Spring is in the air and slowly our outdoor work in the garden or on the balcony starts again. How to do it respecting nature, environment and not to forget, ourselves? Here are some ideas to choose from:
Changing our habits and lifestyle in order to lessen our impact on the environment is an onerous task. There are so many things we need to do urgently. Tackling global CO2 emissions, air, water and soil pollution, and habitat destruction are challenges that seem too great for us to take on as individuals so it’s always nice to hear some good news now and again.
Yes, your choices as a consumer really do change the world! An ever-increasing number of consumers are becoming aware that choosing to buy locally produced organic food provides important environmental, economic and social benefits: Organic agriculture protects the water supply, enriches the soil, encourages biodiversity and helps to reduce the toxic burden on our bodies and our planet. So what about our clothing?
Do you have to compost in Belgium? By law the answer is no. However, if you want to reduce your waste removal costs and carbon footprint on the planet, or if you want to create free organic matter or free fertilizer for your terraced or in-ground plants, then your answer is definitely YES!
Billing itself as the ‘car drivers detox center’ (le centre de désintoxication pour automobilistes), Cyclo has been promoting cycling in all sorts of clever ways for over 10 years now. Not only do they rebuild used bikes into better-than new condition, they also help equip the unemployed with skills that get them back into the workforce. Workers rotate in a 3-year program that starts with them working alongside a professional mechanic rebuilding bikes and has them finish by managing the shop, sales and all.
When I first moved to Brussels three years ago, I used to commute by bike across the Place Flagey to Avenue Louise. Every morning I would pass a woman heading in the other direction, wobbly and uncertain on her brand new mountain bike, helmet firmly fastened, reflective vests and lights all over, a look of terror in her eyes as if she was being forced to swing dance in a mine field. I realized in watching her, just how intimidating biking in Brussels can be. But trust me, it can be done! With some simple guidelines, biking in Brussels can become such a safe, efficient, and pleasant way to get around the city that you’ll never move any other way – and that’s to say nothing of all the pollution you’ll save by doing it.
But where? How about just about anywhere! Belgium has some of the best networks for cycling in the world, offering paved, accessible, well-signed and maintained routes throughout the country. Yes, throughout the country! Cycling is one of the few true Belgian national values, though of course, even in this regard there are some regional differences to get to know.
We at Sunbeams try to implent ecologically sound practices for the printing of our flyers, posters, info pages, business cards and (a small print run of our) newsletters for events. We use 100% recycled paper, which is even better than using wood from sustainably managed forests when you compare the eco-footprint of both. We use vegetable ink and print without Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). These VOC are harmful for the environment - including our health - and contribute to ozone pollution. To date, we have used Druk in de Weer situated in Ghent as our printing company and the BIM/IBGE also uses them regularly.
This article was originally published in the June 2009 edition of the Sunbeams Newlsetter.
The Flemish Community guides international schools to obtain the European Green Flag for schools, both in Brussels and Flanders. The Flemish project is called Milieuzorg Op School (MOS, which stands for “Environmental Care at School”) and covers all ages from kindergarten to primary and secondary schools. In order to get this MOS logo you need to go through three stages and at the fourth stage you will get the European Green Flag for schools.
The principal objective of the project is to raise pupil’s awareness of environmental issues and this through the school’s own environment. A training package containing educational material can be requested, including some software to assess the current status of environmental care at school and some suggestions on where things could be improved. Each year one working area or theme is chosen by the school (e.g. year 1: waste, year 2: energy and year 3: mobility) and after three years – including their soft guidance and constructive evaluations - the MOS logo is awarded.
The power of the MOS logo is that you need to earn the three stages or puzzle pieces before you get the complete MOS logo and only after each year one puzzle piece can be obtained. This implies that the school has to embed an environmental awareness in the entire policy of the school instead of just having a single one-time event or one-week project on the environment. The environmental care will have become mainstream. Some of the international schools in Brussels and Flanders have already embarked upon this admirable road.
If your school is trying to become greener or has already obtained the MOS logo, leave a comment and share your experience!
Magazines, brochures, flyers, internet deals, and ideas from friends and family have poured through the door, each one describing the perfect activities to do. Stages, day trips, the beach, castles and zoos fill the recesses of your mind with thoughts of what is perfect for summer learning and fun. What to do, what to do?
Children young and old, parents and, maybe, grand-parents, too, all mixed together with heat and sun interspersed through cold and rain - where do you find the recipe for the perfect summer? Oh, and lest it be forget, the dawning of the more ecologically conscious day tripper/traveller has arrived on your doorstep to add to the complexity of summer planning. This is a tall order to be filled for any family if old planning/mapping techniques are followed. It is time to bring out your family’s internal GPS/SatNav systems and navigate your way to the perfect summer. Step back, sit down and breathe gently.
22 May 2009 was the International Day for Biodiversity. Biodiversity refers to the diversity of all living creatures: the diversity between species, the diversity within the genes of one species, and the diversity of the habitat they live in or their eco-systems.
You have heard about the endangered and extinct species of animals and plants for which mankind often has been responsible. One species disappearing can have a lot of consequences for other species within the same eco-system and once extinct, one cannot restore that imbalance.