• Nadine Almer

How to: Sustainable Living with the webApp SUSLA || Impacts and Ripple Effects

||SUSLA WebApp -18 Days Into The 30 Day Challenge

In my last blog entry I introduced the WebApplication SUSLA- a tool to assess our carbon footprint and assists in changing habits to reduce it at the same time. A week has gone by since I wrote this and 18 days since I started out on this journey altogether. I committed to a month of exploring the possibilities and challenges. Three quarters through it is a good time to put my thoughts into order. To estimate if and in what ways SUSLA indeed impacted my thoughts as well as actions.

Background information is necessary to be aware of the scale I was able to work with.

Firstly, I am currently without an address due to travelling. By exchanging work force for food and accommodation, I am a guest in my host’s house. Consequently, I am not in a position of deciding which electricity company to buy from or how much waste from grocery shopping arises. However, I am capable of everything related to my own behaviour and starting a conversation.

That said, this is where I started.

SUSLA helped me see clearly how much daily habits interact with our overall carbon footprint. Starting out travelling I knew I had to make a few compromises. Back home in Aarau, Switzerland, I truly had it easy. Now, or over the last year, I experienced quite a few different households and environments. Not one of them had either the options I had back home, nor the opportunities that come along when living in a town or city. What SUSLA did, was bring me back to the awareness of where my own possibilities lie. My choices and my actions. And it went further by showing me what impact these have on my overall carbon and material footprint.

|| Personal Goals (so far, so good…?!)
  1. Drinking less coffee stood on the top of my list. For one, I knew I wanted to reduce it anyway from a health perspective. Also, because an additional motivation created by SUSLA was showing me the reduction this would have on my overall score. Partly also because every once in a while I like to check in with myself and on all the small, cheeky habits that appear over time. I enjoy coffee a lot, especially when I am exploring a new city, the seduction of coffee shops and especially the smell of it in the morning, lures me in. But I like to stay on top of things. I want to indulge rather than satisfy a need. Usually I’d drink one cup of coffee per day, rarely I’d have two. So 30 days without coffee, according to the data in the app, adds up to 180kg of CO2 emissions. Three weeks prior to this project I already had switched from coffee to tea. That lead me to allow myself two days during the following 18 days when I indeed had coffee. That means that, over the total time period of coffee abstinence up until and including today, I reduced my impact by a total of 240kg CO2e. Now, that is something that gives me a very warm feeling, both for my health and my environmental consciousness.

  2. Reducing my average shower time from 15 to 10 minutes on the other hand posed a very different kind of feeling. This action turned into a challenge, one that I totally underestimated.

You see, I thought I only showered because of the hygiene aspect of things. Turns out I am wrong, I shower for a variety of other reasons too, almost all of them never came to my awareness. While in Switzerland I got used to do a cold shower, here in Scotland I crave warm showers to warm me up after spending hours on end outside in all weather conditions. From time to time my legs and feet are red from the coldness or wetness of their days outside, sometimes they are pins and needles or even numb. I automatically, unconsciously transitioned into someone who could not picture themselves having a cold shower after a day’s work outside. Also, I do not like taking baths, so my go-to relief, if I feel a soar throat or cannot seem to warm up regardless of the amount of teas I drink, is a warm (admittedly more like hot) shower. I did achieve my ten minutes, though I would say after the challenge is over I will return to my fifteen minutes average. I talk myself into a less guilty conscious by highlighting the fact that I almost never, ever take a bath and that fifteen minutes three to four times a week is far less than the global average. I do point out that I have not researched where the soakology.co.uk blog takes its facts and figures, it is entertaining though to see how much people shower and bath in various countries around the world.

3. The food actions I set for myself were no doubt the easiest part of it all. Being a vegan I naturally turn to vegetables anyway and rarely ever cook myself pasta or rice in the first place. I am a lentil or chickpea type.

Most of the time I want it easy and fast which is why I turn to chopping any available vegetables, throw in some salt and top it up with a seed and nut mix. Ready, set, eat- that kind of cooking is what I do. Therefore trying a vegan diet, switching rice for potatoes, cooking leftover food and eating from one plate per day did not require any more effort on my part. In the first week though, I was invited for dinner and my hosts decided on a Thai Take Away. That was the one occasion where I forgot about the rice replacement and I did have rice. This resulted in me realising, once more, that it is so much easier to simply cook rather than eat out. Firstly you know what you get, where it comes from and secondly you can decide on what impact it will have. Although, the Thai food really was delicious.

|| Consciousness. Conversation. Connection.

