Henk Tetteroo and Babette Porcelijn keep track of exactly how sustainable they live. ‘It does not have to be as extreme as I do’

Henk Tetteroo has been preparing a personal sustainable annual report (PDJ) for nine years now. Is he crazy Henkie? The only stupid thing is that not everyone makes a PDJ yet, says Babette Porcelijn. “Just as you keep track of your bank account to see how you are doing financially, everyone should individually keep track of what appeal you are appealing to the carrying capacity of the earth. Otherwise, it goes downhill. Not living within what the Earth can handle , undermines our future. ”

His PDJ is not an end in itself, Tetteroo explains. “My global footprint is as small as possible. Making a PDJ is a means to make yourself as aware as possible of your footprint. Most people have no idea about the extent of their actions. They quickly think they are doing a good job if they sort their waste, but go on holiday to Bali three times, for example. ”

‘This does not mean that nothing is allowed’

Porcelijn, together with the organization Think Big Act Now, has developed a tool that shows users how they stand in relation to their personal demands on the ground. “It helps to know what’s going on, what’s affecting your daily life and what you can do about it. It does not really mean that nothing is allowed anymore as long as you start working with the right things, not the small things, but the big ones. ”

Tetteroo and Porcelijn did not know each other yet, but they easily complement each other during their first (digital) meeting. They work with the same theme, one on a small scale by communicating her personal actions, the other by doing research and showing a wide audience in her books how individual choices can contribute to a vibrant planet. She was a jury member in Sustainable 100 for several years, where both were involved.

He has her first book, The hidden effect, at home. “To be honest, I have not read it from end to end, but it is also more of an activity book.” During the conversation, she quickly sees opportunities for collaboration. Both give lectures, both hoping to encourage others to think about what they can each contribute to a sustainable world.

It’s not just about the big companies

“In left-wing circles, people are now reacting to the slogan of the 1990s: ‘A better environment starts with yourself’,” says Tetteroo. In the introduction to his 2020 PDJ, which he himself published in December last year under the title A better environment starts with everyonehe makes it a point that politicians like Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks) and Sigrid Kaag (D66) distance themselves from this position, as do some environmental organizations.

“In the Christmas supplement of Fidelity said Director Donald Pols of Milieudefensie that it is not so relevant what an individual does as long as the major polluters continue to do as they do. I think that is unwise. We need all contributions. It is of the utmost importance that not only companies but also governments adopt a different policy, but it is impossible for me as an individual to always be involved in influencing policy. However, I can adapt my own actions as much as possible to what the earth can handle. So it’s both-and. ”

Henk Tetteroo's personal sustainable annual report for 2020. Image Bram Petraeus

Henk Tetteroo’s personal sustainable annual report for 2020.Statue of Bram Petraeus

There is so much to do, we all need it, Porcelijn declares. She uses the screen she talks to in Tetteroo’s living room in Delft to create an overview The hidden effect to show: the top-10 impact of the average Dutchman, where ‘stuff’ is far number one, followed by car, house, meat or fish and plane. “We often focus on the visible impact we have, for example on energy consumption or waste of a product we use. But then you can not see what the production of this product has cost in the form of greenhouse gases, pollution, loss of nature, water and deforestation. ”

Anyone who tackles outliers in their own top 10 effectively makes more sustainable, Porcelijn says. And it is badly needed, because with the current way of life in the Netherlands, we need three lands. “What really helps is to buy as few new things as possible, but to repair and recycle them, a smaller house and fossil-free energy, fossil-free transport and getting rid of your car, plant-based food, no waste of energy, water , materials, food and things. I do not care about waste, because waste is a symptom, not the problem. Prevention is good because it encourages different behaviors. ”

‘People give up if it’s not clear what they’ll achieve’

Tetteroo reduced his personal footprint to 2.7 hectares in 2020, he calculated at sustainabilityinactie.nl. It improved slightly compared to 2019. The average Dutchman needs 6.2 hectares, of which only 1.8 hectares are available per hectare. “I improve my footprint by collecting waste. I want to do something, but it has to be within my reach. People give up if it is not clear what they are achieving. ”

Garbage collection provides, so to speak, positive ecopoints, Porcelijn notes. In her real activity book Eco-positive in five steps she shows people how they can become more sustainable by staying within the carrying capacity of the earth and even become eco-neutral or eco-positive by compensating for their harmful impact or helping to make society more sustainable. The book contains the online tool mijnverborgenimpact.nl, to measure the impact of what you buy or eat, how you live and travel.

“Such a tool is only welcome, so you do not have to write down everything you do as a monk like me,” says Tetteroo. “It would be nice to put the PDJ and the activity book together,” Porcelijn agrees. “The activity book helps people ask themselves the right questions, such as ‘do I really need this product to work?’ “I want to prevent people from getting sick. Someone who thinks ‘I should fly or buy the new phone anyway’; no problem, the choice is yours.”

“It does not have to be as extreme as I do,” says Tetteroo, who even sucks labels from bottles before taking them to the glass container, taking a bath with a tub under his feet to collect the rinsing water and finding plastic bottles with a volume of one and a half liters used to recycle ‘save water’ for the garden or for toilet flushing. At 46.5 liters a day, his water consumption is a little more than a third of the average Dutchman, who uses 120 liters a day.

What do you want to do instead of not?

“I like to distinguish between big and small,” laughs Porcelijn. “You do not have to worry about details, but rather ask yourself if you are willing to get rid of your car and stop flying. For a positive feeling, it’s good to be aware of what you need instead of what not to do: I save money, I feel more fit, I have time left. You can map it. A discussion about sustainable living is often about what not to do, while at the same time giving a lot. ”

This gives PDJ a clear picture of, says Tetteroo, who, among other things, keeps track of how many bottles, cans and other waste he cleans up each year. “I have been a litter packer since 2003, and it is very satisfying when you can show what it offers. The smaller my footprint, the more progress. With my PDJ, beautifully presented by designer Henk Frigge, I give a different interpretation of the concept of global citizen, and it makes me happy. ”

In her latest book The happy 2050 scenario Porcelain elaborates on this idea. What does it take to feel comfortable in a safe world? “Then it’s not about how far you travel or how much you earn. Happiness is about positive thinking, doing good for the world, living your values. I call it bliss, bliss or a valuable life. Do not get depressed about everything that is or is not allowed, but focus on what matters. ”

Babette Porcelain Statue Martijn Gijsbertsen

Babette PorcelineStatue Martijn Gijsbertsen

One can read the newspaper and be despairing over all the disturbing news, Tetteroo adds. So the question is: what can I do now? Changing my own behavior is within my reach. So I can make a small proportional change. In recent years, for example, I have used less gas and electricity, while I have spent more time at home since my retirement. Then I say to myself: well done kid. ”

Where do you put your money?

There are four ways to respond to climate change and the loss of biodiversity, says Porcelijn. ‘You can stick your head in the sand and pretend nothing is happening, you can put the blame on others, you can get depressed and you can act. Your impact is greater than many people think, not only by living a more sustainable life, but also by, for example, looking at where you put your money, what an investor or pension fund does with them, by not using drugs, by voting for sustainable parties and by being more careful with nature. To transform today’s systems, we can only do it together, we need everyone to do it. ”

Audiences to her lectures often respond enthusiastically, but also say ‘I can never live the way you live’, says Porcelijn. “But I do not know everything either, so I also show my vulnerability. The chances of getting people moving increase if you show them what they can do without becoming a perfectionist and if you think positively. ”

The trick is not to get caught in a hotel room, Tetteroo says. “You can make the world a little more sustainable with your own actions, I want to show that with my PDJ.”

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