My 8 month sustainable challenge : the changes I made for life

Sandra Slawinski 6th January 2020 0 comments

Last April while browsing the internet and looking for information on sustainable support and actions in Brussels I found the site of Leefmilieu Brussel.Brussels (HERE) and Good Food (HERE) . I found tons of practical tips from composting to restaurants embracing sustainability. I read (most of) the Brussels Regional Government strategic food plan and found a call out for candidates to be part of a Sustainable Generations Program for 8 months. I wrote in my pitch that “being green is sexy and I am committed to try everything and see what works for my urban busy life”. My project was selected and so my journey began.

I knew pretty much nothing about “going green” as all I did was put the recycled plastics in the blue trash bag and eat seasonal veg and fruit but that was pretty much it. I wanted to learn, explore , test and experience what else I could do.

Today, Monday 6 January I was invited to join a press conference by the Brussels Regional Minister of Climate Change and Healthcare, Alain Maron and Brussels Regional Minister of Economical Change and Scientific Research Barbara Trachte. My fellow Sustainable Ambassadors and I shared our journey. Read HERE all about our projects.

LEARN – I will be frank it is because the youth demonstrating in the streets for several months I started asking questions.  I saw the documentaries on Netflix like Blue Planet and it shocked me into action. I read several books ( see below in the resources) that inspired me and showed me how to get started. Basically my eyes were opened to the imminent need for change and I became obsessed with learning more about the issues and what I can do about it.

“There is no question climate change is happening. The only arguable point is what part humans are playing in it.” Sir David Attenborough

START – As I discovered the vastness of change needed was ginormous, I got overwhelmed and completely depressed to be honest about how much my existence hurts the planet. I decided to focus on my kitchen, my cooking and my waste first. Making small changes, and some larger ones. Before I knew it, I had a changed mindset.

THE JOURNEY – my favourite quote I read this year says something like ” All disaster movies start with the government not believing the scientists.” I am very much a person “show me the numbers, the data and I will believe you” ( I have a curious yet suspicious mind). I learned there is NO denying the hard scientific facts and governments have to lead by example but nothing is as powerful as our own personal impact, you and me. I am part of the problem or part of the solution.

” I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel everyday. I want you to act. I want you to act like you would be in a crisis. I want you to act like your house is on fire, as it is.” Greta Thurnberg

NOW –  I focused on the below 4 GREEN actions  which I applied to my kitchen and cooking but I moved way beyond that. I also tackled my bathroom and changed all my beauty and make up products (Trinny London) to be vegan as much as possible and 100% cruelty free (The ordinary) . I try new things all the time ( Thinx period underwear, reusable make up remover pads, bamboo cotton swabs)  and if it doesn’t work for me than I am committed to finding the best sustainable alternative for me.

I don’t need to be an eco-warrior for my changes to matter.


SEASONAL & LOCAL PRODUCE –  Buying what is in season means growers have less need to manipulate the conditions to force growth. Using local products results in less carbon footprints i.e. less transport fossil fuels burned.

I have been obsessed with eating seasonal for a while now but never fully grasped the impact it has on the environment also to eat locally gown produce. I read Chef Dan Barbers book and listening on Youtube to his speeches and TED talks, I was blown away by the sheer impact of manipulated crops. I learned that eating organic food sounds healthy and seems good for the environment but there are many more facets to a sustainable produce than being organic. Also Chef Douglass McMasters book taught me soo much about zero waste and possibilities . I now check the provenance of all I buy and choose the alternatives that is as local and original as possible. I am now known at the local shops the one what the questions and her own containers and reusable bags, so what… ( I had a total melt down in a supermarket back in early May when I saw white asparagus wrapped in plastic coming from Peru – the people next to me looked at me like I was crazy for swearing to the asparagus – but seriously come on people, this is unacceptable!)

A good example I can give you is: As a food blogger you sort of spot food trends and run with them, well I do NOT eat organic avocados. Most are grown in the Californian and Mexican dessert causing deforestation and increases greenhouse gas emissions, so no thank you. I already had a veggie day twice a week, but I do love meat. I am more conscious of where to source my meat and fish from now and enjoy it in a balanced diet. Click HERE for my seasonal produce calendar.

