The punchiest sustainability expert I know
The lady herself: Marieke Eyskoot
Hope you're doing really well, and a warm welcome to our new subscribers: Jigyi, Maggie, Joanna, D, Ronni, Priyash, Dee, Caroline, Veronika, Suzanne, Rebecca, Alice, Michelle and Rosie. Thank you very much for joining us.
A little bit of good news to share: LUXTRA won the 2022 Marie Claire Sustainability Award for Best Sustainable Small Business (Accessories). Yay!
But back to the important stuff: and a step change from last week's heavy session on Doughnut Economics, Today we're speaking to sustainability expert Marieke Eyskoot.
I met Marieke in Amsterdam several years back for some sessions on improving LUXTRA's environmental impact. Marieke doesn't mince her words, and I vividly recall her shooting down the idea of using deadstock materials (which is typically touted as a “sustainable” way of manufacturing products) because it basically lets the fashion industry “off the hook”. Why? Because there is no incentive for brands and mills to stop overproducing, because they now have other, sustainable brands to effectively pick up the pieces, letting them carry on with business as usual. I tell you - that was an eye opening session!
So! Let's hear from the lady herself!
Marieke's Book: This Is A Good Guide For A Sustainable Lifestyle.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Marieke Eyskoot, I'm a sustainable lifestyle expert from Amsterdam, the Netherlands (and I'm not very tall at all :) ).
Tell us about what you do.
I write books about what you can do to make more sustainable choices when it comes to fashion, beauty, food, home, work and travel – such as This is a Good Guide – for a sustainable lifestyle. I speak about these issues at events and venues like TEDx, host meetings and events (only if they're about conscious and contemporary subjects) and am a presenter at Dutch TV show BinnensteBuiten (InsideOut), where I showcase inspiring sustainable innovations that make the world a better place.
What is your backstory? How did you become interested in sustainability?
I've always been well aware of my privilege – I was born in this wealthy and safe part of the world by coincidence. I didn't do anything to earn everything I got when I arrived here: none of the peace, economic and political stability, human rights, women's rights – freedom. I don't deserve them more than others who weren't as fortunate as me and were born elsewhere, and I don't have more rights to them. So I aim to use everything I've gotten to make the world a bit fairer and better, if only a little bit.
What are the top 3 things we can do, as consumers, to have the biggest positive impact on the planet?
1) See yourself as a citizen, not as a consumer. That's a role that's forced upon us to make us believe our prime goal is to buy as much as possible.
2) Recognise and resist the way shame is being used as a marketing tool, in order to not just save ourselves, but the planet too. Many of the messages we receive all day everyday (socials, magazines, TV, posters, influencers, packaging etc) are designed to make us feel bad about ourselves, in order to then offer us a solution to the problem they created: purchasing their product(s). This not only results in us suffering from a (imposed) negative self-image, but also makes it really hard to behave more sustainably. I've started a movement to stop this: #SustainabilityAgainstShame. Please feel very welcome to join us!
3) Go for quality over quantity. If you want to start with small steps go for something you do every day (e.g. swapping yoghurt for plant-based alternative) which adds up to make it big, and always cut tubes in half before you bin them – they're never empty when you think they are, there can be tooth paste, cream or soap left in there for days and days…
What's your biggest challenge?
Getting enough rest and actually relaxing when I get it.
What are you most worried about?
That negative and outdated prejudices (expensive, difficult, sparse) about living a more sustainable lifestyle, and the amount of positive impact your behaviour can have, are perpetuated too long for people to feel they actually can and want to make a difference. I often get asked who's responsibility this is: of the companies, the government or the citizens. The answer is – that's all us. We work at the companies, we vote for the leadership we want and we are the ones consuming.
So we need to make structural changes at the way we produce products and we view profit, we need to vote for political parties that value a healthy and sustainable society more than one based on growth and economic 'progress' and we need to harness the power of our wallets. If we don't buy it, there's no need to make it. We don't have time, so let's make this happen fast.
What gives you the most hope, in terms of sustainability?
Never in the over 20 years that I've been working in this field has there been more attention, innovation and urgency.
What are your top 3 things to eat / see / do in Amsterdam?
Mezrab – amazing storytelling café where you always hear something new;
Yerba – innovative plant-based restaurant / flavour explosion;
Lena the fashion library: Forerunners of the sharing economy, where you borrow instead of own clothes (although you can actually buy them if you don't want to give them back: but then you know you will wear them lots!)
The ladies behind the LENA fashion library, in Amsterdam.
Wishing you a nice week ahead,