. 2 days in total!)
It is up to 100x cheaper than bottled water!
Imagine how much waste and transport you could avoid by providing each family member with their own refillable drinking bottle!
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Thursday, 29 April 2010 15:27
Eco-challenge: Shorten your shower
Written by Alex
Our challenge for this month is not so difficult, but quite important!

A shower takes less water than taking a bath unless you shower for more than 8 minutes!
By taking a short shower you can save money, but also reduce the amount of precious drinkable water you use to wash yourself with!
One might think of timing a shower and a song or two might make it more fun (see also short shower songs and more tips at Do The Green Thing)
Try to reduce the flow of water either manually or by installing a very efficient high aeration shower head (which you can find in shops like BRICO for about 15 €).
A thermostatic knob might also help to find the right temperature immediately so you do not loose water before you actually take the shower.
Good luck with finding your favorite short shower tune!

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Thursday, 29 April 2010 15:26
Eco-challenge: Make yourself heard
Written by Alex
Write a note, email or letter to your politicians or sign a petition!

The annual global Climate Change Conference, this year from 1-12 December in Poznan, Poland, provides a good opportunity to ask our politicians for more bold actions NOW . You can write directly to them or see the petition for example on The Big Ask to be signed before 11 December 2008.
The proposal to build a new coal plant in Belgium provides another opportunity to act: You can ask for the project to be stopped either through email directly to your politicians or through signing a petition, see for instance the Greenpeace link on this website under be heard.
More locally, in all supermarkets you can post your suggestions in a box (usually forms are available). Give them your suggestions (also in English) to impove things concerning packaging, organic food choice, tracability etc.
Good luck and remember: you can make a difference!

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Thursday, 29 April 2010 15:18
Eco-challenge: Cut your water consumption
Written by Alex
Pier Faucet by jarnott on flickr!Living in a country like Belgium, the idea that water is a scarce resource can be hard to swallow; scarce things don’t fall from the sky every other day. But globally, the situation is quite different:

Only 3 percent of the Earth’s water is freshwater, and at least two thirds of that is held beyond human use in glaciers, ice caps, permafrost, or deep underground wells.
That last 1 percent? It’s not evenly distributed. In 2006, one billion people (one sixth of the world’s population) were living on less than the bare minimum of four liters of water a day needed for survival.
For the future, the situation only looks more precarious. Rising population means more pressure on existing resources, while global warming may put much of the freshwater supply at risk of disappearing, both from melting ice caps and glaciers and from decreased rainfall in much of the world.
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Tuesday, 13 April 2010 20:16
Eco-challenge: Gift opening
Written by Alex
Gift Opening
Open gifts with care and attention to the wrapping paper, ribbons, tags and boxes.

The challenge is to see how much can be saved and put away for reuse during your next holiday season.

Did you know that paper can be ironed on a low setting if you find there are two many creases in it from a previous wrapping.

On the inside of sheets of paper write the dates when used and see how many years one sheet of paper can be used. This can provide great entertainment in years to come as you remember gifts wrapped in the paper years past or simply how many years you’ve seen it come back in circulation.

Save tags and reuse again another year….saves time on writing out new tags and money buying new tags.

Ribbon can be added to new ribbons another year, can be reused as is, or added to children’s crafts.

Boxes often fold flat and take up little space. If they can not be folded, take on the puzzle challenge to find out how many you can nest together. Wrapping the parts of a box rather than the whole box itself saves the paper and has a prepared box for next year’s use.

Can you reuse any parts of pre-packaged gift items?

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Tuesday, 13 April 2010 20:14
Eco-challenge: Help with smog prevention
Written by Alex
Help with smog prevention
Read about winter smog in Belgium in our new article. Yes, you can do something about it!

  1. avoid using the car: alternatives and links in our article on smog
  2. if you have to use the car: practise eco driving
  3. use less energy and get ideas by participating at an energy challenge session 21 or 28 January 2009 and ask to be put on the mailing list to receive smog alerts by email

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Tuesday, 13 April 2010 20:13
Eco-challenge: Green your holidays
Written by Alex
Green your holidays
already thinking about your next break? Give the planet a break at the same time by trying reduce the environmental impact of your little escape. Have a look at our holidays page for some suggestions.

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Eco-challenge: Detox your home
Eco-challenge: Start biking
Eco-challenge: Eat less meat

Share your advice

Here you can post personal and practical advice which you would like to share with other expatriates living here in Belgium. Anything useful you encounter in your quest to reduce the impact of your lifestyle on the environment can be posted here. You may also want to browse our articles, small steps and eco-challenges if you wish to comment on those.

Here are our first contributions:

“I asked my cleaning lady, Linda, to test some environmentally friendly cleaning products and we were both happy with the result. We gradually changed all products in the house. Now she even succeeded to promote the same products towards THREE other of her employers. She works at five different homes and her aim is to convince the last two ones to do the same. Imagine, if everyone would do like her!”.

“Every time we get the annual bill for gas, electricity or water, I gather the whole family and we ask everyone including the children how we could save some money. It is amazing what the children come up with! They really have some great ideas and in this way they feel involved and responsible!”.