Rinske de Mooij (37) thinks everything she does, buys or eats is good for our planet. According to family and friends, her desire for ‘green’ has become an utter obsession.
Rinske: « Until three years ago I was not so concerned with the ups and downs of mother earth. Of course I separated my waste, kept glass and batteries separate and put clothes that I no longer wore in the appropriate container, but I was not aware of how much I consumed and how much that was at the expense of the energy of others and our environment. This changed when I started a coaching course and came into contact with people who in everything they did, wondered if it was good for everyone and if they really wouldn’t harm anyone. Not even the generations after us. I had never looked at it that way. Because of the interaction with my fellow students, who wore shirts with texts like: ‘do more yoga, eat more plants’, a whole new world opened up for me. Why didn’t I know this?
It was not long before I also wanted to make an effort for a more sustainable lifestyle. That went step by step. One of the first things I decided to change was to stop eating meat. As I began to delve into sustainability and talk to people about it, I started to realize how much negative impact the meat industry has on our well-being. Both for the animals and for the people, and for our earth. You may have heard that one steak requires up to four thousand liters of water. And I’m not even talking about global warming, the nitrogen problem and the manure surplus. A year ago I therefore switched from vegetarian to vegan, which suits me even better.
Happy with every bee
I was not there just to stop using animal products. How about all the poison used to grow our fruits and vegetables? I was terribly unhappy with the idea that I served this to my children, partner and myself every night. I need a vegetable garden, I thought. But because I really don’t have enough time to grow vegetables myself, I now get all my vegetables and fruit from the vegetable garden or in the bio-store. Pieces more expensive, but much more honest and tasty. I also grow a few types of vegetables in my own backyard. I also removed all the tiles – which my husband put in it with blood, sweat and tears a few years ago – from the front garden, so that I could sprinkle seeds from flowers that contain nectar and are therefore good for insects. As a child I am so happy with every bee or butterfly that flies through my garden. All those paved streets are not good for the animals, nor for the soil.
« There is no longer an opportunity to do a quick shopping, because I read every label »
Once you delve into sustainable living, you will gain insight into what you as a consumer can do to contribute to this. After I attended a lecture on palm oil and the palm oil industry, my purchasing behavior became even more conscious. Trees are cut down to produce that palm oil. Every day a piece of rainforest the size of the city of Amsterdam disappears, and the Netherlands consumes an enormous amount of oil every year. Palm oil is a cheap filler that can be found in many products under different names. I don’t want to participate in that. You understand that just quick shopping has not been an option for me for a long time. I read every label carefully and now know almost all abbreviations. It often happens that I put back a packet of cookies because I don’t trust it. Approvals do not give any guarantee. As an alternative, I bake my own cake or cake at home, which in turn makes me feel guilty because an oven uses a lot of power. And so it is constant deliberation. Because when are you really doing it right? The more I know, the more difficult it sometimes seems to get.
A while ago I had bought washable sanitary towels. Because you can wash it out, you can use it over and over again. That seemed like a good alternative to the regular disposable dressing, which is very harmful to the environment because it contains so much plastic. I suddenly woke up halfway through the night. Had I really made a good buy? All that washing also costs a lot of water, especially washing at sixty degrees. I searched the web and came across a discussion of disposable diapers versus cloth diapers. Then I can really read for hours and go from forum to forum. Day night sleep! That same panicky feeling can overtake me when I have to throw away food because it’s out of date. Actually, I can’t get that over my heart. My children are not allowed to do it either, although I think they sometimes secretly throw a sandwich in the trash can at school. All in all, my heart has grown greener.
I don’t get any cosmetics that have been tested on animals, and neither does honey from the supermarket. When I walk my dog, I always have a special bag with me to collect waste. And I keep coming up with new ideas to live an even more sustainable life. For example, during a retreat in the South of France, I read the guest regulations, which asked to use as little soap and shampoo as possible. It takes decades for soap scum to break down. At the accommodation there was a tank in which all used water was stored. This of course became a topic of conversation, because who doesn’t like a nice dot of foam? Suddenly I heard one of the participants say something about biodegradable shampoo, and she also had toothpaste from the same brand. Once at home, I immediately started ordering all those responsible care products. That biodegradable toothpaste is really the limit for my children. They don’t think it’s nearly as fresh and according to them they even smell it from their mouth. My husband doesn’t care when it comes to usage, but he does complain that this switch is costing us a lot of money and time. He thinks I’m really going for it.
« That biodegradable toothpaste is really the limit for my children »
My children hope that classmates don’t see me at the supermarket. Our entire house is now ‘biodegradable’, from cleaning products to waste bags. I also make some products myself, such as toilet cleaner or cream. My husband and kids are going crazy with me and my eternal desire for sustainability. On the other hand, I still think it is not sustainable enough. I scour the entire internet for options to live more responsibly. Recently I came across a book by an American family that produces zero waste, so inspiring.
A while ago we organized a ‘plastic attack‘at the supermarkets in our region. I stood at the entrance with other ‘green’ people to ask the shoppers to leave their plastic in the supermarket. My children were really ashamed to death. They were concerned that classmates would see their mother pulling soda bottles out of the packaging. I thought it was a good thing to encourage awareness, because why does each pepper have to be packed separately? It is a pity that my environment thinks it is a shame that I have changed so much and have become environmentally conscious, I think it is a pity.
Recently my best friend gave me the full blast. I asked her if she had a wish list, to which she replied very sharply that I had been buying fair trade chocolate, organic wine or socks made from used fishing nets for years, and that she really wasn’t looking for stuff like that. She still lives in a world where collecting beautiful things is a must. I recognize myself in it, but then as I was five years ago. My husband and I have often had words lately. Our annual distant vacation, for example, is really a point of discussion. Unfortunately he does not suffer from flying shame so that holiday continues. To buy off my guilt, I donate a large amount to a tree planting project after every plane trip.
I live in the countryside in an old farmhouse, but I would much rather live in a house where you can live completely self-sufficient. I know I’ll never get my husband into it; our house belonged to his parents and he really doesn’t want to leave. In that respect, we are not quite on the same wavelength and that is such a shame. Sustainability is not just an empty slogan but a lifestyle, and I would like to share it with my family. It has brought me a lot to look at everything around me in a more conscious way, but it also causes unrest in a way. As long as you are ignorant, you shouldn’t feel guilty if you do something wrong. But since I became aware of my contribution to the world, I always fear that I am not doing enough. And my good intentions create tension between me and my husband. As soon as, according to him, I start to be too pedantic or rattle on what is or is not responsible, he walks out of the room with his hands over his ears. Then I know that I have gone too far again. «