And let’s face it, life happens so from time to time I have no option but to rush into a mega supermarket and buy a mass produced food item. It happens less and less because I regret it the minute I bought it and for sure when I cook and eat it.



COMPOST & GROW – Even recycling has an environmental price tag: either by burning it thus releasing toxic gasses or burring it in landfills and seeping into our ground and sea water.

This realization had a HUGE impact on me this year. Seeing how we pollute the oceans just turned my stomach and I can never unsee some of those images. Even though my urban terrace is only 8 by 3 meters, I got a 60 kg compost bin and tossed my scraps of veg, fruit and garden waste into it. I reduced my weekly garbage bag by a whopping 60% and I look forward using my lovely composted dirt come spring for my flowers, herbs, plants and vegetables. I have a North East facing terrace so very little of sunshine to grown much but I managed to grow green beans and lots of herbs and eatable flowers this past year. I am researching what else can try to grow in those conditions. I want to encourage wildlife like bees and butterflies as much as possible. Check out my post HERE on my 10 zero waste goals I wrote back in May 2019.



REDUCE & REPLACE –  By reducing your consumption and waste you reduce your impact on the environment. By replacing single-use items and chemical products by durable and sustainable alternatives now widely available at all price ranges, you reduce your impact on the environment.

This is a constant goal for me: I systematically look at what I use and what the alternative can be. I replaced or reduced : I no longer use single use plastics like ziplock bags ( I tossed a box a week!) and reduced use of plastic wrap ( cling film), I no longer use single-use wipes, I changed my chemical cleaning products into sustainable ones and made my own kitchen counter cleaner with vinegar and lemon. I swapped all my cleaning sponges and brushes to sustainable degradable alternatives. I bought less by planning meals better and it feels good to throw (almost) nothing away. I went through my pantry and fridge and replaced what I could when it was finished such as: white refined sugar and cow milk. I no longer buy water in plastic bottles, I filter tap water and love it. Read HERE my post on 15 simple swaps for a more eco-friendly kitchen now.

LEARN, TRY & INSPIRE- I learn everyday and I constantly try and retry new alternatives. Some things work for me, others don’t. It does not have to be all or nothing.

a REAL example: I had a hard time drinking tap water, because of its taste. It took a good part of the year to really find the right taste balance. As our water in Brussels contains quite a lot of calcium I have always filtered my tap water through a brita for my tea. ( it really affects the flavour). Using activated charcoal sticks from Black+Blum to filter my drinking water and adding a little flavour like Gimber ( check it out HERE) or fresh herbs from the garden, have made a serious impact. BONUS: I save about €35 per month (deducting the filters and soda stream gas). I share my findings and trials on my blog and with my friends whom are really making an effort as well. If I can, you can for sure!

TIME & MONEY – before I started this journey I read the excuses most heard and they boiled down to it being more expensive to buy sustainable and taking a lot more time. I have to disagree with it costing more. Yes in certain areas it may cost more ( like meat and cleaning products) but you win it back in other areas ( seasonal veg and fruit). It does take more time to forgo going to the large supermarket and instead go to local shops, I don’ have a car so everything I get is on foot or by tram. I took some schedule shifting but I like taking my time now to learn about what I am eating and sustainable products. I shop at FARM and my local butcher, baker and local market stalls. Don’t get me wrong I did forgo some comfort, some easiness to make these choices but I feel good about them.

NEXT – I keep going as there is no alternative to planet Earth. I don’t have kids but I can’t be a part of a legacy of destruction. I hear most people’s complaining about what we are no longer ” allowed” to eat or buy but I ve turned that corner and look at all the wonderful people out there making a huge difference and learning about how I can make changes. And I have many areas where I can still make changes . Think about your impact and make sustainable changes NOW, you won’t regret it!

HELPFUL RESOURCES – there are a LOT of sites, books and blogs out there, I found the below really helpful and inspiring.

BLOGS – Going Zero WasteEco Warrior PrincessZero Waste HomeSustainable DishThe Rogue Ginger

BOOKS – Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson  – Waste not  by Erin Rhoads – SILO: The Zero Waste Blueprint by Chef Douglass McMaster – The Third Plate by Chef Dan Barber.

Written and photographed by Sandra Slawinski without commercial deals and as proud Ambassador of Sustainable Generations.