Which smoothly brings me to my second notable point.

Consciousness. Conversation. Connection. SUSLA does good ground work to not only think about one’s own impact but also consider having a conversation. I had a lot of conversations with people I encountered along my travels, and I will have these conversations probably everywhere I go. Sustainability is something, once you start getting deeper into it and incorporating it into your life, to the point where it stops being a thing and starts being part of your being, you will take with you, no matter where you go. Basically, you rewire your brain and think along different lines. So, naturally, that leads to observations, questions and exchanges. This is key for change. Conversation and different standpoints, thoughts that differ from the ordinary, allowing space for discussion, angles of perception and explanations. SUSLA can help anyone who wants to start this kind of debate. It provides data that enables us to fully grasp the concept of change and its benefits onto the world as a whole. It offers the opportunity to argue with valid facts and figures. It empowers us to see ourselves as individuals with our own overall score, then also make us realise that we still are a part of a whole, a country and its overall score. Thinking in terms of a bigger picture, as well as an individual one, empowers us to have healthy conversations about improvements on every level. And ripple effects are created by every single form of action taken.

For example while talking to a lovely man I met during a dog walk on the beach, he complimented me on picking up random washed up garbage. A sense of proud arose in me as I explained to him that I did that literally everywhere I went so far. In denser populated areas I’d always have dog poo bags with me and am able to pick up trash, fill up the bag, empty it into a bin and reuse it again. Out here on the island I do not have poo bags with me, but since I mostly drive with the electric car to the spots where I walk the dogs, I am able to collect anything of any size and transport it back with me to the next recycling container. On saying goodbye, he genuinely thanked me for giving him the idea of simply picking up one item of plastic whenever he sees it, and smiled broadly at me. Truly, a wonderful experience.

Unrelated to the 30 day SUSLA app trial, but in a sense connected to it by relation to the core topic being communication, I was tipped of by a friend of mine to the guppy friend bag washing bags that prevent micro plastic particles from our synthetic clothes to be washed out and into our oceans.

We organised a walk-in-closet event together (basically an occasion where people could bring not more than ten items from their wardrobe and switch it for a maximum of ten other items from within the collection of what other people brought in, a real-time Vinted app kind of event). I was talking to her about my difficulties to slowly establish a wardrobe with clothes that are made of all natural fibres. Only switching clothes through second hand, thrift events like these or thrift hauls, meant most of my clothes were mixed fibres with at least some small amount of synthetics. Through talking she told me about the discovery she had made only weeks ago about the micro plastic in basically every bit of lake, river or ocean on the planet and how an approximate of 35% of it comes from washing our synthetic clothes in our washing machines. Since then I have used the washing bag for all of my clothes and it remained in my 101 items list for my travels as well, using it both as a dirty clothes bag and a washing bag preventing synthetic micro plastic particles to go into our waters. Communication, see?!

|| Famous Last Words

If it is not obvious by now, let me clearly state for all eternity:

Try SUSLA for yourselves!

I am a fan and I will keep my eyes and ears open for the announcement of a smartphone app of it. Because this is the only (exaggerated and slightly preposterous) disadvantage I can see. I am more on my phone than on my laptop, meaning that sometimes it felt awkward to open the browser window when I wanted to access the web app. Then again, it is the first of its kind and in order for it to get more fancy, we probably need to all step up a notch and make it happen. If you know someone who is eager to invest and/or donate and/or sponsor SUSLA, this is their Instagram. As for the other 99% of us who have limited resources to offer, become a user instead. That way SUSLA can collect data and strengthen their influence at the same time. Influence because of the amount of people using it will increase the chance of drawing attention to it, eventually resulting in finding funding for its development and getting more countries to contribute with their data bases as well. And when it comes to collecting data, this is your once in a lifetime chance to give transparency and your own personal data a chance to shine. We are giving social media and the web so much of our everyday life data without second guessing how it is used in the end, with SUSLA though, it is the first time that I am gladly accepting every cookie and every access to anything I do on and with it. My contribution leads to more data, consequently their facts and figures get more accurate, leading to a better assessment of the average CO2 emissions for the individual and the countries averages. And that, ladies and gentleman, will bring us closer to finding our own individual path as well as an overall global path to more sustainability. Hopefully, one day, bringing us closer to a cradle2cradle economy and thrive-ability for nature and all its inhabitants.

For everyone’s good.

So, here it goes, now it is your turn.

I am so very much looking forward to reading from you. Tell me all about your experiences with the webApp, or tell it directly to SUSLA!

From my heart to yours, beloved souls

Love and light

Nadine

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