Sustainable Living keeps you posted of our efforts in the fields of sustainability and health & well-being. Discover all the previous issues here.
Jamie Sturrus is 26, lives with his girlfriend in Berkel en Rodenrijs and is a history teacher at a secondary school.
The BBC series Blood, Sweat and Luxuries was a real eye opener for Jamie. In this series six British young people visit far-away countries to find out where their luxury products come from and under what circumstances they are made. “For the first time I saw how we treat people who give shape to our wealth and our consumer society”, Jamie says.
“The thought that my choices can have a negative impact on the lives of others was a reason for me to change my consumption behaviour.” To Jamie, living sustainably means being considerate of the lives of others. As far as he can have an influence, Jamie will always try to live as sustainably as possible.
At home and in the classroom
Not just at home, but also as a history teacher Jamie is mindful of sustainability. At home, he and his girlfriend eat both sustainable and organic products and he buys his clothes from shops that operate sustainably. Furthermore, Jamie tries to produce as little waste as possible. As a teacher he feels it’s important to make his pupils aware of the living and working conditions in the countries where our products are made. Says Jamie: “In my work I want to hold up a mirror to my pupils to show them who we are and what distinguishes us from others. For it is a fact that nowadays we, as humans, are very much out of touch with nature and natural resources.”
Openness and transparency
Jamie has a tip for Unilever. “Openness and transparency are very important to me.” It would be good if Unilever would explain why it makes the choices it makes. “I will buy Unilever products sooner if I find that Unilever is committed to good living and working conditions for the makers of its products; from raw materials to end products. For instance, I would like to be able to trace back my tea to the tea plantation it came from.”
Helen de Goeijen is 39 and lives in Rotterdam with her husband and four children. Living sustainably is part of her daily routine.
She says: “I think it’s very important that the environment is as clean and healthy as possible, especially for our children’s future. By making small everyday changes we can all contribute to a better environment ourselves.”
Washing at lower temperatures and no dryer
“Four children mean a lot of laundry every week. That is why I’m very conscious about washing at lower temperatures and I have especially bought an eco-washing machine. Although it is tempting to use the dryer, I hang my laundry out to dry as often as possible. That way I save energy and it’s also better for the environment. Sometimes news about air pollution and particulates worries me. Especially with regard to my children who spend a lot of time outside I find this a distressing development. I’ve also noticed that the seasons are becoming less distinct. That is such a pity, as every season has its own beauty. For example, I miss the cold winters we used to have.”
“By taking daily actions I try to contribute to a better environment myself. For instance, I use the car as little as possible and go by bike instead. I don’t turn the heat up too high and I don’t use disposable bags but take my own shopping bag.”
Although Helen sometimes worries about the future she also sees a positive movement: “I have the feeling that an increasing number of people live more consciously. Before, people easily took you for a back-to-nature freak if you were considerate of the environment, but nowadays you see more and more people embracing conscious living. It is becoming more of a natural thing to treat the world we live in with care.”
“I see that people are aware of what they eat, where their food comes from, how it was made, et cetera. I myself for instance, buy products that have as few E numbers as possible and I pay attention that meat is produced in an animal-friendly way.”
“I think it’s a good thing that Unilever is conscious of how its products are made and how consumers use them. For they have such a wide reach and can really have a big impact. They are well on their way, but as far as I’m concerned they can go faster still.”
Martin van den Akker, aged 40, lives in Rotterdam with his girlfriend and his 17-year old son. He is self-employed and runs his own web shop Rotfiets in second-hand racing bikes.
As the owner of Rotfiets Martin is working every day to repair old racing bikes that stood rusting away somewhere. “To me, living sustainably means being very conscious of how I use things, being aware of where things come from and what it took to make them and get them here.” This way of thinking was one of the reasons he decided to start his web shop in second-hand racing bikes.
“The name Rotfiets stands for Rotterdam-bike. But it also represents that one rotten bike that has been blocking the path in your storeroom for years and that you have run into three times already this week.” Martin however does not see a rotten bike, he sees opportunities. Opportunities to restore old racing bikes back to life, so that they will last for many more years. That way, the high-quality bikes don’t go to waste and people find themselves cycling around on a unique bike.
No double packaging
In daily life Martin regularly does his bit for a better world. He is a very conscious shopper and does not buy any products that use unnecessary packaging. “I don’t choose products that use double packaging, but products that are concentrated or cleverly packed.” Martin believes that for a lot of products it is not so hard to stop and think about their origin and use them responsibly. “It might sound cliché, but I want to leave behind a beautiful world and right now we are taking a lot and giving little back.
Awareness and responsibility
“I think that Unilever can make a difference by making consumers aware of their responsibility, but also by making them realize that living sustainably saves money. For instance, using a concentrated detergent at a low temperature is not just better for the environment but also for your wallet.”
Together, we currently ‘use’ the equivalent of 1.5 planets. 20% of the world’s population uses 80% of its resources. If everyone consumed like we do in the Netherlands, we would need 3.5 planets. This has got to change.
At Unilever we make choices every day focused on our ultimate goal: doubling our size whilst reducing our environmental footprint and increasing our positive social impact.
We have measured the environmental impact of our products across the value chain. And what did we find? More than two thirds of the impact is caused by consumers using our products at home. Think of the energy, for instance, that is needed to heat water for washing and showering.
Unilever is continuously working to develop sustainable innovations to help reduce a product’s environmental impact across the entire chain, including consumer use. Concentrated detergents for example, that reduce truck mileage by using less packaging material but still deliver the same cleaning performance at low temperatures. This environmental gain is undone however, if consumers run their washing machines half-empty at too high temperatures and use too much detergent. If we cannot get consumers to change their behaviour we will be carrying coals to Newcastle. That is why we are making every effort to motivate consumers to use our products more sustainably.
Five Levers for Change
To drive sustainable behaviour change, Unilever - in collaboration with experts in consumer behaviour, sustainability and hygiene - has developed Five Levers for Change. When these five interrelated principles are applied consistently it will increase the likelihood of having a lasting impact on behaviour.
When developing Five Levers for Change, it was first established which barriers people perceived to adopt new behaviour. Subsequently, we looked at what encourages people to adopt new behaviour and what motivates them to keep it up.
Want to know more about Five Levers for Change? Be sure to read on. In this edition of Sustainable Living we like to share with you how we are deploying these five levers, both internally and externally. But first, take a quick peek into the daily life of some consumers.
History teacher at
a secondary school.
Helen de Goeijen
Lives together with her husband and four children.
Martin van den Akker
Owner of 'Rotfiets', a webshop
in second-hand racing bikes.